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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Farquharson

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Blood and Gold: a Catalan Tale

Chapter 1 (1066-67)

"Blood and Gold"


Hug d'Empuries's wife was swinging backwards and forwards from one of the banners that hung along the walls of the great hall in the Castle of Empuries shouting "Wee-hee!" in a loud voice. She was apparently enjoying the game immensely. Hug's wife, who was also the sister of the Count of Urgell, was in the habit of behaving like an eight-year-old, mainly because she was in fact eight years old. Hug had married her on a whim the previous year without really thinking through all the consequences, such as the fact that she would not be able to bear him any children for some years. Children, and more particularly sons, were something that Hug was anxious to have, seeing as he was poised to become the Count of Empuries on the death of his aging father the Count Ponç d'Empuries, who was now sixty-six years old.

"Why does everyone in Catalonia have red and yellow flags, Huggy?" asked Sancha, still swinging around wildly.



Hug d'Empuries, known to posterity as "Hug Cradlesnatcher"​

"Er… that's a very good question dear." Hug hadn't a clue. Then he had a sudden brainwave. "Actually it stands for blood and gold."

"Blood and gold?"

"Yes. See, to become great Sancha, one must be prepared to pay one's way to greatness - sometimes in blood, sometimes in gold. That's how things work in Catalonia. So everyone has red and yellow flags."

"You're really knowledgeable, Huggy."

"Yes, I know. Sancha, could you stop swinging about like that - someone's coming."

Sancha dropped to the floor sulkily, just as Hug's father the Count himself strode into the hall.

"Ah, there you are Chancellor Hug." The Count always liked to be formal. "I have a little mission to send you on."

"Oh goody, can I come to?"

"Shh Sancha, please don't interrupt. Yes father, what is this mission?"

"As you know, your brothers, Marshal Ermengol and Spy Master Pere, are still not married. One might say that they have been…" here the Count gave Sancha a disapproving look, "a little more circumspect than you have been. Now, it so happens that their majesties, Sancho Jimenez King of Aragon and Sancho Jimenez King of Navarra, both have younger unmarried sisters of a suitable age. Your mission is to lead an embassy to the courts of Aragon and Navarra and persuade their majesties to give their sisters in marriage."

It should be noted that the Jimenez family were a powerful dynasty who at that time ruled Aragon, Navarra and Castille. Like so many other powerful families, they were somewhat lacking in imagination when it came to naming children, and all three thrones were currently occupied by men named Sancho Jimenez. This made things very confusing for Chancellors like Hug who were trying to keep track of foreign affairs.

"It will be an honour for me to serve you in this way, father."

"Can I come too?" Sancha was persistent, if nothing else.

"Only if you're very, very good, Sancha."

"Yes," added the Count, "I don't think the Kings of Aragon and Navarra will appreciate their flags being swung on."

Hug looked guiltily at the still badly creased banner hanging on the wall, and tried vainly to smooth it out.

"Er - yes, Sancha, how many times have I told you…"



Northern Spain in 1066​

So it was that in the winter of 1066-67 Hug and his young wife Sancha rode across the Spanish Marches to the city of Jaca, where a request was presented to King Sancho of Aragon, and then on to the city of Pamplona, where a similar request was presented to King Sancho of Navarra. Hug was a reasonably good diplomat, and Sancha managed to be very, very good, at least whenever it mattered, so it was not long after their return to Empuries that messages arrived from Jaca and Pamplona with the happy news that both Kings had agreed to their sisters' marriages.


Jaca, capital of Aragon in the foothills of the Pyrenees​

Marshal Ermengol was married to Sancha Jimenez sister of the King of Aragon, while Spy Master Pere was married to Urraca Jimenez, sister of the King of Navarra.

The future looked rosy for the d'Empuries dynasty, especially when Urraca announced that she was expecting a baby. Hug tried not to be jealous, but he was very much hoping that the child would be a girl. Why, oh why had he gone and married an eight-year-old? Still, he was in the prime of his life, and Sancha would be able to bear him lots of children in a few years time. He just had to be patient.

Meanwhile the Duke of Catalonia had gone to war and Count Ponç and his son Marshal Ermengol had been summoned to fight with him against the infidel Moors. Fighting against the infidel Moors was of course something of a national sport in Catalonia, and Ramon Berenguer de Barcelona, Duke of Catalonia, was one of its finest practitioners.



Count Ponç and his men en route to spill some infidel blood​

This particular bout of infidel-bashing only lasted a few months, before the Emir of Zaragoza, Ahmad Abu Dja'far, was forced to hand over all his gold in return for the armies of Catalonia all going home and leaving him alone. A little blood spilled, a little gold handed over. This was of course the way things worked in Catalonia.

The d'Empuries family were pleased with the outcome of this war, mainly because Duke Ramon had not seized any of the infidel lands for himself, but at the same time he had proved that it was fairly easy to defeat the Emir of Zaragoza in war. Perhaps next time some of the infidel lands could be liberated by the d'Empuries family. It would after all be nice to be raking in a little more than 0.6 gold per month. It might have to be paid for in blood, but that was only to be expected.
 
Last edited:

Farquharson

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Well, here is my latest AAR, after a bit of a break both from writing and reading I have to confess. However, I have been playing Crusader Kings of late, and enjoying the tortuous plots that have unfolded in most of my games. It was not long therefore, before I began to think it would be fun to write an AAR about one of them. So as usual I chose a County at random and up came Empuries. It seems like an interesting corner of the map, so here goes!

I have not yet got my paws on Deus Vult, so apologies if plain old CK looks a little dated to some, but I'm not sure about some of the issues that people have been complaining about in DV so I'm biding my time.

So I'm playing 1.05 at normal/normal. Game goals are just to have a good time, and become a King in due time. Once I have become a King I generally stop playing, so that will probably be the end of the AAR. This to me is the most interesting phase of a CK game - working one's way up from dirt-poor county to wealthy kingdom. After that I usually find I start to lose momentum.

Where I'll end up as king of (if anywhere! :eek: ) I don't know, but Aragon would be nice, to keep the "Blood and Gold" theme going. The style of the AAR I hope will be entertaining without being silly (not that there's anything wrong with silly AARs, just that I'm not aiming for undead monarchs and alien abductions in this particular tale...)

As always, reader interaction will be encouraged! But beware - those who comment the most are likely to find themselves appearing in the story in some guise or other.
 

unmerged(58610)

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Great to see a Farquharson AAR.

Thus far the blood and gold has all come from the Moors. Must be the way it works in Catalonia.

Urraca's brother must be most disappointed - that she's married.
 

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Nice to see a Catalan AAR not about the Barcelonans- best of luck.
 

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A Farquharson AAR's always something to look forward to!
 

Jestor

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Nice to see you back, Farq! :)

I'm glad you chose a Catalan county as well, since I really like the language (even if I hadn't had a chance to study it, learning Castillian as I am)
 

Kurt_Steiner

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Interesting. A Catalan AAR but not centered in Barcelona. Let's see what the tramontana brings to us :D
 

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Only 7 hours since start, and I'm here already! It's my lucky day! :D
 

Farquharson

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Chief Ragusa: Well, nice as it is to see the blood and gold coming mainly from the Moors, I have a feeling it won't stay that way for long. After all, that wouldn't make a very interesting AAR, would it? ;)

JimboIX & Kurt_Steiner: Indeed, I think this may be the first ever Empuries AAR, which I always like - my pioneering spirit :D . And as far as I can see there have been very few Iberian CK AARs of late at all, so hopefully that may attract some added interest. (BTW I could be wrong on either of these points, not having being around for a while)

anonymous: I'm also looking forward to getting into some other AARs I might say - I've been away too long!

Jestor: I can honestly say I don't know a word of Catalan, so I'm afraid the language will not be figuring highly in the AAR. Oh - well now I know "Tramontana" at least... :D

Snake IV: Welcome aboard!

Duke of Wellington: Ah now here's a challenge, can I lure you into the CK forum? Maybe even get you playing the game?? Anyway, I hope you stick around, great to have you along.

Specialist290: I make it five months at least since I abandoned my last AAR (Zaporozhie), which is definitely too long. It's good to be back.

And now lets see what those d'Empuries are up to...
 

Farquharson

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Chapter 2 (1070)

Blood Brothers



The body of Pere Count of Empuries lay sprawled across the floor of the chapel. It was unfortunate that the person who found the body was Hug's twelve-year-old widow, little Sancha. Her piercing screams could be heard all over the castle. For even a twelve-year-old could see, from the greenish hue of Count Pere's skin, and the hideous mask of pain fixed on his lifeless face, that he was dead. He had ruled as Count of Empuries for less than two months, since the death of his father Ponç. As servants, courtiers and members of the family began to appear, comforting young Sancha and ushering her away from the terrible scene, it was not long before someone uttered the word "murder", and people began to look at those around them with fear and suspicion.

Pere and his wife Urraca had a daughter, who was only two years old, but so far Urraca had borne no son to succeed Pere as Count. This meant that Pere's brother Ermengol now became Count of Empuries, and it fell to him to take charge of the situation. The first priority was obviously to establish whether Pere had really been murdered, and if so, who his killer was. Somewhat mysteriously, Pere's widow Urraca hurried away with a handful of servants that had come with her from the court of Navarra, saying that she had urgent business but would be back in a few days.

Perhaps it was just her way of mourning the sudden and tragic loss of her husband, but it certainly looked suspicious. Many whispered that more likely there had been some kind of vehement domestic argument which had quickly escalated, provoking the Navarran princess to take her husband's life before fleeing back to her brother in Pamplona. It did not help matters that Count Ermengol's initial investigation revealed nothing more than that the fact that his brother had been poisoned. Who might have committed such a crime, and why, remained a mystery. It was convenient to believe that the Princess Urraca would not be returning to Empuries in the foreseeable future, and that the charge of murder could be placed squarely at her door.

It was therefore a great surprise to many when Urraca returned, just as she had promised, only a few days later, and even more of a surprise that she arrived with Duke Ramon Berenguer himself and a company of his knights. The princess had evidently not fled to Pamplona after all, but had been to Barcelona and had returned straight away.

Having had some advance warning of the party's arrival, Count Ermengol was waiting for his liege in the castle courtyard. As the Duke rode in, accompanied by the princess and followed by his knights, Ermengol knelt before him.

"My Lord, may I bid you welcome."

The Duke gazed down at his new vassal with an unreadable look on his face.



"I wish it were a happier occasion on which I were paying a visit to the County of Empuries. The princess has informed me of the tragic death of your brother. Might I offer you my sincere condolences. It must have been a terrible shock, coming so soon after the death of your father." The Duke's face, however, still revealed nothing of what his true feelings might be.

"Indeed my Lord, it is all the more tragic in that we have established beyond reasonable doubt that my brother was the victim of a poisoning, but that we have as yet no hint as to who might have committed such a heinous crime."

"That may be about to change, Count Ermengol," said the Duke, fixing him with a cold stare. "You were aware, were you not, that the princess was with child?"

There was an audible gasp from the company assembled about the courtyard. Count Ermengol looked as shocked as anyone. For if Pere and Urraca had had a son, Ermengol would never have inherited his brother's title. If he had been ambitious enough, and desperate enough, the only way for him to ensure his accession to the title would have been to murder his brother before the child was born. He looked back at his liege with a level gaze.

"I did not know that, my Lord," he replied.



"Nevertheless," continued the Duke, "the princess has asked me to take charge of the investigation into this crime, on the grounds that you yourself must be considered as a prime suspect."

Count Ermengol's face became pale, but he continued to look the Duke in the eye as he replied.

"I can see that that might be for the better, given this new revelation," he said. "And I can only pray God that he will grant you to find the guilty party and execute a just judgment. For I can assure you, my Lord, that I myself am entirely innocent in this matter."

"Then you will have nothing to fear," replied the Duke. "However I am afraid that I must ask you to remain confined to your private quarters for the time being."

"You are placing me under arrest?"

"No, I would not put it in those terms. I am simply asking for your fullest co-operation. As I said, the innocent have nothing to fear in this matter."

Count Ermengol glanced at the princess, a look of anger that was quickly hidden, before giving his answer.

"My Lord, you shall have my full co-operation."


 

Kurt_Steiner

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It seems that, apparently, we have a "Cap de Estopes" crime a bit advanced in time and in the unexpected place...


Just in case... Ramon Berenguer II, known as the "Cap d'Estopes", was count of Barcelona with his brother Berenguer Ramon II (not kidding, trust me). He was killed and no one had a clue about who did the deed, but it was thought that Berenguer Ramon II had something to do about it...
 

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Grudging cooperation. Ah the Jiminezs and their intrigues.
 

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I don't like the sound of that cooperation request.

That Uracca is up to something.
 

coz1

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Indeed, that didn't take long. A murder already. And I note that Hug appears to be dead as well. Poor Sancha.

Great to see another effort from you! Looking forward to where we go from here.
 

Farquharson

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Duke of Wellington: It's always nice to spend some time getting to know your CK characters in the first few years - the good, the bad and the ugly, and of course the ones that somehow manage to be all three at once...

Kurt_Steiner: Obviously this is just the way things are usually done in Catalonia... :D BTW I was slightly embarrassed, after my previous reply about there being "very few" Iberian AARs around to then notice that you were writing one yourself. Duh! :eek:o I will be getting round to checking it out soon (all my reading time has been eaten up catching up on anon's AARgau so far I'm afraid).

JimboIX: The Jimenezes, or perhaps just some good ol' homegrown d'Empuries intrigue. Who knows?

RGB: Always a mistake to get a Navarran princess into your court, but then to make her your Spy Mistress? What were you thinking Count Ponç? :rolleyes:

coz1 & Specialist290: Yes, what on earth did happen to Hug, who figured so prominently in the first update? I had high hopes for him, too. Read on to find out in today's All Hallows Eve special of "Blood and Gold: a Catalan Tale"!

Oh no! I've been infected by the phargle/anonymous4401/Alfred Packer disease... Will Farquharson be able to fight it off? Does he even want to? Find out in the... AAAAAUURGH!
 

Farquharson

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Chapter 3 (1070)

Tricked or Treated?

At the end of the last chapter we left Count Ermengol d'Empuries being held under house-arrest by his liege Duke Ramon Berenguer de Barcelona under suspicion of the murder of his brother, the former Count Pere d'Empuries. What most intrigued the Duke was that Pere was not the first of Ermengol's brothers to die a violent death. His elder brother Hug, who had been first in line for their father's title, had been killed only the previous year. Before looking more closely at the circumstances of Pere's death, the Duke decided to see what he could find out about the death of Hug. He already knew the official version, but he now had every reason to call that version into question. And who better to shed light on the matter than the brother of Count Ponç, Diocese Bishop Ramon d'Empuries?


The elderly bishop crossed himself hurriedly as soon as Hug's name was mentioned.

"We do not speak of him if it can be avoided," he said nervously, in reply to the Duke's enquiry.

"Well right now it cannot be avoided," said the Duke, with an edge of irritation in his voice. "Two brothers have died in the space of eighteen months, the second most certainly a victim of murder. I need to be sure that the first was not a victim also."

"My Lord, the evidence against him was overwhelming. True, he protested his innocence right to the end… Yes indeed, even his diabolic cries from among the flames still haunt me. But there could be no doubt… surely…"

"I have to confess that the news greatly disturbed me," said the Duke. "Remember, I knew the lad well - he had spent several years at the court in Barcelona during his adolescence. He was unpredictable at times, but to come to such an end… No I cannot imagine what would lead him to that."

"Too often the devil strikes where the blow is least expected, my Lord. In the end we are all frail children of dust."

"Pious platitudes are all very well, Father, but what I want to see is hard evidence. Does any of this so-called 'overwhelming evidence' still exist?"

"Everything was burned, along with the sorceror himself. Why would we risk leaving such things in existence to tempt another weak soul?"

The Duke sighed. He had suspected as much.

"And this apparatus of sorcery, how did Hug explain it?"

"He could not, my Lord. He claimed that it must have been planted maliciously in his chamber."

"And how was it brought to light?"

"It was his child-bride Sancha who found the things. She did not know what they were. May God have mercy on her, the poor child!"

Sancha again. Truly fate had not been kind to her thus far. Had she known the consequences of speaking about what she had found, she would certainly never have done so. But what then? Would she have become an accomplice to sorcery herself? Or would she have averted a terrible injustice?

"To whom did Sancha speak of what she had found then?" asked the Duke.

"It was the Princess Urraca, my Lord. She alerted Count Ponç immediately for she could tell only too well what sort of devilry was involved."

And that in itself was interesting, mused the Duke. He could see that he would get nothing more from the Bishop, but there was one person who might be able to shed more light on the matter. He would of course need to tread delicately - very delicately. But little Sancha perhaps knew more than most about the circumstances of her husband's conviction for the practice of black magic.


Little Sancha could often be found sitting down by the seashore, where the ancient ruins of Greek Emporion were endlessly washed by the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. That is precisely where the Duke found her, alone, thankfully, sitting atop a section of ruined wall and throwing stones into the sea. She did not hear his approach so he called to her from a distance so as not to startle her. She turned quickly and rose to make an awkward curtsey. The Duke acknowledged with a slight bow.

"Good day, my lady." As a married woman, and a widow to boot, she was entitled to be addressed so, though she seemed rather embarrassed.

"My Lord." was all she replied.

"I wondered if I could have a word with you?"

"With me, my Lord? Why, yes. But what about? Oh - the death of the Count. Of course."

"Actually, I was more interested in the death of…" He paused - it seemed so strange to say it to a twelve-year-old girl, "…your late husband."

A troubled look came over Sancha's face. Interestingly, however, she did not instinctively cross herself, as everyone else in the court seemed to do as soon as the former Chancellor' name was mentioned.

"I knew him when he was about your age, you know. A little older perhaps. He spent some time at the court in Barcelona, as you probably know. He was a promising lad."

"Huggy wasn't a wicked man. He wasn't a sorceror." Sancha's eyes were defiant, though glistening, as if she was holding back tears.

"I would not have believed it myself, I have to confess. But there was evidence, was there not?"

"Somebody planted some horrible things in Huggy's room. He told me. He even thought he knew who it was."

"Really?" But be wary, the Duke told himself. This girl is hardly a dispassionate bystander in the affair. "He told you who he suspected?"

"Yes, but he had no proof. And now… Now I don't think he can have been right."

"Why is that, Sancha?"

"He thought it was his brother Pere who was trying to have him killed."