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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Found it funny that the Pope was low on Christian kings he could call on for support, because he had excommunicated half of them :p
 

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There is a saying, I believe, that the best revenge is to outlive the ones who opposed you.

Konrad has had a pretty good revenge.
 

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It seems the Papacy has learned it is they who have to keep the Empire happy rather than the other way round... and yes, another Crusade seems likely, it could at least help to restore the Pope's standing in Europe.
To be honest I don't think the game replicates the sort of soft power the Pope wielded in Europe...

Found it funny that the Pope was low on Christian kings he could call on for support, because he had excommunicated half of them :p
...though when the Pope has managed to alienate half of Europe he's put himself in a pretty bad position.

Like Stalin with his doctors
Indeed. Perils of ultimate power and all that.

There is a saying, I believe, that the best revenge is to outlive the ones who opposed you.

Konrad has had a pretty good revenge.
Outliving one's enemies is nice. Humiliating them before they go especially so.
 
Disenchanted Daughters and the Trouble They Make

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Disenchanted Daughters and the Trouble They Make

Flush with enthusiasm at his humiliation of the Pope, and determined to squeeze in some further aggrandisement before it became necessary to depart on Crusade, Konrad next set his eyes upon the English possessions in Italy. Some petty burgher, a vassal of the Archbishop of Friuli, was found with a claim to Ferrara.


Konrad based himself in Verona for the duration. He possessed no personal lands in his new Kingdom of Italy. Relying on the hospitality of his erstwhile cousin and Steward Hartwig, whose duchy of Tyrol consumed Verona a decade earlier, seemed a wiser option than imposing himself on his newly-won Italian vassals.

In any case, Verona seemed a reasonable midway point from which to reconstitute his council. The Emperor’s favourite, Baldwin of Austria, perished in 1333. Chancellor Albano, another great favourite, withdrew to Calabria to battle his increasingly troublesome gout. Wolfram of Wurttemberg similarly returned to Swabia, citing his advancing age- evoking a wry grin from Konrad, one year Wolfram’s elder and a cripple besides. His son, Duke Liutbrand of Abruzzo stepped into the Chancellor position, whilst Duke Stefan of Saxony became Marshal and a loyal Sicilian mayor became Spymaster. Only Lord Hartwig remained of the old council, with the newer, younger, generation of councillors acting as a constant reminder of the Emperor's mortality.

The war proceeded without much incident. English territories in Ferrara and Modena were overrun before King Alan could muster much response. His eventual response did little to improve matters- with the King opting to sail his army to Palermo, edging his fleet past civil-war ridden France and the Emperor’s nephews in Iberia. Upon their arrival in Sicily England’s levies were swiftly driven back into the sea, from whence they’d come. Dukes Cenek of Savoy-Susa and Ancel of Franche-Comte commanded with distinction, seizing the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to their new liege.


This victory was followed up by a diversion to Serbia, where the entirety of the country had risen against Queen Barbara. She had naively offered mercy to her cousin Dragutin II of Rashka, and he had proceeded to make a second attempt at the throne. Raising support was easy, given the tight-knit nature of the Serbian nobility- Nadanje of Ohrid and Duga of Duklja were a mother-daughter team, whilst Duga counted Elena of Bosnia as mother-in-law. Dragutin, a Serbian born-and-bred, naturally boasted more connections amidst the aristocracy than Barbara, the resented German interloper backed by imperial arms.


Hell of a country you're running there, Barb.

The depth of feeling against Barbara caused consternation in the temporary imperial court of Verona, but she was little-inclined to take pointers from her reviled father. Imperial arms, however, were graciously accepted and used to re-secure her rule- a blunt tool, but useful nevertheless. That Barbara proceeded to release most of her truculent vassals, after subjecting them to public humiliation, did little to inspire confidence, though at least this time she had the sense to dispose of Dragutin, and keep his young son under lock and key.

These matters squared away, Konrad finally turned his mind to the coming Crusade, soon to be inaugurated by the new German Pope Martinus II…

 

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Serbs rising up (and failing) against the German opressor? Sounds familiar!
Hey, we won at least. Twice. Or at least we claim we did. :p ( we'll pretend that Brits and Russians didn't do most of the fighting :cool: );)
 

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Serbs rising up (and failing) against the German opressor? Sounds familiar!
Surely you misspeak? The Hohenstaufen are glorious rulers, incapable of oppressing anyone.

Hey, we won at least. Twice. Or at least we claim we did. :p ( we'll pretend that Brits and Russians didn't do most of the fighting :cool: );)
Letting people do most of the fighting on your behalf is a skill in and of itself, though.
 
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The wars concluded, Konrad had returned to Palermo to undertake his preparations for the coming crusade. The council chamber was empty, save for him and Hartwig.

‘’You are to be Regent in my absence, cousin. These other councillors are too fresh to be trusted with the responsibility.’’

‘’I am honoured, your grace.’’

‘’There is more. Crusades are arduous, and I am not the man I once was, I may not return.’’ Konrad held up a hand- his only remaining hand- to stifle a protest. ‘’The electors will not favour my grandson, we both know it.’’

‘’I will direct all my efforts to the boy’s interest.’’

‘’That may not be enough. I mean to give the child a powerbase capable of fending off even a hostile emperor.’’

Hartwig peered enquiringly at his cousin, seeking to uncover the Emperor’s plans. ‘’Sicily would be insufficient for the purpose?’’

‘’Not wholly insufficient, but it is in my power to give him more.’’

‘’What do you propose?’’

‘’Italy, Hartwig. A Hohenstaufen fortress south of the Alps.’’

Ever cautious, the Lord of Tyrol demurred. ‘’It is a risk. The newly won Lords may be displeased to do homage to a child.’’

‘’Their displeasure I can tolerate. They will offer nothing more- I crushed them once, and can do so again.’’

‘’You hold no lands in Italy, where is the young King to base himself?’’


‘’He will remain in Palermo, with his tutors. He can have Swabia too, let Schwaben be styled as his ceremonial royal capital. I mean to announce it to the others when the meeting begins. I hope you will offer your unreserved support in front of them.’’

Hartwig dipped his head in obeisance. ‘’Of course, your grace.’’

***​

The other councillors offered no protest. Liutbrand offered a smirk, divining the emperor’s plans- his father had long served as spymaster, and instilled his son with some insights into the Emperor’s mind. They moved on to less exciting matters.

‘’How many men do we expect to raise, Lord Stefan?’’


Marshal Stefan, Duke of Saxony and Steiermark

‘’Fifty-thousand, if you call the whole empire and everyone meets their commitments. The logistical challenge will be formidable.’’ The young man grimaced, sixty-thousand was several times as many men as he was comfortable handling.

‘’Are you proposing we deploy in waves? Two or three- fifteen to twenty-five-thousand each?’’

Hartwig murmured his agreement. ‘’Using the same fleet to ferry each wave is likely cheaper than trying to carry them all at once. The seamen are avaricious, after all.’’

Stefan nodded with relief. ‘’That seems advisable. Departing in waves seems advisable, if you’re willing to send in a third of our host at a time. Some of the Germans could march overland, if the using the fleet is too expensive.’’

‘’That seems a recipe for the men to arrive in the war zone ragged and exhausted.’’ And I wouldn’t want any of my commanders to drown in rivers along the way. ‘’We shall use the fleet. The Pope has set June 1337 as the day we should converge on Anatolia. Our first wave should be ready to leave by that point, with the next staggered over the next several months.’’

‘’As you wish, your grace.’’

That matter handled, Konrad turned to his spymaster. ‘’Now, Mayor Emelrich, it seems we have a chance to remove a threat before my departure.’’

‘’Aye, Boleslav of Bohemia has presented some clumsy evidence of treachery on the part of his cousin Smil of Moravia.’’

The Emperor snorted. ‘’Smil is a harmless boy. His father stayed loyal when the other Premyslids revolted. I trust him over a son of accursed Vratislav.’’

‘’Should we arrest him, then?’’


‘’Stefan can do it, when he goes north to try and coordinate the crusade. Take a detour to Bohemia and arrest the prat, use however many men are necessary.’’

Having Boleslav sitting in a dungeon by the time he departed would warm the Emperor’s heart- he knew, that even if his death resulted in the Hohenstaufen losing the throne, it wouldn’t return to the goddamned Premyslids.

Thus Konrad V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, one-armed and one-legged, departed on the second Crusade of his life. Left behind in Palermo was the future of his dynasty, Konrad the Younger, newly enfeoffed King of Italy and Duke of Swabia.
 

stnylan

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Part of me thinks that it matters not how often a Hohenstaufen goes on Crusade, there will always be plenty who besmirch their honour.
 

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Very busy. Next update won't be for a few weeks.

Maybe you can get a Crusader bloodline out of this. Did you get top crusade contribution last time?
I did, so it's a possibility.

Part of me thinks that it matters not how often a Hohenstaufen goes on Crusade, there will always be plenty who besmirch their honour.
Such is their curse.
 

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Crusading Glories

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The Emperor insisted on going with the first wave of troops. They were immediately assailed by the Rumites, and the battle did not go well. Perhaps the imperials had not yet recovered from their sea voyage, or they had the misfortune to land near a rendezvous between the Rumites and Sultan al-Said II Barakah of the Bunduqarids. Konrad tried to rally his troops, racing back and forth on his purpose-built imperial chariot. The Crusader Sword awarded to his father remained sheathed at his side, for Konrad had not trained with his left hand.

He was a conspicuous target. Prince Sokmen, great-uncle of the infant Sultan Kutalmis II, cut a great swathe through the Imperial troops with his cavalry, directed at the Emperor. His guard gradually gave way, wilting under the Anatolian son, whilst a hurled spear slew the Emperor’s driver and left him immobile. The press of panicked men upended his carriage, and Konrad tumbled into the sand. Feet stamped past his head and dust seeped into his throat, the sounds of battle were drowned out by those of rout- few clashes of steel, but plentiful agonised screams and squirts of blood.


The attack of Prince Sokmen.​

One man assisted the Emperor to his feet, but the Turks were now upon them, and he was dragged away. A few of the enemies dropped elegantly off their horses and advanced on the Emperor. He clumsily drew his sword, and slashed about, but his left handed swipes were easily avoided. Even had he possessed all his limbs, the Emperor was nearing sixty. His attackers were a third that age, and more numerous. The sword was wrenched from his hands, and a rush of attackers grappled him to the ground.

Knives clattered at his helmet, seeking an opening. He tried to shrug them off, grasping at his enemies weapons with his good hand, throwing his fake one with blind hope as a blunt instrument. It did little good. An opening was found, and his helmet levered off. A knife glanced off his forehead. Blood spurted into his eye, mixing with the infernal dust.

He gave up his squirming, waiting for the final blow…

***​

…but it didn’t come. Konrad’s luck held, and he was once again rescued from the jaws of his enemies.


The next few days were groggy, glimpsed through bandages by bloodied eyes. What remained of the Emperor’s forces withdrew to the west, into Greek territory, to await the arrival of further troops. The rest of his routing troops proved a strong enough impediment to prevent Sokmen from mounting a dedicated pursuit.

Much attenuated, the imperial forces retained enough strength to elicit the hospitality of Strategos Michael III Palaiologos of Cibyrrhaeot. Or, more correctly, from his Regent, for Michael was an adolescent and an imbecile.


Said Regent was the remarkable Eudosia Hedareb, a bastard Nubian Miaphysite. Her half-brother, the Muslim Emir Gabriel Daw of Nobatia, had seen his lands conquered by the Emperor’s sister Queen Margaret of Egypt, in 1322. Rather than joining her brother in his exile with the Bunduqarid Sultan, Eudosia had instead gone north, and found herself a place at the court of Michael’s mother Strategitissa Eirota Azim- a member of that Nubian clan that had miraculously found favour in the Greek Empire.

Eudosia was welcoming, within reason- offering her assistance to Konrad’s healer-woman, Ute, as she insisted on a number of esoteric treatments for the Emperor. However, her good will would soon be severely questioned, as the Emperor’s recovery received a significant setback…
 
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stnylan

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Not the most auspicious start
 
Crusading Kings

Tyler96

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Crusading Kings
He was unimpressive up close, the so called Kaiser. It was dark, but mere moonlight revealed the man’s inadequacies. The stump of his right arm rested on his chest, whilst that of his leg was splayed off the side of the bed. Completing the picture was the careworn face, adorned by a fresh scar on his cheek- a parting gift from the Shahzada Sokmen.

It was dirty work, of course- no honour in it, unlike slaughtering the infidels on the field of battle. But it was thought this might help preserve the Sultanate of Rum and as such Suleyman was willing to do it. He nodded at his companion, Murad, who was idly inspecting the prosthetics strewn on the floor. The man moved forward to pin their quarry, whilst Suleyman reached at the hilt of his dagger.


Had to play around with this event a little- I'm not sure a 60-year old double amputee could ''rush'' anywhere, even if his life depended on it.

Perhaps his companion was too forceful, because the misshapen wreck beneath them jolted to life. It cried out, then snarled at Murad, who recoiled grasping at his forearm. Then the wreck’s eyes met Suleyman’s own, full of determination. The face was no longer careworn, animated as it was by this life and death struggle. The Kaiser spat a piece of Murad’s flesh as Suleyman approached with the knife, a last act of defiance before turning his face away and raising the ineffective stump against the oncoming blade.

The first strike glanced off the defender’s wrist, whilst shouts of alarm and muffled footsteps could be heard in the passageway behind them. Suleyman cursed at his companion to go and bar the door, before returning to their quarry. It had rolled off awkwardly off the far side of the bed, landing with a dull thud.

Suleyman crawled over the bed in pursuit, only to find his prey shuffling under the bed. He grasped desperately at the Kaisers legs. They twisted with more dexterity than one would expect, and the one good foot landed a kick on its attacker’s stomach, before disappearing under the bedframe.

Suleyman was left to thrust into the dark space with nought but hope, and even that was failing. The door burst open behind them, and Murad was cast to the floor with a mighty blow. The tables turned, then, with the assassin left to squirm and kick as attackers grabbed at him.

He was dragged away and subdued by the guardsmen. The quarry awkwardly crawled out from its place of refuge, trailing fresh blood from its right arm. As it emerged it smiled at him, as if it had won some light-hearted game.

***​

‘’You are okay, your grace?’’ Nadbor had arrived, with the second wave of the Emperor’s troops. Their initial foray into Cilicia had also been a difficult one, but the Rumites were still reeling from previous battles and Nadbor's companions Ancel of Franche-Comte and Cenek of Savoy were among the Empire's best commanders.


Konrad smiled at his son-in-law, the scar made this a challenge, but he was in an ebullient mood. ‘’God is with us, Nadbor. He has seen fit to preserve my life twice over.’’ Or I’m extremely lucky.

He said it loudly, so the troops could hear.

Nadbor spoke more quietly. ‘’Are you willing to return to Sicily now, your grace? None can doubt your courage or piety, but perhaps we shouldn’t tax God’s resources.’’

The Emperor shook his head vigorously. ‘’Sicily? I should think not. Soon there will be 40 000 imperial troops here, someone has to coordinate them.’’ The Pole winced, provoking a laugh from Konrad as he continued. ‘’But I have, perhaps, been convinced to command from a greater distance from the front.’’

‘’I am glad of it, your grace. Do you mean to stay here?’’

‘’No, that would be awkward for the Regent Eusebia. Some of my men almost lynched her after the attempt on my life. Crusading zeal and Miaphysites are an awkward mix.’’

‘’Do we know how they got in?’’

‘’Bribed one of the officers of the garrison, claiming to be refugees from the fighting. Didn’t really do anything to raise suspicion, so there’s no cause for blame.’’

Nadbor shuffled uncomfortably at the Emperor’s equanimity, but this just provoked another laugh. In his experience, conversations with the Emperor were always tinged with gentle mockery and mild condescension. ‘’Don’t worry, Nadbor, I’ve had attentive guards posted at my door since the incident.’’

He resisted the urge to ask why the Emperor didn’t always have attentive guards posted at his door. ‘’Where do you mean to go, then?’’

Konrad shrugged. ‘’Perhaps I can make a nuisance of myself in Cyprus, or settle in one of the Cilician castles after you’ve secured them. Whatever we are assigned after the Crusade belongs to you and Hildegard, by the way. If further motivation was needed.''

The younger man was taken aback. Such advancement had always been a hope, and the very reason he had surrendered the Piast name, but it seemed he was offered a Crusader Kingdom- should the Pope adjudicate things fairly. ‘’I… thank you, your grace.’’

Konrad just shrugged again, as if handing out Kingdoms was the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps it was, for an Emperor. All that remained was for Nadbor to march forth, and secure the Kingdom of Anatolia for himself and his Hohenstaufen heirs…
 
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I wonder at Konrad's easy facade. Because I am quite sure it is a facade. If he comes face to face with the one behind the would-be killers, I am sure the facade may slip