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Cecasander

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Chronicles of the Lowlands

HALTONMOTTE.gif
A motte and bailey castle much like the one at Flaerdinghe and Rijnsburgh​

Index​
Book I
Chapter I - The youth of Dirk V
Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII
Chapter II - The count's redemption
Part I, II, III, IV, V
Chapter III - Aleppo
Part I, II, III


Introduction​
Until the late eleventh century, the county of Holland didn’t exist. The coastal lowlands and swamps between Flandres and Bremen were generally known as Frisia or Friesland. The people were called Frisians, and they formed a stubborn and strong German tribe that had resisted the Romans, Franks and Christianity altogether. Only a few feudal lords had managed to govern significant areas of land, although most of Frisia would remain autonomous, nearly anarchistic, (ruled by farmers rather than lords) until the late middle ages. One of the lordships that managed to maintain itself in these wetlands was the county of Holland. It was originally just named Frisia (not to be confused with the other Frisia in the game), but it would change it’s name into Holland around 1076. Before that time, Holland, or Holt-land (lit. woodland) was the name of the area around the mount of the Rhine River, near modern-day Leiden. As this area became more important (there was a principal castle at Rijnsburg, along the river and near modern Katwijk and Leiden) the count became Holland, and the future rulers would distance themselves from their Frisian roots.

This story starts out around the time the county became Holland. The count, Dirk V, was only a boy when his father had died. Soon after the count’s death the neighboring bishop of Utrecht – lurking on higher ground – grabbed large parts of Holland (or Frisia), but around 1068 they were all returned back to the young count. Also, the county fell under protection of Flandres, as the count’s mother was also the wife of the count of Flandres. The Flamish also gave Holland an area then called Imperial Flandres. Later this would become Zealand and would be part of Holland until the Burgundian time, even and after that Holland and Zealand would remain closely tied. The count of Holland held most of the modern-day province of Holland, including Westfriesland, which was at the time separated from the rest of Friesland by the Flie river, and was also known as Friesland west of the Flie or Westflie. As time would pass, however, tensions would rise between the count of Holland and the people of Westfriesland, who would hold onto their Frisian heritage.

One thing should not be forgotten. 11th-century Holland didn’t look a lot like it’s modern counterpart. Major floods would craft the landscape. A flood in the south would change Imperial Flandres into a patchwork of countless islands, which would thus gain the name Zealand. Other floods would broaden the Flie river and extend the inner sea that was known as Almere at the time. Eventually this would completely separate Holland and Westfriesland from the rest of Friesland, and create the Zuiderzee. The raising sea level and floods would create a whole number of lakes in the north of Holland (most of which would be drained in the 17th century) and it would ruin a lot of arable land in the area. However, these floods would also cause the people to protect their land by building dykes and drainage ditches, and establish water bodies that would maintain and extend them. A dyke surrounding a large part of Westfriesland was built in the 12th century after the Flie and Almere were flooded, which stands to this day (although heightened) and as the middle ages progressed the people would end up saving a lot of their low-lying land this way. I shall attempt to bring these things back into my story, as they imply had such a large impact on the area and the present-day Netherlands in general.

Rivers change their course as well, over time. For a long time the Rhine river ended into the North Sea at Katwijk near Leiden. However, after this stream sanded the one of the river's side arms became the main river. That part of the Rhine is now known as the Lek (lit. leak) and ends into the Meuse near the city of Dordrecht. Also, the Meuse river nowadays ends further to the south, although the river that runs through Rotterdam (and Vlaardingen, site of Flaerdinghe castle) is still called the New Meuse, even though it's part of the Rhine (honestly, nobody understands it here either).

I haven’t played Crusader Kings a lot yet – I only got the game about a month ago, and I will probably play like the newbie I am. Thus my main goal is not to conquer/inherit entire Europe, but rather to write an interesting story. It will be a story of fiction. I’ll try add as much historical facts to it as possible, but I’ll bend minor facts and issues when I see fit. It should also be said the game isn’t completely historical (making a duchy of Flanders for example) and as the game progresses it will simply change history. I don’t mind, I like alternate histories, so as time progresses I’ll certainly get plenty of change to let my fantasy run free and create a glorious future for the house of Holland!

 
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Cecasander

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BOOK I
Chapter I – the youth of Dirk V
(Part I)

North20sea20sunset_2.jpg


Flaerdinghe Castle – April 19 1068

The sun went down over the North Sea. Dirk shivered as a cool evening breeze swept over the mouth of the Meuse. A large flock of birds was flying in circles around on the opposite bank of the broad river. His mother told him these birds fly north every summer to breed, and head back south when the northern winter sets in. Dirk suddenly remembered the large geese they had for dinner yesterday, and was glad the birds returned to the north every year. Goose was his favorite meal. He wrapped the thick bearskin around him and slowly started to walk back from the quay towards the castle. Two guards were standing a few paces away. Dirk knew it was their job to protect him from harm. His tutor, his mother and several other adult courtiers warned him never to walk off too far without escorts. He knew. He was the count. He was supposed to be the count. In reality his mother and her husband (her new husband, not his father, who had perished when Dirk was a young boy) ruled the county. Dirk knew his mother knew what was best – she certainly told him often enough. She would often travel to Bruges, where her new husband ruled the rich duchy of Flanders. Dirk had visited Bruges twice, and he had met his older brother Albrecht and his little sister Bertha. His mother had told him that the duke of Flanders would protect him, and that that strange man had given him the islands they had crossed on their way. Dirk had shrugged, unable to understand why anyone would give him some stupid islands and not just a lavish feast. Luckily for young Dirk, his mother’s new husband had also prepared a feast for him.

That was years ago, and Dirk only remembered the feast vaguely. Later he would travel across the Vlie river into Frisia, and they would be the guest of another man who his mother called the count of Frisia, but who was in fact a German. At one of those trips he discovered this count also had a son and a daughter, and although the son – Ekbert – didn’t like Dirk, he could certainly get along with daughter Gertrude. When they left to return to Flaerdinge, his mother told him the girl might become his wife one day. Dirk said he would like that, as he liked the girl, and his mother seemed content. He never saw her again, but he had hoped that the Frisians would visit Flaerdinghe or his second court at Rijnsburgh.

Dirk and the guards entered the castle. The main building of the castle was made of stone – a rarity people had told him – and stood three stories up. Around the main building were a dozen wooden builings; the stable, barracks, warehouses and the lodgings of the servants. Dirks tutor and also marshal of the court, Jan van Brederode, approached him and handed him his short sword. “You’re late, Dirk, you said you were only going to see the sun set!” the tall man said angry. “I did, master, but it was late…” Dirk said as an excuse. Van Brederode casted his eyes to the sky – although he couldn’t see beyond the ceiling – and said: “If you weren’t a count you would have had quite a beating now, boy”. Dirk nodded and looked at the man with remorse, and the man smelted. “Well, let’s get going then, if we want to practice”. Dirk followed the man back outside to the fencing field on the side of the main building. The boy knew his mentor had threatened to beat him countless times, but he also knew he would never do Dirk harm. After all, it was Dirk personally who let him live in his court when the man sought refuge. When Jan van Brederode had prepared the practice doll, Dirk charged it and showed the marshal his best moves. He wished to fight on the battlefield once, like his father and his uncle.

Two days later the cook prepared goose again. This time his mother had invited several lower noblemen, who were clearly very eager to dine with the young count and his regent. Some time later a young woman also joined the feast. Dirk had not seen her for a couple of months. Her name was Annelies van Egmont, daughter of one of Dirk’s allies and his spymaster. His mother’s spymaster, in fact. She shared pleasantries with his mother as they ate, although it was never anything trivial – at least not when there were guests present. Annelies was very young (only 17 springs, three years older than Dirk) and also very attractive. Even a boy like Dirk could see the pure beauty of the young woman. His mother had told him Annelies was exceptionally good in using ‘her body’ as she put it, and that didn’t only make this simple noble woman from Egmont one of the most desired women in the Empire, it also made her an exceptional spy. Dirk couldn’t believe a woman her age could travel to much as she had did, especially not alone. But she had. Dirk’s heart skipped a beat as he heard she would stay in Flaerdinghe for a couple of weeks. He couldn’t wait to hear her stories. When he asked about it, she simply smiled and told him she would tell him everything… later.


This first part is merely to introduce several characters and create a bit of a backstory. It's true my spymaster is the most desirable woman in Europe. So far she's had about 20-something marriage proposals, which I all refused, as her stats are really good (says a newbie). The first couple of years, while Dirk hadn't come of age yet, I spended most of my money on building fisheries and lumbercamps as their apparently give me more money. Jan van Brederode comes to my court in 1067. His brother (I guess... at least he's going to be for the sake of the story) Diederick was appointed to me by the pope a few months earlier. In the first two years both Holland and Westfriesland became prosperous and Holland even became rich! I was just lucky I guess. Nothing else happened... yet.
 

stnylan

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Excellent first post. some good imagery there.
 
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Great first part. The intro really needs some work though. :D

Looking forward to reading more!
 

Cecasander

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Stnylan - Thanks! I must admit I take pride in finding good images :)

Shuma - Hehe, I'll get to it... eventually. And welcome!
 

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Indeed a nice introduction.

I had a lot of fun with my Holland AAR, the Gerulfing Saga :) I hope you have as much fun as I did
 

Cecasander

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BOOK I
Chapter I – the youth of Dirk V
(Part II)

belarus-conf06.jpg


Rijnsburgh Castle – June 8 1068

The summer of 1068 started out as a warm and dry one. Most of the servants had sought shelter inside the castle or under the trees of the orchard just outside the castle gate. Dirk was sitting in his large quarters, alone. Most of his most important courtiers were still in Flaerdinge, his mother had traveled to Brugges and he was to lazy to go down and ask a servant to play with him or read him. So, instead, he just set behind his desk and looked outside as the sun burned and the room became increasingly warm.

He should be in Flaerdinghe. He couldn’t believe his mother had sent him here. He couldn’t believe his mother could order him anything. He was almost an adult! Maybe she refused to see that, or maybe she refused to let him go… and with him the power of the county… Dirk dismissed such a bad thought. He decided he would spend his time useful by going outside and oversee his servants. Maybe he could take a bath in the river or ask the stable master to prepare his horse and make a tour through the countryside. Hoping the mayor of the castle would allow him to ride alone, he quickened his pace outside and quickly searched for the mayor, who was also the captain of the guard. “Hey, look where you’re going!” Dirk heard, and he barely avoided by run over by a horse. “Ahh! My lord, are you okay?” The rider dismounted. Dirk opened his eyes. It was his spy mistress. “I… I’m okay…” he said carefully. “Good”, the young woman said with a smile from ear to ear.

“Whaw hav woe beew up toow?” Dirk asked while he put a piece of bread in his mouth. “I’ve been around. Talking, scouting. You know”. Dirk nodded. Annelies had told him she and her men were constantly on the lookout for troops from the bishop of Utrecht. The bishop had invaded several pieces of the county when his father died, and Dirk intended to conquer it all back. And take some more. Bishop or no bishop, he had no right of taking his land. He and Annelies walked along the river. The Rhine was narrow this summer. Dirk took another piece of bread from his leather bag and said nothing as they walked on. After an hour they reached a large beach along the river. It was usually a mere sandbank, but now you could easily walk to it from the riverbank. Annelies made a small fire to keep away the mosquitoes. Dirk looked around for a moment, and than began to undress. Annelies relieved herself of the leather gear she usually wore, as well as her heavy boots, but she made no attempt to undress any further. “You’re not going to bath?” Dirk asked, rather surprised. “Uhh, no… see, I can’t swim”. “You can’t swim!? You’re Frisian and you can’t swim!?” The young count couldn’t help to sound cynical, but he found the idea rather revolting. Annelies defended herself. “That’s not so strange, Dirk. Hardly any peasant can swim”. “But you’re no peasant”. “That’s not the bloody point”, she said. Her voice had become unnaturally high, and Dirk saw her hands were shaking. “Uhm, okay, suit yourself”, he settled the argument, and he walked into the cool waters of the Rhine river.

Annelies kept a close eye on her liege as he swam to the deeper part of the river. The boy certainly knew how to get around in water, it seemed. She then closed her eyes. Of course she knew how to swim. She just didn’t want to be naked around Dirk. That wasn’t strange, was it? She was pretty sure the church wouldn’t allow a naked man and a naked woman so close to each other. And aptly she had been pretty surprised when Dirk had asked to join her, but she couldn’t come up with a legitimate excuse at the moment. Did Dirk to make a move on her, try to get her naked? Although the young count was fourteen, and she was a couple of years older, she certainly noticed that things had changed between her and her liege in the past years. Surely the boy was becoming a man, and he was her master, but that didn’t mean she should give herself to him without compromise… right? As the opened her eyes she noticed Dirk was out of the water already. The boy was sitting in the dark sand, drawing circles with his finger as the sun dried his back. “Oh, I thought you were asleep”, he said with a grin on his face. Annelies smiled and shook her head. She looked at the boy, but a bit too long for her own comfort. She quickly dismissed she sinful thoughts that came up in her head and crawled closer to him. “You should watch out, you know? Before you know it you’ll catch a cold”.


I forgot to post then last time, but I do have some pictures with the stats of the characters: Jan van Brederode, Annelies van Egmond, young count Dirk and Gertrude von Braunschweig, Dirk's proposed wife.
 
Aug 26, 2006
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That Gertrude is quite a looker! ;)

Hmm, so is our young spymistress falling under the boyish charm of the count? I'm sure he wouldn't object to some sinful action between them either :D


EDIT: Woo! 500th post! On second thought, is that something I should celebrate? :)
 
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stnylan

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Quite amusing little scene. I like it.

@shuma - but of course. I remember I was really excited about my 500th post. The milestones get a little more tedious as they get larger, I'm afraid, so enjoy the moment while you can ;)
 

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Veldmaarschalk - Welome, I hope you like it. It's certainly a fun game :)

Shuma - Will they hook on? Just wait and see! I'm also curious how his mother would respond :D

Stnylan - I remember how much trouble it costed me to get 50 posts. Alas, that's the bane of the lurker ;)
 

Cecasander

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BOOK I
Chapter I – the youth of Dirk V
Part III

frozenditch.jpg

Flaerdinghe Castle – November 21 1068​

Autumn storms swept along the coast. According to the reports, Castle Rijnsburgh and the nearby villages of Mathwyk and Leithon were partly destroyed and further up north the damage was even worse. Luckily Flaerdinghe was save and the fireplace was simply to comfortable for Dirk to worry about any faraway storms. Elsewhere in the castle his steward and her aide had become stressed after keeping account of the bountiful harvest and the storm that followed. The count’s chancellor, Diederik van Brederode, in absence of Dirks mother and regent, manages the state affairs while his brother Jan continued to teach the young duke to fight like a man. Aptly, Dirk didn’t care much for diplomacy or statesmanship, but he did like to fight.

“Keep it straight! Straight I said!” Dirk had trouble keeping the heavy wooden training sword up as he rode through the pouring rain. Jan van Brederode rode next to him and made a futile attempt to correct him. “Up! If this were a real sword, you had cut off your horse’s legs by now”. The man brought the two horses to a stop and jerked the wooden sword from Dirk’s red hands. “Master, let’s get home, please! It’s raining and we’re both cold!” “Forget it, boy, this is a lesson you need to learn. The harder you try, the faster we can go home”. Dirk cursed his mentor and took the sword back. He’d show the man! He kicked his horse in the side. The animal, already stressed by the rain and the marshal’s shouting, leaped and ran off in a mad rage. Dirk pushed himself against the horse’s neck and firmly held the trainingsword up. Jan van Brederode was stunned for a moment, but then rode after it, shouting all kinds of insults and demanded that the young count would stop or he’d get himself killed. Dirk never got very far. The maddened horse rode into a frozen ditch, and broke it’s front legs as it slid through the mud. Dirk was catapulted into the ground, and then rolled into the same ditch, dangerously close to the struggling horse. “Damn you, boy! I should leave you there to be crushed under your own horse, fool”, Jan’s voice thundered as the boy tried to flee from the horse, who was struggling with the mud and ice and her long legs. But instead the marshal dismounted and extended his arm to retrieve the dirty young man. Jan van Brederode dragged the boy up, and then forced him to the cold ground with his muddy boot. “One day, Dirk… one day…” Dirk coughed and shivered. Jan dragged him onto his feet. The boy looked at him, scared pitiful.

Jan and Dirk rode to a hunting lodge further upstream along the Meuse River, near the borders of the bishop of Utrecht. The marshal had retrieved the young count’s gear and had mercifully slid the horse’s throat. On their way neither said a word. Jan was still upset, but he noticed he had been worried rather than angry. Although Jan had been at the count’s court for less than a year, he had developed an affinity for the boy. The young count had a very strong will, and although he wasn’t the brightest of souls, he was strong and also witty. However, Jan had seen that the young count was getting more and more disinterested in state affairs. The marshal had tried to teach him diplomacy and stewardship (even though he knew they weren’t his terrain of teaching) and although Dirk had certain skill in both, the boy didn’t found it worth his attention and wasn’t interested in developing those skills. And with the court steward’s current mental state, the marshal doubted he ever would.

The scent of smoke and roasted duck filled the lodge. Jan van Brederode had been checking the guards (in fact local villagers) and returned into the warmth. He found Dirk staring into the fireplace. “Master”, he said without loosing his attention from the flames, “Will I turn out okay?” Jan laughed. “Of course you will, Dirk. It’s just that pulling stunts like today’s will get you killed”. “Master, I’ll listen from now on”, Dirk insisted. Jan van Brederode smiled at the boy. “Discipline is one thing, my boy, but never force yourself into oppressing your true spirit. No matter my brother says”, he said, and he poured some spiced wine in the boy’s cup.


In the autumn of 1078 both my steward Hadewyn and a random courtier called Blanche became stressed. However, meanwhile my province of Holland and Westfriesland flourished; Westfriesland became prosperous and Holland even became rich. For the sake of the story I hope it stays this way for a while (not to mention for the sake of the game :) ) as Holland at this time is largely unsettled and swampy wilderness and I need a reason for towns to emerge! The villages of Leithon and Mathwyk represent Leiden -which was founded around this time and became rather important in the late middle ages- and Katwijk, which was founded by the Romans and was the site Willebrordus landed and started his conversion of the Frisians in 690.
 
Last edited:

Deamon

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I like it good update.
 
Aug 26, 2006
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Hmm.. the child seems a bit too indulgent and lazy (although I don't remember seeing those traits in his portrait :D). Let's hope his education really does turn out ok.
 

stnylan

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An indolent count could be a great opportunity for those so inclined.
 

Cecasander

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Deamon - Welcome, good to know you like!

Shuma - He's not really lazy or indulgent, I'd blame that on puberty :p However, I can already reveal Dirk will turn out to be a misguided warrior, and the point I'm trying to make is that his mentor tried his best, but just couldn't bring him to teaching more than fighting.

Stdylan - I've seen into the future, and I know you should have pity with poor Jan :)

Oh, did anyone noticed I wrote an introduction? I must admit it didn't come out very well. I knew exactly what I was going to write in Dutch, but I simply failed to translate it properly. I should fix it once, but on the meantime you'll have to bear with this angual abomination.
 
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Yeah, I've just noticed the introduction. I actually think its rather good!
 

unmerged(63202)

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Very good. Do not stop until you've conquered half of the world. It's just a shame there is no option to create the Kingdom of the Netherlands.. Instead, it's all Germany, which is rather hard to get if you're not related to whoever the current king is.
 

Cecasander

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BOOK I
Chapter I – the youth of Dirk V
Part IV

Motte_bailey.jpg

Marchum Castle (Frisia)– October 2 1069​

In the autumn of ’69 grave news reached Flaerdinghe. Gertrude von Braunschweig, Dirk’s fiancé, had became gravely ill, and her parents feared she would not survive winter. Dirk’s mother said just to forget about the Frisian girl, and that she would find another girl, but Dirk refused to discuss this matter even. After a lengthy, emotional discussion between mother and son, Dirk was allowed to travel to Frisia to visit the girl. Annelies van Egmont quickly proclaimed herself his escort as Jan van Brederode was in Utrecht. Dirk had accepted. He had become old enough to notice innuendo, and although he only had Gertrude on his mind, he reasoned he could use all the support he could get in Frisia. Late September Dirk, Annelies and three mounted retainers left Flaerdinghe for Frisia. The weather had been gentle for the time of the year, and they reached the court of the Von Braunschweigs of Frisia three days earlier than they had planned.

Young Gertrude was bound to her bed. She constantly had two priests around her, who kept a close eye on her. Dirk saw how her eyes appeared soulless; as if she shared her parents’ believe and gave up hope for recovery already. In the spare time she was awake and able to speak, she and Dirk talked about all kinds of things. Gertrude was an honest girl, and spoke her mind. Dirk didn’t understand why a girl so pure and honest would be punished by God in such a manner. He asked one of the priests, who could only answer along the line of ‘God works in mysterious ways’.

“What’s the point of living if you could get sick and die just any time?” Dirk asked out loud. He walked around his room at high pace, and had become increasingly stressed the past days. “Well, master”, a voice said, “we live to live a pious life. As long as you follow the word of the Lord he should not bring harm onto you”. Dirk looked up, and noticed his spymistess sitting in the window. “I didn’t know you were in”, Dirk said with a bitter tone. “A pious life, eh? What do you know of piety? From what I have heard about you from my mother…” Annelies stood up immediately. “You heard what from you mother?” she inquired. Dirk was somewhat taken aback. “Well, she told me you used… rather sinful ways to pursue men, for example”. Annelies mumbled something unfriendly about Dirk’s regent and walked to him. Although she stood to his nose, her fiery eyes and strong, up-straight body did scare young Dirk. “Your mother speaks slander! I should never indulge myself into something sinful… never! And since when did you listen to your mother anyway, boy?!” Dirk took a step back. Annelies was shaking and the fire in her eyes raged more than he had ever seen. She looked impressive, but also very beautiful. She raised her fist to her chest. “I would never betray God like that, Dirk. Don’t you think so otherwise. I wouldn’t give up my…” Dirk held her shoulders. Her anger seemed to disappear as quickly as it came “Hush, you’re still shaking”. “I know…” Annelies looked into his eyes. The flames had died. “Dirk”, she said softly, “we shouldn’t, should we?” “You don’t want to?” “It doesn’t matter what I want, I mean…” dirk just smiled, and then kissed her on the mouth. Her resistance broke as his lips touched hers.

“We’ll burn in hell”, Annelies insisted. “I guess we will”, Dirk agreed. He got up and walked to the window. “If there’s one thing Gertrude taught me this visit, it’s to life like it could be your last day… because it could”. “Not if…” “Not if you follow the Bible to the letter? How many saints died a young and gruesome death, and how many barbarians and heathens lived into their sixties?” Annelies said nothing. She turned herself around, and faced the ceiling. “You could fight for the faith, and still get shot in the eye, or bleed to death after an accident. How could a fair God allow that?” Why did some people set sick and others didn’t? Why would the most honorable of noble families get malformed children? To test their piety?

Gertrude was coughing all the time as Dirk sat on her bed. Her voice was weak and squeaky. Although the priests had suggested not to, Dirk held the girl and tried to comfort her. He didn’t care about catching the disease if Gertrude would die. He loved the girl. He did, didn’t he? He couldn’t forget about what had happened between him and his spymistress yesterday. He couldn’t give it more thought, as Gertrude got some air and asked him what kind of weather it was outside. Dirk told her, and wondered what the girl had done to cause the wrath of God.


Poor Gertrude of Frisia, the girl I intended to marry to my count to inherit Frisia (after killing her brother), got ill. I crossed my fingers and hoped she would recover, and survive beyond her 16th spring... We'll get to that later, though. I tried to add as much character traits in this part as possible. For exemple, Annelies is zealous, but she has 13 intrigue so I reasoned she couldn't be all that pious :) Dirk is sceptical (and just), a trait he should be gaining through this little episode. Also, Gertrude lived like it's her last day (or so she taught Dirk) as she's indulgent. And she's wise and honest, so she's a nice girl as well :)
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Very interesting little scene. I wonder if Dirk will ever perhaps consider that Gertrude may be suffering for his sinfulness?
 
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Some very tough questions young Dirk asks. Nice showing of their character traits indeed.

I'm wondering a bit about when Dirk developed such strong (or maybe he just fancies they are strong) feelings toward Gertrude.