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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

A_spoon_of_salt

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Hey. This is my first AAR and my true first moments on the forums. I'm trying to make it a good one so feel free to post criticism if you don't like something. It'll be an AAR in your standard Volhynia as House Tyvercy. I am ready to finish it. I have no particular goals in mind, just roleplaying my characters and having fun. Maybe I'll be thinking of forming Ruthenia, but that's not 100% sure. Crusader Kings II is my favourite Paradox game and I fell in love with making those reports now. Enjoy and tell me what you think! :)



Prologue



I am Briachislav Tyvercy, High Chief of Volhynia and a victim of my own past. For nineteen years, whenever I go to sleep, I have the same nightmare over and over again. I see my 17 years old self fighting for my life during a Magyar rain on our county, Terebovl. I'm battling my way through the horde of enemies, fleeing from the place, as all hope is lost - we know that we're not able to save our lands. I run away from the tribe with my father, the previous High Chief of Volhynia and a few lucky soldiers to survive the massacre. To our surprise, some of them start chasing us. ''No Ruthenian is coming out of here alive!'', they shouted. We're almost out of our breath and have to stop, the invaders finally catching up to us. Tired, we don't have much chances. Every one of our soldiers die and I'm left with my father, both of us fighting valliantly until one of them manages to stab him, then the rest impale their swords on him. I see as his body falls down on the ground, lifeless. I shout and cry, but I know it won't bring him back. Furious, I kill every single one of them. I mourn over my father's body, but I know I have to run before any more Magyars come and kill me.
On my way back, I always find a messenger running to meet with my father.
''Brachislav!'', he shouts. ''We deeply need our High Chief somewhere else! Where is your father?''
''I am the High Chief now.'', I respond.
''What? What happened? Brachislav, you--'' The messenger starts to panic.
''He is dead. Killed by those infidels from the Magyar Khaganate! As your new chief, I command you to tell me what's happening.'' I say firmly with a stern look.
''The Yatvingians are attacking Beresty! We cannot hold them off!'' He responds.
Then I wake up, screaming and sweating. I slowly realize I'm back in reality, back in Vladimir Volynsky. My wife, Doubravka of Bohemian origins, is already used to this. She knows that I still can't take this loss. I'm 36 years old now and I still remember that event. Perhaps that's because I'm having nightmares of it every single day since it happened!
But one day was different. In a dream I had then, I saw Volhynian soldiers attacking the Yatvingians and Magyars in a one, big battle. After a bloody combat, they are victorious. I woke up relatively late, well rested and somewhat happy. Since I became a High Chief and our enemies took our lands, Volhynia has always been mocked as a small and insignifcant high chiefdom in the middle of much more powerful chiefdoms and kingdoms. I still had a chance to stop hiding in Vladimir Volynsky, still had a chance to prove them wrong.

And by Gods, I was ready to do it!
 
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A_spoon_of_salt

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Chapter I - The Restoration of Volhynia (769 - 773)

A week later, I led my troops to a border of Volhynia and Yatvingia. That bastard, Arumas, High Chief of Yatvingia, expected nothing. It was a dark January night, I remember, and it was very cold. But we still had good morale. It's the moment we all waited for years. I sat near a campfire, joking around with my men, insulting Yatvingians. Near me sat a powerful man, Volodar. He was a marshall in my council and the best soldier in the high chiefdom.
''Finally, Beresty will be ours! I was still serving your father as I watched it fall to the Yatvingians - there were many of them and most of our soldiers were already killed by the Magyars. Revenge is best served cold'', he said.
''Aye. We were split and weakened years ago. Now that we've created an army worth conquering lands, we will kill them. Both the Yatvingians and the Magyars.'' I replied, taking a bite of meat I fried above the campfire.
''We'll conquer all Ruthenian lands!'', the marshall yelled.
Suddenly, our fun and joy was disrupted. One of our scouts entered the camp in a hurry. He has approached us and yelled ''The Yatvingian army is nearby!'', which woke up all warriors that were already asleep. Although we planned to siege Beresty early in the morning, it seems like it won't work out. I wondered what Arumas planned. Did he spot us? When we got ready, we were led by the scout to a field where Yatvingian army commanded by Arumas himself was passing by. His face changed colours when he saw me riding with my band of warriors.
''What are you doing here, you infidels?!'' Shouted Arumas, as if he was surprised to see me.
''We're here to take Beresty that de jure belongs to us, you brat! We're here to take revenge for that bloodshed you caused when we were in another war.'' I yelled, angry, with a strong desire to crush someone's skull.
''That was a smart move, you can't deny that. Beresty for years is considered a Yatvingian chiefdom now, and let me inform you, infidel, that we guard our chiefdoms very well!'' Said the mad invader Arumas.
I couldn't take it anymore and I told my armies to charge. The battle was long and bloody, but after taking positions at key points of the battlefield and managing to outmanouver the enemy, we emerged victorious. We knew that the moment the Yatvingians started to run back to their home direction, and when Arumas got hit with an arrow by one of our very talented archers, although that was nothing serious as he was hit in the shoulder, so unfortunately that couldn't kill him. When I ran to cut his head off with my sword, he noticed me and ran. I commanded my archers to try and hurt him again, but he was too fast and by the time we realized, he was already gone. We've came back to our camp and rested.
Today was an important day. We rode to Beresty. I felt good, thinking about freeing those beautiful and fertile lands from Arumas' rule. Although some of our men died the previous day and our morale slightly dropped, we've managed to conquer Beresty. The morning was cold and unpleasant, albeit it seemed like it bothered our enemies more - that was a good sign. I only counted 200 men defending the tribe, while we had around 1000, excluding the losses from the battle that happened the other day. Interestingly enough, when the siege was about to end, the Slavic folk in Beresty rised against Yatvingians, which caused us to win the battle faster. I felt really great when I realized the people from these lands wanted me as their ruler for such a long time - I'm glad they showed it. We have taken the tribe back to our high chiefdom.




The four next years were very peaceful. After the conquest of Beresty, our northern neighbours, Yatvingians, thought of us as rivals. There were many minor quarrels at the border of Beresty and Podlasie, but most of them were not serious - it's just patriotic criminals from Yatvingia thinking they can throw me away from my throne with only not more than twenty men. It was pathetic and even Arumas knew that.
I, myself, have been busy. As months passed, me and my wife Doubravka have been trying to have a son, a mighty successor of my rule. We didn't manage to that. We had three daughters, though - Rostislava, Verkhoslava and Varvara. That did not satisfy me, though. I was plainly dissapointed, which worried me. I didn't seem to love my daughters as much, even if each one was more beautiful and adorable than the last. Perhaps that's because I didn't have a sister - maybe that would change my point of view. Doubravka noticed my dissapointment, although I didn't want it to happen. When I wanted to have a little bit of fun with her, she denied me. When I wanted to hug and kiss her, tell her how much I love her, she would run away. I understood it. She was mad at me for me thinking that our children are worthless - I thought so until I started hearing rumors that she has an affair with Chief Kresomysl of Plzen. I heard it so much that I decided to arrive at Plzen to question him.




''Good morning, High Chief Briachislav! What brings you to Plzen?'', he asked as if he was innocent.
''Let me get straight to the point. I've heard that you had an affair with my wife. Is it true?'', I asked.
''Are you having a what?!'' His wife, Vladislava, shouted.
''No! Don't listen to this fool, my dearest! He's lying - He's only trying to break us apart!'', he said, trying to calm her down. Oh, so I became a fool? ''Get out of Plzen, you brat, or my soldiers will help you''
So I did. I return to Vladimir Volynsky, despaired. Who was telling the truth there? I couldn't decide. But I've talked to a man who could help me with this problem - my spymaster, Viacheslav. I hired him to follow Kresomysl. After a couple of days, he returned to the chiefdom. I had prayed to Jarilo that he would say he didn't find anything suspicious and it's just my long-time paranoia playing out. But from a worried expression I noted on his face, I expected the worst.
''Chief...I don't have good news. Yesterday, I followed Kresomysl to a forest near Plzen. He has met with Doubravka there. They started kissing, calling each other sweet names, and then...they...undressed themselves...and--'' Viacheslav started to tell me the details, but I couldn't listen to this gross absurd.
''No! Don't! Oh, oh gods...Why...Why me?'' I started asking myself and grabbed my hair.
''I will leave now, Chief...'' Spymaster whispered.
''Yes...Yes, Viacheslav. You will be paid for your good work...'' I mumbled, saddened. I could not take these lies anymore - I divorced with Doubravka and found Lucija, who's been interested in me for a long time now. She's been in my tribe and I've noticed how she looks at me walking with Doubravka time to time and sighed. Now I decided to marry her. I have asked her liege, Hranislav, for permission. And he agreed.




My heart shattered, but not my iron will and the next thing I wanted to do was free Terebovl from Magyars...I just had to wait for a good opportunity...


 

A_spoon_of_salt

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Chapter II - The Fall of the Khaganate (773 - 779)

Dark, stormy clouds gathered above the Magyars, our long-time rivals and the murderers of my father. I have been waiting long for a chance to attack them, and at the end of year 773, a Kievan traveler arrived at Vladimir Volynsky. He brought his family with him. I was interested in what it could mean. So one day, I brought the traveler to my castle to ask him a few questions. The cooks made a marvellous supper, so he didn't even hestitate and accepted my offer. I told him to sit near me and Lucija, so we could talk. When the rest of the courtiers had fun, drank ale and screamed at the top of their lungs, we quickly discussed politics.
''What is that you wanted to talk about with me, High Chief Briachislav?'', he asked with a lovely smile on his face.
''Well, you have brought your family all the way from Kiev to my chiefdom. I am very happy about that, my friend, but why did you do that? Is something bad happening in Kiev?'' I asked him.
''High Chiefdom of Kiev is a very good place, with kind and honorable men and women, and we're ruled by a very smart lady, Dobrava. But she made a horrible mistake recently - she has married with the High Chief of Kuyavia. After she dies, her lands will be his. We just didn't want a Pole to be our chief. Kiev itself is powerful, probably more powerful than ever now with the recent happenings'', the man replied.
''Recent happenings?'', I asked, interested.
''Don't you know, chief Briachislav? We declared war on the Magyar Khaganate. We're about to reconquer lands they have taken from us many years ago. Chieftess Dobrava was probably inspired by your actions against the Yatvingians. Everyone talks about the shoulder wound Arumas has gained in a battle with you'', he said and caught my attention.
''Thank you. Thank you, my friend...Say, what's your name?''
''Nikita.''
''Nikita...You seem like a good man and your way of talking is just a pleasure for my ears - wouldn't you want to join my council? We recently have a lack of good diplomats.'' I asked him, hoping he'll agree.
''Oh, chief! It'd be a honor for me and my family - I accept.'' He replied almost immediately. We shook hands and I welcomed him. After the supper ended and almost every courtier returned to his home, I went to marshall Volodar and asked him to get my troops ready. We were going on a war with Magyars.




Year 774. We're battling our way through the Magyars and burn rich provinces to eliminate most of King Jeno's profits. I think that's a reasonable price for what they did to us - of course, along with us taking Terebovl back. When I entered this beautiful valley that once belonged to my father's land, I felt sad about all brave soldiers that ended their lives here, trying to defend us against a much more powerful enemy. Luckily, at the same time, the Kievan army was completely destroying all Magyar lines of defense, breaking through these lands like glass. It was a good time for us to attack the Khaganate from behind, from what they think is the safest place to live during this war as Dobrava is attacking from the north - Oh, how wrong they all are. Speaking of Dobrava, we met her leading an army, leading reinforcements to the main group led by her husband, chief of Kuyavia.
''Hm. What are you searching for in the lands of Magyars, High Chief Briachislav? Do you want to stop us from taking the provinces that are ours?'' She asked, stroking her chin.
''I don't. I'm not allied with them, it would be the most foolish thing to do. I am here for the same reason, just retake what's mine. If we help each other, we'll both complete our objectives.'' I replied with a smile.
''My husband is leading our main forces in Pereyaslavl now. I need to come to his aid. We will not disturb you in your wars, and we ask the same.'' Said Dobrava.
''Let Jarilo make these lands fertile again.'
''Aye.''
Dobrava left with her soldiers, while we went to Terebovl. The siege was long and hard. The Magyars were good at defending their lands. They put stone walls around our tribe, something we've never thought of before - they stood on them and fired their arrows at us. Many good lads died, but I knew sacrifices had to be made. The battle lasted and lasted, it lasted more than I could've imagined - around eight months. This year was slowly coming to a close, but luckily we've managed to defeat those infidels before the first snow fell. Terebovl was ours again. Jeno surrendered and with additional land in our borders, we gained some prestige and glory.




Year 775 I like to call ''the year of surprises''. After we've so valliantly fought with Magyars and retook Terebovl and celebrated gods letting us live one more year, a lot of events have taken place. Events that did not happen through my will. One cold winter night, I wake up to something crying near me. I thought it was Varvara again, my youngest daughter, who tends to cry a lot. I checked up on her, but it wasn't she who was the source of the noise - seeing as my wife Lucija is still asleep, I'll go investigate on my own. I do it and I find a child put into a poorly made basket, crying because of the cold. I see a letter attached to the basket, so I take it to read it. ''My dear Briacheslav, I see I have sinned before you, falling into another man's arms. I do not wish to try and get us back together, I saw how you and Lucija are happy now even if you have no children on your own. Well, not long after we divorced, I found out I'm pregnant again. I couldn't believe it either, but I feel it's your son. It's your successor you dreamt of. I called him Iliya, take good care of him. ~Doubravka''




When I finished reading, I teared up. It was my son I dreamt of. Only then I realized Lucija watching over my shoulder, also reading the letter.
''Lucija, I--'' I tried to explain myself.
''No, no need to say anything. I understand. It's your son you had with Doubravka before we even got married. You're still my heart's sun, Briachislav. We'll raise him together. Let's go back, it's cold!'' She said. I smiled and hugged her. Iliya was still very cold, so we took him in and threw the useless basket away. He was so beautiful and had those little, cute eyes. He'd be the next High Chief.
The next few months passed very quickly and peacefully. We built some villages, more people thought of Volhynia as their home and more Kievian peasants imigrated to our chiefdom, thinking of Witosz from Kuyavia as a bad leader for all Ruthenians. What surprised me was...Dobrava visiting us in Vladimir Volynsky. We immadietely prepared a huge dinner and welcomed her. She sat in front of me.
''Vladimir Volynsky is a beautiful place, I must say. Those forests we passed along the way, those animals that peacefully lived near the lakes and the incredible view at the distant mountains. Too bad there's a big Avarian kingdom at the other side, right? Hahaha!'' Dobrava joked around. I had to smile, it wasn't often that someone would praise us.
''You're right, those Avarians unfortunately are a threat. But on to point. What is that you wanted from us, High Chieftess of Kiev?'' I asked.
''We've finally conquered our two de jure provinces the Magyars have been holding in their demesne and we've actually taken the lands that weren't once ours, we are now rulers of all remaining Magyar provinces and we caused the Khaganate to fall. But just now I realized it might've been harder if it wasn't for you destroying the army of Hungarians resting in Terebovl. I know for a fact that they were training a reinforcement army there - you destroyed it and probably saved lifes of many Kievan soldiers. I wanted our chiefdoms to become friends. Say, what would you want me to do?'' Said Dobrava and my jaw almost dropped. What a fantastic offer! I just had to think - looks like a powerful alliance would form between us and it would give Volhynia a lot of benefits. They have less soldiers than us, but they're well trained and hard to kill. I can't believe they conquered all of Magyar - but they've proven their strength. I had to have an alliance with them! Although now I saw that having friendly contacts with Witosz would be better. So I thought of something.
''I can arrange a bethrothal between your son Dobiesław and our daughter Verkhoslava as they're both four years old. I can also send my eldest girl Rostislava to your husband, where he can be her guardians and teach her the ways of life. I know that he might take it to his advantage and teach her Polish language and culture, but that's something I want to do for the good of our alliance. For your part, I only want you to support us in our wars as often as you can and we'll support you. Is that good enough?'', I told her. She thought for a while and smiled.
''That's a fantastic offer, I knew you're a good man, High Chief Briachislav.'' She said and stood up, holding her hand in the air for me to shake it, so we did. We shook hands in agreement. ''For the Volhynian-Kievan alliance that will start whenever our children marry'.
''For our alliance'', I said. With two powerful chiefdoms like ours, nothing could defeat us.



Four years passed. Our daughter Rostislava was now in Kuyavia, tutored by High Chief Witosz. I have built some powerful fortresses around Volhynia so no provinces can be taken from us so easily, while our future allies have eliminated everyone who still had the Tengri faith. But something happened that worried me. Another tengrist kingdom, Avaria, has been very active lately. What surprised me was...them conquering all of Bulgaria. As soon as I heard the news, I came to talk with my faithful chancellor Nikita. I have told him to visit the Avarian king and fix the relations between us. With Kiev not yet on our side, we didn't want anyone powerful to declare war on us. He has arrived at Esztergom today. Let us hope he'll be successful...

 

A_spoon_of_salt

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Chapter III - The Avars (779 - 788)

When I was a young boy, I was often sent to other courts by my father to see how other chiefs and kings govern and perhaps get to know them more. What I didn't like was pre-definding your children's future. Bethrothal between young girls and boys? Often cruel and forced, but most of the time, they begin to fall for each other and form powerful alliances when they both grow. I didn't like that and I hoped I wouldn't need to do the same for my kids - those eleven years of my life have taught me that sometimes that's the only option. After I sent Rostislava to High Chief Witosz's tribe to let him teach her the ways of life, I began to think if pleasing Dobrava wouldn't be good for our alliance, too. The idea of sending my own children to other courts is scary - they might always betray us and the child's life might be dangered. I decided to trust them and I sent Verkhoslava to the chieftess of Kiev with hope that she'll like me more. Of course, she took her in and sent me a letter saying that she's pleased to be her guardian.



At the beginning of year 780, my dear chancellor Nikita has returned to Vladimir Volynsky. I couldn't wait for his return and I feared that he might've been killed, seeing as he's an infidel to Avars. But he returned with no scars or wounds.
''Nikita! You're back! How was your mission in Esztergom?'' I asked, curious as to what he achieved.
''It went really well. The Khagan of Avaria was pleased to hear whatever I said to him. I've been talking about how High Chief Briachislav of Volhynia praises him and thinks of him as a fine leader and a good neighbour to have. That certainly changed his opinion of you. But I think it wasn't necessary, my chief.'' Nikita replied. I gave him a stern look.
''What do you mean, not necessary?'' I asked.
''Well, just as I arrived in Avaria, a big rebellion started in the eastern parts of the Khaganate. To make sure my mission succeeds, I had to go there with the Khagan as he wanted to take out the rebellion by himself. It was too powerful, though. The Avarian army was crushed and we had to escape. I'll tell you more, the rebellious lords gained independence. Now, two new chiefdoms - Moldau and Wallachia appeared near us. Luckily, they're no threat for Volhynia...yet.'' He said. Hm.
''In other words...Avaria will not attack us?''
''They won't. They have a lot of problems and they're not as powerful as they've always been. Now, the chiefs of Bohemia who managed to completely ruin Great Moravia, gaze upon Avaria, with their ambitions showing up.''
Well, at least the Avarian Khaganate won't be a threat to us. I had hoped for that to happen. No need to fear the infidels, as of now. I'm starting to grow really tired of them. Perhaps sometimes, if gods will let me, I shall raid the Tengri lands and eliminate all who would want to declare holy wars on us. I can see thst the chief of Moldau is very ambitious and likes to fight battles. If he grows too powerful or gains too much allies, he might rebuild the Tengri khaganates in Europe. That would be disasterous. I gave some money to Nikita for his beautiful work and just as he was about to leave, an unexpected guest arrived. High Chief Witosz! With Rostislava along!
''Good morning, Witosz! I really did not expect you here, but you're very welcome in Volhynia. Are you done with tutoring my daughter?'' I asked.
''No, she's still too young, Briachislav. I just thought that you wanted to see her, as she spent a lot of time in Kuyavia already. I hope you don't mind I've taught her Polish language?'' He said. It's just as I expected - he has taught her Polish language and culture. Well, tbat's a risk I was willing to take.
''I don't mind at all, Witosz. I'm glad you decided to bring her here. Perhaps when she grows older, we'll think of marrying her to some powerful, Polish man?'' I asked.
''Perhaps that will be the best idea. She learned Polish as if it was her motherland language - she's smart and diligent, most probably after you, Briachislav. Hey, Rostislava, can you speak a little?'' Witosz asked her.
''Witaj, ojcze!'' She said. I was confused and looked at the high chief. I gave him an expression indicating that I want to ask what did she just say. He understood.
''She said 'Good morning, father'. What an adorable little speaker. You would make a good chancellor, Rostislava.'' Witosz said. ''Well, that's about it. I wanted to share progress with my lessons, that's all. We'll be heading back to Kuyavia now.''
''Right. Farewell.'' I said and they both left. Ah, I missed Rostislava so much...just as I started to miss Verkhoslava, too, even it wasn't more than a month that I gave her away to Dobrava.

Three years of peace and nothingness passed. I had a new son with Lucija I called Rostislav after my eldest daughter. I noticed how I became more tired of life and walking long distances was a challenge for me. Nonetheless, I tried to keep fit. As one day, I took a stroll near a small, lovely lake. My legs hurt so I decided to take a seat on the grass and looked at the water's surface and saw my reflection. I was really terrified when I saw someone else, but no, it was me. There wasn't anybody else near me. I guess it's because I didn't see my face for a long time, I forgot how I look. Now that I saw myself, I looked...kind of pathetic. I was balding and all hair that I had on the back of my haid were gone. The ones that remained were as white as the snow. Well, that day I passed fifty years, a great milestone in one's life.



As more month passed, I spent more time with my lovely wife, Lucija. Not only Rostislav was an effect of that, but we also had other children later - two more daughters Pribislava and Fevtiona, and then another son Rodislav. I began to grow suspicious after Lucija announced that she was pregnant with me last time, as we didn't spend THAT much time. I've hired my spymaster Viacheslav to find out for me. I had to make sure. Now that I have a such good reputation, I couldn't let there be a bastard iny family!
''Chief, you want me to follow Lucija around? But she really loves you. I can't believe that she would do such a thing.'' Viacheslav said.
''It isn't for you to decide such matters. We had many children lately and you must admit that it looks suspicious now. I think she's too lustful for me to handle - I am, too. I love touching women. But that's something to be worried about with Lucija'' I replied.
''Very well. I shall spy on her.'' Well, at least he agreed. It didn't took him much time to come back to me to share news.
''Chief, as I suspected, nothing suspicious had happened.'' He said and that dissapointed me. I feel like he didn't do much work and only said what he thinks is going on.
''Sigh. You may go then, Viacheslav.'' I said, but I couldn't leave it like that. I hired more spies that weren't related to my spymaster and only cared about maney. I gave them what they wanted and after two weeks, they come back to me, saying that they haven't found anything indicating that my future child might not be mine. I guess she really is innocent and loves me so. But I didn't know if I could trust women anymore...After a few months, Rodislav was born. I then realized I need to share my lands among my children. I've decided to give Galich and Peremyshl to Rodislav and Rostislav, as my Iliya is the heir and he'll get the most. I just really hoped they won't fight when I'm not there anymore.

Finally, year 788 arrived and that's where I realized I've done something I didn't want to do earlier - estabilish my children's future. What happened, you may ask. Well, after a few rebellions and invasions, the Khagan of Avaria has been killed and his dynasty shattered. The new king of this land has renamed it to Pannonia. But if someone told me who killed the Avarian Khagan, I would not believe him.

It was Vojen from the Bohemian house of Premyslid.



He has managed to conquer some minor lands in the Catholic parts of Europe and fought with the Bavarian Karlings. People are calling him 'the Lewd' or 'Madman' for having many bastards and attacking the Karlings. He believed in our Slavic faith, which pleased me. Then I realized what it meant to have an ally like him combined with Kiev. I have arranged a bethrothal between my daughter Varvara and one of his bastards, Castolov. I felt bad that she had to marry a bastard, I believe that it's not great - it was then I realized I denied my younger self and what I never hoped to do. But it was too late to back out. Albeit I didn't even want to. King Vojen has agreed.



That year, I've been aslo receiving a lot of threats from my infidel friend, Arumas. He's holed up in what was left in Yatvingia and thinks it's wise to threaten me. The lands at the border of Beresty and Podlasie is destroyed, burned and almost useless because of many quarrels we had there. Perhaps it's time to expand our chiefdom on Yatvingian lands and punish Arumas...

 

Z-Z-Z

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Chapter IV - Troubled Alliances (788 - 795)

It was time to settle things between me and Arunas. The border quarrels wouldn't want to stop, he himself didn't learn a lesson and I had to teach him again. The problem was the chiefdom of Podlasie - this foresty but pretty Yatvingian territory was the center of crime. One day, I have settled my army. It was big. Really big. I was proud of every soldier that took a part in this. We marched there. It was autumn of year 788, the days were as cold as ever this time of year, but the heat of war kept us warm. We're below the enemy's fort. We start attacking. Yatvingians dying left and right. Our army doesn't even suffer big casualties. The gate is burned. We enter the fortress. Folk already hid in their houses or ran away to Grodno. I didn't care. When the last defender died, it was ours. And the chiefdom we've desired so much ever since Yatvingians first attacked our border...it was mine now. I have managed to do it in time. Ambitious Lithuanians have already conquered Grodno. I knew they were planning to attack, so I did it earlier. I saw how Arunas ran to Grodno to hide here and hope for the best, but as he saw our forces, his face turned hopeless and I saw him sigh. There was no place to run anymore. I told my army not to attack him, I let him go back to Grodno, where he would suffer losing independence and experiencing what it means to be a vassal, when only a few years back, you could do whatever you wanted. I even began to pity him, but lost this feeling when he ran away for the last time. I was victorious. My last war with Yatvingians just ended.


As months and years passed, I started marrying my sons and daughters as most of them grown old enough. My eldest daughter, Rostislava, pearl in my crown, I sent to High Chief of Lesser Poland, seeing as she adopted their culture and language. I only wanted to make her happy and it looked like I accomplished my mission. It thus seemed that she already loved his son whom I wanted to marry with her. I called it a convenient turn of events and arranged the marriage. My beautiful Verkoslava, who grown to be an eager Slavic priest, I sent to Dobiesław, son of Dobrava and Witosz, as previously accepted. They immadietely hired her as a Court Chaplain and I couldn't be more proud of her when I heard the news. Varvara the Adorable, as I like to call her, traveled west, to the newly-formed kingdom of Pannonia to marry one of Vojen's bastard sons. She didn't want to agree at first, didn't want to leave me as I grew older and older, but that's what had to happen. I told her that eventually she and him will fall for each other and they'll have beautiful babies and add more prestige to the House of Tyvercy. I think that cheered her up and she left. I felt like crying, but I didn't want to show my weaknesses.
Then Iliya finished sixteen years. He became a fine steward, some of my friends called him Midas Touched. He would become the representative of the Tyvercy dynasty when I evnetually pass away. I knew he'll do a fine job. I wanted to find him someone better than a mere priestess. Luckily, Praxida, the youngest daughter of Ilmen seemed to be a perfect candidate. She was not an adult yet, so all we did so far was arranging a bethrothal. Ilmen is a far-away powerful chiefdom of Slavic warriors. They're known for their bravery and enormous ambitions. Fortunately, Praxida was calmer and overall better, there was practically little to no chance that she'll turn into treason behind Iliya's back. Luckily, High Chief Rodislav of Ilmen approved of my idea and was happy to let his daughter marry my child. That way, I built Iliya's future and it seemed pretty solid.


It wasn't long until Vojen, after estabilishing an alliance with us, has called to war against his own subjects. I was pretty shocked when he wrote that it's the FOURTH Civil War against his tyranny. It looks like he hated everyone that believed in the Tengri faith and didn't have any good contacts with his people. He treated them like dirt and forced them to change their beliefs. But the thing is, he was powerful and they weren't. So were we, at least compared to all his royal forces. So we accepted. I led our army personally to see how life goes in Pannonia. We passed the mountains, were we were attacked by a small band of rebellians. They were eventually defeated and we moved on to the chiefdom of Heves - the center of the rebellion. After a siege that lasted a bit less than a month, we were victorious. King Vojen thanked us and even gave us some gold. Not much, as greedy as he was, but always. When we were going back to our homes through the mountains again, we met a royal messenger.
''High Chief Briachislav! The Bulgarians are attacking us! Oh, their forces are so big! They're conquering provinces in the mountains right now. You must move!'', he yelled.
''What?! Bulgarians? Very well, we'll try to support your king as much as possi--''
''No! It's over now! They're too powerful, our main army was defeated and Vojen captured! Run and perhaps you won't have to face them in battle...If you do, then gods have mercy on you.'' The messenger irrupted. It was a clear message. I commanded my army to evacuate as soon as possible. We were lucky. We managed to get off the mountains before Bulgarians raided the province we were in before. We were SO close to dying. A week later, I listened to sad news. Bulgarians were surprisingly merciful to Vojen and didn't kill him but they took all his titles, leaving him only Esztergom to govern. The new king of Pannonia was, of course, Bolghar. That's how I lost my allies on the west.



Year 794. Lots of years passed since that short alliance with Pannonia. We all were unsure of our futures with a sudden threat appearing at our border. Even though Khan Omortag seemed to respect us, we couldn't have expected what he would do to us. Luckily, nothing happened yet and he's estabilishing his rule inside the khanate. People seem to follow him like a god for liberating all Tengrists from a firm rule of Vojen.
A Kievan poet arrived at Vladimir Volynsky. He told me a poem he wrote after the recent happenings.
''You don't need to believe their word
When they say that Omortag is a god.
He freed Tengrists from shackles and slavery,
Which definitely proves his bravery.
Alas, you must know, my friend,
that tyrants are easily bent.
He's no god, he had just the luck
To have an army and crack
his enemy before others.
It's just that his brothers
weren't strong enough to fight.''
I enjoyed it. It was both criticizing the actions of Vojen and simply showed that Omortag was just powerful enough to free his people. But only when I talked to the poet in private, I learned true reasons for him being here.
''Oh, High Chief, I do hope you don't mind that I will now live here until I die. It's just that our leader, High Chieftess Dobrava died and Witosz, who inherited all Kievan lands, passed them away to his son, Dobiesław. He's a good lad, no doubt, but I'd rather live among my Volhynian brothers and sisters.'' He told me. So it finally happened. I'm so happy that he decided to pass the rule on his son Dobiesław. That meant Verkhoslava was not only rhe Court Chaplain of Kiev, but also its High Chieftess. What a nice turn of events.
''I don't mind, lad. Uhh, what's your name again?'' I asked.
''Uh, I never gave you my name. But it's Iliya, my chief. I love poetry.'' He replied.
''Oh, right, right, right. Recently, I tend to forget a lot of things...That definitely is a bad sign. But I'll leave you now, Iliya. Have a good life here.'' I said and left him to his thoughts. But me having a weak memory like this worried me. Once, I didn't even recognize Fevronia when she approached me. I feel really week, both mentally and physically. But...it's still...I feel good, dammit!
The winter has begun, it's the end of year...uhh...I can't remember. Days are really cold. I lay in my bed, expecting the worst. A window opened itself in my chamber. I was to weak to get up and close it. Luckily, a man entered it. He was pretty handsome, I had to admit. Before he spoke, he was kind enough to close the window.
''Father. Dobiesław is calling us to a war. A rebellion started in their lands. Shall I go?'' He asked.
''Ah, but who are you, young lad?'' I asked. He automatically got saddened.
''Father, it's Iliya. What's wrong?'' He asked. Oh, now I know who he was!
''Oh! Iliya! How good to see you. Have you written any new poetry you can read me?''
''What? What poetry? It's your son, Iliya! Father, please...''
''Ohhh, this Iliya. I apologize. I mistook you for that poet I've met earlier. You both are good young lads, so it just...I made a mistake. What were you asking me about, again?''
''Should I go to the war with Dobiesław against the rebels from Kiev that just started?''
''Oh, yes. Yes. Be careful.'' And then he left with a frown. What was the matter? Anyone could make a little mistake. It's not like I'm always like that. Just, they both were named Iliya...

Days passed. I think. I wasn't outside for a long time. I felt very lonely, stuck in this chamber. My sight was getting worse and all I could see were colours and shapes. That damn window opened again. It's January now (I guess), the middle of the winter, so it's really dangerous to have windows opened like that. I immediately felt it. I felt the cold. I saw a shape flying through the window. I caught it. It was a snowflake.
''What a beautiful snowflake'', I said to myself. I looked like it and felt worse. No, scratch that, I stopped feeling anything after a while. I put my hand down and took a deep breath, trying to ease the weird feeling that was overwhelming me.

It was my last.



 

A_spoon_of_salt

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Chapter V - The Eternal Garden (795 - 798)


I am High Chief Iliya from House Tyvercy of Volhynia. I became a ruler of this little high chiefdom very unexpectedly. I was still commanding my father's forces in the Kievan civil war. When I came back home, victorious, I was slapped in the face with horrible news that my father was found dead in his bed. I couldn't believe it. I knew of father's bad health. It was still a shock to all of us. My younger brothers already moved to provinces they were gonna rule from now on as my vassals - Rostislav got Galich and Peremyshl, while Rodislav got Podlasie. Speaking of Podlasie, it was now settled with many good Volhynian families. The only thing left to do was to eliminate all Romuva believers from there - by force, if necessary, even though I wanted to try the peaceful way. We mourned over Briachislav and made a good funeral for him, but it was time to move on with our lives. We've lost many alliances my father tried to keep up for us. My sister Verkhoslava died of pneumonia before the war started. I didn't tell father. It was not my intention to worry him, even it means hiding truth from him. Our only allies left were the Poles from Lesser Poland and Kuyavia. They aren't very powerful and they're facing rebellions constantly, but I'm still happy about them being loyal to us. My task was to strengthen up our chiefdom before going out on any more wars. As the powerful Lithuanian kingdom looked with envy at our chiefdom of Podlasie, we needed to improve our economy.

The first thing I did was estabilishing a trade route with some Catholic dukes. The first and unfortunately the last was Duke Ruadbert of Allemania who freed himself from the Karlings. He seemed to be a great man to be trading with. We arrived at his court in spring of 795. He wasn't too happy that infidels were in his duchy, but he prepared a feast nonetheless. At first, he was pretty happy with us. We gave him a few crates of fine cloth from Volhynia and it pleased him. It started going downhill during the feast. He wasn't happy with our way of eating meals - they think it's disgusting to eat without something they call ''cutlery''. What kind of stupidity is that? Just let us have a goddamn meal.
A few of my merchants started arguing with a local Catholic chaplain about relligon. I needed to get between that argument immediately. Both sides were mad at me. That was enough for Ruadbert and he threw us out of Allemania, claiming that he whole-heartedly hates me and my kind. Rude. But I guess we deserved it. Even though our travel was unsuccessful, we all learned something and my men started noticing that I began a pursuit for money I loved. Good.




Later that year, I married a beautiful Slavic woman from Ilmen my father arranged a bethrothal with earlier. Praxida was her name. Hair as black as death, heart as pure as water from mountain rivers. She seemed to loved me back. If something were to happen, I designated her as a Regent. A year passed. She delivered me a beautiful son I called Briachislav after my father. Although it seemed my folk didn't seem to want him as my heir - right now Rostislav was my successor. He voted on himself and priestess from the Sejny temple supported him. Bribing and pleasing them any way I could didn't seem to help. But it's okay. The priestess of Sejna was old and any moment she would die a natural death, meaning Rostislav would lose a supporter. I didn't mean bad for any of my brothers. I just wanted my branch of Tyvercy dynasty continue on as a line of high chiefs.



Two years passed, it's now year 798. One beautiful day, I wake up and look out of my window. I see a chaotic set of various plants, more scary than pretty, which is supposed to be our garden. I decided to fix it. Alone. I started with cutting off any useless plants just taking up space. Halfway through that job, I realized I can make a maze - something taken from Greek stories and myths put to life. I could make tournaments and give reward to whoever beats it first. Yes! I finished cutting off some plants, I started forming corridors. Some of them led to dead ends, while the other were passages to other corridors eventually leading to the maze's exit. Then I realized putting something at each dead end would look nice. I hired some people to create statues of my family - all my brothers, sisters and my parents. They couldn't be too big, or else they would rise above the plant sets and tell where dead ends are. After a few weeks, they were finished, so I continued my work. I wanted to put a fountain in the middle of the maze, thinking it'll look neat, but I abandoned that idea. It would be too expensive and not serving any purpose other than good looks. So I just put another family member statue in the middle. After a while, I noticed a left out part of my maze that wasn't really hard to get to and it was a completely huge, empty space. I decided to fill it in, making a beautiful pavilon for all lovers who would come here with special decorations that would look especially beautiful during a moonlight. Near December, the maze was done after a lot of hard work. I've caught a bad illness, but I thought nothing of it and decided to start a first competition for my courtiers to defeat it.
One day, I visited my steward to plan out the first reward for the upcoming competition. I felt really bad and I coughed a lot, but I still decided to meet him. The conversation went on and on, and mid-planning I felt something filling my lungs. I started coughing madly and a fluid of some sorts went up my throat. I couldn't breathe.
''Chief! High Chief Iliya!'', the steward screamed but it was too late. The ilness I caught was much worse than I thought. I eventually lost all air and fell on the floor, lifeless.



 

Azhcristokos

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Always a sad day when a ruler dies so quickly! The real question now is what will happen when the Volhynian culture starts to morph into Russian: stay true to the old ways and preserve the Volhynian language somehow or bow to the times and become Russian?
 

A_spoon_of_salt

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Always a sad day when a ruler dies so quickly! The real question now is what will happen when the Volhynian culture starts to morph into Russian: stay true to the old ways and preserve the Volhynian language somehow or bow to the times and become Russian?
Haha, yes, that's a good question. The Tyvercy dynasty is very old-fashioned and probably won't bend themselves to new Russian culture approaching very quickly, but it all depends on the rulers as far as they go. Now, with Rostislav gaining the title of a High Chief, he has more lands than Iliya had at the beginning, which means he can...persuade...others to elect his son as ruler when he dies ;) We'll see how he raises his children :)
 

A_spoon_of_salt

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Chapter VI - Rule Of A Theologian (798 - 809)



It is I, Rostislav Briatislavovich Tyvercy. I became High Chief very suddenly. Raised as a theologian and a zealot, I couldn't help but notice something bad happening within our dynasty. We suddenly started dying off like flies, which bothered me greatly. I arranged a bethrothal with a daughter of a chief from Plzen, Bohuslava. She's not an adult yet, so I have to wait patiently before she arrives at my court. What can I say about myself? I love my family. Iliya's death moved me and I have not expected it in the slightest. I wasn't supposed to become a ruler so quickly! I wasn't ready. I felt that. So, I guess now I'll tell the whole story of my rule. It started when my younger brother Rodislav visited me at my court in Galich.
''Well, be happy, Rostislav. You have now become High Chief. Iliya died during a meeting with his steward. He has been imprisoned. Iliya's old council believes he poisoned him during the conversation.'' He told me. He said that in such a calm tone, I didn't notice him. Was it really my younger brother? He has changed. Once, he was a cheerful little brat, now that he's become Chief od Podlasie, he just...envies everyone.
''What? But did the steward really poison him?!'' I asked in disbelief.
''Come and question him by yourself. Vladimir Volynsky is the capitol of Volhynia, so you should move there as soon as possible.'' He replied.
I moved there as quick as possible. The local folk was also surprised by my older brother's sudden death. They were accusing the steward for murder, as he was a professional herbalist and knew a lot of things about poison herbs. But I believe they were doing that because of Iliya's rule that only lasted three years. Through the history of Volhynia written in our chronicles, that was the shortest. Anyway, I entered the dungeons and told the guards to let me speak with him alone. They listened to me. It was a weird feeling, just command someone...
''My Chief! I didn't kill Iliya! I have respected him - I served him loyally. Why am I accused of such things?!'' He cried.
''Be calm, friend. I do not believe in your guilt. Just tell me how the meeting went.'' I replied.
''Just--we were talking about making a competition based around a maze High Chief Iliya built in his garden. And then he started coughing, I saw how he struggled to breathe - then he collapsed, just like that, and I...I am an herbalist, my chief. But I wouldn't dare to do such a thing.'' The steward said. I nodded.
''Very well, I find you not guilty of your crimes. I'll do what I can to get you out in the nearest few days. That was plain stupid to have you imprisoned in here.'' I replied. I saw his face getting bright and he grinned.
''Thank you! Thank you!'' He thanked me. Of course, I did set him free a week later. He now is my loyal councillor and we respect each other.


A few years later, Bohuslava became an adult and not so long after, she delivered me a beautiful son we called Sviatopolk. Of course, as I feared, my brothers did not agree to make him my heir. What surprised me was everyone voted for Rodislav to become chief, even Briachislav, Iliya's son, who gained the chiefdom of Beresty after his father's death. I wasn't really surprised. I feared that there might be unnecessary quarrels between our family members later, but I decided to wait patiently until things sort out. Meanwhile, our court chaplain Sviatopolk wrote me a letter from Podlasie that the chiefdom finally converted to Slavic faith, years after our father Briachislav conquered it.



Having collected enough money from taxes, I created Duchy of Galich, since we already possessed all provinces that were needed to create that title. I knew that after my unavoidable death, my son would inherit all chiefdoms from this duchy, which could result in fights and wars against my brothers. I was just happy that gods gifted me with such a beautiful and smart child, I wanted him to have the best future, which would utterly ruin any of my brothers' plans. The consequences of those actions soon became apparent in year 809. Nine years after celebrating a start of the eighth century, my life turned upside down. I heard rumors that my wife wants to kill Briachislav to eliminate one of Rodislav's voters. I was very dissapointed at her - this wasn't a rightful path a Slavic person should follow! But that wasn't the end. I heard rumors that Rodislav wants to kill me to gain all titles belonging to me. I was angry at everyone, despite my patient nature. How could they all betray me?! They knew I'm a zealous man!
I have considered killing myself. It just seems that i'm worthless to everyone and I'm standing in everyone's way. But what really crossed the line was a certain event. A famous Slavic poet and chaplain sent me a copy of his newest relligious poem, praising our gods and showing what a man's true path should look like. Then, a Kievan soldier has handed me a book called ''The Confessions of St. Augustine'' he got during a successful raid on Allemania. It was a series of details about a Christian theologian Augustine's life and the times he lived in, as well as his thoughts and life lessons. I have read both.
I read the famous Slavic priest's poem and I...completely didn't understand what he wrote. Not because he wrote it in a language I don't know or because I can't read. His thoughts he wrote on paper just didn't get to me. It worried me, since everyone thought of him as someone who truly understood gods. Nevertheless, I started reading the Catholic book.
...Atter completing it, I realized I knew what Augustine was talking about. His ways of tutoring and the way he looked at his faith opened new doors for me. I couldn't believe it. I began to like Christians better. I liked what they were thinking about when it came to their God. This is a heresy on these lands and people would kill me as quick as possible and hand the rule to Rodislav.


...I couldn't comprehend. I quickly became an undercover heretic, my family doesn't like me anyways. I fell into a depression much stronger than I could handle. I grabbed an old, but thick rope and hanged myself at the ceiling of my chamber. After eleven years of fruitless rule, I committed suicide.

 

fabiolundiense

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So much tragedy, and so much intrigue detected, reading between the lines. I am watching this dangerous space !
 

Z-Z-Z

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try to take pannonia when you get strong enough. also get lots of tribute before doing so and I advise gaining around 1,000 to 5,000 prestige for tribal armies.
 

A_spoon_of_salt

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try to take pannonia when you get strong enough. also get lots of tribute before doing so and I advise gaining around 1,000 to 5,000 prestige for tribal armies.
Yeah, I look forward to Pannonia and Moldau.
 
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Z-Z-Z

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Yeah, I look forward to Pannonia and Moldau.
If you get in a very dire situation in a defensive war which would cripple you, I will let you cheat to only regain your territory. But only if you get really messed up.
 

A_spoon_of_salt

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If you get in a very dire situation in a defensive war which would cripple you, I will let you cheat to only regain your territory. But only if you get really messed up.
I don't really cheat, when I'm in a dire situation in singleplayer, I load a save (although, in an AAR, loading a save might be considered cheating), but even if someone conquers me, I'll continue the AAR as their vassal. It will get interesting from there. ;)
 

Z-Z-Z

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Great news!