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crusaderknight

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____________________________________________________________________________________________________
FRESH BLOOD ON ANCIENT SOIL
A Saga of the Scottish Kings of Aquitaine




AwAARDs:
Best Character Writer of the Week, January 29th, 2013

Intro:

Well, after far too long, I am back in AARland and ready to be an authAAR again. While I am as yet unwilling to officially declare my old AARs as “abandoned” the fact that it has been about 18 months since either was updated leaves me wondering how much interest there could still be in them. And since a wonderful story has created itself, I wish to share it with this wonderful AARland community. And even if my old AARs should make a comeback, this shall remain my primary AAR.

So, a brief background on what led to this AAR and what kind of AAR it will be:

This AAR will pick up 102 years into a game. Basically, my roommate started a game as Scotland in 1100. He used the Ruler Designer to create a new King, “Alistair MacGreggor.” He chose the name MacGreggor in honour of his father, whose name is Greg. Unwittingly, this also meant that he chose the perfect clan to fit in with his roleplay for the rise of Alistair. You see, Alistair was a legitimised bastard whose lineage claimed to be the rightful heirs of Kenneth MacAlpin over and against the House of Dunkeld. We later learned this was quite fitting, as the real Clan MacGregor claims descent from a “Prince Griogar,” a younger brother to Kenneth MacAlpin.

I shan’t delve too much into the history here, I’ll save that for the actual tale, but suffice it to say, during the course of his game, Aquitaine fell to a Moslem invasion, and a later Crusade was called to liberate it. Scotland won that Crusade, under the leadership of one of Alistair’s descendants: Magnus. Magnus decided that ruling both Scotland and Aquitaine was too big a task, so he groomed his eldest son to be King of Scots and his youngest to become King of Aquitaine. And in 1202 he made that son, Kenneth by name, as King of Aquitaine. At this point, I made him save a duplicate of his game. He then continued to play as Scotland and is well into the 1260s now. I took over the duplicate as Kenneth on the day of his coronation, October 24, 1202. This AAR shall be the chronicle of Kenneth and his heirs as Kings of Aquitaine.

What readAARs can expect:

Anyone who has read my Morea AAR will be quite familiar with the format of this new AAR. It will be predominantly nAARative, with some interspersed history posts to bridge the gaps between story arcs.

The main protagonist will almost always be the reigning monarch (or, on rare occasions, his heir apparent), with his heirs and close friends as secondary protagonists.

Tales of wars and campaigns will likely be the most common story arcs, with political intrigues and interpersonal relationships forming subplots; although occasionally the intrigue or relationships will take the forefront with military matters forming the subplots. Either way, one can expect some measure of each to appear in nearly every story arc.

Another thing to expect will be what has grown into a popular and signature mark of my stories: dream sequences. I made the mistake in the Morea of trying to make every dream sequence exceed all previous ones, and quickly peaked, making my job too difficult and stressful. This time, my goal shan’t be to top myself at every instance, but merely to provide a quality episode. This, along with keeping them as rare, meaningful events, shall hopefully keep me from getting burnt out.

And finally, this is going to be RPed as much as possible. There will be no world conquest, nor am I going to try to steamroll over the map at any rate. Conquests will happen if an ambitious king sees an opportunity, or if I have a claim on some territory (for instance, I have a de jure claim I can press against France for the County of Poitiers; that may lead to a war someday), but will not happen just for the sake of fighting another war. The primary purposes for which Kenneth was made King of Aquitaine were threefold:
1) to divide the responsibilities of the two MacGreggor Kingdoms between two lines of the Dynasty
2) to support the senior line in Scotland as often as possible
3) to act as a bulwark in defense of Western Europe
Kenneth, at least, will try to live up to these duties. What his heirs do with them is up to fate.

__________________________________________________

AuthAAR's Note:

As I am a Latin teacher, that will have to take priority over writing updates, but I plan to be more regular about my updates than I was as a student (while at college, I was posting maybe once every couple of months at best, and then had no time whatsoever during all of senior year). I anticipate that I shall post one update every week on average (occasionally if I am busy, perhaps every other week; if am unexpectedly free, perhaps twice a week).
 
Last edited:

crusaderknight

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Last edited:

crusaderknight

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Good luck! It's always cool to see one of the kingdoms that aren't normally formed or are only secondary titles.
Thanks, NewbieOne! My original plan had been to do a Duke of Aquitaine - King of Aquitaine 1066 start, but when my roommate's game lent itself to this epic scenario, I couldn't resist.

DensleyBlair said:
Well, this is quite a premise! I look forward to seeing what Kenneth can do with his new kingdom :)
I, too, look forward to seeing what he can do.

AlexanderPrimus said:
A new AAR, CK? You know I'm on board. :)
Glad to have you aboard, old friend!

To all readAARs, I plan to have the first chapter up sometime this weekend. There shall be a brief, few-chapter prologue, and then the story itself shall begin!
 

crusaderknight

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____________________________________________________________________________________________________
FRESH BLOOD ON ANCIENT SOIL
A Saga of the Scottish Kings of Aquitaine




PROLOGUE
Chapter I: The Hammer of God

November 28, 1199

The sun rose that morning, crimson as blood. The Umbrian landscape beneath it was bathed in the sanguine light, as though even the grass, the rocks, and the trees themselves spewed forth and bled. This eerie morning is well known to soldiers. They call it the “Red Dawn.” Oft it has been said of the Red Dawn that it symbolizes the spilling of blood on the previous day.

But Kenneth knew better.

That sanguine sun spoke not of yesterday’s dead. It was a harbinger of death that was to come. And Kenneth knew that he would partake of that death. He knew not whether he would be the slayer or the slain. He knew only that he would share in the slaughter which was soon to be unleashed. He lowered his gaze to his right hand, his sword hand. In his mind’s eye he saw it bathed in the blood of his enemies. Unable to tear his eyes from that gruesome image, he muttered under his breath, “Can this truly be Thy will?”

Not far off, King Magnus of Scotland saw his son’s distress. He put his arm around Kenneth’s shoulders and said in a firm, yet gentle voice, “Walk with me, my lad.” The young prince’s tension eased slightly at the sound of his nickname. As the youngest of Magnus’s three sons, and the seventh of eight children, Kenneth had always held a special place in his father’s heart, along with his younger sister, Eva. Magnus never used their given names. He always called Kenneth “my lad” and Eva “my lass.”


King Magnus the Hammer​

The two walked in silence for a few minutes before the old king spoke, “I know something is troubling you, my lad. What is it?”

Kenneth took a deep breath and said, “It’s this whole war, Da’. How can this be the will of God? The Pope is supposed to be the heir of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ. So how can we have one Pope and they have another? I know each side denounces the other’s as an ‘Anti-Pope’ but how do we really know which one is the successor to St. Peter? Can a battle really be the proof of it?”

Magnus gave his son an understanding smile and replied, “My lad, I no more relish the thought of this war than you do. But remember that we are not the ones who sought this war. Zachary II has brought it upon himself. Remember, my lad, that a century ago my grandfather, King Alistair, seized the throne of Scotland from the hands of King Edgar, thus removing the Dunkeld usurpers and restoring the rightful heirs of our great founder, your namesake, Kenneth MacAlpin. But the Dunkelds had powerful friends in those days, including Pope Paschal II, and they convinced him to excommunicate Alistair. The Scottish lords denounced Paschal as a heretic for accepting bribes, and elected a new Pope at Crossraguel, who took the name Innocent II. For nearly a century now there have been opposing Popes: one in Rome and one in Crossraguel.”


King Alistair the Magnificent​

“I know, Da’,” said Kenneth. “But how do we know our Pope is right? What if Zachary is the rightful Pope?”

“My lad, I once asked myself the same thing. But in my lifetime I’ve seen God answer that question beyond contestation. During the reign of my father, King Douglas the Wise, the Moors conquered southern France and reached as deep into Christendom has they had before Charles Martel. Everyone feared for the survival of Christendom. At last, after decades had passed, Vigilius II, the Pope in Rome, called for a Crusade against the Abbesids who ruled Aquitaine. This was in 1179, the year before you were born, my lad. The Kings of England, France, and Denmark took the Cross, as did the Duke of Brittany and the Duchess of Toscana. None of them could wrest Aquitaine from the clutches of the enemy. In 1183 our own Pope Urban III urged me to take the Cross, and I did. And after four years of war, God gave me complete victory over the Abbesids, and Vigilius was forced to grant me the title King of Aquitaine. God fought for Scotland, who served the Pope in Crossraguel; but not for any who served the Pope in Rome. It was then that I knew beyond doubt the truth. But not all have seen the light. The Papal Schism has torn Christendom apart. In the south, Waldensian heretics have taken over what remains of Christian Spain. To the east, the Kingdoms of Hungary and Croatia have fallen to the Cathars in their entirety. Our own Britannia is plagued by Lollards. We need unity. Last year, I demanded that Zachary acknowledge Urban as the sole Pope, and surrender his title. He refused, and that is why we fight. We fight to end this Schism once and for all, that the heretics may be silenced and the heathens be driven into the sea.”

Kenneth shook his head, “I know all of this, Da’. I do. Believe me, I do. But I do not believe it is the will of God for Christians to kill each other in this manner. My conscience afflicts me, Da’. To think that the first man I ever kill will be a fellow Christian, and that the only thing that makes us enemies is he calls a different man ‘Pope’ than I do. It does not sit well with me.”

“It does not sit well with me either, my lad,” said the old king. “That is why when this accursed war is finished, we shall seek indulgence for our sins, and pray God be merciful for the blood we must shed. But we must not allow our men to see our consciences so afflicted. They must see us as towers of strength upon the battlefield. Look, there, across the field.”

Kenneth’s eyes followed his father’s pointing finger and he beheld in the distance a man, seated on a horse, with a massive hat adorning his head. Magnus continued, “There sits Zachary now, in his arrogance. He has come to encourage his men. He will shed no tears for the Scottish and Occitan lives his men shall take this day in his name. And that will give strength to his men. But look, how few are the Christians that have dared come to his banner! Only his own levies, and those of a few local lords, stand ready to fight and die for him. In our hearts, we may weep for those men. But do not let your own soldiers see that. Ever. Let it never be known that you feel remorse at the death of those who defend the Anti-Pope Zachary.”

Kenneth nodded, “I understand, Da’. I won’t let you down.”

With a proud smile, Magnus exclaimed, “That’s my lad! Now, go and speak to your men. You will command our Occitan forces. When this war is over, you will be their king. This battle shall be their first taste of what kind of leader their king is. Make sure they know that you are the son of Magnus.”

- - -​

When Kenneth arrived at the Occitan camp, he was met by a squire leading a horse, and two of the three commanders: the Irish-born Duke Fogartach of Gascony and the Scottish-born Duke Alpin of Overn. The third commander, the native Occitan Duke Uc of Toulouse, was with the men. Fogartach and Alpin saluted their lord, and the elder of the two, the Duke of Overn, said, “Your men await their general, my liege. They are a bit uneasy. I would advise that you say something to remind them that their king is the Hammer of God.”

The prince nodded, thanked Alpin, and mounted his horse. He then rode to inspect and encourage his men. When he saw them, his heart swelled with pride. Fifteen hundred men, bearing the insignia of the Duchies of Gascony, Overn, Toulouse, and Aquitaine. All were his to command. All looked to him. He was only nineteen years old, but he was their commander, their general, and soon to be their king. They all knew it. He could feel their thoughts, wondering what kind of general and king he would be. He breathed deeply through his nostrils, then exhaled in the same manner. He drew his sword from its scabbard, extended it toward his men, and began:

“Sons of Aquitaine! We stand here today, assembled in arms, far from our homes and families. And I know that there is one question which has been asked by each and every one of you, for even I myself have asked it. ‘Why have we come to this place to fight, and maybe to die?’ My friends—nay, my brethren, I tell you now that we are here because we have been summoned by none other than our great king, Magnus, the Hammer of God himself! He, who succeeded where three other kings could not: in the liberation of your homeland, of Aquitaine. If we knew nothing else about our summons, that would be enough. But we know more. We know that our king fights for a righteous cause. He fights to end the great Schism which has plagued our faith for nearly a century. He fights to end the reign of usurper Popes, who desecrate the Throne of St. Peter by answering to bribery and by tolerating heretics. He fights to restore to us a Pope who will fulfill his duties as the successor to St. Peter, and bring peace and unity back to Christendom. What more noble cause could there be, brethren?”

He observed that the men seemed to take comfort in his words. Further down the line, his father was making a similar speech, and already the centre flank, all Scottish veterans, could be heard chanting, “Magnus! Magnus! Magnus!” Kenneth did not shift his attention. He kept his eyes on his men and continued, “We have been given the right flank this day, with orders to turn the enemy and entrap his centre. I know there’s not a man among you who is so base that he has not nobility in his heart. Let us take the fight to the enemy, confident in God’s protection.” At this, he raised he sword on high and shouted, “For if God has fought for His Hammer before, He will surely do so now. Therefore, men, I charge you: cry out, ‘For God, Magnus, and St. Martial!’”

Upon hearing the name of their Patron Saint, the men of Aquitaine let out a loud roar, banging their weapons upon their shields. Kenneth smiled, the men took his words to heart and were ready for the battle. It amused him to think that he almost believed himself. His doubts were still present, however, though he swore he’d never let the men know it. As he turned his horse to face the enemy, his thoughts turned to his young wife, the Byzantine Princess Aikaterine. They’d hardly been married two months when he left for war. He muttered a quick prayer to God that he would see her again when this war was over. Then he cleared his mind, and prepared for the imminent carnage…
 

crusaderknight

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@ EtzelHoveri: Glad to have you on board!

@ DensleyBlair: Thank you! I was quite proud of the first few paragraphs especially. And the last one. Glad you enjoyed them!


To all readAARs, had a little extra time this weekend and got a head start on the next chapter. Hoping to have it up in a few days (meaning this week might see two chapters).
 

The Kingmaker

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Yeah, put down that false Pope! That'll learn 'em.

Err... if they're fighting a war over the Papacy, how do they feel about the heir being married to one of those infidel Patriarch-following Greeks? Or did they get her to say "filioque" before tying the knot? ;)

Hope your Scotccitans win the day.
 

Funnyman320

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This is why CK is so awesome, you get crazy stories like this. I'm too new to have seen your other AARs but this one looks great!
 

crusaderknight

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@ AlexanderPrimus: The hope in marrying Kenneth to Aikaterine had been to secure an alliance with the Byzzies. Ideally, we were expecting the Emperor to join the war on our side (we were also expecting faithful Catholics to join the war on Zachary's side). As it turned out, the world was content to sit on the sidelines and shout, "Go, Team!" at their preferred side instead.

@ Funnyman320: I totally agree. Just wait until you see some of the developments of Kenneth's reign. I'm only 16 years into the game, and I've already had some epic story arcs.
 

crusaderknight

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____________________________________________________________________________________________________
FRESH BLOOD ON ANCIENT SOIL
A Saga of the Scottish Kings of Aquitaine




PROLOGUE
Chapter II: First Blood

November 28, 1199

Kenneth’s heartbeat reverberated in his ears as he looked to his father for the signal. Thirteen years of tutelage under the old king had led up to this moment. Today he would either become a warrior or a corpse. There was no middle ground. Frightened though he was, he would not flee. The shame would be an unbearable hell. He was resolved to win or to die.

Magnus turned and met his son’s gaze. With a slight nod and a firm gesture, he gave the signal to advance. Kenneth understood, and relayed the signal to his own men. He spurred his horse on, flanked by a small force of knights, his personal retinue of bodyguards—some thirty men. Many of his soldiers were poor infantry, equipped with whatever they could find. A core of heavy infantry and pikemen added strength to the unit, and a band of archers provided support.

Fogartach had remained with the archers. He raised his right arm as he cried out, “Archers! Nock arrows! Ready!” Some two hundred men drew back their bows and prepared to unleash the deadly instruments upon their foes. At the precise moment, Fogartach brought his arm downward in a swift motion as he shouted, “Loose!” Two hundred shafts soared toward the enemy flank. Most were deflected by shields, but a few found their homes in the feet, arms, eyes, and throats of Zachary’s levies.

Now the enemy’s bows spoke, and in greater numbers. Over five hundred whistling shafts flew at Kenneth’s advancing flank. As loud as he could, the future king shouted, “Shields!” His men, those that were able, raised their shields. For many of the common footsloggers, this was little help. Bucklers and small wooden shields did not cover a large area. Many of his men fell, dead or wounded, to the arrows. His knights were safe, however. Their shields and armour protected them, though one lost his mount. A quick glance from Kenneth and he knew what to do. The man sank back into the ranks of the infantry, leaving his twenty nine comrades to protect their lord.

Another volley was launched by each side; the screams of the wounded and the dying filled the air. For a moment, Kenneth’s mortality confronted him, and he was tempted to flee. No. Never. He spat at the ground, as much in defiance as to clear his throat. He looked to his father again. The signal was given. Kenneth raised his sword on high, for all the men to see. After inhaling as deeply as he could, he let out the cry, “St. Martial!” His knights immediately echoed the call, followed by the infantry. He dug his heels into the horse’s flanks, and the charge began. The small band of knights drove headlong into the enemy lines, knowing their own infantry were right behind them. The commander of the enemy flank called for a counter-charge, and the two sides rushed at each other, colliding with terrible force.

The man directly in front of Kenneth stood no chance. The sheer force of the cavalry charge knocked him back, his death coming swiftly yet painfully as he was trampled thrice over. The prince and his front rank of knights hacked to and fro at their foes, mostly peasant levies. His father’s troops were facing the Condottieri, the professional mercenaries who protected the Papacy. He had to break these commoners quickly in order to flank the core of Zachary’s army.

Louder and louder grew the sounds of battle as the ranks of Kenneth’s infantry slammed into the enemy lines. His soul ached for every man that fell, on both sides. Yet none would have known it from the look on his face, so intent was he on his mission. Suddenly, his horse was run through by a pike, or perhaps a pitch-fork. He never saw the implement. All he knew was that he had been thrown from his mount. Within moments, a muddy peasant with a pitch-fork was towering over him, ready to deliver the killing blow. Kenneth reached for his sword and was ready to fight back, but there was no need. A sword plunged through the man’s chest, and in a whoosh of colour, the body was discarded by its killer, who held out a helping hand to the prince.

Kenneth smiled as he saw the face of his rescuer: Duke Alpin of Overn. But as he reached up to take hold of Alpin’s hand, a spray of blood spattered his face. Alpin was launched sideways, his helmet dented by the force of a club. With a loud cry of disbelief, Kenneth leapt to his feet and slew the man who had done this. He cried for his men to rally to him; as they formed a schiltron around him, he knelt down to look at the wounded Duke. Bending his ear down to Alpin’s face, he dared to smile for a moment as faint but steady breaths gently blew his hair. Kenneth exulted, “He’s alive! He’s alive!”

Pointing to six men, the prince commanded, “You there, take him up and get him back to the camp!” Then, turning to the captain of his personal guard, “Take my guard and escort these fine men! Make sure they get safely to the camp!” The captain began to object, but Kenneth insisted, “Do not argue with me! Go, now! I will be fine!”


Duke Alpin I of Overn​

As the men carried Alpin, protected by Kenneth’s own guard, the prince rushed back into the fray. Led by Duke Uc, the Aquitanians had held the line. Now they saw their young king-to-be attack the enemy with ferocity. The Scots on that flank fought with incredible vigour. Alpin had been their duke, for they had settled in Overn a decade ago at the request of King Magnus, because that region had been heavily depopulated by the Abbesid conquest. Now they fought to avenge the harm done to their duke. The Occitans under Uc, and the Gascons under Kenneth and Fogartach, also fought bravely, mostly led by the examples of Kenneth and Uc.

The ferocity of the Aquitanian assault proved too much for their peasant foes. The enemy lines broke and fled. Caught up in the frenzy, Duke Uc cried out, “Pursue and slay!” But Kenneth countered, “Hold, men! Hold! To me! To me! We must strike the centre!” Uc said nothing, ashamed that he had let bloodlust cloud his judgment. The men followed young Kenneth and slammed into the Condottieri.

This foe proved more difficult. Well armoured and highly disciplined, these mercenaries were among the best of the best. Despite being attacked on two flanks, the Condottieri held firm. Worse, they actually seemed to be winning. Kenneth’s lines began to buckle, but Magnus’s veterans held firm. Many of the Scots in the centre flank had fought with him in the Crusade to liberate Aquitaine. They had personally seen the king lead them to victories none had thought possible. There was no doubt in their minds that the day would yet be theirs. God had always fought for Magnus, and they knew He would do so today, as well.

Kenneth cried out for his men to look to Magnus and draw strength. But as the Condottieri slew more and more of the Aquitanians, the morale of the prince’s flank began to waver. They were losing ground. In desperation, Kenneth looked up to heaven and cried out, “Lord God, deliver us!”

- - -​

Jean could not believe his eyes. As he and the other archers watched, the left flank broke and fled, while Prince Kenneth’s right flank struggled. Only the centre held firm, unflinching in the presence of the Hammer of God. The enemy right flank had many cavalrymen, and these pursued the fleeing Scottish left, riding down the routers like grass. It was a horrible sight to behold.

Suddenly, he heard Duke Fogartach’s command, “Aim for the left! Aim for the left! Archers, nock!” Quickly Jean readied an arrow. “Draw!” At this command he drew his bow, but as he did so, his foot slipped, and he released his arrow early and high. He knew it would miss. The other archers released at the command, “Loose!” Their arrows sailed toward the enemy cavalry, while Jean’s face turned red with embarrassment. Had he known the fate of his arrow, he might have reacted differently…

- - -​

Pope Zachary II sat atop his horse, his face beaming with pride. His forces had routed the enemy left, and the Condottieri were on the verge of breaking the enemy right, as well. His cavalry would swoop in from behind, surround Magnus, and take the Scottish King as a prisoner. He smiled to himself at the thought of watching that heretic burn at the stake in Rome. Yes, all was going according to plan. He opened his mouth to give the order that he wanted Magnus alive, but never got the chance to speak. A stray arrow caught him right in the eye, and his lifeless body was thrown from its mount. Pope Zachary was dead.

- - -​

As the cry rang out, “Pope Zachary is dead! Pope Zachary is dead!” His army began to crumble. The Condottieri performed a fighting withdrawal, and Magnus opted to let them go rather than suffer more casualties. The day was his. Zachary was dead. God-willing, the war was over now. Finished in a single battle.

He knew that the Curia had accompanied Zachary to Orvieto, so confident were they in his victory. That meant that he now had them trapped like rats. They would have to capitulate and accept Urban III as Pope. He sent a messenger to Orvieto, demanding they acknowledge Urban. He gave them one day to decide…

- - -​

November 29, 1199

It was about noon when Magnus, accompanied by Kenneth, Uc, and Fogartach, went for a walk through the camp of his army. “What is the condition of Duke Alpin?” he asked.

Fogartach replied, “He will live, but the wound to his head did something to his brain. He’s completely unresponsive. He’s…”

“…a vegetable,” said Uc. “He’s a damned vegetable. No good to anyone anymore.”

Magnus called for a squire and commanded him, “Find me twelve men of Overn and have them take Duke Alpin back to his wife. No doubt she will wish to care for him, and can do so better than we who are in this camp.” The squire nodded and left immediately.

Fogartach then asked the king, “When do you expect a reply from the Curia?”

“They still have a few hours,” was the answer.

Suddenly Kenneth called out, “Look! There’s smoke coming from Orvieto! What could it mean? A fire in the city?”

Magnus put his hand on the prince’s shoulder, and with a grim face he said, “That’s not a fire, my lad. That’s our answer; and it means this war isn’t over yet. Prepare your men for a siege…”
 
Last edited:

The Kingmaker

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The Scotccitans return and put the False Pope in his grave. Although somehow I doubt the Curia provided them with the response they desired...
 

Funnyman320

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Those cardinals should have surrendered to your mighty arms. Now they will pay the price for their foolishness!
 

crusaderknight

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@ AlexanderPrimus: Quite right, old friend. I hope you will enjoy seeing how the Hammer of God reacts to their reply.

@ Densley Blair: Thank you very much! That's what I generally aim for: bringing a plausible and believable situation from the game mechanics. (Sometimes, like here, the game lends itself nicely to such things. Other times, it proves rather challenging.)

@ Funnyman 320: Indeed. They cannot comprehend that they sit upon the brink of a new world...


To all readAARs, I shall try to have one more update ready by Friday, but in light of the Christmas holiday, that will be the last one until early January.
 

crusaderknight

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Looks like I'm a little late to the party, but nice to see you writing again, crusaderknight :) Hoping to see that promised update soon; I've enjoyed the prologue quite a bit.
Welcome aboard! Glad you enjoyed the prologue! Yeah, I've been real busy over the Christmas holiday, but I plan to get to work on the next chapter this week. Expect to see it this coming weekend!