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Byzantine OOC
by Khan XLT​

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[/quote]
 

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Hell Wants Its Master - AAR of the Hentzaus
by Kuipy, Tyrolen​


A very moral and inspirational origin story, for the edification of modern readers

Rupert, for centuries, has been a frequent given name among the Hentzaus. You are welcome to ask any of them why that is ; they will recall at length what this Rupert and that Rupert accomplished, his celebrated wealth, shrewd dealings and occasional exploits on the battlefield. But if you want them to glower and grow silent, just inquire, now that you know the origins of Rupert, whence the “von” and “Hentzau” might come ?

The von was added, unsurprisingly, by the first Rupert von Hentzau, whose father was just Rupert Hentzau. That one was a robber baron of sorts, who happened not to be a baron. Hentzau, the ancestral seat of his dynasty, was a small mountain inn on the side of the Fernpass road, with a dry stone first story, a half-timber second story and a plank stable, huddled against the mountainside and enclosed in a shoulder-high dry stone wall. Once inside, travellers were relatively safe from elements and brigands, except for Rupert and his family. The word Hentzau itself might be an adulteration of the Italian Enzo ; indeed, whatever their ultimate origin, the mostly German-speaking Hentzaus must have picked enough Italians from their merchant patrons that one of them eventually took young Rupert, old Hentzau's third or fourth son, as an apprentice on his way back to Verona. There Rupert learned to write and read, to keep books, to negotiate as aptly as his mentor and, apparently, to participate in the kind street brawls which left a local noble dead on the cobblestones.

Rupert did not care much to face the local justice, or to serve as menial labor to his elder brothers for the rest of his life, so he used his erstwhile employer's “very generous parting gift” to buy a horse and travel North to the court of Bavarian duke Otto von Nordheim. Rupert and Otto took to each other at once, and in June 1066 of the year the ambitious duke sent Rupert to the Northern Alps in order to “clarify the loyalties” of local petty nobles and townships. Provided with limited funds and some twoscore men-at-arms, he used both resource judiciously enough that by winter most villages, smallholders and abbeys from Landeck to Luzern to swore fealty to him, who in turn swore fealty to Otto.

And so Rupert Hentzau became Rupert von Hentzau, and a new dynasty entered the tumultuous fray of European nobility.

hentzau_01_01_zpse43dbd65.jpg
 

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Ynglinga Saga

by Fasquardon, Morocco​




Part 1: Fruit of Fear

Tidighin Quantum Device

Rif Mountains

Occupied Quebec
[NB1]

2166 AD


Ossor squirmed in the harness, trying to stretch as best he could without unbuckling. With a sigh, he reached over and shut off the holographer with a swipe of his hand, closing his eyes, trying to distance himself from the mind-numbing boredom of his assignment.

Åsta's soft voice interrupted his attempts at meditation. "Only four hours left in the shift Ossor."

He opened his eyes, making a face at the woman across from him. "If it weren't for the budget cuts we'd be out of here already."

Åsta shrugged, her face a mask of calm. "We've been exploring the Solar System for over a century, they still haven't found a living Moon Georgian. How long do you expect the Ting to be frightened of abandoned relics on far away planets?"

He barked out a laugh, eyes flashing as he replied: "I wager none of the Tingsmen who voted down the budget have actually seen those relics. Have they seen the cities on the Dark Side? The floating refineries of Jupiter? The Asteroid bases? Pah... What do Tingsmen know of such things. They don't even care to know. Norway won, and it is bad politics to mention that our victory stands in the shadow of the abandoned toys of a giant."

His teammate just smiled wryly. "Well it was good politics once, else they'd have never built this place. The family got another 20 years of power out of making people afraid the Angel would swoop back in time and erase the sacrifices and triumph of The Great Atom War - erase every victory, every hope, dream, love and song of a thousand years of Norwegian history produced... To erase the sacrifice and hubris of the Dovre Yngling's original timeline." She paused. "Besides. I can't think of a better way to advance a career by sitting on one's butt."

Ossor sighed. "Yes, you want to fly spaceships to Alpha Centauri and maybe find the Angel... You really think it would talk to you? Even IF you found it. IF it were even friendly?"

She huffed indignantly. "If you said this out loud anywhere but in here! And you miss the point. Again." Her gaze was sharp as it met his.

He bit his tongue. "I am sorry. I wish I could dream like you do... At least being on a space ship, we would be going somewhere. Not stuck."

She smiled, his earlier dig at her forgotten in a moment. "You'll be fine. You are young yet. Still lots of time to find your own dreams. Once we get out..." She stopped mid-sentence, pain written across her features, the training too strong to let her cry out.

He didn't do as well. A choked groan slipped from his lips, his head suddenly filled with a splitting pain, his organs feeling like a giant hand were pushing them in on themselves. Then, suddenly, the pressure was gone.

The red light came on.

Even hurting and disoriented, his blood ran cold. Surely... Surely a malfunction? This place couldn't have actually done its job... Every thing he knew...

His hands were tearing at the straps, releasing him in an instant, long drill having prepared him for this moment as he grabbed his weapon and un-dogged the hatch. In an instant he was outside. Not in the Time Guard base. OUTside. Crisp clean air filling his lungs as his eyes darted around, drinking in the surroundings, searching for danger... For familiarity.

The mountainside was green and pleasant. Even with the oaks stripped of their leaves by the shock of the time-sphere's arrival, this was clearly not the radioactive desert of 2166. This was... Had to be...

Tidighin Mountain

Rif Mountains

Emirate of Fes

1066 AD


He was still on his knees when he felt the hand on his shoulder. He looked up and met Åsta's eyes, almost drowning in the sadness there, before he whispered: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He couldn't say it though. He couldn't say "Åsta, I am sorry you will never fly your spaceships. I'm sorry you have lost your dreams." The words died in his throat. Inadequate to the moment.

"It's alright Ossor. I-we chose to serve. All-all of Norway. All of the Norways. Th-the Ynglings. The poor damn bastards of this time... They need us. We were chosen. Trusted with this task. Maybe the Tingsmen didn't think this day would come. But the Dovre Ynglings always did. They chose us. They thought we were equal to it. We WILL be equal to it."

He nodded. Surprised at the strength rising in his breast. Somewhere out there, another time machine had landed. Spilling out a cargo of chaos onto a primitive world. Well. Whatever their plan. Whatever they were. Even if it was the Angel had come back to trouble the Ynglings again. Ossor Yngling would stop them. Ossor Yngling would make sure that Norwegians could one day, some day, reach the stars to find its mysteries. His lips skinned back from his teeth as he growled: "It shall not stand!"

END

NB1: Quebec is the modern name for Breton Africa. Brittany was once an empire that stretched from France to Spain, Morocco to Egypt. In the age of exploration, Brittany abandoned France in favor of developing its African Empire - becoming ever less Breton and more of what "Second Timeline" [NB2] would call Quebec - note that in this history, Quebec has nothing to do with North America. As you may have surmised, Quebec is now a radioactive desert, due to upsetting all the world by killing 400 million Italians when they nuked the Italian capital of Italianopolis (yes, that's right, a single city with over 400 million people in it).

NB2: First timeline starts here, this is the timeline that originally produced the Yngling caste, who, being annoyed at coming second best in the contest for world domination, used a time machine to destroy their entire history and go back to 1066, creating the Second Timeline. This is now the Third Timeline in a 2000 year time-war for the dominion of the Earth. Or at least, that's what the Ynglings think.
 

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On the importance of firm but understanding guidance during a young man's formative years
By Kuipy, Tyrolen​

Bregenz, to Alfredo, was little more than a heap of dung, a hundred log hovels with streets of mud between them, but his uncle Giuseppe looked all around them with a curiosity and a concern he could scarcely understand.

“ It's much smaller than Verona,” he said.
“ It's much bigger than everything built in Verona since I was born,” the old man said over the mules clopping, “and all in ten years. Ten years ago the road was a beaten path down the slope. Then they built the keep there, then the palisade, then those first cabins over there, then the chapel, the granary... Wait, no, of course, they built the in first, there we are. Well, look, across the street, there is even a bordello...”
Alfredo looked forlornly at the two-story, half-timber building, trying to peer beyond the shutter. All the boys in Verona talked of the pale blonde German women, how they were different and mysteriously better, and he wondered what old Giuseppe would say if he asked for the coin. Maybe he would refuse him, and he had better not ask. But Giuseppe was already watching him with a wry smile.

“First the work. And then we'll go.”

It took them and the servants the better part of the evening to get the mules in the inn's corral, unharness them, feed and water them, then carry the crates and sacks to their own rooms, lest they be stolen. When they were done they all were tired, and for a moment Alfredo was afraid his uncle had forgotten, but the old man tapped him and the shoulder and say “Let's go. You'll remember it.”

“That's strange” the old man warned. “Stay near me.” The large common room was full of idle soldiers in strange garbs, not Italian and, it seemed to him, not German either, a not a girl in view. A small, balding man hurried to seat them at an empty table, with a flagon of ale.

“Good evening, my friends,” he said in broken Italian. “Are you Italian ? I can tell you are.”
“We're from Verona.”
"Verona ? It is at war with the empire, no ?"
"With half of Italy, and it is a tradition of sort. Our cities will be back in the fold, with a few taxes more, or less, depending on the outcome. The trade must go on regardless."
“So you are merchants, not true ? What do you bring ?”
“Just the usual things.”
“Nothing exceptional,” Alfredo confirmed when the man looked at him.
He almost beamed with pride. Their wares really were just the usual things, dried fruits, oil, wine, clothes, a few pouches of outrageously expensive spices as the most noteworthy item. But in trade discretion was a matter of principle. Old Giuseppe went on with his business voice, smooth, careful, plying.
“And these fine gentlemen around us ?”
“Mercenaries, from Hungary. They are here for the war for Bavaria.”
“War ? This is not good.”

The conversation went on for some time, about how one Rupert von Hentzau was said to have have deposed a bishop in Salzburg and murder all Waging, children included, and the army moves his uncle inquired about, but he did not care about either ; one of the girl had appeared, a tall, strong strumpet with blue eyes and golden hair, who walked confidently down the stairs and then just stood waiting at their foot. He found himself staring while his uncle droned own, looked at him and raised to his feet. The woman smiled at him invitingly as he walked toward her, but at the last moment a squat, jowly Hungarian shoved him aside and grunted in German as bad as Alfredo's :

“Wait your turn. Italian.”

Giuseppe was already here and grabbing his arm.
“It's nothing. Come to our table, nephew”.
The pander had stood and was coming back to the table with a black-haired girl, the kind Alfredo usually dreamt about, but this time he just shook his head angrily.
“I'm sure the blonde one works all night, hum ? Stay with us, Alfredo. Listen.” His uncle turned to the balding man. “So maybe we should go toward Mainz rather than Nürnberg, you think ?”
“ No need, no need ! Heinrich is approaching from the East”
“ The Duke of Bavaria ?”
“ Fake duke. Rupert was the late duke's confident, his steward and cupbearer. He knows Otto had chosen Kuno for succession, but Heinrich took power anyway, and when he rebuked count Rupert for taking the Waging castle, and refused him the duchy of Tyrol, it was all a fine lord could take. So now we ride for war, the balding pander concluded, as if he had been given command of the horse.

Alfredo did not care. The Hungarian's smile missed a tooth, and he was staring contemptuously at him, one arm around the strumpet's hips, one hand on her knees. Alfredo should have punched him, he would have stood a chance if he stroke first. At sixteen he was all but a man, and had seen some street brawl. He could break some more of his teeth, make him beg, or at the very least regret shoving him. He had seen her first.

The Hungarian gave no sign of making for the rooms upstairs; It almost seem he would take the woman on the table there.

“ But that Rupert, he arrived, what, thirteen years ago ?”
“Thirteen.”

All Alfredo had to do was to shove the soldier back, and if he protested to punch him first. It was not even sure he would protest. His father despised mercenaries, and called them a cowardly lot, prompt to get paid for a fight and then balk out of it. He raised, but Giuseppe shot his foot at his under the table, tripped him, and he fell on his face. Everyone laughed, the jowly Hungarian harder than the others, but the laughter tailed off when an enormous man stepped through the door. He had bulging muscles, brown skin and fleshy, smooth cheeks ; somehow it was clear he was no patron. For a moment the eunuch looked at the young man crawling on the floor, as beneath as a dog or worm, then ignored him and ordered :
“Take your arms and nothing else. Gather at the castle gate. We steal a march on the Bavarians.” he ordered.

The mercenaries obeyed instantly and left without a word, one straggler hurrying done the steps. Alfredo scrambled awkwardly to his feet.
“So, now, can I...”
Before he could finish his uncle slapped him with surprising strength.
“ You worthless little tosser. Who do you think you are ? A knight ? A soldier ? Do you have any idea what you might have done ?”
“I am sorry.”
“Don't even talk ! Don't so much as open your mouth in my presence until we reach Nürnberg. Shut up and listen for once. And I might not abandon you there. Who do you think you are ? You remind me of a German boy I knew, fifteen years ago, full of promise, and that little idiot had to...” His voice trailed in sudden realization. “Forget it. We leave.”

So they walked back to the inn, the old merchant fuming and the boy skulking. But by Ulm Alfredo had already been forgiven, and when news reached them in Ansbach of Rupert's victory he had already had his first German girl. Who was to say, then, than the mercenary did not lie face down in the mud of battlefield, one nameless corpse no one bothered to mourn or bury ? So he started to understand his uncle, and forgave in turn.



hentzau_01_02_zps968c5575.jpg

My pet eunuch and the Bavarian succession war

Gameplay stuff and stuff like that

I spent most of the session building economic stuff, seized Salzburg, then crashed and the AI got me in an asinine succession war I could not care less about ; I had to spend my modest accumulated wealth on mercenaries to win.[/quote]
 

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Hold the line, loyal Turóc! Turóc? Where did you go?
by Lordling, Transylvania​


In the late 11th century, a young man named Boldizsár a Turóc was named count of most of Translyvania following the 1062 Hungarian Civil War. Like many of the preceding civil wars, a new king took the throne, this time Béla Árpád. The throne had been held by the Árpáds for over a century, and Béla in particular was a wise and careful man, granting lands to young Boldizsár not because Boldizsár was loyal, but rather because he had proven very capable, and Béla did not trust him at court. By granting him distant Transylvania, he hoped that Boldizsár would direct his time and energies against the nearby pagans rather than joining one of the factions contesting for the throne.

As it turns out, this was a wise move from an immediate standpoint. Boldizsár was secretly loyal in the following civil war to the rightful king, Salamon Árpád, playing a key role in the Battle of Pecs. While he was forced from a feudal standpoint to raise his armies when his liege revolted, his men were ordered to retreat from the right flank at a critical moment during the battle, ending the bid of Duke Mihály to become king.

However, Boldizsár was an ambitious man, and after the death of Béla, he agitated to be given the Duchy of Transylvania outright. His liege revolted against Salamon Árpád, and Boldizsár firmly believed that he deserved the title his liege had once held. Indeed, in notes now recovered he stated he desired even greater honors still for informing his king of what his liege had plotted. He sent a now-famous letter to Salamon, stating

'My King, I have protected your rights, defended your throne, and served your interests zealously. Should not such a man be rewarded? Am I not worthy of your consideration? I beg of you, take from the traitorous Mihály his title and grant it to a man who does not only bow the knee with a sword at his throat.'

Salamon was a greedy man, and had been gaining the revenues of Translyvania while he had imprisoned the former Duke Mihály, and so declined. His answer to Boldizsár's letter would not come for a year, at which time a great Cuman and Pecheneg raid had swept through Translyvania. A huge sum of money was demanded from Boldizsár at knifepoint, a sum which he borrowed from the rapacious money-lenders in Venice.

After such an event, he was infuriated with King Salamon, and considered revolting himself, but was keenly aware of the disparity in forces.

Under the pretense of traveling through Constantinople to join the present Crusade, Boldizsár travelled to the City, presenting himself before the Autokrator ton Romanion. He told the man of the injustices he had suffered at the hands of his king. The Emperor, seeing an opportunity to secure his northern border and gain a valuable vassal, offered Boldizsár the northern lands of the Pecheneg pagans as well as the title of Doux of Transylvania to be held by him in perpetuity if he was willing to bend the knee. Boldizsár took the offered chance immediately, and the Autokrator immediately sent a letter to the King of Hungary, stating that the title of the Duchy of Transylvania was now a Byzantine one, and that he would consider a war if the King did not concede it.

Upon receipt of the letter another Hungarian civil war started, and the King had no choice but to acknowledge Boldizsár's rights.

Boldizsár then turned his attention to the subjugation of the Pecheneg pagans. He borrowed a great sum of money, some two thousand solidus from the Republic of Cherson, and used it to hire a great band of horse archers to supplement his light horse and archers. Engaging the Pechenegs on the coast, his generals proceeded to encircle their army and obliterate it. The Pechenegs were a nomadic people with little knowledge of siegecraft, and investing their towns and cities took little effort.

He became Doux twice over then, and cast his eyes upon the throne. While he knew that he would not be able to take it for generations, it was a far choicer prize than the war-torn lands of Hungary.
 

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The Therin Chronicles - A tale of Abyssinia
by Cyrileom, Abyssinia​




Our story begins in 1066, in the realm of the count of Aksum, under the King of Abyssinia. The lord of Aksum was a young 16 year old, who took over the land after beating the old duke and taking over. And it was understandable, really. A young, excellent fighter skilled in mountain fighting and killing infidels? He was an infinitely better choice than the former Duke Negus Zare Solomnid.



The young and zealous count had grand plans. Not a day after his ascension, he had already sent the Emirate of Harer a declaration of war, requiring the Emir's unconditional surrender. As he was the only Sunni in the area, there was no one who could assist him. The war took 6 years to complete, with mountains slowing transports and sieges taking months on end. In the end, the Emir surrendered all of his territory to the young Count Lews and fled the area. Shortly after his annexation of Harer, Lews Therin recreated the Duchy of Axum, taking the title of Duke for himself. In celebration, he sent the King of Nubia a requirement for him to surrender his county, which was rightfully Lews'. The Nubian King refused Lews' generous request, and so he was subjugated. By early 1072, Lews Therin was the prominent force in the Kingdom of Abyssinia.



For 10 years, Lews bided his time. His opportunity to take the Kingdom of Abyssinia came when King Kredus Harbe Zagwe's were massacred by the troops of the Rassid Emirate. Rising up, Lews Therin claimed the crown of Abyssinia for his own. Alas, his campaign was shortlived. He made a critical error when the Fatimids declared an invasion for his territory: Instead of making advantageous peace with his former liege and thus denying the Fatimids a weak target, Lews surrendered to the Fatimids. His ducal title was stripped from him and his count vassals were removed from his grasp. But he still had an edge: his claim for the Kingdom of Abyssinia, still independent. If he forced it, he would go independent of the Fatimids. And then he would force them to pay.

By 1083, Lews Therin was 32 years old. He had aged well, and lost little of his youthful lustfulness or zealousness. He had 8 children, 5 sons and 3 daughters. The oldest son he planned to betroth to a Fatimid princess, and the oldest daughter was betrothed to the Byzantine Emperor. He ruled 5 counties from his castle in Tadjoura. He had claims on all his former territories, in addition to the Kingdom of Abyssinia. Despite conquering him, the Fatimid Sultan only mildly disliked him, and offered him the position of Marshall on a few occasions. He was in great position for a comeback.



A few days after the surrender, the Fatimids declared a Holy war for Gondar. Determined to take that land for himself, Lews Therin sent his troops home on enemy territory and told the King of Abyssinia to give him the crown. After two years of struggle, Lews Therin was King of Abyssinia. After taking Abyssinia, Lews excommunicated the Duke of Gondar and tried to arrest him. The arrest failed, and so Lews Therin went to crush the Duke of Gondar a second time.

The Duke was defeated, stripped of his title, and banished from the realm.

For the next SIXTEEN years, Lews Therin bided his time. In the interlude, it transpired that two of his grandchildren got claims on the Byzantine Empire, who happened to be ruled by a 2 year old. Enlisting the then Caliph Mustansir's help, Lews Therin declared war on the Byzantines. Unfortunately, the Caliph died, the alliance was shattered, and Lews Therin had to pay the empress.
On September 11, 1101, Lews Therin finally turned his eye to the imploding Sultanate of Egypt. He began a 6-year long campaign to defeat and annex as many revolting counties as possible.
Egypt in 1101:


Egypt in 1107:


Five counties were seized from the former Fatimid Sultanate. Abyssinia was growing, and the Fatimids were slowly spiraling into failure. Unfortunately, during the war, Lews Therin had been maimed and a demon entered his body through the wound. Once the period of expansion was done, two foolish Abyssinian counts decided to try and lower crown authority. They were in the process of being crushed in early 1107, and would likely be crushed before the year is out.

Lews Therin, in his 40 years of rule, has so far managed to take one crown, put himself in a position to take another, weakened the Muslims to the north, racked up enough prestige and piety to be called the Great and the Holy. He had birthed 11 children, and seen 2 of them die. He had made alliances and broken them. He had murdered his fair share of people. And chances are he would still have a few years of life to add to his record.
 

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The Sons of Raghnall
by King of Men, Scotland​




October 23rd, 1066 (*)
Birnam Wood, Scotland
Near midnight

RaghnallMalcolmI_zpsbe0bbc0d.jpg


Raghnall and Malcolm in their youth​

"I can give you Macbeth."

The fire burned low, but enough remained to make out the speaker's features. They were not remarkable, in this army. Blond hair, a bushy beard with glints of red in it, a blunt nose twice broken - half of Malcolm's men could be described thus; half of Macbeth's too, if it came to that. Two centuries of raiding and trading had spread the Norse blood over all of Scotland, and both sides had called in the sea-kings and the pirates to swell their numbers. The intensity that burned in the blue eyes, though - that was unusual.

"Can you?" Malcolm allowed a slight note of skepticism to creep into his voice. In two weeks' siege he'd heard that promise roughly three times daily; every man in his army, it sometimes seemed, had a bright idea. Yet Macbeth's banner still flew. "And how will you do that?"

The stranger leaned forward. "I'm part of the guard on the western tower of Dunsinane - me and my men. There's a postern gate. Slip two dozen men in, three dozen, and we can seize the main gate for you."

That was more interesting. Treachery, after all, was how most castles fell, when they fell. Winter was coming; Macbeth did not have to hold on for long. Two weeks, three at most, and the weather would force Malcolm to retreat, or lose half his army to disease and desertion. And if the war went into another year, who knew what might happen? Malcolm had got the better of the old man this year, forcing him back and back, until now at last he had him cornered in Dunsinane; but he was a slippery old bastard, and he still had many supporters in the east. Let him get out, let him raise another army, and next year it might be Malcolm desperately praying he could hold a fortress until the winter storms. Yes, and worrying about traitors on his postern gates.

"It might work," he said judiciously. "Now, if you were a Scot, I might assume that you would aid me simply because I am, when all's said and done, the rightful King. But it seems to me that there's more than a hint of Norway on your tongue; and Raghnall is no name for a Scot." He was conscious that he wasn't pronouncing the name right, there had been a vee somewhere in there when the man had introduced himself; but the Gaelic laid its burr on his tongue whatever language he spoke. And anyway, he was the King, and the man was a landless venturer; he could change his name to suit Malcolm.

Raghnall, or whatever his name was, smiled like a wolf. "As you say, sire King. Macbeth offered me bread and salt, and gave me a place at his table; not the best place, mind you, but a place. That's well enough for piping times of peace; but now there's war to the knife, and kings grow desperate. He should have given me more. What's your offer?"

Malcolm kept his opinion of men who would take another's salt and then sell their postern gates to himself; he needed Dunsinane. Instead he matched the Norseman's smile. What, after all, did landless venturers want? Gold, women, perhaps glory - but above all, to not be landless venturers anymore.

"What would you say to a farm?"

"I would say what my father always said; that I'll not be a thief for a loaf of bread. He died at Stamford, mind; but he died honest. And poor."

"So it goes," Malcolm commented neutrally. "Well then. Not for bread; what of silver? A thousand marks, that's a sum any man might turn thief for."

"It is," Raghnall nodded. "Thief, but not traitor. I didn't eat of Macbeth's bread, but I sat at his table. Try again, sire King."

Malcolm's respect for the man grew a notch; so did his contempt. He hadn't eaten the bread? And did he think that excused him? But he could, clearly, out-haggle a Scot.

"If it prosper, none dare call it treason," Malcolm quoted; "so it seems I should make you prosperous, then. Give me Dunsinane, and I'll make you an earl."

"Aye, that's something more like." Raghnall's eyes burned in the firelight. "But earl" - he pronounced it 'jarl', in the Norse fashion - "of what? Not a farm, sire King, nor silver. An earldom. That's my price; but a title without land is an empty word."

"So it is," Malcolm said, painfully aware that he had been crowned King of Scots a year before, and that he controlled just as much land as his army happened to be standing on. "Fife, then. Macbeth has supporters there; I wish you much joy of them, and them of you."

Raghnall smiled again, or at any rate his teeth glinted in the firelight. "Aye, sire King, that will do nicely. At that price you can buy a Norseman's honour."

"And I'll throw thirty marks of silver into the bargain," Malcolm added, knowing it was dangerous to taunt a man he needed badly, but unable to help himself. Raghnall pressed his lips together, but replied evenly, "Judas betrayed a man with no army and no castle walls. No doubt he got all the market would bear. Keep your silver, sire King; I'd not have the word on me of being so greedy as to get between a Scot and his money."

"An earldom, then," Malcolm agreed, then turned to more immediate matters. "When shall I send my troops for the postern gate?"

Raghnall turned to break a branch off the nearest tree. "Macbeth does not completely trust me; we'll have to kill some of his men. When we hold the tower, I'll fly this" - he brandished the branch - "from its top. Come quick when you see it."

"As you say," Malcolm agreed, glad that it wasn't him who'd be fighting in the tower; that was going to be a desperate and bloody business. "A Birnam branch atop Dunsinane tower, that's the signal. And that branch will be your arms, too, for as long as your sons hold Fife."

Raghnall shrugged acquiescence. "As you say; it's not like to matter. Easy come, easy go. Last year I was a soldier in King Harald's levy; this year I'm an earl in Scotland; next year, who knows? My sons will be sea-kings again, like as not. Much use they'll have for heraldry then. A branch will serve me well enough, for a signal and for a coat of arms. As for my sons, let them make their own luck. As I have."




(*) Conceivably you know something about the early history of the kingdom of Scotland that would make this scene impossible. Just keep in mind that dating early-medieval events is notoriously difficult; errors of a mere decade or so are by no means impossible. Anyway, this is not our timeline.


---------------------------------​

June 5th, 1086
Arthur's Seat, outside Edinburgh
Noon

ArthurSeat_zps8272d49c.jpg


Arthur's Seat

RaghnallMalcolmII_zps37c21029.png


Raghnall and Malcolm in middle age

The hill, all of eight hundred feet high, was not impressive to one born in a Norwegian valley; but the way it stood out from the plain and dominated even Castle Rock, which in turn lowered over the city, made it a natural place for the rebel lords to stage their ceremony. At this distance, the castle looked like a child's toy; the huddle of narrow streets and low buildings it protected, like a scatter of blocks. Ragnvald had seen the walls from below; they were built atop cliffs plunging hundreds of feet straight down, utterly impregnable to assault... and equally impossible to resupply in defiance of an army twice the size of the garrison. The distant perspective was the truer, he decided; the imposing walls of Edinburgh Castle had availed Malcolm little, when his granaries were near empty and his vassals chose to impose their will on him.

The King's party made their way slowly across the plain and up the hill; in accordance with the negotiated protocol, they were armed, but not armoured, and Malcolm's banner was wreathed in green branches in token of peacefulness. Ragnvald smiled coldly, remembering another army that had approached a parley without armour, and how the day had ended for them. But Harald had expected to be given tribute, not to make concessions. There would be no ambush here, no army force-marched hundreds of miles in two weeks. Not that Harold had had any joy of his exploit, in the end.

Raghnall shook himself out of thoughts of the past; Malcolm had reached the top of the hill. His herald announced him, in a good carrying voice: "Malcolm, King of Scots, third of that name, called Canmore, comes to treat with his vassals and leal subjects." That was the face-saving compromise; everyone would pretend that Malcolm was granting the Charter out of the goodness of his heart and from loyal entreaty, not because he had been surprised by a large army with his war stocks low.

The herald went on, listing the agreed terms. Matad of Albany was made Master of the Hunt "in recognition of his good and faithful service," and Malcolm must have ground his teeth near to dust over that one; Matad was the leader of this near-rebellion. Margaret of Moray had her inheritance recognised and reconfirmed, yet again; she had had that clause inserted into nearly every legal document Malcolm's rule had produced. Ragnvald supposed she had reason to be worried; there were many in Scotland who disliked the rule of a woman. By now it was almost a joke; "and Margaret shall be Duchess of Moray" meant that whoever had spoken just before had said something obvious and plain to all. Then again, perhaps that meant her strategy was working.

Now they came to the meat of the matter; Ragnvald tensed. It was still possible that Malcolm would try something tricky with the terms, and that might mean fighting. It certainly looked hopeless, Malcolm's ten and unarmoured against the gathered might of the lords of Scotland, armed cap-a-pie; but the king was tricky and subtle. He might have made some agreement with a faction within the rebels; they were by no means united. Or he might have somehow subtly altered the text so that it would seem to give the lords what they wanted, but had some subtle loophole, and gamble that it wouldn't come to blows over an apparently-minor alteration. Ragnvald listened carefully.

"Third clause. When, which God grant be far in the future, the King is taken into Heaven, the succession shall be determined by the vote of the Dukes of Scotland, these being Moray, Atholl, Lothian, Galloway, Argyll, Mar, and the Isles."

Ragnvald relaxed slightly; that was the agreed form of words.

"Fourth clause. Eligible for the Kingship shall be the aforementioned dukes Elector, and also the male children of the body of the King, or female if there is no male issue."

Ragnvald took a deep breath; Malcolm had not pulled anything out of his sleeve. The rebellion had succeeded, almost without blood being shed. There was a general sighing and air of relaxation over the rebel lords, and the herald droned on through the minor terms almost unheeded: The inheritances of three-acre farms, the socs and sacs, the taxes and tallages, the pardons for murders, the weird promise not to delay justice that some minor baron had insisted on after his lawsuit had dragged out for three months.

Finally it was done, and Malcolm made his mark on the Charter with lips tightly pressed together, clearly suppressing rage. Two priests witnessed it, and the great lords made their marks below Malcolm's. Ragnvald had been included in the list of signatories after much thought and negotiation. He was the only mere earl in the list, but his fief, centered on wealthy Fife, was one of the richest in the realm. Malcolm hadn't known that, perhaps, when he gave it away so easily; he'd been raised in England, after all, to protect him from Macbeth's assassins. Or perhaps he'd just been desperate.

As he came forward to make his mark, Malcolm's gaze snapped around to meet him. Ragnvald was in armour, surrounded by soldiers loyal to him and armed to the teeth, and Malcolm had less than a dozen men, and they unarmoured. Nonetheless, Ragnvald felt himself flinching, his step hesitating slightly, in the face of the boundless rage in the dark brown eyes.

"Raghnall," Malcolm said; it was the first time he'd spoken since he reached the top of Arthur's Seat. His voice was low, rusty with rage. "Growing ever more skilled at treason, I see. Nothing so risky as opening a postern gate this time."

Ragnvald shrugged, affecting a calm he did not feel. Malcolm was, after all, King of Scots; ruler of a poor kingdom in an isolated backwater, perhaps, but still a King of Christendie, a man with many avenues for vengeance, if he decided to use them. "We seem to be prospering," he replied lightly. "And besides, your loyal vassals are required to give you good and honest advice." That was his story and he was sticking to it. Words had power, the words of a King, all the more so. Everyone knew, of course, that the lords had imposed this decree on Malcolm; but if it were openly called treason and rebellion, words publicly spoken by the King with all the weight of the throne behind it, that was something else again. Malcolm must be inwardly shaking with anger, to have risked even a low-voiced accusation here, surrounded by armed men.

"What's in it for you, Raghnall?" Malcolm's eyes narrowed. "You're not a duke; you don't get a vote."

Ragnvald sighed. "Can't a man be sincere in the belief that kings should be chosen by those they rule, not by the accident of birth? That's how we do things in Norway, you know." And besides, he carefully didn't say, titles came and went but power, in the end, came from the land. A jarl who ruled firmly over wide estates and had a loyal fighting-tail could afford to play a long game on mere laws that were written on parchment. Parchment could be scraped and rewritten.

Malcolm snorted. "Yes, and you can choose any King you like provided he's an Yngling. No. You're no idealist. What did they pay you?"

That was opportunity. Apparently Malcolm had not really grasped the extent of Ragnvald's ambitions, or how long a term he could plan for. Let him think it mere opportunism; let him think that Ragnvald could be bought, and he would not take steps to guard his future. A vassal that could be bribed for money was a vassal that was safe enough for the king, who could outbid his lords.

"Three thousand marks silver," he lied.

"Cheap work, for a man that can outhaggle a Scot," Malcolm sneered.

"There wasn't any treason involved, after all. Just advice."

"Ah, yes. Certainly you would not have rebelled for a mere three thousand marks. After all you've eaten my bread. I made sure of that." Apparently satisfied that he'd gotten the last word, Malcolm turned on his heel and stalked towards his horse, leaving Ragnvald to make his mark and have it witnessed. Ragnvald was content with that. He had gotten the substance of their meeting; let Malcolm carry away whatever comfort he could take from getting in an insult. Perhaps it would soothe his rage.

In any case, words were cheap.
 

Hannibal X

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Yay another KoM AAR! Interesting how much dialogue his AARs have had- he normally focuses on grand narratives or single-person perspectives. Hoping for more Rif Ynglings as well.
 

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LE MUPDATE
by Wraith, Brandenburg​


GG4Map1129_zps5a25cd61.png


This is the map at the end of today's session, at 1129. A summary of some players and interesting areas for any interested peanuts:

-I am Brandenburg-Prussia, currently eating Bohemia and Pomeralia. This session I lost Anhalt to massive AI Brunswick-Saxony-Tuscany, but suddenly that Duke died and had Gavelkind laws. Somehow I usurped the entire Duchy of Saxony through random event. An extremely fortunate stroke of luck, as I had been lagging behind my rivals. I am also in line to be the next Holy Roman Emperor, but I don't know if that will take as my character is much older than the current Emperor.

-My rivals (though we are all on good terms and are erstwhile allies) are Falador and Kuipy, King of Frisia and Duke of Tyrol-Lorraine respectively. Falador is very likely the richest feudal player in the game, having completely eaten Holland and Northern Belgium. He is currently expanding against chaotic France in Flanders and projecting power outside the Empire, most notably in Sweden. Kuipy has been running a series of fab-claim wars in the south and has amassed a large realm, though I would place him in 3rd place within the HRE due to my sudden awesome success in the last hour of the session.

-Overall, it is very difficult to say who is more powerful between Falador and myself. I have more land, but Falador is much richer, with higher income and more developed land (I have constantly had to spend money on mercs and excomm repentance, he has not AFAIK) and is an actual King. TBH I would probably place myself in a close 2nd place within the Empire. Below is a shot of the player realms within the HRE, as well as some others in France and England.

HREPlayersSession3End_zpsd9e2d90d.png


-Massive Civil War in England. The Saxons are on the verge of retaking the throne. Not good.

-KoM successfully won the throne of Scotland, and Ragnvald persisted for an absurdly long time. He even survived a bout of Consumption before finally dying at the age of 89. Throughout the session KoM had to deal with an idiot son who refused to vote for himself as the heir to Scotland. Strangely enough, said heir dropped dead of "natural causes" while in his twenties, and now Ragnvald's genius great-grandson sits the throne. Not suspicious at all.

-As you can see, France has basically imploded, with numerous independence wars going off against the Capet King who rules from Spain. The green in Aquitaine is Poitou-Ireland, quite the curiosity of history. In the first session AI Poitou gobbled up most of Ireland through the OP republic CBs, and after this last round of civil war in France the AI doge formed the King of Ireland title. JasonOfArgos is the player in Poitou-Ireland, and that craziness happened in the AI interregnum between him being Doge.

-In Spain, Dustz in Barcelona is quiet and keeps to himself. BaronBowden in Granada bounced back from a horrible start against AI Genoa going nucking futs against him with Holy Wars and now owns most of Muslim Spain. He's hard-pressed by crusading France, though.

-Byz is still huge, there are only two (technically three) players there. JakobGood in Greece was almost imprisoned by the Empress near the end of the session and auto-revolted, I guess he mended fences there. The other player in Byz is Oddman as the Republic of Cherson, having moved from Kiev (now played by KriJeager). I haven't heard much from him. The third player is Lordling in Transylvania, who left after the first re-host and didn't come back for the rest of the session. The AI destroyed his dynasty, so if he comes back next week he'll have to be edited back in. Lordling joined Byz in the last session and AFAIK planned to eat Hungary while remaining a Byz vassal. Scary stuff.

-Cyrileom plays Abyssinia down in Africa. He was the strongest power by far after last session and had recently come off a successful holy war against the Fatimids. About three-fourths the way through the session he had a stroke of bad luck when an AI courtier of his assassinated his designated heir and he rage-quit. It's unknown if he'll come back. His other two sons are bad eggs - one is slow and the other...it's complicated. JakobGood (Athens) stole him over to his court at one point and made him Orthodox as opposed to Miaphysite. He's King now, so interesting times are ahead, it seems.

-Pisa county was conquered by the HRE in a peculiar Holy War. Pisa turned into a monarchy and is now based in Sardinia.

-The Seljuk Sultanate is Zikri. Sunni Islam is practically dead in the east.

-The First Crusade happened last session, but failed miserably. The Second Crusade happened in the last part of this session, and bad things happened. Geofforic was the Muslim player in Jerusalem, and this time the HRE joined the crusade in force. Because Jerusalem is held by a player, other Christian players are not allowed to join in. Unfortunately the HRE rampaged with a 30k doomstack while the Fatimids dicked around, and the Muslims were eventually curbstomped in a massive battle at Arsuf. So now that unsightly blot in the Holy Land is the new Kingdom of Jerusalem, and now Geofforic is out about 80-90% of his land. Unknown if that will be changed for next week. Geofforic was quite angry to say the least, especially with me due to a misunderstanding. While I did not join or actively participate in the Crusade, my character has very high martial and was the field general of the HRE army. The way I was talking about it on TS I believe made Geoforric think I had broken the rules and actively joined the HRE's army.



---------------------------------------------------


Players Wanted

Hungary, Abyssinia and Jerusalem open. Come one, come all and stake your claim in the MP thread!
http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...wn-an-MP-Megacampaign-Sundays-16-20-CET/page4
 
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de Canal
by Mark, Venice​


Once, there was a man called Marco de Canal. He was born taught the values of money. He both saved and spent money only to gain and increase his fortune. he sent armies arround the med to both increase his wealth and his families land, and eventually he was fortunate enough to become doge of venice. But soon this Marco died and his son Leonello took control of both the title of doge and his vast fortune. Unfortunately imediately the dodge of cherson financed a war with sicily against the republik of Venice. He quickly won this war and after doing so formed the kingdom of sicily. then came five years of peace and prosperity of the people of venice and sicily.

Hardships were soon to followas we lost an embargo war against the Holy roman empire. Soon after that came a great war against Fatamid emirate who venice used its navy to quickly send both holy orders and mercs to fight against. This was a loseing war but to the fortunes of venice a Crusade was called and the east roman empire sent thousands of troops to the levant to also fight the fatamids. Leonello then took this opertunity he was given by god to strike. Because of the crusades assistance, venice won the warbut at great cost. Thousands of lives were lost to protect trade and a large bounty of roughly 1500 gold peices were awarded to Venice. For his war against the muslims he was given the honorary title of "the Monk" of the christian peoples.

On The ship back to venice, Leonello heard that his son lost a barrony which was now considered papal property. As soon as his troops got back to venice a brutal campaign began to be waged against the pope and his minions. The first battle 11000 venician troops battle hardened from the conflicts in the holy lands began to battle against 8000 zealots that the pope personally lead. In the heat of battle though the guile of Leonello he was able to isolate the pope who loved nothing more than war and fighting. Veniceian troops sourounded him and Leonello steped inside to fight Pope Sixtus IV one on one. Leonello quickly disarmed Pope Sixtus and beheaded him raiseing his head as a trophy to the world for all to see. While they may have killed the leader of the papal states and showing that papal power is no stronger than that of a lowly patrician, The Papal troops rallied around his death and won the battle. Still the war is squarely in the hands of venice.

ygugyug_zpsf7fe1201.png
 

FrozenWall

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Thrice Met, and Done
by King of Men, Scotland​

July 10th, 1108
Courtyard of Edinburgh Castle
Midafternoon

RaghnallMalcolmIII_zps63c7acd0.png


Raghnall and Malcolm in old age​

The drums, admittedly, were an affectation; but at his age, Ragnvald found it hard to enjoy the subtle music of harp and flute, and in any case those instruments' fragile sound would have disappeared in the open air atop Castle Rock. The kettledrums that drove his wild Irish gallowglasses into their screaming charges were unsubtle, true; battle drummers made no clever interlocking rhythms, no syncopated patterns. But they filled the courtyard with noise and fury; the wild beat-beat-beat made hearts pound. And, for those on Malcolm's side who had been brought here to witness Ragnvald's triumph, the reminder of what it was like to face gallowglasses in battle would do no harm. Ragnvald had his fighting tail, his fee-knights, his levies and train-bands; but so did Malcolm. It was the savage Irish mercenaries that had broken the back of the resistance. In the end, most of the nobles fighting for Malcolm had deserted him simply to get the barbarians out of Scotland and away from their personal estates.

The gates of Dunkeld Hall opened, and the old King - for a little while longer, he was still King - emerged between two burly soldiers of Ragnvald's personal guards. As Ragnvald had intended, Malcolm - white-haired and clad only in a thin cotton tunic and trews - looked fragile and small between the two armoured soldiers in the prime of their life; Ragnvald had chosen his largest men for the task, and instructed them to pad their mail with cloth. Still, he walked steadily, making his guards look like honour guards rather than prison warders; Ragnvald nodded mental respect for the feat. It could not be easy to walk into the ear-splitting noise of the drums to a meeting that had a very good chance of being the last conversation you would ever have with anyone, seeing all around you your defeated allies and the fierce bearded faces of your victorious enemies, and still hold your head high and not flinch.

When Malcolm came to a distance of fifteen feet from Ragnvald, he held up his hand; at the signal, the drums stopped - slightly raggedly, the battle-drummers were not really trained for ceremony, but it would do. Ragnvald spoke into the sudden silence, and men leaned forward - chain mail rattled in the still air - to hear.

"Thrice now we've met, Malcolm called Canmore; and third time, they say, pays for all."

Malcolm worked his jaw as though to spit, but thought better of it. Instead he tossed his head haughtily; defiance, perhaps, was all he had left, and so he clung to it all the harder. "Kill me and have done, traitor. I'll not bandy words with you."

There was much to be said for that; but not in public, where his allies would see, and remember Ragnvald killing a helpless old man in a cotton tunic. A damp dungeon would be Ragnvald's method of choice for killing an inconvenient prisoner. But if he could, he'd begin his reign with an act of mercy. It would be good for his vassals - formerly Malcolm's vassals - to see that he wasn't merely a scheming, ruthless traitor. Of course, it would also be good for them to see that he would crush anyone who defied him; so killing remained an option. The question was, how much defiance did Malcolm have in him? A show of mercy was no good if it led to renewed civil war in a year's time.

"I did not come here to shed royal blood," he said, watching Malcolm closely to gauge his reaction. Was that a spark of hope?

Malcolm's bushy eyebrows drew down in confusion. "Then what do you want, Raghnall? Do you propose to go home and live peacefully on your estate, after this?"

"No. The royal residence will remain here at Edinburgh. But kings dislike shedding the blood even of former kings."

That was enough of a hint for Malcolm; after all he hadn't got to be King of Scots, and ruled for forty years, without being able to tell a hawk from a handsaw. "You would have me abdicate, and retire to my Gowrie lands?"

"After paying a suitable ransom, of course." Raghnall smiled sardonically. "Let us say, thirty marks silver."

Malcolm flinched; but symbolism aside, it was an absurdly low sum for a nobleman's ransom, easily within his means even after two years of destructive war. And life, after all, was worth much, even to a man who had been King for forty years. Malcolm had clearly expected to be killed, had nerved himself to die well, spitting defiance to the last. Now Ragnvald held out the prospect that he might survive. The trick was to not give him too much hope; survival was one thing, revolt against the new king, quite another.

"And your son Duncan will remain here at Edinburgh, as my honoured guest," Ragnvald added, and Malcolm pressed his lips together, holding back some hot protest. But he nodded in acceptance; Duncan would be a hostage for his good behaviour, of course. "Yes," he croaked, "I understand."

"And you'll bend the knee here before me, and renounce the throne."

This was the sticking point. Malcolm was a proud man; and the same fire of ambition burned in him as in Ragnvald. Ragnvald had seen it in him at their first meeting, forty years before; he knew, none better, the fire that burned in Malcolm's belly. It was the same fire that had led him to betray his salt and take arms against a man whose bread he had eaten. Such men did not kneel easily, even with the threat of death in front of them; nor did they find it easy to live as dukes, when they had ruled as Kings. Who should know better than Ragnvald? Even a son as hostage gave no certainty with such a man; after all Malcolm had other sons, and grandsons too. Ragnvald had not had to sacrifice any sons on his way to the throne... but he knew that he would have done so, if necessary. His hostage ploy would not long deter Malcolm if the man retained the same will to power that he'd had in Birnam wood; or even the deep-seated rage he'd displayed at Arthur's Seat. But Malcolm was, after all, an old man. Ragnvald watched his reaction carefully. If necessary, he could still choke on a fishbone in his soup.

"Kneel?" Malcolm said, as though the idea had never occurred to him.

"Yes, Malcolm. Kneel, here, now. Bend your stiff knees, and live."

Malcolm clenched his teeth, and momentary defiance blazed in his eyes. For a long three seconds it seemed that he would tell Ragnvald where to stick his demands. Then, slowly, he crumbled. His gaze flicked aside from Ragnvald's, and his shoulders slumped fractionally. A moment before, a king had stood before Ragnvald; defeated, perhaps, but still a king. Now a tired old man confronted one who had just achieved his life's ambition. Ragnvald let out a covert sigh of relief. It had been a gamble, bringing Malcolm out in public like this; there had always been the chance of him making some dramatic last defiance, and guaranteeing a civil war in two or three years' time, to avenge the old king. But the gamble had paid off; he could see it in Malcolm's eyes, in his posture. He had broken Malcolm's will to resist; and so Malcolm could be permitted to live - and Ragnvald would not have on his conscience the blood of a man whose bread he had eaten. A second man, he corrected himself; he had not literally eaten Macbeth's bread, but that did not matter. He had owed Macbeth loyalty; and while he hadn't himself wielded the sword that haggled Macbeth's stubborn head off his powerful neck - that had been Malcolm's right-hand man, MacDuff - he might as well have plunged a dagger into his kidney. In a way, he supposed it didn't matter what he did to Malcolm; he was already damned, and adding another deadly betrayal could not condemn him further. But if it did not matter to the White Christ, still, it mattered to Ragnvald; and so he had contrived this public ordeal, to try to break Malcolm's defiance and allow him, at least, to live.

"I made you Earl of Fife," Malcolm said, almost pleading. It could have been a prelude to refusing; but Ragnvald could see the struggle within him, the will to live against the reluctance to admit defeat and to make a show of submission. Malcolm needed a little more time, that was all; and Ragnvald had it to give.

"And I gave you Macbeth," he replied coolly. "Value for value, and nothing owed."

"I made you Duke of Lothian!"

"A form of words to spite the English, when they took Teviotdale. Not an acre of land did you add to the title; it was worth its weight in silver, and its worth in silver you received in return."

Malcolm clenched his teeth in despair; but his protests had not been serious attempts to make Ragnvald change his mind, only the useless anger of a man betrayed. Slowly, so slowly that you could almost hear the internal struggle as the desire for life overcame pride, Malcolm knelt, and bent his head. "I -" he had to clear his throat twice before he could get the words out. "I renounce the crown of Scotland," he said, not loudly, but clearly enough to carry across the hushed courtyard.

"Very well," Ragnvald said. There was no need to drag out the humiliation; the point was made, and Malcolm would survive. "Rise then, Duke of Albany." Malcolm got to his feet, slowly, looking dazed and surprised to be alive.

Ragnvald had been too concerned with Malcolm's life to think much about his victory; but now triumph rose in him like heady wine. He threw his shoulders back, looking over the courtyard - his courtyard - filled with his loyal soldiers and with the peerage of Scotland. "Malcolm has renounced the throne," he said ringingly; "and I, Ragnvald son of Thorvald, am King of Scots!"

The drums began again, but they were drowned out by the cheering, as his people released the tension of the drawn-out confrontation with Malcolm. "Ragnvald! Ragnvald!" someone shouted, and everyone took it up; then swords began beating against shields, and thought became impossible in the driving, hammering noise. Ragnvald stood in its center and gloried. King of Scots! He, a common soldier of Harald's levy, a man who'd had to borrow a mail coat because he couldn't afford his own - King of Scots! He'd had triumphs before, when Malcolm named him Earl, when his son Edward was born, when he first lay with a woman; this beat them all.

"Hail, Ragnvald! King of Scots!"
 

Fivoin

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Indices:

The Caroliniad, by Frosty, Vermadois
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

The sons of Raghnall, by KoM, Scotland
Ch 1
Ch 2
CH 3
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 6
Ch 7
Ch 8
Ch 9
Ch 10
Ch 11
Ch 12
Ch 13
Ch 14

Statistics, by KoM, Scotland
Buildings and holdings, 1269

All of Europe shall speak Saintongeais, by JasonOfArgos, Poitou
Ch 1

Hell Wants Its Master - AAR of the Hentzaus, by Kuipy, Tyrolen
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 6
Ch 7
Ch 8
Ch 9
Ch 10
Ch 11
Ch 12
Ch 13
Ch 14

Ynglinga Saga, by Fasquardon, Morocco
Ch 1
Ch 2

Hold the line, loyal Turóc! Turóc? Where did you go? by Lordling, Transylvania
Ch 1

The Therin Chronicles - A tale of Abyssinia. by Cyrileom, Abyssinia
Ch 1

Byzzy Updates by Khan XLT, Georgia
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 6
Ch 7

A Genealogy of Nazaryan Emperors by KhanXLT, Georgia
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 6

Suum Cuique - Brandenburg Rising by Wraith, Brandenburg
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 6
Ch 7
Ch 8
Ch 9

Brandenburg Mupdates by Wraith, Brandenburg and KhanXLT, Georgia
1129
1152
1173
Ch 4
Ch 5
1217
1231
1247
1269

de Canal by Mark, Venice
Ch 1

Once Upon Time in the East by Ike, Novgorod
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3

Al Andalus - Azulejo Tiles for all by BaronBowden, Andalusia
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 6
Ch 7

Greece Rising by JacobGood, Greece
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3

Hungary under the Turóc Dynasty by Rannos, Hungary
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
Ch 4


L'histoire de France by el_zilcho321, France
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 6
 
Last edited:

Fivoin

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Ynglinga Saga
By Fasquardon, Morocco​
The first Yngling ġaziya (1066-1077):

As the Almoravid berbers ascend in power, weakening both Fatimid and Cordoban influence in North Africa, the Rif tribes launch a ġaziya (raid or holy war) against the Meghrawa, under the leadership of a "Viking convert" named Ossor. The supreme organizational abilities of Ossor and his first wife Åsta see the Rif claiming the great city of Fes by late 1066. After a brief truce, during which the Rif pay nominal homage to the Meghrawa, the ġaziya continues, with invasions of the Islands of the Canarii tribe, boarder wars against Tangiers and Tlemcen and the final subjugation of the Meghrawa.

The Rif also skirmish with the Genoese during the Grenadan holy war.

Almoravid-Yngling War (1077-):


When the Rif tribes subjugated the Meghrawa, it drew the attention of the Almoravid coalition, who, claiming that the Meghrawa had already paid homage to the Almoravids, launched a war to break the power of the Rif. After 6 years, the war is still ongoing, with the Rif tribes holding a slight advantage.

Death of Ossor I (1078):

The founder of the Yngling Emirate, Ossor I, dies of a heart attack at 35. The budding empire passes to his eldest son, Torkjell, during the darkest days the Rif tribes have yet faced. The regent Åsta manages to hold the confederation together, breaking the Almoravid main army with the aid of paid Tuareg allies.
 

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Suum Cuique - Brandenburg Rising
By Wraith, Brandenburg​

Early Anecdotes on the House of Brennenburg

Origins of Castle Brennenburg

From Medieval Era Castles of Europe - Germany Volume, by Heinrich Schleierhaft

Of all the high-ranking figures of note within the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, few are more mysterious than Duke Alexander I of Brennenburg. Alexander was a previously-unknown noble hailing from the northeastern woodlands of Brandenburg county, where his family had long ago built a sizable, isolated castle that towered above the pines. Few have visited the castle - which still stands today, a decaying monument to medieval glory - but many have claimed it to feel uninviting, mysterious, and rather unnerving on the inside, a stark contrast to its dark, towering majesty from afar. Due to its remote location and the rather unknown origins of the family, many alleged - a legend that still holds sway today - that Castle Brennenburg is haunted, host to various sorts of the supernatural; among the most entertaining rumors involve ritual sacrifice to the old pagan gods of the Baltic coast, arcane ceremonies in service to otherworldly powers, and rumors of restless spirits forever forced to reliving inhuman torment. I have been to Castle Brennenburg, and while the atmosphere of the preserved ruin can certainly inspire fear, the same can be said of the vast majority of old, abandoned castles and manors all across the continent. There is nothing unnatural or paranormal about it save for the vague accounts regarding its construction that date from the 10th century, which leave some historians baffled as they described certain processes and materials that were not used until centuries later; nevertheless, the oral accounts of the uneducated peasantry of the time cannot be considered a reliable source. And even if, for the sake of fantastic conjecture, these rumors of "sorcery" and "otherworldly creatures" are true, then it is a certainty that Duke Alexander I gained no advantage from them, considering the very mortal misfortune that befell him before he even reached middle age, one that so often afflicted brave and reckless warriors of the day.

BrennenburgEntranceHall_zpsc7032919.jpg

The entrance hall of Castle Brennenburg today, as restored by the Brandenburg Historical Society

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Pomerlian Question

Brandenburg Castle, 1078

A simple wooden chair shattered as it impacted against the wall, showering the stone floor of the great hall with its fragments. Two men - one dressed in a simplistic brownish-green tunic, the other in dark robes - moved away from the area of impact, halfheartedly shielding their heads and ducking for cover. "Your Grace, you must calm yourself!" urged the man in the tunic, Mayor Markward of Haldensleben.

"CALM MYSELF? CALM? I seized those lands in the name of God! Crushed the rebellion of the pagan chiefs at great expense of blood and gold!" roared Duke Alexander von Brennenburg, face contorted in rage and teeth clenched so tightly that they seemed at risk of shattering in a fashion similar to the chair he had thrown. "What sort of man is this who would so casually revoke lands that I have earned by the blood of my people?"

"An Emperor, Your Grace," Markward replied simply. "An Emperor whose displeasure is best not provoked."

"His displeasure? He would well learn what the pagans have twice over!" Alexander barked in reply, just before grabbing another chair by the back and smashing it over one of the dining tables with a single blow. "He should best remember that I took those lands without his aid, laying siege and claim to those holdings mere days before the arrival of the damned Norse and Danes! I expanded the Empire against their foreign encroachment, defended Heinrich steadfastly through those rebellions in the south and west, and THIS IS THE THANKS I GET?"

"Your Grace, it is best not to dwell on it. Your realm is of now too weak to seize retribution for this slight," Markward counseled.

"Your Grace, I must agree," said the other, cloaked, man at last. He lowered his hood as the Duke gave pause to his rampage destruction, revealing the face of Bohumir of Muncheburg, the Spymaster of Brandenburg. "Heinrich is unpopular, and certainly his 'rewarding' of one of his own distant kin with these lands unearned in Pomeralia will not sit well with the nobility. Even now, Matilda bides her time for yet another rebellion in the south, as do the Billungs to the west in Saxony. With most of the pagans pacified, I think it is time to think on expansion of the realm within the Empire instead."

Markward nodded in agreement. "Indeed, Your Grace. Baron Udonen grows old, and upon his death his vice-grip upon your rightful title will loosen, and allow it to slip away. Claim the Duchy of Brandenburg officially and expand to the south and west. Once Brandenburg can stand on its own, we can reclaim the Baltic coast from the northmen."

"The Duchess of Meissen is weak, and in a generation her lands will go to some other unworthy. Repay her spurning your son's hand by hiring an army of sell-swords and seizing Lausitz - after all, your previous Chancellor saw to that years ago. I know certain people who can deliver such an army..." Bohumir said.

Duke Alexander paused, looking down at the floor as he retreated deep into his thoughts. After a few moments, he looked up and suddenly grinned broadly. "Friends, this is why I employ your services!" he shouted ecstatically, outstretching his arms in an affectionate gesture. He walked over and draped his arms about the shoulders of his advisors, walking them down the hall toward the door. "Your cunning greatly accentuates my prowess with the sword! With you at my side, we have a multitude of possibilities in order to repay that ungrateful bastard who wrongfully bears the crown of Charlemagne. Always remember - suum cuique!"

The Spymaster smirked. "Truer words were never spoken, my lord."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

You Reap What You Sow

Alpine Foothills, Lombardy, 1081

Alexander von Brennenburg observed the rising sun of the new dawn, outfitted in his full battle regalia. The tunic overlaid across his chain mail was trisected by the black, blue, and white in reference to his family's coat of arms, emblazoned with the same majestic black eagle of Brennenburg. Somewhere across the fields now being illuminated by the peeking rays of sunlight was the rebel army of the Tuscan Coalition they hunted. Behind him, a cluster of nobles and knights now gathered, an early meeting of the various captains and commanders of the loyalist Imperial Army to discuss matters of tactics and war. "Father, I believe the His Majesty is summoning you," said Alexander's squire, his teenage son Friedrich, from where he stood just behind his shoulder.

Alexander nodded in reply and turned toward the war council. "Take my helmet and shield, keep them for me until we march. If you have not fed and watered my destrier, do so now. I believe battle is on the horizon this day," he ordered. Friedrich nodded, bowed his head slightly, and scurried off to make the preparations. Alexander shoved aside one of the smaller lords and took his place on the Emperor's right.

"We are close, they cannot have gotten far," Emperor Heinrich IV said, unrolling a map of the region across the top of a crude wooden table. "They had many wounded from the engagement three days ago. Their pace is slow and those men who aren't injured are tired, cold, and hungry. If we quicken the pace, we should fall upon them as they break camp."

"Your Majesty, our own men are just as exhausted. We have been on the march for over a fortnight, constantly in battle and without a long respite," Alexander advised. "If we quicken the pace, we shall behind our infantry. We may fall upon them as they break camp, but it will only be with our van of cavalry."

"I trust you will be leading that vanguard once again, Duke Alexander?" Heinrich asked. Alexander nodded in silent acknowledgement. As eager for blood and glory as he was, he had led the vanguard throughout the campaign at the Emperor's insistence. Even with his strength and fortitude, his bones and body ached horrendously under the strain of days in the saddle clad in his heavy full mail. "Then I have faith that you will scatter them before the infantry even arrives. Are you not my Marshal?"

"I am, Your Majesty. Any man who claims to be stronger with a sword or wiser in the ways of battle had best be ready to join the other doubters as notches upon my blade." Many of the assembled knights and lords grunted or rolled their eyes in disdain, which Alexander responded to with a nasty glare from his ice-blue eyes.

"I thought as much. You have indeed served me faithfully throughout these trying times of dissent and rebellion. Take the van and ride on ahead in pursuit of these traitors, I will rally and assemble the infantry to follow," Heinrich ordered. "Men, today I believe we shall finish this rabble and destroy the rebels' capability to fight once and for all. I trust all of you are up to the task." The Emperor's remark was answered by numerous shouts and murmurings of eager warriors desperate to prove their worth. Alexander bowed his head dutifully and took his leave, marching for the makeshift stables of the camp. When he arrived, he saw many recognizable faces of his vanguard already geared up for battle, preparing to mount their horses. Alexander approached the mob of knights crowded around around one of the priests marching with the army, knelt before him as he mumbled a prayer, blessing, and benediction. He joined them and bowed his head in reverence, reflecting upon the dreams he had had the night before. It was an ill omen, he thought. Upon opening his eyes, he saw the knights rising, exchanging best wishes with their comrades before dispersing to their mounts. Alexander approached the priest.

"Father, if it would not be so bold as to trouble you for a blessing..." he said, lowering his eyes in humility.

The priest raised an eyebrow. "In all my days marching with the Emperor's armies, I have never seen you ask of God any more than your daily duties. Why today?"

Alexander hesitated. "Nothing, just an ill feeling on the coming battle today."

"Very well," said the priest. He raised his hand in a gesture of prayer as the Duke bowed his head. "In nomine patre et filii et spiritus sancti, benedico te hodie felici sanctum opus facere."

"Thank you, Father. May God watch over his shepherds," Alexander said.

"You reap what you sow, my lord," the priest replied.

"Indeed. Suum Cuique."

With that, Alexander mounted his horse and donned his helm, taking his place at the head of the vanguard column and riding into the forests of the foothills. They would find the rebel force within a few hours, not quite breaking camp but not quite waiting in ambush - they found them in the midst of preparing for a pitched battle in the flatlands. Alexander's ominous dream would prove an ill omen indeed, as he found himself pulled from his horse and engaged in combat by a half-dozen men-at-arms. With the aid of his squire, he managed to dispatch all but one of them - but the last, attacking from behind, landed a powerful blow with his mace upon the back of the Duke's helm. The rebel would fall to Friedrich's blade, and the boy would recover his father back to the camp, but the damage was done.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Does he live?" Emperor Heinrich IV asked of his personal physician. Four men stood in a tent, looming over a cot with a seemingly-unconscious man supine upon it. Heinrich had sent the boy on a meaningless errand for water so as to have privacy with his trusted advisors. Duke Alexander was the man on the bed, catatonic and unresponsive to any interaction as he merely stared up at the ceiling of the tent. The physician had been examining the Duke's eyes for a long while, attempting to elicit some reaction, before at last giving up in frustration.

"He lives, but I do not know how. The blow should have killed him," the man said.

"Will he recover?" asked Heinrich.

"Perhaps in time. Even if he does, I doubt he will ever be the same. He certainly won't be fighting any battles again," the physician answered.

The other two men in the tent smirked at each other. One was young and unremarkable, the other's face was heavily scarred and had a wooden leg crudely fitted onto the stump of his right limb. "I presume this means the threat is neutralized, cousin?" asked the younger one, Duke Bruno of Pomeralia.

"For now. Let none outside of us four know of this. I don't want any headaches down the road from his sons," Heinrich answered, groaning.

"We still have to restore Duke Lothar-Udo to his rightful position. These upstarts must know their place. They have designs on my titles, the little scoundrels! The audacity...!" said the cripple, Duke Magnus Billung of Saxony.

"I do not care about that old fool. He was weak and stupid enough to allow them to usurp his titles and holdings right under his nose. He can rot in Stade, for all I care. No, things are fine the way they are," Heinrich replied. "Alexander was much to ambitious for my tastes. A braggart, but a loyal braggart. I'd rather have a pack of loyal attack dogs than some feral hounds eager to rip out my own throat. That matter in Pomeralia was dangerous enough as it was."

"I know a loyal man in the Brandenburg court. We can install him as regent, and we'll have a nice puppet to jerk to our strings," said Magnus.

"Good. Send the word and set everything up. I have a war to win," Heinrich ordered. He turned and left the tent, pulling on his armored gauntlets as he did. Crouched out of sight on the opposite side, Friedrich von Brennenburg frowned and narrowed his eyes. "Suum Cuiqie."
 

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One Upon Time in the East
By Ike, Novgorod​
Once Upon Time in the East

Introduction​


There was a time between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the fall of the sons of Ynglids, there was an age undreamed of. And onto this, family of Väinämöinen was born, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Finno-Ugria upon a troubled brow. It is I, their chronicler, who alone can tell thee of their saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!

It was the year of our Lord 1065 when Väinä son of Juva, a 15 year old boy arrived to the city of Novgorod. A city full of stories and of mysteries. Nobody knew who he was or where did he came from but it was rumored that he was a descendant of the great shaman and an ancient hero of the Finno-Ugric people. Yes Väinä was of a Finish culture but he looked and acted like a Russian and thus fitted well in to the city of Novgorod. Väinä was a man of many tricks and his poetry soon became known trough out the Rus lands. He was also rumored to be ladies man and a great lover, of course these were rumors that his enemies spread later when Väinä gained more power. He helped the people of Novgorod and word of his deeds soon reached the ears of the Grand Prince himself. The Grand Prince of Novgorod invited Väinä to become his Steward, an position that held great power in Novgorod since Steward was in charge of the treasury. Väinä accepted this honor and the Grand Prince arranged a marriage between his cousin, daughter of Grand Prince of Rostov, and Väinä. This marriage would later become the doom of the later Grand Princes of Novgorod and Rostov. Väinä soon found out that the people and the council members of Novgorod were poorer than they would have wanted to be, so there were many requests of loans and charity. Väinä accepted these requests as he knew that later on he could call upon those who were in debt to him to do a favors for him. But there were those who refused to believe the charm of Väinä, they said that he had put the Grand Prince under a spell of some sort and was controlling his mind. There was several attempts on his life after the Grand Prince granted Väinä the counties of Novgorod, Luki and Pskov. The jealous husbands and nobles tried to stab Väinä, poison him and drown him. All attempts failed and those involved were quickly deposed soon after that dwarfs with silver blades were seen to entering the city, some rumored that these dwarfs came from the east side of Urals and belonged to an ancient order of assassins. Väinä had gained the support of the Grand Prince in Novgorod who trusted Väinä with his life and these dwarfs with silver blades were assigned as the personal guard of the Prince. But little did the Prince know that Väinä had also gained the trust and support of his father in-law and that Väinä had promised him the crown of Rus if he would invade the lands.

It was the year 1066 when Rostov finally decided to invade his brother in Novgorod. The march of Rostov was made easier by Väinä changing the orders sent to the armies of Novgorod and deposing the Chancellor and replacing him with an puppet of his own. A month later Grand Prince of Novgorod signed an unconditional surrender to his brother, giving him all the titles he owned. The deal that Väinä had arranged with Rostov had been fulfilled. The former prince of Novgorod mysteriously vanished after his signing of the surrender, some say that the dwarfs killed him. Also the Grand Prince of Rostov mysteriously died soon after the event and the realm was divided between the brothers of Väinä's wife Anna Vsevolodovna Rurikovich. The plan was going as Väinä had hoped.

Soon after mysterious things started to happen. Firstly Grand Prince Vyshata I of Pereyaslav was killed by her maid smothering him with a pillow, who later took her own life. He was barely ten years old when the incident happened. After that the younger sister of Anna was killed by a one eyed bear while the spymaster of Rostov, Mayor Koz'ma had brought her with them on a hunting trip. The realm was devastated about this. But little did they know that all these deaths were done by the order of Vladimir I of Rostov who had trusted Väinä do dispose his siblings allowing him to control all of Rus. Vladimir I had only one more obstacle in front of him, his younger brother Stansilav I of Novgorod, the liege of Väinä. So he asked Väinä to support him with killing of his brother but Väinä had other plans. In March 1079 Grand Prince Vladimir I of Rostov fell from his balcony and died of the impact. All claimed this as an accident and the young Stanislav I inherited his older brother. By 1083 the Rostov line of Rurikovich had been all but reduced to two members, the Grand Prince Stanislav I and Anna wife of Väinä. For his help and deeds towards the Rurikovich family in these troubled time Väinä was appointed as the Regent of Novgorod and was given unlimited power to control Novgorod with the Prince's approval of course.

It is this where the story really begins.
 

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Hell Wants Its Master
By Kupiy, Bavaria​
On the eventual comeuppance of villains


Innsbruck castle, 1107

“ I have a new best friend, count, “ Rupert von Hentzau said loudly, as he entered the chamber unannounced. “It's the duke of whatever, we'll go killing Italians later this year. Don't be jealous, I'll still come and visit you.”

Heinrich von Nordheim made his best to ignore the only human voice he had heard in years except for the grunts of guards. It a mocking, cruel, hideous voice. Rupert's.

“Do you still resent me for taking your duchy ? Sorry, duchies ? Count, count, we have been over this before. It was your father Otto's wish. You know I was his cupbearer, his confident ? You know it, right ?”
Heinrich remained silent.
“Well, he told me everything. He told me so much it took me years to remember it all. First I remembered he wanted you imprisoned and your brother Kuno to rule after him. Then I remembered he wanted me to be duke of Tyrol. Then I remembered he actually wanted his daughter Ethelinde to succeed him, not Kuno. Then I remembered he wanted me have Swabia, which was weird because he never had much of a claim to it in the first lace, but well, a dying man's wish have to be indulged, am I right ? And finally I remembered he wanted you to serve me here in Innsbruck as my loyal vassal, and here we are.”
“ I am not your loyal vassal. I am your prisoner, a count in name only, guarded by your guards, fed garbage, humiliated at every turn.”
“ Now you're just being petulant. There is no one I trust more than you. I know you will not repeat anything because you love me too much. Do you how hard it is to be a Duke ? I suppose you do, since you've been one for a few years before I deposed you. You might even have been a little, what, high-handed with me, then, don't you think ? But it's water under the bridge, now. My point is that a Duke needs someone he can confide in. You father had me, and, well, I have you. Over time I have come to appreciate the importance of honest talk with someone, yet I can pour my heart to no one but you. Even the priests balk when I tell them about the child-killing. Did I tell you I had Hartwig of Waging killed ?”


hentzau_01_03_zps806afc51.jpg


“You already told me. There is nothing new...”
“You were his godfather.”
“I spoiled him,” Heinrich reminisced, despite himself.
“Always gifts and treats. You gave him all he ever wanted.”
“Especially after his father died.”
“But then again, he was so likeable, was he not ? Always happy, smart for his age.”
“He was fond of music.”
“And strudels.”
Heinrich could not talk anymore.
“Strudels,” Rupert went on. “You fed him like a piglet, until he would eat nothing but pastries, whencesoever they came. In a way, one could almost think you are in part responsible for his death, am I right ?
“ You already told me; I have already grieved for that and everything else. You have nothing new to make me suffer with.”
“ You do not care your beloved godson died because of you ? What kind of man are you, count ?”
“ Your son died too !” Heinrich exploded. “You let him die butchered by a mob.”
“ You heard ? That one son was a disappointment anyway.”

Heinrich hesitated then said : “You're a coward”

Rupert scratched the scar on his nose.
“ I certainly fought many duels for a coward.”
“Oh, I do not think you always were one. It took one brave scoundrel to accomplish what you did. But then, you had nothing to lose. And now that you do have more you ever dreamed of, maybe it's what makes you afraid to lose it all. Maybe that is why you did so little in the last ten years, compared to the ten before. Maybe that is why you keep and torment me, because it's easier than take on a real enemy. That's just a guess, but what I do know for sure is that you turned craven. A soldier can feel and smell it.”
“Well, maybe I'll bring you some Italian heads to prove you wrong. I am riding to war in Italy with my new friend.”
“Yes. You are still reckless enough to put yourself in danger, you have just lost the nerve to face it with a cool head. A dangerous combination. Maybe you'll die soon. Or maybe in a long time. But I have a felling you will die weeping and begging, regardless.”

Rupert's roguish smile started to look a lot like a wound, and for the first time in years Heinrich felt a blow of his had struck home. The duke retreated.

“ I take most of your garrison with me to fight in Italy, so there will not be enough guards left to guard you during your morning walks. You will have to do without, but I'm sure you understand. Think about Hartwig some more, will you ? Oh, and when you said I have everything I ever dreamt of ? That was not true, yet. But hush ! It is our little secret.”

Then he closed and locked the door.

Gameplay stuff and stuff like that

I did not do much in this second session except forge and press a few claims within the HRE, and finally get the duchy of Tyrol. AI got me into a stupid war again after I crashed, against the candidate I pressed the previous time. Then I started farming big HRE vassals for the prestige plot with Wraith, until we bit a little more than we could chew with the Duke of Brunswick who is also the Duke of Half of Italy (his father had married Mathilda despite me calling dibs). Also I turned honest and coward. A man turns around.
 

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Suum Cuique - Brandenburg Rising
By Wraith, Brandenburg​
Excerpt from A History of the House of Brennenburg, by Franz Martinet

One of the most fascinating happenings concerning the House of Brennenburg during the early 12th century is their rivalry with the powerful rulers of Brunswick, the Billungs. The Billungs had accrued enormous power within the Holy Roman Empire, with Duke Magnus I Billung marrying Duchess Matilda di Canossa of Tuscany, thus combining their holdings upon the ascension of their son, Ordulf II. The rivalry between the two houses, however, originated with their early rulers - Dukes Alexander I von Brennenburg and Ordulf I Billung. Ordulf I was a close and loyal advisor to Emperor Heinrich IV, and grew weary of Alexander's ambitions upon his lands. With the support of Heinrich, Ordulf I set a plot into motion to neutralize Alexander as a threat. As the Marshal of the Empire, Alexander was constantly thrust into very dangerous situations during the wars against Italian rebels, the intent being or Alexander to be killed in battle so an assassination would not be necessary. The plot succeeded in a way when Alexander was rendered comatose by a blow to the head during a battle in Lombardy, thus ending his designs upon the Billung lands, at least temporarily. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the von Brennenburgs learned of this plot through some means, and a great vendetta ensued between the two houses. The vendetta lasted multiple generations, and was most prominently evidenced in the numerous large wars between the two houses and their respective allies. Upon the death of his father, Alexander II von Brennenburg plotted to break up the Billung realms, which were now under Duke Magnus I. With the support of the King of Frisia and von Hentzaus of Tyrol, Alexander formed a coalition that demanded the release of the Duchy of Modena to a ruler of a different dynasty. Magnus refused, and a massive war ensued. After several early defeats, the Brennenburg coalition rallied and hired an army of mercenaries that enabled it to crush Billung resistance.

The Billungs, however, would not forget this slight to their honor and power. When Ordulf II Billung became Duke of Brunswick-Saxony-Tuscany, he sensed an opportunity while the von Brennenburgs were embroiled in a war with Denmark over Pomerania. Seizing it, Billung claimed the region of Anhalt - one of the core regions of Brennenburg power - by right of his status as Duke of Saxony. Despite great expense for large amounts of mercenaries, the absence of a skilled leader to lead them (Duke Alexander II was on campaign with the Emperor) spelled defeat for Prussia. Nevertheless, the vendetta was not over. In reprisal, Alexander II dispatched assassins against Ordulf II, and they succeeded in causing the Duke severe brain damage during their attempt. Ordulf II died less than a year later, and in his will he astoundingly split his vast holdings between his three sons: Magnus, Lothar, and Folkmar. Yet Alexander's vengeance was not yet complete...

Debts Repaid

Castle Brennenburg, February 18, 1120

CastleBrennenburg_zps91e85782.jpg


Duke Alexander II von Brennenburg sat at a simple wooden desk, hunched over in a nearly lightless room. He elbows rested upon the table, fingers interlocked together, with chin resting upon them, brooding and contemplating in silence. Upon the desk were numerous sheets of parchment, each holding special edicts and secret orders that were soon to be dispatched, if such dispatches were necessary at all. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a knock upon the chamber door. "Enter," Alexander muttered simply. The visitor did as commanded.

"It is done, Your Grace," said Arelis of Elbing, Alexander's spymaster. "The local lords will support our bid."

"I would say it is a pity that Lothar Billung should suffer for the sins of his father, but he is a Billung," Alexander rose from his chair, turning to face Arelis. "A family stands together in victory and defeat. Thus, each member reaps what his family sows. Do you not agree, Arelis?"

"Of course, Your Grace."

Alexander gathered up several of the orders that lay upon the desk. "These are the ones to be dispatched. Arelis, I expect to be rightful Duke of Saxony by dawn."

"It shall be done, Your Grace."

Weimar Castle, February 18, 1120

As Duke Lothar Billung slept soundly, the doors to his chambers were suddenly flung open. Lothar woke with a start, finding himself face-to-face with over a dozen barons, landed knights, and minor lordlings who had filed in. Most of them were fully armed and clad in mail. "What is the meaning of this? GUARDS!" Lothar shouted.

"Shouts are futile, milord," said Baron Philip von Querfurt. "'Your' guards have already gone home to their families."

"So my brother's greed has bested his sense of fraternal duty, hmmm? Are you paid by the gold of Magnus or Folkmar?" Lothar assumed.

"Neither," said Mayor Ordulf of Weimar. "We are here for the rightful Duke of Saxony."

"You face him!"

"You are no lord of ours," said Baron Friedrich von Anhalt, eyes narrowed and burning with hatred. His grip upon the hilt of his sword tightened.

Philip waved a hand nonchalantly toward Friedrich. "This is not an assassination attempt, for we bear no grudge against House Billung," he said. "You will be allowed to leave tonight with what possessions you have, but you shall never return to Saxony, nor will any member of your family."

"Fat chance of that. As they say in France, Je me souviens," Lothar boasted, rising from his bed with what little dignity he could muster. "Is your master too cowardly to face me himself?"

"Our lord anticipated your accusation, and sends this message: 'No more cowardly than your own great-grandfather, who slew my father in all but name thirty years ago. Suum Cuique," Friedrich quoted.

Lothar clenched his teeth and fists, shaking with fury. Barely maintaining his composure, he strode over to the window open to the cold, black night. "May God thrice-damn that bastard in Brennenburg!" he roared at the sky.

Deus Vult

Arsuf, the Holy Land, April 27, 1127

The hot desert sun was unforgiving and merciless, but Duke Alexander II von Brennenburg bore the burden. He sat upon his great black destrier among the cluster of German lords at the head of the army. At their center was a great gold litter, where the aged Emperor Engelbrecht rested, protected from the heat by the shade of dust-stained drapes. On the horizon, Alexander could barely make out the flickering silhouettes of the oncoming Muslim troops. No doubt behind the crest of the hill marched a vast host with numbers equal to their own. Alexander glanced back at the massive army assembled behind them - 30,000 of Germany's finest knights and soldiers, eager for glory in the name of God in fighting the heathens. It was the greatest show of Holy Roman might yet displayed; no other King in Europe could assemble so great an army. All around, Alexander could hear muttered prayers for salvation and mercy, or the boasts and jests of eager soldiers. "Lord von Brennenburg," came a voice from litter. Alexander brought his steed around and settled in beside the litter. Servants open the drapes so that the Emperor and Duke of Prussia could see each other face-to-face. "Your father always served mine loyally, with utmost dedication to duty. We both may be old, but I am such that I cannot ride. Win this battle for me. Win glory for God and Christ this day," the Emperor said.

"I am not my father, Your Highness. I may be old now, but I have never been comfortable leading from the front as he was," Alexander replied. "How will these men follow me, a mere Duke? I am not even your Marshal."

The Emperor laughed, weakly, before quickly falling into a coughing fit. "You are not my Marshal by your own choice, Lord von Brennenburg. You inspire great loyalty in your own vassals, and even in those vast hosts of mercenaries you are so fond of utilizing. Your reputation precedes you. Win this battle, Alexander."

"I will try," Alexander nodded. He beckoned for his retinue to follow, then wheeled his horse around and headed for the rear of the army. As he passed men cheered him on, though even more cheered for the glory of God.

---------------------------------------------

In the aftermath of the battle, Alexander rode across the field with his retinue and the other German lords. He had never seen such loss of life in a single battle during his lifetime. Now, the surviving German soldiers and zealots stalked the fields of corpses, executing any Muslim who stirred. The Muslim army had been utterly annihilated in the battle - they had charged the main body of infantry far too eagerly, leaving their flank exposed to the formation of cavalry Alexander had ordered to ride further up the coastal road. Alexander had feigned being caught unprepared with the baggage train - the heathens' greed had proven to be their downfall. In the center of the monument to chaos and bloodshed, Alexander and his retinue met the Emperor's litter. "You have indeed proven your loyalty and ability to the Empire a thousand times over with this victory," the Emperor rasped. "And no doubt, you have proven your faith to God even more. The heathens are utterly broken."

"What shall you do with your spoils, Your Highness?" Alexander inquired.

"It shall be a kingdom of Heaven here. Jerusalem shall become safe for Christian pilgrims once more, and the heathens will be expelled or sent back to their master in Hell," the Emperor answered. "But, as I am sure you know, I am not long for this world. The Kingdom of Jerusalem shall go to my son, Walram, and the Empire shall soon follow. Serve him as well as you have served me this day, and your rewards in this life and the next shall be boundless."

Alexander nodded respectfully. "I will try."
 

Fivoin

Deutscher Kaiser
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Hell Wants Its Master
By Kupiy, Bavaria​
The paramount necessity of family traditions
Swabian hills, 1129

Rupert von Hentzau must have loved his grandson Ludwig, inasmuch as he was at all capable of love, and Ludwig reciprocated. But Ludwig was in his own fief when the old man died, and so he died alone, in pain, and a mere duke, shouting away the servants so they could not see his most undignified moments, until they found him cold in the morning. In his last moments he had managed to regain some dignity, or maybe one servant had been devoted enough to arrange his corpse and wipe the streak of tears from his face. What nothing could erase from it was a hideous smile, half scowl and half smirk.

Ludwig, the gardener duke, often remembered that smile when he rode down to Tübingen from his tour of the hill orchards. Except for the trees he'd planted, and not maybe not even them, everything he owned he had been given by his gramps. Old Rupert had given him his two duchies by dying ; before that he had given him the county of Grisons, and a merciless slap every time he failed to remember something he had been explained before, once. After his father's death, the old man had taught him everything thus, numbers, writing, countries and bloodlines, the practical value of religion and the factual nonexistence of God, the precariousness of every position, the need to crush or be crushed.

“ You're fat” he would also reprimand him.
“ I'm thin.” all Hentzaus were, so far as he know, but no one as much of his grandfather, who was barely more than bone, sinew and sparse, ropey, hard muscles.
“ Fat has nothing to do with thin.” Rupert pinched his arm scornfully. “You're fat. And weak. I guess no one like me could be born in castle.”

Scorn would have played a role the old duke's unpleasant expression, the contempt for his inheritors, the loathing for a world which had indulged all his schemes and crimes yet given more to the Kaiser than to him, even the despect for himself, who would be king and had never managed it. Or it might have been the the hope of finding a more worthy conquest beneath. What was that again, that some bishop of Salzburg once said of him ? "Surely while he's above ground hell wants his master." Maybe that explained the smile. Or maybe it was just habit. The last Ludwig had saw of him, alive, in Grisons, he had smirked pretty much in the same way, as he climbed aboard his carriage, a bearskin tightly wrapped around his bony shoulders.

“ You've disappointed me less than your father,” he had said, “ but this is not...” A grimace of pain had cut him, from his Italian wound. “ This is not saying much. The next time we see each other, I will teach you a big lesson.”
“ You could teach me now.”
“ Why ? I'm not going to die. Don't hope, or fear. I will not die until I am king.”
And then he was driven to his Tirolean seat, and died a duke, and Ludwig had to make his own lessons from then on.

“Sir.”
The guards' warning took him out of his reminiscence. Three riders stood in the middle of the road, without an escort of their own : duke Caspar of Baden, count Olderic of Mantua, and archbishop Anselm of Lorraine.

“ Good day to you, my lord.” the latter say, a wizened old crow in bishop whites.
“ And to you.”
“ We came to discuss the issue of your grandfather Rupert's succession.”
“ They would have sent a courier with that message, normally”, Ludwig almost heard his grandfather rasp. “They came here in person because they want to gauge you.”
“ I have fought this war before, and won it.” That had been his first lesson.
“ You have vanquished your uncles and some petty mountain lords, Olderic said. It will not be that easy with us.” He was big as a bear and sported an enormous beard. His eyes showed easy anger, and brutish contempt at everyone smaller than him. Gramps would have eaten him for breakfast.
“ Tyrol is yours by right...” Anselm went on. “ Nobody challenges that. But the circumstances in which your grandfather proclaimed himself protected of Upper Burgundy, and then duke proper, was irregular at best and suspect at worst. I honestly looked for the the precedents. There is none in Burgundy for removing a daughter from the succession, however unpleasant the notion of a woman ruling. And even if there was, why would the title go to the duke of Tirol, and not to her next of kin ? Whoever might have endorsed those action then...”
“ Meaning you.”
“ We do not mean to condemn or blame anyone. We just want a return to normalcy. Tirol and Burgundy together disrupt the balance of power, and we came to announce our desire to preserve it, even, God forbid, if that means war.”
“ You are right, my lords.”
They looked at each other, surprised of how easy it was, weary of a trap.
“ So make sure I do not prove you right. My grandfather upset the balance of power in my family's favour, yes, and so much I can, and will, crush you if you stand in my way.”
That was, at best, an exaggeration, but Rupert had not taught him to care much for fair and balanced threats. He waved his soldiers to come closer.
“ So you can fight me now, and lose. Or you can fight me in a year, and lose. Or you can ride to your castles, and then I will come for you last when I am king.”
Caspar was livid beneath all his rosacea. A useless winesack, Ludwig concluded, like his gramps' erstwhile accomplice Alexander of Prussia.

hentzau_03_01_zps3f73d217.jpg

Damn you Wraith.

Which reminded him :
“ You came here because you wanted a look at me. See if the new duke can be pushed around as you never dared with the old one. Well, feast your eyes, and tell me what you see.”
Odelric rode up to him, unfazed, close enough to the smaller Ludwig they could smell each other's sweat. The big bearded Lombard stared at the lithe Hentzau for an insolently long time, and he wondered nervously if he would pull out his sword and slash. His men-at-arms might corner him, but not before he struck Ludwig down.
“ I see a war coming, boy.”
He turned bridle and so did the other, as fast as dignity permitted.

Well, how was that for a second lesson, gramps ? Maybe Ludwig's diplomacy needed some improvement ; the thought gave him a smile that was not, altogether, unlike his grandfather's.


hentzau_01_03_zps806afc51.jpg

WAR ! and... GARDENING !

Gameplay stuff and stuff like that

Being in the single worse lace of the game to create a kingdom, I became a big multiduke by claiming everything that moved. The death of my first guy put a pause to it all, because of the succession crisis and the fact his grandson is somewhat inferior in stats. Oh well, at least he's young.

In a more amusing vein :

hentzau_03_03_zps1799ad9d.jpg