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Fivoin

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The sons of Raghnall,
by KoM, Scotland​
A Nation Once Again

June 8th, 1357
Off the coast of Fyn
Noon

The boy stood on the stricken deck, whence all but he - hadn't fled. They had stood their ground, and died brave, protecting their King. But brave men died all the same, and now a boy of eighteen faced a dozen armoured hirdsmenn alone.

"Well? What are you waiting for?" Johan - King Johan I of Norway - snarled. He swung his axe menacingly back and forth, just as his instructors had taught; if he dragged it out, perhaps another of his ships would come to his rescue... although his hope of that was slim; the battle had not been going well when the Swedes boarded.

"They're waiting for me." The ranks parted, and the speaker came through: An old man, fifty at least, with a gold circlet around his otherwise-utilitarian helmet. Another man followed him, younger, but with the same reddish-gold beard - the same colour that was just beginning to fuzz Jonas's cheeks. An outsider might have noted the faint family resemblance between the three, a certain cast to the nose, a set to the shoulders - but Johan nas had other concerns, just then.

"Uncle Gregoras," he snarled, hesitating. A swift rush, a single blow of the axe, and perhaps he could still turn the battle - the war, even - in his own favour. But although his uncle was old, he was also a veteran; his axe had seen use, had split skulls and severed limbs, unlike Johan's. And his hirdsmenn would step up to protect him; he could not fight so many... and, truth to tell, it was hard to decide to kill the man who had, in better days, let you ride his horse and given you your first bow.

"I think we'll have King Gregoras today," his uncle said.

"And you'll call me King Johan!"

"If you like." Gregoras's voice was even. "They say purple makes a good burial-shroud. Do you really, truly, believe that?"

Johan began a hot, defiant answer - and then stopped. His uncle was not asking to make sport of him. He licked his lips, feeling a faint thread of hope; perhaps there was a way out of this.

"Why do you ask?" he said cautiously.

"Because we are kin. Because the crowns must be reunited, but I'd spill no more MacRaghnall blood if it can be avoided. Because it is unfair that you should be entangled in the quarrels of your grandfather's generation."

"You're offering me my life? In exchange for what?" Johan's eyes narrowed in suspicion; but he believed. His uncle's words had the ring of conviction. Moreover, he was right: It was unfair that Johan should have to fight for quarrels he'd had no part in making. Like any teenager, Johan felt an instant sympathy for an adult who understood how fundamentally unfairly life was treating him. Besides, Gregoras didn't actually have to offer him anything at all; he could have just ordered his men to kill Johan.

"For the crown of Norway, and your promise not to contest it in the future. You can keep the estates and the other titles." Gregoras made a dismissive gesture. "I don't care which of the family holds Sjælland, so it is one of us. But I'll have the crowns reunited."

"You'd trust my word? You'd not fear my rallying your vassals to my cause, raising my banner in your despite, and taking again what is mine?" Johan flung the words as a challenge, knowing as he did so that he was being stupid; the other man - the other King - could kill him with a word. But the famous MacRaghnall temper had him in its grip, and he could not resist the taunt.

"I would," his uncle agreed. "But I'm an old man; it would be Håvard's problem." He gestured to the man at his side - a cousin of some sort, no doubt, but nobody Johan knew. Håvard smiled grimly.

"And if you couldn't defeat us with all of Norway at your back, how would you do so with a few disgruntled nobles? Make no mistake, boy: Your uncle is being more merciful than I would be, in his place. For now, he is King. But cross me, and you die."

There was utter sincerity in Håvard's grey eyes, and Johan looked aside. In the end... life was sweet. The estates and titles would still attract women in droves; he could ride, hunt, drink - he might win glory in foreign wars - he might go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which was impossible for a King - and who knew what might happen in ten years? Johan was young; he could bide his time. He nodded.

"I agree," he said, low. "I don't actually have any purple robes, anyway. And if I did, I don't think it would flatter my complexion."

His uncle's lips twitched, but he suppressed the laugh. "Few people look their best in their burial shroud, purple or white," he agreed. "And you're right, we MacRaghnalls look best in sky-blue or sea-green; purple tends to clash with our hair. Well done, lad - Johan - Duke Johan, I should say. It's not every man can cast aside a kingdom with a jest."

There was a general relaxation of the killing tension on the deck of Johan's ship, and the noise of combat from the surrounding fleet began to subside as the word went out that the battle was over. Men would still die, uselessly, to keep for Johan the kingdom he had just laid down - with a jest, no less - and he felt a stab of guilt; but there was nothing to do about it. The word would go out as fast as could be done, and men would die or not, as they were fated to. For the time being they stood in a spreading circle of quiet - relative quiet, at least; the moans of wounded men could be heard now, not as loud as battle shouts and the clang of metal, but far more disturbing.

"Why him?" Johan asked his uncle, wanting to think of something other than wounds and death suffered for the sake of the crown he hadn't been willing to die for; he indicated Håvard with a nod of his head. His uncle pressed his lips together, indicating - what? Was he not quite pleased with his choice?

"He is eligible for election to the throne of Sweden, as you are not; and has a good claim by blood to the throne of Norway, as I don't. If your father had lived... well, that's water under the bridge. And he's not of the Greek faction; the northern jarls will accept him. And most of all, he's not entangled, embroiled, cursed with the quarrels of me and my brothers. A clean slate, perhaps. At least a chance of one. We haven't done well, we sons of Ragnvald. Better that another branch take over, and end this endless spilling of blood."

"Norway, Sweden," Johan said thoughtfully. "What about Scotland? Does he have a claim to that as well?"

"No. But no matter. Cousin Ragnvald's kingdom is about the size of your jarldom, and poorer. He'll see reason, as you did; or die, I care not. He's not like you, suffering for the sins of the fathers to the third generation. He's played the same games I did, and my brothers, and deserves the same fate."

"And when the thrones are reunited, what then?" Now Johan turned his question to Håvard. "Sire King," he added belatedly. Håvard smiled.

"When Scotland is whole again, yes, what then?" He looked south. "We shall have to see."
 

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Hell Wants Its Master - AAR of the Hentzaus
by Kuipy, Tyrolen​
An S-shaped kingdom

Ever since the first generation after Bad Duke Rupert, Hentzaus had spread far and wide. Their cockroach-like resilience, fertility and amoral outlook helped the best-known branches secure minor noble estates throughout Germany and as far as Ireland. Others waned back into merchants, bankers and mercenaries, losing the von. And yet many others came to an ignominious or obscure end, but those were promptly forgotten, and on the whole Fortune favored the family.
It was therefore not unprecedented for Rupert III, dispossessed of his Bavarian lands, to seek employ and patronage with the powerful Caliph. What was unprecedented was the extent to which the Caliph accommodated his new vassal, grating him authority over all his conquests north of the Pyreneans with a nominal kingship, and the title of First Dhimmi (That is, first by rank, not chronologically; Christians had been in the employ of Muslim Spaniards even since the Conquest). This arrangement had much to please everyone: local populations under a Christian king remained Christians in a largely Christian ; the Caliph gained a powerful and dependable vassal with no stake in the complex Muslim/Moorish powergame, and help to administer a largely overextended empire ; and Rupert himself got to remain king and even to reconquer some of what had been lost during his regency.
But very evidently it did not please everyone: over a ten-year period King Rupert and all his descendants perished in a series of contrived accidents, leading to war among junior branches for succession, notably the Irish and the Nurnberg ones, who, for a time, divided once again the kingdom between an Orthodox “kingdom of Toulouse” in southern France and the Catholic old kingdom of Bavaria.
The Caliphs in Cordoba could hardly be bothered to understand, much less deal with, the Christian dynastic struggles and blasphemous theologics. In fact, the reason they appointed Rupert in the first place was so they could largely ignore these issues. But that fracture would not do; they chose, mostly arbitrarily, the Bavarian branch, ousted the other one, and at the edict of Dijon (1301), both kingdoms were united in one; one, a roughly S-shaped realm covering the German parts of Alps and the rich Rhône and Garonne valleys.
 

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Al Andalus - Azulejo Tiles for all
by BaronBowden, Andalusia
For God and Glory

Vassals expect their liege to be larger than life and as Pious as Abraham. This can be a daunting task for a young new ruler. In keeping with tradition handed down from Ibaheim the 3rd, one of the greatest Sultans of Andalus, who decreed that history should be short and sweet much like the Court Dwarf from Italy, here are 7 crucial points to ease a young ruler into greatness.

1) Piety for a muslim is not option. Without your vassals explicit understanding that your will is the same as the will of god, things can go downhill. Family members locked in gilded cages require assassins blades, law changing requires piety. The moral of the story is never be caught unprepared. Unless large sums of gold are kept on hand to donate to charity, the best way to be ensure piety is available is through traits like Humility, Zealous and also managing an Mosque before you come of age.

2) Prestige, the only solution to this really is either through titles (read previous advice to learn that is generally a mistake) or the Proud trait. Upon Marriage, we do not have Christian customs that allow for gold or prestige so do not expect sudden windfalls. Fear not, as we live by the sword, in todays day and age the easiest way to gain Prestige on the world stage is to massacre rebel peasants, or invade your neighbour. Do one of these things when you ascend the throne, but make sure they are brought gods word.

3) Go on a pilgrimage. Another useful thing for every Muslim. Rewards range from increased piety, increased prestige, increased traits and then a final bonus to permanent piety. Sure there are risks like old men in the desert looking to share a tent, bandits, and possible death at sea. But don't fret you probably still have a couple half brothers in a dungeon somewhere who could carry on if something goes wrong.

4) Marry well. You can never marry for titles. Only Christian swine believe women can inherit, I know laughable. As such marry a rare desert beauty, and if possible check to make sure she is of genius stock and descendant of Mohamed. Yes son this may not increase your prestige, but seriously a bad first wife is something only a viper can undo.

5) Always keep a Duchy title unformed. Everyone loves a party dedicated to a new lord.

6) Have a friend who doesn't mind if you embark upon a Holy War. If no presents a land as a gift to you as a new lord for increase of your reputation and piety, make enemies.

7) If all else fails, Invade France.

These should see your fame and fortune increase beyond the wildest hopes and expectations of your father. And remember banish your mothers.
 

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L'histoire de France
by el_zilcho321, France​
The French and Bohemian wars over Germany, mid 14th century.

The skies were dark. Thousands of soldiers, French and foreign, walked westwards into Germany. As soon as France's levies had been raised, the great powers in the region all set their countries to war. Hundreds of thousands of troops were marching towards the weak German dukes from all directions. Never before had Germany witnessed the presence of such numbers.

The French broke into 4 legions, and spread along the French border then walking into the various German provinces. While this was happening foreign troops were assembling in Paris ready to be drafted into the temporary French invasion force. The kings personal bodyguard, having changed to be comprised more of heavily armoured infantry rather than the brave Frankish mounted knights of old, replaced since the Spanish took throne in France, led the battle in the north against the duke of Koln. This was to become the major battle ground of the war.

Meanwhile, the king of Bohemia raised his soldiers, intending to beat France in the occupation of Germany. However he foolishly spread his forces from the Northern Alps in the South to the Koln in the North. Because of this mistake, the French king's bodyguard, reinforced with foreign mercenaries, with some hard work beat back the Bohemian soldiers. By time the king of Bohemia realised his mistake and concentrated his forces on one area the French had finished their southern wars and had their forces concentrated there as well.

Due to their earlier victories, the French had a head start in the occupation of Koln. The Bohemians recognised this and so they tried to knock out the main French army. They were too late though, the duke had already signed the peace treaty. Koln was French.

Several years later around 70% of the French king's subjects rose against him, demanding the installation of a new king. Ruin looked sure for the king until his bodyguard and the troops of his still loyal subjects launched a critical attack at the rebel leader's holdings. After their leader had been defeated the unorganised rebels laid down their weapons and gave themselves to the king's will.

The rebels were sent to prison, some of the lower ranking ones were released given pardon from the king while the more noble and wealthy of them were ordered to pay a fine. Some of them, Catholics, were released on terms of them converting to the true faith.

Very soon after this rebellion, while the French levies were still growing back to their usual strength after the brutal civil war, the Bohemian king, seeing its weakness, declared war on France and mobilised its troops. The French were in no way ready, and put up very little resistance as Bohemia's forces occupied Koln. Not before long, Koln had been seized by Bohemia.

The wars of Germany were over, for now.
 

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Hungary under the Turóc Dynasty
by Rannos, Hungary​
The Oathbreaker

Ernö a Turóc was at death's door. He knew this with certainty. The strength with which he had lead his great, warrior nation for decades had finally left him and for once he truly felt his age. The royal apothecaries claimed his weakness was due to the wounds he had suffered on campaign in Poland, but Ernö knew the truth. God had cursed him for his dishonorable actions. His oathbreaking
Ernö had always considered himself a godly and just man. When he was offered great tracts of land that the King of Bohemia had trouble keeping in exchange for peace, the Magyar King had absolutely no issue accepting. Hungary and Bohemia had long been at peace, what cause had Ernö to war with the Germans?

"Every reason!" his marshals and vassals argued, "Bohemia is a rat's nest of heretics and they've clearly stated their intention to spread their filth into the rightful territory of France!"

The King had little trouble rebuffing these arguments. They had been expected.

"Your consel is appreciated, my cousins, but Hungary has not the strength to fight Bohemia and this peace gives us more than any war with the Germans ever would! Poland may be a nuisance to them but it will help us propel into greatness. Calm yourselves and trust in God and the Emperor to protect the faithful of France."

The Hawks reluctantly agreed, though Ernö could hear grumblings of "Peacemaker the Second" from within the assembled crowd.

Those damned Greeks*, however, were another story entirely! The Greeks never relented in their satanic tempting:

"Poland is a prize, certainly, but why accept half a kingdom when you could take it all?"
"Look! Even war-weary, tiny France can fight back Bohemia. Now is the time to strike, while they are distracted!"
"What is a treaty with heretics worth, anyways? Surely God would accept a little oathbreaking in exchange for bringing His light to these heretics?"

Endless temptations and whispering at every waking hour. His Greek courtiers appealed to greed, honour, duty, family! Anything and everything they could think of. Eventually the direct line of King Alexander the Wise lost the throne of Bohemia, holding only the meaningless title of the Kingdom of Germany. The Greeks pounced upon the loop hole:
"Clearly your treaty was with the Brennenburgs of Berlin. That family now controls the 'Kingdom' of Germany. A usurper like Viktor has no treaty with us. Moreover, he is still weak from his unlawful war. One might say it is our duty to weaken this upstart and seize the lands that rightfully belong to the Polish Crown."

Ernö prayed for God's forgiveness and finally relented. Given the Greek's constant tempting, it surprised the king little to learn that the Emperor had accepted his request for support.

Initially, the war seemed to favour Hungary. The first battle had shown that the more numerous, fresh Hungarian hussars had no problems defeating the tired German knights. For the first time in two generations, Hungarian soldiers set foot on Bohemian soil to put to siege their castles. Then the English arrived. The rest of the war would be fought in Hungary territory, desperately trying to whittle down the massive armies of England. Hoping that the French war in Köln would distract the Catholics. Despite support across the Orthodox world, the war was doomed as soon as word reached Ernö's camp that the Greek armies was annihilated in Holstein.

"At least the war in Hungary allowed France to grow strong and weakened Bohemia for future conquests!"

The Greek words were as hollow as their morals. Ernö had sacrificed thousands of good men and, more importantly, the reputation of the kingdom and gained nothing. It was at this point he truly felt his sixty-two years. So many of Hungary's best and brightest dead for naught but a foreigner's gain.

The King summoned his son and presumed heir, Prince Gazsi, to his death bed:
"My son, I've doom our great kingdom for a devil's promise. Very soon, it will be up to you to set this matter right. For the sake of House Turóc and the realm. For the sake of your children and your children's children. Promise me, Gazsi, that you will fix this!"

"Aye, father." said the prince after a pause, "I will make them pay for what they've done. For each drop of Magyar blood and each inch of burnt farmland they will pay a thousand fold. I will make Hungary into a kingdom the world fears. A country that can weather this coming storm. Nay, thrive in it. The Germans first, then all of Catholicism will burn. This I promise you, father!"

The King gasped in horror and died.





((*The Greeks represent more the 'devil on my shoulder' more so than any actual players of Greek nations))
 

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Hell Wants Its Master - AAR of the Hentzaus,
by Kuipy, Tyrolen​
A man's proper place
Verdun, 26 November 1337


“Consider the Hentzaus !

Consider the sum of their crimes and their inequities !

Consider how they ruled by dagger and poison ! How they prostituted themselves to the Mohammedan Spaniard, as they had prostituted themselves to the heresies of Byzantium ! How they helped Jews and Mohammedans slither into Christian lands !

And now what does remain of a power built on corruption and crime, and collusion with enemies of the Christian Faith ? The fickle Caliph has revoked all Hentzau titles, on a whim ! So it will always happen ! Every man who bows to a heathen ! Every man ! Shall...”

Henri passed the cathedral square with his head down, slid through the edges of the close-packed crowd, just enough to lose any tail he might have, then swiftly vanished down a narrow street. Even in the best of times he would not have cared to be noticed by the preacher or his seething audience. Hentzau was not a popular name in French Champagne, and while it was not written on his forehead, sometimes he felt like it was. Then again it was also an advertisement of sorts, for a certain sort of customer.
Quickly, but with perfect apparent calm, he walked in and out of a tavern, down a back alley, through a church and a bustling market, noting everything, cheap ale, expensive salad, angry prayers, accusatory drinkers, very old and young city guards. The decade-long war might not have come to the city itself, but it had certainly famished its people for food and scapegoats. Time to bail. Just one last job to get out with more than the shirt on his back. Idiot ! He reminded himself not even to think that.
When he entered the little church there were three hunched figures on the pews. Who the hell came in that church ? For an instant he thought of bolting, then crossed himself very slowly, as he checked them out.
In nomine patri
A grey-haired, frail, toothless devout, clutching her rosary with callused and trembling hands. No problem here.
Et filii
A pasty, balding, fat townman, with clothes slightly too new for this parish, slightly too good for this town. Henri thought he could take him, but... Just but. An absent ring on his left hand left a dark, deep crease. Bad news.
Et spiritu sancti
A hulking, burly, hairy man in crude shirt and breeches. Maybe a stonemason from where they were repairing the ramparts nearby ? Or maybe muscle for the first guy. He needed to bail from this church right now. But he also needed to bail from this city right now. With a curse he sat at the closest to the door, bowed his head and looked at them. After a few long heart beats the townman rose and walked toward him, slowly, without apparently looking in his direction. Henri did not budge and the man went past him and out of the church ; from the very corner of his eye he saw him shuffle ponderously away.
Without taking his eyes off the big man Henri stood and walked to the opposite side of nave, clutching his knife under his shirt. After one last, discreet look, he entered the confessional.
“You are a cautious man, Heinrich Hentzau.”
“I go by Henri here.”
“Cautious. By I am mostly interested in your last name. I want you to find someone of your kin.”
That much he already knew.
“Takes one to hunt one. What's he done ?”
“He has something we want. We don't expect you to find that, just his current whereabouts. With this information we can take care of his capture.” the voice went on, in fluent French with strong southern accent and a tint of Moor.
“You want Rudger von Hentzau.”
“That is correct.”
“The dethroned king. Why ?”
“He has something we want. The rest is no business of yours.”
That, in fact, was very much true.
“You must know I do not work for free.”
“Name a price.”
They agreed to a king's ransom. Someone down south had made a terrible job ensuring the deposed king had no leverage left before letting him loose. Or they just thought they could stiff him.
“I want half of it upfront.”
“A third. Another third when you come back with a location, and the rest when he is in our power.”
“When you have seen him, regardless of whether he is in your power. We Hentzaus are slippery.”
A purse fell at his feet.
“Do not try to cross us.”
“Or you'll send a third Hentzau after me? Don't worry : I'm a business man, not a family man.”


Falling

***

Cordoba, 1 february 1338


“I checked again. The vizir’s in his country estates, not expected to return for a week,” Henri said to his hay cart. He marked a pause. “I could ask you if you are sure about this, but I would go ahead regardless of your answer. I’m a business man, not a family man. Your regrets, your problem.”
“Speaking of regrets,” the hay cart answered, “Be sure to leave as soon and fast as you can. You might have a few hours or a few minutes, but the Caliph will have buyer’s remorse. I will find you myself later for your reward, if I live.”
“Here goes nothing.”
Henri tugged at the iron chain at the back of the cart and king Rudger stumbled awkwardly out of the hay, in manacles, shackles and breeches. Black, brown and white men stopped to gawk at them. Silent Selim, who held the donkey, winked with slanted eyes and led the cart away as Henri pushed his way through the crowd, his end of the chain solidly wrapped around a muscled wrist, bare-chested Rudger II in tow.
The gawkers and passer-by respected an invisible border some five yards from the palace grid, but by the time Henri and his captive crossed it the guards at the door were scrutinizing them, and their officer had hurriedly send for a more senior one. The rake stopped at the spear points and addressed their balding commander :
“One Bavarian king, in chains. Where do I put him ?”
The Caliph himself had them brought in the gardens, where he sat in a simple tunic under a canopy. A hundred guards were surrounding them, one of whom had seized the chain from him, while an other had frisked him and taken his dagger and bull-whip.
“Kneel before the Caliph,” their commander barked, and both Hentzaus obeyed.
“So this is Rudger von Hentzau.”
“Yes, Commander of the Faithful.”
“I suppose you are one of those my vizir hired, at my orders. Did he not have you instructed to just contact him with the man’s location? Why then do you not go to him? Why do you bring the Hentzau here?”
“He did instruct me so, Commander of the Faithful. But when I tracked this man to a farmhouse in Aragon he surprised me and would have fled. I had to improvise. As for the Vizir I did not know he was not in the palace.”
“I see.” The caliph tapped his belly. “Have him rewarded as promised.”
Henri rose to his feet, bowed once more with profuse thanks and left – with one last look at his mark, knelt bare-chested in the punishing sun.

***
It was not recorded what Rudger von hentzau said that day to his former liege Ismail Adfunsid, but he must have been convincing, and lucky to plead his cause directly to the Caliph, not his vizir, and in the latter’s timely absence. Vizir Ali ibn-Lassad, far from being rewarded with the former Hentzau lands, was strangled publicly two days later, gagged so not as to address the crowd. And Rudger II was, once again, king in Toulouse.


And rising again

Gameplay stuff and stuff like that

My liege baronbowden did not show up one session and his AI revoked all my stuff. It sucked.
 

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The sons of Raghnall
by KoM, Scotland​
The Lords Temporal

A look at some of the crowned heads of Europe, and a few upstart shopkeepers who, unfortunately, have to be included on the grounds that even the stench of trade can be drowned out by enough money. This week: Kings in the North, the Asiatic Menace, and the Empty Quarter.

The Kings in the North

The three Kings of England, Scandinavia, and Bohemia rule the last remnants of the True Faith.

Håvard "den Hellige" MacRaghnall

Haavard_zps91897348.png

After a turbulent middle age, the Emperor of the North Sea now sits on a rock-steady throne, which once again unites the fractious Swedes with the jarls of Norway. In his youth, his overweening ambition was well served by his extreme cunning; Håvard is demonstrably not above climbing a mountain of bodies to reach the top. His crowning as Emperor, however, seems to have satisfied his will to power; in his old age, he has demonstrated enough patience, diligence, and even a sense of justice, that his vassals are well enough pleased with his rule. The MacRaghnalls are a long-lived breed; it is not outside the bounds of possibility that he might live to see 1399.

Adam "the Great" d'Plage d'Or

Adam_zps1378edd2.png

The discerning observer may note a slight family resemblance to Håvard; they are indeed cousins of a sort, through Adam's descent from Queen Agnes, sister of Gilpatrick. The blood bond, however, is a distant one; firmer are the ties of common interest and common religion. His Britannic Majesty is without doubt the most powerful of the Kings in the North, and his army of longbowmen - by law, every yeoman in England spends two hours at archery practice on Sundays, just after church - are the main thing standing between the True Faith and the armies of heretics and infidels who would like nothing better than to drag us down into Hell with them. There is a reason Adam's sobriquet is "the Great"; such accolades are not given for having a pleasant singing voice. This man has led his armies on fields where the blood reached the horses to the withers, and emerged victorious; Germany and Poland both know his name. It is true, however, that he is an old man. Britain will greet the new century with a new King; we can only hope that young Edmund can match the deeds of his famous grandfather.

Karloman von Brennenburg

Karloman_zps5f84ca29.png

The von Brennenburgs have fallen on hard times; attacked by France in the west and betrayed by Hungary in the west, Karloman has seen his kingdom, which well within living memory was a powerful outpost of Catholicism on the Continent, reduced to an embattled frontier march. A bitter and vengeful man is Karloman, but also old and tired; the struggle merely to reunite the splinters and shards of Bohemia has consumed his life. The crown is his, at last; but the purpose for which he fought, to gain the power of vengeance against Hungary, seems as distant as ever.

The Asiatic Menace

Vseslav_zpsc37faf11.png

Ruthless self-interest wrapped in hard calculation shrouded in demoniac ambition; these are the qualities required to reach the top of a pit of vipers such as the Russian Republic, and Grand Prince Vseslav - whose nickname is better translated as "the Cunning"; the Russian word also has overtones of cruelty and delight in the suffering of others - possesses them all in spades. It's true that Vseslav shows a public face of affable generosity; a man who takes a percentage of all the trade that passes the Volga, the Dniepr, and the mouth of the Donau can certainly afford the occasional gift of gold. But this facade should not fool anyone; anyone who crosses him will find that the gifts are suddenly subsidising the armies of his enemies - and that he has far more enemies than he knew. In cases where that's not sufficient, Vseslav's vixen wife controls a network of spies and assassins said to stretch from the Bay of Biscay and well into India; many's the inconvenient competitor or would-be imposer of tariffs whose heir has rapidly reconsidered the wisdom of his father's policy. Only when all else fails do these lowborn merchants turn to a straightforward clash of arms in honourable battle; but when they do, all the plains of Russia supply them with men and horses.

Vseslav is also noteworthy for his mustache, which he is said to groom using a comb made of human bone and dipped in the blood of virgins.

The Empty Quarter

Aram_zps89342ded.png

The sand-foxes of Arabia are ideal subjects for any monarch: They assassinate no tax-gatherers, burn no crops, and demand no rights. The second Aram embodies a similar tradition among the rulers of his Persian domains: It is long and long since any news of Iran was heard in non-Iran. Thus, by imperceptible steps, the phrase "Empty Quarter" has expanded its meaning, from the most uninhabitable part of Arabia to the whole of the Middle East south of Rome. This is the land from which no news comes; for all that Christendie knows to the contrary, Aram might indeed rule only sand-foxes and their prey. Do bats roost in the palaces of Baghdad, and jackals sniff for rabbit through the bejeweled streets? If it is not so, no word of it has reached Edinburgh these long centuries past.




Stay tuned for the next installment, which will cover the Hungarian Horror, the Adfunsid Apostasy, and Restored Rome.
 

Fivoin

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L'histoire de France
by el_zilcho321, France​
The second German wars, mid 14th century.

The lords of Bohemia had become discontented with their king. They decided the time to take action had come. They rose up against the king but soon their armies were being crushed by the kings overwhelming loyal force. However, when the Bohemian vassals rebelled, the king of France saw this as a prime opportunity to retake Koln which was rightfully his. It had been stolen from France after the German wars, but now was finally his chance to reclaim lost land.

Soon, the French forces were in Koln and besieging the German castles. This war, France used considerably less foreign mercenaries than in others, relying more so on the troops provided by the loyalty of its vassals rather thank the costly foreigners. The king was a brilliant leader and quickly led his armies to the occupation of the German lands. Before long Koln had returned to French hands.

In the meantime, the king was determined to convert France to the true faith. He sent missionaries across France and soon most of France followed the Orthodox faith and the German lands were also beginning to show signs of conversion. The king was also starting to take back the French land lost a long time ago. He had taken back Flanders, promised to him by the English around a century before and he was now reclaiming cities and small enclaves of foreign rule both in Brittany and on the Spanish border.

Soon, the Bohemian king, angered by the French victory and keen for revenge on this emerging power, raised his troops and marched for Koln. The French troops marched as well, but then something unexpected happened. The Hungarian king in the west, with whom the king of Bohemia had been promised peace with by selling some Polish land, declared war. Bohemia gave up the pursuit of Koln and called a ceasefire on the Western front. Before long, the English decided to help their German ally and sent troops to Poland to fight the Hungarians. The joining of England, the Roman Empire's age old rival, spurred the emperor to help the Hungarians.

While this was happening, King Abu of France held a great feast where he persuaded his vassals to commit as many forces as they could to the oncoming war. Soon after this feast, the King ended the ceasefire and began the invasion of Brunswick. The war with the oath breaker was still raging in the East but was beginning to turn in favour of the Bohemians. The French encountered little resistance and for the first time relied on no foreign troops. They quickly occupied Brunswick and took it into the French rule. Soon after this the Hungarian front collapsed and the traitor was forced to pay reparations for his deceiving actions.

After these wars Bohemia broke into civil war. Hungary took this chance to invade the rebelling dukes and had soon incorporated the duchies of Greater Poland and Pommerania into the Hungarian throne. Meanwhile in the south, the great Spanish empire was taking land from Bohemia for itself and its Bavarian vassal.

Around the same time King Abu I died, thus ending the rule of the Spanish kings. Finally, Abu II, a Frank, had risen to the throne and his identical culture pleased the Frank lords. However, some French had become Spanish themselves and some Andalusian rulers were ruling on Flanders, but this was to be a temporary problem. The main problem Abu II faced was the religion of his county. Almost all of France and half of its German lands were orthodox in faith, but Abu himself was a Catholic. He was too zealous to convert to the Eastern faith but he was over 50 years old and he would have trouble converting the country before his Orthodox son rose to the throne. Perhaps if he were to stop being so zealous...
 

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Al Andalus - Azulejo Tiles for all
by BaronBowden, Andalusia​
Germany In Flames​

In the mid 14th century, the world saw the greatest upheaval since the schism was mended. As always the Glorious Iberian Muslim Empire, was in the thick of things. A question arises, will history judge us well, or will history scorn the attempted contributions of the muslim light cavalry.

It began with a surprising double cross, Bohemia, our one time allies had formed a treaty against our best advice whereby they gave the emergent Hungarian people a large tract of land. In the treaty it was specified that hungary would remain peaceful due to the border readjustment for a very long time. Previous muslim experience with Hungary indicated that land would never be enough to satisfy his hunger.

To view this in context one must have a historical understanding of the Italian Accords. Hungary/Russia/Greece had planned on partitioning Italy. Veiled exuses were bandied about like, the Italians like little boys, they drink too much wine, they love the pope, they don't communicate with us when we try and extort them for land, Italian men wear tights. This had gone on for decades before the three miscreants finally worked up enough courage to enjoin war against the Italians, all 3 v 1. The great and wise Ibrahim of Andalusia was a student of history. And not only did he remember that Italy had helped in the Severian Genoa wars, but had also assisted in liberating much of Spain's coastal cities form the yoke of Irish rule.

When the three wolves attempted to descend on Italy, brave Andalusian men had already marched and sailed to the Croatian coast to show our seriousness in defending friends of the faith. Their armies scattered before battle was enaged, but sadly Hungary in its impotent rage, sent an assassin in the night and stole a gem of culture from the world. Ibrahim was dead. Ever the peaceful nation though our grief turned inwards with our new Italian vassals. Monuments were erected, hymns composed but the main lesson learned was Never trust Hungary or his overlord Russia.

So with a heavy heart we watched our German allies, give away their traditional homes to satisfy Hungary's demands, but we were told it would result in an everlasting peace. How wrong this proved to be.
 

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The sons of Raghnall
by KoM, Scotland
The Lords Temporal, part II

The Adfunsid Apostasy

The vast Adfunsid Caliphate, and its periphery of assorted vassals and boot-lickers, sprawls from the Canaries to Dalmatia. It is, nominally, a Muslim realm; but in truth its various ayatollahs, badshahs, caliphs, deys, emirs, and other noble titles have never quite found a convenient time to turn aside from enjoying the fruits of their conquest and actually converting their subjects. Conversely, their vassals, for obvious reasons, are not too keen on loudly proclaiming their faithfulness to Christ. Taken as a whole, therefore, the Adfunsid realm is the least religious area in all of Europe; it is for this reason that it is mocked as the "Adfunsid Apostasy" - a place where the infidels and heretics don't even have the courage of their convictions, and refuse to burn and slay for their misguided beliefs!

Amr_Adfunsid_zps8b0e32c4.png

Son of Abu-Bakr "the Holy", and grandson of Isma'il "the Great", Amr is not the man his ancestors were, and well he knows it. What wars has he fought in, in what battles has he led glorious charge or desperate defense? His grandfather put down the Great Revolt, when half of Spain was aflame with rebellion, and his corps of a hundred executioners each wore out a hundred swords on stubborn rebel necks; for a generation thereafter, the vineyards of Catalonia used rebel bones to train their vines. His father pulled down the pyramids of skulls and pulverised them to make cement, and built mosques with towers even higher than the pyramids had been. What has Amr done, that men may admire? Granted, his capacity for wine and stamina with concubines are unusual if the tales are true; but these are not the qualities that Muslims look for in their rulers!

AubryFrance_zps9f246166.png

All the noble and royal houses of Europe claim descent from illustrious ancestors - in the case of the Ynglings, from actual gods, if pagan ones. Still, even in such company the lineage of Charlemagne stands out. But where Charles of the Hammer made peace only from the security of the Tours battlefield he had held against all attack, his modern descendant - after a few savage hammerings on his southern borders - is well known to open wide when his master absent-mindedly mentions missing the charms of his concubines. (Hence his nickname, for by so doing, he preserves the virginity of his female subjects, who would otherwise be sent in cartloads to the harems of Baeza!) Still, it cannot be said that he has no victories to his name; against his fellow Christians in Bohemia he has been quite successful, mainly by the skillful strategy of striking when they were already busy on their eastern border.

AbelardoItaly_zps45cf8f28.png

It is pleasant to be a Christian merchant under a Muslim ruler; for the Prophet's injunction against usury is only binding on the faithful, and no tolerated Catholic bishop has the power within the Apostasy to enforce the True Faith's similar prohibition. So Abelardo is free to lend at whatever rates he likes, and he likes them high. It is said that there isn't a poor man in Venice who wouldn't gladly pay both arm and leg to be rid of his impossible, hereditary debt. But if Abelardo desires a pound of flesh, he has only to snap his fingers, and servants will come running with the finest marbled ox-flesh of Sicily, veal and boar from the forests of Germany, gooseliver from France, or lamb from the purple Apennine. Mere cannibalism, from the man who owns a mortgage on the life's-work of his tenants' children and grandchildren, would be a mercy, if indeed it cancelled debts. And like all the merchants of Venice, Abelardo's mercy is worth its weight in gold.

RudgerBavaria_zpsab060bf3.png

Although there are, in a purely zoological sense, no actual jackals in the Alps, their human inhabitants make up the deficiency. The house of Hentzau has never encountered an expediency it didn't like; they are, if nothing else, admirably principled about their lack of principle. The current incumbent is, however, lacking even in this department. Since everyone knows the von Hentzaus are utterly without scruple, nobody believes there is any advantage to be gained by recruiting them to betray their current masters; obviously the Caliph has taken precautions against any such maneuver! Thus, Rudger has whiled away his life without any opportunity of demonstrating his undoubted lack of spine on the large scale of his ancestors.


The Hungarian Horror

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In the past Hungary has been a vassal of both Rome and Russia; but, having managed to horrify even those unsqueamish overlords beyond endurance, it currently rejoices in a precarious independence of sorts. This is not due to the military strength of the horse lords, although the Magyar cavalry are, man for man, perhaps the most formidably unwashed soldiers anywhere - it is said that their stench alone can kill at a hundred paces. Rather, the Hungarians keep foreigners at bay by being so utterly savage that nobody wants to rule them; who could keep order in a land that routinely holds village football matches with the impalement of every adult male as the penalty for losing? (The rationale being that the surviving side will be tough indeed, to have overcome such desperate opposition!) Indeed, gambling for high stakes is, if anything, the least of the Hungarian vices; the hinterlands of Transylvania are rumoured to contain men and women who have progressed far beyond merely bathing in the blood of virgins. Such minor peccadilloes as breaking truces and attacking publicly-acknowledged allies are hardly worth mentioning in this context; this is just the Hungarian equivalent of saying hello, a reminder to the rest of Europe that the Asiatic menace is among them, and has brought along arts of betrayal that were old when Rome divided Gaul into three parts.

Restored Rome

To be utterly fair and even-minded, it must perhaps be admitted that modern Rome does, actually, retain the military virtues of its Republican and Imperial ancestors. Although Marius's foot Legions are long dust, the kataphrakts are their worthy successors; if there is any army outside of England that can stand against their charge, it is not clear where it is to be found.

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In addition to their military prowess, the Nazaryan Caesars embody many of the other virtues of their illustrious predecessors: The chastity of Tiberius, faithfulness of Julian, musicality and decisiveness of Nero, sanity of Caligula, and the humility of Augustus himself!

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Of course, everyone knows about the Greeks. There's no need to even go there, since they definitely do. Apart from this, the Logos dynasty is among the least offensive in Europe - not, addmitedly, a high bar to clear - at least partly because they have been very effectively kept under the thumbs of their Imperial masters. In fairness to them, this is expected to change in the new era now beginning. A fresh wind, only slightly flavoured with garlic, blows in Greece!