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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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The White Rose of York
Jun 28, 2004
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I’ve read with great enjoyment and admiration the works of Eber, Frogbeastegg, Earl Uhtred and others in this AAR forum and I have decided to give it a go myself. This is my first attempt, so please bear with me if it’s too detailed, not detailed enough, too fast, too slow, whatever. All feedback gratefully received. If someone can tell me how to take and include screenshots I’ll try and include them in later updates.

I’m still relatively new to CK, but I think I’ve got the hang of the game mechanics now. My first two games crashed without recovery, so this story is based upon my third game. I’m playing as Flanders in 1337 scenario on normal/normal. The Duchy is small (4 province demesne) with only 1 heir and no vassals, so survival seems to be the immediate objective. I’m writing as I go along, so if I don’t succeed, it will be a short AAR! The events are as they happened in the game, although I have taken some liberties with the timing in some cases to suit the story. I hope you enjoy reading it and I’ll try and update regularly. :)



CHAPTER 1 MEET THE FAMILY

The man in the fur-trimmed cloak winced as the full force of a North Sea gale slammed into him as he left the church. Winter in Bruges was certainly not for the faint-hearted, and not for the first time Louis wondered how much responsibility the weather shouldered for his impoverished circumstances and reduced court.

It was the Feast of the Circumcision in the year of the Lord 1337 and Louis had been on his knees for three hours, yes praying for the infant Jesus, but also for his court, his dynasty, and not least, himself. He was all that a Christian prince should be – merciful, wise, valorous – so why had God apparently deserted him? He knew he had a temper and could be vengeful, but he confessed his sins regularly and Father Benedict absolved him with reassurances that his place in heaven was assured. Right now though, Louis was more concerned about his place on earth.

He had been Duke of Flanders for nearly 15 years now – all his adult life in fact. As his father’s only son he had been groomed for his responsibilities from an early age and had undergone all the usual knightly training as befitted the heir to the de Dampierre dukedom. He still remembered with horror the day he became duke – he still had vivid nightmares reliving the awful scene of his father’s broken body being borne on a litter into the castle bailey following his horrific hunting accident. He had lived for but a few short hours more, and Louis had cried and cried when his father’s soul left his tortured body. He had always been a strong man, and now at only 33 he was dead, leaving Louis and his sister on their own. That awful day had surely been the start of all his problems Louis reflected as he entered the Great Hall and stamped the snow off his boots.

The servants were busy preparing for the Great Feast that Louis was holding that evening in honour of the Holy Day it was. They hardly seemed to notice their Lord and Master as they strewed fresh rushes on the stone flagged floor and laid freshly baked trencher loaves on the long table on the dais below the canopy emblazoned with the de Dampierre arms, a black lion rampant on a yellow field. A few did notice him and paid him due deference as he strode through the Hall on his way to his private apartments in what was still referred to as the new wing of the castle.

Two hours later, resplendent in a flowing crimson robe and wearing his ducal coronet, Louis entered the Hall formally to a trumpet fanfare, inexpertly played by the small band of musicians Louis had hired for the occasion, the broken notes floating through the Hall from the gallery at the far end of the long room. Louis’s mind wandered back to his childhood when the court musicians were valued retainers and their music was an ever-present delight on occasions such as this. It had been one of the saddest decisions he had taken as duke when he had to let the musicians go – he simply could not justify their expense for such a small court – but he longed for the day when the court musicians of Bruges would once again delight him and his court with their melodious playing. The decisions he was about to announce tonight would be the first step towards that he hoped.

The Great Hall was full tonight, as it had been for the Feast of the Nativity exactly one week ago – it was like the old times thought Louis, although in those days the attendees would have been the duke’s retainers and maybe a vassal or two, with only a select few of the town’s burghers invited. Tonight, the burghers dominated, a necessity if the paucity of Louis’s court were not to be exhibited for all to see. Pierre, the priest from the Chapel of the Holy Blood was here as was Father Benedict, along with his acolytes and servants, these latter sitting farthest away from the dais in accordance with their lowly status. Louis had nothing against people like this (as long as they did their job and knew their place) but he would rather the Hall be filled with his own people and court and tonight he would set out his plans to achieve this.

The meal was splendid – one thing Louis had not compromised on was the kitchen staff. Although he had struggled to find a suitable steward to run the ducal administration, he was fortunate to have found Gordon de Ramsay who ruled his kitchen with a rod of iron, yet produced the most superb cuisine in the Low Countries. Louis often suspected that the King himself ate no better than this in far away Paris. Tonight de Ramsay had excelled himself – despite the obvious sounds of disharmony that had emanated from the kitchen throughout the day. There had been broth and stuffed songbirds to start with, and then roast haunch of venison, three whole suckling pigs, braised rabbit, and in pride of place, a huge stuffed swan. This was followed by freshly cooked marchpane and fruit with spiced posset to drink. Louis had drunk deeply throughout the meal, especially of the delicious and tasty local beer from the monastery at Chimay. He belched contentedly and rose, somewhat unsteadily, to his feet, motioning with his hands for those observant souls who had noted him rise and followed suit in deference, to resume their seats. Gradually, a silence fell over the gathering, and Louis cleared his throat, took a swig of beer and spoke.

“Tonight, you are all witnesses to the re-birth of the de Dampierre dukedom. For too long I have allowed things to slip, brooding on my father’s untimely death and doing nothing as courtier after courtier departed Bruges. I have ignored those closest to me and denied them offices that are rightly theirs.” He glanced as he said this to his right and left, at the uncertain countenances of his wife and his mother, and at the uncomprehending and, frankly, disinterested, visage of his only son and heir, young Louis, now 7 years old. “My mother, Jeanne, the dowager duchess of Flanders, I hereby appoint as my ducal chancellor. My wife, Marguerite, in recognition of the innate intrigue of one born of Valois blood, I appoint as my spymaster.” If the ladies were surprised, they gave no sign, other than an inclination of the head in recognition of their newly acquired powers (if the truth be told they saw this as their – long overdue – rights as Louis’s only close family). “Marguerite de Bruges will become my steward, responsible for the administration of my demesne lands here in Bruges, in Yperen, in Gent and in far away Nevers. I have one further appointment. Father Pierre will become my personal chaplain with added responsibility for the upbringing of my son, Louis, and the provision of a full ecclesiastical education.”

Young Louis was a bright boy, energetic, trusting and pious. The duke had somewhat reluctantly agreed that his son should be educated by the church. He had hoped that his only son would show martial prowess and one day lead the armies of Flanders on the battlefield, but that seemed unlikely. Indeed at the moment, the duke had no-one suitable to lead his armies – another reason for his apparently sudden and decisive series of announcements tonight. The duke loved his son nonetheless, and he himself was the least of his problems; the fact that he was his only son, only child, was a big problem though. The duke was his father’s only son; he had a sister, Jeanne, married off to some courtier in distant Brittany. She had had a daughter, but the child, whom Louis had never met, had died several winters past. Had she lived it would have made no difference to Louis’s plight; the ducal succession law had long been Salic primogeniture, so neither Jeanne nor any of her offspring would be of use in providing possible future heirs. Louis had thought often about changing the succession law – after all he had no vassals who might object, and he had to do something to secure the future of his dynasty. Right now though, the problem was not finding the right successor, but that he had too few. Louis loved his wife, Marguerite de Valois, but she was now 37, and unlikely to be capable of bearing him any more children. She was, however, in rude good health, and seemed likely to live for many more years. This pleased Louis because she had always been a faithful and loving wife and a good mother to their precious son in whom the hopes of the de Dampierre duchy and dynasty depended. Lately though, Louis had begun to wrestle with his conscience; didn’t he owe it to his people and his ancestors to secure the future of the dynasty? How could he do this with an ageing and apparently now barren wife. Surely God would understand…….

CHAPTER 2 DEUS VULT!

The months passed and harsh winter turned into gentle spring. Louis’s mid-winter announcements had spread throughout the land, and some new courtiers started to appear at the castle, eager to pledge allegiance to Louis. Marguerite the steward announced on Louis’s behalf that schools were to be built in Bruges and Yperen intially and then later in Nevers. The duke rarely visited this distant county, and longed for a suitable candidate whom he could appoint as its Count. In the meanwhile, he hoped that the provision of some basic educational facility there would persuade its inhabitants that their absentee duke had not forgotten about them entirely. And, of course, Louis was not blind to the added prestige that the schools would bring him.

Spring became summer and Louis watched with interest as the school in Bruges was completed and its first pupils admitted. He knew that his plans would take time to mature, and only hoped, that, God-willing he would be around to see this happen. He was now in his 34th year, and more conscious than ever before of his own mortality, given that this was the age his father was at his, admittedly accidental, death. Louis spent the summer enjoying the warm Flemish climate, playing with young Louis in the meadows surrounding the castle, or idling away long afternoons on one of Bruges’s many canals. All the time though, his mind was active with future plans to write the de Dampierre name indelibly into the pages of history.

Bruges was at its most beguiling and beautiful in autumn. The mellow golden stonework of the town’s more substantial buildings reflected the molten rays of the low sun in a glorious sheen that seemed to light up the very air itself. The waterside trees dipped their dying leaves into the cool canal waters as if searching for some elixir to prolong their days. Their death was not in vain though, marked as it was by the miraculous annual metamorphosis from green, through, gold and yellow and red to brown before they eventually gave up the ghost and started to flutter, one by one initially, but then in scores and eventually hundreds, on the strengthening autumn breezes that marked the inescapable passage of time.

The winter weather of 1337/8 was thankfully mild and dry, and as Advent and the Nativity came and went, Louis gave thanks to God for the year passed, and reflected that his plans laid so publicly one year ago, had on the whole gone rather well so far. He had planned to say as much at the Great Feast of the Circumcision, the anniversary of his announcement, and he had spent several hours that afternoon with his mother, the chancellor, polishing his speech. de Ramsay had provided another spectacular effort from the kitchen, accompanied by the by now customary shouting and swearing, raised voices and dropped utensils – Louis often thought it must be like that in Hell’s Kitchen. Just as Louis was about to rise and call for silence, the real sting of that winter pricked the unsuspecting ducal court of Flanders as the door from the courtyard to the Hall burst open unexpectedly, admitting a rare icy blast of air to the duke’s presence, along with a saddle-weary messenger clad in the king’s unmistakable livery of the golden fleur-de-lys on an azure blue field.

“Your grace, may God be with you, and my humble apologies for interrupting your festivities, but I bring urgent news from King Phillippe. The Pope has called for a crusade against all pagans and moors. He has issued a papal bull, Deus Vult, calling all Christian princes to arms. I have a copy for you here.”

Louis took the document and read it speedily, for he was a good Latin scholar, before passing it across to his chancellor.

“My thanks, Sir Messenger. I do hope that you will join us in our feasting – I am sure there must be plenty left over. Charles” he said to his personal cup-bearer “send word to the kitchen that we have one more mouth to feed – and take no lip from that bastard de Ramsay”. Louis indicated that the messenger should be seated – with the servants in a lowly position of course – but the rider accepted the duke’s offer of hospitality with alacrity. He had been treated far more harshly by many another host in all his years in the royal messenger service.

The duke was now in no mood to dwell on his achievements of the last 12 months and he contented himself with a public reinforcement of the Pope’s crusade and an expressed hope that all able-bodied Christian men would offer their services – when the time was right – to join him in answering the Pope’s call. Privately, this would not be for some time he thought to himself, but this news may be a wonderful opportunity in other ways.

CHAPTER 3 GOOD NEWS….AND BAD

Louis knew that the longer he resisted the Pope’s call to arms, the greater his piety would fall in the eyes of the church. Plans were soon announced in the spring of 1338 for a Templar house in Bruges, and then a couple of months later, in reaction to the enthusiasm with which this foundation was greeted, a similar facility was begun in Yperen. Louis was every inch the virtuous, pious Christian prince, and his standing with the church rose accordingly. The new schools in Bruges, Yperen and Nevers had been a great success, so Louis now decided to build one for the citizens of Gent, and work duly commenced in August 1338.

One late summer’s afternoon, Louis was alone in his solar, when with a respectful knock on the door, and a deep obeisance, his steward, Marguerite sought him out. “My Lord, I have some good news. I have been working for some time on our books, exploring means of making them more efficient, and scrutinising them for signs of waste. I have evolved a new means of record keeping; it involves writing entries twice, but it gives far more potential to save money – I’ve called it double-entry book-keeping and I reckon it could add as much as 4% per annum to the income here in Bruges. Over time we can introduce it to our other lands too. Who knows, it may catch on widely some day.”

“Marguerite, you are a veritable genius of the Exchequer” said Louis, delightedly. “Next you’ll be telling me how I can save an extra 10 gold pieces per month!”

“Well, your Grace, it’s funny you should mention that, but I’ve been looking at our donations to Father Benedict, and I am sure that we could reduce what we give to the church by around 10 gold pieces per month, without too great a strength of feeling against you – and you have just built those Templar houses so who could accuse you of impiety?”

The duke leant back in his chair and smiled a deep smile of satisfaction. Had it not been for the unannounced arrival of his wife, he might very well have kissed his steward, he reflected later, for she was a comely wench in addition to her obvious financial qualities. She was not the only one with a head for figures he thought, as he watched her slender form depart his presence, her fashionable narrow waisted gown accentuating her swaying hips as she curtsied to the duchess and left the chamber.

Marguerite de Valois noticed her husband’s eyes as they followed the steward’s retreating form and, not for the first time of late, thought of the coldness that seemed to be permeating their marriage. They had once been so happy, and yes she knew that she had only borne Louis one child, but he was a healthy and strong boy, doing well in his studies according to Father Pierre and she knew that one day he would be a fine duke. It was, in fact, young Louis who had prompted this unscheduled visit to her husband’s solar. It was true that he showed great application to his studies, but Father Pierre had confided in his mistress, that of late Louis had showed increasing signs of stress, and he begged Marguerite to ask the duke not to place too much pressure on his son nor to have too high an expectation of him.

“Stressed, my arse!!” exploded Louis when his wife explained the situation. “How can he be stressed with all those monks and priests? This wouldn’t have happened if he’d had a proper man’s education with the army. I’ve been too soft on him by half.” Marguerite knew her husband well enough not to argue with him when he was in this sort of a mood. But she also knew that Louis’s anger would soon pass, and she could but hope that he was not serious in what he said about their son. Her mother’s instinct told her that right now their son needed all the love and support he could get.
 

Eber

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Rex, I'm happy to see that you have taken up the reigns of AAR writing! The first three chapters were very well written. I especially like this part:

Bruges was at its most beguiling and beautiful in autumn. The mellow golden stonework of the town’s more substantial buildings reflected the molten rays of the low sun in a glorious sheen that seemed to light up the very air itself. The waterside trees dipped their dying leaves into the cool canal waters as if searching for some elixir to prolong their days. Their death was not in vain though, marked as it was by the miraculous annual metamorphosis from green, through, gold and yellow and red to brown before they eventually gave up the ghost and started to flutter, one by one initially, but then in scores and eventually hundreds, on the strengthening autumn breezes that marked the inescapable passage of time.
I just love the detail and clear picture that you paint for us. Excellent and I'll be waiting for your next update. By any chance we may see some screenshots in later updates?
 

unmerged(31261)

The White Rose of York
Jun 28, 2004
376
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Eber, Thanks for the compliment, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Funnily enough the bit you highlighted stood out for me too - everything seemed to flow at that point and I think it's the best bit (so far!) too. It does need some screenshots to break it up. How do I do this? I've played some more now, and without giving too much away, the story shouddl continue for the foreseeable future. I'll try and update the next chapters tomorrow. Thanx again and I'm still enjoying the Duchy of Pisa too by the way.
 

Eber

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Well while you are in the game, press F11 when you see a shot that you want to capture (aka a battle or so on). Once you finish your session, just go to your CK file and the images will be in the root in the form of bitmaps. Just open of Paint and change those bitmaps into jpg or gif. Also you might want to make the images a bit smaller so it doesn't break the forum.

Hope that helps.
 

unmerged(31478)

Corporal
Jul 3, 2004
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Rex: This is one of the better starts I've seen to a CK AAR, hopefully it doesn't run into any problems that force you to end it early. The description was wonderful and the way you write really pulls the reader in. Great Start. :D
 

frogbeastegg

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Another story AAR, hurrah! I don't have much time to read these days but I will follow this one as best as I can.
 

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Sergeant
Feb 24, 2004
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great start, my lunchbreak just became a bit more interesting. Finally someone who appreciates the finer qualities of Belgian beer :). with belgian beer as his fuel i am sure Louis will conquer the world, or at least die with a smile while trying :rofl:
 

unmerged(31261)

The White Rose of York
Jun 28, 2004
376
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Daco and the_k, thanks for your compliments. I'm glad you're enjoying my story and it's especially gratifying that it meets with local approval (I assume you are from Belgium the_k with your avatar?) Hope you don't spot too many errors in my knowledge of Flanders! I have been to Bruges as you must have guessed, but I'm doing it all from memory and imagination. Glad you liked the beer reference - there's more in tonight's instalment.

Herewith the next two chapters. I have got some screenprints but they're all from later in the game and I don't want to spoil things or give the storyline away by inserting them yet. I will give it a go when I'm ready. This post takes us up to the end of 1341 and I'm playing 1349 in the game, so there's plenty more in store if you want. All feedback and suggestions for improvement welcomed.




CHAPTER 4 ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE….

The winter of 1338/9 was a time of growing prosperity within the duchy. Income had been boosted by Marguerite’s accounting innovations, without any need to increase tolls or taxes. Her idea to reduce church donations had reduced costs with only a minor negative reaction seemingly from the clergy, and Louis had had no occasion to muster his knights so there was no army expenditure to eat up costs. Louis gave his by now customary address to his court on the Feast of the Circumcision, this year with no surprises.

As well as the improvement in his finances, Louis’s prestige had also risen, and his announcement of the founding of a theatre in Bruges in January 1339, far from being much ado about nothing, and after nearly turning into a comedy of errors after a problem with a gang of itinerant Irish builders turned out to be a midsummer night’s dream on its opening in June 1339. Louis had already given the go ahead for a similar venture in Gent, and his prestige rose accordingly.

Young Louis continued to study hard and appeared no worse the wear despite his ongoing stress, The duke wondered if this was not caused by his intense studying; he spent a very uncomfortable time with his son one late January evening as young Louis offered his own critical interpretation of many of the Bible stories that Louis held most dear and most sacrosanct. The very thought that God had not in fact created heaven and earth in 7 days literally – imagine! And what did he mean by asking what had God done with his time before the Creation? These ideas were tantamount to heresy to Louis and he sincerely hoped that his son’s ideas would soon be corrected by Father Pierre. He must remember to talk to his chaplain the next time he saw him. Maybe he was getting too close to the boy. If only there were another suitably educated cleric to threaten Pierre’s position. And if only there were another suitable potential wife, Louis found himself thinking. And his mind wandered of its own volition to that new young minx who had recently joined his court – what was her name? Bonne, yes Bonne of Bruges, she of the twinkling blue eyes, long golden hair and ample bosom. Louis couldn’t help but wonder whether she was Bonne by name and bonne by nature at certain activities he knew he should not be thinking about. Word had it she was quite a diplomat too.

Bonne knew that she had caught her master’s eye, and she flirted with him unashamedly throughout the Christmas festivities of 1339. The duchess had by now become resigned to the coldness in her marriage – it had been months since Louis had shared her bed – and she suspected that Bonne might not be the only bright young thing to have caught Louis’s eye. At least she knew she still had her uses as Louis’s spymaster, and surely her Valois blood made her untouchable? If only she could read her husband’s mind as easily as she could those of his rivals.

Throughout 1340 Louis embarked upon an ambitious building plan to develop the infrastructure of his duchy. The road network in Yperen was extended to match that of neighbouring Bruges and Louis granted the Templars permission to found a cell in outlying Nevers. No sooner was this completed than a new military training ground was begun right next to the Templar foundation. Louis had earmarked Nevers as his son’s inheritance when he turned 16, and he wanted to make sure that the infrastructure would provide for young Louis’s needs and make it as easy as possible for him to take up the responsibilities that becoming Count of Nevers would inevitably bring. In particular he wanted to ensure that the county had a strong military base and could recruit men quickly in time of need. The Templars would make sure of this, Louis felt certain.

The summer of 1340 was long and hot, and Louis and his court were, for once, glad of the castle’s draughtiness and natural coolness. Louis could not help but admire some of the fine female forms, more exposed than usual due to the excessive heat; how he loved the summer! The long dry spell was blamed for an unfortunate accident that befell the local fishery in Bruges. Louis was wakened one morning by the sound of running feet within and without the castle, accompanied by cries of “Fire!” Looking out of the window, Louis could see a plume of dirty gray smoke rising in the middle distance away towards the river’s estuary. That could only mean one thing, the fishery was on fire. Louis had been particularly fond of the old building for he had often spent many happy childhood hours there, playing hide and seek in its many nooks and crannies with his sister or with the fishermen’s brats (who always let Louis win of course). When the Guild of Fishermen approached Louis for funds to rebuild the facility his generous offer to meet the whole of the cost himself amazed and pleased the fishermen, and the duke was toasted and drunk to in taverns throughout that town for several nights. One sideline to this unfortunate incident came to light at Christmas that year. de Ramsay delighted his master with delicious local smoked fish as part of the Christmas feast. It turned out that he had discovered this delicacy when rescuing some of the stock from the burnt out fishery, and he had persuaded the fishermen’s guild to try and smoke some fish, but deliberately this time. The dish had taken some perfection, and more than one of the kitchen servants had felt the lash of the Scotsman’s tongue and the back of his hand – only one of them, Edwina de Currie, had had the bravery – or was it foolhardiness? – to stand up to de Ramsay, and she had soon been shown the door.

Louis’s final act in that busy year for the Flemish construction industry was to provide a theatre for the burghers of Yperen. By now they had heard many tales form their counterparts in Bruges and Gent of the wonderful entertainment these strange new buildings provided. Of course, they would never take the place of the peripatetic Mystery plays performed in each county according to ancient tradition, but they did provide a quiet and dark alternative to an evening in the tavern, and more than one local youngster already owed his very existence to Louis’s burgeoning interest in the arts. Le Theatre Grand opened its doors just in time for Christmas 1340. Louis had commissioned a new play called “The Bruges Tales” from an unknown English poet called Thomas Chaucer. It was all about some ridiculous stories a group of travellers supposedly told one another on their way from Bruges to Yperen. The playwright was accompanied to the opening night of the show by his young son Geoffrey who was quite obviously captivated by the lavishness of the production and the acclaim his father received. Louis, of course, basked in the reflected glory and pondered on the conclusion of phase 1 of his long term planning.


CHAPTER 5 THE EMERALD ISLE

On 17 March 1340, the feast day of St Patrick – how appropriate, Louis was later to reflect – one of those bright young things that adorned his court had approached the duke with what she said was most secret news of the highest import. Louis did not even know her name, but he had a vague idea that she worked with his wife and was probably part of his spy-network. He agreed to meet her later that day on the wallwalk atop the curtain wall that joined the old keep to the newer wing of the castle wherein were located Louis’s private apartments. He was careful to choose a time when the duchess would be at prayer, for he was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the obvious distaste with which she viewed his roving eye (but as God was his witness, he had never been unfaithful to her). Adele, for that was the girl’s name, played her hand most expertly; she was clearly a master of intrigue. What, she had enquired, would the duke be willing to do for her if she could prove his right to various titles in the far north of Ireland (somewhere called Ulster that Louis had never heard of) and a quaintly named island county in the Irish Sea between Ireland and England, that owed allegiance to neither, called Man. Whilst tidying away some apparently unimportant papers that the duchess had (accidentally) left lying on the oak bench that served as her desk within the inner sanctum of her domain, Adele’s eyes had lit upon some underlined passages on what were obviously ancient papers, but written in a strange and incomprehensible language. Her instinct told her that these were important documents, so, checking that she was unobserved, she secreted them about herself – she knew just the person who could interpret the hieroglyphics. Fergus was one of those silly young lads that hung about the local taverns showing off and bragging and always trying too hard in Adele’s opinion. She thought he had probably come to Bruges as part of the building gang that botched the original theatre job – no doubt he’d been sacked and wasted his last wages on the admittedly delicious local beers. She’d often heard him trying to impress one of the local floozies in his strange sing-song brogue – she now had a hunch that maybe his tongue and the incomprehensible language of the documents were one and the same. Needles to say, her instinct was correct. Fergus’s eyes opened as large as saucers as he strained to read his native Gaelic in the dim candlelit corner of the tavern; if the truth be told he was not a great reader, but his master had insisted that all his apprentices should be capable of reading basic texts and of writing at least their own name. Right now, Fergus thought that this was somewhat of a mixed blessing as he struggled with the strange text under the (surely too-watchful) gaze of the beautiful spy. He was intoxicated in more ways than one and took little persuasion to reveal the secrets of the text. These revealed that long ago, deep in the mists of time when Brian Boru was High King of All Ireland, the northern counties of Ireland and the County of Man had once been sworn in fealty to the then Count of Flanders. It followed therefore that a claim to those lands now vested in his descendant and successor, Louis de Dampierre, Duke of Flanders. Adele grinned triumphantly, and with a wicked gleam in her eye offered Fergus an “extra-special” gueuze beer as reward for his efforts. Fergus enjoyed it, which was just as well, for it would be the last drop of beer that would ever pass his lips. The smiling assassin pocketed the documents and calmly left the tavern, unnoticed by its patrons, all of whom were too drunk even to notice the stiffening body of the young Irishman in the corner.

With her vivid green eyes and auburn tresses, Adele could have come from the shores of Erin herself (in fact she was born in the small village of Bruxelles in the outlying Bruges countryside). Louis gazed into those deep limpid pools and was transfixed and transported beyond his wildest dreams. He asked the girl to name her price, any price, and he would honour it. Salome-like, she instantly asked for the head of his wife, Marguerite de Valois and for Louis to take her as his wife instead. Louis was stunned initially, but as he thought about it, the idea made a lot of sense. Not only could he grab new lands to expand the duchy, but he could surely secure his succession, for Adele was young as well as beautiful and would surely bear him many sons. Louis acquiesced.

It was on St Valentine’s Day 1341 that Louis’s heralds, wearing their finest duchy livery, proclaimed Louis’s historic and legal rights to the County of Tir Connail. Most of those who bothered to listen had never heard of the wretched place. The heralds also announced an increase in the merchant tolls upon the burghers partly to replenish the ducal coffers after the previous year’s building extravaganza (the stated reason) but more importantly to defray the costs of the forthcoming military campaign (obviously unstated). Louis decided to take charge of the expedition himself, for he still had not found a marshal worthy of the name or the office, and he mustered the 5,000 strong Bruges regiment for an immediate departure on his Irish adventure. The prevailing winds meant that he had to take a long sea voyage through the North Sea and around the far north of Scotland – a perilous journey of several weeks that emptied the stomachs of more than one of his knights on a nightly basis. Louis’s army made landfall on the rocky northern shore of Tir Connail on Tuesday 23 May 1341. Two days later, his rusty army (literally thanks to the salt air and metaphorically for no-one could recall the last military service within Bruges) routed the puny native force that dared resist the invaders. Less than two months later, Louis was recognised as rightful Count of Tir Connail and another province had been added to the ducal demesne. He still had no suitable candidates to install as count and vassal, but he set about making his mark in his new lands immediately. A school was begun, grandiosely, if not entirely inappropriately named “L’école de la conquete”.

Louis stayed in Ireland for a short while, but he and his troops returned to a hero’s welcome in mid-October 1341, for Louis loved the colourful mantle that his home province always wore at this magical time of the year. He had ambitions and plans to extend his influence in Ireland, but for now he disbanded his troops and inaugurated a local training ground in Bruges to speed recruitment when next he called upon his soldiers. As the year drew to its close, Louis chose the very Feast of the Nativity itself to announce the founding of a Templar house in Gent. This was his apotheosis as the ultimate pious Christian warrior, and few who witnessed the zeal which possessed Louis on that long-ago Christmas Day can have been in any doubt as to future developments. Louis had arrived in the Emerald Isle to be sure.
 

stnylan

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Gordon de Ramsay
Methinks you might be supping with the devil ;)

I especially liked the first scene with Louis praying, and in the process you giving us a clear portrait of his character. I also liked the little details - especially the trencher loaves.

So you're off to Ireland? Was that just a chance event or was it a manufactured claim?
 

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Sergeant
Feb 24, 2004
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Rex Angliae said:
Daco and the_k, thanks for your compliments. I'm glad you're enjoying my story and it's especially gratifying that it meets with local approval (I assume you are from Belgium the_k with your avatar?) Hope you don't spot too many errors in my knowledge of Flanders! I have been to Bruges as you must have guessed, but I'm doing it all from memory and imagination. Glad you liked the beer reference - there's more in tonight's instalment.
I am not only from Belgium, i even live in Gent, and I like what you are doing to my city :) . Is this going to be a catalogue of Belgian beer ;) ?
 

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The White Rose of York
Jun 28, 2004
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Stnylan, Thanks for the comments, and for spotting the Ramsay line. Ireland is a manufactured claim. I had to find somewhere independent and weakish to expand the duchy so I grabbed the title and took the prestige hit. An event would have been nice, but I've not had anything in that line (so far). If you like Ireland, keep reading!
Wilhelm In Flanders Fields was the first relevant literary reference I thought of, as well as being one of my favourite poems. Can't promise as much bloodshed as WWI but keep reading, you never know!
the_k Thanks again. I like the idea of a beer catalogue. I'll see what I can do! Cheers, santé, prost or whatever you say in Belgium. ;)

Hope to get chapter 6 uploaded tomorrow. I'm just polishing it up a bit, but I think it will be worth the wait! :D
 

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The White Rose of York
Jun 28, 2004
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CHAPTER 6 MANUS DEI?

The morning of 2 April 1342 dawned dull and rainy. It was Maundy Thursday, and Duchess Marguerite of Flanders made her way carefully across the muddy bailey towards the castle chapel. She had decided to hear Mass there (as Louis knew she would) rather than in the tiny private chapel she shared with her husband within their private apartments. The previous evening, Louis had at last summoned Father Pierre to him to discuss his son’s progress with his education. Young Louis was now 12 years old and as he had grown he had shown an increasing tendency to offer mercy to those less fortunate than himself. The duke was not unduly concerned at this, but he wanted to reassure himself that Father Pierre was not leading the boy astray. He found Father Pierre not at all himself; he was edgy and nervous, and seemed now to be as stressed as his precious charge. Louis sighed and accepted the priest’s benediction with a heavy heart.

Louis had excused himself from accompanying his wife to Mass on the pretext of checking with de Ramsay that all was in order for the forthcoming Easter Feast in 3 days time. The Scotsman was clearly a brilliant chef, but even Louis was growing tired of his repeated tantrums and he had heard that the famous Italian cook, Giacomo d’Oliviero, had left the employment of the Holy Roman Emperor and was looking for a suitable vacancy. Maybe he’d try and scare de Ramsay with this news he thought, although he doubted that much would scare the hard-drinking, hard-swearing Scotsman.

Marguerite entered the dimly lit chapel through the old Norman doorway with its Romanesque arch adorned with its basic, but beautiful in their simplicity, geometric designs. She was accompanied by two serving-maids, and as ever her breath was almost taken away by the splendid painted interior of the chapel, which, despite the dim light seemed to be alive with the Biblical scenes depicted on its stone walls by some long-forgotten painter, obviously a master in his craft. Her eyes dwelled on one particular scene that had always been her favourite – the betrayal and execution of St John the Baptist which took pride of place above the round chancel arch, for the chapel was dedicated in his honour.

The duchess took her seat in one of the ornately carved chairs reserved for her and the duke. Her servants sat behind her on far more modest wooden benches. The air was heavy with the scent of incense and Marguerite breathed it in deeply; she found it heightened her sense of occasion and gave her a peculiar inner calm and peace that she rarely experienced outside this chapel. Glancing around her, Marguerite was disappointed, but not entirely surprised to see the chapel empty but for her and her two maids, and of course Father Pierre who she assumed was busy robing and preparing himself and his paraphernalia for the service. It was a day of obligation for all, being the commemoration of the Last Supper, but Marguerite thought that the duke would hear Mass later on, probably in private, and of course the servants generally had to leave the castle and join the townsfolk in one of Bruges’s many churches. Exceptions were made, and Marguerite reflected that this very chapel would be bursting at the seams but three short days later as the entire castle household crammed itself in to celebrate the greatest of all Christian festivals, Easter.

Her reverie was interrupted as Father Pierre emerged into the chancel through the small door on the left that led to the sacristy, wherein were kept the precious plate used to contain the elements that would shortly be transfigured into the body and blood of the Lord. Pierre also used this as an occasional study and his few precious books were kept there – the duchess suspected that this was the real reason why the room was always kept locked when not in use. Marguerite rose and as the service began she mouthed the opening words of the service that were ingrained upon her memory.

“Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison…..”

The familiar litany of the service took its usual course and soon Marguerite found herself kneeling in front of Father Pierre, her tongue extended, as he intoned “Hoc est corpus meam” and placed a small chunk of (stale, she thought) bread gently into her mouth. She had noted that Father Pierre did not partake of the Lord’s body, and assumed (correctly) that he must have already completed his devotions in private first thing. Her maids having received the Host, and resumed their seats, Father Pierre turned to seize the chalice that stood glinting on the small stone altar. In honour of the Holy Day it was, the faithful were to receive the Blood of the Lord too, although this was a privilege granted only to the most exalted of lay folk, hence the withdrawal of the servants. Marguerite looked up into the weary eyes of the priest as he offered her the cup with its sacred contents. She drank deeply and handed the chalice back to Father Pierre.

Five minutes later, the former duchess of Flanders lay slumped and inert in her carved chair that had now become her temporary coffin. Her maids screamed and began to wail hysterically. Father Pierre sent his acolyte, a surly young lad called Galbert, to find the duke immediately. No-one heard the almost imperceptible swish of cloth on the stone-flagged floor of the chapel, nor saw the brief flash of copper-red tresses as the young lady who had secreted herself firmly in the shadows at the rear of the chapel made her silent and unobserved exit from the sepulchre.

Exactly three weeks later, Louis de Dampierre, Duke of Flanders, married Adele of Bruges in the self-same chapel.
 

stnylan

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wow.

This is an incredibly clever update, and beautifully written to boot. We start off with something utterly mundane - the picking up a character trait for the child - but also with a hint of mystery (why is the priest stressed). Then we go to matters of the household, a little humerous intervention. The next three paragraphs are gentle steps along a familiar path. We get a sense of character, of person, and of place as Marguerite and her world are briefly illuminated. Then we do to the service itself. The sentances are long and almost lilting, again mundane. Long that is, apart from the past two.

Then everything changes. We do not to the death itself, and the update is all the better for this being left to imagination. The wrench, the sense of unbelievability is greater. And then the last line, and the truth of what we have just read becomes apparent in cold, calculated detail.

But what (imo) especially makes me like this update is the first of those two short lines at the end of the service:

Marguerite looked up into the weary eyes of the priest as he offered her the cup with its sacred contents.

Into those weary eyes. We know now, or can at least pretty much guess, why the priest was stressed. Here he is weary - up all night perhaps wrestling with his consciuos? - and then the slight reminder that the Blood of Christ is Sacred, but on reflection I assume is also poisoned.

In summary, I repeat, wow. Cracking read.
 

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Second Lieutenant
Nov 20, 2003
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I just caught up with your AAR. You are manufcaturing a rather tight atmosphere here. Awsome. The last update was one of the best I ever read in AAR-land and I am lurking around far longer than I am posting.

Yours sincerely,
OG
 

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The White Rose of York
Jun 28, 2004
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Stnylan, Thank you so much for your kind comments; I am really pleased that you are enjoying my writing so much. This chapter is the pivotal one so far and I tried hard to get it right - obviously you think I succeeded, so it was time well spent I guess. Having decided in the game that I needed to remove the duke's first wife in order to try and breed more heirs, I simply had to create a plausible means of removing her for the purposes of the AAR. I confess that I am enjoying writing the AAR more than playing the game! I wonder if other authors feel the same about their stories? I'm up to 1352 in the game and I've completed chapters 7 and 8 in draft and have just started chapter 9. As soon as 7 and 8 are polished I'll post them.
Oliver, Thanks also for your comments - high praise indeed. I hope you continue to enjoy it.
 

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Another wonderful update Rex, as Oliver said, this is one of the best AARs around. Its quickly moving its way up to the top of my favorite AARs I've ever read.
 

stnylan

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I know that generally I prefer the writing to the playing, and that a number of people have gone through spells of only playing to have something to write about. It certainly adds a new dimension to the game as you're clicking away and all the while there is this little voice thinking "now how am I going to incorporate this into the aar"
 

coz1

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I've finally had a chance to read through your story and in a word, outstanding. This is one of the finest debuts I have read on these boards. The attention to detail, well researched history and surroundings, love of the characters within and tightly structured plot are all wound together to create a truly pleasing read.

I must assume you do not plan on crusading any time in the near future, at least until Louis can create another heir or two. And Ireland seems an odd venture for Flanders, but I completely understand your desire to gain more land. I just hope it does not irritate the English. By the way, does that scenario start off with England and France at war?

I shall be following along the rest of the way and eagerly await a new update. Great work!! :D
 

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The White Rose of York
Jun 28, 2004
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Daco, Thanks (again!)
Stnylan, I know eactly what you mean about the little voice in the head (isn't there an event about that come to think of it!!)
coz1 What can I say - many thanks for your kind words. You flatter me a bit with the research - have visited Bruges twice, and I am a medieval history buff and graduate, but most of it is simply based on a lifetime's love of history, architecture, old castles, historical novels etc. All good ingredients for a budding historical novelist I guess!!Ireland is a bit odd I agree, but I felt I needed more land, and these looked like the easy pickings they were. Everyone else seemed a bit too strong at the start. England owns Meath and conflict may lie ahead, but for now I've been OK. Now a few counties are becoming independent, and I'd really like to expand the duchy contiguous to its historic borders - you'll have to keep reading to see if I succeed! England and France are not at war at the start of this scenario, and have not been at war at all as far as I recollect and I'm now up to 1355. I've had to doctor events a little bit as, witout giving too much away, one of the duke's children is conceived whilst he is away fighting (and no it isn't given the bastard trait). It seems the game engine doesn't check on the practicalities of such things. I also noted that the duke's mother (chancellor Jeanne) appears to have had Louis aged 10! And they say we live in permissive times! Glad you're enjoying my story and thank you again for your kind comments.