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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Farquharson

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Meet Meck - he's a Minotaur


Chapter 1
Tom's Unpredictable Day

Tom had just switched on his laptop to start a brand new game of Europa Universalis II when the minotaur had walked into his room. This was not something that happened every day, of course. In fact, Tom couldn't remember it ever happening to him before. The minotaur seemed friendly enough though, and he was also wielding a nasty-looking broad-bladed sword, so Tom didn't feel like arguing with him - pure intellect would probably not have been the deciding factor in a fight.

So here he was on the tram, with his laptop packed away again in its carrying bag, heading into town with this minotaur. Of course, people were giving them strange looks, but Tom had the uncomfortable feeling that he was the odd one out. The obvious conclusion was that they were on their way to a New Year fancy dress party - so why wasn't he in fancy dress like his companion? Hadn't noticed that detail on the invitation, or just too embarrassed to take it seriously?

When they finally got off the tram at the Vieux Port and threaded their way through the crowds - more strange looks, but more at the sword than the bull's head it has to be said - they headed out along the Quai de Rive Neuve past rows and rows of pleasure boats, as the crowds thinned.

"It's changed a bit since I was last here," said the minotaur conversationally.

"You've been in Marseille before then?" said Tom, trying to sound equally casual.

"Must be two and a half thousand years ago now of course," came the disconcerting reply. "On holiday from Crete. The old Greek city was all on the other side of the port - over there." He waved his sword in an alarming fashion in the direction of the Quai du Port beyond the serried ranks of berthed boats with their crowded masts.

The minotaur seemed to have a key to get into the berths, and they walked out along one of the pontoons, past all kinds of yachts and schooners. Most were deserted but there were people aboard a few of them. One person even gave the minotaur a friendly wave.

"What's your name, by the way?" asked Tom.

"You can just call me Meck," said Meck the Minotaur. "I know yours - Dr Fraser, right?"

"You can just call me Tom," said Tom, too confused to ask how on earth Meck knew this.

The minotaur's boat, predictably enough - and Tom was becoming glad of anything that was predictable in this rather unpredictable day - was nothing like any of the other boats. It was unpainted and looked more like a small Viking drakkar than anything else.

There was no visible motor, but the boat seemed to glide out of the harbour under its own power, without the sail being unfurled. Once out in the open sea the minotaur did unfurl the sail, and Tom noted with interest that it was decorated with a large bull's head design. When they had gone a few miles out to sea and the port of Marseille had dwindled to a smudge on the horizon the minotaur furled the sail once more and the boat appeared now to be floating motionless, bobbing gently on the waves.

The next thing that happened was the most alarming thing that had happened yet. It began to spin. That is, either the boat or the world around them, Tom wasn't quite sure which. The spinning became faster and faster and Tom collapsed on the deck, clinging to a wooden strut in case he should be thrown overboard. And then the boat started to descend, down into the sea. But instead of getting wet, Tom only felt a strange silvery tingling sensation as the water spun around them. The light seemed to change and the temperature - it got noticeably colder - and there was a tremendous rushing noise that built to a crescendo. And then quite suddenly the boat bobbed up onto the surface again, and had stopped spinning.

Tom could see right away that they were nowhere near Marseille. It was overcast and the waves were much bigger here. Also it was extremely cold. There was still land on the horizon though. The minotaur unfurled the sail once more and they sailed towards it.

"Where are we going, exactly?" asked Tom, feeling that he should perhaps have asked this earlier.

The minotaur waved his sword towards the distant horizon. "Rostock," he said.




=========================================​

Duke Johann of Mecklenburg sat bolt upright in his bed at the sudden intrusion into his chamber. The minotaur was carrying a candle, with which he lit several more about the room, so that the Duke, blinking in the light, could see his visitors. What he said next was not what Tom was expecting at all.

"Oh - not you again."

"I have returned," said Meck the Minotaur, "as I promised."

"Great," replied Duke Johann, in a voice that suggested that it was anything but.

"I have brought the Master."

For the first time the Duke seemed to notice Tom, standing in the shadows behind Meck.

"Who the devil are you?" he asked, a little rudely Tom thought.

Nevertheless Tom strode forward confidently with his hand outstretched. "Pleased to meet you, Duke Johann. Dr Fraser - Tom Fraser. You can just call me Tom."

The Duke stared at Tom, then stared down at the outstretched hand as if it was leprous. Then very slowly he extended his own hand and gave Tom's a brief shake.

"This guy seems to think I need some help running the Duchy," said Johann, indicating the minotaur with a dismissive tilt of his head.

Tom wasn't sure what to say to this. "I'm sure I'd be happy to help in any way I can."

"He has brought the Secret Lore," put in Meck, indicating the laptop carry-case with his sword. "You had better do what he says, Duke Johann, or I might just decide to relieve you of your pretty head."

He brandished his sword and made a curious noise in his bovine throat that might have been a chuckle.

"And what exactly is the Secret Lore?" asked the Duke, looking dubiously at the black bag.

"A Dell Inspiron 6400", said Tom, "but that probably doesn't mean much to you."

"It means nothing," agreed the Duke. "How is it going to help me run the Duchy of Mecklenburg?"

"Well, I have some - err - software that might help," said Tom. "It's called Europa Universalis II, but that probably doesn't mean…"

"I can understand Latin all right," interrupted Duke Johann. Let's just get on with it. I was actually trying to get a night's sleep as a matter of fact, and I would very much like to continue with it as soon as possible."

Tom switched on the laptop, wondering how much time he had before the battery ran down. He clicked on the nice familiar EUII icon on the desktop. Apparently he was going to get to play after all, although not quite in the circumstances he had expected.

"Hmm, Mecklenburg - let's see," he said, scrolling down the undisplayed options. "Here we are. What settings, I wonder? Better make it normal/normal, eh? Then at least something is normal about all this."

Meck stared dubiously at the map that appeared after a few moments. Then he brightened a little, pointing to the bull's head in Mecklenburg's coat of arms. "Oh look - there's me!"

"Hmm - apparently," said Tom. "Anyway, let me see - so, in 1419 you've got… someone called Johann III in charge according to this. That must be you, Duke Johann."

For the first time the Duke seemed to take an interest in the strange contraption that Tom was fiddling with. "Indeed," he said, "although there are my cousins too. We prefer to rule jointly."

"Oh, I see - you've got a severe decentralization problem, that's what it is. You'll need to do something about that as soon as possible. See this slider here? Away down at 1? That should be up here at least at 8 or more."

"What does that mean?" asked the Duke.

"Well, let's put it this way, Duke Johann. All Dukes are equal, but some are more equal than others. Just put it like that for the time being, which means that we move one step towards centralization - so."

Up popped the stability drop window.

"Of course, the nobility won't like that," remarked Tom cheerily, "and nor will the merchants. Now, what else. You've got a COT, of course - a bit of extra income. Lübeck is the principal centre for the Hanseatic League, as I understand it."

"Ah yes," said Meck, "Lübeck. That is another problem we have. It is not exactly under the control of the Dukes, you know."

"Yes - it's entirely independent, if I remember rightly," said Tom. "All part of your decentralization problem, I suppose. But with time that can be sorted out. Duke Johann will just have to take the bull by the… err, I mean, he'll have to bite the bullet and start throwing his weight around a bit more. Show those merchants who's boss."

"Hmm, well I suppose that sounds quite fun," said the Duke. "Anything else?"

"Well, let me see. Good grief, what's this? You're a vassal of Stettin? Where did that come from? Completely unhistorical I would say - cancel it right away."

"This gets better and better," said the Duke. "But I warn you, if 'Some Dukes are more equal than others' gets the people of Mecklenburg jumpy, I can tell you that, 'Let's get rid of Stettin' will really put the wind up them."

"Don't worry, Duke Johann," said Tom. "You're a one province nation. Stability is never a problem. Now then what else? Oh - you're also leader of an alliance with Holstein and Bremen - well that's excellent. You need to use that to your best advantage. Gobble up a weak defenceless neighbour as soon as you can. What about Stettin, in fact? Or maybe Hanover? And keep an eye out for potential additions to the Alliance."


"Gobble up? Are you talking about war, Master?" said Meck.

"You got it! Don't worry about reputation at this stage - the important thing is to expand quicker than your allies. Then you can work on diplomatic expansion later."

"War? I don't like the sound of this," said the Duke.

"Are you an ambitious man, Duke Johann?" asked Tom

"He's very ambitious, Master," said Meck, "as are all the House of Mecklenburg - I've tried to make sure of that at least. You know they have claims on the thrones of Denmark, Sweden and Norway?"

"Yes, that does ring a bell. But I shouldn't think… no, I see you don't have a single core outside your starting province. But listen Duke Johann, if you want to become truly great - and I have no doubt that Mecklenburg could one day rule over all of Scandinavia and Germany - you will have to make some unpopular decisions."

Meck and Duke Johann stared together at the laptop, and the tiny brown blob that was Mecklenburg in 1419.

"All of Scandinavia and Germany?" said the Duke incredulously. "Do you really think so?"

"Believe me - you just need to know the Secret Lore," replied Tom.

After a few moments, the Duke yawned.

"Well gentlemen," he said, "it was kind of you to drop by and all that, but really, I'd prefer to get back to bed right now. I'm sure conquering all of Scandinavia and Germany can wait till the morning, can't it?"

"But you will do what he says?" said Meck, giving his sword an almost imperceptible shake.

"Yes, yes, if you insist," said the Duke, climbing back into bed. He turned to Tom. "You'd better sleep in the next room."

Tom was taken aback.

"Oh - you mean I'm staying?"

"Well, of course you are," said the Duke.

In a daze, Tom shut down the laptop and stumbled through to the next room, which was clearly some sort of servant's chamber. One slight detail was preying on his mind. What was going to happen when the Secret Lore's batteries ran out? What would Meck and the Duke have to say then?
 

unmerged(58610)

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Hope Tom didn't have some prime steak waiting for him to cook it. Meck might have something to say about it.

Clever use of a coat of arms.

There are lot of single province states. Trade will help before Duke Johann III starts the M is for Mecklenberg Project. Or is this Dr Fraser's Casebook?
 

Emperor_krk

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I've read this with interest. A very nice idea :D. I will be following - hopefully I manage to read every update as soon as it comes out, so they don't pile up too soon...
 

billy bob

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Now Im wondering how you are going to deal with the age. I mean Tom cant live for 400 years!
 

Farquharson

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Lofman: Thanks, and welcome!

Shortynds: I've tried to give it up, but I'm afraid I can't stop... :eek:

nette001: Even so, I don't think that'll last a whole GC game, even with game speed set to "Insane". :D

Deus: A generator is a good idea, except that Tom doesn't know spanner from a chopstick, so he may be suffering!

Chief Ragusa: It certainly isn't "M is for Mecklenburg"! "Doctor Fraser's Casebook" is nearer the mark. It's probably a kind of rambling, let's-see-where-the-game-goes sort of AAR. I haven't played a proper game as a German minor since my very early Brandenburg AAR, and I've learned a lot since then.

Duke of Wellington: Well, EUII is certainly the game I keep coming back to - definitely my favourite.

Olav: Welcome aboard!

Emperor_krk: Having chosen Mecklenburg completely at random and written the first update, I then ventured into the EUII forum for the first time in ages ( :eek:o ) to see if anyone else was doing a similar game. When I saw your (excellent-looking) Pomerania AAR I hesitated, but decided there was still room for something so close by, as long as the style was rather different. I will now be reading through Dreams of a Baltic State, and hopefully picking up some useful tips! ;)

billy bob: Wait and see! I deliberatley chose this set-up though precisely because we will (hopefully!) be sticking with at least two characters (Tom and Meck) right the way through the AAR.

Atomic Lodoss: Thanks! Great to have you along.

Well as always it's wonderful to get a flood of responses to a first post, and from a nice mix of familiar and unfamiliar "faces". The next update is nearing completion and should be up later today or tomorrow. Thanks to all for reading and posting!
 

Farquharson

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Chapter 2
First Steps to Greatness


Rostock in the fifteenth century​

Tom slept fitfully. After a day of incredible surprises, it was little surprise to him that the minotaur slept in the same room as him, the small chamber next door to the Duke's. However, while Tom slept on the reasonably comfortable bed, under some large furs, Meck simply lay down on the bare stone floor and was soon snoring contentedly. That in fact was the problem. The minotaur's snores were loud and rasping, but Tom didn't think it a good idea to prod him or do anything else to try and shut him up. He did sleep a bit, but after a while he got up and switched on the laptop, clicking away the "No wireless networks in range" message with a quiet chuckle.

By the time the sun was up and Meck was beginning to stir at last from his peaceful if noisy slumber, Tom had played three times through the first ten years of a game as Mecklenburg and the battery low light had just come on. However he now had a few more tips for Duke Johann, and an excellent excuse to persuade Meck to take him back home as soon as possible.

Breakfast was brought to Tom in the chamber, and consisted of some sort of thin porridge, with bread and milk. Meck didn't seem to eat anything. Tom found himself wondering what problems it might pose having a bull's eating apparatus and a human digestive system. Or perhaps mythical beasts didn't actually need to eat food to stay alive.

"The Danes have got their beady eyes on your Centre of Trade," said Tom between mouthfuls of porridge. "I would get ready for war if I were Duke Johann."

"What? But they're allied with Sweden and Norway! They'll flatten us!" said Meck in alarm.

"I don't think so. The trick is to grab Jylland quickly and accept the first cash offer they make to get it back. Of course it will most likely be the Holsteiners who capture it, but that's OK. You'll all get a share of the cash settlement."

"But meanwhile won't the Scandinavians have sailed a huge army over here and overrun our province?"

"They will eventually. That's why you have to be quick."

"Oh dear, this doesn't sound good at all, Master," said Meck. "Surely they'll keep coming back as long as the Duchy looks like easy prey for them?"

"Absolutely. Which is why you need to annex a second province as soon as possible. That makes your trading centre a lot more difficult to take in war, so your big nasty neighbours will soon lose interest."

"Well, we'll see what we can do."

"Oh, one other thing," added Tom. "Within ten years, trading in Lübeck is going to go into decline anyway. The main center of trade is going to shift to Copenhagen. Your merchants will still be able to trade there, but it will be the Danes who will be raking in most of the profit."

"Really?" said the minotaur, with a worried frown. "How can you be sure of all this?"

"Trust the Secret Lore!" said Tom mysteriously. "And speaking of that, the batteries have run down, so I'm afraid I'll have to be going back to Marseille pretty soon."

"No! But you can't leave me here on my own - I need your help!"

"Oh don't be a big scaredy cat, Meck," said Tom. "You'll be fine. Tell you what - any time you're really having a problem, you can come and get me. How's that?"

"Well, I suppose so, Master," said Meck, but he looked very sad.

Before leaving, Tom sought out the Duke, who was sitting on the castle terrace with an elderly woman beside him. He got to his feet and turned towards Tom. Meck seemed to be staying inside. The Duke appeared to be in a much more cheerful mood today.

"Ah, good morning Doctor Fraser! I trust you slept well?"

"Not bad, Duke Johann," said Tom, "although I never sleep well in a strange place." He was going to add, "with a minotaur snoring on the floor beside me" but he decided not to.

"I'd like you to meet my mother, the Dowager Duchess Wilheida of Lithuania."

"Delighted to meet you my lady," said Tom with a bow. "Doctor Tom Fraser of Scotland, at your service!"



The Dowager Duchess​

"Oh, you're a doctor?" said Duchess Wilheida looking pleased. "Well, you know I've got this funny ache in my left knee these days, I wonder if you'd care to have a look at it. Oh and perhaps you have a suggestion for this rash on my shoulder, I…"

"I'm terribly sorry, my lady," said Tom in alarm, holding up his hands, "I'm not a medical doctor."

"Oh," said the Duchess, looking crestfallen, then peering at him suspiciously. "Well, what sort of a doctor are you then?"

"A doctor of history, if you can believe it," answered Tom.

"You doctor history, eh?" said the Duchess, looking even more suspicious. "Sounds like a lot of nonsense to me."

"Mother," put in Duke Johann quickly, "the Doctor is here in an advisory capacity, to help us with the running of the Duchy."

"Well we certainly need someone to help us!" said the Duchess sourly. "Take my late husband for example. He went completely loopy before the end. Claimed he was seeing this minotaur wandering about the castle!"

Duke Johann was now behind his mother and was gesturing wildly to Tom, presumably trying to tell him not to say anything.

"It's a common complaint amongst Dukes, I believe," answered Tom, winking at Johann.

"Well, I just hope it isn't hereditary," said the Duchess, turning to her son, who quickly put his hands down in embarrassment.

"Oh, I shouldn't think so for a moment, mother," said the Duke.

Later that day, Meck and Tom descended the spiral staircase that led down to the cave in the cliffs that housed the Duke's private boathouse, where the drakkar was waiting for them. This apparently was how Meck managed to come and go from the castle without being seen.

"So, just how long have you been guiding the Dukes of Mecklenburg?" asked Tom as they sailed north out of Rostock.

"Oh, centuries now. Ever since I managed to find my way out of that stupid maze thing."

"The Labyrinth, you mean? But I thought that Minotaur was killed by Theseus?"

"Ha! That's what they said, of course. You shouldn't believe everything you hear in these ancient myths, you know."

"Ah, no - of course not," said Tom, wondering just what he should believe.

=========================================​

Back in Marseille Tom couldn't really concentrate on anything other than his visit to Rostock. As soon as he could he started up another game as Mecklenburg. In June 1421 Denmark declared war on Holstein, however by November Holstein had captured Jylland with help from Mecklenburg's army and in January 1422 Denmark agreed to pay 75 ducats for peace. So far so good.

The Mecklenburg Army now marched south into Magdeburg, having been granted Military Access by Brandenburg. This was to avoid having to cross the Elbe River when they invaded Hanover. For yes, it was indeed time to expand Mecklenburg's borders a little, and Hanover seemed like a suitably defenceless neighbour to start with. To tell the truth, they were actually allied with Mecklenburg's ally Bremen, Bremen having started the game in two alliances for some reason. The question was, which alliance would Bremen honour if Mecklenburg declared war on Hanover?



OK you shilly-shallying Bremeners - time to decide if you're shillying or shallying​

Thankfully the Bremeners chose the correct response, the prize for which was being able to stay in Mecklenburg's alliance, with the exciting prospect of getting diplo-annexed by them later on if all went according to plan. Meanwhile, Hanover really was defenceless now, and it took just six months for the Mecklenburg Army to invade and annex them.

The rest of the 1420s were fairly uneventful. Mecklenburg's merchants did quite well in most of the European COTs and once the world had begun to forget about the cynical annexation of Hanover, it was easy to work on forming Royal Marriages with Catholic nations near and far. There was no more trouble from the Scandinavian bullies to the north. In 1429 Berg dishonoured their alliance with Gelderland and immediately accepted Mecklenburg's invitation to join their alliance, now consisting of Mecklenburg, Holstein, Bremen and Berg. And finally a few days after this the COT in Mecklenburg disappeared and a new one appeared in Sjælland. It was belt-tightening time in the Duchy, although the extra revenue from the salt-producing province of Hannover was already making things easier from an economic point of view.



Northern Germany in 1430
Brandenburg is allied with Stettin and Saxony, Hesse is allied with Meissen​

Tom was wondering how Duke Johann was faring back in the fifteenth century. No word from Meck yet - perhaps he had found his feet and was now confident enough to go it alone. Still, thought Tom wistfully, it would be nice to feel wanted. And then, about a week after his adventure, he received a phone call.

"Allo, oui?"

"Docteur Fraser? This is the Port Police. We have a sans papiers in custody here. He has given your name as the person responsible for him."

Tom's heart sank. He had no doubt who it was.

"What's his name, please?" he asked, just to be sure.

"He will only give his name as 'mec', monsieur. Distinguishing features include a bull's head. Do you know him?"

"Ah - yes, I'm afraid so. I'll be down right away."
 

Emperor_krk

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This is hilarious :D. "You shouldn't believe everything you hear in these ancient myths, you know."

And many thanks for the kind words of yours, Farquharson, toward my Pomeranian AAR. It's an honour to hear that you like it. And well, there is always room for a new AAR, especially written in the way your AARs are! ;)
 

unmerged(58610)

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Cleves and Oldenburg would round off Mecklenburg's early expansion and give it Minor power status. I'm not overly keen on avoiding Magdeberg and Meissen, but think they're a bit too much to bite off at the moment.

Tom must take some extra batteries and portable generator with him next time he goes back.
 

billy bob

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:D

I just got it. Meck is the first part of Mecklenberg and since the Mecklenberg shield is a bull he is a minotaur.

Oh, and I love the police. :D
 

stnylan

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Good to see you back in the saddle again.