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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Stuckenschmidt

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Prologue

It is not really far from Jülich to Aachen. About five hour`s travel or two and a half mile. Although people from other places say it is less than five hours and about 3 miles or 6 hours and 4 miles, but I`m not picky about that. The important thing is, that I enjoy the last part of the journey most. Coming from northeast one ascends Vineyard Hill and suddenly sees the city in front of oneself.

Or better, the wooden palisade, that was build a few years ago when I was a kid and that takes a lot of work to maintain, also it was rather quickly build and isn`t too impressive. Nevertheless it conveys a feeling of security to the people inside of it.

When someone crosses one of the city gates for the first time, he or she is usually a bit disappointed. There is not the bustling activity and palaces all over the place. No, inside the palisade is still a lot of open space for fields and animals. But as soon as one continues along the road, one enters the city rather fast and one is amidst a few thousand inhabitants. One reaches the marketplace, walks a bit down the Jacob`s Street, turns right and immediately sees the most beautiful sight in town. A young woman with brown hair, a newborn girl in her arms and a boy of three years running around. My family.

Oh, may I introduce myself? Konrad Müller. This wonderful wench is Johanna, the little rascal is Jacob and his little sister Agnes. I have to admit, that I`m not a miller, unlike my father and grandfather, but being a close servant and almost a confident of my master is a way more interesting occupation.

My master, Augustin of Moers, Steward of our Lord Count Gerhard of Jülich, was kind and patient enough to take me as his servant and teach me a few things. Like the ability to read my name. And write it. In fact, it is a position that comes with responsibilities but also privileges. I`m never going to be a rich man, but compared with other citizens of Aachen our probability to live in want is almost nil. On the other hand, I am my master`s eye and ear in the city to report him about the mood of the inhabitants.


Augustin of Moers

Why I tell you all this? So you can understand how it is possible, that a common citizen can write down the events of his time and you, my dear and hopefully patient reader, may read my humble thoughts. Tomorrow is the first day Anno Domini 1067 and thus this story begins.
 

Stuckenschmidt

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good to see you back to writing AARs ... and a very intriguing start
I`ve written a lot AARs in the OT-section (the best being the one about Silent Hunter 3 and Shogun2:Total War).

And a few explanations about this one. I have no ambitions besides survival and storytelling and the game progress is described from the point of view of a family in Aachen. I`ll just invest money in the improvement of my main castle (Jülich). When the other settlements in the county want to improve, they have to do it on their own.

Sounds like a hands-off game? Maybe a bit. :blush:
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Anno Domini 1067

Jülich is a manageable place near the Rur River. In fact it is near one of the few spots, where the river can be crossed easily, so controlling it is important, thus there is a village with a few hundred inhabitants and the castle here. Did I say castle? Well, yes, it is, but one should not expect too much. As it is, it consists of a fortified house, tiny stables and some rooms for the guards. A small place in the small world we live in.

On the other hand there is the large world out there and monk Bernhard told me a bit about it when we had a talk yesterday. Three months ago around 100 soldiers of our county were called to arms, for the Emperor had declared war on some heathen tribe somewhere in the north and I was curious to learn more about it.

Bernhard told me, that the Emperor is amidst a Holy War against several heathens such as the Pomeranians and Pruthenians and that there was a large battle at a place called Jüterborg with 1.900 dead and that the Emperor sieges a city called Stettin with 15.000 men. Well, Bernhard is known to exaggerate a bit so I believed only half of it.

But he is good when it comes to storytelling. He said, that the Kings of Hungary and Sweden are our allies, although the Swedish King has to wage war versus a relative. And the story goes like this. 30 years ago King Emund I. died and his son-in-law Stenkil became King, despite there was a son called Erik, but allegedly his mother was some farmer`s wife in Västeräs and he somehow got legitimated. Nevertheless Erik was compensated with the Duchy of Uppsala. Be it as it may, last year Stenkil I. died and his son Erik followed him. Now the other Erik (the bastard son), who had gained the nickname "the Heathen" in the meantime, thought it was time to put himself on the throne and since then the "War of the two Eriks" rages.


Jarl Erik the Heathen

I have to say that I like these stories. Especially when I can stay at home instead of having to fight someplace else. Our Lord, Count Gerhard (also Marshall of our dear Duke Gottfried III. of Lower Lorraine), probably sees it the same way. Shortly before our soldiers departed, he was called to the Ducal court in Breda and has been there since then. People say, that the Duke doesn`t want to risk the life of his follower in a (for us) meaningless war. Sounds fine for me.

Well, stories about the world do make hungry. Time for a stroll to the kitchen.
 
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Stuckenschmidt

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Anno Domini 1068

Being the servant and aid of the Steward grants some benefits. Of course I have to obey all orders and may not waste a second if my master is in a hurry. But, on the other hand, when I visit people on his behalf I usually get paid a lot of attention and doesn`t have to wait long. And I have the opportunity to visit places I wouldn`t have access to as a common man. Like the new fortification.

When I say fortification, I mean the wooden palisade that is now encircling the castle area. Carpenters from the whole region have worked for about a year. I could monitor the progress every day when I was talking with wood cutters about timber deliveries or carpenters about payment for their assistants. Additional craftsman like smiths and wainwrights came along to support their fellows. And as it seems Jülich will grow a bit, since some of these people will stay here due to the increased protection the castle can offer now.

***​

Got a letter from Johanna today about this good-for-nothing that calls himself her brother-in-law. Since he is too lazy for a proper profession he had signed up as archer in the local city guard. As it seems, he and his companions have gained a new type of bows that are more accurate.

Considering the fact that the city guard has not a reputation of being the most sober unit around I think they need every help they can get, be it from this world or another. Amen.
 

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Anno Domini 1069

Although the Nobles are way above us common man, one should not think that they think or feel much different or that they are less prone to happiness or anger.

Early this year our Countess Suanehilde gave birth to her third son. Although this was a very happy event in the castle and our Count made the travel from Breda homeward to see his new child, the Countess allegedly was feeling sorrow, since it was a more or less open secret, that she would have preferred to have a little daughter. But she is still not too old to maybe have one.

***​

In general the mood in the castle has been rather tense during the last months. The Count has been here and in the neighbouring realms for several meetings with the Council and fellow rulers. My Master and the other Court members were extremely busy and apparently the result of their work didn`t please our Lord. The worst moment was about two weeks ago, when the Count departed to Breda again in an obviously frustrated and angry mood.

A few days later I asked my always patient Master about the reason and he took some minutes to explain it to me.


“Do you see this coastal province between Mecklenburg and Pomerania?”
“Yes, Sir.”

“When the Emperor won the war against Pomerania he seized this province around Stettin. But although everyone expected, that he would appoint a new Count for it, he kept it for himself in order to increase his Crown Demesne. Simultaneously he lowered the taxation for the cities in his demesne.”
“Isn`t that good?”

Augustin looked at me just like I do when my kids say something stupid.
“No. At least not for us. Because shortly after, Heinrich proposed a few new regulations that would increase his overall control over the Empire and the Lords. First of all he would be able to appoint his own commanders for Imperial armies during war. Add to that the right to revoke titles and you have a man able to challenge anyone who disobeys or even disagrees with him with armies under his more or less personal command and not a mutual command of the respective Lords.”

Augustin continued, that all these measures are referred to as “Limited Crown Authority”, but that there cannot be any such thing as limited authority. Either one has a say in something or not. And obviously the Emperor tries to usurp the authority from the Lords.

With the lower city taxes he immediately gained friends among all city councils, who put pressure on the Lords to apply the same low taxes and will support the Emperor in his plans, since he seems to be a friend of the burgher. And despite the Lords consulted together a lot to build a united front against the new law, in the end they had to accept it.

Later, when I thought about it and finally realized the ingenuity of the plan, I smiled. Heinrich is a sneaky little bastard.
 

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Anno Domini 1071

Dirt. Tons of it. Early this year Count Gerhard had decided to encircle the castle area with a shallow moat. Unlike the building of the palisade, this was a work for a lot of common people. They came from the villages and even Aachen to excavate the soil and transport it away. But although there were many workers involved in it, it took months before the structure was finished.

Since all capable men had to help, a lot of work within would have been pending, but a lot of workers brought their families with them, so women, boys and girls hurled around to keep the castle going and supply its inhabitant and the workers. My oldest son Jacob, although just 8 years old, was among them too. I would have loved to have Johanna around, but she has to provide for young Peter, who was born last autumn.

Jacob did help in the kitchen and, with much more devotion, in the stable. The stable master told me, that he seems to have a knack for horses. Well, maybe I can introduce him here.

***​

Did I say, that my favourite monk Bernhard is good at storytelling? Jacob seems to agree with me on that. When we met him, he invited us to his workplace. Jacob was not too enthusiastic about a scribe`s job, but he was on fire when he saw a little map.


"This, young man, is the Kingdom of Hungary in the far east. Right now, our dear Emperor Heinrich the Bold is there with his army to help his close friend King Salomon, for his vile and treacherous cousin Laszlo, a lowly character with a dark and sinful soul, has gathered other ungrateful scoundrels to fight against their own liege. In this moment they control half of Hungary. But our Emperor has appeared on the scene to fight these evil creatures and reinstall the divine order among countries and men."

So he continued and the gleam in my son`s eye tells me, that he would love to return and hear more.
 
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Stuckenschmidt

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Anno Domini 1073

Market day in Aachen. Johanna went to the marketplace to make some small purchases for her family that was now not that small anymore. With Jacob and Agnes being 11 and 8 they were old enough to care for themselves up to a certain point. But during the last years her household had grown a bit more. Karl was three years old and Ursula one. She loved her children but sometimes she thought that four of them are maybe too much. Especially in these uncertain times. Suddenly she heard the Cathedral`s bells toll. Again. This year they seemed to do nothing else.

As in February. The whole population came together to see the Count`s oldest son who had come of age. Johanna was among them, but all she saw was a serious, maybe way too serious young man who lacked positive dispositions. The reason for his appearance was his betrothal with the daughter of the Duke of Thuringia. A young woman not to be envied for that.


Gerhard the Younger
Future Count of Jülich

Or in April, when news spread, that our Duke Gottfried III died at the almost biblical age of about 70 years. Rumors have it, that he wasn`t the most clever man on earth, but he was humble, patient and brave, thus a good man that will find his way to heaven.

Or in May, to celebrate the succession of Gottfried IV, his father`s only son, an allegedly cowardly zealot, struck with a hunchback and despite his 32 years unable to father some children.

-

Gottfried III and Gottfried IV
Dukes of Lower Lorraine

Or in August, when the messengers brought reports, that the Duchy was at war. Countess Richilde of Hainaut had decided to depose Gottfried of his throne on grounds of his incompetence. She was accompanied by the Count of Brabant and finally the Duke of Holland. Gottfried`s forces had been destroyed on the battlefield and although these fights had not been large, there were still a few mothers, wives and kids mourning for their loved ones, further deteriorating the Duke`s support even in this county.

Johanna finally reached the marketplace, where a large crowd surrounded a herald. Although she couldn`t hear him, all others were already chatting about the latest news. Lüttich fallen and plundered. No mercy for the citizens. Johanna felt a little cramp in her stomach. She postponed the purchases and went to the next church.
 

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Anno Domini 1075

It had been a sunny and mild autumn day, that came to an end now. The sun was close to the horizon and it illuminated the few clouds with an intense red color. Konrad and his son Jacob stood on the eastern wall. Yes, a wall. For about a year now, the masons erected this more solid and impressive structure with the characteristic crenellations to replace the palisade. Now the work was almost finished.

Jacob was impressed by the results and spend more time to look at the construction site than the landscape.
"Incredible, that something like this can be build, father."
"Terrifying, that it is necessary, son.", he replied, but more to himself.

The last two years had been quite telling to him. The war between the Countess of Hainaut and her allies and Duke Gottfried raged on. Gerhard of Jülich, although loyal to his liege, had to come to a decision. Counting the soldiers on each side, he decided to join Countess Richilda`s faction. He mobilized his army and in the following year his men fought to subdue Utrecht and Köln. Finally, Gottfried admitted defeat and resigned.


Wiltrudis I.
Duchess of Lower Lorraine

Konrad looked at the sun again and his eyes became narrow slits, while he wrinkled his brow. The war was over, and in the short run it was a positive result. Gottfried`s younger sister Wiltrudis became Duchess and appointed Count Gerhard to be her Marshall and Cupbearer. But the future is quite uncertain. With the Duke removed and the Duchess not having sworn allegiance to the Emperor yet, Lower Lorraine was now independent. Or renegade, depending on the point of view.


The Duchy of Lower Lorraine

But the most worrying fact was, that Wiltrudis was already in her thirties and had no children. Her first husband, Baron Adalbert of Calw, had died in 1074. Her new husband, a young boy a little bit older than Jacob, was the oldest son and heir of the Duke of Brittany. If Wiltrudis dies without a heir, her legal successor would be Gottfried again. But he is childless too. And when both die without children?

Jacob saw, that his father was deep in serious thoughts. But the sun had sunk and it was time to go inside.
"Father? It`s getting dark."
"Indeed, Jacob, indeed."
 

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Anno Domini 1077

Jacob was excited. The first time in his life away from home. Without his father. In fact, he was farther away from home than his father ever was. The Count`s entourage had left Jülich two days ago and now they were just one or two hours away from Breda, seat of Duchess Wiltrudis, in order to attend a small tournament.

But this was just the climax of events, that started about a week ago, when a group of nine Hedge Knights arrived at the court in Jülich. Jacob worked in the stable at that time and did not take much notice of the new guests. Hedge Knights are not well received in most places for not having a liege and thus being outside of society`s order.

But Count Gerhard, learning about the arrivals, invited them to stay for a while. Even more, three days later he held a big feast for his guests. All grand persons of the County and the Baron of Namur, who had been here passing in transit, attended the feast and Jacob, working as kitchen boy that day, could steal away for a moment to take a peek into the hall.

Shortly later, Count Gerhard prepared his departure to Breda. He invited the Knights to join his entourage and they gladly accepted. Gerlach, the Count`s second son, chose Jacob as his servant. From then on he had to answer Gerlach`s wishes and provide for his horse. Nevertheless he had enough time to listen to the talks between his master and the Knights.

It turned out, that they were from Flanders, where they had fought on the side of Duke Boudewijn VI in his war for Independence from the French crown and had to flee, when Boudewijn finally lost this quarrel. And his life. But the French King was generous enough to let his son Arnulf succeed to the throne as Arnulf III. The Knights talked about the bravery of their former master when leading the heavy infantry and before Jacob`s eyes a battlefield with flags and Knights in shining armor appeared.

***​

The tournament was over. But, well, not really. One of the Knights had an accident during the tournament and broke his leg when falling off his horse. Everyone was very sorry and worried, and the Count did personally pay the physician for treatment and medication. Finally, when it became clear that the injured man would recuperate, the Train said goodbye to their fellow Knights and headed back toward Jülich.

Jacob, having seen more of the world than most of his friends in Jülich and Aachen, was eager to meet his family again and report everything that happened. And, looking at his Lord, he felt proud to be chosen as servant of such a gregarious and generous character.
 
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wonderful ... I do like the rythym of playing a small fish in the CK-verse. You can have so much fun with events and options that as someone more powerful are too inconsequential to really matter
 

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Anno Domini 1079

Konrad and his whole family were standing at the side of the road, when the entourage entered Aachen. First the guards, then the Heralds with the flags, some guards again, and then the noble guests. Duke Henri II of Burgundy and his young daughter Beatrix.

There were a lot of oohs and aahs among the crowd when she passed. She was young, gracious and had the bluest eyes one could imagine. Konrad noticed, that Jacob was fascinated and gazed after her for a long time. Johanna and her daughters were delighted too, just like the whole city. For good reasons.

Shortly after Christmas 1076, the first wife of the Count`s oldest son died without having the time to become children. Shortly after, a betrothal between him and the Duke`s daughter was arranged, that should lead to a marriage as soon as she was coming of age. Now the day had come and the population was happy, that the future Count had such a beautiful wife and there was the chance for offspring.


Beatrix
Future Countess of Jülich

When the entourage had passed, most of the people followed to see what was happening next. But not Konrad. There was something left to do, for he had a meeting with two members of the city council. He walked down a narrow road into a pub and then straight ahead into a backroom, where Fulk and Otto were already waiting.

"Gentlemen.", said Konrad, when he entered and sat down.
"Good to see you, Konrad. Any news from the castle?"
"In short: We are our own masters now."

Nobody was smiling. For about four years, Wiltrudis had been the Duchess of Lower Lorraine, that was not part of the Holy Roman Empire. A few months ago, Gerhard I, Duke of Upper Lorraine, made a claim to her title on the grounds, that the historic lands of Lower Lorraine, the counties of Metz and Pfalz, belonged to his realm. The Emperor and most other high nobles supported this claim. A few days ago, Wiltrudis retreated from her claim.

Now all the counties, that were part of her realm, have no liege, since Wiltrudis herself is now just the Countess of Breda. Count Gerhard of Jülich, having lost his liege, is now independent. De jure the County of Jülich is part of the Duchy of Köln, and right now the Emperor holds that title. The sensible thing would be to swear fealty to him, but the Emperor is not known for being a caring liege and in case of a quarrel, Gerhard maybe would stand alone nevertheless. Even more so, since Heinrich is entangled in wars south of the Alps, where whole Italy is in turmoil.

"What is he going to do?", asked Fulk. Konrad made a gesture.
"I`m not sure. But right now it seems as if he is going to sit on the fence and wait how things evolve."
The two council members leaned back. As they had expected. And feared.

***​

Back in Jülich, Konrad looked around. The last scaffoldings had been removed. During the last months, the walls had been equipped with arrow slits. He walked to one of them and saw through it. An Archer would have a good sight and protection. When Konrad walked toward the servant`s quarters, he asked himself whether they would come in use soon or not.
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Anno Domini 1081

"Ursula? Ursula! Where are you?". Johanna shouted as loud as she could. Finally the girl came down the street. Her mother welcomed her with a little slap on the back of her head.
"How many times did I tell you to keep away from the construction site? Will you listen to me?"
"Yes, mother.", Ursula replied meekly.
"And where is your brother?"
"I saw him watching the smiths."
"Go and call him, I need him here. And I mean go there directly, young lady!"
"Yes, mother.", she said and away she was.

Sometimes she really didn`t know what to do with her kids. Fortunately her oldest, Jacob, was now completely in Jülich and working in the castle. And Agnes was a nice young girl and about to get married soon by a local potter. But Karl and Ursula? Maybe, just maybe, they could convince the smith to take the boy as apprentice. But such a favor would have to be dearly bought.

But maybe she was too pessimistic. Aachen was about to change. The city council had decided, that the marketplace, so far a small and shabby place, will be extended. Therefore a few small houses had to be taken down. The reason for that was, that Count Gerhard had also extended the market rights of the city with a permanent market and a yearly fair. Apart from that the city had grown a bit, so a larger marketplace was simply a necessity. And with additional people, craftsmen and merchants, the chances for her kids to make something of their lives will maybe increase.

Looking out the door she saw Ursula, followed by her grumpy brother Karl. Seeing the duo, Johanna had to laugh a bit.

***​

Meanwhile, Konrad was reading a document. A complaint about too lazy and expensive laborers. He sighed and gave the document back to Augustin.
"Again?", he asked with a sigh.
"Again."

Both were not surprised. They got a lot of complaints during the last weeks. And the sender was always the same: Bishop Almerich of Prüm. Konrad has met him only once a few years ago. He remembered him as a kind man and good Christian. Except when it came to money. His will, no, obsession to amass wealth and spend as little as possible is well-known and in a sharp contrast with the ideal of a life in poverty.

A few months ago the Bishop had decided to build a palisade around his seat and since then he harassed the Count with demands. Wood, Laborers, Craftsmen. And of course everything was too late, not good enough and too expensive.

"What are we going to do with this?"
"We reduce his share of the laborer`s payment a bit.", said Augustin and added, when he saw Konrad`s skeptic expression, "The Count`s order. No quarrel with the church."

Konrad did shrug and thought: `Too bad that I`m not a cleric.`
 

Stuckenschmidt

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Anno Domini 1083

`That`s the life.`, Jacob thought. He was returning from Köln, where he had bought two horses for his master, Marshall Gerhard. Crossing the Rhine with the ferry had been an adventurous enterprise, but after a few minutes of sheer terror, all passengers reached the safe western bank of the river.

But, to be perfectly frank, this was the only dangerous encounter during the last years. Quite the contrary, the county of Jülich enjoyed a very peaceful period and it was almost as if everyone was busy to care for their families. Agnes was married and will be mother in about half a year. And the two older sons of Count Gerhard now have sons too, securing the line of succession and stability in the realm.

Riding out of a wood, he could see Jülich in the distance. Time to come home. He was eager to see Clara again. Maybe she wasn`t the most beautiful woman around with her chubby hips, but he met her when she started to work as maid in the castle`s kitchen, and her baked goods were unmatched. And, maybe, if they are lucky and God smiled down on them, they will be parents too sometime.

***​

After bringing the horses to the stable, he reported back to Marshall Gerhard, who was pretty pleased with Jacob`s purchases.

Afterward, Jacob had some free time, and just like his father he enjoyed spending some time with Bernhard, also the good man was getting old and lost a bit of his passion. Except when it came to heathens.

"Oh, my boy, what times do we live in, when Christian Kingdoms fight each other, while the Muslim infidels, unrepentant in their idolatry toward their false God, threaten to destroy the last strongholds of the one and true faith on Iberian soil."


Jacob asked about the latest events and obviously the Caliph, some kind of Muslim Pope, called for a Holy War against Duke Pere I of Barcelona. No less obvious he can`t hope for any help from his fellow Kings. The Emperor was still busy fighting versus the Italians. And, as of late, the English King William I, whose Mercenaries are plundering Holland and Frisia.

Jacob scratched his head.
"Why don`t we start a Holy War against them?", he asked himself. He had no answer, but maybe the Pope had better things to do.