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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Marschalk

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Hello, guys!

This is my first ever CKII AAR (the first one started in Paradox, frankly speaking). Its background and main aim is quite simple - I need to finish a normal AAR, in order to get a permission to start a CKII Interactive IAAR, which I most utmostly desire. As I started the game, I (as it always happens with me) started loving the story and the characters. Hope that you will enjoy it as well, and not judge this newby attempt too harshly :happy:

This is a CKII Aragonese AAR, starting in 1066. The aim of the game is, naturally, to unite Spain or come as closely to is as possible. I will always be roleplaying the traits of the characters during this game.

The form of the IAAR is a following: it is a series of letters/diaries of a minor nobleman (random courtier), Hermengildo de Huesca, who enters into service of the King of Aragon and describes his experiences at the court of his sovereign in a narrative manner. I must also ask the readers to see the Medieval Europe of this game as some sort of an alternative world, since some details, for IG reasons, may not correspond with the historical ones.

Yours sincerely,
Marschalk
 
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Marschalk

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Prologue: A First Letter, where Hermenegildo de Huesca meets his Fate (January - September 1066)


Ermengol de Huesca, Narrator. 25 years old, Midas Touched, Lustful, Arbitrary, Charitable, Gluttonous


A few monthes has passed since we have parted, and my eyes fill with tears and ears with the cries of sorrowful banshees (as the Kelts call them), when I think of you. I still remember the happy days, when, after having received an arrow in the leg during the Barbastro expedition, I could rest in our family manor, Huesco Antiguo. I wept, when I remembered the joyful experience of emptying our wine cellars, eating loads of my favourite jamon serrano and playing with the fair maidens of the nearby villages. However I am thankful to you for banishing me from this blissful paradise. I still remember the way you chastised me for my Lustful, Arbitrary and Gluttonous nature and hoped that the Charitable side of my character will prevail. I remember the way you reminded me about the ancient House I belong to, namely, about the fact that de Huesca come from a line of Roman settlers, who traveled here with Sertorius and that a nearby city bears our name! I remember the way you told me that I despoil our family crest, the white-and-blue shield, with my laziness and indecisiveness. You also very frankly have mentioned that I am the ninth son in the family, that our father has died fighting the Saracens two decades ago and you do not have enough victuals to feed such a greedy young mule as me.

This is why, after long conversations (some of them including severe damages to the furnuiture) we have decided that I will leave for Jaka, the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon, and offer my sword and allegiance to our sovereign, King Sancho I. You gave me a fine grey stallion (his legs are slightly weak, but this is not the point), the old lance, sword and chainmail armor my father wore during the Battle of Taffala, a bag full of jamon – and a blessing. I gave you a last kiss and promise to write you every now and then. Unless, of course, I am hanged or eaten by the Saracens, in this case it will be hardly manageable

Now, when I have finally settled in Jaca, let me describe you my adventures. Please forgive me for some details that will not be very pleasant and will not show me in good light – but you have made me give an oath to describe everything as it was. And men of House de Huesca never break their promises.

When I entered the city, it immediately amazed me - with wideness of its greazy streets, quantity of sour and sweet smells (all of them disgusting, but still magnificent) coming from various food shops, with the round brass helmets of the city guards, decorated with feathers. But more than anything else – with the number of languages spoken there. As I rode through the crowd near the city gates, I felt as if I was participating in the building of Tower of Babel


City of Jaca

Arab street merchants in brown rags and white turbans were chattering in their diabolical dialect and selling bananas and tamarinds to all willing persons. A yellow-faced Jew grabbed me by thigh, and, mixing Hebrew with Spanish, offering to get me the most hot lass in town. Several red-faced Francs were laughing and exchanging jibes…

-ATTENTION! – a loud voice sounded like a blessing to me, for it spoke in good Spanish language. I looked up and saw a tall man in red-and-gold mantle standing on a special plinth. He was holding a sceptre of black oak in his hand and waving it around quite energetically. He had a short black beard, a wilful face and a heavy jaw. This seigneur looked so imposing, that I decided to question my neighbor, a middle-aged hidalgo with broken nose.

- Pray, Seigneur, is that the King? – I asked, my voice sounding rather timid.

- The King? – the hidalgo laughed and looked at me as if I was mad. When he opened his mouth, I saw that the half of his teeth were missing, and the other half was rotten – Not, but close enough. It is Don Sancho Ramirez, the Lord Marschal of the Kingdom. And the half-brother to our sovereign. Now get lost, or he will not notice me bowing to him!


Sancho Ramirez, Lord Marshal of Aragon, Skilled Tactician, Bastard, Chaste, Deceitful, Arbitrary, Kind, 7-10-5-6-5

I gaped. Sancho Ramirez was not the best of warlords – but he was the natural son of the late King Ramiro the First! Now I recognized the man, even though I was used to seeing him in a steel helmet and with a mace in the hand, not in this court attire. Still I knew him, and if he remembered….

In meanwhile Ramirez continued his speech.

- Our lord, the King, has hereby decreed. The city of Huesca, that up to now enjoyed mayoral governance, will now lose these privileges. For too long has it ignored the wishes of the King, for too long it did not pay the taxes needed by the Crown. Only five golden francs from the twenty yearly earned by these greedy citizens reached the coffers of His Majesty! Therefore now this city will be owned by the King and ruled directly by his governors!

The crowd cheered – more out of a habit, it clearly did not care about the fate of some distant burghers. I, however, opened my mouth in suprise, never expecting my humble hometown being mentioned in the capital – and in such a context. I must say that I did not feel any pity. I never liked Mayor Ramon and other stuffy magistrates from the City Council. I would always prefer a proper hidalgo running the show – not that my opinion was asked here…

The Marschall looked around warily and started riding away. Fulfilling the commission of the King, he clearly intended to leave. During that moment I understood what to do – more by instinct than by reason.

- Your Highness! Your Highness! Please… Just one minute! – I bellowed, and spurred my horse forwards. The people around me squeaked, and guards surrounding the half-brother to the King raised their striped lances. However the Lord Marschall stopped them, advanced and glanced at me briefly.

- Do not call me «Highness», boy, King Ramiro just fucked my mother, he did not give her any titles or anything…

Now I could see the face of the man closely. It was a typical Jimena face – gruff features, neat beard, sparkling black eyes. He had something cunning in his lips, but the smile was kind...

– Jesus Christ… Do I know you?

- Yes, Your High… seigneur! – I felt that I was gulping the words - Hermenegildo de Huesca… Son of Ramon de Huesca… He was your sworn knight during the Battle of Taffala, and I served as his squire

- My God! Ramon de Huesca! The man saved my life at Taffala, you know, this scimitar would have got me otherwise! – the Marschall told one of his confidents and jumped down. Then he hugged me – I sent your mother money, wine and fruit then. It was really a pity…

- Yes, sir… - I said. To be honest, mother, at the moment I thought more of myself than of the deceased – forgive me God!

- So, what happened to you then? You were in other campaigns as well? Served Don Blasco de Torrio, I think? Did you get your spurs? – after this series of quick questions, Sancho Ramirez closed his mouth and looked at me inquiringly

- No, sir, I fought in various battles, including Barbastro expedition… Even led small troops of men-at-arms… But I could not afford the cost of appropriate armor and horse, therefore, could not be knighted…

- By God, it is time – you are already... ah, twenty-five! I have heard that you were wounded during the Barbastro expedition. What happened to you after that? – the Marschall asked.

- Well, I spent some time in a monastery, healing… Used this time to learn Hebrew and Greek… I also helped the Abbot to translate some texts from Latin! – I said, feeling uneasiness. The things I was speaking about were unappropriate for a warrior. I was afraid that Ramirez would laugh at me and send me to the bishop instead. Usually other nobles and knights reacted in that way. I prayed that this time I will be mistakn and he will take it normally.

He did not.

The Marschall crossed his arms on his fat belly and guffawed.

- Satan and his horns! Hebrew! Latin! And I wanted to ask you, whether you can read or write… - Sancho put his heavy hand on my shoulder – How did you learn all this? Or, more precisely – why?

- Being one of the youngest sons in the family… Mother wanted me to be a monk… - I mumbled. Then I suddenly gained my courage and knelt before Sancho – My lord, I ask you to take me into your – and royal – service… Even as an ordinary footmen…

Sancho told me to rise and looked at me with his beady dark eyes. The thick beard was hiding a smile.

- A footmen? My boy, you will be much more that that. You will become my squire and personal secretary. If you serve me well, you would receive your spurs very soon. Now come with me and do not ask questions – soon I will explain to you my plans for one clever young man…

This is when my proper life in the capital started, mother. I started residing in the mansion of the Lord Marschall, a modest two-storey building not far from the royal castle. It did not contain any valuable carpets or furnuiture, was not decorated with Jimena coat-of-arms (even though the Marschall had the right to bear it) and overall gave the impression of a dwelling of a midlevel nobleman or a rich merchant, not a brother to the monarch. Once, when I asked, Sancho Ramirez explained the situation to me in a quite direct manner.

- Remember once and forever, boy, I am a Ramirez, not a Jimena! – he growled, holding my ear - I know some people say that I could have lived in the palace, like the Chancellor, Prince Garcia, the real and legitimate brother to the King! But it would only draw attention and ire of my enemies and friends – as well as of my master. I may not be a very good general (which is true, do not argue), but I am a fine courtier, this is why I am still alive and kicking!

After this discussion my ear was red for a long time. However the excellent meats served in the Ramirez mansion, as well as his obliging chambermaids, soon made me forget about all problems

And one day the Lord Marschall told me to accompany him to the castle. We were to visit a session of the Royal Council. This is when I understood what my true purpose was.

- You will make special notes for me, better in a mix of foreign languages you know. We will have to invent some kind of code. Need to keep track of all that is happening, without risks of it being discovered. However today I allow just to write all down in Spanish. Need to check how good you are with your quill.

In a few hours trembling me and Sancho Ramirez, confident and handsome as ever, arrived at the Jaca Castle, the residence of the King of Aragon, Sancho the First.

I must say that I was too qualmish to notice much – therefore I will not able to describe you the castle well. I can only say that, by our standards, it was a rather sound mott-and-bailey fortress, with narrow slits and walls of grey stone. Nothing to compare with the Frankish or German keeps I saw, of course.

The only thing that drew my attention that day were the walls in the corridors, decorated with a rather interesting barrelief. The marble was engraved with many scenes from the ancient mythology, there were Heracles, Perseus, Alexandre the Great. But I could not find any crosses or other holy symbols there

When I asked my master about that, he only laughed

- You still have much to learn, boy, the world is not like your home village. Our monarch has a very ambitious soul, therefore he wants to live surrounded by heroes. And he is not religious, goes to the church only when he has too, has not received the Sacraments for a year... – here Sancho lowered his voice, and added – The King says that… that God gives much less than His servants claims for his services!

I gasped and crossed myself, and even Marschall frowned.

- Well, you will see him soon enough.

And I did.

In fifteen minutes we entered a small room. It looked very insignificant –a round table of black oak, a few benches. I only realized that we arrived, when Marschall took his place at the head of the table, and told me to sit down on one of the distant benches, and prepare my quill and paper.

I quickly sat myself on the cold wood, next to a fat jolly-looking monk. He smiled, showing a perfect set of white teeth.

- A new boy in the ranks? Well, my name is Brother Huberto, and I am secretary to…

- Patience, Your Majesty! The Saracen dragon is sleeping and will not awake in a next few decades, I guarantee! The world is not turmoilous now, and great powers will always stay great powers! – a high voice suddenly said. I looked up and saw the speaker, who was now sitting to the left hand to the Marschall. It was a tall prelate with honest aquiline features, a short moustache and unassuming grey eyes. He was wearing a red-and-gold Jimena mantle and a white damask of a bishop – Princess Sancha should marry young King Phillipe, connecting two great thrones!

- I serve him… Prince Garcia, the brother to the King, Bishop of Barbastro, Chancellor of the Realm – the clergyman sighed, and passed me a silver goblet – A kind man, if a bit rash – but not a diplomat, if you ask me. Always fighting windmills. This marriage was decided weeks ago – and I would not call Christendom that pacified at the moment…


Amazed by his frankness, I took a gulp from the cup – and yelped. It was clear water. The monk chuckled.

- You will have to get used to it. Our King is known for his Temperance and hates when his councilors overindulge themselves. Always only bread and water during the councils. And the councils can last for hours – our sovereign is so diligent that he can spend days discussing this or that paper… I always take some cheese and wkne with me...


Meanwhile the Chancellor continued his speech.

- At the same time, dear brother, with Mauretan beast near us, we would need a good ally among the neighbours. Castille However, Duke Ramon-Berenguer of Barcelona is already married…

- And too ugly and withered – a melodic voice suddenly said. I saw two girls sitting several rows ahead. The one speaking had a handsome oval face with daring eyes, sturdy chin and sleek black hair. She was wearing a gown of brown silk and a ruby amulet on her slim neck. Near her was sitting a pretty girl in black clothes. She was clearly a younger sibling, her features were similar to the ones of the speaker, they were even more beatifull – but somehow they were much more meek and humble. She clearly did not like the attention, her hands were crossed on her breasts and she was silently praying. When I looked at her, I irrationally felt something like pity.


Sancha the Pious, Princess of Aragon, future Queen of France

- Elder Urraca and the younger Sancha, sisters to the King! – the monk whispered to me, giggling – The clever and the good!

… As I have said, when you interrupted me, dear sister… - the Chancellor continued, when the courtiers stopped laughing – The noble cousins of his Majesty, the Kings of Leon and of Castille refused to make a matrimony with Princess Urraca… However, Don Garcia II, the King of Galicia, have agreed

- Refused? – the voice that said these words was very deep and calm. There was even amusement in the intonation – but I suddenly felt cold. Even before I raised my eyes, I understood that it was the King speaking.

Sancho, First of this name, the King of Aragon, Count of Alto Aragon, Lord of Jaka, rose from his ornate chair and walked towards the Chancellor. The monarch was tall and muscled, had a sturdy jaw line and cold calculating eyes. He sported a doublet of golden velvet, his beard and whiskers were well-trimmed – but it were his gestures and intonations that gave him the majestic air.


King Sancho of Aragon, 24 years old, Flamboyant Schemer, Ambitious, Cynical, Temperate, Diligent, Ambitious, 10-9-12-15-5

- We are not good enough for them, eh? Just because my grandfather Antso gave their forefathers a slightly bigger portion of land than to mine? One day they will… - here the King suddenly stopped, and smiled in a most pleasant way – Ah, we must not forget the reason of our meeting. We have agreed that it is most beneficient for Princess Urracca to marry our cousin, Galicia, and Princess Sancha to be betrothed to his most august Majesty, King Philipe of France... Do you, sisters, have anything that is against the idea?

I was surprised – I never could contemplate that a woman might be asked such a question. However these women did not surprise me with their answers.

- I have heard he is a fine man, and I would liven him up! – Urraca said, her eyes gleaming – and another fit of laughter erupted.

- I will execute your will, Sire! – whispered Sancha, and quickly left the room, followed by her damsels.

- Excellent! Now, sirs, I want you, sirs, to discuss one more matter, before we dine. – the King sat down again, and scratched his protruding chin – As you know, when our grandfather, Antzo the Great, shared his lands between the sons, he has rewritten his will many times. The final version was found after his death – but was it really final? A few days ago I was informed, that a week before going to the Lord, this illustrious King has signed a special deed, under which, in addition to the land of Aragon, he passed to my father Ramiro the County of Navarra… Which is currently, according to the previous outdated version of the will, held by my beloved cousin, King Antzo IV of Navarra…

A few minutes ago everybody were drinking and whispering. But now silence erupted. The courtiers were trying to contemplate the information. I myself felt uneasiness, trying to understand the message… Hold on!

- If… if such document exists, it should be found. Lord Chancellor! It would be your responsibility! – the King said heavily, looking at his brother.

- I would do as you say, my liege – Prince-Bishop Garzia answered, bowing to the King – I would immediately send… my best lawyers to study the archives in Navarra…

A man with a thin nervous face, covered by blue veins, with a glove of a falconer on his right hand, stood up.

- Word to the Justiciar of the Kingdom of Aragon!

- Justiciar? Isnt he the official responsible for upkeeping our Aragonese constitution and laws, that even the King cannot break? – I asked the monk.

- Yes, yes, formally yes! – he said, giggling in a quite disgusting way – But it is only one side of the coin, you silly boy! The Justiciar is also called the spymaster, since he runs all the little birds of the King, both in Aragon and aboard. And Don Vela de Barbasco would sell each and every law for a coin!

-My liege! It is possible that our lawyers would be harassed by Navarrese lords, during their… studies– Justiciar Barbasco answered, bowing to the King – I propose to send my representatives that would undermine such attempts… And show these trying to stop just investigation in proper light! Of course, completely secretly.

- Good! – the King said, and looked at another courtier. It was a sturdy broad-shoulder fellow, dressed in green, with a rather boring face – and strict unblinking eyes. His fingers were covered by rings with different jewels that contrasted strangely with his modest outfit.

- Dear Don Flain de Almudevar, my good Steward… If a war with… Moslems would suddenly start, would we have enough gold for extraordinary measures? – Sancho I inclined his head in a jabot collar.

- Sire, in your coffers there are currently 86 golden ducats, and now, when you became the owner of Huesca, you can earn as much as 45 ducats each year… If you are willing, I will be ride through the province and collect additional hearth and ox taxes… - the steward bowed, as the King demonstrated his agreement by a gesture of a hand.

- And you, my Lord Marschall, please call the banners of my good vassals and inspect their militias… We need to have a guarantee that our men know which end of the lance to use, if the worst happens and the Saracen swines attack us – the King instructed Sancho, who kept silence during the whole meeting – Now, lets go and dine!

When we left the room, Brother Huberto grumbled.

- Now we must be very lucky for Navarrese not to find out what kind of legalists we will be sending to their lands! Honestly, this is what he is like – create an excellent plan and then start chattering about it in the middle of a crowd! No wonder he is called a flamboyant schemer…

As I ate a pheasant and drank red wine at the royal feast, I still had many things to think over. Did the King really discover some claims to the Navarrese lands – or was it all a trick? Was it not a deadly sin anyway, attacking your Christian neighbor, when there were many filthy heathens around? Did he really prepare his troops for holy war – or was it a lie?

However, I did not have much time to ponder on it. Sancho demanded from me to show him what I have written – and then gave me a trashing. He said that, since I was writing in Spanish, I should have only written down the essence, not everything that was said during the council. He threatened that he would not take me to the council once again – and that it would the last time I saw the King.

However somehow I was sure it was not so. And so it wasn’t.
Your sincerely,
Ermengol de Huesco, Hidalgo, Squire and Secretary to the Lord Marschall of Aragon



The Royal Castle of Jaca, residence of the Aragonese Kings
 
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GreatUberGeek

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Great first update, Marschalk! Also: CK2 IAAR? ;)
 

Marschalk

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Apr 27, 2013
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  • Crusader Kings II
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GreatUberGeek

Count of the Netflix Binge-Watch
4 Badges
Aug 8, 2013
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  • Crusader Kings II
  • Victoria 2
  • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
Thanks! Yes, I have already drafted the rules for this CK2 IAAR)
It's just that, unlike all the other Pdox games, CK2 has characters set up-everywhere. :p
 

Marschalk

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Second Letter, where Hermenegildo de Huesca sounds the horns of War (September 1066 - November 1067)

Dear Mother,

I did not have much opportunity to write you for a while, but not at least have. Here is the story of the last year I have spend serving the King of Aragon.

In September 1066 Marschall Rodrigez and me swiftly started fulfilling the commission of the King. We travelled from fief to fief, from village to village, from town to town. And reminded the able men of these areas about the obligation to serve the King with lance and sword during the time of trouble. Sometimes reminded forcefully.

- You damned pigs! It is not enough that we had to pay every copper and sickle, when the Kings sister married this southern busybody! – an old woman was crying, as her muscled son was led away by recruiters. She was shaking her frailed fist.


- We do not take him for long, you know. Only for maneuvers! – I said, but did not sound convincing. Clearly the old woman thought so as well - for I had to dodge a dozen of rotten eggs and an angry cat as I left her hovel.

Many of the soldiers came willingly, though. Young farmers boys seeking for adventures readily cut lances for themselves, eager to join the light infantry. Burly knechts in heavy cuirasses, armed with maces and axes, and archers in green linen sold their services to the crown without hesitation . Mounted hidalgos and knights, sporting different banners and shields (some of them alone, some accompanied by small troops) flocked under the royal standard, talking about victories over Saracens.

As we assembled on the field near Loarre and started training the lot, Lord Marschall was still not pleased.

- Only 1990 men, and only one sixth of them can be called soldiers! The Navarrese or Arabs will eat them with lettuce! – he grumbled, as he watched an exceedingly young noble trying to climb on his mangy horse.

And he continued sending couriers to every part of the country, hiring, blackmailing, soothing, threatening. Somehow we needed to raise as much troops as possible and as quickly as possible. But why I still did not know. Meanwhile I assisted the Lord Marschall to captain and teach our new-formed army – somehowmany even did not not how to sit in the saddle or with which end of the lance to pierce the enemy. With much surprise I found myself in the position of en experienced warrior.

In October we suddenly saw a large procession cantering towards us. It was clearly coming from our capital. There were about a hundred nobles in gleaming armor, wearing cloaks of red silks and sporting surcoats with the emblem of the golden castle, symbol of Castille. Their leader, an very elderly man with rosy cheeks and ugly sliced forehead, small grey beard and imperious manners, stopped near the Marschall.


Don Muno de Castilla, Count of Asturias de Santilliana, Special Envoy of King Sancho II of Castille, Scarred, Wroth, Gregarious, Arbitrary, Slothful, Proud, Content

- I bid thee good day, Ramirez! I see that your King has once again demonstrated his unwillingness to serve the cause of Christ! Now, when my noble master, King Sancho of Castille, together with his august cousin, King Alfonso of Leon, have decided to attack the heathens in Aftasid and Hunid emirates, to reconquer Badajos and Aragonese lands… Your master has refused us his help! What kind of Christian is he?

- Say one more bad word about my sovereign, Count Muno of Asturias, and I will throw you the glove! – the Marschall answered. The both men looked at each others for a minute or too, as two angry tigers, and the Castillian cavalcade trotted away, only leaving clouds of murky dust.

For a few days I felt very troubled with the situation. And finally decided to ask Ramirez, whether he thought that this conduct of the King, who prepared to attack Navarra and refused his Catholic brothers help, appropriate.

I expected him to be mad at me, but he only smiled.

- Look around, Hermenegildo, and tell me what you see. No, I know that you see piles of dungs, lazy mules, greazy peasants and lots of sun. I want you to see more broadly. We live in a middle-sized county that we, for some reason, call a Kingdom. Hell, even most Frankish counts are richer that our monarch! And we are surrounded by fat and greedy neighbours – Leon has nine provinces, Castille – four, even Navarre two! I am not even speaking about Moslems. And all of them are very eager to gobble us up – why do you think they wanted our King to send his small army to this war, benefitting only them? In order to destroy it and then make Aragon an easy prey. And you wanted Sancho to be that stupid?


Therefore I continued to live in the abovementioned way. I must say that it was not unpleasant. The wife of the local miller, one Anne, was a saucy busty little thing, and I spend a lot of happy hours with her – and the table of the Marschall was, as always, good.

In the middle of October 1066 Sancho Ramirez suddenly received a letter from the King, which left him grinning like mad.

- See what I said? Our neighbours are like a pack of wolves They cannot desist from fighting each other even when united by the common cause, a war with Moslems. King of Galicia has decided to take Badajos from Castille, and Navarra supported him! And this is when all of them were supposed to be striking down the enemies of Christ! Ha! No better that mongrel dogs, if you ask me!

But then, in a week or so, one nice Sunday, when I was having a good nap, I was suddenly woken up by the church bells that rang quite disturbingly. When I looked out of the window, I saw the local Abbot preaching loudly. The fat clergyman was surrounded by inhabitants of Loarre, from peasants to the castellan of the castle himself.

- God be with you, good Aragonese. Today our noble King Sancho has decided to defend the cause of Christ! Together with the Kings of Navarre and Castille he will lead his crusader troops against the evil Emir of Hudids, to reconquer our ancestral Aragonese lands, Saraqusta, Calatayud and Albarracin! Come on, you good Christians, follow your King, take the Cross and free your oppressed brothers in these lands, tyrannized by the wicked and false!

I am dumbstruck, but Lord Marschall was laughing like mad.

- See? He used this time to bargain with Navarrese, Leonese and Castillians, agreeing to take Hudids, if they would agree to give him their Aragonese provinces…

However, one way or another, we suddenly started to prepare to the war swiftly. King Sancho arrived, magnificent in his armor of silvered steel and golden helmet shaped as the head of the lion. He was followed by Prince-Bishop Gartzia of Barbastro, who as wearing his church clothes over grey chainmail and many other noble knights and hidalgos. It was decided that the King would lead the whole army and the centre, his brother Prince Gartzia the left flank, and my master, Sancho Ramirez – the right.

- It is an insult! A cleric getting equal share of command as the warrior! Just because his mother spread her legs before King Ramiro after marriage, unlike my poor old woman... – the Lord Marschall muttered, but followed the orders. I, of course, was in the retinue of my seigneur, riding the same grey stallion and wearing the same old chainmail you, Mother, so gratiously granted to me. In addition to that I only bought a fine spiked mace, of Toledan work, from the royal blacksmith. I felt that I would need it in the next monthes or even years.


The Skullcrusher, the famous mace of Hermengildo de Huesca

Now I should tell you about the war.

In December 1066 we crossed the borders of Saraqusta. It amazed me that the region was very much alike to our home province – the same sunlit peach, orange and almond trees, same majestic arches, great quantity of flowers of different colors everywhere. However the province was rather deserted – the Moslem nobles and rich merchants fled, being afraid of our army. At the same time their Christian compatriots greeted us quite enthusiastically – I am sorry to mention it, Mother, but I have broken many maidenheads these days! Of course, I confessed the sin later.


Region of Saraqusta


During these early days of the march I managed to get commended by the monarch himself. It was when we met the foe for the first time.

When we were coming through a wide field of dandallions, not far from the capital of this taifa, also called Saraqusta, a small group of Moslems suddenly blocked out way. They were riding fine young destriers, some as white as their turbans and cloaks - and some as chestnut as their faces. The clothes and chainmail of these Arabs were covered with green crescents and golden hand symbols (something they call «the hand of Fatima», if I remember right). They were armed with lances and bows, and none of them were older thant 18. They numbered to 28 – while our whole army consisted of several thousands.


The Saraqustian Militia of the Prophet

- Stop, heathens! – one of them said. It was clearly their leader, since he was holding a richly decorated scimitar in his hand – We are the Militia of the Prophet, and will not let you come through. Our fathers, the nobility of the regions, have fled, but we have stayed and we are ready to die for Allah! I am Jellal-ibn-Mustafi, son of the Governor of Saraqusta.

However the King told us to continue going, and then one of these youths shot from his bow and killed a man-at-arms called Pedro Homez. The King grew really angry and told me to take fifty riders and chop the heathens to bits.

This is was my moment of glory, mother! Leading a gang of brave hidalgos, I cantered towards the insolent youths. Their arrows flew at us, but were intercepted by our shields and heavy armor. When I reached the enemies, I swung my mace and split the skull of Jellal-ibn-Mustafi. Sadly enough, his brains flew out and dirtied my brand-new cloak of red silk, presented to me by Lord Marschall. I was so angry that immediately slew five more Moslems with my mace. My men finished off the rest, taking no prisoners.

- Allmighty God, you know how to kill, de Huesca! – the gracious sovereign exclaimed. After that he told me to kneel and knighted me, before the whole army. I was gifted with golden spurs, a double-edged sword with a cruciform hilt, a brand-new cloak of Aragonese gold-and-red colors and allowed to keep three of the Moslem stallions as prizes. One of them I decided to ride, while two others sold to a rich hidalgo. I was also told that I now can call myself «Don Hermenegildo», have my own squire and the Marschall cannot hit me any longer. Don Sancho Ramirez seemed sad about that. This is how, Mother, you son has won great glory, and I am sure that you will be happy to read about it – and pray for my future successes in the royal service.


Don Hermenegildo de Huesca taking his oathes as the knight, Portrayed by a family painter in the 13th century.

By January 1067 we have reached the city of Saraqusta, set our tents and started to siege it. The capital of the emirate amazed me with towers of white marble, with the hundreds of green banners waivering on its walls and the strange sounds of the Mudjedar belltower that was constantly disturbing our sleep at night, as if predicting our deaths. Knowing it is the capital of the Hudids, I expected a hard and bloody battle – but Emir Ahmad preferred to lead his main troops elsewhere, clearly to meet large Castillian, Barcelonian and Navarrese hosts, leaving seven hundred guardsmen under some minor taifa to protect the city. At the same time our army, after all the recruiting done by me and Marschall Sancho, amounted to 2408 men, including 646 lancers, 144 pikemen, 182 archers, 718 heavy infantrymen and 718 brave knights and hidalgos! Surely they were no match for us!

The Siege of Saraqusta

So it turned out more of a boring event then dangerous (as most sieges usually are). Each and every day we bombarding their walls with stones from our catapults, exchanging arrows – and, at the same time, whoring, eating and gambling. It must be noted that both us, siegers, and the defendants, had large amounts of food and women, so the thing could take long.

I must say such soldiering suited me very much – but it did not suit the King. You see, both the Castillian and Navarrese wanted to reconquer the Aragonese lands as well, so it was a kind of race between the allies – who would be quicker. Also our sovereign, being young and full of strength, wishes to become exalted among men and win glory of a warlord. Therefore Sancho I kep grumbling about our indecisiveness, reminding us about the fact that a joint Castillian-Galician army has defeated a gigantic Hudid host in Molin and is already laying siege of all its main fortresses.

Soon, however, I had a good opportunity to assist my sovereign in his ambitions -and win certain acclaim.

It happened in November 1067, after 11 monthes of siege, I was appointed to command a night watch, assigned to guard the east side of our camp from possible attacks. Since such did not happen since our arrival, it was more or less of a sinecure – if a boring and nonbeneficial job can be called in such a way.

I have drunken a lot of wine and ale before that patrol and soon felt that I needed a piss. Leaving the command to another hidalgo, called Juan de Bustro, I went to the nearby bushes. When I started to take my bridges off, I suddenly heard a tender voice near me calling in Arabic (I must say that I have mastered the basics of the language during the years). It was whispering.

- Effendi! Effendi!

I immediately grabbed a pearl-encrusted dagger (one of the little playthings I bought myself after selling one of the Arabian horses) and jumped in the direction of the voice. In a moment I pinned a small Moslem boy to the ground, placing the edge to his throat. Only after doing that I looked at the child. It was a Saracen, with a thin face, shallow cheeks, short grizzly hair and big almond eyes. He was dressed in a rags of something that was a rich tunic in the past.

- Who are you? Spy? – I growled, looking at the Muslim.

- No, effendi! I want to work for you! For Christian! I am one myself! – the boy cried and crossed himself eagerly. I was so shocked that let him go. And he, instead of running, started to blurt out his story.

The name was Rasul (Robert in Christening). His family was of higher nobility, its head being «a Wali», as he explained. The father of the youth, a Wali, took a Christian girl, as one of his wifes. Rasul was her son and she secretly taught him her faith. When Emir Ahmad founded it out, he became so angry that he had the mother of the boy drowned, his father banished and the child was made a slave. He was not killed only because his parent was the third cousin to the Emir.

- And now I want to help… To avenge my mother… - Rasul-Robert explained, swallowing his own tears.

It might has all been a roose – but somehow, looking into the eyes of the boy, too serious and too sorrowful for his age, I believed him. I decided to take Rasul to the Marschall and discuss how could we use him.

However our tent was empty, and the sleepy servant told me that Sancho Ramirez was having a late council with the King. After some hesitation I went towards a big tent of red-and-black, the temporary residence of Sancho Jimena.

When I entered it, the King, as always ready to work at any time of the day and night, the gruff and displeased Marschall and another high-ranked knight in snow-white surcoat (that I did not recognize at first) were kneeling before the plan of Saraqusta. All of them were amazed to see me arrive, followed by a greazy Saracen boy.

For shortness I would not list all the epithets, questions and exclamations, which they uttered, as I told them the story of the boy.
When I finished, Sancho Ramirez immediately cried:

- And you propose us to believe the boy? We should kick him out immediately. Trusting a Saracen – and a Judas in addition to that! One willing to sell his own!

- One uses the methods that would give more benefit – the King said wryly.

- And if we do not accept the service of the boy, we should cut his throat. He may be dangerous – a very quiet voice in the other end of the tent suddenly said. I looked there – and saw the spiderly figure of Vela de Barbasco, the Justiciar and Spymaster. Even though the night was warm, he was wearing a broad black cloak - Also... I questioned some prisoners few days ago. They told me the story of Wali Kemal and his unhappy matrimony. This cur seems to be speaking the truth.


Don Vela de Barbastro, Justiciar and Spymaster of Aragon, Naive Appeaser, Falconer, Just, Greedy, Cruel, Paranoid

- Seigneurs, we should at least listen to the plan of Don Hermengildo – and the boy! – the knight in white surcoat – and winked to me reassuringly. He had a handsome face with a straight nose and sparkling green eyes. I at least recognized him – it was Felipe de Barbastro, the Captain of the Royal Guard. A tourney champion and a descendant of an ancient Crusader family that owned lands in the regions since the times of King Pelayo, he was considered as one of the most able warlords in the army of Sancho I. All the current siege machines we used were constructed under his supervision. I knew that my master, Ramirez, secretly envied him.


Don Felipe de Barbastro, Captain of the Royal Guard, Brilliant Strategist, Humble, Gregarious, Wroth, Attractive, 2-16-9-9-7

- Well… I serve the constable of Northern Tower and his soldiers… I might open the gates and… - boy started, looking at the King fearfully.

- These damned gates are guarded by ten soldiers at least, right? They will hack you before you even shit yourself! – Sancho Ramirez growled – My liege, I advise strongly against…

Suddenly I had an idea – and blurted it out, before I even could think about the consequences.

- Wait, segneurs! Rasul… Robert, I mean, you said you assist the constable and his soldiers, right? And you probably bring them food as well?

The child nodded.

- Well, there are some… special essences that would put the guardsmen into strong sleep, do they not… or even worse… if the boy is ready… If he put it into their food and then opened the gate without abuse…

Before I even finished the whole tent – save for the Marschall - roared with laughter.

- You willy dog! – Felipe de Barbastro exclaimed, clapping my shoulder.

- A very fine move, Don Hermenegildo, you surely have more talents that all of us initially thought! – the lips of the King twisted into a pleased smile.

- We do have some very-very special potions… I would instruct the boy and provide them with such… - the Spymaster nodded approvingly.

Only Sancho Ramirez wasnt amused. He looked at us crossly – expecially at me.

- Sire, I am still against this plan! We cannot trust a mere child with such a task, rely on him! And also push him into actions that are close to murder – or are murder themselves! It is both unreasonable and godless! In this case, brother, I will not lead the charge…

Understanding what he had said, Lord Marschall closed his mouth abruptly. Cold silence reigned for a few minutes.

Then the King yawned and drank from his cup with clear water.

- In this case, half-brother, I will not burden you. Don Felipe de Barbastro will prepare the assault troops and led the charge. Don Vela, you will instruct the boy. Now it is time for sleep. I than you all for counsel – especially you, Don Hermengildo.

In the morning the city of Saraqusta was taken - with minimum blood. When our cavalry entered through the open gates, and few turbaned heads were chopped, most enemy Muslims decided to submit to us. However, some of them did not overlive the night – the Christian populace, angry because of years of oppression and abuses such as Jizra tax (which each non-Muslim in the emirate had to pay), massacred many of their past masters, robbing their houses.

Our army has plundered the city well, and many knights and soldiers acquired jewels, bits of precious silks, bags of exotic spices, excellent weaponry. I, however, was left penniless – at the day of the storm Don Sancho Ramirez sent me to forage in the nearby villages. It was clearly an ac of revenge.

However the King has not forgotten me. When I returned, he named me Captain of Scouts, giving me a command of two hundred hidalgos on swiftest horses and fifty archers. From now one I was to be present at all highest military councils.

The boy, Rasul-Robert, entered my employ as a servant. I never asked him about his actions at the siege night, whether he was forced to poison the guards or just make them sleepy. And, to be honest, do not intend to.

Soon we will be marching forward.

Sincerely yours,
Don Hermenegildo de Huesca, Knight of the Realm, Captain of Scouts in the Army of King Sancho of Aragon
Written at Saraqusta



Young Rasul-Robert ibn Kemali, Shieldbearer to Don Hermenegildo de Huesca in 1070
 
Last edited:

Belgiumruler

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well written! One thing though. you might consider not using light pink, it's really hard to see in HoI theme you know. But, keep up the good work!
 

DensleyBlair

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I shall have to catch up here, Mars. What you've done already looks very good, and I look forward to giving it the proper time and attention it deserves. :)

Also, I too shall register myself intrigued by the prospect of a CK iAAR...
 

Marschalk

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I shall have to catch up here, Mars. What you've done already looks very good, and I look forward to giving it the proper time and attention it deserves. :)

Also, I too shall register myself intrigued by the prospect of a CK iAAR...
Thanks, Densley! I must say I was must inspired by your excellent In the Footsteps of Charlemange narrative!

I really hope my dream of starting this IAAR would really come true one day...
 

Belgiumruler

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I really hope my dream of starting this IAAR would really come true one day...
It WILL come true! It MUST come true! But only if you update this one :p