Postcards From Eternity: a Megacampaign AAR

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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POSTCARDS FROM ETERNITY: A PARADOX MEGACAMPAIGN
---CK3-EU4-V2-HOI4---


The grand tapestry of history is a work of many hands and brushes. Some leave clearer marks than others, and these are collected, transcribed, analyzed and written into chronicles and academic works by renowned historians. Others leave less behind to know them by. Even the strangest and most unusual of destinies can be hidden in the great and terrible chaos of the years. Destinies such as ours.

We are a lone soul given immortality by a chance encounter with greater powers, a fluke of time and place. What shall the history of our life be - what shall we witness, where are we to go? The only evidence of your life is left in letters, journals, transcripts, chance mentions in footnotes and glimpses in the background of pictures. It is through these that we collect your story, the secret history of this world....

***

Hello and welcome to this Paradox Megacampaign AAR! This is not the first place I have posted this AAR - I started it over on Sufficient Velocity, but lack of participation has led me to take it elsewhere as well. Turns out the Paradox Forums are the sensible place to run Paradox AARs, whodathunk.

All in-universe posts of this AAR will be framed as letters, journals, excerpts from books and chronicles, bits of plays, songs or poems, transcripts of audio and other 'found footage' written by, describing or influenced by our protagonist, an immortal individual. This is a little experimental and I shall do my best to keep things legible and clearly tied to in-game events.

This will be heavily narrative AAR, dealing with the mysteries of this world and the story of our protagonist. I will, of course, provide 'out-of-character' updates on the state of the world when appropriate. Screenshots and maps will be there to provide context for narrative segments and events.

We will be starting with Crusader Kings 3, in the 1066 bookmark. The fan-made converters and any other necessary editing and modding will take us through Europa Universalis 4, Victoria 2 and finally Hearts of Iron 4. With HoI4, I intend to mod in a lot of content based on everything that has happened in this AAR, so at that stage we are not just talking about converter output. HoI4 is much less emergent and dynamic than the other Paradox titles, so writing it a scenario is necessary (and fun). If the end product is functional enough, I'll happily upload it here for your enjoyment.

Without further ado...

***​

History diverges from ours in the 1060s, when a terrible plague sweeps over the old world. This unnatural, malignant cataclysm plunges the continent into chaos and anarchy. This results in a collapse of state power, fragmenting the world into small, independent fiefdoms and territories. The starting scenario is Shattered World: Duchies.

In the chaotic aftermath, one soul finds their existence forever changed, cursed or blessed with never-ending life...
 
AD 1066; the First Journal

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ORIGINS: AD 1066, the First Journal

The Great Plague of the mid-11th century deeply damaged the sophisticated political landscape of the Italian peninsula. In the absence of legitimate Imperial power, local warlords and petty nobility were able to carve out entirely new local fiefdoms - in places centralizing previously fragmentary area, in others then fragmenting what had been larger and more cohesive powers. The end result was a chaotic no-man's-land, where any man or woman who gathered enough followers could seize power and legitimize their authority by pure force of arms. Of course, many such fledgling dynasties sought justifications from more esoteric sources as well; descent from legendary rulers, forged deeds to titles and estates, or even stranger, mystical sources of illumination, claiming grandiose deeds and destinies...

-From 'Chaos, the Mountain: Times of Crisis And What They Can Teach Us', by Giovanni Montefeltro (Napoli: 1967)

Journal, collected fragments, dated approx. Nov 1066:

I write these words knowing they are to be the confessions of a lunatic. To whoever comes to find this journal, be assured that I believe in the truth of my account with absolute certainty. Yet how could you, my reader? These pages offer nothing but blasphemy and madness, by my reckoning, but it is my honest recollection of all that has come to pass in these strange days. If there is a beginning to this tale, I must trace it to the plague fields of Toscana.

It was a bitter, cruel summer, bearing more of the autumn chill than it had any right to. Little rain fell on cracked-dry soil in all the months we struggled to live through. There was no autumn harvest to be had, no respite from the bleakness. Hungry people scoured the countryside and dragged the lords out of their castles to feast on their fat. Is it any surprise that the plague returned? We were too weak to resist, and our sins were beyond counting. Thousands and thousands died in endless columns of doomed souls. I walked with them until the days and months blurred into a nightmare without end. What family and friends I still had, I left behind on those fields of rot and decay.

I should have died with them. The plague fields claimed the strongest man and the smallest babe alike. I walked with the dwindling river of filthy, sick, dying souls until the river drained to a stream, then a mere trickle. And then there were none to walk with me.

I know now; I was delirious, hot with fever, weaker than a newborn babe, so doubt my faculties if you like. But I swear this is what came to pass. I stood alone on that corpse-laden stretch of road and saw Death.

He - it - they took the form of a great faceless giant shrouded in grey and ragged robes. This apparition faced me on that desperate field, rising high above the barren treetops. It made no sound and had nothing for the senses to make out, save for that terrible visage. It appeared to me they were surveying their handiwork in a state of displeasure. I fell to my knees there and called out to God, but it was the monstrous figure that answered.

YOU WILL NOT BE HEARD.

I cried out in fear, for that voice seemed to echo in the very confines of my mind. My emotions overwhelmed me and I awaited whatever unbearable fate this being had in store for me. Yet time passed and it did not slay me. I found the courage to address it, though I cannot say how.

'Are you Death?'

ONE OF MANY.

The answer made little sense to me, but I continued: 'Why, oh lord? Why have you taken so many?'

THEY ARE NOT MINE.

'I do not understand.'

IT MATTERS NOT. WHY ARE YOU HERE?

'My lord,' I said, 'surely you have brought me here? For some cause you have spared me, out of so many.'

NO. A terrible, heavy pause. SO BE IT. YOU WILL SERVE.

'Serve, my lord?'

TO UPHOLD WHAT REMAINS OF THE BALANCE. TO OBSERVE. TO STRIVE. HEED ME. YOU ARE DEAD, YET YOU STILL LIVE. WITNESS! THE GATE IS SHUT. DEATH SHALL ESCAPE YOU. NO RELIEF WILL BE THERE FROM THE BURDEN. GO NOW AND LIVE.

It is then that I died. And then, much later, that I came back to life. I cannot begin to describe the sensation that took me then. I lived - but why, when all that mattered to me was gone? When the world was surely ending? I wandered empty fields and death-claimed villages in vain hope of seeing another living soul, but no-one came out to meet me. Wherever I went, that terrible apparition - or something very like it - had passed there before me. I fell into despair, then, and sought to end the pain. I drowned myself in the Arno, felt the cold, choking waters take me, hoped that it would end it all. I died there a second time. And there I returned to life once more, hale and hearty as I'd ever been, a man in the prime of his life.

I shall spare you the months of turmoil and despair that held me then. Only when autumn arrived in full, and I came to understand that the hellish plague had passed at last and people still lived to know it - only then did I begin to think of what my future would hold.

***

tuscanysetup.jpg

Toscana, AD 1066.
 
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Mario I Guerra: AD 1066-1116

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MARIO I GUERRA, AD 1066-1116

Journal of Mario I Guerra, Duke of Tuscany, collected fragments:

29 SEPT 1066 AD



marioperson.jpg

On this day, I was crowned the rightful Duke of Tuscany. The local lords bowed down and kissed my ring; the Papal legate anointed my head and placed a crown upon my brow. It has all come to pass in such little time. Do not think that I crave power for its own sake. I only seek to bring peace and order back to this scarred land. It must be why I have been spared. The apparition spoke of balance. O God, let this be your will, not the devilry of that creature.

Any rivals to this throne lie dead or cowed into obedience. I have no illusions on the nature of power. I know they merely bide their time. If I am to keep this throne, if I am to fulfill the task set upon me by the Lord - then I must hold to my power through any means necessary. If I am ever to leave this mortal plane, O God, be merciful on my soul for the wrongs committed in your name.


mariomicaela.jpg


I have taken a wife from among my followers. She is a common girl of Florence, Micaela, a shepherd's daughter. My advisors protest my choice - they would see me wed to a woman of noble blood. Yet I am fond of Micaela; her keen mind, her drive to power, her crafty advice. She has little interest in men or unions of the flesh, but I do not think myself repulsive to her, and it is for the best. I find myself reluctant to father sons or daughters into this world. Are they to inherit my deathless existence? If not, must I then watch them grow old and pass where I shall always return? I do not share these thoughts with Micaela. She sleeps by my side even now... So very young, so full of life. I see the twitch of her lips as she dreams, the drift of her locks across her brow through the night. I seek to commit these details to memory, knowing I will have to lose her, knowing I will live on, forget. How many years am I to have with her? Can there ever be enough? How long until even these intricate peculiarities of her body and character are but dust, fading from me as everything fades but I?

Strange, guilty thoughts. A woman deserves a man who will care for her with the true love that knowledge of one's temporality brings. But are my feelings not love, just the same?


mario1.jpg

5 JAN 1067 AD

Tuscany is at peace. I write these words on the road to Rome, where I hope to receive an audience by His Holiness. The Holy Father has promised me wealth and favors for the restoration of Tuscany. I have many uses for such gold. Mine is a green and virtuous land, but the scars of the past ten years are deep. Castles lie abandoned ruins; once-thriving villages only hold the unburied remains of their inhabitants. Fields go untilled and orchards overgrow with none to pick their fruit. I have written to the Holy Father of these things, and in his Compassion he has offered to throw open the gates of his treasuries. Christendom is fortunate for such a leader.

Equally I desire to speak of God and Christ. The things I have seen leave me troubled, but the Holy- (fragment ends; incomplete)


***​


Excerpt of Scene III, Act I, from 'The Lady of Firenze', a 1556 play by Tuscan playwright Giovanni Piccioni; the play deals with the tragic feud between Count Stefano of Orbetello and the Duke of Tuscany


mario2.jpg

(an arrow comes from off-stage; THE DUKE and THE LADY turn about)

THE DUKE: Hold! Who goes there?

ORBETELLO (enters): It is I, my Lord.

THE DUKE: So it is. How do thine arrows come to fly so carelessly near our lady wife, Sir?

ORBETELLO: It is not thy woman they seek, my Lord, but a boar. Yet the resemblance leads them astray.

THE DUKE: Guard thy tongue, Sir!

ORBETELLO: I guard it as ardently as the wench guards her virtue.

(THE DUKE draws a sword; THE PAGEBOYS seize ORBETELLO)

THE DUKE: My belt shall draw an apology from thine lips!

***​


Excerpt of Scene V, Act I, from 'The Lady of Firenze'


mario3.jpg



(ORBETELLO kneels studying a stag ahead; enter THE DUKE, armed with bow)

THE DUKE (to himself): Is this not the Count Orbetello, the author of our every misfortune? And all alone; he has lost his companions. My arm aches to loose an arrow. Yet what is this but lust for base murder? I cannot. I must not. Hear me, O God! Is it thy hand that so places this turbulent count across our path? If we are to stay our wrath, lend us some sign.

(THE DUKE waits)

THE DUKE: Be gone then, wretched Orbetello!

(THE DUKE looses an arrow and misses; ORBETELLO laughs)

ORBETELLO: The stag is fortunate for thine aim, my Lord.

THE DUKE: More fortunate than it knows.


***​

Journal of Mario I Guerra, Duke of Tuscany, collected fragments:

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29 JULY 1071 AD

I have returned from the fighting in Pisa to a blissful sight. My beloved wife Micaela has given birth to a daughter. We are to name her Fausta. I thought I would dread this day, yet I feel nothing but joy and pride. A child! She is a strange, tiny, mewling thing now, but the midwives tell me such a lively babe will be a strong one. I marvel at her daily. She is so fragile, so beautiful. So mortal - but surely she will live for many years yet. I seek not to think of such things, not in this happy time.

With any luck this will silence the fools who cast doubt upon our union. The consolidation of the city of Pisa has strengthened my rule, and now I have an heir. Shall Fausta in some distant time rule Tuscany at my side? If so, I shall have to prepare her with all the learning at my disposal. And are there my children on the way? Micaela no longer shies from my touch as she once did, but I am content with what we have. Fausta, my love - if you should ever read these pages, know that I would give all my power over death to you if I only could.



mario7.jpg


mario6.jpg



6 AUGUST 1074 AD

Little Fausta shows such spirit that she exasperates her tutors. She has a knack for sneaking off to commit some mischief or to battle imaginary demons in the treetops. Micaela disapproves, but I cannot help but to discreetly encourage such adventures. How could I deny my daughter what gives her joy?

Lately I have been ill, sick with fever. The concern of my wife and court is misguided. Even if this illness took me, I know I would return, as young and hale as the day I first met my death. But I do not desire to return in such a manner. They would not understand. I am young yet - this sickness will pass and I shall live this life for as long as I am needed. For Tuscany, and for my daughter.


***​


Excerpt of Scene I, Act II, from 'The Lady of Firenze'


mario8.jpg


(THE DUKE and THE LADY hold court; ORBETELLO enters)

THE DUKE: We welcome thee, Sir. Take thine place at the table.

ORBETELLO: Dost thou lady not bid me welcome, my Lord?

THE DUKE: Our wife desires to speak only to our closest companions, Sir.

ORBETELLO: Why dost thou scorn our friendship, my Lord?

THE DUKE: Had only the frog thought to scorn the friendship of the scorpion so!


***​


Journal of Mario I Guerra, Duke of Tuscany, collected fragments:


mario9.jpg


mario10.jpg



20 FEBRUARY 1085 AD

My Micaela has delivered another child. How strange the turns of Fate! My Fausta is almost a woman, and now she is to have a sister. We have named her Sofia. My wife's age seems no hindrance to bearing children - and she is ever more eager to consummate our love in the carnal sense. The distance between us is all gone, for better or worse. I pray that she will live to see them all grow as I shall.

As her maturity grows, I see more and more of myself in my dear Fausta. She is sharp, restless, of changeling temper; and as adept in matters of battle as any of my knights. It is curious how much she takes after her father. Perhaps my children are to live forever as well... but I shall not test it, out of fear of finding out the answer. My wife speaks of finding a husband for Fausta, now. I will make certain she is found a suitable match, so that her union may be as blessed as ours has been.


4 OCTOBER 1087 AD


mario11.jpg


mario12.jpg


A son! I rejoice, but it is an unexpected blessing. I have groomed Fausta to be my heir and successor, but the laws of this realm would see my infant son as Duke after me. She tells me it is all for the best. Fausta has never craved power - perhaps she is even relieved to be spared such a burden. We have named the boy Galeazzo. He is a healthy, curious child; God willing, he will live to see manhood.

***​


Excerpt of Scene V, Act II, from 'The Lady of Firenze'


mario13.jpg


mario14.jpg



(THE BANDITS enter, dragging ORBETELLO, hooded; they lead him to THE DUKE)

THE DUKE: Present thy gift.

BANDIT: Hold, great Lord! What of our coin?

THE DUKE: Thou shalt receive thine rightful reward. Fear not. Unmask him!

(THE BANDITS pull ORBETELLO'S hood and exit)

THE DUKE: He is silent. The poisoned tongue sleeps at last.

ORBETELLO: Thou hast done us great injustice, my Lord.

THE DUKE: So it is.

ORBETELLO: Willst thou not release us?

THE DUKE: Be silent. Long have we wished to slay thee. Shall today be the day?

ORBETELLO: I beg thee, my Lord, let not this feud cloud thy judgement! Can thou even name its cause?

THE DUKE: We cannot. Yet it burns in our chest. There is no end to it but in death.

ORBETELLO: This is the work of thy madness. Thou cannot so violate our noble person.

THE DUKE: Thou art not a lord; we strip thee of thy rank. Die now as a nameless wretch!

ORBETELLO: Tyrant! Thou may slay me, but God shall take His in turn!

(THE DUKE draws his sword and strikes down ORBETELLO; end of Act II)


***​


Journal of Mario I Guerra, Duke of Tuscany, collected fragments:


mario16.jpg


6 APRIL 1093 AD

Fausta is dead. My victory over the Count is ash in my mouth now. What justice is this, O God? She has borne a healthy child, but that child has killed her. I thought to grew old with her by my side. Why am I granted this everlasting life, when those far more deserving do not live to see two and twenty summers? Micaela tells me to care for those of our children who yet live. I cannot even bear to look upon them. They will die in time all the same. What good is there in love, if it only makes the passing of those dear to me so much harder to see?

I do not believe I will write in some time. I wished for Fausta to read these journals when she was old enough to know the truth. They appear vain, worthless scribblings now, and I have more important matters to tend to.


mario19.jpg


6 OCTOBER 1104 AD

Galeazzo has come of age. He is a spitting image of his father in youth, as bold and bright as I ever was. I have made certain his upbringing was a scholarly one. It comforts me to hear him speak of God and philosophy when I feel lost and adrift. I have had the boy seek audience in Rome; the Holy Father himself commended his intelligence and learning. The boy will make a fine Duke after I am gone. The years begin to weigh on me. I do not wish to take my own life, but it is a temptation I fight every day as my eyesight grows weaker and my limbs frailer. A quick death, and I would be young once more - or so I believe. Perhaps I have lost my immortal nature during these long years. I have not tested the curse in decades. How long shall I live yet?

There is talk of preparations for a great war in Rome, Galeazzo says. A crusade to reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom. The thought of it thrills me. I have lingered here too long; the restlessness is deep in my bones. I heard tales of Jerusalem when we besieged Modena; I ache to see such a holy place. Perhaps it will make clear the fears and doubts in my mind. This righteous war will purify my soul once more.


***


mario20.jpg


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mario22.jpg


mario23.jpg



Excerpt from 'The First Crusade: the Disaster of Christendom', by Georges de Bourbon (Paris: 1952)

(...) The so-called First Crusade was ill-planned, underfunded, poorly led and effortlessly repulsed; a catastrophe in every way. Of the thousands of zealous knights and land-hungry noble sons who descended on the Holy Land, only a handful returned. The rosters of captives by the Mahommetian emirs sport myriad renowned names and titles, including the famed Duke of Tuscany, who appears to have suffered some manner of crisis of faith in the aftermath of this disastrous holy war. Reactions across the Christian world were often similar. Indeed, it is said that Pope Nicolaus, the ill-omened mastermind of the crusade, suffered a heart attack and died on the spot when told of the abject failure of his efforts. (...)


***​


Journal of Mario I Guerra, Duke of Tuscany, collected fragments:


mario24.jpg


mario25.jpg


19 JANUARY 1110 AD

The days are blurs. I look upon the latest pages and cannot say for certain that I wrote them. I abuse the hashish daily now, hoping to catch a glimpse, any glimpse, of those powers I fear dwell beyond the visible world. Once I sought to see God, but my doubts grow with every passing month. If God did not deliver us in Jerusalem, perhaps He is simply not there. My bishop begs me to cease my communions, but I scarcely listen. That creature that slew me and in doing so gave me eternal life - I see it, sometimes, in the haze and the smoke. And I see others, all of them similar grotesque, terrible disposition. What is the truth of Creation? I pursue it, but the answers remain always just out of reach...

I feel ancient. Every movement of my abused body brings with new pains and regrets. Death comes soon, I am certain. I can only hope I can leave the realm stable and safe for my son when I am gone. Even if I do return, and I believe I shall, my next life shall not be here. I must go. The restlessness consumes me entirely, worse than the pains. I must leave, and soon. I hope to see some opportunity present itself within the year...


***


mario26.jpg


mario27.jpg


mario28.jpg



Excerpt from 'Phoenix of Toscana: a Portrait of Duke Galeazzo I Guerra', by Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1905)

(...) What persuaded the 71-year-old, mentally addled Duke to ride off to war once more has been lost to history. The conflict was no great crusade for Christendom; merely a struggle over the lordship of the city of Luni, then the fiefdom of the Duke of Emilia. The Duke chose to support his vassal, the Count of Lucca, in his claim for that modest piece of land. It appears that he took sole command of the Tuscan forces in this war. The chronicles state that he fought with reckless zeal, often outriding his retinue and caring little for his own life. It is no surprise, then, that in the Battle of Prato, the Duke was severely wounded after being pulled down from his horse by Emilian pikemen.

Despite the best efforts of his physician, the old Duke's wounds soon grew inflamed. It appears infection set in. The first Duke of Tuscany would not live through these wounds. He died in July of the year 1116, leaving the Duchy in a state of war and under the rule of his son, Galeazzo of Tuscany. In the years following his death, a variety of increasingly strange and imaginative rumors began to spread of the old Duke's true fate, (...)


***


mario29.jpg



Excerpt of an additional scene in Act III of 'The Lady of Firenze'; found only in the earliest manuscripts of the play and not retained in any later printing

(THE PRINCE prays; THE MESSENGER enters)

THE MESSENGER: My Lord, I bring grave tidings.

THE PRINCE: Who art thou? Why dost thou wear a mask?

THE MESSENGER: I am a mere messenger; and my scars make our visage an unsettling one. I beg thee, ask not us to unmask.

THE PRINCE: Very well. What is thy message?

THE MESSENGER: Only this; thy father is dead. He has succumbed to his wounds.

THE PRINCE: Thou art certain? Thou hast seen it?

THE MESSENGER: It is so. We were there.

THE PRINCE: Then it is as I have feared. I thank thee, friend messenger.

THE MESSENGER (bows): With thy leave, I withdraw.

THE PRINCE: Hold! Willst thou not take off thine mask?

THE MESSENGER: Nay; thou could not bear to see it.

THE PRINCE: Mask, or no mask, it matters not. How could we not know the voice of our father?


***​
 

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Orbetello was a rival.. The first of many, I assume

A narrative Shattered World Megacampaign? This'll be good.

Death (one of many Deaths?) seems cordial, but also so very cruel.

Also, plague as the cause of the world's shattering seems interesting...
 
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Thank you for your comments!

Can anyone theorize why I might be getting hit with a 'Your content can not be submitted. This is likely because your content is spam-like or contains inappropriate elements. Please change your content or try again later. If you still have problems, please contact an administrator.' message trying to post the next part? It was firing with the first post before I switched from imgur-hosted images to forum-uploaded images, but I have no idea what could be causing it now.

EDIT: Turned out to be the low post count. Look at me, a member since 2011 with 5 posts, lol.
 
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Duke Galeazzo I Guerra: 1116-1130 AD

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Excerpt from 'Phoenix of Toscana: a Portrait of Duke Galeazzo I Guerra', by Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1905)

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(...) The realm held its breath. The grand old man of Tuscany was dead at last - could the fragile porcelain of the young duchy survive his passing, or was it doomed to shatter and fragment like so many of its peers? Little did commentators of the time know that the son would prove a far greater sovereign than his father ever was. In the summer of Anno Domini 1116, 28-year-old Galeazzo Guerra stepped forward to take his rightful place as Duke of Tuscany, and the history of all Italia was forever changed.

The Duke was, by all accounts, a virtuous, handsome man; fearless on the battlefield, a learned scholar and a known polymath, a true Renaissance Man before his time. His bravery and notable skill as a battle commander had seen him fight at the age of 16 in the First Crusade, then in all of his father's wars thereafter. At the time of his ascension, he had suffered significant injuries in the very same battle that slew his father. Some concern existed at the time that he would not live to take the throne, but Galeazzo was not so easily felled. He would recover, take the reins of the Genoan campaign and prosecute it to a swift and successful end.


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Young Galeazzo had been married to a Bavarian noblewoman, Elisabeth, and the union had produced two children at the time of his coronation. Baptismal records from Florence name them Elio and Federigo. The brothers were only separated by one year, and by all accounts - including the somewhat lurid chivalric romance The Two Sons of Tuscany, which serves as a fascinating primary source on the period despite its evident historical liberties - were much alike in temperament and looks. It is said they competed daily for their father's favor from a very young age, each seeking to outdo the virtues of the other.

Elisabeth is noted in one court document to engage in 'Undue Mortification of the Flesh', likely a reference to the habit of religious self-flagellation popular in Bavarian religious orders at this time. The marriage appears to have been a cordial one, with Elisabeth known as a trusted, pious and dutiful mother and wife. Though perhaps dissimilar in their natures, both spouses worked studiously to uphold the union - likely in reaction to the spurious and ill-spirited claims that had dogged his father's marriage to the countrywoman Micaela.


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Of the old Duke's children, three others still lived. Galeazzo was quite fond of his sister Sofia, as their well-preserved correspondence goes to show, but relations with his brother Azzone were much more strained. The resentment of Azzone - an ambitious, strong man who had inherited his father's claim to infamous Orbetello - would boil over in the most dramatic way in the years that followed. Galeazzo's younger sister, Lucrezia, was a more distant presence in his life. His letters indicate the Duke felt a powerful sense of responsibility over Lucrezia, who had been married to a French count and thus rarely found the time to visit Tuscany.


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Their mother Micaela would not outlive her husband for long. Writing in March 1117, shortly after her death, Galeazzo expresses unusual doubt on whether his mother would be reunited with their father in the hereafter. This can be perhaps taken to indicate a certain ambivalence felt by the children towards their common-born mother, though the evidence does not fully support this. Regardless, with both parents dead, there was no-one remaining to mediate between the four siblings. The consequences of this would rear their vicious head soon enough. (...)

***​

Letter dated April 12, 1117, from the correspondence of Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany and Sofia Guerra (trans.)

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To the most noble Sofia,

We write to you from the apartments the Holy Father has kindly prepared for our use. We arrived in Rome two days past but have been far too busy to sit down & pen letters until this day of the 12th. We have spoken at length with His Holiness about our father & learned certain curious things which I will not commit to these pages. Likewise we have conversed on favors bestowed & our sacred position as champion of Rome. We believe that the fruitful relationship which began under our father will be able to continue as before, God willing. Already the Holy Father has issued a great deal of coin unto my keeping for the construction of temples & the like.

We thank you for the kind words of the letter we received this day. We assure you all is well with our health & happiness. We equally wish good fortune & well-being to our dear sister and all her household. Give our love also to our sons & lady wife & those of our court we most love. God keep you and see us reunited soon.

Your brother and servant,
Galeazzo Guerra, Dux Tuscani et al.


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Undated latter, winter 1119 (?), from the correspondence of Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany and Sofia Guerra (trans.)

To our esteemed sister Sofia,

We pen this letter in a state of some anxiety. Our friend & servant V. has just given unto us news of a conspiracy against our life concocted within the realm. Though she could not name such conspirators yet, she assured us they may be found & soon, God willing. We do no fear for our life but confess some concern over that of our children, who would certainly be in danger if we were to pass. Be sure to keep safe for our sake, dear sister, if these criminals should be after you also. May the Lord see it is not so.

We regret the shortness of our favor this day. Our brother invites us for a hunt & we cannot deny him again. Forgive us for not feeling the same concern for him as we do for our sisters, for he has been most unkind to us in the past. Good health & prosperity to you & the children. May God see this danger past before too long.

Your brother and servant,
Galeazzo Guerra, Dux Tuscani et al.


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Letter dated Feb 14, 1120, from the correspondence of Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany and Sofia Guerra (trans.)

To the loyal Sofia,

We write to you well-recovered from our injuries & thank you for the concern of the favor we received one day past. Of our brother we wish not to write any further, but for love we will oblige your request & honest curiosity. We have confined Azzone to his quarters & do not think we should ever release him. We cannot look upon him now with any of the love we may have once felt. To see him gives us great fear that our children may once treat one another so. Our mother would weep to see us now. We find ourselves at a loss on how to move forward & beg you to write your good honest advice as before. We have never seen eye to eye with our brother but we have always treated him with the utmost courtesy. To see him driven to kinslaying & so consign his soul to the fires of Hell, we are most appalled & shaken. If we are to blame for any of this, we are greatly pained & regret any offences given. May God reveal the right of it to us.

We have guaranteed the passing of our brother's title to our niece when her time comes. We wish to avoid further grievance within our family if it be at all to be done. That is all we shall write of the matter. At the least V. assures us this conspiracy is to die with our brother. We give thanks to God for that.

Fare thee well always, and pray for me, most honoured and virtuous sister.

Your brother and servant,
Galeazzo Guerra, Dux Tuscani et al.

***​

Excerpt from 'Phoenix of Toscana: a Portrait of Duke Galeazzo I Guerra', by Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1905)

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(...) A more happier event in the Duke's family life would come the following year with the birth of Adriana, the Duke's first daughter. A third son - named Mario after his grandfather - would soon follow. With the shock of Azzone's treachery fading, the Duke's letters take on a happier tone once more. The imprisoned brother effectively disappears from the written record until his somewhat suspicious death in his cell many years later. It appears that the Guerra family chose to pretend their sibling no longer existed, and perhaps never had - at least as far as our surviving sources are concerned.


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The Duke's fame as a physician and scholar of the body is clear from several letters and treatises written in this time. It appears that he was often assisted by his niece Sofia the Younger, daughter of his sister Sofia, and the two formed a close, inseparable bond. Among their written works are the 1125 On the Use of Certain Herbs, the 1127 Insights On the Practice of Surgery and the lost 1133 treatise The Wisdom and Secret Learning of the Sages, which appears to have been formally censured by the Pope and destroyed. The latter work hints at a shift towards mysticism and occult practice for the Duke, much like his addled father before him.

***

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Excerpt from 'The New Traveler's Guidebook to Italy: Toscana & Lombardia', by Marius van Assen (Utrecht: 1970); a best-selling tourist's guidebook

(...) Here we may also pay a visit to the San Fortunato, a peculiar little church tucked away in the back alleys of Lucca. If one looks closely, they can spot the faded image of a naked man and woman over the door. The story of the church is a fascinating and entertaining one. It was built by the so-called Adamites, an unorthodox Christian sect that briefly held sway among the city's nobility in the early 12th century. The Count of Lucca, one Fortunato Ramberti, proclaimed this movement a return to true Christianity and named himself its prophet.

What were the beliefs of these Adamites, then? Chiefly, they abhorred clothing and pranced around entirely naked, at least within their churches. Members claimed to live as Adam and Eve had in the Garden, when they did not yet know shame. One can only imagine what these bizarre cultists looked like to the ordinary folk of Lucca at the time. The movement was quickly declared heretical and expunged, with the church returned to the Catholic clergy. The Count himself was subsequently arrested, stripped of his title and put to death by an angry mob incited by the outraged Duke of Tuscany, Galeazzo Guerra. Don't tell that story at your local nudist beach! Want to learn more? Visit the eponymous beach down on the coast for a chance to relive the Adamist lifestyle (see Viareggio).

***​

Letter dated April 6, 1127, from the correspondence of Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany and Sofia Guerra (trans.)

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To our dear Sofia,

We choose to write to tell of the most amusing development among the children this past week. They have begun to compete even in acts of valor and virtue. We have caught both young Elio & young Federigo brawling with other children within days of one another. Both times the reason has been the same. Our brave boys have moved to defend their younger siblings most admirably & taught their lessers some important lessons. It entertains us greatly to see them carry themselves off so. The Guerra blood lacks not in boldness. We have greatly praised & encouraged our sons for these acts of theirs. We only regret that it so much has the aspect of competition for them. We love both greatly & wish they did not fight for our approval so. We will not happily accept discord between brothers. For now it remains a friendly rivalry. May God keep it so.


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There is another matter that we write to you about. We have found a journal belonging to our father in the old tower rooms. It makes many disquieting claims & offers new insight into our father that we intend show to you at the soonest. We do not think these journals suitable for the eyes of the world & hesitate to copy their contents here. For one they describe some untoward and pagan rituals & practices which our father indulged in. We must confess we have sought to follow his example. There are certain herbs and substances which allow one to rise above this material world & see some of God's truth made plain. We have spent some nights now attempting these communions. There are no clear answers, but we assure you they have been most illuminating for us.

Our chaplain has caught some wind of what we are engaged in & warned us against such practices. God forgive us, we cannot so easily put these things aside. We have taken the liberty of writing to our niece also for the aid of her learning in this matter. Pray do not hold this quest of ours against us, for we pursue it out of true, pious wish to learn only.

We have witnessed beauty in our communions, but frightful things also. Our father writes here of an apparition he saw, that he names Death. We fear we have witnessed some of the same horror. Yet this does not persuade us to desist. Forgive us for this also.

God send you health & unto all yours also. We give our love to you & to your good daughter.

Your brother and servant,
Galeazzo Guerra, Dux Tuscani et al.


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Letter dated July 28, 1130, from the correspondence of Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany and Sofia Guerra (trans.)

To our honorable sister,

Our son Elio is of age. We ask again for your council on the matter of his marriage. We have been appraised of worthy wives by our court but we wish your opinion also. Please respond with all haste if only you are able.

Will you not forgive us for our lapses? We are most anxious to call our sister friend as we once did. We beg you to tell us of your joys and sorrows & let us know if there is anything we may do for you. We suffer most terribly from this rift between us. We would like nothing better to mend it before God. Only ask if there is something we may do for you, dear sister.

Your brother and servant,
Galeazzo Guerra, Dux Tuscani et al.

***​

Undated letter of summer 1130 (?), author unknown, addressed to Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany (trans.)

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To the most eminent lord Galeazzo, by the grace of God Duke of Tuscany, et al,

We greatly desire for this letter to find Your Lordship in good health and prosperity. As of two days ago, we have come to be in the lands of the Vlachi as per Your orders.

We report that this place You have sent us to is in a state of chaos. All over these lands it is the same. The common folk speak many languages and hold to many faiths, many of which we do not know or recognize. The guides we have employed with Your generous gifts speak of Kristjani, Bogomils, Paulicians and Cainites all; and then there are good Catholic souls and those of the Eastern persuasion. Heresy and blasphemy is rife in these people even where they claim to keep the ways of the Church. Here among the Vlachi we find mad preachers of this Cult of Cain. They call for men and women to sin in most abhorrent ways and are surely agents of Satan. We are most uncomfortable in their company and hope to be through with Your mission soon.

Of Your esteemed father, there is no sign. We beg Your Lordship to consider that Your learning may have misguided You. We cannot see how he might still live after all these years. Even so we will keep searching as long as You command us. Our guides are taking us now to a place called Transylvania, where there are tales of an Italian prince held in an evil king's keep, or so they tell us. We do not wish to give Your Lordship false hope, as we have pursued many such rumors before now and come out with nothing. We shall seek to write again upon our arrival.

Your most humble and devoted servant,
Sir Niccolò Albizzi

***

ioandraculesti.jpg

Where has the path of the late father of the Duke taken him?

Cutting this into two parts, since I ended up with a whole lot of images.
 
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Galeazzo and Sofia seem close.

Where is our original traveler right now?
 

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Galeazzo and Sofia seem close.

Where is our original traveler right now?

They certainly were and it made a nice framing device. I have to say the game threw me a bit by giving Galeazzo a friend (Sofia the sister) and a best friend (Sofia the niece) with the same name. I definitely attributed in-game events to the wrong Sofia at times.

As for where the Wanderer is - you'll see soon!
 
Interlude: A Transylvanian Wedding

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An interlude of sorts before we finish with Galeazzo.

An Account Of Our Ill-Omened Journey In The Lands Of The Vlachi, by an unknown author, allegedly c. 1146; generally considered a hoax or work of fiction by mainstream historians

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This tale is written to serve as a warning to those who may come after. May you heed the many mishaps and errors of its protagonist, who I confess is in fact myself, the author of this tale, and avoid such tragedies that unfolded from there on. To begin with, allow me to illuminate you, my reader, as to my identity. It may astound you to learn that I am Mario Guerra, first of his name, the late Duke of Tuscany. I do not deny the fact of my death, which I believe to be widely known at this time. Such a Duke did, indeed, die, but in doing so gave way to a being I shall name the Wanderer. I write "being", for I can scarcely be counted among the ranks of humanity any longer. To be brief - I return from death as our savior once did, though I do not claim the means are as holy. As any man, I age, I hurt, I am injured, I fall ill - but each time my Death would take me, I am carried back to the place of my first, strangest death, to live a new life as a young man once more.

That is the truth of it, and I shall dwell no more upon the matter. This account begins where that of the Duke Guerra ends. Having expired from my grievous wounds - a most painful and upsetting death, at the time the worst I had known - I found myself living once more in the countryside of my beloved Tuscany. The place of my death had transformed from a barren field into fertile farmland, which I pridefully account to the peace and prosperity of my rule as Duke. I did not arouse any great suspicion from the local farmers, who would not have known the face of their Duke, certainly not as a young man. My condition and mind were greatly improved by my rebirth. The burdens of old age are a heavy weight to bear, and they sneak most cunningly upon you in the slow passing of years. I did not realize the depths of my infirmity until I was once more young and in my prime.

The restless spirit that had long plagued me still remained, however, and I now understood its purpose. I was not placed upon this world for comfort and convenience. My legs ached to roam and my senses to know new, unknown shores. It is with this in mind that I left my stay in beautiful Tuscany short, lingering only so long as to know for certain that my son Galeazzo had lived to claim his birthright. From Firenze - disguised as a peasant-boy of simple mind - I sought passage with a caravan headed for the city of Venice.


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The Great Plague had not been kind to the Venetian Republic, but it endured still. I remember hearing of the merchant city's wealth and glory in the innocence of my youth. This Venice was a shadow of its past, stripped of the greater part of its continental possessions and much reduced in population. Even so, it proved a lively settlement, vibrant with voices and tongues from all corners of the Mediterranean. I conversed with Croats, Germans, Arabs, Greeks, Catalans and many others, to say nothing of Italians from all reaches of our native land. It was my intention to take passage to the Levant here - hoping, I confess, to witness the glory of Jerusalem as a pilgrim with my dreams of taking it as a crusader long since crushed. However, a dreadful twist of fate intervened. I happened to overhear a Greek sailor's tale of an undying lord reigning high in the Transylvanian Alps, in the lands of the Vlachs.

With less wine on my mind and a greater deal of caution, I might have stopped myself there. But I craved to learn more of my strange condition, and to hear of another like myself, however unlikely this story was? It caught me in its web in an instant. I pressed the sailor for more and in the morrow departed overland for the land the ancient Romans had called Dacia.

There is not much to say of the journey itself. It was at times arduous, but I was once more a man in my prime, strong and tireless, and so its obstacles challenged me little. I passed through the Croatian banates and into the tumultuous Hungarian lands, where I first heard of the vile Cult of Cain. The Magyars were good Catholics and held much hatred for the heretical movements they said abounded in the south. I admit many failings where it comes to my faith, nor am I so eagerly given to dismiss the beliefs of others with all that I have seen, but the stories of these Cainites appalled even me. They were said to delight in sin and vice - naming modesty and temperance evils, shamelessness and overindulgence worthy virtues. They copulated freely in maddened orgies and abused man, woman and child to sate their lust. They gorged themselves on food and overindulged in drink with little care for the example they set. This sprung from some troubling belief that the good earth was false and imperfect, a prison built by some cruel deity that kept us from reaching true Creation. From this they somehow postulated that only by experience even the most wicked things might they ascend to this higher place.

These tales would prove to be exaggerations, but what truth there was to them still troubles me. Perhaps it is not their gleeful wickedness that haunts me, though. Indeed, it may be their strange vision of the world. If this is indeed a flawed, terrible prison - what does it mean for me that I cannot escape from its grasp? Shall those around me pass into a purer kind of Creation where I am to be forever trapped in this world?

Forgive me. I have lost the thrust of this tale. Let it only be said that when I at last encountered these disciples of Cain, I was predisposed to greatly dislike them. It was with great shock, then, that I learned where the origin of this cult lay. It had sprung forth many years ago among the mountain peoples of the Transylvanian Alps, the very place I was seeking. Moreover, the people named it the work of someone they named the Lord Dragon - the Dracul, in the Wallachian tongue. The more they spoke of this man, who was said to never age and to be most strange in his manner and power, the more I was convinced that they spoke of another immortal like myself. Naive and hopeful as I was, I discounted the more evil rumors attached to his name. Had only I believed and departed then, I would have been spared much anguish.


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Winter had come by the time I reached the mountains. It was an unkind, bitter season, with cold that bit into your bones and drained out any warmth you gained from fire or meat. I often heard wolves prowling the night, though I was far too strong and healthy for them to take an interest in me. I pitied even the wolf on those black nights. I had set out to travel alone, but regretted it greatly in the vicious solitude of the darkness. When I at last caught sight of the keep this 'Lord Dragon' was said to dwell, I would have accepted any degradation if it meant shelter and company.

In fact, as the grim-faced guards at the door told me, I would have more company than I could have expected. There was to be a wedding that night - all the high lords and ladies of the realm were in attendance and a great feast expected. I passed myself off as a poor knight errant in search of employ and was welcomed within with open arms. In retrospect, the eagerness of the guards to see me inside should have concerned me, but I was merely glad for the warmth and shelter.

I did not expect much from the lonely mountain keep, and so the richness and finery of its furnishings left me quite impressed. There was something from every corner of the world, or so it seemed. I caught sight of Persian rugs that would have fetched kingly sums at the Venetian markets; fine arms of Damascus steel that I would gladly have wielded myself; amber from the north-lands; the furs of enormous beasts from the lands of the Rus; masks and works of art from the lands of the Nubians; golden idols from a land beyond the Pillars of Hercules; even ornaments of finest jade and ivory from some far distant shore. Evidently the family that held this keep was astonishingly well-traveled. I was seized by the need to follow in their footsteps then, the restless spirit making itself known. I fought the most powerful urge to leave at once and travel for these exotic lands. I wish I had done so, but I suspect I would never have been allowed out of the castle.

I had arrived just in time for the wedding ceremony itself. The household staff - dour, thin, dark-eyed fellows all - shepherded me most insistently to the castle's great hall where the happy event was to take place. The high chamber was packed full when I entered, though so captivated I was by the sight of the lord of this place that I scarcely noticed anyone else.


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He was a tall man, of strong build, yet with a terrible pale cast to his skin that left me uneasy. I thought instantly of the pallid cadavers of the plague fields and wondered if he were perhaps afflicted with some terrible disease. I discounted this possibly when I glimpsed many other such faces in the crowd, with an undeniable familiar likeness between them. I thought then they were an unfortunate lot, to be cursed with such sickly appearance from their bloodline. All waited intently on the lord, who I took to be their patriarch of his House. Others in the crowd were of much more ordinary disposition, though there was a nervous energy in the air that put to mind a cornered animal seeking escape. It was unlike any wedding I had myself witnessed. Yet there was nothing to do but to take my place in the crowd.

I remember still the cruel amusement in the voice of their master when he spoke. It was him, Ioan, Lord of Transylvania, that the common folk had named the Lord Dragon. He spoke in perfect Latin, which I followed with some difficulty. I do not know how many of my fellow guests understood half as much as I did.

'I am delighted that so many could be here for our feast,' the Dragon spoke. 'So many given to our care this night. Such loyalty in my subjects, for them to send their own sons and daughters, wives and mothers, cousins and wards... to enjoy my hospitality.'

It was then that I noticed the bareness of the tables laid out across the great hall. If this was a feast, it was a poor one. A guest should not be made to wait for their meal and drink. I could see I was not the only one so troubled. My stomach growled after my long journey and poor fare.

'It is not every day that one sees their son wed,' the lord of the keep said. 'And to such a young and vital bride.'

From behind him stepped forth a young man and a woman. The man had the wretched pallor of his father and a tight grip on the arm of his wife-to-be. The bride I could see little of under the rich dress she wore for the occasion. They joined the father before the crowd to the laughter and applause of their kinsmen. The reactions of the rest of the crowd were much more muted. The unhinged merriment seemed very out of place for such a sacred occasion.

I was feeling increasingly on edge at this stage. By my side was a scarred old knight who caught my eye and, to my astonishment, grinned and lifted his cloak to reveal two short swords strapped to his back. The guards had disarmed me at the gates - I had acquiesced, trusting in the guarantee of my host's hospitality. This man evidently had not.

I intended to question him about the weapons, but at that moment events began to outpace me.

'Enough talk. I see my children grow hungry. Let it not be said I am a poor host. We are all gathered. Waste not the opportunity,' the Lord Dragon said, his powerful voice stilling all attempt at conversation. 'Let us feast!'

At those words... The horror of it haunts my dreams still. In such nightmares I know very well what is to happen, but I am powerless to stop it. The scene is burned into my mind.

The son moved first. With inhuman alacrity, he snaked his hand into his bride's hair and pulled her head back with painful force. She cried out, but the sound was cut short. The groom seized her face in one hand and plunged his teeth into her bare, exposed neck.

We watched in mute horror. When his head came back up again, the pale face was red with blood, and gore-drenched fangs gleamed in the light. The lifeless form of the bride toppled to the ground, her fine silks stained black with her life.

The others descended upon us then. The cadaver-white sons and daughters of Dracul unveiled their true natures and fell upon the crowd. Monstrous fangs and taloned hands bit and cut into flesh, each of the terrible creatures seizing their prey and yelping with animal glee as they drained them dry. Blood sprayed high into the air and covered the plain high tables. They fell into a killing frenzy, driving the panicked crowd towards the middle of the hall from all sides. There would be no mercy for man, woman or child there. Those that evaded the encircling horrors scrambled for the entrances, but were seized from behind as they banged uselessly on the shut and locked doors. Others sought shelter under the tables only for the creatures to drag them out laughing and tear into them there on the floor.

For my own part, I recovered swiftly from the shock. I took a step towards the nearest door but got no further. One of the murderers leapt for my back and tore at my shoulder with her bestial fangs. I am not a weak man - indeed I am stronger and hardier than most - but the strength of the woman took me by surprise. She moved with preternatural speed and agility to stay on me. It took me a great effort to at last regain my footing and throw her off me. She bounced back almost at once, snarling in a manner that had nothing human in it.

It was the old knight that came to my rescue then. He was, I understand, a Serb in the service to the Duke of Rashka, though given the circumstances we had little time to exchange pleasantries. I was later told his name was Sir Mihajlo and that he had been sent to investigate rumors of Lord Dracul's infernal nature. He was a renowned knight, a master swordsman and the guardian of the Duke in his childhood. When I met him, he was a fresh widow, with five living children and a modest estate by the sea. That is all I have been able to learn of him. I write these things here as a memorial for a good, fearless soul who did not deserve the fate waiting for him.

Mihajlo stepped in the monster's path and slashed his blade for its throat. The sword cut pallid flesh but drew no blood. It was the sudden resistance than any true harm that sent the creature scurrying backwards, I believe, but what it accomplished was to give us a moment's respite from their attacks. Mihajlo placed his other sword in my hands and inclined his head towards the figure of Duke Ioan at the other end of the hall. He had not joined in on the slaughter - instead, the Lord Dragon surveyed the scene with an air of cool satisfaction. To this day I wonder if he truly expected to reach the master of the keep there and single-handedly strike him down.

'What are these things?' I asked, though it soon became apparent we did not share a language. He understood the thrust of my question regardless.

'Vampir,' the knight said, in his native tongue, gesturing wide with his sword, 'Dracul.'

Then they were upon us once more, now in greater numbers. We turned back to back and began a stalwart, desperate defence. My long life had allowed me to master the sword, but Mihajlo performed just as well, and he evidently had some experience with these monsters. I am sorry to say it did not help us a great deal. These things felt the pain of our blows, but they did not tire and they would not die however grave the wounds we inflicted upon them were. Only when we struck them through the heart did they cease their struggles, but some dark power reanimated them as soon as we withdrew the blades. In short, it was a battle doomed to failure.

I tell you we fought to the end. The other guests, unarmed and helpless as they were, dwindled as the moments drew on, slaughtered so much like cattle in an abattoir. As they ran out of prey, they congregated more and more upon us. Soon we were the only living men still standing in the hall. It did not appear we would stay that way for long. I had the certainty of my resurrection, but I wept for Mihajlo, who would surely die a final death.

I was wrong on both counts, as it turned out. The vampires began to grow bolder, cutting and bleeding us more and more, and I could tell we were only moments from death. At that moment, the master of the keep rose and called out for his children to stop.

They did so at once, snarling and whining like cowed hounds. Dracul strode across the hall and came to study us with his bloodless lips stretched in a cold smile.

'He has fought well,' the lord said, pointing at my companion. 'He is not prey.'

The vampires wailed and hissed. I began to feel hope that Mihajlo might yet live through this.

'Would you care to live forever, sir knight?' Dracul said instead, his smile spreading, revealing those wicked fangs. 'Would you care to join my family?'

Sir Mihajlo spat blood on the floor in response. He hefted his sword with wavering, exhausted arms. I felt such admiration and love for the man then, to see him choose certain death with no hesitation. Alas, Dracul would not give him even that. The immortal lord moved so fast I could scarcely follow. He darted forward, slipped inside Mihajlo's guard and plunged his fangs into the old man's neck. The knight turned limp in his grip at once, his blade crashing to the ground. I leapt to his rescue then and swung for the inhuman Duke's neck - but he turned aside the blow with his arm only - flesh and threw me flat on my back with a mocking jab of his hand.

'And what do we have here?' the lord said, letting the body of my companion fall to the floor. 'I smell your blood, little cousin. I smell your gift. Oh, the joy you have brought me...'

I should have taken the sword and cut my own throat then. I do not know why I did not. Perhaps I thought, foolishly, that I might yet escape. I did not fight when they seized my arms and carried me away, down into the lightless cell of the castle dungeons where I would spend many years to come...

***​
 
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Duke Galeazzo I Guerra: 1130-1164 AD (Part 2)

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Excerpt from 'Phoenix of Toscana: a Portrait of Duke Galeazzo I Guerra', by Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1905)


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(...) The 1130s began a peaceful decade for Tuscany. Heir to the throne, Elio Guerra, had become a man and found a match in a Greek noblewoman by the name of Dionysia; Azzone, the treacherous brother, had been discreetly put to death by the ducal spymaster (evidently, without his lord knowing, but it does not appear that Galeazzo minded either); taxation records show consistent increase and harvest yields remain stable; and the Duke had finally found the time to undertake a pilgrimage to blessed Jerusalem, an experience of great importance to him. All in all, the only troubles facing the aging Duke were of a personal kind. His relationship with his sister had become strained after the Duke's mystic turn, and the Duke's young sons had grown to be notorious in the realm for their competitions in all manner of things, from horse racing to displays of Christian generosity.

The Duke had never been close with his young sister, Lucrezia. Some correspondence survives, revealing a polite, formal relationship that at least shows Galeazzo's sense of responsibility over his sister. Her well-being was a matter of honor and pride to him. This goes on to explain why his reaction was as it was when news arrived of Lucrezia's death at the hands of a French noblewoman, Anne Bellegarde of Saumur. The motives of the ambitious countess have not survived in historical record, and we can only speculate. It appears to have been a personal quarrel of some kind, finding a bloody end through Anne's vindictive nature.


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Galeazzo was not known to be a particularly wrathful man, but his letters at this time reveal a terrible fury and the planning of an elaborate, total scheme of revenge. Strangely enough, the tragedy appears to have served to bring Galeazzo and Sofia back closer together. From the fact that none of the subsequent letters mention Galeazzo's still-ongoing study of the mystic arts, one can presume that the siblings came to some sort of spoken or unspoken agreement that the matter would simply be ignored. The two focused all their energies into avenging their younger sister; their letters are equal parts mutual grief and commiseration, as well as intricate plotting of degradation and murder.

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Duke Galeazzo had styled himself from the beginning of his reign as 'Champion of Rome'. This title served to indicate House Guerra's close relationship with the Papal authorities. In return for their services as guardians of Catholicism and the Pope's material interests, they had been blessed with regular funds and favors that aided in the reconstruction of the realm. Now that relationship took on an even tighter, active form. Galeazzo persuaded the Pope to excommunicate Countess Anne as a traitor to her faith, an act that shook the French aristocracy to its core. Not content with this disgrace, Galeazzo and Sofia ordered the shamed lady's assassination with the tacit approval of the Holy Father.

Anne of Saumur may never have understood the cause of her death. By all accounts, it was swift, humiliating and brutal, with the woman's head sent in a dung cart to the court at Florence. Though the killers were never directly connected to the Duke of Tuscany, the message was clear. Hurt the family, and suffer the consequences.


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The entire affair worked in the favor of the Guerras, but also served to discredit the institution of the Papacy. Enemies of the Duke spread discontent among the common people and stoked fires of resentment towards the authority of the Church. Blatant displays of favoritism and corruption by Pope Callistus did not help matters. The Guerras would step up to defend their patron, whatever new scandal rocked the Seat of St. Peter. In the eyes of the Duke's rivals, the Holy Father served at his beck and call. The conquest of Spoleto by a Tuscan army bearing the papal flag proved the last straw for many lords of Italy. A fair number turned openly against the Catholic Church, declaring their support for the Waldensian movement - the so-called Poor Men of Lyon - which advocated apostolic poverty and reform of the clergy. No doubt many of these lords saw an opportunity to seize church property for themselves, but there is evidence for true believers as well.


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The worst outbreak took place in the Duchy of Piedmonte and on the island of Corsica. At the behest of the Pope, Duke Galeazzo would launch a campaign to seize the Piedmontese lands for his own family. Wary of an united front against Tuscany, he made the prudent choice to apportion the lands to a loyal cousin instead of incorporating them directly into the Duchy. Popular support for the Waldensian cause would continue to dominate in the region for many years to come, but the point had been made. Heresy and disloyalty to the Church would not be allowed to survive in Italy.

The close relationship seemed to be on solid ground. To strengthen Catholic legitimacy, Pope Callistus would declare a new crusade to liberate the Holy Land and put it in the hands of a Catholic monarch. Here, however, Duke Galeazzo's mystic interest intervened.


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Letter dated June 7, 1143, to Pope Callistus from Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany

To my most reverend and divinely beloved lord and bishop,

We have received word of the Crusade to come from Your servants & are greatly pleased at such an endeavour. It would be a great victory indeed for all Christendom if blessed Jerusalem were to be freed from the heathen yoke. God willing, Your Holiness will surely come to see such a triumph. All faithful Christians will surely see Your wisdom & righteousness. Only our Lord can have inspired such just acts & it will soon be clear across Christendom.

As for the support of Tuscan arms and gold for this campaign that Your Holiness has requested, we must with great regret decline. We have lately witnessed all manner of dire omen in the firmament & the bones & consulted seers who are all in agreement. Great tragedy will follow if we are to join Your Holiness in this battle. With infinite sadness & reluctance, we must remain in Tuscany until such wicked portents cease.

Your eternal servant,
Galeazzo Guerra, Dux Tuscani et al.

Letter dated June 15, 1143, to Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany, from Pope Callistus

To the loyal and excellent Galeazzo, Duke of Tuscany,

Let all rejoice and exult in the Lord, and let those who are correct in heart glorify Him, who, to make known His power, does not make boast of horses and chariots, but has now gained glory for Himself, in the scarcity of His soldiers, that all may know and understand that He is glorious in His majesty, terrible in His magnificence, and wonderful in His plans on the sons of men, changing seasons at will, and bringing the hearts of different nations together. Let all be well with you and yours.

We are most appalled by the contents of your last letter. It has been through our grace that your past misdeeds have been allowed and your forays into practices forbidden by God and our most holy Church have gone unpunished. That you would indeed justify your craven acts with the very heretical practices we have grown to tolerate arouses great anger in our heart. Do not presume to deny the will of God that is the holy liberation of the land where our Lord Christ was born. We are greatly troubled and horrified that you continue to defy the authority given to Saint Peter by our Lord God.

We are most agitated and desire an answer forthwith. The full force of Tuscan arms is to be committed to the Crusade. We will not tolerate anything less. Our patience is at an end.

God make you right a good man, and send God's blessing and mine,
Ego N. Catholicae Ecclesiae Episcopus

Letter dated June 20, 1143, to Pope Callistus from Galeazzo Guerra, Duke of Tuscany

To the most holy and reverend bishop,

Because we have very frequently realized your faithfulness, proven in many trials, to us & to our house & in mind of the special friendship we enjoy, we are struck by immense grief & regret to once more refuse Your command. It cannot be God's will that we would join Your Holiness on this crusade. We pray for Your swift success & happiness to all Christendom. As for our sins, we will answer for them before God. Send us for any punishment & censure that Your Holiness desires. We can only hope our past work on behalf of Your Holiness may count once more in our favor.

Your eternal servant,
Galeazzo Guerra, Dux Tuscani et al.


***​

Excerpt from 'Phoenix of Toscana: a Portrait of Duke Galeazzo I Guerra', by Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1905)


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(...) In the end, Pope Callistus appears to have erred on the side of caution and allowed Duke Galeazzo to offer only token support for the Crusade. Galeazzo's omens would prove correct, as far as the Crusade itself was concerned. Like its predecessor, it would end in humiliating defeat and the crushing loss of nearly the entire crusading force. The campaign - intended as a show of force to strengthen the Church - would instead plunge it into disarray, with Pope Callistus soon left a powerless figurehead in the Vatican.

While the fall of Callistus meant a disruption in the relationship between House Guerra and Rome, his successor would waste no time in renewing the ties that bound the two together. The union of the two would continue unbroken until (...)


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(...) Matters of faith soon became secondary to the Tuscan court. The Duchess Elisabeth held claims to the duchies of Bavaria, Currezia and Lombardia, which had briefly united in a powerful alpine state to the north of Tuscany. To cripple a potential future rival and to assert his family's power, Duke Galeazzo would in 1154 launch a war to install his wife on the throne of Lombardy. This conflict would consume the two Duchies for many years with heavy casualties on both sides. The Tuscans would emerge victorious, but not without a significant - and for Galeazzo, a very personal - cost.

Epitaph on the grave of Federigo Guerra, allegedly by his brother Elio, c. 1155

Here lies Federigo, the mirror of our heart
Only in death do we know the depth of our love


***


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Excerpt from 'Phoenix of Toscana: a Portrait of Duke Galeazzo I Guerra', by Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1905)

(...) The old Duke had almost fallen. Federigo was dead. Elio had retired from the war, overcome by his newfound grief for the brother he had competed with relentlessly since birth. The command of the army was a chaotic, contradictory mess that should have doomed the war effort. Only the total exhaustion of the Lombard forces allowed the Tuscan cause to triumph at last. Yet Fate had one last devious trick to play. On the morning of negotiations for Elisabeth's ascension for the crown, a messenger arrived with incredibly unwelcome news: the Duchess was dead.


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The death did not perhaps come as a surprise. Elisabeth was 65 years old and had suffered her entire life from her habit of violent self-flagellation. Surprise or not, it came at the worst possible time for the negotiations. Hostilities were renewed for a short time, until a sensible alternative could be agreed upon. Elisabeth and Galeazzo's daughter Adriana would take the throne, thus ensuring a Guerra as the ruler of Lombardy. Finally, there was peace. The northern triple alliance of Tuscany, Piedmonte and Lombardy - an union of three Guerra rulers blessed by the Pope - had become the great power of southern Europe.


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The final years of Duke Galeazzo's life were uneventful, in comparison. He had laid the foundations for the greatness of the Tuscan realm and of House Guerra. With the death of Sofia in November 1163, the old Duke appeared to at last accept his impending death. His writings increasingly refer to 'that terrible, faceless beast of my father's dreams' and other esoteric nightmares that he would soon have to face. In his last will and testament, he confirmed the sovereignty of Lombardy and Piedmonte, as well as the loss of Spoleto as an independent duchy under the rule of Federigo's young son. These acts were meant to reassure other rulers of Italy that the Dukes of Tuscany were not power-hungry tyrants, but only held what was rightfully theirs.


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Duke Galeazzo Guerra, first of his name, the Phoenix of Tuscany, died in May 1164, in the midst of a campaign in support of the Banate of Istria in Croatia. His successor would be Duke Elio, already 49 years of age at the time of his coronation, and a man ruled by a powerful sense of ambition...


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Southern Europe in 1164. Note the struggling but powerful Kingdom of Aragon and its rival Andalusian sultanate. Other powers remain fairly modest at this time.
 

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HistoryDude

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An ambitious ruler? War is coming...

Our traveler met vampires? How will the vampire bites affect him?

The Pope being viewed as a man at Tuscany's bidding is interesting.
 

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Ambition is good, if matched by arms.
 
King Elio I Guerra: 1164-1179 AD

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Excerpt of Scene I, Act I of 'The Merry King of Tuscany', a 1848 banned anti-monarchist play by revolutionary author Giovanni di Canossa

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(Curtain opens; we see DUKE GALEAZZO on his death-bed, accompanied by BONIZO, an advisor)

GALEAZZO: Oh God, verily do we feel the cold hand of Death upon our shoulder. Loyal Bonizo, how fares our noble Tuscany?

BONIZO: Well, Sire, it could hardly fare worse.

GALEAZZO (clutching chest): Oh Lord, They come for us. Only tell us we leave our young nation in safe hands, dear Bonizo. Where is our noble son, Elio?

BONIZO: Right there, Sire.

(ELIO rises drunkenly from behind the bed; GALEAZZO sees him)

GALEAZZO: Oh. (dies)

ELIO (shaking the body): Well, it was about time.

(ELIO pushes his father's corpse off the bed and lays on it; BONIZO kneels)

BONIZO: Long live Duke Elio of Tuscany.

ELIO: Longer than this one, I hope. Now, Bonizo, my happy little idiot. What's a Duke got to do to get a drink around here?


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(BONIZO withdraws off-stage and returns with wine; others begin to enter: THE DUKE OF SPOLETO, DIONYSIA, NAWOJA, JACKANAPE, SERVANTS and SOLDIERS)

ELIO (emptying his cup): That does it. Bonizo, attend to me. Who is that boy?

BONIZO: I believe it is the Duke of Spoleto, Sire, son of your brother Federigo.

ELIO: Ah, Federigo! We loved him dearly. Were that he still lived to see this day.

BONIZO: Yes, Sire.

ELIO: What a handsome man my nephew is. (pause) Have him killed, won't you?

BONIZO: Of course, Sire.

ELIO: Dearly I also desire his lands. Oh, good God. More sweet wine to fend off ugly tomorrow. (drinks) And who is that, Bonizo?


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BONIZO: Your son, Sire.

ELIO: My son? Why, so it is. What is he called?

BONIZO: Elio, Sire.

ELIO: Elio? Elio, like I, Elio? Stuff and nonsense. We cannot have two Elios. Let him now be Jackanape and Jackanape only.

BONIZO: As you say, Sire.

ELIO: Jackanape! Jackanape! Bonizo, why does he not heed the call of his father?

(BONIZO brings JACKANAPE to ELIO; with him come DIONYSIA and NAWOJA also)

DIONYSIA: How does the day find you, husband dear?

ELIO: It finds me a Duke, it does.

DIONYSIA: And I a Duchess.

ELIO: Ah! I suppose one has to follow from the other.

***

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Excerpt from 'On The Virtue Of Cats', a treatise by Duke Elio Guerra of Tuscany, c. 1170

(...) The feline is an able companion; a scourge of vermin; an exemplar of cleanliness; cunning in its aspect, graceful in its form. It comforts us when we despair and delights us when we sit idle. What are these things if not the design of our Lord God, and how can the cat thus be anything but a godly creature? That there are wicked sides to the cat I do not deny. They may most cruelly torment their prey; hiss and scratch those who would only give them love and comfort; easily abandon one master for another. But these are the ways of nature, which God upholds for our education and benefit. The animal does not think or choose its actions. It merely follows the nature ordained upon it by God. Why then condemn beasts as we would men or name them wicked or impious?

I myself have always kept cats. Even as I write these words, I observe Paws the tomcat at rest. He lays by my side, purring in perfect contentment the like we me mortal men may only dream of. In his sleep, I believe, he hunts the mouse and teaches his kittens. I marvel at the unconscious delight in the kicking of his paws and the feline grin on his lips. He is of the most wondrous ebony shade, with his fur lustrous and clean. Before he was the most esteemed companion of my wise sister, Adriana of Lombardy, and she taught him a great sophistication of etiquette and affable behavior. All the lords and ladies of my realm are to have one of his little ones to guard their households in turn. This, I believe, is merely an expression of good and godly governance.

If we leave the common country cat behind, we may contemplate for a moment the lion and the leopard, those great felines of Africa and the Orient. It is not by happenstance that the King of Beasts adorns so many banners and coat of arms. One cannot praise the lion on one hand and scorn the housecat on the other. They are one and the same, only grown different by the peculiar weather and air of their native ranges. To show the truth of this, I present the spotted wild cat of Egypt -- (...)


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(...) Lastly, I believe the cat teaches us of the necessity of cruelty. It stalks and hunts and pounces, leaving no chance for its prey to escape. It does not do this for the joy of it, as some ignorant commentators claim. Indeed, the kittens of the cat could very well starve if it did not practice its hunts and bring back its victim for their meal. In this manner, we men too must be ready to act decisively and ruthlessly when it is demanded of us. Only through merciless decisive action may we ensure the survival of our progeny and the prosperity of our line.

In this, as in all the good character I have presented, we may strive to be as the cat. God has placed all of nature upon this earth for our use and learning - indeed, it would be a grave fault indeed to turn one's eyes from the teachings of His creation, however fell they might seem at first glance. (...)


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Excerpt of Scene IV, Act I of 'The Merry King of Tuscany', a 1848 banned anti-monarchist play by revolutionary author Giovanni di Canossa

(ELIO enters, returning home from the wars in Spoleto; DIONYSIA and a SOLDIER are roused from their bed)

SOLDIER: Do we satisfy our Lady?

DIONYSIA: You please us, but to satisfy - we would need a company's worth of you.

SOLDIER: That may yet be arranged, my Lady.

DIONYSIA (listens): Hold! What is this I hear? A cheer of the triumphant?

SOLDIER: I hear nothing. Come back under the covers, my little dove.

DIONYSIA: You fool! It is my husband, come back from the war! Hide, quickly!

(The SOLDIER hides underneath the sheets; DIONYSIA arranges the pillows to cover him)

ELIO: Ah, my wife.

DIONYSIA: Oh, my husband!

ELIO: Well, that's one more crown added to the pile. We are victorious.

DIONYSIA: Was it a mighty battle, my husband?

ELIO: As mighty as one might expect, when you are facing a six-year-old. Now move aside and allow me to rest my bruised backside upon these silk sheets, for the riding has left it quite tender.

DIONYSIA: By God! No, no. Allow me to embrace you first!

(DIONYSIA seizes ELIO in her arms; the SOLDIER rolls out of bed and crawls under it)

ELIO: What a queer smell there is upon you, my wife.

DIONYSIA: Merely a new perfume, my love, to please your senses.

ELIO: Well, it doesn't. Now, let me put my boots under mine bed and rest my weary feet for a while.

DIONYSIA: Oh dear Lord! Let me carry you instead!

(DIONYSIA hoists ELIO up in her arms unsteadily; the SOLDIER tries to avoid them as they turn and stagger around)

ELIO: Let me down! Let me down, you Greek wench!

DIONYSIA (holding tighter): First, tell me what news you bear!

ELIO: You are mad, woman!

(The SOLDIER manages to sneak off-stage; DIONYSIA drops ELIO on the bed)

DIONYSIA: Why must you call me such things, my husband?

ELIO: God loves an honest man.

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ELIO: Well, enough prattle. What news? I tell you, we have met with His Holiness.

DIONYSIA: Oh, have you prayed together?

ELIO: Prayed, what nonsense! The man robbed me of my every last coin.

DIONYSIA: You received indulgence?

ELIO: I don't know what that is. We played dice.

DIONYSIA: Oh. What else?

ELIO: Ah, I made a profit in the end. Behold!

(ELIO pulls out a stained rag from his sack)

DIONYSIA: What is this vile thing?

ELIO: Ah, the papal standard. It has merely taken some wine. Will you clean it up for us, dearest?

DIONYSIA: For what purpose?

ELIO: We shall ride with it into Ancona. His Holiness has granted us claim to those lands.

DIONYSIA: More conquests, my husband?

ELIO: Idleness does not a kingdom make.

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Excerpt of Scene II, Act II of 'The Merry King of Tuscany', a 1848 banned anti-monarchist play by revolutionary author Giovanni di Canossa

(BONIZO, JACKANAPE, NAWOJA, SERVANTS and SOLDIERS are gathered around a wounded ELIO on the battlefield)

ELIO: By God, by God, he has cloven my face right asunder. Be straight with it; how does it look?

BONIZO: In all truth, Sire, I cannot tell the difference.

JACKANAPE: But father, do scars not only refine a man?

ELIO: Oh Lord, what nonsense have I taught you!

NAWOJA: But Sire! Is true beauty in a man not found beneath the navel?

ELIO: For sure, at least I still have my sword.

BONIZO: It is a flesh wound only, Sire! Your nose shall grow back twice as mighty!

JACKANAPE: And it is no shame to lack so many teeth in your age, father!

DIONYSIA (enters, screams): Oh good God, what is that creature?

BONIZO: It is your lord husband, my Lady.

DIONYSIA: Oh, so it is. Was anything of value lost?

BONIZO: Well--

ELIO: To Hell with every last fool, harlot, charlatan and halfwit of you!

***

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Excerpt from 'A National History of Tuscany', ed. Daniel Castaldi & Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1920)

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(...) The new Kingdom was certainly born under inauspicious stars. The Duke had been grievously wounded and would spend the rest of his days with an iron mask holding his skull together. Years of war had exhausted Tuscany's levies and depopulated parts of the countryside. The golden age of Elio's father was for certain now over, but through this devastation a new, more powerful realm could be forged. In the year 1171, Elio I Guerra was crowned by the Pope in a grand ceremony as King of the Tuscans, elevating him greatly above his peers in Italy. While Elio had sought to be titled King of all Italy, the Holy Father was eventually persuaded into a compromise solution naming Elio King in Italy only. He would indeed not be the only such ruler so honored.

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Scene IV, Act II of 'The Merry King of Tuscany', a 1848 banned anti-monarchist play by revolutionary author Giovanni di Canossa

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(ELIO sits on his bed holding and kissing his crown; NAWOJA sleeps behind him; DIONYSIA enters with a SERVANT)

ELIO: Ah, it is good to be King.

DIONYSIA: And I your Queen.

ELIO: Mine and everyone else's, so I hear.

DIONYSIA: You lose me, husband.

ELIO: You make a cuckold of me, you wanton harlot!

NAWOJA (waking): You call for me, Milord?

ELIO: Not now, Nawoja!

DIONYSIA: Forget not it is I who has guided you here, oh King.

ELIO: She can guide herself out. Someone send for the Pope! I want a divorce!

(DIONYSIA storms off, taking the hand of the SERVANT; BONIZO enters)


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BONIZO: I bring news, Your Grace.

ELIO: Ah, are the news good?

BONIZO: Why do you ask?

ELIO (searching for wine): You know I hate evil news on a dry throat.

BONIZO: I tell you now, Sire – His Holiness has declared the Duke of Verona a fellow King.

ELIO: What say you?

BONIZO: The Duke of Verona is now King, Sire.

ELIO: King of Verona? Absurd!

BONIZO: King of Romagna, Sire.

ELIO: But he does not rule in Romagna. I do. I think.

BONIZO: Perhaps he intends to some day.

ELIO (tossing away crown): Oh, dark day. What was the Holy Father thinking? It's no good. After all that I've done! He promised I'd be King in Italy and now He's gone and usurped me.

BONIZO: It is indeed very impertinent, Sire.

ELIO: And he owes me 50 ducats!

BONIZO: And a bottle of burgundy, Sire.

ELIO: And a bottle of burgundy. Oh, damnation. Have you no good news to give, dear Bonizo?

elio22.jpg

BONIZO: Well, no.

ELIO: Little use you are. How about a war or two?

BONIZO: I'm afraid not.

SERVANT (enters): Your Grace!

ELIO: Well, what is it?

SERVANT: Your sister Adriana calls you to arms, Your Grace. She is at war!

ELIO: Oh, splendid!

SERVANT: And here is a message from the Venetian Doge. He too goes to war!

ELIO: Ah, even better. Against whom?

SERVANT: The King of Romagna, Your Grace.

ELIO (standing): Aha! There we have it! I shall crush that usurper and bite his crown! Saddle my horse, Bonizo! To war!

***

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Excerpt from 'A National History of Tuscany', ed. Daniel Castaldi & Maria Visconti (Firenze: 1920)

(...) Decades of expansion and easy victories had left the Tuscan leadership overconfident and complacent. The Romagnan War was expected to a short conflict, an easy victory against a numerically inferior enemy. This rosy picture was quickly shattered. The Venetians failed to open their promised eastern front, and well-trained and well-led Romagnan troops would triumph again and again over the Tuscan forces. King Elio's troops were hard-pressed to support both the Lombardians in the north and the Venetians at home.

Each new defeat would drive the King deeper into despair and desperation. Now the practice of leading from the front, common among the House of Guerra and the Tuscan nobility, would backfire in the most spectacular fashion...

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Scene V, Act III of 'The Merry King of Tuscany', a 1848 banned anti-monarchist play by revolutionary author Giovanni di Canossa

(ELIO and the KING OF ROMAGNA face off with their SOLDIERS; the battle rages until only ELIO and the KING OF ROMAGNA are left on stage)

ELIO: Usurper!

KING OF ROMAGNA: Scoundrel!

ELIO: Thief!

KING OF ROMAGNA: Fornicator!

ELIO: Upstart!

KING OF ROMAGNA: Drunkard!

ELIO: Hold, now. What's so bad about being a drunkard?

(The KING OF ROMAGNA strikes at ELIO; the two battle, then fall down and crawl around chasing one another; THE KING OF ROMAGNA cuts off ELIO's leg and runs away with it)

ELIO: Damnation, that stings! What's this sort of business? In my time, kings and dukes didn't go around stealing one another's limbs. It's a wretchedly common thing to do.

BONIZO (enters running): Sire! Do you yet live?

ELIO: Seems like it.

BONIZO: Your leg!

ELIO: You are as insightful as ever, good Bonizo. How goes the battle?

BONIZO: Poorly, Sire. Our men are like wheat before the harvest-man.

ELIO: Do you suppose it'll turn around any time soon?

BONIZO: Sire! The earth is like rain-watered soil with the blood of Tuscan soldiers!

ELIO: Alright, what of the Venetians?

BONIZO: Sire, their mercenaries have switched sides, bereft of their pay. Truly have they sown the seeds of their own downfall.

ELIO: What a farmer the world loses in you, Bonizo!

BONIZO: Sire?

ELIO: Nevermind. Ooh, that hurts. I suppose it'll be King Jackanape, now.

(JACKANAPE staggers on-stage, pierced by arrows; he dies)

ELIO: Curses. At least we have a grandson somewhere.

(GEROLAMO enters, clutching his stomach; he dies)

ELIO: Typical. Who's that leave us with?

BONIZO: Sire, the next in line is young Marco.

ELIO: Young Marco? How young?

(The prop of a babe is conveyed on stage, i.e. dropped from overhead)

ELIO: Oh. (dies)


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BONIZO: So passes Elio, great King of Tuscany. (to audience) And from these days has the noble house of Guerra ruled these fine lands with all the virtue, wisdom and valor of their ancestors. So shall they rule until the end of time, some say, which suits humble Bonizo just fine, since there'll always be a need for good council and honest bureaucracy. Perhaps the sons and daughters of happy Bonizo shall also live on through history to wait upon their beloved lords? It may be that there a Bonizo toils away even now at the right hand of the King.

(BONIZO picks up the babe and walks off-stage; curtain falls; end of play)


***

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Some artistic liberties may have been taken by the play...
 

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King Marco I Guerra: 1183-1206 AD (Part 1)

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marcoperson.jpg

Observations Of The Future King, a court record of the Kingdom of Tuscany, 1183-1193

Today King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. turned six years of age. His Grace is a healthy child of remarkable perception and intellect for one so young. On this auspicious day, our Liege received a portion of honey-cake and was witnessed giving thanks to the bees who had made his meal possible. His Grace further inquired after the possibility of compensating the creatures for their work and noted that he did not wish them to be paid in coin, for he did not think they would have much use for such things. After deliberations it was decreed that the hives would receive a gift of the royal sugar in thanks.

Our Liege is a deep thinker and often questions the court on matters of God and His Creation. He astounds visitors with the depth and sophistication of his knowledge. We have witnessed our Lord defeat the keeper of his hounds, a grown man, in the noble game of chess. This man confessed he had been striving to win, yet had not been able to triumph over his opponent. Let these things stand as testament to the great wisdom of His Grace. Recorded in the month of August in the Year of Our Lord 1183.


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On this day King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. was promised in matrimony to the most noble Jusiana Rocó, sister of the King of Aragon. In this the Crown of Tuscany promises its friendship to the Crown of Aragon. His Grace has, after an explanation by the Council of Regents, agreed to commit Tuscan forces for the defense of the realm of Aragon against the Mohammetian enemy. He has expressed his profound desire to see peace return at the earliest possible instant however and we have assured him that we will see it done. Our Liege is most concerned with the prosperity and peace of the realm in all things, a sign of his strong moral character.

Furthermore, His Grace has met with his future wife, the princess Jusiana. He was witnessed conducting himself with the utmost chivalry and sophistication to the amazement of the Aragonese court. The princess Jusiana appeared much enamored with His Grace to the joy of all. A banquet was laid afterwards with the King expressing great pleasure in particular at the tamarind and orange fruit provided. Recorded in the month of May in the Year of Our Lord 1184.


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In this day King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. intervened in an altercation of the other children during play. Our Liege most bravely came to the defense of his young uncle Saverio, who was most impiously set upon by ruffian children attempting to preach the word of God. His Grace could not bear to see such conduct and wished to break up the conflict. It was witnessed that His Grace settled the matter with words alone and did mediate between the children to everyone's satisfaction. The child Saverio is most grateful and awe-struck by his royal nephew's wisdom and has promised eternal friendship in turn. Afterwards the children enjoyed a meal of frittata and olives, pronouncing it a most exemplary effort.

Our Liege continues to grow in body and spirit. At the age of eight he is the equal of many men of adult years in conversation and has been recorded triumphing in his cherished game of chess against even learned men. Recorded in the month of December in the Year of Our Lord 1185.


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On this day King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. was noted weeping after receiving news of the death of his aunt, Adriana of Lombardy. When receiving comfort, he astonished the court by claiming he did not grieve for his aunt, who was surely in Heaven, but indeed the succession of House Guerra in the northern Duchy. The court was inclined to agree with his assessment that a son of Duchess Adriana from her misjudged earlier marriage would inherit her throne, yielding the Duchy to a lowborn ruffian instead of a man of the family. His Grace would soon inquire his regents as to what this change meant for the trifold alliance of the north.

His Grace is possessed of remarkable strength for his ten short years. He was witnessed defeating a boy of thirteen years in a contest of wrestling two days past, later offering to teach his opponent on his mistakes and ill-judgements. The offer was accepted and today the two dined on risotto of Oriental rice and cuts of stuffed eel. His companion was most discomfited by the meal, but our Liege noted it as an inspired effort by the cooks. Recorded in the month of September in the Year of Our Lord 1187.


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Today King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. expressed great shock and dismay at the conduct of his teacher, the Cardinal Józef. It became known to the court that the Cardinal possessed most untoward heathen inclinations and a grave overabundance of pleasure in the pain of others. His Grace had already desired the pardon of a lowly thief condemned to death some days ago, yet the Cardinal had instead insisted on the most cruel and unusual means of punishment. One day past His Grace witnessed the undeserved torture and mutilation of a servant boy in the Cardinal's quarters and informed the Council of Regents with all haste. The Cardinal has been relieved of his duties with a formal letter of complaint to be delivered to His Holiness the Pope. The queen mother has taken up such duties in his stead. The King has taken great interest in law and just rule, and it is recorded he spends much of his time reading books of judgement and philosophy on these matters.

His Grace lacked an appetite after such events and declined his meal. Recorded in the month of June in the Year of Our Lord 1188.


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On this day King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. demanded action to stem the terrible spread of the Waldensian heresy in Italy. This scourge of the mother Church has afflicted even lords of Tuscany, who have refused to abandon their heretical ways. Our Liege has met with the Count of Orbetello and the Duke of Spoleto but was unable to convince them to return to the light. To their complaints on the Church, His Grace offered to write to the Holy Father on their behalf, yet they refused in part due to the minority of the King. His Grace afterwards inquired whether the matter was justification enough to strip them off their titles and seize their fiefdoms for the Crown and was persuaded that it did provide just cause for such an action. The King then swore to do so if they persisted in their abhorrent ways.

His Grace was in fine spirits and requested a dinner of pasta with cheese and lamb. With regret he later announced he had overindulged in wine and could not honestly judge the quality of his meal. Recorded in the month of July in the Year of Our Lord 1189.


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Today King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. was informed of the surrender of his foes at long last and peace in the realm. His Grace at once demanded the providence of festivities and royal aid to the peasantry in light of this victory. It was decreed that these festivities should take place on the King's thirteenth birthday in the following month. Our Liege is most concerned still over the spread of Waldensian beliefs among the common folk and has requested aid from His Holiness in bringing his flock back to the true church. Moreover, he is most agitated over the mounting royal debt incurred from his wars of faith. It was witnessed that the King prayed most ardently for now an enduring and good peace for all Christendom.

His Grace has informed the Council of Regents of his desire to grant the Duchy of Spoleto and all lands therein to his uncle Saverio, most treasured friend of our Liege. This was agreed to take place at the noble Saverio's maturity this year. Furthermore, it was decided to integrate Orbetello and its surroundings directly into the royal demesne. His Grace justified this action by describing the frequent troubles afflicting that place and his desire to pacify it with the rule of his own hand. It is the hope of this Council that this is the last dire news we shall hear of cursed Orbetello.

The King took only a modest meal of bread and ale this day after sundown in most pious observance of Lent. Recorded in the month of March in the Year of Our Lord 1190.


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On this day King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. heard with the court a most lurid tale of a great pagan king of the eastern steppe, who was to conquer the world entire were he not stopped. His Grace reacted with most unusual anxiety over this tale and refuted his advisor's beliefs that it was merely rumor from distant lands. After consulting the royal cartographer, the King concluded that Christendom was in no danger of invasion, but that the court would do well to take such rumors seriously going onwards. Our Liege has requested we fund an expedition into this far realm to ascertain whether there is any truth to the rumors.

His Grace was noted to be in similarly ill mood for the entire day. It was later discovered that the King had made an amorous confession to the lady Marianna di Barletta of this court and been most cruelly rebuffed. Our Liege feels most humiliated and has expressed his desire to in some manner punish this flighty young woman. These wrothful emotions appear to confuse and distress His Grace most terribly. He displays a vindictive side that has escaped notice until now. He has been assured our Lord Christ forgives and absolves all, but remains a restless soul. The King consumed great quantities of cheese and sausage to soothe his soul in the evening. Recorded in the month of October in the Year of Our Lord 1192.


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Today King Marco, First of His Name, King of the Tuscans, Sovereign-in-Italy, Champion of Rome, Duke of Emilia and Tuscany ex. turned sixteen years old and thus reached the age of his maturity. The realm rejoices at the ascension of such a great King. The purpose of this record is at an end. It is the hope of its humble authors that His Grace and his descendants may gain some value out of its knowledge and insights. Our Liege takes the throne as a young man of towering intellect, strong body, diligent and contemplative nature, and a most just and lawful manner of rule. The realm of Tuscany shall benefit greatly from His reign.

His Grace enjoyed a plain meal of porridge, bread and ale before his coronation, citing an anxiety of the stomach. Even so he pronounced it the best food of all his years. Recorded in the month of August in the Year of Our Lord 1193.

***​

Excerpt from 'Great Leaders of History: Vol III; Chapter V: Marco of Tuscany' by Johan Ragnarsson Goye (Kobenhavn: 1842)


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(...) At last, he was King. What was the state of King Marco's realm, however? The wars at home and in defense of Aragon had incurred enormous debt for the royal treasury. Though Tuscany was perhaps the richest realm of its time - granted that status by Italy's great trading networks and by the prosperity of its fertile provinces - it also maintained a grand royal army and its wealth required constant investment through construction of keeps, sponsorship of towns and markets, expansion of port facilities and the funding of trading expeditions. King Marco did not have to look far for an answer to his prayers, however. The close alliance of Church and State in medieval Tuscany had ensured the Kingdom's ascension for many years. The new ruler, well-educated and dangerously intelligent as he was, sought to reaffirm that alliance. Fortunately, he was at once presented with a chance - the Third Crusade of 1190-1193, the latest in a suite of unsuccessful holy wars directed at Jerusalem.

The sixteen-year-old Marco thus embarked with a small force - not wishing to tax the indebted royal treasury greatly - and joined the crusading force across the Mediterranean. There has been enough written of the Miracle of 1193 in other works, so it suffices to say that for the first time, western Christendom witnessed a successful Crusade. The Muslim emirs of the region were forced to kneel and surrender their lands. The most eminent lords of the crusader force were granted fiefdoms in the new Kingdom of Jerusalem, but who was to be King?

It is here that Marco first proved his genius. Despite the small size of the Tuscan force, its sovereign managed to deliver it precisely to the battles and sieges where it most mattered. This brought great glory and acclaim to the Tuscans. From this foundation, Marco could use his position as Champion of Rome to persuade the Pope into supporting his candidate as King of Jerusalem. This did not mean the choice was accepted without complaint - indeed, many other lords felt they had contributed much more to the Crusade - but Papal authority would not be questioned. In November 1193, Marco's kinsman Pericle Guerra was crowned the first King of Jerusalem in a moment of great glory and fame for his house. For Marco himself, the Papal treasuries and gratitude provided him with the means to pay back the bankers of Tuscany and restore the health of his treasury for the moment.


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Queen Jusiana had accompanied her new husband to Jerusalem at its conquest in the autumn of 1193. There they had found the chance to consummate their union - a coming together that would result in the birth of the King's firstborn, Vittorio, the following year. The marriage of Jusiana and Marco had thus begun with every appearance of affection and harmony. Few could have foreseen what was to come of it. For four years, the kingdom knew peace. A second son, Lazzaro, would be born in this time of calm. King Marco disliked war and the troubles it brought - a trait forged by the tragic deaths of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather in quick succession when he was a child, no doubt. He was also keenly aware of the political landscape of the Mediterranean, however. His wife was the King of Aragon's much younger sister, and so possessed some claim to the throne of that kingdom. When the Aragonese King died in 1196, Marco saw an opportunity to unite the two thrones and create a power to be reckoned with. If this meant war, it was a sacrifice Tuscany would have to make.


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The war for the throne was launched in 1197. A child king, the Infante Lluis, ruled in Tarragona. Marco sought to make the war a swift and fairly bloodless one. He would successfully execute a plan of capturing the young king through a naval invasion of the Aragonese capital. The assault had the intended effect. The Infante Lluis was taken captive and forced to agree to his aunt's ascension as Queen of Aragon. The two young monarchs would rule over their separate kingdoms as sworn allies until their child could inherit both realms for the House of Guerra. With Tuscan strength guarding her, Aragon could stand up to its Islamic neighbors without fear. Or so it seemed. The fate of the kingdom would soon come to take a stranger, unexpected turn.


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From the start, Jusiana's rule in Aragon was unsteady and unwanted. The local nobility saw her as a Tuscan puppet, who had spent years away from her homeland and thus knew little of its present situation. An attempted coup that would have led to the restoration of Lluis was followed by open rebellion by a heretical duke, who professed the obscene Messalian faith, tolerated under her predecessor. Tuscany would have to wage further expensive wars to maintain Jusiana's reign in Aragon, crushing resistance to the union with force. Queen Jusiana would prove a poor, indecisive ruler, unable to assert her authority without her husband's support. The distance between the two would have other consequences as well...

***


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Letter dated November 12, 1203, from the correspondence of Marco Guerra, King of Tuscany, and Jusiana Guerra, Queen of Aragon

To the royal Jusiana,

Dear wife, much did we wonder of your desire to give the name of Marco to our youngest son, two years past, when he was born. It seemed to us then that you dearly wished to attach him to us in all things. Today we have learned why. You have deceived me with another man for three years now, the burgher Berenguer, who you know very well is no friend of ours. You have lain in carnal congress with this wretch and produced a child with him that you have allowed us to believe ours. For his sake, we will not speak to Bonaventura of the truth of his parentage, but by God, we cannot love him truly.

We cannot love you either, but our union is too important to simply allow to collapse. For this, we beseech you to break off your sinful ties to this man you choose to share your bed with. We cannot have our children afflicted by rumors of bastardry.

Yours,
Marco Guerra, Rex Tuscani et al.

Letter dated November 18, 1203, from the correspondence of Marco Guerra, King of Tuscany, and Jusiana Guerra, Queen of Aragon

To our most merciful and noble husband, who we love ardently, by the Grace of God King Marco of Tuscany,

We do not deserve your forgiveness, good husband, but we ask for it nevertheless. We have banished that hateful man from our court and purified ourselves before God as much as we are able. We swear to do everything in our power to restore our faithful union. We swear it upon our life and our love for you. We cannot justify or explain our actions, other than to write on how distance is a bane on virtue, and that wicked men can be most charming in their nature.

We shall travel to Florence at once to meet with you and beg for your forgiveness. Please receive us and allow us into your presence once more.

Your penitent wife and Queen,
Jusinia Guerra, Regina Aragoni et al.


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Letter dated November 30, 1203, from the correspondence of Marco Guerra, King of Tuscany, and Jusiana Guerra, Queen of Aragon

To the royal Jusinia,

We have chosen to forgive you. All that we discussed in Florence still holds true, but we add to it this: if we are to ever lay eyes upon the man Berenguer once more, by God we shall slay him. Now let us work to restore our union. Do not seek our presence again, not for some time. We feel very low of spirit and wish to be alone. We shall write when we are able.

Your husband and King,
Marco Guerra, Rex Tuscani et al.

***​

Excerpt from 'Great Leaders of History: Vol III; Chapter V: Marco of Tuscany' by Johan Ragnarsson Goye (Kobenhavn: 1842)

(...) To say that the crisis of their marriage affected both parties gravely would be an understatement. King Marco would become increasingly reclusive and asocial - the 'Hermit of Tuscany' as contemporary poetry names him. Jusiana, on the other hand, would choose a far, far more radical course of action. Previous writers have generally considered it a canny act of realpolitik as Queen of a precarious, vulnerable realm in a region where such things were considerably more relaxed than elsewhere in Europe, but a closer study of the facts does not support this. The powerful Tuscan army stood ready to defend the Queen from any harm. From her writings, the act is presented more than anything as the desperate choice of a hysterical, guilt-gripped woman.

In late 1203, Queen Juliana would send out a pronouncement that shocked Christendom. The most Christian sovereign of Aragon had traveled to the court of the Andalusian sultan and accepted conversion into the Islamic faith.


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No amount of pleading, threatening, cajoling or begging by her court or her husband could change Jusiana's mind. King Marco did the only thing left for him - he effectively cut off all contact between his children and his wife, hoping in this manner to keep them from being influenced by their heathen mother. The failure of Marco to bring Jusiana back to the Catholic Church would also sour his relationship with the Pope, though he would continue to style himself 'Champion of Rome' despite Papal disapproval. The King was forced to simply wait for his unstable wife to die and so pass the throne of Aragon to their son. There are few surviving letters from this period, likely perhaps they were never written - the King had locked himself within his keep and rarely reached out to anyone outside it.


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Matters were not improved by the sudden death of the King's mother, Filomena, in a duel with another noblewoman at court. What brought about this bizarre battle between the two women is unknown, but it affected Marco greatly. The King had always been close with his mother. Only his strong sense of justice prevented him from executing the culprit, a deranged Greek woman by the name of Aigidia Pantechnes, instead simply banishing her from court. It had, indeed, been a legal duel, if between women - much as it pained the King, he could not take her life for it.


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The unhappy event began to break down the King's hermit's existence, but decidedly it ended only after a mystical encounter on a hunt in 1206. The Hunt for the White Stag would consume the King for the rest of his life, as recounted in the medieval epic the Song of the Hunter Marco. (...)

***​
 

HistoryDude

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On The Virtue Of Cats sounds interesting.

Dionysia cheated on Elio. Of course she did. Elio spent all of his time on campaign.

Jusinia converted to Islam? Why?
 
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Jusinia converted to Islam? Why?

Depends on what theory you subscribe to. Either she wished to protect her realm against more powerful Muslim neighbors and converted in an act of canny realpolitik, or she had a nervous breakdown and a crisis of faith.

As far as the game's actual logic is concerned, I have no idea. Makes for a good story, though.