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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

LudoOttavio

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Lartius!
A name which once meant something to the people of Rome. A name of warriors, leaders, heroes in their own right. Spurius Lartius had fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Horatius Cocles on that Pons Sublicius of legendary fame. Titus Lartius had led the newborn Republic as its first Dictator, creating the magistrature that brought Iulius Caesar to power.

But those were the early days of the Republic, five centuries before the reforms of Augustus, eight hundred years before the conversion of Constantine I. In the thirteen hundred years that separate those times and the rise to power of the Frankish Karlings, the fortunes of the family had dwindled and faded, damning the name of Lartius to become nothing more that a footnote in the pages narrating tales of the dawn of Rome. That, however, is on its own a high honor for any rightful citizen of the Republic. Thus the Lartii lived on, mayhaps not making history, as patricians in the State that their ancestors had helped forge.

Yet, as Fate wills it, even those days were not meant to last. The Temples of the Gods abandoned and desecrated, the Roman Limes trampled by hoards of barbarians that the Empire did not have the strength to neither repel nor assimilate. The Eternal City herself was subjected to the violence of the bloody invaders, abandoned by the Emperors of Constantinople, fought over by Senate, Kings and Popes. Those were dark days, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the days of Odoacer, of the Merovingians, of Arthur Pendragon.

Even in those troubled times, the name of Lartius did not die out. The heirs of Gens Lartia remained in the City of the Seven Hills, surviving through the tense period of Ostrogothic rule, welcoming with open arms Belisarius's legions, still clinging to the dream that was Rome. Awoken from the dream by the Longobard invasion of Italia, the Lartii feared extinction as the barbarian conquerors approached the rich lands of Aprutium in which they had settled under Justinian's rule.

The Lombard invasion, however, proved to be more of a blessing than a curse for the fortunes of Gens Lartia. Unlike other germanic peoples, the Longobards showed a degree of acceptance towards the conquered peoples, perhaps realizing the strength of the Romans they now ruled and, slowly but steadily, the name of Lartius became known by the barbarian aristocracy. With time the family, and the cadre of armed retainers which it had kept ever since leaving Rome all those years before, became a fixture for the local Roman populace, so much so that even the Lobard rulers had to acknowledge them, going as far as recognizing them as part of the nobility.



Chapter List
Chapter I: The Last Son of Mars
Chapter II: The Lord of Rome's Granary

Chapter III: Old Friends, New Beginnings
Chapter IV: From the Ashes, a New Flame

Chapter V: Between Two Suns
Chapter VI: Belisarius
Chapter VII: The Man who Broke an Empire
Chapter VIII: The Only King of Rome
Chapter IX: When in Rome
Chapter X: For the Senate and the People of Rome
Chapter XI: Pax Romana, Bellum Provinciae
Chapter XII: The Souls of Men
Chapter XIII: Dusk of an Empire
Chapter XIV: The Bond of Blood
Chapter XV: The Matter of Gaul
Chapter XVI: Si Vis Pacem
Chapter XVII: Para Bellum
Interlude: Into The Loving Arms of Rome

Chapter XVIII: Res Gestae Gentis Lartiae



Author's Notes:
The aim of this AAR, for which I will be playing a personally modified version of CK2Plus, is to go from being a single province, foreign, count in Lombard ruled Aprutium, to ruling a fully restored Roman Empire. I will play a custom, Ruler Designer created, Dynasty: the Gens Lartia, a historical patrician family of the Roman Republic and Early Empire. Cheating/Reloading will be kept to a minimum, however I do want some historical events (the rise of Charlemagne, and founding of the Carolingian Empire) to happen, and will above all focus on making a narrative, NOT nonsensical AAR, so I might intervene in foreign bordergore where I repute it necessary.
 
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TJDS

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Subbed. Will be most interesting.
 

stnylan

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Sounds very ambitious - will definitely follow.

A piece of editing advice - leave a clear line between paragraphs as it makes it alot easier to read.
 

blitzthedragon

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Count me in!
 

TWR97

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Consider me subbed, it'd be interesting to see if this ancient house of Rome will have what it takes to restore the Dream that is Rome, good luck!
 

LudoOttavio

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Thanks for the encouraging words everyone! I'll do my best not to disappoint

A piece of editing advice - leave a clear line between paragraphs as it makes it alot easier to read.
Thanks, fixed. Also noticed the bigger font translates terribly on mobile, so I guess I'll drop that.
 

LudoOttavio

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Chapter I: The Last Son of Mars
"Lartius!" Avitus's train of thought was abruptly broken by Duke Arechis and the bear-like pat on the back he had given him. "Got lost in your own mind again, O Roman lord?"

The Count smiled, grabbing Arechis Gausian's arm.

"Nay my Lord, it has been a tiring day, 'tis all."


Against all odds, Avitus had grown to like the Lombard Duke, even coming to consider him a friend. Most men took Arechis for an oaf and a drunkard, but while nothing could be said in his defense about his passion for strong wines, Avitus had come to appreciate his lord's wit and skill at intrigue.


"I might have a cure for that!" Arechis roared as he gestured a servant for more wine. "But first, Lartius, there is a less pleasant matter which we must discuss. What's this I've heard of you making claims on the lands of Capua?"

"What you heard" Avitus started, casting a glance at Lord Mayor Pando of Capua, who was standing on the other side of the room. "is the truth, my lord. But before you think any less of me, know that I am merely defending that which sould have been my rightful inheritance. You see, I have recently unearthed documents which showed that, when your father Duke Liutprand entrusted my own father with the rule of Aprutium, the people of Capua had also sworn to serve him."


That, of course, was a lie. Aprutium's chancellor Heaberth, whom Avitus had met in his youth and had invited from faraway Wessex to make use of his skills as a diplomat, had worked tirelessly for over a year in order to fabricate documents and bribe witnesses that might make the story seem believable. As the Duke looked at him straight in the eyes, Avitus feared that maybe he hadn't worked enough.


"Listen up, Lartius. You're a friend. Have been for years. And I won't deny that you would be doing me a favour by teaching my dear steward Lord Pando a lesson in humility. However do not expect my aid in this matter. I recognize your claims as lawful, but you shall have to conquer Capua with the strenght of arms, or not at all. Is that clear?"

"Yes my Lord." Avitus spoke almost in a whisper.

"Good! Now let's feast, before the Franks come and take everything away from us!" Arechis shouted, then began to laugh heartily.

"Do you truly think it will come to that, lord?" Count Daufer interjected. "Karl might have revealed himself to be an enemy by repudiating poor Dauferada, but I'm sure Karloman will keep his brother in check, do you not think so too?"

"Fear not Daufer, my body shall have to be cold before I bow my head to a Frank!" again he laughed.


News reached Avitus from the north that Karloman of the Franks had died at a mere 20 years of age. This meant the entirety of Pepin's Kingdom was now in the hands of his brother Karl, who already waged war against the Bavarians, his ambition knowing no bounds. Already some in Lombardy were talking of deposing old king Desiderius and offering the crown to the Frankish King. But Lartius had more pressing concerns. A letter had come from Benevento bearing the seal of duchess Adelperga, informing him that Duke Arechis had died under mysterious circumstances. It was with a heavy heart that he rode to bid his friend his last farewell.


After a month of mourning had passed, Lartius raised his levies and declared his intention to occupy Capua and the surrounding lands. Duke Romoald might have objected, but Avitus did not care. Recognizing his claims had been one of Arechis's last acts before his death and Avitus intended to honour his friend's last wishes. Count Paldo, to whose son Avitus had promised the hand of his eldest daughter born from his first marriage, eagerly marched with him. The Roman Count had forgone his obligations as Marshal of Benevento in order to fight alongside his soldiers in the field, and fight they did.


The armies of Aprutium and Apulia met Lord Mayor Pando's on the fields near Teano. The shield walls clashed one against the other, but it soon became obvious that the Capuans had no hope of winning. After the first battle ended with a clear victory for Avitus, the rest of the war became more of a game of cat and dog than a serious conflict. Count Paldo remained in Capua with his troops, besieging holding after holding, while Count Lartius pursued the retreating Capuan soldiers. Meanwhile, in the northern provinces of the realm, the Duke of Friuli had taken up arms against young Adelchis, aided by the Frankish forces of King Karl, who now yearned for the Iron Crown of the Lombards.




Bishop Laimicho, Aprutium's Court Chaplain, approached Avitus after the battle of Spoleto, rushing to his side with the Court Physician. Lartius waved them away, smiling boldly as he calmly told them he was unharmed.

"The men say your duel with Lord Mayor Pando was a bloody affair! We must give thanks to God that you are unharmed!" the Bishop cheered, raising his hands to the sky.

"The men exaggerate as always, father." Avitus smiled. "Had Pando not been cornered, he surely would have fled rather than face me. The man can handle a sword as well as my infant daughter."

"Aye, maybe so, but I still believe you took too great a risk by rushing forward like you did, m'lord" Lartius's Greek Marshal interceded.

"Perhaps... But what is done is done, and all that matters is that the Lord Mayor is in fetters, and we can finally put an end to this war."

"Join me in prayer my lord, we must give thanks to God!" the Bishop insisted, but Avitus had different plans.

"This seems hardly the place, Laimicho! Death and pain still cling here. We shall celebrate a mass as soon as we get back to Avezzano, I promise. Besides, I would like a moment to myself. I shall rejoin you later to confess my sins, but please, let me clear my mind first."

The Bishop felt persisting would have been futile.


Avitus walked to his tent alone, ordering his guards to make sure he would be undisturbed. Once inside he took off his mantle and spread it on the ground, then walked over to a small chest he had ordered carried all the way from Aprutium, and took out two small statues. He reverently placed them on the mantle, then knealt besides them and unsheathed his sword, placing it in front of the statuettes.


"Thank you Mars, father of all Romans." Lartius started, his usually powerful voice now little more than a whisper. "Thank you Minerva, goddess of strategists."
He did not leave his tent before nightfall.





Author's Notes: For your consideration, the first charapter/Prologue part 2 of the Res Gestae Gentis Lartiae AAR. I decided to start narrating in medias res to make the boring early game scheming a bit more interesting. While this chapter was slightly shorter than what I'd have liked, and didn't explore the young Count of Aprutium's private affairs in great depth, I preferred starting with a dialogue instead of a descriptive sequence. It allowed me to make Avitus seem less of a new player, and more like a man who was already deep into Beneventan politics. He isn't the new character that magically appeared in the game: his father was lord before him, he has already been married and has had two daughters from that union, and has inherited from generations of Lartii the sacred duty of secretly worshipping the Gods of Rome.

Outside of "literary fiction", the character I am playing with (Avitus Lartius), starts 29 years old in 769, a Genius (sue me) diplomat, with two ruler designed daughters. Playing with CK2plus, I gave him the Umbrian culture, opting not to take Roman right away, although through the AAR he will refer to himself, and be referred to, as a Roman. This was try and represent the complicated cultural situation in Longobard Italy.

I hope someone appreciated this first chapter, even with all its imperfections.
 
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ThetrueColt

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Worshipping the old gods? I am not familiar with CK2, is there some way to convert back to Roman Paganism in the game?
 

LudoOttavio

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Worshipping the old gods? I am not familiar with CK2, is there some way to convert back to Roman Paganism in the game?
You can cheat yourself into the "Hellenic Pagan" religion in vanilla CK2, but it has almost no features. There is a really great mod called Ancient Religions Reborn which allows you to worship ancient Deities. The CK2Plus mod, which I use for this AAR, includes a version of that mod.
 

stnylan

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It may be a wise thing to prostrate before the Franks for a short time, depending on how things play out, and lay the foundation.

But somehow I don't think Avitus would consider such a strategem.
 

JabberJock14

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Ooh! A Roman restoration which doesn't involve the East. I've always wanted to do something like this myself, so I'll be watching this with interest! Good luck and good start so far.
 

TWR97

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Ah, so Hellenism might make a comeback in the near future, interesting.
 

LudoOttavio

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Chapter II: The Lord of Rome's Granary



"Open the gates! Count Lartius has returned!" Avitus spurred his horse into a gallop as he was nearing Avezzano's walls. His campaign for Capua had kept him far from home for almost two years, and it felt good to be back. Servants had polished the scales of his armor, brushed the plumes on his helm, but he could still feel the blood on them. He smiled seeing the expressions of wonder on the faces of the children assembled in the courtyard as his horse reared when he abruptly reined him in. There had been a time when he would have jumped off the animal's back without a second thought, but he restrained himself, instead waiting for a servant to come help him off the saddle. He was no longer the young, reckless son of "the old Roman". He was now Avitus Lartius, Count of Aprutium and Lord of Capua, a man grown, tested in war. He had no need to prove anything to anyone, Kings knew his name, he had traded letters with His Holiness the Pope himself. Yet somehow, now more than ever, he felt fear. For the first time ever since he had first become an adult and started to travel the world, he felt his future was out of his hands.

King Karl's victory over young Adelchis was now almost a certainty, and although Benevento had managed to keep a position of neutrality in the civil war, Avitus could not help but fear the coming of the Franks. Under Arechis's rule perhaps he would've felt safe, but Romoald was not his father, and Lartius doubted that the young Duke could keep his realm free from Frankish interference. He just hoped that the small measures he had taken to ensure his own survival would prove to be enough.

Bishop Laimicho had ridden to Avezzano while Avitus was still intent on organising his new lands in Capua, and it was he who welcomed the Count as he descended from his horse, joyously announcing that everything had been prepared for a commemorative mass, to give thanks to God for their victory in battle. Avitus wanted to see his daughters, to walk the battlements and lay down on his bed, her beside him, but he knew it would have been an error to refuse the Court Chaplain again. Thus he greeted Laimicho with a smile, and stood in the front as the Bishop said mass in the castle's chapel.

He had noticed her as soon as he had entered the chapel, but had said nothing. He wanted to jump on her, cover her in kisses. But he knew he couldn't. Avitus diligently waited until Laimicho had finished his prayers, then insisted on staying behind as everyone left the chapel to dedicate themselves to more secular endeavours, claiming he wanted to pray alone in front of the cross. Lartius did not even have time kneel that already he heard the rustling of a woman's long tunic behind him. He turned around, his back to the Holy Cross, and there she was. His Levantine Princess. His Aaliyah.

She rushed towards and their lips met in a warm, passionate embrace. Her soft, delicate robes against his hard, cold cuirass. He hugged her tightly, one hand running through her curly hair, the other moving towards her lower back. He had missed her.

"I have missed you." He told her softly. She moaned.
"Welcome back my lord." She told him with a smile, their foreheads touching. "The castle so seemed empty without you."
"I'm back. And I'm here to stay. No more wars, no more fighting I swear..." He trailed off seeing the tears rush down her face.
"I was afraid, Avitus, so afraid. Afraid you would die far from me, afraid I wouldn't be able to kiss you again..."
"Hey now, I'm here, I'm all right"
"I was afraid you would not meet your son."


The boy was resting with a servant, in a room which Aaliyah had wasted no time transforming into a nursery of sorts. While she had always been respected at Avitus's court, now that she had borne him a child, Aaliyah had begun to act with true authority, as if she were the lady of the castle. The servants obeyed her without question for they knew that, bastard though he might be, her child was the sole male progeny of their Lord, the last of the Lartii, as far as they were concerned. Aaliyah had named him Titus, after the author of the Ab Urbe Condita. She was a smart woman, Avitus had always liked that of her. For his part, the Count approved of the name, for it reminded him of that glorious ancestor of his that had been Dictator in the early days of the Republic. Although, given his birth, Caesarion might have been more appropriate, Avitus thought once, looking at the boy's black curls. He did not have the heart to tell her that day, did not want to ruin the joy that the child's birth had brought her. At least that is what he told himself. One who wished to think ill of the Count would have said that he wanted to have her that night, and did not want to risk losing her before.


Avitus woke up the following morning in Aaliyah's arms. It was still dawn, and the sunlight creeping lazily from the window of his room covered her naked body like morning dew. She looked like a goddess of old. Motherhood has been kind to you, he thought as he caressed her. She moaned, not yet opening her eyes. He smiled sadly.

"Up so soon, my lord?"
He kissed her forehead, brushed a lock of hair from her eyes, but said nothing. She raised her head and their eyes met. Those beautiful blue eyes, clear as a morning sky. He knew she was could guess there was something he was not telling her. She had always been smart. As smart as him, if not more. And a tinge paranoid. The question was not unexpected, but it hurt no less.
"What is on your mind, my lord?"

She did ask... he thought to himself, and decided sooner was better than later.
"King Karl of the Franks is coming down from the North. The Po Valley is entirely in his hands. The most recent voices say that Pavia has already been taken, and that Karl will soon come South, to receive Romoald's oath of fealty."
She looked at him without saying anything. He had hoped she would answer, understand, even try to comfort him. Instead he got only silence.

"Duke Romoald" he continued after a short pause "has managed to stay neutral up until now, neither marching his men to Adelchis's aid, nor openly supporting the Frakish party. Arechis might have managed to get away with simply paying tribute to Karl, but Romoald is not his father. If he tries to challenge Karl, he will fall, and carry us with him. After pacifying Capua, I now hold power over lands that range from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian. Pando might still be holed up in Gaeta, but make no mistake, should an invading army come from the North, our lands will be the ones to suffer the most. The key to the South of Italia is in my hands."


He stopped, and realized he had averted his gaze from hers. He corrected his mistake.
"That is true, Avitus, yet as I see it, that puts you in a position of strength, not weakness. Should Romoald with to fight, you will be able to stop him, make him see reason. And if he does not heed you, you can offer Karl free passage in exchange for whatever you want: I doubt he wishes to see more of his men die for naught."
"True, although honor would have me fight at Romoald's side should he not see reason." She scoffed. "But that is not the case. Nor the problem. Our glorious Duke has already received Karl's ambassadors, and is ready to bend the knee."
"So?"
"So Karl does not trust him, and I have been informed that he would like the key to the South to be in trustworthy hands. The hands of a Frankish Marchess, not a Roman Patrician. I thought it wise to take measures that might ensure our survival before Karl actually reaches Aprutium in arms."
"Measures such as?" She was no longer laying on Avitus, looking at him with fiery eyes.
"There are some influential people in Karl's realm that have shown to be sympathetic to our... my cause. The Nibelungings control half of Francia. I have managed to secure their alliance, but I had to promise Fringilla's hand to Count Adelm of Amiens. He is only seven years older than her, and I'm assured he is a kind, honest lad."
Go on, her eyes told him.
"The reason I managed to broker this deal was because I have received help from one of Karl's older advisors, Duke Radulf of Thuringia. They are an old Alemannic family, and the Duke has served Karl for years. With his intervention, I am assured the King will leave our lands untouched."
"A generous offer. And what did he ask in return?"
"The Duke has a daughter... I promised I would marry her." The damage is done, Lartius thought.

Aaliyah looked away. She had always known Avitus could never marry her, yet some part of her had always hoped, hoped that even if she would not be his wife de jure, she could at least occupy the position de facto. She had wanted to grow old with him, bear him children. She had wanted her happily ever after.
"When... when is this woman to arrive?" she finally stammered.
"As soon as she is of age." Avitus blushed, not believing he had just said those words.

She got out of the bed, eyeing him with utter contempt. Aaliyah stood in front of him, fully naked, and he could not help but notice how the sunlight grazing her supple body, caressing her firm breasts, made her look like even more of a goddess. She said nothing, but took her clothes and left, leaving him there, alone, and it seemed like the Sun itself had followed her out, for it no longer shone through the window. Apollo surely had preferred the company of that sweet nymph to his.


Aaliyah had been many things, not all of them good, but she had never been dishonest. She had surely been motivated by her wounded pride when she had stormed out of Avezzano's gates on a cool autumnal morning, but even when her temper finally cooled, when her rage had subsided, still she could not bring herself to come back to the castle. She knew herself, knew she could never have lived as Avitus's lover in a house where another woman was the lady. She had started to live in an old Roman estate that her former lover had made available to her, and although she never lacked of anything, she barely ever saw Lartius again. Even when their last night of passion bore it's fruits in the shape of little Marina, still she did not rejoin the court in Avezzano.

Avitus finally married young Fastrada in the winter of 786, and although he couldn't bear to even touch her for years, knowing full well she was closer in age to his daughter Iulia that to himself, after a while he started to take care of his marital duties, and two years after their marriage, the couple's eldest son was born. Lartius had called the child Aurelius, like his own father. While they had not married for love, Avitus was pleasantly surprised by his second marriage: Fastrada could not hide her childishness, but she proved to be diligent, and wise in her own way. If nothing else, he enjoyed her Lord Duke father's company. The man might not have been a sight to look at, but Radulf always made for excellent conversation. And he knew the workings of Karl's court like few could claim to.

Duke Romoald had not appreciated Avitus's campaign in Capua at all, and did not look favorably upon the Roman's new friendships in the Frankish nobility. In what was supposed to be a show of strenght, Arechis's son had proclaimed himself Duke of Benevento and Capua, decreeing that at his death his younger brother, the Count of Teate, would inherit the Duchy of Capua, while his sons would inherit the Duchy of Benevento and its provinces. His ambitious plan to ascertain superiority backfire when a certain Duke of Thuringen had presented the move to King Karl as part of a plot of Romoald's to obtain independence, with the help of the Roman Emperor in the East. Obviously no such plot had ever existed, but Karl, as a precautionary move, decided that another should hold such a strategic Duchy. Thus Duke Radulf rode south to present his son in law with the newly made coat of arms of the Duchy of Capua.


Fastrada rushed to hug her father as he entered her husband's hall. Avitus sighed: she was still a child after all. A child heavy with my own offspring he thought with an ounce of bitterness. He himself got up from his seat to welcome his guest, and shook his father in law's hand energically.

"Welcome Duke Radulf! We have anxiously waited for your arrival."
"I'm sure of that, Lartius, as I'm sure you are eager to hear the news I have for you!" the Duke answered, and gestured one of his retainers to come forward. The man was carrying a great shield, on which a crowned cross was painted or sur gules. Avitus knew that those were to be his arms as Duke of Capua, and smiled at the irony that had wanted him to fight under the sign of the cross, just as Constantine had done against Maxentius.

"Duke Avitus Lartius, with the blessing of the Emperor Karl, I present you the Ducal Arms of Capua. They shall belong to you, and your children after you, until the end of days." Radulf announced in his most distinguished voice. Then he added much less regally:"You should like them. I am told the Emperor's artists were inspired from Roman symbols of Capua for their design."
"They are wonderful." Lartius lied with a smile, pretending not to notice any similarities with the Isaurian coat of arms. "I know you must be tired after your voyage, father, but please tell me, when did our gracious Liege start to style himself as Emperor?"
"Ha, be sure to keep that a secret, Lartius!" Radulf laughed. "I know this might seem early, with the conquest of Saxony being but a recent memory, but Good Karl has already made the necessary arrangements with His Holiness the Pope. I know for a fact, but keep this to yourself, that the Holy Father has promises our Liege that he has the Insignias of the Western Empire, and will bestow them on our King and crown him Emperor, according to something called transachio Impero or some such."
"The Holy Father is risking the wrath of the Rom... Eastern Emperor." Avitus had grown pale.
"Maybe, but not without good reason!" Radulf thundered. "Did you know that according to the Donation of Constantine, all lands from Rome to Ravenna rightfully belong to the Papacy? Yet no Emperor in Byzantium has ever recognized them that right. Trust me Lartius, this is a great moment for all of us. Think about it, you shall finally serve the rightful Roman Emperor."
Avitus forced a smile as the Duke of Thuringia laughed heartily.



A feast had been planned for the evening, to welcome Duke Radulf and his retinue, which included Fastrada's younger brother, and heir to the Duchy of Thuringia, Thankulf von Thuringer. Usually a hunt would have been organized in order to wait for nightfall, but Lartius had preferred to postpone the activity, telling his wife that he knew how much she had missed her father, and that he would have happily made the sacrifice if meant she could spend more time with her family.

In truth, Avitus had more pressing business to attend to than to go hunting. As soon as he had left his father in law in the care of servants, the newly inducted Duke of Capua rode out into the countryside, escorted only by a couple of faithful guards. The plague known as Great Pox had ravaged the countryside, leaving the province in a pitiful state. Peasants disfigured from the sickness were a common sight, and Lartius's court had been spared only thanks to the blessing that was Birama, Avezzano's African physician.

It was that very same man that welcomed Avitus as he reached an old Roman villa set on a hill a few miles from the castle town. His face, half of it hidden by an eyepatch, was grave. He spoke not a word as he lead the Duke inside. The villa had once been a thing of beauty, it's walls covered in frescoes, it's floors in mosaics. Colored marble statues of gods and heroes had made it a sight to behold. Now only death inhabited those halls. Thanathos and Mors danced in the skies above it, waiting to collect their due.

In what had been the Matron's room he found her, laying face up on a bed, her dark curls spread out as if she had fallen from the sky. Her soft, sweet bronze neck was covered in ulcers that spread all the way up to her cheek. Her eyes, once so lively and fair, were now terse, as if a thin veil had been stretched over them. Her lips trembled at his sight, and a tear fell onto the bed.

"Aaliyah!" Avitus, his voice broken by emotion, rushed to her side.
"My lord..." she managed to smile, but her voice was no more than a whisper.
"Oh my sweet Aaliyah, what have I done?" he sobbed. "I should never have let you leave my side."
"Don't say that Avitus." she sighed. "It was I who abandoned you when you had to face a difficult choice. No... don't interrupt me, I feel these are my last breaths, and I don't want to spend them fighting with you. There has been enough of that already. I regret my pride now. Truly I do. I hated you in those days, after I left you. I was devoured by envy. Now I regret it all."
"O sweet Aaliyah, you are not to blame..."
"We have both made mistakes, my lord, but now I understand why you did what you did. I won't lie in my last moments by saying I approve of your decisions, but I can understand them. You had to think of your charges, of the well being of the people you serve. But please, as a last favor to me, in the name of what we shared, think now of our children. Little Titus, and sweet Marina. Take care of them, I beg of you."


As her eyes swelled up again, Avitus started to tear up too.
"I swear to you, in front of Jupiter, King of the Gods and guardian of oaths." he said, tears rushing down his face, caring little about who might hear him. "I swear our children will be treated as the princes they are. No matter what happens, I shall be sure that in front of the law they will be considered my trueborn progeny. They shall have a right to an inheritance, and will carry my name. They are Lartii, and the world will know them as such!"
"Thank you, Avitus."
"Aaliyah?"
"Yes my lord?"
"I love you."

Her lips curled up in one last smile, a smiled who seemed to say "I know". The light in her eyes extinguished itself, and thus she passed away, smiling, having made peace with her estranged lover.

"I have never stopped loving you." he whispered, kissing her forehead, like he used to do in happier times.






Author's Notes: I truly don't have much too say about this chapter. Rome's Granary was an old, derogatory, nickname that had been given to Capua after it had sided with Carthage and had been subjugated by Rome, and the chapter was supposed to focus on Avitus working his way up in the feudal ladder and becoming Duke of Capua, but soon the love story started to take shape and I shifted the focus on that instead.

Romance is not that well represented in CK2, but I really enjoyed the character of Aaliyah, who I originally only invited to my court and romanced in the name of eugenics. She and Avitus got lots of events, and she got sick soon after Avitus's "second" marriage. Her traits painted an interesting picture too: lowborn, proud, paranoid, envious, genius. They are both flawed individuals, but I liked to think they only saw the best in each other.
Plus, I find romantic scenes to be especially easy to write, as they seem to just flow naturally, without much need for research: they are more real, and unlike medieval battles I actually do have a modicum of experience to draw from.

As for our (once) young Count of Aprutium, he really did gain his Duchy thanks to his father-in-law's plotting. He bears no love to Karl, and his relationship with the Emperor to be is tense at best. Although he surely won't paint the map, Lartius's wars are not over either, and he will enjoy being Lord Mayor Pando's liege. But those are tales for another chapter.
 
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stnylan

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Well, use the Frank to consolidate his own position. Should the empire be restored who will care?
 

LudoOttavio

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Well, use the Frank to consolidate his own position. Should the empire be restored who will care?
I guess it has to do with a certain duality of character Avitus possesses: that is what I tried to represent in making my "Roman" character culturally not Roman.

He might claim Roman citizenship, might act Roman and whatnot, but in the end he is a feudal lord, there by grace of barbarian invaders. And he enjoys his noble position.

He does still consider the Byzantine Emperor the "Roman Emperor", but the real reason he objects to Translatio Imperi is that he considers it blasphemy on the Pope's part. That doesn't mean that he will act on that.

Avitus himself has neither the hope nor the wish to restore the Roman Empire. His expansionism is rather guided, or personally justified, by his wish to ensure that other Romano-Italics living under barbarian rule might have some degree of law and order in his lands.

I myself have no intention of seeing Avitus become anything more than a duke
 

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