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As the King finishes speaking, Emperor Andronicus tips his hat. The gesture, which speaks so many words without them having to be spoken, almost serves as a fitting reply. Almost.

"Believe me, King Frederick, on my return from France, I do intend on visiting Syracuse. I also promise not to bring an army with it, to reclaim lost Roman territory." After saying that with a joking grin, so as to not offend his host, he continued. "Thank you, King Frederick. I assure you, the Roman Empire will not let our new friends down as we sweep the Turk from Europe. I will, of course, keep you informed of how negotations with the King of France and the French nobility go. Until then, farewell, King Frederick. Expect an embassy from my father when our preparations are complete, and then you will know when the time is right to strike the Turk a blow so hard that they will surely know the power and might of God."

Emperor Andronicus, after sending a letter to Constantinople with news of his diplomatic triumph, and a farewell dinner with the King of Sicily and the leading nobles of Sicily, departs in the morning for Marseilles.
 

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From Siena, an emissary arrives...



Iacobo Bellagosi,
Emissary of Siena


All the way north from Siena, a man, bearing a newly woven cape with the arms of Siena across it's back, proudly stands out of his boad at the harbour of Palermo. Clearing his throat, he marches forth, finding his way to the 'Palace of the Normans', where he has heard Maria of Sicily resides.

Arriving at the castle, the young man bows and presents his arms of Siena - he is on an official mission from the Duke of Siena, and wished to meet with the beautiful young Lady of Sicily, Maria Fadrique d'Aragon, Countess of Salona.

Introducing himself at the Palace entrance, he gracefully speaks, "Greetings and bonjourno! I am an envoy from his grace of Siena, on an official mission to meet her grace of beautiful Countess of Salona, or her guardian. I offer my liege's hailings to the Lady of the Isle as well."

The emissary Iacobo hopes with great anticipation that he might recieve audience, he wonders which kind of people truly ruled Sicily. So far he had seen bustling markets and busy craftsmen and tradesmen, a truly profitable and fertile land.
 
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Clement, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God; onto his beloved son, Frederick, King-Consort of Sicily: Greetings and the Apostolic Benediction.

We desire and require your presence in Avignon, for there are many urgent and important matters We wish to personally discuss with you. Therefore We charge and command you to hurry to Us with all due haste, preferably accompanied by Our venerable brother the Bishop Nicholas Cusanus of Palermo.​
Written in the City of Avignon, in the year of the incarnation of Our Lord MCCCLXXXIII, in the fifth year of Our Pontificate and the fourth year of Our exile, by the hand of the brother Lucius who is our secretary, signed by Our own hand:



Clemens PP. VII


 

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A letter arrives, after some delay, in Sicily. It is marked with the seal of the King of Aragon.

My Darling Granddaughter, Maria,

Your letter, a ray of sunshine into an old man's dark cell, greeted me well. I have been silent for so long because of my grief...the loss of another of my daughters has pained me night and day, and now the loss of the Baleares on top of it shows that I have failed my Holy duties to God and the Church. Shortly I go to rectify this the only way I know how...I leave on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

I shall pass by your beloved Sicily on my way, and humbly ask your permission to visit you briefly when I do, that I may have one last memory of my family to carry with me to the city of Our Lord.

With Love,
Peter IV of Aragon
 

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Palermo, Kingdom of Sicily.

Upon reading the Papal letter, Friedrich was both angered and worried at the same time. He would go to Avignon and speak with the Pope there, as his wife had planned. However, he was enraged with the woman. He would have beaten her, but she was extremely pregnant. He decided to wait -- until Maria gave birth -- to travel to Avignon. He wouldn't have to wait long. The weekend after the letter arrived, both Marias gave birth. The younger Maria, still secretly imprisoned in the Cathedral's basement was the first to give birth, and Friedrich was there to organize the happenings to his own advantage. It was three in the morning and the city was dark.

"You there! Midwife! What is the status of the child?"

"It is a bambino, Your Majesty."

"Splendid."

He took the child from the midwife and brought it to the younger Maria. He had her chains removed and told her she was free to go, but she would not be allowed to see the child or claim he was her own, or her life would end.

Friedrich then took the child back and went up the stairs. Maria, barely able to walk, followed him as they traveled to the Palace. Maria returned to her quarters, and the child was left in a separate room. Friedrich then then approached two guards. He told them that there was a Muslim priestess in the Cathedral basement, and that she had been praying to her heathen diety for the queen's pregnancy to end in disaster. He ordered for her to be executed, and the two guards obliged. They left for the cathedral and the midwife was stabbed seventeen times, her body was burned and the corpse was disposed of.

Friedrich had also arranged for a German nurse to take care of his wife during her labour period, so that his secret would be relatively safe.

When his wife, the elder Maria gave birth, Friedrich was there once again. However, she lost a lot of blood and began fading in and out of consciousness. It became questionable whether either her or her child would survive. At a time while she was asleep, Friedrich chose to bring the other baby into the room. He had not been cleaned and still had blood and placenta all over his face.

When the sun rose, Maria and her child, a boy, were both alive, as well as the other son. The two boys looked similarly, as their mothers were related and they shared the same father.

Feeling somewhat guilty, Friedrich chose to rationalize it by claiming that Maria's true son was older, which was a lie. This enabled him to succeed the throne, which was rightfully his. However, should he not make it to adulthood, Friedrich's actions could prove vital. The other "twin" would ascend to the throne.

It was like a divine act. While it was possible that both Marias would give birth on the same day, especially since they both became pregnant on the same day, it was not exactly "likely". They also both gave birth to boys, and in a manner that enabled Friedrich to plant the bastard son so that he may be considered legitimate.

A day after the births, the midwife was paid handsomely and sent back to Germany. There were no official documents that stated that she had ever been to Sicily, and she had not met any courtiers, aside from the king, the queen, and a few palace guards.

Aside from Friedrich, the midwife was the only person who knew that Maria did not give birth twice, and as the children had similar features, it would probably not be easy for her to pick out which one she delivered. It seemed as though his plan worked perfectly, or so he thought to himself. He sat in bed with his wife and kissed her on the forehead.

"You are stronger than I am. I couldn't bear to watch you go through labour twice. I had to leave the room.""

Maria was visibly surprised, although her facial expressions were not very pronounced as she was still very weak.

"Twice? I barely even remember the first one... Or was it the second one? I... it's a blur. I felt powerless, unable to keep myself awake."

"You did fine. All the work is over, except for the naming."

Maria let out a sigh.

"Didn't we agree on Friedrich Roger for a son? The first one-- he was a son, right?"

Friedrich smirked.

"Good to see you haven't lost all of your memory. Yes, my love, the first child was a son... but the second son needs a name as well."

Maria sighed again.

"I prayed for a girl and received two boys. Can we name the second one Friedrich Robert? It is because of my ancestor Robert Guiscard that we will rule Apulia and Calabria."

Friedrich nodded.

"Certainly. That sounds exquisite. Speaking of Apulia, I have been summoned to Avignon by Clement. Certainly you were involved in that, but I will forgive you. When I return, let's fulfill your wish and produce a daughter. Two Friedrichs should be enough to secure the throne... For now."

He kissed her again on the forehead and departed from the room. He left control of the government in Cusano's hands once again. He then ventured off to the port and boarded a ship headed for France. He was to meet with a Frenchman who claimed to be pope, and this would certainly anger his uncle Balthasar... But nothing was set in stone. Friedrich had not yet converted, and anything was possible.
 

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The guards ushered in a young woman, tall, and of dark complexion. Kneeling, she offered King Friedrich a letter. It read:

“Charles d’Anjou, by the grace of God, King of Naples and Jerusalem, Prince of Achaea and Durazzo, Duke of Apulia, Calabria, Anjou and Provence, et cetera, to Friedrich IV von Wettin, King of Trinacria, Margrave of Meissen, Duke of Swabia, et cetera.

For a long time – since your conquest of Trinacria, and marriage to its Queen – there has existed great enmity and hatred between the courts of Palermo and Naples. However, it is not to the past that we must look and ponder, but to the future.

We have heard much of your prowess, which is such that you are called ‘the Warlike’. And we have studied your worthy claims, to the patrimony of Swabia, and to the Imperial throne – yes, indeed we would not be surprised to hear of the Electors choosing a Wettin over a Luxembourg, when the time comes.

Having considered all this, I have begun to contemplate the beneficial effects that would result from an alliance between the courts of Palermo and Naples. You will, no doubt, be aware that Louis of Anjou has seized the lands of Provence, and seeks to dethrone me as king here in Naples. As aforementioned, we have considered worthy your claim to be the legitimate heir of the Hohenstaufens, and I know that by this you consider the crown of Jerusalem rightfully yours. Whilst in the past, we the King jealously guarded our rights to the latter crown, the title and its claims have become empty and meaningless to us, and we would happily consider transferring all of our rights to it over to your personage, and your heirs, as part of this proposed alliance .

Furthermore, I wish to remind you that Louis of Anjou does not merely claim the crown of Naples and Jerusalem; no, for he also uses the style ‘King of Sicily’, in clear opposition of your rule, and that of your Queen. And know that he is supported in this by the Bishop of Avignon, despite of your wife’s loyalty to him. Whilst I detest the Bishop of Avignon, and serve the one true Pope in Rome, I am also a man of the world, and I know that such matters of religion do not matter overmuch to you, and that you do not owe allegiance to Rome. However, your wife is the ardent child of Avignon, and by your union you have become one flesh, therefore it is reasonable that you may one day become a child of Avignon also. When that day comes, I believe it would be most helpful to both of us if you could use your own, and your wife’s great influence upon the Bishop of Avignon to abandon his support of that usurper of Anjou, and recognise you and Maria as the only rightful sovereigns of Trinacria. For it is by the same descent from a daughter of Naples that Louis of Anjou claims the throne of Naples, and the throne of Trinacria; thus, the loss of his claims to Trinacria, mean the immediate loss of any potential claim also to Naples.

It is because of this that we seek your friendship, and that of your Queen. You may ask, What does the House of Wettin have to gain by this alliance? My answer is, The full and continual support, both diplomatically and militarily, of the Kingdom of Naples for the House of Wettin, in both the Empire and the Mediterranean, should you, your Queen, or your heirs seek to pursue your claims in those places.

And now I come to the final, and most important, point of this correspondence. I do not know exactly to what extent you have knowledge of my court, but it has long been noted that my only legitimate son, and royal heir, Ladislaus, is a weak and sickly child, and may well not live to father heirs. In this instance, which to me and my advisors seems highly probable, the crown will devolve upon my daughter, the princess Joanna. Unlike her brother, she is a healthy and strong child, sharp and clever. As Queen of Naples, she will require a strong and powerful husband, and it is to this effect that I seek the hand of your younger brother, the duke of Noto, for her husband; this way, I will also be able to see the succession to my throne fully secure before my own death.

You are an infamously shrewd and prudent man, and I hope that you will not pass up this opportunity of securing a throne for your own brother, as you have done for yourself; otherwise, after my death, it would be most unfortunate for you or your successor for the throne of Naples to pass to some other candidate for Joanna’s hand, in case he or his heirs become hostile to von Wettin interests.

By his own hand,
Charles, King of Naples, et cetera."
 

unmerged(23474)

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Palermo, Kingdom of Sicily.

The letter had arrived only three days after Maria had returned to court. Still bloated and in pain, she was not at her best. When Charles' words were read to her, she was furious.

"First, Durazzo deposes and kills Giovanna, then he renews his claim on my islands, then he attempts to plot with Frederick to conquer Sicily for himself... And now that Frederick is in Avignon and Durazzo is certain that divine providence does not move in his favor, he offers his magnanamous hand in friendship? I do not know whether to laugh or be outraged."

Cusano, while knowing that speaking up would be potentially hazardous, decided to offer his opinion on the subject.

"Your Majesty, I suggest you send this letter to your husband in Avignon. It was addressed to him and not to you. You have already recognized that HE is King of Sicily and you Queen of Trinacria. You are still recuperating from an amazing feat. You were nearly killed giving birth to your sons. Let Frederick and the Pope deal with Charles. You should be outraged, and you should laugh as well. Duke Louis claims Naples by right of Giovanna. She had relinquished her claims to Trinacria. Charles II had relinquished his claims as well. All Angevins have lost their claims due to blood, and in the case of Louis, as Giovanna's heir he could not use claims that she herself gave up prior to him becoming her heir. Your kingdom is safe. Surely your husband will make the right decision, but whatever decision is to be made, it is his to make."[/i]

Maria was still furious. She had not been treated as a monarch since her marriage, and especially since her pregnancy. Her instinct told her to do the opposite of what this German advisor told her, but she was too tired to have to deal with Charles herself.

"So be it. Have our scribes make a copy of the letter for my archives and send the original letter to Avignon."
 

Velasco

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Another letter soon arrived in Palermo from Naples, this one addressed to Queen Maria.

"Charles, By the grace of God, King of Naples, Jerusalem, and Albania, Prince of Achaia and Durazzo, Duke of Anjou and Provence, Lord of Corfu, et cetera, to our cousin Maria d'Aragon, Queen of Trinacria, Marchioness of Meissen, et cetera, greetings.

I hope this letter finds you in good health. I trust you have received the last letter I sent, which was address to your husband. I apologise that I made little or no mention of your highness in it, and I sincerly hope that neither you nor your husband thought overmuch of this. The letter was written on the same day that I learnt of the birth of your two sons - a few days after I had myself learnt of the death of my own Queen, Margherita, after accomplishing such a feat. And I did not think it wise to involve your majesty in matters of state so soon after such a gruelling ordeal. I congratulate you on your two sons; perhaps you will see fit that whichever one of them you choose as your heir in Trinacria may one day marry one of my twin daughters, and thus secure the future friendship of his northern neighbours. But I will leave it to you to convince your husband of the utility of such a marriage. You have been Queen since your youth, and I trust in your judgement in such matters, concerning the Italian peninsula, etc.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite both you and your husband to my own marriage, on May 1st. This would afford us a better chance to talk in person. I trust you will forward this invitation to your husband, who I have only recently learnt is away to Avignon, to talk with...with the man you call Pope. Let us not dwell on such matters on which we may never think congruently.

By his own hand,
Charles, King of Naples, et cetera."


(OOC: Marriage, next Monday, Neapolitan court).
 

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A letter arrives addressed to Maria, bearing the seal of Aragon.

My Darling Granddaughter,

Recent news of events in fair Italia have come to this old man's ears, and they have troubled me. I hear that Charles of Durazzo, a man called a great many vile names by the Holy Father, has joined in 'alliance' with the Tartar devils of the far-away steppes. I hear rumors that perhaps he attempts to claim your throne, the island which is yours and no other man's by right, that he continues to call himself King of Sicily while recognizing this pretender to the Throne of St. Peter.

The Holy Father tells me that I must make war upon this Charles of Durazzo to save my soul and gain redemption for my sins, but it is no longer my soul that concerns me, it is the security of your realm and your rule in it. I shall not go on pilgrimage, Maria, but I may still come to Sicily on the urgent business of this satanist. My son-in-law in Castille and I would seek your assistance in eliminating this dire threat to not only our family's rightful possessions, but also to God's faithful here on earth. For your assistance, perhaps we can see the Two Sicilies re-united, with you as their Queen and sovereign.

I eagerly await your reply, Queen Maria, and along with these unhappy tidings send you my congratulations on the birth of your sons. May they succeed you well and bring you great joy and pride.

Peter IV of Aragon
 

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William was a popular name in Sicilian history. It was the name of Robert Guiscard and Roger I's eldest brother, as well as the name of both of Roger Borsa's sons. Sicily would know three Norman kings named William, and now a boy named William had been sent to Sicily by his brother, the newly-reigning king. It was safe to say that this William (or Wilhelm, to be more accurate) was not comfortable as he boarded a ship in Northern Italy heading across the Mediterranean to an island he had never seen. Wilhelm had a reason to be worried. His brother wouldn't even be there, and the treaty signed by Maria and Friedrich stated that if Friedrich died before the two produced an heir, Maria would agree to marry Wilhelm, who would become king. Maria had arranged for Friedrich to travel to Avignon, and Friedrich was not a member of the Avignon church. It was simple arithmetic to Wilhelm. Perhaps Maria had sent Friedrich to die, and then Wilhelm was summoned to meet a similar fate.

When he docked at Trapani, there was a very small party waiting for him there. He thought that the queen had done this to make him feel insignificant, so he held his head up high as he rode across the island. Upon arrival in Palermo, Wilhelm was shocked to see how many beautiful and majestic buildings there were, and his demeanor improved... Until, that is, he discovered that Maria had given birth to two sons, and that Wilhelm was now third in line of succession. He didn't want to be king, but he felt invigorated by the idea that with one death, his life could change in such an extreme manner. He would go from a boy raised by his mother to a man of great stature, like his brother had. However, Wilhelm was not raised in the same manner as his brother. Unlike Friedrich, he was not called "the Warlike" in school. In fact, he didn't even have a nickname. Friedrich was named such because of a long Hohenstaufen-Wettin tradition of naming one's heirs Friedrich, whereas Wilhelm's name was somewhat insignificant. He was named after his uncle, whom was the youngest of five children and himself insignificant. As such, Wilhelm had quite the chip on his shoulder, as well as an inferiority complex. He sat in his room in Palermo not knowing what to expect. He was originally told that the new title "Duke of Noto" would be the title granted to the heir, similar to that of the Dauphine and the Prince of Wales. Now, his brother had two sons, and yet he had still been summoned to Palermo. It was confusing to say the least, for the fourteen year old Saxon. After days of solitude, he was invited to meet with the queen, his sister-in-law.

"I hope you aren't too disappointed to learn of God's new gifts to my kingdom."

He was confused. Did Maria accuse him of something? They had just met and his first impressions of her were less than flattering.

"Not at all, Your Majesty. I humbly state only that I am jealous of my brother, but as he is eldest it was divine will that he be your suitor and not myself. I shall gladly settle for the parcel of land that you have both graciously chosen to grant me."

Maria wasn't impressed. In fact, she seemed rather bored.

"Actually, it was entirely your brother's doing. I have no interest in creating duchies in Sicily. Naples' system is confusing to say the least, and I would not wish to turn Sicily into little more than a more civilized and sophisticated version of Naples. However, one duchy is tolerable.. As so long as he doesn't seek to create a Sicilian demense for your brother Georgio, I will not complain."

Wilhelm smiled.

"Well, Your Majesty, All I know of Naples is that its royal family has cannibalized itsself into utter disarray. Little can save them from whatever fait awaits them."

"Charles of Durazzo, the last male of the House of Anjou offered his only daughter to become your wife. Your brother did not see fit to respond, and now he has written to me stating, quite ironically, that the very girl mentioned sits in front of him in Avignon as a prisoner of the Pope. We will let you decide whether or not you wish to wed the girl, but Naples is not hers to take. The pontiff has ruled that her demense consists only of Durazzo, in the balkans."

Wilhelm cared little for what Clement had to say. He, like both of his brothers had been raised to make up his own mind regarding the schism. After talking to Maria, he listened to gossip from throughout the court, learning of the fate of the Angevin men. He felt that whoever married Joanna would have the best claim on Naples, and that this would be his only chance at being the equal of his brother. Why be Duke of Noto when you can be the King of Naples? He informed Maria and then wrote to his brother. He requested that Friedrich ask the pontiff for custody over the Neapolitan girl.
 
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