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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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The Wedding Day


In Esztergom the day had started overcast and some light rain had descended from the heavens. During the day the clouds had been thinning, until the sun finally showed itself to warm those of the guests that ventured outdoors.

In the basilica itself the day had been marked by the pomp and circumstance that such an event warranted. Many rituals had to be observed, and many nobles had gathered to witness this occassion. All of them sitting in respectful silence, while there was no conversation there was still an air of expectation in the basilica. Many saw this wedding as something that would bring greater strength and stability to the realm, no to mention a strong ally. Therefore their expectations were great.

For the bride and groom the day was one of nervous waiting for the actual ceremony, and a day of being even more at the centre of attention than usual. In an around the basilica, the guards and escorts were both hungarian and bohemian. Half wore the livery of Bohemia, and the other half wore the livery of Hungary.

When the wedding ritual finally commenced, that too was a lengthy one, all according to catholic tradition. Presiding over the wedding was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Esztergom himself. A great supporter of the Queen, his normally zealous self today seemed more comforting, perhaps making the nervousness of the couple somewhat lesser.

For Mária this was a day she had both looked forward to and dreaded more than anything else in the world. While the marriage would be good for the Kingdom as a whole, and Jan was certainly both a good person and an excellent match for a husband, the young Queen fealt wholly unprepared for it.

A mere year ago she had but been a girl, even though a Princess and one that had been chosen for a throne. That had been simpler times, and times of less worries. Now she was the Queen, and soon the Kingdom would have a King. Still she fealt like the little girl she had been a year ago, and still sometimes longed to be that girl again. Looking at Jan she wondered what he was feeling, and realized that he might have been as nervous as she was. She tried smiling reassuringly to him, but after a short while her gaze lowered and rested on the floor.

Jan was obviously nervous aswell. He wasn’t been exactly sure why he is nervous. She was a fine bride and nice half of kingdom to rule, yet there was something...something that gave him no rest. He looked back on bride and smiled aswell before he let his look slide somewhere upwards where he kept his look for very much of rest of the whole ceremony. Even though he respected the very grave atmosphere of wedding his mind was buzzing with thoughts. About bride, kingdom...everything.

Finally the ceremony was coming to an end, and the words the assembled guests had waited for was finally said. And perhaps the words the bride and groom was the most afraid of. Looking at both of them like wise and benign father, the Cardinal-Archbishop nodded.


"You may now seal your vows."

(OOC: Post has been written with Green Alien)
 

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El Castillo de la Virgen Maria
-The Rock of Léon -

North of Salamanca, West of Zamora, Léon- overlooking Bragança, Portugal


What was once the rudiments of a palisade which been dug around the preliminary formation of a bailey, now had become a solid ring upon which the foundations of a proper wall were being pounded, whilst in the center the bailey had reached a height of three stories. From the top of the half constructed bailey flew the flags of Castilla y Léon as well as Navarra showing the Kings’ presence; Granada’s had been lowered when the Emir returned to the south. Below those flags, hung the flags of half a dozen other nations whose envoys were in attendance.

As the tents of the Castellan army’s camp had become increasingly replaced by roughly hewn wooden barracks, so did those roughly hewn wooden barracks give way to more permanent structures; a forge, stone storage houses for the quartermasters, a hostlers barn, and where once the royal pavilion stood, now stood a fortified treasury which would serve until the bailey was complete. Paths had been worn regular, and main thoroughfares became apparent. Along these various camp followers and merchants from the nearby city of Zamora.


As has been noted previously the walls forming on the palisade above the camp were framed by two great rocks which would serve as the frame of the gate, yet the bailey itself was being constructed in a strange fashion. Far wider than one might think prudent, and there was the obvious fact that one could walk right through it. In fact, to call it a bailey at all would be a stretch, as it resembled, and was, nothing less than a larger half-constructed gate house leading nowhere, and surrounded by a palisade.


There were rooms in it, large rooms even as it was a large structure, but it was essentially a giant doorway. This was by no means some flight of fancy for King Juan. He wanted a defensible structure and base in which to anchor his Avignon commissioned mission to stand watch over Portugal’s safety; yet he also envisioned something larger. Something that could already be seen taking shape behind the current bailey-palisade structure.

Rough trenches had been carved away and behind the palisade outlining where the foundations would be laid for a castle proper. It would be one of the largest in Iberia. Naturally the palace castles of Barcelona and Madrid would outstrip it in size, but King Juan envisioned this as a purely military fortification, unlike the large affairs in the east. King Juan took two things very seriously in life; his stewardship of Iberia, and second but not lesser, the commands of the Pope in Avignon and God.

He would not fail to be ready if Portugal or Avignon called for him to march.
 

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The Great War Council


The courtyard gardens of the palace was filled by a cacophony of voices as the amirs and sons of Timur Shah gathered for this hastily assembled council. They did not yet know what it was specifically to be about, but they were all sure it was about war. Timur could never stay in Samarkand more than six months without soon going to war again. His marshals assumed that they would be riding into the wastes of the north to surprise the Golden Horde with a vicious winter campaign. The more pious and the more greedy looked forward to a Hindustan campaign in which the fire-worshipers and heretics would be taught a lesson while all could fill their pockets with the gold and jewels of Hind. Those of a more romantic frame hoped they would be marching to take Baghdad and regain the once-glorious capital of Islam for the their self-proclaimed reconstitutor of the umma. Once they were seated and hushed, Timur rose, gleaming for ear to ear, in order to inform them of his true objective.

Brothers, sons, soldiers, it is time! I am not yet, nor shall I ever be, a bent old woman that keeps close to her home. Though the snow may fall in heaps and the ice may blow on the north wind, we shall ride and ride to victory. You see, one of the scholars in my service and now a dear friend, Ibn Khatib, did go to China in the spring and upon his return journey he noticed movements of which he told me recently. Uskhal Khan and his Manchu allies are moving upon our vein through which our lifeblood flows, the Silk Road. Not only does this threaten our commerce, but also the security of the Ulus Chagatai. Our Khan’s lands must not be violated and for to long the Turks and Chinese to the East have not acknowledged their true suzerain, Mahmud Khan Chagatai. Yet, without the support of my amirs, I shall not advance one step. I have told you the situation, now what is to be our action?

Cheku Barlas rose first as he was senior among those gathered and a close relation to Timur.

In this enterprise, there shall be hardships, but the rewards are too great to mind a little suffering. The cities of the Silk Road must be ours and the lands of the Ulus must be protected, still there is a greater prize once those two are secured. Uskhal Khan marches his armies west because he cannot defeat the new kings in China who rose up and threw out the Yuan twenty years ago. His army is too weak to rebuild the Empire of Genghis and Kublai *turns to the crowd* but is that so with the army of the Great Amir?!

All – NO!

Marin Shah now sheepishly stood to speak.

The army of our lord Timur is far greater and far more victorious than those of old and spreads more fear to the corners of the earth than any before seen. Peace bounds our realm on all sides but in the East, so let us settle it now. The decadence of the Mongols is proved by their inability to reconquer the Chinese. Let us crush them and then flood into China and return the rule of the Khan. Furthermore, I need but mention that China is the richest of all lands, even more than Hindustan.

Jahan Maliq, one of the marshals, also chimed in with an important goal.

Remember that most of the people of the East are pagans. They worship great gold idols, singing hymns and burning insense unto them. This war shall not only be for earthly goods but its shall also be a battle for souls! Lo, this war will make our great Amir lord of the East and the greatest ghazi upon the face of the earth. Surely we shall be blessed in such a valiant fight?

Timur nodded, having heard what he wished to hear. The amirs were behind him in total. They were willing to go to war despite knowing the difficulties of the terrain of Uighurstan with its high mountains and lifeless deserts. They were ready for such challenges after their rest. They too had tired of peace and the easy life. The Conqueror rose again from his throne and spoke.

Thus have you all spoke and are agree. We shall ride to war in the East. Let no man forget this day, for you all have sworn to follow me into this campaign. When you thrist in the desert and see your sons shot through with arrows, rise not your tongues against me, or you all agree to come. Is this clear?

All - Yes, Timur Shah!

Then let us prepare for war, a grand war for glory, gold, and God! *laughs*
 

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A Bittersweet Return


Shah Shuja rode proudly at the head of the small column of horsemen. Though he was very ill, his lungs full of fluid, he dared not show it. For him, it was a moment of triumph. Unlike most of the petty, greedy princes of Persia, he and his clan, the Muzaffarids had survived and even gained more power by the invasion of Timur-i-lenk. He also remembered well the final words of Timur's letter to him.

Finally, the city of Isfahan shall be restored to your rule and you shall use this year's tribute than was to be sent unto Samarkand to rebuild the jewel of Faris. This is the gift of Timur. Be thankful unto Allah and prayer for your overlord.
Thus, to accomplish this commission, the head of the House of Muzaffar had set out from his temporary capital at Tabriz in September to return to his "jewel." Shah Shuja have smiled upon the thought if he had not been in so much pain. He called to his son and heir, Zain al-Abidin, to ride beside him. The son dutifully did so, but he only did so as a duty. He had lost any love or respect for his father when he had submitted to Timur. Zain believed that if they had fought on, all Persia would have raise to the Muzaffarids' support and help surely would have come from the Golden Horde or some other ruler envious of the lame conqueror. Zain cursed what he saw as his father's weakness, calling him an old woman behind closed door. Just behind father and son rode Shah Yahya, second brother of Shah Shuja. Shah Yahya had been thought dead, slain in the great sack of Isfahan, but the crafty and devious man had cheated death again by esecaping in a wine cask down the river. From thence, he had made his way back to his brother, begging for a place in his household and pledging his loyalty once more. Shah Shuja did not trust this pledge anymore than former ones, but he could not find it in his heart to be unhospitable to his brother. Little did he know that behind his back, Zain al-Abidin and Shah Yahya were planning a new policy toward the Timurids which would take effect upon Shah Shuja's death


Isfahan

When the party reached the outskirts of the city, Zain al-Abidin exclaimed, "Look at the ruin and murder the barbarians have brought upon our city. That cripple in Samarkand shall pay!" Shah Shuja quickly turned to his son and shouted, gathering what strength he had, "No! Timur is our master now and I will not have you speak of him in this way. He has give us the duty of buidling the city to its former glory and, by Allah, I shall do so. War is a cruel thing and if one wants crushing victory, he must be cruel. Anyway, the rebellion was uncalled for and sparked by a few renegades *looks at Shah Yahya*." The party fell silent and rode onward toward the gate.
 

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The Great Eastern Expedition
Best Laid Plans



There is but one sight more beautiful than an army on the march, and that is the bloodied field of battle. - Timur Shah upon leaving Smarkand to campaign in the East

Though the all the amirs and generals had declared their ardent support for war in the East, they grumbled at the prospect of fighting in winter. None said this aloud, of course, lest they die for breaking their vow to Timur. The Conqueror himself was in high spirits and had already planned the campaign in detail in his mind.


Central Asia

His forces and their material were already close at hand. Timur had an army of 50,000 ready at Samarkand, recently returned from the hard and dirty actions in Persia. They were his valuable and experienced core, the most feared army in the world. In addition to these, two tumen (20,000 men) of the light Mongol cavalry, which had once been a terror from Nanking to Buda, joined along with their hordes of family and servants. With this potent force, Timur would issue forth from Samarkand and make for the frontier of his wide realm, the city of Kashgar. From that launch point, the army would march down the Silk Road, subduing the tribes of Uighuristan as it went, with the objective being one of the great eastern centers of the Road, the commercial city of Turfan. From there, Timur would send out scouts to the south, east, and north in order to find out the strenghts of his Manchu, Mongol, or Chinese adversaries. Only after this would he decide whether or not to carry out the invasion of China, thought he would hoping to do so no matter the situation.

In such a distant and wide ranging campaign, commanders would be extermely important. Timur needed men of experience and men he could trust. Thats why Miran Shah, to his bitter disappointment, did not get a major command in the army. The command of the vanguard went to Amir Burunduk, the rearguard to Amir Edigu of Nogai, and the light cavalry were given to Umar Shaykh. Miran Shah had only the command of a company of a hundred heavy cavalry and soon declared that he would not go. Yet, the harsh words of Timur and Miran Shah's own wife forced the malcontent to do his duty, despite the lack of prestige so far. The Conqueror was pleased and now could look foward to seeing his great band ride forth once more and to see blood upon the snows.
 

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Marching South


István Rozgonyi sat still on his horse as the army was gathering. He had ridden up the slope of a hill to get a better view of it all. To his left he saw the proud heavy cavalry was lined up. Much of it was feudal levies from nobles loyal to the Queen. A magnificent sight, they would strike fear into the hearts of the enemy. If it in fact came to a field battle he thought to himself, the enemy he would face might as well hide behind thick walls, not daring to come out in the open. His gaze moved slightly and he cast his eyes on the men grouped near those proud nobles. Armigeri, also knights but mercenaries. Mostly from Germany and Italy, the armigeri were highly skilled and Rozgonyi fealt fortunate to have them along. While they would most likely break sooner than the hungarian knights they were more disciplined. Indeed, the great presence of mercenary knights would temper the hungarians. He had heard horrible stories of the impetousness of french knights and what that could lead to. He was confident that this would not be much of a problem in his army.

Behind the knights were the light horse, both recruited from peasants and mercenaries. There were mounted archers and crossbowmen, known as arbalesters. Those brave men which was not as heavily armored would serve as support for the knights. While their task and position was less glorious, Rozgonyi knew from experience that they could be lethally effective.

To his right he saw the infantry, which was not looked upon very highly by hungarian commanders. Still, they could be of great use, especially where they were going. Unlike the cavalry there were not many mercenaries among the infantry; as cavalry was of the greatest importance that was where the money was spend also. Still, there were some mercenaries as well as large formations of heavily armored Clipeati and Armati. The former would form a shield wall for the latter in battle and was a force to be reckoned with even by heavy cavalry. Behind them was the light infantry, archers. Mostly peasants, they were the largest of the groups and also the one that had the worst equipment.

There was also a last group, which might prove to be crucial in the coming months. Siege Engineers. If it came down to it they would build powerful siege engines on site to destroy the walls of the enemy. They brought no cannons as they were heavy and unwieldy as well as untrustworthy. More importantly they would slow them down and could not be built on site like trebuchets or catapults.

Satsified with what he saw General Rozgonyi nodded to his aide. Quickly the army started marching, forming into ranks eight men abreast. As the army turned and marched to the General also saw that there was another 'army' following them. Camp followers. Peddlers and whores that hoped to earn some quick money from the soldiers. And desperate men that might die tomorrow often spends their money freely the General thought as he shook his head. Dismissing the thought he rode to the head of the column and lead the army southwards to warmer climates.
 

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A Story Begins:
The Storming of the Duomo


Outside Siena, Italy - Just Before Dawn...

The clouds in the sky flowed elegantly as the wind pressed hard upon them. Below, low on the ground, the wind was warm, but almost violent as it swarmed through the armed men's hair and faces. Flags with lions on them, like that traditional of Siena, few among the capes and banners of this armed flock.


The green pastures and farms in the regions were not so fertile this year - there hadbeen a drought. The man looking over from, from a nearbye wooded hill not even a quarter of a mile away could easily see that the fields did not seem to be producing much. They looked barren and unkempt. The countryside and rural areas were suffering as well.
Since he and his followers had come from Cortona, they had seen few traders either. This was a Republic that had fallen into depression.

Nevermind that, the man in expensive armor thought, it was time to get things going.

Looking up at the stars and crossing himself in devotion, he spoke only a few words, "Lord in Heaven protect me." And with that he closed his eyes for a moment.

Turning around, he could see all his men, all had could gather from Cortona and his castle at Sorbello. Forty three in all, all in coaks.

Raising his arm, pointed in the direction of the city.


Lord Gerardo da Lucari of Cortona...

"Go!"

And to himself, he muttered, and may St. John of the Cross watch over us.

The men began to jog forward, towards the city which they could see. The city gates had not been closed in years, and anyway, the Republic was not expecting such an assault in either case. The man leading these, whom had so carefully planned this entire assault was none other than Gerardino da Lucari, the Lord of Cortona, a feudal estate east of the tyranny of the Siena City Republic.

As they neared the entrance to the city, the men poured in. They knew where they were to go... Gerardo gave the order in a hoarse whisper, as the townspeople had not yet arisen. He knew that the people would not immediately see his men as a threat - they all wore Siena's arms, as he had arranged. It was a ploy. A trick to make taking the city even that much easier.
Along the old and weak city wall's battlements less than half a dozen men slowely patrolled, and drank, and cavorted with the local whores. Gerardo's men at arms followed him as he quietly drew his own long sword, and at once they sprung, stabbing the man hard in the gut as he slept. He was hardly awoken for long. Lord Gerardo ordered his men to finish off the rest of the wall guards, while he and his own men made their own endeavours.

And so, as the sun began to peak over the horizon, Lord Gerardo of Cortona and a handful of his best men stormed the Siena city barracks, where the Castillan of the city resided, the man in charge of it's defence.

Arriving with their weapons close and prepared at the door of the barracks building, as Lord Gerardo had insisted was near the Duomo, Lord Gerardo's largest follower, a brute, also of partly Norman lineage called Gian, kicked hard, swinging it open. The entire party rushed in, the Castillan placing his armour and equipment on, he hardly had a chance to shout or make a ruckus as three men pounced on him, sticking their sharp long daggers into his flesh wherever they could find an opening. As quickly as they came, the soldiers left the dead defender lying there.


The City's castillan, left lying dead in the Republic's barracks...

It was only then that the Lord of Cortona Gerardo and his men began to move for their final destination.... the Duomo where the Republic's commune ruled from and stayed. These were fat aristocratic slobs, whom used every coin they could tax to their own luxuries, at the cost of the Republic, the city, and of all of the Siena region. Lord Gerardo's men, from the walls, raised his banner - it was the signal. The walls were now patrolled by Lord Gerardo's men.

Gathering the almost thirty men he had left now, Lord Gerardo and his men marched into the city's main square, the Piazza del Campo. Walking up to the Palazzo Pubblico, he could hear shouting and saw that many had begun to notice he and his men's presence now. He called and shouted forth, "Come forth, tyrants of this land of Siena, and face judgement!"

There he and his men waited, as a crowd began to appear in the city square.

The door's to the Palazzo Pubblico opened, and out stepped the guilty - the fat, finger licking plucked tyrants whom had spoilt the land, and once again let the Sienese Republic fall into decay.

Turning to the people, with his blade drawn Lord Gerardo shouted so all could hear around he and his men, the people of the Republic, "These men are to blame for your misery, yet you let them feed still! Is this truly God's wanting?! Is it?"

One of the city's councilors, a clergyman stepped forward, "We rule in the name of God for the people..."

Turning and approaching the man, Lord Gerardo grabbed his cloak, expensive at that, and threw him back onto the steps, thenafter raising his sharp longsword's edge to the tyrant's throat,


Lord Gerardino and the city Republicans...

"No longer will you squander this land's riches, you hear!? No longer!"
The man's eyes widened as he leaned his head back, and shook his head after readily in agreement. Lord Gerardo cleared is throat, "Arrest them."

His men ran forth, and stormed the Duomo, taking down and seizing every member of the Siena City Republic authority that they could find, and throwing them into the town square, where they were to be chained together, to posts, for public humiliation the very next day. Meanwhile Lord Gerardo, after ensuring the Duomo was cleared, and the city truly was taken, stood on a high balcony of the Palazzo Pubblico so all could hear him.


Gerardino da Lucari, Signore di Cortona
'Conteggio di Siena'


"People of Siena, I am Lord Gerardino da Lucari, a descendant of that same Lucari who had delivered this city so long ago into the hands of the Republic. I have returned, from my lands at Cortona, seeing that these traitors -" He pointed to the arrested Republicans, "Have let you become poor and hungry, and fall into decay, I say no longer! I have come to liberate you from this, and you shall see that as the new Count of Siena, you shall be wealthier than ever before!"


Siena's main city square...

With his men in the public square, he did indeed recieve some sort of applause, although all present knew that it was a forced one, or even a nervous one.

The city had just been seized in a coup, and Lord Gerardo was the new, self proclaimed ruler.
 
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Gubernatio Christi


URBANUS SEXTUS, EPISCOPUS, SERVUS SERVORIUM DEI, GUBERNATIO CHRISTI

UNTO THE BELOVED GERARDO DA LUCARI, COUNT OF SIENA & LORD OF CORTONA

It is with great pleasure that I transcribe this letter to you. For too long have the Children of God lived under the tyranny of the Republic. You have shed the burden from God's Children, and rid the new County of Siena from the Corrupt Republican Aristocrats whom were filled with the convictions of the Devil and his evil minions.

For your Great Faith, you will be rewarded in the Kingdom of God, but for your servitude and heroics, you will be rewarded in the Kingdom of Man. By Papal Decree, the County of Siena will be elevated to that of the Duchy of Siena, with the Count of Siena and Lord of Cortona being given said title. I will come, personally, to crown as such. Also, by Papal Order, the Republics of Pisa and Firenza will be converted to Duchies and combined with the Duchy of Siena, into the Kingdom of Tuscany.

I, as Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church and Sovereign of the States of the Church, do so humble accept your offer of vassalage and willupon assume the title of King of Tuscany. As one of God's greatest servents, you will become Overlord of Tuscany, and answerable only to me in the newest Secular Kingdom in Italia, Tuscany. This shall be effective immediatly, and if you encounter any resistance, be sure to put it down, in the Name of God. Go in Peace, and await my arrival, Gerardo, Overlord of Tuscany, Duke of Siena, Count of Cortona.


Signed in Rome, in this Year of Our Saving Lord, One Thousand, Three Hundred and Eighty-Four, in the Sixth Year of His Most Glorious Pontificate.
 

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The New Duke of Siena

Within the Palazzo di Pubblico Gerardino da Lucari had finally found time to sit and relax, after taking care of measures of resistance throughout the Siena region to his rule, and ensuring that all of the city saw him as the true ruler now. No more of this filthy Republic rule. He thought.


Siena - an enfeebled city that had gone through several failed Republics...

Still, he was in a shaky position. Truly he only ruled the city through a coup, and though a well organized one, the air of the people seemed stale. He would have to start making rule and improvements in the region if he was to win the hearts of Siena...


Gerardino da Lucari
Duca di Siena, Conteggio di Cortona

Continuing to think of these things alone in a sunlit room, Gerardino was interrupted.
It was then that the emissary arrived, bearing Papal arms on his cloak. Lord Gerardino was most anxious as soon as he saw the man, standing and recieving the Pope's letter, the man turning without another look.

Carefully breaking the Papal Seal and opening the precious letter from the Pope, Lord Gerardino's eyes read over the letter.

It proclaimed him, in the eyes of the Church, and God, Duke of Siena and now Count of Cortona. He shivered. Days ago he was only a minor Lord, and now, he would be made Duke, and he would do his best to serve the Holy Church and be the Vicar of Chirst's right arm.
For a few moments Gerardino was overjoyed with this news. Finally, everything he was working for was coming together - perhaps it was God's design for him? Truly, the Pope himself seemed interested in what he wanted for Italy - the Church dominating the land, and in it's part the entirity of the Holy Roman Empire and all Christiandom, and Gerardino would be the Sword of the Church of Rome.

Yes, God's servant first. He thought.
He read further.
What more, the Pope proclaimed that he truly willed the same as Gerardino - for the Republics of Italy to be absorbed into Siena, and then finally, as vassal of the one true Church. It was Gerardino's true dream.

He would prepare a grand celebration for the Pope's coming to Siena, and he would think of what he might say to his Holiness, in private. He would do anything and everything he coould to make the Holy Father see that he was truly dedicated to the Church's cause.

And so Duke Gerardino immediately called for his faithful second in commander, Nicoleto Vespucci, and gave him a mission to the north - to the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.


Nicoleto Vespucci, Captain of the Soldiery

Armed with letter and decree as well as weapons, Nicoleto left within hours, along with the Archbishop of Siena, both riding at a furious pace north.
 

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URBANUS SEXTUS, EPISCOPUS, SERVUS SERVORIUM DEI, PATRONUS SUECIA

UNTO THE CHILDREN OF GOD IN SWEDEN, AND ALL THOSE IN UNION WITH CHRIST​

By Papal Decree, an investigation into the life of Birgitta Birgersdotter shall commence.

Born to Noble Parents in the Northern Christian Kingdom of Sweden, she devoted her life to the Will of Christ. In her life of Service to the One True God, she, among other very important acts, founded the Brigittine Order of Nuns for those Faithful Women of the Christian World.

It is with my authority, as Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, that the Beatification of Birgitta Birgersdotter be complete and Lady Birgitta, from now on, unless Canonization takes effect, be forever called Blessed.

SIGNED IN ROME, IN THIS YEAR OF OUR SAVING LORD, ONE THOUSAND, THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-FOUR, IN THE SIXTH YEAR OF HIS MOST GLORIOUS PONTIFICATE.
 

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The Warrior-Duke
and the Commune




As his new servants fumbled with his unkempt black rags of hair, Gerardino smiled to himself. He had not worn fancy clothese ever in his life - his father was a traditional Lord, and wore little other than padded leather, as he had, and for the later half of his life as so far he had always trodden within the garb of a warrior and mercenary. Yet now, there he was, in a fine outfit woven out of expensive cloths baring the Sienese arms, and he was being tidied up so he might look his part, that of a Duke.

In the last few weeks after the seizing of the city, Gerardino immediately sent out almost half of his men, on horseback from some of the city's stables, who then established his right and control over all of the Siena region. Serfs of the Republic were now serfs of the Duke, and laymen and workers subjects of the new Ducal rule. The members of the old Republic, the richest and highest members of Sienese society, were revoked their rights of judicial rule, and granted instead their former title, Commune of the City of Siena, a town council at most, with no control over the realm's diplomacy or technical rule.

Truly, Siena was being reverted back into a feudal system.

And so the new Duke decided that much administration was to be in order - yet when he made such announcement, his friends and Captains, loyal to him haughtily laughed that he had to look the part, and so the mercenary bathed, cleaned, had his hair cut and fasioned, and was dressed in the finest new Italian styles of clothing and garb. And so he entered the Commune's grand chambers within the Palazzo Pubblico, the heart of Siena, and was met with an air of silence.

One of his captains announced him, "Your sovereign ruler, the Duke!"



Duke Gerardino and the Siena City Commune

A bit anxious, Duke Gerardino stepped into the palace's chambers to see his court - old men, young rich boys, clergymen and the richest of merchants, looking at him nervously themselves, perhaps even dissaprovingly.
Why shouldn't they...? You destroyed their rule... He thought to himself, but dared not change his expression. He walked into the center of the room, into view of all, and stood there.

One of the old men, a clergyman with a tidy grey beard stepped forth, "Your grace, while you now sit here as Duke of Siena, there has been little changes in the land since you first arrived. We are the city's Council, we might take it upon ourselves to ensure these needed administes are made to the realm. With no administration or -"

"And there shall be administration, your grace. Thanks to the old rule, the fields are unsown, and have fallen into decay and ruin, depravity one might say. Where was all Siena's riches being spent when this was happening, hm?
What would the Holy Father think when he comes to Siena, to properly crown me and this land to it's glorious titles, and saw such poverty?"
He looked sharply at the richly dressed nobles, who offered no response at this allegation. There was murmuring however, many impressed that the Pope indeed was coming to Siena.

"The city will first finance the irrigation of these feels, for the purchase of cattle and swine, sheep and hen alike. The lands around the city shall become an Eden of nourishment to the people and city, and the wealth of Siena shall ensure it so.
Such is my decision... I leave it up to this Council, this Commune, to effectively discuss and conclude how this shall be done with financial ease, and with most effect."


A merchant stood, "What of the city's trade, which has ceased to almost a stop in the last decade?"

Gerardino turned to him, "I myself shall contact neighbouring states and distant lands, and others to trade with, to ensure our realm's wealth. I will sign agreements, and invite the merchants of other lands to once again come and go as they like, as as we do."

A young man dressed in pompous garb stood, "And what of the hill bandits and our neighbouring enemies then?"

"I and the men I commander will never let you fall into harm from common vile enemies, that is my pledge." The Duke nodded to the man.
And so as the morning became afternoon Gerardino spoke on with the city's commune, and began to make more and more decisions, reorganizing the city's taxes, properly preparing it's wall patrols, ensuring the entire Siena region was marked and known as a single County region to her neighbours...
And her neighbours were indeed something the Duke would have to think about.
And so the city's leaders, at first enraged by the seizing of Gerardino, began to see his aims - not just for himself, but for Siena. Still, they begrudgingly followed his orders.



 

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Royal Council - Anno Domini 1383

Part 1

The atmosphere in the hall was free and easy, but at the same time most people knew the importance of the council which were to start soon and were pressed by it. For people like Bo Jonsson Grip who had been viceroy for the whole life of some people in the room it was nothing and he cheered and ate and drunk as much as his elderly body allowed him to. For others, like Laurens of Aspenäs it was the first time. He sat in a corner together with the bishop of Strängnäs and spoke quietly about the new archbishop who had entered his services yesterday with a formal ceremony in the Stockholm cathedral. He was a modest guy, but not overly quiet and associal. Rather, he seemed to speak when he found it necessary to speak and when he had something to say and else he shut his mouth. The conversation was made in two languages, the nobleman spoke German and the bishop latin. It was the same all over the hall, although since a lot of nobles hadn't been taught latin they gave the clergy a nervous smile, scratched their head and left when they were spoken to.

The king gave a sign with his hand to the lord of the Tre Kronor caste and the music and celebrations stopped. The lords looked confused at each other and towards the musicians. Andreas von Schweikert let the trumpeter give a loud signal that almost made every single man in the room deaf, and then he announced in German with a loud voice.

"By His Majesty Abrecht von Mecklenburg, King of Sweden, the son of the duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and of the count of Rostock's will, the royal council is allowed to open! This way please, gentlemen."

The nobles still looked at eachother confused, the bishops and the archbishop began to walk ridicolously slowly towards the entrance of the council hall where Andreas had pointed, as was proper for them. After a while old Karl Sparre of Tofta wiped the beer foam from his beard, and the other nobles followed him, reluctant to cancel the festivities so soon. Ulf of Ulvåsa helped his father's old friend up to his feet and made a try to lead him towards the door but Bo got rid of his arm. He told Ulf that he definately didn't need any help, and then he began to stumble towards the door. The small hunchback made the man look quite clumsy and Ulf went anxiously after him, wondering not if but when the old viceroy would fall and break all the fragile bones in his old body. Surprisingly the man made it through the door though and with a sigh he fell down in the chair closest to the door, on one of the two short sides. The bishop of Linköping and Tord Bonde flanked him and on the other short side the king seated himself on a chair at least five times as large as the other's. Albrecht wasn't really a part of the council, but he was there to monitor that everything went good and to influence the members. It wasn't rare at all that people who voted against the king's will were murdered under unclear circumstances a few weeks after the council.

The archbishop of Uppsala, who was at the meeting for the first time as he had only held office for one day so far, noticed to his annoyance that there were no free space for him at the short sides and thus he had to seat himself with the mere bishops and nobles at the long side. He at least got to flank the king's right side together with Laurens of Aspenäs, and so were the 16 members all seated. Andreas von Schweikert, the man who was responsible for the meeting and maintinence of the Tre Kronor castle sometimes laughed and sometimes cried as he watched the nobles and bishops walk and seat themselves. These people wouldn't even be allowed into the capital, let alone the main castle of it in any German duchy with any self respect he thought and snorted. He looked at the large and expensive tapestry that the king had brought from Germany and thought it was a waste of money and time, these people could just as well have their little get-together in a pig sty. If it hadn't been for the king's presence he would have rejected them at once, telling the guards to shoot them at sight if they ever approached Stockholm again.

When the murmur of the crowd moving from one place to another finally stopped, Bo Jonsson Grip spoke. He knew he outranked the king in this very moment, as the king didn't really have anything to say, his role was to listen. Later, Bo would tell the king everything which had been said at the council (that the king had heard already) and the king would be allowed to comment. Bo would then bring the king's comments to the second part of the council, when decisions would be made. Again Bo would have to go to the king and tell him what had happened and what he already knew, and then the council would be over and the large party could begin. The archbishop rose and blessed the council, in latin. Only about half of the members understood what he said.

"Holy Father, thou who gave us everything, hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let your will be present in this room and help us make the right decision. Let us not make decisions that benefit ourselves, but make decisions that benefit thy greatness and follow the words thou have written in thy holy book. And let us be lead by your wisdom so that the decisions we make will be beneficial for the future, rather than the present. Amen."

A quick amen was murmured throughout the room by the nobles, and before the bishops were done with their amen Bo began to speak the German opening words obviously impatient to get this over with. The quicker we start the quicker we can end. The bishops looked annoyed at the speaker.

"Lords of Sweden, descendents to Olof Skötkonung, we have assembled here today to decide upon the future of the country!" Bo looked over the quiet crowd seated. In a corner behind the right side of the king Andreas stood, the recalcitrant castle lord Bo had spoke with when he first entered the city. But there were only fifteen members seated, Bo thought for a moment before he noticed who was gone. It was Peter Kristinasson, the bishop of Skara. Bo was sure he had seen him in the cathedral yesterday "Does anyone know where herr biskop Peter Kristiansson is, of Skara?"

Everyone were quiet and surprisingly looked around themselves as if they'd find him in the room. Some people even lift the tablecloth to see if he was hiding under the table but returned up shaking his head. Nope, the bishop was gone although everyone were sure they'd seen him at least the day before. Bo thought he could see a weird flash of indifference in the archbishop of Uppsala's eyes but his face quickly adopted everyone else's questioning looks. Bo was sure his imagination and old eyes had tricked him.

"I spoke to him now, half an hour ago!" the old man Axel Pedersen Tott said indignant. Apparantly he had had a few too many kegs of beer and spittle flew from his mouth covered by the large orange beard as he tried to pronounce the words which he didn't do too well.

"I believe that was me, herr Tott" the bishop of Åbo said, apparently offended by getting confused with the bishop of Skara, even by a drunk man. Old man Axel got a confused look at his face and stared for a moment at the bishop of Åbo. "You were talking to me the whole time before this meeting."

"Uhm, that might be possible. Bishop as bishop, they all look the same.", Axel said and burst out laughing, looking at the other lords around the table to get support. Noone joined him though and he silenced quickly.

"Anyway, this is hardly a topic for today's meeting, and I'm sure our schedule's are tight gentlemen. Let us get on with business." Henrik Karlsson, the archbishop of Uppsala said with a dry voice. "Besides, it looks like our friend herr Tott here has got a bit too much to drink before the meeting."

Henrik looked at the king with the same bored look at his face as he always had. The king simply nodded and guards walked up to the man. Bo Jonsson Grip continued despite Axel Tott's loud protests. Andreas von Scweikert lowered his head, as if he didn't want to see the misery. Or perhaps he was praying that the meeting would end soon... Bo read the points on the agenda, slowly so everyone would understand. When he was done the normal buzz broke out as always where everyone spoke and noone listened. The writer desperately tried to listen to everyone at once at the same time as he wrote down what he thought he heard them say and decide upon. Andreas head sank lower down and he had now also put his hand on his forehead as if he thought he had fever. The only ones who were quiet were the king and surprisingly the archbishop who sat with his same indifferent and harsh expression as before. The meeting lasted for several hours and when the nobles thought they wwere done and had said everything they wanted to say they returned back to the beer and food in the great hall. Everyone except Bo Jonsson who went to the writer to summarize the things for yesterday's audience with the king and Henrik Karlsson who left unnoticed into the dark shadows of Stockholm city. When the others left in the morning after having slept themselves somewhat sober during the night his footprints were already covered in snow again.
 

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Paving the Road
for the Crowning



Clergymen and Women of Siena Prepare
for a most Holy Visit...


And so across Siena the clergy and the new Duke's governing body began to assume control of reorganizing the properties and controls of the local farmlands, which had fallen into much of the Republic's control as well as to private owners who used much of it for game or let it fallow. Now, it was all the property of the Duke of Siena.

Duke Gerardino di Lucari began to grant these lands to serfs, whom would farm them under the Duke as his vassals. The clergy supported him finally, after confirmation from the Pope in Rome of the legitimacy of the Duke's rule, and under his orders and their own endeavours began to encourage the people, and the Duke to prepare for the Pope's coming. Many peasants began to farm the lands surrounding the city, planting many different crops, and under ducal command expenses were put forth to build homes and granaries around the city, as well as the comission to build many wagons and purchase horses and oxen to plough the fields, and make them fertile.


A system of irrigation is planned for the fields
around the city of Siena

A long pits are dug out, in and around the field by peasants, paid very cheaply to create a fully working irrigating system. The Duke knew this would aid the harvest, and put forth all of the city's incomes collected since his rise as Duke to the project, and to beautify the city in prepation of the coming of the Holy Father.

Meanwhile in the Palazzo Pubblico, the great city square of Siena a priest called Benevenuta Compelli, with writ orders from the Duke points and shouts orders,

More flowers here, more stream there or you will be engulfed in eternety with Hellfire! Clean that gutter you, or he will not be impressed! YOU there, do you think the Holy Father wants to see you in rags looking like scum?! Put a shirt on!


The Siense people are humbled as they prepare
for his Holiness the Pope's visit

Yes indeed, the city was making grand preparations to be utterly beautified in the name of the Duke - to become a feudally ruled state, and for his Holiness to come and official Crown the Duke as Duke, Count, and Overlord of what would be the Duchy of Tuscany.





 

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Stockholm, November 1383



Royal Council - Anno Domini 1383

Part 2

Bo's head hurt and his stomach was rebelling against him as he walked up towards the king's royal study in the Tre Kronor fortress. It was like this every time, he thought, dejected by the pain. He always drank too much and fell asleep on the floor, just like all the members of the council. The difference between him and them was, however, that he as the viceroy had to request audience with the king early next morning and spend the day telling the king stuff he already knew. He was comissioned to tell the king everything that had been told at the meeting, and then bring the king's opinions back to the council the next day so that they would come to a final decision. And he hadn't got better with age, he still drank as much as when he first had entered the council, as a young man with great plans for the future. Oh well, he thought with irony, if he slept on the castle he didn't have a very far way to go at least.

He spoke to the herald and told him that he wanted to request an audience with the king. The herald had worked on the castle a long time and knew what it was all about, the request was only a formality. Bo knew that the hour long waiting that would now follow was it too. Of course Albrecht expected him but as he was king and it was up to him to decide whenever the time was good to grant the audience he enjoyed letting his guests wait. People knew that the king was supposed to be busy with the viceroy this day though so any other tasks that the king had were never done on this day, the day after the council. But even if it meant that he himself would spend the hours in a just as unentertaining and slow way as his guest he enjoyed it immensely and Bo always had had to put up with it. He was prepared though, in fact he'd need this break anyway. When the herald left he went away and found a chair where he sat down and unrolled the scrolls with the writer's notes from yesterday. The letters were untidy, but who could blame him? It was hard enough to keep track of what was said in there alone, not to mention write it all down. Bo had learned the hard way not to trust the scrolls blindly but together with his own memory he usually got a decent overview that didn't upset too many of the members who felt like just their thoughts hadn't been covered. With focused eyes he began to memorize the tiny letters.

***​

The herald woke him up from his slumber, Bo had taken a nap when he thought he was finished memorizing them. He had hoped that there would be time to memorize them one more time before his audience but apparently the king seemed to grant him it faster than usual. I should know them anyway, he thought while he cursed the pain which went through his head like a lightning from an open sky as he rose. Groaning he sank back into the armchair.

"Do you need help, herr?" the messenger who obviously had misinterpreted him.

"No, no. I'm fine." Bo grunted and rose from the armchair with an effort from his elderly body but with his honour intact. His head beat like a drum but at least his feeling of sickness was gone.

He was lead into the royal study where the king awaited him like he used to. The blonde man sat on a throne even larger than the one he used during the royal council. With practiced gracefulness he bowed in front of the king, like so many times before.

"Rise, herr Jonsson"
the king said with his dark voice. "And tell me what has been said"

"Seine Majestät, Your Majesty" he began. He searched his memory carefully, since the king had been present it was of extreme importance that he remembered correctly. Something which he had found harder to do for every year that passed, he had gradually become more dependent on the writer's notes which he knew was a bad thing. He also sorted his memories, some things weren't really necessary to tell the king about eventhough he had been there to hear it himself. For example, Krister Nilsson from the Vasa dynasty and Ture Bengtsson Bielke had had a dispute about money that Krister Nilsson claimed he had loaned Ture without getting them back. Ture on the other hand claimed he had got them as a gift and that it was against God's will to demand money back that had been given as a gift. Besides, Ture didn't even have any money. It was a well-known fact that the Bielke dynasty was struggling economically. It all ended with Ture paying half of the money to Krister, quite a large sum anyway considering Tures Bielke's economy. The bishop of Strängnäs, most likely bribed by Ture, had been very upset about this fact.

"Unfortunately both Axel Pedersen Tott and the bishop of Skara were absent. First thing we did was to discuss how Sweden should manage its foreign policy in the future."

"Since when is that in the hands of the council to decide, herr Jonsson?" the king said obviously annoyed that the council seemed to gradually steal his power until he'd have nothing left. "I thought that was my office, as the king of Sweden."

Bo bit his lip. He knew the king would get annoyed when he said it but luckily he had already worked on a reply.

"As chancellors of the realm we were discussing what we thought was best so that we could give you advices, we were by no means trying to undermine your well deserved power your Majesty."

Albrecht groaned. "Very well then."

Bo went on. He knew that what he was going to say next would make up for their faults in his Majesty's eyes.

"We decided that the current foreign policy your Majesty has exercised.". As often was the case, the discussions had gone to waste and in the end everyone agreed that everything was okay and nothing needed to change, Bo thought. "and that we would be happy if your Majesty decided to continue in that way."

Bo looked at the king to see if he had any response to make, but he just motioned Bo to continue with a quiet and almost unnoticable nod with his head. His head still hurt, and with a sigh and effort he forced his elderly lips to form words. He tried to keep it concise since he knew this was as boring to the king as it was to him.

"We touched the matter of the German bailiffs too, and reports are still coming in that they are oppressing the peasants. The population is on the edge of revolt in the western parts of the country"

"The Germans will stay, I trust them herr Jonsson." A definite answer that Bo couldn't argue with. Bo wondered how much the king knew though, if anything, about the murdering of German bailiffs that never were reported dead. They were usually replaced with Swedish people who were both accepted by the local population and acted in the former bailiff's name. A system which wouldn't work forever of course, but the king hopefully didn't have too long left to live. He was only eight years younger than Bo after all, the Swedes had perhaps ten years more of him... top.

"A new chancellor was appointed, herr Algot of the Sture dynasty. And Ulf Karlsson av Ulvåsa is the new marshal while I stay the chief judge of the council."

"That's alright, I will not meddle in the council's affairs despite them putting their nose in mine.". As if he hadn't tried to influence those elections

"We'd also like to express concern about your Majesty's repeated absence. We'd wish that you spend more time in your kingdom, rather than with your father in Lübeck.". A bold thing to say, but the council ws powerful. This was one of the few issues where the council had gone against Bo's will, Bo would rather see that he spent more power outside Sweden so that the council could rule like they wanted to. A lot of the nobles found it inappropriate though and wanted a king who was strong and could solve the endless quarrels between the noble dynasties of Sweden and unite the country. He looked for a response from the king.

"I'll see what I can do" he said, swallowing his pride. Bo examined his memory again. He felt like a school boy in front of his teacher.

"Oh, and yes. Henrik Karlsson, the new archbishop, wanted more money to the church. He claimed that his predecessor had misruled the economy and that the church desperately needed extra funds."

"Misruled? Who was the last archbishop?"

"His name was Birger Gregersson I believe". Even Bo found it weird that the king didn't even know the name of the archbishop who had ruled the primate of his kingdom until two days ago, but so was the nature of a powerless king. He didn't care much about the internal politics of the country, and Birger hadn't done much except just that. Bo thought that the usage of 'misruled' by the archbishop was a grave exaggeration though. "He spent most of his time trying to get Birgitta Birgersdotter canonized, which he failed with."

"Very well, I trust you can handle the treasury yourself. Anything else, herr Grip?"

Bo spent the following hour telling the rest of the issues discussed. The taxes that always came up on such meetings as this one, the Eastern raiders and the nobles internal quarrels that never seemed to end... only to name a few. Bo noticed Albrecht had exceptionally much to say and discussed, normally he just listened and let the council do what they pleased... when Bo finally went out of the castle the sun had begun to set and the stars appear on the darkening sky. He immediately went down to Stortorget and across it to reach his house. His maid gave him something against the headache and then he went to bed immediately, embracing himself into the warmth of the house and the sheet. It was only five hours after noon when Bo fell asleep and snored heavily.
 
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Encyclical letter: Idolatria Est




In the name of the holy & undivided Trinity, Father & Son & Holy Ghost. Amen.



Clement, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God; to his Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, the Primates, the Archbishops & the Bishops & other ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See; & likewise to all the faithful believers in the One True Church, Universal & Apostolic, these chosen ones of God, who are subject to Us as to Peter, the one & only shepherd appointed by Christ to become the head of His mystical body: Greetings & Apostolic Benediction.



IDOLATRY IS vanity, idolatry is a lie, idolatry is wind and chaos, idolatry is sin. But idolatry is not so much a sin that makes salvation impossible, but rather a symptom of a deep deviation from the ways of the Lord God. Therefore the sin of idolatry of those miserable souls who start to pay reverence to a dead man or woman whose ability to successfully intercede or to channel miracles is not fully and sufficiently proven -- thus it is doubtful if the Lord God holds them in a special grace or not -- is but a symptom of a sin much worse.

We are greatly saddened indeed, for We have learnt from very reliable sources that there are some communities in the Northern Kingdoms, especially in the realm of Sweden, which have started to publicly pay recerence to that Venerable Bridget of Sweden, erecting altars and painting images in her honour, despite the fact that the Venerable one is not yet declared beatified by the Holy See, this way falling in the sin of idolatry, a symptom of their excommunicating sin of schism.

Therefore We herewith order, charge and command all of you to stop venerating that Bridget publicly; for such a veneration is in fact an offense against the Venerable one herself and the Lord God. We order, charge and command you to have any altars or images consecrated in her honour torn down -- though only in a proper and respectful manner, paying respect to the Venerable Bridget, who is greatly saddened to see her people being severed from the Mystical Body of Christ.

However, since We do understand that the sin of some came not because they were seduced by the Deceiver, but was rather due to a divinely inspired, if naive, enthusiasm, which is most certainly a sign of special divine grace; and also since the Venerable Bridget’s saintly lifestyle and other virtues are well-known to Us, We have decided to take special care of her beatification, hastening the process as much as We can.

Furthermore, seeing that the Universal Church is in truly a miserable state in the Kingdom of Sweden -- which sorrowful turn of events is due to the misdeeds of that Benedict, son of Gregory, former Archbishop of Uppsala --, wishing to help Our venerable brother the Archbishop Henry of Uppsala, We herewith declare that the Archbishop of Uppsala has the right to collect the tithe in all Sweden; and that the tithe he may collect as coins; and that the nobles of Sweden shall have no right to withhold part of the tithe for any reason, neither the King shall do so, it shall be only the Archbishop of Uppsala to decide what to do with it. We shall pray these measures will be sufficient enough to restore the former glory of the Church of Sweden.​

Given in Avignon, in the Year of the Incarnation of Our Lord MCCCLXXXIV, in the sixth year of Our Pontificate and fifth year of Our Exile.



Clemens PP. VII



 
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Stockholm, November 1383



Royal Council - Anno Domini 1383

Part 3

The members of the council were once again summoned to the council room for the second day of the royal council. Bo, who had slept all day and night was alert, but the rest of the people there seemed to had problems keeping their head high. Even the bishop of Växiö had had a bit too much during the festivities yesterday and the archbishop of Uppsala looked at him with disgust in his eyes. The members seated themselves around the large rectangular oak table, made two hundred years ago when the council had their first meeting under Magnus Ladulås. The king seated himself at the flank, watching over the table like a hawk. The atmosphere was much different from the first half of the meeting where everyone were eager to get their opinion brought in front of the king and prompted by the wine in their blood everyone talked at the same time. The persons gathered today more looked like they wished it was all over. With an authoritative voice Bo declared the meeting open after Henrik had blessed it. The bishop of Skara was still nowhere to be seen, although Axel Tott was there. Ironically, he was one of the most sober of the noble members of the council today, as he had spent yesterday in bed unable to move anywhere.

"In God's name, I declare the second part of the meeting open. I have spoken with His Majesty the king, and he has expressed his opinion and concerns about what we discussed two days ago."


"Concerning the German bailiffs, he has denied the request of replacing them with native bailiffs, and as we the council has given him the power to appoint anyone his majesty sees fit I suggest we accept this"

A dissatisfied mumbering was heard from the council

"Who cares?" said the bishop of Strängnäs boldly. Bo who remembered the definite look at the king's face yesterday watched him with a sombre expression. "The people are suffering under their oppression, I've heard that they rape women in my bishopric of they don't pay the taxes! The people are about to revolt any time." The council seemed to agree, many members worridly mumbered something to their neighbour.

So what? said Axel Tott probably more eager to gain the king's good eyes than really caring about the bailiffs. Especially since the embarrassing event yesterday. Bo knew that Axel secretely had put Swedish bailiffs in murdered German bailiffs places anyway so it wouldn't matter much for him. The bishop of Strängnäs was apparently a soft man though, and it might mean his death. Didn't the man see the annoyed look at the king's face? "If they don't pay the taxes they deserve it"

"It's against the will of God and spirit of christianity" the bishop of Strängnäs said angrily. "Who am I to expect the people to listen to the word of God, when not even the officials respects our holy Father's words?"

The debate was furious and the king watched it with suspicious eyes. He puckered his brow as if he was thinking, but Bo knew that expression was his dissatisfied look. He had been viceroy for enough time to know that that expression probably meant that the bishop of Strängnäs didn't have much more time to live. In the end, an open vote was done. Bo counted the hands iin the air as 13 against 3 in Tott's favour. The old man smacked his lips with a satisified smile.

"I guess that settles it, we will respect his Majesty's right to continue appoint merchants. Concerning the raids in the east and his absence from the royal castle he will see what he can do, perhaps we will even see support from Mecklenburg and launch a new full scale crusade against the eastern heathens who pillage our lands." Bo was aware that it was really his land as he owned almost every parish in Finland, but "our" would be a lot better wording to use. Especially in front of the king who didn't know much about who owned what in Sweden. The council members were pleased with this, generally the clergy and particularly the archbishop of Uppsala who probably would gain a lot of prestige in the papal eyes if such a crusade was successful. "He will get back to us."

"Further, I also told him what we are concerned about the high scutage and he agreed to lower it." The king had been reluctant, but the power of the council had convinced him. The Swedish nobles already paid only a fraction of what was proper in Europe. "We can look forward to a 50% cut next year, we've got His Majesty's word on that."

The nobles cheered, this would make them even richer!

"However, to compensate for a part of the lost income a new tax will be created to make sure that the king will be able to maintain his castles and his regiments. It will not make up for all of it though, so the total tax sum that we have to pay will be lowered but not with as much as 50%."

A lot of the members scratched their head trying to understand what Bo just said. He reduces one tax and creates another, won't that make the total taxes they had to pay larger? they thought. Bo wondered how many of those who didn't look like question marks faked it and how many who actually understood the maths. Noone said anything though, since their hangover was still too present and if they'd be wrong about such simple maths everyone would laugh at them and their reputation would be hit. Something which might in turn lead to less influence in the council...

The proposal still only barely passed the vote with the least possible margin, 9 for and 7 against. Bo continued to the boring quarrels that had to be settled, that was the most boring part of the whole council. The other members woke up from their half sleep when they heard that the boring realm questions that hardly would affect them anyway were over. Like wolves they attacked eachother with different accusations, and the discussions were heated until the council finally voted on the issues. Bo himself was accused of having hired the thieves who had recently stolen a respectable amount of money from Karl Ulfsson Sparre of Tofta. A ridicolous accusation, but yet six people of the council wanted to see him guilty after the discussion when the voting was due.

When the meeting was over Bo went home directly and fell asleep for the second time of the day. He blamed heart problems to skip the festivities afterwards, but the truth was that he had become annoyed with the politics of the council. He wasn't the young man who had usurped famrs en masse in the good old days, he had become old and was quite satisified with what he had. That night he was thinking about giving up his titles as viceroy of Sweden, officialis generalis and what not and live his last days on Bjärkaholm as an old rich man enjoying his life. He simply had no use for the council anymore and the new fresh blood outmanuevered him on the political arena. His family didn't have much of a future though, the incompetence of his only son had made him disinherited and there were no other relatives. In his will he had split his property between people he appreciated, when he signed it he had felt like he signed his own family's death sentence and all previous Grip's who had helped him build up what he had now cursed him and called him traitor. The richest man in Sweden fell asleep with gloomy thoughts and nightmares haunting him, worried about the dark looking future.
 

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Decimus Peregrinus



URBANUS SEXTUS, EPISCOPUS, SERVUS SERVORIUM DEI, DECIMUS PEREGRINUS

UNTO HIS FAITHFUL EXCELLENCY, KONRAD III ZOLLNER VON ROTHSTEIN, GRANDMASTER OF THE TEUTONIC KNIGHTS AND ALL CHRISTIAN KINGDOMS OF EUROPE

For long has the Pagan Heathens been tolerated in the lands of Christendom; occupying Europe and influencing the Eastern Kingdoms in the Service of the One True God.

It has always been the duty of every abled-bodied Christian to convert the Heathen to the Service of Christ, or to remove the blemish from the body of the Church.

It is as Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Chuch, that I, Urbanus Sextus, Pontifex Maximus et Vicarius Christi, call upon the Nations of Europe to a Holy Crusade, against the Pagan Liths of Baltica.

I, Urbanus Sextus, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, recognize the current military conflict between the Teutonic Knights and their allies the Swedes against the Heathen Liths as Righteous and Holy in the Eyes of God.


INDICIUM ROMAE, ANNO DOMINI MCCCLXXXIV, SEPTUMDECIM ANNUS SUUS GLORIFICUS PONTIFICATE
 

Elias Tarfarius

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A Meeting of the Divan


Toqtamish Khan

While the Roman prince entertained himself, news coming in from the marches made the Great Khan realise that he need to call a meeting of the Divan. The Divan, or council of state, is an assembly of high officials who assists the Khan in state affairs, as is common in Turkish states. The Divan of the Khanate consisted of the emirs (princes), governors of the realm (that are present at court), the marshals, and the ulema. It is run, naturally, by the Grand Vizer, and Toqtamish wishes to make the body the central organ of the new Khanate so that the instability of the past may never rise again do to perfidious vizers or incompetent khans.

The members enter and, in order of rank, kowtow before Great Khan on his cushioned throne. Each one then rises an sits before the throne in two parallel which strech to the door. Suddenly, the Great-Queen, Fatima al-‘Aliyya, also enters bows only slightly before her husband and sits on a red silk cushion beside the throne. Murmurs fill the room, but the Great Khan quickly raises his hand to silence them. It was he who had asked the Great-Queen to be here, for he sometimes trusted her with the burdensome matters of state that he dealt with. He look at her and then he rose to speak.

My minister, my emirs! War has erupted in the realms of the Liths. You well know that the Germans have made it so, but now also, thinking that he has the support of Sarai, the Grand Duke of Muscovy has declared war on the Liths. I was disposed to chastise that prince and his dog-like people for this, but then Chagan sent word from Kiev... the Lithuanians refuse our protection and seek only an alliance to save their skins. This made me look upon the wars in a different light. I feel no need to rush, as those pagans are strong fighters and shall hold out for many months. What shall the Horde do in this? Shall we wait till next spring and then launch war on the Lith? Shall we leave them in peace? Should we except this alliance and spill our blood fighting to Germans and even the Muscovites? What is the word of you, my mighty princes?


Ali Batu Beg Saraev
Marshal and governor of Kazan

The Rus are fools, but I fear for the Lithuanians. They have helped us from time to time and now they shall be destroyed by these fierce German monks, who I have heard kill and rape as much as the Horde of Timur! Who next shall they attack after the Lith? Our allies and ourselves, thats who they shall attack. That fool in Muscow thinks he is taking advantage of the situation, but he shall know differently when those knights burn the Kremlin and roast him, like a pig, on a spit. I say that if we do not aid them with arms, that we should at least send them gold to buy mercenaries.


Emir Tangut
Marshal and governor of Crimea

Nonesense! Batu remembers to well the days of Mamai when he served with the Lithuanian warriors and slept with their wives. *laughs while Batu gives him the evil eye* The Lithuanians are the fools. Our Great Khan offered them protect and they spit on it. Let them burn in hell for all I care. Furthermore, I say that we wait till next year and if the progress of the enemies of the Liths is good, then we too must carve of the hind. Kievwas once numbered among our cities and, inshallah, it shall be again. Let us reduce them to humble servants of the Great Khan.


Kuyuk Beg
Marshal and governor of Astrakhan

I must agree. They have disrespected the Horde and the authority of the Great Khan. They forget they were once vassals of the Horde and do not know their place. Let us make them know it again so that they shall never again challenge our power.

The Great-Queen then sat up on her cushion and looked directly at Kuyuk Beg. She shook her head and began to speak.

You know not what you wish for, Kuyuk Beg. If we destroy the might of the Liths, we destroy the fragile balance of power in the east. I agree they must understand that they must serve Sarai, but that can't be done by joining the Germans and Rus in diving their soverign lands. Pagan or not, their Grand Duke is a prince just as much as you are and his realm should be respected as such. The lowly Rus and these foul German have treated him with great disrespect and he has no choice but to defend himself. Let him do so and if need be, at a later time, sort out this matter of Kiev and Lithuania's place among the vassals of the Horde.


Isa ibn-Hâkim Chormaghan
Grand Vizer

Dear Queen, there maybe no later. The longer we wait, the soon the war will end, most likely in the double victory of the Black Knights and Muscovy. What do we gain from that; A weak Lithuania, but one that is still not paying tribute, and a stronger Muscovy and Teuton Order. Thus the Horde must grow strong as the same time and Lithuania must pay the price of disobedience.

Also, there is the threat of a crusade by the Hungarians against our friends, the Osmanli Turks. If we wait to deal with the Liths, we will find ourselves between two fires, not knowing wither to go. Thus I say, let us wait at most till next spring to decide our action. The men of the Horde are ready to follow and you into battle once more, Great Khan.

Others spoke on for an hour or so, but they all fell behind the Grand Vizer and Emir Tangut in asking the Great Khan to wait till spring and then decide whether or not to go to war with the Lithuanians. When the last man was finished, Toqtamish raised his hand again for silence and spoke.

It is well what you all have said. So it shall be. We shall meet again in the spring and decide on war and peace. In the meantime, make yourselves ready for war. I shall do my best to keep the peace.
 

AugCaesar

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Many Months Ago - Portsmouth, Kingdom of England

"Oh this way Sir, the sites about a five minutes walk."

Spry old Morosini snapped along quickly overtaking his companion. The town was a wet and dreary, typical England, and the Venetians felt rather at home.

"Not unlike the city in the winter is it Zeno?" Pietro Morosini said looking about, referring to Venice. Marco had never really thought about, but as he felt the crisp cool air on his face he could not help but agree.

"Indeed Sir Morosini..."

"Pietro," the elder added indifferently as they continued their walk. Fair, Zeno a man of great respect and fealty could not hide a faint smile from his face as they rounded the last turn before the road to the work site which was no visible before them, a simple pile of wood and stone where a few men were busying themselves. It was quickly becoming apparent to Marco that this aged stern looking man was nothing more than a teddy bear. He could not see through the pleasant manner and grandfatherly appearance of Morosini to t he hardened businessman and demanding capitan. In all honesty though if Zeno carried out his duties as faithfully as always he perhaps never would see Pietro Morosini's stronger side, the side that earned him the wealth and position he held in the Republic.

As they came at last to the site of the colony Marco did catch a glimpse of the thoroughness and expertise of his counterpart. Without a second of wasted time Morosini was ordering the men there about to prepare for the imminent arrival of the builders and laborers. There was no time to be wasted and a crude warehouse, along with a dormitory for the Venetians would need to be erected quickly.

"A warehouse already Sir?" Marco looked to the expert quizzically.


Pietro was not critical when he answered, "There are many goods upon those ships, and surely you would not have us sell them all today?" He pointed to a stack of lumber that was setting in a pool of water and barked at some nearby laborer to see it moved immediately. Moving to survey the sight further he noticed Zeno looking on still puzzled.

"Of course we could sell our whole load today and make a nice little profit, I am sure there is plenty of the wool we seek here at market, but by selling all we undercut much of our profit. A bottle of wine, or piece of silk is worth much when there are only a handful to be had, but when one sees a market stall full of them, they lose their luxury, their value," He paused and stopped to get the point across, "their price."

Just as he finished he noticed his mason's approaching and gave them a nod of acknowledgement.

"That is why we do this business Zeno," he continued as the two men approached, "We could just sail our fleets about the seas dropping our cargoes and turn a profit, but it is much wiser that we in our ports of greatest concern build these colonies where it is we, not the markets that control supply and demand, our ships can unload all in one port, and barter some of their supply for a full load for the next port, it is Venice's unique access to bullion that allows us to always find the greatest profit."

Marco could only looked on admirably and nodded knowingly at Morosini's good sense. He felt humble at his lack of knowledge, and glad that such a man was here to see that all would go well. He was about to commend the old Venetian for his wisdom when he was cut short by the taller of the masons.

"Noble Pietro Morosini, it is good to see you again on solid ground, indeed though Venice is of the sea, I am of the land."

The speaker's companion chuckled and nodded as Pietro shook both their hands before motioning to Marco Zeno. "Gentleman, this is Marco Zeno, envoy to the court of England, surely you knows his esteemed family."

The masons bowed lightly with their head, respectful of the two names inscribed upon the Golden Book that stood before them. Marco nodded his head and spoke pleasantly,

"My pleasure good sirs, your services are a bounty to the Most Serene Republic." Finally Pietro concluded the formal exchange of pleasantries as he put forth the names of Aluysio Sanuto and Bartolomeo Vendilini. Shortly the two craftsmen were off to oversee the laborers who were already there and the flow of men and material that followed them from the docks. The two nobles continued their walk about the grounds and chatted pleasantly, Marco exchanging matters of note local to England, and Pietro conveying the latest he knew of Venice. Finally the old man began to show his age and he pointed towards the city.

"It has been a long journey Zeno, and there will be much to do for sometime. Would it trouble you to see me to my quarters now?"

And so the two men who would contribute so much to the wealth and prosperity of Venice set off together, as they would be seen so many times again in Portsmouth, and the great wheels of industry continued to turn and turn around them.
 

Hawkeye1489

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It was the night after the coronation ceremony, and Urban was lying in his bed, in the room provided by the newly coronated Duke, Gerardino I. Urban coughed violently and looked up to see his personal aid, Monsignor Guiseppe da Luca. He was soothed, somehow, by the sight of his longtime friend and confidant. Urban closed his eyes, but was again overcome with a violent coughing fit, which has plagued him for the last few months. After a few moments, Minsignor da Luca brings the ailing Pontiff a glass of water. With some trouble, it goes down. Urban looks up, and requests da Luca to come closer. Monsignor da Luca lowers himself to the Popes level. In a very weak voice, Urban says,

Bring me the Duke, for Christ is calling me home.

The Monsignor, shocked that the Pope was admitting his death, yet knowing all along that the pope had been dieing for months now, rushed to the room of the Duke. After begging the man to come with him, he rushed back to the Pontiff's room, to find him in a state of total peace. Feeling he was too late, Monsignor da Luca sits in the chair, and looks upon the Pope.

Did you bring him?

Yes, yes Im here, Your Holiness.

Gerardino responds before Monsignor da Luca could.

Come.

Gerardino moves closer to the weakened Pontiff.

Never give up the fight.

The Pope raised his shakey hand, and in making the Sign of the Cross, spoke,

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.

With that, the Pope's hand fell to the bed. He closed his eyes, and said,

It is finished.

His Most Holiness, Urbanus Sextus, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Vicar of Christ, Sovereign of the Papal States, and Servent of the Servents of God passed from this life unto the next - into the Kingdom of God.