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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Alhazen

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Sins of the Father: A Kingdom of Sicily AAR

Sins of the Father
An Epic Crusader Kings Saga



"Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins."
--Deut. 24:16


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Lord Robert de Hauteville, called Guiscard or Viscardus (the Cunning)


Dramatis Personae

Duke Robert Guiscard (de Hauteville)
Sigelgaita of Salerno, Duke Robert's wife
Serlo de Hauteville, Duke Robert's Captain of Guards

Duke Robert's Bastard Son
Bohemond de Hauteville

Duke Robert's Brothers
Count Guillame of Beneveto
Count Roger of Messina and Reggio

Duke Robert's Nephew
Count Abelard of Taranto

The Patriarch of Rome, Pope Anselm of Lucca


Prologue


Venosa, 26 December, 1066

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Night had long since fallen over the foothills of the volcanic Vulture Massif, and the town of Venosa, nestled atop a rounded crag just a few days' ride out of the city of Melfi, slept.

A low stone wall ran along the hillsides surrounding the town, in more or less disrepair but manned by Norman guardsmen, servants of Count Guillame, who as count of this realm served as steward of several of the most important Norman holdings in Italia.

Venosa was not a large city, nor was it paticularly wealthy or of strategic value. It had been an important Samnite center in ages past, and was known to the scholars as the birthplace of Horace, the Roman poet. Its primary importance in this day, however, was its Abbey, the Church of the Holy Trinity, a Benedictine monastary in which were buried the brothers and late wife of His Lordship, Duke Robert Guiscard.

Hoofbeats signaled the approach of a horseman in the night. The town's gatehouse was a squat building of cobbled stone and a timber framed upper level with narrow windows that overwatched the muddy cart-path that passed for a road in these hills. A single torch flickered from an iron sconce on the outer wall, illuminating just the approach and the heavy oaken doors that led into the town proper.

As the rider approached, a man fumbled in the shadows to unlock the gate and cursed as he dropped the ring of keys he held. With a clank and a creak one of the double-doors slid open slowly and the gate man walked outside to greet the horseman.

"Woah," the rider commanded as he reigned his horse in and canted in a circle to relax the beast. Looking down at the guard from his mount, he extended a hand in greeting.

"I bring word for the Duke, let me pass," he spoke, and opened his satchel to reveal a wrapping of parchments sealed with wax.

* * * * *​

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The sanctuary of the Church of the Holy Trinity was quiet, empty, save for the figure sitting on a pew in the back, looking towards the altar with steel in his eyes and a furrowed brow. Rows of candles flickered in the slight draft running through the abbey, making shadows dance wickedly to an unheard tune upon the walls. Unseen but nearby were stern-faced warriors in linked chain with heavy swords hanging from their sides; while their lord was within they would let no one pass without orders.

Robert de Hauteville was not a young man anymore. He has risen to power quickly, from humble beginnings as the son of a poor knight in Normandy. Six years ago he had come to Italia to join his brothers, William Iron Arm, Drogo, and Humphrey, who had carved out their own realms from the Lombards in this place and amassed much wealth--now all dead, lying within the catacombs of this very Church. Perhaps that is why he came here every year, to commune with their spirits?

To pray for their souls.

Born around 1020, his elders had already settled in southern Italy before he joined them with a small group of comrades-in-arms, in 1047, just after the death of William Iron-Arm. His brothers, averse to share their recently acquired spoils, welcomed him coolly. He thus became a mercenary and served with the prince of Capua, Pandulf IV. He had only known misery until eventually his brother Drogo gave him a castle in Calabria with the assignment of harassing the Roman troops. When he was not helping his brothers, Robert, in order to survive, fell into brigandage and the population did not exactly welcome his presence, but he did what he must. Robert left his ‘eagle’s nest’ in Calabria when his brother Humphrey died in 1057, to succeed him at the head of the Apulian county of Melfi.

And now, he was Duke of a united, Norman Apulia, all of southern Italia except for Salerno and Naples, whom had held out for years to his offers of protection. His vassals were family, for what his father had lacked in land, he certainly made up for in sons. Fourteen to be exact, not including the bastards.

Robert was a cold man, hard, used to the rigors of the campaign, not the pleasantries of the court. His grey-blonde hair was thick and sleeked back from a high brow, his nose jutted out like a hawk's beak from recessed, dark eyes that saw more than they let on. His jaw was strong, his blood powerful. Still youthful despite his some four decades of life, his body carried the scars of many battles.

Ruthless, calculating, cunning-- "Guiscard", Robert de Hauteville was not a man to trifle with. Soon the Pope would realize this, Robert knew, and offer him all he wanted. Salerno, Naples, both would be his this year, he had vowed to his dead forebears on the Eve of Christ's birth, and afterwards he would sweep the Moslems from Sicily--lands promised by the Pontiff himself to the Normans.

"My lord?" a voice called from the anteroom, and one of his men, Emaldus, took a step into the room.

"I told you I was not to be bothered, Emaldus," Robert replied gravely.

"I bet your pardon, sire, but Sir Serlo has returned; he has documents for you, lord."

Robert stood, slowly, and looked back at the altar and the stone visages of his brothers carved intricately into the marble. Stepping towards the guardsman he grabbed the man's shoulder.

"Very well, I will meet him in my chambers. Send him up after he's eaten."

"Yes, Lord."

* * * * *​

Past Midnight, 27 December 1066
Venosa Castle


"Enter," The Duke called from within his chambers. The horseman from earlier did so and bowed as he approached, dressed now in more comfortable attire, a loose fitting tunic and breeches of dark leather, a cowl over his shoulders still, and an ornate dagger at his hip.

"Lord, it is good to be back." Serlo said, and sat down across from his Duke, pouring himself a cup of warm wine to soothe his soreness from riding all day.

"I'd wager so," Robert replied. "Well, what news do you bring?"

Serlo took another drink and placed his satchel upon the table.

"Good news, I think. An emmissary from the Roman Emperor himself, Konstantinos Dukas, arrived in Melfi last week. They want to speak with you, about several diplomatic issues."

"Hmph. Likely he wants us to pledge fealty to his Greekness and kiss his hand like he was the Pope himself," Robert scoffed.

"I think not, Lord. This seems to be something..else. The messenger from Melfi told me they brought a train of gifts with them, all the way from the Holy Land."

"Indeed?" The Duke was intrigued. The Roman Empire, from its center in Byzantium, was the most powerful realm on earth, even if they had a schism with Rome itself. Any dealings with the Basileus of Rome could only enhance his own prestige, no matter the outcome. Robert had been a scourge to the Greeks of Italia, driving them out in many places, confiscating businesses and holdings, and murdering scores as he razed territories establishing his rule in years past. Naples was still ruled by a Greek who pledged allegience to the Emperor, and had been a thorn in his side for the past several years. What could this portent?

"Very well then. The Christ's Mass is done with, we will return to Melfi with the new year and meet these Greeks. What do you think they want, Serlo?"

"They want to manipulate us, of course, Lord. To their own benefit. Likely they will be trying to play us off another power in order to weaken our holdings here. You must tread carefully, liege."

Robert sipped the wine again.

"We will see who is manipulated," he said with a sly grin.
 
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Alhazen

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02 Janurary, 1067
Venosa, Benevento


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The Norman Citadel at Venosa


The Yule Feasts had come and gone, and the de Hauteville's annual pilgrimage to Venosa had been concluded. The Duke's entrouge departed early in the morning on the 2nd of Janurary, including Duke Robert and the Lady Segilgaita, his brother Count Guillaume, young Bohemond, Serlo, a dozen servants and administrators, and fifty mounted sergeants and men-at-arms who served either Robert or Guillaume--or both.

The town came out to watch as the great people departed, the streets were loud with the hustle of horses and wagon wheels moving over the cobblestoned street. The Duke's destination was the centre of Norman power in Italia, the hilltop city of Melfi, a four day's ride through the mountians to the northwest.

The Duke himself spent most of the journey in discussion with his brother, of which the two rode plainly at the head of the column of Normans, in dark cloaks of heavy fur and plain dress despite their station and power. Robert always rode in his mail, a lesson he learned from a near-tragic encounter as a mercenary in Calabria he learned years ago, the old wound being paticularly bothersome when the weather was cold like today.

The winter wind snapped through the mountains,buffeting the banner carried by Serlo as he rode behind his Lord. He looked over his shoulder, at the Duke's family riding behind him, well, part of his family. Bohemond was Robert's firstborn son and heir, although it was rumored he was a bastard. Serlo suspected the Duke would take any man's tongue who spoke such lies, for the boy was his favorite--offpring of his first wife, Alberda. Behind the child rode Sigelgaita, that woman who was called 'Princess of Salerno', sister of the ruler of that city that had plagued Duke Robert for years. His marriage to her was once of convienence, the price of his ambition was an annulment with Alberda, his first love, and an arrangement with the late Count of Salerno, Gaita's father. Oh, her and Robert got along wonderfully, she was as cold and ambitious as him--but Serlo knew she was a schemer--it was rumored in the taverns of Bari and Anduria that she poisoned the Duke's older brother so that he could inherit Apulia.

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Serlo hated her. Hated the way she coyly looked at him from time to time, like a fat housecat watching a rodent before it pounces. She was..attractive, he had to admit, however.

Very much so.

"What troubles you, good Serlo?" Sigelgaita asked playfully as she walked her chestnut mare up alongside the knight.

Uncomfortable, he looked away and out towards the mountains.

She laughed. "Come on, cousin, what is the matter with you? You have been like this for days!"

"Nothing--it is nothing, milady. I am merely, well, preoccupied with this meeting with the Roman Empire. Nothing good can come of it, I fear."

She studied him for a moment, cocking her head to the side. "Serlo, you have stood by my lord husband for several years, have you not?"

"Aye, since I was a squire," he replied with a smile. "Lord Robert knighted me himself, during the seige of Tarentum."

"I see. Well, you would not let anything foul befall him, would you?"

"Of course not. I would give my life for the Duke, it is my duty." He looked at her strangely, thinking that she somehow meant to say more.

"Very well. We must talk about something."

"Lady, I am always availible for the Duchess."

"Not here. Once we return to Melfi. I will send for you. Be ready." And with that, she kicked her horse to ride farther up the column alongside her husband Duke Robert.

Serlo was left perplexed, and not a little bit afraid.


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The mountains of Basilicata
 
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yourworstnightm

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This seem to be a good one, will try to keep up with this one, even though I'm a little bit tired of Apulia AARs
 

Alhazen

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Chapter One


Will no one revenge me of the injuries I have sustained from one turbulent priest?
-- King Henry II of England

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Janurary 16th, 1067
Melfi, Basilicata



**Note: From this point onward, all Greek (Roman Empire) nouns will be replaced with Byzantine, for simplicity to the reader

Bardas Dassellenos should have felt quite comfortable in the fortified city of Melfi--after all, it was a Byzantine city, founded by the catepan Basile Boioannes in AD 1018, occupied and fortified for decades by the Emperors' subjects in Italia as it stood perched against the slopes of the Vulture Massif. As a buffer citadel on the border of the Roman Empire and the realms of the Lombard barbarians it had seen many battles and was the site of many expeditions.

After their Sicilian expedition in 1038, the Norman mercenaries led by the de Hauteville brothers withdrew here, to establish themselves after the Prince of Salerno had turned on them and thought himself rid of the freebooters.
As a center of the Norman invaders' adiministration, it had first been incorporated as a kind of republic with the elders, Humphrey, William, and Drogo, serving as the heads of a council of twelve counts who shared the city and its territories.

It had grown wealthy over the last decade, Bardas had seen. He had been here for two weeks already and was impressed with the amount of commerce flowing through its marketplaces. The Normans had not been idle, either. The thick stone walls surrounding the city proper were stout and new, reinfoced with a wooden palisade snaking up and down the hillsides. There were three gates that he had seen during his walks through the city, and he kept prolific notes on all.

The castle itself was impressive for barbarians, made of thick stone with squat, strong towers and a massive curtain wall, perched atop a rugged hill. And, although his movements within it were restricted, he noted several features for his final report back to his masters in Byzantium upon his return-- a return for which he could hardly wait, as you can imagine.

Robert Guiscard had arrived back in the city more than a week ago, and had still not deigned to have audience with him. Bardas was getting quite frustrated at the audacity at this northern lordling. He was a servant of the Basileus of Rome, for God's sake.

He paced the floor of his spartan chambers he was given, hands folded behind his back. He disliked the cold of this place, in the mountains, and had already taken to a cough at night. He sighed, and sat down at the desk. Removing a quill and parchment, he cleared his throat.

"Alexius, come in here," he said in Greek.

The door opened and a short, swarthy fellow entered the chamber, wrapped in soft greys and blacks with a golden chain about his neck. "Master?" he asked.

"Alexius, I will need to see our agent tonight, I will have a correspondence to send back to Byzantium again. I trust you will make the arrangements?"

"Of course, master. We must be rid of this place quickly so we may return to the Capital. There are events brewing in Asia."

"Yes, I am aware. Once we secure ourselves here the Emperor can focus all of his attentions on the Turks. Leave me now, Alexius, I must think so I can remember everything I wanted to report."

Alexius shut the door softly behind him as he departed the room, and straightened his silken tunic. Time for him to go and complete his mission, he mused...

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Alhazen

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Fiftypence and Yourworstnightm; thanks, I am trying to put alot of effort into making this a good one. Will make sure most of my history is correct and I'm trying to include only accurate photos/artwork as well.
 

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The Geneaology of Duke Robert de Hauteville

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The charter granting Robert his investiture. In a synod in Melfi, in 1059, Pope Nicholas II confirmed the investiture of Guiscard with the title of duke as well as confirming his right to his possessions in Apulia and Calabria. Furthermore, Sicily under the domination of the Muslims was promised to the Normans, who were assigned to seize it and retain it under the authority of the Holy See.

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Norman Holdings in Italy, 1066​
 
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melficastle2fi.jpg

Council Chamber, Melfi Castle

Count Guillaume de Hauteville walked hurriedly down the stone hallway, his bootsteps echoing. He was a calm, trusting man, pious, and diplomatic. His dark hair and beard were well trimmed, and unlike his brother, he carried no weapons save a hunting knife at his side. This was his castle, after all. his lands, not Robert's.

Of course he did not complain. His brother moved court often enough, and Melfi was the traditional center of Norman power in Italia. Soon enough Robert would make the journey back to Anduria or Bari and he would be through with him for another year or so.

Still, he liked to rush for no man, and more disliked being under pressure in his own estate.

He nodded at the single guardsman at the door to the council chambers, and surreptiously slipped inside, trying his best not to make too much noise.

Within, the Council--for what it was worth--had gathered, and were already in discussion sitting at the polished oaken table in the center of the room, flanked by deer's heads mounted on walls and flickering candles hanging from the ceiling.

Robert's court was not large by any means, in fact was rather small for a man who held titles to two Duchies. Mostly family, at that. Gathered in the room were of course Serlo, officially his brother's Captain of Guards, but Guillaume knew the knight preformed other, less legal duties for the Duke from time to time. There was Guy Savelli, the lustful Chancellor of Robert's court, a native Italian who knew lineages and histories of all the myriad realms on the penninsula, not to mention the Greek isles and France as well. The Chancellor was scribbling notes on an inkstained parchment, and listening to one his aides speak in his ear.

The fat, bald man down the table was Simon Ossoli, Robert's Exchequer and Steward who moved numbers around on paper to supply the Duke with enough wealth to carry out his bidding in the realm. Guillaume respected the man enough, he was good at what he did, and honest, to boot.

Each had brought their own underlings, whom all were employed by others not present, he was sure, but just whom each rat was spying for he did not know--Greeks, Germans, Lombards, the Pope-- all could be counted as enemies of the Normans in Italia.

He saw his brother pacing on the far side of the room, before an ornate map of his holdings which hung on the wall.

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The Duke's eyes shifted to him at once, as if he could feel Guillaume's gaze.

"Ah, there you are. What took you so long?" He asked.

"Those damned Greeks, Rob. That emissary cornered me in the courtyard again and I had to speak with him." He moved across the room quickly to pull out a chair at the table and pour himself a warm cup of wine.

"Robert, you had best meet with them soon. They're getting impatient. I think they might leave if you put them off any longer."

The Duke smiled, the sly, cunning smirk he was known for. "Good. I will meet with them tonight, then. That was my plan all along, to get them steamed enough to make a mistake. Let's see how diplomatic they act, now," he laughed.

"I hope you know what you're doing," the Count replied, and looked at the documents sitting before him at the table.

"Very well, let's get to business" Duke Robert announced, and took his own seat, propping his boots up on the table and holding his goblet in one hand.

Steward Ossoli stood and gathered some papers, beginning his reports on the finances of the realm. All taxes and tolls had been gathered as of last month before the Yule season, and the treasury was fat. Trade was flourishing along the eastern seacoast, though pirates were becomming a concern, he announced. Bari and Leece were both becoming wealthy provinces.

Decisions were made to adjust the realm's taxes, Robert decided to reduce his vassals' scutage in light of this new trade, the money would not be missed and they would be able to raise larger levies for the coming conquests of Sicily he had planned for the future. Donations to the Church were raised slightly to keep his bishops happy. Plans were approved to build or expand fisheries and docks all along the eastern coast of Apulia in the coming year.

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A coin of Duke Robert Guiscard

Chancellor Savelli recited the comings and goings of all the minor barons and landholders in the realm, who was getting married and to whom, what it might mean, and what claims were made on relevant titles. Of interest was tumultous times in the Byzantine Empire with their eastern border wars, could this shed some light on their emissary here? Time would tell.

He announced that William of Normandy had been crowned King of England in an elaborate ceremony at London on Christmas Day. Now they were calling him, "the Conquerer" rather than "Bastard". Robert quite liked the sound of that, Conquerer.

Plans were discussed with Serlo for the creation of a heirarchy to oversee the recruitment and training of men-at-arms in the Duke's personal Demense, and plans for the journey back to Andria and Robert's own lands. He decided to meet with the Byzantines that night, and ordered a fine meal to be made ready for himself and the leader of the Greek envoy.

With the close of business, the bishop present recited his prayers, invoking the Almighty for continued Grace and Blessings and Guidance, and the meeting was adjourned.
 
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Jestor

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Very nice start so far and you have me intrigued with this Byzantine envoy... I'm wondering what exactly he's doing there and what his part in the story is going to be. :)
 

Pirate Z

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Very nice start. I'll be sure to check this one as it progresses. Add that to the fact that Le Guiscard is one of my favorite characters in history. :D

We will see Sigelgaita (or Sichelgaita, whatever you will) in action on the battlefield, won't we? Just like in real life! Perhaps she'll save Robert's ass in this fine AAR like she did at Dyrrachium. Here's hoping! :)
 

Alhazen

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Jestor--Thanks for the kind words. Wait and see :D

Pirate Z-- You can count on Lombardian princesses to play a big role!
 

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mlf.jpg


Melfi Castle, Sunset

The courtyard clacked with the sound of blunted swords striking one another. Bohemond moved with an agile grace unlike a barbarian, Alexius noted, swfitly changing directions of his swings when need be, reversing, turning, and directing his opponent's sword where he wanted it to go, almost effortlessly, it seemed. For a boy not 12 years of age, he was quite the warrior.

And he was a good one to judge the skill of a warrior. Alexius had killed more men in his thirty some odd years than any dozen Norman warriors combined had in their lives.

Alexius would be an unusual figure to be seen in the Norman castle; which is why he chose to be invisible. His Slavic features stood out here, dark, sleeked black hair pulled back into a thick ponytail and his rough, oiled and braided black beard would draw attention if anyone knew to look. He, as always, kept his footsteps sure and silent and quick, as he was a man born and bred to dwell in shadows.

The other one was good enough, himself. A young knight, obviously giving the boy the advantage, but he was challenged just enough anyway to not let his guard down against this young wolf. He parried the slashes and thrusts of Bohemond's sword, and was being forced backward against the wall until he threw his hands up in fealty.
_____________________________

"Enough, enough Bohemond, you've bested me today," Serlo said, somewhat short of breath.

"I knew it, I had you because your timing was off, I could see it," the young man replied with a smile, proud of his accomplishment.

Serlo took both of the blunted swords and handed them to one of the men-at-arms watching the sparring match. He put his arm around the boy and they walked towards a fount to drink.

"It's getting dark," Serlo said. "You'd best be getting off to your study session, young lord."

Bohemond looked out at nothing for a moment, silently.

"What is it?"

"Is it true, when they say I'm a bastard, Serlo?"

"Who dared say that to you?" He was shocked.

"No one, nothing--It's just, I've heard the servants whispers, and I've heard that woman say it. It makes me angry. I just want to know if it's true."

Serlo knew what woman he meant. He bit his lip for a moment.

"Of course its not true. Would your lord father care for you so much if you were a bastard? You know you're his favorite. Come on. Let's get you up to your studies, Master William would be wroth if you missed his newest lecture on the Carthaginians."

* * * * *

"Here, take some wine," Robert offered in perfect Greek, pouring from the chalice and handing a goblet to the Greek envoy.

"Thank you," Bardas replied, taking the cup. "My Lord is most gratious. You speak my tongue, Lord?"

"Of course, I find it prudent to be able to understand the bad things so many of my subjects might say about me, dont you agree?" The Duke grinned.

"Er, yes, quite."

Robert turned and walked into the chamber casually, seemingly admiring the ancient frescoes on the wall.

"Well, make yourself comfortable man, we have business to discuss, I am told."

"Yes, Lord. Well, I should get right to it. I hear you are not a man to waste time mincing words, Lord de Hauteville. I come to you with an offer of alliance, and mutual military aid."

Robert laughed out loud. "Alliance? From the man who's subjects I've persecuted and conquered for nearly the past decade? I must have made more of an impression than the Pope lets on!"

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"Lord, I do not come with this offer from the current Emperor." Bardas' voice was steely.

Robert furrowed his brow. "Just who exactly, are you?"

"I am who I say, Lord Duke. I serve the Prince Diogenes. Let us be blunt, Lord, the Emperor is nearing his seventieth year of life, God be praised, and will soon be dead."

"You sound very sure of that."

"Quite. My Master will be the next Emperor, be assured. He realizes your influence in this region, and does not wish to fight you when we both can be fighting the Moslems. You and he both have the same problem--they are on your doorsteps, and they will continue to advance, know that for a fact, unless you and he stop them."

Robert let the wine roll in his goblet as he thought. Alliance with the Roman Empire..to be an equal to the Basileus of Byzantium.. He would be able to focus his attentions on Sicily in the coming years then. This could suit his plans nicely, he decided.

"I agree."

"A most wise choice, My Lord." Bardas smiled. The fool, he thought.
 
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The City of Melfi, Late Night

She walked with an easy, casual gait despite her nervousness. Her footsteps were soft but steady, and the heavy brown monk's robe hung low over her doeskin boots. Over the robes was draped a thick black cloak, its hood an inky void pulled low over her brunette locks of hair.

Quickly she made her way down the hillside away from the castle and the night watchmen, using as many side-ways and alleys as possible to keep from being noticed on the streets. It was late, the moon had already set and the city was cowled in darkness. Rain was in the air, and a damp, cold wind blew from the massif.

Down a tight alley she made her way, to the appointed location. She slipped into the shadows, and waited.

"You're alone, I assume?" Came a thickly accented voice out of the darkness.

Startled, she composed herself. "Of course. And you?"

"Always."

She started to turn--

"No. Don't turn around. You do not need to see my countance. Tell me what you want. My Masters do not like being trifled with."

"Very well. Nothing has changed. You are to remain in an observationary role. When the time is right, Bohemond must die."

"Agreed. And your part?"

"I know my part. Does Bardas suspect anything?"

"Of course not. That fool thinks he is sooo cunning, so manipulative. He makes me laugh when I think about it," he chuckled.

"Very good. Then the Emperor will suspect nothing as well. Your party will leave tomorrow, and return to Bari where you will take ship East. Of course, you will not be boarding any vessel. I will write to the Doge and inform him of our actions."

"What of the knight, Serlo?" There was a boredness in his voice.

"He is of little consequence. I spoke with him earlier in my chambers. He may have to die as well, he is loyal to a fault. I find him to be a suspiscious fellow. I will take care of him."

"See that you do."

And he was gone.
 

CatKnight

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Yes, a very good start! Your characters seem to be in good shape, and we already have some intrigue going! Very nice, I'll be watching!
 

unmerged(28944)

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I agree with CatKnight... and everybody else so far, and state that this IS a great start and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Me thinks that Robert is less a fool than he is being taken for... but then again, I could just be getting partial to him, eh? :D
 

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And so it came to pass, in the spring of that year, 1067, that the Emperor of the Romans in fact died, just as Bardas had said. In fact not more than two weeks after the Greeks had returned to that ancient port of Byzantium had Konstantinos Ducas succumed to a most foul illness that involved the weeping of great sores upon his wrinkled body. There was no great mourning form the myriad subjects of the Empire, Ducas had been a weak, and indecisive ruler, quick to spend his realm into the gutter by making grand feasts and parties for him and his courtiers.

Just as the envoy had claimed, the Prince Romanus Diogenes ascended the gilded throne of Byzantium and was coronated Basileus of the Romans. Diogenes was an unapoloigetic man, blunt, truthful it was said, and an admirable tactician. More a warrior than a diplomat or administrator, he was said to be a breath fo new hope into the Roman dream, which cracks had formed in over the past decades, some of which were beginning to splinter. It was also said he was simple, and some of his advisors held more sway over his thoughts, than would be proper...

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With his merits yet to be proven or not, no sooner had he taken the throne than those splinters opened wide. By March of 1068, no less than three Principalities and some other minor states had declared their unacceptance of him, and revolted in open war.

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The State of the Roman Empire in March, 1067


Knightly Virtue
The young Bohemond continued his education both martial and religious, spending much time in thought on his own, reflection upon his as yet short life and purpose. He was old enough to realize what he was--that he would never rule his fathers' realm according to the laws of the land. He was not bitter, but saddened. He loved his father dearly, and wanted him proud. He could not help but feel cursed and ashamed, as if somehow if only he had been better he would have been legitimatized. He never fully understood the tale of how his mother came to leave Italia and his lord Father, but he knew that Sigelgaita had a large role in that piece of history..He knew she hated him, and was jealous of his fathers' affections for him and not that whelp of a son she had made. It angered him when he thought of such matters, and steeled his mind more and more to in the future hold high the knightly virtues of honor, and loyalty.

bohemondisatrueknightfeb10688x.png


The Pontiff's Will

In the high Summer of that year, missives came to Andria from the Vatican asking Duke Robert to accept a transient priest by the name of Aubrey del Antelminelli, a brilliant scholar whom had been traveling in the Holy Land for the past six years, according to the Papal envoys, and whom now God willed to minister to the Christians of Bari and Leece and turn some of them from their Orthodox ways back into the true fold of Christ's Bride.

Suspicious of having a Papal agent so close to his court, Robert accepted the Pontiff's 'generous' offer, but posted the man as Bishop of the Diocese of Castellaneta, in Leece--far enough away from Andria but close enough to monitor.


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unmerged(31592)

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Great story.
I look forward to it.

Bohemond does get the fuzzy end of the lolipop, doesn't he?
Everytime I played Apuila, I always wish I can get Bohemond the title somehow.
 

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The Road to San Severo
May 17th, 1067


Bohemond stroked the mane of his horse and spurred it into a trot up the small incline to see the valley spread out below the crest of the hill. His horse cantered about in a circle, restlessly, and he looked back behind him.

"Serlo, look, what are those pillars?" He turned back towards they valley and put his hand up to his eyes to keep the midday sun from blinding him.

"Roman ruins, my lord. Once their Empire ruled all this land, and the whole world. Those stones there," he said, "were waypoints between their cities." Serlo brought his mount aside his young friend's and he too looked on the crumbled granite columns alongside the road below them.

"Like the Byzantines?" Bohemond thought, knowing they styled themselves the "Roman Empire".

"Something like that. Look, you see the flattened stones in the ground? Once their roads stretched all over the land. One day your father plans to build roads like this again, to connect our cities."

The boy scoffed. "You mean his cities. They'll never be mine."

Serlo knew better than to try to talk sense to Bohemond when he took a foul mood. Better to change the subject.

"Look, lord. Here comes the rest of the party." He said, and looked back down the road whence they came. There could be seen a group, maybe a dozen riders making their way along the road at a comfortable pace, hardly kicking up any dust at all. Most of them were court servants, a scribe, four men-at-arms bearing the banner of Duke Robert and long spears with leaf-shaped heads, and four ladies--servants assigned to the purpose of their journey, Serlo's future bride.

It had been decided to marry the knight, as after all he was a de Hauteville, and family was of prime importance to Duke Robert. A suitable arrangement had been found in the beautiful and cunning Giovanna Sfondratti, a merchant princess of the wealthy city-state of Oriveto, famed as much by her family for her mercantile skill as her beauty, and from a powerful family of spice merchants in that most prosperous of cities.

Her own escort was to meet with the Duke's men at the border of his realm, in the city of San Severo of Bari. Thence they would be escorted on the long journey back to Aduria for Duke Robert's blessing and the exchanging of oaths.

"Serlo," Bohemond asked, "do you love this woman?"

Serlo laughed. "I do not even know her, lord. I am told she is quite beautiful, however."

"Then why do you marry her?"

"Because your father told me to, of course," he said wryly.

"I will never marry because someone tells me to. I will make my own choices."


He galloped off down the road.


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The City of Brindisi


Turmoil arose in the Greek south of Apulia in the fall of 1067. The seignories of southern Italia had always been primarily of Greek descent, and therefore, mostly of the Orthodox religion, placing their trust in the Patriarch of Constantinople rather than the Holy Father of Rome. The Norman overlords of the traditionally independent and well ordered southern cities, such as Bari and Leece, Tarento, to name a few, were content to let them have decisions over their own affairs and keep to their walled castles as long as taxes were paid and the Duke's laws were obeyed.

In August of 1067, a zealot of an Orthodox priest, one Basil, as he was known as only, began his 'ministires' in the wealthy port of Brindisi, preaching to the masses of Greek dockworkers and merchants in the trade quarter, and denouncing the 'cruelties of north-man reign'.

At first the news was not paid much attention to in Andria or any other Norman court, for that matter. There were many Orthodox churches in the realm, and for the most part their ideology was the same as Rome's. Soon, however, this Basil had gathered quite a following based in Brindisi and Leece, its larger neighbor to the south, and had begun to harass local barons in open marketplaces and roadside taverns, condeming their right of ownership and in some cases outright refusing to submit to the rule of law.

The situation was quickly getting out of hand in September, when the lords' council of Leece finally succumbed to petitioning Duke Robert for intervention. Furious at not being informed of the situation prior to that point, the Duke had the entire city council thrown in irons and promised to deal with them at a later point. He ordered his personal retinue to march for Brindisi at once, and to crush the troublemakers from their origin. He promised 100 gold coins for the man who brought him priest called Basil.

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18 December, 1067 Night

Thum, echoed the noise throughout the sancturary of the Church of Saint Nicola in the city of Brindisi. Thum, like the hammer of God himself. Dust fell in cakes from the vaulted ceiling of the Greek temple, and those who huddled within looked about in nervous anticipation. Candles burned low, and flickered with each resounding boom, doing more to deepen the darkness that gathered outside and crept within than lessen it.

Outside the church bloody flames reached up into the darkened meditteranean skies, illuminating the port city in a crimson aura. Duke Robert's men had descended upon the province two weeks ago, after a month long campaign of terror in the highlands of Castellanata where the Greek leaders had put up what feeble resistance they had.

In the streets around the church lie scores of slain, many of them women and children who had tried to flee into their last refuge, praying to Saint Nicholas for salvation.

Saint Nick had yet to intervene.

Thum, came the boom again as the bronze-inforced gates of the church shook dangerously and a resounding crack as the timber began to split. The zealot defenders branded weapons and stood close to the gateway in order to meet whatever came through.

With a crack of wood the doors gave way and fire rushed through the portal. Flaming brands flew through the air , striking one man in the face who screamed in fear as his hair ignited and his robes and he fell into the bronze font of holy water near the door toppling it to the ground as he screamed in agony.

There were flashes of bloodied steel as the Normans rushed the gate, swinging indiscriminately and cutting down the few men who fought back--tradesmen or farmers, mostly-- with pittiless efficiency. Blood stained the stone floor of the chapel as the innocent huddled against the altar and the fire spread to the velvet drapes.

The image of Christ looked down upon the slaughter as the Orthodox of Brindisi paid the price for their religious fervor.