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The Swert

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The Book of Saint John - Volume 1: War of the Rhone

cover3li4.jpg


Liber Sancti Ioannis: The Book of Saint John
(...please correct me if that's a wrong translation)


Preface:

Ladies and Gentleman I bring to you the Book of Saint John. The Book of Saint John is an extraordinary artefact which has just as much intrigue about the book itself as it does its contents. It was discovered only recently in a monastery in the hills surrounding the Tiber valley. The monastery, it is said, was once a hideaway for members of the Knights of Saint John after their expulsion from Malta by Napoleon in 1798. The author of the book is one Lionel Fortescue, a Knight of Justice, who during the occupation of the French, took to writing. Whilst one might assume he would write theological articles or the like, Lionel, in those dark days in which the Order, at least in his eyes, seemed all but destroyed, took his pen to write about the history of the Knights. But as Lionel began, he realised that the Knights history was an endless account of tribulation and failure but thankfully Lionel was an imaginative and inventive person and with this marvellous mentality he came up with the Book of Saint John.

The Book of Saint John consists of many different alternate timelines, represented as volumes, which provide insight into what Lionel thought the history of the Knights could have taken. Each volume, although providing a thorough history, tends to focus itself on one particular war or event which it provides with immaculate detail and each volume is well supported by a series of short poems scattered throughout. Although many of the volumes were either unfinished or lost, the surviving fragments provide a wonderful fictional presentation. Naturally, the original texts were written in Latin but they have since been translated into English for our contentment.

The Book of St John:
Volume 1: War of the Rhone
Volume 2: On Greece and the Byzantine Empire
Volume 3: The Tenth Crusade
Volume 4: TBA
 
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Deamon

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Will follow this!
 

Saulta

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Alexanderband said:
Awesome. This'll be interesting!

I second that!
 

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Welcome to my new AAR. This will hopefully be the first for four volumes of the Book of St John. I have finished writing this volume and will post it as I work on the next one. I hope to post up a chapter per week.

This game is a WATKABAOI game as the Knights of St John starting in 1337 and played through only to end of the story. This game underwent what seems to be a common issue with WATAKABOI atm, several periods of the events file not being read. This can lead to some unhistoric, fun results but don't effect the story much.

Enjoy.

------------------------

Liber I: Bellum Rhodani
Volume 1: War of the Rhone


Part One: Backstory

Chapter 1: Knights of the Med


Our story begins in the year of 1337. In that year England and France entered a petty war over the gaulish crown. However for the Knights of St John, 1337 marked the end of era; the last of the surviving knights from the Siege of Acre in 1291 passed away, thus ending the era of crusader Knights. After being evicted from the Holy Land the Knights had settled themselves on Rhodes and had planned new crusades to win back the lost lands. However with two of the main European powers now at war with each other and with the death of the last crusader knight, the book had to be closed on the crusades and the Knights needed new goals to justify their existence.

It was their inspired grandmaster Hélion de Villeneuve that came up with the idea for the Knights to consolidate Christian Europe’s coasts to prevent any Islamic incursions and protect the remainder of the Christian world. Although after months of negotiating with the naval powers of Naples, Genoa, Byzantium and Venice, the Knights did not receive the support they expected and the powers were complacent with their existing arrangements. The grandmaster would not accept this and made protecting the Mediterranean the responsibility of the Knights and if any Christian nation were to oppose their protective policies, the Knights would take matters into their own hands.

villeneuveuh4.jpg

Grandmaster Villeneuve

The consolidation began well with fellow crusader states Cyprus and Armenia Minor supporting the idea and joining the Knights in a coalition. However in 1339 the first conflict arose as the Knights pushed for the strengthening of the fortresses on Sicily in the light of the perception that the Tunisians were mounting an assault not dissimilar to that which befell the Byzantines in the 9th century and left Sicily in Arabian hands for over a century. The Sicilians would have none of it though and were more inclined to expanding the island as a trade centre. True to his word, De Villeneuve declared war and landed his army that year. The invasion was gradual but after three years the Sicilians conceded defeat and handed the western half of the island to the Knights.

De Villeneuve died in 1346 but his passion lived on his successors who not only furthered the cause but made Italy, whence most of the Knights descended, the prime focus. After all he who controlled the Italian coast controlled the Mediterranean. In successive campaigns, the Knights were able to defeat several detractors which saw Nice, Piemonte and Ferrara captured and Savoy and Sicily vassalised within 40 years.

It was at this time that the Grandmaster saw an opportunity to renew the crusades. Sure this went against everything that the Knights had preached in the last 50 years but with their influence rising they now dared to reverse their policy on defensive consolidation and launch an assault on the Holyland. The timing was everything though and justified this radical flip as Egypt was weak after coming off second best in a war against the Ottomans in the ten years previous. Virtually without an army, Egypt was seen so weak that even Achaea had fancied itself and declared war a few weeks before the Knights whilst Byzantium waited till a few weeks after. The crusade was documented in the following poem and saw Egypt give up Alexandria and Palestina to the Knights in 1385 striking a major blow for Islam and strengthening the position of the Knights all around Christendom.

Ten thousand men sword in hand
Gathered at Rhodes from around the land
Across the waves they took a week
Before landing at Pharos’ feet
Sieges were won without battle fought
And nothing escaped the onslaught
Pharos and Pyramid plundered and pinched
Before army reboarded and nor’ward inched
In Palestine the battles engaged
The men from Mecca fully enraged
The Knights were weary and disorientated
And in Arabian Desert annihilated

A year passed and the Nile was lost
Before the next wave to Lebanon crossed
Whilst the battles boiled and bodies burned
The Knights snuck in and to Alexandria returned
With this assault the whole war altered
It wasn’t long before the Mameluks faltered
As the war drew on the Knights held their ground
Whilst the Mameluks offers became more profound
After eight long years Egypt was defeated
A peace was made and the Knights retreated
Alexandria and Palestine gained for Christianity
The Knights: the idol of Latin humanity.

(The men from Mecca refers to the Mameluks’ allies the Hedjaz)

The Knights of Saint John were becoming quite the ‘Mediterranean menace’ as their enemies called them but within the Order itself ‘Knights of the Med’ was becoming a popular term. However after the annexation of Savoy in 1385 the Knights went quiet for a while as the new grandmaster’s policies were more religious. He planned to convert all of the captured lands to Catholicism but after trying for 20 years to convert the capital Rhodes itself it was plain to see this wasn’t going to happen and the grandmaster’s power was lost. It would not be until 1409 that another campaign would be launched and this time it was against one of the Knights fiercest critics in Napoli. It was an all Italian affair as Napoli had formed a coalition against the Knights including Milan, Siena and Majorca whilst the Knights had Bologna by its side. The Knights naval supremacy showed as the main Neapolitan army was stranded in Corfu whilst their allies were overcome. Milan was vassalised in 1413 and forced to cede Massa and a year later the conquest of Napoli was finished; Provence and Capatanata were taken and the remainder vassalised.

mediterranean1old2zn0.jpg

The Knights territories (dark grey) and their vassals (light grey) in 1414.

The Knights now had undisputed control over the Mediterranean Sea and any Arab incursion would most soundly be put to sleep. However with the expanisionist policy came an unexpected result; condemnation in Italy was expected, but with that last campaign Provence was gained and although it was a strong naval asset for the Knights it would wake a beast that scoffed at such slogans as ‘Knights of the Med’; a beast who had no naval intentions whatsoever and would provide an epic challenge for the men of Rhodes.
 
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comagoosie

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:eek: It is finally out. I saw you advertise this in the Ink Well saying you have been planning this since Dec 2007 and I can definitly see why. It is brilliant!

But it seems you have gone through 77 years in one update. Will other updates contain as much time?

Also it looks like you have spread yourself too thin. I hope the AI doesn't take advantage of that.
 

Saulta

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I assume that the "beast" is no one else than France and that's some disturbing news. I don't think the Knights will fail, however, France might be a tough nut to crack ;) Good luck with bringing them down!

Excellent writing as well, keep it up!

//Saulta
 

Emperor_krk

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Interesting - most certainly. Well written? Sure. A fairly non-typical choice of nation and mod? Yes.
Now, all this makes this AAR worthy of following with attention!
Good luck. However, I do share comagoosie's fear concerning the fact that you've covered about 10% of the game's timespan in just one update - will it not make the AAR too short?
 

unmerged(86600)

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True, it would be a shame to have such a short AAR using such an approach. But as long as the quality's top notch it should make up for it. :)
 

The Swert

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comagoosie - Great to see the Inkwell works well! The planning stage took so long for many reasons. I played this game in December, then got distracted by EU3, then started up an AAR that i never planned to start (the Eggs), then i got HOI2. Only now do i have some time to continue writing it.

Saulta - Indeed the beast is France. More about them will be revealed in the next chapter, which i'll probably release tomorrow or Friday.

All - The design of this AAR, as you'll see, will start really broad and fast but become slower as we focus in on the War of the Rhone itself. Having said that, the story ends at the conclusion of the war so it will be a fairly short AAR. That's why i'm writing several. I did consider combining them into one AAR but, since each is a separate game, I couldn't reconcile them into one reasonable piece. If popular demand requests it, i still have the savegame so i can extend it beyond the designated finish point, however i don't want to spend too long on the first 3 volumes because i would like to get to volume 4 one day, which will be a narrative. I hope that all makes sense.
 

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Nice start! Looks very interesting, I'll have to keep reading. :D
 

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Chapter 2: French Aggression


Our attention now turns to the French who in 1337 entered a war with England over the French crown as previously mentioned. The war was quite minor in fact, the English navy was soundly overwhelmed and forced to stay in port and, without the King’s forces, the Duke in Gascoyne stood no chance and within three years his army has been destroyed and Gascoyne fell under the authority of Armangnac . With the English now banished from France the French could focus on their neighbouring enemies. Navarre was invaded and annexed in 1340 and a year later France cancelled their vassalage of Brittany and invaded taking Penthievre before revassalising. This sequence of aggression was just the tip of the iceberg. In 1345 the French invaded Nevers and annexed the city. Two years later they declared war on Liege and added it to their realm despite the actions of their ally Bohemia. Bohemia could not even defend its own Luxembourg from the blitz and had to concede it to France in 1351.

philippe4lk4.jpg

Philippe VI; the first of two mad French kings.

Now some kings went mad trying to turn lead into gold, others went mad with castle-building, well between 1337 and 1350 France’s king Phillipe VI had gone clinically mad with his compulsive invasions of other nations. Europe hoped that when his son came to throne France would settle down but the opposite was true. Jean II must have inherited his father’s megalomaniac genes as just one year after making peace with Bohemia he declared war on his own vassal Brittany and annexed it before the end of 1353. Furthermore just 9 days after that peace was signed the French King decided to invade another of its vassals, Bourbonnais. Bourbonnais was the lucky one able to escape annexation by paying the king $300 in 1356 to remain independent, at least for now. A year later in 1357 France joined Armangnac in its war against Foix and whilst this time France wasn’t able to annex its vassal, Foix was annexed by Armangnac who subsequently cancelled vassalage with France to become its own 3 province state.

In 1358 France cancelled vassalage and declared war on Burgundy. By this time though much of the western world was both fearful and fed up with France’s aggression. This culminated in the first retaliatory war against France led by Denmark and supported by Norway, Scotland and Mecklenburg. The coalition was unable to assist the Burgundians who found themselves defeated in 1360 and were forced to give up Artois and Franche Comte to France and also become their vassal once more. This provoked Castile into joining the 1st War against French Aggression bringing with them their allies of Portugal, Aragon and Hessen. The next year a third coalition took to opposing France the Neapolitan alliance of Napoli, Mantua and Majorca. Despite appearing to be totally surrounded by enemies on three fronts the madly led French made light work of the coalitions defeating each one successively and receiving payment for peace on each occasion.

The last of the peaces was made with Mantua in 1373 which finally gave France some time to recover. The new king Charles VI was not quite as warmongering it seemed as either his father or grandfather, nonetheless he knew how to expand. Within a year he had annexed his vassal of Auvergne and made Armangnac pay tribute to him once more. With it clear that Bourbonnais refused to follow suit, in 1374 France declared war. Bourbonnais was able to invade Burgundy during the war and annexed Bourgogne in 1374 before the French retaliated by taking it for themselves and revassalising Bourbonnais once more in 1375.

Amazingly, ten years then passed without France declaring war on anyone. But nonetheless according to much of Europe the damage had been done, to France’s reputation at least. Castile declared war on France again in 1380 and the Dutch alliance of Holland-Hainaut, Brabant, Flanders, Nassau and Cologne joined a year later. Whilst the 1st war involved three alliances the 2nd War against French Aggression, ended up involving four alliances after Strassburg, the Palatinate, Berg, Münster and Nürnberg and the Neapolitan alliance joined in 1382. This second war was more successful than the first as the Dutch alliance was able to take Luxembourg and Liege away from France in 1384; they were captured by Holland-Hainaut and Brabant respectively. However triumph soon reversed as Strassburg found itself overwhelmed and annexed in 1385. A year later and Connacht, who had joined Strassburg’s alliance against France, soon found themselves under fire. They fought on the beaches, they fought on the landing grounds, they fought in the fields and in the streets but the French were victorious and Connacht was annexed in 1386. Soon after that the war subsided until a white peace was declared with the remaining combatants in 1390.

fallconnachtrg0.png

the French landing in Connacht 1386

Once again, several years went by with France acting normally and some wondered whether the 2nd war had actually influenced France’s expansionist policy. The answer came in 1398 when France annexed its largest vassal Armangnac and then swiftly invaded and annexed its last remaining vassal in Bourbonnais. France was now in its entirety, all of its vassals were annexed, and all of the traditional French lands within its borders...except for one, Napoli still held Provence. Predictably the French soon tried to claim Provence and went to war with Napoli in 1400. Perhaps unpredictability though it was joined by its new ally, probably the only nation who would still talk with them, Egypt. Mantua, Majorca, Siena and Milano all came to Napoli’s aid and whilst the Italians were successful in maintaining control of Provence, Majorca had not fared well due to their border with the beast of France. Majorca was made to cede Sardinia to France in 1405.

This was the last war that France faced before it met the Knights of Saint John for the first time. I think now that it is clear why France could scoff at such slogans as ‘Knights of the Med’; they seemed to scoff at just about everything.

mediterranean2old2rb0.jpg

France (blue), the Knights (dark grey), Knights’ vassals (light grey) and Pope (pink) in 1414.
 

comagoosie

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Hmm...A france that likes to expand, sounds like EU3 :D

But it looks like it doesn't know when to stop or slow down, France keeps chugging along and annexing all its vassals.

But maybe there will be an alliance against france, not just one of the petty alliance, but a grand alliance!
 

likk9922

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The Knight look in for a pounding at the rate things are going. :eek:
 

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This seems to be one of the fastest expanding AIs I've seen. Just wow. Now, a war against this France will have to be a sight to behold. I can only wish you luck in it. ;)
 

The Swert

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comagoosie - First of all thanks for your mention in your AARlander article this month. Hopefully a few more readers will pass through this subforum and find not just this AAR but the wealth of quality in here.

Not exactly a grand alliance i'm afraid but sometimes it's harder to go against several alliances than just one big one because peace can't be made with all of them at once.

likk9922 - Well when i was playing it I thought the same. Even so, the French surely wouldn't be able to reach the Knights' eastern lands. ;)

Emperor_krk - Indeed, just 80 years of gametime and its done what historically took 150 years or so. Most nations who go on this sort of rampage get owned by their neighbours but this France is so strong and still with all her Hundred Years War leaders.

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The Swert

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Chapter 3: Castillian Intervention


The latter years of the 14th century were a tense time in Western Europe. During the 2nd War against French Aggression the Iberians had fought bitterly against the French with little result; Castile had managed to gain just $53 in the peace deal. Soon after the war Castile decided that if it was ever to go to war again with France, which it knew it inevitably would, it would need to be stronger than it was. The best way for Castile to expand its military and economic strength was to look to its Iberian neighbours. Aragon had been a vassal of Castile since 1377 and Portugal since 1373. After some simple flattery and persuasion Castile was able to annex both of her vassals before the turn of the century; Aragon in 1396 and Portugal in 1398. With these acquisitions, Castile was able to build its economy over the next decade or so and that allowed them to build up its army the decade after. By 1417 Castile was ready once again to declare war on the French beasts.

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The coat of Arms of the united Castile

In the meantime though, the Knights had been wary. They had been very watchful of the French since the early days and had predicted their attempted invasion of Neapolitan Provence in 1400. This was something they looked upon with prophesy later when they themselves had invaded Provence in 1414. The Knights had been protective of their border provinces Piemonte, Savoy and Geneva and when the French had asked for military access in 1400 as they struggled against Naples, the Knights had gleefully accepted hoping that this was an assurance that the French would not attack them. However in 1414, as soon as the Knights conquered Provence, the French attitude changed and the access was revoked almost instantly. After that, the Knights knew that the French were going to attack and sooner rather than later as well, as the Knights were weakened by the war with Naples. Unfortunately there was little the Knights could do, they had been at war for 5 years and had little resources left to mount much of defence in Provence. It was not just France either; they were by this stage in an ironclad alliance with the Papal State of Avignon who were right on the doorstep of Provence and craving to get in on the expansive action. Egypt on the other hand rethought their situation and pulled of the alliance to further their Middle Eastern endeavours.

The French declared war in March 1416 and immediately the large force that the Pope had mounted headed towards Marseille. The Knights knew their inferiority would show if they attempted to go face to face with the French so instead of defending, the Knights went on a march through much of undefended France behind the enemy lines reaching Picardie in the north whilst the French marched in to Piemonte and assaulted Turin in January 1417. The Pope then took control of Provence and war was looking bad even with the capture of Picardie in August 1417. Thankfully for the Knights the fall of Picardie seemed to be just the precursor that was needed to get the Castilians to declare war on France. Now the Knights had a chance at least.

The Castilians and the French were now similarly weighted in terms of manpower. The only difference between the two armies was the breakthrough technology of assaulting that the French had recently learnt. The French demonstrated this technology to retake Picardie barely after the Knights had moved on. The Knights found themselves meandering around central France trying to simultaneously keep away from the French armies as well as searching for a province with minimal fortifications to besiege, a feat they were failing to achieve. The Spanish too encountered difficulties for themselves. As they attempted to take Navarra and venture up the Biscay coast the French climbed over the Pyrenees, storming through the defensive lines, and started assaulting the border provinces of Aragon and Zaragosa with Catalonia lucky to escape the onslaught.

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The Battle of Monzon 1417. The French broke through the defensive line here on their way to Zaragosa.

At least this war in the Pyrenees was distracting the French somewhat from their eastern front with the Knights. The French had not progressed any further than Turin and had now retreated to the Spanish Marches leaving the Papal force, who guarded Provence, to protect the front. Lackadaisically the Pope let the meandering Knights back into Piemonte in the autumn of 1418 and in January Turin was recaptured by the Knights and the Turinese rejoiced. Now with just Provence as the only province in the enemy’s hands the Knights began negotiating the France. The Knights tried to offer the French some money in order to keep a hold of Provence but the French were resilient. In April 1419 the Knights landed on Sicily which the French had half-heartedly attempted to invade over the last two years. There were a few remaining French troops in the rural regions and once the Knights were able to defeat them and liberate the island the French position was no longer as strong.

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The capture of the last French in Sicily. They were found hiding out in this rural church

A month later the Knights re-entered negotiations with France and this time a compromise was reached. Provence would be returned to the Knights in exchange for $50. This was a major win for the Knights who knew that they were otherwise looking at losing most of their Savoy possessions. Had it not been for the intervention of the Castilians then the Knights would not have escaped the war so luckily. Whilst the Knights now looked nobly upon the Castilians there was now little they could do for them in their enduring war against France. They were being overwhelmed by assault technology. The Knights could only watch as over the next couple of years the Castilians lost control over Aragon, Zaragosa, Burgos and Viscaya. The Knights were sure that the Castilians were going to have to cede some provinces to France and felt responsible. Nonetheless the Castilians surprised the Knights by signing a peace with France in July 1422 for a mere $130. Unbeknownst to the Knights, whilst the Castilians had lost control over large parts of their own lands, they had been making progress of their own. It turned out that they had captured Connacht, Sardinia and Gascoyne from the French such that the war was not as unbalanced as it seemed.

With the war now over the Knights could regroup. There was still clear tension between the Knights and France over Provence and although the peace had been made analysts agreed that it would only be a matter of time before the French launched another assault and if that time the Castilians were kept at bay, the French would have a much greater chance of victory. The Knights had a lot of work ahead of them.

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France (blue), the Knights (dark grey), Knights’ vassals (light grey), Pope (pink) and Castile (yellow) in 1422.