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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

JSB217118

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Chapter 1
January 1212

Jean’s silks itched. This eastern finery did not suit him. He was made to be a soldier, a knight, put on this earth to do the duty of his liege and his god. He could administer a land well enough, and had looked out for his interests at the County of Champaign’s Court. But the games of these snakes were beyond him. And yet here he was, a king. He needed to act the part, or Ibelin would gladly take everything from him.

Jean was at the head of the council table.

Jean of Brienne croped.jpg



At the other end sat the Chancellor Jean of Ibelin, the Count of Beirut, who had inherited all the Greek decadence of his mother and none of his father’s valor.
Count Jean of Beirut cropped.jpg


On the left side of the table sat the marshal Baron Yves of Monsinguard, a native of the County of Jaffa-Askelon, and one of the few native nobles Jean felt he could trust.
Baron Yves of Monsinguard cropped.jpg



He was much less certain about the man who sat next to the Baron. Spymaster Balian Greneir, The Count of Sidon. A cruel man, but an effective soldier and a skilled spymaster. He could be Jean’s salvation or his undoing.

Count Balian of Sidon cropped.jpg


But the real powers were seated on the other side of the table. Seneschal Guillaume, the absurdly young grandmaster of the Knights Templar

Guilame of the Knights Templar cropped.jpg



And Guerin, the Royal Advisor and Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller, who seemed ready to pop a blood vessel. The two Holy Orders were the crown's most powerful vassals by far. And the most used to getting their way.

Grandmaster Gurien of the Knights Hospitaller cropped.jpg


The meeting began with a prayer from the Bishop of Radwan.

Bishop of Radwan.jpg



Ibelin spoke first. “I believe we should begin with the matter of our oaths to little Queen Isabella. We would have taken them earlier, but alas she was indisposed. I know from the experience of my own beloved brood that small children are prone to wander. Though I confess, none of them ever went as far as Jaffa.”

“Your girl is quite the persuasive one. Convincing the two Princesses to follow her on her little adventure.” The Count of Sidon smiled with a grin like of a knife’s edge.

“Let’s be blunt here. Your man Montfaucon stole away with your newborn daughter and abducted the princesses, stealing them away in the dead of a night before Queen Maria’s body had even gone cold.” Guillaume said, cutting to the heart of the matter.

At this, the Hospitler grandmaster leaped from his chair. “You Ser were given the sacred trust of his holiness Pope Innocent and you violated it. The Kingdom of Jerusalem has rarely proved worthy of the services of my order but this is an outrage we can sacare believe.”

“Where is your uncle now?”, Ibelin asked.

“Yes where is the man, I would have justice done”, said grandmaster Guerin.



Jean had to swallow his pride to keep himself from spitting on their so-called “justice.” His uncle was a good man who had long suffered the idiocy of these lords of Outaremier.

“Your lordships, my uncle is dead. He passed not long after I returned from Egypt, from where it had proved difficult to keep abreast of developments.” Jean stood the council down with the gaze of a man aiming a tourney lance.



“A venture that I warned you would fail”, Ibelin announced arrogantly to the council.


“Well not all of us can be blessed with your...prudence, my count of Beirut.” He let the implication hang in the air. Better to be a fool than a craven. Any true knight would agree.


“Regardless, the Egyptian raid cost the crown most of its finances. My order certainly won’t be providing any more coin. And I assume the Templars will follow suit.”


The Templar grandmaster turned to his colleague. “I wouldn’t go that far. Good, ser. I will continue to enforce the collection of taxes in the crownlands. Although given the regent’s spending habits I don’t think it will be wise to lend the crown any more money from our treasuries.”


“Is it the crown your orders have a problem with my good Knights or merely the regent?” What is Iblin playing at? Jean knew of course, but he had no idea how to counter it.


“I hardly see the difference”, said the young Templar.


“Oh but there is a great difference. Isabelle is by the grace of god her mother’s rightful heir. However Jean of Brienne is a mere regent, a servant of the High Court. If we feel he is not fulfilling his duties to us or to little Isabelle, there is nothing to say he cannot be replaced.”


Jean was not a wrathful man but this was too much to stomach. He leapt to his feet. “Lord Iblin. If you were a man I would cut you down for that. Luckily for you the Knights of Champagne are ill disposed to dishonor their blades with Craven’s blood. And we have enough honor to warn a man when he is about to ride off a cliff. You sir are edging perilously close to treason. Let me remind you I was crowned King in Tyre the same day as Maria.” How splendid she had looked with the sunlight reflected off her crown. Then Al Afdal, the son of the Sultan of Egypt had led his riders to ravage the countryside outside of Tyre and Jean had ridden forth to defend his new Kingdom. It had been a glorious day. And then it had been all downhill.

“Your claim to the throne died when my poor niece took her last breath. You ruled by the right of your wife, and now that right is gone.” Iblin snapped.


“Lord Iblin, you go too far. Surely the girl’s father will have her best interests in mind?”, said Constable Yves.


“I can only assume you mean to nominate yourself for regent. My order would not back you in such circumstances, nor, I suspect, would our brothers of the Hospital. Talk all you want about your High Court, but the reality is that our orders are the power in this Kingdom”, said the Templar commander gesturing to his counterpart.


“The regent may be a proud fool, but he is a proud fool with the backing of his holiness Pope Innocent. It would be against god and right for our orders to go against his will. Word should be sent to Rome. Only when Pope Innocent gives his input will we know what to do.” Jean did not like being called a fool, even by a man of god like the Grandmaster of the Hospitlers. He was about to give him a piece of his mind when the Chancoler spoke up.


“I would like to remind you sirs that we are a sovereign Kingdom one in which the written law and custom of the nobility determines policy not the bullying of a gang of up jumped monks.”

Gurien leapt to his feet and pounded the table with his fist. This time Iblin shrank away, tumbling from his chair.


“A gang of up jumped monks are we? Well then if this pathetic sin drenched rag wants to govern its own affairs without our interference than so be it. What would you be without us? A smattering of scattered cities clinging to the coast like a to her mother’s skirts? I wonder how your Saracen friends would react to knowing the Kingdom’s best warriors and chief financiers have left it to rot?”


Jean was not the best statesmen, but he could tell when a room was getting violent. It would do them no good to hack each other to pieces in this room while the Saracen realms gathered outside, even if it was tempting. “My Lords, it does us no good to quarrel like this. Mayhaps we should adjourn this meeting and convene again when calmer heads have prevailed.” Jean hoped he had conveyed the point that however much he claimed magnanimity, they were his lords.


There was a pregnant pause, interrupted by a cough from the spymaster. “Your Grace may wish to adjourn this council meeting and that is all very well and good but first I feel I must convey to you some disturbing developments.”


“I think I know what this is, my own sources informed me.” The Chancellor's family was known to have many heathen contacts, the man whose father negotiated with Saladin could be a valuable friend to enterprising Latin merchants when it came to obtaining trade rights in the Sultanate of Egypt, or vis versa.

2nd of January The Arisayah (cropped).jpg


“Well did your sources also inform you that intrigue is the spymaster’s prerogative?” The Count of Sidon shot back at his counterpart.


“And do reports of yet more heathens trying to kill us concern you, my lord?” Jean asked.


Iblin smiled, probably at his own wits.
22nd of January followers of Arjuna cropped.jpg


22nd of January the bull of rishaba croped.jpg

“The world contains many varieties of plants and animals, and it contains all sorts of heathens. And like the beasts of the world, they don’t necessarily get along.”


This was one of those days where Jean wondered if King Phillipe hadn’t sent him off to marry the Queen of Jerusalem as some sort of bad joke, he King had never cared much for the Holy Land. When Alphonse had suggested such a thing he’d told him to mind his place. The House of Brienne were amongst the most illustrious families in Champaign. His mother, God rest her soul was the daughter of the Count of Montbeliard. His father had loyally served Count Henri of Champaign and died for him on the Third Crusade. His brother had wed a Princess of Sicily. When he had died fighting on her behalf she and his child had remained in Sicily. It was Jean who had ruled the barony. He was capable, and his blood was more than worthy of being a king. Who was Alphonse, the son of a mere blacksmith to tell him otherwise?



He took his supper in his chambers, with only Alphonse and Savary. Of the 300 or so knights who had accompanied him to the holy land only these two reminend. He knew that his lords would use the fact that he declined to dine with them in favor of two lowborns against him, but he was beyond caring. Jean needed time to decompress. And plan.

“It went well I take it?” Savary said with his typical sarcasm.
Savary cropped.jpg

Jean smiled. “Well they didn’t stab me to death as soon as I stepped through the door.”

“That’s better than I was expecting.”, said Alphonse.
Alphonse cropped.jpg

“Ibelin did move against me, though the others checked him. Not out of any love of me mind you. As it stands I am protected only by the paper shield of Papal authority.”

Alphonse put his hand to his beard. “I’m normally one for caution but I think we can trust Ibelin. I hunted with him shortly after we disembarked in Acre. He’s an odd man but I believe underneath he has a true and loyal heart. The others I am not so sure about.”

“I still think we should have killed them all at the wedding feast”, Savary said as he held his dinner knife in a display Jean supposed was intended to be menacing.

Jean chuckled. “I was tempted. But no it wouldn’t have worked, and besides it would have been dishonorable.”

“If you're so worried about your honor why you needn’t have even gotten your sword dirty. Just wait until the band stopped and then bring the Genoese crossbowmen above the benches and then tell them to let loose.” Savary arranged his hands in a parody of a crossbow and made shooting sounds to bring the point home. .
Jean laughed and even Alphonse, who was not always fond of the cruel knights antics ,cracked a smile. “A magnificent performance, good sir. Mayhpas you will reprise it if things do not go our way.”

Savary bowed. “ It would be our honor, my Lord of Jerusalem.”

Alphonse and Savary were both the parts of war they didn’t sing songs about. But they had been with him in one way or another ever since Jean had run away from the church career his father had planned for him.

Alphonse was the rough and ready sergeant, always on hand with a stern word to jolt the rabble into action. The tactical mind behind an ambush. A man who if told to hold, would hold with every ounce of strength until he was told otherwise by his commander.

Savary was what all true knights feared becoming. He could go forth with fire and sword and lead a company to raise a whole barony before nightfall, sparing not even the churches. When you looked him in the eye, you saw a man damned to hell, and more importantly, a man who did not care that he was damned to hell.

It made people uncomfortable, women especially, not that Jean could blame them. One of the few demands Maria had made of him in their short marriage was that Savary was not to be allowed anywhere near her or her sisters and their ladies. Jean had consented, and Savary had complied, though he had asked if Jean wanted him to sleep in the stables like a loyal dog.

He thought of the kiss she had given him. The warm smile she always greeted him with. The beat of her heart. Why did all these things matter so much to him? Queen Maria of Monferat had died doing her duty after they had been man and wife for hardly a year, and had spent even less time together.

“We all mourn for the Queen '', said Alphonse, it was no use trying to hide his melancholy from his men, they knew him too well.

“Aye, it seems a crime to pluck a rose so sweet in her prime. And for only a girl at that. We are both with you, as we always have been, through thick and thin.”

If only it had been a son. The physicians had been sure of it, though Maria as was her custom gave no opinion save her obvious joy at being with child. Maria would have been a wonderful mother. The way she had been with her younger sisters, and his Uncle Garuntheir’s children, it reminded him of his own mother. She was dead too, and like with Maria, Jean hadn’t been there with her in her final moments.

“There's no use to any of us questioning the will of god. I am now a widower and my daughter Isabelle is by the grace of god Queen of Jerusalem and I am her regent. I just need to figure out how to make them all fall into line.”
 

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JSB217118

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The history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem between the Third Crusade and the Fall of Acre is often characterized as a terminal existence, the Kingdom’s chances of survival having essentially ended at Hatin or at the latest with Richard the Lionheart. Clinging pathetically to the coast and in constant need of outside assistance.

Into this world was born one of the most pitiable figures of the 13th century. Isabelle the Second of Jerusalem became Queen of Jerusalem practically at the moment of birth, and an orphan as well. At fourteen she was wed to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick the Second in an attempt to bribe him into aiding the Crusader States. Her husband then promptly got into a dispute with her father over the rulership of Jerusalem. She herself was confined in Palermo and all chroniclers agree she was utterly miserable. She suffered one miscarriage shortly after her marriage and at age fifteen or sixteen she died giving birth to Prince Conrad of Germany, who promptly became King of Jeruselum, though he never set foot in the Kingdom. Her bloodline ended when her grandson Conradin was executed by Charles of Anjou after he attempted to claim the Kingdom of Sicily. With him died both the legitimate male line of the House of Hohenstaufen, but also the bloodline of Isabella the second, ending what little influence she had upon the world.

It’s quite a sad story. Let’s see if things turn out the same in this AAR. There haven’t been many AAR’s with a female protagonist, the last one I can think of was Waltzing Matilda. I feel a little strange writing one. But I have had good games in the past with Isabella and I think this one can make an interesting story. In addition, I have written women before for creative writing projects where both teachers and fellow students said I have done it well. We’ll have to see what you guys think.

I intend to at a minimum finish out Isabelle’s life. After that, if I feel like it, I will start a new thread for the next ruler. Depending on reader interest I am willing to keep this thing going until 1453, or a suitable endpoint just before or just after.

Major shoutouts to @JabberJock14, his “Before Plantagenant” is what inspired me to write an AAR and to @WhiteHawk, whose AAR, “And did those feet” inspired this specific setting.

I would like to also thank the History of the Crusades Podcast, for providing me for most of the historical background for this story. Another source of historical information was the r/AskHistorians forum on Reddit, which provided excellent answers on life in the Crusader States.

A more qualified thanks must go to the website Defenders of Jerusalem. The site’s author seems to be heavily biased both in favor of the Latins and in favor of specific characters. However, I found some of her historical conclusions to appear valid, and more importantly make for good fiction. I haven’t read her actual books so I can’t tell you if they are any good, but the biographies on her website really helped me sketch out the outlines of certain characters, and for that, she has my sincere thanks.

I’m playing using the Historical Immersion Project. I can and will bestow luck and the AI will try to go for the historical outcome, which leads to some...interesting things. However, even the Historical Immersion project contains some inaccuracies and as such I will try to merge what the game presents with actual history. Even characters recalling events that took place before the start of the game should not be taken as real history, though I encourage you to use the above sources to explore the real history of the Crusades and the world they created.

This is my fist AAR. I have spent a while preparing for it. I will try to update weekly, but I can't promise anything. The thread will be dead when I make a post saying it is, so don't loose hope just because the story hasn't been updated in a while. Any and all constructive criticism is welcome.
 
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Eurasia

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About time another Queen showed up! By Jove...er..by Buddha!
 
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Well, I have been waiting for this since you first made it known you would start your own AAR. And here it is at last, with an intriguing setup.

HIP does indeed have some inaccuracies, but making the best of them or twisting them to suit your story is where the fun begins (once the irritation wears off).

Jean is proving to handle himself admirably well in these trying times. As for these pesky Templar's perhaps he should take a page out of the book of a certain French king :p.
 
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Oh very interesting setting! Will keep an eye, and good luck, although you hardly seem to need it as the writing is great. I wasn't aware of HIP's inaccuracies, you care to give some examples? I did found some while researching about Armenia, but didn't know there were in other places.
 
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A fine start. Jean has his work ahead of him, especially now that he is unable to execute a "Red Wedding" for another 13-15 years. ;)

The characterization of Savary was a highlight - noting the bit about being asked to stay away from the late queen's sisters and asking if he was the sleep in the stables was a nice touch.

Good luck. I never want to touch anything with Crusader States in CK2 because of the endless Jihads going after even the strongest of realms. But HIP might alleviate that some?

It does look like the thread mark is missing for Chapter 1, though it is the first post, so it may not matter.
 
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It's a precarious existence, on the edge of ruin even.
 
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JSB217118

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About time another Queen showed up! By Jove...er..by Buddha!
Oh my god, I forgot about the AAR literally titled Road of Queens. I read through your first ruler so I understand that reference but alas the story has so many chapters and I am trying to keep up with so many AAR's and also finish my course work for the year. Hopefully, I will get a chance to catch up in the future.

Well, I have been waiting for this since you first made it known you would start your own AAR. And here it is at last, with an intriguing setup.

HIP does indeed have some inaccuracies, but making the best of them or twisting them to suit your story is where the fun begins (once the irritation wears off).

Jean is proving to handle himself admirably well in these trying times. As for these pesky Templar's perhaps he should take a page out of the book of a certain French king :p.
Yeah, they and the Hospitallers will prove to be a handful later on. Truthfully though there isn't much Jean can do. Even if he had the troops and money to subdue the Holy Orders, which he very much does not, he, or more specifically I am, limited by the regency mechanics. Normally I wouldn't make so much of a fuss over HIP's inaccuracies except well I got it specifically because I was irritated about certain inaccuracies.

Oh very interesting setting! Will keep an eye, and good luck, although you hardly seem to need it as the writing is great. I wasn't aware of HIP's inaccuracies, you care to give some examples? I did found some while researching about Armenia but didn't know there were in other places.
In my experience HIP's inaccuracies have more to do with repeating the base game's inaccuracies in regards to characters. For instance, Isabella is actually like eight or nine in the usual start date, but Jean is separated from his irl wife, Rita of Armenia, and for some reason, the AI lists him as being married to some old lady of the Rubenid family who died before he was even born. Also, the entire maternal side of Elanor of Castile is left blank, even though it is listed on like Wikipedia. That will prove relevant to this story. And of course, one thing they decided to keep for accuracy was 14 being the marriage age:eek:. I didn't notice that until I was quite far into the AAR and considered quitting due to sheer squick. The sad thing is that this is technically inaccurate. The Catholic age of consent was 12:eek:.

A fine start. Jean has his work ahead of him, especially now that he is unable to execute a "Red Wedding" for another 13-15 years. ;)

The characterization of Savary was a highlight - noting the bit about being asked to stay away from the late queen's sisters and asking if he was the sleep in the stables was a nice touch.

Good luck. I never want to touch anything with Crusader States in CK2 because of the endless Jihads going after even the strongest of realms. But HIP might alleviate that some?

It does look like the thread mark is missing for Chapter 1, though it is the first post, so it may not matter.
I'm glad you liked him. With Savary I worried I might have laid it on a bit too thick. Savary going forward is going to be a case of "if Gregor Clegane was an edgelord." Yeah, the issue with the threads was that I didn't really know how to use the forums, so I worried I would put in the intro statement, people would comment, and then I would spend like a day figuring out how to format Chapter 1, to everyone's annoyance. Also, I think I saw an AAR that started with chapter 1 before posting an intro. Is there a way to switch it so my first post is the intro and my second is Chapter 1.

It's a precarious existence, on the edge of ruin even.
Very much so. This applies to both Jean, little Isabella, and the Kingdom itself.
 
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There are qute a fee innacuracies in HIP too, some from the vanilla game, some from their own choices. Sometimes the historical data doesn't add up so they chose one of the two options. I actually made a submod for myself, that I might share at some point.

On a more important note, good luck, I love crusader states.
 
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Interesting, Jerusalem tends to either get destroyed or conquer Arabia in many games I play. Hopefully Jean will be able to hold the reins of state and hold off internal and external threats long enough for Isabella to truly rule. As this is HIP I believe you can continue as a different dynasty, so perhaps Isabella will marry a powerful ruler non-matrillienally who can protect her kingdom, even if her dynasty no longer rules Jerusalem. Best of luck, and you are up to a great start.
 
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There are qute a fee innacuracies in HIP too, some from the vanilla game, some from their own choices. Sometimes the historical data doesn't add up so they chose one of the two options. I actually made a submod for myself, that I might share at some point.
Please do. Is it related to characters? I'm fine with inaccuracy, it's just, out of all the things they had to make accurate why did they make 14-year-olds marriageable and seducable? :eek:. Was anyone asking for that?


On a more important note, good luck, I love crusader states.
Thanks. There is so much interesting ground to cover with them. And they start off as quite the underdogs. I always like playing factions that seem doomed. It's why my second choice for an AAR would have been Byzantium. Alas, the game doesn't show the theme system all that accuracy, or for that matter any political system that is not French feudalism. And since Jerusalem is Fench feudalism transported to the Holy Land, it works out nicely.

Interesting, Jerusalem tends to either get destroyed or conquer Arabia in many games I play. Hopefully Jean will be able to hold the reins of state and hold off internal and external threats long enough for Isabella to truly rule. As this is HIP I believe you can continue as a different dynasty, so perhaps Isabella will marry a powerful ruler non-matrillienally who can protect her kingdom, even if her dynasty no longer rules Jerusalem. Best of luck, and you are up to a great start.
Thanks for the encouragement. I've never been destroyed as Jeruslum before, mostly because Europe always sends help. As for Isabella's marriage, well you'll see in a few chapters. I do have the noncontinuous dynasty thing enabled though. Just about any marriage, she makes will work out better than her IRL one.

interesting hopefully Jean can hold the kingdom for his daughter.
And himself. Do not forget, Jean of Brienne is an ambitious and envious man. Will Isabella tolerate this when she comes of age, and he no doubt wishes to retain a position of power and influence? And if not what sorts of plans will he be making? All will be revealed in time dear reader.

Thank you all for your commentary. The next chapter should hopefully be up and posted tomorrow.
 
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Looking forward. You have inspired me to even start a Tamar the Great run ... some day.
 
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Chapter 2: January 1212

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Chapter 2
January 1212

Maria Komnenos held the sovereignty of the Kingdom asleep in her arms. Literally. Is she threatening me? Or was it some sort of power move. Jean couldn’t imagine a woman would kill her own great-grandchild. But then she was a Greek. Amongst the Greek nobility kinslaying was said to be second nature. Andronikous Komnenos murdered his cousin the Emperor and seduced two of his nieces. The Empress Irene had blinded her own son in the very room he was born. So he did not put anything beyond this creature, no matter how old and frail she looked.
20200425100042_1.jpg


“Your Grace. I was most pleased to receive your invitation”


She smiled at him. Like any old grandmother. “My Lord of Jerusalem, I am pleased you agreed to spend time with me. I just hope you weren’t taken by surprise.”



“Your messenger was...unorthodox.” He turned to look at the old Queen’s hooded lady in waiting.


Maria spoke to the girl next. “You weren’t seen were you child?”


“No your grace.”


“Good. People would cast unworthy aspersions on your honor if they saw you in the regent’s chambers.”


“I’m willing to go through any sort of peril on your command, your grace.”


The old queen laughed. “Such a brave girl. I’m not sure if your father would be proud or furious to learn of your antics.”


She smiled. “Knowing my father, both.”


Jean felt uneasy. Like he was in a group with two old comrades who only talked about occurrences he had not been at. They’re only women, he reminded himself.


“In any case, there was no peril. Lord Jean treated me with all the courtesy and grace a knight of his caliber could bestow upon a maiden.”


“That is good to hear. You may leave us now lady Grenier.” Greinier, as in the Count of Sidon? The girl quickly but gracefully curtsied and spun out the door, closing it on her way out.


The Queen’s smile grew slyer. “That was lady Raymonde Grenier, and I’ll assume you now know who her father is.”
Raymonde Gerenier.jpg


Jean tried to hide his feelings. “The Count of Sidon did mention bringing his maiden daughter to court.”

“That he did. She takes after her father in many things and is quite a sociable girl.” Does she want me to wed her? Both the Counts of Beirut and Sidon had maiden daughters, and Jean had been quite offended when neither of them had offered them to him, the most powerful man in the Kingdom. He wasn’t interested in marrying either but he was still peeved that Iblin and Greinnier considered themselves too good for him.


“I was surprised you chose to meet me here”


“Is it so odd to want the sovereign of the realm present where the future of the Kingdom is being decided?”


“You value yourself quite highly.”


She chuckled softly. “I am but the old ruin of a once impressive monument. Sidon is not the only noble I have influence over. Many nobles respect me as a former Queen, as the widow of a hero, and of course, my son is the Count of Beirut.”

Jean scowled.


The old Queen tensed, Jean saw the look in her eyes, like she wanted to hit something. Before his hand could move to his sword hilt she spoke.


“Of course I know of your quarrels with my son. And I imagine you know I have his best interests at heart. And you know I am a Roman, and the political dealings of my husband, of which no doubt all sorts of filthy lies have been spread throughout half of Christendom. And in spite of it all, you came. Was it to hear my witty conversation. Or mayhaps your search for a new bride has gotten truly desperate.”


Jean bristled. “You will mind your tongue woman.”


“Ah, a proud man, or else a blunt man. I would advise you to use a gentler tone to remind me of courtesy. But forgive me, for my own discourtesies, you aren’t the only one who has been in mourning these past few months.” She seemed so sad and weary. Jean remembered that his wife had spoken fondly of her grandmother.


“I understand. These are trying times for all of us.”


“Still I must ask, why are you here?”


Jean sighed. “I am loath to admit it but I have had some trouble imposing my authority over the High Court and the Great Lords. I know your son knows this for it is he who causes these difficulties. When you summoned me I knew I could not refuse.”


“You hoped I would offer my son’s submission or a deal of some sort?”
Maria Komnenos offered him a drink, which he declined. He’d had a sip before coming. A light drink calmed the nerves before bed, battle or bargaining table, and in the case of all three drinking to excess would have very negative effects. Also, he didn’t trust the Greek woman not to poison him.


“A man of temperance. More could stand to learn from your example. I see the way you look at me, your grace. I know most Franks have a low opinion of us Romans but surely even you don’t believe I would ever harm my own great-grandchild?”


“Then why do you hold her before me so?”


“Is it now a crime for an old woman to hold her great-granddaughter? My son is an expert in such things, surely he would have told me of it. And besides, I do not think you are in a position to talk, seeing as you hold two of my granddaughters against their wills.”


“They are my wards, treated with all the care and gentleness befitting ladies of their age and station.”


“And yet you have guards posted on their doors. And I can’t imagine Melesinde or Sybille took it well, being dragged away from their home in the dead of night not a fortnight after watching their sister the Queen die in agony. Imagine how much I might worry about them.”


“They are my sisters by law. I would never bring harm to them.”


She smirked. “You know my family history. Androikous never hesitated about inflicting any harm upon the child, his cousin, his Bassilious, whom he had sworn to protect, or upon the honor of two of his nieces.”


Jean had not ordered the girls to be taken, or indeed any of the actions his late Uncle had taken to ensure his hold over the Kingdom. It hadn’t stopped people from blaming him for it though.

He had gone to see the girls shortly after his arrival. He had tried to console them, though it didn’t seem to work that well. Sybille had just cried while Melesinde had spat and said she’d rather die than be taken by any Brienne.” She hadn’t just been referring to his nephew Garunthier. He had thought them stupid children at the time. And yet what other intentions would they ascribe to a man whose soldiers kidnapped them and kept them imprisoned? Vipers were villainous, but so were false knights who carried off young maidens against their will, in the name of lust, power or both. I am a knight of Champaign, he reminded himself. If he let his ambition overcome his virtue, then he would lose everything. God would punish sin with special harshness in this most holy of lands.


20200425102355_1.jpg

Melesinde de Lusingion Age 12.jpg


“You are a man of ambition Jean, as was my late husband. Yet he also had a good heart. I think you have one as well.” She smiled. She’s just some old grandmother.


“So the price for your sons’ cooperation is a simple trading of wards?” One that my conscience is demanding I make anyway.


She tsked and shook her head. “These things are not so simple. But yes, this is one part of it. King Hughes of Cyprus was quite concerned to hear about his half-sister’s abduction. And seeing how their half-sister Phillipa is about to be sailed to France to wed the Count of Deux it seemed like a good time to bear them a visit, accompanied of course by his Queen, my granddaughter Alix and a sizable retinue of knights.
King Hughes of Cyprus cropped.jpg

Queen Alix of Cyprus.jpg

20200425102408_1.jpg


‘Hughes gathers troops against me!” Had this all been some sort of elaborate ruse to deceive him?


“Calm down. If I really wanted you undone I would not be telling you this. The girls are to be ready to be presented to their halfsister the Queen and their step brother the King. They will spend some time with them, and their other half-sister Phillipa, before departing for Cyrpus. After what they’ve seen, they need to be with family.”


“This Kingdom is a nest of vipers”, he muttered to himself under his breath.


“Take it from a Roman, it’s your nest of vipers now unless you would like to get on the boat back to France. Far more importantly it is her nest of vipers”, she held up little Isabelle. “You swore a vow to protect one Queen, and now you will serve another.”


“So what exactly is it you want from me? Besides the return of the Princesses.”


“For a start, I want your daughter, my great-granddaughter to take up the rule of Jerusalem in her own right when she comes of age of course.”


“That would be, quite odd.” He kept his expression neutral.


“You're talking to a Komnenos, a woman who suggested a marriage between a stepbrother and a step-sister. Surely this is not the oddest thing you have seen since coming to the east.”


“I suppose not. But I fail to see what you would gain from this.”


“Ever since the death of Baldwin the Fifth our Kingdom has been ruled by the foreign-born husbands of our Queens. My son is committed to the rights of the Kingdom’s nobility. Even he knows that a consort from amongst the local families is impractical, we need foreign support. Still, Isabelle will be raised here, amongst the nobility of Outaremier. She can act as a check on any husband’s promotion of foreigners. As for myself, well I have more personal reasons.”


“Such as?”


“I wish the best for my great-granddaughter. And I believe her interests will be best served by keeping control over her own lands and incomes, especially if she is wed to a foreign monarch.”


A long silence followed, which the Queen broke. She truly looked her age. As if all the world’s cares had broken against her, like a rock by a rough sea. “I have more to say, but I feel it would be inappropriate for a meeting like this. For now, it is enough to know that I loved my daughter Isabelle and her daughter with all my heart and that they would love this child. I do not know your sentimental feelings but it makes no matter. She is the only thing that gives you power here and so you must wish the best for her. To do that you need me, deep down you know that, or else you would not have come. Ruling any kingdom, but especially this one requires a mix of silk and steel. You are smart enough to figure out how you and my son mutually complement each other, in both virtues and faults. Neither of you can hold this kingdom without the other and if you quarrel you will only weaken us further.”


Jean knew of Iblin’s cowardice, as did almost everyone else. But did they all think of him as just some meathead? He would prove them wrong.


“If I were to accept this alliance, what other terms would you ask for?”


“You would have to retain my son in his office. Heed his council when prudent and respect the rights of the High Court. And if we were to regain lands, god willing maybe Jerusalem itself, I would expect some of the new lands would be given to my children and grandchildren. In exchange, you will have your choice of wedding either Raymonde or else my granddaughter, Cecile. My granddaughter is a good pious girl and Raymonde is, as you have seen, clever and brave. Both would make any man happy.”
20200425110340_1.jpg


Jean smiled finally he’d be the one with inscrutable motives. “I am tempted, but I must decline your offers of marriage. I have already made plans.”


“Oh?”


“Not just for myself, but for Isabelle as well.”


“Well, now you’ve piqued my interest.”


“I think some secrets are best kept. What I will say is that Isabelle will have a husband worthy of both her and her name. She is my only child and I wish my name to continue on.”


“Is that so? Then it seems your ambitions align with the best interests of both your daughter and this kingdom. Now if you would go on.”


“Of course. I accept all of your terms sans the marriages. Alas, I have no kin to offer in compensation. However, there are men amongst my company who I consider as close as brothers. A marriage to one of them would bind me to your cause.”


“Both the Count of Sidon and my son are proud men. They will not give away their daughters to low borns.”


“As I recall the House of Ibelin does not have the most illustrious of origins.”


“That makes it even more important to marry up. Still, we may be able to provide some workaround.”


“We are in agreement then?”


“Indeed.” She passed the child to Jean. He took her up without much thought. But looking down at her made his heart rush. This was his child, his own flesh and blood. It was strange, for all the politicking he had done in her name Jean had not laid eyes upon his daughter before today. Her features were mostly his, plain. But she had her mother’s eyes. The child began to stir and let out a wail.
Isabella age 1, choosing thirft.jpg


“Forgive me, it seems I’m doing something wrong.”


Maria Komnenos gave a gentle smile. “You're fine, she’s just hungry. Most new fathers are nervous, the ones that care anyway. It’s good that you are amongst their number.”


The wet nurse was summoned and the little Queen handed off. It seemed like the best time to depart. Before he left though the old Queen offered him a drink, and this time he accepted.


She gave the first toast. “To Queen Isabelle, long may she reign.”


Jean went next. “To her grandmother, your daughter, and her mother my sweet Maria, may she honor them both.”
Queen Isabella the first of Jeruslum.jpg

Maria of Monferat.jpg


They finished with one for Jerusalem. The wine tasted sweet like victory. The Dowager Queen said she thought much the same. Jean was finally halfway out the door when he decided he had to right a wrong. “I apologize to you, your grace. I believed many spurious tales about you. You are a strong woman, and wise too. The Kingdom is lucky to have you.”


She laughed. “Not as strong or as wise as I once was. And you needn’t fret. I am what I am and people will think what they will.”


“Would you….I didn’t have much chance to know my wife. I would appreciate it if one day you could tell me more about her.”


“It would be my honor, my lord of Jerusalem.”
 
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Looking forward. You have inspired me to even start a Tamar the Great run ... some day.
Cool. Always good to see more AARs. My advice, don't start it right around college finals. I might have to delay the next chapter to focus on you know my future.
 
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Cool. Always good to see more AARs. My advice, don't start it right around college finals. I might have to delay the next chapter to focus on you know my future.
It serves as a testament to your luck that you are worried more by finals than the coronavirus. I am sure little Isabelle would bless your efforts to forge a future for yourself :)
 
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It serves as a testament to your luck that you are worried more by finals than the coronavirus. I am sure little Isabelle would bless your efforts to forge a future for yourself :)
Thank you. I don't envy those here who have bills to pay or kids to raise. My English teacher has kids and she told us it is really tough to keep them entertained while also doing your work.
 
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I am glad to see that Isabelle has a caring great grandmother, who will likely be very loyal and supportive of her, though Maria seems to have lived a rather sad life, with her daugther and grandaughter both predeacising her. Maybe Jean will eventually make a good marriage to shore up his reign as well. Great chapter!
 
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I am glad to see that Isabelle has a caring great grandmother, who will likely be very loyal and supportive of her, though Maria seems to have lived a rather sad life, with her daugther and grandaughter both predeacising her. Maybe Jean will eventually make a good marriage to shore up his reign as well. Great chapter!
Yeah, Maria Komnenos has suffered a lot of losses as of late. I had a whole speech chronicling them but I felt like it didn't work in the scene. Remember that Isabella the first's son and husband died days before her. On the bright side, Maria Komnenos still has three surviving children from her second husband, the famous Balian of Ibelin.
To everyone. I am sorry but I will not be able to post at my usual date. Most of my writing time was taken up by finals. However I'm almost done so I will hopefully have a chapter out by mid-week, and possibly another by the end of the week.
 
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JabberJock14

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It ended well enough, but Jean does take a risk in his refusal. His plans better be good, and bring in reliable allies. There are other options for rulers if necessary and a more malleable option could be preferred. What's one child queen over another?
 
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