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Tufto

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Stuyvesant- Ah, that was Cristina, not Sancha. She was the old Chancellor back under King David, right at the start.

Demetrios is certainly hellbent on chaos- but despite that, there may still be a little of the old Greek left in him.

Aliasing- Thanks! :)

loki100- Indeed. His plan, as will now be seen, is very flawed. His once intelligent mind is beginning to fracture, and he's really losing his grip on reality, as well as his ability to plot well enough. He may yet get away with it, however.

PART FIVE:

Affonso's Wrath.

Chapter Four.

Autumn may have been Affonso's least favourite season, but Demetrios loved it. Everything died in Autumn- and with such pretty colours, too.

Demetrios grinned from his hiding place. So close...

Behind him lay the unconscious body of Sancha de Coimbra. The old woman shared something in common with Affonso- they both enjoyed going for walks in the same area.

And Sancha had was known to be a little senile in her old age. She had no ties with Demetrios- in fact, they had been known for their little rivalry back when she was Chancellor. So nobody would be able to pin anything on him.

And so, when she was found lying over Affonso's dead body with a knife in her hand...

Demetrios scoured the path with his eyes, listening closely, trying to detect any kind of movement. If his information was correct, Affonso was out walking now. He could return down this path at any time.

A tiny, almost imperceptible tear leaked from the corner of Demetrios' eye. A little thought entered his head:
You shouldn't be doing this.

He shook it away. Vengeance was what mattered here. Affonso was just another life, another weak king in a long line of weak kings.

But still...

He could remember, vaguely, the person he once had been. That cold, imperious assassin, motivated by morality and loyalty. A cruel but good man.

He had caused war, yes. But he had not liked it, and he had not wanted it.

Affonso was not weak. He knew that, if he could look beyond the hate in his crazed mind. But he was too... chaotic.

He had already curbed the power of the nobility, and put it in the hands of the peasantry. He had to be stopped, if only to save Georgia.

But however he justified it to himself, there was still a sense of unease. He was going to kill another person. Another great ruler. Whatever happened, Georgia would suffer. And despite all the wrongs it had done to him, he still felt a little love for his old home.

Then, the leaves on the path rustled. A man with two red eyes came into view.

Demetrios dismissed the thoughts, as he drew his sword and stepped out in front of Affonso.

Time to end this damned nightmare once and for all.
 

Stuyvesant

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The facade cracked, a few glimmers from his earlier life came back to Demetrios. I'm hoping it'll provide enough distraction that Affonso may yet live.

I guess that Demetrios wants Affonso to know who killed him - he just doesn't want anyone else to find out. Gloating at your dying enemy and trying to get away with it... Demetrios is really setting the bar quite high here. :)

Another shameless cliffhanger (;)). I do take some solace from the part title, though.
 

Tufto

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loki100-He wants to see Affonso's face, and wants to do it "honourably". His old, calculating mind is gone, and all that's left is this strange hateful beast.

Stuyvesant- Hah, yes, it is a bit of a hint as to what shall come. And Demetrios' arrogance may cause him problems...


And without further ado, here is the most melodramatic thing I have ever written. :p



PART FIVE:

Affonso's Wrath.

Chapter Five.

In a little wood beneath the Caucasian mountains, two blades danced around each other, locked in combat.

One was held by a king, a great lord, a ruler of many men. He was competent at his job, without a doubt- but he was chaotic, random, strange, hateful.

His eyes were a curious red colour. Nobody quite knew why this was- red eyes were unheard of in all but albinos. But those eyes were respected. They held a strange power over people, and had been the cause of many legends and fears.

But this king had a problem. He had never been wonderful with a sword. He disliked the things- he found them unwieldy, and felt that they lacked control. Which was worrying, because his opponent was well school in the art of the blade.

The other man was a spy- or at least, he was once. Long ago, he had been a cold but dutiful servant of the king, dispatching his enemies and trying to protect the naive idealist from the dangers of the world.

But the king had turned on the spy, and had locked him in a cell for ten miserable years. And a monster had been born.

And that monster was beating his opponent, as they duelled upon an autumn path.

The king swore, as the spy's blade cut into his arm. He staggered backward, thanking God that it was only his left. He parried wildly, as the spy advanced on him, eyes aflame, mouth wide with a vengeful grin.

The king knew that this was the end. He could not hope to win this battle. But he would keep on fighting, keep on losing, keep on blocking every blow he could just to cling onto what little life he had left.

The king slashed wildly. It was easily blocked, causing the spy to lunge at him, nicking his skin beneath the heart.

The spy grinned, maddeningly. At last, vengeance would be his. Ten years of squalor was a worthy trade for the life of such a worthless man.

Except... maybe there was another way...

But such thoughts as those were easily dispelled. The king had to die. It was vital. It was necessary.

With one final, oddly desperate swipe, the spy slashed at the king, carving up his face and knocking him to the floor, crying in pain.

The spy shouted triumphantly. Who needed guilt? Victory was sweeter.

He dropped his sword, not even checking on the king, to see what he'd done. He knew that he was dead. He knew it. It was the right ending, the good ending.

"I win! You hear that, you Portuguese dog? I win! The Greek! The Greek Victorious!"

He cried to the heavens, danced on the spot, worked himself up into a euphoric madness. From the Rostovian letters to Hungary to here. He was won. He was triumphant.

But lying on the ground was the King. And his senses began to return to him as he began to make some sense of the pain.

He could barely see, there was so much blood. His left eye was in agony, and was utterly useless now. Something else to get used to, he supposed.

And deep within his heart, behind the idealism and the lust, the idle contempt and the love he felt, came another emotion. Something else that the King, Affonso, hid behind his royal disguise.

Wrath.

Ignoring the pain, ignoring his eye, he stood up, gripping the handle of the sword as he advanced upon the Greek.

Affonso never killed. Many thought that it was because he was a merciful man, others because he was weak. But they were both wrong. Affonso never killed because he could think of far better ways to cause pain.

Slash, hack. The Greek was down, screaming at the sudden turning of his fortunes.

And Affonso advanced upon him, the malice etched upon his face.

When he had finished with Demetrios, he began to stagger back up the path to his horse, leaving the moaning wreck of his rival on the ground.

He could feel the beginnings of regret creeping around his brain. But the loss of blood and the blinding pain got to him first. He collapsed onto the path, where he would be found by a search party in just a few hours time.

The sun's last rays began to set. It was a lunar eclipse that night, and the red star began to dip as the crimson moon rose up into the sky. Such a strange, unnatural colour, as though the red of love had been cut from the heavens and the red of blood installed in its throne.

The last birds fell silent. Night fell.

THE END
OF PART FIVE.
 
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Stuyvesant

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That is some high drama. :) And that's a vengeful side of Affonso we haven't seen in a long time. Demetrios met his match in more than one way, it seems.

As to the end, it seems highly symbolic. Is the blood-red moon rising a sign of Affonso's blood-red eyes closing the final time?
 

Tufto

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Stuyvesant- It is symbolic- only one of Affonso's eyes has been cut out, and that red eye has gone, meaning he is entirely dependent on the other. His entire mindset has changed, too- he no longer is quite the merciful, loving king he was before.

Epilogue

Affonso waited outside the room, nervously.

Inside was his wife, and his newborn child. He hoped that nothing would go wrong. He didn't think he could handle much more death.

One of his famous red eyes was covered by a black eye-patch, a thin scar visible above and below it, cutting through his face, his sight. He had been treated well, and other than the loss of his eye, had escaped unscathed.

Sancha had not been so lucky. Hidden from sight, they had not found her until much, much later, when her old and feeble frame could not take any more. She had died shortly afterwards.

Affonso held out his hand in front of him, turning it this way and that. He found it hard to judge distances now. But that was a small price to pay for the elimination of the Greek.

When they'd picked him up, Demetrios was still not dead. But many wanted to end his life, simply to put him out of his pain. People were beginning to look at the King in a new light, now.

But Affonso didn't really care much. The Greek had been unable to perform even the simplest tasks, and had just been shoved back in his cell. He, too, had died a few days afterwards.

And now, his wife had given birth to another child. The one little blessing left.

Affonso had made his peace with Hungary, Turkey and Russia. He was respected now; feared, even. Not even the Cumans dared to defy him. His country was safe.

He sighed, and relaxed. It was all over.

But it was never over.

The door opened. The midwife came out, holding a small bundle of cloth. She presented it to the King.

Affonso took the child, gazing into its eyes. There was no red there- just Pereyaslava's blue. And he was quiet, so very quiet, a little smile across his face.

But the child gripped Affonso's finger, and would not let go. He was strong, this one. And even then, Affonso knew that he would go on to do great things.

"Manoel. We shall call him Manoel."

Manoel Bagratuni, first of that name. The second son of Affonso I the Merciful. The architect of Georgia's golden age.

THE END
OF BOOK TWO
 
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Tufto

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Just to keep people interested, here is a little teaser about Book Three:

Book Three: The Rise of the Armenians

It is 1141, eighteen years after the death of Demetrios. With the loss of one of his eyes, Affonso has become more zealous than ever, crushing the power of the nobles and upsetting the whole order of the Georgian state. But with the Seljuks bursting into a huge number of little, fractured kingdoms, and the loyalty of the peasants assured, a bright future seems in order for the Eastern state.

But trouble is brewing. The crown prince, Sancho, is an insane simpleton, who threatens to destroy everything Affonso has worked for. And this threat has forced his three other children to work together to plot his downfall. The first is Affonso Jr, the savage young warrior with an abnormal hatred of his brother. The second is Aspae, the frighteningly intelligent princess, supported by her loving husband Kyril Spartenos, a distant cousin of the late Romanos.

And the third is Affonso's second son, the quiet and strange Manoel, the only person whom the King still trusts.

Between all of these, and all the factions being forged in the court, is the Whisperer, as bright as ever despite his age. But people are becoming suspicious of him. What did he do in Russia, all those years ago? And what is his connection to the Basque assassins of Demon's Peak?

But there are even greater troubles on the horizon. For in the far west, the Emir of Badjoz has died- and his successor, the man who now rules the whole of Iberia, is the Count of Jaca, who has sworn loyalty to the King of Georgia.

But the Muslims in Spain are not happy with their Christian overlord- setting the scene for the darkest period in Georgian history to begin...
 
Last edited:

Stuyvesant

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A little bit of peace in the epilogue for Affonso - but clearly much more strife to come for Affonso, for Georgia. It's interesting that the story keeps going back to Iberia, despite the fact that it's centered on Georgia. The past just won't go away, it seems...
 

loki100

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well that was a brilliant set of posts - nothing wrong with melodrama when its well deployed (being a fan of Italian neo-realist films gives me a taste for it)

& it seems like the next step for Georgia is even deeper into the darkness?
 

Tufto

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loki100- Thanks! and yes, things are going to get very ugly now...

Stuyvesant- It does, and now that I have accidentally gained control of almost the whole of the Iberian peninsular, it seems like the story will visit there even more...



BOOK THREE:
The Rise of the Armenians

Prologue

Aspae Bagratuni closed the book with a smile.

Some courtier had decided to write a great work about the history of Georgia, starting with the war in 1066. He was a fool, a sycophant desperately trying to improve his credibility with the King by writing something lauding Affonso's family.

There was old King Bagrat IV, the strange warrior who had fought the pagan Alans. There was Georgios II, that sad and mournful soul, who had only lasted a handful of years. There was David II, who had gone slowly more and more paranoid until he ended his life a quivering wreck.

The tyrant, Henrique I, had come next. And after him dear Affonso, Aspae's father.

Affonso Bagratuni. He had many names. Red-Eye, the Merciful, the Conqueror, among others. He had turned Georgia into a great power, dominating the East and putting fear into the hearts of both Turks and Cumans.

Aspae stood up, gazing over at her bed. Affonso had been kind to her, too. Instead of a whole host of rich and important suitors, he wed his only daughter to her lover, simply out of the kindness of his heart, ignoring political motivations. Kyril lay sleeping, a slight smile spread across his weathered face.

Aspae was a clever girl. She knew the ins and outs of literature, music, politics. She knew who to trust, who to hate, who to love and who to plot against.

She loved her father dearly, but knew that he was making a mistake. Sancho could not become King.

For who would ever want him on the throne, save the most hateful of Georgia's enemies? The sadistic madman, who did not hunt for food, or even for sport. He hunted to watch the blood spill from the bodies of the dead.

How a creature such as Sancho had been produced by the Kingdom she would never know. But he had to be stopped.

Georgia had many vassals, but there were four which held an abnormal amount of power. The first was the Principality of Kartili. It controlled much of the eastern portion of the Caucasus, and had large armies at its command. But the Prince's loyalty was assured, and often held the balance in debates between the other vassals.

The second was Alania. The Prince of the Alans had willingly submitted to the rule of the Georgians several years ago, and had prospered because of it. The Prince, however, lived in perpetual fear of an attack from the Cumans in the north, and was always begging Affonso for more money and troops.

The third was Azerbaijan. An independent Muslim state which had been beaten in warfare by Affonso, the Azeris felt that they had got a good deal. They were allowed to keep their ruler, faith and customs, and for a small amount of gold and soldiers they were protected from the greed of the Turks. Affonso was popular there.

And then there were the Armenians.

Albania, a small realm on the Caspian coast. A poor and infertile land. Affonso had done his best with it, but was unable, despite all of his skills, to improve it.

So he had given Albania to Manoel, his second son. He had turned Albania into a thriving port, which attracted merchants from as far away as China and the Indies.

When Affonso went to war with Turkey for the second time, he had taken large parts of Mesopotamia off them. These had been given to Manoel, who had become a powerful factor in the Eastern world, and had been proclaimed the Prince of Armenia.

Aspae looked at her candle. Manoel deserved the throne, not Sancho. Manoel had to win it, whether he wanted to or not.

She blew out the flame, but did not go to her bed. She walked over to her window instead.

Demetrios had gazed out of this same window, wishing for the death of King David and for the corruption of the court to end. Akakide had gazed out of it, trying to remember his past life.

Aspae looked out of it and saw a decaying world. A world which needed to be improved. A world without morals, which she, and her brother, would put to rights.

She turned away and went back to bed. Tomorrow, she would write a letter to her brother- and, though she knew it not, begin a terrible saga of hatred and war which would stick in the Georgian and Spanish memories for a thousand years.
 

Tufto

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loki100- Oh, he is. All the other characters will be taking drastic steps to ensure that he doesn't get the throne.

Aliasing- Actually, there are two places called Albania- the little Balkan land we all know and love, and an old name for the Azerbaijani areas, which lends its name to a province in CK.


PART ONE:

The Lairs of Demons.

Chapter One.

Dramatis Personae
Manoel, Prince of Armenia and second son of Affonso.
Aspae, daughter of Affonso.
Affonso "Amargo", third son of Affonso.
Affonso, King of Georgia.
Pereyaslava, Queen of Georgia.
The Whisperer, Spymaster of Georgia
Adarnase, Marshal of Georgia.
Grateria, fiancée of Manoel.


The grounds of the Palace of the Georgians. January 1141 in the modern calendar.

Amargo swung his sword again, hitting the sack of straw. He gritted his teeth.

There were few warriors in all the Kingdom better than him. Even at the tender age of thirteen, he could beat both of his brothers if he had a decent blade in his hand.

Focus, focus. Swing it again, hit it better this time. The sack collapsed onto the floor, its contents spilling out.

It was irritating how nobody would ever practice with him any more. He needed to fight against real people, people who knew how to handle a sword.

But Sancho and the King couldn't duel to save their lives, and Manoel was all the way in Albania. He couldn't find anybody else who cared enough about his existence, except for Adarnase, the Marshal, who was far too busy.

Amargo snarled, slicing the bag into little pieces. He wanted blood, not straw.

If Aspae had inherited Affonso's devious nature, and Manoel his intelligence, Affonso Bagratuni Jr had inherited his hatred and contempt. He was bored by all these little people, running around with their reports and messages and talk of wars which never happened. His constant moods and anger had given him the nickname "Amargo", a Portuguese word meaning "bitter". Few people ever called him anything else nowadays.

Nothing scared him- or so he liked to thing. If he plumbed the deepest depths of his soul, he could find things that kept him up at night.

The dark, for example. He couldn't help it- it scared him. His brother Manoel had a strange fascination with the night sky, and the shadows, but he'd never grasped it. Anything could be lurking in there- monsters, assassins, strange and terrible beasts.

But beside that, there was nothing! Amargo feared nothing else!

Except for Sancho.

Affonso may have been a bitter and furious adolescent, but he had honour, too. If he fought someone, it would be a fair fight, with a sword in the other man's hand.

But Sancho... Sancho pulled the wings of flies as a boy. He hurt and bullied both Manoel and Amargo, when they were little. He was cruel to his father, deliberately crossing his will and disappointing at every opportunity, regardless of what duty Affonso wanted to be performed.

Amargo sighed. One day, he hoped, Affonso would give him a realm of his own. He wouldn't go along with his father's idealistic nonsense about loving the peasants, and treating all equally. However, he would rule with honour. He would be a just ruler.

But with Sancho as the King...

Amargo left the sack lying on the floor. He'd practised enough for one day. And it was time for lessons.

He threw his sword down with a clang. He needed a new one.
 
Last edited:

Tufto

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PART ONE:

The Lairs of Demons.

Chapter Two.

The Palace, 29th January 1141.

Affonso threw another log onto the fire, before returning to his desk. It was cold tonight.

The sky had gone black long ago. Pereyaslava had gone to bed. But Affonso stayed up, writing the letters and performing the duties of a King. A single candle illuminated his study, while the rest of the room was lit up by the smouldering fire in the corner.

His one remaining eye was narrowed, as he concentrated on the letter he was writing. It was to the Prince of Porto, the son of old Hovhannes.

Affonso was beginning to get on in years. He was not the fiery idealist of youth any more. He was more cynical, more devious, less passionate about life.

He had grown in his experience. He was a well regarded, competent ruler of a mighty kingdom.

But he'd never really wanted that. He'd just wanted a little peace.

He'd never really loved Pereyaslava, either. She was his wife, and he was faithful to her, of course. But love... no.

She adored him, but he'd never really been in love with anyone. He wasn't sure he knew how. Maybe he had done, long ago, in the fires of youth. But certainly not any more.

He occasionally wondered what it was like. He'd seen his daughter and Kyril, had seen the way they looked at each other- the furtive glances, their eyes full of each other's love.

It had stirred some little heartstring in him, some remnant of what could have been; and thus he had married them, ignoring the advice of his Chancellor and the rest of the council.

A grim half-smile pricked the corners of his mouth up. He doubted he would ever be happy. But then, that was his lot in life. Some people went forth, and had wonderful lives, full of excitement, love and peace, all in equal measure.

But some people had to stay behind. Some had to help the others on their way.

Affonso sighed, and continued to write his letter. He would pray tonight for his children and his wife. Manoel was a prince now, a good man who deserved more.

Aspae was young and in love, but Affonso knew better than anybody that happiness was a fickle creature. He would think of her, too.

Amargo was full of anger. He needed someone to pray for him too. And of course, Sancho. He needed more help than anyone, to pull him out of the miserable existence he had carved for himself.

And so Affonso prayed, and soldiered on, ignoring the hollow and empty feeling that followed him around wherever he went, the evils in his mind, the dark behind the eyes.
 
Last edited:

Stuyvesant

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Affonso seems to have found his purpose in Duty. The scene with him sitting at his desk at night, a lone candle his companion while he works at the minutiae of his kingdom, reminds me of the old Emperor Franz Joseph during WWI, dutifully working pretty much until his last breath.

Sancho sounds like trouble. Amargo and Aspae and Manoel are better, though Amargo's anger is troubling. And the prospect of a family (a powerful family at the head of the most powerful kingdom in eastern Christendom, no less) turning on itself... That would give me a bad feeling, even without the prior history of the Bagratunis.
 

Alfredian

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Is Affonso unaware of Sancho's behaviour, or scared of the chaos that disrupting the succession might bring?
 

Tufto

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Ladies and gentlemen, I must apologise for how late this update is- sorting out UCAS and my IB Extended Essay has proved to be a hassle. Still, there should hopefully be more regular updates from now on.

loki100- Oh, indeed; despite his experience, there is still a little of the naive optimist in Affonso, which he has been unable to shake off.

Alfredian- He's well aware of his behaviour and character, but as I said to loki, he's forever optimistic that he can change.

Stuyvesant- Well, it seems impossible for the Bagratunis not to turn on each other, and there will definitely be more plots and conflicts to come. And we'll also see our old friends the Rurikovichs return, too... but more of that will be revealed later.

PART ONE:

The Lairs of Demons.

Chapter Three.

"War! Armenia is going to war!"

Manoel Bagratuni smiled as he heard the messenger's cries, a little, insignificant rifure running throughout the little city which Affonso had set up his government in. Armenia was indeed going to war.

The balance of power was crumbling. A thousand little states were erupting from the ruins of the old Turkish Empire. A mixture of crusaders, militant Greeks and power-hungry vassals had torn her apart- and her rich lands were right for the taking. Affonso, Manoel and the other princes had all agreed that an attack to liberate the Orthodox Armenians in the Sultanate was the best course of action.

Cheers of joy and religious zealotry emanated from the town below. It seemed as though the war would be a popular one.

Manoel drank a sip of wine. He'd never much cared for the grapes of Georgia, preferring the Portuguese beverages of his forefathers. But it paid to seem more Georgian. He planned to raise his heir as native as he could, when he finally got married.

Butterflies began to flutter in his stomach. He was to be married off to a courtier of the Prince of Porto, in a diplomatic deal Affonso had made in order to reassert his hold on the distant homeland of the Portuguese branch of the Bagratuni family. He would be given to be given to some faceless woman called Grateria. A strange name.

Manoel had always been a quiet and shy child. He may have been able to debate on any subject which was proposed to him with the utmost clarity, but when it came to his relations with others, he'd always been withdrawn and cold.

His siblings, or his younger ones at least, he had always gotten on with. But other people made him nervous, especially women. He tried to stay alone a lot of the time. He could give wonderful, charismatic speeches to the people, but in his own home he was cold. Oh, so very cold.

How did Aspae manage it? She was able to ingratiate herself into a crowd at will, making friends and learning so much about others. For all his wit, it was a quality he had never quite gotten the hang of.

He sighed, and sat upright, listening to the joyful shouts of hatred coming from outside.

A hand rapped on his door. "Come", he ordered.

A woman walked in, a beautiful woman. "Good day, my liege."

He knew her from the portrait they had given her- Grateria, his fiancée. He leapt up, startled. She wasn't supposed to arrive for another month.

"Ah, um, hello". He managed an awkward little smile, which she returned. "You must be my fiancée."

Such an odd thing, that. Surely one was supposed to propose themselves? Surely it was supposed to be the choice of the people involved as to who they married?

"I thought you were not arriving for another month?"

"That was the plan, sire-" Sire. A wife should not call her husband "sire", no matter what his station"-but the Prince received a letter from the King stating that he wanted me to arrive early, in order to, um, get to know each other."

God damn you, Father. "I see. Well, um- I'm a little busy right now, but if you would care to return in, say, an hour or so...?"

Grateria, composed entirely of un-offendable grace, bowed out of the room, that little, knowing smile still fixed upon her features.

Manoel breathed a sigh of relief. He had at least an hour to mentally compose himself. And he had spoken the truth- he was busy. He had been tasked by Affonso to plan an expedition to heart of the Turkish state, to Constantinople itself.

He had to find a way to conquer the lairs of demons...
 
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Looks like another loveless match made with the head (and absolutely no heart). I hope Manoel will treat his wife with more kindness than Affonso does.

Great opportunities to expand for Georgia, but I wonder if picking such a high-profile target as Constantinople is going to sit well with other claimants in the area.