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Tufto

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Alright, I give up; I can't stay away from this AAR for this length of time, my head is buzzing with new ideas about where I want it to go. So, for better or for worse, I'm resuming a month early. Revision has gone OK and these don't take too long to write, anyway.

So, to finally answer comments:

loki100 & Stuyvesant: More will be revealed about this soon, once some fundamental aspects of Sancho's character are revealed...

PART TWO:

The Turkish Wars.

Chapter One.

Dramatis Personae
Manoel, Prince of Armenia and second son of Affonso.
Affonso, King of Georgia.
Adarnase, Marshal of Georgia.
The Whisperer, Spymaster of Georgia.
Aspae, daughter of Affonso.
Amargo, third son of Affonso.
Sancho, first son of Affonso.
Bedisa, a serving girl.
The Innkeeper, an innkeeper.
Grateria, bethrothed to Manoel.
Ogadei, a Mongol.
The Demons, assassins from the Demon's Peak.

18th May 1142

"No."

Affonso had finally decided to speak up. Below the rain-sodden tent and away from the mud and noise of the battle outside, the little council were free to conduct their affairs in peace.

Around the Portuguese king were the Whisperer, Adarnase and Sancho, all huddled around a crude map lying on a table. The sound of bloody slaughter was coming from outside.

Adarnase was limping slightly, his dark face frowning at his liege. "Sire, if we cannot hold the eastern flank then the archers will be open to the whole mass of the Seljuk horsemen. We need to reinforce it."

"I said no." Not for the first time, Affonso wished that Akakide was here. They'd been in stickier situations and yet the old warrior had managed to find a way out of even the darkest predicament. "If we divert forces there then we leave the whole of the centre at risk."

He looked at the Whisperer and his son. The Mongol simply gazed down at the map, deep in thought. Sancho's eyes flicked left and right, desperate to impress his father with some piece of strategic genius.

The tent was silent, save for the dull rainbeat and the cries of the men. Affonso was angry; they'd been ambushed in the night as they were setting up camp. The Seljuk scum had decided that now was the perfect moment to strike at the defenders; while they were weak and helpless. They'd organised what they could but they were being crushed under the weight of the Turkish cavalry.

"Maybe that's a good thing". Adarnase's calm, deep voice said. "We allow their cavalry down the centre then pick them off from both sides.

"Don't be a fool, that's suicide. I should lead a charge from the rear-"

"No, Sancho," said the king. "I'll not have you risk your life for such little advantage. We need you to rule this realm one day, and I can't have you dying on me now."

Sancho gave him an ugly glance before glaring at the Whisperer. "You can't possibly agree with this madman's plan, can you?"

The Whisperer contiuned his stare. "The Sultan himself would lead such a charge. If we can cut him down, the whole of their army would rout..."

"But-"

"No buts, son." Affonso gave him a rare smile, being rewarded with a look of disgust. "Tell the centre to fold to the east, and to attack the cavalry as it charges in. I'll sleep well with the Sultan's head above my bed tonight."

With that, he swept out of the tent, his son following him, pleading.

The Whisperer glanced at Adarnase. "You haven't told him yet, have you?"

Adarnase sighed. "We're under attack from three different sides, and we can't see a thing. Is now really the time to tell him that his favourite son is missing, presumed dead?"

The Whisperer stroked his chin. "Sancho is Affonso's favourite. He must be- there's no other reason why he'd appoint such a man to be his successor if he had any respect for his other son. Why else would he continue to favour Sancho?"

Adarnase stared at him for a moment, murmuring "Why indeed...". Then he swept from the tent to give orders to his men.

The Whisperer looked hard at the map, as the wind howled and beat at the little fluttering cloth. He prayed that this plan would work...
 
Last edited:

Stuyvesant

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The 'plan' sounds like a desperate gamble - but then again, it seems that the immediate concern of the war (and the immediate immediate concern of the battle being lost) is playing second fiddle to the longer-term ramifications of Sancho's place in the line of succession.

It would be ironic (and, perhaps, better for your exams :p) if all the scheming and backstabbing ends right here, tonight, as the Georgian King, his heir and his council are all cut down by the Seljuks. All the plotting, all the planning, all the evil dirty schemes hatched in the mind of unscrupulous ambitious people, coming undone due to the Seljuk sword.

But I doubt that will happen. So let's see how the Georgians (or at least the main characters) manage to extricate themselves from this trap and how the Kingdom limps on, ever beset by foes external and internal...
 

Tufto

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loki100-Thanks, and exactly; they never stop trying to manoeuvre their pawns in the great game, even some characters who seem benevolent...

Stuyvesant- It quite possibly would be better for the exams :p though these updates don't take up too much time, and I'm finding plenty of spare moments to revise in.

And no, Affonso isn't going to die just yet :p though as we shall see, the battle wasn't wonderful for both sides. And perhaps it would be better for the realm if they did all die; but in Georgia, nothing ever goes quite right.


Just a short update today, everyone.

PART TWO:

The Turkish Wars.

Chapter Two.

19th May, 1142.

Affonso reined in his horse, staring at the slaughter.

The dawn was bitter. The sun was not the warm and lazy one of home, but the hard, cold iron manifest in fire, gazing down upon the bloody field. Man after man, both Georgian and Muslim, were lying together in the red fields.

Though Affonso did not know it, the battle of the Trabzon Coast would go down in history as a bloody disaster for both sides. Thousands died on that night, a blind and dark slaughterhouse.

Affonso looked across the field. There was Adarnase, rallying the survivors. There was Sancho, shouting at the prisoners, waving his sword.

"Deal with him, Whisperer." Affonso was feeling laconic.

As the Mongol rode off, Affonso allowed himself a small moment of satisfaction. For all the bloodshed, they had at least won the day.

-----​

Five months earlier- 15th January 1142.

Darkness. That was all he saw.

Then he opened his eyes, slowly.

Manoel groaned and sat up. Blood lay around him; his own blood, a deep red barely visible in the storm.

He stood up, shaking. How he was still alive he did not know. He must have fallen a huge distance.

He looked down and saw the mattress of mud which he had landed in. He had been lucky- too lucky.

He began to stagger off along the valley which he found himself in. The corpses of the fallen lay around him, days old now. Nobody had bothered to give them a proper burial; the rest of the Armenians would be in full retreat by now, and the Seljuks cared little for Georgian deaths.

He continued along the muddy pathway, limping and heaving himself along the road. For hours he travelled onwards; at one point he fell, but he pulled himself upright, despite the throbbing pain in his head and leg.

When at last he felt that he could move no more, he looked up for a second. There, in the distance, was a light.

To be continued...
 

Stuyvesant

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Manoel is alive - but lost (God knows where). Affonso won his battle (or at least didn't lose it). And then there is Affonso's enigmatic command: "Deal with him, Whisperer." Has Affonso finally seen reason and decided that his psychopath of a son Sancho should not lead the country, should, in fact, not even draw any more precious Georgian breath? Although it's a tempting possibility, Affonso's earlier actions make it exceedingly unlikely. So... Adarnase? But why would that be? Adarnase is no threat to Affonso. An unknown other target then? Ah, the mysteries continue to multiply. :)
 

Tufto

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My sincere apologies to you all about the lack of updates. Without further ado, here's a relatively long one for you.

loki100- Don't worry, I keep a list of the plotlines :p .

Stuyvesant- Keep an eye on Adarnase; there's more to his character than meets the eye. And I'll tell you now that you're right; Affonso is still blind to the truth of the matter, still believing in his precious firstborn despite his many faults.

PART TWO:

The Turkish Wars.

Chapter Three.

The same day.

Stumbling and spluttering, Manoel rapped on the door, almost sinking to the floor in the process. The light had belonged to an inn, a little affair with candles in the windows. A single battered sign swung above the door, proudly informing the world that no animals were to enter the premise.

Manoel looked behind him. Nothing but the muddy path and the tall mountains lay around him. In the dark night's rain which flew all around him, he was unable to see much more. He pulled his coat tighter to him, praying to God that the door would open.

Still, the thought of a tavern still made him nervous. He'd been brought up on tales of Georgia's former glory, including the well-worn story about the Whisperer's fierce duel with Papa Rurikovich, all those years ago in Rostov.

But, he reasoned, those were different times. The Whisperer had lost his voice shortly after Manoel was born, as a result of a badly aimed arrow intended for Affonso. Since then, he'd kept himself to himself, living almost as a recluse within the Palace. Manoel had never quite been able to imagine the Whisperer as a heroic fighter and spy, when all he knew was a tired and quiet man with a scar across his neck; he'd been tremendously lucky not to die from it.

Manoel screwed his eyes tight shut, hoping for some relief from the bitter, howling cold. Why would this man not open up his inn? He raised his hand to knock a second time, but the door was flung open beforehand, to reveal a kind, grey face, slightly faded and plump. The innkeeper rubbed his hands together; somewhat out of character with his honest face, Manoel thought. Still, he seemed friendly enough.

"Why, you poor man! You must come inside at once! Please, please, I shall make you a bed at once!"

Manoel looked at the man. He saw a sudden widening of the innkeeper's eyes as he muttered, "My apologies, your grace. We did not know that you were-"

"I'm not your grace, friend; I'm not the king, nor shall I ever be, with any luck.
But you should be, spake the sudden thought in his head.

The innkeeper bowed low. "My apologies, sir. I shall make a bed for you at once." Continuing to bow low, he backed away.

Manoel looked around him at the little house. It was a simple wooden affair, with a fire on the left, a few tables here and there and two doors in the left corner. He saw a dark brown eye stare from the crack in one of them, before disappearing as the innkeeper thrust it open.

Manoel sat down and drummed his fingers against the table. He needed to think. This place seemed as good as any.

His legs ached and were sore. He tried to think of Grateria; the thought of his betrothed had always calmed him in the past. But he could barely remember her face.

He shook his head. He barely knew the girl; it was all politics, all of it. Love was a fantasy spun in the mind of the fool.

As he brooded on his life, he did not hear a hurried, whispered conversation in the next room. Nor did he wonder how the poor innkeeper recognised his face.

The innkeeper shut the door, his friendly demeanour changing to a hard and angry expression as he looked down on the young woman standing next to him. "Now you listen to me, girl, and listen well. That man in there is powerful, you hear me? He's our great lord and master, the Prince of Armenia." Ignoring her widening eyes, he growled, "I want to give him a reason to stay here. There are people who'll pay good money for him, see; Turks, the King, everyone." He grinned, his blackened teeth reflecting none of the candlelight. "Now from what I've heard, he's never been bedded before. All cold, see, find it hard to meet girls back in his palace."

His daughter looked up at him, a resigned look in her eyes. She was only a year younger than Manoel, but had rarely left the little tavern. She knew what her father wanted of her, and she knew that resisting would only cause more pain. Besides, the prince looked a little less malicious than most of the clientele who passed through the little inn.

She smiled a forced grimace at her father, before stepping through to confront the Prince of Armenia.

-----​

Five months later.

Thunder rolled around the tent. Silence reigned. Adarnase was standing, gazing worriedly at his liege. Sancho was sitting on the floor, lazing back with a thoroughly bored expression on his face. The Whisperer was as impassive as ever.

The king stared at the ground with his one remaining eye, frozen. After a few seconds, he roared and lashed out at the papers covering the makeshift desk.

"Why the hell didn't you tell me this earlier? He is my son! He is a royal prince!"

Adarnase looked down before he spoke. "Your majesty, when I received the message, we were about to engage the-"

"I don't care!" screamed Affonso. He looked up at the taller man with an inhuman expression on his face. "He is my son!"

The rain beat down upon the little tent. Far away, in her tower, Aspae smiled at the message she had just received. The wheels of her plan were beginning to turn. And in his stable, Amargo thrust his sword deep into the heart of a straw dummy, filled with the fury of youth.

The devil's darkness began to descend once more upon Georgia, a black smog which powered the dark engine which Aspae had created.
 

Tufto

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loki100- It was a bit unclear in that scene, looking back at it, but the point was that Adarnase has finally given him the message that Manoel is missing.

PART TWO:

The Turkish Wars.

Chapter Four.

The innkeeper rubbed his hands greedily, sitting on his chair in the tavern. His daughter and the Prince were in the next room, as he bent over, writing a letter to his cousin in the Seljuk lands. A letter which told him all he had and what he planned to do. His daughter would keep the Prince occupied until the Turks arrived to claim their prize.

He sat back, having signed the letter, watching the fire's dying embers crackle and splinter. He would be rich, with such a tempting little morsel for the Sultan to eat. Georgia was finished, he knew that much. The King was falling back in a panicked retreat, and the East had fallen apart completely.

He smiled. There was a new order coming, and he would be right at the top when it-

"Very well done, sir, I know of few people in this area and of your stature who can read and write. And even fewer who are able to recognise their liege after a glance or two."

The cold, dry sarcasm was accompanied by a knife pressed against his throat. Manoel calmly beckoned to the door, where his frightened daughter timidly approached from.

"I imagine you've been whoring her out to every passing merchant or traveller, and are used to them falling prey to her charms", continued that calm, scornful voice. "However, I pride myself on having a little more moral fibre, and so, you see, you ingenious master plan has failed. So sorry to disappoint. Bedisa, it is quite all right, I assure you. He can harm nobody now."

Bedisa savagely kicked her father, glee dancing upon her face. She was fed up with him using her as a puppet in his endless quest for coin.

Manoel smiled a little at it, a nasty glint in his head which he had no name for, and knew little of.

Wrath.

"So, my dear sir, who were you planning to sell me to? The Egyptians? The Cumans? Well of course not, it's going to be the Turks, isn't it. How clever to pick the country which has no money for which to pay the considerable ransom I imagine you're going to ask for. They'll probably slit your throat and burn your house to the ground. But, please, don't let me stop you."

The knife was removed. The innkeeper slumped forward, temporarily relieved. His heavy breathing stopped, however, when Manoel thrust him against the wall, staring into his brown eyes with his deep blue ones, a gift from his mother. "But should you betray me and we win this war, I shall personally make sure that you will suffer a fate that will make you pray for death and perdition. Now," he said, ignoring the Innkeeper's cry as he pricked his throat with the tip of his blade, "am I making myself understood?"

"Yes! Yes! Whatever you say!" squealed the fat man.

"Good!" came the reply, suddenly cheerful and pleased. He walked towards the door, Bedisa following him. "Oh, and your daughter is coming with me, I'm afraid", he called back. "As is the horse you have waiting round the back. Funny, how you have such a fine specimen, as well as being able to read, write and recognise me. I imagine you're probably fleeing from justice anyway, so consider this a just punishment. Adeus, amigo", he finished, slipping into his father's tongue for a brief moment.

He pulled the horse round to the front of the Tavern, where Bedisa waited, looking down modestly. She was pretty, he couldn't deny it. He went around to the back again and took a few skins of beer with him, before returning and grinning at Bedisa, all his bashful frostiness forgotten. "Liven up, girl. We have a hundred mile journey ahead of us and I don't want to be doing all the talking."

As he helped her up, his smile grew wider. He felt fresh, new, happy. He thought of home, and did not think of honour or love but of coldness and plotting, new schemes to be hatched. Now he considered it further, his sister's plan was full of holes; it simply wouldn't work...

Manoel Bagratuni rode off, away from the dawn with his head buzzing, and into the west and his sweet, sweet home...
 

loki100

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so Manoel is now heading back just to add to the chaos swirling around Georgia.

I don't know if you've ever read Amin Maalouf's Samarkhand but thats is set in the 12C Seljuk Empire at its point of collapse and has a very similar air of chaos, decay and ambition ... and is equally rivetting
 

Tufto

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loki100- I haven't, but it does look interesting; when my exams are over, then I may well buy it, as I plan to catch up on my reading.

And yes, and the two main plotlines will now begin to merge, as the little side-plots will come to the fore...

PART TWO:

The Turkish Wars.

Chapter Five.

2nd June, 1142.

The world spins on, through the dusk and dawn. It flails around the sun, fixed by nothing more than the fragile force emanating from its core.

Look at the world. In the west, the Dorset culture reaches its high point, while Indian tribes roam the surface of the northern continent. Further south, great kingdoms of Peru rise and fall like the waves which encompass the continent.

In the east, the shining cities of China blare out as a signal to the sun, their splendid glory unaware of the drumbeats gathering to their north. In the south, mighty African kingdoms guard their hoarded wealth with a fierce hand, warring and burning like there is no tomorrow.

But these places are not our concern. Our concern lies in the north. In a little continent clinging to the edges of the world; Europe.

Mighty great realms lie there; France, England, the Rurikovich Empire; the fragments of Greece and the cold kingdoms of Scandinavia. All worship a God who died on a simple wooden cross; except for one of these great kingdoms. Spain.

But Spain is also not our concern; not at this moment, anyway. It has a part to play in this drama yet, but for now it slumbers on, concerned about the succession and Aspae's threats.

No, our concern lies eastwards; where the last great Christian kingdom of the Orient celebrates and mourns.

It celebrates because of the second of two victories won against the Turks; the first known as the Battle of the Trabzon Coast, the second as the Battle of Ani, where the Turkish armies were finally crushed not two days before. The Seljuks are on the run in the west, fleeing for their lives as the Red Eye's army comes to send them running home to Constantinople.

But the kingdom mourns, because the Caspian's waters are blocked to them. The Prince of Armenia is missing, presumed dead. Affonso's anger was great when he heard this, and there were those among the Georgian people who claimed that Old Red Eye had gone quite mad. The Turks control the eastern lands and guard them fiercely, while gazing across at the city of Batumi, where the Georgian capital was moved by King David the Mad all those years ago.

Yet look further inwards, through the clouds and the braying Turkish soldiers. Here is Albania, a little Eastern county where the Prince has- or had- his seat. It is the last remaining bastion of Georgian resistance; a symbol which spurs the people onwards, forever hoping for victory, hoping that they can hold on long enough, just long enough for the King's armies to reach them and bring them to safety. They may have lost a Prince but they have not lost their courage.

And beneath the capital of the little region, a lone horse rides, kicking up the dust beneath the clear, bright sun, in a large field surrounded by trees, as it flees for the little speck in the distance which marks Manoel's home. It has taken him months to find the place again, being betrayed twice by his own countrymen and hunted by the Turks; not to mention the nasty little incident in Kartili which he hopes never to repeat.

Behind his light grey horse are three others, all a dark brown colour. On them ride three Turkish bandits, cracked swords raised, gaining on the little animal every moment, aiming to cut down its riders.

On the back is a girl named Bedisa, only nineteen years old. She holds tight to the Prince, digging her face into his back to shield it from the wind and the glint of the Turkish arrows. She was swept away from her life as a serving girl, being forced to sell herself by her cruel father, a man of neither intelligence or courage.

But the Prince had taken her away from all that. She cooks meals, washes his clothes, tends to the wounds he receives. He in turn protects her from anyone who aims to harm her. She is performing a servants duties, she knows, but it doesn't feel like that; he treats her as an person, and their arrangement as a deal between equals.

At first, he had proven cold and she had proven shy; after all, she was a mere commoner while he was the son of the King, with Bagratuni, De Coimbra and Rurikovich blood all flowing through his veins. But after a time, they'd learnt to be at ease with one another; even to love each other, though neither would ever admit it to the other.

But now all such thoughts flee her brain, as she screws her eyes against the dangers behind her, willing and praying for it to leave.

-----​

Manoel swore under his breath. He urged the horse on, also praying; praying not for deliverance but for his arrow to fly straight and true.

And straight and true it did fly, right into the heart of the pursuing Turk. He laughed, causing Bedisa to look up at him like he was mad. He grinned at her as he notched another arrow onto his bow.

One of the bandits had reached his side. He ducked as the man swung a blow at him, missing him by inches. He handed the bow and arrow to Bedisa, as he ripped out his own sword.

He'd taught her how to fire a bow; it did not require the brute force of the sword, and she needed to defend herself. It was a miracle that they'd both survived as long as they had. But he had little time to ruminate on such matters as he parried a second blow, before lunging forward to nick the Turk beneath the chest.

It was not much of a strike, but enough to make the raider lose his balance and fall from his horse, cursing. Manoel turned and saw that Bedisa had neatly dispatched the other one. She was a wonder, that girl. He doubted that his family would approve of her, but if his theories about her were correct, their minds could yet be swayed...

His heart sank, however, as he saw others following them; several others, numbering six or seven. He had little chance of defeating them all, when they were on stronger horses than him. They weren't mere raiders this time; they had armour, and had the look of warriors loyal to the Sultan.

But Bedisa called out, and he turned to his front, and his salvation. A whole host of cavalry, numbering some fifty or sixty men, were heading towards them, flying the banners of Armenia.

The Turks ran, back to the woods behind and to their masters. Manoel slowed his horse to a walk, before stopping and dismounting, helping Bedisa down as well. She look a little pale but fine enough. She had just killed a man, he reasoned; the third she'd sent to Hell on their journey.

The horsemen whirled around, slowing and trotting towards them, a little wary; except for their leader, who jumped from his horse as it was still moving, grinning.

Manoel smiled; it was his dear little brother, Amargo.

"Well met, brother! I arrive here and find I'm not needed!" Amargo was clearly please to see him, and Manoel was too; he hadn't seen any of his family for months, and his brother was typically good-hearted. Despite his name, Amargo was not quite as bitter in the company of those he cared for. The trouble was that there weren't many he did care for.

They embraced, laughing. Amargo then stared seriously into his brother's face. "I knew you'd come through, brother. I knew that they couldn't have killed you."

Manoel smiled. "It'll take more than a few Saracen mercenaries to take me down, little one. I take it your presence here means that they've given me up for dead?"

"Well, the King refuses to believe it, of course, but there are those who thought it would be better if I... warmed your seat for you, so to speak. I must say, you have a nice little city here."

"Yes, it is rather good, isn't it? And plenty of space to hunt in these woods, too. But where are my manners? I must introduce you to Bedisa here..."

And so the talk went on, and for a moment there was happiness; but it would prove to be short lived. For in the south and west, the Whisperer, the Marshal and the King were deep in discussion, the unending rain beating a steady tattoo over the haunted ground of the Seljuk Empire. By nightfall, they had reached a decision; They would head west, to the riches of Anatolia; and then to the City of Worldly Desire itself, to retake the Hagia Sophia and fell the minarets which besmirched their holy church...
 

Tufto

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loki100- Oh yes, he is; as you may have noticed, and will see in this update, he isn't in the best mental state at the moment...



And here we are, ladies and gentlemen; a most important update, as we shall soon see...

PART TWO:

The Turkish Wars.

Chapter Six.

7th June 1142.

The Whisperer leant on the post which held the tent in place, happy for a little peace.

He looked around him. The dead and dying seemed to be everywhere, stinking and bloodied bodies on a field covered in ashes. He studied the fallen and tattered blue banners of the Seljuks; once a symbol of their glory, now a universal sign used to mean decay and death.

He fingerered the hilt of his sword. He'd never understand how Adarnase could manage all of this. The Mongol could string up a web of lies and spying hands, but seeing Adarnase roaring orders and managing thousands of troops spread across the field with split-second precision- well, that was just something else.

Memories and fragments of memories began to flood back, just like they had to Akakide. He remembered that he'd had a wife, once. She had died in childbirth back in his home. He'd been sixteen, and the little wrinkled baby had borne no resemblance to the woman he had loved. He'd given him up; his brother's wife was barren, and so the Whisperer's child had been passed off as his brother's own.

He'd had to run. He'd wanted freedom. He'd wanted to see the world, but all he found was cities which were just as constricting as his own people.

And his own people... they scared him, in more ways than one. But that was another story, for another day.

The Whisperer sighed, and headed off into the woods. He needed somewhere without blood or slaughter or the carcases of the dead. He weaved a path between the trees.

Such a large expanse of woodland was rare here. The country was getting warmer. They were plunging further and further into the West, a plan which he still had his doubts about. But he was no military man; not really. He had a few pretensions in such an area, a relic of his upbringing, but he couldn't command an army with Adarnase's skill or tenacity. He'd leave it to him and Affonso to make such decisions, when the going got tough.

Besides, he still remembered Finland. The memory made his skull ache.

He kicked aside the branches, pushed back the leaves- and nimbly sidestepped a knife heading towards his throat.

The black-clad man had snuck up on him well, but the Whisperer knew the particular move he had employed. This man was a Demon; and he knew how to counter them and send them back to Hell.

He twisted his arm up, throwing his attacker to the floor, sprawling on his front. But the Whisperer was old and this man was young. He was up on his feet in a second, slashing back at the Mongol's face. The Whisperer ducked, leaning back and grabbing a hefty branch off of the floor. He swung it at the man's face, hearing a satisfying clunk as it connected. The man fell for a second time, but now the Whisperer was upon him, pinning him to the floor. He'd thrown the branch away and had pulled out his own knife, pointing it at the Demon's throat.

"Who sent you?" came the cracked voice. The assassin smiled under his mask, laughing.

"This is no joke, Demon! Unless you want your throat cut I suggest you give me a name!" hissed the Whisperer.

But the assassin simply whispered back, "Him". And then, so similar to Akakide's killing of David all those years before, he grabbed the Whisperer's knife and thrust it into his jugular.

The Whisperer leapt back, careful not to get any blood on his black robe; he didn't want Affonso asking any questions.

But it was too late for that. A slow clap came from behind him. He turned, and saw a cold, dry smile on his King's face. "An impressive display, Mongol. I suppose you wouldn't care to tell me what it was all about?"

The Whisperer shook his head, cursing his luck. "I don't rightly know, sire. But I imagine that some Seljuk who-"

"Liar." The single red eye burnt bright. "Follow me. Now."

-----​

Inside Affonso's tent, the king motioned to his guards. "Leave us. But make sure our friend here doesn't leave without my say-so.

Ignoring the feeble protestations of his spymaster, he pointed him to a chair on one side of a makeshift table. Dusk was coming, and a single candle burnt on the makeshift table, above a map of the East.

The Whisperer hesitated for a single moment, and then sat down. Affonso sat opposite him, on the other side of the desk, and placed his hands, clasped, on the table.

"Who are you?"

The Whisperer laughed. It was an old question asked him by many. "I am your spymaster, sir; a man of whispers-"

"No." Affonso's voice was calm and as icy as the Arctic. "You once said your name was Bagatur. I want to know what that means. I want to know where you're from, what that strange heathen god you worship means, who you are. I want to know everything about your life. From your birth to now, here, here in this place or I swear to God you shall not leave this room alive."

Silence rang around them. The two stared into each other's eyes, with the same hard, cold, arrogant look on their faces. These were old and troubled men, who would not back down without a fight.

But then the Whisperer did. A cruel smile spread across his face, beneath the black bandages which covered his old head. "OK, then," he said. "I'll tell you everything. But it's a dark tale, full of malice, love, loss, cruelty, and all of the worst things which men have done, and are yet to do. Are you sure you want to know?"

"Yes," came the response. "You've been an enigma for too long. I must know."

The Whisperer's smile widened. "Very well. But first, let me pour some wine. It's going to be a long, long night..."


THE END
OF PART TWO.

Coming soon, the part you've all been waiting for: The Whisperer's Tale...
 
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Stuyvesant

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Holy sh... smokes! You've been updating at machinegun rate! I forget this corner of the forum for a few days (I blame the fact that CK is now subsumed under the CK2 forums - but then I'm lazy like that) and I come back to find half a dozen updates!

Cracking stuff, by the way. I particularly enjoyed Manoel's escapades (and one-upping the innkeeper was a real pleasure to read - include the kicking he received from his daughter), and now of course we have the showdown between Affonso and the Whisperer. The wraps are about to come off (hah! 'tis a pun, based on the Whisperer's bandaged face!).

The pursuit of Constantinople seems very premature, regardless of whether the Turks have been brought low - there's always another foe lurking, and Georgia is still in a perilous shape. Not to mention that Aspae is still scheming - and the mere fact that Sancho is still alive is enough to cast serious doubts on the future of Georgia.
 

Tufto

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loki100- Very badly, but we won't be seeing what happens there for a while, just to increase the suspense :p.

Stuyvesant- Hah, well it was coming up to that pre-exam period where I simply couldn't work, so I started writing instead.

Aha! A pun indeed! And that'll be the entire focus of the next part; his early life, and all the events leading up to that meeting with Romanos in the desert.

It's a sign of Affonso's worsening mental state that his visions are getting more and more extravagant. And Aspae's schemes are very close to their fruition... but we won't see that until Part Four :p.

PART THREE:

The Whisperer's Tale.

Chapter One.

Dramatis Personae
Bagatur, a Mongol.
Bayarmaa,a Mongol girl and a friend of Bagatur.
Altander, older brother of Bagatur.
Ogadei, a friend of Bayarmaa, and Bagatur.
Mongke Khan, father of Altander and Bagatur.
Tacchotan, mother of Altander and Bagatur.
Oleg Konstantinovich, a Russian noble.
Constantijn, a Dutchman.
Captain Pietersen, a Dutch freedom-fighter.
Romanos, Chancellor of Georgia.
Okan Tevfik, a Turkish scholar.

Mongolia, 1092.

The wind whistled around the steppes. The grass was blown gently, back and forth. The hills stretched into the distance; sun-shone plains of dull green, rising and falling and rising again.

A small band of tents littered the bank of a river. The day was truly beautiful, ruminated the Khan, as he paced outside the tent, waiting for the midwife to come and and give him some news.

The other Mongols were all hiding in their tents. This was not a good day to test the patience of the Khan.

Altander, his son of 17 years, stood by the tent, his head bowed. He'd been a dutiful and faithful son; a good warrior, and would someday make a good Khan, too.

He just hoped that the new one would be like Altander. His wife had had a dream, the night before; of his new son, not riding a horse, or winning great battles; but of a shadow, a shadow silently drifting across the plains, whispering a song of death across the horsemen of the steppes.

He swallowed. It was just a dream, and he'd never been fond of superstition. But still... he wanted a warrior for a son, not some sneak, not some backstabber in the dark. What use was there for one of those?

Georgian corridors called down the decades, but the Khan could not hear them. He just bit his lip, and snapped at Altander, "Why don't you ever bloody speak?"

Altander smiled. "Don't worry, father. She'll be fine. Just... calm yourself."

The Khan grunted. The cries had stopped half an hour ago, but the midwife refused to let him enter. His nerves were frayed.

One of his wives had died in childbirth. Another had been killed by Tatar raiders. He'd only ever had one child, and he'd always been nervous about what would happen if Altander died. He needed another; just in case...

His thoughts were muddled, confused. He didn't know what he wanted or wished for anymore.

Then, at last, the midwife left the tent. She bowed to the Khan, and stood to one side. The Khan rushed in, followed by Altander, at a slow and almost reluctant pace.

Tacchotan was smiling up at her Khan. He returned the smile briefly, before looking down at the little bundle in her arms.

A boy. He wasn't asleep, but he didn't cry. Occasionally he gurgled, but he was mostly silent.

The Khan smiled, taking the child. "Bagatur", he said. "He's called Bagatur."


No more updates until next weekend, I'm afraid- I have solid exams for a week.

In other news, as of tomorrow The Devil's Darkness is one year old! Hooray!
 
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Tufto

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Exams all end tomorrow, so prepare yourselves for a rapid update spurt, everyone...

loki100-Thanks, and yes, especially given what we know will happen about him in the future- but it does reflect his secretive and quiet nature.
 

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PART THREE:

The Whisperer's Tale.

Chapter Two.

Mongolia, June 1105

"We are not men of stone and paper, like the Qin to the south. We are not men of the cold sands, like the Kazakhs to the west. We are not the far-off men of the Cross, clinging to the edges of the world. We are men of iron and blood. We are men of the Steppes. And we are men of the sword and bow."

Bagatur stared up at his father, eyes shining. Mongke Khan was giving a speech to his warriors, on the eve of battle. Some Tatar raiders had attacked another tribe, to the West; Mongke had decided to send the clan to help them, in honour of his family-his sister had married their Khan, and they had sent a plea for help.

The men were cheering, rearing on their horses as Mongke spoke. "I am Mongke, your leader! Under this banner and this horse, we shall prevail! No more will the Tartar scum plague our land, our family! To arms, men, to arms!"

Bagatur tried to catch up with his father as he rode off, but was lost in the maze of hooves and thundering horses. He stumbled and fell, cursing his feeble form.

He was not a warrior. He'd never been good at fighting. He was clever, everyone said so, and knew more about horses and the seasons of the moon than anybody else. But his father cared little for that; he wanted a warrior as a son.

His brother was different. He was brave, and stupid. He had come to be just as disdainful of his Bagatur as Mongke was. But Bagatur had ceased to care. Let them ride into battle and be cut down. Then he'd be Khan, and everyone would have to obey him.

He smiled at the thought, even as he lay in the dust. Behind him, he could hear Ogadei and Bayarmaa running up to him. They pulled him out of the earth and sat him upright, and he smiled vaguely up at them.

"I wish I could go." That was Ogadei, looking out into the distance. He was a warrior, through and through. He was good with a bow, and a sword, and could wrestle well. He was lean and tall, with a handsome face. A year Batagur's senior, he was fourteen, and never stopped reminding Bagatur of the fact.

Bayarmaa simply smiled. Batagur was always a little bashful in front of her. She wasn't exactly pretty, but she had eyes that jumped around curiously, and had a face which naturally held a smile, looking odd without one. Her eyes were very thin, giving her a face full of suspicion whenever she gazed at you.

Bagatur grinned at both of them. He was thin, but had little muscle, with his short black hair and large fur hat. He looked an odd sight in the midday sun, but the wind was fierce here, and with his ears uncovered, it made sense to had some protection for them.

He jumped to his feet, and ran back to the camp, laughing. Ogadei immediately gave chase, and Bayarmaa trailed behind with her odd gait.

From the opening of the tent, Tacchotan watched them running and playing. Some strange fear, or maybe a sadness, stirred inside her as she watched them. They were so young, so innocent; they did not know anything of the world beyond their games and laughter.

Tacchotan worried for her son. He could not fight or ride well, and the other men of the camp would never respect him as a leader. But her other son seemed unable to have children, no matter how many wives he took.

This worried her. When Mongke and Altander both died, it meant that Bagatur would become Khan. And then... there would be blood shed, and her little child would be among the first to die.

Tacchotan wrapped her furs around her, and retreated into the warm, dark shadows of her tent. The world continued to turn. In the West, the Tyrant Henrique came to the throne, anointed with the blood of David, which Akakide had shed. But that didn't matter to the Steppes, and neither did the Steppes matter to the West.

Yet.