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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Tufto

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PART FOUR:

Fiat Lux.

Chapter One.

Dramatis Personae
Manoel, Prince of Armenia and second son of Affonso King of Georgia.
Affonso "Amargo", third son of Affonso King of Georgia.
Grateria, betrothed to Manoel.
Adarnase, Marshal of Georgia.
Affonso King of Georgia, head of the Bagratuni dynasty.
General Kommenus, Marshal of Armenia.
Pereyaslava, Queen of Georgia.
Aspae, only daughter of Affonso King of Georgia.
Sancho, First son of Affonso and heir to the Kingdom of Georgia.



1st July 1142.

"A toast! A toast to victory!"

The resounding roar was followed by the gulp of wine. Amargo sat down, grinning impishly. Even his brother looked cheerful; more so than he had for a long, long time.

But why wouldn't he? They had won! The Georgians had beaten the Turks, Manoel was alive, and rumour was that Father had decided to turn west after crushing the Seljuks in the west. Life was sweet, and this wine was good.

He'd been allowed to fight himself; Manoel had been quite unable to stop his little brother, even though he was not yet of age. It had won him much glory; he'd slain a Turkish general by his own hand, and had dazzled the other soldiers by his skill with a sword.

The Armenian palace was nothing like the one in Batumi, where old King David had moved the capital many years before. Manoel wasn't as austere as his father; he saw no reason not to dazzle his friends with rich ornaments decorating the walls, rather than the simple banners in Affonso's court. The banqueting hall may have been smaller here, but it was bright, and looked far more regal; like a real palace.

Amargo was sat on the left of the Prince; on the right, Manoel's new wife, Grateria. The wedding had taken place among the festivities of the morning, on this happy, happy day. The Turks had been beaten! He kept repeating it, hardly able to believe it was true.

When Manoel returned to the palace in early June, he acted swiftly. Sending messages to the scattered remnants of his troops ordering them to reform at the north of his castle, his reconnaissance revealed that the Turks were also moving north, in force, all in a single block. He had been quick to tail them, harassing their troops before disappearing into the wilds, day after day.

Then, the Turks decided to pass their army through a narrow valley, worried about raiders in the mountains. Little did they know that there were not bandits upon those peaks but Manoel's troops, watching the Turks and hoping that they would do exactly what they did; send their force through the pass. The Georgians poured down from the mountains, outflanking the Turks and taking them by surprise, winning a tremendous victory.

The Turks still had another army, to the south. But that was in Azerbaijan, and if the King really was coming, they'd be trapped on two sides; helpless, left to the mercy of the Georgians.

"Brother! You're staring into space again. Come, share your thoughts with us all!"

Amargo emerged from his reverie, and grinned. "I was only thinking of our victory; our inevitable, crushing victory that is sure to take place. What can stop us now?"

"Many things." Seriousness crept into Manoel's voice. "Even if Father does turn east, it will not be an easy battle. The Sultan himself heads the Southern army, and he is well known to be a most inspiring leader. And these infidels are madmen; they refused to surrender at the pass, and when they have the advantage, and are well-supplied... things may be very different."

Trust Manoel to spoil the moment. But then the Prince laughed, and smacked Amargo on the back. "But those are thoughts for another day. Come, be merry, and drink up!"

And so they did. The feast lasted well into the night, and it was past one when Amargo, his vision blurred by over-indulgence, spied Manoel leading his new wife upstairs to his bedchamber. He smiled, and fell off his chair, snoring heavily.

-----​

Manoel opened the door to his room. He grinned at his bride, who smiled, timidly, back at him. How the roles were reversed from his standoffishness a few months ago.

He lead her inside, and then closed the door. Immediately, his expression changed. "Sit down." Grateria looked quizzically at him, her face the perfect model of bewildered nerves.

Too perfect a model. Manoel's face, in contrast was harsh, his ice-blue eyes gazing deep into his wife's brown ones. There was no love there any more. He was a statesman now. He had to do his duty.

"You aren't fooling anyone, you know. I know about you and Konrad Von Wittelsbach. You think I am stupid? You think that my spies can't see through your deceptions?"

Grateria's look was maintained for a moment, before collapsing into real fear. "My lord-"

"I don't care." Blunt; that was not often a valued quality in a leader, but in certain cases it was useful. "This is a marriage of politics, and we must both do our duty. I need a son, you need protection. The House Von Wittesbach is not exactly popular back at your home, is it? Not after your support for the Dutch rebellion."

Grateria shook her head, wide-eyed and pale. "Good", said Manoel. "So let us to bed, dear wife." He gave her a brief, twisted smile. The situation was far from perfect, but neither was life, he reasoned.



Konrad is actually Grateria's brother in-game; everytime I get a "falls in love" event, it always seems to be between brothers and sisters...
 
Last edited:

Tufto

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loki100- Yep, back to the weird Bagratuni intrigues. I'll finally be revealing Aspae's plan soon, too...

And people don't believe the Whisperer for an instant; but as you say, very plausible. The Whisperer's belief that the Mongols will come is certainly far-fetched, as the fact that they did manage to conquer so much is one of the incredible stories of history.

PART FOUR:

Fiat Lux.

Chapter Two.

2nd August 1142

"I am tired, Aspae."

Pereyaslava sat slumped in her chair, as Aspae politely sat opposite her. The Russian still retained the beauty of her youth, but her eyes had become haggard and even colder than before. She cared for little for anything other than her husband, who cared little for her.

"You should delegate, mother. There are plenty of willing, able courtiers who are more than qualified-"

"Oh, be quiet. You know as well as I do that this court is a maze of intrigue and death. Unless I take everything on, lust for power will get the better of good men. But they wouldn't dare kill the Queen; as long as I hold everything, the others will have no chance."

Aspae shifted uncomfortably. Her mother could be uncomfortably naive sometimes.

And that's why she couldn't fill her in on the plan. That's why Pereyaslava knew nothing of the events in Spain, and the machinations she had been cooking up. Her mother was clever and ruthless, but she had a streak of blindness in many areas that stopped her from true greatness in the field of intrigue. Ironic, given that she was a Rurikovich.

"When is your father going to come home? You seem to read most of the letters these days before I can."

Aspae felt that little twinge of guilt again. "When he's finished in the East, mother. I've told you this already."

No response. Aspae's worry began to boil over. Pereyaslava was getting suspicious, and that boded ill for her. Georgia had to survive...

-----​

"Brother! Wake up, it's well past noon!"

Amargo opened one eye to look at Manoel, who stood in the doorway of his room. "Isn't."

"It most definitely is, and I implore you to get up, for I have some excellent news for you!"

"What is it? More Turks been routed?"

Manoel grinned. "Bloodlust is never the most attractive quality, little one. No; my wife is pregnant; I am going to have a child!"

Amargo sat upright. His face looked less than happy. "Are you, really? How do you know it's yours?"

Manoel had told his little brother everything about his plans and ambitions; he was one person whom he was certain was trustworthy. But his words were like a shower of icy water. He was right; what if it wasn't his child? What if it was that of Grateria's lover, Konrad?

He sat down, his grin turned to ashes. "God... how will I know?"

Amargo put his hand on his brother's shoulder. "Let's not think of that. What will you call the child?"

"If it's a girl..." A twisted smile formed on the Prince's face. "Bedisa. And if it's a boy; something Georgian; like Vakhtang."

"Vakhtang Bagratuni? A departure from tradition. Not very Portuguese."

"The people need a leader whom they can empathise with. Our foreign nature doesn't help that. Vakhtang it is."

Vakhtang Bagratuni; the Warrior King. But that is a tale for another day...
 

Tufto

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loki- we'll be seeing a lot more of Pereyaslava soon enough, and a little further down the road her family will make a return too... but that's all in the future. And Aspae is quite possibly making a mistake; clever though she is, she has a tendency to trust in herself too much, and look down on others...

PART FOUR:

Fiat Lux.

Chapter Three.

2nd November 1142.

"This is a bad place, sire."

Affonso didn't answer his marshal, but instead simply gazed down at the scene before him. The distant fires at the other end of the steep valley told him of the location of his son's army; his heart thumped away in his chest in both relief and worry at the sight.

Messages had been exchanged over the last couple of months between the King and the Prince, and at last a plan had been reached. Here, in an Azeri valley called the Kinaliq valley, the two great armies were destined to meet. Arriving by night, Manoel would be blatant and opaque; he would light great fires, give the appearance of complacency and drunkenness and make his camp as tempting and conspicuous as possible, in order to draw part or all of the Turkish army towards them, to attack them while it was still dark.

But it would only be a part of Manoel's army which lit these great torches; most would remain in darkness, in front of his camp shielded by the many trees and ridges of the landscape. Only his elite regiments would remain in the camp, ready to discard their flagons of juice (masquerading as wine) and leap into action at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, hidden behind the Turkish army, Affonso's troops would be waiting; dispersed among the trees, but all ready for when the signal was given by their leader to power into the back of the Seljuk army from three directions.

A risky plan, to be sure; but the Georgian king wanted to be rid of the Turkish problem once and for all. He continued to crouch, like the men beside him; nobody moved a muscle, and all were staring into the valley below. They could see the dim shapes of the Seljuks against the moonlight; on the other end of the river, Manoel's torches gave off their distinctive glow.

"This whole country is a bad place, Adarnase. Why my great-grandfather felt the need to subdue it is beyond me."

He shifted slightly, not moving his gaze. Come on, take the bait...

He could here faint shouting below; the sounds of an argument, perhaps a tactical discussion. Affonso felt the corners of his mouth begin to curl upwards.

"Why can we not attack now? We could take them on! We have the element of surprise! They're distracted enough as it is."

Amargo had ridden to join his father's army; overjoyed at seeing the great man again after so many months. He was thus present in the royal camp, as Affonso wished to keep an eye on him. The king was still a little annoyed at Manoel allowing him to fight, when he was at such a tender age.

"Many a great plan has been ruined by haste, little one. We wait."

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Amargo bare his teeth. This was why he would never be king; he was too headstrong, too full of fire. He had shown much promise as a commander, but was betrayed by his near-savage bloodlust when battle was afoot.

Affonso was suddenly stirred from his reverie by the sound of hooves. The Turks were moving, all headed towards the Armenian camp.

He smiled. "Fiat Lux, Adarnase." The Marshal nodded, and after a few seconds, lit a torch and waved it for all to see; the signal, which all of Affonso's men, scattered across the valley, could see; as well as Manoel's army.

It was extinguished in a few seconds, but the message was through. Let there be light...


-----​

As soon as Manoel saw the signal, he burst into action. "They're coming!", he roared, and leapt onto his steed. Instantly, the supposedly drunk and laidback soldiers scurried into position; his crack infantry at the front, two units of cavalry at the wings, and his archers at the rear. The other soldiers, who lay low in front of the camp, tensed themselves; the hour was almost upon them.

That was not Manoel's only trick. They had arrived at nightfall, and had been taunting and tempting the Turks all night. They had pretended to be intoxicated with wine and women, though the harshly disciplined Georgian troops were simply putting on an act, goading the Turks into action. Meanwhile, the front troops had planted staves into the ground, so that when the cavalry charged, they would be felled and caught in confusion. It was then that Affonso would strike their rear, and the archers would begin to lay into them.

The tall mountain walls surrounding them on either side meant that the Turkish superiority in numbers would be of little use; or so Manoel hoped. Their key weakness was overconfidence, and they thought of Manoel as a mere youth, unskilled and untrained. Well, they'd choke on their words when they tasted his arrows.

Manoel had always preferred a bow to a sword, and he had become adept at firing on horseback. He had considered training some men to practice such a technique; it could prove useful in the future. The Whisperer had been oddly enthusiastic about this plan.

"Be careful." Bedisa grasped his hand, smiling up at him in fear. She had insisted on coming with him; it was hard to stop her when she was determined. He smiled back at her, but with confidence, not terror. The tents lay behind her, lit brightly and brilliantly.

"Don't worry. It'll take more than a few Seljuks to fell me."

He squeezed her hand, before turning away without another glance, in order to not betray his true feelings. His men were in position, and silence reigned, save the thunder of hoofbeats.

The slight clanking of armour was the only release from the slow, steady increase in volume as the Turkish horsemen neared. They began to roar and scream with fury. Manoel's heart was pounding against his ribcage. For a moment, he wondered if the staves weren't really there, if his plan had been some strange, midday dream. He closed his eyes, and silently prayed to the Almighty.

And then, the Turkish roars turned to cries of panic. The sounds of screaming horses pierced the night, and the relief the Prince felt was almost unbearable. The troops lying in wait before the camp leapt up, utterly surprising the Turks, as the archers began to lay into the first Turkish wave.

And Manoel knew that this was only the first wave. The game was truly afoot. His horse reared up, and raising his bow, he fired his first shot of the night into the oncoming horde.

To be continued...



I know little of military tactics, so please excuse any gaping flaws you can find in the Georgian plan :).
 

Tufto

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loki100- It's a risky gambit indeed... :)

PART FOUR:

Fiat Lux.

Chapter Four.

Silently they moved, like shadows on the floor. Spread out beneath the trees, the thin, horseshoe-shaped line of Georgians slowly contracted towards the Seljuk camp. Crouching low, they all held simple, short swords; they wanted to retain the element of surprise for as long as possible, and didn't want to make a single whisper. Armour and unwieldy weapons had no place here.

Affonso could see, distantly, the action at the other end of the valley. The Turkish commander clearly had not expected the staves stuck in the ground, nor had he predicted that Manoel had troops hidden in front of his camp. He could make out the elite Armenian squads slowly moving into the chaos of the front, as the Turkish cavalry was decimated.

Affonso kept his focus on the task at hand. They were beginning to close in on the camp, though he could see nothing of the other soldiers. This should be quick and relatively painless; provided that none of his men lost their nerve, or revealed themselves.

He had one last trick, in case everything went wrong, of course; but he was hopeful that he wouldn't need it, as the result could do considerable damage to both armies.

At last, they had begun to reach the camp. The enemy tents were only a few yards away. Affonso raised his sword, ready to strike-

And then, it all fell apart. They were surrounded. Turkish soldiers, who had been lying upon the floor, rose up as one. The same tactic Manoel had employed was being used against the Georgians.

He could hear the screams of surprise all around him, as he battered away the blows of the Turks. This wasn't simply a small detachment left at the camp, just in case of a raid; this was the greater part of the Turkish army. The commander hadn't been quite the fool they'd thought...

He roared a battle-cry, and leapt at his assailants. His bodyguard did the same, and began to lay into the surrounding Turks. But they were hopelessly outnumbered, and the other parts of the line were in disarray, if the shouts of retreat were anything to go by.

Knocking aside a Seljuk blade, he ducked behind his guardsmen, and tried to wrench out the horn tucked into his pouch. There was one last thing he could do to avoid disaster and defeat.

With an enormous effort, he ripped the horn from his belt, and blew a long, loud signal on it. Then he lowered it, and howled, at the night, at the archers hiding behind the first wave of troops, at every one of the fleeing cowards who had unmanned themselves, one single thing: the cry which could save them.

"Fiat Lux!"

The moans of the fleeing stopped. They all knew what that signal meant.

"Fiat Lux! Fiat Lux!" The call echoed on the lips of every soldier. They knew what would happen now.

Affonso's attackers were only half of his already small force; they had been relying on surprise and silence to inflict a stunning blow on the Turks. Now, the rest of them, who had been advancing fifty metres behind the first line, set fire to their oiled arrows. Raising their bows, they fired; into the crowd, into the Turkish tents; and Affonso prayed that their arrows would be swift and true.

Slowly, the soldiers of the front line turned and began to hit back, all chanting the same two words: "Fiat Lux! Fiat Lux!"

Let there be light. And light there was, as the flaming arrows set light to the first Turkish tents...

To be continued...
 

Tufto

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For those whom it may concern, here is a picture of the borders of the Kingdom of Georgia on the eve of the Turkish war. I'll probably make a more detailed one later on.



loki100- Ah, all shall be revealed in the next update, but I can guarantee that this battle still holds more surprises...
 

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PART FOUR:

Fiat Lux.

Chapter Five.

General Kommenus, Marshal of the Armenians and one of the Kingdom's most loyal generals, watched the carnage with increased consternation. They weren't supposed to be losing.

The initial encounter had weakened the Turks, but there were just so many of them. To make matters worse, the silent slaughter at the Seljuk camp had turned into a bloodbath, with a huge fire burning the Turkish tents, and the bitter, savage sounds of war echoing across the valley. That was not supposed to happen.

And the line was weakening here. As Manoel roared out orders to his men, the crack troops of his first division were slowly being worn down by the constant assaults of the Seljuks.

"Ioannes! Take the second cavalry and hit those Turkish infantry men who keep charging the front! Keep them from making another charge!"

Manoel and the Kommenid were two starkly different figures. The former was tall, handsome, dashing, sitting atop his horse, loosing arrows and shouting encouragements to the troops. The Kommenid, on the other hand, stood upon the ground to Manoel's side, clad only in light armour; he was an old, old man, and he didn't have the strength of his youth. The grey hair atop his head was beginning to recede, and he seemed serene and calm, despite the steadily worsening situation before him.

"Are you sure, sir? The cavalry may be badly hurt. If we lose them, how will we form our counterattack?"

Manoel simply smiled at the old general. "They won't be hurt at all, General. They'll be fighting a terrified enemy. Do you still have the present given to us by the Eastern Emperor?"

Kommenus looked sharply up at his liege. "Sir- we can't! Your father expressly forbade the use-"

"My father is a good man, who believes the present to be dangerous and highly risky, and thinks its use to be abhorrent to God and man. And that kind of thinking is why we are in this mess in the first place, why he lost so many men at Trebizond." The Prince grinned darkly at the Greek. "Fetch all of them. Now."

The Greek looked up in horror. What had happened to Manoel? The kind, clever boy he once knew had returned from his adventuring with a new, cruel streak. And directly disobeying the orders of Affonso Bagratuni was never a clever move.

But General Kommenus just swallowed, and muttered "Yes, sir", before turning and hurrying away.

The Eastern Roman Empire was slowly beginning to recover itself in the East, but it needed allies; strong allies, such as Georgia. Thus, the Basilieos had given the King of the Georgians two crates of small clay vessels, each filled with one of the most feared weapons in the East.

Greek fire.

The strange liquid had a closely guarded composition, which none outside of the Empire knew of. Manoel had set some of his most skilled courtiers the task of analysing the liquid, and learning how it could be made, but to no avail.

Affonso had accepted the gift graciously, but thereafter had ordered the grenades to be destroyed, viewing them as an abhorrence. Manoel, however, had intercepted and "liberated" the crates, seeing them as potentially useful in the future. They were ordinarily used in sea battle, as one of the most important attributes of Greek fire was its ability to burn on water; the General did not know of any instance where it had been used in a land battle.

But this battle was different. The valley contained a thin, snaking river, which spun itself right through the centre of the Turkish camp, and through the columns of the Turkish army. The river also flowed away from Manoel's troops; the stage was set for the Armenian's dark plan.

The Kommenid swallowed. "Guruli, Iosava, take those crates and give them to the archers. Tell them that the Prince wishes them to be thrown into the Turkish army in general, but also at the river."

The men stared at him for a moment, in worry and shock. "You heard me," growled the Greek. "The Prince has given orders, and they must be obeyed.

Nodding, they each picked up a crate and walked away. The general watched them hand out the clay pots to the archers, who placed their bows down and waited for the word from Manoel.

Oh, for Akakide to be here! Manoel was a fine general, but Akakide could've won this in half an hour without having to resort to such measures. If only he would arise from his grave, and win more glory for the Georgian kingdom without having to resort to such measures!

But Akakide was gone, and Adarnase was away from here, helping Affonso. And as the General watched the archers light the little clay vessels and throw them into the oncoming army, as he saw great flames light the river up and terrify the Turks, as he heard the horrifying screams from the enemy as they routed, panicked and broken- he closed his eyes, and lamented the future of the state of Georgia, the little kingdom which continued to rise as it waded through pools of Turkish blood.






The Kinaliq valley in Azerbaijan. The settlement at Kinaliq had existed for over 4000 years at the time of the Battle of the Flaming River (the common name given to the Battle of Kinaliq). The great cruelty enacted by Manoel Bagratuni in the battle gave him a fearsome reputation amongst the Seljuks, and he has since passed into legend as a sort of bogeyman figure. It was his quick thinking, however, which quite possibly saved the Georgians from defeat and ensured their victory in the second Seljuk-Georgian War.


Well, that concludes the Battle of Kinaliq. But Affonso will not be best pleased at his son's actions, and Manoel is becoming dangerously harsh. Meanwhile, Aspae continues her scheme in the West, which is coming to fruition. And what of the cruel and deranged Sancho, and the Whisperer? All shall be revealed soon enough in The Devil's Darkness...
 

Tufto

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Whew! Well, sorry for the break, everyone. I've been very distracted recently.

Anyway, I currently have a problem with this AAR. After my computer broke, I was unable to get to the file, which is still sitting on its hard drive. Now, my plan is to transfer many of my files to my shiny new laptop, but my old laptop is back home and I'm here.

Hence, I can't get to the save-game until mid-December at least.

But I've decided to continue as best I can anyway. I'll have to flesh out the relatively short amount of time between the narrative and the save-game, but it should all be OK in the end. Besides, I've left you all in the middle of a crucial moment, and I'd hate to disappoint.

So, here we go again: the Battle of Kinaliq is complete, the Whisperer and Sancho are on their way to Batumi, Aspae is plotting a plan involving Sancho and Spain, and Manoel's increasingly cruel methods are about to be revealed to Affonso.

loki100- Oh no, definitely not- though Manoel isn't quite mad, exactly, just transforming from the principled, naive boy he was to a cold and calculating Prince...

And now, we reveal a crucial plot point:

PART FOUR:

Fiat Lux.

Chapter Six.

18th December, 1142. Batumi.

Aspae looked out of her window, at the gently falling snow. She loved the winter; it made all the disparate colours and elements unify under a single white banner, all together and whole.

And on any other day, she could spend hours and hours staring at the sway of the blizzard, the quiet serenity it afforded, the townsfolk laughing and pelting each other with snowballs. But she couldn't. Today, she had to sign an entire country's fate to darkness for the sake of her own.

Behind her, she heard the sick giggle of Sancho. "You're serious? How have you managed to hide this from Affonso for so long?"

"Because I control this court, brother." Every word today seemed to spill from some dark, coarse part of her. She hated it. She had thought her little plan a clever diversion, and the way she would restore Georgia to glory and prosperity, and save it from Sancho's bloodlust.

But more and more, she thought of what he'd do to Spain. She looked at the children in the street, and thought of their counterparts in Toledo and Barcelona. They would be hurt just as bad.

But it was for the greater good. It was all for the greater good. While the Whisperer, Affonso, Amargo and her dear Manoel were in the newly-renamed Istanbul to make peace with the beaten and bloodied Turk, she was left to do the dirty work.

"Do we have an agreement?" She refused to turn, refused to look at the monster that was her brother. She just wanted to get it all over with.

"Oh, that we do, dear sister. Georgia is finished, anyway. I don't need it. And the riches of Spain are so tempting."

"So sign." Silence. She couldn't hear the scratching of the quill. "Sign! You heard the dignitaries! They are willing to proclaim you king, the moment you sign away any rights to the Georgian throne!"

"But... why, sister? Why are you doing this for me?"

Aspae then turned, and looked Sancho Bagratuni straight in the face. "Because I hate you, Sancho. I hate everything about you. I hate how you torture the servants, mutilate the dead, hurt my friends and family. I hate the idea of you sitting where my father sits now, on our throne, where Manoel should sit. He's ten times the man you'll ever be."

Silence reigned once more. Sancho's expression was curiously blank, before he grinned. "Well, sister, we'll see. We'll see how Affonso and Manoel and all the rest take your little plan. You've signed away the whole of Iberia, their birthright and the most powerful province in your kingdom. Couldn't you just've killed me?"

"No. I want something else, too. I want Affonso to see your evil. I want him to look at what you do over there, to the evils you've caused, and see what a monster you are. I want Affonso to see what is true. Because only then will he forgive me."

Sancho's grin turned to a laugh. "We'll see." Then he scratched his name to the bottom of the document, and handed it back to her. "When do I leave?"

"There's a ship at the docks, ready to leave when you are. Now get out."

Sancho Bagratuni, King of Portugal and Lord of All the Spains, left the room. And Aspae shed a single tear. Affonso had changed the motto on the family coat of arms; it now read "Fiat Lux", after the cry which had won them the war.

Fiat Lux. As Georgia stepped into the newborn light, she'd condemned another country to the devil's darkness.

"Lord, let there be light for them", she whispered at the snow. "Don't let them lose hope."

THE END
OF PART FOUR.

Things are going to get messy now...

EDIT: Before I forget, what do people think of the idea of a CKII Reconquista AAR, as a Christian Spaniard? It's something I might do to add to the ever-growing pile of incomplete AARS I have going. But as I've abandoned The Red Mexican, and with Perdition being more of a casual little AAR on the side, I'm thinking of doing something which is both serious and I can access the save-game for. Thoughts?
 
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loki100

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well wonderful to see this back. I find it quite the most engaging narrative AARs rattling around the forum.

poor Spain, lucky Georgia ... or is it not going to be that simple?
 

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loki100- oh, it's never quite that simple- Aspae's decision is potentially divisive for the whole kingdom...

PART FIVE:

Firestorm

Chapter One.


Dramatis Personae
Aspae, Daughter of King Affonso.
Affonso King of Georgia, Head of the Bagratuni Dynasty
Manoel, Prince of Georgia.
Bedisa, a serving girl.
Adarnase, Amirspasalar of Georgia.
The Whisperer, Spymaster of Georgia
Kyril, husband of Aspae.
Affonso "Amargo", third son of Affonso.
Sancho, eldest son of Affonso and King of Spain.

Extract from Affonso, Manoel and Vakhtang: The Golden Age of Georgia by John Murzuphlos, 1988.

The response of Affonso to his daughter's actions was typical of the king; he had always been known for his rash actions, which had constantly frustrated his efforts at true greatness. His plan had been to leave 3000 of his prize Obobebi, troops fanatically loyal to him with many connections to the Basque academy, in Constantinople under the command of his third son, also named Affonso, to intercept the Prince, while he would sail directly for Batumi, there to deal with his daughter personally. However, Aspae, in anticipation of her father's response, had sent Sancho to Varna, there to ride down to Thessalonica and make good his escape.

Affonso, meanwhile, was beginning to doubt the loyalty of the palace troops. His Amirspasalar (Chief General), Adarnase Bagratuni, was away in the Armenian Principality, mopping up Azeri bandits who had sought to profit from the Turkish invasion. Aspae clearly commanded the loyalty of a large part of the administration, and her husband Kyril was Batoni (Lord) of large areas in Abkhasia. The chronicler Lodovico of Lesbos, who was travelling with Affonso at the time, spoke of how


'the King, who was troubled by his daughter's arrogance and ignorance of the laws of God, began to fear that factions within his realm, long known as enemies of the Kingdom, might seek to profit through base and underhand means and upset the natural order of the kingdom. He even believed that some might wish to topple him from his throne and replace him with one of their own number, or even his daughter, in stark contrast with the law of succession in Georgia, which state that no woman may ascend the throne."'​

The clear implication here is that Affonso feared that his daughter was seeking to take power for herself, or that others wished to do so on her behalf. He needn't have worried; since Kinaliq, he and Manoel were exceptionally popular among the nobility, and Affonso's radical reform of serfdom left him adored among the commoners. Furthermore, the recently discovered Chronicle of Saba details how the new Patriarch, Basili IV, gave a sermon in the new Batumi Cathedral against Aspae's actions; given the Georgian patriarchy's position following the fall of Constantinople among the Eastern church, this was almost like a condemnation from God himself in the eyes of the ordinary folk.'

-----​

14th March 1143.

"Where is Akakide when you need him!"

The storm was fierce, and Affonso was in a foul mood. As the water poured from the dark skies, he paced up and down in his ragged war-clothes; he'd never been fond of the regal garments a King was supposed to wear. He kept on scratching beneath his eyepatch, and his face was rough and unshaved, like the thinning hair atop his head. Only the crown which he stubbornly kept on denoted him from any common peasant.

Manoel, in contrast, stood with his hands clasped behind his back, dressed sensibly but regally, the image of calm reason. "Akakide is dead, father. He died when I was still in Mother's womb."

"I know that, you dolt! But we need him now more than ever. Aspae will topple the throne, I know it! She's always been vain, always lusted after my power!"

A twinge of guilt strummed in Manoel's heart. He wondered what his father would do if he knew that he, Manoel, was Aspae's co-consipirator... that he'd called in favours and bribes amongst the Iberian lords in order to proclaim Sancho their king...

Aspae had no intention of taking the throne; she simply wanted to ensure that Sancho didn't get ahold of it. Affonso's fear was unfounded, as was his increasing paranoia...

Manoel had first noticed a change in his father after Kinaliq; he'd been terrifying to behold, screaming bloody murder at Manoel for his use of Greek fire. To throw it upon the Turks and light the river up might've been a cruel move, but Affonso didn't seem to understand that in war, anything was permissible.

"Father, I urge you to calm yourself! Let the sailors do their job, and get some rest."

Affonso stopped pacing, and leant upon the rail. "I can't, Manoel. All my plans have fallen away. Sancho..."

"Sancho is gone, sir. I'm sure Aspae was just thinking of the Kingdom's safety, and meant nothing against you-"

"What the hell does that mean?" Affonso's voice was low and dark, and Manoel silently cursed himself.

"I simply mean that from Aspae's point of view, Sancho might not have been an ideal choice. You know that the two of them have never gotten along."

Affonso sighed, and put his head in his hands. "I know, Manoel. And I know that Sancho... needs work before he takes his throne. We'll just have to get him back... somehow..."

The ship rocked and swayed in the sea, as they hurtled towards Georgia, and the firestorm brewing there...
 
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Aardvark Bellay

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A true georgian family.
I like your imaginative writing style.
Thanks
 

Tufto

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Aardvark Bellay: Thanks! :)

loki100-Manoel isn't under suspicion right now, but Aspae has got a lot of trouble coming up...

PART FIVE:

Firestorm

Chapter Two.


15th March, 1143

"I was wrong, Kyril. If only Manoel could see what I did."

Half-awake and unaware of his surroundings, Kyril looked up at the sound of his wife's voice and saw that she had left their bed, and was staring at the snow again. He'd caught her doing that many, many times in the last few weeks; he was beginning to get worried about his childhood sweetheart.

"Come back to bed, Asp."

"How can I?" Aspae's uncharacteristic shriek made Kyril leap up, to see the wild, tearful eyes of his wife. "I have done more than mere treason! I have condemned an entire people to terror! Either he'll become King and impose his hateful tyranny on the country, or he'll be killed and sweep the country into civil war!"

"Heathens..."

"Heathens with women and children too! They may be unsaved, but even they don't deserve to suffer so!"

Kyril sighed, got out of bed, and embraced her shaking, tearful form. "Hush, Asp, hush. You had to do something."

"But this! The children..."

"You had your own country to worry about." Looking past her shoulder, Kyril saw the light of the moon shining upon the city, as the waves lapped across the shore. Affonso's Batumi was beautiful; he could see why David had moved the capital to here. The shining city of the Black Sea, expanded over the last hundred years to become a jewel in an ocean of black.

"I should've... I should've had him killed instead..."

"No!" Kyril held her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. "They'd know it was you. Affonso would have you executed for treason! At least he might be merciful this way."

"My life, or the life of thousands?" whispered Aspae. "Why is my life worth more?"

"I would rather see a thousand die before you do." replied her husband, with a small smile. Aspae returned it weakly, before hugging him tightly once again, tears still pouring down her face.

Kyril looked straight at the moon again. A little, ugly, dark part of him knew what he'd have to do. He'd confess, of course, so that Aspae did not take the fall.

It would have to have happened anyway. Affonso had become obsessive. As long as Sancho lived, he'd be a threat to the succession.

The King of Spain would have to die...




Not long to go now... The Rise of the Armenians is nearly over...
 

Tufto

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loki100- Thanks! Things'll start speeding up now, though...

Only a short update tonight- but a critical one...

PART FIVE:

Firestorm

Chapter Three.

Thessalonica, two months later: the 13th May, 1143.

The ship was almost ready. Beneath the black night sky, Sancho tightened his cloak around him, and looked one last time at the Byzantine capital. It had been a pleasant stay here; the wine was plentiful and the women cheap, but they needed to get to Spain. His kingdom awaited him.

"Hurry up!" he snapped at the last underling left on deck, who was rolling the final keg of wine onto the boat. "We have to go! Now!"

The underling muttered something as he hauled the keg upright, and Sancho whipped around and kicked him down. "What did you say?" he hissed. "Was it about me? Are you undermining my authority?"

"Of course not, my liege." The underlings voice sounded... odd. It was a little too refined, a little too familiar. Sancho, of course, didn't care; he was too inebriated with alcohol and full of powerlust to care for the little things.

"Good. Now get in here and light my candles."

Stepping into his cabin, the Spanish king threw off his cloak and sank into his bed, staring straight up with almost lifeless eyes. His vision blurred, he was only dimly aware of the servant beginning to light the candles. Everything seemed so... peaceful...

"May I ask you a question, sire?" Sancho ordinarily would've bawled at the servant to get out and stop being insolent, but he was in a charitable mood. he simply grunted in reply.

"Do you know how long it takes to ride from Constantinople to Thessalonica? It took me many days."

Blearily, the king sat up and squinted at his servant. "What the hell are you blathering on about, boy?"

The underling's face was still unrecognisable; he had on a hood, and Sancho was still drunk. But the king could just about make out a small smile, as he approached him holding a candle.

"When I was young, you weren't a kind brother. You took a little toy of mine; a wooden ship which Mother had bought for me at a merchant's stall. Every day, I'd play with that ship, and I'd dream of being a great sailor, or a mighty warrior."

Sancho's eyes went wide with recognition. "You..."

"And then one day, you asked if you could play with it. You were my elder brother, and I only wanted to make you happy. So I gave it to you, and you snapped it into little pieces and threw it onto the fire. And then you laughed, and hit me, and hurt me." The man's voice had dropped to a low, hissing whisper. Sancho had crawled back into the corner of the room, clawing at the walls and gibbering wildly.

"Oh, my brother. You should've shown me love that day. Because if you give me love, I will love you back."

The light kept flickering, as the figure put his hand beneath his cloak, his slight smile and wide, dead eyes mesmerising Sancho.

"And if you give me hate, I will hate you back."

The hand came out, holding something small... a little clay pot.

"But if you give me fire, then I will burn you.

A little clay pot, plucked from the field at Kinaliq. The figure threw it on Sancho and laughed as it broke. Then he turned and walked away.

The Greek fire was splashed around the room, and an orange glow was seen through the window, amid the screams of the dying king. So passed Sancho Bagratuni, Prince of Georgia, King of Spain, firstborn of Affonso the Merciful, and brother of Manoel the Great.

And Affonso Bagratuni the Younger, known as Amargo, did not look back as he walked away from the burning ship. He never had done and he wouldn't do so now.



-----

Sancho is dead, Aspae is about to face her fate, and both the surviving Bagratuni children are becoming increasingly vengeful and cold, while their father descends into instability. And what of the Whisperer, Pereyaslava, Kyril and the rest? All will be revealed...
 

loki100

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well if his death hadn't been quite so horrible, one could say that Sancho deserved that.

so the family falls apart, but can those around them hold the realm together?