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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Aardvark Bellay

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No mercy for the bad guy i suppose.

Lighten up ! A burning desire for an inflaming end. :)
 

Tufto

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Nael1- Thank you! :)

Aardvark Bellay- :D Well, his day's certainly been brightened... :p

loki100- Perhaps... but as we'll see below, things can still get a whole lot worse... :)

PART FIVE:

Firestorm

Chapter Four.

14th May 1143.

Silence.

Aspae sat in the Great Hall, alone, staring at the window at the end of the room. She'd taken a torch from the wall was holding it in front of her, the flames trickling away between her eyes and the view of the stained-glass. The place itself was vast and empty, with the tattered old banners strung across the ceiling.

The guards had all fled, fearing for her father's wrath. Aspae sat in her best dress, grasping the fire before her regally, amid the splendour and glory of the regal chamber. Even more splendid than that, behind her lay something which would soon go bang and end all her troubles; the results of Manoel's reverse engineering over the course of the last few months, taken to Batumi from his palace in Armenia.

Greek Fire had grown into an obsession among the Georgian military, despite Affonso's strong objections. The Byzantine secret was now being produced in Georgia in vast amounts, with Amargo taking much of it to Constantinople to aid in his protection of the King; he'd given each of his guards a pot to carry at all times, seeing how useful it would be to them. And now dozens of barrels of it lay behind her, as well as that which she'd plastered over the wooden supports and rafters which held up the stone roof. A single flame would consume all the wood in the room, and send the roof toppling down upon her head; she'd go out in a firestorm, and take the castle with her. It would spread from room to room like a plague; the flames would destabilise the supports and make it fall.

A single tear trickled down her cheek. She didn't want to go, but she couldn't take it any more. She'd betrayed her father and guaranteed years of instability in Spain. The children crying, the mountains covered in blood...

What was she, really, but a self-absorbed girl too clever for her own good? She had carefully constructed a plan to both save Georgia and show her father the error of his ways. And she'd enacted it perfectly; through coercion and bribery, all the lords of Spain had bowed to her will. But now, all that the plan seemed to be was a shipwreck of good intentions, some rotten thing turned sour and dark.

Aspae heard the sounds now. Her father's voice, which she hadn't heard for many months. Pereyaslava's desperate pleas for mercy. Footsteps coming ever closer, Kyril's voice angrily asking Affonso to stop. She smiled a sad little smile, stood up, and stepped backwards.

"Aspae!" roared Affonso, as the grand old man swept into the room, flanked by the Whisperer, who had finally returned, and Manoel, a worried look upon his pale face. The king's guards stood behind him, watching the scene before them. "Aspae, what have you done? Why have- good God, what the hell is that?!?"

Affonso's wide eyed face was staring at the Greek fire plastered across the wooden supports, all linked by trails of the stuff across the stones. Aspae smiled at her father, as she held the torch over the barrels, there to start the long chain of flame. "I'm sorry, Father. But you know I've always liked theatrics."

Affonso and Manoel stared at her with horror. The Whisperer began to edge forward, his hands held high. "Aspae, please calm down. What do you want from us?"

"Nothing." The girl laughed maniacally. "I've betrayed my family! Betrayed my father and my brother and my mother and two whole nations of children and good God-loving folk! What is there left?!" she screamed, laughing wildly at them all and holding the torch tantalisingly close to the barrels.

"What is it about our family and mental instability?" muttered Manoel, under his breath. "David, Davit, Henrique, Sancho, our Uncles, Amargo... now my dear sister too... it's like this castle is a hospice for the brain-sick..."

"Aspae" said the Whisperer. "It'll be OK, I promise you. You haven't betrayed anyone" he said, flashing a glance at Affonso, to tell him not to interrupt and correct him. "Please, just step away so we can talk about this.

Aspae looked at him in terror. "But Sancho..."

"It's fine, Aspae!" said Affonso, gently. "Please, just put the torch down and come here. Think about Kyril, and your mother! You have to put it down and come here."

Aspae looked uncertainly from one to the other, before starting to lower the torch. Affonso let out a sigh of relief and smiled at his daughter.

Then, suddenly, Aspae shrieked out "No!" and threw the torch upon the barrels. The flames shot up the rafters and along the trail, smoking and exploding into an ecstasy of fire. In an instant, the room was burning.

"Everyone out! Now! Evacuate the castle" roared the King. "Aspae, get over here now!"

Manoel and the guards shot out of the room, shouting "Fire! Fire!" and urging people to get out. The Whisperer hung back inside the hall, waiting for Affonso to get his daughter and flee. The King himself had leapt upon the table and was running the length of the room, towards his daughter. "Aspae! Please! Get out!"

Aspae stood there, wide eyed, slowly shaking her head. "Sin of the spirit cannot be redeemed..." she whispered, staring at the weird shapes upon the roof.

Affonso reached the end and grabbed her, but she resisted. "Hurry up! Now!" shouted the Whisperer with the little voice he could still muster. "The roof's about to come down!"

With an effort, Affonso lifted his daughter up and ran back along the room towards the Whisperer. The Mongol was still looking up at the roof, and just as Affonso reached him, he muttered, "Oh, hell-"

And then the roof collapsed.

As the heavy stones and flaming beams tumbled through the air, the Whisperer pushed the two of them with all his might through the doorway- but he himself was too far away. He turned back upwards to see his final, inevitable fate.

"Forgive me, Bayarmaa", he muttered, as the fire and rock smashed down and consumed his frail form.

Smoke rose from the castle as the flames continued to spread. Affonso looked back for a single moment, before hurrying on with his daughter in his arms and a sick feeling in his stomach, as his home and his closest friend were burnt to a cinder

And beneath the stones of the collapsed roof, the mightiest man in the kingdom saw his life peel away before his eyes. He let one final breath before the agony of life was over. Bayarmaa, Romanos, Demetrios and all the other brave faces he once had known were waiting for him to join them. He wouldn't want to disppoint his friends.



----

The crisis may have been resolved, but the Whisperer is dead, Aspae is descending into madness, Amargo has killed Sancho. But just when things are darkest, might stability be restored to the little kingdom? All will be revealed soon enough...


(And that's the last death for a while. I promise).
 
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loki100

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ouch, well the whisperer went out as enigmatically as he has been in most of this AAR

but yes the Georgians do now seem rather obsessed with using Greek fire ... any chance they will run out of the damn stuff sometime soon?
 

Aardvark Bellay

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Greek Fire is a nice tool for a turbulent story. Nicely told.
The most mystic stuff about the ERE. Hollwood would be proud of you.
Puh, now please let's follow more quiet times. :)
 

Taylor

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Hey, I just found this AAR, it's great! I read it all in one go, which took me... quite a while.

Poor Aspae, if only she'd known Amargo would kill Sancho before he could do any (more) harm...
 

Tufto

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loki100- Well, Manoel has found out how to make it now... but don't worry, I promise it won't feature nearly so heavily from now on. :p

Aardvark Bellay- Thanks :) and things will settle down a bit now, don't worry!

Taylor- Thank you! And yes, if only she'd known... though her guilt was driving her to such extremes anyway...


PART FIVE:

Firestorm

Chapter Five.

5th July 1143.

"Come in."

Affonso was only dimly aware of the door opening as he sat on his throne, alone in the empty room. The fireplace smouldered gently before him, among the rubble and ruins which were all that remained of the once mighty palace. Aspae's hellish fire had quickly spread, destroying the wood and felling the stones. The rain was gently falling, the occasional spatter from the now open sky turning the grey rock a darker hue.

"We're nearly done, sire."

Again; that dull, monotone voice which his Amirspasalar had been employing these days. Affonso had noticed it among everyone in Batumi; even with the victory in the war, the loss of their Spymaster and the destruction of the palace had cast a permanent depression over the people.

"Good. Don't worry, Adarnase; I have a plan."

The stern, calm face of the old soldier looked up at him with an eyebrow raised and said "I never worry."

Affonso laughed, and stepped off his throne, spreading his hands wide. He was dressed in a chokha, the traditional Georgian dress, with a curved sword tied around his waist. "Adarnase, I have plans. When my great-grandfather moved our palace here, fifty years ago, he did so out of tactical concerns. He wanted a sea port, somewhere to tend to the navy. Now, I have decided where our new seat should be. And there we shall build a palace, in honour of our dead friend."

Adarnase raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that taking sentiment a little too far, sire? He was only a common heathen spy, after all. I share your views, naturally, but what will the people and the nobility think?"

"I have given the people of this country everything!" hissed the King. "I have almost obliterated serfdom, I have given money to the poor, I have raised the common up to positions of power, and as for the nobility- bah! They would not dare move against me while I have the loyalty of the Armenians. No, the Palace of Bagatur will be raised up, and its glory will outshine that of the Queen City itself."

"Sire... about Sancho..."

"You've found who did it?" asked Affonso, suddenly calm and quiet. His eyes left Adarnase's face, and looked down at the crumbling steps beneath him.

"No, but I'm sure it wasn't Aspae or Kyril, or anybody else inside the palace. As far as I can tell, it was a plot originating from somewhere in the Seljuk Empire, but we can't tell who. If we still had the Whisperer's network of spies, perhaps..."

Affonso nodded. "When does the funeral begin?"

"Two hours, sire."

"Very well." Affonso sat back on his throne, and stared through the gaping holes in the wall at the sea. "Finish the packing. Send a messenger to Lord Kartili to tell him that we'll be visiting him soon."

Adarnase nodded, and began to leave. Then he paused, and looked back. "Sire?"

"Yes?"

"Where... where is it you're building your palace, again?"

"Oh! I almost forgot." The old, wild grin of the King began to creep across his face again. "Back to the old capital, high up in the mountains where nobody can touch us." A shadow passed along his face, and the wildness grew. "Tbilisi."

----​

That evening.

Manoel listened. He listened to the sound of the sea in the dark as the waves crashed upon the shore.

It would be the last time for a long time he would probably hear it. Affonso wanted all three of his children close to him at all times, so he would be taking up residence in the new capital, rather than his own home in [Caucasian] Albania. The palace was to be moved, along with everything else in his childhood home. He was sure, that of all the things here, he'd miss the sea.

"There's no time for sentiment" whispered his mind. "There's only room for iron in this head if you wish to make this realm prosper."

"I know." muttered Manoel out loud. He felt the body beside him stir, as Bedisa began to awake from her sleep. The two of them had begun a clandestine affair shortly after his marriage to Grateria, and Manoel was glad of it; it was the only thing that stopped him from descending into cold melancholy.

"Is... is it dawn yet?" came the sleepy voice of his lover beneath the sheets. Manoel smiled down at her.

"Not yet. Go back to sleep."

"You know, Manoel... you're going to be king now, aren't you? Now that Sancho's dead."

"Probably. I might be killed too, though."

He felt a small fist jab him in the side, and his smile broadened. "You'd better not."

"I'll make every effort not to, don't worry. But king... I always thought Sancho would be king. And now I have a child, too. I still haven't met him... I wonder if he's even mine."

"Oh, he is." came the sleepy voice below. "I went back to Albania while you were off in Constantinople. Met the little fellow."

"Well, how can you tell he's mine?"

"Because he had red eyes. Only the Bagratunis have red eyes."

And in an instant, all his troubles left him. Manoel kissed the top of Bedisa's head in thanks, and then lay back, listening to the waves lull to himself to sleep. Things were, at last, beginning to get better. The darkness was, for a single moment, lifted; and the Lord's light seemed to shine instead, giving a little, just a little, relief from the cold.

But far in the East, a man lay dying...


THE END
OF PART FIVE.

And so, Georgia begins to pick itself up after all the torments it's been forced through. The Spanish will choose their own King, the Bagratunis have a new home, Vakhtang is indeed Manoel's son and Affonso has survived with his sanity intact. But in the East, things are beginning to stir...
 
Last edited:

Aardvark Bellay

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Ah, finally peace prevails. "What will happen next i ask myself ?"
"WELL, idiot, somebody's gonna get killed i guess. There's always somebody getting killed somehow, someday, sometime".
"Errr, what ? Oh right.........do you hear the swallows singing ?"
"No!"

:ninja::laugh:
 

Tufto

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loki100- Calm does reign for now, but instability is always right on the horizon in this Georgia...

Aardvark Bellay: :D I promise, no more deaths! Well, after this update, anyway. At least for a little while.


Epilogue

"Come, my son. Sit by me."

The tall figure of Esugei motioned to the Khan's retainers to leave. His father lay there, all his warrior spirit which had driven years of his life sapped by this malignant disease. Batting away the flies which circled his head, the Mongol knelt by his father's deathbed.

"Esugei... my boy... I have a gift for you. A vision from the world beyond."

Esugei was always a superstitious one. With deadly seriousness, he clasped the Khan's hand in his own and asked "What is it, father?"

"I saw my brother again." Beneath the ancient, weak eyes, a little smile of memory appeared, which faded as he remembered his vision's contents. "I saw him crushed beneath fire and stone, and I saw him being pushed into a box in the ground, there to sleep a thousand years. I saw him die, Esugei..."

Esugei nodded slowly. "You've often told me that he was a good man, father. A fine fighter. I'm sure that my uncle died the way he-"

But the Khan wheezed out something approaching a laugh at this. "I lied, Esugei. He was not a fine fighter; he was a shadow, a whisperer. And he was not your uncle either. He... he was your real father."

Shock pulsed down the spine of Esugei. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that I couldn't have children, and my brother left for the West with a dead wife and a newborn son. He told me to raise you as my own, and to name you Esugei. And I did as he asked..."

"Father-"

"I am not you father, young one. But there... there was something else I saw. Something about you."

Ignoring the numb pain of deception, Esugei swallowed and asked "What was it?"

The Khan then shot upright, and gripped Esugei's arm tightly, his mad, staring eyes looking wildly into his son's. "I saw a tree. A tree coming from your chest, which grew than any tree should; and then it began to burn. The flames leapt from the tree and lit the steppes alight, and spread across the grass. They engulfed all Mongolia, China, the Steppes; then they spread to lands whose names I didn't know, all the way across the world, to the far West and Bagatur's deathbed.

And then, amid the fire and the pain, I heard a voice like thunder. A voice like the assembled armies of all mankind, gathered together on a distant, lonely field. And it said, 'All hail the Son of Esugei, son of Bagatur. All hail Temujin, greatest of mortals, ruler of the temporal world, the Great Khan of all mankind. All hail Genghis Khan.'"

Then, the Khan slumped back, breathing raggedly. Still wide eyed, his nephew put a hand to his brow. "Sleep, father. I will think upon what you have said."

"Good... you're a good boy..."

A few hours later, his spirit passed from his body. And Esugei, who had stayed by his side the whole time, stood up.

He had a horde to lead.

THE END
OF BOOK THREE


OK, so as I said earlier, I need access to the save before I can continue. For now, I'll be posting "interlude" updates for the next month or so, which will be a mix of history-book and narrative updates, with the latter concentrating on the fates of various minor characters throughout the AAR, scenes from other countries and events from the past.
 

loki100

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so the whisperer has spawned the thing he most feared ... ironic

& it'll be interesting to see the events around some of the lesser characters that have popped up in the course of this
 

Aardvark Bellay

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Woo, what a twist. History at its best. They are coming !
Let's play CK1 again. :)

I'm curious of what magic the interludes will disclose.
Thanks
 

Tufto

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loki100- I kinda think he'd kind of be proud of it, in his weird way. Though at the same time ashamed to be related to the Khan.

Aardvark Bellay- They are coming indeed... they'll be Georgia's biggest trouble yet.

Oh, and the minors which will be looked at are:
Cristina Bagratuni (Affonso's blinded, banished mother)
Maria Bagratuni (Akakide's widow)
Catarina Spartenos (Romanos' widow)
Narek (Armenian rebel from "The Blind Theban")
General Kommenus (loyal Imperial general, present at Kinaliq)
Dmitri Rurikovich (Papa's nephew and heir)
Grateria Von Wittelsbach (Manoel's wife)
The Innkeeper (Bedisa's father)
Captain Pietersen (The Whisperer's commander in the Dutch Rebellion)
Pedro and Vicente (Affonso's brothers, as yet mentioned but unseen)


If you can think of any others you'd like to see, please suggest them and I'll fit them in.
 

Tufto

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A double update for y'all! The first of the interludes as well as a taster of Book IV.

So, firstly:

The First Interlude: Maria Bagratuni.

"Get up."

The soldier, still reeling from the pain of the old woman's walking-stick, dug his palms into the mud and raised himself upright. Not for the first time, he cursed his own stupidity in joining the army, and his bad luck at ending up here.

It was unnatural, for a woman to lead troops. Just wrong. They said that she was bitter; that she'd waited in prison for years, as her husband petitioned the king to get her released. And then she finally did get free, and her husband died a few days later.

Made her angry, they'd said it had. Made her curse the church and God, and run away up north.

She was definitely old; about sixty or seventy. Dark-grey hair, flecked with silver, beneath an iron helm and flopped over a wrinkled brow. Her eyes were like little darts, daring any of them to question her place in the role of men.

The soldier stood up straight again. The damned Cuman frontier. He'd thought it would be an easy post; after all, there'd been peace with the pagan tribes since the Good King was only a boy.

But curse his luck! Saddled with some wizened old Kartili hag, waiting for a war that would never come...

-----​

Maria entered her tent and took off her helmet, shaking her long hair loose. Her defences came away, and the old fears seeped into her eyes once more as she sat down.

The candle flickered before her. She didn't much think about Akakide these days; too much had happened. It had all been too much for her husband; he'd spent years to get her out, and then he didn't have any life left in him...

Shaking her head, she ran her fingers through her old scalp and... remembered. There wasn't room for manners, and proper ladylike behaviour, up here. Those from the south thought it would be easy here; all the perks of being a soldier without the pain or danger.

They were wrong. The Cuman tribes delighted in their raiding, and it was getting harder each year to stop them. The people of the land had turned to whoever they could get, and the embittered woman from Batumi had grown a certain steel in her blood.

Demetrios... now there was a memory. Their broken affair when he was Regent and Akakide was afflicted with his strange madness... her affection for him had soon grown to hate. She'd only done it because Akakide was gone. Dead, she'd thought- only a muttering shadow of a man had slumbered behind those eyes.

But, he'd recovered. Akakide had become whole again. And, of course, all that had led to was more bitterness and sadness, in the end.

She heard shouting outside, and the sound of arrows. They were back again. Screwing her eyes tight she got to her feet, and drew her sword with ancient, creaking bones.

She wasn't quite ready to die yet. Still a little more time...



And now, a taster of things to come:

Book Four: Affonso the Tyrant's Child

"Easy, boy. If they see us we're all gone."

Vakhtang gritted his teeth. The fires of the camp were frighteningly close. He shuffled deeper into the sand, while Amargo lay perfectly still behind him.

"At least two-thousand. What was the King's estimate again?"

"Seven hundred" muttered Amargo. "We're in deep now, boy."

Vakhtang sighed. "What is there left to do? We don't have enough food to get back to Trebizond, and the water is almost depleted.

Silence. Vakhtang didn't turn; he just kept looking at the Kurdish cap, trying to make out the forms of their camels, to better ascertain their numbers.

"Alright. We double back to Van, and try not to get caught along the way. We still have enough men to hold them off for a while. As long as your father's whore gets safely back to him then my dear brother will be happy."

"Don't call her that." snapped Vakhtang, still staring into the desert. He could almost hear the coarse grin on Amargo's face.

"Why do you care? She isn't your mother."

Vakhtang turned, giving him the full stare of his red eyes. Most men would've flinched, but Amargo left his fear behind long ago. "I never said she was. But still, be quiet."

Amargo held his gaze for several seconds, before grinning again. "As his most royal highness wishes."

The soldier stood up, beckoning his nephew to follow. "Let's get back to the camp. The others will wonder what's happened to us."
 

Aardvark Bellay

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I really like your stories.
Sadly i can hardly differentiate who's who and how they are related. Pretty many people with foreign names or some like Amargo also being Affonso, but gladly it's a CK1 AAR and not a movie.
Though it''s a problem on my part as i have a really bad memory for names.
Again, thanks for the storytelling, it's great. :)
 

Nael1

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This Aar seems to have stopped.A pity ,it was great!Thank for all the work anyway!
 

Tufto

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This Aar seems to have stopped.A pity ,it was great!Thank for all the work anyway!

It may return if I ever get around to re-acquiring the save game on my other computer. But that won't be at least till Easter, as I forgot to do it over Christmas and don't have access to the old hard drive. So probably in a few months, with a little luck.
 
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