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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Stuyvesant

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ok, by a minor act of elimination ... my vote is for General Kommenus, not sure he's been descibed as tubby...

I'm pretty sure it's Akakide who's described as fatter than the attacker, not the other way round. :) Tufto's evasive response makes me think I'm looking in the wrong place, so now I'm doubting it's Komnenos. I'll have to wait and see.
 

Tufto

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Stuyvesant- Kommenus... is a possibility, but I shall keep you all waiting in suspense until the end of Part Three... :)

loki100- Stuyvesant's right, it was Akakide who was fatter. But it won't be too long now before the big reveal.

PART THREE:

Living Amongst Shadows.

Chapter Two.

One week later.

Twilight began to fall over the palace. The grey sky which seemed to permeate the City of Good Fortune was darkening.

The crumbling city had been beginning to recover from the little plague which had caused so much pain. But just when the people had begun to emerge, Pneumonia had reared its ugly head.

Half the children in Affonso's court lay dead in the graveyard, their parents weeping for the lives that they would never know.

The Whisperer had heard all of this from travellers who were heading into the Kingdom. Affonso's realm was once again a haven of refugees fleeing from the troubles of the region. For although Georgia was in peril, the rest of the East was in utter chaos.

The Seljuks were slowly fragmenting. Byzantium was seemingly on its last legs, fighting an insurrection by the Prince of Thessalonica. The Cumans were making menacing threats to a Hungary ripped apart by warfare, and the Egyptians were suffering another Crusade.

The Whisperer shuddered when he thought of Hungary. The things which he had seen...

They had been forced to detour around Cumania- the Mongol had not been willing to risk another trip through it. But as it turned out, travelling through Hungary had been the worst mistake that they could have made.

Their little ship had been battered and bruised on the journey home, but at last they had arrived in the port of the City of Good Fortune.

The Whisperer looked around. A few dockhands rushed to their ship, shouting as they recognised the queen. But their expressions turned to shock as they saw the scar blazing across her right eye- a parting kiss from her grandfather.

She had been stoic and cold about her wound, as was her way. But, once or twice, the Whisperer had thought that he'd seen her guard drop, her remaining eye grow wet.These moments were rare, however.

By her side stood the stoic Constantijn, ever the survivor. Even Hungary had done little to shake his hardened soul. Years of war had made even the most horrific atrocities seem commonplace.

And the Whisperer? He was still bitter about the fight with Papa Rurikovich. Whatever the content of the man's heart, the battle had still been a dishonourable one. A face full of burning wax was no way for a warrior to die.

But he had more pressing concerns on his mind. What of Affonso...?

He left the boat, helping Pereyaslava onto the quay, and then began the long climb to the Palace gates. The road from the docks to Affonso's residence was long and winding, and irritatingly steep.

Even if Affonso was fine, then what would he say? How would he react to his wife's injury?

The Whisperer felt a little flutter in his stomach- fear. He had not balked at the prospect of fighting Papa Rurikovich, but to be dismissed from his position would be fatal. He hadn't finished yet. He could not fail in his plan.

With the Eastern states falling apart around him, Georgia seemed to be the last hope he had...
 

Tufto

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loki100- thanks! :)

PART THREE:

Living Amongst Shadows.

Chapter Three.

The Whisperer looked out across the hills, with all their golden beauty, blocking the palace from the setting sun.

Affonso Bagratuni was the strangest lord who he had ever met in Europe. The Mongol disappeared with the man's wife for over a month, leaving no explanation. But Affonso had been joyous to see him again.

He was famed for his mercy. Demetrios and Maria had been accused of plotting against the king, but they had merely been jailed. Cristina had committed treason, but she was still allowed to live.

The Whisperer often wondered why. Affonso could be ruthless and fierce. He had destroyed the power of the gentry, and had treated them with contempt and cruelty. But he never took a life.

The Mongol sat down on a wooden chair, on the little balcony outside his room. He sipped his wine, the cogs of his mind once again turning.

The East was collapsing. Papa Rurikovich was dead. Georgia and Cumania were the only powers left intact.

But Affonso was not capitalising on this. He stayed locked up in his chambers, trying to solve the mystery of that cursed mole.

Who could have known all of the inner workings of the kingdom? Who would have killed the Chancellor?

The Whisperer had his suspicions. He'd always been wary of General Kommenus- that man was unscrupulous and pragmatic, and would betray the court at the drop of a hat, if it suited him.

But he was away on the Cuman front, guarding the border. How could he be eavesdropping in on the court's inner workings?

It seemed to the Whisperer that the only person both willing and able to do such a thing was Akakide. He'd been known to be... disloyal to those kings which he did not approve of. But this wasn't his style. He was a warrior, not a spy.

The Whisperer took another sip. Akakide did tell everything to Maria- she knew as much about the inner workings of the court as anybody, and had reason to hate Georgia. But she couldn't leave her cell- which was the only reason why the Whisperer tolerated Akakide informing her of the events of the world.

So that was another dead end.

The Whisperer wracked his head. Who... who could it be?

-----​

Across the castle, a pair of red eyes, lit up by candlelight, gazed at the reports lying on the table in front of him.

The Prince of Athens was dying. His sole surviving family member was the Emperor of the Greeks. An interesting development.

If the Athenians rejoined the empire, it would... change the East. The soldiers of the Prince of Thessasalonica would not be able to hold up against the combined forces of Athens and the Eastern Roman Empire. The Hellenic lands would be reunited once more.

And then... with Turkey in disarray, and the Balkans fragmented...

But there were other things on the mind of the Portuguese king. The Rurikovichs had reformed, with Dmitri leading them onwards. And with a mole in his court... things were not looking good.

Affonso sat back, running his fingers through his jet black hair. He thought of his son, Sancho. Once again, he could not help but think about the child's future. Would he be the Lord of the Caucasus, following in the footsteps of his father?

Or would he lie dead upon a burning field, as Cumans and Russians slashed their way through his country?

The candle's thin flame continued to flicker in the twilight...

-----​

Deep inside another part of the citadel, a set of eyes peered out from the gloom.

A man who did not bother to hide, because nobody would ever know his identity. A man who was living amongst shadows, waiting to strike once more.

The mole had failed to kill Affonso. But he had decided to move onto his next target anyway. The king could wait.

He thought of a man clad in black bandages, the one man who might work it out. He couldn't wait much longer.

He listened as the wind whistled throughout the Palace. The curtain was rising on the last act of a terrible drama of power and hate.
 
Last edited:

Stuyvesant

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As long as the Whisperer sees the knife coming, I think he'll be okay. After all, the mole was unable to kill Affonso and the Whisperer is definitely a more capable hand-to-hand combatant than the king.

The Whisperer, he wouldn't be from the future now, would he? Or did he maybe have visions of what his compatriots will do, a century or so from now? He seems to be attempting to build some counterweight, a viable power to stem the future Mongol tide. I wonder if that explains why he worked for Papa Rurikovich first - a first, failed, attempt to find a powerful state for a bulwark.
 

Tufto

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Stuyvesant- Well, I can reveal nothing... but you are partially right. I'll reveal his purposes one day.

PART THREE:

Living Amongst Shadows.

Chapter Four.

Akakide lay back and gazed at the stars.

He had lived a long, long life. He'd loved, lost, killed, descended into madness and ascended out of it in glory.

But his time would soon be over.

He thought of Henrique. It was strange that such beast had ever produced such a noble king as Affonso.

For Affonso was a good man, despite his distrust of others and his near-crazed antipathy to the nobility. The Red-Eyed Prince had guided the little kingdom to glory, fame and power, forging a realm which straddled most of the Caucasus.

His mind shifted again, through all of his many friends. Pereyaslava, who had recently realised that she was pregnant for a second time. The Russian beauty adored Affonso dearly. Whether or not the Portugese king loved her back... he could not tell.

The Whisperer. A good man too, despite his odd customs. Maria, his beloved wife, locked in a dungeon, rotting away. Demetrios, the strange Greek, in the same situation.

Further and further his thoughts raced back in time. The bloody dagger with which he had murdered his father and nephew. The swinging of his brother's noose, as Davit Bagratuni sent himself to the hellfire below.

A spiral of memories all swirled back down to his childhood. The brief reign of King Giorgios. And before that, a black coffin being laid in the earth.

The three year old Akakide was standing in the rain, as all the courtiers stood with their heads bowed down. His brother was next to him, gazing at the box containing the remains of King Bagrat as it was lowered into the earth.

His oldest memory. A death.

Akakide let out a bitter, hacking cough. Pneumonia was slowly sapping away the last of his strength. It wouldn't be long now.

He was the most ancient of the courtiers, the last of the Old Guard of Georgia. He lusted after death, but was determined to hang on until the mole had been caught and his wife had been freed.

He frowned. No, he wasn't the oldest courtier, now he came to think of it...

And then it hit him. The identity of the murderer.

"Oh, Lord," he murmered, his lips dry. Hidden in plain sight, for all these years.

He leapt out of his bed, and ran into the corridor. He had to see Affonso. He had to tell him who the mole was.

But even this exertion was to much for him. He collapsed to the floor, ragged gasps being choked out of his mouth. His consciousness left him as he lay in the dark, perilously close to death.

And all the while, the mole crept around the corridors, watching and waiting.

To be continued...
 

loki100

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going back to something you said a while back ... this has more and more an air of Gormenghast to it - with the rather claustrophobic castle and all the characters increasingly wrapped up in their own worlds
 

Stuyvesant

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Ooh, Akakide knows! But he's weak and dying!

You know, sometimes I feel more like a puppet than a reader here: my strings are being pulled rather blatantly. ;)

Never mind the grumbling, though, this is exciting. And a little melancholic. I'll miss Akakide: he's been from high to low to back up again, and despite his stormy life, he seems to have reached a state of peace with himself.
 

Tufto

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loki100- Gormenghast is my favourite book, and has been a pretty big influence. I always loved the idea of this strange, enclosed and crumbling world which in some ways worked together like a machine and in others was random and chaotic.

Stuyvesant- Ahaha, I'll try to stop doing that then :p.

And don't start missing Akakide- the old man isn't quite dead yet...

And now, ladies and gentlemen, here it is, at long, long last: the final chapter of Part Three... get ready for the most outlandish twist yet...

PART THREE:

Living Amongst Shadows.

Chapter Five.

Akakide's eyes opened. He drew in a long, heavy breath, before coughing and spluttering all over the stone floor of the corridor.

He did not know how many hours had passed. He saw the first faint rays of sunlight shine through the windows.

The mole, he thought. I have to deal with the mole.

He staggered to his feet, and slowly, painfully, he crept along the hallway, clutching his chest.

He had to tell Affonso. He had to be warned. Who knew where the mole would strike next?

The oldest foe of the Red-Eyed Prince. And someone who you should never, ever give a knife.

He reached the king's door, and threw himself against it with what little energy he could muster.
Wake up, he thought. Please wake up.

The door opened. An angry looking Affonso peered around it, before seeing Akakide lying on the floor.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? You're half-dead, man!"

Akakide looked up at him, gasping. "Doesn't... matter. I know who the... the mole is."

Affonso's faced changed. He hauled Akakide upright, and took him inside his chambers. A bleary-eyed Pereyaslava looked dumbfounded at the General.

"What's going on? Why is he here?

Affonso quelled her with a single glance, before laying Akakide down on the bed. "Tell me who it is." His voice was hard, cold. All thoughts of the old man's wellbeing had fled from his mind.

Akakide tried to chuckle. "Who... who could it be, Affonso? Think. Who else knows everything outside of the inner circle?"

"Nobody. Except for your wife."

"Right. Now, think a little harder. Who has a personal grudge against you?"

"Look, it can't be Maria. The killer was a man-"

"You're missing the point, sire. Maria is in prison. Now, who do we know who is a master eavesdropper, lockpicker and spy? Who is in the cell next to Maria, and thus in a prime position to hear the things I tell her?"

Affonso stared at him. "You can't possible mean..."

"Who else could it be? You know it is true."

Affonso sat back. "Pereyaslava. Go and get some water for the Marshal. Now."

The Russian left the room at once. Affonso put his head in his hands.

His mercy had caused this. He should've killed the man. He shouldn't have been so naive as to think that he'd simply stay in his cell.

The guards in the dungeons only guarded the entrance, curse them. There wasn't supposed to be any other way in or out of those halls.

Obviously he had found one. And he also presumably had a drop-off point for any messages between him and the Rurikovichs.

There was nobody else it could have been.

He got up, and strode to the door. He knew what must be done.

The time had come to end the life of Demetrios Tzampklon, the only man whom he had ever truly feared.

THE END
OF PART THREE.

 

Stuyvesant

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Hooray for Akakide! Once more saving his kingdom! That's, what, three times now?

Tufto said:
The guards in the dungeons only guarded the entrance, curse them. There wasn't supposed to be any other way in or out of those halls.
Shades of Discworld's Patrician - the cell doesn't lock from the inside, now does it? ;)

I hope Affonso takes a couple of burly guards with him. It would be a terrible shame if Demetrios manages to deliver a fatal blow at the very last moment.
 

Tufto

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Stuyvesant- Oh, Demetrios is too clever to let them get anywhere near him...

And no, Demetrios' cell does not lock from the inside. Nor does he have a whole army of semi-intelligent rats to help him. :p

PART FOUR:

The Greek Victorious.

Chapter One.

Dramatis Personae
Affonso, King of Georgia.
Akakide, Marshal of Georgia.
Demetrios, the former Regent and Spymaster of Georgia, now poised against the kingdom.
András , a Magyar peasant.
The King of Hungary.


Rain spattered down across the river Volga. The earth began to turn to mud, and started to blend with the water as it sluggishly bled towards the sea.

The skies were grey and clouded, as a raven cawed in the distance. A few miserable trees lined a field of a nearby farm.

A lone figure could be seen, wearing thick padded boots as he wandered down the length of the river. He was using a thin wooden stick to keep his balance.

He was an old man, with what hair he'd ever had now long gone. Only a few grey tufts stuck out from the sides of his head, but his wrinkled face was as sharp and keen as a ferret.

He didn't really need the stick he held. He was simply trying to look like a weak and helpless old man, to take Affonso's troops off his trail.

Demetrios sighed. He'd once been a master of Europe, murderering Roman emperors and causing mayhem and destruction across the Caucasus. Turks, Greeks, Cumans, Georgians, Rusyns- they had all learnt to fear him.

And he had been reduced to this. Walking down the Volga as the heavens beat down upon his battered old frame.

Demetrios had once been a loyal subject of Georgia. But years of unjust imprisonment had made him... change.

He'd been born in a little Anatolian mud hut at the start of the Great Eastern War- a time and place of savagery and murder. For all his sangfroid and coolness, a little of the animal he might have been had come out in the gaol.

It had taken him years to find another way out of the dungeons. But he had at last done it.

And so, he had sent a message to the Prince of Rostov, giving him as much information as he knew. Akakide had been talking to his wife about some highly sensitive reports, and it had been easy to listen in on their conversations.

The Greek's thin eyes narrowed. Vengeance had been sweet.

He'd had to kill Romanos, of course. A pity, as the two of them had once been close. But after all, he had been responsible for his imprisonment.

Demetrios slipped for a moment, falling into the mud. Cursing, he raised himself to his feet, wiping the dirt off his cloak.

A grin passed across his old face, as he crushed his annoyance with visions of the future. Every man in the Georgian court would be expecting him to go northwards, to Rostov.

Well, they were wrong. He had a different destination in mind. Where better to sow trouble than a place where war never ended...?

No, the Greek was heading westward, into the war-torn hellhole that had once been the Kingdom of Hungary.

He continued on, ignoring the rain pouring down his face. It was time for the King of Georgia to feel the wrath of those whom he had wronged.
 
Last edited:

Stuyvesant

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Yeesss... It all makes sense now. So Demetrios has escaped. A pity. I hope he finds his end in a random robbery gone bad, but that would be asking for too much.

I wonder what leverage Demetrios thinks he'll have with people of power in Hungary. I mean, with Papa Rurikovich it was pretty clear that their interests intersected, but why would the King/Duke/Count/Village Fool in charge of (what remains of Hungary) do Demetrios any favor?
 

Tufto

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I'm afraid there probably will be no update until Sunday; schoolwork has me bogged down.

loki100-Oh, he certainly does. Demetrios is ruthless and clever. That may not have been immediately obvious in the earlier updates, but he can do much damage.

Stuyvesant- He'll have plenty of leverage- he has quite a reputation, and there are many people who will wish to use his skills to their advantage.
 

Tufto

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PART FOUR:

The Greek Victorious.

Chapter Two.

Akakide stumbled out of bed. Next to him lay Maria, finally freed from her torturous prison.

One final night with his wife. He smiled, and gingerly trod to the window, so as not to wake her.

He had spent the last few days delving deep into his memories. He ignored the bad times- he just concentrated on the good ones. His wedding day. His victory over the Azeris. His brother helping him up from a muddy field, where he had fallen after a day's vigorous practice with a sword.

But that was all in the past. He was wracked with disease, and close to his deathbed. None of it mattered any more.

He walked to his table, pouring himself a glass of wine. He supposed that he would live on in a way. A thousand stories about the great general lived on, even if he was on his way out. The Azeris, for example, thought him to be some mighty djinn, sent to punish them for their decadence.

He looked out of the little window of his room, across the city which he loved like a son. His own children would have to succeed him now. Ketevan was already looking to be a fine warrior, as was Adarnase.

He savoured the sight of his hometown for one last time. The gulls, the chattering crowds, the sea air, the smiles and laughter, the horror and tragedy.

It was in good hands. Affonso would see it through. And then, maybe Sancho would be able to continue his father's work.

But, again, he was only a man. Nobody would see what Sancho would become, what terror he would cause. But that was not important. All that mattered was the present. And that for this single, shining moment, Georgia was a happy place.

He took one great swig of wine, before wiping his lips, and climbing back into his bed. There, he closed his eyes, and finally let his heart beat out.

Akakide Bagratuni was dead. The greatest general of the East was no more.



And so, Akakide is now dead. A pity, as by the end of his life he had 23 marshal in-game, which I should have used more to my advantage. I doubt I'll ever get such a good general in this game again.
 

Tufto

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nice ending ... & I don't think I've ever managed a #23 marshall ... had a few in the high teens and they were awesome at winning battles against ridiculous odds

Well, he did only have 19 marshal, but he got "military obsession" when he was crazed, and then he lost the crazed trait so he was bumped up to 23. I got lucky there.
 

Stuyvesant

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There's a gentle irony that this epitome of a warrior has the most peaceful death in Georgia yet. :)

Akakide, I think, got the death he deserved. His was such an interesting tale, because of his bad deeds, his subsequent descent into madness and finally his redemption. It's nice to think that even the most flawed being can redeem himself and end as a force for good.

Part of me wonders if it's back to the dungeons for Maria now... :p
 

Tufto

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Stuyvesant- Akakide has been one of my favourite characters to write about, for the reasons that you stated, and it's a pity to kill him off, in a way. But he was at the end of his story.

And Affonso isn't that cruel. Even if he doesn't respect Maria, he'll respect Akakide's memory.

In theory, anyway.


PART FOUR:

The Greek Victorious.

Chapter Three.

András was a man of simple pleasures. Drinking was one of them. Fighting another.

He sat in the inn, drinking deep and laughing with his friends. The night was cold, but here he was warm. Here he did not have to worry about the troubles and traumas of the peasant's life. Maybe some scrawny Pole would wander in, and give him the chance for a dust-up.

And it seemed that he was in luck. A cloaked man quietly entered the building, with a hood covering his face.

András, drunk on beer, staggered over to the figure. This scrawny foreigner wouldn't stand a chance. He leered gruelly at the visitor.

"Who are you, friend? Why do you block my path?"

The voice was soft, with a strange accent that András could not quite recognise. He'd met plenty of travellers and knew many of the voices of Europe, but he could not quite place this one. It had a ring of Greek about it, but it was tainted by something else, something he knew nothing of.

"I'd... I'd like t'know, yasee, wha' your doing 'ere in our little village. 'Cause, y'see, my brother is kinda like the head man 'round these parts, if ya follow my argument, like."

He could have sworn that a little chuckle emanated from the hood. "And does your brother approve of his family drinking so heavily? I'm sure the representatives of the... esteemed king of Hungary would wish to maintain some public dignity."

Several people laughed, András included. "You ain't from these parts, are ya, mister? The King has no power here. He's busy being 'oled up in that little ole' city of Pecs, minding 'is own business, like. We run ourselves out 'ere. Every man for himself."

The foreigner pushed back his hood. "No kings, no sense of decency... you seem to have an interesting place here.

András grinned. He was some skinny old man, thinking too much of himself with all his Greek superiority. This wouldn't be a tough fight.

"Well, matey, me an' the boys 'ere don't take too kindly to the likes of yerselves comin' in here and tellin' us what be decent, like, and what ain't. So I'm thinking, right, I'm thinking that I ought to teach you some manners, if y'see where I'm comin' from."

The great peasant lumbered forward, fists raised, grinning stupidly. The old man simply raised his eyebrows.

The hand which lunged towards the old man's face suddenly dropped, as András screamed with pain. The old man had simply stabbed him. No point in playing fair. That was a fool's game.

The others shouted and ran towards him. The old man threw his knife at one, before pulling two more from his cloak. The peasants hesitated.

"Tell this man's brother that I am in charge now." said Demetrios. "And tell him that I want a fast horse. Tomorrow I ride to Pecs."


By the way, if anybody else has any comment to make, please do so! This thread feels ghostly a lot of the time, and had it not been for the two dedicated commentators I have then I may well have discontinued this AAR (though I have absolutely no plans to do so now, so nobody worry).

So any comments are always welcome.
 
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loki100

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well I'll keep up the stalking, does seem as if Demetrios has both the capacity and the intent for some serious malice before his end

agree about Akaide, one of the more (of many) complex characters and very likeable too