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kingmbutu

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The year of our Lord 1066, the realm of Pskov is ruled by Lord Duke Domazhir of Pskov.

Domazhir1st.jpg


His new wife was a young noblewoman, a distant relative, Lady Sviatoslava, who also served as his eyes and ears in the court. By February, she was pregnant.

This small and impoverished duchy was a backwater in the most backward part of Christendom. There was little to commend it and in January 1067, an alliance was concluded with the Duke of Ryazan, another backward duchy, distinguished solely by its slightly larger size. All of the lands of Rus were dominated by the Rurikovich family. Outside the duchy, all was peace, save a war between Pskov’s new ally and the southern pagans that Domazhir declined to participate in. Inside the court of the young duke however, there was ample intrigue.

The duchy was ruled by Domazhir, whose word was law within his personal realm. However he ruled through his minister’s; a council of nobles each of whom was responsible for certain government functions. In addition to his wife, who was the chief spymistress of the realm, there was a Chancellor, who minded the relations of his Lord Duke with other realms. There was a Steward, who managed the finances of the realm, and a Chaplain who served as personal spiritual advisor to his lord Duke as well as superintending the spiritual life of the realm. Each of these was appointed by his lord Duke and served at his pleasure. Each of them competed for his favor and for status within the realm.

Chancellor – Miloslav of Pskov – At the age of 40, he was already an old man, but in fine health. His religious , chastity and training made him a better candidate for bishop than for the chancellorship. He enjoyed debating theology with the chaplain, but his ingrained skepticism made it so that he could never be considered a serious candidate for the priesthood. Nevertheless, he was loyal and had a sharp political mind.

Miloslav1stchancellor.jpg


Chaplain – Sviatopolk of Pskov – He was almost as old as the chancellor and Sir. Sviatopolk was as impious as he was zealous. His devotion to the cause of religion and his sharp theological mind masked his lustful character. It was said that he joined the church to rid of his lust only to find that it more greatly inflamed.

Steward- Valentina of Pskov – Lady Valentina had never married. Most men found her only marginally attractive, but were off put by her brilliant mind which was far superior to the best in the realm. She was a better theologian than the Chaplain and was chaste besides.

Spy Mistress – Her Lady the Duke Consort Sviatoslava was by no means the most attractive woman in the court. But she had been available and young and willing to marry. What she lacked in feminine charms she made up for in intrigue. She was an able diplomat and fertile besides. Although his lord Duke Domazhir had no great passion for her, their marriage was one of mutual respect and admiration. It was perhaps, the best that could be hoped for in those days.
 
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kingmbutu

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siekel said:
I have never played any Russian realm, but I know that the duchies in the mother Russia all have a great potential... Good luck. ;)
Maybe you could add some screenshots?


I could and probably will, but it is such a hassle sometimes. Thanks for the comment. Given my playing ability, I'm certain to disappoint you in terms of the potential of Pskov.
 

kingmbutu

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Throughout the year, peace and quiet was maintained throughout the realm. Excepting the departure of a young noblewoman to the court of a Serbian count and the arrival of a new one to Domazhir’s, nothing exciting happened. Day by day, Sviatoslava grew larger and larger, as did Domazhir’s hopes for an heir.

On October 14 in the year of our Lord 1067 she gave birth to a disappointment; a daughter named Maria, after the mother of our Lord. Domazhir attempted happiness. The child was gift from God after all, but it was not the heir he wanted or needed. In his own words…

14 October – Thanks be to God for the birth of my first child; a girl. She shall be named Maria, after the virgin. I did not want a girl child. My lineage is not yet secure. I am ashamed that I am not happy for this birth. It is not God’s will that he should at this time grant me an heir. My wife is young still. Perhaps he will answer my prayers.


Domazhir stared into the black space above him, his hurried breath slowly calming to a more normal pace. Beside him his wife Sviatoslava’s chest heaved up and down, retreating from the brief pleasure she and her lord had enjoyed. Their lovemaking, if it could be called that, was rarely passionate, so this moment was one she savored. She never regretted doing her wifely duties for her husband, but it was nice when he gave some attention to her needs as well.

She spoke into the darkness. “There was an accident today.” “An accident?” he replied. She could tell by his tone that he was answering her as a husband and not as a duke. “Yes, an accident. One of the court musicians, a woman named Lidiia, drowned while washing in the river.” Domazhir sighed heavily. He knew that drowning was one of the preferred means by which unwanted persons died at the hand of his spy network, which meant his wife. He sighed again and Sviatoslava knew that her message had been communicated. The drowned musician was the mother of her husband’s bastard child. While Sviatoslava had no great jealousies, she could not allow such an affront to go unanswered.

In the darkness, she clutched her husband’s hand and pulled him closer to her. He yielded and embraced her for the second time that night. The son Domazhir had had would be raised openly as his own, and the incident would never be spoken of again.
 

kingmbutu

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July 1068 – an emissary from his lord Duke Gregorii of Moskva arrived at the court of his lord Duke Domazhir of Pskov.

The chancellor, lord Miloslav, welcomed him in the stead of the Duke. The emissary, a large man with robust appetites, bowed before lord Miloslav, sweat pouring from every part of his body and his odor permeated the small antechamber used by the Chancellor to welcome such guests. Miloslav looked at him with pious disdain and after the normal formalities of greeting asked him directly, “What is it that my lord, the Count of Moskva, wants from us?”

The emissary looking annoyed at the bluntness of the chancellor answered vaguely. “Please forgive us your excellency. Perhaps you had not heard of the recent accession of my lord Gregorii to the title of Duke. We perhaps erred in our communications with his lord Duke Domazhir in this matter.” He bowed again, more slightly this time, but still pouring with sweat.

Miloslav had indeed heard of Gregorii taking on the title of Duke. He had intentionally slighted him only to throw the emissary off balance. “Our apologies, your excellency. Being so far north as we are, we sometimes fail in our duties to keep abreast of such important developments.” Another slight, this one more pointedly sarcastic. “Would your Excellency be so kind as to forgive us? How can we be of service to his lord Duke of Moskva?”

Miloslav knew that an alliance was desired, and he thought it would be in the best interest of Pskov to secure one. He did not want to be too obvious however. “Perhaps,” answered the emissary, “it would be better for us to discuss the details of my lord Duke’s communication in private.” “Indeed,” replied Domazhir, and directed the emissary to another room where the details of the alliance would be hammered out.
 

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22 November 1068 – Domazhir’s heir, Vsevolod, was born.

Domazhir was delighted, his wife less so. Although the child appeared to be healthy, Sviatoslava knew all too well the myriad dangers, natural, supernatural and personal, that could befall an heir to the throne, even one as inconsequential as that of Pskov. As the spy mistress of the kingdom, she knew everyone and everything that happened in the court and most things that happened outside.

She was not a suspicious woman, but was wise enough not to believe unthinkingly all of the compliments that were showered on her and her newborn son. She smiled politely to all of her well wishers, taking note carefully of those who took too much interest in her child. Vsevolod was heir to the throne, and should she survive her husband, she would be the one to guide him in his early years.
 

kingmbutu

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North of the principality, war raged between the pagans and the Prince of Novgorod. Already bordered on two sides by Novgorod, Domazhir was not happy about the advances they were making to his north. In addition to surrounding his small demesne, a Novgorodian victory would make it more difficult for Domazhir to expand northward in to Finland and win both fame for himself as well as bringing the gospel to these heathen lands.

Domazhir was no fool however. He could not match the thousands of men that were fielded by Novgorod and the economy was not strong enough to support any major campaign. He could not stand back though and be surrounded by the Rurikovich clan. He summoned his council to sort through his options.

The answer lay further north; Kexholm. The small county was populated with Finnish pagans, and was the door to the Finnish north. Their armies were small, and so in the spring of 1069, Domazhir rode north at the head of his armies, seeking glory for his family name.
 

stnylan

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The only time I played Pskov I was rather quickly defeated. Novgorod is a nasty monster. An early break-out seems like a very good idea.
 

kingmbutu

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stnylan said:
The only time I played Pskov I was rather quickly defeated. Novgorod is a nasty monster. An early break-out seems like a very good idea.


Let's hope I can survive
 

kingmbutu

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For twenty days the battle raged as Domazhir’s men slaughtered the pagan armies. Domazhir himself fought in the thick of battle. He was a tough soldier, and his men were loyal to him. Sophisticated tactics were lost on him, but the sheer brutality of a frontal charge suited him well. He hacked through the enemy lines with all the vengeance of a madman. In his mind were his wife and his son; his lineage. It was for him that he fought.

When the battle ended and the last of the pagans retreated behind the walls of their primitive fortress (no different really from Domazhir’s own), his troops went up in a shout. Camp was set and a siege was laid. For this faze of the battle, Domazhir was no good. He sent for his wife, and she joined him along with much of his court. The siege promised to be a long one, and he did not want his family away so long.

In October, as the winter began to descend on the camp, a messenger came to Domazhir. “My lord Duke, there is some one from the opposing camp who has come to see you.” Domazhir looked up from his chair to see a tall handsome man enter the tent. With a deep bow, he spoke. “My lord Duke, it is clear to me that God has given us over to you. If you would, I present myself to you and offer my loyalty to you.” Domazhir was a practical man. “What reason can you give that I should spare your life? How do I know you are not a spy?” “My lord, I served as chief steward of Kexholm, and I have brought with me the books of the realm. From these you can see that I am no spy, but am a true man.”

Domazhir nodded to Valentina, his own steward, who took the books and at a glance could tell that they were true. Sviatoslava noticed more in the glance that the foreigner gave to Valentina. Valentina spoke, “My lord Duke, these books are true and his skill is greater than my own.” Although Valentina did not want to lose her position, she was honest and recognized talent superior to her own. Besides, what harm could come of speaking truly. “Very well then, uhhh… what is your name?” Domazhir asked. “My apologies my lord. I am Urho.” “Yes, well, Urho, I accept your petition. I will be your liege.” Sviatoslava leaned over and whispered in his ear. A sly grin spread across his face. “Yes, I will be your liege and as a gift to you I give lady Valentina to be your wife.”

Valentina’s eyes widened and she barely suppressed a gasp of disbelief. She was almost 30, far past the age at which most women were married. She was chief steward of the kingdom besides and this new nobleman was a pagan. Urho looked at her; he was clearly more pleased with the prospect than she. “Thank you my lord,” he said to Domazhir with a deep bow. Valentina recovered her composure, “It is as you say my lord.”

The wedding happened a week later, and the new nobleman was appointed as chief steward in the stead of the still shocked Valentina. When Domazhir spoke with her later, he explained. By marrying her off to this new courtier, she could perhaps influence him in the Christian faith. More importantly, she could watch him and report back on any suspicious activity.
 

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Rather hasty wedding, and rather cavalier treatment of his steward.
 

kingmbutu

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stnylan said:
Rather hasty wedding, and rather cavalier treatment of his steward.


Domazhir isn't the most thoughtful of monarchs, nor does he care much about his stewards feelings. Her discomfiture may result in some nastiness down the line for "His Lord Duke"
 

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In November, Sviatoslava reported that she was once again pregnant. A feast was held in the camp to celebrate this announcement. The ongoing siege of the pagan fortress had taken on an air of normalcy through the months and was a mere backdrop to the celebration. In fact, people came and went regularly through the gates of the town with no real harassment from Domazhir’s troops other than random insults, and an occasional rotten egg. It was an odd sight.

Valentina and her new husband were responsible for the organization of the event. It was a truly amazing event with an abundance of meat requisitioned from the local peasantry. Urho’s relationship with local leaders opened many doors, some of them forcibly. Within the halls of Domazhir & Sviatoslava’s “tents,” heavy tables laden down with food were set. It was an amazing event and Valentina & Urho basked in the shared glory of pulling off such an event under the challenging circumstance of an ongoing siege.
 

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July 1070 – Domazhir’s fourth child, another daughter was born. The siege had been going on for nearly a year. The financial toll on the duchy was rising and it seemed that Domazhir could not maintain the siege much longer. In fact the duchy was going into debt. Five months later, another Finnish pagan joined Domazhir’s court. This one was much less modest than Urho, and was indeed a lustful and selfish character. Sviatoslava did not like him much. By now she and Domazhir had returned to Pskov, leaving the siege to be conducted by knights loyal to the crown. Finally after two years of siege, Kexholm was subdued and its loyalty to Domazhir secured. It was a good thing too; the duchy could not afford to hold out much longer.

In October 1071 Chancellor Miloslav came to Domizhir. He was ill and there was no diagnosis of the condition. Domazhir was concerned. In these days any illness could easily lead to death, and although Miloslav was not an ancient man, he was no longer young. Miloslav and Domazhir were friends and had been for years. He had been Domazhir’s mentor in the earliest years and so his death, even his sickness, was a terrible blow to him.

By December, the illness had gotten worse. A constant cough and fatigue plagued Miloslav. Domazhir relieved him of his responsibilities as chancellor, appointing Tamara (another courtier) in his place. He ordered daily updates of his friend’s condition and as often as possible he made his way to Miloslav’s quarters.

The remainder of 1072 and 1073 passed uneventfully. Miloslav did not grow better, but he did not get worse. The halls of his home echoed with his harsh hacking cough and his servants spoke in hushed tones around him, which only annoyed him. Almost every day Bishop Sviatopolk came to visit him, keeping watch in case he passed from death to life. The doctors were powerless to help and time passed slowly.
 

stnylan

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That was a long siege. Hopefully Domazhir will now reap some benefit from the outlay.
 

kingmbutu

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Domazhir spent a lot of time with his young sons. He had only one legitimate heir although he had four children. His son Vsevolod was apparently healthy, and his other son, Demian, was ineligible to inherit since he was a bastard child. He wasn’t worried, but he would rest easier if he had another child. Sviatoslava wasn’t resistant; she too knew the importance of lineage, but there were no indications of any pregnancy.

Amazingly there was a pregnancy in the court. Valentina at the ripe age of 33 was pregnant. All the court was buzzing with the gossip. It was unbelievable that a woman of her age and chaste reputation was pregnant at all. It had been rumored that she had never had sex with her husband after the wedding night.

Valentinaspregnancy.jpg


Valentina smiled at the gossip and the news. She had never imagined that she would know the pleasure of a child, and despite the rumors and her chastity, she actually enjoyed her relationship with the pagan husband she had been forced to marry. Despite her hatred of his religious practices, she loved him deeply, and willingly gave herself to him whenever she asked. Their shared love of money and devotion to hard work drew them together. Even during her pregnancy, she could be found at his side, reviewing his calculations and tax receipts for the realm. The match, though not made in heaven, was certainly no burden to her or to the realm. Her thoughts of revenge towards Domazhir for forcing her to marry faded away in the bliss that came from the company of her loving, though pagan, husband.

Late in the year, seemingly in competition, Sviatoslava announced a pregnancy as well. She would give birth to a second son, Vikentii. Domazhir rejoiced at the news. With two heirs to the throne, he felt more secure.
 

kingmbutu

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stnylan said:
That was a long siege. Hopefully Domazhir will now reap some benefit from the outlay.


A long seige for a very obscure province. The poverty of Pskov is a serious handicap as is the lack of soldiers. I think it will take a while for it to be anything more than a backwater.
 

kingmbutu

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The years rolled slowly by. Domazhir’s children began their schooling: Demian as a priest (the only real possibility given his bastard status), Vsevolod as a warrior, Maria in the skills of a courtier. Each of their educations was suited to their probable roles in life. Domazhir ignored his daughters for the most part, especially Maria, the eldest. It was as if he could never forgive her for having been born a girl instead of a boy.

In response, she became vengeful towards her enemies and even friends. She nursed her resentments and took every opportunity to get back at others. Her uneven temperament was a challenge for her tutors who expected her to be a demure and placid girl. As for his sons, each of them took to their lessons as naturals. Vsevolod loved his instruction in the art of war while Demian enjoyed his time studying under the Chaplain.

Valentina’s child was born in 1075; a little girl. She was the darling of the court.

Domazhir’s younger son grew, seemingly healthy and strong. He was pleased with his growth and looked forward to seeing what kind of son he would become. All of life was pleasant for Domazhir in these years. His lineage seemed secure, his lands were at peace. His finances had begun to recover, aided by the additional revenue and economic savvy of Urho and Valentina. There was nothing at all to disturb him in his happiness.

All that changed in May 1076 when Sviatoslava came to him weeping openly and unashamedly in the court. His son Vikentii had died. There were immediate suspicions of foul play and Sviatoslava herself undertook to investigate. Her grief fueled her energy. This death did not seem to be natural, but spiritual. Domazhir once again had only one heir to his throne, and his wife was growing older.

Death of an heir!
DeathofVikentii.jpg
 

kingmbutu

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As Domazhir and Sviatoslava returned from the burial of their son, a somber gloom hung over the attending crowds. Sviatoslava was heavily veiled, her grief hidden behind a curtain of imported silken cloth. Her veil prevented her subjects from seeing the extent of her grief, and also prevented her from seeing them clearly.

As the horse plodded slowly along however, one person did catch her eye. An ancient crone who smiled a wicked smile while all around her small children played with impish glee. Sviatoslava sighed heavily, her whole chest heaving with the grief. It was then that she knew that this woman, this witch, who had often come to ply her goods at the very gate of Domazhir’s house, had bewitched her and caused the death of her child.

Two weeks later, the old crone, her children and all of her grandchildren, seventeen people in all, were impaled outside the gates of the city and their corpses subsequently burned. Sviatoslava was not a vengeful woman, but she could not allow the death of her son to go unpunished.
 

stnylan

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No, Sviatislava is not vengeful at all, she simply believes in swift, robust justice with a high deterrence value ;)