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May 16, 2002
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The Eagle In Winter

Part I: Christmas In Wolgast


Wolgast Castle, Brandenburg – The 1st of December in the Year of Our Lord 1103

As the cold, wintry wind beat hard on the stone walls of Wolgast Castle, a fleck of snow began to drop from the heavens and descend downwards, listing left and right in the gusts that blew, and finally landing on the edge of a stone crevice cut from the walls of the main tower. Inside, Heinrich Staden stood at the slight window overlooking the main yard and watched it land, as he waited impatiently for his Chancellor to arrive.

Ernst von Görz was an aging man, and at fifty-six, was longer to answer a summons. And on this very cold day of December, the Chancellor knew that he would not be greeted kindly. But then, Heinrich greeted no one kindly. As Duke of Brandenburg, he had that ability to do almost anything he wished, save go against his liege lord, Adolf von Franken, the King of Germany. And as of late, this was his pressing concern.

The door slowly opened, and von Görz shuffled into the room expecting to be showered with expletives. Instead, he was allowed to find a comfortable stool and sit. It was then that Heinrich turned and moved in on his Chancellor.

“So, dear Ernst…answer me what news comes from the west. Has the King moved his troops from Lower Silesia? And if not, when may we say this will be done?”

“I dare not answer such a question, My Lord, for fear of presenting you with a false assurance. There is little in the way of correct information flowing from the King’s encampment, and not even the connections of your brilliant mother can tease them from the tightness with which His Grace holds himself.”

“This is no answer at all,” Heinrich spat as he turned back towards the window, trying to think of his next move. “We cannot declare war on the Hammadid if Adolf has his men primed to move. I’ll not have another siege stolen from me, is that understood?”

“Of course, your Grace,” von Görz responded with complete understanding.

“And if we cannot declare war soon, I fear that the Hammadid will continue their path of destruction across the entirety of Bohemia. This is unacceptable. Was Ulrich given his summons as well? I must speak with my Marshall.”

Heinrich waived his hand in the air as a dismissal of his chancellor, and von Görz wasted little time in taking his reprieve. As he walked from the room, bowing slightly, he heard Heinrich call after him, “And tell my son that his brother is long past due. I wish to know the moment Philipp arrives and I wish it to be Friedrich that tells me!”

A gust of cold air blew through the room just before the door was shut, and Heinrich wrapped the fur collar of his cloak around his neck until it had passed. He ran a hand through his thick brown hair and wondered when it would turn gray. He had not been able to see his father grow old and did not know when it was first to hit. And all of his advisors had been gray since he was first aware of it. But a knock pulled him from these thoughts.

“Enter,” he bellowed as he sat at a table and began to look over several parchments that had just been written up for him.

An older woman entered the room, her hair long and brown with salt and pepper running through it, but pulled tightly into a bun on her head. Her dress was simple, but with slight touches of finery just about the edges as if to suggest that regardless of her carriage, she was of noble stock. She was a slight woman, barely more than four feet tall, and her weight was commiserate with such, but her the way she moved proved that she was the strength of many men her age, and some of those younger, at least as far as the mind worked.

This was Oda von Werth, the Duke’s mother, and recently reinstated as the official spymaster of the Duchy. However, Oda von Werth was always her own spymaster and even if Heinrich despised his mother, and did not waste many chances to show her, he still respected her connections and ability. And so now, he welcomed her arrival but hoped the visit would be brief.

“What brings you to call, dear mother?” Heinrich asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer.

“My son,” she began slowly as she sat her self gently in a chair provided by one of Heinrich’s guards. “I have been asked to seek counsel with you in the hopes that your wife might have the company of her relatives this season of Christ.”

Heinrich stood to his full height of five foot eleven and he slammed both fists down on the table, “If the woman wishes to see her kin then she should have the bravery enough to request it of me herself. Damn the woman for opening our business to strangers!”

“You dare call your own mother a stranger?” Oda responded, almost goading her son.

“Would that it were so,” he wasted little time in answering her insolence. “But that it is not, I should wish that you and she would cease your womanly deceits and get back to the business for which you were designed. She to the raising of our children and you to your whispering…to others other than she!”

His raised voice might have brought a guard in had Heinrich not solved that problem years ago. If he chose to murder his own mother right now, they would not intercede, lest they too see their bodies pulled apart. Heinrich pulled his fists from the table and walked around behind his mother, placing both hands on her shoulders and squeezing ever so slightly.

“Mother dear…you have been given a second chance to serve me as you are able. But if I find that you have used your influence to go around my back, then I shall have no choice but to send you back to Silesia from whence you came no so long ago. Was exile that promising?”

Oda von Werth said not a word, but nervously shifted her upper body enough to let Heinrich know that his words held weight. She bowed her head and softly answered, “My Lord Duke, there be no other that I wish to serve more. It is my only honor and wish to do your bidding.”

“Very well then. I should hear no more of this talk about bringing Ludwig and his family to The Feast of St. Nicholas. I hear enough from them as it is, and I’ll be damned if I will spend the Holy Days surrounded by that bothersome lot.”

“I shall not mention it again, Your Grace.”

Without word, she gently lifted herself from the seat and began to move from the room.

“I do not think I was finished speaking, dear mother. It seems there is one other bit of news you might enlighten me on.”

She kept her head bowed and turned back to her son, “My Lord?”

“What news of Ludwig?”

It was then that Oda lifted her head to look into Heinrich’s eyes. Yes, a weakness still – that bastard son of his, she thought. “What news? None to speak. He is soon to finish his studies with Father Kaunitz and will be primed to accept a bishopric if you so desire.”

“Excellent news. And he has not been seen with any of his siblings of late, yes?”

She nodded once and looked back to Heinrich as if to ask her leave once more.

“Go then.” He waived his hand at her as he turned away to look out over the grounds. When he heard the latch to the door catch, he said out loud as he grinned, “And a bishopric you shall have, my son. Soon…very soon.”
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Don't even begin to ask me what made me decide to do another AAR while I still have Into the West in progress, and running along I might add. There is no other reason but insanity. However, as I was playing along very nicely with a game as Duke of Brandenburg, a story idea hit me and just kept running. If I didn't get it started now, I would hate myself.

However, this AAR will move very slowly until Into the West is finished, and that is no time soon. But when I get the chance, and as I keep workng out the plot to this one, I will put out an update every so often just to keep it "warm" if you will.

It will be story driven just like Into the West, and covers a very small amount of time. But much happens during that period. And I will go ahead and announce my debt to The Lion In Winter - a great play, a great movie and a great inspiration. This will be in that style.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this start and will consider sticking with the AAR as it slowly moves forward. I thank you ahead of time for reading. :D

* * *

Cast of Characters (thus far)

Duke of Brandenburg's Court:

Heinrich Staden - Duke of Brandenburg

Philipp Staden - Count of Rügen, eldest son of Heinrich

Friedrich Staden - Second son of Heinrich, Steward of Brandenburg

Jedrzej Staden - Third son of Heinrich

Ludwig Staden - Bastard son of Heinrich

Margarete von Thuringen - Wife of Heinrich, mother of Philipp and Friedrich

Oda von Werth - Mother of Heinrich, Spymaster of Brandenburg

Ernst von Görz - Chancellor of Brandenburg

Ulrich of Brandenburg - Marshal of Brandenburg

Father Kaunitz - Diocese Bishop of Brandenburg

Bishop Mateu de Chalencon - Bishop of Altmark, vassal of Heinrich

Albrecht Wizlawid - Chancellor of Rügen

Friedrich Goseck - Count of Anhalt, vassal of Heinrich

Adelheid Staden - sister to Heinrich and wife to Friedrich Goseck

Duke of Thuringia's Court:

Ludwig von Thuringen - Duke of Thuringia, father of Margarete

Leopold von Thurningen - Count of Plauen, son of Ludwig, brother of Margarete

Maria of Bar - Leopold's wife and Spymaster of Plauen

Judith von Thuringen - 16 year old daughter of Leopold

Klementia von Thuringen (Klem) - 14 year old daughter of Leopold

Michael von Schrapelnau - Spymaster of Thuringia

Konrad von Mühlhausen - Marshall of Thuringia

Folkhard von Mansfield - Chancellor of Plauen

Albrecht von Mansfield - Steward of Plauen

Lutbert von Weimer - Count of Weimer, Vassal of Thuringia

Bernhard von Weimer - Marshall of Weimer, son of Lutbert


Adolf von Franken - King of Germany

Magnus Billung - Duke of Saxony

* * *​
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coz1 said:
Don't even begin to ask me what made me decide to do another AAR while I still have Into the West in progress, and running along I might add.
I won't ask, but will watch instead with interest.

Haven't seen the film (though we have it), but I'm beginning to sense quite a bit of intrigue and ... well interesting things in our story here. Am looking forward to it :cool:

EDIT: By the way, your (secondary) (or perhaps tertiary) task with this AAR will be to persuade me to buy Crusader Kings.
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Not sure I can convince you to buy the game for play reasons, but I can certainly do my part to show what brilliance the game set up is for story ideas. :rolleyes:

And for those wondering, here is a helpful shot to show what the situation is as the story begins. Feel free to ask any questions about who is who.


The Duchy of Brandenburg, December 1103​

EDIT - Oh, and Rügen is also part of Brandenburg, held by Heinrich's son, Philipp - but we will soon find that out. ;)
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Seems like Poland and Bohemia are overrun by the Muslims, which gives you a nice possibility for expansion.

I am guessing you play with patch 1.05 ?
I missed Spanish Gold, but will do my best to keep tabs on this. Good characters so far. And you're right, no Paradox game is, at the same time, so rich in story detail but so frustrating as a game.

Veldmaarschalk - Thanks for taking a look. Yes, I am on the latest patch, but it is vanilla beyond that. And yes, the Muslims have invaded the north. More on that in a sec.

Mettermrck - Yep, great movie. In fact, the remake with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close wasn't bad, but nothing beats Hepburn and O'Toole trading quips fast and furious. I'll never be able to equal that insanely brilliant dialogue, but I hope to pay honor to it in some way.

And yes, there are always some oddities that seem to occur. I don't even recall when it happened that the Hammadid (and the Fatamids too) started taking land in Poland and Bohemia. It's partly Poland's fault for getting into a war with them and losing badly. Plus, the Pope called a crusade against the Hammadid, which Heinrich joined (that's how he got land in Silesia) but grew tired with losing money and peaced out. That's when I noticed the King next door just waiting for me to move so he could pounce on my siege, and thus the nugget that became this AAR.

stnylan - So true. Those weird circumstances do lend to incredibly alternate worlds which makes is somewhat easier to write in that I am not constantly wondering if I am being historically correct about some things. But the characters alone are enough to make you want to write an AAR from a game. This one has quite a large cast, and I will do my best to keep everyone clear and not clutter things up. We'll see how it goes.

One more update coming up, just to keep the start flowing smoothly. Thanks for reading and commenting everyone! :D
The Eagle In Winter

* * *


Philipp Staden, first son and heir of Heinrich Staden, and Count of Rügen in his own right, had traveled fast to return to court in time for the Feast of Saint Nicholas. He was to meet his wife and children in Wolgast after he had taken a tour of the eastern provinces and gained first hand knowledge of the King of Germany’s position in Lower Silesia. He was now tired and sore from a long ride, and had spurred his mount faster, leaving his chancellor, Albrecht Wizlawid, behind.

Upon arriving through the main gates and reaching the steps towards the great hall and tower complex, he dropped from his ride and bounded up the wide stone entranceway, swinging the heavy wooden door to the side. No one was in the great hall to greet him immediately, but the first servant that spied him quickly rushed over and bowed, holding his hands out to receive the Count’s cloak and other items.

Dropping it all to the floor instead, Philipp also flung his battle-axe aside and completely ignored the servant. Instead, he walked down the hall towards the solar where he assumed his wife and children would be resting. When he got there, he found his brother, Friedrich, alone and looking closely at a chessboard.

The two could easily have been twins, born less than a year apart, both bald, as the backside of a babe, and equal in height and coloring. Only the extra weight that his brother carried differentiated them. Well, in truth, there was also no small amount of skepticism of other’s motives, and a deceitfulness of his own to tell Philipp from his brother.

“Friedrich! I have long been at travel and it is good to see you. How does the day find you?” Philipp interrupted his brother’s chain of thought with a friendly tone.

Friedrich looked up and spotted his brother in the archway. He quickly stood and rushed towards him with arms outstretched. After a manly hug between them, Friedrich directed his brother to a table where he was offered some mulled wine.

“You must have chills after being outside for so long. And this winter has come on us quickly this year. Far sooner than I expected.”

“It is worse to the north, I can assure. And the severity is brutal. But what of my wife and the children. Have they arrived yet?” Philipp did not sip his wine slowly, but pulled it down in two or three gulps.

Friedrich turned back to his chessboard and thought for a moment.

“What news, brother?” Philipp repeated again.

“They have not arrived, I regret to say. We have received no word of them.”

Worried, Philipp dipped his goblet into the wine once more and pulled another to his lips. Drinking it down, he began to walk from the room. “Where is our august Duke this day? Does he hide in the tower still?”

Friedrich followed his older brother from the solar and they soon walked in step as they talked.

“He does, sir. I do not understand his worry or superstition…whatever you may call it. It is worrisome to me, to be sure.”

“I know not why, brother. Our father is near to madness if you ask me. Always has been. I assume this is what happens when a life is consumed by greed and bitterness. But I am not the physician. So I dare not make a diagnosis.”

Laughing, Friedrich placed his arm on his brother’s shoulder as they walked. “It sounds as if you already have. I was not aware that they were delivering honorary degrees these days.” Philipp did not respond, nor break into a smile but Friedrich continued his playful taunting, “You gain a count’s inheritance and all of the sudden you are no longer the eighteen year old novice wondering how to remove his new wife’s shift, but a nineteen year old man of learning. Impressive, I must say.”

“You would do well to wait until my wife’s whereabouts are accounted for before irritating me, Friedrich. I am not in the mood to laugh.”

The tone indicated exactly what the words did, and Friedrich apologized. “I am sorry, brother. I did not mean…”

“No, of course not. Think on it no longer. Now let us be off to the Duke and see what he has to apologize for.”

As they rounded a corner, they were nearly knocked to the ground by Ulrich of Brandenburg, the Duke’s marshal who had exited a room just across the hall immediately upon hearing that Heinrich wished to see him.

“Oh…My Lord?!” Ulrich shouted in surprise. “We had expected you yesterday or the day before. It is well that you have arrived as the Duke has reason to speak with you.”

“And with you, it seems good Ulrich,” Philipp replied as he pushed past the marshal and moved on. He heard Ulrich speak to someone else, but did not make out what it was as he was well past them, but quickly Ulrich caught up with both Friedrich and now Ernst von Görz in tow.

All three somehow seemed in cahoots with one another, and it was confirmed when von Görz was pushed forward as representative. “Your Lordship,” he began slightly nervous, “I wonder if I might entreat you to pay a call on your mother first, before holding forth with the Duke. I am aware of an item or two she wishes to address with his Gra…”

“God’s balls, man! I am not a messenger. Why does she pester us all so? Does she not have a mouth? Does she not have lips? I know there is little head on her shoulders, but even a feeble man knows how to ask for something to eat!”

Cowered, von Görz stepped back, and Ulrich of Brandenburg took his place, “Your Grace…it is the season of love, is it not? Christ taught that…”

“Christ does not enter into any decision the Duke makes, so it is best to leave the Savoir out of such machinations, Herr Marshal. What in pagan’s breath are you on about? Tell me now or leave it forever. And get to the point!”

Friedrich stepped ahead of Ulrich, and stopped his brother’s moving body, turning him around to face the three men. “Philipp, it is not just our mother that has this wish. It is I too.”

“What? What is it that you three wise men need?!” He yelled mockingly.

“I would like to invite,” he started and then corrected himself, “We would like to invite Ludwig von Thuringen to the Feast and welcome him and his family to stay through the Mass of Christ.”

“What in the blazes of hell for? The man is a simpleton, and what’s more, not only does the Duke despise him, but so does our dear mother, his own daughter. Further, and this must be where your mind has gone feeble, an invite to the Duke of Thuringia, also extends to his own son, the Count of Plauen. And if there is one man that despises our father more than we, it is Leopold. Was there not enough excitement last year?”

Philipp left the conversation at that and went on his way to meet with the Duke, but all three followed, Friedrich in the lead and obviously the more interested party, and the older counselors behind and left to catch up. Friedrich finally pulled alongside him again and pulled Philipp gently around once more.

“Consider it a favor for your brother…brother,” he tried to plead.

Philipp looked him up and down, shook his head with some contempt, but then placed his hand on Friedrich’s shoulder in a show of kindness. “Then so be it, my brother. It seems that eighteen has shown the progress of your growth, and all the whims that come with it. I believe I can be certain I now know of what it is you are asking, and though I do not think it a wise choice, I cannot question another man’s happiness or quest thereof.”

“Dear Philipp…thanks to God for your understanding. I cannot ask of it myself, for he would have a thousand fits. But coming from you, his heir…and, well…coming from you, he might listen.”

“I do doubt that brother, but have little doubt that I will attempt. Now where is mother? If we are to conspire, then we should all be in agreement what the conspiracy is. Lead on.”

The four men walked back down the hall and away from where Heinrich held his confidence in the tower. Philipp did not wish to speak with his mother at the moment, any more than he wished to speak with his father. But both would have to be dealt with this day. However, he was still worried about his wife. Why had she yet to arrive? He hoped for the better, but feared for the worse.
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Some wonderful lines in there, and the dialogue all flows very smoothly. And a mystery added in as well. All very interesting.
Egads, man! I'm badly behind on catching up on Into the West and you start another AAR?!? That said, it all sounds intriguing. And you've already managed to create a cast of all-round miserable gits that rivals Paranoid Tsar's Muscovite court. It's certainly hard to feel much sympathy for either Philipp or Heinrich, but maybe their insufferable attitudes will be explained in the future?

Do I understand correctly that Friedrich would like to marry a member of the despised Von Thuringen family? That won't put him anywhere on his father's good side.

On a final note, allow me to return to the topic of your AARish promiscuity. Please don't overdo it, okay? I'll try to catch up a bit on Into the West today, but I only have limited time, so don't expect miracles. And please don't rocket off with this story; it'll only make it harder for me to keep up. :p
A quick fb-fb:

stnylan - Thanks. Strangely, it feels kind of good to get back to "proper" English once again. ;) No doubt, I am trying to suggest the same kind of period feel to the dialogue, but it's actually a might easier to write in "purple" language than it is...well, let's call it "blue." ;)

Stuyvesant - Your comment is mainly why I respond at the moment rather than waiting for the next update. I can certainly understand what you mean. It's not easy to keep up with everything written around here. But rest assured that this one will go very slowly at first.

Rest assured that I plan on finishing Into the West before I put all my time here. But I wanted to get it off the ground enough that readers would get enough of a hook to stick with me while I update slowly during the beginning.

As for your other point, as always you have pegged the notion under the surface. I will be filling in the details more as we go along. But yes, Friedrich has it in mind to marry into the "hated" family. Funny enough though, this hated family is the closest one to the Stadens. I guess that's why they are hated so much. :rolleyes:

VILenin - Thanks for stopping by. And "aspire" is the best term for it. There is no way I could equal such brilliance. But I hope to pay homage to it and other such works.

Thanks again for reading, folks. No update follows. I just wanted to make sure my Into the West readers knew I was totally commited to finishing Sonny's tale first.
coz1 said:
And "aspire" is the best term for it. There is no way I could equal such brilliance. But I hope to pay homage to it and other such works.

Well they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I just caught this one in your signature Coz1. I always like CK AAR because the character is so individual and important to the gameplay. I see the Muslim in right next door. Dare you take advantage of it? ;)

Awaiting your next update.
coz1 said:
Don't even begin to ask me what made me decide to do another AAR while I still have Into the West in progress,

You're a glutton for punishment?
Whatever the reason, keep it up!

stnylan - That's true. :D

prussiablue - Thanks for checking it out. And yes, I have been dying to write something for CK for some time. As for the Muslims - yes, they are next door. Taking advantage of that fact is a bit more complicated.

sleepyirv - I suppose you might be right. :rolleyes: But I will try anyway. Thanks for stopping by.

And another update arrives immediately after a typo pass. A bit more business to move through as this begins. Hope you enjoy and thanks to those that stopped by to say so. :D
The Eagle In Winter

* * *


Oda von Werth moved with grace down the hallway towards her daughter-in-law’s apartments. She pondered the Duke’s initial refusal of having the von Thuringens for the Holy Days and if they were sincere. He has reason to see them as well, she thought. Is it simply to deny his wife? She could not decide and was torn from her ruminations as she heard footsteps coming from the other direction.

“Grandmamma!” came the booming voice of Philipp as he and the others turned the corner and saw her. “It is grand to see you once again.”

Philipp went to her and held her in an embrace that lasted a while. She patted his back and pulled her hands to his ears, which she caressed lovingly. “Dear boy….dear, dear boy.” She pushed him gently from her and looked at him. “My, how you have grown since last we met. It does me good to see you.”

“And I you, dear lady. It has been far too long since Silesia. I do so miss my days there as commander. The work of a Count is never done.”

“Ah, ‘tis true, young son. But if there were a man made for such a position, surely it is he that stands before me.” She pulled him close once again, and standing on her toes, kissed his forehead. “Do you come to pay tribute to your mother?”

“I do,” Philipp answered with irritation. “She has some scheme hatched that would bring our cousins from the south to stay for the season. And as usual, she must have others do her work for her.”

“Do not be so uncaring for the woman that birthed you, my son. You must show your respect to this woman.” Oda took her grandson by the arm and walked with him as she caressed his hand. “She has her ways and they are complex, to be sure.”

“Complex? For all they are worth, they might as well be foreign. Certainly Heinrich has yet to be warmed by them.”

“Ah, but then we should not have such beautiful offspring,” Oda answered as she pulled Friedrich into the mix and held him to the other side of her. “A look to your brother will show that it is not simply she that wishes the occasion.”

“You speak the truth, grandmamma.”

“Do I not always?” she smiled and leaned into Philipp.

“But one must question the motives,” Philipp answered, receiving her affection while he looked at his brother.

Oda saw the look and came to Friedrich’s defense, “He has that young love that we all desire, does he not? And it will make a handsome match.”

“It is not Friedrich that concerns me, grandmamma,” Philipp was quick to respond. “There are others that have an interest, and this is where the path grows dark. Which of the many would choose to use this for their own good?”

“Always impossible to tell until the last minute, just as you have been taught. Such a student too.” She turned to Friedrich, “You desire this, do you not?”

“I do, grandmamma,” he answered without hesitation.

“And so what is the harm?” She turned back to Philipp. “However, let us see what your mother has to say on this. For a mother should have some say on whom her son marries, should she not?”

“And here we disagree, grandmamma. Especially this mother.”

Oda let lose of Philipp’s arm and turned to face him, wrinkling her face as she responded, “I have warned you of speaking out against her, good son. Do not make me belabor the point. Your mother may be in seclusion, but she maintains powerful allies. You would do well to know them.”

Allowing that they were not alone, Oda quickly took her grandson’s arms again and proceeded to Margarete’s apartments. If she was concerned that she was so open in front of the Duke’s advisors, she did not let it show. And as powerful as Philipp was, he was never able to go against his grandmother, and valued her wisdom above all others. He loved her very much.

“And where is that rascal, Albrecht?” Oda inquired. “Does he still linger on the road? Always the slow one.”

“There is that fault, grandmamma. But for all other purposes, he serves me well. He should be along in short time. But it causes me to ask, have you heard news of Agnes? She and the children do not arrive, and I admit, I have some worry.”

Oda remained silent and took the chance to open the door to Margarete’s room. A smile developed quickly on her face as she ushered the others in and announced, “Look who has arrived, my lady. Your sons have come to pay tribute. Stand and greet them.”
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Agnes' absence is definitely niggling. An interesting dynamic there.
I finally found this, Coz, and I am most impressed. Your writing skills are truly... well, let's just say I wish my own writing was half as good as yours.

I'm interested to see where you go with this, as stnylan said, the dynamics of this family are interesting.