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Oct 13, 2015
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The Preface
General Guarnito burst through the door, the entire crowd at the Old Saint Peter's Basilica turned away from the holy sacrifice of the mass and towards the fatigued young garrison commander. The look on his face had explained the situation perfectly well. He ran silently up to the sanctuary of the altar, where the entire College of Cardinals received him with dread.

He looked up to Pope Nicolaus and, with a tear in his eye, uttered, "Your Holiness, the walls have fallen...Rome is lost."

Nothing more needed to be said before the people sprang into action, the crowd dispersed, some stayed in the Basilica to pray to God for help, others ran home to find loved ones, but the Pope and his College of Cardinals already had a plan. The Papal Guard rushed, clearing the back road out of Rome and fetching horses for the entire hierarchy of Holy Mother Church. Pope Nicolaus knew that he only had an hour or two at most to evacuate the city and escape before the thousands of Muslim Soldiers under the command of the Sultan Muhammad the Second fell upon them.

Meanwhile, General Guarnito climbed to the top of the church spire to look over the city. He could already see the city starting to burn, and all of this was his fault. He had failed in his duty as Marshal. All he could think about was the effects of his actions, he slipped himself past the guard rail and looked down at the holy ground below. If he jumped, all his troubles would be over. He looked up into the heavens, as if to catch one last glimpse of God before his confinement to Hell. He took one last breath and prepared to jump when Cardinal Costantino, the Dean of the Sacred College, put a steady hand on his shoulder and said: "You can't serve God if you jump, but you can do your duty as Marshal if you help escort the Holy Father out of the city."

General Guarnito then knew that the only way to redeem himself was to help the Holy Father, he rushed down the tower to see Pope Nicolaus continuing mass with a group of faithful citizens and the College of Cardinals. Just as Nicolaus raised the Holy Sacrament, the Body of Christ let open a vein and blood flowed forth. The Blood dripped and permanently stained the floor, showing that Christ will remain in this holy place forever. After that, the Papal Guard returned with horses for the heads of the church. Nicolaus, The College, and Guarnito all mounted and bid farewell to the faithful citizens who promised to hold off the advancing invaders. With that, they headed north, to the Kingdom of Italy.

This is my first AAR and it is based on the 867 start date but with the alternate history where The Aghlabid Sultanate from Africa invaded and conquered all of Central Italy. I am using a personally modified version of the Divine Intervention mod.
Qorten has given me permission to hold votes on naming of popes!
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Well, that's one way to open things up.
Chapter 1: Settling In
After moving north through the night the party finally arrived at the camp of King Louis II of Italy at Florence. Pope Nicolaus was the first to dismount his horse and personally greet the King. Nicolaus explained the events of the last day and warned the French King of the possibility of an attack on his lands. At that moment Duke Adalberto of Tuscany, the King's Marshall, rushed into the royal tent to report that the Duchy of Spoleto was under attack. The King and his army immediately departed but assured Nicolaus and the College that the young Bishop of Ravenna would offer them assistance.

Nicolaus, The College of Cardinals, and Guarnito all headed east, towards the County of Ravenna. When they arrived at the Basilica of San Vitale they meet with the inexperienced Ercole de Friuli, Bishop of Ravenna.

As they entered the Basilica, Guarnito announced the Pope's presence to the congregation attending services and to Bishop Ercole, proclaiming, "His Holiness Pope Nicolaus, the first of that name, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ, Patriarch of the West, Pontifex Maximus, primus inter pares, and Head of Holy Mother Church. "

The Bishop then paid homage, and said, "Holiness? What is the meaning of your visit?"

Nicolaus, being a humble man, never liked people giving homage to him and said, "Rise brother in Christ, we bishops are equal, so let us talk as equals. The Eternal City has fallen to an invasion, and we seek supplies and a place to sleep, King Louis II told us to seek you out."

"Of course, your holiness, you may use my palace and use the basilicas of San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare in Classe for whatever you see fit. It will be an honor to have the Holy Father reside in our city." The eager bishop responded.

"Thank you, your Excellency, your generosity is most welcome." the tired Pontiff responded.

"Anything for the Holy Father," Ercole responded.

With that Nicolaus and the College retired to the Pontifical Mansion.

Next Chapter we will meet the first generation of Cardinals and deal with a possible invasion of the Kingdom of Italy
Chapter 2: The First Consistory

It was a cold February morning, the crisp winter air was still flowing in from the north as Pope Nicolaus walked around the gardens of the Pontifical Mansion in Ravenna. It had been almost a month since Rome had fallen and the papal court had to relocate to land graciously donated by the Bishop of Ravenna. But as Nicolaus's mind recounted those days he saw a living reminder of those events. Marshal Guarnito had arrived in the garden to deliver his weekly security report and consult with Nicolaus about security for today's festivities.

"Holy Father," said the Marshal, " I come to deliver my report, as ordered. In my working with the Count of Ravenna and King Louis II, it is my belief that because of his recent conquests of Spoleto, Sultan Muhammid II seeks to focus on crushing the western dukes of Italy, most likely the Duke of Tuscany."

"Thank you Guarnito," replied the pontiff, "But I would still like you to increase security for today's consistory for the creation of Cardinals. Make sure that all the Cardinal-Elect have security as they travel to and from Ravenna."

"Of course, Holy Father," Guarnito said before kissing the fishermen's ring and dismissing himself to consult with his commanders.

But as the day went on and the morning turned to evening all the Cardinal-Elect and their entourages arrived in Ravenna, they all settled into their designated rooms in the Pontifical Mansion. When all the Cardinal-Elect had assembled at the Mansion, Nicolaus and the clergyman all processed into the great Byzantine Basilica, the San Vitale. Pope Nicolaus sat on the ancient bishop's throne as the Cardinal-Elect were to be called up one-by-one to receive the galero from the Bishop of Rome in Exile. Cardinal-Dean Costantino stood directly to the right of the Pope, ready to announce every one of the new Cardinals to the world.

"His Excellency Adone de Verona, Titular Archbishop of Carthage, to be made Cardinal-Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church," announced Costantino. With that, the Cardinal-Elect moved up to the bishop's throne and received the title and dignity of a Prince of the Church.

"His Excellency Hincmar de Courtenay, Prince-Bishop of Reims, to be made Cardinal-Bishop"

"His Excellency, The Most Reverend Ceolnoth Ælling, Archbishop of Canterbury, to be made Cardinal-Bishop"

"His Excellency Luitbert von Friedenthal, Prince-Bishop of Münster, to be made Cardinal-Bishop"

And with the ceremony concluded, Pope Nicolaus and the new cardinal retired to a private banquet at the Pontifical Mansion.

Tell me if you think I should continue to do more chapters based on consistories or more actual gameplay. I promise the next chapter will cover the next three years of exile! Maybe I could just make the consistories sub-chapters or something?
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I like the cardinal outfits here. It gives me flashbacks of The Name of the Rose.
What an interesting take on things. Very much looking forward to seeing how this progresses.
Yeah I'm liking this. A good start and very interesting take. I've always wondered how you play the Papal States in CK2 since presumably you can't ever lose as there's no dynasty as such?

Re the Consistories it kinda depends how often they happen. If each time it hsppens it's like a roll call it could become a bit boring. If you can change the perspective or viewpoint that's another matter.

Great start though. Really intrigued to see where this goes
Chapter 3: New Friends

It was Christmas Day, 867 A.D., and the year was almost over. Pope Nicolaus had just celebrated a Pontifical High Mass with some of his friends, both old and new. Nicolaus was set to visit the Dioceses of Bobbio to, at the request of King Louis II, make Bishop Antoine of Bobbio a Cardinal. It was at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Bobbio that Nicolaus and the Cardinals Costantino, Adone, and Antoine had celebrated Mass in front of the King. But it was also there that Nicolaus discovered Vitale de Sadran, an aged monk from the Monastery at Bobbio. When he encountered the Holy Father after Mass he requested permission to serve in the Papal Court and to be unbound from his monastery. Nicolaus was so impressed by the monk's piety that he granted his request.

After Nicolaus and the Cardinals got back to Ravenna, he sent Br. Vitale to Bishop Ercole of Ravenna so the Bishop could judge if Vitale was qualified to be ordained to the Priesthood. Ercole and Vitale debated theology for hours in the normally quiet gardens of the Pontifical Mansion. By the evening, it was clear that Vitale had bested the Bishop on multiple topics and showed an extensive knowledge of Biblical Scripture from his days of transcribing bibles. So on December 30th, the Feast Day of the Holy Family, Vitale was ordained to the priesthood.

That night, as the festivities commenced around him, Vitale asked Pope Nicolaus in private, "Holy Father, I request permission to leave and do missionary work in Hungary. I feel as if that is my true calling and I know that the Holy Family will guide me to success in this endeavor. Just as Jesus was resurrected in three days, give me three days and I will convert the court of the Kingdom of Hungary to the true faith."

Nicolaus, seeing the holiness in Vitale's eyes, granted him three days to attempt this bold task, and granted him money to fund this expedition.

Then on the Feast Day of Sts. Basil and Gregory, Doctors of the Church, when celebrating the Mass devoted to these great Saints, Pope Nicolaus received a letter, delivered by a tall, buff man with a wooden cross around his neck, the very same cross given to Fr. Vitale before he departed. The messenger just kneeled, kissed the Pope's ring, and delivered the letter before moving to the pews and kneeling down for Mass. After Mass was concluded he simply left the Basilica and then left the city. When Nicolaus opened the letter he found...

"My Liege, I bring good news! Thanks to my efforts. King Almos has seen the light and converted to the true faith, I shall return to your court forthwith, as my work here is done
Vitale de Sabran
January 2nd of the Lord's Year 860 and Eight"


When he returned to Ravenna the next day he was received as a hero and brought to the Basilica to receive the Galero, Cardinal Costantino, acting as a representative of Pope Nicolaus, presented the signature hat of the Order of the Cardinalate to the Saintly Priest. They then walked out onto the balcony of the Basilica to greet the cheering crowds.

Cardinal Costantino proudly acclaimed to the people,"His Eminence, Vitale de Sabran! Titular Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Cardinal-Bishop, Apostle to Hungary!"

Chapter 4: War in Italy


It was a normal consistory, the second in the month of August. Months earlier, Pope Nicolaus mandated that all the Cardinals that were available would meet twice a month at the throne room of the Pontifical Mansion to bring matters to the Pope and to advise the Pope of any changes to the normality of the church. It was also an opportunity for foreign envoys to meet with the church's top officials to discuss deals and changes. Besides the normal attendees, Cardinal Antoine would be riding in from Bobbio to join this session. Normally his duties as Court Chaplain of Italy would keep him from attending, but he had managed to wiggle it in this time. There we three special events planned for this consistory, Prince-Bishop Liutbert of Mainz was to bring an update from the church in East Francia, Cardinal Hincmar of Reims was to attend this consistory and present a status report of the wars in Europe between the various Karling Monarchs, and Cardinal Vitale would make a presentation about the progress of the church in Hungary.

The consistory started normal, no cardinal had anything urgent to say so the scheduled events proceeded as planned. Prince-Bishop Liutbert got up and said, " Holiness, it is a shame that I have to meet you under such sad circumstances, I come bearing the news that Cardinal Luitbert has died peacefully at the age of 78. "

"Thank you for bringing this to my attention, your excellency, it is indeed a sad thing to hear. Cardinal Costantino?" Nicolaus responded

"Yes, your Holiness?" The Dean of the College answered.

"Ask Bishop Ercole to have the Priests of Ravenna celebrate Requiem Masses for the late Cardinal Luitbert."

"Of course, your holiness," Costantino responded.

"Will that be all, your excellency?" Nicolaus asked the Prince-Bishop.

"Yes, of course, thank you, Holiness," the Bishop said before leaving the room.

Next, Cardinal Hincmar moved to the center of the room and said, " I come bearing sad news, King Charles II of West Francia has declared war on his nephew King Lotharire II of Lotharingia over the throne of the Kingdom of Burgundy. But Lotharire II had already declared war on his cousin King Ludwig II of Germany over the county of Pfalz. And both sides want King Louis II of Italy to come to their aid."

"Why did Charlemagne have to use gavelkind succession???" Nicolaus muttered quietly to himself.

"What was that, your holiness?" The Cardinal asked.

"Nothing, I'm just sorry to hear that." the Pope responded.

As the cardinal stood there confused the door to the hall swung wide open and General Guarnito rushed into the room.

"Holiness!" the marshal cried, " News from King Louis II, Sultan Muhammid II has declared holy war for the Duchy of Tuscany. The Kingdom of Italy is at war!"

Next chapter we will go over the first battles of the war and the effect it has on the papal court. Sorry (or your welcome) for posting two chapters at once, I had to fulfill my promise to talk about the start of the war. Also, I'm not sorry for that Charlemagne Joke.
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The sons of Karl did go on a kinslayer spree after his death. I suspect your joke was an historical sentiment across Europe. lol
So the West is divided and the Muslims are ready to take advantage. I think the Pope must feel a bit let down by his fellow Christians.
Chapter 5: Death of Both Soldiers and Friends


It was January 20th, 870, General Guarnito had been summoned to the Papal Consistory in Ravenna. Over the past year and a half, Guarnito had been monitoring the war from the front lines. He had been an advisor to Duke Adalberto of Tuscany, the Marshal of Italy, and he had even fought at the disastrous Battle of Volterra, where the Italian Army had been bested by an army nearly half it's size. But, over the year, Pope Nicolaus had forbidden him to raise his own troops. The Pope no longer had any vassals to supply troops and the Papal Treasuries could not support a mercenary company, but Guarnito hoped all that would change soon. As he entered the Consistory Hall he saw the recently consecrated Bishop Adrien of Bobbio. Adrien had come to give a double-dosage of bad news to the Pope and the College, He informed Nicolaus that both Cardinal Vitale and Cardinal Antoine had died in the court of King Louis II and that their bodies were both entombed in the Cathedral at Bobbio. As Adrien was dismissed, Guarnito moved up into the center of the room to answer Nicolaus's summons.

"Holiness, you summoned me?" The Marshal asked.

"Yes, I have decided to grant your request to raise a mercenary army for the Papal States. I will grant you 200 denarii to raise an army and a monthly amount of 15 denarii for their maintenance. Will this be sufficient for a force to assist Italy?"

"Yes, Thank you, your Holiness." The grateful Marshall said before departing. As Guarnito left the room he could hear the Consistory debating the need for more Cardinals to be made.

As Guarnito consulted with his advisors and looked at the available mercenaries, he decided to hire the up-and-coming Irish Band. They were 1600 men strong, to raise them would cost only 150 denarii and their wages would only be 10.5 denarii a month. This would allow the Greedy Marshal to both combat the enemy and make a profit doing so. It would benefit both parties.

But, in other news, Cardinal Hincmar was celebrating Mass at the Grand Cathedral of Reims. After the consecration, some of his parishioners advised him to see a doctor, as he was on his way to the court at Paris to see the court physician he collapsed and died on road. The College of Cardinals now had but two members.
Oh my goodness the College is getting thin on the ground.
Chapter 6: New Cardinals and New Problems


Pope Nicolaus was uneasy, it had been over a year since Guarnito had departed with his Irish Army and Nicolaus feared the possibility of another army attacking Ravenna. Even the successful reports of the Battle of Florence, where the Papal-Italian Army won their first victory, did not assure the ever aging pontiff. The reports of the death of Nicolaus's old friend, Cardinal Hincmar, troubled the pontiff even more. He knew that he would soon have to create more Cardinals to continue the papal lineage.

He wondered what his successors would think back about him. Was he a hero who united the church after the loss of Rome or the person who caused Rome to fall in the first place? He wondered the feasibility of holding a Consistory for the creation of Cardinals without any soldiers to protect the near defenseless city. He decided it was worth the risk. Nicolaus called together the monthly Consistory, now only two Cardinals, to discuss potential candidates. At the end of the meeting, the Consistory, with the added advice of Bishop Ercole, decided on an additional eight Cardinals to be added to the Sacred College. But, with the monthly Consistory called to order, Cardinal Adone had troubling news to report. Because of the war, Lollard Heretics took the opportunity to rise up in Cremona and were threatening both the Italian Capital of Pavia and Ravenna. Nicolaus immediately wrote to King Louis II, asking that the Army be redirected from the front lines to crush this rebellion before it spread. The combined Papal-Italian swiftly crushed the rising threat in one decisive victory. With the Homefront secure for now, The Army returned to continue the fight for Italy.

From now on, lists of Cardinals will be maintained here at this Google Sheet. Contained is a complete list of Cardinals, in addition to some general facts about each Cardinal. As new Cardinals are made you can check the spreadsheet to find specifics about said Cardinals. I will try to at least hint as to when I make new Cardinals so you can check the sheet.
With enemies in the rear one hardly needs enemies out front. And there are enemies aplenty.

He still has time to cement his legacy.
I like the cardinal sheet you made! A really nice detail to the AAR.
They're dropping like flies!