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THE LAST GOTH: Introduction and Table of Contents

The Kingmaker

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Feb 23, 2008
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“What hatred inspired them all to take arms against each other? It is proof that the human race lives for its kings, for it is at the mad impulse of one mind a slaughter of nations takes place, and at the whim of a haughty ruler that which nature has taken ages to produce perishes in a moment.” - Jordanes, The Origin and Deeds of the Goths

This is a story idea I've been pondering for quite some time, but haven't had the opportunity to implement until now. I've wanted to play as a Visigothic kingdom to see if I can preserve their culture and create a Gothic nation that might stand alongside (and possibly rival) the Holy Roman Empire as the major Germanic power in Europe.

It is the height of irony that I'm returning from a four year hiatus in AAR-writing shortly after adopting my second child, given that said hiatus began just after I adopted my first child.

My objectives in this AAR are simple enough. First and foremost, Visigothic culture must be preserved at all costs. Some secondary goals might include:
  • Sacking the city of Rome
  • Converting to a Christian heresy
  • Escaping the confines of Hispania
  • Leaving a swath of Gothic kingdoms across Europe
  • Surviving every Andalusian jihad
  • Bloodying the Byzantines' nose
  • Reaching new heights in art and architecture while doing all of the above
  • Doing pretty much anything along those lines
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Chapter One: Hagiophany


1 November 768
Cangas de Onis, Asturia

King Froila was dead.

They had called him “Froila the Cruel,” and rightly so, for he had murdered his own brother in cold blood.

It came as no surprise when Froila’s treachery sowed the seeds of his own demise in turn. After a long hunt on a crisp spring day, he was stabbed to death by his own courtiers while resting in the shade of an alder tree. Such was the nature of politics among the Visigoths.

Aurelio shook his head in disgust. He took a long draught from his goblet of warm spiced wine. He drank not in memory of the old king, but to try to forget him. It was becoming his regular evening ritual.

From his vantage point at his upper bedroom window, Aurelio watched silently as the muddy streets of Cangas de Onis were bathed in rain and moonlight. Until a few months ago, the town had been Froila’s capital. But now Froila was dead and buried, Queen Munia had fled back to her father’s household in the Basque country, and for some reason, the regicides had handed the blood-stained crown to Aurelio.

Some people might suppose that being the king’s cousin would bring with it a lot of advantages, but Aurelio did not see it that way. He was a survivor. At least, he had been thus far. For most of his adult life, he had gone out of his way to ensure nobody noticed him. Those who displeased King Froila usually tended to end up dead, so Aurelio had done his best to stay out of his way. He had never married, never squabbled over lands or titles like his kinsmen had. He had fought in the wars like the others, but never sought out glory for himself. It was not as if he was some meek little lamb. There were plenty of other lords that Aurelio would have liked nothing better than to bash about the pate. He just had no intention of making himself the target of treachery or bloodfeud. Unfortunately, becoming king meant it was no longer possible to keep a low profile.

Somewhere nearby, a stray dog howled at the moon from one of Cangas’ many dark alleyways. Aurelio grimaced. He had already planned on leaving his cousin’s capital as soon as possible. Nobles who felt free to slay one king would surely feel at liberty to slay another if he displeased them. He intended to return to Sancto Martino, the quiet village that had grown around the old Roman villa which he had made his home.

The dog howled again as the rain abated. Aurelio looked up into the night sky, only to realize that the hound hadn’t been baying at the moon at all. He gazed in wonder as a long-tailed star trailed fire across the heavens far above him. He had heard about bearded stars before, but had never witnessed one for himself. It was breathtaking.

The fiery star seemed to increase in brightness as it sailed its neverending course through the sky. What sort of sign or portent was this?

Aurelio backed away from the window as the light seemed to fill his bedroom. Soon it was as bright as midday, and Aurelio raised a hand to his brow to block out the light.


As he watched, Aurelio could scarcely believe his eyes as a personage seemed to fade into existence right in front of him. It was the form of a man, with hair and beard of the purest white, although the man did not look elderly at all. In fact, he looked to be in peak physical condition. The man had a noble bearing and wore a mantle of deep crimson. The majestic light that filled the room now seemed to radiate from his countenance like a white-hot fire. Aurelio found himself worrying that the tapestries lining the walls would catch fire, though they did not.

“What sorcery is this?” gasped Aurelio at last.

“Fear not,” said the man. The man’s voice was scarcely louder than a whisper, yet Aurelio felt the words burn inside his chest.

“Who--who are you?” asked Aurelio, startled out of his wits. “What is that robe you have on?”

“It was revealed to my brother in a vision,” said the personage, “that the holy martyrs should be clad in mantles of scarlet. I was among the very first.”

Aurelio’s mind raced back to all the Bible stories he had been taught in his youth. “Sancto… Iacobo?” he stammered.

The man smiled. “I am here to deliver a message, and to bring you a gift, although it is something already your own.”

The man Aurelio thought to be Sancto Iacobo stretched forth his hand and a sword appeared in his grip, complete with scabbard and sword-belt, materializing as if from nowhere. It was an ordinary spatha, the sort that any typical Gothic horseman might wield.

“On the day of your coronation, you left this behind on the altar in the Church of Sancta Crux.”

Sancto Iacobo handed the blade to Aurelio. “The Sword of Pelagio?” asked Aurelio, “But I thought it was just an old relic!”

Pelagio had been the first to bear the title “Princeps of Asturia.” After the Kingdom of the Visigoths fell to the Moors, the nobleman Pelagio raised the cross in the mountains of Asturia and defeated the Moors in a glorious battle. His campaign was the only effective resistance against the Muslim threat in all of Hispania. In token of his great victory, Pelagio’s sword had been passed down as an heirloom through the line of his successors ever since.

“Now gird up your loins and take courage,” said Sancto Iacobo, “for you would do well never to forget your sword.”

Aurelio did as he was beckoned and fastened the sword belt around his waist. He felt a little silly wearing a sword with his nightshirt, but one does not argue with a saint.

“You have received the gift,” continued Iacobo, “but now you must choose what to do with it.”

“What would you ask of me?” asked Aurelio.


“On the day of your coronation, you left this behind on the altar in the Church of Sancta Crux,” repeated Iacobo. “If you so choose, you may forsake this gift a second time. But if you look beyond the sword, if you are able to look deeper and comprehend what it represents, you may receive an even greater gift than that which you have already received.”

Aurelio blinked. This entire conversation was surreal. “I don’t understand,” he admitted.

“You will, in time,” said Iacobo, “but not today. You must first learn how today’s decisions may shape tomorrow’s destiny.” At that, the saint stretched forth his right hand to introduce another glorious personage, who slowly materialized into view.

As the being appeared before his eyes, Aurelio saw that it was a lady: elegant, richly attired, and unnaturally beautiful. The luster of her golden gown was matched only by that of her long flaxen tresses. Although the style and cut of her clothing was quite modest, Aurelio could tell it hid a figure that could make grown men weep.

“Behold, Sancta Amalasuntha Gloriana!” proclaimed Iacobo, “Amalasuntha the Wise, Amalasuntha the Fair, Amalasuntha the patroness of your lineage!”

“Amalasuntha?” stuttered Aurelio in disbelief. Well did he know the tales of Amalasuntha, who was a famed Queen of the Ostrogoths in the days of yore, but if the old stories were to be believed, she had been far from a saintly person.

“The destiny of your people is something only she may teach you,” counseled Sancto Iacobo. He smiled again at Aurelio, making a gesture of benediction with his right hand, before fading away as suddenly as he had first appeared.

The newcomer (Amalasuntha, if Iacobo was to be believed,) looked on Aurelio with the most stunning blue eyes, and the king felt his knees knock together. When she spoke, her voice came not in piercing whispers as had Iacobo’s, but as the velvet song of springtime to a weary heart.

“My child,” she breathed, and Aurelio felt as safe and warm as a babe at its mother’s breast. “Our people already lose themselves to a great forgetting. They forget who they are… they forget who they were… they forget who they may become. You may yet help them to remember.”

She held out her hands and a beautiful jeweled codex appeared in her grasp, just as the sword had appeared in Iacobo’s hand moments before as if from nowhere. She opened the book, revealing delicate vellum pages. Each page was stained a regal purple and covered with intricate text written in silver ink. Aurelio traced the rune-like letters with his finger, recognizing the Gothic script of his ancestors.


“The Book of Life shows what was, what is, and what may come to pass. What you see will be what you choose, and if you choose, you may make it so. Look!”

Amalasuntha turned the first of the purple pages. As Aurelio studied the silver Gothic letters, they parted before his eyes to reveal a single Latin word written in gold: “PRINCEPS.”

Images swirled on the page and Aurelio saw himself seated upon his throne. Courtiers milled about him, going about their daily tasks. Day turned into night, night turned into day, and Aurelio watched his beard turn from brown to grey to white. At last he saw himself breathe his last, expiring in his own bed. He then saw another man sitting upon his throne, then another, and yet another. As the sequence of kings continued one after the other, the courtiers surrounding them began to change as well. The style of their clothes gradually became strange garb, unlike anything Aurelio had ever seen before. Even the language the people spoke changed. Soon the scene was completely unfamiliar to Aurelio.

Amalasuntha spoke again. “The safest path is the most obvious one, but it yields neither greatness for yourself nor for those you lead. Look!” She turned the page. Again the silver letters parted to reveal golden Latin words. This time, Aurelio read “AURELIUS REX.”

Aurelio saw himself on horseback, bearing the Sword of Pelagio in many mighty battles. As he watched, he saw himself winning victory after victory against the Moors. The people cheered him in the streets as he returned, crowned with laurels. He again saw himself seated upon his throne, but as he was presented with a gift from one of his vassals, several others sprang forward with daggers drawn and stabbed him between the ribs. Aurelio watched in horror as he bled to death on the floor. Another figure soon followed him on the throne, though a different one than in the last vision. He was soon followed by another, but then the throne was empty. The building soon took fire, spreading until the entire kingdom lay in ruins. The people’s garb again changed as well, but this time they began to wear Moorish attire and speak in hushed Arabic.

“The traditional path to glory may tempt you,” said Amalasuntha, “but victory is a fleeting thing. Tradition has failed our people before, and it may fail them again. Look!” Again she turned the page. One last golden word appeared to Aurelio: “DYNASTIA.”

Aurelio saw himself standing side by side with a beautiful woman. She was holding a strong, healthy baby in her arms. Many times traitors burst into the throne room to slay them, but each time they were slain by faithful guardsmen. This time, Aurelio did not witness his own death at all. He saw a strong young man take his place on the throne, then a fair young woman, followed by a sequence of other men and women bearing similar features to his own. As the line of monarchs continued, the garb of the people and the furnishings of the buildings grew ever richer and more ornate. Their language, however, remained the same.

“If you truly seek for glory,” said Amalasuntha, “You must search for it elsewhere. Follow the stars. Seek for the blessings of heaven above, the blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. Endless posterity is endless life. Endless life is endless glory.”

With that, Amalasuntha embraced him, and whispered one final word in his ear: “Remember.”


Gasping, Aurelio sat bolt upright, nearly knocking over the wine goblet on his bedside table. He was lying in his own bed. It was already mid-morning, judging by the sunlight pouring through his open window. He stared at the empty goblet and picked it up, turning it over in his hands. Had he really had a vision of the saints? Was that all these night visions had been -- feverish dreams brought about by too much spiced wine?

“Bah!” scoffed Aurelio, swinging his legs out of bed, “Sancta Amalasuntha indeed! Ha!” He found himself regretting that his goblet was empty. “Rotrude!”

A blushing servant girl appeared in his doorway. “Y-yes, milord?”

“More wine,” Aurelio grunted.

As he stumbled to his feet, his hand brushed against a long object lying on the bed. Drawing the covers aside, Aurelio saw a sheathed sword lying across his feather bolster.

He nearly fell over in shock.

The weapon appeared to just be an ordinary Gothic spatha, but in his heart of hearts, Aurelio knew the truth. That blade was something truly extraordinary.


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Ooh, I'll be interested to see where this goes.
A most intriguing start Alexander, I'm hooked. :) Congrats on your second child too!
Interesting and intrigueing start for a AAR
Great start. Can't wait to read more.
Destiny can be fickle
That's a nice start!
blitzthedragon: Thanks, I hope it doesn't disappoint!

Nikolai: Thank you, old friend. I appreciate your support, as always.

iain_a_wilson: Thank you! I don't suppose my Goths will make it as far as Suenik, but one never knows for sure. ;)

Arnulf Floyd: Glad you approve!

SirDraco: Thanks mate! Glad you're back.

guillec87: Welcome aboard!

stnylan: Only too true! Just wait until you see what fate has in store for the Goths!

Nope, not a custom character. Aurelio of Cantabria really was King of Asturias in 768... which is not to say his reign will be anything like it was historically. For starters, I had barely selected his focus before he saw a comet and began having visions of saints. Not exactly how I expected to start off, but I tried to use the opportunity to foreshadow where the story is going a little bit, maybe explain Aurelio's decisions going forward.

Idhrendur: Thank you!
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iain_a_wilson: Thank you! I don't suppose my Goths will make it as far as Suenik, but one never knows for sure. ;)

That would be AMAZING.

Insane, but amazing.
blitzthedragon: Thanks, I hope it doesn't disappoint!

Nikolai: Thank you, old friend. I appreciate your support, as always.

iain_a_wilson: Thank you! I don't suppose my Goths will make it as far as Suenik, but one never knows for sure. ;)

Arnulf Floyd: Glad you approve!

SirDraco: Thanks mate! Glad you're back.

guillec87: Welcome aboard!

stnylan: Only too true! Just wait until you see what fate has in store for the Goths!

Nope, not a custom character. Aurelio of Cantabria really was King of Asturias in 768... which is not to say his reign will be anything like it was historically. For starters, I had barely selected his focus before he saw a comet and began having visions of saints. Not exactly how I expected to start off, but I tried to use the opportunity to foreshadow where the story is going a little bit, maybe explain Aurelio's decisions going forward.

Idhrendur: Thank you!
Oh, that goes to show how little I play in the Charlemagne bookmark LoL (also Aurelio doesn't sound like the typical name for a medieval hispanic medieval king name).
Viden: Welcome aboard!

ngppgn: That’s because there was no such thing as “Spanish” yet. Aurelio is still very much a Visigoth, although somewhat romanized. You should play around with the early start date. Europe was a very different place back then, even when compared to 1066. :)

iain_a_wilson: I’m the same way. I love starting in the early period. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s also the era of my expertise. I’ve got my MA in history with an emphasis on Anglo-Saxon England.
I know as 769 bookmark is very interesting due to Charlemagne and birth of middle ages and feudalism, also first Viking raids occurs. Playing with less know kings such as Aurelio is great and briliant
Chapter Two: Bride and Prejudice


4 April 769
Ovetum, Asturia

King Aurelio sighed as another roll of parchment was laid out before him.

“Now these are the pedigrees of all of the Frankish lords with descent from Merovingian bloodlines,” said Avraham, the elderly Jew who served as Aurelio’s chancellor, “but we cannot base any potential match on mere descent alone.”

Avraham had no idea why in the world his master had suddenly decided to seek a bride at the age of fifty-four, but he was bound and determined to ensure the royal venture succeeded. His reputation was on the line, after all.

“I still fail to see why we should have anything to do with those middling Frankish whelps,” said Aurelio, “No Merovingian has amounted to anything since well before Martel drove the Moors out of Gaul!”

“Ah, but sire! The true value of a good match lies not in whence the family sprang, but rather in whither they are headed! Anticipating the victors in the game of lands and crowns is no small thing. Fortunately, you have my formidable expertise to assist you.”

“I can hardly believe my good fortune,” groaned Aurelio, as Avraham laid another parchment before him. “Why don’t we reach out to old Desiderius again, maybe offer to sweeten the deal?”

King Desiderius of Lombardy had at least four daughters of marriageable age. A few of them were even supposed to be halfway decent to look upon, despite the fact that they all had hideous names ending in “-perga” or somesuch.

“Need I remind your lordship of the slight regard with which the Lombard king received your last entreaty?” Avraham raised a craggy eyebrow. “Shall I quote from his Highness’ response? ‘Not on your life, you scabby, old--’”


“That’s quite enough,” said Aurelio, “If we just offered him a bit more silver… Which daughter was it whose hand we asked for again? Lustperga?”

“The Lady Liutperga,” Avraham corrected, “Whom I have since learned has already been betrothed to Tassilo of Bavaria. We must make sure to cross her off the list…” He rifled through a stack of papers until he found the correct document and began furiously scribbling with his quill pen.

“Tassilo of Bavaria,” spat Aurelio scornfully, “What can that oaf offer the Lombards that we cannot? Why, he’s little more than a fur-clad barbarian, fresh out of the forests!”

“He is cousin and friend to the Frankish kings,” sniffed Avraham, “Raised as a ward of Pepin the Short, no less! And must I remind your Grace how other Christian courts tend to react to a royal pedigree stemming from none other than Alaric, the infamous plunderer of the Eternal City? It does not exactly inspire confidence…”

“You leave my ancestry out of this,” growled Aurelio.

“Of course…” droned Avraham, adopting a longsuffering expression, “We must simply strive to do the best we can with what we’ve been given.”

Aurelio groaned and raised a tired hand to his forehead. Avraham of Toledo was said to be the most learned diplomat in all of Hispania, but the man was simply incorrigible. The king reached for his wine goblet. Curses, empty again.

“Hello brother! Master chancellor! Having fun, are we?” A rugged man in a stylish black tunic plopped himself down next to Aurelio at the table. It was his younger brother, Veremundo, the Comes of Cantabria. He was a man well-known for his dapper fashion sense, but not so much for his personal decorum. The younger man casually crossed his feet on the table, taking a large bite of an apple he pulled from the sleeve of his tunic.

“Ooh, what’s this?” Veremundo smiled as he plucked one particular parchment from the stack. “The Lives and Lineage of the Great Houses of East Anglia! Sounds like scintillating reading. Hmm… the Wulfings? I do hope that’s not meant to describe their grooming habits...”


“Put that down,” said Aurelio, “We ruled them out ages ago.”

Veremundo ignored him. “Ooh, Mildthryth of Dommoc! She sounds nice. Why, I bet she has at least half her own teeth!”

“Give it a rest,” said Aurelio, “The selection of your future queen is no laughing matter.”

“Ah, well,” said Veremundo, carelessly dropping the parchment back to the table, “‘Tis a pity to dismiss East Anglia so soon. I bet there are even a few days a year when it doesn’t rain there!”

“Christ’s wounds,” Aurelio groaned.

Chancellor Avraham pretended not to hear that remark. He had long since learned that Visigothic nobles were not generally renowned for their sensitivity. “Perhaps my lord Veremundo would like to offer a suggestion of his own?” he sniffed.

“Have you perhaps thought about wedding and bedding the old king’s widow?” Veremundo said nonchalantly.

The formidable Munia of Viscaya had been queen to Froila the Cruel, however she had yet to appear at court since her husband’s grisly murder.

“What?!” growled Aurelio, “I’ve no desire to wake up to a severed manhood, thank you very much!”

“Hear me out,” said Veremundo, “Munia would bring the friendship and loyalty of the Basques with her, which are by no means guaranteed right now. And there’s no debating she’s beautiful, and still of childbearing age.”

“Bah,” said Aurelio, “Froila had terrible taste in women. I don’t know what the man saw in her.”

“Heh, well, I can think of a couple of things,” smirked Veremundo, playfully cupping his hands in front of his chest.

“Er… perhaps we should move on to these eligible Burgundian maidens?” Avraham quickly interjected, pulling another parchment from the stack.

“Ah, you’re no fun!” clucked Veremundo.

At that moment, one of Aurelio’s servants quietly entered the room and cleared his throat.

“My lords,” he said politely, “The Lords Silo and Mauregato have arrived with their retainers.”

Rising to his feet, Aurelio shoved the small mountain of parchments away from him.

“Very well,” he said, clapping his hands, “Lay on the feast!”

Three Hours Later
Ovetum, Asturia

Aurelio skewered a slice of meat with his belt knife and raised it to his lips. He had intended for this banquet to promote unity and loyalty among his vassals. It was not proceeding as he had planned.

“I need more men!” Mauregato insisted, “Unless you would prefer my lands remain a warren of thieves and brigands!” The southernmost province of Asturica which he governed had remained largely unpopulated ever since King Froila’s father had reclaimed it from the Moors.

“There are no more men to be had,” said Aurelio, “Our garrisons are thinly stretched as it is. If you are truly struggling, the Crown will grant you a modest sum of silver to hire some mercenaries to mop up the brigands.”

“What use are mercenaries who fight for you one day and join with your enemy the next?” interjected Silo, from the other side of King Aurelio, “Better he had loyal Asturians by his side. Your kingdom will not build itself!”

“And what would you suggest, Lord Silo?” said the King.

“Make me Dux Bellorum. Then I’d have power and prestige enough to levy a warband and take care of this problem for you!”

“If you make him a Dux, you must make me a Dux also!” added Mauregato, “It is my right! I am the son of a king!”

Aurelio clenched his jaw and said nothing. Silo and Mauregato were two of the most influential lords of the realm, hence their places of honor on either side of him at the feast. They also seemed bound and determined to be thorns in his royal backside, despite the honors he'd lavished on them.

Comes Mauregato of Asturica was the younger brother of King Froila. Or rather, he was the late king’s half-brother, for he also happened to be a bastard, born to a Moorish slave girl. Ostensibly, he had served Froila as Royal Chamberlain. In truth, he had been his brother’s calculating spymaster.

Comes Silo of Gallaecia, on the other hand, was a gruff, dour Suebian, and prematurely bald. He also happened to be married to Froila’s and Mauregato’s sister, the stately Princess Adosinda. He had served as Marshal of Froila’s troops for nigh on a decade, and Aurelio had retained him in this position to avoid insulting such an influential man.

Neither one of them had been particularly pleased at Aurelio’s accession, as they both thought their close ties to King Froila made them preferred candidates for the throne.

“I notice Queen Munia is absent once again,” Mauregato said wryly, “Some say my dear sister-in-law is still afraid for her life! But some say…” The young spymaster smirked.

“Some say she defies your orders,” Silo finished the other man’s sentence, “To make you look a fool.” Unlike Mauregato, Silo’s face was a rictus of disdain. “A strong king would take decisive action,” he added.

“You know, I could… handle her for you,” suggested Mauregato, “In fact, it would be my pleasure!”

“Hmph, why bother speaking of daggers when you can speak of swords?” Silo said grimly.

“Unless your sword’s only the size of a dagger!” came Veremundo’s voice from the other side of Silo.

Silo scowled at Veremundo, but the younger man ignored his ill-humor. He put an arm around the brawny noble and passed him a fresh goblet of wine. “Drink up, my friend! I swear all you fellows talk about is politics. Come now, I’m sure you can think of much more boring things to discuss!”

Aurelio had never been more grateful to be interrupted by his little brother. He stabbed another piece of meat with his knife... as hard as he could.


7 April 769
Zubialdea, Viscaya

Munia of Viscaya glanced casually at the scrap of parchment in her hands before tossing it aside.

“So it would seem the old fool has some stones after all,” she laughed, her legs stretched out before her as she reclined on her chaise, “He’s decided to take a bride at long last. And I had thought he would just drink himself to death down in that silly little villa of his.” She ran a finger around the rim of her goblet, but did not drink.

“Are you not worried about him, my queen?” Elazar was not particularly handsome, even for a dwarf, but he was a fanatically loyal agent.

“Why worry about dear old cousin Aurelio? And I do mean old.”

Elazar cackled like an imp. “A weak king makes for a weak kingdom!” he said, “But the Basques have grown strong once more. Perhaps the day of their glory is nigh?”

“The day of my glory is always nigh,” said Munia, “But you know everything that transpires in these lands. Surely you know of the missive sent to my father by a certain Comes who shall remain unnamed?” Despite Munia's prestige as the former queen, her father still ruled as lord of the Basque country.


The dwarf grinned. “Then your ladyship takes his offer seriously?”

“Come now,” said Munia, “Just who exactly do you think is going to succeed to the throne when all is said and done?”

Elazar’s gleeful expression grew pensive. “Does it matter? That seat is currently occupied.”

“With the right leverage, you can move just about anyone,” said Munia.

“Sounds like you’ve got a cunning plan!”

Munia smiled. “Let’s just say, once a queen, always a queen…”

“And what of the king?” asked the dwarf.

“Fate may take one man as readily as another,” Munia drawled, her face a nonchalant mask.

“Fate?” said the dwarf, his eyes growing wide again, “I hear the fates may have taken a special interest in him! I hear he has visions and speaks to people who are not there. They say he cries out strange names in the night! Now what was it? Amala...something.”

“The poor, deranged fool,” said Munia, “He’s not even half the man Froila was, and Froila was scarcely half a man himself. I’m surprised it took my husband so long to get himself killed.”

“You do not think you will have to wait as long this time?”

Munia smirked. “Somehow, I doubt it.”


9 April 769
Sancto Martino, Asturia

“How was the great royal feast, my lord?” asked Wulfila. The tall, bearded man was the commander of Aurelio’s personal comitatus. He always managed to stay a step behind the king, struggling to keep a respectful pace with him despite his burly build and much larger stride.

The mud squelched under Aurelio’s feet as the king stormed through the door of his villa.

“They’re fools, all of them!” Aurelio growled, “They all want to be king!” The banquet had ended with Silo and Mauregato formally requesting greater authority for the lords of the realm, authority to vote on the king’s royal edicts.

“My lord?” Wulfila stood at attention beside his master.

“Don’t they understand what that means? Their foolish greed and ambition will see the kingdom in ruins. I will not allow them to dictate how I govern the realm!”

“The men stand ready, my lord.” Wulfila squeezed the hilt of his sword so tightly he thought it might bruise his fingers. He was intensely proud of his warriors’ prowess and loyalty, but did not much care for the thought of battling half the kingdom.

“Rotrude!” bellowed the King, “More wine!” Where was that girl? Moments later, the servant girl rushed over with a nice, full goblet on a silver platter.

Aurelio grabbed the cup and sipped the warm liquid. “Ahhh…” He turned to the servant girl.

“What? You are not Rotrude!” The servant girl did not answer, slowly backing away from the king.

What was that strange aftertaste in his mouth?

The goblet clattered to the floor with a resounding crash, spilling fresh wine everywhere and staining the flagstones crimson.


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