- May 26, 2018
It was quiet in the palace. It was a cold, somewhat dreary day and there had been little for the council to do in the first place. Now it was late in the day and all figures of import had left to deal with their own matters, leaving only guards and servants to wander its halls.
Except for Leofweald.
In the quiet of the palace, the sound of his footsteps moving down its long corridors was not an entirely unusual one. Whenever there was nothing important to do and he couldn't decide on a good book to read he would simply walk around the palace, no real direction in mind, admiring the artwork. It was richly decorated with vibrant tapestries and intricate carvings depicting everything from religious scenes to, more recently, important historical events. There had been multiple occasions when, upon seeing a particularly interesting carving or tapestry, Leofweald had been inspired to learn more about the event depicted and was then inspired to learn about entire decades of history before and after that event.
And even if he did not find inspiration, he still found these walks quite relaxing. Away from all the noise of the castle and the council chambers, he was able to simply reflect on past events and think about his future actions in a way that was not possible when surrounded by noise. All things considered it was probably also a lot healthier than staying in his study reading books all day, and he planned on living a long, healthy life.
But today was different. Instead of the usual relaxation and inspiration, he felt only sadness when looking at the vibrant and intricate decorations of the palace. He had wandered these halls for long enough that he understood most of its decorations and, with nothing else to reflect on, his mind had wandered and he had ended up reflecting on those paintings, tapestries and carvings instead. Not one of them depicted anything other than his dynastys greatest moments, and it saddened him deeply that very few of them depicted the events of the last century. In a way it was quite representative of the dynasty itself, showing off the actions and glory of its ancestors and clinging onto those ancient men and their ideals and actions while doing nothing to expand upon them.
And now he was at the end of the largest hall, which lead directly from the entrance of the palace into the throne room with nothing but a pair of large wooden doors at the stairs leading into the hall and a pair of large wooden doors at the stairs leading into the throne room. This hall, and indeed the throne room itself, were unique. While the rest of the palace was decorated however a king saw fit to decorate it, and had slowly gathered these decorations over time, this hall and the throne room it led into had been made very tall and wide specifically so that there was plenty of space for the history of the kingdom to be depicted on its walls. The hall was relatively barren, but he knew that the walls and pillars of the throne room were almost completely covered in artistic depictions of the actions of its past rulers, both good and bad.
And yet, as he stood at the doors leading into this treasure trove of history, he hesitated. He had seen the images before of course, but he had never truly studied them for all of their details or even gotten a close look at them at all. He didn't like the throne room. In his mind, it was simply another example of the pride that had infected his dynasty. He had actively avoided it whenever possible, holding meetings in the castle council chambers and only using the throne room for the most important of events. He had only sat on the throne itself twice.
The first time was three years ago, when his... predecessor died and he inherited the throne. Even back then he had not wanted to sit on it, and he remembered that it took a considerable amount of effort on the part of the chancellor to convince him to take the throne so that he could officially inherit the kingdom. The second time was four months ago, when he officially came of age and was given more direct power over the kingdom. He had sat on the throne willingly that time, but he left the throne room as soon as festivities began.
Sighing, Leofweald shook his head clear of his doubts. How he could he intend to halt his dynastys prideful decay if he couldn't even confront it himself?
Slowly, he pushed the large wooden doors leading into the throne room open. Two guards on the other side of it finished opening it for him and he stepped into the room, where he found himself looking directly at the throne itself.
It was made completely out of gold. The Golden Throne was famous throughout the Christian world for the sheer wealth used to create it. To many it was a sign of his houses power and wealth, a shining display of their glory and the power invested into them by god. After all, any house that can afford such an expensive throne is clearly not one to be trifled with.
To him it was a giant lump of gold, an opulent display of his dynasty's decadence and pride. There was enough wealth in the Golden Throne to completely tear down and rebuild the Hospital Network twice over, enough gold to buy an army of hundreds of thousands and conquer the Iberian Peninsula in a decade. It was ugly and uncomfortable and shined so brightly in the sun that the palaces builders had been forced to replace the beautiful coloured glass ceiling with solid stone, leaving only a few small holes for light to filter in and keep the place naturally lit up during daytime. If he could, he would have it torn down and given to those who actually needed it. But alas, he could not.
He also didn't come here to stare at rotten gold, he reminded himself. He was here to admire the artwork on the walls and find inspiration, nothing more. Looking at the carvings on the pillars and the huge, elaborate murals on the walls, he wondered where to start. One caught his eye immediately. The words 'Hlothere Century', roofed the central third of the wall on the left. Two large figures dominated this section of the wall. The figure on the left was considerable smaller and in full plate, with sword and shield in hand and various images of conquest surrounding his left side, yet an oddly gentle smile and images of prosperity to his right. Above him sat the words 'Blessed Hlothere I the Just, the Glorious, the Conqueror, the Castellan, the Great. Rule began on 20.3.962. Died in his sleep on 12.5.997'
The figure on the right was larger, with far more events depicted in the space around him around him. The halo of a saint surrounded his head. His face was stern but his smile was gentle, with full plate armour covered in images of religious scenes. His arms were by his sides with palms facing away from him. The events were more difficult to understand due to their small size and the sheer number of them, but he saw images of prosperity, religion and friendship sporadically interrupted by images of crusades and distant kings wearing his houses colours. Most notable was the increasing number of hospitals as the image continued further to the right. Near the end, at the furthest edge of these images, the images of prosperity suddenly turned to images of disease and destruction. Above him sat the words 'Saint Hlothere II the Just, the Sword of God, the Merciful. Rule began on 12.5.997. Died of the Dreaded Plague on 2.8.1073.'
Leofweald stopped at the mention of the plague. He had heard of it a number of times before, and knew that it was supposedly an incredibly devastating plague that wiped out most of his house, but he had never truly studied it. Now he wanted to know what made it so devastating, especially after the rumours of it's recent resurgence. He had found his inspiration.
He quickly glanced across the rest of the wall. Gyrth the Blessed, Guthfrith the Drunkard, Leofweald the Zealot... all names to keep in mind for later. But for now, he needed to study. He hurried out of the throne room, ordering the guards to close the door behind him, and began walking down the long hall leading to the palace's main entrance - only to be rather suddenly interrupted by the sound of a voice coming from behind a nearby pillar.
"Ah, there you are your majesty."
Turning to his left, he saw a shadow slink out from behind one of the pillars holding up the ceiling and walk towards him. Leofweald knew who it was as soon as he heard his voice - it was Æthelwine, lead bishop of the Guild of Bishops and his spymaster, wearing his favoured long black cloak with his hood up. As he approached Leofweald he pulled down his hood and smiled. "I've been looking for you. Out of curiosity, where were you?"
Leofweald furrowed his brows. "Walking the halls. What do you want?"
Æthelwine raised an eyebrow and lopsidedly grinned. "My my, so impatient. I suppose you will want to get back to your study, so I'll make it quick. The Knights Templar have sent most of their forces on crusade, and are having difficulty paying for their expenses since they are running low on funds and those would normally donate money to their cause are already quite busy paying for their own crusade expenses. The castellan of Staines and their chancellor have been sent to ask for a donation. Will you provide them with one?"
Leofweald thought about it for a moment. They had plenty of gold in the treasury and, though he disliked the idea of using brutality to spread religion, his dynasty did owe them something after his predecessor expelled them...
Eventually, Leofweald nodded. "Send them a quarter of the funds in our treasury. That should be enough to pay for the rest of the crusade, assuming it continues going at it's current rate."
Æthelwine nodded an gave an exaggerated bow, the tip of his hood just barely touching the floor, before straightening and walking away. "As you wish, your grace." Just as Leofweald was about to turn to leave, Æthelwine stopped and turned, saying "Oh, and, I hope you enjoy learning about the Great Plague. It is certainly a... fascinating subject. At least, that's what I thought." With one last grin and a flourish of his cloak, the spymaster disappeared around a corner, no doubt heading to some long forgotten section of the palace to scheme.
Leofweald was a patient man, but Æthelwine had a way of wearing down any man's patience remarkably quickly. It was as if every flourish, every grin and every sarcastic comment was made with the intent of being annoying. This certainly wasn't helped by the fact that he had never officially renounced support for the previous king, instead simply disappearing until the war was over and then returning as if nothing happened. Leofweald almost wondered if he should simply find someone more competent to replace him.
Sighing, Leofweald disregarded the thought. He might not be easy to deal with, but no one was better at the job than him. Besides, he had more important things to deal with. With nothing else to stop him, he continued down the hall and left the palace for his personal quarters, where he had a number of books about the Dreaded Plague brought to him so that he might learn more of that horrific event.
It did not occur to him until much later that Æthelwine had known about his interest in the plague without being told about it.
Hey! Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking - "Johnny, you never finished your previous AARs! What happened?" However, I really don't want to discuss the absolute fustercluck that led to me abandoning those AARs and disappearing from the forum for a month, so I won't. Instead, I'll explain why I chose to make this AAR! Now, I can't really go into too much detail since this AAR starts 366 years into the game and I want to gradually reveal its history over the course of the AAR, but let's just say that it has a very interesting history and you might notice some similarities with Game of Thrones. I also roleplayed into creation a few unique bits and bobs - note the Guild of Bishops and Hospital Network mentioned above, for example.
I hope you enjoy A Legacy Of Wessex and, as always, feel free to provide me with some good ol' constructive criticism.