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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

aniuby

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For Feyenoord! Great AAR, I'll definitely be following this!

Ah, Spijkenisse...if all goes well, I'll be traveling through there today...I'm sure that's an interesting fact.

Anyway, another brilliant update!

Thank you for your support - the more the merrier!

And yes, it is an interesting fact! I now know that I 've been visited by a real Dutch person! I'm sorry if all the characters sound British or I get some of the names and places wrong - the truth is that I don't know the slightest thing about the Netherlands beyond the football teams, so please forgive my mistakes and correct me if I get the spellings wrong. Everyone is still going to sound British though! =P

Speaking of which, I quite like Excelsior Rotterdam myself. So do I get to charge into battle shouting "Excelsior!"? Perfect for a war cry.

Hopefully Orissa or whoever doesn't put up too much resistance. It would be pretty hilarious if one of the Indian superpowers managed to modernize a couple times and keep you out of India... which would make for an interesting session, although the AI in this game isn't really known for modernizing.

Modernisation is not a problem, since in vanilla non-Latin tech nations outside greater Europe practically never aim for the sliders needed for westernisation - the only exception is Oman. However, the obstacles I'm facing are the shortage of manpower combined with the need to preserve a deterrent force in Europe to avoid attacks, and, of course, money. There's also the risk that someone else forms Hindustan first - it's unlikely, given that I'm only in the early 15th century, but it does happen.

If you like a challenge - in game mechanics terms, rather than due to raw difficulty - you should enjoy the next chapter. My grand master plan basically goes to pot as a result of some "bad" luck.

If I wasn't already hooked, the football jokes would have certainly got me. I'm home! :)

And the Swedish 'diplomatic mission' - I've never laughed so much at something in an AAR :)

Thanks for the info - I'll be sure to ask if anything comes up - and I received a copy (although, having a Mac, neither Divine Wind, nor Heir to the Throne work,) so I'll be giving it a whirl soon.

This is easily the funniest AAR I've read - and the inclusion of omnishambles was genius. I do love that show :)

As always, looking forward it the next update.

Thank you for your compliments - it's going to be hard to live up to your expectations now!

Seriously, though, there's something I find intrinsically funny about politics and royal families - all the wheedling and intrigue, which is the reason why I picked up CKII in the first place, and probably why I've written about characters in this AAR the way I have. You can probably guess that the three last updates I put up were from a single game session, and I wrote the way I have because I felt that there was a lot to say, story-wise. So I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I have had fun writing!

However, although I've written about things in a humorous manner, and my country is going as well as can be hoped, things are going to become quite grim for my characters, and my grand scheme, in the next installment which I just played recently. I haven't yet decided how I'm going to write the new chapter - a single post or split up, narrative or dialogue, game details or made up fluff. But right now I don't really view the events of the next chapter as anything to laugh about so I hope it's not too much of a disappointment if it turns from comedy to political drama.

All I can say is that I'm glad that I wrote some rather obvious psychological disorders into my main characters. Albrecht, Alfredo, Kaspar, and Eberhard are about to take a turn for the nurse ... I mean, worse.
 

DensleyBlair

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Speaking of which, I quite like Excelsior Rotterdam myself. So do I get to charge into battle shouting "Excelsior!"? Perfect for a war cry.

Never! Almere all the way! I just love that they used to be FC 'Omniworld' :)

Albrecht, Alfredo, Kaspar, and Eberhard are about to take a turn for the nurse ... I mean, worse.

Was that a Sreudian flip?
 

UnitRico

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Thank you for your support - the more the merrier!

And yes, it is an interesting fact! I now know that I 've been visited by a real Dutch person! I'm sorry if all the characters sound British or I get some of the names and places wrong - the truth is that I don't know the slightest thing about the Netherlands beyond the football teams, so please forgive my mistakes and correct me if I get the spellings wrong. Everyone is still going to sound British though! =P

Well, as far as I can see, everything looks fine. Though maybe you might want to use Feijenoord - it's the old and Dutch spelling of the club/district, and was changed to Feyenoord when the team started playing international matches because no one in the world knew how the pronounce it or something.

Speaking of which, I quite like Excelsior Rotterdam myself. So do I get to charge into battle shouting "Excelsior!"? Perfect for a war cry.

Having been to one of their matches, I can confirm that's what the fans yell all the time, so it suits it just fine.
 

aniuby

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Chapter 4 A : A Crown of Blood and Bitterness -
A Date with Destiny (1436-1445)

Sovereign Albrecht I von Hohenzollern, since 22 May 1431

'Destiny has been set in motion. The wheels of fate are turning.

The stroke of a pen is as the stroke of a blade. Each of them shall be as the notches tallying up the sum of Holland's greatness.

Soon, very soon, the usurpers will be overthrown, and Holland shall attain the glory she deserves.

Under my rule.'

- Albrecht, son of Jan van Henegouwen



"Our first results from the Promised Land, my liege. General Venloo reports that everything is going as planned - with twelve brigades of men committed to the campaign in total, and with the enemy main force already routed, the heathen nation of 'Odisha' stands no chance."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Lord Albrecht, gratefully receiving the reports from Marshal of the Mint Kaspar Bolsward. "No heathen shall keep Holland from her destiny for long."
"Despite the difficulties in communication, our armies have found numerous sympathisers among the local population who have joined with our forces to challenge the regional lords, helping to replenish our losses. I know not whether this reflects how they have seen the light, or that they remain true to their traitorous, backstabbing heathen nature. My only fear is that it's almost as if ... it were too easy."

HOL00180_zps7d5244ef.png

Albrecht laid out the roughly-charted map of the Promised Land on the solid wooden table in the middle of the war room. Parts of it were still unmarked, 'Terra Incognita' which General Venloo hoped to learn more about with the aid of local sources of intelligence. Despite Holland's superiority in the field, marching into unexplored territory still remained an unwise strategy.
The Sovereign of Holland had chosen to remain in Amsterdam to oversee the logistics of war, instead of leading the charge in what was billed as the war of Holland's Destiny. He claimed to be more of an administrator than a warrior; the truth was that he feared the risk to his life. With Holland's star ascendant, Albrecht could have merely delegated the role of administering his realms to the host of talents gathered in Amsterdam.

One such talent, Treasurer Alfredo Zeno, sat at a table in the corner handling matters of state accounts; he had a head for numbers which was rivalled only by Marshal Kaspar, and was too indispensable and too reputable to simply be told to retire. His loyalty was unquestionable. That didn't mean Albrecht liked him, though - the young lord could swear that when he had his back turned, Alfredo would cast a knowing glance at him, grinning toothily.
And then there were his vassal Dukes, the lords of Oldenburg and Brabant, who had sworn loyalty to Holland's cause. The Duke of Oldenburg had done an admirable job without even visiting Amsterdam - he had helped improve relations with the Hansa and protect Holland's merchants, knowing that the prosperity of their countries now rose and fell together. But the Duke of Brabant, Jean de Valois ... he had the habit of poking his nose around state matters where his advice was not really solicited. Like right now.

The door was flung open, and a shaven-headed young man stumbled into the room, smelling very strongly of beer and pie gravy. Behind him, in the corridor, there stood a tall, slender man in a cloth cap and courtly robes, who gave a wink upon catching his overlord's eye.
"All right, Hardy, what do you want now?" snapped Lord Albrecht impatiently, "and I don't want to hear the latest football results."
"Well, Duke Jean and I were getting some pub grub before dropping by to visit," said his brother Eberhard, "and we were sitting at the roadside watching the boats go by in the canals. Suddenly ... whoooa! There was this roar as a mob went down the street across the canal from us - and I knew they couldn't be footy fans as there wasn't a home match today. They were shouting 'Down with Lord Albrecht! No new taxes! No ifs, no buts, no more cuts!' - the lot of them. Bertie, I haven't a clue what you do back there, but it seems like quite a lot of people are unhappy with whatever you're doing."

It was true - Albrecht had raised taxes recently to help pay for the expeditionary force to the Promised Land. And he knew that inflation, counterfeiting, and coin-clipping were on the rise, despite Kaspar's best efforts to regulate the coinage. It was at this moment that Duke Jean of Brabant stepped forward from the shadows, and placed a hand on Eberhard's shoulder.
"My lord, you see, you've got a little problem with your legitimacy ... now now, don't snap at me. You know it's true."

leg20_zpsf71dda08.png

It's still not going up. That's what she said.
(Truth - it went down again due to war)

"So what the hell do you expect me to do about it, Jean?" complained the short-tempered lord, "I'm fighting this war that's been written in the Holy Book and all that. We've got to make cuts, we're all in this together, blah blah. What more do you want me to do?"
"Maybe you should get married, Lord Bertie. I'm sure you'd agree that royal weddings have a way of distracting the public from the issues at hand. And it might even bring a little joy into the life of a lonely lord. Take my daughter Jeanne for instance ..."
"A pointless endeavour, Jean. Marriage is a useless distraction from the duties of office" Lord Albrecht interrupted loudly, before growling under his breath. "Especially if your kids won't inherit the throne."

"Whoa! Duke Jean!" exclaimed Eberhard. "Not only do you have a daughter, but you named her after yourself! Never figured you for the type - so is she hot?"
"She's only a child ... but never you mind, dear boy. I'm talking with your brother here!" said Jean de Valois, as he wagged his finger knowingly.
"Look, anyway, the both of you are annoying me and, frankly, a damn nuisance. If you'll excuse me ..."

"Excuse me!" A third man in a beard and cloth skullcap almost crashed into the two nobles as he darted into the room waving a parchment - naturally, it was Chancellor Spijkenisse.
"My liege! News from the Court Chaplain - God's word has been revealed to us. He wants us to 'Make Brandenburg Vote For Us'!"
"Again?" came a voice from the corner of the room. "First he wanted us to make the King of Bohemia vote for us, then he told us to have more ships than the whole Hanseatic league. If that's how it's going to be, tell the Chaplain to stuff it up His ..."

"I shall see to this myself," announced Lord Albrecht, with resolve swelling in his voice. "We don't want incidents, like what happened when I delegated it to my brother - that incident is sitting on the throne of Sweden."
"My lord, I'm telling you not to bother," replied Treasurer Zeno from his seat at the back of the room, "I know better than you do that this will end in failure. Brandenburg currently answers to the Sovereign of Luxembourg. Their hands are tied in the matter of the imperial election."

"I don't really care, actually. I just want an excuse to get away from this madhouse. I will make the arrangements for departure myself - Kaspar, I'm putting you in charge while I'm gone."
Lord Albrecht took the scroll from Chancellor Spijkenisse, then reached for his cap and coat, pushing past his brother and Duke Jean as he left the room while muttering something about being surrounded by idiots.



1st March, 1438. The wee hours of the morning in Amsterdam.

A lone figure, shaven-headed and sweaty, was sprawled over a wooden table in a bar, alone save the stoic figure of the bartender standing at the counter cleaning pint glasses. The bar was otherwise deserted, but telltale signs marked it out as having been crowded earlier that evening - the smell of sweat and drunkenness hanging in the air, the furniture out of order, and the odd smashed chair or glass.

"Three ... one ... to Feyenoord, *hic* at home ... never *hic* never thought I'd see the day ... three one ... down" the man muttered incoherently. The only other sound was the squeak of cloth against glass. "Bartender! *hic* Another .... another drink ..."
The man staggered to his feet, and raised one hand while banging on the table with the other. The bartender sighed as he put down his glass, and stepped forward to approach the young man.

"Young master, you are clearly drunk out of your wits. And besides, the bar is closed - has been, for the last hour in fact! Go home!"
"Huh ... *hic* ... I'm inconsolable. I must *hic* must have another ..."
"No! Even if you were the Emperor himself, no! Now be off with you!"

"Huh ..." the man staggered out into the street. Perhaps it was the warm air or the rushing sound of the tide in the canals, but he seemed to regain a little of his faculties. "I ... I think I'll *hic* I'll go spend the night with someone ... *hic* ..."
'The Wall', as it was known to many young men like him. The best place for a man to take the night off straightening his back - and certain other parts of his anatomy, too. He'd visited many of these wenches plying their wares, but never the same one twice. If anything "unforeseen" resulted, he hoped that this would make it difficult to trace it to him.
As he shambled past the next streetwalker displaying her wares, he spotted one he had not seen before. A lovely young lass with a distinctive sharp chin, who stood about a head shorter than him. Her shockingly blonde hair seemed to shine even under the meagre moonlight illuminating the alley. But what made her stand out most was her attire - a little cloth cap bearing the cross of the Knights Hospitaller, and a heavy frock similar to those worn by serving girls in the army. Sure, she did not have any of the "maturity" of her competitors, but the young man was intrigued by her appearance nonetheless.

"My lord! Sir! Would you care to patronise our humble establishment? We are 'Atelier Hainaut', a house that specialises in ... different tastes. We can help you live out the fantasies you've always dreamed with the women you've met in your mundane daily life. Ever had ill thoughts about a serving maid, a nun, Joan of Arc, Matilda of Tuscany? Here at Atelier Hainaut, we aim to cater to your deepest desires. As you can see, I'm dressed as a holy lady of the Knights Hospitaller ..."
The young man listened on, half of him intrigued by her spiel, the other half too drunk to care.
"... we even provide the 'props' to ensure that your experience is as true to life as possible. As such, I bear with me this poultice, dressed with the spice of heaven ..."
The young man gave it a sniff. Smelled medical ... almost suffocatingly so.
"... and another mark of my trade is this needle ..."

By this point the shaven-headed young man had fallen all over the girl, completely won over. Or perhaps he had fallen unconscious from the chloroform. He did not even feel the 'needle', finely crafted by German swordsmiths, as it pierced his lungs. Or his life's blood beginning to fountain from the aperture in his chest.



Albrecht strode into the town hall of Amsterdam, flanked by Marshal Bolsward and Treasurer Zeno, and marched before the head of the body of patricians gathered there. The lord's eyes were sunken, his shoulders stiff, as he futilely attempted to maintain the imposing appearance which befitted his station. He had barely slept for two nights in a row - and this, coming on the heels of his return journey from an otherwise relaxing trip to Berlin, where he had been welcomed with great fanfare. Although he could not gain their assent for his request, they had reaffirmed their friendly relations and invited him to prepare for a reciprocal visit. Instead, he now had to see to Eberhard's burial, next to the tomb of his father, and pay his final farewells. It's what Hardy would have wanted. It's what ... his father would have wanted.

"Hardy was murdered! Why aren't you bureaucrats doing anything about it?" demanded Lord Albrecht as he banged his fist on the Head Patrician's desk, startling a blonde girl nearby who had previously been speaking to the official.
"My lord. I'm really sorry to hear about your brother, but you must understand many murders happen every day. We can't resolve every case," the elderly administrator said, his voice gravelly with age and weariness.
"I ... I'm the Sovereign of Holland! My brother, and ... and heir, was murdered! As your lord, it is only right that I have certain privileges, so I demand that something be done about my brother's murder!"
"And indeed something is being done for you, your lordship. We have recently finished handling the case for discussing your succession and we have come to a decision. After going through many claims, only one struck us as being of any note - and not very much, at that."
The bureaucrat handed a piece of paper bearing several details to Albrecht and his councillors. The jaws of the three men dropped as they read its contents.

HOL00190_zps04830e30.png

"Albrecht Jr von Hohenzollern, born in Year 1425 of our Lord. Son of Sovereign Jan II van Henegouwen of Holland. This claim states that our former lord had an additional son, but a legitimate one, named Albrecht much like yourself. It says that your, ahem, 'father' had always wanted a son named Albrecht, but preferably one of his own blood. So he tried again."
"Impossible! My father had no 'third son'! There was me, and Hardy, and that was all! If I have a second younger brother, why have I never seen him? And where is he now?"
"Well, my lord, it says that he had lived in hiding, and will continue to do so until it is right for him to assume the throne. Because it would make sense that you would try to ... plan for a convenient 'accident' to befall this young master Albrecht. Not that I'm accusing you of anything, of course, but it would be perfectly logical ..."

"You fool man!" roared Alfredo Zeno, in uncharacteristic fury, as he seized the paper from Lord Albrecht's hands and ripped it to shreds. "It would be perfectly logical that this is all a fabrication! How could such a shoddy forgery slip past your eyes?"
"Alfredo, it's the best attempt we've received," the bureaucrat continued nonchalantly. "We are pretty certain that it is as legitimate a claim to the lordship of Holland as can be obtained without the use of bribing, threats, or cajoling. It is only Holland's great standing in the world that is preventing other jealous nations from seizing our throne outright."
"Accursed patrician! Would you betray our lord ... our struggle for greatness, for freedom ... to the lies of some know-nothing pretender?! Some vile plotter is behind this, a rival, or their evil chancellor. For my lord, for Holland ... I will find them, and make them pay."
"Alfredo ..." The old councillor shrugged off Kaspar's attempts to hold him back as he rolled up his sleeves and, breaking protocol, he stormed from his lord's side.

"And so, my lord, this is how it has been decided. In the absence of any better claim, your heir has been named as Albrecht Junior, your 'younger brother'." His business with the lord done, the bureaucrat returned to his previous matters.
"I ... father ... Hardy ..." Lord Albrecht knuckled his forehead with one hand, trying vainly to hide his tears, or his anger, before grasping Marshal Kaspar's shoulder with the other, "... I have no brother now. Let us go, Kaspar."



"So, everything is going as planned," came a gruff voice, with the hint of a Eastern European accent.
"So far, yes, so far."

The bar was noisy, and the two strangers would not attract much attention sitting at the table in the corner, apart from a few disapproving looks. One was a simply-dressed, well-built man, his face shielded by a hood. The second appeared to be but a child, cutting a girlish figure, with rolling golden locks, wearing the dress of a nobleman's servant. Her voice was soft and lilting, with a local accent, although it occasionally cracked in the dry, alcohol-drenched atmosphere of the bar. Somewhere in the distance, a third stranger stood alone, eyeing them from the shadows, all the while keeping a hand at his waist.

"The fool did not suspect a thing. If I had known he was so drunk, I needn't have bothered with my preparations - I would have just run him through right there and then."
"You do incredibly well, working alone. My lord sends you a small token of his appreciation and prays for your success."
The large man took a small sack from his pouch and dropped it on the table with a clinking sound. His companion took it and placed it in the pocket of her dress.

"What is next on your plan? My lord would like to be prepared for the eventuality of your triumph."
"It is too dangerous to make a move right now - our enemies will have their guard up, and I must lie low for some time. Maybe give them a few years to exhaust their leads," the girl said, her lips curving into a smile as the flickering candlelight in the bar illuminated her sharp chin, "but the answer should be clear. The usurper Lord of Holland, or else, those around him. Pick them off, one by one, and eventually their master will fall. Then, my destiny will be fulfilled."
"Very well. I await your success."
The girl rose from her seat and headed for the door of the bar, while behind her the large man called for a second helping of booze.

A moonlit night, by the canals of Amsterdam. A night very much like that night a month ago, when Eberhard von Hohenzollern, brother and heir of the Lord of Holland, was murdered. A solitary blonde-haired figure walked down the street before rounding a corner into a deserted alleyway.

"Draw, you knave!" came a cry from behind, and with it the glint of metal. A finely-crafted Italian blade, barely used, and fit for a patrician of Venice.
The girl whirled about, catching sight of her adversary charging toward her. Clad in a serving-wench's dress, she carried no sword or scabbard at her waist.
"Die where you stand! For my master, Lord Albrecht ... Lord Jan ... For Holland!"

The girl did not flinch as the bearded, sword-wielding man lunged at her. She was biding her time. He was but metres away when, with terrifying speed, she reached into a pocket at her bosom, and hurled something at the man.
There was a flash of light, and the sound of metal piercing flesh. With a spurt of blood from his neck, her adversary fell, his sword clattering to the ground, unstained with the blood of his opponent. With his last ounce of strength, he swung a hand at his opponent, but only managed to seize her golden locks ... which fell loose, held in a dead man's grip.

Grumbling, the girl eased her golden wig from the hands of the corpse and messily replaced it on her head. She then inspected the dead man's hat, which had flopped to the ground beside him. It was old but well-made - the craft of a master hatter from Italy. A badge adorned it - the crest of the County of Holland, an honour presented to those who have rendered great service to the nation. It was dated 1409.

"Well, that's one less man to kill."

HOL0019A_zpsee512fcf.png


More to come! To be continued in Chapter 4 B : A Crown of Blood and Bitterness - A Date with Destiny (1436-1445)
 
Last edited:

DensleyBlair

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Murder? In Amsterdam? Impossible!

One thing I have wondered for a while is whether there is any wa if telling if an heir is indeed a brother or a son, etc? Or does it just give an age and ou play to it? Also, is there a reason the heirs all have weak claims to the throne? I was under the impression that having the same name as your predecessor helped a bit.

Very entertaining as always. I look forward to each update.
 

aniuby

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Never! Almere all the way! I just love that they used to be FC 'Omniworld' :)

Murder? In Amsterdam? Impossible!

One thing I have wondered for a while is whether there is any wa if telling if an heir is indeed a brother or a son, etc? Or does it just give an age and ou play to it? Also, is there a reason the heirs all have weak claims to the throne? I was under the impression that having the same name as your predecessor helped a bit.

Very entertaining as always. I look forward to each update.

Almere is not going to show up any time soon ... not until they get those polders built!

There is no way of telling how your heir is related to your ruler - the only variables that you're provided with are the heir's first name, last name, age (the game notes the specific date of birth, but it's not visible in the UI), attributes, and claim strength. I'm basically making up stuff based on the person's age, and I've had to cut a few corners for the sake of telling a story - there's no real way to explain why, for instance, a noble from your family can become ruler of a distant country within days of making a royal marriage with them. Maybe he married the king's only daughter, and both the king and his child disappeared in unfortunate circumstances ... *cough*KarlVIIIJohanvonHohenzollernofSweden*cough* ... nope, still doesn't make sense to me.

Everyone has weak legitimacy because, in the first place, my dynasty keeps changing (Wittelsbach-Henegouwen-Hohenzollern). Albrecht Sr had a strong claim despite being from a different family, as the event that 'created' him ('Take that, von Habsburgs!') gives the heir a strong claim and prevents rival claimants, but it doesn't do anything for the legitimacy drop upon succession. In Albrecht Jr's case, it's because he appeared during a time when my country's legitimacy was low, rather than being generated at the time of the death of the old king when legitimacy is at max, as Eberhard was. I'm simply of the opinion that Hollanders just hate the concept of monarchy in general.

My legitimacy increases very slowly because, being Plutocratic, I don't have enough diplomats to make royal marriages across Europe, which will give a boost to recovering legitimacy. Declaring offensive war, and the war exhaustion from that war, has also caused my legitimacy to plummet. I could hire an advisor to help with regaining legitimacy, but I'm loathe to sack any of my good councillors. Besides, the low legitimacy wasn't giving me problems, and Hardy is there, so everything's fine, right?

Anyway, others can claim my throne now, due to the heir's weak claim, as long as they have more prestige and more legitimacy than me. My next step is to get both of them up, and keep them up until an unfortunate accident happens to befall one of the Albrechts, and we'll see where to go from there. I've never really felt legitimacy in EU3 to be a problem before so this is a new experience to me.

I was really sorry to see Hardy and Alfredo go. I promise the next update in the morning will have more game details and screenshots, and yes, more death. This recent game session is looking likely to be a three-parter ...

EDIT - If you want to see a good example of a fictional family tree which could be created in EU3, I suggest you take a look at Fyregecko's "InTveresting Times". I didn't originally think about creating one due to my aim of switching to a republic, but given the right royal mess I'm in now I might do so at some point.

Well, as far as I can see, everything looks fine. Though maybe you might want to use Feijenoord - it's the old and Dutch spelling of the club/district, and was changed to Feyenoord when the team started playing international matches because no one in the world knew how the pronounce it or something.

Interesting to know - I for one would not know how to pronounce it either. I'll just leave it the way it is since I just mentioned it for fun.

Also, Excelsior! =)
 
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Thanks a lot for the info - I appreciate the fact you take the time to help greatly.

EDIT - If you want to see a good example of a fictional family tree which could be created in EU3, I suggest you take a look at Fyregecko's "InTveresting Times". I didn't originally think about creating one due to my aim of switching to a republic, but given the right royal mess I'm in now I might do so at some point.

This is part of the reason I asked - I noticed it yesterday and wondered if it had any truth, or was just fiction. Even so, I prefer a brother heir every now and then. Makes the game more 'real.'

Oh, and it turns out Almere is named after Zuiderzee - isn't that a character's name? Maybe there's way to include them yet ;)
 

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Chapter 4 B : A Crown of Blood and Bitterness -
Branded by Victory (1436-1445)

Sovereign Albrecht I von Hohenzollern, since 22 May 1431

A pillar of the state had fallen.

Alfredo Zeno, a Venetian merchant adventurer who made Holland his adopted home, and had become renown for his vocal stance and contributions to the cause of Holland's struggle for independence and glory. Having risen through the ranks of the bureaucracy, and filled just about every high office of state, he was held in the highest esteem by all. His embalmed body lay in state for a week, before the patricians of Amsterdam arranged his burial in the mausoleum housing the tombs of their worthiest members. This elder statesman, this great man ... the last of the pioneers of Holland was dead.



Chancellor Johan Spijkenisse sighed as he closed the door of the war room behind him. Before him, Sovereign Albrecht I of Holland and Marshal of the Mint Kaspar Bolsward were seated at the war room table, discussing the latest developments in the First War of Holland's Destiny.
Very unsettling. Lord Albrecht was not the kind to stay seated while at his duties.

"H ... have you been to the funeral, my lord?" Johan's tremulous voice did not draw his lord's eyes from the pile of papers before him, but Marshal Kaspar turned to reply.
"No, and I don't think he will attend. The mood of the public is hostile, and it isn't safe to make a public appearance," Kaspar explained. "With all due respect to our dear friend Alfredo, our lord's security is of paramount importance."
"Another month, another murder. Is this coincidence or conspiracy? Any one of us could be next..." said Johan, before attempting to change the subject, "but on the matter of increased security, the guards have detained a visitor who has arrived to speak with Lord Albrecht. She claims to be ..."

"She can wait, we have some urgent correspondence to attend to," interrupted Lord Albrecht coldly. His bloodshot eyes betrayed how he had not been sleeping well for the months since his brother's assassination. "Johan, I need your diplomatic expertise in the following matters."
"I am at your service, my liege."
"General Venloo has sent us reports of the ongoing War of Destiny in the Promised Land. It appears that the natives have tried to negotiate for peace by offering us a patch of land in which to set up a settlement."
"That seems sensible enough."
"However, that piece of land is completely landlocked!" Lord Albrecht grumbled as he pointed out the relevant territory on the map. "If we accepted, it would not be possible to reinforce or even reach that territory. They tried to take us for fools, and General Venloo was right to refuse."
"So what seems to be the problem?"
"It seems that we've discovered just why the heathens were so willing to trade that territory for peace."

HOL00200_zps2d4a5608.png

"The territory of 'Bastar' is swarming with rebels seeking independence from 'Odisha', many of whom were responsible for aiding our forces." Kaspar explained. "However, I doubt they understand that swearing allegiance to Holland in their quest for freedom is not the same as outright independence."
"Besides," Lord Albrecht added, "General Venloo advises that it is indeed a worthless piece of land. Who's to say that they won't rebel against us as well? More unnecessary upheaval."

"However, this is indeed a rare opportunity ..." Johan considered the situation for a moment, before replying, "We can accept the rebels' proposal for now, to secure their territory as a staging area, and simply grant them independence later once we've enforced our demands on the lords of 'Odisha'. It would satisfy all parties and possibly gain us a new ally."
"Your words are wise, Chancellor. I am glad that I ..." Albrecht paused for a moment to consider his words, "... that I still have talents around me."
"Thank you, sire. Now, about this guest, she says she's from ..." spoke Johan, but Albrecht acted as if he had not heard and reached for a second parchment on the table before him.
"On to the next issue ... I'd like to ask for your opinion on this."

HOL00220_zps9985aca8.png

You know, when war breaks out, it's not you who's going to get overrun.

"This is a rare opportunity to gain an alliance with England. They stand in a position of considerable strength, and have the largest fleet of carracks in Europe. If we were allies, our naval force would be unstoppable," Kaspar elaborated, as he recalled the array of facts entrenched in his memory, "However, they are bitter enemies with France and Castille, and they long for the recovery of their provinces on the continent, which they lost to those two nations. It is also no secret that they harbour the desire for the elimination of Scotland, their last neighbour on the islands."
"I was considering if they could help guarantee the safety of our homeland as we pursue our foreign endeavours, or whether they would entangle us in unnecessary conflicts which we would much rather avoid," Lord Albrecht added, "so this is why I have delayed my reply."

"You were right to be wary, sire. Accepting this opportunity, however rare, would most likely be the wrong decision," replied Johan, "Smaller nations like ours are as pawns in the great game for supremacy between England, France, and Castille. They will seek to draw us into their wars, but will not hesitate to abandon us in our time of need. This is why we have preserved a delicate state of neutrality in our relations with the three powers - allying ourselves with one of them would shatter this balance forever."
"I still have my sights set on freeing Flanders from the Iberian grasp, eventually, through some means or another," said Lord Albrecht, before finally looking up from his papers and staring directly at Johan. "So what is this matter which you wanted to discuss? A visitor, you say?"

"Yes, my lord. Do you still recall your ... recent diplomatic visit to Brandenburg?"
Chancellor Spijkenisse trode carefully in broaching the subject. It brought back memories for Lord Albrecht ... happy memories. Memories of when he was still surrounded with the optimism of victory, the reassuring encouragement of allies, the bustle of loyal retainers striving in his service, the friendship of a beloved brother. These were memories he'd rather forget ever existed. The impact of his words was immediately felt as the colour of his lord's face fell.
Albrecht placed a hand to his forehead, either to soothe or to conceal his emotions. "Yes. I do."
"Senior Representative Johann Cicero von Zweibrücken of Brandenburg has sent a messenger to negotiate an agreement. More specifically, he has sent a hostage - his daughter."
"Tell the guards to bring her in. I shall meet her in my throne room."



Albrecht shifted uneasily in his seat, drawing the concerned glance of Marshal Bolsward who stood beside him. He rarely sat while attending to state matters, finding that it restricted his ability to think, and he particularly abhorred the magisterial chair from which he was expected to receive dignitaries, seeking to avoid it as much as possible. But his shoulders felt heavy and his back ached more with each passing day ... it was unavoidable, if he wanted to preserve his capacity to carry on as head of state.
Needless to say, he did not cut a terribly impressive figure as Chancellor Spijkenisse entered the throne room, bringing with him his guest. A lady with flowing golden locks, red lips, and a slender face that tapered to a pretty pointed chin, in her young twenties, clad in the plain but otherwise immaculate attire of a traveller. Was this really the daughter of the hoary old representative of Brandenburg he had met in Berlin?

"I am Sovereign Albrecht of Holland, and I welcome you to my official residence," Lord Albrecht began, sounding worn and weary rather than ministerial. "I bid you, state your name, origin, and business."
"My lord, I am Gisele von Zweibrücken, daughter and only child of Senior Representative Johann Cicero von Zweibrücken of Brandenburg," the lady spoke, her voice tinged with a distinct Saxon accent. "As a sign of friendship and gratitude from the lords of Brandenburg for your personal visit earlier this year, I have been sent to seek the assistance of the lord of the prestigious nation of Holland, in negotiating a matter of our national importance. I have been instructed to remain in Amsterdam to assist in co-ordinating this matter - and as a hostage in your service, to guarantee the goodwill of the lords of Brandenburg."

"My liege, I certify that the documents she brings with her are genuine," Chancellor Spijkenisse added, "among them the seal of the Margrave of Brandenburg, the seal of House Zweibrücken ... and the seal of the House of Luxembourg."
"Luxembourg ..." Albrecht recalled the history of Holland, related to him by his tutors in his childhood. He had an inkling of what Gisele was about to ask.
"The lords of the Margraviate of Brandenburg have long been at loggerheads with the Sovereign of Luxembourg concerning the matter of his rule over our land, but my father ... the lords believe that we are close to reaching an agreement."

LUXJobst_zpsac8c8575.png

Jobst von Luxembourg of Moravia. The real Jobst died in 1411, after being elected King of the Romans, but before assuming the crown.
That means that Jobbo here actually outlived his real-life counterpart by over thirty years. Poor Brandenburgers.

"Sovereign Jobst von Luxembourg is frail and elderly, and remains without a heir despite outliving two wives. He has agreed to grant Brandenburg her independence upon his death, but the enmity between our countries will persist long after his passing. My mission is to solicit your assistance, in your capacity as a respected friend of both Luxembourg and Brandenburg, in nominating a successor who will be amenable to both parties, and by so doing put to rest the shadow of war which looms over both our nations."
A complex matter, and entirely unexpected, thoroughly puzzling lord Albrecht. His brows furrowed. Had he been chosen simply because of his personal visit to see the lords of Brandenburg? Was it simply a matter of him having been in the right place at the right time?
"My lord?" Gisele asked, not hearing a reply or word of acknowledgement from the Sovereign of Holland.

"I understand," Albrecht replied after a short pause, "but naturally I cannot give you an immediate reply on this issue. I must consult my officials, and my allies, for their opinions. Marshal, issue a summons to the Duke of Oldenburg and the Duke of Brabant."
"Yes, my lord," Kaspar nodded, making a mental note on the matter.
"And Chancellor, contact the Amsterdam representative of the Soveregn of Friesland, Sovereign of Cleves, and Archbishop of Liege."
"I will ... but ..." said Johan, with hesitation in his voice, "you may be aware of the recent death of the previous sovereign of Friesland. By the law of primogeniture, their lord's son Casimir should be ruler ... but he is still a child. The land has descend into anarchy and lawlessness, and a regency council struggles to maintain autocratic rule there, as the people strive to attain their ideal of "Fryske Frijheid", a concept similar to the privileges enjoyed by the citizens of Holland."
"If such is the case, we must send a messenger to Leeuwarden. But I cannot spare either of you, and I am unable to go personally ..." Lord Albrecht leaned back on the throne and tried to cover his eyes, to hide any signs of emotion from his guest. But this gesture seemed to be to no avail.

"Lord Albrecht ... if you give me your blessing, I shall go in your stead."
"Lady von Zweibrücken?" Lord Albrecht was struck by the request. "I cannot ask a guest to deal with matters of state. Amsterdam is ... dangerous enough as it is."
"My lord ... no, my liege ..." Gisele pleaded, her voice wavering ever so slightly, "I am your hostage and your servant. You may employ me in whatever capacity as you feel serves the interests of your realm. I have not had the same education as talented statesmen such as yourself or your ministers, but I offer merely my competence as a diplomat and negotiator."
"I ... I shall explain the difficulty," Albrecht stammered. Since this business had been thrust upon him so unexpectedly, it made sense for him to make use of the new opportunities it presented as well. "Despite our alliance, our relations with the Sovereign of Friesland have been somewhat ... tenuous, and they have been reluctant to accept even the generous offer of our sphere of protection. I hope that you will be able to do better at negotiating with them."
"Please have faith in me, Lord Albrecht!" Gisele said, "I sense that some greater trouble weighs upon your heart, but I promise to return with news which will raise your spirits."
"Very well. I shall pray for your success..."

HOL00210_zps0f2e3870.png

That took quite a bit of effort ... they kept breaking out of Holland's Sphere of Influence despite being only a OPM, and refusing offers of vassalisation.
One fine day, they simply said it was "Likely" - and the regency council, and Lady von Zweibrücken, probably had something to do with it.

"I don't know how she did it. After so many years of rejecting our offer of protection, not only have relations with Friesland been normalised, but they have also agreed to swear fealty to us, in exchange for the preservation of their Frisian freedoms."
It was 1440, and things finally seemed to be on the upturn for Holland. Lord Albrecht stood at the war room table, in his preferred posture, consulting matters of state with Marshal of the Mint Kaspar Bolsward.
"My liege, from what I can gather, it was a reciprocal deal she negotiated," Kaspar explained. "The people wanted their freedoms to be enshrined in law, and the boy ruler Casimir wanted to ensure he could stay in power. So, she offered to have the Frisian people granted the freedoms enjoyed under Holland's law, in exchange for Casimir's retention as a vassal Duke under your authority."

"Reciprocity ... that Saxon lady certainly has a way with it."
Lord Albrecht smiled - he recalled that he hadn't done so since his brother's death, not until Gisele arrived at his court. It was as if his life had ended upon his return from that fateful trip to Brandenburg, and reborn after Lady von Zweibrücken's reciprocal visit. At this very moment, the noble lady was discussing the matter of the Luxembourgian-Brandenburgian succession with his Chancellor and chief diplomat Johan Spijkenisse.
He felt some new vigour in his shoulders, and his choked breathing seemed to ease upon just thinking about her. Was this what Duke Jean of Brabant meant by his words? 'A little joy, in the life of a lonely lord'?

"My lord? My lord, are you paying attention?"
"Ah, sorry, Kaspar. I was just lost in thought." Albrecht knew that he was right about one thing, though. That woman was a distraction. But a pleasant one - one that distracted him from the misery which had plagued his life.
"Very unlike your task-oriented nature, I would think. But anyway, we have a further report in from General Venloo from the Promised Land. The heathens of 'Odisha' have offered their complete and utter submission to your will, and General Venloo has maintained a truce with them while awaiting your decision. How should we respond?"

HOL00230_zps44ac134a.png

Note how Vijayanagar snagged one province from Orissa. If it wasn't for General Venloo's quick response, they would have taken more.
I held back on gaining territory because I wanted to get my research done first and avoid the jump in tech costs.

"It would be a bad idea to demand their annexation. As much as they are heathens, and we are on a mission to fulfil our destiny, we must still pay attention to practical considerations - as strangers from a distant land, we cannot easily administer so much territory. Start small, and try to co-opt local elites who are willing to respect Holland's authority. Once we have established ourselves, we can put the next phase of our plan into action."
"A wise and well thought out decision, Lord Albrecht," Kaspar affirmed, sincere in his words of praise. "I shall send word to General Venloo immediately. We feared that you had lost your talent in administrative matters, but your acuity is just as we remembered it."
"Thank you, my friend, though I must say the credit for that must go to my noble councillors - yourself, Chancellor Spijkenisse, and ..." His words trailed off as Albrecht slipped into a dreamy smile once again.
"Oh, speaking of Johan, he said he would bring us news on the matter of the Luxembourgian-Brandenburgian succession. You wished to stay neutral on this matter, so most of our allies have agreed with Duke Jean of Brabant - the consensus is that a scion of the ruling house of Ansbach, and a very distant relation of yours, should accede to Luxembourg's throne."

"That man Jean simply eludes me, but if our friends agree, then I shall respect his decision," Albrecht nodded, "so I expect Johan to barge into the room any moment now, shouting 'Excuse me, my liege', and ..."
There was a vague thump, as the door quivered, and the sound of someone grunting as they vainly tried to force the door open.
"Not Johan, then? Who could that be?"

The Sovereign of Holland stepped forward and gave the door a yank ... and a blonde-haired, modestly-dressed lady toppled face-first into his chest, still holding on to the door's handle by one hand. Pleasantly surprised, Albrecht placed his free hand under Gisele's chin, and gently raised her head until their eyes met.

"Push, not pull, my dear."
And together, they laughed.



January 1442. Though the winter was cold, the home of Sovereign Albrecht I von Hohenzollern was warm. It was true that much of Europe was still at war, caught up in their own petty struggles, and the spectre of the potential succession of the pretender, 'Albrecht Jr', still hung over the house of Holland.

But with the nation's continued prosperity, domestic peace, and news of further successes from General Venloo in the Promised Land, Lord Albrecht saw little to fear for the time being. It was no secret that worries continued to plague him, and he bore a greater weight on his shoulders than many a thirty-year old man. But when he gazed into the eyes of his dear Gisele von Zweibrücken, whether at the breakfast table or over the map in his war room, all his worries seemed to fade, and he felt capable of facing the world once more.

It was on one such moment that Chancellor Spijkenisse burst into the war room, as was his nature, shouting and waving a sheet of diplomatic correspondence.
"My lord Albrecht! We have received news of Sovereign Jobst of Luxembourg's passing, and Brandenburg has peacefully declared its independence! Both nations owe this to your skilful diplomacy!"
Johan then addressed the other person at the war room table, conveniently ignoring the knowing glance of Marshal Kaspar - the poor man was now starting to get used to being ignored, anyway.
"And my lady Gisele! Your father ..."
"My father ...?"

HOL00250_zpsc08dad6e.png

"Your father has been nominated as the new Margrave ... no ... the Sovereign of Brandenburg, and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire!"
Gisele was speechless with both joy and surprise. Reaching across the war room table, Albrecht embraced her where she stood.
"Congratulations, my dear."

"And ..." Chancellor Spijkenisse took a deep breath as he turned toward Lord Albrecht once again, "the newly appointed Sovereign of Brandenburg has a ... 'proposal', which you might like to consider."


More to come! To be continued in the third and final part, Chapter 4 C : A Crown of Blood and Bitterness - Branded by Victory (1436-1445)
 
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Marriage? I'm right, aren't I? ;)

Interesting developments in the promised land. Good to see you're gaining a good foothold.
 

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Chapter 4 C : A Crown of Blood and Bitterness -
A Wedding and Four Funerals

Sovereign Albrecht I von Hohenzollern, since 22 May 1431 ...

"The usurper of Holland has grown fat and lazy, bloated with success. He only thinks of himself, and has forgotten all his friends and allies - those who have made him what he is today. No longer shall I stand in the shadows - the time has come to strike! Soon, all his illusions will collapse around him, and he will be brought low, whether in anger or in anguish. And once he is dead, I shall assume my rightful place as Sovereign."

"Hmmhmm ... you're so cute when you talk that way, you know. Anyway, I made some cookies, just for you!"

"S ... shut up! You're ruining my dramatic speech practice here!"

"Don't be silly, love. And take that getup off before you get crumbs all over it!"

albertjr_zpsb5a39786.png

You see, it's hardly my fault when my best attributes don't even show up in EU3!
And yes, my attributes add up to exactly 18 years of age. Well done me.

Amsterdam. The late summer of 1443.
"So, my lord! After four years of courtship, the day has finally arrived, and I thought I'd come on over just to keep you company and wish you well!"
"T... thank you, Duke Jean. Your kind words are much appreciated."

Lord Albrecht stood in the middle of his throne room, haplessly draped in measuring tape with his arms stretched right out, as a pair of tailors fitted him out for a brand new suit. The guards were instructed to keep the door shut, lest the Chancellor burst into the room on matters of business and find his lord in such a pitiful state.

"But most of all, I'm certain you appreciated my advice about getting hitched! You're two years past thirty and not exactly a pretty sight, well here you are getting married to this lovely young thing!"
"You're one to talk - you're a whole decade older than me, you beanpole." Albrecht replied in mock cynicism.
"Yes, Bertie! And I'm more years ahead still, in raising a little bundle of joy to carry on the family name! Why, she's just of the right age to..." Jean de Valois trailed off, smiled wistfully as he imagined what could have been.
"The age difference would be awkward, really. I'm glad Gisele was the one for me," Albrecht reasoned, relaxing as the tailors finally removed the tape from his body and gathered their belongings to leave. "I just don't think about these matters of the heart - if they happen, they happen, and they did for me."

"Very good, my liege!" Jean glanced behind to see if the tailors were indeed gone - that no others were in the room, before narrowing his eyes and giving Lord Albrecht a cheeky grin. "So, just tell me ... has that particular matter of the heart happened yet?"
"Wh ... what matter?" said Albrecht, confused.
"You know what I mean, Bertie, that!" Jean inquired saucily, "You know, what your dear brother once told me. A 'Two-way military access agreement'. With Brandenburg".
"Yes, of course, a long time ago ... oh wait! You mean ..." Albrecht slapped his own cheek in embarrassment, "no, no! As I am a Christian soul, no! If her father found out ..."
"He'd probably chide you for your lack of ambition, non?"
"Shut up. Speaking of which ..."

Lord Albrecht hushed Jean silent with a wave of his palm. Voices could be heard chattering outisde.
"I think he's already here. Shall we welcome our guest of honour?" As his associate nodded assent, Lord Albrecht stepped forward and drew open the heavy wooden doors of the throne room.

HOL00260_zpsbd8e0928.png

I think the person who wrote the text for this event is probably the same one who wrote all of those 'press releases' in Vicky 2.

"... similar incidents have occurred over the previous two years. Tension has flared over Castille's interest in the region, and how they have been brutally suppressing nationalist and patriot rebellions against their rule." Chancellor Johan Spijkenisse was discussing some diplomatic matters with a stranger as they stood in the corridor before the throne room.
"... but as you say, relations remain excellent. As long as your country maintains her strength, Castille will find easier targets on which to exercise her frustration. The concept of there ever being a 'Castillian Low Counties' is abhorrent to nature." The stranger was a hoary old man, of above average height, with a wrinkled forehead and receding crown, his hair white with age. Despite his elderly appearance, he cut an impressive figure as he stood ramrod straight like a soldier, with polished pauldrons that held a cloak on his shoulders.
"... hence the need for caution in the second phase of our project to subjugate the promised land to the east. Although gaining the early advantage, we've suffered several reverses due to a lack of field intelligence, and ..."

"Senior Representative ... no, General Johann Cicero von Zweibrücken!"
"Lord Albrecht! My boy! It's been five years since I've seen you!"
The two sovereigns embraced each other warmly. However, the older man was tall enough, and his embrace tight enough, that Albrecht's face smacked straight into one of his pauldrons with an audible thump.
"Well, Bertie, I guess your first impression with Dad-in-law went pretty well, despite your best attempts to fluff it," Duke Jean remarked nonchalantly.

"Don't talk down to me, Jean!" Albrecht said as his father-in-law to be released him from his grasp. "General von Zweibrücken and I have been friends since we first met in Berlin - but this is the first time he has ever visited Holland. I certainly hope you've been able to take in some of the sea during your visit here, sir!"
"Certainly, my son," General von Zweibrücken affirmed, while at the same time exchanging a warm handshake with Jean de Valois. "It reminds me how much we long to have the same back in Brandenburg ... after settling a little business with Pommerania, of course. If I had known your country was so beautiful, I would have insisted that we hold the wedding here."
"You flatter me, sir. All credit is due to the people of Holland." Albrecht replied, "but I am certainly looking forward to visiting your ancestral estates in the Rhenish Palatinate. I have faith that the necessary preparations are in place."

Zweibruumlcken_zpsc5b449a0.png

The coat of arms of the County of Zweibrücken, in the Rhineland-Palatinate
The house of Palatinate-Zweibrücken were a cadet branch of the Wittelsbach family ruling in the Palatinate.

"But I am curious about one thing, dear General," asked Duke Jean, "Where is Gisele?"
"Ah yes, of course, the bride!" General von Zweibrücken smiled warmly. "Since there appears to be a dearth of serving-ladies in your residence ('My apologies, sir!'), my daughter has enlisted the help of your seconder, your 'best man', in making the appropriate preparations."
"And that would be our Marshal of the Mint, Kaspar Bolsward." Chancellor Spijkenisse affirmed. In his heart, he longed to have the honour of supporting his lord in the happiest moment of his life. And yet he knew that his flighty temperament was a little unsuited for matters of ritual when compared with Kaspar's serious nature, and Lord Albrecht did note that the General was a man of extreme formality. Instead, Johan had agreed to remain in Amsterdam to oversee the affairs of state during his lord's absence.

"We will depart Amsterdam once preparations are complete, and we have received the wedding attire, crafted by your masterwork tailors in Antwerp," said General von Zweibrücken, as he again warmly shook Lord Albrecht's hand. "If all goes well, the marriage shall be formalised on the autumn solstice."
"But pardon me, my lord Sovereign, if I could just ask, as a matter of state ..." Johan interrupted, "may I inquire if the appropriate security measures are in place? In truth ... my liege has rarely left Amsterdam due to fears about a threat to his life."
The concern was real. The news of Lord Albrecht's wedding had not been publicised, lest it attract unwanted attention, but rumours had spread that the Sovereign of Holland had been seen around a pretty blonde girl, and was thus probably not that queer after all.

"Fear not, good Chancellor," the general explained, "as an entire battalion of my most loyal soldiers shall work with the men of Holland to guard us on the journey from Amsterdam to Zweibrücken, with half assigned to escort the happy couple on their return journey. In addition, we have arranged to hire a band of Swiss mercenaries for the day of the wedding in Zweibrücken. They are the best there are, and we have lined their pockets well enough to ensure that they will not be swayed by an enemy."
"And, of course, your fine sword arm as well, General," added Lord Albrecht. The Sovereign of Brandenburg had not risen to the status he now held through diplomatic manoeuvres alone. "I am no fighter, so I place our safety in your hands."

"Fear not, son!" the general boomed as he gave Albrecht one last friendly thump on the shoulder, "for after the ceremony, to honour God and the ancestors of both our houses, you and my daughter shall return to Amsterdam triumphant in matrimonial bliss."
"Heh ... triumphant bliss indeed," chuckled Duke Jean as he stepped forward to escort General von Zweibrücken from the palace. "So, I was just speaking with dear Bertie earlier, and he confessed that ..."
"Oh? The lad certainly has self-restraint!"

Their words trailed off as they ambled down the hallway. Lord Albrecht breathed a sigh of relief as he stood in the corridor, with only his Chancellor beside him.
"So ... my lord, I, and certainly all of Holland, will pray for your happiness."
"Thank you, Johan. I would never have got to where I am today, together with Gisele, without all of you. Yourself, Kaspar, Jean ... and Hardy ... and Alfredo ..."
"And thank you too, my liege ..."

Seeing that Lord Albrecht was at that very moment on the verge of tearing up, Johan thought it was best to change the subject to save his lord's blushes. "Now, on to state matters, we've received reports from General Venloo in the Promised Land. We've recovered from our reverses in the Second War of Holland's Destiny against the nation of Vihara, and have finally managed to rout their army of their King after two years of persistent skirmishes ..."

HOL00240_zps6e031db8.png

Seems like a small army? Hell no, that's what's left of a 18k stack that kept retreating into Terra Incognita.
And that is what is left of my 10k stack of Men at Arms/2k cavalry.

Lord Albrecht von Hohenzollern of Holland trembled nervously, as he sat in the carriage across from his loyal Marshal and best man Kaspar Bolsward. Perhaps it was the whistling of the autumn wind in the Rhineland, the rustling of the leaves in the trees, or the rattle of the carriage's wheels as they struck the odd stone in the road. Albrecht was worried.
Marshal Kaspar bore a longsword at his waist - although he admitted not having much practice in combat since becoming a councillor, he swore to defend his lord to the last breath. At the front and back of the carriage, there also sat several armed and lightly armoured men - four Dutch, and two Saxon, with the driver of the carriage also a trained soldier and cavalryman. A short distance ahead of them, Sovereign Johann Cicero von Zweibrücken of Brandenburg and his daughter Gisele travelled under similar security, with a small escort ahead of, between, and behind both carriages.

"Are you afraid, my lord?" asked Marshal Kaspar, trying to ease his lord's worries.
"Yes ... yes, I am," Albrecht confessed, unable to conceal his fluster, "It's at times like this that I think about Hardy, and Alfredo, and just what might have been going through their minds the moments before they were killed. It's like they haunt me, Kaspar. Angels of God they may now be, but their memory follows me still!"
"I am sworn to protect you, sire," Kaspar said, "and I would sooner die than let the slightest hair on your head be injured. Think, too, of General von Zweibrücken, and how he would give his life to defend you and your bride. We, and the soldiers with us, will guard you from harm."

"I thank you for your reassurance, but still I fear. Everything reeks of treachery and death. Remember that inn which we planned to stay at, the one with carpenters working at the balconies? At the back of my mind, I felt the place had an odd smell of manure, and persuaded the General to depart. We rode in such a way as to avoid hunting parties, archery contests - even that book depository with the ominous figure in its windows. My suspicions have delayed our travel, and we will miss the planned day of the wedding. My father-in-law must be furious with me, for sure!"
"You were only doing what you felt was right, my lord," said Kaspar, grasping his trembling lord by the shoulder, "I am certain that the General shares your concerns, and will do anything to alleviate them."
"I can only hope you are correct, Kaspar ..."

Alexanderkirche-Zweibruumlcken_zps4c4643ef.png

The modern-day interior of Alexanderkirche, Zweibrücken.
Actually, I'm cheating. The church was not built until 1493.
Source: motionpictureitscalled.blogspot.com

"Have you given your bride a last kiss before she puts on her veil, my lord?"
Kaspar spoke with Lord Albrecht as they stood, just steps ahead of the front pew of the church, and well within earshot of the priest. He knew the question was a little inappropriate, but then again he was his lord's second, and one of the second's privileges was the right to ask inappropriate questions.
"I did, Kaspar. Last night." Lord Albrecht looked splendid in his luxurious silk robe, crafted by the most skilled tailors of Antwerp, that seemed to glisten when it caught the rays of the evening sun. Kaspar's attire was no less fine, but it was outshone by the glittering gems set in the sword of honour which he wore by his side.
"Oh, that's what you were doing?" Kaspar remarked, and gave a wry smile, "That must have been a very long kiss, then. Your personal guard informed me that you didn't retire until the early hours of the morning."
Lord Albrecht blushed guiltily. It was hard to explain just how he felt to anyone else, when the only way he could describe it was the sensation which welled up in him upon gazing into Gisele's beautiful eyes.

Apart from the happy couple, the couple's seconds, and the priest, the church was empty, devoid of a single guest. Such were the security arrangements Albrecht had agreed with General von Zweibrücken - they had jointly agreed that the union be commended to God, their relations in heaven, and no one else. The guards waited outside, surrounding the church - unfortunately, due to the delay in their arrival, their contract with the Swiss mercenaries had expired and they had to hire some impromptu replacements.
A creak resonated throughout the church as the door edged open...
"Quick, in your position!" Kaspar snapped as he seized his lord by the arm, and dragged him to the front of the priest where they stood to attention.
There came the sound of light footsteps, accompanied by the heavy thud of military boots and the clank of a general's sword in its scabbard, as the bride entered the church flanked by her father. Her dress was resplendent, an outfit which was modest, yet allowed her tantalising golden locks to roll just beyond the hood of her veil. Pausing before they approached the first pew in the church, both stopped, and General von Zweibrücken turned to face Albrecht's bride. The most heart-wrenching moment for any father - the moment where he gives his farewell kiss to his daughter, before sending her off to her new life of matrimonial bliss.
Johann Cicero von Zweibrücken, Sovereign of Brandenburg, gently placed his right hand beneath the tip of the bride's chin, and raised it ...

"What is this!" cried General von Zweibrücken as he recoiled in horror, clutching his right hand to his chest as if it had been stung by acid. "My daughter ... my daughter has never had need of a shaving razor!"
Enranged, the General tore the bride's veil from her face with his other hand, the sheer force of his movement taking the bride's golden wig with it. Before him, there stood not his daughter, Gisele von Zweibrücken, but a ginger-haired young man, his features still polished with the vigour of youth, aided by the expertise of cosmetics. It was the General alone who could see the fire of hatred which burned in the young man's eyes.

Instinctively, Kaspar drew his own sword as he raised his free hand to shield his lord, but the General could not react in time. Tearing the bridal scarf from his shoulders, the impostor reached into the bosom of the wedding dress with his other hand, and drew a hidden dagger of the finest Wallonian make. It took but the blink of an eye - and blood spurted from the General's jugular, staining the pure white of the bride's dress.

Lord Albrecht could only watch, paralysed in his panic, as his father-in-law to be struggled vainly to reach for the sword at his waist, before he was overcome by the blow. General von Zweibrücken fell backwards over the pew, splintering the wood with his weight, never to rise again.
"To me! Attack!" the youth cried in a voice that seemed more suited to someone half his age - or, a woman. It was then that the mystery assailant turned to face lord Albrecht - and he knew that same hatred as did the General in his last moments. "Kill the usurper! Kill them all!"

The impostor bride then averted his eyes, and darted out the door of the church. At that moment there came a terrible roar, which seemed to surround Lord Albrecht, coming from every which way - the sound of battle, the clash of metal against metal, the sickening crack of metal against bone. The church was under attack, and Albrecht and Kaspar were trapped in the middle of it.

As an elderly man who was no fighter at all, the priest too cowered and ducked under the altar. But Lord Albrecht continued to stand dumbly in the middle of the supposed sanctuary. A blade struck the wooden door of the church, before a cry rang out as a man was cut down - the assailants were trying to force their way into the building. Light streamed into the church as the weight of a fallen corpse forced the unattended doors open, and three men who were obviously brigands charged toward the altar. Seeing enemies approaching, Kaspar Bolsward swore loudly and roughly struck his lord over the chest with the side of his arm in an attempt to get him to drop prone - it only succeeded in knocking him to his knees. It would have to do. Resolve filled his spirit, and Kaspar drew a deep breath. Raising his free hand to his lips, he kissed the ring he wore upon it. Then, he set into the first of his opponents.

Albrecht saw Kaspar turned to face him and mouth something, but he could not hear a word. He could only hear the sound of his heartbeat, the blood coursing through his veins. What of Gisele? What of his love? What of all his dreams? As battle raged around the church, it was as if Albrecht's life, and everything he believed in, was collapsing around him.
As he fell to his knees, wracked by inner torment, he saw Kaspar engage with three men at once. The first seemed to underestimate Kaspar's resolve and was cut down with a single swift stroke, but the next two flanked the loyal minister and swung at him from two directions. One blow was parried, but the second cut into the shoulder of his sword-hand, rendering it almost useless. In a last desperate lunge, Kaspar flung himself at one of the men, striking him in the chest with his boot and pinning him to the ground, knocking his sword away, before collapsing atop him and using his bodyweight to drive his sword into the enemy's chest.
The third enemy, seeing that the last defender had been rendered helpless, advanced toward the Lord of Holland. Albrecht closed his eyes, and saw not his executioner's appearance, or his insignia, or even the glint of the blade as the enemy raised it. He saw only the eternal paradise which God commended to him, and heard the soothing voice of his wife, cooing into his ear.

"No!" came a cry, a woman's cry, and Albrecht's tightly-shut eyes sprung open.
A slender figure with long golden hair wrestled with the enemy soldier, attempting to use both hands to restrain the soldier's sword arm. The soldier roared in anger, whirled about, and reached for something at his waist with his other hand.

With a terrifying shriek that shattered Albrecht's senses, the slender figure fell to the ground, as blood streamed from the dagger which the soldier now wielded in his off-hand. Was this a dream, or a nightmare?
The soldier paused for a moment to catch his breath - a foolish mistake, and his last one. With his back turned, the soldier did not see Kaspar Bolsward stagger up behind him, grasping his sword in both hands, and sending it through the middle of his skull. Exhausted, and bleeding profusely from his shoulder wound, Kaspar fell to the ground beside the body of the soldier, and his victim, the slender figure Albrecht saw, with flowing golden hair.

The roar of battle no longer seemed to register in his ears. Instead, there came the tromp of heavy boots, and the cry of men advancing toward him, as everything else seemed to diminish into insignificance. Albrecht blacked out.

HOL00280_zps632c4570.png

"My lord! My lord Albrecht! Are you listening?"
The Lord of Holland, thirty and three years of age, did not respond. His eyes were glazed over as he sat stiffly on a plain, uncushioned chair in his official residence in Amsterdam, overlooking a bed upon which lay a man with a bound shoulder. The man had lain there unconscious, but still alive, for several months, having fainted from an excessive loss of blood. Now, it had became clear that he would never wake again, and it was as if his liege had fallen into a coma of his own.
Chancellor Johan Spijkenisse, the last remaining senior councillor, tried to rouse his liege to attention by grasping and roughly shaking his shoulder, but only succeeded in getting his lord to raise his head, and gaze at him with the same blank emotionless stare.

"Let me speak with him," came a voice from the doorway to the room. Duke Jean de Valois of Brabant stood there, sounding uncharacteristically serious and stern. "He is no longer a child. He must know his responsibilities. I will bring him round."
"Duke Jean? Are you sure about this?"
"I give you my word, Johan. After all, I have been like a substitute father, have I not?" Speaking those words, Jean then reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a kerchief, within which was wrapped several freshly baked cookies. "And I deal with these sorts of issues with my daughter all the time."

It was as if reality no longer mattered to Lord Albrecht. He had sat overlooking Kaspar's body for almost an entire day since the physician certified his death. In the months that had passed since the Incident at Zweibrücken, the administration of Holland had fallen into disarray, by all accounts due to its sovereign's complete impassivity. The Chancellor had attempted to enlist the help of Duke Jean, and the other vassal dukes of Oldenburg and Friesland, but the lack of any leadership figure had made it impossible to come to a firm decision on matters of national importance.

It still wasn't clear whether Lord Albrecht even understood that his wife and his father-in-law were dead. The body of Sovereign Johann Cicero von Zweibrücken of Brandenburg was found in the church, his throat cut open by a dagger. The enemy had managed to gain the service of the mercenaries by offering them a better deal at short notice, suggesting that they had a backer more powerful still than Brandenburg or Holland. Lady Gisele had been found in her bedroom, bound and strangled, and after an extensive search, the undressed corpse of one of her serving maids was also found, stripped of her outer wear. Apparently this was the means by which Lady Gisele's assailant was able to access her quarters. In all, the surviving soldiers counted almost three score dead, including the dignitaries who had perished, and ignoring about fifty traitorous mercenaries who had been cut down to the last man.

And then there was the matter of Brandenburg. The lords of Brandenburg, Electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, had deliberated upon a response after receiving news of their sovereign's passing. Holland's ambassador received their reply only just days before Kaspar's death - it was an ill decision, even if it was right and proper.

HOL00270_zps53516021.png

There are so many things wrong with this. If you don't understand, consider very closely just what I'm trying to accomplish in this particular game as Holland.
 
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DensleyBlair

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and I would sooner die than let the slightest hair on your head be injured.

That reminded me of Hand In Glove by The Smiths - fantastic song.

A for the rest of the update, well... I don't really know what to say, and a witty remark I think would be rather inappropriate ;)

I look forward to seeing what happens after this.
 

aniuby

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Thanks a lot for the info - I appreciate the fact you take the time to help greatly.

This is part of the reason I asked - I noticed it yesterday and wondered if it had any truth, or was just fiction. Even so, I prefer a brother heir every now and then. Makes the game more 'real.'

Oh, and it turns out Almere is named after Zuiderzee - isn't that a character's name? Maybe there's way to include them yet ;)

Interesting developments in the promised land. Good to see you're gaining a good foothold.

That reminded me of Hand In Glove by The Smiths - fantastic song.

A for the rest of the update, well... I don't really know what to say, and a witty remark I think would be rather inappropriate ;)

I look forward to seeing what happens after this.

Hello, and thanks for your continued support!

I'm sorry I'm not too familiar with the song. However I do know that the Zuiderzee was the name of that body of water in the Netherlands before it was dammed over - and EU3 randomly gives advisors last names of cities and places in their country of origin, perhaps to represent their hometown. Hence much snarking about a guy who claims to originate from a body of water.

No worries about the game mechanics part, I'm happy to explain matters as far as my knowledge allows. As you can see I'm fond of writing quite a bit, but I don't know if my writing is any good though, so I do wish I had more comments about style and such.

The idea for the whole Chapter 4 came to me at once over the weekend because I was thrown off by the random personal union - not that I don't send out as many marriages as I can spare diplomats, but Brandenburg is a big one to snag - and it's fair to say I was a little upset about the whole matter and what this meant for my goals. You might not have played enough EU3 to know, but perhaps you or another reader might be able to guess why - I'll write the reason sometime in the future.

I've played ahead another session, and, by all measures Holland is doing conventionally well in Europe and in the Promised Land - you could say that from a 2PM, we are on the cusp of Great Power status. And it only gets better. But much of value and integrity - and our goals - have been sacrificed to bring us to this end, and I don't really know how such can be expressed in words apart from representing it as a downward spiral =P But do share your witty comments if you have any - as I've seen from your other AARs, you would be aware that every bit of writing is chosen to provoke a response.

I'm going to hop around in style for the next few updates - this actually takes quite a bit of my time and energy to write and it seems that most of the character dialogue fans are in CKII land, so all this might be TLDR =) Maybe a bit of minimalist style, or absurdist...
 

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aniuby said:

I'd definitely give the song a listen - or any Smiths for that matter.

As for style - I'm currently enjoying it. It's clear in terms of what's happening and you write well. I think if I were to suggest something, it would be to add some sort of indicator when the scene changes after a paragraph, like a '--' or something. Might make certain bits a bit more clear.

I haven't played too much EU yet (Steam says 2 hours,) but you say something in your goals about Personal Unions. Also something about breaking out of the HRE - any links?

And, on the 'witty remarks' front, I was just going to quip that that's not how I remember Four Weddings and a Funeral starting ;)

As for style - considering the respective nature of the games, you could well be right in terms of dialogue fans. An absurdist or minimalist update sounds good. Although, if minimalist would involve cutting down on text, I might perhaps encourage you not to go that route. The text is what makes this for me - you show the events and give life to them, and then more some. Not to mention you're a very funny writer when the situation allows ;)
 

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Interlude the First : Five Ways to Kill a (Noble) Man
Sovereign Albrecht I von Hohenzollern, since 22 May 1431

With apologies to Edwin Brock

"Do you know how many ways there are to kill a man?"

"*giggle* I wouldn't know, dear. You keep talking about such morbid things all the time - that's why I love you so much."

"Sigh ... well, let me explain. Killing a man is cumbersome business, but the first way to strike is to kill his heart. Find those he loves most, and tear them from this mortal realm. He will sink into despair, and blinded by his sorrow, he will no longer see the rest of the world, nor those around him who still care for him."



Sovereign Albrecht von Hohenzollern of Holland sat stiffly in his chair in his throne room, staring straight ahead blankly, his eyes not focusing to pay attention to the loyal councillor standing before him.

"My lord, if it's not any bother, we would appreciate a response regarding this comminque we've received from General Venloo in the Promised Land. The Second War of Destiny has finally come to the logical conclusion of resounding victory, and ..."

Chancellor Johan Spijkenisse stopped speaking, and his shoulders drooped in dismay - it was useless. Lord Albrecht had taken to the habit of retiring to his throne room and sitting there, alone. When he was in these fits of ... Johan despaired to think of it, but maybe it was 'madness' ... it was impossible to elicit a response from him beyond the slightest hint of a nod or a shake of a head. Under such circumstances, all business dealiing with foreign dignitaries had been delegated to the vassal dukes of Brabant, Oldenburg, and Friesland, while domestic matters had to be decided by the harried Chancellor himself.

"Resounding victory, my lord! For your great plan!" A voice rang out through the throne room as the door creaked open.

Duke Jean de Valois of Brabant entered the room, clad in his flowing courtly robes. In one hand, he carried a small kerchief, wrapped around some object and tied with a pretty velvet ribbon. Pushing past the startled Chancellor, he strode straight up to Lord Albrecht and waved the little package right under his lord's nose. As Duke Jean passed by him, Johan thought he could smell the slightest hint of ginger pastry.

The effect was subtle, but immediate. Lord Albrecht blinked, and his eyes newly refocused on the face of the tall man who stood right before him.

"Resounding victory. Promised Land."

Albrecht's gently nodded his head, and his lips trembled, as if he was about to speak, but not a sound issued.

"What does that mean?" asked Johan.

"I don't know, really!" said Duke Jean as he turned to face the Chancellor, one hand still holding the little package, "so I guess it means you should just tell the General to do what he thinks is right."

HOL0027A_zps4ee1794b.png

Thank you, Bihar, for grabbing almost all the territories I need from Orissa. All that's left are two more Bengal territories from Assam, Orissa's capital, and Bihar's capital.

"Then ... it wasn't very much help at all, was it?"

"Not so - at least it got a response from poor young Bertie here. I'm quite proud of myself for having taught my daughter to bake, now! Would you like a ginger snap?"

Duke Jean chuckled quietly to himself as Chancellor Spijkenisse politely declined. With the external stimuli removed from under his nose, Albrecht's eyes had once again lost focus and now stared blankly ahead once again.

"Bertie is lost in his thoughts - and he has been through far more than I would wish of any young man," Duke Jean explained, "but there is one last thing he still listens to, and that is his stomach. Have you not seen him tackle his meals with regularity? As long as this part of him is alive, there is still hope for the rest of him yet."

"And ... what exactly has happened to the rest of him? Is this really a good idea?"

"Trust me, Johan. I have a daughter. And I'm so glad that I taught her how to bake."



"The second way to kill a man is to kill his body. It seems straightforward, but this is exceptionally difficult due to the precautions most will take. The perfect time to strike is when a man does not know he is being targeted. Even if he sees death everywhere, a man may not fear for his own life - and this may well be his final mistake."

"Is that so, dear? Should I be afraid, with a loony like you around me?"

"I suppose it would be wise, yes."

"Oh, don't be silly. Now come here and let me give you a kiss."

"I don't kiss girls ... I mean, I don't kiss anyone, at all. Unless you count the kiss of death."



"Speaking of which, Johan, do you think that our lord would be a little more settled if he welcomed a new addition to his mansion?"

"I ... well, I mean if you were talking about hiring more ministers, I could try to promote some of the junior staff in Amsterdam. But these sorts of things generally need the lord's approval, and I don't think he is in any fit state to ..."

"No, that's not what I meant at all, Johan. Maybe that's why you've never been married. Maybe that's why you've never longed for some lovely home-made cookies every other day or so."

Duke Jean dangled the little kerchief under Lord Albrecht's nose again, with the desired effect. Once he had got his lord's attention, Jean gently tugged the ribbon off the kerchief, to reveal a small pile of recently-baked ginger snaps. It was true they were no longer warm, having travelled all the way from Breda within the day, but they were still fresh and crisp. Flame and melted sugar had drawn intricate little patterns all over their surface.

"Would you like a ginger snap, Bertie? Fantastic stuff. I'm sorry I didn't bring any caramel cookies or stroopwaffels today - I know you like those."

Lord Albrecht stared downward at the pile of ginger snaps, then up at Duke Jean's smiling face, and then straight ahead into the distance once again. Silently, he shook his head.

"Maybe you don't like ginger. Oh, it's your loss, anyway. I suppose you don't mind if I have a couple."

Duke Jean did not even wait for a response from Lord Albrecht before he greedily snatched two biscuits with his free hand and popped them into his mouth, crunching noisily all the way. Somewhat disrespectful, but considering his lord's state of mind it probably didn't matter at all.

"So, my lord, I'd like to make a little proposition to you," Duke Jean began once again, the tone of his voice deepening as he grew serious, "I understand that you are still heartbroken over ... well, what has happened. But you need to move forward, for the good of your realm, and your own health. You see, I have a daughter ..."

Duke Jean coughed unceremoniously, sending a bit of biscuit crumbs flying in his lord's face. Perhaps the strain of actually acting serious was a little hard on his throat.

"... I have a daughter, ten years your junior. And, since we are allies and personal friends, I'd like to propose that Jeanne ... *cough* ... Jeanne should ..."

At this moment, something seemed to give in Jean's body as he clattered to the ground in front of Lord Albrecht, scattering bits of ginger biscuits all over his lord's lap, and he began to foam at the mouth while grasping his throat.

"My lord ... Duke Jean? Oh ... oh God ... no ... guards, GUARDS! Murder, oh dear God, murder!"

HOL0029A_zpseb700362.png

I'm sorry to see him go. Though he was from the evil nation of Brabant I quite liked him. It's probably because he's a 'historical' character.
He was randomly generated by the game in the right place at approximately the right time - likely the last one I'll ever see.

"The third way to kill a man is to kill his mind. Yes, one of my favourites."

"You're one of my favourites, my love."

"Don't interrupt me! Kill a man's mind, so that he may no longer distinguish between what is truth and what is fiction. While he lives in fantasy, his actions in the real world will be misguided and irrational. And yet, through his own twisted logic, he still believes that he is doing right, distorting his perception of reality ever further. With each passing moment, he becomes ever more the slave of his delusions. Soon he will be beyond salvation."

"Speaking of distortions ... oh my sweet, who gave you this scar just under your chin?"

"Someone who is already dead. Regrettable, but no matter - I suppose I shall have to wear my wig tighter next time, then."



"My lord? Are you paying attention to me?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Spymaster 's-Hertogenbosch. Do continue. Though I wonder what that man wanted."

Lord Albrecht sat regally in his throne room. As befitted the Lord of Holland, a servant was at that very moment massaging his legs and gently dusting his lap. Two men stood before him. One was clad in dark robes and a hood, with chin-length black hair, while the other was a tonsured blonde man in white robes. Ahead of Lord Albrecht, a bearded man in a cloth skullcap yelled instructions to some guards as they dragged someone out of the room - probably some peasant or another.

"It couldn't have been anything important, sire. Perhaps he wanted you to marry his daughter."

"Gisele is my only love - though I wish I could see her again. At this very moment, she rules in Berlin, administering the lords of Brandenburg to aid our noble cause. She has even managed to convince them to nominate me as the heir to the Holy Roman Empire!"

"Very wise, sire," the tonsured man interrupted, "But you are aware, that in your anger you killed her. Killed her in your mind, if not in person."

"True, that. Still, it should not be an obstacle to her authority ... well, my authority, at least. Perhaps I could be Emperor someday."

"It's a foolish quest, sire," the tonsured man sighed. "Though it is true the position brings with it power and prestige, there are also responsibilities ... and there is also the Holy Book of Holland. Our destiny."

"Silence, Court Chaplain Jean. I've decided that I like power. You see, if I had power, I could make all bow to me. Not just the heathens occupying our Promised Land. Not just those whose ilk have plagued our glory for generations ... Hainaut, Burgundy, Friesland, Utrecht, Brabant, the lot of them. The courts of all of Europe will tremble before the advance of Albrecht, Sovereign of Holland! And any alliance who dares stand against me, and their friends, will die!"



"Now you're going to tell me the fourth way of killing a man. Hehe ... such a funny story."

"It's not a story - though it can be funny, if it works."

"So what's the fourth way? Oh, right, I mustn't distract you! Carry on, my love."

"The fourth way to kill a man is to kill his ambition. His dreams, his goals. If he no longer believes in anything, he will no longer aspire, and all he does will be petty and venal. He will no longer seek change, but continue to wallow in endless misery, from which there is no respite - because he will not even think of it. He will be trapped forever."

"You can get so gloomy sometimes! Anyway, would you like a cookie?"



"But sire, the present state of affairs is, shall we say, not conducive to the goals set out in the Book of Holland."

"Is that so? How is power not conducive to furthering my glory and exacting my revenge?"

"Ahem," the hooded man in black robes cut in. "You see, my lord, being entangled in these Imperial affairs, as a result of your marriage to Gisele, raises long-term concerns for the objectives of Holland. The Margrave of Brandenburg is, by law and tradition, an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire."

"And? So they want me to be Emperor now. How is this supposed to be a problem?" Lord Albrecht asked in a callous tone, completely unconcerned.

"Threefold, sire," the Spymaster explained, "First, should you be named Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, you will be forbidden from leaving or disbanding the Empire. This will prevent you from taking the necessary steps to 'officiate' our conquest of the Promised Land."

"Not a problem," Albrecht replied, "We can simply ignore whatever obligations the title demands of us. It is not hard to conduct oneself in such a way as would eliminate all sympathy through Europe and thus divest ourselves of such a worthless title. In fact, I fully intend to do so."

"Very well, sire, but on the second point - should your lordship over Brandenburg reach its logical conclusion with them accepting integration into our country, Holland will be named Elector. By law, Electors cannot leave the Empire."

"Then we can still disband the Empire, can we not? We shall use our vote to nominate someone fairly innocuous for the position of Emperor - the Senator Palatine, for instance. Then, after the Emperor Palatine is crowned, we demand the disbanding and dismemberment of the Empire."

"Very wise, my lord. So liberty shall be established, and this fatuous attempt at democracy will die - with thunderous applause."

HOL00300_zps02bc4050.png

I can feel your anger, Albrecht! It gives you focus ... makes you stronger!
Emperor Palatine, not Palpatine! This isn't Darths and Droids!

"But there is a third problem, my lord." The Spymaster hesitated, somewhat reluctant to state the last point.

"Out with it."

"Due to your overlordship over Brandenburg, we are unable to institute the planned government reforms turning over supreme authority to the burghers, which would disinherit the pretender who claims your throne. The conservative instincts of the Brandenburgers would not approve of it. And it will not be possible to integrate Brandenburg's political structure until a time long after your own death. My liege, if something is not done about that pretender, he will take your throne, and everything you have worked for."

Albrecht's cheeks flushed as he boiled with hatred and rage. The very mention of the pretender, the monster, the assassin - the one who he was certain had taken everything away from him - drove him into an apoplectic fit. He tasted blood in his mouth, and drank of it eagerly, dreaming that it had been drained from his enemy.

"Scour the Low Counties. Find the impostor - and bring him back alive. I do not care how many men it takes. I want to be able to personally torture his shrivelled, naked body until he begs for death."

"Yes, sire," the Spymaster rolled his eyes. "Speaking of which, I remember telling your father long ago that there was a way of subjugating all of the Low Counties, but he was not overly enthusiastic."

"And what is this plan?"

HOL00310_zpsa8a0bc3a.png

"Your father was too intent on preserving friendly relations with our neighours," the Chaplain explained, "and relations have plummeted since, well, since your invasive pursuit of the pretender. It appears God has now sanctioned our right to pillage and plunder their lands in search of the impostor they are no doubt hiding."

"Excellent," smiled Lord Albrecht, baring his teeth, "Utrecht shall run red with the blood of those who have conspired against me. Rally the soldiers. Send word to my General. "

"Oh, but we can't do that, sire," said the Spymaster. "As much as it might pain you, you must speak to your chancellor yourself over this matter. What luck, here he comes, desiring to speak with you again. Shall I refrain from sending him away this time?"

"Very well, Spymaster and Court Chaplain - though I don't understand why you are unable to tell that to him on my behalf. Are you not real people?"

"Well, not exactly, sire," stammered the Court Chaplain. "You could say we are, sort of, representations of your thoughts. Subconscious, perhaps. Maybe someone might write a treatise about that in the future."

"So you're like a conscience. The Good Angel and the Bad Angel."

"Maybe. It's not clear which is which, though. We sort of take it half and half. But we must go - here comes your Chancellor. Now put your back into it, and for the first time in a year, speak - speak like the Sovereign of Holland you are!"

"But wait! What will they write a book about? Your insights? Your discoveries?"

"No. Your reign of terror."



Chancellor Johan Spijkenisse dashed before his liege, Lord Albrecht von Hohenzollern of Holland, now alone after guards had marched out with the body of Duke Jean de Valois of Brabant. The emergency physician reported a case of poisoning by a fast-acting drug. The large crystals on the surface of the cookies Jean had brought with him were not sugar, but refined extracts of a chemical of botanical origin. The physician hypothesised that a single crystal would leave a man reeling for a week, two would send him into a coma, and three would mean death within hours. Jean had eaten an entire biscuit covered in them.

All through this point - in fact, ever since the faint smell of gingerbread had been removed from under his nose, his lord had sat there silent and unresponsive despite the tumult around him. He had not moved even as he was gently dusted over to remove every last possible trace of poison which may have been scattered onto his clothing.

"My liege! It's me, Chancellor Spijkenisse - Johan! Are you there?" Johan fretted as he sought some other way to rouse Albrecht to attention, the last man able to do so having passed from this world.

"Yes, Chancellor. And I have orders for you."

"My lord?" Johan was almost overcome with joy upon hearing his lord address him for the first time in a year. However, as Albrecht stood and drew himself to his full height, and looked him straight in the eye, the chancellor saw that something ... something very important had changed within the Lord of Holland.

"I have received evidence that the Archbishop of Utrecht conceals the pretender and his sympathisers. Raise my armies, and summon the General to Europe. I will make the traitorous clergyman pay dearly for his crime against my honour."

"But sire, I don't remember ever hearing such news, or I would have informed you immediately!" Johan hesitated, "As for the Archbishop, I don't believe that he would ever ..."

"Do as you are told! Are you questioning me?" Albrecht roared, with fire in his voice, his eyes burning with the hatred of a man who had his entire life torn away from him. "Pillage Utrecht, and slaughter all resistance. These are my orders!"

"Uh ... er ... yes ... sire ..." Johan stammered as he withdrew nervously, feeling tears welling up in his aged eyes. Something had gone very very wrong, deep within Albrecht's mind. This was not the man he once knew and loved - and yet, he made one last attempt to remonstrate. "But please, my lord Albrecht. For the love I hold for you ... for the love all of us hold for you ..."

"Silence! If I had been loved, Gisele would never have left me!" declared Lord Albrecht, before he sank back into his throne.

Weeping, Johan shut the door of the throne room behind him, and Albrecht was left alone, now fully responsive to his surroundings.

"... and if the world is not going to love me, I will teach it to fear me instead."



"And now, the last part of your tale, the fifth way to kill a man!"

"That's right. I was just getting on to that. By the way, these cookies are delicious."

"Thank you, my love. I bake some every day. My father really likes them, too. So do go on with your story."

"The fifth way to kill a man - perhaps the most satisfying, and the most long lasting. To kill a man not only in his lifetime, but also to kill him again, and again, in the next age and thereafter. To kill him for all time. I speak, of course, of killing his reputation."

"Ooh ... impressive. Sounds hard. And how are you going to do that?"

"That isn't too difficult, actually. We kill him in all the other ways we can, then just take him to the middle of Europe, and leave him there."

"Splendid, my dear! Now I know you have to go, but before you leave just give me another kiss, alright?"

"I said, I don't give kisses ... oh fine, I'll make an exception for you. There."

"Thank you, love! Drop by again anytime!"

"No problem at all. And by the way, congratulations on your promotion to Duchess."

HOL00320_zps9d4b0dc9.png

Oh wow I really need some sleep right now it's past 4am...
 

DensleyBlair

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That was certainly a change in mood - not a bad thing, though. Have you been reading Sophie's World recently? ;)

Very mysterious as to our '5 ways to kill a man'-man... I wonder if he'll be joining us again - and I have a sickening feeling the answer is in the affirmative.
 

aniuby

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Chapter 5 A : Rise of a Tyrant -
The Geneva Contravention (1445-1451)

Sovereign Albrecht I von Hohenzollern, since 22 May 1431

(extract translated from the first part of 'Le Journal de Genève: La Tyrannie d'Albert', authored by Ulrich van Henegouwen, dated May 1456)

A Devil Awakes

The declaration of war came as sudden as a summer storm across all the nations of the Low Counties. The country of Holland had for a long time maintained a peaceful policy towards its neighbours, save Brabant, with which it had a longstanding rivalry. However, even that had appeared to have simmered away into the mists of time. Its Sovereign, Albrecht I von Hohenzollern, had been known for being somewhat detached from European affairs, apparently concentrating on the trading nation's interactions with foreign lands. It therefore came as a horrid shock when a wave of Hollander soldiers swept over the border and swiftly occupied the Archbishopric of Utrecht.

It was proclaimed in the streets of Amsterdam that the Archbishop had harboured traitors and conspirators against the the land of Holland, rallying public support from the ignorant masses for the misguided war effort. However, the bloodshed that took place in Utrecht belay the awful truth behind Albrecht's motives. Completely unprepared, up to four thousand soldiers and border guards were slaughtered by combatants which they believed to be 'merely passing through'. Thankfully, a last-minute defence was raised around the citadel and cathedral of Utrecht, and messengers were sent to the courts of Europe soliciting assistance from those who would resist the Albertine tyranny.

Several brave souls rose to the challenge of resisting the merciless invasion - the princely states of Hesse and Baden, and the archbishoprics of Trier and Münster among them. However, Holland called upon its own minions - its vassal nations of Brabant, Friesland, and Oldenburg, and the princely states of Brandenburg and Cleves. The defenders were sorely stung by the betrayal of the Archbishop of Liege, who had professed himself a friend of Utrecht, but rallied to the devil's cause and laid siege to Utrecht and her allies.

A coalition force numbering eighteen thousand strong was hastily gathered under the leadership of Archbishop Friedrich of Münster, which laid siege to the domains of the traitorous Sovereign of Cleves. Having swept over the defences of Utrecht like a tidal wave, the forces of Holland rode south and recklessly plunged headlong into the the siege at Berg despite being outnumbered almost two to one, no doubt harried by the evil whims of the villainous Albrecht.

The enemy force was led by a general named Eberhard Venloo, a man of some renown who had become known for his service in exploring lands beyond Europe - nevertheless, his reputation will be forever stained for his role in helping a tyrant's cause. Engaging the gathered forces of the noble alliance, the resulting battle was brutal and bloody.

HOL00330_zpsb2084d82.png

By the whim of the devil, by betrayal or conspiracy, the vile strikeforce of Holland was able to win the day against the vanguard of the Hessian alliance by making use of their smaller and more mobile forces to cut off supplies to the bulk of the defending army. Their morale sapped by defeat and deprivation, Archbishop Friedrich led the allied forces in an orderly retreat toward the capital of Hesse. However, General Venloo was ordered to set his forces in pursuit, heedless of the ability to supply his own troops, and caught up with the bulk of the allied army despite the deaths of many of his own men.

Drained of their desire to fight and ability to flee, the allied forces attempted to negotiate a peaceful surrender. What came next will forever live in infamy in the annals of history.

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Holland's soldiers appeared to accept the surrender, and negotiated the disarmament and separation of the allied army into the divisions loyal to each component nation. The allies' host now divided, the enemy then executed a most monstrous betrayal, systematically slaughtering every man in the defending force - save their commanders, who were ransomed. With one terrible blow, the entirety of the allied host was exterminated.

Satan's star was now ascendant, and great God had forsaken his loyal believers. But lest we too quickly condemn enemy as the spawn of the devil, let us reaffirm that this indescribably evil act was not the will of the people of Holland, but the orders of one of the most vicious, cruel, and bloodthirsty tyrants ever to walk the soil of Europe. Take for instance the public confession of General Eberhard Venloo, speaking after the conclusion of the First War of Albertine Tyranny:

General Eberhard Venloo said:
In my lifetime as a soldier to my liege and my country, I have drawn my blade against pagan and heathen, and cut down man after man, each time believing I was doing God's work in serving my lord's will. Never could I have imagined that one day I would be told to do the same against my fellow Christian. May the Lord above forgive me for my sins.

With the force of the defending alliance now cut down to the last man, the armies of Holland now laid siege to every one of the cities who had bravely risen to stand against Sovereign Albrecht's tyranny. Noble attempts to rise against the Hollander oppression were met with the slaughter of both combatants and innocent civilians. In the end, the cities of Utrecht and Münster were pillaged into submission, the Archbishops themselves forced to wear the tyrant's yoke, swayed into believing that servitude to the Devil was better than a heroic last stand in the service of God.

The last defenders of justice, Hesse, Trier, and Baden, would have faced a similar fate. The vultures of the traitorous Archbishopric of Würzburg, Senator Hieronymous of the Palatine Electorate, and the Sovereign of Thuringia, began to circle around the remaining defenders, sensing their weakness. Relishing the torment of their victims as they were picked apart by scavengers, the devil's forces withdrew extracting all the plunder they could take. The so-called 'conspirators' against the villainous Albrecht were never found, lending substance to the accusation that the casus belli for the entire war was a fabrication. The First War of Albertine Tyranny had ended - but the bloodshed of Catholic against self-proclaimed 'Catholic' would not.

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The Convention at Geneva; and its Failure Thereof

Following the conclusion of the First War of Tyranny, news of the terrible bloodshed in Utrecht and the brutal Massacre at Hesse began to disseminate throughout the courts of Europe. A seminar was quickly convened under the auspices of His Imperial Majesty Franz Stefan I von Habsburg of Austria, gathering delegates from nations across the Empire outraged at the actions of the country of Holland and its murderous Sovereign Albrecht. They met with the intent of proclaiming the condemnation of these vile acts of Satan, and issuing a missive to the His Holiness the Pope requesting Albrecht's excommunication.

The border city of Geneva was chosen as the meeting place of this convention after proposals for the condemnation received support from the King of France, who was heretofore believed to be a close associate of the villainous Albrecht. The King of France expressed his goodwill and solidarity with His Imperial Majesty and the faithful servants of God by declaring an Embargo upon the traders of Holland, banning their merchants from Paris and stifling the trade income which they used to further the devil's work. The organisation gathered in Geneva, attended by several of the most important dignitaries across Europe, became known as the Genevan Convention on the Rights of Men.

However, this was not to be. In what appears to be a clear case of collusion, Sovereign Albrecht made a conspiratorial deal with the patricians of Holland, filling his court with cronies and bootlickers, and offering them minor titles of nobility, lower taxes, and greater freedom of trade in exchange for a substantial one-time contribution to his war chest. These ill-gotten gains were spent primarily on boosting his nation's military capacity, as well as making underhanded deals with less devout members of the government among the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire.

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Most notable, however, was his use of this fund to set up an organisation to rival the Convention at Geneva. Based in an embassy at the southern Holland city of Den Haag, Albrecht dubbed this new organisation the "International Criminal Court", an agency which ostensibly claimed to serve justice to those who had committed grave crimes against his fellow man, but was no doubt a front manipulated by the Sovereign of Holland to dispense bribes and favours to those who he felt could be swayed to the devil's side. With the funding provided by the mischievous patricians of Holland, Albrecht challenged the authority of the Geneva Convention in condemning his actions, and was able to sway even the infallible Pope himself - or at least his less than holy underlings - and avoid excommunication.

Primary to the success of Albrecht's villainous endeavour was a man working under his authority known as Johan Spijkenisse, who held the office of Chancellor of Holland. Johan's silver tongue, lined with the ill-acquired gold of Holland's merchants, was able to sway many of those who had rallied to condemn his lord, and despite the truth of his atrocities being known to all, Sovereign Albrecht never achieved the same degree of infamy his vile and murderous actions deserved.

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Most remarkable of Johan's achievements was his successfully persuading the King of France to abandon his support of the Convention at Geneva, lift the embargo on Holland's merchants, and once again resume a state of friendship and peace with the pariah nation of Holland. When pressed for an explanation, the King's spokesman asserted that his agreement to a treaty of friendship and non-aggression with Holland was based on a renewal of understanding between their nations, and had absolutely nothing to do with the failure of the Convention to bring about the condemnation and excommunication of Albrecht, and the expiration of French claims to Antwerp and Ghent as a result of the failure to press them through an internationally-sanctioned war.

Through the efforts of Johan Spijkenisse, Holland's renown was such that even monarchs of the heretic Eastern faith sought to emulate the tyrant of Holland by declaring themselves his kith and kin, further demonstrating the deplorable extent to which Albrecht had sunk. It is as yet unknown whether Chancellor Spijkenisse felt any regret or shame in abetting the vile and vicious actions of one of the most villainous men ever to walk the continent of Europe - attempts to contact him at his office in Amsterdam have proven to be worryingly futile.

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The Tyrant Spreads his Wings

It was but several years after the brutality of the First War of Albertine Tyranny that rumours began to trickle in of grave atrocities commited by Hollanders in distant lands still uncharted by European cartographers. Escaped slaves hailing from the southern region of Ifriqiya reported anarchy and senseless massacre across the territory of a nation known as Benin, where Albrecht's forces slaughtered native tribesmen before recklessly allowing their kingdom to collapse into turmoil and rebellion, without even taking a moment to extend civilisation to them by welcoming them into the house of God.

News of further bloodshed committed by Hollander forces has reached Europe through merchants who have overheard rumours from Turkish lands. Far to the East, in a region which Hollanders refer to only as 'The Promised Land' - a vile mockery of the Lord's promise of paradise - cruelty against the local population is systemic. Rebellions by natives protesting their cruel and unfair treatment are mercilessly crushed on a regular basis, and patriots fighting for the freedom to receive God's word are ruthlessly exterminated. Such is the fate of those who have the misfortune of attempting to resist the devil's tyranny without yet knowing the Lord's loving embrace.

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Closer to home in Europe, Albrecht's evil ways continued to know no bounds. The Sovereign of Gelre was bribed into signing what he believed to be a military alliance with Holland, but was betrayed when his acceptance of a 'two-way military access agreement' resulted in Hollander forces occupying his territory and enforcing his vassalage! Even worse crimes against God and man were committed by Albrecht - bribing the holy men of the Free County of Friesland, Albrecht staged the occurrence of a 'miracle' in his presence, and used it to justify his annexation of the county and his revocation of the Frisian Freedoms, or 'Fryske Frijheid', which he had previously promised to uphold.

As a result of his extension of his accursed demesne over an even greater stretch of the Low Counties, the heartlands of Holland are now surrounded by an unsanitary cordon of vassal states, wrapping around her borders like a merciless curtain of iron cast by the bat-wings of a predatory devilspawn. At this very moment, his diplomats attempt to weasel their way into the courts of the states of the Empire, tempting them into supporting the further expansion of his wretched authority.

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May God be with Hainaut and Castille, standing as a last bulwark against the further expansion of the monstrosity which has emerged in the Low Counties in Europe! And may the Lord preserve us, His Imperial Majesty Franz Stefan of Austria defend us, and all loyal men rally together against the cruel dictator Albrecht I von Hohenzollern of Holland, in solidarity with the principles expressed in the Genevan Convention on the Rights of Men, and never allow him to to seize the Imperial crown from true men of Catholic faith.

And may God forgive those, like General Eberhard Venloo, Chancellor Johan Spijkenisse, and the Patricians of Amsterdam, who have foolishly wasted their mortal lives and forever tainted their eternal soul by abetting the monstrous actions of this tyrant.

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REQUIESCAT IN PACE

To be continued in the second half, Chapter 5 B : Rise of a Tyrant - Rivers of Blood (1451-1456)
 
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DensleyBlair

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Odd to see all these people portrayed as villains after having come to like them for their humour and general non-villainy. A good way of showing events, however, and good as well to see Holland's power growing.
 

aniuby

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That was certainly a change in mood - not a bad thing, though. Have you been reading Sophie's World recently? ;)

Very mysterious as to our '5 ways to kill a man'-man... I wonder if he'll be joining us again - and I have a sickening feeling the answer is in the affirmative.

Odd to see all these people portrayed as villains after having come to like them for their humour and general non-villainy. A good way of showing events, however, and good as well to see Holland's power growing.

Hi DensleyBlair!

Sophie's World ... I've heard about it and seen it on the shelves, but it's just too confusing for me. Philosophy is one of the things that I just can't grasp.

On the latest update, perhaps I'm just not good enough at getting my point across - it's propaganda. Polemic. A bit like asking a Glaswegian to write the history of Margaret Thatcher. I wanted to try a bit of the 'journal article' style with a little twist, and there's a second part, but if it's not really to your favour then I'll put it aside from then on.

I'm still playing with style a bit, trying to find my way. I'd like to write more humour stuff, because that's what I like to read most, but honestly conquering and enslaving people isn't terribly funny at all unless there's a stupid excuse for doing so - or if you're playing a monstrous, amoral villain.

Come to think of it, I'd like to see a AAR someday where someone writes themselves as the bad guy and the whole of Europe and eventually the world has to team up to stop them. Because that's how it should be. =P
 
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DensleyBlair

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I assumed that the piece from which the update was 'taken' would be at least incredibly biased, so being propaganda is reasonable. And I wouldn't say at all that you're anything but good at getting a point across - this is very well-written.
 

Memento Mori

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A thousand curses on your excessively fun aar for lowering my concentration on work during my internship! You are worse then the guy who invented solitaire! :laugh:

Anyway, I like how the dreams of empire and revenge side-track you from the quest for the promised land. Holy Roman Hindustan of the Dutch Nation... that sounds awesome!