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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Chapter 8 A-ii : Tijd voor Avontuur -
Do the Time Warp, Again (???-1477)

Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466

The first sensation Wilhelm felt upon awakening was that of his body resting on a cold stone floor, while the musty smell of paper, tinged with a hint of burnt flesh, filled his nostrils. Somewhere far in the distance, a dull tone echoed - likely the sound of a spring-driven horologe chiming the hour. Gingerly raising a hand, he swept the paper off his face and was startled by a blinding flash of light - or so it seemed. In truth, it was merely the glare emanating from an ornate candelabrum standing on a flat surface some distance above him.

Wilhelm glanced to his side, and saw an upturned chair and more papers scattered about the floor. As he attempted to prop himself into a sitting position, he noticed that he was wearing casual robes of the type he preferred in the hours before retiring to bed. A candelabrum ... spring-driven clocks ... night-time ... it was at that moment when Wilhelm paid closer attention to the papers which lay about him. They were pages from the end-of-year summary he had commissioned from Marshal of the Mint Joost Schönebeck, dated for the year 1475 ...

The POPs and RGOs of Holland in 1475

HOL0103A_zpsa63934c2.png

Pop's in Argos? What's he buying?

"... oh Christ, Christ in heaven ... what the heck just happened?"

Wilhelm struggled to his feet. He now knew - he was in the private study which Gertrud von Wettin, Duchess of Thuringia, had allocated to him in the Sovereign's manor in Dresden. And he knew that the Duchess, and Floris, her husband and Wilhelm's twin brother, were living in the same building. Judging from the pieces of evidence scattered about him and his memory of his past actions, it was the January of the Year of our Lord, 1476. In fact, Wilhelm hypothesised, it might even be the first of January itself. Speaking of his memory, he distinctly recalled having been walking through St Stephen's cathedral, in the heart of Vienna ...

"Floris? Louis? What ... where ...!"

As often happens when circumstances contrive to place one in a completely illogical and incomprehensible situation, Wilhelm was lost for words, and though he dared not admit it to himself, driven almost to tears by the sheer madness of it all. Perhaps ... it was all just an incredibly bizarre dream? He had fallen asleep at his desk, and had toppled to the floor. But the events ... the events of the past six months seemed almost too vivid, too emotional to not be real. The rescue at Pfalz, the pursuit across the fields of Baden, the triumphant march into Vienna. It was rather too long to be a dream, wasn't it?

Wilhelm breathed a deep sigh, reached for his coat (still hanging where he had left it, near the door), and yanked open the door of his suite. It was at times like this, when the world was simply too confusing for words, that Wilhelm liked to have a light tipple to ease his mind and permit him to reassess the situation. Perhaps a spot of of the local Thuringian mead, mild and flavoured with hops, would help. Wilhelm headed through the candlelit corridors of the mansion, eventually making his way to the larder, whereupon he drew open the door - and was greeted by a familiar, yet worryingly distorted voice.

"... oh ... hello, Wilhelm. Care for some pear schnapps?"

Wilhelm was startled to see his brother Floris, nominal Sovereign of Holland, attired in only a dressing gown and trousers, bent over a low table in a state of inebriation. Beside him, on the low table, there stood a crystal glass half-filled with a murky, fragrant liquid, and an uncorked bottle containing a similar liquid with several pieces of fruit floating in it. The reek of alcohol filled the larder - and it was of such a strength that Wilhelm felt his moustache twitch in irritation.

"Don't you think you've had a little too much, Floris?" Inspecting the jar of schnapps, Wilhelm did not even need to take a sniff to know that the sheer whiff of pear-scented alcohol was overpowering enough to knock out a Lord or two. "Didn't they teach you in military school - 'Don't drink and drive your enemies before you, and hear the lamentations of their women'."

"Ugh ..." Floris let out a most ungentlemanly belch. "It is the first day of the New Year, and we have just won the fight of our lives to defend Thuringia, so let a man drown himself in his sorrows."

"And what sorrows are these?" Wilhelm took a seat, the fruit-scented smell of alcohol in the air being more than enough for him.

"Speaking of lamentations - the lamentations of women, at that ... my wife kicked me out of our marital bed."

"And why?" Harsh, but then again the Hohenzollern brothers were indeed merely guests in Thuringia.

"Have you ever had that feeling, Wilhelm, when you are sleeping or resting quietly, and you suddenly awake with a start, feeling panicked and disoriented?" Floris explained, as he took another swig from his glass. "Now ... now imagine being in the embrace of your loved one at the very moment that happens."

Wilhelm nodded sagely, though it wasn't that he'd ever been in that situation, having only been with Juliette for several months. Thankfully, that was long enough for him to do his duty to his nation.

"It was the worst time to have fallen asleep. In addition to that, I felt that I had been dreaming ... dreaming for the longest time, in fact. It was a triumphant, yet saddening dream."

"Intriguing ..." Wilhelm's eyes lit up at the mention of the topic. "Tell me more."

"I dreamt ... I dreamt that I had fought a great many battles, and now stood within the walls of Vienna alongside you and King Louis of France. We had routed the Austrian armies, and were now ready to force our peace terms on Sovereign Ferdinand Wenzel von Habsburg. It was a long and bloody war, and I had personally slain a great many men, but we stood triumphant in the end... yes, it was a long and sorrowful dream. Forgive me, brother, for my drunken rambling..."

"A most unlikely coincidence. It's almost as if I've just had the same vision..." said Wilhelm, his brows furrowing as he considered the situation, before his wavering voice grew resolute. "It might just be the alcohol affecting me. But would you be drunk enough, Floris, to believe me if I told you that what you and I have just seen was real? That we were, indeed, in Vienna, on that summer afternoon this year?"

"H ... ha, ha ... Wilhelm," Floris gave a drunken chuckle as he struggled to piece the completely otherworldly hypothesis together in his head. "It is the depths of winter. The men and I have just fought off two entire divisions of Austrian forces. It is but a dream, you see, that we would be able to defeat them so quickly. Yes ... just a dream ..."

"And dreams do come true!" Wilhelm asserted as he rose to his feet. "Do you know what this means, Floris? If my theory is right ... we have seen the future, Floris! We know what's about to happen! Let's use this to our advantage!"

"... eh ... what do you mean?"

"For example, our forces have just fought off two divisions of Austrians, and we know that they are at this moment taking advantage of our lack of pursuit to make a leisurely retreat into the Upper Palatinate. I know, and you know, from this vision, that they have no rearguard or reinforcements en route. If we were to place all our present forces under your command and attempt to intercept them, we could initiate a decisive battle which could well end with the rout of almost two-fifths of their entire standing army!"

"... I do not know why I should believe you. But somehow, that sounds like a brilliant plan."

Floris might have been loaded with far more alcohol than he was used to, in an attempt to kill what he believed was a sorely misguided and mis-timed vision, but the reassurance his brother provided seemed to rekindle the fighting spirit and self-belief within him.

"But what of the troops needed to reinforce the siege at Pfalz? Do you not need a detachment of troops expressly for that purpose?"

"Not any more, brother. You will be able to put the troops to better use than I can. I know that I will not arrive in time ... and that my troops will be saved by a very special young man."

"But I too dreamed that ... surely you mean ..."

"Yes, Floris! We have, through God's grace, seen the future - and maybe even already lived it. We know that the triumphant future of which we both dreamed will not be, but in its place we shall construct one brighter and more glorious!" Wilhelm exclaimed, snatching the glass and bottle of schnapps away from his brother and replacing them in the larder.

"Now, let us build a new destiny! And that means you need to sober up, apologise to your wife and get back into bed for a good night's rest. Tomorrow, we march!"

HOL01040_zpsbf915107.png

If you want a picture of a future, imagine a Hollander boot stamping on the Austrians' face. For a really long time.

He who controls the present controls the future, and he who controls the future controls the past. Or something like that. The Hollander army which marched from Thuringia to Pfalz was very different from the one Wilhelm remembered leading - instead of rallying the fittest to make the journey to reinforce the siege while leaving the depleted regiments to recuperate in Dresden, the situation was reversed. Ever calculating, Wilhelm predicted that his brother's army would easily rout the recently-defeated Austrians, while the weakened detachment could make the journey to Pfalz while replenishing their numbers and supplies at their leisure. His master plan would continue to serve Holland well.

Such was his overwhelming pride and confidence in his own judgement that, upon approaching the base camp at Pfalz, Wilhelm was startled to notice the allied forces in perfect battle order, maintaining an impenetrable blockade around the walled city of Heidelberg, instead of the battered but victorious force he had previously envisioned. It was indeed ironic that Wilhelm grew suddenly worried at seeing his troops in excellent condition rather than being ragged and ramshackle, and the boisterous and energetic greetings of his troops as they welcomed the return of their commander did nothing to ease his fears.

"Have there been any French troops in the vicinity recently?" inquired Wilhelm of a junior captain in the besieging squad, no longer really certain of the answer to expect.

"Indeed, my lord," the officer replied. "A small detachment of French troops led by General Jean Villeneuve arrived recently, but they have not actively participated in the siege. We believe that they are here as envoys of their King."

"And no sign of the King himself?" Wilhelm asked, but the soldier shook his head. "Then bring me to them. I am certain that there will be much to discuss."



"General Jean Villeneuve, I presume?" Wilhelm approached the commander's tent, standing prominently in the centre of the surprisingly small French encampment, which was of a size barely large enough to host more than a single regiment of men.

"Monsieur Guillaume of Hollande - at last, you have arrived. Excellent. We need to talk."

The general was an aged but tall man of Wilhelm's height, who wore a breastplate over his military doublet and trousers. He had a commanding presence about him, which was somewhat accentuated by his neatly-groomed moustache, which had turned pure white with age. In many ways, General Villeneuve's appearance reminded Wilhelm of his brother Floris, but his condescending tone very much mirrored Wilhelm's own scornful attitude, a situation exaggerated by his thick French accent,

"General, I am grateful for your presence, but ... to be honest, I had expected you to bring a larger force. And where is His Majesty, King Louis?"

"Ah, yes. You see, Guillaume de Hollande, that is exactly what we need to discuss."

Fetching a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, General Villeneuve turned to the table behind him, and carefully retrieved a small but ornately crafted jewel casket which rested there. Bringing it to face Wilhelm, the General gently opened the lid of the box, revealing its contents.

"You may wish to consider this - and how you might like to take responsibility for it."

sunglass_zps7f2192d8.png

"No... it can't be ..."

"His Majesty, King Louis XIII de Valois, is dead. And you are to blame."

"I ... Impossible!" cried Wilhelm, aghast. "How could he have died? T ... this was not supposed to happen! And how could this possibly have been my fault?"

"Do not try to deny your responsibility, Guillaume," General Villeneuve solemnly intoned, a marked contast to Wilhelm's most uncharacteristic outburst of concern for another human being. "If it was not for you, this 'Guerre d'Autriche' would never have happened. La Belle France is a very temperamental and volatile mistress, with peasants, separatists, and heretics seething every month - and you would add pretenders to the throne as well?"

"General Villeneuve, I can't deny that Holland was the instigator of this war. But His Majesty was ..." Wilhelm thhe taought to explain the mysterious 'vision of the future' he and his brother shared, but realised that it was useless attempting to do so to a stranger who did not share his memories, let alone one as resolutely hostile as the General. "... he was aware of the dangers, to be sure. What could have caused him to risk, and lose his life, in such a way?"

"Hah! You may not believe me, for the tale is much like a child's story. But all too appropriate, for His Majesty was but a child. It was the morning of 1er Janvier, I remember well, when the king awoke from his slumber, crying like a man deranged about one Gilly-mon de Hollande and his brother - do not deny that this is you! The aide-de-camp tried to calm him, tried to tell him that it was a bad dream, but he would not listen. He said he had to save the siege at le Palatinat, and ordered me and my fellow generals to summon his personal division to break formation and head north! We had our doubts, as generals always do about such hasty manoeuvres. But who would have thought, Guillaume, who would have though that our army, the flower of France's youth, would be marching to its slaughter!"

Wilhelm considered the situation carefully, trying his utmost to prevent his emotions from interfering. King Louis, now with full 'knowledge' of what lay ahead in the future, decided to march pre-emptively to save Wilhelm's troops, and had encountered the Austrian army in peak condition and with the defender's advantage, instead of ragged, fatigued, and out of formation as they would have been following the confrontation with the allied force entrenched at Pfalz. In his carelessness and overconfidence, thanks to having 'seen the future', the King had been defeated by an enemy force he had woefully underestimated. Wilhelm shuddered ... if he had been in a similar position, he could well have made the same mistake, and paid the price. And his brother Floris, whom he last saw at the garrison at Thuringia ...

"Speechless, Guillaume? It is a sad tale, is it not?" Jean Villeneuve mockingly broke the silence, almost taunting the outwitted strategist. "His Majesty admired you, thought of you as a mentor, as he would say, 'a pretty cool dude'. Haha ... dare I say, maybe even as a father, yes, a father he aspired towards, far more than the one he had never seen. And now you have killed him!"

Wilhelm hung his head in sorrow. In that moment, he felt consumed by an immense wave of regret. The life of a soldier was like the life of a piece of discarded paper upon which a failed strategy or incorrect instruction had been written - crushed and discarded once its misguided purpose had been served. But when that life was one belonging to a very special young man, not even half Wilhelm's age, who had earned a very special place in his heart through his unique, yet brave and selfless actions ... Wilhelm was glad that at that moment, he had averted his eyes.

"I know you weep for his loss, Guillaume. I know it is so, even without seeing it, for you have yet to ask how the battle went. You might like to know that the Austrians were forced to retreat, and disaster for your lowland allies averted, but at terrible cost to us."

"General Villeneuve, how can I ever ..." Wilhelm started to speak, but was cut off by the General, who would have none of it.

"Thanks to you, all of France has descended into tumult, for who could possibly be a legitimate successor to a King of but twenty years of age? I can only be glad that here in the accursed field of a foreign land, I have no need to raise my blade against a fellow countryman, however rebellious he may be. Mark my words, Guillaume - as the highest ranking general still alive in the field, and a member of the King's own privy council, I say these words with the authority of the Field Marshal."

HOL01060_zpsfd8f57b1.png

"We cannot dishonour our alliance outright, for your nation remains by treaty the sole friend of France in these dark and unfortunate times. But as Maréchal de camp of France, I hereby decree - the armies of France will no longer aid you in the field against Austria and, for as long as I live, against any foreign foe. The defeat of the remaining forces d'Autriche, and the occupation of their homeland, will be left to Hollande and her puppet states. Guillaume de Hollande, this shall be how you will shoulder responsibility for the disaster which has befallen our nation."

Wilhelm did not raise a word of protest as he was escorted from the premises, for he was too choked up, swallowing his tears - and his pride.

More to come in the next part! Chapter 8 B : Tijd vor Avontuur - A Time of Troubles (1477-1480)
 
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DensleyBlair

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If you want a picture of a future, imagine a Hollander boot stamping on the Austrians' face. For a really long time.

Brilliant. :)

I await Saturday eagerly.

EDIT: Realised I'd overlooked part one;

"Ooh, way off the mark," the man sighed, as he scratched at his head with his free hand, "and still not ginger. I'm getting worse at this. Just as well, though, some 'W.L.' chap asked me to meet him for coffee here anytime, so now's as good a time as any."

I applaud you voraciously for your inclusion of both Wolfram and the Doctor. As a(n assumed) fellow Whovian, I salute you ;)

As for the crash. Bugger.

Not much else I can say.
 
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aniuby

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Okay, the post is done. Well, it's kind of short for my liking and it isn't really complete, as there's still more to be told about the war with Austria, but things were getting a little bit too grim for a science fiction double feature. And they get grimmer (is that a word?), so I'll continue under a more suitably titled post. I'll get the next one up soonish - and I should really stop typing these in public as I've been asked to move an awful lot of times in recent days, leading to all these interruptions.

For those that missed the drama about pictures not working - basically images stopped showing up for a while due to exceeding Photobucket's bandwith, but they ought to work now. If they don't show up, hit refresh. The only thing that's changed is that I'm a twenty out of pocket, because I caved and paid ~£20 (US$30) for a year's subscription, which permits unlimited bandwith usage. I guess it's my fault for using PNGs instead of JPGs (1MB vs ~200KB), but I much prefer the smooth appearance of PNGs over the rather obvious pixellation in JPGs. I also considered starting a new account on another site or whatever but I figured the problem would just recur every month with the pre-existing images, unless I swapped them all for JPGs, and ... ah, too much bother. It's a NED's AAR I'm writing here, I couldn't be bovvered, innit.

Oh well, since I appreciate using their services, I guess it makes sense to pay them a little for it. And it's much cheaper than World of Warcraft or God-knows-whatever MMOs out there nowadays. However, it also turned out that their server broke down on the last day of the month (hmm ... very suspicious coincidence), and they were not able to allocate the bandwith for just a short while longer.

And no, this is not a shameless repost of what used to be the header of my previous post until I cutpasted it and stuck it down here so it wouldn't interfere with the story post. =)
 

aniuby

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Chapter 8 B : Tijd voor Avontuur -
A Time of Troubles (1477-1479)

Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466

A letter, sent by courier from Württemberg to Nevers.

"Dear Juliette,

I apologise for not replying to your letter much earlier, for I have been constantly engaged with matters of national importance. Do rest assured that I still think of you and little Julius, in what few moments of solace I am able to attain.

I understand from your letter that your father, Sovereign Julius, has officially proclaimed to the people of Nevers his decision to name our son as his heir. While I must confess that I am somewhat wary of your father's narcissistic streak, I do appreciate his wisdom and humility in requesting to confer with me a suitable regnal name under which our son should assume the throne of Nevers.

I must again apologise, for not being able to meet your father in person to discuss this issue, for I must always remain with my countrymen to handle matters of state, as is my duty as Co-Sovereign and acting Chancellor of Holland. However, I do wish to share my opinion as to our son's future regnal name.

In choosing this name, I make homage to a very special young man, now dearly departed, who has served with me in my endeavours and touched my spirit in a way which even a callous and cold-hearted bureaucrat like myself had never thought possible. I wish to pay tribute to the qualities of this young man, and see them emulated in our son's future reign ... drive, perseverance, tenacity, loyalty, a willingness to challenge tradition, and, how shall I describe it, 'coolness'.

I shall bestow upon him the name ... 'Louis'.

Signed,
Your loving husband."

HOL01050_zps66dcc03c.png

Oh god look at my manpower. The alliance with France (and lack of CB) is probably the only thing keeping everyone and their mom from DoWing me.

September, 1477. Vienna, capital of the Duchy of Austria. Cheers rang out from all sides as the red and white tricolour of the Babenbergers was withdrawn. In its place was raised the lion rampant gules, armed and langued azure, an ironic reminder of the arms and the ideals the House of Habsburg forsook in their mad quest for power.

It had taken almost a year of painful and tenuous progress, but at last the dogged persistence of Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern and his troops paid off. Without the might of the Kingdom of France to back them up, the depleted armies of Holland and her remaining allies had to resort to a slow creep toward the Habsburg heartlands, securing provinces and cities over two fronts before advancing, knowing that the Austrians were likewise wary of a head-to-head confrontation with Holland's elite, but would not hesitate to hunt down and massacre any stragglers or regiments who had wandered out of formation.

The siege of Vienna had been a staring contest of sorts, the invading forces from Holland nervously eyeing the defenders on the city walls, praying that the other would be the first to break. But it was an anticlimactic end to what had been a brutal campaign. The defenders were the first to blink, a city of such prosperity being wholly unused to the hardships of being under siege, with wealthy nobles and their pampered children dreading the thought of starvation in their minds long before they felt it in their stomachs. Floris, being a chivalrous sort of gentleman, upheld his offer of granting the defending soldiers and all Austrian citizens amnesty and the right of movement, in exchange for permitting Holland's forces the freedom of the city and its fortifications.

But this victory, as hollow as it turned out to be, was not easily won. Sovereign "Archduke" Ferdinand Wenzel von Habsburg of Austria, who had departed his court and his family to lead his armies on the field, was still unwilling to concede to Holland's demands - the release of all sovereign states his nation had absorbed under his father's tyrannical rule as Holy Roman Emperor. Indeed, the loss of his capital was not sufficient reason to capitulate, for Austria still maintained almost three divisions of men, methodically maintaining a cordon around Floris' singular Hollander division which had occupied Vienna, trapping his forces within their prize. The Austrians were brazen enough to train peasant conscripts within full view of Floris' scouting patrols to tempt him to attack, but Floris was wise not to fall for their trap, knowing that an attempt to intervene would lead to the loss of both his forces and their spoils. Yet, despite their numerical superiority, the Austrians hesitated to attack Floris' emplacement directly, as he and his elite troops had earned quite the reputation earlier in the war after routing two whole Austrian divisions single-handedly, and some would say, miraculously.

What worried Floris more, however, was the uncharacteristic muteness of his brother Wilhelm, who led Holland's remaining division and was responsible for maintaining the logistics of the campaign. Battlefield messengers, who traversed the fields of Bavaria bearing correspondence between both camps, could only inform Floris that his brother seemed unusually chastened. His battle plan had fallen apart as a result of France's early withdrawal from the war, due to the death of the young King Louis XIII de Valois and the nation's descent into the anarchy of a succession crisis - but victory and defeat were like the two sides of a guilder, and one could not be had without the other. Musing about what could have been, as he stood in the shadow of the mighty Cathedral of St Stephen, Floris considered that his strategist brother truly ought to have been mature enough not to take the failure of his plan so personally.

"News, sire!" cried a voice in a Hollander accent from behind him, as the canter of a horse's hooves drew to a halt.

Floris whirled about, recognising the voice - it was one of the brave souls who had the responsibility of running the Austrian blockade around the city to carry correspondence to his brother's field camp, marshalling the allied forces to lay siege to Württemberg. Such a feat would not have been possible without the complicity and co-operation of the Bavarians, who like many other nations saw much to gain from Austria's downfall. The Sovereign of Holland watched the messenger hastily retrieve the letters of correspondence from his horse's saddlebags without the engaging in the courtesy of dismounting in order to address his liege lord - Floris' anxiety to hear the battle reports having displaced the need for the proper observance of decorum.

"Yes, much good news, sire!" the messenger repeated, handing the letters to the Sovereign's aide. "Lord Wilhelm and our allies have secured Württemberg! At this moment he leads his forces through Tyrolia, and he hopes to make contact with your troops within months."

"Excellent," Floris affirmed. "Depleted our forces may be, but together we should have enough offensive power to challenge the Austrian divisions directly, and break the blockade around the city."

"On the issue of the blockade, sire, it also seems your feat of capturing Vienna has emboldened Austria's enemies. Hungary, as well as the Teutonic Order and its ally Poland have declared war on Austria. At this very moment, Austrian forces are heading eastward to engage their new enemies, knowing that we can make but slow progress with our limited numbers."

"Good news for us, but I fear for our brothers-in-arms in Hungary and Poland." Floris observed, stroking his beard as he considered the circumstances under which he had eked out his narrow victories against his enemy. "We have seen what the Austrian soldiers are capable of - without equipment, training, and discipline comparable to ours, I fear they will be no match for Ferdinand Wenzel and his troops."

"And on that last note, sire," the messenger concluded, as he drew out a final scroll which seemed to be of finer craftsmanship than the previous letters of correspondence. "Ferdinand Wenzel of Austria has issued a statement offering territorial concessions and a reduction of his power, in exchange for an immediate peace. He hopes to be able to convince you after his terms were flatly rejected by Lord Wilhelm."

HOL01070_zpsbd886c20.png

This is what Austria offers me for 99% warscore (69% occupation + 20% from battles), and it's not what I want at all.
Also, 'Teutonic Order and its ally, Poland' ... how that happened I don't even. But that's how it is.

"Tell him I cannot make peace without the consent of my brother, due to his capacity as chief strategist. But tell me, what exactly did my brother have to say about the offer?"

"Well ... if you cut out the expletives, he basically declared that he would not rest until every last Austrian soldier was slain," the messenger explained, his face taking on a grim expression, "and he urged you to reject the treaty and await his arrival at Vienna. His aims are not only to extract every last concession from Austria, but to cripple their remaining standing forces such that Austria's other enemies may each have their wicked way with them. Revenge, he calls it."

"Revenge? Is this what this war is about, now?" sighed Floris, as he gazed despairingly at the spire of the great cathedral which stood beside him. "Wilhelm ... brother ... what in the name of Christ are you doing? Have our people not suffered enough ... our soldiers not sacrificed enough, to bring your ambitions to fruition?"

HOL01080_zpsbf807b52.png

Another year of bloody fighting before I finally get what I want ... or rather, before I finally ask for it, after killing all of Austria's troops. HUMILIATION VICTORY!
Also, just look at my goddamned manpower! Not a man to spare, and even less troops than before! If anyone attacked now, I'd be dead.

23 May 1478. A day which would forever live in infamy among the citizens of Austria, when a 'memorandum of understanding' was signed between their Sovereign, 'Archduke' Ferdinand Wenzel von Habsburg, and Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern of Holland. Needless to say, it was not so much an agreement as a humiliating diktat inflicted upon the now defenceless nation by the triumphant alliance from the Low Counties. The terms of the treaty were that Austria would release as independent states free from vassal obligations Baden and the Rhenish Palatinate, and, in a further humiliation, the minor duchies of Tyrol and Styria which Austria considered its hereditary territory. Austria was also issued with an official warning against attempting to subjugate the minor states around it, which would be enforced for the lifetime of the brothers Floris and Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, the present co-Sovereigns of Holland.

The treaty between Austria and Holland received the assent of many states within the Holy Roman Empire, including the reluctant agreement of the Emperor, Viktorin van Henegouwen of Bohemia, who agreed to end the ostracism of the now fallen giant. Austria would now once again be considered for election to the Imperial crown, and, by popular consensus, would be permitted to retain the title of Elector which it had usurped from the Palatinate. Such a situation was naturally disadvantageous to the sovereigns of both Holland and Bohemia, but defying the will of the majority of member states had ill consequences - as Austria discovered all too late.

However, the conclusion of peace between Austria and Holland did not end its simultaneous wars with its eastern neighbours. The nation of Hungary, reduced to a minor power following its earlier defeat in war and the secession of the nationalities it subjugated, had accepted a grudging peace with Austria after its army was routed by Austrian defenders, who were in turn crushed by an elite Hollander force who had ventured into Hungarian territory expressly to hunt them down. The alliance of the Teutonic Order and Poland proved to be far more dangerous, but Austria was saved after the Teutons, finding their conquest restricted to a single province due to the longer border their ally shared with the enemy, feared betrayal and sought a quick peace for that sole province. As a result of the concurrent wars, Austria had been reduced to a rump of their homeland, the unlawfully-gained territories of Württemberg, several poor and rebellious Hungarian provinces, and the previously-conquered land of Moravia, which Emperor Bohemia considered part of its demesne and over which it now looked with covetous eyes.

Despite its triumph, Holland, the supposed victor in the war, emerged from the conflict not stronger, but battered, bloodied, and depleted. In truth, all Holland had accomplished was the destruction of a hated enemy and rival, achieving little material gain at terrible cost to itself. No actual conquests were made, and while the newly-appointed sovereigns of the reborn Palatinate, and the duchies of Tyrol and Styria were no doubt grateful to Holland for their liberation, it would take a year or more of rebuilding before they were able to stand as independent states, who would be forever fearing the retribution of their former Austrian oppressors.

Worst of all, while the flames of war had never actually reached the Low Counties, the fields and workshops of Holland lay empty - such had the scale of bloodshed impacted Holland's demographics. With almost callous rationality, Co-Sovereign Wilhelm von Hohenzollern of Holland had ordered a continuation of a policy of conscription despite the conclusion of the war, arguing that every able-bodied man was needed to fill the depleted ranks of Holland's soldiers. It was said that at no time was there even a single regiment's worth of men still waiting to be deployed, leaving one to wonder whether to marvel at the efficiency of Wilhelm's administration or be horrified at the scale of the losses Holland had suffered.

It was the dark, miserable winter of 1478, only half a year after the conclusion of the epic War to Cut Austria Down to Size, when Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern once again found himself ordered by his brother to lead what few troops he had through the Bavarian lands towards Styria, where the Sovereign reported the rising of a group of rebels desiring reunification with Austria. Seeking to prevent his victory from being undone, Wilhelm aimed to nip the rebellion in the bud by directly intervening in what was on the surface a Styrian internal affair.

As they headed south, Floris' troops restocked and replenished their supplies in Munich, the Wittelsbachs of Bavaria noting with great interest the tenacity and fighting spirit of the Hollander soldiers, and the terrible losses they had suffered to achieve their victory against superior opposition. It was shortly after leaving Bavaria, while transversing the Archbishopric of Salzburg, that Floris' detachment was approached by a lone horseman, riding from the north in great haste, bearing a message of the utmost urgency.

HOL01100_zpsd3f3336d.png

Oh God, no ... ah, stop whining. You knew this was coming.

The nation of Bavaria, having thoroughly observed Holland's weakness as a result of the numerous excursions through its territory, had seized its opportunity to press its longstanding claims to the Franconian territories of the Rhenish Palatinate, calling in its allies Switzerland and Pommerania. As a guardian and an associate, Holland was honour-bound to rally to the Palatinate's defence.

"As I am a soldier and a honourable man, we cannot permit the oppression of those whose independence we have guaranteed - whose salvation we have won with our own blood, sweat, tears, and toil! Freedom is in peril, and we must defend it with all our might! Summon our allies! To me, my brethren, to arms!"

Once again, the nation of Holland, and its sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, would march to war. But it was a war for which no master plan had been devised, for which no strategies had been drawn. It was a war for which Holland was wholly unprepared.

More to come in the next part! Chapter 8 C : Tijd voor Avontuur - Holland's Unhappiest Hour (1479-1482)
 
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DensleyBlair

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A war for which Holland is unprepared? That doesn't sound good.

I reluctantly look forward to the next installment.
 

aniuby

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Thanks, everyone, for your continued support. I haven't replied to comments for a while so now's as good a time as any.

The title has got that blasted song running through my head again... "It's just a jump to the left..."

Regardless, I hope you haven't lost too much progress. Looking forward to more!

I didn't realise exactly how much I'd lost by having to reload from 1st January, because I thought I could just 'do it again', as the song would go. However, as you can probably see, disaster struck the French army thanks to the RNG deciding to roll differently than it did before. A battle they ought to have won, leading to the crushing of the Austrian doomstacks on the Western front, was lost as a result of the mysterious death of a MIL 8 king-general, which also triggered yet more rebels spawning across their country.

The French ducked out due to their internal troubles, while the Austrian doomstack was depleted, and though they did not attack the siege at Pfalz they survived to reinforce and menace the remainder of my army later. So, what turned out to be a cakewalk the first timeline became a bloodbath in the second. I'm still kind of bitter at the game for doing this to me. It's almost like they knew it was too easy.

I applaud you voraciously for your inclusion of both Wolfram and the Doctor. As a(n assumed) fellow Whovian, I salute you ;)

I wouldn't exactly call myself a Whovian, because I confess I only really began following the series from the Tenth Doctor, who I felt to be much more accessible than his predecessors (more 'youthful' spirit, and didn't have a regional accent...), so I don't know all that much about the earlier generations. But it's safe to say that I am interested in the series.

On W.L., I felt I just couldn't ignore the invitation, though I couldn't actually accept it, and I also wanted to reward a loyal reader for the encouragement they have provided =) The Danubian Federation AAR is just so huge, and it gets longer, and longer, and since I don't play Vicky II (yet) I don't understand much of it at all, so I admit that I don't pay it very much attention.

However, having a strong interest in role-playing games (of the pencil and paper kind), and having previously served as a gamemaster, I feel that interactive AARs could well be my kind of thing. If someone were to start a EU3 interactive AAR, that would perk my interest on another level altogether. Maybe I could start one =P

A war for which Holland is unprepared? That doesn't sound good.

I reluctantly look forward to the next installment.

Can't win them all. In fact, the truth of the matter is that I haven't actually 'lost' yet in this AAR. So a bit of change might be nice from the readers' point of view, although certainly not from the characters' ...

Also, you 'reluctantly look forward' ... so you don't really want to look forward? I'm sorry to hear that ...

Just kidding =) A little bit of pedantry over the oxymoron there.
 

aniuby

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Chapter 8 C : Tijd voor Avontuur -
Holland's Unhappiest Hour (1479-1481)

Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466

BATTLE PLAN : The Bavarian War of Reconquest of Franken, started January 1479

HOL0111A_zpsf7aeb6c0.png

I'm trying my hand at drawing battle maps to give some life to all these glorious multi-front European wars. This actually took me a couple of hours,
but I hope to cut down the time required once I've got the procedure down to memory. Please leave your comments and suggestions for future such maps!
In case it's not already clear, Blue = home forces, Green = allies, Red = enemies, and Orange = trolls other threats. Friendlies are rectangles, hostiles are diamonds.
Hope you know your coats of arms! Apologies for the neon glow but I don't know how to make the military signs clear without making them take up too much space.
Also, purists might note that a 'battalion' is usually smaller than a 'regiment', but since the game defines a 'regiment' as 1k men I need another term for a larger unit.

'Chapter 3.2 : Organisation of Land-Based Military Forces in Early Modern Europe
A summary of the most common forms of army organisation and their utilisation on the battlefield.

3.2.i - Warfare in early modern Europe was characterised by the systemic organisation of standing armies into formations of various sizes, dependent on their purpose on the battlefield and the resources and military manpower of the nation in question, replacing the medieval system of levies and retinues. While the sum of a nation's ground military capacity deployed in the European theatre was frequently referred to as the field army, or more properly an 'Army Group', these armies were for practical purposes subdivided into smaller units and employed according to the military requirements as dictated by the needs of war and the discretion of military strategists.

3.2.ii - In practice, the size of independently operating units within a nation's armed forces was limited by logistical considerations such as the need to shelter and supply one's troops. The largest such individual units employed within the Early Modern period were no larger than 40,000 men, and often hovered around 32,000 men due to limitations in communication which prevented larger armies from effectively engaging in battle. Such massive, independently-operating units, frequently equipped with both cavalry and artillery batteries, were referred to as 'Armies' in popular parlance, with 'Army Groups' composed of multiple such Armies working in concert.

3.2.iii The subsequent unit of army organisation was the Corps, whose total strength stood at 20,000 to 30,000 men. The Corps was the largest single unit likely to operate without the use of artillery batteries, whose transport and logistical requirements significantly hindered an army's mobility. Corps frequently co-operated with smaller artillery Battalions to create an effective fighting force in the form of an Army, although many Corps across Europe and indeed smaller subdivisions of land forces would utilise artillery if the added firepower was deemed to be a worthy tradeoff.

3.2.iv Below the Corps, the next smaller unit of army organisation was the Division, which had a strength of between 15,000 to 20,000 men. The Division was the most frequently employed unit of army organisation, due to its moderate size, rendering it affordable to maintain by most states of decent economic standing, and its cohesiveness making it the largest unit likely to be resistant to attrition in hostile territory, when directed by a commander of adequate ability. Standing forces too small to compose a Division-sized force, or which had been depleted as a result of combat losses, were termed Brigades, which employed between 10,000 to 15,000 men.

3.2.v The smallest unit of army organisation deemed to be of value in an engagement was the Battalion, who fielded 5,000 to 10,000 men. Although the Regiment, composing exactly 1,000 men when at full strength, was the smallest single unit capable of self-sustaining independent operations, Battalions had the advantage of being of a large enough size to resist encirclement and annihilation when engaged by a larger army, and were able to employ cavalry and artillery effectively in the battle when supported by an adequate number of infantry regiments. When not attached to a larger force, artillery batteries were frequently transported in Battalion-sized units, escorted by infantry, in order to avoid encumbering the progress of the rest of the army.'

- An extract from On the Science of War, authored by Charlotte van Zonnewijk, published 1821, Amsterdam.

HOL01110_zpsf150bd63.png

Do you think this battle summary shows that I'm likely to win? In fact, it shows how I've made a disastrous mistake.

Wilhelm Karel von Hohenzollern, Co-Sovereign, Acting Chancellor, and chief military strategist of Holland, stormed into his office, slamming the door behind him. The gust of wind sent much of the stack papers on his desk flying, but the usually meticulous Wilhelm ignored them - such was his anger. He had not returned to his homeland of Holland, and indeed his hometown of Amsterdam for almost two years, and now his hope of some solace in returning to the relatively less aggravating matter of managing domestic affairs had been rudely frustrated by this most recent piece of news.

"The Bavarians ... I should have known! They've been privy to our secrets for far too long ... and now this has happened! If only I'd ..."

Wilhelm's conceit had already taken a battering as a result of the triumphant, yet disastrous Pyrrhic victory in the war against Austria, a situation further emphasised by the secret knowledge dwelling at the back of his mind that things could have gone so much better, but the news of war was more cruel a blow. Of course, any incidence of being outguessed and pre-empted by an enemy would always be bitter physic for the ego of any self-proclaimed strategist to swallow. But more harrowing still was the knowledge that Holland ... no, indeed the blame lay solely on its overenthusiastically chivalrous Sovereign Floris ... yes, his brother Floris, had made a simple yet terrible tactical errorwhich had now undoubtedly handed victory to the Bavarian aggressor's alliance. He had no doubt Floris was a valiant fighter, but one of little aptitude for strategy ... and severely hampered by a lack of foresight.

Taking a rapid glance at the map of Europe, kept pinned to the wall near his desk and updated in his absence by his bureaucratic staff, Wilhelm quickly tore his eyes away and clutched his hand to his face, as if what he had seen was too horrific to view for yet a moment longer. Balling that hand into a fist, in the process clawing at his face in his aggravation, he whirled around and slammed that fist over the top of his desk. Roughly taking a seat, he reached for a blank scrap of paper and a quill as he calculated what steps he could possibly take to salvage the situation.

While Bavaria was a country of no little means, its inward, mercantilistic conservatism, coupled with its disastrously poor relations with its nearby city-states, severely hampered its avenues for expanding its prosperity and influence. Alone, Bavaria faced little chance of overcoming a wealthy and cosmopolitan nation such as Holland, let alone a Holland assisted by a multitude of allies and vassal states. The real threat, however, came from Bavaria's allies, who provided the muscle to enforce Bavaria's demands, much in the way France had aided Holland in the war against Austria. The sovereign Duchy of Pomerania, on the coast of the Baltic Sea, was not the real threat - its coastal location was a hindrance rather than a help, permitting the easy blockading of its commerce, and Wilhelm knew that the lords of Brandenburg were practically slavering to tear into their northern neighbours, their mutual hatred as uncompromising as any football rivalry.

No ... it was Switzerland. The wealthy, yet immensely secretive confederation of cantons situated among the Alps had long been a rival to Holland's commerce, and had wisely invested the profits from its trade into maintaining a well-trained and drilled military of devastating effectiveness. This historically militant country not only fielded an army that was easily the equal of Holland's, but its harsh, mountainous terrain also provided a natural bulwark against any attempts to subjugate it. In short, the only way to possibly defeat Switzerland would be through overwhelming force - a possibility which, due to its dire lack of manpower, was not an option for Holland. And now, Floris had ...

Wilhelm snapped the stem of the quill, clenched in his fist, in frustration. Startled, but no less angry, he reached for a spare, and began to write some instructions to Holland's diplomatic office.

France. Wilhelm recalled Marshal Jean Villeneuve's words, back from that fateful day nearly two years ago, and knew all too well from accurate intelligence reports (provided by the compliant French Ambassador, Ross de Boeuf) that the nation was still in turmoil. But Switzerland might not know just how disastrous the French situation was ... and they certainly did not know about the warning General Villeneuve had personally issued to Wilhelm. The Swiss were no doubt keenly aware of the might of the vast French army, having seen it march just past its borders during the War to Cut Austria Down to Size, and perhaps they could be 'persuaded' to rethink their support of Bavaria's ambitions with the appropriate threats.

Wilhelm scratched a few words on the paper, then folded it and inserted it into the pocket of his coat, before flinging open the door of his office and marching out, sending the papers scattered about his office into flight once again. Wilhelm was cautiously confident that his bluff would not be called, but was far more concerned about the length of time it would take for his message to reach the Syndic in Bern ... and the course the war would have taken within that time.

"... Floris ... " Wilhelm growled, through gritted teeth.

HOL01120_zps3f815c04.png

And this, my friends, is Holland's first, completely avoidable 'defeat'. Have you figured out the simple mstake I've made?

The 'Ambassadors' public house, just a short distance from the harbours of Amsterdam. The pub being so named due to its cosmopolitan policy of catering to travellers and foreign nationals from all over Europe, having taken the expense of training its bar staff to be fluent in a multitude of foreign languages, even hiring native speakers from the Promised Land, as well as sourcing a wide variety of alcoholic beverages from all over Europe. They had also become famous for spoliing its patrons with a uniquely delectable snack, a sort of Italian delicacy consisting of nuts and biscuits baked in cream into a sort of ball shape and wrapped in a reusable piece of metal leaf, which its patrons praised as being 'Eccellente', a true sign of good taste.

Needless to say, however, due to the cost of such luxuries, prices at the 'Ambassadors' pub were such that it was only frequented by the most affluent pub-going members of society, even in as moneyed a city as Amsterdam, or by people who had their expenses footed by a powerful backer ... the most common examples of such individuals being the eponymous ambassadors themselves. It was on one chilly Saturday evening, in the winter of 1480; the pub was bustling with activity and the relaxing tunes of minstrels strumming at their instruments, when the door to the pub was gently drawn open...

Into the pub strode a man who would have attracted an undue amount of attention if he had been anywhere apart from his homeland or the famously tolerant nation of Holland. Juan Abbalonia, Castillian ambassador to Holland, was a Moor - a native of the Andalusian region of Iberia. Having lived under Castillian authority for all of his life, Juan had been born Christian, and had won a knighthood through glory in battle against the heathens of the Maghreb - and yet he was constantly regarded with suspicion by Europeans. Despite his gentle demeanour, his large build and the colour of his skin constantly kept less tolerant Europeans on edge, and after receiving a battle wound which forced his retirement from the frontlines, he requested a transfer to a position where he could continue to serve his country without being the target of prejudice. Juan was earnest and eager to further his nation's interests, though a little less crafty than would be expected of someone employed in a diplomatic position, but he was a good man all the same and he took pains to state his Moorish background (for example, "I, Don Juan Abbalonia, Moor") when introducing himself so as not to startle those who had expected someone of a paler complexion.

Don Juan scanned the pub as he looked for an associate or a friendly face with whom to sit down and share some conversation and alcohol. At one corner sat the Austrian ambassador, Friedrich von Werner-Scwarzel, speaking with the one man who didn't outright despise the guy. That man was Lester Fenshaw, the English ambassador to Holland, a shaven-headed man who was known for being somewhat lackadaisical and fond of football and other vice, but short-tempered and prone to anger, particularly whenever anyone mispronounced his name. The two nations had been allies at some point in the distant past, the only reason this was so being because Austria was landlocked and England was a purely maritime nation on the other side of the continent, and hence there was never a reason to clash.

No, neither of those men counted as either associates or friendly faces. Neither did the French Ambassador, Ross de Boeuf, seated at a table by himself, getting to work on his second bottle of whisky in rather dramatic fashion while his diplomatic brief lay unattended. How unrefined, and also most atypical for a Frenchman - a race of people who claimed to be more civilised and well-mannered than their contemporaries. The only individual who could serve as a passable drinking companion in the establishment at this time was a certain 'Prince' Bruno Pavel-Lev, the Ambassador from Bohemia, who had been appointed upon King Viktorin's ascension to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. He was not known for being especially sympathetic to Holland's interests, but understood the importance of cultivating the friendship of the up-and-coming power within the Empire, who was undeniably a potential rival to Bohemia.

Don Juan ordered a sherry, spiced with bitter orange, and a bit of local bread and cheese to serve as tapas, before approaching Ambassador Pavel-Lev. The Czech had been sitting alone, poring over some documents, almost neglecting his drink - and he was certainly startled to see a fellow ambassador taking a seat beside him.

"Good evening, Prince-Ambassador," Juan began in his best Hollander voice, the local language being the ideal means of communication between two foreign parties. "What is this news which interests you?"

"Nothing much, Señor Don Juan, just looking through the updates on the transfer negotiations between Wisla Krakow and Slavia Prague. We've been pursuing some of their assets for some time but have yet to come to a deal. To be honest, I'm rather envious - the ongoing transfer agreement between Ajax Amsterdam and Hertha Berlin has resulted in several players Hertha has acquired from Stettin being sent out on loan to Ajax."

"It's about having the right connections, Bruno ... and having a good financial backing and income from subsidiaries certainly helps as well."

HOL01130_zps17bb60ed.png

Also note Prague pursuing their interests from Warsaw - they've been at it for over two years

"Oh, is that so?" Bruno inquired, pushing the papers before him aside and looking the Castillian ambassador in the eye. "Real Madrid is pretty wealthy and well-connected as well - I'd be surprised if you weren't able to secure similar agreements with ease."

"To a certain extent. Madrid has made some acquisitions from Porto and Real Zaragosa, and they've made purchases from several Italian and Greek clubs ... but just you try negotiating with Barcelona sometime! Besides, I'm a Seville supporter."

"Noted." Bruno said tersely, taking a sip from his glass of brandy before continuing, "but acquisitions and transfer agreements are all the rage these days, and may help teams overcome those who stood above them in the world rankings not long before. Take Ajax Amsterdam, for example. It seemed but yesterday that they were just another local team that wouldn't get anywhere in European competition. Now I've just read, in these latest reports, that they've emerged victorious in the playoff against Bayern Munich!"

"Impressive! I've only known about their defeat in the first leg." nodded Don Juan as he got to work on some of the tapas he had ordered.

"You see, Don Juan, what really swung the second leg in their favour was the influx of fresh players on loan from other teams from their region. And Munich's own agreement with Young Boys had to be called off as a result of rumours of a threatened acquisition by interests in France, which forced them to reorganise their assets. The rumours proved to be unfounded, but it was too late for Munich - with most of their back four and their reserve goalkeeper recalled, they were not able to arrange for replacements in time for the second leg and were soundly defeated. We were only just saved from what could have been a major overhaul in the league - with their wealth, Ajax's boardroom tried to orchestrate a buyout of certain of Munich's elements, but were retricted to merely ending Munich's free transfer agreement with Tirol Innsbruck established the previous year. It's all thanks to a limitation clause built into international footballing agreements."

HOL01140_zps2a954b72.png

Damn, four percent short? That was my best chance. And it would have been justified revenge.

"Speaking of rumours, I heard tales of severe backroom discord at Ajax's training camp in Carinthia. Was this true?"

"Indeed, it was - and that was probably a contributory factory to Ajax's defeat in the first leg. But it seemed that the manager took note of this and only sent out the bare minimum against Munich, not wanting to exert them too much. After the first match, he summoned the boys, gave the troublesome elements a stern talking-to, and, aided by the conditions I talked about earlier, rallied to victory in the second leg."

"Well said, Bruno," Don Juan noted, finishing off a small piece of Gouda cheese, "and that reason is why Castillian clubs stand head and shoulders above their French opponents. The French are known for their remarkable disunity, propensity to backstabbing, and frequent and wholly unnecessary managerial changes. Our teams, on the other hand, are united in their defence and stand unshakeable before any foe."

"Even the Andalusian teams?" Bruno asked, giving a knowing wink.

"Yes. Even the Andalusian teams. To be honest, I fear the Dutch teams have the intent to challenge us in the near future, but as long as their boardroom backers from France are in such a sorry state, we need fear nothing."

Taking his first sip of sherry, the Spanish ambassador offered Bruno Pavel-Lev a toothpick upon which was impaled a sweetened chunk of nut bread, and the Bohemian ambassador tipped his non-existent hat as he graciously received the offer. Don Juan quickly glanced at the English, Austrian, and French ambassadors seated across the pub from them, before continuing.

"I've had enough, good Prince-Ambassador. I understand that it's necessary, for the purposes of diplomatic secrecy, but I am truly weary of speaking in code. Tell me, do you believe that everything in life can be explained with a football analogy?"

"I don't think so, Señor Don Juan," Bruno replied, as he shook his head disapprovingly. "Football can only be used to explain matters which are far less complicated."

HOL01090_zps4902171e.png

Explain this, Ambassador Don Juan Abbalonia.

More to come! To be continued in Chapter 8 D : Tijd Voor Avontuur - Time and Tide (1481-1484)
 
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That must have been the best analogy I have ever had the pleasure to read. I demand more continental footballing goodness!

Though, surely the Spanish ambassador would have been better named Juan Nill? ;)
 

aniuby

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That must have been the best analogy I have ever had the pleasure to read. I demand more continental footballing goodness!

Though, surely the Spanish ambassador would have been better named Juan Nill? ;)

Heh ... I'm glad you liked it. I think every now and then about starting a Championship Manager-themed CKII AAR, where you play as Alexander Ferguson, Earl Manager of Aberdeen, and proceed to conquer Britain and then the whole of Europe hire all the best players and win all the trophies. I don't think my ability to create football analogies, or my sanity, would be able to sustain it ... but I won't know if I don't try it sometime =P

The Castillian Ambassador, as well as the rest of them, will show up at some point later on serious business. And somebody's got to be the straight man in the story. So, no sacrificing of names for the purpose of a one-off context-based joke!

That was a gorgeous map. My only suggestion would be to make the symbols for the armies stand out a little more.

Thank you! I've been thinking about creating more interesting battle maps for some time, having been inspired by many other glorious examples (such as TristramShandy's), but I didn't want to imitate them directly. So I thought, why not use those little symbols from Hearts of Iron and other tactical wargames which I never ever got around to understanding? I'm pretty sure no one outside of the HoI board itself has ever tried it. Then, put them alongside coats of arms for added symbolism ... and anachronism.

I'm not really sure how to make the symbols stand out more, though. Although they're already rather large, they're still wire-thin, so I added the Photoshop 'neon glow' effect to provide contrast with the background and give them more colour. Bolding them doesn't work as it causes the fattened lines to melt together in an ugly way, although this is probably the fault of the font itself. The other way would be to stick them inside a lozenge like they appear in Hearts of Iron, but that means the lozenge ends up obstructing all of the map behind it, which would be a real shame in a colourful map-painting game like EU3.



In other news, I've been tinkering around with CKII's Character Designer to try to create portraits for my characters. Admittedly, what I've been able to come up with has been rather dissimilar to how I imagined things to be, due to the limitations of the game (Why are all the male hairstyles so short?!). Compare, for instance ...

jdewitt1_zps4928c11a.png

Background - a picture of the famous Dutch statesman Jan de Witt (flipped and cropped), dated from the 1600s, which inspired me.
Inset - my attempt at creating something similar in the character designer, to the best of my (and the designer's) abilities.

If you can guess who that's supposed to represent, that means you've been paying attention! Though if you can't, maybe that just means that I'm not good enough at describing people or recreating their image using the character designer. Anyway, if this is the kind of thing people like, then I'll try to come up with something similar for the most important characters in the story and work it into a family tree.

Please feel free to leave a comment if there are any remarks, advice, or recommendations! The maps, the portraits, the writing - anything! Let me hear from you people!
 

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[...]hire all the best players[...]

One word: Bébé ;)

Using the Ruler Designer is certainly a novel (and very good) idea, though, as you've highlighted, the stylistic differences may be rather restrictive. I'd be tempted to keep playing around with it to see if anything could be achieved.
 

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Why are your armies represented by swordsmen and not pikemen?
 

aniuby

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Chapter 8 D : Tijd voor Avontuur - Time and Tide (1481-1484)
Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466

Great (Catholic) Powers of Europe (1484 Report)
1. France 2. Castille 3. England 4. Bohemia 5. Austria 6. Holland 7. Sweden 8. Portugal

Secondary Powers of Europe, Unsorted (1484 Report)
Aquileia, Aragon, The Hansa, Poland, Scotland, Switzerland, Teutonic Order, Venice



"Vi vi vi! Vi Vi Vi!"

Floris VI von Hohenzollern, Sovereign of Holland, held a gloved hand over his distinctive moustache and beard as he tried to weave his way unnoticed through the madly chanting crowd gathered outside the gatehouse of the sovereign's manor. He had left the meticulously polished morion he usually wore while on official business with his troops at the Amsterdam garrison, instead exchanging it for a soft velvet patrician's cap, so light and fragile that he felt it might slide from his head at any moment.

This was not how he would have imagined his return to his home city of Amsterdam, after more than six years of unending warfare.

To each side of him stood reams of protestors, chanting their slogan as they railed uselessly at a building which was powerless to answer their demands. Trying to avoid drawing the gaze of any member of the crowd, Floris only rarely dared scan the faces of the demonstrators. He noticed that there were rather more women than he would have expected voicing their opinions about matters of politics or commerce, and of the menfolk, the majority were decently groomed and well-dressed - clearly, they were not mere peasants. No, these were what youngsters had remained from a population decimated by the ravages of war .... women, and the sons of wealthy families who had managed to buy their way out of or otherwise use their resources to evade the policy of conscription. Floris knew merely by looking that none of these people had ever experienced, in their short and luxury-filled lives, the same horrors of war as had a grizzled and battle-weary veteran such as he.

"Down with Castille! Free our Flemish brothers!" A voice clear and sharp rang out from within the ranks of the protestors

"Aye! Aye! Down with Castille!" The response from the demonstration was sure and immediate, as if answering a question. "Down with Castille! Up with Holland! Freedom for Flanders!"

"Voor de Bevrijding Parij! Vrijheid voor Vlaanderen! VI VI VI!"

The crowd roared with one voice, leaving Floris feeling all the more nervous at his obvious lack of participation. As he struggled forward against the wall of bodies, a raised sleeved arm swept across the front of his face, knocking the simple patrician's cap off the top of his head, exposing his growing bald spot, and his identity, for all the world to see. There was an audible gasp as nearby members of the crowd realised the presence of a Very Important Policymaker among them.

"It's the Sovereign! Seize him! Make him sign the petition!"

A tide of human flesh seemed to coalesce around Floris, buffeting him with its rage as a hundred hands grabbed at him from every side. Floris felt his strength and willpower draining away from him, and he closed his eyes and gritted his teeth as he helplessly allowed the storm to sweep him to its logical conclusion. It was only the cold, metallic touch of a soldier's gauntlet, firmly seizing his forearm and yanking him from the swirling whirlpool, which permitted him to finally return to his senses.

"We apologise for the trouble, your excellency." A rough, no-nonsense growl cut through the roar of the crowd, its words distinct in Floris' ears. "This demonstration has been going on for the last month or so, and the protestors started gathering here over the past week, when they heard you were returning."

"What is going on? Who is responsible for this ...?"

Floris whirled about, only to find himself within the walled garden of the sovereign's manor, standing in the middle of the path leading up to its front door, staring impotently at the closed gates of the guardhouse. The only things he could hear, amidst the roar of wave of angry townsfolk gathered outside the manor, was the joyful twittering of blackbirds in summer as they went about their business, happily distanced from the cares and worries of the human world.

HOL01090_zps4902171e.png

Apologies for not actually getting the screenshot of the 'Boundary Dispute' event, but they all look the same anyway.
I somehow instinctively clicked past it even though it was my first ever boundary dispute - and on a territory I wanted, too.

Floris tiredly headed up the steps of the manor towards the war room, having been informed by one of the servants of his brother's whereabouts. He felt an uncomfortable itch rising under his leather jerkin - if the correspondence he had received was anything to go by, Wilhelm was certainly less than pleased at his command of the most recent war to defend the Palatinate, and Floris could only hope that the joy of meeting again after so many years of separation could ameliorate his anger. It also didn't help that some horrid, damp liquid was running down his back since his unpleasant encounter with the crowd; apparently one of the angry protestors had struck him just under his right shoulder. Since he knew he hadn't been stabbed, Floris just hoped it was nothing worse than a chicken's egg. Preferably one which was fresh.

Reaching for the handle of the door, Floris yanked it open - and was horrified to see his brother standing over the war room table, examining a map of Europe across from the French Ambassador, Ross de Boeuf. Seated at the table beside Wilhelm was Marshal of the Mint Joost Schönebeck, his hairline receding and moustache and beard grey with age, obediently taking the minutes of the discussion between the two men.

"Wilhelm!" Floris cried, half-angered, half-despairing. "You cannot, cannot possibly be planning another European war! Send the Ambassador from the room this instant!"

Almost as the words left his lips, Floris felt a lump of guilt rising in his throat - he had not expected to be responsible for souring the tone of the brotherly reunion. Wilhelm, noticing his brother, whispered a few words to Ambassador de Boeuf, who nodded and turned to gather his belongings.

"Floris ... I never figured that a professional soldier like you would be a pacifist," Wilhelm said nonchalantly, one bushy eyebrow raised. The scorn in his voice was unmistakeable, and it terrified Floris to the bone, for though he had observed his brother adopt such a tone towards others, he had never before felt what it was like to be on its receiving end.

"Brother, soldiering is the profession most likely to turn a man to pacifism." Floris replied, his voice quivering despite his confidence in the truth of his assertion.

"Is that so? Try explaining that to the mob outside." Wilhelm shrugged his shoulders as he callously gestured to the seat at the war room table across from him, which now lay vacant.

As Ross de Boeuf wordlessly edged past Floris with his diplomatic brief, the ambassador gave him a knowing nod, indicating that the situation had spiralled beyond the control of any one mortal man, no matter how idealistic he might be. Shutting the door, Floris sighed and accepted the seat he was offered, slumping weakly against the back of the chair. There was a slight cracking sound as something sharp, but ultimately harmless poked at the skin of Floris' back - ah, it was an egg, after all.

"Tell me, Wilhelm," Floris began weakly, clearly remorseful at his earlier outburst against his beloved but overly ambitious brother, "... tell me, how did all this begin? Vi-vi-vi? This 'Bevrijding Partij'?"

"Ah, yes, that's what the protestors have taken to calling themselves. Greater political consciousness and interest in their nation's direction among the masses is always a good thing, but I digress," Wilhelm explained patiently, though his gravelly tone betrayed his restrained emotion. "I myself did not hear about it until after the war with Bavaria - and I admit this is partly my fault, for I was in Amsterdam for much of that time, and could have dealt with it before things got out of control."

"So, what happened?" Floris, however, could not hide his anxiety and nervousness. Being grossly manhandled by a mob tends to shatter one's reservedness, somehow.

"It's a funny story, actually. I only heard about the scale of the matter from Marshal Schönebeck, here. One of our patricians, working as a tax collector in Antwerp, had tried to conduct a survey of a Flemish merchant's assets in Bruges, which lies outside our borders, in Castillian-held territory. It seems like he got into a little trouble with the authorities there, a few nasty stories were spread, and well ..."

HOL01150_zps4005ced3.png

I guess removing someone means removing their head, huh? That's some vindictive townsfolk.

"What's funny about it is that you wouldn't expect a tax collector to be the most popular person around, but this matter got blown to such a magnitude because that man was one of us, a Hollander, and he was tortured and executed by Castillians on charges of dubious authenticity, with all his property confiscated. Naturally, this riled up locals on both sides of the border, and Castille even had to issue a proclamation asserting the right of Castillian law in Flanders, as one of the 'core territories' of their kingdom. It didn't help."

"And why are the townspeople holding us responsible for this?" asked Floris, his brows furrowing as he considered the situation.

"Because it is our fault, as Sovereigns, for not resolving the situation earlier," Wilhelm admitted, though his voice bared not the slightest shred of remorse. "We could have demanded some sort of explanation from Castille, or asked for compensation ... indeed, I had received missives to this effect from Marshal Schönebeck and the Castillian Ambassador, Don Juan Abbalonia. But we did nothing, and now things have boiled over. Things are even worse in Flanders, with widespread looting, Castillians being attacked in the streets ... I've been told that the rioting in Bruges is so bad that they have had to send in the troops and forcibly conscript the Flemish to do menial labour, and this only makes the citizens on our side angrier."

HOL01190_zps34dc0ff6.png

It's got so bad they've even stolen the description for this event!

As if he had suddenly reached a conclusion of sorts, Floris looked up at Wilhelm, his change in posture causing Wilhelm to abruptly halt his explanation.

"... by any chance, did you happen to orchestrate this sequence of events?" Floris queried, raising one eyebrow as he glared at his brother.

"You can't be serious, Floris - and that in itself is certainly not like you at all," Wilhelm continued unflinchingly. "Do you think a mere man such as I could marshal the actions and affections of an entire city of people, let alone people in a foreign land whom I've never met?"

"Well, you did somehow manage to marshal the men to keep our armies reinforced, well enough to hold off the Swiss and eke out a narrow victory over the Bavarians."

"Oh, that." Wilhelm was nonplussed by the unexpected praise. "I had a little help with that."

HOL01160_zps0ddfba6c.png

Because, you know, all the guys and gals in Florida know that Holland is the best place to serf.
This event is one of the more nonsensical ones you can get. I don't even have any serfdom! It's a free country!

"So, you mean they saw the justness of our cause and decided to move to the mainland to enlist? Truly noble, indeed."

"You're kidding again. Of course we had to conscript them!" Wilhelm smirked, brutally deflating the little optimism Floris had. "Remember who we originally sent to those islands - those pansies, inspired by the pretender Albrect Jr., who tried to evade the draft in the first place! We hoped that spending a bit of time in the colonies would toughen them up, and it turned out that we were wrong. I hear that surviving on those islands wasn't exactly a difficult task, with the plentiful supplies we sent them - all they knew how to do was to build huts. The drill sergeants had to put them through their paces before we could even hope to send them to the frontlines."

"And I heard nothing of this from the men under my command ..." Floris sighed wistfully.

"That shows how well they were trained, if you know nothing of the kicking and screaming we had to endure back here in Holland. Trust me, Floris, it was a mess - one large enough to lead me to hope you'll forgive me for neglecting the domestic matters I spoke of earlier. As ever, all I do is in the service of my homeland, glorious Holland."

HOL01180_zps107a6b38.png

"There has been some benefit, though. The colonists have brought back some advanced hut-building techniques from Florida, which we believe we might be able to implement in our training camps across the country. Once we develop more efficient barracks, we should be able to maintain a large standing army and reserves to further our European ambitions ..."

"Our? You mean your ambitions, Wilhelm!" Floris interrupted, thumping his fist against the table, though the weak force he exerted made his action sound like it arose not from anger but desperation. "Has this country and its people not suffered enough? What madness has consumed you?"

"This is not madness, Floris. This is politics. If a country's leaders and its people are united behind one goal, together they may accomplish anything. This is why I believe it is right that the people be allowed to choose the direction of their country ... and the people have chosen war."

The vague memory of the protestors he had seen outside the sovereign's manor flashed in front of Floris' eyes. These well-heeled 'people' were not representatives of the population at large, let alone representatives of soldiers like him who risked their lives and fought and died on the battlefield.

"Returning to my administrative duties as Co-Sovereign and Acting Chancellor of Holland, I received a petition from a certain 'V V V' group calling for war with Castille for the preservation of our Flemish brethren in Flanders. I replied stating that I would give their demands serious consideration, but reminded them that the circumstances were not yet appropriate for war. That was almost a year ago, just after the conclusion of the war with Bavaria."

A year ago ... Floris pondered. That one year, to marshal the troops and lead them back to their homeland, had been a year lost to Wilhelm's madness. Floris shuddered to think of it, but he began to fear that his brother had grown swollen with pride and overconfidence, feeding on no sustenance but power, and the lives of innocents sacrificed to fuel his reckless schemes.

"As you can see, since then, the 'V V V' group has coalesced into a proper campaign, or should I say, a kind of party for government action. They now call themselves de Bevrijding Partij ... the 'Liberationist Party', and they want to see the liberation of oppressed peoples. One might even say, from their desire to see the the voice of every man heard, that they are literal democrats of a sort."

"And this is your plan? To marshal the citizens of Amsterdam behind ideals which formerly only you and you alone held?" Floris accused, his teeth chattering as he openly spoke against his brother.

"You still think I orchestrated this?" Wilhelm snapped as he glared his brother straight in the eye. "Why do you think I told you to meet me inside the manor? So you could see for yourself the tumult which this political-action party has brought to our country! And because I would not risk fighting my way through that mob in the daytime - I've experienced what you have experienced once before, and that was more than enough for me!"

Floris felt his resolve wilting away, as a sense of apology for doubting his brother began to grow in his heart once again. Wilhelm seemed to sense this, his expression softening slightly as he turned to retrieve a document which lay on the table near the notes of the ever-hardworking Joost Schönebeck.

"Besides, if I truly believed that all peoples of the world needed to be free of their bonds, would I do this?"

HOL01170_zps37f1761a.png

"You ... I do not even know where to begin, now." Floris sighed. For a moment he had believed his brother had good intentions all along, and that moment had now passed. Such was his despair, at having his chivalrous accomplishments hijacked to fuel his brother's plans, that his lungs felt as starved of air as his mind was of all other sentiments.

"I believe this is only a just reward, considering what we have sacrificed to protect them from Bavarian and Austrian aggression respectively. And they will aid us in serving the will of the people ... against Castille."

Exhausted, Floris rested his head on the table, his left hand gently stroking the bald spot at the top of his pate ... and at that moment remembering that he had lost his expensive-looking velvet cap to the angry mob. He wished he could just take his despair, his worries, his moral qualms ... and make them just go away. Having been a soldier all his life, the only way he knew was to unsheathe his sword once again.

"I leave it to you, brother. Simply give me the word. I am at your command."

"Calm yourself, Floris, for that time has not yet arrived. Perhaps soon, we shall receive a signal ... the French ambassador, Ross de Boeuf, will let me know the time to strike. And I know your heart aches at what we have done, and will have to do, so soothe your worries by understanding that all we do is for Holland's glory."

Indeed, Floris thought as he pressed his head to the heavy wooden table. All we do is in Holland's name. And, as her co-Sovereign, acting Chancellor, chief strategist, self-appointed representative of the people, and God knows what else, Wilhelm was Holland.
 
Last edited:

DensleyBlair

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A very nice update indeed - I liked the dialogue between the brothers. Very effective. Was VVV a nod to a certain sporting club? ;)

I'm looking forward to seeing where this arc goes very much.
 

aniuby

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Why are your armies represented by swordsmen and not pikemen?

It's the late medieval spritepack DLC - there's also one for Eastern tech nations. There are no game effects, but it's actually pretty neat as the crest on the swordsman's tunic/shield indicates his nation of origin. Plus the faceless pikeman dude was really creeping me out.

Very interesting so far with the pretenders, civil unrest and a Doctor appearing in the house.
Plus of course the mission/destiny/flipout

I'm glad you enjoyed reading. EU3 is basically a game about a long series of battles, one after the other, so why not add some characters and narrative to make it interesting?

Using the Ruler Designer is certainly a novel (and very good) idea, though, as you've highlighted, the stylistic differences may be rather restrictive. I'd be tempted to keep playing around with it to see if anything could be achieved.

I've been looking at the tools available and I don't seem to have got very far. The 'Better Portraits' mod, for example, just makes the portraits appear in more realistic combinations (no more ghastly swollen fat faces or eyes that are too high or too sunken). The key thing I'm looking for is more beards and more hairstyles - I do believe there's been a lot of petitioning on the CKII main and modding board to that effect. And I'd also like some obviously smiling mouths, because the Dark Ages couldn't have been all that grim, right?

I also got the remaining portrait DLC over the weekend thanks to the sale on GamersGate, so I can now play around with Aztec/Russian/Mediterranean portraits, but somehow I can't force the game to take a screenshot with F11 in the 'character creation mode' (when trying to visualise the character). This is quite a nuisance as actually loading the game won't let you pick the hat/clothes/background you want, and the portrait sets after Muslim don't work in the current version of the portrait builder without coding all the new permutations into its files. But I also felt a little bad using the 'manly' Russian female faces to try and create a certain blonde, long-haired, clean-shaven but most probably male character.

One word: Bébé ;)

I see your one word and raise you two - Massimo Taibi.

Was VVV a nod to a certain sporting club? ;)

Nothing gets past you. You should probably be a goalkeeper start the Championship Manager AAR I was talking about =P Actually it's a coincidence - there just happen to be an awful lot of words that start with V in Dutch.



Updates will come a little slower now - one or two a week at best. I've got a little work to do (ack!), and I've also been distracted by all the new games I've bought over GamersGate's Ides of March Sale, most importantly Vicky II and addons as well as the rest of the CKII DLC I was missing.

Now I understand a little more about what those AAR writers on the V2 board are going through - it's a little harder to survive as a secondary power than I thought. Tried Argentina as a first game, retook cores, ate the southern provinces of Chile, later annexed Uruguay and Haiti, because everyone else was protected or too poor, and puppeted most of the other south American states besides Brazil (France's SoI). I didn't want to run off and attack uncivs due to not having a navy and being really far away from them.

Now I can't really expand anywhere else, and none of the GPs want to ally with/sphere me. My low population also hampers industrialisation as I still only have one NF and there just aren't enough workers to staff factories, so after a good start - was GP for a while - my ranking can only go down. I thought about writing a AAR about my noob playthrough (Christina y Jorge y Las Malvinas =P) but it's mostly just waiting for technological advancements and trying valiantly to juggle the budget, nothing exciting at all.

Back to EU3 - My pace is also slowing down as I'm running out of material to write about as plot leads for the future. I should probably say that my game is currently just past 1500 (I last played in mid-February), and I haven't continued since then due to being at a particularly important stopping point which would also significantly affect the direction of this AAR. Since both go hand-in-hand I thought I'd ask the readers on what they'd like to see when the time comes - if I just wanted to do things my own way I needn't have written a AAR about it. Either way, I'm dreading the outcome of the decision I'm going to have to make.
 

aniuby

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Interlude the Second : The Promised, Unforgotten
Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466...

To :
Private Office of the Sovereign
Amsterdam, County of Holland

From :
Office of the Viceroy
Nieuw-Amsterdam, Alberta
The Promised Land

January 1495

Dear my most glorious sovereign Lord Floris/Wilhelm/whoever might currently be in charge at the moment, sincerest apologies if I don't yet know your name!

Warmest greetings from the Promised Land, and from the humble office of your representative to its people - of course, I speak of myself, the meek and ordinary Jan Sluis, who was and remains to this day honoured by the office you have bestowed upon me.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would addres my meagre correspondence to the office of the Chancellor by virtue of his responsibility for all foreign matters. However, I felt that the present matter which I am about to discuss is of such vital importance, if you'll pardon my impudence for presuming such, that I thought it most appropriate to write direct to the office of his Excellency the Sovereign of Holland.

I also wish to respond to the request by Lord Wilhelm to provide a summary of the developments in Holland's authority during my tenure in office as the Sovereign's representative in the Promised Land. Enclosed herewith are my humble and unworthy opinions on this matter according to the instructions of my illustrious Sovereign(s), and I shall also bear close to my mind his most esteemed instructions to ... tone down the toadying and brown-nosing so that I may actually sound intelligible? Please forgive me, my lord! Anyway, without further hesitation, I hereby present my humble meagre brief report.

The Domains of Holland in the Promised Land

External Relations and Military Affairs

For the past quarter-century, the total expanse of Holland's domains in the Promised Land has remained unchanged. The capital of our dominion is the trade city of Nieuw-Amsterdam in the province of Alberta, formerly known as Vihar City and Vihar respectively, from which we administer the 14 counties into which the dominion has been subdivided. Our authority also encompasses three tributary states ruled by Christianised elites who are compliant to our will - Deccan, who controls the subcontinent's central plateau, Gujarat, who rules over wealthy port cities on the western coast, and Delhi, who administers the populous uplands and guards the northern flank against hostile infiltration. Finally, we also maintain an alliance with Gondwana, a small but strategically-located native kingdom bordering Deccan which owes us its freedom and has come to respect our civilising ideals.

The coat of arms of the domain of Holland in the Promised Land, as decided by the first Viceroy, is similar to the coat of arms of the county of Holland - in other words, or a lion rampant gules armed and langued azure, but additionally contained within a double tressure fleury-counter-fleury gules. Supposedly, the floral borders represent the verdant plantlife or savage and untamed wilderness of the Promised Land. It's true there are some concerns that the design the first Viceroy chose appears superficially identical to the coat of arms of a certain European nation, of which he was originally a native, but we hope that the clear reference to the coat of arms of our own nation should ensure that this isn't too much of a problem. We don't see Ulmers and Ferrarans tearing at each others' throats now, do we?

HOLnSCO2_zpsfb0eba34.png

Left, the coat of arms of Holland. Right, the coat of arms of a nation clearly derived from the arms of Holland

In the Promised Land, we maintain a single division of Hollander troops to enforce our authority throughout our and our vassal states' domains, with the possibility of reinforcing our numbers from our barracks in Alberta should the need arise. This small army has proven to be surprisingly effective in combat against enemies such as hostile native kingdoms or rebellious elements, and has established itself as a force to be feared - indeed, hostile activity by enemy kingdoms or potential rebels has markedly reduced over the course of my tenure as viceroy, and we have seen no immediate need for an increase in the size of this force. Should they ever be activated, Holland's dominion in the Promised Land along with her vassal states and allies can muster over four divisions' worth of men, more than enough to defeat any single native kingdom many times over.

It is never wise to be complacent, but I must admit that at the present there are no significant threats to our authority in the Promised Land. The greatest factor leading me to this conclusion would be the remarkable ability of potentially hostile native kingdoms, untouched by our civilising embrace, to turn on each other in the face of a stronger and more united force. Take for example the Kingdom of Bisnagar, once the mightiest nation whose domains stretched across the subcontinent, from the southern cape to the foreboding northern mountain ranges. After our hard-won but spectacular success in the War of Bisnagari Containment (in which I've been told his illustrious excellency Sovereign Floris played a leading role), Bisnagar fractured into multiple infighting kingdoms, which consume and cannibalise each other even as they rail against us for destroying the most successful native kingdom for centuries. The beginning of the end for Bisnagar came when two minor kingdoms, Ahmednagar and Thiruvithamcoor, declared their independence and proclaimed themselves successor states of Bisnagar, rallying troops to their cause to enforce their demands against their former liege lord.

HOL00890_zps23180739.png

Having lost control over the remnants of its once expansive empire, including the outlying islands of Ceylon and the Maldivian archipelago, Bisnagar suffered the greatest ignominy when it found itself annexed by Ahmednagar, over which it had once proclaimed its authority. With the largest independent native kingdoms in the Promised Land being the newly-established native kingdoms of Ahmednagar and Thiruvithamcoor, along with the western state of Rajasthan, it is fair to say that none of these kingdoms alone are able to muster the same might of which the once-mighty Kingdom of Bisnagar was capable. As these kingdoms refuse to follow the wise path chosen by Gondwana of embracing our authority, we of Holland are therefore content to hold back and watch them wallow in fratricide and infighting.

We must still maintain our guard, however, as the weakness of the native kingdoms has come to the attention of foreign powers in Europe and the rest of the known world. In particular, we have been alarmed by a series of proclamations issued by the Order of Teutonic Knights, which found their way to our offices in Nieuw-Amsterdam, calling for a war against the native kingdoms in the name of Christianity. While we would no doubt see the Christianisation of these backward and very much savage peoples as beneficial to both us and them, our office is greatly irked by the possibility of other European nations intruding into Holland's area of interest, and urge either taking steps in Europe to 'discourage' such interference, or otherwise taking the intiative in the Promised Land to subjugate these peoples before rival powers in Europe do so.

HOL01200_zps1df3fc1d.png

Ooh, that stings. No more Vijayanagarablobistan!

Domestic Affairs and the Economy

The domains of Holland in the Promised Land are populated by an eclectic assortment of natives who collectively view themselves as Gangetic peoples, from the name of the river Ganges which flows through our domains and is responsible for the fertility of its soils and the irrigation of much of its agriculture. At the same time, they are divided by minor differences in their language and cultural practices, much as we of Holland feel apart from our Flemish and German brothers. The majority of people in our domains are of the Bengali culture, who inhabit the densely populated Ganges river delta. The other major groups are the Vihari, who are concentrated upriver of the Ganges and dominate our viceroyal capital of Nieuw-Amsterdam, and the Odia, who occupy the hinterlands along the eastern coast of the subcontinent.

The great majority of these natives subscribe to the Hindu religion, a polytheistic faith with no central religious authority very much unlike the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches of Europe. As part of our policy of freedom and tolerance, we have allowed the natives to continue the practice of their traditional faiths, although we have mandated that all who wish to work in our administration and civil service must embrace Christianity, with certain exceptions which I shall describe later. This requirement extends to the native elites who administer our tributary states, although unlike us, some of these lords have attempted to convert the native population to Christianity with varying degrees of success.

Economically, Holland's dominion in the Promised Land is wealthy and prosperous, although not yet truly self-sufficient from the viewpoint of foreign administrators such as ourselves. The major products of our farmers and labourers are Spices, Cotton, Tea, and Naval Supplies, all of which I'm confident your lordships have observed enriching the markets of Amsterdam. The native population has proven to be mostly compliant with our policy of cultuurstelsel, or, the payment of taxes through goods rather than money, and we have aimed to maintain the goodwill and productivity of the natives by constructing infrastructure such as docks and marketplaces for their use. We have had some problems with pirates raiding our shipments from the many inlets in the Bay of Bengal in the recent past, but the deployment of several cannon-armed patrol ships from Europe has helped consign this problem to history.

Over time, the native population in the Promised Land has gradually grown to accept our rule, if not for its legitimacy, then for its competence in contrast to that of the native kingdoms which used to dominate the region. Hollanders now intermingle with Bengalis, Viharis, and Odia more easily than ever. It is true that they haven't actually abandoned their native faith or language, but they have adopted many of our practices - indeed, the growing similarities between 'us' and 'them' has made it seem that we Hollanders are assimilating into the Promised Land, rather than the other way around.

For example, they call us (or, to be more accurate, me, but I have always reminded them that I am but a servant of your excellencies) the 'White Rajahs', people of a vastly different culture and background, who have somehow slipped seamlessly into the space once occupied by their former native overlords. To an extent, they have even observed and imitated many of our customs to make us feel more welcome in their land. Allow me to relate to you a tale of the people of Indravati, who once invited myself and my staff to a reception. I was surprised to find that they had created home-brewed alcoholic beverages to make us feel at home, despite their Hindu faith's disdain for alcoholism in general. To make this beverage more palatable and acceptable to their clergy, they weakened the alcohol and added locally-grown spices to boost its flavour, creating a most marvellous concoction in which we Europeans found a particular charm. Should you find yourself in the markets of Amsterdam, do have a taste of what is now exported as 'Indravati Pale Ale', or 'IPA' for short.

This is not, however, an assertion that our operations in the Promised Land are completely devoid of problems. Take, for example ...

HOL01210_zps3689a423.png

There are certain occasions where more unruly elements of the native population get a little uppity and begin to harbour and spread resentment against our rule. These subversive elements have at some time or another denounced us as oppressors, enslavers, usurpers or heathens. It is truly unclear as to what their intentions really are - in our view we believe we have established a social contract of sorts, where we provide them with civilised, effective, just, and tolerant rule, in exchange for a minor levy for the costs of maintaining such a rule. If anything, it is likely that these elements are merely powerhungry demagogues seeking to exploit racial, religious, and cultural differences for their own gain. The result of these threats to the efficiency of our administration are occasional lapses in procedure when they successfully infiltrate our bureaucracy, for which I must admit responsibility, though the blame lies entirely with these troublemakers who seek to undo our authority.

HOL01220_zps9309a9f8.png

The wide expanse of our dominions in the Promised Land have contributed to difficulties in policing, which make uprising and rebellions along nationalistic, cultural, or religious lines much easier to organise than they could possibly be in the tightly-knit community of the Low Counties. In particular, leaders of the Bengali community have made use of their numbers and cultural dominance of our territories in the Promised Land to pressure for greater recognition and autonomy. It pains me to relate that at times, these campaigns have spiralled out of control into mindless disruption and open violence, necessitating prompt military action and the local imposition of martial law.

HOL01230_zps275d0706.png

The Promise of the Future

It therefore falls to me, as the second Viceroy of Holland in the Promised Land, to predict what exactly the future may hold for our endeavours in this foreign land. As I've already elaborated, we have had our fair share of ups and downs in this civilising mission we conduct so as to fulfill the prophecy spoken of in the holy book of Holland, but let not the setbacks we have experienced detract from the fact that our ascent is inexorable, irrefutable, and irresistible.

Key among our concerns was the portrayal of the legitimacy of our rule, due to our undeniable status as foreign conquerors of a sort - even benevolent ones. Cases where local elites have publicly and overwhelmingly proclaimed the acceptance of our rule, as happened in the former Vihar City, are few and far between. It therefore cheered us greatly to hear of a certain practice, common amongst the natives of the Promised Land, of accepting their 'conquerors' as rightful and legitmate rulers should they be able to hold on to their conquests for a certain period of time. This process of acclamation, similar to that practiced by pan-European organisations such as the Geneva Convention, is known to the natives as the 'Doctrine of Lapse', whereupon if a ruler is displaced from his 'rightful' fief and fails to regain his territory for a period of time roughly equal to fifty years, his 'right' to the territory is considered to have lapsed, and the present owner of the territory proclaimed its new rightful ruler.

By the terms of the Doctrine of Lapse, the first territory we acquired in the Promised Land, the region of Indravati, was proclaimed to be a rightful fief of Holland in the year of our Lord 1490.

HOL01240_zps321b8630.png

The effects of the public acceptance of our rule were immediate. Not only did local subversive elements cease agitating against our authority, or perhaps they were no longer able to find support for their devious ambitions, but the natives began willingly contributing taxes in currency in addition to their usual payment in kind, including a sizable yearly tithe. These contributions were considered to be of enough value that we arranged for the establishment of a constabulary to organise and assist the collection of these new taxes.

Within several years, many other provinces similarly swore their fealty to Holland as their new rightful rulers. As representatives of Holland in a foreign land, our hearts fill with pride to see these peoples finally embrace us as one of their own. Truly, this is the culmination of our mission to bring civilisation to the people of this blessed and holy country. It is perhaps with the benefit of hindsight that I likewise rue our decision to delegate authority over other states in the Promised Land to local vassal lords, for if we had not done so their people would be today holding us in similar regard.

HOL01250_zpsbf934666.png

It is in such a mood that I embarked on a mission to consult with the leaders of the Bengali community, whom I have mentioned are the largest single community of native peoples in Holland's dominion in the Promised Land. Our discussions were fruitful, and we were able to come to agreement on a pact which would see the Bengali peoples accorded the same rights as Hollanders in the Promised Land, including the right to enlist in the armed forces and participate in the civil service. In exchange, the Bengali community promised to no longer agitate against Hollander rule and to support us in all economic and military endeavours, including the paying of taxes equivalent to those required of native Hollanders, and supporting any future endeavours to unite the Bengali people under our benevolent rule.

At this very moment, I am certain that your excellencies, in Amsterdam, are seeing the bountiful effects of our policy of tolerance and inter-cultural exchange, with immigrants and talents from the Promised Land interacting and sharing with the people of Holland, just as we have extended the bounties of civilisation to them. So I pray, may this glorious and fruitful co-operation long continue, for the good of both our peoples. Nay, for the good of us all, as one united people.

HOL01260_zpse5295d0f.png

It is at this point which I wish to turn to more personal matters. I apologise if I may have betrayed your trust or even the trust of my countrymen in my homeland, but I felt that it was my duty as the Viceroy of Holland in the Promised Land to share the prophecy spoken of in our holy book with the leaders of the Bengali community. Several of their elders who had managed to grasp our language examined its words carefully, then conferred with the scribes and archivists of their community, before revealing what came to me as a startling discovery.

A similar prophecy has been spoken of among the people of the Promised Land.

When a single nation, whether from the north, south, east, or west of the Promised Land, manages to become the rightful ruler of a certain portion of the subcontinent, they may proclaim themselves 'Maharajah' or 'Shahanshah' - in our tongue, the King of Kings, to whom all peoples of the Promised Land must swear their allegiance. The Kingdom of Bisnagar, through its previous expansionist policy, must have been attempting to fulfil this very same prophecy. I have spoken of the cultural assimilation between Hollander and native of the Promised Land, but it now occurs to me that the similarities run deeper than I thought. Perhaps, by fulfilling the prophecy spoken of in our holy book, we have been inadvertently tracing our lineage back to our roots, as descendants of the peoples of the Promised Land!

This revelation excited me, and I asked the elders for more information on our ability to fulfil the prophecy. A wizened old soothsayer asked me for information about the territories we occupied, and the dates which we conquered them, and the year, according to our calendar. After making a few calculations, the soothsayer proclaimed to me, eyes wide open and fingers trembling in trepidation ... "1 5 2 2! 1 5 2 2!"

That fateful day is still over two decades into the future, and I am truly sorry that I might not live to see that day. Even if I did, I would be old and feeble then - and no longer in the position of Viceroy of Holland in the Promised Land. For I am also writing to announce that I wish to resign from the position of Viceroy. My reasons are twofold, and deeply personal, the first being that I feel that the responsibilities of my position are becoming an obstacle to my desire to be one with the people of the Promised Land, whom I have served for so long. The second reason is that I wish to spend more time with my family - my wife, a native Bengali, and my teenage son Berthold, a boy of mixed race whom I wish to see finding acceptance among people of both cultures. He has no interest in pursuing a career similar to his father - he dreams of one day being a chef, specialising in the native cuisine, or maybe a ballet dancer ... or is it belly-dancer?

It is thus that, despite all the good news and tales of accomplishments which I bring, that I must end this letter on a heavy heart. I have done my duty to my nation, to my rightful Sovereign(s), and to the peoples placed under my charge. It is therefore my final wish that a new viceroy be appointed, such that I may be permitted to retire peacefully and return to my new home - indeed, now my only home - on the banks of the Ganges. Never fear though, should you have need to hear of my obsequious and sycophantic tone once again, you are perfectly welcome to visit my abode whereupon I shall once again regale you with unending praise of your excellence!

For the last time, yours.

Jan Sluis
Viceroy of Holland in the Promised Land



Scribbled under the letter, in shaky cursive handwriting.

'A pity. A man as eager to please as him is hard to find. Use caution. Next time we may not be so lucky.

- Wil.'
 
Last edited:

DensleyBlair

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As Xenophon says, a nice update - interesting to see some more detailed info about the Promised Land.

(As an aside, I always loved the description of the Scottish CoA - something about the double tressure fleury counter-fleury :))

Really nice, as ever. Looking forward to more.