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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

aniuby

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Chapter 9 A : Flowering Nights - Painting Flanders Scarlet
Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466

"It is war! WAR!"

Amsterdam, a chilly January morning in 1484. Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, co-Sovereign of Holland, was startled out of deep concentration by a loud cry, the jolt to his senses causing him to accidentally snap the quill he was holding between his thumb and forefinger, sending ink all over his hand and the page of the military ledger upon which it rested. His prior state of lethargy during work hours had been most uncharacteristic of his usually meticulous self, but it could be explained the odd hours he had been keeping to avoid being accosted by the Bevrijding Partij protestors. The night before, he had avoided returning to the Sovereign's manor to retire to bed, instead choosing to let sleep find him on the featherdown couch which he had in his office in the town hall.

Wilhelm gathered his thoughts, attempting to recollect the owner of that voice and why that person would be allowed within the securely-guarded corridors of the town hall's interior, when the source of that cry flung open the unlocked door and barrelled into the room.

"Ambassador de Boeuf? What is the meaning of this?"

Bent over and panting heavily from his exertions, the russet-haired French ambassador placed his hands over his thighs to steady himself, before shortly after looking up to address Wilhelm.

"I know I gave you permission to contact me directly with great urgency if you had any news of further developments on the matter of Flanders, but this does not permit you to barge through the corridors of Holland's administration yelling your head off! What could be so urgent?"

"War, lord Wilhelm! The bastards in Castille have declared war!"

"Have they, really? Not against Holland, surely, for I would have heard of it from more immediate sources than yourself. Or were they foolish enough to attack France?"

"No, sir," Ross said, still clearly agitated, "They're at war with Portugal. I'm certain that even as we speak, the Portuguese homelands are being completely overrun by Castillian troops."

"Oh? If you're saying that this sounds like an excellent opportunity to strike at Castille, I concur wholeheartedly. But what exactly has got you so worked up about it?"

Wilhelm recalled that mere miles from the Flemish borders lay the Portuguese-controlled port city of Calais, which France dearly desired to claim for itself, but had never got around to doing so on account of their most recent domestic troubles. France had similar claims to Flanders for some time in the recent past, but those claims had evaporated as a result of their rejection by the Flemish-speaking denizens who found little kinship with the French.

"Switzerland and Brittany have joined Castille in their war, and Portugal is being aided by their personal union partners Savoy ... and their ally, Scotland. I've just received news that a whole brigade of Scottish infantrymen have disembarked in Flanders and are laying siege to the fortifications at Bruges and Ypres."

Wilhelm nodded as he considered the situation. Should Holland and France go to war with Castille at this moment, whether for their own claims or to save Portugal from Castillian oppression, Holland would not be able to get its hands on the prize of Flanders. The Scottish expeditionary force would be the first to take advantage of any breach in the Flemish fortifications, and if Holland and France did indeed decisively defeat Castille and turn the war in Portugal's favour, Scotland could demand Flanders for itself, necessitating a new war with a different opponent. And, of course, there was the annoying fact that Scottish and Castillian troops tended to wear nearly-identical colours when in the field...

"I see the difficulty ... and the only thing I can advise at this point is patience, Ambassador. Let's wait for the situation to unfold fully before acting. Perhaps we should discuss our preparations for war rather than hastily jumping into the fray. Do take a seat."

Wilhelm indicated the featherdown couch at the corner of the room, despite knowing full well that it still reeked of his sweat after having spent the last night asleep there in his work clothes, and Ross de Boeuf accepted the offer graciously thanks to his ignorance of that fact.

"Tell me, Ambassador ... are you absolutely certain that the regency council ruling France will accept our call to arms against Castille? Are France's internal difficulties over?"

"It has been difficult over these past couple of years," Ross de Boeuf admitted, wiping the sweat from his brow, "but we have you to thank for helping us keep our country in one piece. I know your brother, Sovereign Floris, had some objections, but we are truly grateful for your willingness to allow Holland's recruits to conduct 'exercises in maintaining public order' on our territory."

"I'd never have thought anyone could possibly be grateful for our assistance in the killing of their own countrymen." Wilhelm shrugged as he stated the facts of the matter. "I can't believe that old crank Maréchal Jean Villeneuve actually consented to such a meaasure."

"Don't look at it that way, sir. Those people are heretics, separatists, and traitors, all of them. They are rebels against king and country, and a patriot like General Villeneuve would have agreed that they deserved little better than being permitted to water France's bountiful earth with their blood."

"Would have? Has he returned to the Lord, then?" Wilhelm's heart skipped a beat as, in that time, he felt the final cog in his machinations click into place. Once the aged General was out of the way, France would once again be his tool, his sledgehammer, with which he would stamp the mark of Holland's greatness into the annals of history.

"Alas, that is so, Lord Wilhelm," affirmed Ambassador de Boeuf. "General Villeneuve died of old age, barely days after finally consenting to the installation of our new king. The other privy councillors had been trying to convince him over this matter for the past year, and it seemed that his heart gave out just days after his resistance did."

"Is that so, Ambassador? I have heard nothing of the controversy surrounding the installation of King Louis XIII's successor," Wilhelm said, his words only half truthful. He knew there had been significant upheaval taking place regarding the search for the successor to a king who had been slain scarce years after his twentieth birthday, but he needed to have more detailed information. Specifically, whether the new king was of the same mould as his predecessor - amenable, earnest, and bearing a certain disdain for tradition which suited Wilhelm's purposes.

"Lord Wilhelm, in truth it's a private matter for the lords of France to decide, but I'll tell you what I know. Our late king was unmarried, but he was known to have ... cavorted, shall we say ... with members of the fairer sex, and the majority of the councillors opted to support the claim of the oldest of the younglings that were sired from these affairs. General Villeneuve was strictly opposed, saying that the young age of the new king would leave him open to manipulation by 'outside forces', and campaigned to elect a new king from among the French nobility. In the end, he was overruled, and the council raised a boy of nine years known to be descended from the late king to the throne, as King Louis XIV de Valois of France. Already, the lad has got a nickname of his own, 'The Sun King' - le Roi-Soleil!"

FRALou14_zpsa78c541a.png

Aw, who's a cute little tyrant of Europe then? Yes, you is!

"Ah, 'The Sun King'? So I should expect the child has a bright future ahead of him?"

"Well ... not exactly ..." Ross de Boeuf stammered as he nervously related the truth. "They called him that because he likes to sit around in the sun all day, and ... that's really all he does. The servants have to wipe the drool off his face every now and then, take him to the privy or change his undergarments if they didn't get there in time, and take him in and put him to bed when it gets dark. I'm not really sure why the council of France chose him as king but I'm sure they have some inspired reason or another. Well, I hope, at least."

"Disappointing. I'm sorry to hear of this - perhaps General Villeneuve was right," Wilhelm scowled, though behind his knitted brows his brain was determining how to work the situation to Holland's advantage, "but all is well as long as this means that France will now be able to go to war. On our part, we are almost ready - our barracks are teeming with citizens who have enlisted in droves, rallying behind the 'V V V' movement calling for war, and our regiments are fully staffed. All that matters is awaiting the perfect opportunity to strike."

"Truly, you are wise, sir," marvelled Ambassador de Boeuf, not out of sycophantic devotion, but rather out of amazement at how Wilhelm seemed to have everything planned out beforehand. "Then let us discuss the plans for war. With the power invested in me as representative of the French king in Holland, I will relay your instructions to our generals upon your command."

Wilhelm indicated the map he kept pinned near his workdesk, now spotted with markers indicating planned army movements. As he described his strategy to the French Ambassador, he tried his best to quash that niggling thought at the back of his mind ... his brother Floris would never approve of all of this warmongering and militarism. And that was precisely why Floris had left the planning to his twin brother and reconciled himself with honing the art of the blade alongside his fellow soldiers at the barracks on the outskirts of Amsterdam. If nothing else, it was an excellent method of concealing his pacifist sentiments from the savage crowd, baying for the blood of Castillians to flow through the cities of Flanders.

"Very well."

Battle Plan : The Hollander War of Reconquest of Flanders, started July 1484

HOL01270_zps0d6b9c77.png

My third battle map, now with the units indicated by lozenges. Please leave your comments and suggestions!
I prefer the neon highlights myself, as the lozenges block out all of the map behind them and are just too large for my liking.
The text is smaller, but I hope the army sizes are clearer now that they have a solid background also showing their owner's colours.
In case it's not clear, the ghosted arrows/units represent planned future manoeuvres by Hollander forces.
Also note that Castille also controls Tangiers, Apulia, Janina and Larissa, because they're idiots, and they have also wiped out Portugal...

A fateful summer's day in July, in the year of our Lord 1484. Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, Co-Sovereign of Holland, rested his back on the cushion of a chair in the guest room, which faced a window overlooking the garden and walls of the Sovereign's manor. If the correspondence the guardhouse had received just last week was to be believed, he was to expect the arrival of a certain special guest that very day. He hoped that its words were true ... he had instructed the guards and servants in the house to make the appropriate preparations to suitably welcome this most important guest.

Wilhelm glanced impatiently at the window, the brilliant light of the summer sun shining through fully illuminating the walls of the lounge. He cast his eyes across the crystal glass panes of the windows - over there, one panel was clearly different from the others, having been replaced in the last few months after being shattered by a stone hurled by one of the protestors who had gathered outside the manor. Another panel had an obvious chink in it after a similar but less successful attempt by a different member of the public - Wilhelm did not consider it worth the expense to pay for a replacement for this minor flaw. In any case, today was a quiet day at the manor, in spite of the excellent weather for being outdoors. The demonstration, led by members of the Bevrijding Partij, had decided to take their protest to a different part of the city for the week, perhaps seeking a change of scenery.

Wilhelm gritted his teeth, his brow furrowed as he considered the events that had led up to this fateful moment.

Floris had called him 'mad'. His own twin brother, whom he loved more than anyone else in the world, but whose heart was filled with such distrust and misgivings towards his noble intentions. Ever since that exchange, they had barely shared more than a few words the times they had met, with Floris preferring to sequester himself in the barracks and spend all of his time training the troops, leaving all matters of state to be handled by Holland's bureaucrats - and Wilhelm himself. It was as if his poor brother was consumed with the primal fear of the unknown and had decided to confine himself to the few customs, traditions, and practices he knew he could trust. If only he knew, Wilhelm thought, if only Floris knew of this real fear - the fear shared by himself, the protestors, and ordinary townsfolk alike, the fear that Holland's star would dim forever in the face of such blatant and unrestrained oppression by those who considered the nation little more than another stain on the map. There, there was true madness!

Again, these disturbing thoughts continued to plague his mind. Perhaps it was the work of the devil, turning brother against brother by inciting mutual suspicion between them. As if seeking some sort of charm or holy symbol, Wilhelm reached for one of the letters he had received that day - this one, a memorandum from his Court Chaplain. Strange that the man hadn't chosen to approach him directly over this matter. What was his name again? Jean ... Jean something. Knox? Nocks?

A knock on the door, the dull thud of a gauntleted fist striking polished wood, shook Wilhelm from his thoughts. Leaping up with a start, Wilhelm threw down the letter and headed for the door.

"My lord ... the Ambassador has arrived."

HOL01300_zpsff726614.png

Wilhelm opened the door, and after exchanging a quick, knowing glance with the guardsman who stood there, he headed out into the corridor to the anteroom to meet his guest. Escorted by the faithful and compliant old advsior Joost Schönebeck, this man was a powerfully-built figure of Wilhelm's height or perhaps taller, his imposing appearance perhaps accentuated by the heavy brown hooded cloak he wore to conceal his appearance from members of the public who would too easily guess his identity. As the hood fell to the man's shoulders, Wilhelm ventured to break the silence, with words he had been waiting for the longest time to say.

"Don Juan Abbalonia of Castille, I presume. Welcome to the manor of the Sovereign of Holland."

The man was known for his gentle and reserved nature, perhaps one of the more dignified individuals who had the honour of serving as an ambassador in Amsterdam, but the harrowed expression the Moorish ambassador now wore spoke volumes of the calamities he only recently had to endure.

"Lord Wilhelm, I thank you for your kind hospitality for putting up with me in these dark times, and I beg you to right the injustice which has befallen myself and my fellow Castillians," spoke Don Juan in a voice that was deep, yet resounding. "At this very moment my embassy is under siege by hordes of these ravening protestors, and the town guard warn that they may not be able to hold them off for much longer. The threat to our security has grown to the point where I have instructed my staff to destroy all confidential documents and prepare to flee the embassy office. Truly, I am frightened even of returning to my own residence, for fear that more of these troublemakers may be awaiting me there. No diplomatic mission in a civilised country should ever have to bear this sort of indignity!"

"I am truly sorry to hear of this, my friend, and rest assured that the security detail we have assigned is doing our best to protect your associates and deliver them to safety," replied Wilhelm, before raising a hand to indicate the door of a room located a short distance down the corridor. "We have prepared a guest suite in the Sovereign's manor where you may reside for the time being, and conduct your duties as ambassador to Holland. My domestic staff will ensure that your needs will be provided for on my expense, and your security will be assured by the same troops who guard my person."

Wilhelm knew well the shift in the public mood which had led to the flight of the Castillian ambassador to the steps of the Sovereign's manor in Amsterdam. It followed the arrival of a full division of Castille's finest troops in Flanders, led by the King of Castille himself. The King's troops outnumbered and routed the invading Scots, with the defeat of their elite expeditionary force compelling Scotland to agree to a truce.

Reports of atrocities which had ostensibly occurred, such as Castillian soldiers forcing Flemish citizens to serve as human shields in their bloody confrontation against Scottish troops, and the relentless and indiscrimate purge of traitorous local elements which followed the defeat of that force, had filled the pages of Holland's journals and periodicals. And it just so happened that the articles detailing these supposed atrocities was shortly after accompanied by the publication of the address of the Castillian embassy in Amsterdam, as provided by a 'helpful' member of the public. These events were sufficient to account for the much quieter days the staff at the Sovereign's manor now enjoyed.

"Once again, I thank you for having taken these steps to ensure my safety," said Don Juan, as Wilhelm escorted him to the ground-floor suite, whose heavy wooden door was flanked by two guards in metal armour, "but I implore you not to forget that there is still more to be done. Measures must be taken to ensure that Castillian citizens in Holland are no longer subject to attacks by this 'Liberationist' political movement."

"Indeed, I am taking such measures, at this very moment," said Wilhelm, smiling wryly as he drew open the door of the guest suite and ushering the ambassador in. "But I trust you will find all you need for a comfortable and pleasant stay within."

The room was lavishly furnished, with a plush double bed, and furniture made of exotic hardwood imported from traders in the Mediterranean. Bright patterns on the exotic rugs of Ottoman craft laid on the floor, as the July sun shone in through the clear but thick panes of the crystal glass windows, with curtains made of finest Antwerp linen and dyed a deep red. Although it had to be admitted - since it was only a ground-floor suite, the view was not especially spectacular, overlooking nothing more interesting than the corner of the guardhouse and trunk of a wild cherry tree.

"I ... I am awestruck, sir. Please pardon me for repeating myself, but I cannot thank you enough," said Don Juan, givng a small bow as Wilhelm stood in the doorway of the room. "If there is anything I could do to repay you for your kindness, please, tell me, and I shall do it forthwith."

"There is something you can do, Don Juan," replied Wilhelm as he reached within his coat and drew out a small hand-written memorandum, which he handed, still folded, to the Castillian ambassador. "Read this, and write a message informing your superiors of the change in the situation. When you are done, simply knock on the door, and a member of my staff will ensure that your communication is delivered forthwith. That is all. Have a pleasant day."

Don Juan received the letter, but Wilhelm turned to leave before he could reply. Stepping out into the corridor, the Co-Sovereign of Holland exchanged a few short words with the guards outside, and Don Juan could swear he could see the corners of Wilhelm's lips twist into a cruel smirk of sorts. Could he have been mistaken? Fatigued, Don Juan fumbled with the letter with one hand as he rubbed his forehead with the other, only to be startled by the slam of the door being yanked shut before him ... and the metallic clink of a key turning in its lock.

Alone in the now eerily silent room, Don Juan let out an audible gasp as he realised, all too late, that he had foolishly and willingly walked into a trap. Having experienced the shock of this understanding, his response to the contents of the memorandum Wilhelm had handed him was now much more muted.

"A state of war now exists between the nation of Holland, and her allies, and the nation of Castille and her allies. As a citizen of an enemy nation, you have been placed under house arrest for your own safety and in the interests of national security..."

Crumpling the letter in his hand without reading the rest of it, Don Juan felt an immense surge of emotion welling up within him. Letting out a primal roar of rage and anguish, the former soldier now flung himself against the door of his room with all the strength of his heritage.

HOL01280_zpsd1a6b418.png

The troops numbers are misleading - many of the soldiers from landlocked countries will never see any action. And France's stability problems never end...
Also note how Switzerland dishonoured Castille's call to arms. And Brittany accepted, for some reason, despite having absolutely 0 troops.

A thundering crash echoed throughout the main hallway of the Sovereign's manor, followed by the heavy thuds of something pounding, repeatedly, against a firm and unrelenting wooden surface.

"Will he be all right, sire?" asked the elderly Marshal of the Mint Joost Schönebeck, as he followed his lord towards the main door of the manor.

"He'll be fine. He is a sensible man - he'll get over it eventually, once he understands that these precautions are for his own good," replied Wilhelm nonchalantly, as the pair stepped outdoors into the light of the summer sun. As if on command, the French Ambassador was already there, exchanging pleasantries with the guardsmen. "Now send word with all haste to my brother in Antwerp - proceed with the plan as instructed. The Castillian troops now pillaging Flanders and Calais will be wholly unprepared for the retribution that is about to befall them."

"Yes, my lord!"

As Marshal Schönebeck darted for the gatehouse with surprising alacrity despite his advanced age, Wilhelm continued at a more leisurely pace, knitting his brows and gently chewing at his lip as he considered the words he would share with Ambassador Ross de Boeuf regarding the culminating moment of their great plan.

"For too long, far too long, have we waited for this moment. The ungodly tyranny Castille has imposed over the free men of the Low Counties shall now come to an end. The streets of Flanders shall run scarlet with the blood of the oppressor, and Hollander and Flemish alike shall savour its sweetness and bathe in its warmth. All, for Holland's glory."

HOL01290_zps81e60d05.png

First blood.


To be continued in the next part, Chapter 9 B : Flowering Nights - A Soul Red as a Bloodied Poppy (1484-1487)
 
Last edited:

aniuby

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It's far too quiet around here ...

Part of me wants to write more quickly so I can reach the 'stopping point' that I talked about earlier and get it over with. The other part thinks that I really should be doing more sensible real-life things. And that other part of me is still playing V2, at least until HoD is released, since I can't buy it unless it's on sale.

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

I'm a bit of a fan of heraldry myself after I was introduced to it by a somewhat nutty yet oddly charming egghead at university. Vexillology, too, but the terminology is slightly different, and to avoid misunderstanding it's best to learn them one at a time. What I like about heraldry is that it's sort of like a language - once you've memorised most of the meanings you'll be able to describe all sorts of coats of arms with relative ease, and understand those descriptions which you may come across in your reading. I hope you do know the meaning of the description of the Scottish coat of arms?

Nice job of giving an overview of your empire withing a narrative frame.

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

Thanks for your support! I thought I should give the Promised Land a mention, as even though it's the main objective of this AAR the truth is that there's actually very little going on there, and I'm essentially waiting for the game to give me the conditions I need to jump ship from Europe and in the meantime do my best to carve them out for myself. There won't be any more updates on the situation there until I've reached the point at which I've paused my game.
 

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As someone who's broadly in the same boat as you (writing a EU3 AAR, addicted to V2, having a busy schedule that could detract from my own AAR), I'd say that if you need to work on real life issues, you might as well. It's obvious advice, probably, but I don't think anyone will (seriously) complain if you pause things to get your affairs in order. Whether or not you should push to your stopping point I can't really say, but I'm sure you can make the right decision for your situation.

I also noticed that your Touhou references are getting more prominent. If it gets one of my Touhou loving friends to read this AAR, then they have succeeded in at least one way.
 

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Really enjoying this, especially your writing which is highly entertaining. The detailed description of Franco-Dutch politics was excellent.
 

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Really nice update. That map was fine - Illmkeave it to you to decide which sty,e you prefer, though.

I can see some really interesting updates ahead - something to which I am looking forward immensely.

(And yes, I do understand the meaning of the Scottish CoA description ;))
 

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Chapter 9 B : Flowering Nights -
A Soul, Red as a Bloodied Poppy (1484-1487)

Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466

Take up the quarrel with Castille:
To Holland, Flemish hearts appeal.
Our flag is yours to raise up high,
But break not faith with we who die
For blood runs deep, though poppies grow
In Flanders' fields.

- translated from 'In Vlaanderens Velden' by Jan van Cree, 1483

HOL01290_zps81e60d05.png

Shameless repost. Also, note how this is the first time in this campaign the AI has sent me war subsidies, and I don't even need it.
I earn more than them! Why didn't they send me war subsidies earlier when I was still a poor and Irish smelly unfortunate?

The soft yet piercing squeak of a firm edge etching varnished wood filled the room. With this stroke a new notch was carved, the latest in such a series extending from the day of his captivity.

When he gave it a little more thought, Don Juan Abbalonia of Castille didn't know why exactly he had chosen to resume this particular habit. He had picked it up in his younger soldiering days when his regiment was captured in the sands of the Maghreb - one of the few reasons why he was able to survive the infamously merciless Berber raiders being his Moorish heritage. In any case he didn't need to know the date, for it was there to see on the official correspondence he received from his home country, as well as on the pamphlets, journals, and bulletins the staff of the Sovereign's mansion provided him with on a regular basis.

He wasn't especially paranoid about the possibility that Wilhelm von Hohenzollern had instructed the staff to modify the dates on these letters or issue them to him at irregular intervals to keep him confused, but as a precaution he had checked them with his personal tally and things seemed to add up. No, he wasn't paranoid at all, despite finally comprehending the depths of Wilhelm's underhanded and deceitful nature. In fact, Don Juan felt himself to be a little too trusting for his own good. No, definitely not paranoid in the slightest.

With one swift stroke - an unlawful imprisonment of a foreign ambassador followed immediately by a wholly unprovoked declaration of war, Wilhelm had undone more than five decades of work which Castille had invested into improving relations with its fellow maritime explorer nation, Holland. Don Juan had read in the bulletins about how the King of Castille, Juan III de Trastimara, was caught by surprise and outflanked in the fields near Calais, as Hollander forces swept through Flanders and Hainaut in a two-pronged attack. Unsurprisingly, his entire force was routed, though King Juan managed to escape the encirclement on horseback with a few of his most trusted generals. Castille's garrison at Flanders, however, fell within the month - it was said that traitors in Bruges and Ypres had simply opened the gates to allow Hollander forces to engage in a bloody, but all too brief battle with the few remaining Castillians.

There was also the matter of the complicity of Hainaut ... the bastards. Don Juan was aware of the historical rivalry between the counties of Holland and Hainaut but never could have imagined that they would have co-operated against Castille. It was true that King Juan, as the Defender of the true Catholic Faith, had petitioned the Pope to excommunicate the previous Sovereign, Odo Jagiellon, on the basis that he was delving into heretical practices and/or Eastern Orthodoxy, so it was not unimaginable that Odo's son would have taken a little offence to the deed, but Castille was only doing the right thing for the good of all men's salvation. It also had nothing to do with the possibility of extending Castillian influence over the Low Counties, as after all Hainaut was considered to be under the protection of France, a fearsome rival and deadly threat. One which was at this very moment marching their armies across the Pyrenees into Navarre. And the armies of Hainaut marched with them.

HOL01310_zps205e0c02.png

From what he knew of Castille's military preparations, information now only located deep within his brain after the records back at the embassy were destroyed, Don Juan knew that Castille, for all its strengths, could not stand up to the sheer weight of numbers. Even the Armada, Castille's pride and its only chance of inflicting defeat upon Holland, would be helpless to stop Hollander troops marching across France to reach the Iberian peninsula, and in any case the flotilla would be destroyed if they were engaged by the squadrons of both Holland and France at once. His homeland could only rely on one last unwavering defence to slow the progress of the enemy alliance and allow the defenders to reorganise their forces - the inhospitable and arid climate of the deserts and mountain ranges all Castillians called home.

Not much could be said about the one country who had been brave, or foolish enough to join Castille in its defence of freedom and its rightful claims to Flanders. Don Juan, for all his aptitude as an ambassador and a former military man, could not see any conceivable reason why Brittany would agree to join the war against Holland. For starters, the woefully mismanaged nation had no armed forces to speak of, and its only neighbour was the terrifying behemoth of France who harboured designs on their territory. Perhaps they were just tired of independence and having to decide their own nation's direction for themselves. Needless to say, Brittany was quickly overrun by a massive French army, joined later by several regiments from Holland. Perhaps Wilhelm von Hohenzollern himself led those regiments, for Brittany was soon forced to capitulate - not to its giant neighbour France, but to crafty Holland.

HOL01320_zps90731d18.png

I know France wants their stuff, but Brittany is simply one of the best nations to have as a vassal.
Along with other favourites like Naples, Brandenburg, Scotland, and Norway. The opportunity's too good to miss!

Don Juan Abbalonia reached for a quill and paper, which had been conveniently located in the room for his use and were constantly replenished by staff upon his request. William von Hohenzollern had not been lying when he said that the staff of the Sovereign's manor would provide for him according to his wishes, ranging from simple niceties like bathing water and clean sheets to luxuries like the occasional meal request. However, Wilhelm was clearly of a sort which did not believe freedom was a human need. It was this sole fact which prevented Don Juan from growing all too accustomed to his captivity, having spent over six months living as comfortably as an animal raised and fattened for the slaughter.

The schedule of the guards standing outside his door was a further circumstance which ingrained itself in Don Juan's memory. From the clank of armour, shuffle of feet, and exchange of voices outside his door, Don Juan knew the times at which the guards changed their shifts, and he slowly began to recognise some of them by their voices alone, though he only saw their faces when the door was opened to provide him with his daily needs. There were at least four guardsmen outside his door at each time, and there were more standing at the entrance to the Sovereign's manor, while the remainder lived and slept in the guardhouse from which they conducted their patrols.

Although the guardsmen were armoured, they were not armed - an unusual practice, but it was probably a precaution to avoid a proper weapon falling into their captive's hands. Don Juan though about escape, but he knew that given his prior experiences in Amsterdam that this was probably a reckless endeavour. But at night, he did dream, of flight to his homeland, where he would take up his broadsword once again to fight alongside his countrymen, and drive it through the centre of Wilhelm's black heart.

A man of over forty years has more sensible things to do than to give serious thought to these impossible and irresponsible fancies. Instead, he had to rely on more realistic means of spreading word of his plight and possibly securing external support for his release. With this vague concept floating in his mind, Don Juan put the tip of the ink-bloated quill to the paper, and began to write.

...

'To his excellency, Prince-Ambassador Bruno Pavel-Lev of Bohemia,

Hearty greetings from a good friend and drinking companion. I write concerning the ongoing international tournament between Real Madrid, Ajax Amsterdam, Paris Saint-Germain, and FC Nantes. In the interests of patriotic sentiment, I would like to ask you what you might know about assisting a Castillian player trapped in a contract with an Amsterdam club ...'

HOL01340_zpscafaa865.png

I wish I lived in more enlightened times. And yes, that's Hainaut, not France, who has occupied that bunch of territory.

The Comet of 1486
An existentialist play in one part by Ulrich Niedermayer Orwin

Cast
Hollander Soldier A, dressed in an officer's uniform with cap
Hollander Soldier B, wearing a sergeant's uniform and carrying an arquebus
Hollander Soldier C, wearing a private's uniform
Hollander Soldier D, shirtless and wearing cloth trousers without boots
Castillian Soldier, shirtless and wearing military trousers

The curtain is raised to reveal all characters already on stage, arranged in centre stage in the following sequence - Soldier A to the upstage, stage right, with his head facing and right hand pointing towards the sky on stage right. Soldier B to the upstage, stage left, facing the audience, holding the arquebus pointing toward stage left to his chest with both hands, his left foot resting on the back of Castillian Soldier, who is lying chest down on stage facing stage left. Soldier C to the downstage, stage right, sitting cross-legged and propping up his head with both hands, facing stage right, sitting back-to-back with Soldier D to the downstage, stage left, kneeling, with buttocks resting on heels, and facing stage left. Characters do not change their position/facing when speaking unless indicated.

The stage is dimly lit. Suddenly, a bright flash illuminates the stage, before the background lighting is raised to normal brightness.


Soldier A : What was that in the sky?
Soldier B : It's probably just a bird.
Soldier A : It flew in a plane - an inclined plane.
Soldier C : Something bad is going to happen in the near future.
Soldier D : It's a comet.

Soldier A : It's an omen! But what does it mean?
Soldier C : The end is nigh. Doom is upon us.
Soldier B : You are misguided. It is clearly a sign of our impending victory.
Soldier C : Impossible. In the annals of history a comet has always signalled the end of times.
Soldier D : And how could we possibly know that that was truly the case?

Soldier C : You know it to be true. A comet always represents despair, death, and defeat.
Soldier B : And indeed, it represents despair, death, and defeat ... for Castille!
Soldier D : We should consult an external opinion to confirm our hypothesis.
Soldier B : Hey, Castillian prisoner. Did you see the comet?
(Soldier B presses foot firmly on Castillian soldier's back)

Castillian : I saw nothing.
Soldier A : His eyes were shut.
Soldier B : You lying dog.
Soldier C : Only we are cursed.
Soldier D : We cannot know.

Castillian : I speak truly. My eyes were open. I know what I saw, and I saw no comet.
Soldier C : He is right. Holland alone is cursed by this comet.
Soldier B : Do not fall for the enemy's deceptions.
Soldier C : When will you see that the end times are upon us?
Soldier D : Perhaps we should just stop looking at the sky.
Soldier B : He only seeks to turn brother against brother.
Soldier C : You dwell in conceit and denial.
Soldier D : I wish I lived in more enlightened times.

Soldier A : I think I will just ignore you peasant rabble.

The other three soldiers angle their head to look at Soldier A, who maintains his position.
The curtain falls, and sounds of a scuffle are heard. Finally, a crash of cymbals, then silence.


Finis.

HOL01350_zps9bf6e2d0.png

There is literally nothing else to demand from them.

Two familiar men, arrayed across the table in a familiar room, while a familiar faithful servant waited patiently at a corner of the room keeping minutes of the meeting.

"We had a deal, Ambassador."

"We did indeed, Lord Wilhelm. But I am but an ambassador - it is not I who decides the comings and goings of the French army. At least you may say that we did our best to assist you in your endeavours - Flanders is in Hollander hands, and the armies and fleets of Castille have been swept aside like dust in the wind."

"And yet the siege of the Castillian homeland is not yet complete. One last unmoving, unflinching, yet terrifyingly murderous enemy still remains - the Iberian climate."

"You have what you want, sir; or at least, it and more are now there for the taking, and the presence or absence of French troops should not matter. Castille were only too happy to accept our offer of a separate peace - the emptying of their treasury and the release of their territory in Apulia as a rump Sovereignty of Naples. As the case may be, there are many factors as to why the lords of France thought that it was a good time to pull out of the war."

"Elaborate."

Wilhelm von Hohenzollern sat upright at the war room table, resting an unshaven cheek against his fist while staring intently at Ambassador Ross de Boeuf. His posture displayed his dissatisfaction with the matter at hand - though more in the snese of considering it a bother than something driving him to true anger, while his lack of attention to personal grooming betrayed the long nights he had spent juggling Holland's numerous military and administrative priorities - and bemoaning his inability to control so much more with the ruthless efficiency they deserved.

"You see, certain parochial elements in the French court are taking exception to your decision to invite Hainaut to the war as well as enforce vassalage upon Brittany - as you are no doubt well aware, the Kingdom of France reserves to right to intervene in all matters regarding both those countries. In addition, King Louis XIV has recalled all armies to the capital for a planned reorganisation of the military - the maintenance costs are bankrupting our country, not to mention the subsidies that we generously provided to fund your war effort, and as you might expect taxpayers are not terribly happy being asked to fund a foreign war."

"Domestic factors, I see. Very well, it is no matter. It would not bode well for some hostile power to attempt to manipulate the French monarchy for their own ends." Wilhelm shut his eyes for a moment as he spoke, perhaps in an attempt to stifle the irony that was creeping into his words.

"I trust that Holland and France still remain fast friends, Lord Wilhelm? Our two-way alliance pact still stands - should one nation be involved in a war, whether defensive or offensive, the other nation is obliged to answer if called. A re-confirmation of this pact would be the best way of reassuring the French court that we should have each others' interests at heart."

"You have my word, Ambassador Ross de Boeuf of France. As long as the alliance pact remains in force, Holland shall ..."

At this moment, the doors to the war room were flung open with incredible force, each door slamming into the wall to which it was attached with a crash that seemed to shake the building itself.

"Wilhelm! What in the name of all that is holy have you done!" Yet another familiar voice rang out in a terrible cry, breaking the calm of the ongoing conversation.

"Good afternoon, Floris," Wilhelm replied, not even turning to glance at the doorway, for he could tell who it was from the voice alone. "If you don't mind, I am conducting some diplomatic negotiations here."

"Negotiations? What kind of negotiator violates diplomatic immunity by unlawfully and unrighteously arresting a representative of a foreign country?" Floris roared with uncharacteristic assertiveness, the affront to his chivalric ideals giving him the strength to voice his opinion with such force. "I have here a letter from the Bohemian Ambassador, Prince Bruno, deploring the awful state in which you have wrongfully imprisoned Don Juan Abbalonia of Castille. Are you trying to cause an international crisis?"

"It was for his own protection. Perhaps the hostile mood has died down somewhat after our recent victories, but the crowd were absolutely bloodthirsty those three years ago, as you might remember. Besides, I don't think the good Ambassador can deny that he came to me seeking protection of his own volition, and I have honoured my promise to provide for his needs and allow him to continue his duties from the relative safety of the manor."

"Nevertheless, it is still wrong!" snapped Floris, thumping a fist against the jambs of the door, not having budged from his position in the doorway. "I demand his immediate release!"

"You're demanding?" Wihelm finally turned to face his twin brother, his eyes curved into a baleful squint. "Well! You're the Sovereign of Holland, Floris. You are free to order his release. Of course, that means that his safety and well-being will be your responsibility."

"Very well! I shall have him released immediately," growled Floris as he stepped back into the corridor, but turned to aim one last barb at his beloved brother before leaving. "But be warned, Wilhelm! Your ruthless and self-serving nature will be your downfall."

"Your inflexibility and stubborn embrace of tired concepts of tradition and chivalry will be yours."

Wilhelm could only mutter quietly to himself over the noisy tromp of Floris' boots resounding through the corridor as he stormed down the hallway. With nothing more to add to what had already been discussed, Wilhelm pushed back his chair, rose to his feet, and extended a hand to advise Ambassador Ross de Boeuf to do the same. The meeting was over.

An age of modernity was dawning over a bygone era of crusaders and kings. Many were called, but few were chosen, and Wilhelm knew that Holland was one of them. It was her promise - her destiny.

More to come! To be continued in the next part ... Chapter 9 C : Flowering Nights - Apparitions of Grandeur (1487-1490)
 
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I didn't know McCrae was plagiarising! I'm shocked!

I was going to hold out on commenting until the update was finished, but I thought I might as well give my 1.67 Rupees.

That existentialist play was quite something - I was left thinking on its messages for the next 24 hours. The war was also well played. Good job on (I'm assuming) getting Vlaanderen back in Dutch hands. And always nice to see a football analogy thrown in fōr good measure.

Looking forward to the update's completion.
 

aniuby

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First, I'd like to apologise to my readers - it seems that that 'a day or two' eventually turned out to be 'almost one week' in my time. I think InvisibleSandwich has got it right on the head; real life stuff, Vicky 2, and good old-fashioned writer's block kept me from finishing what I promised to do, but now it's done.

Since this is a narrative and vaguely entertaining-style AAR rather than gameplay alone, I need to think of something interesting to say or an interesting way of saying it before I continue and it just took me a bit longer than I'd expected. At least now that Heart of Darkness has been released, I can put down V2 (since I won't buy HoD until it goes on sale), unless there's someone who would want to read a new AHD AAR at this time.

Comments time! Thank you very much for your support, folks. I still have about 15 more years of gameplay until the point where I've currently paused - if I update more frequently, will you guys keep coming back? =)

I also noticed that your Touhou references are getting more prominent. If it gets one of my Touhou loving friends to read this AAR, then they have succeeded in at least one way.

I'm afraid that if Touhou references are all that gets someone people to read this then I've failed quite terribly as a author. Each chapter is 'themed', and it just so happens that this one is Touhou-themed (or rather Embodiment of Scarlet Devil-themed) due to the title being particularly appropriate for describing my situation in the game. I won't give away too much because I obviously haven't finished writing the rest of it yet but basically I don't want to be throwing in random references - I'd like there to be some meaning.

If you'd like proof for this, to show that I didn't just cook that explanation up on the spot, the title of the previous chapter was 'Tijd voor Avontuur', or Adventure Time in Dutch, and the sub-titles of the chapter parts all had something to do with 'time'. It was a way of describing how I went on (military) adventures around Europe, as well as explaining my frustration with having to restart after the game crash and how things ended up differently the second time.

Ah war for an essential part of the Low Countries. And stabbing the Castillians in the back whilst they were already engaged...excellent.

Uniting the Netherlands by force ... yup. There's a couple of older Holland AARs around that basically involve a lucky Claims on our Rivals that results in a united Netherlands within a couple of decades. Actually going out and conquering stuff and being something more than a 2PM (so Friesland and Utrecht aren't your 'rivals') is actually hard mode, believe it or not.

And yes, it was totally a backstab. We had 150+ relations and a two-way military access agreement a couple months before I declared war.

Really enjoying this, especially your writing which is highly entertaining. The detailed description of Franco-Dutch politics was excellent.

Thank you very much for your compliments. My aim is to make the events depicted in the game a little more exciting and flavourful through the use of narrative, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

In fact, you're the first mod, and member of the older generation of AAR writers who's posted in my thread - I hope you'll keep following!

the war diagrams are a-okay

Really nice update. That map was fine - Illmkeave it to you to decide which sty,e you prefer, though.

All right. I don't really like the lozenges but since I've not received any negative comments about them I guess I must be the only weird one who feels that way. It does help that they're quite standardised and easily duplicated so I can place large numbers of them if needed.

I have this nagging dislike for the lozenges, partly due to not playing Hearts of Iron, and also because they give me nightmares about those old-style tactics board games, like those by Avalon Hill. They were hell to set up, and it was even worse trying to comprehend their rules, never mind actually toss aside a day or two to play the damn thing.

Also, were you drunk when typing that, DensleyBlair? =P

That was a much better read than Waiting for Godot. I love the deep symbolism about our futile search for meaning in an uncaring and random universe. :)

I read Waiting for Godot and didn't understand the slightest bit of it until someone told me it was supposed to be about existentialism. I think it's absolutely essential for playwrights to sort of telegraph what ideas they're aiming for in the title, like Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which I found a lot easier to understand.

I'm just pointing out how bizarre it is that only one nation sees a comet at a time in EU3. Halley's Comet, as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry, was seen and interpreted by both sides during the Norman Conquest. Perhaps the only explanation is that neither the comet, nor the nations exist. They're all entirely fictitious, despite being a historical simulation game. Now you know why the people who make these games are called 'Paradox'.

I didn't know McCrae was plagiarising! I'm shocked!

I was going to hold out on commenting until the update was finished, but I thought I might as well give my 1.67 Rupees.

That existentialist play was quite something - I was left thinking on its messages for the next 24 hours. The war was also well played. Good job on (I'm assuming) getting Vlaanderen back in Dutch hands. And always nice to see a football analogy thrown in fōr good measure.

Looking forward to the update's completion.

Those Canadians are crafty sorts, aren't they? (j/k)

I hope you enjoyed the last part of the dialogue, and I aim to have a new part up in the near future!
 
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A very nice end to the update - it was worth the wait, definately. I'd come back even if you updated once a month - this is one of my favourite AARs out there. Being more frequent is always nice, but I understand being busy quite a bit, so I know how that's easier said than done.

Actually, I'm 14, so no. I just do all my forum-ing on my iPad. =P
 

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Chapter 9 C : Flowering Nights -
Apparitions of Grandeur (1487-1491)

Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466...

"Friends, Hollanders, Countrymen, lend me your cheers! I come to bury Castille, not to graze them!"

As the crowd around him broke into applause, the hooded man glanced away from the makeshift stage erected in the middle of Amsterdam's market square to address his companion, speaking in a tone dripping with sarcasm. Seated on a stone bench a comfortable distance from the crowd of townsfolk gathered in the Amsterdam arena, the pair appeared as relatively innocuous observers of the public speech, given by the Co-Sovereign of Holland regarding the happy occasion of the triumphant reclamation of Flanders from Castillian hands. Although they could catch but fleeting glimpses of the speaker through the shifting bodies of the crowd, they could hear his booming voice loud and clear over the bustle of the busy marketplace.

"I do not believe that Wilhelm would utter anything so impossibly banal. You know as well as I do, friend, that his words are chosen to flatter and soothe, to lull his audience into a false sense of security and blind them to the fact that they are but pawns in his vile and malicious machinations."

"I know, sir. I was speaking in jest. Or as much jest as has accumulated within me over three years of mockingly comfortable imprisonment."

The hooded man's companion, his head adorned with a soft but elegant merchant's cap, twirled his moustache as he eked out the vaguest hint of a smile. In contrast with his companion's luxuriant facial hair, the hooded man had shaved that day, though this was difficult to tell due to the mat of stubble which had emerged since the morning.

"Be silent ... he speaks again."

"Along with our Flemish brethren, we have also liberated the cruelly enslaved peoples of Galicia and the Byzantine Greeks of Epirus and Thessalia from the yoke of Castille, and generously extended to them Holland's protection. And they have accepted! Welcome the newest members of our alliance of nations, sworn to defend the humble and the meek of Europe from those who would oppress them!"


Seriously, though, I hate the concept of 'releasing' the Byzantine Empire. The country tag ought to be modified -
If Byzantium ceases to exist, all of its cores should be transferred to a new nation called Greece.

"In exchange, we have sworn an oath of loyalty, promising to guarantee their territorial integrity and the unflinching assistance of Holland and her allies in the event of attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures. I urge all men of Holland to stand beside our new brothers in arms in the eternal defence of free peoples. It is too unfortunate that the Andalusians of Granada, having been coerced into submission by Castille, have thoughtlessly rejected our generous offer, choosing instead to pursue a doomed path of suppression and tyranny."

"I shall pass on details of this ludicrous slander in my next correspondence to Madrid," sighed the hooded man, as the crowds erupted into jeers and catcalls. "Andalusia is a true and rightful part of Castille, much more so than these ... these puppet governments, corrupt underlings plied with bribes and hoodwinked by false promises, are members of some sort of alliance of free nations."

"Huh!" scoffed the hooded man's companion. "These are but the least of Wilhelm's atrocities."

"These victories ... these victories for liberty, my friends. These victories, against a foreign oppressor who sought to enslave our brethren, have been brought about by none other than you. Yes, all of you, the people of Amsterdam ... the people of Holland, fighters, and champions, for the liberation of subjugated and downtrodden peoples. Without your assistance, your contributions ... your brave sword-arms, your selfless dedication to the war effort, these victories for liberty would never have come to pass! For freedom, for liberation, and for Holland! Voorwaarts, de Bevrijding Partij!"

"For lies and deceit," scowled the man in the hat, oblivious to the raucous cheers of the crowd, "for democracy, demagoguery, and unrestrained ambition."

"You are a sensible man, sir," said the dark-skinned man in the hood. "Is there nothing you can do to stop this madness? Even if you cannot persuade him of the error of his ways, there is no reason why you should remain a party to his schemes."

"It is not as easy as that," his companion sighed, "for I am no plotter. It seems I was born not to give instructions but to receive them. If it was not for my military commission, I would have gone insane long ago. And, I swear to God above, the faint hope that I may see him someday redeemed is the one thing that still keeps me upon this earth."

"Thank you, everyone. I would now like to take the opportunity to share with you, my fellow countrymen, the letters of congratulations and appreciation which my office has received from our friends and associates across Europe. I'd like to begin with a certain country, which many of you may remember as a former rival of ours. Indeed, those of advanced age may once have lived under their yoke, in those dark days when Holland was once a subjugated nation."

As Wilhelm unfurled the first of a stack of letters, several names were called out from the midst of the gathered townsfolk. Bourgogne! Österreich!

"No, no, it's not Burgundy, they still hate us. I speak, of course, of Hainaut. As you may know, the first ruler of an independent Holland, Jan van Henegouwen, was a native of that country, and not one of his council ever let him live it down. It therefore brings me great happiness today to share with all of you the news that Hainaut has not only consented to join our alliance of free nations, but they have also agreed to unreservedly acknowledge Holland as the senior partner and leader of that alliance. Let our enmity be at an end, my brothers, and let this joyous occasion usher in a new age of friendship and co-operation!"


In darker green, the 'alliance of free 10k stacks states' under the leadership of Holland.
Europa Universalis III - the game where enslaving others makes the world like you more.
Truly, we are the champions of the minor nations of Europe, much like China and Third World.

"And another one, gone. May God have mercy on their souls," intoned the man in the hat.

"It is not solely our friends who have congratulated us for our achievements. Many outside our alliance partners and immediate neighbours have written to us seeking to join or even simply be associated with our glorious triumph for the freedom of nations. Now, hold your cheers, for the list of these nations may go on for quite some time."

The corners of Wilhelm's mouth curved upwards in a smile as he unfolded the next letter, though it was hard to tell whether it was one of joy or mockery.

"During the recent war with Castille, I received a correspondence from the Sovereign of Milan, seeking to join our noble alliance ... indeed, to swear over his entire country to Holland's rule and enrol himself as one of our family of free nations! Now, you may think this sounds a little too good to be true, and indeed it was, for his country was being wholly occupied by the neighbouring nation of Savoy at the time."


Story being, Savoy was formerly a junior PU partner of Portugal, but the union broke due to Portugal getting trashed by Castille.
They immediately invaded their neighbour, OPM Milan, whose ruler conveniently went MIA shortly after. A very opportunistic ship-jump if there was one.

"Now, now, don't laugh. The brutal annexation of a fellow minor nation is no laughing matter. Conveniently for the former Sovereign of Milan, a second Italian nation approached us later asking if we, in our capacity as champions and defenders of the small nations of Europe, could appoint a suitable sovereign for Modena after their most recent leader returned to the Lord without a heir. As such, we nominated the former Sovereign of Milan, and he took up the post with the blessings of both Holland and Modena."


"Another triumph for Hollander diplomacy. Truly, as recognition for our good works in liberating God's chosen from their oppressors, even the Lord has smiled upon Holland. The Archbishop of Bremen has written to the Pope, detailing our exemplary conduct as good Christians, and we hope this will be but a prelude to an excellent and fruitful relationship with our fellow minor nations in the future."


Not shown - the fact that they originally hated our guts in the first place, as is the case for all HRE nations with no strategic value. For Catholic!

"A last letter here, from our fellow trading nation of Aachen. The Syndic of Aachen, states in no uncertain terms that he ..."

Wilhelm's face suddenly flushed a deep red as his lips twisted into a horrified grimace. He brought his other hand to his chest as he seemed to stagger on his feet, the collection of letters and scrolls he held falling to the stone floor of the marketplace. His teeth still gritted, he let out a weak cough, audible as the crowd suddenly fell quiet upon observing the distinct change in their co-Sovereign's temperament. Steadying himself, Wilhelm carefully held the letter open with both hands, and continued to read out its contents.

"The Syndic of Aachen states in no uncertain terms that he condemns the tyrannical and oppressive actions of Holland and her allies in engaging in unprovoked hostilities against friendly neighbours and subjugating weak and helpless nations across Europe to unwilling vassalage and slavery. The Syndic of Aachen has written to the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, as twin defenders of the spiritual and secular, to demand that Holland be sanctioned for her crimes against ..."

"Damn that syndic!"

A stunned silence followed the thud of a half-eaten apple, hurled over the heads of the crowd and leaving a wet mark where it first struck the stone floor of the market square, a short distance away from Wilhelm's feet.

"Now, don't be hasty ..."

Wilhelm's words were cut short as a second piece of soft fruit flew past him, missing his head by less than an arm's length. Then another, then an egg, then a piece of pottery. Terror was written all over Wilhelm's face, his leadership and charisma seeming to melt away as his bodyguards roughly dragged him out of the line of fire and into the relative safety of the throng of onlookers, as the buzz of the crowd rose into a seething murmur, and then an anguished and angered roar.

"Kill him! Lynch him! Aachen will burn for this insult!"

A multitude of voices yelled out all manner of insults and threats, hurling a hail of projectiles aimed at some distant figure who had in that short moment been transformed into the greatest enemy of the nation of Holland.

"My lord, get out of here! This can only get uglier," cried the hooded man as he hastily rose to his feet, pulling his companion with him.

"I know! I must speak with Wilhelm - this rabble-rousing cannot be permitted to continue! Keep safe, Don Juan, I want you to still live when the sun next rises."

Firmly clasping their respective pieces of headgear to the top of their skulls, both men fled the scene in different directions, no longer desiring to observe the subsequent actions of the mob ... or their consequences.


Ah, my favourite casus belli. If someone touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that's no good - and you have the right to beat them up for it.

It was the first of June, 1491. Floris VI von Hohenzollern, 54-year old co-Sovereign of Holland, ascended the steps in Amsterdam's town hall to the private upper floor of the building, where important members of government had their personal offices. Floris didn't have an office - or at least he didn't have one in the town hall. These days he conducted all of his business from the officers' staff room in the barracks, only occasionally visiting the Sovereign's manor if he was needed to entertain a visiting dignitary. Today, he had some especially private business to conduct, which could only be done in one particular office in the town hall.

Hatless and clad in a simple leather jerkin and cloth trousers, Floris gently chewed on his lip as he stepped forward unthinkingly, his mind entirely focused on the task which lay ahead of him. In his left hand, he held two letters. One of them was dated from 1488, and written by Bruno Pavel Levski, Prince-Ambassador from Bohemia. It thanked him for his just and noble action several years ago in freeing a fellow ambassador and dear friend from a wrongful imprisonment, and promised that a good word would be put in on his behalf in the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, King Viktorin van Henegouwen of Bohemia.

The second letter, dated a little more recently, originated from the Bishop of Liège, a vassal state of Holland, and indicated that a 'favour' had been done for Floris in a way more disastrous than he had ever thought possible. Indeed, it may have been the culmination of the affairs detailed in both these letters which brought Floris to the town hall today to settle a special type of business. Clasping both letters to his chest, Floris reached for his back with his right hand, and felt for the dull hardness of a last letter of a different sort - one encased in a thin but tough leather envelope, from which it could be silently drawn and delivered.

"I pray ... I pray to the Lord above to save his soul - and may He forgive me for what I may have to do! Father and mother, in heaven above ... forgive me!"

Whispering his final prayer, Floris took a deep breath, and carefully eased open the door of Wilhelm's office. Stepping into the room, he quietly shut the door behind him.

"Good afternoon, Floris. I've been expecting you."

Wilhelm spoke those words without turning from his desk. He was poring over the latest financial statements - the crude hand-drawn sketches of a map on those papers indicated that the matters concerned developments in the Promised Land. Occasionally, he would seize the quill resting at the side of his desk to scratch a few notes on the paper, in a seamless process of assessing and approving each document, while simultaneously keeping up the semblance of holding a conversation with his brother.

The whiskers had grown long on the lower part of Wilhelm's face. Floris had heard from Marshal of the Mint, Joost Schönebeck, of how his brother never really bothered to shave any more, except when he needed to attend a formal occasion or make a public appearance - in any case, the only reason why both brothers paid so much attention to their facial hair was to ensure that they could be told apart from each other, a matter which would be of rather little concern by the end of this very day. Indeed, personal hygiene was no longer one of Wilhelm's priorities, his perfectionist, manipulative nature driving him to dedicate more and more of his time to administering as much of Holland's affairs as his body could handle.

Several crumpled blankets lay draped over the couch, beside which stood a table bearing a plate with a half-eaten roll of stale bread and dehydrated slices of meat. On a chair behind them lay stacks of clothes, a mismatched jumble of the formal and the casual, of inner and outerwear, in various stages of cleanliness. Above this horrible, unkempt mess, there hung the stench of sweat and the reek of damp. This terrible, undignified sight etched itself into Floris' memory, its significance heightened by his knowledge that it could well be the last sight he would ever see.

"Wilhelm, we need to talk," Floris began, his unease audible in his quivering voice. "I know it has been almost two years, but ..."

"Regarding the matter of Aachen?" said Wilhelm, in a tone which casually dismissed Floris' concerns. "I did what the people asked. We live to serve the will of the people. There is nothing more to discuss."

"I ... I know. That is not the issue, here." lied Floris. He would have wished to dispute with his brother over every last megalomaniacal action he had taken since that accursed war against Austria, but now was not the time to do so. Floris had already sworn to himself that those issues would only ever be discussed again with God as his witness. Or, if it was to be so, the devil. "In truth, I want to speak about Hainaut."

"What about them? The Court Chaplain told me that it was the word of God Himself that we take them under our wing."

"You know that ... that they are an elector nation of the Holy Roman Empire. And, by making them a vassal of Holland, they are constitutionally obliged to support us in an election for the Imperial throne."

"I am aware of that."

"I have also heard from the Askaniers of Saxony that you have signed a pact of alliance with them. No doubt you are planning on 'inviting' them into your supposed 'association of free states' as well?"

"No."

"No?" The answer was unexpected, but sadly insufficient to shake Floris' resolve.


I need to be able to lose the Emperorship, as you cannot leave the Empire or become a republic if you are Emperor.
Being in a good position to dismantle the Empire would be an additional plus.

"Saxony will not become a vassal state of Holland, as long as either Saxony or Holland is opposed to the plan. And, as much as they have tried to persuade me otherwise, I have informed them that I am indeed opposed to their vassalisation. It would be an inconvenience to my strategy."

"And you have heard ... about the matter of Austria in the Empire?" inquired Floris, picking out the second of the two letters he held. "I have a letter of correspondence here from the Bishop of Liège."

"Let me have it. I'm aware of the petitions which have been brought against the 'Archduke' of Austria over his unlawfully held title of 'elector' of the Holy Roman Empire, which they stole from the Rhineland Palatinate. Supposedly, it is tradition that only one 'King' may serve as an Imperial elector - and that King is the present Emperor, the King of Bohemia."

Wilhelm raised a hand over his shoulder to receive the letter as he spoke, without extending to his brother the courtesy of looking him in the eye. With nary a grumble, Floris took a step forward, placed the letter in Wilhelm's hand, then returned to his position in front of the door of Wilhelm's office. Wilhelm unfolded the letter to read it, but his eyes had not glanced past the mid-point of the text when Floris ventured to speak again.

"Well, Wilhelm..." began Floris, his voiced tinged with irony, "I guess I must congratulate you. Your plans have come to fruition, and you will be elected to the Imperial throne upon the passing of the present Emperor."


Look at the message bar. The event 'Unfavourable Relation' causes an elector to lose their position if they are disliked by the Emperor,
and they are directly adjacent to another elector. Austria lost their elector position, a stroke of luck as it would really be a pain,
having to attack them to dismantle the Empire. However, it is a mixed blessing that our vassal, Liège, was chosen to replace them.
It's good because we will definitely be elected Emperor. It's bad because we will definitely be elected Emperor.

"..." Wilhelm did not utter a word of reply as he placed the letter on his workdesk.

"Dumbstruck? Do you not wish to become the Holy Roman Emperor, then?" It was a rhetorical question, for Floris already knew the inevitable hackneyed, banal reply which would follow.

"It is a crown from the gutter. And besides, it is not I who would be named King of the Romans ..."

"Do not lie to me, Wilhelm!" snapped Floris, the first of his day's many tears beginning to well up in his eyes as his exasperation at his resolutely uncommunicative brother began to boil over. "What could your actions possibly be other than moves to secure the Imperial crown and ever more power for yourself? Like your so-called alliance of free nations, like France, like me, your brother! All of us are just tools in your arsenal to fulfil your mad ambitions, and the 'Empire' will be the newest and brightest of them all."

"I'm doing what is sensible, Floris ... I'm doing my job. And my job is securing Holland's future." Frustrated, Wilhelm sighed deeply and gently rested his forehead upon his palm, before continuing. "Besides, I merely believe in rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Strength, good government, aptitude, foresightedness - all of these are things essential to the success of any nation."

"Do you fancy yourself Caesar, then?" accused Floris, his voice emboldening as he drew strength from his convictions.

"I ... Well, I admire Caesar, I guess. He was a gifted general, a master administrator, a talented statesman. Yes, you could say I aspire to be like him."

"Do you know what happened to him?"

"He brought down the republic and had himself appointed dictator in perpetuity. On my part, I would like to see myself bringing down the despotism of autocratic rule, where the undeserving aristocracy ride roughshod over the downtrodden, and ushering in an age where the voices of all would be heard and where every man, woman, and child would work together for the glory of the nation."

"That is ... not exactly what I meant," muttered Floris as, whether unwittingly or intentionally, Wilhelm evaded the rather obvious reference.

"What exactly did you mean, then? Be straightforward - this is most unlike you." Impatient, Wilhelm seized the next document in the stack resting at the side of his desk and returned to his work.

"I mean ... Wilhelm, do you remember when we were but children, living on scraps in the attic of the whorehouse? In the evenings, Mother told us stories from the Bible, but illiterate as she was she only remembered the very first story ... the story of Genesis."

"I ... it has been a very, very long time, but I do remember, Floris." Wilhelm hesitated for a moment, perhaps struck by a hint of sentiment, but it quickly passed. Albrecht, their uncle, had taken them from their humble beginnings and raised them on the condition that they never again return to the place of their birth. They had never seen their mother since the day they left, but uncle Albrecht told them that she had died only a few years after their departure.

"Adam and Eve dwelled in the garden of Eden. One fateful day, the serpent of temptation - the devil - convinced them to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and God was angry and cast them out. We are like the sinners, brother ... this forbidden knowledge of which we have tasted has corrupted us to the bone, and now we must repent or we will pay the price."

"I don't understand what you mean," said Wilhelm, having not once glanced over his shoulder and thus utterly oblivious to the fact that tears were beginning to run from his brother's eyes. "Besides, we are both men. If you're not going to be direct with me, perhaps you should use a more fitting analogy."

"Very well!" spat Floris, valiantly trying to maintain the composure in his voice, even as the tears dripped from his whiskers to dampen the ground where he stood in front of the door, "We are brothers. Brothers, like Cain and Abel, born of the same flesh, but very much different in ability and temperament. Wilhelm, I cannot deny that like Cain, I have at times been consumed with jealousy ... yes, jealousy at the abilities of my very own brother. But unlike Cain, I swore to God that I would be the keeper of my brother. And here I am, Wilhelm, to entreat you ... to bring you back to the path of righteousness, before ..."

"Floris, if you're not going to actually speak in words that I'll understand, I'm going to have to ask you to leave as I'm rather busy at the moment. If you'd like to have a debate over Bible stories, we can do so later ..."

"I ..."

Floris felt a gag rising in his throat. Now he knew ... it was too late. His brother had thrown aside all standards of decency and civility, and discarded all respect for God and man. His sins were unforgivable, his soul unredeemable - though the Lord above would offer him salvation, it was clear that Wilhelm would refuse it, as deluded as he was that his crimes could be justified. Now sobbing uncontrollably, the thumping of his heart resounding as loud as drumbeats in his ears, Floris reached for that last letter he held, which he knew he now had to deliver. Grasping its smooth handle as it rested, sheathed and concealed, under the fold of his leather jerkin, Floris took a breath that he knew would be his last and uttered his final words with his remaining shred of self-control.

"I ... will show you, my brother ..."

Before he could fully loosen the bodkin from its catch, a heavy blow struck Floris across the square of his back. Floris felt a part of him crack as he fell face-forward, gasping in shock, onto the cold wooden floor of the Co-Sovereign's office.



To be continued in the next part! Chapter 9 D : Flowering Nights - That Centennial Festival (1491-1493)
 
Last edited:

Krogzar

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well I caught up, and I'm not liking it. This AAR is a wonderful read and I cannot wait for the next installment. Concidering the last was today, MEH!

/Krogzar
 

DensleyBlair

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That was a fantastic update - poignant, but incredibly well done nonetheless. My opinions of the brothers have definately changed. I used to like Wilhelm - perhaps even over Floris, but now. Well, fratricide (I am assuming Wilhelm killed Floris - if he's even dead, that is) is a powerful thing in changing people's opinion of someone ;)

Very much looking forward to the next part.
 

aniuby

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Time to reply to comments!

well I caught up, and I'm not liking it. This AAR is a wonderful read and I cannot wait for the next installment. Concidering the last was today, MEH!

Well, I read your comment and I'm not liking it. The fact that you read my AAR is wonderful and I can't wait for you to share your opinions again. Considering that you waited this long to post your first comment ... Baaaad. You should feel sheepish.

That was a fantastic update - poignant, but incredibly well done nonetheless. My opinions of the brothers have definately changed. I used to like Wilhelm - perhaps even over Floris, but now. Well, fratricide (I am assuming Wilhelm killed Floris - if he's even dead, that is) is a powerful thing in changing people's opinion of someone ;)

Very much looking forward to the next part.

Excellent update! And what an ending. I eagerly await more.

Thanks so much for your support! I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. There's still a little more before the end of the brothers' saga, so it's not over yet.

And Densley, poignant /⊆ well done? Although yeah, I do remember that I started this out as a humour narrative AAR, and everything just tends to get grimdark after a while. I believe TVTropes calls it Cerebus Syndrome. And sorry for killing yet another hour of your time =P

I'm also happy to see that you like the characters - given that AARs outside CKII tend to focus on gameplay or a history-book style, it's hard to find readers who'll pay attention to author-created fluff like narrative and characters. I'd encourage everyone to contribute their opinions about characters or the story, and if there's something you'd like to see in the story feel free to put in a request.

Actually, I'm 14, so no. I just do all my forum-ing on my iPad. =P

*looks at calendar* oh god I'm twice that. Today. Egad, what a waste of life I've had.
I'd compliment you on your knowledge and intellectual leanings as displayed in the AAR forums for someone of that age but I don't want to sound patronising, so I won't, but you know what I mean.




Anyway, the next update will come a little later this week. I will try to post something in the free time I have but I'm kind of busy due to certain real-life commitments this week, which have a rather uncanny parallel in the events to come in the next part of the AAR.

Here's a spoiler ...

 

Krogzar

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Concidering I only returned to this forum a couple days before I posted that reply.... I don't feel that sheepish.

I lost the forum and my usual reads when my macbook died, and I miss the feature that the mac gave of having more than desktop, so I could keep 1 browser open with only all the AARs I was following.

Can't wait for the next update!

/Krogzar