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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

DensleyBlair

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*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.

Happy (belated) birthday - it seems apt that it should be on the day the Netherlands get their own new king. And thanks for the compliment.
 

aniuby

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Chapter 9 D : Flowering Nights -
That Centennial Festival (1491-1493)

Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466

"It is war! WAR!"

Startled by the sudden cry, Wilhelm von Hohenzollern looked to be on the verge of leaping from his seat in alarm, his left hand firmly pressed against the surface of his desk. His right hand had already flung open the top drawer of his desk, wherein there could be seen a hint of metal, glinting somewhere within its depths.

"Ambassador! I have warned you once, and I will not do so again! Except in the case of an emergency, you are not to enter the private offices of this nation's administration, never mind barge into my office, upon the pain of arrest!"

"But sir, it is an emergency! The sassenachs are attacking!"

"The ... what?"

The foreign term rolled off Wilhelm's tongue like the unfamiliar name of some regional amateur football team. Given the woefully unkempt state in which Wilhelm had kept his private office, and his own disregard for personal hygiene when there were matters of state to which to attend, it was understandable how he did not wish to be seen by anyone, let alone a foreign dignitary. Worse still, however, was how this rude interruption had come in the middle of a rather emotional private discussion between himself and his brother, Floris ...

"Floris?"

"Ah ... Sovereign Floris? Oh, mon Dieu! Let me help you up ..."

Ambassador Ross de Boeuf, only belatedly noticing that in his haste he had struck Floris von Hohenzollern square in the back with the edge of the door, bent down to assist him. The poor man, simply dressed in civilian clothing rather than an administrative or military uniform, lay stricken on the ground with one arm pressed to the base of his spine. However, upon seeing the French Ambassador reaching down to assist him, he appeared to regain his strength, scuttling away with the aid of his other hand, while glaring straight at the Ambassador with eyes that blazed with the fires of hell. He was a being possessed by roiling emotions that were neither shared nor empathised with by either of the other men in the room.

"... deceiver ... Judas ...!" muttered Floris under his breath, as he edged backwards, still clutching one hand to his back, until his movement found a vertical surface to aid him in rising to his feet.

"Floris, we'll get you some medical attention. I will summon the physician ..." Wilhelm stammered, but the shortest of glances from Floris - indeed, the first time Wilhelm had even set eyes upon his brother that day - was enough to convince him that Floris neither needed nor wanted his help. "Never mind! Ambassador Ross de Boeuf, you'd better have a good explanation for this!"

"My apologies, lord Floris and lord Wilhelm!" said Ambassador de Boeuf, unconsciously backing into the door and holding it open with his body as if to seek to prevent such an accident from ever recurring. "But it is an emergency. France is being invaded!"

"By whom?" This absurdity of this revelation was enough to startle the brothers into seeing this situation with new eyes. Even Floris, who had been overcome with emotion mere moments before, seemed to snap out of his trance-like rage.

"France is at war ... with the Auld Enemy, England! And the Sovereign of Savoy is aiding them! You must heed the terms of our alliance, and join us in battle!"


Well, that was unexpected.

"I ... well ..." Caught by surprise, Wilhelm struggled for an adequate reply, his ability to think obstructed by having been in a completely different frame of mind and in a state which polite society might term 'inappropriate dress'.

"Deal with it, Wilhelm, like you always do. I will return to the barracks and prepare the men for war. We march on your orders."

Floris' words shook Wilhelm out of his momentary paralysis, and though they were spoken in a tone of biting acidity, they were the sole vote of confidence in Wilhelm's judgement. His brother had risen to his feet, though he yet held a hand to his back as he edged his way toward the open door, probably still feeling the effects of the collision from earlier. The sound of quickening footsteps echoing from the depths of the corridor soon indicated to the two remaining men that Floris was out of earshot.

"... did you see his eyes, lord Wilhelm? That was the face of the devil!" observed Ambassador Ross de Bouef as he shut the door behind him, this time taking care to stand outside the angle of the door's movement.

"Thanks to your rude interruption, he was struck full in the back with a heavy wooden door. I doubt he would be best pleased," replied Wilhelm, seemingly unaware of the true reason for Floris' blazing anger, "but enough of that. As fellow seafaring nations, our country has maintained cordial relations with England, and before we aid you in your war, I want you to tell me exactly what kind of grudge they have against France."

"Surely you've heard of the Hundred Years' War, sir! It has been more than a hundred and fifty years since Edward III of England first laid claim to the throne of France, which was then rightfully held by King Philip VI de Valois. Since then, Edward III's descendants have pursued this claim, alternately through force and diplomacy, and it seems that they have taken the opportunity of our present King's Louis XIV's minority, and somewhat doubtful legitimacy and intellectual capacity, to press that claim. As you might know, they still hold some territories in Aquitaine which are rightful possession of the French crown, so their claims cannot be ignored, however false and contrived they may be."

"I have heard this tale several times before, and I do wonder why this conflict is known as the 'Hundred Years' War' despite lasting far longer than that," acknowledged Wilhelm, after listening to Ambassador de Boeuf's explanation, "but perhaps the recent lack of conflict has lulled us into a false sense of security. What do you know about the present King of England, which might have driven him to pursue this claim through war?"

"The King of England, Edward IV of the House of Lancaster, is very much unlike his father and elder brother who ruled before him. His father, King Thomas I, was a peace-loving ruler who preferred diplomacy to war, having witnesed in his youth the slaughter of his father Henry V and over a thousand of his most loyal knights at Agincourt, the final battle of the last war between our nations many decades ago. Edward's elder brother King Charles I might have been tempted to resort to war, but he died mysteriously before reaching his twentieth year. Indeed, rumours still circulate that the young Edward may have been involved in his death."

"Get to the point, Ambassador," interrupted Wilhelm impatiently, as he self-consciously stroked the stubble at the side of his chin. It felt unbearable to have to deal with the ambassador while in such an ill-groomed state, but it could not be helped. It was an emergency after all - if anything, its bad timing made him want to punish the upstart King of England ever the more.

"Edward IV of Lancaster is but eighteen years of age, but already he has framed himself as a warrior and a thinker, seeking to transform his nation according to the whims of some new policy of collectivisation and centralisation. Drawing upon the second King of England, William Rufus, as his inspiration, he wears the red of the rose of Lancaster as his emblem, leading both supporters and opponents in his court to dub him 'Red Ed'. It is thus no surprise that a dastard such as he would labour towards painting Europe red, drowning it in a sea of blood by re-igniting the Hundred Years' War."


Left : King Edward IV "the Red" of England in his later years, wearing his favourite red coat.
Right : The emblem of the house of Lancaster, a rose gules, slipped and stalked vert

"Intriguing. I believe that the ancient King William Rufus of England had certain 'issues' with his brothers as well as a fixation with the province of Normandy. Perhaps this 'Red Ed' is very much the same, considering the untimely disappearance of his elder brother from the political scene ..." observed Wilhelm, liberally pointing out the similarities between the two leaders. "If you consider their Scottish neighbours' disposition toward clan-based warfare, it would seem that the residents of that western isle breathe the very air of internecine conflict."

"An accurate observation, lord Wilhelm," commented the French ambassador, seemingly grateful for the distance the continent offered from his ancestral homeland. "Alas! Treason, thou art fled to British breasts."

"And men have lost their judgement, if even a King is foolish enough to march his countrymen to their deaths by attacking a country as well-defended as France," interrupted Wilhelm, pointing out the very simple fact which he had learnt from the many years spent in alliance with that country.

"That's the problem, sir ..." stammered Ross as he fidgeted nervously where he stood. "France is ... uh ... not defended. Our standing army has been disbanded."

"WHAT?!" Wilhelm shot bolt upright, practically jumping from his chair, utterly confounded by the sheer imbecility of the statement. They disbanded their entire army?

"It's true ... please, don't waste your rage on me, sir! It wasn't my fault!" cowered Ambassador de Bouef as he shrank from the wrath of the other Co-Sovereign of Holland. Having to suffer the anger of one was already more than enough for any man, no matter how stocky or well-built. "But it's true. King Louis XIV has decided to, er, offer every soldier an unpaid vacation. Or maybe they were laid off ... I really don't know! I'm as dumbstruck as you are as to why the Privy Council would agree to such a thing! May I ... ameliorate your anger by saying that your great nation of Holland now has the mightiest army in all of Europe?"

"That's not the point! What I want to know, is, what kind of moronic, cretinous, ludicrously, utterly, and completely stupid imbecile could let such a thing happen!"

"Please don't hurt me ..."


Dear God why.

"I would surmise that France does not have a single ship ready for war, either," said Wilhelm, after he had cooled down sufficiently to continue the conversation in a more civil manner. He recalled his previous dealings with members of France's Privy Council, specifically the elderly and uncooperative General Jean Villeneuve, and reconciled himself to the fact that the man had one great merit to him - he wasn't a blooming idiot.

"Um ... no, sir," confessed Ross de Boeuf shamefacedly. "Following the young King's ... 'military restructuring', we do not have a single regiment or fleet in active service as of this point."

"And you, Ambassador, expect Holland and her associates and vassal states to sacrifice our men and resources to aid you in this war to hold off Red Ed's dubious claims to your country?"

"... yes, sir."

Wilhelm gritted his teeth, seething with annoyance while trying his best to prevent the rage within him from again exploding before the admittedly blameless ambassador. A more reasonable side of him was working desperately to conjure up some sort of scheme or battle plan to save the helpless child king Louis XIV de Valois from having to suffer the consequences of his idiocy.

"It will not be easy. As you may know, England possesses a terrifying fleet of carracks, a mighty wooden wall which protects their homeland from invasion. But, if you give us supreme command in the war, we shall bring our coalition victory. I promise you this."

"... I can't do that, lord Wilhelm," apologised Ross de Boeuf, letting out a sigh of helplessness. "I am just an ambassador. It's not within my authority to give you control of the war effort. Believe me, sir, I'm just as exasperated as you are."

"This is a god-damned omnishambles," snarled Wilhelm, real anger glowing in his eyes. "You're fighting off some ancient claims to your territory, while disbanding every regiment and fleet, and refusing to give us command of the war. And you expect us to help you? I have a blasted country to run here, do I look like I have time for jokes?"

"So ... your answer is ... negative?"

"I..."

As Wilhelm paused to consider his reply, he felt suddenly uncomfortable in the silence of the stale air which filled his office. Impulsive in emotion, but not in action, he felt jolted from his complacency by the urgency of the unfolding situation, and sought some refuge - indeed, any words of advice or solace - which would provide some guidance in such an emergency. Averting his eyes for a moment, he remembered the parting words of his brother, uttered what now seemed like ages ago, a simple yet profound instruction to 'deal with it'. Very well.

"I will continue to honour the alliance, despite the ... 'adversity' of the conditions under which we will operate."

"Really ...?" Ambassador de Boeuf, his expectations having been sunk by the difficulty of the task he was requesting, was almost stunned with joy at the positive response. "I know I am only an ambassador, but I will do my best to aid your nation in your war effort. I have connections in Scotland who might be able to help you open up a front against the Auld Enemy ..."

"Tell me what I need to know, and return to your masters with the consolation that we will aid them in driving the invaders from their lands. Leave the strategy to me."

"Thank you ... thank you, lord Wilhelm!"

Battle Plan : The Second Umpteenth English War of Reconquest of Normandie, started June 1491


Note how England controls part of Algiers, as well as Smyrna. In addition, Savoy's only coastal province is occupied by Milanese rebels.
Military strengths do not account for conscription or external commitments, and may not reflect total numbers of troops deployed in battle.
Numbers given by the naval lozenge in green represent allied vessels, and the lozenge containing a black dot represents a proposed artillery battalion.

November, 1492. A year and a half had passed since the renewal of hostilities in the Hundred Years' War. However, unlike the previous acts in this protracted and inconclusive play, this latest scene featured a new character whose appearance threatened to bring the saga to a denouement. That character, of course, being Holland, blooming like a flower out of the withered corpse of Burgundy to emerge as the deciding third party. Despite the balance of war having tilted drastically in Frace's favour, observers maintained that there was still the question of whether Holland's allegiance could be shaken, with money, titles, and other promises, in the same way Burgundy's had been. Whether the glorious flower of intervening third party could be swayed from one sun to another.

Wilhelm knew this. And he knew that was the reason for the meeting scheduled for today.

The initial position of advantage over England had not been easily achieved - it had been won through strategy, subterfuge, and opportunism, rather than brute force. The starting battles of the war had commenced in July 1492 when the Sovereign's Own Amsterdam Corps engaged the English expeditionary force in Normandy. The English army, fatigued and inexpertly commanded, were quickly routed by a combined force of Hollanders, Bretons, and French resistance fighters, scoring the first victory for the coalition army.

However, progress beyond this early advantage appeared to be limited. The French government, shocked out of their complacency by the sudden declaration of war, immediately embarked on a massive campaign of conscription, funded by emergency taxes raised in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy. However, these newly-raised regiments were not channelled against the Auld Enemy, but were instead directed south, against the upstart Savoyard invaders who had penetrated the nation's soft Occitan underbelly as well as Gascon and Basque rebels who had risen in Aquitaine to take advantage of the government's weakness. The Amsterdam Corps headed south to assist in retaking territory and slaughtering alien Italian invaders and peasants rebels, with the victorious French army enforcing the annexation of Lombardy and guaranteeing the independence of Milanese secessionists who had overtaken Cuneo.


But this small triumph did not solve the main problem at hand - that of the Auld Enemy, and the irrefutable strategic advantage they held over the coalition thanks to their control of the sea. The English Navy Royal, larger than the entire coalition fleet put together and also better equipped, with there being no doubt that it would ruin its opponent in the event of a direct confrontation. This 'wooden wall' thus not only prevented enemy manoeuvres at sea, but was capable of blockading and conducting precision strikes on weaker members of the coalition. A herald from the Byzantine Greeks had already reported the capture of Janina, with English forces in the midst of besieging Larissa as well as Braga in Galicia. Holland and her allies thus lacked the means of delivering the decisive blow against English aggression, while their resistance slowly wore thin under the detrimental economic effects of the blockades.

However, the turning point came as a result of a most unlikely contribution - the launching of a French ship in the Cote d'Azur. Perhaps out of misjudgement, or a conceited desire to put up a show of force, the entire English Navy sailed for the Iberian coast to intercept the lone French vessel. This was the opportunity for which Holland had been waiting. A division of the nation's finest arquebusiers boarded transports from Antwerp and headed for an unspecified contact in Dunbar, on the coast of Lothian in Scotland, as Hollander's sailors finally saw action under the captaincy of the merchant adventurer Gerardus Appingedam.

Within a month, the garrison in Berwick had been taken by surprise, the sizable border patrol driven back by unexpected invaders from the north (they had apparently been only looking out for suspicious people in skirts), and Newcastle and Durham were under siege. Taking advantage of their opponents' slothful retreat into Cumbria, perhaps tempted by the opportunity to retire in the Lake District and reminisce about daffodils and rabbits, the disciplined Hollander force pursued, encountered, and routed the Army of Scotland just south of Carlisle. The first blow had been struck against the English homeland, and there was now hope the spectre that Red Ed had cast over Europe could be turned back.


No, there aren't any words worth describing pottering about on a cold ridge in the Lake District.

However, there were still many battles facing the Hollander expeditionary force in England. The King's Army, a reserve battalion under the direct command of Red Ed himself marched to confront them, slowly growing their numbers through peasant conscripts as they headed northward. With the English navy retreating to the isles after being alerted to their strategic error, the isolated expeditionary force had little hope of receiving reinforcements, spread thin as they were attempting to lay siege to three counties at once. A direct confrontation with the English army would mean a rapid annihilation by their superior and easily-reinforced numbers, or worse, having to retreat across the border to Gretna.

Wilhelm recalled the frantic late-night strategy meetings with the war representatives of Holland's vassal duchies to devise a strategy to reinforce the forward army, with the brave admiral Appingedam waiting in the harbour with the fleet. All this took place while their resourceful commander tried to stave off the inevitable English attack by marching ten regiments of men up to the top of the Pennines, and marching them down again, in an attempt to keep the English army confused and divided, neither up nor down.

In the end, a risky strategy was formulated: Admiral Appingedam was to take command - not of the transport flotilla, but of a pair of light ships who would streak north past the east coast of England, and tempt the English ships of the line into giving chase, while a second division would be sent to reinforce the forward army. Should the decoy prove effective, Wilhelm made plans for a risky gamble - to additionally dispatch a battalion of Holland's experimental field artillery to England, where it would be expected that they would lay waste to a technologically backward army unprepared for such a deployment.

The plan worked better than expected. Admiral Appingedam was not only successful in drawing the attention of the massive English fleet, tempted by what they perceived to be an easy target, but was also ballsy enough to lead them on a wild goose chase, sailing between Caithness and Orkney (making a quick stop to deliver a thank-you note from Ambassador de Boeuf to his relations), before speeding through the Minch, past the west coast of Ireland, and then south to the Bay of Biscay and then around Iberia before finally docking at Marseille to enjoy a well-deserved break in the summer sun of the French Riviera.

Eventually, the Navy Royal came to the revelation that they'd been taken for a ride, their commanding officer probably more imbecilic yet than the French King Louis XIV and his court, but it was too late. The newly-reinforced Hollander army turned the tables, routing the King's Own Regiment and sending Red Ed scuttling back to London, while Hollander experimental field artillery tore holes in English fortifications along the east coast. Eventually Newcastle surrendered, driven to desperation after being cut off from their access to spicy imported curry, and subsidies and welfare payments from London, the first of many county capitals to fall to Hollander occupation.

England had never been successfully invaded by sea since the time of the Norman Conquest. It seemed only appropriate that Holland, newly-anointed rulers of the sea who had discovered the fabled route to the Promised Land, were the first to do so since then. And this, Wilhelm reasoned, was exactly what the meeting scheduled for today was to concern.


Oo arr, it's grim oop north. The only way we could get more incomprehensible is if we spoke Dootch.

"Duke Floris van Hohenlohe, innit?"

"No. it's Wilhelm, von Hohenzollern. And the correct title is Sovereign, or to be precise co-Sovereign."

"Yeah, whatever, I don't give a toss. And what kinda naff name is Floris, anyway?"

"..."

The peculiar nature of the co-Sovereignity in Holland, and the preferred pursuits of each of the co-Sovereigns, meant that the throne room in the manor was a place which never really saw any use. However, this time it had been specially cleaned and dusted, it being an occasion when Wilhelm felt it more appropriate to receive an emissary in an altogether more formal setting, rather than making do with something casual and ordinary for simplicity's sake.

Shunning the pretentiousness of actually taking the Sovereign's seat for himself, Wilhelm preferred to stand on ceremony, although a work table had been brought in for the purpose of laying out maps and treaties. A final irregularity in the usual procedures for diplomatic meetings: Wilhelm had requested the services of several guardsmen, stationed beside him and at the corners of the room, to help discourage and if necessary defend him from any potential hostile action.

The visitor necessitating these special arrangements was, of course, the Ambassador from England, a certain unsavoury fellow by the name of Lester Fenshaw. The lad was supposedly the second son of some earl or another, but he acted nothing like would be expected of a nobleman. Almost twenty years' Wilhelm's junior, the shaven-headed 'ambassador' was slovenly, brash, rude, and generally unpleasant to be around, with a tendency to roam Amsterdam's streets in the evenings, reeking of alcohol and yelling some gibberish which could best be approximated as either "Earwigo", "Angerlun", or "Wamburli". It is unknown as to whether Wilhelm's opinion of the man would have been any different if he had known such actions greatly resembled the behaviour of Eberhard von Hohenzollern, his father, had he lived beyond his early twenties.

"Well then, let's talk business, William. We haven't got all day." As expected of most residents of the southern part of that distant isle, Lester Fenshaw only spoke one language - his own.

"It's simple, ambassador. The coalition demands your nation's unconditional surrender, and the immediate independence of the enslaved minorities chained to England's yoke," Wilhelm intoned in as emotionless a voice as he could manage, though inwardly he raged. "The Irish people. The Welsh, and Cornish. Even the Turk and Moslem deserve to be released from England's oppressive regime. Such is the desire of our alliance of free peoples."

"Your alliance?" Lester just about broke into a guffaw as he gave Wilhelm a sly glance. "You're taking the piss, mate. What you mean is, that's what you want, bugger the rest of 'em."

"..."

"We know what you're up to. Playing along, being the helpful coalition partner and all that, but you know deep down you want them taken out. It's all about power, and you're just using them to get what you'd never be able to achieve alone."

"..." Perhaps that apathetic and dissolute wastrel was a little sharper than he was letting on, Wilhelm thought, while maintaining a tempered silence.

"I mean, look at that retard who's on the throne in Paris right now. He doesn't even have the capacity to manage his court, never mind run a country. That's what happens when you kip in the sun all day, innit? You are like a free bird. You don't have to be shackled to a corpse. Just forget about propping up this condemnable coalition and let us return to our aim of working for the union of both our crowns."

"Get to the point, ambassador. Either accept our terms, or propose something more agreeable."

"Tch. Right, I'll quit faffing about," Lester cussed as he opened the diplomatic brief he held under his arm, and pulled out a roll of paper - the draft of a partly-completed diplomatic treaty. "In exchange for the immediate withdrawal of all Hollander forces from our islands and the return of all occupied garrisons, King Edward has agreed to hand over the year's worth of taxes as war reparations."

"Surely you jest, ambassador. I know that there's no money left." With almost all of England on their home island occupied by Holland's troops, it'd be a wonder if any revenues had actually made their way to London.

"... Fine. We'll turn over the forts in Newcastle and Carlisle to you," proffered the English ambassador, as he thrust the scroll of parchment at Wilhelm's chest like the wand of a conjuror. "There must be something about them you like since your men first dropped off there. Lovely scenery, too."

"A good attempt, but you can't fool me," Wilhelm snorted in digust at that ambassador's meagre offer. "We do not care for the duty of guarding your northern borders from Scotland. Red Ed must certainly be quite crafty, to think of a scheme to divert the competition posed by your northern neighbour onto a third party."

"Bloody know-it-all. This is our last offer, and no tricks, I swear." Lester snarled as he returned the parchment to his diplomatic case, without pausing to retrieve a new one. "We'll give you the county of Essex. That's the only way. Essex."

"You already know my answer, Lester Fenshaw," said Wilhelm, not even considering the possibility of annexing one of England's richest and most populous counties, comparable in its levels of economic activity (and self-obsessed youths) to the region of Flanders. "I have already stated my demands - for the freedom of oppressed peoples. We stand for liberty and self-determination, not selfish, petty goals like the acquisition of wrongful territory, which would turn us into oppressors ourselves!"

Upon hearing Wilhelm's reply, Lester Fenshaw's lips contorted into a hideous scowl, his teeth bared like the fangs of a cornered animal.

"... you can't be serious, you moppet. You might think you're in charge, but once the French take control of the situation, you'll regret turning down my offer. You'll regret this, William van Hohenlohe!"

Slamming a palm against the surface of the table separating him from Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, the ambassador delivered his parting shot before turning to leave. Folding his arms, Wilhelm watched the younger man with an unchanging expression as the ambassador headed for the main doors which the guards had opened for him.

A dozen thoughts were running through his mind; while he was glad to see the back of that scoundrel, he could not shake the feeling that the man - his enemies - knew more about him than he wished to let on, and the 'ambassador's' overblown demeanour and blatant attempts to mislead him were worryingly deliberate. Was he actually trying to goad him into making an unwise move? Who was manipulating whom? It was clear that the two men were on completely different wavelengths, each trying to outwit the other, but in a manner which made them seem completely incomprehensible to their adversary.

Wilhelm was shaken out of his thoughts by the rapid footsteps of a man dashing up to his side. It was the Marshal of the Mint, Joost Schönebeck, who was surprisingly sprightly despite his advanced age.

"My lord Wilhelm! I saw the Ambassador from England leaving the throne room. You didn't agree to his proposals, did you?" asked Marshal Schönebeck, his voice quivering and agitated.

"... no, I didn't. Their terms were unacceptable. Is something the matter?"

"This, sire," said Joost as he handed the co-Sovereign of Holland a diplomatic communique.


"Interesting," muttered Wilhelm as he considered the change in the strategic situation as a result of this revelation, which might have explained the evasive attitude of the English ambassador. However, one more thing still bothered him. "But I was just wondering, Joost. Since when did you have opinions on matters of state?"

"Ah! Forgive me, sire," apologised Marshal Schönebeck, as he bowed his head in remorse. "I spoke too hastily there, and for that I am sorry. All of us have opinions, lord Wilhelm, but it is my duty not to express them unless asked."

Wilhelm observed the sincerity in the eyes of the aged advisor, and pondered whether he had indeed been outmanoeuvred, after all.


To be continued in the thrilling conclusion! Chapter 9 E : Flowering Nights - Night of Nights (1493-1495)
 
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Krogzar

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that's a big war you have on your hands there!

good luck! and it's good to see that both the brothers still live.

/Krogzar
 

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I'd like to apologise to all readers for the long time since the last update, both in terms of the time since last actual complete post and the time spent actually completing the post after it had already been put up. I have been extremely busy over election week, as well as being extremely drunk and inconsolable over post-election week thanks to us losing control of my home county council (I blame the PM).

Things led to things, and I started a new EU3 game as Teutonic Order where I actually did not die within the first decade. I also note that many new AARs have sprung up in the EU3 forum this past week - I do recall that my previous post took almost two weeks to be knocked off the front page, but my new post dropped out in less than half a week! I've spent quite a bit of time looking through most of them, although they are of variable quality, but I do advise everyone to scan through them to find out which works of value they like. And of course, there's always university work to do.

I wanted to put a little more effort into this part since I finally got to write about my own country and tossed in lots of references and general knowledge, though it turned out a little more heavy than I had planned, and it's probably the longest post yet. I urge all readers to look through it again from the beginning as I've made a few changes and edited some sloppy writing. The next post is also likely to be rather long and take quite some time to finish - although it won't deal with England any more, as the chapter conclusion it will be very heavy and very grim indeed. If you have ears, prepare to pad them now. Oh, wait...

As to why I didn't just start a new post, well, I've learnt way back when to always keep your chapters of similar lengths when writing unless you're absolutely sure what you're doing - I notice that my chapters just get longer and longer unless I pay attention to length and recognise that the lack of consistency is a bad thing, and I write a whole lot. And as to why I don't use a word processor beforehand and put up the whole post at once ... well, let me explain it this way. Once you've written a whole thesis for university on the computer, you come to hate word processors. Forever.



Comments time!

Happy (belated) birthday

Densley! You stole my top-of-the-page post! Worse still, it says 'happy birthday' in it!

There are no happy birthdays for me. I've been on this earth far too long for my liking and I don't need to be reminded about it =(

Hehe, game mechanics at their best. You have the biggest army in Europe, but France is still in charge.

Any idea why France (hilariously) disbanded all its troops?

My guess is that when deciding cascading alliances, two things are important - guarantees/warnings and manpower. France remained war leader as they had more manpower even though they had not actually raised any soldiers. And I've found that when a state which gets attacked, guarantees then warnings take precedence over alliances when deciding which nation becomes war leader. The next update should provide another textbook example of cascading alliances gone wrong.

It's a frequent observance to see AI nations raise troops, then immediately disband them once they're completed. I think this happens because the AI recognises that it needs to have some troops, but a combination of factors such as inflation, loan repayments, and the surplus remaining after calculating loan repayments cause the AI to decide that it can no longer afford to maintain the troop and thus immediately disbands it. As you may expect, this triggers the "we need troops" flag, causing the AI to attempt to mint/save up to build a new regiment ...

However, it's especially alarming when this occurs in a large nation. When this happens, it's usually a sign that the country has already taken all five loans and is minting at 100%, and is thus desperately trying to stave off bankruptcy. This actually happens fairly often just after a large country ends a war as they have to work off the war exhaustion from occupation and wartaxes, which reduces their tax income below manageable levels, while not receiving the boosted income from wartaxes. However, in such a situation they are likely safe due to the presence of a truce.

In this case of France ... well, I have no idea. Perhaps the AI had some money, but chose an option in an event which resulted in giving all its money away to avoid taking a stabhit (yes, the AI is dumb enough to do that). In fact, I have actually observed this happen to France before in a separate game ... when I was playing Byzantium, whereupon I quickly took the opportunity to DoW them with no CB and occupied their whole country despite having Eastern tech and half the forcelimits.

It was smart of the King of England to attack France at this moment. It was, however, not smart of him not to realise that I, as a human and not a AI player, am more likely to honour alliances even in situations where it looks like a lost cause.

that's a big war you have on your hands there!

good luck! and it's good to see that both the brothers still live.

/Krogzar

It isn't a big war, really, it's just England and Savoy. What did irk me was England's overwhelming naval superiority - I sort of fancy myself a naval player and like the mobility and flexibility which navies provide, so I feel limited if that option is shut down. So far, I've only played two countries where a navy wasn't important, which were Austria and Muscowy.

As to the brothers ... well, find out in the last part.

Finally caught up. nothing better then going to work 12-14 hour shifts and coming home to relax with a brew and my favorite forums. ahhh. As I have said once before and this probably wont be the last time.... ANIUBY, YOU A FOOL!!!

ATBKING, YOU A FOOL!!! Why don't you leave a more interesting, useful, or insightful comment than telling me something I already know about myself?



Comments, remarks, questions, advice, suggestions, criticism? Keep them coming! And stay tuned for the thrilling finale to this chapter in the next update.
 

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Nice to see the references to British 'culture' (the quotation marks à propos Essex ;).) Even better was the rather knowing Dutch perspective. Very entertaining.

Great to see another update. No worries as to the wait - I'm not exactly one to talk on that subject...

And the PM has got one thing right: he's a Villa fan ;)

EDIT: Would Lester Fenshaw in fact be Leicester Featherstonhaugh?
 
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DensleyBlair

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By the by, I've nominated this wonderful piece of work for the Best Character of the Week AwAARd. Congratulations, felicitations, and my sincerest contrafibularities ;)
 

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I appreciate the gesture, DensleyBlair, though I admit that I haven't paid much attention to these awards. And, judging by the response or lack thereof it seems that not many people agree with your choice, so I feel like it's sort of a pat on the back from you more than anything particularly felicitous. But I'm grateful for your support, and for the support of others who have kept me going all this time.

Staying on the issue, I'm curious to know what you or other readers particularly like (or dislike) about any of the characters in the story, and provide some commentary and criticism. Looking at the recent history, it seems that this award has been mired in controversy for a while, so I'll see what I can do to restore some respectability to it - to be honest I'd just give it back to you for having been my best supporter, but I hope it can be used to draw some attention to good AARs about this forum which unfortunately people seem just determined to ignore.

There's a little surprise I've recently added on the second post of the AAR thread - I know no one reads it so I thought I'd sound it out. Take a look and let me know what you think! I will try to have the next update up tomorrow, but as I fear it will be extremely verbose and weighty in its subject matter, like the last one, so I can't guarantee that I'll actually complete it within the day. But I swear that I will try!

EDIT : Make that Wednesday. if I'm going to finish it in a day I'd better have all the pictures and stuff readied first.

Subscribing! Lots of catch up to do, but that what's week-ends are for. It will help me learn the EU3 ropes as well.

Thanks, Mithfir! I'm always glad to have more people on board. As above, let me know what you think even if you may not have gone through all of the admittedly offputting walls of text so far.

And the PM has got one thing right: he's a Villa fan ;)

EDIT: Would Lester Fenshaw in fact be Leicester Featherstonhaugh?

I love this country =)

And wouldn't a contrafibularity just be a tibiarity?

In fact, DC being a Villa fan was the first thing I disliked about him (and no, I'm not a Blues fan). Now there are many, many more, not least being told that I am a swivel-eyed loon. *swivels eyes*
 
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Chapter 9 E : Flowering Nights - Night of Nights (1493-1495)
Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, since 5 November 1466...


Almost two years had passed since the conclusion to Holland's last war, as France's junior partner in resisting the incursion of English troops onto continental soil, with the masterful counterattack upon which the war was won wholly the product of the smaller nation's boldness, audacity, and tenacity. With almost all of their homeland on their primary isle occupied by Hollander forces, the English under King Edward IV Lancaster "The Red" had little choice but to surrender. To the diplomats of France, who came calling after being given safe passage to London by the very negotiators who refused to countenance granting concessions to a minor nation they considered beneath their notice, even as the troops of that minor nation battered against the walls of their capital.

Floris von Hohenzollern, Sovereign of Holland and (naturally) commander of the Sovereign's Own Army, admitted having played no part at all in the triumph. For the entire duration of the war, he had ruled himself out of command, thanks to the very ill-timed submission of a request for medical leave. Of course, knowing the risks the expeditionary force faced in their daring strike on the English mainland, such as being surrounded and annihilated or being forced to eat the notoriously toxic English cuisine, Floris would not have been sent on such a dangerous mission, for it would do no good to have one's Sovereign captured or killed in a foreign field. All the same, several whispers flew about the barracks, no doubt spread by the lowest ranks of enlisted men, as to how the Sovereign-General had suffered an intimate accident in the days shortly preceding Holland's entry into the war. He had broken his back, or so the rumours said.

Well, the suspicions of the rumourmongers were almost correct. What Floris had broken, so dear and intimate to him, was not his back, but his heart.

Wilhelm. Since the day they had parted, the day of the commencement of the war against England, Floris had not shared a word, a letter, or even so much as a glance with his beloved twin. Unlike Floris, Wilhelm was of a type who openly indulged in emotion, but inwardly he saw it as a deficiency in the proper operation of his duties as Co-Sovereign of Holland. Preferring to lock himself in his office, handling matters of state in precedence to all other concerns, he could not be relied upon to communicate his feelings, however heartfelt, to someone who was not already standing in front of him. He would have simply felt that it was worth neither the time nor the effort to indulge in such petty trivialities.

And Floris, outwardly stoic but harbouring a great well of sentiment within him, could not bring himself to ever contact his brother, even as his insecurities mounted and drove him deeper into the arms of despair. For he would then have to first confess that, in one most unchivalric, unmanly moment, indeed the last moment shared between the pair, that he wished his own brother dead. And, in that moment, he had been all too ready to act to bring about that outcome.

What was it like, to live with the secret of knowing that you had been mere seconds from deliberately and premeditatedly ending the life of someone you loved as yourself? Even if such a crime had been committed in the name of a greater good? How would he have felt, had the great man Brutus abandoned the conspiracy that fateful day, staying the hands of the murderers and swearing them into silence and secrecy? Had a great evil been averted by fate, or permitted to take root in this world through one's lack of action? Self-doubt, self-pity, self-loathing ... these were the emotions which now consumed Floris' every waking moment.


Perhaps chivalry still lives in this vile and merciless world.

Yet it was impossible to deny that for all his unscrupulous and underhanded methods, Wilhelm had done this country a world of good, lifting it among the pinnacle of powers of Europe and promising to take it beyond. Those who knew his words and deeds but not his innermost thoughts believed him a champion, a liberator, a gifted administrator and a masterful tactician. Floris, on the other hand, 'merely' had the distinction of being a fearsome and dauntless general, and a honourable gentleman and a knight like those of old - someone worth respecting, but certainly not the lynchpin upon which the weight of the country rested. Floris wasn't jealous, or at least he had promised himself that the deed he had planned which would forever live in infamy was born not of jealousy but of principle, of love for his country and all it stood for. As Wilhelm would say, all I do, will be for Holland's glory.

The circle could not be squared. How could one love a man, and kill him? How could one love one's country, yet knowingly tear down one of its pillars in the name of some old-fashioned, traditionalist moral code? Was Wilhelm right all along?

A cacophonic chorus of bells, the clatter of metal against metal, jolted Floris from his musings, as the unwelcome detail of the real world swam into view before his eyes. The roar of drumbeats filled his ears, and the shouts and cries of men, officers and footsoldiers alike, resounded through the halls. The men housed in the barracks were being roused to battle, a situation for which Floris had been completely unprepared despite his status as the nominal commander of the regiment.

No exercises or drills had been scheduled, and had Wilhelm sought to enlist his brother's help in another of his military adventures he would certainly have furnished him with the war plans beforehand, as meticulous as he was known to be. The urgent call to arms could only mean two things - first, that Holland was under attack, a remarkably spurious proposition despite the nation's small size, considering how it had overwhelmingly and single-handedly won a war against one of the great powers of Europe just several years ago. The second possible explanation, however, was that Holland's participation was required in a war which she could not refuse. That could only mean one thing ...

Newly-promoted Admiral Gerardus Appingedam stood in the doorway of Sovereign Floris' private office in the barracks, looking resplendent in his smooth naval overcoat which contrasted greatly with the drab and ill-smelling body armour worn by infantrymen of all ranks. Although clearly a stranger in a strange land, as the chief representative of the naval division of Holland's armed forces he had news of utmost importance to deliver to the Sovereign.

"General ... my lord Floris, we have been summoned to war by France. Your unit is under instructions to mobilise and report to the naval yard for immediate boarding."

"Show me the summons for these instructions," said Floris, without turning to face the Admiral. He had already guessed at the source of the alarm, though not at its exact cause. "With whom shall we be crossing swords this time?"

"The doge of Genoa, sire, and of Venice." replied Admiral Appingedam. "And the Holy Roman Emperor, his Imperial Majesty King Viktorin of Bohemia."

Floris doubled over, wracked with torment, as he collapsed face first onto his desk. If only Wilhelm had died that day, two years ago.


Oh bollocks.

"What ... pray tell, what could possibly compel Wilhelm to so willingly take up arms against his rightful liege and protector?"

Floris muttered aloud as he rummaged about the room, gathering trinkets and other personal effects before leaving his office. A pair of reading glasses, a shaving razor, additional changes of clothing, and of course his copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible. A startled Admiral Appingedam stood to one side of the room, having rushed forward to assist Floris during his earlier paroxysmal attack only to have the Sovereign abruptly leap to his feet as if animated by some terrible force. Unsure if the question was directed at him, Gerardus Appingedam decided to answer anyway despite his knowledge being more suited to matters of arbitrage rather than politics, hoping it would satisfy the visibly agitated Floris.

"As far as I gather, sire, the King of France, Louis XIV de Valois, expressed a desire for some Ligurian pesto with which to celebrate his fifteenth birthday. Or his simultaneous excommunication from the Catholic church. The Doge of Venice and his Imperial Majesty probably did not take too well to having their private supplies of Ligurian pesto threatened."

"And Holland has discarded all sense of shame, all of its morals and loyalties, to acquire a pot of pesto for a foreign prince." Still fretting as he walked past Gerardus Appingedam, Floris recalled his earlier instruction for the admiral to produce the summons to battle. "Those two letters you bear with you. Open them and read them to me."

"The first ... ah, I have already received this myself." Admiral Appingedam complied with the instructions, unsealing the documents intended only for the Sovereign's eyes. "The first is a battle plan, signed by your brother, Co-Sovereign Wilhelm von Hohenzollern. You should really be examining this map personally, sire."

Battle Plan : The French War of Conquest of Liguria, started November 1494


The war from the perspective of Venice, defending war leader. Green are defenders, red are attackers.
Yes, Venice is the war leader, despite being far weaker than Emperor Bohemia. Guarantees take precedence to 'alliances'.
The screenshot is ex post facto, as I forgot to make one at the start of the war, but the conclusion was never in doubt anyway.
Especially since I don't actually have to win, as it's not my war.

"In essence, Co-Sovereign Wilhelm will lead the Army of Amsterdam at a forced march through the Low Counties and the Rhineland to the Saxon lands of Brandenburg and Thuringia, to relieve the defending armies there who will be taking the brunt of the Emperor's military might. A second detachment will take a relatively safer path, travelling south through French lands to assist in the occupation of the Italian territories. Your duty is to command an elite strike team to capture the isolated and poorly-defended strongholds in the Mediterranean so as to demoralise the defenders on the mainland. And my duty will be to clash hulls with the galley fleets of the Italian trading republics, and send them to the bottom of the sea, such that your transport squadron may reach there unmolested."

Wilhelm had it all planned out. Like a reclusive artisan who is never seen working at his craft, who yet continues to produce masterpieces, Wilhelm was a man who never personally engaged in battle yet saw its every ebb and flow with the watchful eyes of the lurking predator. Not a warrior, but a strategist, and just as the most senior of enlistees bow their heads to noble officers, even generals must yield to the will of a strategist - especially one who has achieved victory time and time again.

"Understood, Admiral," said Floris as he tossed the last of his personal effects into a trunk, which the servants would later load into his quarters on board the transport vessel. "And what is to be our first target?"

"Constantinople. The fortress city, completely isolated by Muslim territory, which Venice seized from the Byzantine Empire and incorporated into their realm."

"Then Wilhelm truly intends my death, after all."

"I ... Pardon?"

"And the second letter?" asked Floris, abruptly changing the topic. "Who sent it?"

"Right ... hmm, this doesn't look like a state document, but rather a personal letter. It has the seal of the Kingdom of Bohemia upon it, and its author is ... the former Bohemia ambassador to Holland, Bruno Pavel-Levski, Prince of Bohemia ..."

"Give it here." said Floris, reaching out to snatch the letter from Gerardus Appingedam's grasp before tossing it unopened into his trunk. "I already know its contents. Now let us depart, Admiral."

"At once, Sovereign Floris."



Thuringia, November 1495. It had been a year since the commencement of the Franco-Hollander coalition's war to annex the Republic of Genoa. Led by Co-Sovereign Wilhelm von Hohenzollern of Holland, the Army of Amsterdam waited encamped at Erfurt, seat of the Duchy of Thuringia.

Half the army had earlier been detached, heading north through the Margraviate of Brandenburg to sweep out occupying Imperial forces and assist the the beleaguered Saxon defenders. Though the Brandenburgers were renowned across Germany for their fighting spirit and tenacity, their forces were no match for the sheer strength of the combined armies of the Emperor, even after factoring in the aid provided by their erstwhile rivals the Pommeranians. Wilhelm therefore prioritised the march through Imperial territory into the Saxon lands, so as to relieve these loyal allies of Holland before the Emperor could force them to capitulate.

The other half of the army waited, resting and recuperating in the Duchy of Thuringia, for the northern division to complete its tasks before regrouping for the march south, to take the offense to the Bohemian home territory. As the duchy served as the personal demesne of Duchess Gertud von Wettin, the wife of Wilhelm's twin brother Floris, Wilhelm thought it only courtesy to pay a personal visit to the Duchess' castle in Erfurt, to thank her for the contributions her soldiers had made to the war effort.

"Brother Wilhelm," the Duchess began. Attired in a glittering robe, her voice was light and feathery, her appearance still pleasantly demure despite being past fifty years of age. "May I call you Will?"

"You may call me what you please, ma'am." said Wilhelm, sipping from a glass of imported French wine, after having found the local schnapps far too sharp for his taste. Wilhelm took care to maintain a respectful distance in his words and mannerisms, knowing that the Duchess was technically senior in rank to him, and aware of how aristocrats in this part of the German lands were far more sensitive to issues of rank and station than in the more democratic conurbations of the Low Counties.

"Will. You've fought long and hard against the oppressive shadow which the large nations of the Empire - Austria, and now Emperor Bohemia - have cast over smaller duchies such as ours. Surely you must deserve a reward by now."

"Milady, I am only an administrator - a strategist. The true heroes are those like your husband ... my brother ... who clash blades with the enemy in the killing fields of war."

"Ah, but as you have said, he is presently far away from here. I miss him so, and I am glad you are here on his behalf. I have not seen him for several years, now."

The Duchess poured out a serving of French wine for herself, gently fondling the stem of the glass as she brought it to her lips. The wine was Burgundy, of course, for it would be difficult to justify the import of anything else from France into the notoriously protectionist confines of the Holy Roman Empire.

"I miss him too," explained Wilhelm, as he allowed the Duchess to refill his glass. "So preoccupied are we with our separate duties that we have not spoken for years, though we live in the same city. In this case, however, the necessities of war demanded that I personally oversee the delicate operation of systematically driving back the Bohemian advance. And, I must confess, the thought of travel by sea makes me queasy, while your husband was possessed of sufficient fortitude to travel as far as the Promised Land in his younger years."

"Fortitude, indeed," repeated the Duchess, her eyes glistening as she watched Wilhelm take another sip of wine. "I harbour the supposition that it is a quality shared by brothers."

"Perhaps, ma'am, but mine is an intellectual fortitude. The halls of government are my home, the arena of politics, my battlefield. And I have found my strength beginning to decline with age - my thoughts are no longer as sharp, or my senses as acute as they once were."

"You poor man," laughed the Duchess, flashing Wilhelm a coy smile. "Mayhap you need something that might perk you up, to put some life back into those old bones!"

"You are right," said Wilhelm, his expression suddenly growing serious as he placed his glass on the table. "What I need ... what Holland needs, is younger blood, to carry on this great task of running the country. It cannot be that my closest advisor is yet older than I am. You have a son, do you not, milady? I believe Floris named him Eberhard, after our father."

"I ... my boy Hardy?" The Duchess' face blushed an odd shade of puce, "I say, Wilhelm! You can't possibly be that sort of man!"

"To heartlessly take a son away from his mother ... no, certainly not. But to dedicate my life to serving my country, to the extent of finally learning and admitting that I cannot oversee and administer every minutiae for all time ... yes. Your words have opened my eyes to the truth, milady."

"... Surely you are drunk, my dear Will," observed the Duchess, her lips now a crooked smile that seemed amused and appalled in equal measures.

"I shall discuss this issue with Floris upon the conclusion of the war. Thank you very much for your insight, milady," said Wilhelm as he rose from his seat, "but I am afraid I must retire to bed. I have to rise early to oversee the reorganisation of the army in the morning - and once news reaches us from the north, we shall march."

"It will be a cold and lonely night, Wilhelm!" the Duchess said, her tone piteous, her eyes glimmering as she watched Wilhelm replace the chair.

"Do not worry about me, ma'am, I have spent many a cold and lonely night at my desk in my Amsterdam office." replied Wilhelm reassuringly as he turned to leave. "And I fear that I may have drunk too much - I must retire ere my tongue leaps ahead of my thoughts. Good evening, milady!"

Gertrud von Wettin, Duchess of Thuringia, watched Wilhelm leave the table, heading down the corridor to the stairway which led to his private guest room. Once he was out of sight and earshot, the once demure lady leapt up from her seat and unleashed her most overt expression yet, wringing her sleeves with her hands and stamping her feet petulantly as her features contorted into a frown punctuated by a mass of wrinkles.

"Oh, how he frustrates me!"


An artist's rendering of the external appearance of the Hagia Sophia in Christian times. Source: rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com

Constantinople, November 1495. It had been a year since the commencement of the Franco-Hollander coalition's war to annex the Republic of Genoa. Led by Sovereign Floris von Hohenzollern of Holland, the Sovereign's Own Army had been laying siege to the ancient walled city, now under Venetian control, for the past three months.

However, while one may think of traditional sieges as invaders trying to force their way into the city, this situation was a little different. Perhaps owing to their nature as a profit-oriented merchant republic, the Venetians had treated the capital of the former Byzantine Empire as more of a roadblock than a jewel in the crown. The walls were manned in such a way that rather than keeping Hollander troops out of the city altogether, the defense was concentrated around what the Venetians saw as the real prize - the ports and dockyards, the centres of trading and shipbuilding activity in which the Venetian plutocrats made their homes.

As far as the Venetians were concerned, the rest of the ancient city was little more than a worm-infested corpse, already looted several times over and now filled with nothing more valuable than Greek refugees, Muslim vagrants, and heathes and heretics of all colours who meant nothing to the commercial interests of Venice, their only concern being the strategic value which control over the ports of Constantinople offered over the Bosphorus. It was such a tactical decision which allowed Hollander forces to seize the central districts of Constantinople, including the ruins of the ancient Byzantine palaces, without actually crushing the Venetian resistance altogether.

Floris had heard of the Hagia Sophia, an ancient cathedral that was once the former seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Byzantium, which rested at the heart of Constantinople. The cathedral had been repurposed to serve the Catholic faith after the Venetian conquest of the city and the expulsion of the Patriarch, but in practice the lack of resources devoted to the enforcement of religious conformity, as well as the local population's overwhelming adherence to their old faith, meant that little control was exerted over the acceptability of the religious practices that were carried out within. As a deeply religious man whose experiences had taught him to trust little more than the Lord above, Floris thus felt it was only right to enter to pay his respects to the house of Christ and pray for victory in the battles to come. After all, though each man had their own faith, they still believed in the one true God.

It was close to evening by the time Floris finally ascended the steps to that hallowed place, accompanied by a small security detail of half a dozen guardsmen. The guards were necessary, it was felt, as that fabled cathedral was no longer as hallowed as it once was - its halls teemed not only with worshippers but also refugees, vagrants, beggars, and all manner of homeless townsfolk who sought shelter from the ravages of war. In fulfilling its sacred duty of offering sanctuary to all and sundry, the cathedral had ironically become a less safe place, with disease running rampant in the unhygienic conditions, and the weak and sickly falling prey to those who did not shy from criminal pursuits even in holy ground.

Floris did not fear the threats these dangers posed to the ordinary citizen despite his fifty-eight years, his body hardened against injury and disease from a lifetime of martial training, and fully capable of fending off an inexperienced assailant less than half his age. No, the Sovereign-General of Holland's true weakness was one which could only be bared to God, and God alone. And this was why he had come to the Hagia Sophia.

The refugees gathered along the corridors of the Hagia Sophia hushed their voices as they observed the aged general and his guardsmen advancing down the hallway, all of them attired in gleaming silver armour which stood out amongst the crowd of ragged garments. Several of the more well-informed commoners had already guessed at his identity, though most could at least see that he was neither local nor a Venetian. However, the most distinctive feature of this stranger was his eyes, his stare blank and unfocused, the lenses of his eyes opaque and unreflective. His apparent unresponsiveness to the bodies moving about him and his rigid and inflexible gait gave him the appearance of a man possessed, more a mannequin than a living being.

-

"My dear friend, Floris,

It is with deepest regret that I announce my resignation from my position as the Bohemian Ambassador to Holland, following the outbreak of war between our countries. I have relinquished my duties with the intent of enlisting in His Imperial Majesty's armed forces, to combat the unwarranted and unjustified aggression of France and her allies against states under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Empire.

I beg you not to worry for my sake. By the time you receive this letter, I will be far from Holland's borders, and your brother will not be wise to my disappearance until long after the fact, for I do not wish to be arrested and interned like a corralled beast, but to bear arms for my liege lord upon the field of battle. But I do hope, my dear friend, that we may never see each other for as long as a state of war exists between our nations, for I shall be duty-bound to slay any Hollander as I would any enemy of the Empire. And no doubt, you will be bound by the laws of honour and war to slay me, as well.

I pray for justice to triumph in these dark and troubled times, May God have mercy on us all.

-

The words in Bruno Pavel-Levski's note cycled again and again through Floris' mind. This was the reality of a war fought without honour, without righteousness, and without morality, whereupon brother would be turned against brother, father against son, liege lord against vassal, and friend against friend. And, if it were not for Wilhelm's vile machinations and self-serving arrogance, none of this would have come to pass. Surely reason would have won the day, had not such an unscrupulous and power-hungry warmonger been in charge.

But no! For all of his sins, the hateful state into which he had sunk was not Wilhelm's fault alone. For what was a brother, a twin brother even, but an extension of one's own body and soul, the right hand to the left, the conscience to the ego? Though Wilhelm had failed, it was Floris who was likewise to blame for not having reined in his brother when he yet exerted some influence over him. It was Floris who had failed to curb Wilhelm's overweening ambition and pride from the moment it first surfaced. It was Floris who clung desperately to his self-righteousness, refusing to coutenance the possibility of persuading Wilhelm to the path of righteousness. It was Floris, whose contemptable hypocrisy allowed him to wallow in the splendour of Wilhelm's ill-won glories even as he railed against them. And it was Floris, who allowed sentimentality and weakness to cloud his thoughts and dissuade him from doing his duty, when it was all that was needed to save his nation from the deplorable situation it was now forced to endure.

God above! Shall Floris ever be forgiven for his most monstrous sins?

A brilliant beam of evening sun, shining into the cathedral through the glassless windows, caught Floris in the eyes. Dazed, he averted his eyes from the source of the light, only to have his gaze fall upon the mural set into the wall of the cathedral illuminated by the ray of sunlight. Drawn to the irresistible beauty of the mosaic, Floris halted his steps, as his guard fell into formation about him. They were under the impression that he would be heading to the altar to receive a blessing from the priest, but Sovereign Floris' recent erratic and evasive behaviour outside the battlefield meant that there was little point questioning his actions - all they had to do was to fulfil their duties.


Not all of the mural has survived to the present day.

Christ, in His Majesty, Mother Mary, and John the Baptist. The figures were immediately recognisable to Floris, as was the religious significance of the positioning of the figures in the mural, a representation common in both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. It depicted a scene from the Last Judgement, when the virtue of men would be weighed against their sins.

"My sins ..."

Letters had been etched above and around the mural, some in Greek, some in Hebrew, and others in languages too ancient or obscure for Floris to recognise. His vision dimming under the radiant glow of the mural, Floris squinted as his eyes focused on a small set of lettering, scribbled near its base. Tiny letters in a language which Floris mysteriously seemed to understand, which shone as they basked in the glare of the evening sun's light, burning themselves into the back of his mind.

"Me ... ne ... mene ... te ... kel ..."

Floris had yet to finish reading the sentence when a stream of fresh blood issued from his throat and splattered to the floor, violet in the evening light.





Prague, December 1495. The bulk of the Hollander army stood at the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia, and by extension, as the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor, the capital of the Empire itself. An Empire whose standing army had been routed, and whose Emperor now hid, cowering within his last bastion of defence, its walls quivering as boulders and cannonfire battered against its fortifications.

"Dismantle the siege engines and fill the trenches. The war is over."

"But sir, the assault has barely begun! We've spent the last month surveying the fortifications about the march, as well as gathering the raw materials necessary to assemble the siege apparatus. We have yet to seriously challenge the defenders, never mind strike a decisive blow!"

"I ... have just learnt ... of my brother's death. This war may not continue, and I am negotiating immediate peace with the Venetian alliance. As your new Sovereign ... I decree that all Hollander forces are to withdraw from occupied territory by the end of the month."

"... Yes, Lord Wilhelm."


 
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aniuby

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Okay, it's done for real. The story shall continue next week, hopefully, and this time I shall ensure that each post is of a shorter length.

Um, yeah. I think I'll just go to the pub and get wasted now. Good evening, everyone.

I'll be sorry to see this end. As usual, a very well-written pentultimate update.

I'm sorry, too.

Also, I hope you meant 'penultimate' in the sense that I had a bit more to go before officially completing the post, because this AAR is definitely continuing!

Excellent updates
The Co Sovereigns are going to have to have it out, once and for all.

Thanks very much. I hope the ending was satisfactory.
 

DensleyBlair

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The writing on the wall... I'm sad to see Floris go - I'm assuming that, in game, you had Floris and then Wilhelm, with the two being anachronistically portrayed as twins? Nonetheless, a very clever way of imagining the family tree.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next. We haven't seen anything from the Promised Land in a while...
 

Mithfir

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Thanks, Mithfir! I'm always glad to have more people on board. As above, let me know what you think even if you may not have gone through all of the admittedly offputting walls of text so far.

Hmm, it may be because I recently started to read this AAR, but I don't know what you mean about the post no.2. Is it the family tree? Anyway, I'm up to page 2 so far, quite a great read! It's like reading a good book, so I'll take my time in reading everything. It is a bit confusing for me, since I'm quite a EU3 noob- nay, beginner and all the different characters are unfamiliar to me. I know little about Holland's history as well. I'm caught reading a couple more AARs I subscribed to, started Steve Jobs' biography, writing my own AAR and finishing my Byzantine game before the Old Gods come... Phew!

May I call you Lady van Henegouwen?
 

Fyregecko

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Not quite caught up completely, but thought I'd jump in to say that the war maps with the coats of arms on are some of the coolest maps I've seen in any AAR :)

I like the dialogues, but my favourite bit of all is probably the comments under the screenshots :D A nice combination of plot and levity. I'm hoping for more Florises if only to see how you react to the lack of a good equivalent of 'Caroline' or 'Jacobean' :D
 

aniuby

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Chapter 10 A : Will at the Helm -
Elderly and More Terrible (1496-1498)

Sovereign Wilhelm VI von Hohenzollern, since 9 November 1495

Spring, 1496.

"... I know I asked you to meet me in the town hall this afternoon, but this was not how I expected it..." stammered Wilhelm as he shifted uneasily, seated in an uncushioned chair.

"That's enough, Wilhelm von Hohenzollern. You will obey the official procedures of succession in Holland, and speak only when spoken to!" said a hoary old voice, over the rustling of several sheets of paper. "Now, what is your name?"

"Look, you already know who I am! I'm a very busy man, so could we cut this charade, forget about this interview, and get on with the affairs of state ..."

"Answer the question."

"... Wilhelm Karl von Hohenzollern. And to save you the trouble of asking, I'm fifty-eight years of age, the twin brother of Floris Gerhard von Hohenzollern, the previous Sovereign of Holland, and the nephew of Sovereign Albrecht I. My father was Albrecht I's brother, Eberhard, and my mother was a whore from Amsterdam. I live in Amsterdam, and currently hold the office of Co-Sovereign of Holland, acting chancellor, and chief military strategist."

"Excellent, Wilhelm. It's exactly as these documents say."

"I should know, Joost. I personally reviewed the procedures for the hereditary succession for the Sovereignty of Holland."

"Silence! And it is absolutely impermissible for you to address the interviewing official by name until you have been inducted into the office of Sovereign!"

"..."

Wilhelm grumbled. It was turning out to be a rather topsy-turvy day. Who would have guessed that the official appointed to assess him turned out to be his own administrative assistant, Marshal of the Mint Joost Schönebeck, who now showed none of his usual mild-mannered self, playing the part of obstructive bureaucrat with relish? Well! In any case, it took an experienced bureaucrat to know another, and Joost was one of the few individuals working in Holland's administration who was more experienced than Wilhelm himself.

Behind Wilhelm stood Admiral Gerardus Appingedam, who had been asked to bear witness to the swearing-in ceremony - it was at this point that Wilhelm realised why he was unable to solicit Joost for this responsibility. Clutching Wilhelm's file of administrative, diplomatic, and military correspondence under his arm, the Admiral felt out of his depth, having wandered unintiated into the innards of Holland's bureaucratic machine, but today he bore a heavy responsibility which no one else could shoulder.

"Wilhelm von Hohenzollern," Joost began, as he gazed intently at Wilhelm with eyes that had not a shred of meekness in them. "Do you know how the previous Sovereign, your brother Floris, met his end?"

"I did not see the incident in person, but Admiral Gerardus Appingedam was within the vicinity of the event, and I have asked him to be my witness."

"I see," said Joost as he reached for the quill at the side of his desk, preparing to take the Admiral's statement. "Please elaborate the circumstances of Sovereign Floris' death, Gerardus Appingedam."

"I was at Constantinople, serving as commander of the naval squadron ferrying the Sovereign's Own Army, when Sovereign Floris returned to the lord," Admiral Appingedam explained solemnly, "His escort informed me that he had been on a tour of the city when he collapsed, vomitting blood. It seemed like a simple recurrence of his existing ailment, or so I was told, but all attempts to revive him failed though he received immediate medical attention. It was as if ... as if he wanted to die."

"Stick to the facts, Admiral."

"I'm sorry, but that's what the physicians said after the post-mortem examination. The cause of death was noted as a paroxysmal aneurysm. Or a aneurysmal paroxysm. I don't know the difference myself, so that's really the best way of describing how it seemed to us."

"On that point," Wilhelm interrupted, in defiance of the previous instruction to speak only when spoken to, "Admiral, where is my brother's body? Surely he must have received a proper burial, if he was subject to an autopsy."

"He ... was buried at sea. Along with all his personal possessions. It was his explicit request, as recorded in his last words in his diary."

"He died on land, and asked to be buried at sea?" Wilhelm looked incredulous, suspicious at this breach of ceremony. "Does he want to become a lost soul, doomed to wander for all eternity? What will his wife and children feel about this?"

"As soldiers, we honour our commander's wishes, sire. And this contributed to the physicians' belief that he wanted to, and expected to die."

"Floris ... I never ... Was this how my uncle Albrecht felt, the day he faced his death?"

"That's enough, Wilhelm. And from you too, Admiral Appingedam. We have the information we need for our records." Marshal Schönebeck said, putting down his quill before folding his arms and addressing his sovereign directly. "Now ... onto more imminent matters. Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, do you know who your heir, as Sovereign of Holland, is to be?"

"I ... do not," admitted Wilhelm. It pained him to admit it, but the entire concept of raising a new generation of leaders had only occurred to him after the talk with the (strangely expressive) Duchess Gertrud of Thuringia, back in Erfurt.

"Apparently, your heir is a man named Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, who is fifty-eight years of age, and the brother of Sovereign Floris VI, nephew of Sovereign Albrecht I, and son of Albrecht I's brother Eberhard."

Wilhelm's jaw dropped.


... what? Why is the heir another old man named Wilhelm?

"But ... that's me!"

"So it would seem. Or perhaps your heir is indeed a man who is not you, but is named Wilhelm, fifty-eight years of age, and the brother of Sovereign Floris ..."

"That's enough, Joost!" Wilhelm interrupted, impatient at the obvious administrative mistake, "That description of the heir to the Sovereignty of Holland obviously refers to me! There must be a clerical error, somewhere!"

"Or perhaps, sire, your brother Sovereign Floris never thought of planning ahead and naming your heir," offered Admiral Appingedam helpfully. Indeed, the tradition of each sovereign appointing their successor's heir had long been well known as one of the more arcane traditions of Holland's plutocracy ... and one of the most debilitating ways for sovereigns to screw over a heir they disliked.

"That may be the case, Wilhelm," acknowledged Marshal Schönebeck, "but in any event, until this ... 'error' is rectified, a pretender could emerge at any time claiming to be that very 'Wilhelm'."

"... but that doesn't explain the problem! How could any one claim to be both me and my heir, when I am obviously, well, myself, and already the Sovereign?"

"We wouldn't be obstructive bureaucrats if we were able to provide you with a solution to that problem. I'm sure you already know this ... from your personal experience." said Joost Schönebeck, taking the opportunity to crack a toothy grin at his superior. "Besides, it's not too complicated to pretend to be anyone these days - you may already be aware that all sorts of people are adopting the Hohenzollern name in an attempt to play off this nation's prestigious standing in the world."


Is anyone counting how many people have mysteriously turned Hohenzollern?

The harrowing interview finally concluded, Wilhelm Karl von Hohenzollern, sixth of his name in the County of Holland, was finally acknowledged as Sovereign in his own right, as stated in the papers signed and stamped by all parties present in the room. Wiping the sweat from his brow, Wilhelm rose from his seat, glancing behind to address Admiral Appingedam. However, before he could speak, there was a rush of air in the otherwise still atmosphere of the room as Wilhelm observed Joost Schönebeck dash past him with his personal folder of documents tucked under his arm, at a surprising speed for a man of his age. In the blink of an eye, Marshal Schönebeck had flung open the door of and darted out, leaving the two bemused men standing perplexed in the middle of his office.

Wilhelm grumbled to himself, still bothered from having personally experienced the unnecessarily cumbersome procedures of succession, as he made his way through the town hall to his office, having retrieved his documents from the Admiral and released him from his duty. And who should he see standing outside the locked door of his office, but his faithful administrative assistant, Joost Schönebeck!

"Good afternoon, sire!" A pleasant, earnest smile shone through the old man's wrinkled features and whitening facial hair.

"What was that all about ..." Wilhelm mused, as he unlocked the door to his office and ushered the aged Marshal of the Mint within.



"I cut short the war against the Venetian alliance, as I felt it would be detrimental to the morale of the men to continue fighting a foreign war at a time when our own nation is in mourning," explained Wilhelm, as he drew out the first document, the signed text of a treaty. "My experiences in previous wars have taught me that this is considered an adequate explanation for the immediate termination of hostilities."

"Very wise, Lord Wilhelm," nodded Joost Schönebeck, as he scribbled fervently at the parchment before him, without raising his eyes to his lord.

"As it turns out, my suspicions were proven correct - France proved to be completely inept at fulfilling their own war goals, despite the massive advantage with which we left them. They couldn't get the Doge of Genoa to surrender his lordship of Liguria, instead forcing him to grant independence to the island of Corsica. Absolutely nothing else changed hands in this war, apart from a few coins. What a massive waste of life and resources, for so little gain!"

"You may like to speak with the French Ambassador about that, sire."

"I will. However, withdrawing from the war early has allowed me to take stock of Holland's military capacity in direct contrast with our neighbours and rivals, and I have drawn up a plan for the reorganisation of our armed forces, incorporating the feudal levies of local lords into the standing militia. There will be some short-term negative effects on the overall quality of our army, but I am hoping that in the long run, the more centralised control of our army will allow us to build a more effective and disciplined fighting force."

"We will promulgate these orders, sire, however ..." Marshal Schönebeck observed, "I don't believe the minor baronies will be too happy about the confiscation of their retinues."

"Indeed, they may not be. I tried to implement this policy on a small scale, and it was only a matter of time before a dissenter rose to challenge my instructions. Van den Derp, I believe his name was, and if what you mentioned about possible pretenders to the throne is true, I wouldn't be surprised if he called himself Wilhelm as well. Add a request to have him arrested and his title attainted."


Apparently, the pretender's name was Van den Derp. I mean Dorp. Derp.

"Yes, sire. May I ask how you propose to prevent other feudal lords from joining this Van den Derp in resisting your authority?"

"This is where the state comes in, Joost," Wilhelm explained, drawing out a second proposal and handing it to Marshal Schönebeck. "I have submitted a request to have our armed forces issued with a new, standardised uniform, with all costs of replacement borne by the state. Soldiers shall no longer wear the colours of their commander or feudal lord, but may only bear the arms of the nation of Holland. I hope this measure will win the patricians' support by promising to boost the profits of our textile manufacturers and artisans."

"So ... shall I file this under 'Uniformity', sire?"

"Yes. Put it together with that other bill for regulating the Book of Common Prayer. We don't want rogue preachers spreading heresy in the streets of our nation."


"Lastly, I will be personally overseeing a recruitment campaign to attract some new talent to Holland's administration. I find it rather unacceptable that the same individual had to multitask as my interviewer and my assistant."

"Was my performance unsatisfactory, sire? I believe I acted as was demanded of the role."

"Um ... in fact, it was exemplary. I just found it ... unsettling. Don't do it again." Wilhelm confessed, his embarrassment and unease contrasting with the pride with which the aged Marshal Schönebeck beamed. "In truth, without my brother by my side, I fear that I will be unable to devote to my multiple responsibilities the adequate amount of attention which they are due. It is therefore of utmost importance that several of these responsibilities be delegated to a worthy generation of upcoming young leaders."

"And speaking of a new generation ... regarding your heir?"

"I will see to that myself. I shall inform you of any ... updates in the situation."


Gives a whole new meaning to the concept of killing yourself.

It was a lovely June afternoon in the year of our Lord 1499, which would soon prove to be one of the most fateful of days. A small reception was being held in the throne room of the Sovereign's manor in Amsterdam, to welcome the arrival of a very important guest. Currently in attendance were four men, three bearded and of advanced age but still in the pink of health, while the fourth was young man, just under six feet tall, who was mustachioed and attired in the luxurious robes of a patrician of Holland.

"Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to this splendid fellow with whom you will have the pleasure of working," began Wilhelm, placing his hand on the younger and slightly shorter man's shoulder, "Dirk Culemborg was originally from Guelders, which as you may well know is a loyal and reliable associate of our alliance of free nations. He found his passion participating in the 'V V V' movement, campaiging for the liberation of Flanders from the yoke of Castillian oppression. He currently serves as a press representative of the Bevrijding Partij, the Liberationists for Democracy, who champions the cause of greater personal freedoms and accountability of government to the people. I am proud to announce that this young but talented statesman will serve as my apprentice with the view of possibly assuming the office of Chancellor in the near future."

Joost Schönebeck, who was already familiar with the thirty-something Culemborg after meeting him several times in Amsterdam's town hall, applauded softly but politely, smiling meekly as he did so. In contrast, Ambassador Ross de Boeuf of France, clad in a ceremonial jacket and kilt, flashed the man a wide grin before returning to face the row of alcoholic beverages arranged for the length of the table, and taking another swig out of a previously uncorked bottle of whisky.

"Master Culemborg here helped to devise the unusual strategy by which we would put to rest the problem of pretenders posing as myself. Cleverly, he enlisted a group of mercenaries to, ahem, put 'my heir' to an eternal rest on some facetious 'hunting trip', while secretly telling them not to actually do anything and just keep the money. Of course, anyone who knows the slightest thing about me would be aware that the real Wilhelm would not indulge in such a spurious pursuit as hunting, but this arranged 'accident' allowed me to perpetuate the story that my heir, 'Wilhelm von Hohenzollern' had died in a nasty accident. The tunnel vision of most people with no interest in usurping the sovereignty would help ensure that those who pretend to Holland's throne would be unable to find no support whatsoever."

"Thank you very much, sire. It was really nothing, I merely did my duty." said Culemborg, betraying not the slightest hint of bashfulness, his deep voice and prideful expression belying the modesty in his words. "It is only your genius and wise administration which has taken this country to the heights of power and wealth it now enjoys."

"Don't flatter me, lad," replied Wilhelm, chiding the younger man by giving him a gentle push on his shoulder. "The responsibilities of a nation cannot be borne by one man's shoulders alone."

"But it's true, sire," Dirk insisted. "We can't deny that this country's bureaucracy is running smoother than ever as a result of your reforms. With all affairs of state channelled directly to your office, rather than divded between you and your brother as during the Florean times, administrative matters are being handled more promptly by a group of individuals with a better grasp of the wider situation facing our nation. Placing the military under civilian command was only the first step in formalising this centralisation of power."


"Um ... on thar matter, sire," Marshal Schönebeck interrupted, timidly raising a hand to draw his lord's attention. "If you've dealt with the, uh, error in the succession, who have you appointed as your heir? We can't have the Sovereignty fall vacant, or devolve power to the patricians - not while the nation is still in personal union with Brandenburg and Thuringia."

"You have a son, do you not, sire?" said Dirk Culemborg, proudly displaying his knowledge of his sovereign's private family matters. "Have you considered appointing him as heir?"

"I am afraid my son cannot be considered for the succession, as he already has duties of his own, as the Sovereign of ... oh dear, what was the name of that county again?" Momentarily lost in thought, his age beginning to get the better of him, the normally unflappable Wilhelm paused to consider the matter before continuing. "But that's not important at this time. More importantly, Joost, I have made plans to groom a suitable heir, which is why I have asked all of you to gether here today."

At that moment, there was a gentle, almost pathetically meek knock on the closed wooden doors of the throne room. In response, the guards stationed at the entrance drew open the doors, to reveal the guest of honour for whom the reception had been called.

Into the throne room stepped a lad in his late twenties, attired in a fine yet casual-looking tunic and trousers, who staood a few inches shorter than Dirk Culemborg. His hair was dark brown and stringy, with a quiff or cowlick of sorts hanging loosely over the right part of his forehead. Although he did not wear a beard or moustache, the slight hint of stubble on his upper lip and chin indicated that he needed to shave regularly. Most unusually, especially when compared with the three Hollanders in the room, this young men was not thin or at least well-built for his height, but bore the semblance of a paunch which gave him a slightly awkward appearance.

"... G ... guten tag ..."


Also ... crikey, Joost Schönebeck is at least 68 years old, and still going ... No retirement or pensions in Holland!

"This is ... my nephew, Eberhard von Hohenzollern, eldest son of my brother, Floris, and his wife Duchess Gertrud of Thuringia ..." announced Wilhelm, although his slightly wavering voice seemed to betray a sense of disappointment at the somewhat underwhelming appearance of his chosen successor. "He just travelled from the Saxon lands this past week to serve as my second apprentice, and hopefully live up to his father's glorious legacy as the Sovereign of our nation."

"... Danke, Onkel Wilhelm ..." young Eberhard stammered, his eyes darting from person to person in the room, nervous at being the centre of attention.

"Hey, don't you speak the local language?" Dirk called out, already somewhat frustrated at Eberhard's hesistation.

"N ... nei ... not well ..."

"Forgive him, Dirk." apologised Wilhelm, as he signalled for the trembling young man to join them. "For all his life, he has lived sheltered in the Duchy of Thuringia, protected by his mother and free of responsibility. I shall take it upon myself to teach him the ways of statesmanship. He is ... I am told he is earnest and inquisitive, and I am confident I will be able to make a great ruler out of such a promising young man."

"J ... yes, sir."

The slightly shorter young man awkwardly shuffled to the space beside his uncle, smiling weakly in response to Joost Schönebeck's wrinkled grin, and shying away from Dirk Cuylemborg's disapproving glance. Approaching from behind, a clearly inebriated Ambassador Ross de Boeuf thrust a mug of frothy beer into Eberhard's trembling hands, the young man clearly too nervous to properly voice his acceptance or refusal.

"Now that we are gathered, friends," declared Wilhelm, "let us raise a toast to welcome the new generation of Holland's leaders. Let us pledge ourselves, not to be bound by ancient tradition, mysticism, or ritual, but to always continue to strive and improve ourselves. Here's to innovation, to renewal, to the future! Voorwarts, Holland ..."

Wilhelm's words were interrupted by the thunder of heavy footsteps and the clank of metal, as a group of armoured guardsmen flanking a formally-attired civilian sprinted up the hallway toward the throne room. The civilian, a balding old man with a small white moustache and goatee, clutched under his arm an extremely large scroll, wound about an elaborately carved column, all the while wearing an antagonised expression on his face. An uninvited guest, it would seem, but why had he come?



"Sovereign Wilhelm VI von Hohenzollern of Holland!" cried the man as he stepped into the throne room, retrieving and unfolding the scroll he carried.

"... Ambassador Werner-Schwarzel of Austria?"


To be continued in the next part! Chapter 10 B : Will at the Helm - Worse than Senseless Things (1499-1501)
 
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Mithfir

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I'm now at page 6 of your AAR. Great work! It has all I like: intrigue, war, scandalous love affair, women spies, assassins, and economics! Playing a smaller nation sure is a thrill isn't it? I'm saddened how Albrecht turned out, but then Floris and Wilhelm form a magnificent duo of man and man behind the man.

The one thing that confuses me are the EU3 mechanics which I'm not familiar with. I blame my inexperience. Like, that one time when you ask: "See my mistake here?" /scratches head hopelessly

Queen Sif I of Sweden requests me to go pillage Western Europe again. Keep it up Lady van Henegouwen! (I dig the name)
 

DensleyBlair

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Ah, bureaucracy - isn't it the best? Good to see Wilhelm's hair heir problem was sorted out, though Eberhard seems a bit...underwhelming. Will there ever be another father-son succession?

Looking forward to seeing what the ambassador's arrival entails.