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Jan 24, 2012
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Chapter 10 D : Will at the Helm -
Spurned, like a Cur, out of the Way (1502-1503)

Sovereign Wilhelm VI von Hohenzollern, since 9 November 1495

"Congratulations on your victory against Castille, sire."

Despite the hoarseness of his voice, Joost Schönebeck's words rang out with clarity in the silence of the meeting room in the Sovereign's manor in Amsterdam.

It was true that the elderly Joost did not actually permit himself to express his opinions on matters of state unless directly questioned about such, but in all honesty the wizened old statesman had expected a little more elation or at least a joyous and prideful greeting from his liege lord, Wilhelm VI von Hohenzollern, Sovereign of Holland (that bit always came first) and Emperor of the Germans.

Indeed, Sovereign Wilhelm had written to Joost shortly before his departure from his field camp in Paris, informing him that he was to be commended at an official state ceremony for his dedication to the nation of Holland, having served as its Marshal of the Mint for more than half of its existence since its independence from its former overlord Hainaut. Having been issued with the authority of the sovereign himself, that commendation was no jest - Schönebeck himself, in his capacity of overseeing all expenditures of the state of Holland, had personally approved the allocation of funds for the crafting of the medal which would cement his name in Holland's hall of legends, a list which included illustrious figures known to every schoolboy in the country. Jan van Henegouwen. Alfredo Zeno. Eberhard Venloo. 'Gerardus Gouda'.

And now, Joost Schönebeck, officially a hero of the nation of Holland. A commemorative statue in the newly-integrated territory of Friesland was even unveiled in his honour. After all, his namesake town of Schönebeck itself, while an Imperial city, wasn't actually part of Holland proper. It was a fitting tribute to immortalise one of the greatest pillars of state in the nation's history.

However, today all that greeted this newly-proclaimed hero was a stony silence and the cold yet piercing glare of a deeply troubled Wilhelm, seated alone at the side of the war-room table, as he angled his head to face the newly-arrived minister.

"These allegations are of the utmost seriousness. Tell me everything you know about them - their source, the date they began spreading. Who is responsible for this."

A petition had been placed in Amsterdam's market square, accusing Sovereign Wilhelm VI von Hohenzollern of some of the worst crimes which could be attributed to someone who could be considered, through his actions if not through his position alone, as a father of a nation, if not an entire Empire. According to this peition, Wilhelm had allegedly completely ignored his wife Juliette Braun, daughter of Julius Braun of Nevers, shortly after consummating his marriage, never ever seeing or speaking to her or her son since then. In itself, this could not be considered a terribly abhorrent or even uncommon thing, but more lurid still were the details which followed of Wilhelm's wife's rape and murder at the hands of pillaging soldiers and his son's disappearance, matters completely ignored by that supposedly omniscient Sovereign whose claim to fame was his ability to oversee and micromanage nearly every aspect of his nation. What, pray tell, what was a man, if he could not even protect the wife he wed before the eyes of God from harm?

Of course, like all such malicious and baseless rumours, the petition was quickly removed from the wall it had defiled with its presence, only for it to mysteriously reappear the next day. Worse still, translations and copies, and commentary, began to circulate among the upper crust of Holland's society. Further believability was attributed to this once easily-dismissed allegation by the very simple fact that Sovereign Wilhelm never spoke of his wife or son, or even having a family at all. Indeed, the Sovereign was known to be in the process of grooming his twin brother's son to be his heir, who would possibly be the future Emperor of the Romans, which would not be unusual under most circumstances, but highly suspicious when that man was known to have already sired a child of his own flesh and blood. Circumstances had conspired to inflate this once forgettable and easily-ignored rumour into one so insuppressible it even daunted that great administrator Wilhelm von Hohenzollern himself.

Today, Wilhelm's voice had not the trace of anger about them, though he had been known for his quick temper in his younger years. Only a steely determination to root out and extirpate everything about this accusation, this smear campaign, which cast doubt upon his integrity, his honesty, the truth and rightfulness about everything he stood for. And when he had found that person, the rumour-monger, the one who dared to attempt to bring this great man crashing to the earth ... it was then that he would show his anger.

"Sire, I have put Chancellor Dirk Culemborg on the case ever since his return to Amsterdam. I believe his connections among the socialites and political activists of Amsterdam will be crucial in solving this case. I recall he was scheduled to join us at this meeting today, as well."

"I am here, Marshal Schönebeck," called a resonant baritone voice. As the doors swung open behind Joost, he quickly leaned forward and rested his weight on the table, ensuring that the heavy wooden panels missed his shoulder blade, albeit by mere inches. It was a good thing all civil servants had been trained in appropriate and safe positioning behind doors ever since that incident with Sovereign Floris in Wilhelm's office.

Standing tall in the doorway was Dirk Culemborg, now officially promoted to the position of Chancellor of Holland following his contribution to the victory over Castille, his chest puffed out like a proud cockerel. Beside him there stood Eberhard von Hohenzollern, son of Sovereign Floris VI von Hohenzollern, a mere shrinking violet in comparison. While no longer as timid as when he was first introduced, the slightly portly Eberhard still seemed to have a natural hunch due to his nervousness, as if he was trying to hide his paunch. However, seeing Eberhard there, Wilhelm blinked as softness crept into his expression, clearly not having expected to see the youngster who was now one of the focal points upon which this latest conspiracy revolved.

"Oh, Eberhard?" Dirk seemed to be able to read Wilhelm's expression, as he replied to Wilhelm's thoughts almost seamlessly. "You told me to guide him well, so he's my apprentice as much as yours, isn't he? I've been teaching him the local language. Since he's your heir, I think he needs to know the kind of business into which his Sovereign is getting."

Wilhelm silently nodded acknowledgement. He had hoped to keep Eberhard out of an affair which impinged purely upon his own personal integrity, but it was impossible to refute Dirk Culemborg's arguments on the matter.

"Also, I brought him along to have him explain to you the rationale behind some of the ... shall we say ... more controversial changes he insisted it was his prerogative, as your heir, to introduce regarding the national policies of Holland."

"What are these?" asked Wilhelm, as Joost Schönebeck's mouth widened into an 'O'. It seemed that the old man was about to raise the issue as well, but had been beaten to the punch by the preternaturally prescient Dirk Culemborg.

One of our galleasses has gone out of skew in the Ijssel ... NOBODY EXPECTS THE HOLLAND INQUISITION
Truthfully, I've explored all I want to explore. Getting rid of this means no longer getting missions to reveal yet more of the world map which I don't allow myself to colonise,
and being able to pass the incredibly powerful 'Gilded Iconography' decision. It will also help with slowing the Reformation, and speeding it up when I convert.

"Ah ... Onkel ... Elsamaria is very religious woman. She says Christianity in Holland is no good, people don't care about God, only money and power and politics. If people go to church more, they are better people. So says the Bible."

"Is that so, boy? It's good to see you finally taking some initiative in your duties." said Wilhelm at last, although his expression remained stoic and unmoving despite his words of encouragement. "But you must consider the consequences of these decisions, their merits and demerits, before taking them. This is why you must always consult your ministers instead of acting impulsively."

"I ... don't disagree with this decision, sire," Joost proferred some words of support. "Apart from the moral considerations, we've also heard rumours of a new type of heresy spreading within the house of God, people contesting the supremacy of Rome ... regulating people's allegiance to the Church would help quell potential subversive elements and stabilise the country."

"But I disagree." Dirk Culemborg stated flatly, casting a sideways glance at his supposed apprentice. "The state has enough matters on its hands just surviving in the cut-throat world of European diplomacy, how much more should it spend on regulating the lives of its citizens? It's for individuals to suffer the consequences if they go to Hell for spurning the one true God. This is no moralist gesture - it is an overextension of the state and the stifling of liberties, nothing less than that."

Furrowing his brows, Wilhelm rested his head on his hands as he considered the situation. While Eberhard's actions had a somewhat dubious reasoning behind them, it did aid Wilhelm in that he had less to explain to those who petitioned him regarding the Prophecy of the Promised Land, which he had admittedly set aside while focusing on jockeying for power against the great nations of Europe.

"Well, if that's settled, my liege," Dirk began again, "I'd like to return to the issue of pinpointing the rascal, the wastrel responsible for spearheading this smear campaign against your illustrious person. I know who it is - indeed, I have known ever since I first set eyes upon that petition."

"You do?!" Joost Schönebeck was incredulous - if solving the puzzle was that simple, he need never have given Dirk that duty in the first place.

"Of course. It's the King of England, Edward IV 'The Red' of Lancaster."

"This is a very serious accusation, Chancellor Culemborg." said Wilhelm, ashen-faced at hearing the name of one of Holland's great rivals. "You realise that if this is true, it will mean war with England, for the honour of the nation of Holland. For my honour. What proof do you have to substantiate your claims?"

"To begin, sire, there's the rather brazen claim within the petition stating that your wedding ring ... your wife's wedding ring is in the possession of the King of England. How he got his hands on something which was supposedly looted from your wife's body is beyond me, unfortunately."

"That's not enough evidence, Dirk," countered Wilhelm as he raised a finger to check his minister's overwhelming pride for arriving at his conclusion. "We don't know if he really has it, and even if he did, it could have been sent to him by someone who was party to the plot. We have no way of proving he went out of his way to acquire it."

"That's a fair observation, sire. However, I'm not done yet," replied Dirk, his confidence in his deduction unshaken. "Based on the dating of these pamphlets currently circulating, I have reason to believe that the one in the local language is not the original but rather a translation of another language. I've done a little research to confirm my suspicions, and while those in other languages - French, German, Italian, and so on are written in a similarly formal tone, the English translation is ... shall we say, a little more flowery."

"I didn't know you were an expert at the English language, Dirk," observed Marshal Schönebeck.

"I make it my duty to conduct research on all of Holland's possible opponents. Although I don't think one needs a qualification in the language to understand the intent behind such choice phrases as 'faffing about in Amsterdam', 'wham-bam-thank you ma'am', 'taking the piss out of his miss', and 'havin' a rollicking good time poncing about Europe while things went balls-up in the County of Nevers'."

"Perhaps the English translator just had a colourful vocabulary, or a sense of humour ..." stammered Wilhelm, although his already pale face was beginning to lose its colour, his teeth beginning to chatter from either trepidation or rage. "A very twisted sense of humour. Regardless, that's still an insufficient justification for war."

"Oh yes, there's one more thing." Dirk said matter-of-factly. "You may know that the English Ambassador to Holland, Mortimer Featherstonehaugh of Leicester, recently requested to be recalled to his home country. It was granted, of course, and until we receive a replacement we have only limited diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of England. However ... it may interest you to know that this happened the day before the accusatory pamphlet first appeared in Amsterdam's Market Square ..."

"..." Wilhelm was hesitant, even as he appeared to be visibly quivering, the emotion within him boiling over and searching for an outlet to upon which to explode.

"... and that means we couldn't demand an explanation from them even if we wanted to." Joost provided the conclusion to the cunning young Chancellor's observation, although his expression still betrayed his doubts. "But these things happen all the time. We can't declare war simply because of an unlikely set of coincidences and conclusions based on very shaky evidence..."

"I've done my research, sire, and I've discovered that reprehensible Red Ed of England has been taking advantage of our distraction to expand his influence outside Europe." stated Dirk, cutting off Joost before he could complete his explanation. "Specifically, he's been attempting to subjugate the natives of the dark continent of Africa in an attempt to extend his twisted ideal of 'Equality of All Men' to them ... supposedly by trying to 'turn' them into Englishmen. Or more accurately, slaughtering them and repopulating their lands with his ilk. We could use this blatant attempt to suppress the liberty of free peoples as a justification to start ..."


Wilhelm's terrifying roar startled even the irrepressible Dirk Culemborg mid-sentence. With meaningful slowness, Wilhelm rose to his feet, both fists planted firmly on the surface of the war-room table.

"War. WAR. For Holland's honour." intoned Wilhelm, his eyes blazing with raging hellfire. "For the honour of my wife, and son, we will have war!"

Eberhard reached for the door, preparing to slink out of the room before his bladder gave way. This was a side of his beloved Onkel Wilhelm which he did not desire to see.

"Joost, call our tributary nations and allies in the Empire. Dirk, summon the French ambassador. I will handle the war plans personally. Now, go!" Wilhelm's orders were issued not with his usual modesty, but with the authority of a man who held the highest temporal office in all of Europe itself. There was no questioning them.

"Yes, sire." nodded Joost, as he followed Eberhard to the exit, letting the doors swing shut behind him without waiting for Chancellor Dirk Culemborg.

"Yes, my lord." echoed Dirk as he bowed with all the pride of a devoted minister. However, as he turned away to leave the room, his face broke into a cruel smirk of triumph which his sovereign had no way of noticing.

"It is done. Holland will rise. Tyranny will fall."

Battle Plan : The Anglo-Hollander War of Mutapan Liberation HONOUR, started November 1501

Mutapa Swahili, Mutapa Swahili, pig god pig god pig god will pray for you. Ooh yeah friendship, Mutapa Mutapa don't worry Mutapa.
England owns Labourd, Smyrna, a chunk of Algiers/Morocco, and pieces of the Mutapan coast. We must punish them for their ugly expansion before they convert Mutapa, though our allies can't really help.
Castille doesn't seem badly off after the previous war apart from losing most of their colonies and all their ships. Other funny stuff happening are Swiss thrashing Aquileia and Bavaria beaten by OPMs

Standing before the private office of the French Ambassador in Amsterdam, Dirk Culemborg, Chancellor of Holland, gingerly pushed open the door which had been left ajar. A terrifying sight unfolded before him.

The place looked like it had been torn apart by a whirlwind. In the centre of the room, a heavy wooden locker lay, overturned and devoid of contents. Each piece of furniture, from the shelves to the desks and the chairs, looked disheveled and ramshackle, on the verge of collapsing under their own weight. Paintings dangled, lopsided, from nails imperfectly driven into the walls. In the centre of all this strife was a rather ill-dressed, bearded man, who was bent over, away from the entrance, who appeared to be rummaging among the heaps of personal effects.

He wore little more than a woolen shirt and a knee-length skirt of some sort, which left little about the density of hairs upon his lower legs to the imagination, and around him, on every surface or patch of floor, there were strewn papers and books of all sorts, whether letters, documents, correspondence, or even pages from a ledger, interspersed by the odd article of clothing. It was, of course, the French Ambassador himself, Ross de Boeuf, in a state of sartorial despair.

"Crivvens, mon ami. You haven't seen my other sporran about, have ye?"

"A sporran? Surely you mean this thing, here?" Dirk gingerly reached for that aforementioned odd article of clothing he saw buried within a heap of papers, picking it up by its chain, which he hoped was the most appropriate place for touching an item kept so close to one's spirit.

"You've saved my blushes, mate!" said Ross, as he whirled about (albeit at a speed which made a Hollander like Dirk feel disturbed), and stumbled through the scattered papers to retrieve the prize. "The folks back home would never let me hear the end of it, if they knew I'd lost it somewhere overseas..."

"... ahem ... yes, of course. But we have some business to discuss, Ambassador." Dirk coughed meaningfully as Ambassador de Boeuf fastened the sporran about his waist. "I'm here on orders from his Imperial Majesty, Sovereign Wilhelm, concerning a certain perfidious kingdom better known as England."

"Oh? This sounds good. I presume you wish me to issue a call to arms to the French court."

"More specifically. I have a special proposal regarding the deployment of French forces ..."

Full of confidence, Dirk Culemborg raised a finger in an explanatory pose, as if adopting the smug posture of an academician at a university. As he opened his mouth to speak, however, he was scythed down from behind by a wooden panel slamming into his shoulder blade.

"Oh, Your Imperial Majesty? This was unexpected ...!" Despite his age, Ross de Boeuf's face flushed a deep red as the scrutinising countenance and furrowed brows of the Sovereign of Holland appeared between the doors. "Welcome to my office ... or rather, what's left of it. I apologise for the mess!"

"I apologise too, my lord ... it was very unexpected, indeed..." grumbled Dirk as he struggled to his feet, scowling. After all, it was regrettable that he had been caught out for neglecting that advice given to all civil servants regarding the trajectory of doors. Or the undesirability of lying on the floor before someone attired in Scottish ceremonial dress.

"Chancellor, Ambassador de Boeuf, well met. I'm glad that I was able to get here before you parted," said Wilhelm, although his stern expression showed none of the happiness he professed to feel. "My secretary handed me your letter just minutes ago, Ambassador. And Dirk ..."

"... yes?" The younger man was in the process of dusting himself off, but paused as he noticed he was affixed with hsi Sovereign's hard, piercing glare.

"I've discovered your plans. They were in the top drawer of your desk. You really ought to have hidden them better."

"... so you have ..." Dirk could only manage a weak smile, as Wilhelm's frown deepened.

"Of course. After you mentioned how you aimed to always be armed with a contingency plan against our rivals. I knew I you would prepare a strategy for conflict with England. I was not disappointed ... not with your strategy, at least. But you should not have left such sensitive documents within easy reach - the discovery of these plans by a foreign spy could easily spark a diplomatic incident."

"... uh, yes, sire ..." stammered Dirk, as he unconsciously wiped the beads of sweat forming on his neck. His Sovereign's admonishment was a lesser worry, most certainly while shoulder, and pride, still smarted.

"A plan, your Imperial Majesty?" interrupted Ross de Boeuf, as he stepped forward to stand between the two taller men.

"More importantly, Ambassador," said Wilhelm, as he shifted his gaze away from Dirk, "do you believe that we have a good chance of convincing the Conseil du Roi to go to war? And will they be willing to sustain the war effort, long enough for us to inflict a crushing blow against England?"

"I believe so, sire. In fact, I have full confidence that the Council will stand with you against our eternal enemy." affirmed Ross, stiffening his posture as if drawing to attention, a gesture which brought some satisfaction to the troubled Sovereign of Holland. "The people of France feel that we still have yet to inflict upon "Red Ed" appropriate payback for his heinous and despicable attempt to seize and despoil our homelands. And, of course, we want the return of all of Aquitaine. If we can rally the people behind us, we will be able to move with all our strength. In addition, the Council and dare I say His Majesty Louis XIV himself are grateful to you for giving us an opportunity to prove ourselves in the last war against Castille."

"How so, Ambassador?" asked Wilhelm.

"As you may recall, both His Majesty King Louis as well as our enemy Juan III de Trastimara of Castille had been excommunicated by the Holy See. It seems that the war between mutually excommunicated rulers, resulting in our victory, served to prove to His Holiness that our cause is right, and he has agreed to lift our king's excommunication!"

That's right, kids. It's not about how clever, hardworking, or deserving you are, but whether you have the right connections.

"Congratulations, Ambassador. So, may I count on you to transmit Dirk's excellent strategem to the French court, to be executed upon the outbreak of war?"

Giving an approving nod, Wilhelm advanced toward the younger man who served as his Chancellor and thumped him on the back in encouragement. Unfortunately, it happened to be right over the spot where the door had struck him. A single moment of carelessness had proven to be costly indeed for Dirk, but Wilhelm's softening countenance, indeed the semblance of a smile forming in his lips, let the younger man know that he had his Sovereign's confidence.

"Ahem. Yes ... it's a simple strategy, really. We all know England's greatest strength is in its mighty fleet of carracks, which outweighs the total strength of even Holland, France, and all her allies put together. That was the problem in the last war - because of their concentration of naval power, we were unable to challenge them in the seas, and only the actions of our gutsy admiral allowed us to create a break in their defenses to insert a landing party, who was only just able to overcome their home guard. In other words, our success the last time was entirely the work of fortune."

"That's an ill assessment indeed," said Ambassador Ross de Boeuf, scratching his chin as he recalled the deplorable state into which France had fallen which resulted in the outbreak of Red Ed's war. "So what makes you so confident of beating them now?"

"My confidence, you could say, stems from their overconfidence," smirked the young yet talented statesman. "Since then, they have expanded their territory, but not their navy, which is overstretched and no longer able to effectively police their sea lanes ... or defend it from a concentrated strike. Apart from their homeland, England also controls territories in Hibernia, the Maghreb, and now the southern coast of the dark continent of Africa. They have divided their navy in order to be able to secure their disparate and illegitimate conquests from lesser rivals who would attempt to seize them. But we are no lesser rivals."

"I saw the potential in your strategy the moment I saw it, Dirk." said Wilhelm, his gaze softening as he commended his chancellor. "If England attempts to blockade our fleet in port, the French fleet in the Mediterranean would overrun their African territories. If they moved to defeat the French fleet, we would sweep over them and inundate them with our numerically superior and better trained ground forces. If they divded their forces to check both of us, we would be able to shatter their northern detachment with our allies' help, then move south to aid France, resulting in the annihilation of their fleet."

"I don't know what France would do without allies like you, Lord Wilhelm," praised Ross de Boeuf, clearly overawed (though it did not take much to awe him). "I won't deny it - the French idea of strategy is sending four divisions of men to overwhelm the single English regiment garrisoning Labourd. And I don't doubt that, upon the outbreak of war, exactly that will happen. However, I will see to it that these plans are distributed to our generals so that our elite shock troops will be able to back you up where they are needed."

"You've done me proud, young Dirk. I knew you were the best man for the job." said Wilhelm, giving Dirk yet another encouraging thump on the back ("Ow!"). "And you, Ambassador de Boeuf, think nothing of it. You've been instrumental in maintaining diplomatic ties and cementing our friendly relations ever since the beginnings of the Franco-Hollander alliance. Things may never be the same without a man like you in the job."

"Wait ... is the Ambassador leaving? I knew nothing of this," interrupted Dirk, his eyes twitching as he seemed to be counting something in his head, even as he continued to furiously massage the spot on his back where the door - and his sovereign - had struck him. "The foreign diplomatic corps must be starved of personnnel. With Werner-Schwarzel of Austria's death, Lester Fenshaw's mysterious departure, and now de Boeuf ... I daresay we won't have a single ambassador from a major country in our capital."

"Ach, my apologies, Chancellor," said Ross de Boeuf, tipping his non-existent bonnet which was presumably lying somewhere about his office, "I'm getting on a bit ... and I'd like to be able to see my folks before I'm pushing up the daisies, ye ken?"

"Oh, very well. Such is life." Dirk shrugged, "and where in France does your family live?"

"No, no. I live in France, but my ancestral homeland is actually Scotland, the highlands of glorious Alba. And I'd reckon that my folks would throw a céilidh and piss the night away if they knew what part I played in cutting scum England down to size. Red Ed and his crazy 'One Nation' dream of uniting the island can sod off, Free Scotland forever!"

"Speaking of Free Scotland, Ambassador de Boeuf, I would ask a final favour of you, in your personal capacity, rather than of your role as Ambassador from France." spoke up Wilhelm, the twinkle in his eye betraying that razor-sharp acuity and opportunism he displayed in his younger years.

"What would that be?"

They still won't join the war, though. But Red Ed can't say we cheated by invading from a 'neutral' country! It's Scotland's (s)oil!

OH MY GOD!!! That's right, the story will continue as soon as I can get time to concentrate on writing once again!
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Jun 27, 2007
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Awesome! Read it all now, really cool gameplay (who even thinks of moving to Asia?!) combined with awesome storywriting. Hurrah! Looking forward to when you continue.