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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

alscon

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Welcome to my first AAR. As the beginning is difficult, I am in need to find a style of writing, but that is nothing experience can't mend.
I have started as the legendary dynasty-founder, a Norse in Connacht, and will pick up the AAR at a crucial point of the main line's history. Their ancestors' life will be detailed as time advances, but as the time between them grows, legend gains importance over facts, and some parts may change entirely. I will try to take the traits of my rulers into consideration while advancing in time and also while narrating. Naturally, feedback is most welcome.

-I used the console only to create my legendary founder (he is a legend, after all) and once to distribute titles correctly in Gavelkind (If son A has a county in duchy X, what will he inherit? Right, duchy Y, where son B has a county, while B inherits X), but else I will not touch the console, as tempting as it may be.

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII

Prologue

The castle of Roscommon has fallen. The former lord of this place, Mugrón Ua Briúin Aí of Connacht, was led to the dungeons. The siege didn't last long. The Count's soldiers were in Northumbria, fighting against the Great Heathen Army. So another troop of Norsemen entered the keep without much resistance. While the old man was carried away, the young leader of the vikings, Vagn Oláfrsson, turned to his men, preparing for a speech:

'Fellow warriors, not long ago, we left Ostlandet to profit from the diversion created by Ragnar's sons in their quest for vengeance, to raid Irland, certainly left defenceless in order to defend their faith, their dead god, from what this people, like that old man,', he pointed towards the former count, 'calls heathens. But we found an island where not only their temples and cities, but also their castles are apparently undefended. They will not resist much if we act swiftly. We could take all their wealth and return with boats fuller of loot than anyone before us brought. But this is an opportunity we should not miss. Let Ivar and Halfdan win and crush the Irish armies, so that we face even less opposition and can take all of Irland for ourselves!'

The men responded to Vagn's speech with different reactions. It was already clear to them that he as a man of twenty years hadn't got much experience; this speech confirmed their opinion. But Vagn was a bright man and he did convince them to follow him on his raid. His idea proved right, and they saw the same spark in his eyes as when they left. After a short discussion, they decided to follow his lead. First, they had to secure Mugrón's former lands and inform them of the change of liege that just occurred.

The church and town of Tuam were the first to receive Vagn's message, when he appeared almost alone at bishop Fingen's door. He tried to hide in a haystack, but was not very discreet in doing so. As Vagn had his translator telling him that he was the new lord of Roscommon, the bishop protested vehemently, a little bit less after he was told to shut up or lose his tongue. Just before the situation escalated, Fingen proposed to pay regular tribute, as he 'would never recognise a heathen liege.' As they needed some loot to return to Scandinavia in order to hire more men, Vagn accepted.
With this affair concluded, the bishop turned to his church, mumbling: 'May St.Patrick watch over us.'
'Who shall watch over you? Your dead god?' Anundr, one of Vagn's escort, interjected.
'St.Patrick. He is the patron saint of our island. He brought the word of god and repelled the snakes. Sadly, it seems as if they are returning.'
'Yes, they are returning. You shall therefore know me as Vagn Ormrberar.'*
Upon these words, the Norsemen laughed and left for Galway, where the mayor Gilla-Coluim reluctantly accepted the same terms as bishop Fingen. With the county of Connacht secured, the host could now aim for their new goal: conquering Ireland.



*orminn berar should mean sth. along the lines of 'carrying snakes'.Ormrberar would be a name derived from that.
 
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alscon

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Chapter I

1st May, the year of our lord 999. In the castle of Évreux, the lords of Normandy and envoys from West Francia and Lotharingia assisted the hastily prepared coronation ceremony of Vagn II, who already ruled this land for almost eight years. Why only now the coronation? Two weeks ago, the king and most of his vassals converted to Christianity. After Oláfr of England, the next Ormrberar adopted the faith whose believers their ancestors had terrified.




Fifteen years ago, the Crusade called against his grandfather Vagn I, called 'the Lion', was in their decisive phase and saw countless victories for the Normans and heavy losses for the Crusaders. The Lion was a true zealot and a ferocious warrior who charged the Christian ranks even at his advanced age of over 70 years.



His successor Björn was a true Berserker, feared by foe and friend. But Vagn II only fought when he had no other choice. He was a good fighter, but... didn't have the spirit of one since he witnessed the Knights of Calatrava ploughing through Norman ranks in his father's conquest of Hainaut, which killed his younger brother Freyr; so he decided to rather have them on his side. If not for his father's martial prowess, the battle would almost certainly have been lost, like the battle of Thouars one year before. Vagn already adopted the heavy cavalry tactics and had his retinue of former housecarls fight on horseback. With his conversion, the holy brothers would not fight against him any more. If Normandy had to fight against its neighbours again, the odds would stand in its favour without the support of the holy knights.

After the coronation in the richly decorated chapel, the envoy of West Francia, king Hélie II's brother Aimery, met with the Norman king:
'This shall be the beginning of an era of peace between the houses d'Aurmberay and Karling, as the Lord brought you salvation. Let us thus forget the actions of our past and concentrate on a bright future, one of trade and peace, not of raids and war.'

The past between them was often war. The Lion had expanded his realm from Brittany over the whole northern coast of West Francia, creating the kingdom of Normandy in the process. Björn had expanded a bit southwards, but was mostly raiding in his 7-year reign. Aimery still had a fresh memory of the day the head of his gifted brother Guilhem was brought to Paris during the peace negotiations.

Vagn II was not the greatest diplomat; his cruelty and ancestors were the base of his power, also the fact that his brothers died before his father and he was the only successor available: Freyr died on the fields of Hainaut, Oláfr is rumoured to have been assassinated by killers under Vagn's command. Therefore he could not let Aimery's words stay in the room: 'You called my house d'Aurmberay, surely as a sign of 'forget the past'. But like my ancestors and relatives in the British Isles, Christians or not, since our house's founder, the king of Ireland Vagn the Great, we call ourselves Ormrberar. I may speak more French then Norse, our culture may be heavily influenced by the Frankish culture, but we Normans are still proud of our ancestors. I wouldn't ask of you to forget the Charles of your family, so don't ask me to forget my fathers.'

Aimery interjected: 'They were heathens. Your relatives in Ireland and Scotland still are heathens. Can you really pray to God and think of your ancestors, who killed so many Christians? Well, it is your kingdom. But think about the relations with my brother. Don't end the chance of reconciliation before you had it.'

Vagn took the hint and changed the theme of the conversation. 'I have decided to restrict the power of the nobility. The titles of the rebels who thought it was a good decision to fight for their independence and now rot in the dungeon will be revoked and replaced with Norman Catholics. Tell your brother that. And that he doesn't have to fear an invasion.'

'That's good to hear. May this peace last.' Upon these words, Aimery turned to leave, but stopped.
'This small chapel doesn't look like if it was built recently... Did your family pray to the Lord before your official conversion or did it serve another purpose?'

Vagn grinned. 'It served another purpose indeed. My grandfather started deposing the loot from Frankish and Dutch churches here since he made Évreux capital of our kingdom. The population stayed Catholic and wouldn't enter a guarded chapel without a priest. In case of financial problems, we could have paid mercenaries with it. My father was never here, always plundering, else he would have used this treasure. Why do you think this chapel is so... golden? Do you recognise something from Paris? May the Lord grant you a safe travel.' He gestured towards the door and the Frankish envoy left, visibly angered.

The first act as a proper Catholic king was to deal with the traitors. Shortly after his ascendency to the throne, the counts of Flanders revolted for a future without an overlord in Évreux. Since then, they were rotting in the dungeon. Vagn occasionally tortured them for his pleasure, learning how from a skilled torturer, but was looking for a way to justify harsher actions against them.

With his conversion and the restriction of the vassal's rights, his chancellor Henry advised him to do what Vagn finally told Aimery Karling. That was not enough for him, so he ordered them publicly executed. While their heads were rolling in the mud and their bodies carried onto a cart to be impaled at the gates, his cousin and Marshal Alfons, Duke of Brittany, reported the progress of the new troops' training:


Alfons before becoming Marshal

'My king, our new knights are becoming a formidable force. Any revolts should be easily crushed with these men.'

'Do you really think there will be revolts, Alfons?'

'The Waldensian minority in our lands always thought they were safe from the long arm of the pope. Now they may seek either acceptance or revolt. Worshippers of the old gods, mainly in Nantes, may not be too happy of your conversion either. And Henry fears this', he pointed towards the cart, 'will not help a diplomatic solution.'

'My dear cousin, have you forgotten our traditions? The great Vagn himself executed the family of his enemy Ailill of Oriel on the walls of Clones after he captured this last Irish castle and threw their bodies onto the plains, shouting for him to fight like a man. No one dared oppose him afterwards. And Oláfr, the Scourge of the Celts? He earned this title, although some call him 'the Cruel'. Even our grandfather hanged the foolish Crusaders from the walls of this same castle. And when my father had finished off his enemies, there wasn't enough left of them to do anything. It is a proof that we are the rulers and that we have the strength and will to end any opposition. We don't need a battlefield afterwards. I bet that the people is still afraid of my father. Spymaster Turstin told me there is a rumour under the people saying that an old ritual awoke Björn of the dead and that he now haunts the countryside with his men, killing everyone who isn't loyal to me. That proves my point of view.'

Alfons didn't dare to say the contrary. Vagn most likely had his brother assassinated; he would be a harder target, but Vagn was now also King and not only a Prince. He left to prepare the troops for the inevitable fights they would have to lead in this period of peace with the neighbours.

Alfons would be right: He had to command the knights to crush one Waldensian and one Norse revolt, fight against the Norwegians in Oláfr of England's war to drive the Norse out of Holland and beat back constant raiders from Ireland and Norway. 'A future of trade and peace': Aimery had said it.

 
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alscon

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Chapter II

The leaders of the rebels were impaled at the gates of Nantes and Hainaut respectively. The Waldensians realised that under the brutal rule of Vagn they had to convert before he would start executing followers of their faith without any other reason.

Eight years after his conversion, the King of the Normans absolved a pilgrimage to Santiago as a show of being a good Christian. Stories of his methods 'to keep the populace in line' reached Rome, so his Court Chaplain advised to make a pilgrimage to avoid excommunication. He was accompanied by some of his knights and met with holy knights on the way and traded more stories of war then he prayed.



At his return from Santiago, Vagn II decided to adopt something he heard from the holy knights and organised a grand tournament. He was eager to prove himself against those old military elites who saw his conversion and abstinence from aggressive wars as a sign of cowardice. Frankish nobles participated in the tournament as well; the Normans should demonstrate their superiority. Surprisingly, Vagn was triumphant in the melee; a noble from Nantes became second and Alfons of Brittany third. Having beaten the Franks and turned out as winner, Vagn gained confidence for the future.



As an emissary from the pope offered to grant him absolution from kinslaying, he wondered shortly how the rumours had spread to Rome before remembering that the bishop of Cambrai was elevated to a Cardinal not long ago. Accepting the pope's offer meant that he would prove the truth of the rumour, but on the other hand improved his image. 'A repentant sinner is better than a suspected murderer', Court Chaplain Gaufrid of Aumale had advised him, so he accepted the proposal.



Things were looking so bright for him that Vagn usurped the duchy of Valois. Furious, King Armand of West Francia had no time to react other then rallying his troops: Paris was a traditional part of the duchy, and the new duke claimed it. Over 11.000 Normans faced around 4.000 Franks at the battles of Nemours and St. Aignan. The armies, led by Marshal Alfons and Prince Vagn, had managed to take the Franks apart in two seperate battles before they could unite and used their numerical superiority and their cavalry tactics for decisive victories, capturing the Karling king himself at St. Aignan.

In Évreux, Vagn II received the captured king:
'What a pleasant surprise. The King of West Francia himself in the hands of the Normans.'

'You may be a Christian now, but you still are a barbarian. All these skeletons at the entrance of the castle; you couldn't even give them a proper burial?'

'Ah... the skeletons... well, they deserved their treatment. If you want, I promise there will be no skeletons at my new castle in Melun. The citizens of Paris will surely appreciate my wise rule.'



The two kings signed the peace treaty in Paris before Arnaud was allowed to leave. Prince Vagn continued to Dijon, where he married the Duchess of Burgundy, Denise Capet.



Back in Évreux, the king put an end to an important peasant feud himself: After he organised a (failed) meeting between the families, they were imprisoned, tortured and executed. 'Even more skeletons for Frankish kings to enjoy', Vagn thought when the feuding families were impaled. Fearing other severe punishments, the population began referring to their king as 'the Great'. Occitainian troubadours caught the meaning of the skeletons at Évreux's gates too and didn't dare tell satires with the King as main character.



As Arnaud was campaigning against Ebles of Aquitaine, Vagn's son returned to Évreux. He elaborated to his father a plan prepared by the council of Burgundy, mostly by him as the Spymaster:
'You see, father, king Arnaud has lost most of his vassals' support. He is likely to abdicate to Hélie van Vlaanderen upon his, as it seems, fruitless return. We are supporting another candidate, Raymond, the Duke of Gascogne. He promised to give us all the rightful Burgundian lands in case of his coronation. The problem is that Burgundy and Gascogne alone are not strong enough to face even a weakened West Francia and the other Burgundian lands are controlled by the Duke of Anjou and the king (since he lost Paris to us). Help from Normandy would ensure our victory and a collapse of the structures of Burgundy: What is a duke without any lands in his duchy? Not a duke. So we only need to press your rightful claim on Anjou, so that you take out the men loyal to Hélie and Raymond gets crowned. Anjou awaits your wise rule, father. Our scheme to take out West Francia from the inside is working.'
'You are right, son. Tell your schemers that I will send the declaration of war as soon as I hear of your revolt.'
The Prince left for Dijon shortly afterwards. At the same time, Vagn sent orders to summon the realm's levies and prepare for war.

Arnaud really lost in Aquitaine and Hélie took the throne. The scheme was fired; but while Norman knights ploughed through the remaining French levies, Raymond died; his son was not willing to be crowned as a puppet king of Normandy and Burgundy, so Hélie could keep his crown, but lost Anjou. Fearing another war, Hélie died from severe stress. His brother Gargamel, new king of France, transferred the vassalage of the now-count and former duke of Anjou to Burgundy in order to prevent another revolt, and it seemed to work.



Vagn II observed the proceedings in France from Évreux. He constantly asked his Chancellor Henry if he could just invade France like his predecessors did, but the old man said this would surely invoke the anger of the whole Catholic world. And as he didn't even think of joining the Crusade against the Andalusian sultan, stating 'Normandy faced a Crusade thirty years ago. I fought in said Crusade. I'll never join the ranks of the Crusaders!', it was surely possible the pope would change the Crusade's target. A war would not be needed; Normandy was now the strongest power of the region, the economy flourished and both Burgundies, duchy and kingdom, were allies since Princess Alisce's marriage with the Burgundian heir Francesco under matrilinear terms (should something happen to Prince Vagn). Now was the time to consolidate the power.

 

volksmarschall

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Nice work so far, and a good start for you in the beginning! Good luck and hopefully you enjoy writing your first AAR.

Cheers!
 

alscon

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Nice work so far, and a good start for you in the beginning! Good luck and hopefully you enjoy writing your first AAR.

Cheers!
Thank you. I really enjoy writing the AAR and have the next two chapters ready, aiming for a release twice a week after these.
 

alscon

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Chapter III

9th September, the year of our Lord 1024. The king of Normandy, Vagn II, lied in his bed, awaiting death. He had just thrown out his Court Chaplain, who was trying to get his confession, and was still angered when his son and heir entered.
The Prince asked his father why he didn't deliver his confession. Looking at him before he could answer verbally was answer enough, so he changed the topic of the last discussion he could have with his father.

'Are you satisfied with the effects of your actions on France?'

'With which one of them? There were so many... Did I execute king Arnaud when he was my prisoner?' The king was forgetful in his old days.

'No, you just forced peace on him. What I meant is that Normandy sided with Isabelle of Berry after my first wife was given the remaining French vassals on Burgundian territory in the aftermath of our failed attempt to lower the crown's influence on its vassals.'

The Prince and back then Duke of Burgundy fought in the war, but it came to a standstill with neither side making gains, so they signed a white peace. Then he joined the Crusade, leading the remaining troops of the duchy to Andalusia, where the Crusade ended in success under the lead of king Rafaello of Italy. Gargamel I of France tried to revoke first the county of Orléans, then the duchy of Berry; both attempts were stopped by Norman intervention and Gargamel deposed in the second war.



The Prince went on: 'Since then, the crown of France doesn't rest long on the king's heads, they are either dependant of the support of their most powerful vassals or they died soon after their coronation. Sadly I cannot count myself as one of the first category any more.'



'Why not any more, Vagn? If I remember correctly, you never were one of the French vassals.'

'Your memory is right this time, father. But as my wife Denise got depressed after the suspicious death of our daughter Giselle, I ruled the duchy most of the time until the stress was too much for her to bear.'



Thirteen years after the Prince's first marriage, he had married Princess Inge of Germany and stayed in Évreux. Before, he spent his time mostly in Dijon.



The King gathered his thoughts: 'France is weak now. Sadly, the damned Church prevents me from taking their lands. May the Allfather forgive me for turning against him. My son, if you can use this weakness to your advantage, I am satisfied with my acts.'

'I promise to move against France.' Prince Vagn now understood why his father didn't confess. He grew up as a Catholic, but his father converted as a middle-aged man. The King's belief in God was seemingly only of political nature.

'How is the war with Lotharingia going?', the King enquired.

'Since the battle of Besançon, the troops of that imbecile Merigo II and his Bohemian ally are falling back. Luckily for Elisabeth, Normandy can use a good ally on the other side of its enemies. If not for our help and that of the short-time Frankish king Hamelin, the imbecile would rule Burgundy, too. How can such an idiot be such a respected ruler? Nevertheless, in my opinion the war will end in Elisabeth's favour soon, even without our help. You should rest now, father, and if you don't confess, at least tell me your regrets.'


Merigo II, ten years before


The expression on the old man's face hardened. 'I regret only one thing. Having you and your sister raised entirely in the Christian belief. May I join my father and haunt the land.' He expired a last time, then he went still. At the age of 67, Vagn II fell asleep to never awake.



Vagn III's first act as new king of Normandy was to clear the castle's gates from all the skeletons amassed during his father's reign. 'A sign of change', as he said, this was appreciated by almost everyone. He was no cruel, but instead a diligent man, who directly after his father's death started to change the kingdom's shape and reputation. His thirteen years in Dijon had influenced him, and with his Frankish entourage from his Burgundian days, he started to replace many Norse elements of the Norman culture by Frankish ones. 'The old structures have to make room for new ones', he preached all the time. The vassals were not amused of the whole process they called 'Frankisnising'. It involved so many changes that they started to call their new king 'the Frank' and used the Frankish term for his dynasty. Alfons of Brittany was still an Ormrberar, but Vagn a d'Aurmberay. Perhaps Vagn II, who the peasants posthumously called 'the Impaler', now that they didn't have to fear him any longer, was right: The base of the Ormrberar's power was their cruelty and ancestry. Vagn III was not cruel and his Frankinising not too popular. Was his crown safely resting on his head?
 

volksmarschall

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Well, you definitely came out on the winning end of those battles! :cool:

And with Vagn III's very high military skills, I suspect I know what will be forthcoming during his reign!

alscon said:
Vagn III was not cruel and his Frankinising not too popular. Was his crown safely resting on his head?
Or perhaps he will be putting down revolts during his reign instead of conquering his neighbors! :p
 

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And with Vagn III's very high military skills, I suspect I know what will be forthcoming during his reign!
Well, it seems to be family tradition to have good martial stats as the British kings have, too. Maybe it will change at some point.
 

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Chapter IV

Alfons Ormrberar had lead the Impaler's troops all over France and had developed a solid hate against the Franks. Now his king was more Frankish then Norman, it seemed. Of all of Normandy's vassals, as Duke of Brittany and Valois he was the only one with enough power to challenge the king. Without the support of 'the cowards on the side of the Frank', who preferred to try to regain some of the autonomy lost under the previous king, he declared war on Vagn III in the goal of making him abdicate in favour of his cousin Millicent, an excellent puppet for him to control.



The new command chain Vagn had developed from his experience as Organizer gained in Burgundy proved as beneficial as the split of Alfons' lands. The troops from Amiens and Vermandois were isolated from his main force in Brittany and defeated by the knights returning from the Lotharingian front. Vagn III led his principal army himself, despite fearing battles since the Crusade, when he was sure he would die on infidel lands with his small contingent before Italian reinforcements pushed the Hasan army back. To prove himself in sight of the nobles, who seemed to be bigger cowards than him if they really disliked the Frankinising, he marched towards Brittany, where the Breton forces were met disorganised and soon defeated.



Alfons didn't even lead his army; he didn't expect the Norman host this soon at the gates of Vannes and was trying to gather support to be installed king himself.



Leaving a sieging force behind, Vagn reacted to the message that the war in Burgundy was not going the way he predicted it on his father's deathbed, and left for Habsburg, where the Normans and Burgundians finally ended the war. Upon his return, Vagn received Alfons capitulation; the most powerful of the old elite had to relinquish the title of duke of Valois and went into prison. The Counts of Brugge and Guines, who wanted to lower the crown's authority, gave up their faction. The new order triumphed, although Vagn accepted that others were better then him; therefore in his kindness he ordered Alfons to be taken good care of.




With his power consolidated, Vagn III turned towards internal politics. He almost prevented a suicide with anecdotes from his own life, making valuable gains in diplomacy in the process. As a famous writer proposed to write down his family's chronicles, he accepted. The stories of his grandfather leading an undead army through Normandy had to be countered by a story showing that his family was meant to be Christians, even though neither his father nor his relative in Ireland seemed to accept this. The priests should read the chronicles and use the best passages in the mass.



An excerpt from 'The Chronicles of the d'Aurmberays' by William of Lisieux:
'The bishop moved around his church all the time. The heir to Irland had been warned that Tuam was governed by a madman now, who spoke in tongues and sometimes had crises like these. Oláfr watched bishop Fingen suddenly stopping and vacantly staring ahead before he began shouting in perfect Norse, a language he couldn't even address his liege in properly. 'And thus you, Oláfr Ormrberar, shall be feared along the whole coast of Britain; the proud Celts won't bow to you, but you will make them bow. The four kingdoms shall be united under the Snake. And for generations to come, they won't be free; but the Lord shall win against the gods, if not from the outside, from the inside.' Fingen then calmed down, regained his spirits and asked Oláfr, now in Irish, what his liege wanted from him. This was interpreted as a prophecy; Oláfr from then on dedicated his life to the prophecy, not willing to stop until each Celt would be under his rule.'



Oláfr of Irland shortly after his ascension to the throne

As Merigo II, who never had been the brightest man, failed in his attempt to take Burgundy, his kingdom began to crumble as Laurènç de Guyenne, having the support of Aquitaine and England, claimed the throne. Using the situation to her advantage, Queen Elisabeth of Burgundy attacked him too for lands belonging to Burgundy and for Bavaria. Frirek of Irland, the last Norse Ormrberar, invaded Germany. Normandy helped out its allies in both wars, but the outcome was already clear.



Vagn was thinking about the promise he gave his father. He had to do something and called his council.



Chancellor Lambert, count of Jylland, proposed to 'find' legitimate claims on French lands.
Marshal Alfons, mayor of Honfleur, stated that France would be easily taken on alone; if his relatives in Aquitaine and Germany would help Loup, Elisabeth of Burgundy would have to pay back the help Normandy gave her before.
Steward Beuves, mayor of Arques, said the peasants were happy and could pay a special tithe, if necessary. But the treasury should suffice to fund a war.
Spymaster Hugues, a man who had accompanied Vagn in his return from Burgundy, informed the council that the spies reported France was weak.
Bishop Amaury of Lisieux proposed to go to Rome to ask for papal support.
Vagn still thought about his days at Dijon and decided to send Lambert there to get a legitimate proof of his claim on the duchy of Burgundy. The old duchess Eglantine, who inherited the duchy from Vagn's first wife, was incapable to rule and would soon be replaced by her dwarf relative. As a former de facto ruler, it would certainly not be too difficult to produce a claim for him.

No message arrived from Dijon. A year already passed by since Lambert went to Burgundy. Merigo II had died and his successor in Lotharingia was deposed by Savarics of Aquitaine and Freyr of England. Laurènç de Guyenne wore its crown now.



Vagn was in discussion with his friend Errand, who was the designated next bishop of Montreuil:
'So, will you help me?' Errand asked Vagn for support in his plot to... accelerate his rise to the episcopal seat.



'My friend, if you want it so much, how could I say no. It is strange that you seem to find support for such a delicate thing but my chancellor doesn't succeed in his easy task.'

'Your ambition to regain the duchy of Burgundy, your majesty?'

'Exactly, Errand. 'Since you ruled that land and the duchess is old and comatose, it should not take long', he said. Well, he doesn't even report any progress! And now that dwarf rules Burgundy, but still nothing. It is a situation to desperate. Like that falcon hunt which should have enjoyed me but horribly failed due to that miserable bird.'

'You are the rightful ruler of Burgundy. God showed it. The Capets had an incapable and now a dwarf ruler. They clearly don't suit the divine will. I could be able to help you get what you deserve.'



'You have an idea', Vagn looked at his friend with expectation.

'If I can convince Pope Victor IV that the Lord favours you as Duke of Burgundy, he may grant you a claim on it, your highness.' Errand had a confident expression.

'That may work. Go with my blessing. If the reply is positive, then order the count of Jylland to follow you back when you pass Dijon. I would like to hear his excuses.'
Equipped with two letters wielding the Norman seal, one for the pope and one for the count of Jylland, Errand left the next morning.
 
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You have some very nice council members if I do say so myself. My early councils tend to be a bit on the rougher side just from my observations...

A revolt in Normandy, not too surprised based on how you ended your last update! Keep up the superior work!
 

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Whenever I see the title, I first read it as 'owlbears'. Weird thing is I never played d&d, I just know of them from things like Order of the Stick and Will Wheaton's YouTube series.

I have nothing further to say. I just felt the need to share that.

I'll keep reading, just in case an Owl bear shows up.
 

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You have some very nice council members if I do say so myself. My early councils tend to be a bit on the rougher side just from my observations...

A revolt in Normandy, not too surprised based on how you ended your last update! Keep up the superior work!
Well, Vagn is a diligent reformer, so he needs a good council. And the nation is big enough to find them (a map will come in this update).

Whenever I see the title, I first read it as 'owlbears'. Weird thing is I never played d&d, I just know of them from things like Order of the Stick and Will Wheaton's YouTube series.

I have nothing further to say. I just felt the need to share that.

I'll keep reading, just in case an Owl bear shows up.
Owlbears... Maybe with a lunatic ruler? I have something planned if the brewing monks event fires, but nothing concerning owlbears.

EDIT:
If you get a mystic character, he could have a magical vision where his spirit animal, an Owlbear, guides him to a profound epiphany.
That's an idea. It could be the solution to everything, standing in the mystical book...
 
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If you get a mystic character, he could have a magical vision where his spirit animal, an Owlbear, guides him to a profound epiphany.
 

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Chapter V

One month after he left, Errand returned to Évreux. The King received him to hear the result of his mission. His friend smiled:
'Victor IV saw the truth behind in our arguments and recognised you as rightful ruler of Burgundy, your majesty. And I found the Count of Jylland.'

Vagn congratulated his friend for the success of his idea and started dreaming of his return to Dijon as Lambert entered the room. It seemed as if the Count had doubled in weight since he left.

'Your highness, I can understand that you have a reason to be angry. I failed you, but I can assure you I tried to do my best. I could not find nor 'find' any documents proving your claim on Burgundy. So after a while, I tried to convince the population.'

Errand explained: 'I found him in a tavern called 'The Old Norman', renowned for its specialities 'à la créme'. He seemed to enjoy himself and was talking to some burghers about the duchy's situation. My inquiries were not too difficult: When I asked for a Norman count, it seemed every inhabitant of Dijon knew where he was. And there were rumours he feasted twice a week with the duke.'

Before Lambert could protest, the King calmed him down. 'Well, it doesn't matter what he did, what matters is that the pope is on our side. We'll attack as soon as the levies are ready.'

'How can one eat that much', Vagn wondered as he went to the cell where the Duke of Brittany spent the last seven years. He had the cell opened and said to Alfons:
'We are attacking France now. And I want you to lead our armies.'

Alfons sat in a corner of his cell, looking grimly at the King. He did not believe Vagn. While the guards treated him nicely, he was a powerful man nonetheless and began seeing conspiracies everywhere. Lacking any enthusiasm in his voice, he answered: 'All right, you are attacking France. Why would a Frank fight his home. Did you swear fealty to king Loup yet?'

'I am serious. The pope himself acknowledged my rightful claim on Burgundy, and while our superiority in numbers and tactics is already big, with your experience I hope to minimize the casualties. Lead the troops, and you are a free man again.'

He still didn't trust him, but his face lightened up. Alfons finally stood up: 'It has been some time since I fought the Franks. I hope your friends haven't forgotten me already. And leaving this cell is certainly better then rotting here for the rest of my life, so what choice do I have?'



With Alfons commanding 13.500 men in his attack of France, Vagn was able to constrict the vassals' autonomy even more. In Blois, the Breton Duke's experience led to a staggering victory and soon, the castle of Dijon was under siege. Guilhem lost all his support in the papally approved invasion and as a result, his vassals revolted, too. As Loup surrendered and Vagn returned to the castle of his youth, the rebels tried to gain the population's help to install a Frank in an independent Burgundian duchy, but without luck. Against the superior Norman army, they stood no chance. The leader of the revolt was the former duke of Anjou, but the former king of France, Gargamel II, negotiated the peace in Dijon. With his first son and heir Amaury at his side, Vagn had to decide of their fate.



'Duke Guilhem was a dwarf and a sinner. As we heard of the pope's disapproval for his reign, we only favoured our own candidate for the duchy', Gargamel defended his action.

'You didn't stop when he was deposed.'

'Too many lives were lost already. And if we would not try to go on, the peasants would not have forgiven us. Without our garrisons, we would be easy targets for an uprising.' Gargamel was a smart man; he saw the desperate situation and convinced his co-rebels to surrender before the Norman army took Charolais and plundered it. 'I heard you governed Burgundy during my father's and uncle's reign. May your rule be prosperous again, but know that I won't support the son of the man who overthrew my father.'

Before the rebels' surrender, Vagn had already discussed what to do with them afterwards with his council. Unanimous, they advised him to install new counts at their place. And Gargamel just made clear that this was his only possibility. Only Ancel, the count of Cebta, one of the Frankish adventurers who conquered western Mauretania and whose claim was pressed, should be released in independence.



Vagn III therefore ordered the counties of Thouars, Chalons and Charolais to be revoked. The prisoners were released and while some had to leave Normandy, the counts of Mâcon, Nevers and Auxerre returned to their castles. Vagn made his friend Errand count of Thouars as the bishop of Montreuil still hadn't died. While the nobles did not appreciate a lowborn becoming count, Vagn felt his friend had deserved a feudal title more than an ecclesiastical. And he made his 2nd son Richard duke of Burgundy, as he had changed the kingdoms' succession to Primogeniture.



Amaury commented the release of the counts: 'Great, father. Richard will have to deal with rebels, not me.' Another cynical remark from his young son. But as Vagn had decided to let his children develop their personality without receiving beatings as he did, he had to bear it.




Europe in 1037, after the Burgundian war (nominal help in England and Burgundy)

Shortly after having put a regent in charge of Burgundy, said released counts revolted again. Vagn had to accept that his son was right, but managed to convince Alfons of Brittany to intervene on Richard's side.



As the rebels were not united and even fought each other, with one worry less he went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.



Lambert had just contracted Smallpox, but was still appointed as regent as Vagn left. Severe rainfall made it difficult to advance, and the King contracted pneumonia. Coughing, the rest of the road was even harder; but an escort of holy knights and the good feeling of helping an old woman's family in need ensured his arrival in Jerusalem, where he heard of monks with miraculous cures for diseases. Seeking them out, wondering one moment why there were monks on Muslim territory, they were able to cure the pneumonia. Blessed that way by God, the return was fast and uneventful.



Just at his return, he heard that Amaury had smashed a vase he liked. 'I am the heir to the throne, I can do what I want', he said to Lambert who could do nothing.



Vagn sighed, but decided to hold a grand tournament in Évreux to celebrate his return. The count of Auxerre participated, too: Apparently he wanted to enjoy his life outside a cell for a bit longer and placed second in the tournament, better then the king as third. Shortly after the tournament's end, Breton knights appeared and took him prisoner. The whole of Normandy was once more at peace.




Excerpt of William of Lisieux's work:

'The battle was over. Vagn and his best fighters returned to Veðrafjorðr, defeated by the combined forces of Dyflinn and Oriel at Kells. The situation was not looking bright for him; the count of Oriel claimed what the Irish called the duchy of Connacht and his old enemy Olafr of Dyflinn wanted to subjugate him. A solution was needed, and fast. The mayor of Galway had tried to hold his ground with some Saxon mercenaries, but they turned against him as Hlymrek's army marched towards the hastily erected barricades. The proud and greedy mayor was banished and his wealth confiscated. Maybe his greed could save the kingdom, as Vagn didn't have that vice. There was enough to hire Scottish mercenaries, even if just for a short amount of time. They would have to pay themselves with the loot of the enemies' castles, if not just for the time needed to get reinforcements from Scandinavia. After the Scots' victory over the unholy alliance, Dyflinn's lands were pillaged and siege laid in Oriel. The coffers of Hlymrek were empty, those of Oriel full. Ailill's spies had reported that Hlymrek's coffers were empty, so he left the castle to talk to the captain of the besiegers: 'Do you know that your payment will stop? I assume you were promised the loot. Well, this castle has more to offer if you are not pillaging it. My treasury is still filled with more than enough to make you regret only taking it, as you can pillage the lands of the Norse, too. Isn't that a nobler goal than killing poor Christian souls? You could certainly equate your sins by spilling heathen blood, don't you think?' The Captain of the Scots, a man named Robert, answered in a pragmatic manner: 'My lord, we are mercenaries. Fighting in these times in the isles means spilling Christian blood, as either we are fighting each other or the pagans have more to offer. You just made clear that now you have more. This is enough to convince me of fighting for you, and I'm sure the men will approve my decision. Looters as the Norse are, they will have to understand.'

In their greed, the Scots had taken too many casualties looting Dyflinn; leading an heroic charge, Vagn the Great brought the reinforced Hlymrekian army victory, leaving none of the mercenaries alive. With Oriel's yielding, the biggest threat for Vagn's ambition was stopped. The second phase of the conquest could begin.'
 

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Chapter VI

With peace once more in Normandy, Vagn III turned to internal affairs. He studied St.Augustine's Confessions when Amaury entered: 'Father, that peasant who came earlier... Is not a problem any more. I don't know why you let him in in the first place, so I had him executed.'
Vagn stormed out of the room and talked to the first courtier he met.
'Is the execution under way? Am I too late to prevent it?'
The old courtier gave a puzzled look: 'What execution? Since your father's death, I haven't witnessed a single execution here. And today neither. Has something grave happened?'
Vagn sighed when he heard laughter behind him. 'How can such a young lad be able to lie so well?', he wondered.



While Norman knights were proving their excellence again, this time helping Francesco of Burgundy holding the restrictions he had imposed on his vassals, David of Nushki, the King's new Jewish steward, was telling him that his contacts among the Radhanites were talking about a Norseman in Russia who planned an expedition to conquer Brittany.

'They say he has already 10.000 men recruited to his cause, and as the number grows, even more adventurers join his ranks. 'Bertangaland is rightfully Norse', he promises. What to do about him, your majesty?'



Vagn frowned. 'He has to get here before he can threaten us. Either on foot or with boats, the long way should take its tribute of them. And if there is no diplomatic solution when the adventurers arrive, we shall throw them back where they came from.'

The King's fear was gone. Pushing back raiders, he defended his home with such fervour that he didn't feel like a coward any more, charging the looters with his trusted knights.



When Buðli Slovensky, as the adventurer was called, finally went ashore at Brittany's coast, 17.000 Normans had already cleared their country from the two 8.500 men strong detachments he had sent before. Alfons of Brittany tried to take advantage of the situation and gain support for his claim on the throne, but Hugues' spies heard of it, and as Alfons was asked by Vagn to stop, he did it, for good this time. At the banquet to celebrate their victory, Amaury greeted most of the guests. After talking to the old Marshal, he turned to his father and asked: 'These peasants we have are all mine to command like little slaves, right?'




Vagn sighed once more, as so often when educating his heir. Richard had less patience, but at least he had an interest in how his regent Tancred handled the administration of his duchy.
So Vagn was probably the most surprised when Amaury announced him only three months after turning 16 that he would join the Teutonic Order. The Prince in his arbitrary ways was always behaving like the next ruler, a future as a holy knight was not expected by anyone. 'These damned raiders will have to fear me', Amaury said as he left for Schleswig. And as Alfons died at 68, according to his young wife muttering incomprehensible words in a language she could not understand, likely Norse, the last of the old guard and therefore Normandy's main internal troublemaker was gone.




The 15th March 1049, Lambert was returning from his mission in Orléans and looked pleased of himself.
'Your majesty, the trust you had in me was justified. I failed in Burgundy, I admit it, but the duchy of Orléans, which never was under your benevolent rule, can now be justly put under it.'



Soon after, the Norman soldiers were once more preparing an attack on France. Leading the siege of Orléans, a messenger from the pope arrived, calling all Catholic lords into a holy Crusade for the holy land. With France once more defeated, Orléans was put under Vagn's rule, the third son of the King, and the Crusade, two years after its beginning, joined by the crown of Normandy and its vassals.

A hard journey at sea later, the Normans went ashore at the delta of the Nile. Rumours had spread that a powerful tribe was trying to overthrow the decadent Abbasid Caliph and had over 50.000 armed men on the island of Socotra. Yet they hadn't reached the mainland. The Caliph's main force was said to camp near Aden, waiting for the tribe's attack, while small forces guarded the palace in Alexandria. Therefore the Normans defeated two smaller armies in Egypt to cut off possible reinforcements before arriving in the holy land.



The Burgundians and Bretons took the county of Beirut, the troops of the crown were sieging Ascalon.



Vagn was talking to his son Richard, who accompanied the crown's men rather then his own in Beirut.



'I don't like this. The Muslims haven't shown much opposition. The Caliphate's heartland was barely defended as well. The rumours of a Nomad tribe seem to be true. Still...'

'Don't worry father. The enemy is divided, so now we strike! The walls of Ascalon are already trembling. I give them some days before they surrender. The holy land will once more be free from infidel oppression!'
Richard had the family's military knowledge. With his older brother a Teuton knight, he was the next in line to inherit.

'I wonder why the other kings haven't joined us yet. Is victory so assured that they are not coming at all? Francesco of Burgundy fell in the first year of the Crusade!'



'This arid land could not sustain much bigger numbers of men, father. Also, they fear ending like Francesco. France surely has other reasons', Richard grinned. 'And if the Caliph doesn't fight us, he will have to give up the holy land sooner or later. We don't need their support. Although I am wondering why the Turkish army is at Jaffa. If they are only on vacation, we should be safe; but if they decide to attack us, we would need every support we can get.'

'I heard that the Seljuks are not on best terms with the Abbasids since they conquered Mesopotamia. But on vacation, as you say? Are you sure you saw a Turkish horde on vacation? I fear the desert is getting to you, my son. Ah, it seems God is with us today. Look!' The King pointed towards the castle. 'They are already surrendering.'

'Your majesty, a messenger from the Angevin troops!' Vagn turned around. A knight from the duke's detachment delivered a letter.

'A Muslim army has been sighted not far from the Angevin camp near Haifa. With the siege over, we should head there as soon as possible. My suspicions were justified.'

From the north and the south, the reinforcements arrived in Haifa, where a relatively small army of Crusaders held their ground against an Arab attack.



The enemy seemed to have underestimated the Crusaders' strength, or at least didn't believe that the Christians would be able to reinforce their army during the battle. Therefore, after a heated fight, the Muslims were defeated. Not long after, the Caliph resigned the holy land. The Crusade was successful; only the holy city itself remained in Muslim hands, as it was not a part of the Arab Caliphate. This was a state of affairs the new Norman king of Jerusalem wanted to remedy quickly.

 

Deaghaidh

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Onward Owlbear Crusaders! Who-grr!
 

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Chapter VII

'The walls are finally falling, your majesty! Damned infidels could not hold out longer.' The young Duke of Orléans had joined the knights besieging Jerusalem not long ago and had a bet running with the king.

'It seems I am right this time, my brother.' Richard had accumulated enough experience during the Crusade to make the right estimation. 'I wish father could see that.'



Vagn III was already an old man when he left for the Crusade. He died peacefully during the siege. 'With our return, Geraud shall leave, as he wished. Why he should be king of Jerusalem, I don't know. But I won't question his actions. The holy city is finally ours.'


Europe at Richard's coronation

Upon his return, Richard was crowned the new King of Normandy. Fulfilling his promises towards his father and his brother, Geraud became king of Jerusalem while the Norman army advanced on Orléans to take the county for the duke. Before constituting his council, his long-time guardian and regent Tancred was given the duchy of Burgundy to govern. The council assembled the dukes of the kingdom, the mayor of Paris and the old bishop of Lisieux who already served this function under the Impaler and was now in Norway to convince king Erlind to adopt Christendom.



The French resistance to Norman attacks decreased after each successful attack and this time the outcome was not different then before. Orléans was put under Vagn's rule.



'I report good news from Reims, your highness.' Mayor Gervas of Paris had persuaded Richard that he would make a better Chancellor then Lambert of Jylland and left for Champagne shortly after Richard's return from the holy land to prove it. 'The lords of Champagne are sick of being ruled by a weak archbishop in a weak kingdom. They are fearing Norman might and are no longer ready to spill their blood for France. Therefore, I bring legitimate documents indicating that you should rule this land, my king.'

'Excellent work, Gervas. Did you hear news of Gargamel van Vlaanderen?' The former French king who had to abandon his titles after Vagn's conquest of Burgundy had used the past years to recruit supporters to force his return to the French throne and landed in Bordeaux after the last war.

'I did, your majesty. King Loup may be called the Bold, but he doesn't rush into action against a superior enemy. Against us, he has no help from the outside, but against an interior threat, the Karling kings are unified. Gargamel was defeated crossing the Garonne as he faced the combined French-Asturian army. And I heard that your cousin Alice's throne is secured.' Since Francesco of Burgundy's death in the Crusade, his first daughter had ascended the throne, with the succession contested by the dukes of Savoy and Dauphiné. 'Give the order, and I leave again.'



'Well, since I decided to have the bishops appointed by the nobility, I don't think the pope would grant me a claim on any lands like my father, so go to Bourgogne next. At least he cannot excommunicate a good Crusader and supporter of the Norwegian conversion. What about the Dutch? Still feeling rebellious?' Not long after purchasing a finger of St. John the Baptist, Richard lost his zeal as the holy relic didn't prevent a Frisian liberation revolt.



'The Dutchmen are approving the just treatment of their leaders. Sending the survivors to join the Knights of Calatrava was certainly a good idea. And the strong alliance with England helps in discouraging them, too.'

Richard was married to the Queen of England, Vigdis Ormrberar. Since the death of his first wife before the Crusade due to suspicious circumstances, he had decided to renew the connection between the Norman branch of the dynasty and the Isles'. Gervas left, and after two more missions accomplished by the Chancellor, Richard had three claims against France.




The 13th July 1065, the Duke of Orléans went in Évreux 'for an important matter'. Richard wondered what it would be, but as Vagn's arrival was announced, the question was answered. 'Your royal majesty the King of the Holy Land'. Chancellor Gervas, who had just returned from Bourges, passed Orléans on his way: 'There were rumours of your brother Geraud identifying himself more and more with the Bedouin culture. He reconquered the Holy City after losing it to a Sunni uprising and decided to be recognised as king by his people. They are becoming Christians, he becomes Bedouin. The nobles didn't like that, it seems.'



'My brother, I am sorry not to serve as your Marshal any more. But I hope the war against your wife's rebellious subjects was not our last one together. I am asking for your support in fighting France. Vendôme should be returned to Orléans once more.'

'It is your right, Vagn. May your kingdom flourish under your rule. Treat Geraud well; he is the rightful king of Jerusalem, and I fear we will have a war under brothers soon. Know that I won't take part on any side if this should happen, but your campaign against France pursues a just goal; you can count on Norman help.'
As Vagn left, Richard appointed Radulf of Brittany as Marshal and instructed him to prepare the troops. France was soon once more defeated.





Amaury d'Aurmberay acted fast. His predecessor, Hochmeister Gerhard, had not done anything against the pagans or heretics. This was not what Amaury planned to do. He was a born leader, a king, descended from great conquerors, and the Order needed someone like him, he thought. The Skottish heretics would be his first victims; since Guðröðr Ormrberar died, his son was replaced by an old man he forgot the name of after the long war for Finnish wastes had ended. With manipulations at the right time, Amaury had risen to the position of Hochmeister and now aspired a rule like a king.



'What I am deserving. And those Skots, they called for it. Bordering a Holy Order as Lollards!' Einarr af Alencon, the current ruler, was under attack by Queen Vigdis of England and now also by the Teutonic Order.



'Mein Hochmeister, the heretics are not even trying to stop us.'

'They now God's punishment for denying His representative on earth is over them. I feel like back in Normandy. The French could not oppose us either. Holstein will return to the right path soon. That reminds me...'

Amaury called the newly arrived knight from Normandy. He wanted to know what happened there.
'Richard the Just is claiming his rightful lands of Champagne, Bourges and Bourgogne, my Hochmeister. And he seems much more relaxed since he knows there is no opposition. The Aquitain army had finished off the remains of the French one.'



'What about my brothers, the Kings of Jerusalem? Is their squabble finished?'



'No, I fear that war will last. Geraud has more troops in Jerusalem, but he cannot reach Orléans easily.'

Amaury sighed. 'If I would be the king, there would be no problems', he thought, 'at least the Teutonic Order will profit of my abilities.'




Richard was motivating his first son Geoffroy to study: 'Why do you think our family had so many great leaders? Not because they did nothing all day. If you want to be a strong king, you have to learn how first. Observe how I do it.'

'Take from the weak to prove our strength?' Geoffroy's honesty had led to some problems in the past. 'Or move against heretics like mum?'

'A great king is not only measured by his conquests, Geoffroy. You need to act at the right moment with the right intensity. You have to learn it.'



As his son returned to work, Richard thought of what he said. Was he a great king? He was renowned on the battlefield and had conquered some lands. But that didn't matter much, he had said. What else? He was known as a just ruler, was on a Crusade and secured the unification of the Norman and English crowns. 'Yes, I am a great king', he thought.

 

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Chapter VIII

The battlefield of Belfort, the 24th November 1076. Richard of Normandy had just returned to the place where the future of Jerusalem had changed for the worst, he thought. Innumerable Muslim hordes had turned the tide of the battle shortly after it began. And it had begun so good; the Jihad called by the wretched Caliph Musa II united his brothers and they signed a white peace. Normans and Hospitallers had landed at Hunin and slaughtered 7.300 infidels with minimal casualties.



Then he gave the order to march on Belfort, followed by 16.000 Egyptians. Richard wanted to dish out the next blow to the Mujahideen's morale, but his plan was turned against him. 40.000 more Muslims arrived. The sand was still red.



'A great king', he thought, 'would have seen this. Truly a bloody desert now. Because of my ignorance. I swear on my crown that the Muslims are going to regret this.'

'Your majesty, the boats have arrived. We should leave as long as the Arabs are not searching for us.'

'You are right, Radulf. We should return and prepare ourselves to retake the Holy Land. And the French will serve as training for the new knights we need.'

Vagn had to relinquish the Holy Land. The king of Jerusalem now only ruled over Orléans.



Upon his return, Richard claimed Tours. Loup had died, and only Barthélémi's proud nature was the cause of him still calling himself a king. Richard controlled enough lands to usurp the French crown, but 'why should I wear the crown me and my ancestors put so much effort to destroy?' Still thinking of his defeat in Belfort, Richard led his knights' charge in Parthenay and pursued the routing French with all his energy. Prince Barthélémi bravely stood in Richard's way and maimed the Norman king with a ferocious swing of his blade, causing the pursuers to break the pursuit and help their king. Tours fell to the Normans, but at what price?



'Thank God that you did not end like the Great Vagn of Irland, Richard. God made that bastard miss, not like the Irish peasant all those years ago.'

Vigdis was currently fighting for the lands where the incident she mentioned took place. Richard, who lost an eye in the battle, saw the irony of fate in this.
'If you weren't a woman, would you lead your troops in Roscommon? Like Vagn against the Catholic Uprising all those years ago? That place is the beginning of our dynasty, and yet it is a tragic place. I guess we simply shouldn't pursue routing enemies. Vagn received a crushing blow, I escaped this, but not far.'



'I just hope Geoffroy, Anselm and Tybalt don't. Have you decided to give Geoffroy his fief now?'

'I have. He shall rule over Boulogne. Anselm and Tybalt will have to wait; they will inherit your Anglo-Saxon lands, after all. They have seen what happened to my brothers while fighting for the crown, they shall not do that, too.'

Richard was waiting for the next Crusade. He was trying to persuade the pope to advance his plans for personal revenge. A good sign for him was that the new Caliph was Mubarak II. 'Mubarak... the name of a man who can't win against a Crusade.' Geoffroy, the new Chancellor of the realm, had already won the support of the king of Italy for the Crusade. That Anselm was married to the powerful duchess of Tuscany helped the negotiations. The d'Aurmberays and di Loritellos had a history as successful Crusaders and were determined to continue that legacy. The 30th June, the pope finally agreed to the demands. Most inhabitants of the Holy Land were now Christians and suppressed by the Caliphate. The official reason for the Crusade was therefore to liberate them.



Over 40.000 Italians and Normans had landed in Ascalon. The swift landing of such an impressive force had led to many victories before the Muslims organised their defences. 'Just like in the old days', Richard thought. At Nablus, the battle of Belfort was almost repeated: An Italian detachment of 10.000 men fought as many Arabs before 30.000 more Crusaders arrived.



More and more Christian lords joined the ranks of the Crusaders. Victory neared. Then, the tide seemed to turn as the Sultans of Africa and Baluchistan fought on the Caliph's side.



Small Christian armies in the north of the Holy Land were annihilated by the Muslim hope, the Beyberley of Armenia, who had 30.000 men on his own left after his successful conquest. Many battles were fought in the desert, but none brought a decisive turn in the war. The Baluchistanis had to retreat after the battle of Sarafand, a part of the Armenian horde found their end in Arish. But these Norman victories on one side came with Italian defeats on the other side. As the armies on both sides were reduced, with the castles falling to the Cross, the Muslims had to strike against the only remaining strong army to keep their chances of winning.



'They will have to come or surrender.' Richard was preparing his army for the next moves. They had just retaken Acre and the morale was high. After four years of Crusading, the end was in sight. An emissary from the Papal army had just arrived and the King of Normandy was confident to learn more of the enemy's troop movements. As he received the message, his confidence grew even larger and he gave different orders:
'They will not come. Another of those Turkish adventurers is striking against the Arabs in Damascus. We have reduced one of these, the Armenian Beyberley, to ash, but we have seen their strength in battle. Now, these Turks are facing our enemies. Whoever wins this, we will pick up the remains. Soon, we will be back in Normandy! For the glory of God!'



The Turk Timurtas Seljuk won the battle. The Christians met Mubarak's remaining army afterwards and the Caliph had no choice. The Holy Land returned to the crown of Jerusalem.





'Mein Hochmeister, the queen of Lotharingia is dead. And her assassin was caught. He says he was sent by you.'



'Do you believe an assassin? Why should I have her killed?' Amaury d'Aurmberay looked as innocent as he could. Tiziana had united the kingdom which broke under the second de Guyenne king and had pushed the heretic Skots out of Frisia. A threat for Normandy was forming, his paranoia told him. And besides, he wanted those Skottish lands. So she had to die. Another demonstration of his power. It was the right decision to enter the order, and the next to feel his power would be some Muslim rebels in Iberia.





With this, the AAR now comes to an end, as I oversaved it by mistake. I find it somewhat lacking anyway, so I am starting another one, now in a different style. To those who read this, I hope you enjoyed, and yeah, sadly no owlbears.
 
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