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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

fabiolundiense

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Distinguished Lords and Ladies, and other CK2 AAR fans,



armed with a new computer, I have rediscovered CK2. That is, I can now play as it is meant to be played, rather than in very slow mode, which was the case with my older computer, I now realise.



Introducing a new AAR :

The TOSCGA, which stands for Torrechiavenna of Snow-Capped Grisons AAR



Starting date : 1 January 867
Single County start : Grisons, in the central Alps
Writing style : role-play narrative, sometimes third-person, sometimes first-person
DLC’s : Old Gods, Legacy of Rome, Sons of Abraham


I chose Grisons because of the challenges it offers from the start. I wanted to play an Italian character. Grisons is a county of Italian culture, as is its Count. But it is not de jure a part of Italy or any Italian duchy. It is de jure Upper Burgundy, in the kingdom of Burgundy. So at some point, Burgundy (i.e. the Karling king of Burgundy plus all the Karling kings who don’t hate him, and probably those who do) will no doubt attack me for it. However, the Count of Grisons is vassal to the king of Italy, who is also of the Karling dynasty. (At first, he is a direct vassal of the Duke of Lombardy, but that title is quickly usurped by the AI, and my character becomes a direct vassal to the king.) In 867, Grisons is bordered to the east and north by the kingdom of Bavaria, to the west by the kingdom of Burgundy.




The default starting character is Ermenulfo di Stazone. The name seemed silly to me (looks like a spelling mistake aching to be fixed), and the Count’s haircut was worse. So I took him to the barber, gave him a new name and a new coat of arms, but kept his stats and all else as in default (even that 0-value for diplomacy !!). This will be the only time I use the Customization Pack.




Torrechiavenna ? Chiavenna is a real place in the Italian Alps. Torre means "towers." The name Torrechiavenna sounds much more pretentious than di Stazone, which works for me.



Goals :

A) Short term
-- first, presuming I survive that long, I will take stock of my situation again on 15 September 1066, which is one of the starting dates in vanilla CK2, and the one I’ve used until now. Other than to stay alive, my only other aim is to remain a part of the kingdom of Italy ;
-- second, become a duke, a king if possible. But what title ? I’ll see where the game takes me, always keeping my Italianness intact ;
-- third, I am assuming that the AI will do its best to form the Holy Roman Empire before September 1066, therefore another goal is to sabotage that project as much as possible.

B) Long term
-- rule Italy and Byzantium !



I wish you a pleasant reading.
 
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fabiolundiense

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The San Benogno Manuscript


One tranquil Sunday in March 1889, in the hours between Nones and Vespers, the Librarian of the Library of the Cistercian Abbey of Monte San Benogno, near Chieri (Italy) rediscovered an unsigned and undated manuscript that had long lain forgotten behind other, equally uncatalogued and aged leather-bound volumes. It was a slim work dealing with worldly questions, of equivocal historical interest. It was however rather naïvely enluminated. After ascertaining that the folios were at least six hundred years old, the monks decided to repair and restore the manuscript. In 2009, one hundred twenty years after the work’s rediscovery, the manuscript was published for the first time. Literary detective investigation has advanced the theory that the work, a history of the first two generations of the ancient medieval House of Torrechiavenna, was pennned by a tenth- or eleventh-century cleric.



~~~​



As more and more pages, squires, vavasours, knights, castellans and adventurers of every ilk journey further and further from their homesteads upon roads winding ever farther, the infinite variety of fields, woodland, townships and Holy Places to be encountered on this earth elicits wonder at nature’s and mankind’s capacity for invention. But so in the vast world, so also in an Alpine vale. There are low grasses and slender plantlings, bushes of varying species, flowers of every colour. Occasionally, in an undulating expanse of open field, one spies a solitary, mighty oak, leaving one to speculate on the origin of this specimen and on the circumstances that allowed a lone seed to take root and sprout precisely here, where no other specimen of its kind may be found.

In the interest of the education of your worthy sons present and to come, I beg you to receive, as a token of friendship, the true story narrated in these folios. It is the tale, mutatis mutandis, of a solitary oak : the House Torrechiavenna. It grew from a single seed mysteriously planted named Ermenulfo. Put more prosaically, this is the story of a prince’s life. A most resourceful prince whose fame is as widespread throughout Italy and beyond as his origins are obscure ; whose legacy is as edifying as his adventures are inimitable. A valiant knight, indomitable champion and loyal servant, beloved and rewarded by powers temporal and divine. A life all the more treasured as its ending was tragic.

Many a legend has been woven from scraps of collective memory regarding Sir Ermenulfo. Most of them are pure fantasy. With this plume and fresh parchment, I wish to cleanse the vale of all falsehoods and calumnies that have clouded gullible minds, and to restore a clear view of a mighty oak in a wide Alpine field.

I wish to recount the truth about Ermenulfo, Count of Grisons, of the House Torrechiavenna.



~~~​



The first time the name Ermenulfo Torrechiavenna appears in a written document is the hour of his christening. In an ancient ledger, preserved in Holy Mother Church’s archives at Bellinzona, county of Grisons, one reads that Ermenulfo Torrechiavenna was born and baptized in the Year of Grace Eight-Hundred-and-Fifty in an Alpine hamlet no one has ever heard of. The names of mother and father are faded. No siblings are known, nor did any man or woman ever come forward claiming kinship. From birth, the future Lord of Grisons was unique.

The second time the name appears is in a bailiff’s report, complete with Royal Seal, in a matter of purported kidnapping and rape.

The document, exemplary in its brevity, yet manages to reveal much valuable information about the Count’s earliest years. Accusations of brutality, plunder and defilement -- all false, as the Royal Keeper of the Peace goes on to prove -- circulated amongst those of the Italian warlords who sought and used any means possible, honest or vile, to heap discredit on the name of Torrechiavenna. It was the occasion of the Count’s marriage that elicited incredulity, even stupefaction and -- eventually -- slander. For in the Year of Grace Eight-Hundred-Seven-and-Sixty, Ermenulfo met his lady love : Nest, a maid of great beauty, kindness and wise economy, who was of Welsh extraction.

It is no difficult matter to imagine the sensation this event caused in Grisons. Nine persons out of ten had never heard of, let alone seen, such a wonder as a Welsh maid. More astonishing still, Nest was daughter to His Grace the King of Powys.

Envious minds concocted a story as spurious as it was ignoble. Ermenulfo is a mere thug, they claimed. A leader of ruffians and wild mountain men, born in untamed forest of unknown and un-human commerce. The very existence of the Lady Nest proves his villainy, for how else could such a nobile dama as a King’s daughter come to snow-capped Grisons except through having endured the ultimate dishonour ?




the house where Ermenulfo was born and raised



As always, the truth is much simpler than the falsehood.

Louis II of the House Karling, King of Italy and Burgundy, had engaged himself in Holy War to reclaim the territory of Apulia from the Muslim Infidel. Ermenulfo, knighted in his seventeenth year by King Louis II himself (a fact conveniently forgotten by the slanderers), accompanied his liege lord on this pious campaign. Far from having the soul of a thug, Ermenulfo was wont to display an excess of zeal and even cruelty in proving his courage and audacity. Thus, with a band of inexperienced archers and foot soldiers no more than five hundred strong, the young Count of Grisons abandoned the Alpine peaks and forests that he loved so well to offer his services to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and to His Majesty King Louis, in a Holy War.




Vista of the county of Grisons



It was a most perilous adventure -- what every son, every squire, every knight, dreams of. But the Lord’s hand guided even Ermenulfo’s ingenuous few to victory. Being thus honourably sworn to a worthy cause, Sir Ermenulfo earned a place amongst Italy’s noble train.








After their victorious enterprise, the King and his men decided to pay homage to the holy relics of Saint Nicolas at Bari. There they encountered many other pilgrims who had risked no less perilous a journey to visit the saintly bishop, amongst them the noble King of Powys. Ermenulfo had scarcely laid eyes on the King’s daughter, the Lady Nest, than he desired her hand.

King Louis and the King of Powys and their respective parties met often and prayed together daily for a fortnight. Hence there is no cause whatsoever to prevaricate scenes of impure violence and degeneracy. Sir Ermenulfo met the Lady Nest through her pilgrim father of Powys, who did not hesitate to consent to the union of his daughter and the debonair Italian, who had so valiantly proven himself in virtuous combat with a band of youths so small in number yet so remarkable in daring.






At the time of their first meeting in Bari, the king’s daughter was but a girl of thirteen. It was agreed that she would travel to Grisons in the year Eight-Hundred-Seventy, when the betrothed had come of age. No doubt it is the future Countess’ youth that inspired the slanderous tales of kidnapping and rape that later assailed the Count’s honour.

The journey to Bari, a splendid city renowned even in the centuries of the ancient Greeks and Romans, provided Sir Ermenulfo with more than sentimental ache. It taught him that he had much work to do if Grisons were to become a province exalted in the eyes of men. To that end, he despatched his most studious and faithful servant, Ascanio of Locarno, out of Italy, far from the Alps, all the way to Greek shores, to inquire after the finer arts and sciences necessary for laying down the foundations of a kingdom. The fruit of this labour was to place Grisons well ahead of all its neighbors in the domains of castle structure, homestead planning, soaring church architecture, and other areas of genteel life. The success of this plan -- to glean intelligence outside the kingdom of Italy -- whose fruits Sir Ermenulfo himself would barely see, is nevertheless his brainchild, one for which his descendants never cease to express their gratitude.

In anticipation of the arrival of his bride, Sir Ermenulfo set to the great task of civilizing his demesne. The whole province rejoiced, for the project presented occasion for lucrative employment, though it also incurred the levy of supplementary tithes.






Nest of Powys arrived in Grisons at the start of the Year of Grace Eight-Hundred-Seventy. The wedding ceremony and feast, to which everyone flocked, surpassed anything ever seen in Grisons to that day. The bride radiated felicity, which still deterred not the county’s old maids to gossip that the new Countess -- a foreigner -- would never adapt to Grisons’ climate, and would pack up her bags and abandon the Count at the earliest opportunity.




The formidable and breathtaking heights of Grisons



Count and Countess were devoted to each other, and ten months after her arrival, the Lady Nest gave birth to a daughter, the Lady Alessandra. Two years later, the couple were blessed with another daughter : Gabriella, the future great Duchess of Genoa.








During this time, well-crafted reports in secret code arrived periodically from various provinces of Byzantium. The information contained therein fulfilled Sir Ermenulfo’s desire to advance in all the arts, but especially in those that would contribute to building an invincible stronghold. The works undertaken would culminate in better defenses and grandeur, always an effective deterrent to the misdeeds of petty outlaws.






Word of Sir Ermenulfo’s enterprises could not fail to make deep impression on neighbouring lords, including King Louis. Consequently, and despite a certain disdain for things Italian so characteristic of the House Karling, a Royal Page presented himself one day at the Count’s home in Bellinzona to pray Sir Ermenulfo to grant His Majesty the pleasure of his loyal service.






It turned out however that King Louis troubled himself not with dreams of advancement from outside the French-speaking world. The service he required of Sir Ermenulfo consisted in acquiring knowledge of an entirely different sort : intelligence on the dreams of his vassals.






It was in the fifth year of Sir Ermenulfo’s rule, and only the second year of his marriage, that personal tragedy struck the House Torrechiavenna for the first time. In the summer of Eight-Hundred-Two-and-Seventy, the Lady Nest passed away. The county went into mourning. Long did the souvenir of the Countess’s soft radiance warm the cold winters of Grisons. In due course, Sir Ermenulfo remarried. The new Countess, the Lady Morag, bore not close physical resemblance to the first Countess. Their spiritual kinship however was evident to all. Her origins, though not Welsh, were sufficiently close to Powys and Gwynedd to leave no room for doubt as to why Sir Ermenulfo felt drawn to her.






The office of Spymaster to the King left Sir Ermenulfo ample time to administer his own demesne. Most notably, his immunity to corruption earned him renown throughout Italy as a just ruler, the bane of all who believed themselves above the laws of God and man.








One of Grisons’ dignitaries yet managed to cross paths with Sir Ermenulfo’s impeccable judgments : the best-forgotten Bishop of Disentis of lamentable repute. This wicked prelate had succumbed to the appeal of blasphemous lucre in the form of trafficking man-made relics. The affair was brought before the Count’s justice. The peddlers were found guilty, their malicious wares destroyed. Though the Bishop evaded sentence through lack of convincing evidence, his fury at losing a source of steady income moved him to seek revenge of a most heinous nature : the subverting of the Count’s fighting men.






Meanwhile, coded information continued to flow from the East towards Grisons’s lofty peaks. Sir Ermenulfo humbly considered that it reflected poorly on his House that he was himself incapable of deciphering his servant’s missives, but depended heavily on the help of learned monks. So it was that in the winter of Eight-Hundred-Eight-and-Seventy he took himself to the dwelling of an ancient hermit “to learn his books” as he himself advised his courtiers. His stubborn perseverance paid off, and he returned to the castle of Bellinzona not only lettered but with more acute perception of the meanderings of the human mind.








This new-found wisdom influenced a great number of momentous decisions. One of these, which inevitably raised eyebrows even at the Court of King Louis, was Grisons’s Law of Succession.






By instituting an elective monarchy in Grisons, Sir Ermenulfo paved the way for the principle of the advancement of the most worthy, not only in the Dynastic Succession but in every office, from stable boy to Chancellor, thus accustoming his subjects to the idea that, as the Good Lord Himself taught his disciples, the last could be first, or indeed the first be last. He at once set an example by taking under his wing a barefoot peasant lad whom he proceeded to instruct exactly as one would the son of a Marquess. His daughter Gabriella took a shine to the boy, and the two were often seen playing together when not attending assiduously to the lessons of their tutor.








Another beneficiary of Sir Ermenulfo’s newfound perspicacity was the dreadful Bishop of Disentis. Sir Ermenulfo penetrated the priest’s veneer of dignity and discovered a soul of vanity. He invented a mission for the Bishop, sending him to the Papal Court in Rome. The unmasked prelate actually groveled in gratitude, and his embassy to Rome bore rich fruit for the Court of Grisons.

Alas for himself, his sojourn in the Hoy City did nothing to improve his character. A few years later, he espoused the delusions of the Waldensian sect and attempted to sow its vicious seed in Grisons. Sir Ermenulfo had him arrested, and the humiliated cleric ended his days in the Count’s dungeons.









~~~​
 
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Dayni

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Your seas are no longer purple! EEeeeeeeeeeee......

Nice to see another aar from you, and it's nice to see an Alpine start for once too. Nothing particularly troubling yet, but hey, it's not like the Karlings constantly attack one another. Following as usual.
 

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:)Count me the f**k in Fabio!!!!
 

fabiolundiense

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Your seas are no longer purple! EEeeeeeeeeeee......
I know, I'm still getting used to it :rolleyes:

Thanks, everyone, the adventure continues !
 

fabiolundiense

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The San Benogno Manuscript (continued)



Tragedy struck the House Torrechiavenna again, and in disturbingly similar fashion. In January 882, the Lady Morag succumbed to pneumonia. In the ten years she had been Countess of Grisons, she had led a discreet life, assisting her husband in all things, including administrative matters for the county, but remaining always in shadow. She had also completed Sir Ermenulfo’s joy by giving him two sons, the unfortunate Gianfranco, born in 877, and Enrico, barely a month old on his mother’s demise.






Master Gianfranco, born lame, carried his defect as nobly as he could under the loving guidance of the Count and his courtiers. Upon attaining his sixteenth year, he was promised a brilliant marriage, but died shortly before he was to meet his betrothed for the first time. Master Enrico fared only slightly better, though he outlived his brother by several years.

Sir Ermenulfo made no haste to contract a third marriage. The desire for chivalrous combat, glory and greatness for his humble House led him to devise the conquest of the territory of Veglia, a certain distance to the east, in the Duchy of Croatia on the eastern Adriatic coast. With the connivance of the Chancellor, a claim to the province was fabricated in 883.






Sir Ermenulfo brought to the fore everything in his power to prepare a successful campaign. Thanks to the science of the Greeks, more improvements were made to the castle in order to hone keener and sharper fighting skills in Grisons’s men. Behavioural skills were not neglected, for the impression of majesty plays a significant role on the battlefield, especially when forces are virtually equal.






One project had to be laid aside. The barefoot peasant lad in whom Sir Ermenulfo had seen such promise turned out to have nothing of the squire in him. He was allowed to return to the hedgehogs and marmots he so dearly missed. The Lady Gabriella thus became the sole beneficiary of the Count’s tutoring.






Whilst construction was underway at Bellinzona castle, Sir Ermenulfo had his first close encounter with death. King Louis was troubled by rumours of sedition in the Duchy of Friuli. Sir Ermenulfo was despatched thither to uncover the truth. What he found was a full-blown conspiracy headed by the Count of Verona. The exercise of justice in the King’s name exposed the criminals, doused the flames of internecine war, and very nearly caused his downfall.






There was however a curious after-effect. At the time of the Veglia claim’s publication, the Count had no allies. Mercenaries might have been recruited for the conquest, but their terms were prohibitively steep. Consequently, alliances with more powerful lords were in order. Thanks to his actions in Verona, Sir Ermenulfo was showered with tokens of gratitude by the Duke of Friuli, whose demesne happened to share borders with Veglia. Sir Ermenulfo’s first-born, the Lady Alessandra, was already attracting attention in Burgundian and Italian courts alike. Sir Ermenulfo spoke of her to the Duke, and the two lords reached an understanding. Like her mother before her, the Lady Nest, Alessandra was betrothed in her thirteenth year, to the Duke’s heir. Then the following year, the Lady Gabriella was betrothed to Odalrico d’Asti, second son of the Duke of Susa and heir to the county of Monferrato. What was significant about the latter arrangement was the matrilineal clause. It is proof that as early as 884, when Gabriella was but a maid of twelve, her father already considered her a possible successor.

Lastly, he himself contracted a betrothal with Adelaida, daughter of Marsiglio di Luna, the Baron of Luna and a vassal of the Lord Mayor of Genoa. The couple were married in 886, at the same time that the Lady Alessandra was wedded to Burchard of Friuli.







It is easy, in hindsight, to cry, “o woeful day !” Instead of making merry, they should have been flogging their skins, pleading for mercy from On High ! But on that autumn day in 886, nothing presaged the tragedy that would later unfold. Of such twists is fickle Fate the undefeated mistress ; in this instance, leading Sir Ermenulfo to work so carefully on his own undoing.

Grisons was still feasting and drinking to the health of newlywed lords and damsels when frightful and utterly unexpected news arrived in Bellinzona. Sir Ermenulfo was not the only one with an eye to the Duchy of Croatia. Liutbert von Babenburg, Count of Krain and a vassal of the Duke of Friuli was invading the province of Veglia even as the messenger spoke, having produced a claim on that territory in all points identical to Sir Ermenulfo’s own.

The effect of this revelation on the wedding party can scarce be imagined. Sir Ermenulfo was livid. Yet the Duke of Friuli and his heir were his honoured guests. There was naught to be done but to carry on making merry, for no power in heaven or on earth would have moved Sir Ermenulfo to address a discourteous word to his guests. But there was no disguising the dishonour. The nuptial feasting broke up early, and the Duke and his entourage, with the Lady Alessandra in tow, departed before dawn the next day.






On that day a legitimate -- albeit fabricated -- claim was lost forever. For once Veglia was annexed by Krain, laying stake to the claim would have entailed declaring war on an ally, an offence infinitely more barbaric than beating a rival to the prize. Alas, not all high-born shrank from villainy and back-stabbing, as Sir Ermenulfo would soon learn.






Eventually, after the shock of the Veglia debacle, life went on at Court as usual. With the approach of his second daughter’s wedding, Sir Ermenulfo consecrated the better part of each day on the education of the young lady. All his self-sacrifice reaped handsome reward. On the day of her wedding, the Lady Gabriella was recognised an expert diplomat, as learned and cunning as any Abbott, astute in matters of economy, patient and diligent until she had attained the goal she set for herself. Upon her matrilineal marriage to the heir to the County of Monferrato, Sir Ermenulfo cast his ballot, choosing her as heiress to the County of Grisons.








The union was happy, and the following year the Lady Gabriella produced a son, Giordano. Sir Ermenulfo and the Countess Adelaida were similarly blessed when Master Ermenulfo appeared two months later, and then again after fourteen months when the Countess produced twins : Umberto, the future Comte de Châlons, and Filippo, the future Count of Zachlumia. When her father-in-law the Duke of Susa passed away and Odalrico became Count of Monferrato, Gabriella was appointed to the office of Spymaster of Monferrato. Sir Ermenulfo shed a tear of pride and fatherly emotion when informed that his chosen heiress was following in his footsteps.










Sir Ermenulfo now devoted his energies to the education of his sons, especially of Enrico, younger brother of the crippled Master Gianfranco. All over Grisons’s castle, military preparations were gathering momentum.






For the Veglia debacle had in no way diminished Sir Ermenulfo’s determination to raise his county to the pinnacle of glory and prestige. A plan of conquest was taking form, in secret, against the Lord Mayor of Genoa.


~~~​
 
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fabiolundiense

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The San Benogno Manuscript (continued)



Though arranged against the foothills of the Alps, maritime Genoa’s terrain bore no resemblance whatsoever to the abrupt, rugged byways of Grisons. Sir Ermenulfo’s fighting men needed training in completely new battle tactics if they were to conquer a land where light cavalry had plenty of room for legwork.

Whilst the House Karling embarked on yet another fratricidal campaign -- and into which even the Emperor in Byzantium poked his nose in virtue of marriage ties to King Louis -- outlines for the Genoa project took on sharper focus. At last, Grisons’s new Chancellor declared himself ready.








The claim to Genoa was promulgated after the Feast of the Blessed Virgin in August 894. The Count of Monferrato, Sir Ermenulfo’s son-in-law, who had been kept abreast of developments from the start, immediately pledged his support. As for the Duke of Friuli, his reply to Sir Ermenulfo’s call to arms created a scandal far greater than the one produced at his son’s wedding feast.




The Duke’s letter was not a reply to a chivalrous call to arms. It was an insult, a slander, an affront. From the day that ignominious missive was received, the House of Friuli lost forever a friend and ally. The Lady Alessandra alone retained the Count’s affections. Regrettably, he did not live to see the hour when his eldest child would be delivered from the shameful ties that bound her to that faithless dynasty.

Sir Ermenulfo’s third ally, il Barone Marsiglio di Luna, was prevented from making contact even with his daughter, the Countess Adelaida, since the Baron’s liege lord, the Lord Mayor of Genoa, was being attacked by Grisons. Many believed that had communication been possible between the Count and the Baron, the approaching tragedy could have been avoided. An appealing theory perhaps, but one as far removed from the truth as possible. Since the felonious Baron already had murder in his heart, as subsequent events revealed to the whole world, what would he have said to Sir Ermenulfo had they been able to communicate ? Lies and more lies are the only things one may reasonably suppose would have fallen from the Baron’s lips.

The combined forces of Grisons and Monferrato would undoubtedly have been crushed in Genoa. In the absence of Friuli’s armies, Saxon mercenaries had to be recruited poste haste. With fifteen hundred extra men-at-arms, Sir Ermenulfo launched the attack.

The Battle of Lodi, may it live forever in the annals of history, catapulted Grisons to glory.




Ninety-nine of every hundred Genoese squires and knights fell under Sir Ermenulfo’s sword. With the inhabitants of the city at the mercy of the invading army, capitulation was a foregone conclusion.

The victory of Lodi also reopened communication with the Baron of Luna. Innocent as a lamb, Sir Ermenulfo headed straight to his father-in-law’s manor. For it was his intention to persuade the Baron to surrender forthwith, and to offer him the mayorship of Genoa after the conquest. He arrived at the noble house on the twenty-first day of July 895, and rushed headlong into the arms of an assassin.




The sack of Genoa went on unabated. None was wise as to the crime committed until a company of Sir Ermenulfo’s retinue wondered at his absence. The men betook themselves to the manor of Luna where they discovered the Count’s inanimate body.

If the traitor had hoped to put an end to the conquest of Genoa with the thrust of a dagger, he was sorely mistaken. What was left of Genoa’s notables surrendered to Grisons even as church bells began to toll the melancholy peal. The horror of the deed threw shadows deep into every Grisonais heart. Sir Odalrico d’Asti, Count of Monferrato, received the task of handing over to his wife Sir Ermenulfo’s mortal remains, to be prepared for inhumation. In a gesture portraying both sorrow and homage, every page, priest, squire, knight, maidservant and lady in Genoa sank on bended knee before the funerary cortege.

Fickle Fate will oft play cruel tricks on mankind. But out of evil, Providence will always bring forth something good. It goes without saying that the murder of Sir Ermenulfo inaugurated ipso facto the reign most extraordinary of Gabriella Torrechiavenna, Countess of Grisons, Countess of Genoa.





~~~
At the start of this narrative, I promised the tale of a great oak -- an account of the life achievements of Sir Ermenulfo, founder of the House Torrechiavenna, in illustration of how one might instruct future generations of God-fearing knights, that they should be found worthy of their calling and high-born station. Let my lord’s patience not wither if I pursue this tale with the life of Sir Ermenulfo’s heiress, the Lady Gabriella. For the Count had so well educated his second daughter that all Grisons saw in her a great likeness to her noble father, and accepted the succession most joyously. Indeed, as the world knows only too well, the new Countess adopted her father’s spirit so completely that her reign is, without any doubt, the continuation of that of Sir Ermenulfo’s own.


~~~​
 
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Asantahene

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Ooh how annoying to have your hero assassinated but at least you have a worthy daughter as successor even if she'll incur the female animus from her vassals...
 

fabiolundiense

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Ooh how annoying to have your hero assassinated but at least you have a worthy daughter as successor even if she'll incur the female animus from her vassals...
Actually, at this stage of the game, her only vassals are 2 mayors and 2 bishops, her position is very secure :)
 

fabiolundiense

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The San Benogno Manuscript (continued)




Following the surrender of Eudes, Doge of Genoa, the county’s statutes and laws were scrapped or else rewritten in order to bring them into conformity with the laws of Grisons. The surrender also sealed the fate of the fiend Marsiglio di Luna who was stripped of every dignity and forced to flee Genoa. It is believed that he lived another eight years somewhere in Italy. His final resting place is an unmarked grave whose location, if ever it was recorded, was soon forgotten by all except those ghosts that haunt only unholy ground.

Sir Ermenulfo’s campaign had been launched in the Year of Grace 894. It ended thirteen months later when Gabriella Torrechiavenna was proclaimed Countess of Genoa.










So much prowess shewn in the field and honour earned in combat drew acclaim from many a noble house throughout Italy and Burgundy. Only the villainous dared murmur in spiteful jealousy. King Louis voiced his own congratulatory praises for the success of the Lady Gabriella and Grisons’s fighting men. It vexed him that Sir Ermenulfo himself was now beyond the reach of royal munificence. Not to be thwarted, not even by death, the king decreed that there could be no more fitting recompense for the late Sir Ermenulfo than to reward his heir.

Surely, had Lady Gabriella been a man, the king would have knighted her. As it happened, he did the next best thing. Sixteen months after the conquest of Genoa, on the Feast of the Epiphany 897, King Louis bestowed the ducal crown on his loyal subject.








Countess at the age of two-and-twenty, Duchess at four-and-twenty, the Lady Gabriella’s rule began under such auspices as any lord or lady could ever hope would befall them. True to Sir Ermenulfo’s spirit, she threw herself into her administrative duties with assiduous conscience. The meting out of justice, the careful weighing between income and expense -- nothing was allowed to degenerate into foolhardiness. Advances in the arts and sciences progressed unhindered. The knowledge of the Greeks and Romans, but also fine inventions home-grown in Karling lands, all contributed to the enrichment and embellishment of life in Grisons and in Genoa.








Master Gianfranco, Lady Gabriella’s younger brother, did not, alas, share in the family’s fortunes. His illness took its inevitable toll only days before the arrival of the ducal crown. The entire Court went into mourning, for the boy, despite his useless limbs, had ever been of blithest wit, delighting any company with a most courteous and charming tongue.

Whatever else occupied the Duchess’s hours, she always cherished her husband and family above matters of government. None was begrudged what rewards and festivities could be wrung out of life’s ordinary miseries. Nor did she begrudge herself the joys incumbent on every wife and mother -- as well as those of guardian to her younger siblings.










As all good rulers know, the distinction of one’s House rests wholly upon their own virtues. In the county of Monferrato, the law of succession was based upon the Karling custom of Gavelkind repartition. Master Giordano, the Duke and Duchess’s first-born son, was thus the county’s designated heir. It was the couple’s intention that Monferrato should be assimilated into the duchy of Genoa. They agreed that the Duchess should take full responsibility for the young heir’s education. Needless to say, Lady Gabriella acquitted herself of that task no less well than of all the others.






The arrival of a new century effected a much-awaited turn in the Karling dynasty. The eldest of the clan, King Lothaire the Chaste, left this world in the spring of the Year of Grace 901. His lands and titles passed to King Louis, who tarried only a few months before following his brother to the grave. By the end of summer that same year, House Torrechiavenna’s liege lord had changed primary titles twice.










Many a noble lord seized the opportunity to wage wars of conquest on neighbours near or far. Lady Gabriella directed her eye towards the province of Padua. But rather than pursue conquest for conquest’s sake, she cast her net further afield, thinking it better to bide her time and prepare for a great endeavour than to sink into petty squabble within Italy’s borders. For the House Karling never wavered in its disdain for all things Italian. A Frankish tribe they were and desired that everyone else should be. Many an obsequious servant surrendered his or her own heritage to conform to French custom and tongue. But Lady Gabriella refused to abandon her origins. It became her unspoken policy to anchor Italian mores in the Italian peninsula. French, German, Lombard, Greek, Provençal or even Visigothic customs were never ridiculed ; she merely gave precedence to her own ancestral legacies. Her renown and piercing mind enabled her to steer a delicate via media, distancing herself as much as decently possible from the Royal Karlings, while cultivating the friendship of her most powerful allies. This politic inspired only greater esteem amongst her peers.








The solitary oak thrived. Secondary branches grew strong.








Spring 904 witnessed the launching of the first phase of Lady Gabriella’s great endeavour. Seven years previously, the Countess of Grisons had merited the bestowal, by Royal Decree, of a ducal crown. In the years to follow, she would pursue the goal of adjoining a second crown -- but without the intervention of her liege lord.



~~~​
 
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Asantahene

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Fantastic stuff. My goodness but hasn't she turn out well :cool:
 

fabiolundiense

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Fantastic stuff. My goodness but hasn't she turn out well :cool:
You took the words right out of my mouth ! New computer, smooth gaming, excellent ruler, what more could a CK2 addict desire ? :D
 

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Welcome, Z-Z-Z and thanks for subbing, even if your reason escapes me.... o_O
 

fabiolundiense

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The San Benogno Manuscript (continued)




In order that none of the Karlings should take offense at her course of conquest, Lady Gabriella chose for a target a duchy outside her liege lord’s sphere of influence : Spalathos, a province on the Dalmatian coast, along the eastern shores of the Adriatic.







Grisonais and Genoese pikemen and infantry had trained strenuously. Lady Gabriella’s allies, when called upon to engage in honourable combat, sprang into action. Not for a moment did anyone consider bypassing an occasion for excellence and chivalry, courage, command and glory.








The province of Spalathos, as it was called by the Greeks, consisted of low-lying plains with little high relief. The Doux of Dalmatia’s castle stood upon a hillock. Its position precluded any element of surprise. Conquerors were obliged to rely on the advantage of number.

Lady Gabriella’s ally Friuli -- the son of that roguish Duke who had behaved so insolently towards her late father -- arrived first upon the scene. The Doux’s meagre reserves collapsed in a matter of days. Genoese fighting men then marched into Dalmatia. It needed but a year to attain the goal.




Spalathos Castle






The people of Spalathos, renamed Spalato, or Split in common folk’s tongue, danced in the streets whilst churchmen chanted hymn after hymn of thanksgiving to celebrate the shift in allegiance. From his episcopal palace, the Primate of the province made an announcement that may be said to have aptly described the feeling of the general populace : foreswearing his obedience to Constantinople’s Patriarch, he pledged allegiance to Rome.






News of the Doux’s surrender and the Bishop’s defection spread like wildfire throughout Italy. At home, rejoicing was mitigated by other, less pleasant tidings. For during that war for Spalato, the House Torrechiavenna also experienced a period of mourning. Duchess Gabriella’s third son, Master Odalrico, so named after his father the Duke Consort, graced this earth a mere two years before passing out of this world. Later, the Duchess Alexandra of Friuli, Lady Gabriella’s elder sister, suffered the indignity of having to depart into exile to Treviso. For her husband Burchard, having only recently inherited his father’s titles, had been bested by a rival claimant.






Nor was it the only conflict on Italian soil to spoil the House Torrechiavenna’s careful politicking. His Highness King Arnault of Burgundy-Italy launched yet another of the innumerable fratricidal wars the Karlings fought betwixt themselves. Then, in the spring of 906, Duchess Filomena of Tuscany, only recently betrothed to Lady Gabriella’s brother Umberto, was also hounded out of her demesne by a usurper. She died soon thereafter, rendering thus impossible for the moment an alliance with central Italy’s most powerful barons.

No one was more adversely affected by these sorry events than the Duchess’s first-born, Master Giordano. The young prince took to brooding, shunning festivities to immerse himself in bullying and other symptoms of an unhappy soul. Upon his coming of age, he was betrothed to a maid of exceptional sweetness, Sofie von Kempten, eldest daughter of Lord Waldemar, Count of Kempten. Giordano himself approved the contract whole-heartedly. It was hoped that his sinister pastimes would prove but a thing of adolescent awkwardness.










In Spalato, whose entire population had embraced allegiance to Rome, the Duchess installed a vassal of Venetian origin, Giacinto of the noble House Orseolo, whose views on Italian culture mirrored those of his liege mistress. At the same time, in a move calculated to reduce the threat of invasion from Byzantium, the Duchess’s brother Enrico was wed to the daughter of the Doux of Dyrrachion, whose demesne shared borders with Spalato. The union was celebrated in the bride’s home province. But the Lady Gabriella was prevented from attending the ceremony in person by two joyous events in rapid succession, the births of her sixth and seventh children : Master Luchino and Mistress Fausta, the future Queen of Georgia.










The first phase of the Duchess’s great endeavour had succeeded. It followed that the next phase would be the conquest of Diadora for the ducal crown of Dalmatia. Here, however, Lady Gabriella permitted sentiment to alter her plan. For Diadora, like Spalato, is a coastal province and hopelessly flat. Majestic Alpine peaks spoke to the heart of every Torrechiavenna more than balmy sands and tide-swept pebbles. Behind Spalato lay the province of Zachlumia, a land of hills and vales. Though nothing like Grisons’s incomparable landscape, those Croatian hills were more desirable than a hundred more leagues of damp flatness. Zachlumia then, and not Diadora, became the object of clandestine diplomacy.

The Karling prince could not turn a blind eye towards a vassal so exceeding charismatic as the Duchess of Genoa. King Arnault twice made overtures to Lady Gabriella with the undisguised intention of weakening her stance as defender of the realm’s Italian heritage : he proposed to take two of the Duchess’s children as hostages, raising them to become exemplary Frankish pawns. Lady Gabriella dared not cause her overlord too much displeasure. She compromised by allowing her daughter Theodora to be educated by the Duke of Köln. Master Luchino, on the other hand, she declined to surrender. Shortly thereafter, a small rebellion erupted most conveniently in the King’s northern territories. She seized the occasion to demonstrate her fealty by defending the King’s cause against the rebels. It required almost two years for them to suppress the revolt. The matter of Master Luchino’s education was forgotten, and Theodora was even allowed to return to Grisons.











~~~​
 
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Z-Z-Z

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Your daughter is suspiciously good. Hire a priest to examine her.
 

fabiolundiense

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Your daughter is suspiciously good. Hire a priest to examine her.
Gabriella is a Super-Mom :p
(I try to educate my own kids whenever possible, results are always better.)
 

fabiolundiense

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The San Benogno Manuscript (continued)




The King realised that he stood to lose much by permitting his vassals to wage war amongst themselves. That freedom was revoked with the promulgation of new laws expanding the powers of the Crown. The ploy came as no surprise to Lady Gabriella. In provision of just such an event, she had, over several years, sown the seeds of alliance with her peers.

Two of her young brothers had wed titled ladies from King Arnault’s Court : Ermenulfo, whose bride was Countess of Ancona, and Umberto, now married to the heiress to the county of Châlons. As for her daughter Theodora, Lady Gabriella secured her freedom from Karling reach. Her promised spouse was none other than a Byzantine prince, first-born son of the Basileus and heir to the Byzantine Empire. Sadly, another alliance was prematurely broken when the Duchess’s brother Enrico succumbed to pneumonia.










But more dramatic events had been clouding the horizon for some time.

For some years, Infidel militia had been invading across the Pyrenees into the demesne of the Duke of Toulouse. After years of unwarranted bloodshed, West Francia’s vassal surrendered in 917. Lady Gabriella had not remained indifferent to the Infidel’s incursions. She knew, ten years before many knights who had feigned the belief that the Infidel could not defeat a Karling vassal, that a Holy War would be inevitable. Her counter-attack was long and careful in the making.

His Holiness Pope Gregory V’s divinely inspired response to the conquest of Toulouse astonished the world. Two new Orders were promulgated : the great Warrior Brothers, universally known to this day as the Teutonic Order, and the Knights Hospitallers of Saint John. With their creation came the plea addressed to all Christian lords to stand up against the Infidel, using whatever temporal and legal means they could command. All those who responded to that noblest of callings would ever after be known as Crusaders.












It happened that the moment to make good on another great conquest in Croatia appeared most favourable at this time. Lady Gabriella therefore stood at a crossroad. Claim Zachlumia, or defend against the Sultan of Mauretania ? The Duchess needed but a moment to make her choice. She was vassal to a Karling prince, but first and foremost she was vassal to Our Saviour Jesus the Christ. Zachlumia was sacrificed ; the Duchess’s men-at-arms would fight instead for their Heavenly King.










The Karling princes miraculously put aside their habitual fratricidal rampages to stand united against the Sultan. Whilst their tens of thousands forced the Infidel horde back across the Pyrenees, Lady Gabriella’s humble hundreds eliminated spies and deserters that attempted to hide in Christian towns and country. Grisonais crusaders laid siege to castles and bishoprics all over Toulouse, bringing liberty and succor to the oppressed and terrified.

At long last, in the Year of Grace 922, the Infidel was driven back across the Pyrenees.












A wave of euphoria washed over and penetrated every soul in the realm. From every mouth sprang song and prayer, giving thanks to the Creator for delivering fair Aquitaine from evil contamination. Fervour for the Lord’s service burned bright. Lady Gabriella’s own Chancellor begged leave to retire from every honour he held and join the Order of Saint John, a request to which the Duchess lent magnanimous ear. Chaos did persist yet in the more remote regions of West Francia. Therefore did men and women look to Lady Gabriella for safety. Amongst these was a priest who had rescued a relic of Saint Mary Magdalen from pillaging rogues and who now brought the sacred remnant before Lady Gabriella, bearing thus witness to the truth of Our Saviour’s word, that those who give for the sake of the Heavenly Kingdom should receive a hundredfold in return.






Pious devotion and charitable alms-giving, together with much deserved celebration, so occupied the populace in general that hardly anyone gave heed to yet another change of title in the Ruling House. Eight months before the end of the Holy War, Burgundy-Italy had become the kingdom of Lotharingia-Burgundy-Italy-Bavaria when Louis Half-Hand of Lotharingia died childless, leaving his titles to his older brother King Arnault.






But Lady Gabriella’s eyes focused on a more distant realm. Bachelor Prince Kvarkvare from what used to be ancient Scythia had recently succeeded his father on the throne of the Kingdom of Georgia. An embassy sailed from Genoa through the Bosphorus and across the Euxine Sea bearing gifts and a proposal of marriage to the young king. Gifts and proposal were received ecstatically. In the Year of Grace 923, Lady Gabriella’s youngest child Fausta became Queen of Georgia.

It was the culmination of decades of nurturing, pruning and protecting the mighty oak that was the House Torrechiavenna. When, only a few years later, Lady Gabriella’s other foreign son-in-law succeeded to the throne of Byzantium, the new Basileus proclaimed that he was honoured to be able to call Duchess Gabriella the Noble his mother-in-law, and that if his descendants could pretend to a character half as exalted as that of Lady Gabriella’s, he would consider himself blessed of Heaven.










Lady Gabriella never gave any indication that she considered her advancing years a reason to indulge in decadence or sloth. With the consent of her son and heir Sir Giordano, she took under her wing her grandson, Master Giordano, teaching him the rules of leadership, developing in him the traits of a future Duke.

Her humble yet exacting spirit led her to recognize her own weaknesses, and to deal with them accordingly. Thus were her personal guard -- but not her subjects -- stunned when she insisted on improving her physical strength under their respectful guidance. Once over the initial shock, they complied, and discovered an even deeper respect for her.








Needless to say, none of this was for the sake of idle sport. The Holy War behind her, Lady Gabriella returned to an earlier pet objective : the conquest of Zachlumia.



~~~​
 
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