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Blasted Conniving Roman
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Apr 20, 2007
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From the sourcebook companion to Richard Lightfoot’s History of the Serbian Empire, June, 2008 -

In the summer of 1961, a team of researchers from the Sorbonne, University of Paris, made a remarkable discovery in the dusty archives of remote St. Michael’s monastery near present day Durrazo. Hidden amongst the dusty old scrolls and tomes were a series of missives penned by none other than Vikan Vojislavljevic, sometimes Bishop of Hum, sometimes rabblerouser, sometimes fool. At first, many believed the text to be a fraud. While many of the traits of the author clearly follow traits other sources ascribe to Vikan Vojislavljevic, some of the claims within were so contrary to what was known about the reigns the Tsars that many within the academic community felt it to be a jest, a forgery written to humor some later ruler. However, radio carbon dating on a section of the scroll in 1981 confirmed that it likely was written in the early 12th century, adding immensely to the credibility of the text. It is now accepted that if Vikan himself was not the author, he likely had some role in the writing of the following.

The texts describe the personal and family relationships of the Vojislavljevic Dynasty, the founders of the great Serbian Empire of the Middle Ages. Vikan had the great fortune to see the rise of the Serbian Empire in its entirety, from its birth at the hands of his grandfather Mihailjo, through the reigns of succeeding Tsars. His text was obviously written in haste, and provides a useful counterpoint to the standard “glorious chronicles” of the rise of the Serbian Empire. His recording of events are short, even brusque, and his opinions sharp and open. As his recollection is fairly short, we have also included the annotations added by his scribe, one Iljko Lazarevich. These provide a useful counterpoint to many of the claims Vikan raises in his narrative of the rise of Serbia.

As you read the following, ask yourself some of the following questions. What qualifies Vikan to be an observer of these momentous events? Does Vikan have a bias? If so, what is it, and if not, why do you think he might be impartial compared to other sources in this sourcebook? What events do you think Vikan should have included in his testimony, or what events do you think he purposefully left out? And finally, what does Vikan’s opinion tell us about the rise of the Tsardom of Serbia in the 11th century?


Vikan Vojislavljevic, as of the writing of the first section of his chronicle in 1109


Yes indeed, I’m starting another AAR. This is intended as something short and fun I can do between writer’s block and savage plotting in Rome AARisen. The original idea comes from the travels and wacky experiences of a side-character to a CK game I was playing, a man who never held power himself (though I bet he wished he did) who lived and served through the reigns of at least four Serbian tsars, and all the hijinks, escapades, and stupidity he found himself in due to his honesty and bluntness. It’ll be updated sporadically at best, but it definitely won’t be a narrative. I’m going to give the “biased chronicler” form of AAR a shot. I hope you all will enjoy Vikans poignant, perhaps pungent, views on his family and contemporaries as they gain more power than they could ever imagine…
First, to allay everyone's fears, no, this won't edge into Rome AARisen. This is something for me to do as a mental break from the other, more serious AAR. So there's going to be alot of silliness, mostly because I'm a very silly person when I'm unwinding from serious things!


My name is Vikan Vojislavljevic, and this is my story.

And I am Iljko Lazarevich, a monk of the monastery at St. Michael’s. Unfortunately, the abbot has assigned me to catalogue the ramblings of this man, if only to stop him from threatening to tell some tale or another to his nephew, the current Tsar. I shall try my best, dear readers, to cut through the fluff and write down only the most salient details of his dictation. – Iljko

I am writing this chronicle under extreme pain and duress, no doubt God punishing me for my sins and those of my family.

My lord Vikan exaggerates, he stubbed his toe this morning. ‘Tis a little black and blue, but no more. – Iljko

I should begin, as all stories do, at the beginning. My family, the Vojislavljevic line, had long held the title of Zhupan, at least since the beginning of time. For eons we have stood against the tests of time, withstanding the original Romans, the eastern Romans, the Avars, the Huns, the Croats, and even bears. According to my grandfather, the bears were the worst – one could always track down the Romans or the Croats, but bears – they were tricky. He told me when I was young of bears that would work in groups, some laying down apples while others lay in ambush, three or four, to try to take down my grandfather. My mother always claimed that my grandfather was a great liar, but I refuse to believe so.

Vikans great grandfather, Stefan Dobrislav I Vojislavljevic, was the first to hold the title of Zhupan. He lost his claim to the Roman Empire in the East, but Vikan’s grandfather Mihaljo restored the independence his claim in the 1050s, and was recognized as Prince in the area of Dioclea by the Roman Empire. As for whether Mihaljo had such a negative opinion of wildlife, I cannot say. The man was a renowned hunter, however. – Iljko

He was insane, however. I remember once, when I was 12, that a bishop from the Roman Church (the Roman Church in Rome, not the Roman Church in Constantinople) came to our lovely thatch roofed manor, surrounded by its wooden palisade and drunken and surly soldiers, and demanded that my father make my uncle Vladimir convert to Catholicism. In those days, our house was divided – my grandfather followed the Western rites, the rest of the family, like the little folk, followed the Eastern rites. Vladimir, naturally, refused (everyone knows that the rites of the Western Romans are far inferior to the rights of the Eastern Romans. One should spend all day standing before God, not sitting or kneeling. Only fools need a rest). This put my grandfather into such a fury that he beat Vladimir to death with… something. I think it was a wooden cross, but it could have been a small child. I’m not sure… grandfather was fond of beating people with either.

Official stories state that Mihaljo beat Vladimir to death with a wooden crucifix from the manor chapel, in the presence of the papal legate. I am unaware of any stories of Prince Mihaljo beating anyone with a child, but he was known for beating his children. – Iljko

However, I get ahead of myself.

I was born in the Year of Our Lord 1054, on my grandfather’s manor in Zeta. I was the son of Perislav, grandson of Mihaljo, and great-grandson of someone who’s name escapes me. It was an illustrious ancestor, mind you. Very illustrious. Constantine-like illustrious.

Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, reunited a squabbling realm that spanned the Mediterranean, and founded a glorious city that is still the jewel of Christendom. Stefan Dobrislav led some goat-herders in a minor revolt against the Romans, that succeeded for only a few years. You, dear reader, be the judge. – Iljko

Despite the greatness of my heritage in those days, Vojislavljevic lands were small. My grandfather ruled as Zhupan, but my father acted as his trusted lieutenant, controlling the lands of Rashka in grandfather’s name. I heard from my mother that father’s lands were large because grandfather felt sorry that his son was improperly endowed. Then again, my mother said the contents of my father’s pants were the reason for many of his faults – his bad temper, his tendency towards war and fighting – she claimed it was because he was compensating. As I never personally checked the contents of my father’s pants, I can’t verify any of that.

I did not even attempt to check the veracity of Vikan’s claim. – Iljko

Dioclea was surrounded on all sides by varying groups of people, or water. Water seemed to be the worst enemy. However, directly to the west of my father’s lands lay the lands of the Croats. I do not know whence this name comes from, the best I can judge is because we Diocleans live such better lives than the inhabitants of that vapid region, we have a tendency to “crow at” them. As in laugh at them, because they are ugly. While they have milk, butter and honey, we proudly have cow pies. And we shall proudly display those cow pies. No Croat has cow pies! Milk and honey are gone once you eat them, but a cow pie can be used to light fires again and again…

At this point Vikan descended into a rant about cattle and their misusage. For the sake of the reader, I nodded and smiled while not writing down what he dictated. – Iljko

Anyway, I digress yet again.

The problem with this land of the Croats is that they were unified under one king, who had been recognized by the Pope in Rome as having the title “King of the Croats.” They were much larger than us. However, they were afraid of us Diocleans, and for good reason, as you will soon see.

Further to the north lay the lands of Hungary. I do not know why this land has its name either. The people who settled there were Magyars, not Hungarians, or whatever they call themselves. I have instructed Iljko to note on the map he will draw that this is the land of hungry people. They seem to have constant famines, or so I was told by my mother. I think that is where the name comes from, perhaps I am wrong.

He is. – Iljko

To our east lie the lands of the powerful so-called Roman Empire, a title in general that has perplexed me. Who are the Romans? There are people from the city of Rome itself that call themselves that, but Rome is a backwater, even compared to Hum. Then there are the Germans that claim they are Emperors of the Romans, a stupid claim at best. Only a fool would confuse a German with Trajan. Then, there are our neighbors who claim to be Romans, but who are plainly Greeks. They speak Greek, they read Greek, they smell like Greeks, they must be Greeks! I have come to the conclusion there are no more Romans left, only people who think they are Romans, and if we go by that logic, I can sit and claim I, too, am a Roman simply because I…

Another tedious rant. Dear reader, please utter a prayer for the one receiving Vikan’s dictations. A great deal of patience is required, patience I fear I might not have. – Iljko

Yet the lands that most concern us at this point are those directly to the southwest of my father’s holds at Rashka – the free city of Ragusa. For you see, the Ragusans believed in this patently silly thing called ‘hygiene.’ It consisted of the utterly preposterous idea that one should bathe multiple times per day. They claimed it reduced disease, and made them smell better, when in fact all it did was make them smell strange, like soap, and made one think they were all Muslim. Everyone knows only Muslims bathe, and this little fact had major implications for our small realm.


The lands of Dioclea in 1066. I was instructed by Lord Vikan to color the lands around Dioclea and Ragusa black, because, as he said, “They aren’t important.”

In 1067, when I was 13, my grandfather sent a messenger to the city of Ragusa to inquire about a shipment of goats he was due to receive from Veglia. He was most insistent that the goats arrive on time – these were Veglian goats, who’s smell was known to repel bears. However, the Ragusans claimed my father’s messenger, a 40 year old man named Boris who had vowed to never bathe at age 14, smelled too foul, and refused to meet with them. Tired of the Ragusans pompousness and near-infidel bathing habits, my grandfather declared war. The Ragusans were easily crushed, their city looted, and the stores and goods of the port’s warehouses flooded back to our hovel in Zeta.

Dear reader, I wish you to know that Prince Mihaljo attacked Ragusa not over goats and bathing habits, but because he wanted to expand his lands. Surrounded by larger powers on all sides, Mihaljo saw taking the rich port of Ragusa as the first step in securing his lands from outside threats. I do not know Mihaljo’s bathing habits, but I can verify that today’s Diocleans and Serbians are a clean people, much cleaner than the Normans across the Adriatic. I fear this is Vikan talking out of turn yet again, perhaps his age is getting to him. – Iljko

And so our imperial path began. With the fall of Ragusa, my grandfather’s lands now equaled those of my father. According to dear old mum, my father was very wrathful, and a general grump for quite some time because of this. I remember he took to beating me during this time because I could not fight or ride as well as my brother Marko. He also said other vile lies about me, like that I was a gossip and spun things that I heard so wildly out of proportion that I could make an ant-hill seem like the walls of Constantinopole. He also said would talk a rock’s ear off, and never stop rambling. He even had the tenacity to claim I didn’t make sense sometimes! What a fool! Others have made this claim since, and I assure you, dear reader, their claims are patently false. I make perfect sense, all the time, and do not needlessly gossip or spread rumor!

Liar. – Iljko

But let us not speak of the vile untruths people say about me. During the Spring of 1068, I think it was in March, just after my father sent me to St. Michael’s monastery, claiming it would teach me to honor the truth, my father invited my grandfather to walk alongside the beach near Zeta. A few hours later, my father returned carrying my grandfather’s body, claiming my grandfather had stumbled on a seashell and fallen into the water and drowned. It was a remarkable tragedy, if you ask me. I have attempted to stumble over a seashell myself, just to get a sense of how such a terrible thing could happen, but I have never managed to fall into deep water doing so, only sand. Perhaps my grandfather was very unlucky.

Nonetheless, a new era in the history of the Vojislavljevic had begun, a new era I planned on witnessing from the front row. However, as you shall see, rude men continually shoved me back from the front of the action – men who could not take my honesty, or my sincere understanding of the facts at hand. Men who were as violent as the bears in my grandfather’s day. Perhaps more violent. I have never known a bear to exile a man four times before, for example. I cannot imagine why any of my family would do such a thing, but they did…

Dear Reader, I must confirm what you are already thinking. Vikan Vojislavljevic is, indeed, a fool. – Iljko
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ROFL. Seriously!

This is going to be a totally hilarious AAR!
I'm really enjoying the counterpoint of pompous Vikan and snide Iljko, but then, you were always good at literary counterpoint.

So I will definitely be following this.

ROFL again. :rofl:
Ah, wonderful, General_BT sets out to write yet another, err, epic? Or something like that. :)

Funny. I'm looking forward to further installments.
Very good. and funny. A lot of it made me laugh. especially this:

They claimed it reduced disease, and made them smell better, when in fact all it did was make them smell strange, like soap, and made one think they were all Muslim. Everyone knows only Muslims bathe, and this little fact had major implications for our small realm.
Thank you everyone for all your kind comments! I'm glad everyone's finding this funny - I showed the update to my boyfriend, and he groaned and told me it was decided not. Thanks for proving him wrong! (for now) :)

Christian V - Pure genius? I think you've spent too much time around those bears!

Fiftypence - Mighty Serbia? Yes. Foolish Serbian rulers? Yes!

kadvael56 - You never know when they'll come up out of the sand to get you...

Alfred Packer - I seriously thought about doing a Crovan/Knytling style AAR for this... then I realized I suck at those, and I decided I'd leave such work to the experts. :) Glad you like things so far!

Teep - The only thing funnier is that was actually a stereotype in parts of Europe during the Middle Ages - that if one bathed too much, one could be viewed as a closet Muslim or Jew...

Tskb18 - Iljko's been assigned to him. Vikan is oblivious to Iljko's "additions."

Hardraade - Glad you like it!

Maver1ck - Yeah, sadly we're a few years off.

Enewald - Don't worry. The next RA update is about 2/3rd done (I'm actually just looking for pics and working on the music background... it'll prolly be up tomorrow night!)

The_Guiscard - Epic? Hmm... perhaps in the sense of 'epic failure,' or 'epic collapse' or 'epic lunacy'... :D

AlexanderPrimus - I have a very very very silly side. Just as my boyfriend. I'm completely nonsensical sometimes. :)

democratkid - We're going to get to see more of Petrislav's compensation issues soon.

What follows isn't a full update, but a short message from Iljko:


June 9th, 1109

Dear reader, I must apologize for the delay with which the next part of Vikan’s tale was completed. We have been in a state of flux. Lord Vikan’s stay at St. Michael’s was cut short – His Lordship accused the Abbot of harboring bears and loose women. Lord Vikan was furious about both – the former because the idea of a bear in the abbey was a gross affront to him, the latter because he was jealous and wanted the abbey to share in its “newfound wealth.” Father Gianopoulos of course felt the first was nonsense, and was more offended by the latter charge. Consequently, he ordered his Lordship to leave the premises. This resulted in a premature celebration by yours truly – the Abbot then decreed as I was under contract to finish Lord Vikan’s tale, I must accompany him until the task is completed. Of course, all salaries made by myself during this arduous, trying endeavor are to come back to the monastery.

Greedy bastard.

For several weeks, I was forced to accompany His Lordship through wind and rain as he sought a new home. I cared not for the travails of our journey – I say with pride I am used to privation. However, I was also forced to listen to the ramblings of His Lordship for hours on end, nonstop. This taxed by mind and soul. At times I thought of cursing my fate, then fervently prayed for one of the bears that Lord Vikan so detests would come and take him from us, and make the world a slightly better place.

Alas, the Lord in Heaven hath a vile sense of humor. Lord Vikan and myself now reside in the court of the Prince of Epieros, named a Zhupan by Vikan’s nephew Dragija, Tsar of Serbia and Croatia. Fortunately for Lord Vikan (and rather unfortunately for this poor soul), Zhupan Georgios Bryennios is of like mind and soul of Lord Vikan. He too spins wild tales, gossips, and fills the air with more nonsense than a Roman ceremony for Emperor using the lavatory. I had hoped that his wife might prove of a slightly saner steel, but alas, her mind has corroded as well. All three sit and giggle about inanery that would make one’s head spin. This morning, for example, they twittered how one could die from tripping on a seashell, and Lord Vikan that the Zhupan set aside 500 gold coin next year for bear hunting expeditions. The fool agreed.

In the meantime, his Lordship has commissioned me to complete a family tree of the Vojislavljevic dynasty alive to this point. I have taken the liberty of coloring red around Vikan’s position, gold around the position of Zhupans and later Tsars, and blue around those “natural born” members of the dynasty. If I may be blunt, dear reader, most of the Vojislavljevic line are about as chaste as rabbits. Perhaps the royal pants weigh more than those of the rest of us – they certainly do not stay on very well. I have also taken the liberty of not mentioning the positions held by Lord Vikan. To be honest, they are too numerous (and many too short) to mention:


With that, dear reader, I must leave you. His Lordship is calling me, he finally wishes to start compiling the next part of the history. Shortly we shall have the next part of the tale completed. He claims it will be a great tale of how his father first claimed the title of Tsar. Far from a glorious event, it involves his father backstabbing a Roman Empire under attack by the Seljuk Turk. Lord Vikan, as you will see, claims this happened because the Roman Emperor had the nerve to compare his size to Petrislav, and waxed on the irony of the man with tight pants having a shrinking realm, and the man with voluminous pants having a growing realm. I plan to leave most of this chicanery out of my work. Unlike Lord Vikan’s tongue, I have standards.

I shall not convey much of the rest of what he claimed on our trip and compelled me to write – it is lascivious, embarrassing talk, involving numerous fair maidens, a lavish amount of olive oil and wine, as well as he and his brother divested of clothing. No charitably minded reader would be interested in such a bawdy tale. Instead of spreading the copious enumerations of bawdy tales, I shall keep those parchments on my person, to ensure that no pure minds are corrupted. Furthermore, I shall read them each night to purify my mind, as a reminder of the vile darkness in the world I left behind when I took my vows. It will be hard work, my friends, but the release from this world I will feel will be worth the torment of seeing such filth.

I go forth. Utter a short prayer for my soul, and my patience. – Iljko

Addendum: I also wish to apologize, dear reader, for mistakes in transcribing Lord Vikan’s words. His father’s name was Petrislav, not Perislav. Additionally, it was Lord Vikan's Uncle Konstantin Bodin who perished at the hands of his grandfather, not his Uncle Vladimir. Have mercy and forgive your humble scribe for this error. If not, I beg you come to the court in Corfu and make sense of Vikan’s mutterings!
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The surreptitious interpolations Iljko continue! Unabated! The impudence! More to the point, he is quite inconsiderate of his audience - to wit: “ No charitably minded reader would be interested in such a bawdy tale.” Bah! Some of us aren't charitable. Ahem. But we are amused by the latest update. (Though of course we heartily disapprove of bear-hunting.) And must mention that is one fine font on the family tree, inter alia.

An update at the author's convenience would not be unappreciated.