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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Orjasmo

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Summer has come and I have more free time than normal and I need to hone my writing skill. The premise is simple, I play a Viking merchant in Venice. I'll try to build an empire while retaining my Norse roots. This will be 3rd person, past tense. No pictures, I find imagination to be far more fun than reality so I'll stick to that rule. Tried the lives system but it's far too long. Instead I'll just post frequently with very short little, handful of paragraphs posts.

ADD: I am using a small collection of mods for this game that I use in all my games. It goes as follows: Memento Mori, New Succession Law Factions, Powerful Healing, Syren Nicknames & Updated Duel Engine. Besides MM, these really don't change things too much and I may throw out one or two as things progress.

 
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Orjasmo

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Men of the North Do Ply Good Trade

Let me first thank Lord William for allowing me and my company to stay in your fine castle. Normally I’d spin of tales of fantastical lands that I’ve visited, like Persia and Hindustan, but for you and your family my lord, I shall tell you one better. This is the story of the Family Súrr, a dynasty that is almost forgotten to history, but one that made waves in their time by changing the structure of Venetian politics. It is a story of bloodshed, murder, intrigue, coin and runes that will set your heart and mind afire with delight.
It started ages ago, in a time that was as black as Satan’s mad eye. Rome had fallen and fine Europe spent many a century mired in filth and poverty as it picked up the pieces, but there was a spark in that old eye and things were about to change. The old Roman way of rule was moulded and shaped into something new and branded, rightfully so I might add, as the way to rule and only a select few dared to think differently. Up in the cold north, the Vikings of old battled it out for control of land and wealth, only pausing to terrorize the rest of us. In the south, the Italian king was desperately clawing to maintain control of his land while the lords of Sicily and the freemen of Venice reminded his vassals that they could just as easily rule themselves. He desperately begged his fellow kings of the Frankish empire to grant him the crown of the emperor and cement his control, but something was wrong. None would legitimize him and with the old way broken, the Empire cracked into four inconsolable parts, forever altering the course of history. Who knows what might have become, but that is a tale for another time.

It may seem off for me to tell all of this to you, as my lords would know such histories, but I assure you that I am on course for this is where our first hero comes in. His name was Steinn Súrr, an entrepreneur and trader in the far north. He dealt in many things but his claims to fame were the extravagant sale of whetstones and walrus ivories, for in a land where war and wealth were one in the same, it was a profitable business to be in. One day, after a particularly lucrative haul, he had stopped in his favourite tavern, The Flushed Fenrir, and overheard a tale of a place to the south where war was brewing and where not a single walrus could be found. Astounded by such a delightful find, he rushed home at once and began planning an expedition to this mystical land of Italy. Only a week later, he had packed his boats and waved the few that he knew goodbye, sailing from his home of Tønsberg. He hoped that he would return one day, a richer man, and build up the village to a place of great wealth, proving to all those who had called him a gløggvingrg that he was not such a man. After four months at sea, with the blessing of Ægir granting favourable winds the entire way, he finally arrived in the port city of Venice. He hardly realized his surroundings for after docking, he went into the closest merchant’s office, sat down and passed out. He had forgotten to change from his northern finery into something more appropriate for the climate for as we know, too much heat and excitement fouls your humours.

After a few moments he was woken from his state of torpor and, once fed bountiful amounts of water, he took one look at the man across from him and the selling began. While neither man spoke each other’s tongue, they both knew well the language of money. Steinn had spent many years as a trading and there was no one better than him in all of the north. He used his feeble stature to con the poor man into believing him weak, only to be blown away, like Odysseus when his men released the winds of the world, by Steinn’s towering mind. As the two men came to a closing deal, the merchant was desperate for he realized that his pale compatriot was getting a far better deal than he thought he could ever give. He glanced quickly at the man, grinning through his pale beard and noticed a codpiece so large it could attract all the lasses of Italy to it like a lodestone to steel. Eager to earn some money back, threw a curve ball by declaring that he would only agree to the deal if his estate was sold as well. He told a tale of it that could put even the greatest rhapsode to shame, claiming the manor was a palace of dreams that could only suit a man of the… “finest” tastes and that, shamefully, he was not that man. Steinn sat still for a moment, his brow furrowed like the deepest fjords, deep in thought. He didn’t particularly desire an estate in this part of the world and wished to save money to build one in his home. On the other hand, he assumed that he could use a place to stay as the business was good and with it he could trade more often. He sensed some deception in the man but let his trusting side get the better of him and agreed to the deal, buying the estate, sight unseen, along with the deal, accruing himself a small fortune. It was only then that he found out that his lack of knowledge in Italian had caught him flat handed. The merchant had taken his ship as part of the deal and the document now decreed him as the lord and master of Súrr Manor, vassal to the Doge of Italy.

Now I must admit, he was furious, he would declare to it later in his life, but he never once let it show. After a few days at the local bordello, he hired a cart to take him out to his manor on the outskirts of town. The hours on the bumpy roads left him in foul humours and as red as the most poisonous tomato. Riding up to the estate did nothing to alleviate his woes however, as the place was in such a state of disrepair that he almost passed onto the Lord’s side before his time. Its façade was decayed, the windows broken, the gables gone and the entrance stairs collapsed. The interior looked as though it had been ransacked a decade ago and the land was fettered by rank overgrowth of plants he hadn’t even seen before. A normal man might have stormed about before giving up hope and becoming a destitute wastrel, but Steinn was no normal man. He was many things, but if he possessed any virtue it was that of patience. He saw value in the land where the con man hadn’t and knew that if he were to be trapped in this foreign land, at least his vestige of an estate gave him title and made him someone. That was something to work with in his eyes and he headed back to town to begin.

It would be many years and a good portion of his wealth removed before he was someone of stature again. The manor was returned to a glory it had not seen for decades by some accounts, with a seamless mix of Italian and Norse design. An entrance archway lead into an enormous open hall with a wooden floor and a fire pit that was flanked on both sides pillars. The red tiled roofs lunged high into the sky and slanted deeply towards the ground, the ends of its peaks with… statuettes of a Norse sort jutting out. The walls were a bright white and lined with tall windows that and arches that stood many men above one’s reach. The fields with rich with hands tending the rows of vines and olives; it’s even said that there was a special plot solely devoted to cabbage. There was a small stable for the horses and building made entirely of marble to store bees in from whose honey would be made a fine drink called mead. The trappings of the interior were almost entirely of Norse design, designed by a heart that longed to return home but was trapped in a foreign land out of honour and obligation. I visited it myself once and, while it was clearly past its prime, it is a truly stunning and unique place that rivalled even the greatest of castles and palaces that I have been honoured to stay in. Although, I must admit, this is a one that outclasses even that most impressive estate of the Súrr’s.

Anyway, I have wandered; let me return to tale at hand. Steinn had divulged much of the wealth he had made into making his name worth something in the hallowed halls of Venetian politics. In the many years that he had been in Venice, he noticed something that was very lacking for a people that held trade to such a high esteem and that was a centralized trading post. Yes, in the early days of Venice the city simply accepted merchants into its ports and all those who wanted to trade had offices at the docks. As he approached his fortieth year, he capitalized on this discrepancy and went before the Doge with a permit to establish such a trade post to be run by him. All traders would register through his post and all merchants that docked would come to his offices and would be directed to the trader with whom they could do business, for a small fee of course. The court stood dumbfounded at the brilliance of this idea and I can only imagine were kicking themselves that they did not think of it first. Knowing the genius of Steinn’s mind, the Doge allowed him to commence its creation at once. The cost was enormous, with the permit costing seventy-five ducats and the construction another hundred, but it was to be well worth it. Steinn now controlled all trade that flowed through the Venetian Gulf and was finally starting to make his first gold in years. Knowing his frailty, he had sent gold back to the cold north to pay for his new bride, Gydja Asa, a forgotten daughter to one of the many lordlings of the Norse lands. Soon after the post’s permission, she arrived to a waiting cart and was taken with haste to her new home and husband to be. Steinn’s heart was uplifted to see another whose flesh was not as black as those in his new home and had the wedding take place so fast that the poor girl was left dizzied by it all.

By the end of that first year, the trade post was almost finished and Steinn had bottled his first vintage. It was November and he was wandering the streets of Venice, longing for the soft snows to come. He noticed a hooded man barrelling towards him down the street. Before he could step out of the way, the man slammed into him whilst muttering something under his breath. Steinn fell to the ground and only noticed as he got up that there was black bound book in his hands with no title nor symbol to inform one what it was. Steinn called out to the man but he was gone into the night. He took it home and began reading it, a little at first, but soon a compulsion took hold of his heart and profuse study of the book commenced. It would be weeks before he admitted to himself that whatever secrets the book held, they were lost on him behind incomprehensible symbols and patterns. He burned it for fear of whatever it contained, but its desires always remained with him. His library soon became renowned for containing some of the most advanced books and scrolls in languages that ranged from Celtia to Arabia.

With the trading post finished, Steinn spent money he had made on sending olive oils into the heart land of Germany by expanding the garrison there. Its establishment was lauded by the Doge as manifestation of Steinn’s true commitment to the safety of Venice but many held it with disdain, seeing it as a danger to all pure Venetians. With the erection of the garrison, Steinn also expanded the enclave to hold more merchants and staff. The value of the trading post was becoming central to trade in the region and many of his fellow patricians began to see Steinn as the threat he could be. The birth of his son, Fredrick, did nothing to ease the growing tension that hung over the court, so when word got out that he was hoping to become the next Steward, the eventual backlash was almost understandable. His cavalier attitude towards the matter did impress some, however. When he so brazenly attempted to butter up a man named Gerardo, who just so happened to be the Steward that he hoped to replace, the man was so impressed with his forthrightness that he offered to tutor Steinn in his duties, should the day come that he would have to be replaced. Steinn had to admit that Gerardo was a far better Steward than he could be and let the matter be.

Things became docile for a few years after that. His first wife died after a bout with sickness. He remarried, of course, but admitted that, even in his old age, he still missed her. The trading post grew quite expansive with warehouses filled with goods packed tight together in the land he was allotted at the docks. When one of his larger ones caught alight, burning almost all the goods inside, many accusations were cast but none seemed to stick, to his dismay. Things flared up again when his wife bore a daughter named Fosca. When churches in the city offered to baptize the girl and Steinn turned them down, there was an outrage that started a riot where the Doge was killed. It was quelled when Steinn ‘baptized’ his daughter into the Norse faith but many hadn’t forgiven him for the old Doge’s death and he had to be pardoned by the new one. Even with that, quite a number of people, both peasant lord alike, would continue to accuse him and would never forgive him.

Life moved on though, with the docks becoming more efficient and profitable by the day. The port was expanded to allow for more ships to dock in the Venetian harbour and with more money flowing into more purses, people found themselves in a more tolerant disposition. It had been six years since the birth of Steinn’s son Fredrick and he had grown to be a fine young boy and a good heir to the family. However, he still had to be prepared to the rigours of leadership and was sent to the finest man that Steinn knew, Greger Smidr. A humble man whose scholarly talents matched his ambitious hunger and whose zeal would feed Fredrick’s passion to maintain his Norse heritage. He was a fine merchant and Steinn hoped that Fredrick could learn much from him. It was good he sent his son away, for his formative years, for the backlash against Steinn was to come into fruition. After a few short months as Doge, the man perished, putting Jacopo Orseolo onto the seat of power. He was a powerful and well respected man across Italy and he made his disdain for the Súrr family well known, Steinn in particular. However, with his ascension, Steinn was next in line as his successor, being the wealthiest and most powerful candidate. This did not sit well with the Orseolo.

He got wind that Steinn had gathered his men for a Grand Hunt, one to bring honour to his gods. He rapidly sent out word across Venice that there was to be a Great Ball at the Royal Estate to celebrate his coronation. All the most important people in the land would be there, all but Steinn Súrr. It would have been a horrific embarrassment, but the grace of the hunt had wizened Steinn and he sent out men to diligently check on the doings of the Doge. When he found out about the ball, he sacrificed a deer to Odin and rushed home to begin preparing himself. As his carriage pulled up to the front gate, the hush of men and women alike filled him a great discomfort. The Doge spotted him amidst the crowd and, with a swish of his hand, had Steinn and his company cast out into the night. Laughter ripped through the air and Steinn screamed as he was pulled back to his carriage, “YOU WILL LIVE TO REGRET THIS, JACOPO! MARK MY WORDS!” The shame was unbearable and there was almost certainly a feud between the two families now, but he had stood up for his honour and in Venetian politics that matters more than you might think.

After many months of plotting and planning the death of the ‘Serene Doge’, the men and women of the court managed to pull out Steinn from his quarters by declaring that there was a most wonderful sight in the woods that he simply had to see. After a few arduous hours of trekking through the brush with the moping patrician, the came upon a spot of cleared land. In its centre stood a large grey stone, painted a bright with many colours over runes across its surface. Steinn walked to it, letting his hand grace over the carvings and began to read its mystical words. I went there myself, as it stands in that very spot still, and looked upon what he must have seen many years ago, carving of Steinn himself, surrounded by Old Norse words. I hear it reads, “This stone was raised by Stein,” there was a part scratched out after that, “’s son, to celebrate his great wisdom. Truly no greater thinker lived in this era, or the ones before. Toke carved these runes.” It was truly something to behold and it must be of some sort of magic, for its said that upon sight of the runestone, Steinn marched back to Súrr Estate more invigorated than ever before in his life. He set out a plan to both cast good favours onto his house and to shame the Doge far more than he had shamed him.

The planning was excruciating. Every detail had to be just right. When all was ready and the Doge had left to oversee the construction of his trade port in Sicily, Steinn sent word across the city to all but the most absolute elite of Venice that there was to be a blot at the Súrr estate. The invitations told of a great feast and celebration to honour the Norse gods. Most probably wouldn’t have attended if it hadn’t listed, in detail, all the varieties of wines and meads that would be available. When the day came, everything was ready. He gathered his guests before the manor and strung up slaves he had specially imported for the occasion on an oak he had planted his first year in Venice. When one of the men stepped forward to protest, he raised his hand and said, “Would you protect thieves from just punishment?” The man swiftly backed down. As the bodies went limp, they proceeded onto the main hall. The revelry was intense and Steinn was pleased with its outcome. As his eyes moved across the room, his heart jumped in his chest. One man’s beard was slightly off and if there was one thing that a Norseman knows better than anyone, it’s a good beard. He stormed over the odd looking man and gave a hard pull on his beard. It tore of the man’s face, revealing the Doge, who, in a most unserene manner, made a mad dash for the door. The crowd was balling with laughter, with some almost collapsed to the floor. For a man who declared Steinn an unimportant infidel, the Doge had certainly travelled a far distance in a short time to be at his blot. The rest of the ball went well and by the end of the evening all the guests were eager to know when the next such blot would be held. Things could not have gone better.

Unfortunately, the festivities had bankrupted the Súrr estate. Even though would go on to further expand his trading post and even be named Steward be the heavily embarrassed Doge, he never climbed out of the hole he had fallen in. Worse still his daughter, Fosca had fallen ill and perished, further distressing his mind. One day, he simply lost all his strength. His infirm body was bound to his room where he would spend the rest of his days before drifting into a deep sleep. A few days later, at the age of sixty, Steinn Súrr passed on, leaving his legacy, for good and ill, in the hands of his son, Fredrick.
 
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earthInvader

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A bit too long. Might want to make 2 parts for each ruler or something like that.
 

Orjasmo

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I think I'll make them shorter and more frequent. That sounds a bit more pleasant.

Young Men Do Grow Strong

Fredrik was an interesting young man. Even at seventeen, he had already developed the canny sense for money that his father had but had surpassed his greediness for the stuff. Interestingly, despite this, he grown quite envious of others, a disdain that they had more power than him I suppose. He was very brave against his foes and proudly and justly put them in their place, but hid away from people’s company with a crippling shyness. He truly was an odd boy, an odd boy destined for greatness.
At his ascendance ceremony, a great many people were there to honour him and his father’s legacy. One such man, surprisingly, was the Serene Doge himself. As the young man took his place on his father’s seat, the Doge walked up to him and handed over a small case. As Fredrik opened it, the Doge began, “Patrician Fredrik, son of Steinn and lord of House Súrr, I bring honour to your House by proclaiming you the title of High Admiral of Venice. Do you accept the gift that I offer?” Inside the box was a copper medal with a winged champion of Venice pressed into its surface with a strip of velvet strung through a hole in its top. Fredrik stood and held the medal high above him and the cheers of his men rung through the hall.

The young man moved quick to ensure the continued power of his house. A few months later there was a wedding him and the fair lady Gudrun of House Steinvikholm. It was a small affair in comparison to his father’s, but the wedding was met with much praise within the family and much trepidation amongst the others. At this time, Italy had dissolved into a variety of bickering duchies and young Fredrik took advantage of this. He sent his ships out to these new ports, sending war supplies to the embattled provinces. The routes were dangerous but the profit was huge. It’s said that Fredrik himself coined the vary phrase, “The riskier the road, the greater the profit” on seeing the wealth that his ships brought back. To cap off those prosperous early months, the Doge sent for Fredrik to come to the Royal Palace. When he arrived, he was brought into the main hall and informed that the previous Steward had passed. His father’s dying dream had become his reality.

Soon parenthood preoccupied the young Patrician’s mind and he was filled with the consuming desire to have a young boy to take over in his stead when he passed on. Whilst in Venice, he got word that his wife was not bleeding and he burst out into the streets to proclaim this joyous news to any who he could tell. It was summer at the time and the Faire had begun, to Fredrik’s horror, filling the streets of the illustrious city with peasants. They were everywhere, like cockroaches in a pantry. Fredrik rushed through the crowded streets to the Royal Palace to inform the Doge of this travesty. To his horror, the Doge had not only allowed it but promoted it. The young Patrician was filled with revulsion at this revelation and the Doge acted quickly to mollify the powerful man by declaring him State Inquisitor. Only his just temperament kept Fredrik from using his position to make a dent in the peasant population.

The months rolled onto another year in Venice and Lady Gudrun gave birth to a beautiful girl named Holmfrid. Fredrik became obsessed with the workings of the Republic. As the old guard died off and were replaced with children, it came to him that only two men stood in his way from becoming Doge. The first was Badoaro Participazio, an old and respected man who was expected to be successor after Jacopo. Next was an Orseolo dog and this was something that Fredrik could not permit. He took a small fortune and invested it into ensuring that the young Orseolo would not inherit after his father and the timing was most excellent. Jacopo soon passed onto the hand of our Lord and Badoaro was elected Doge. With his investment in place, Fredrik was set to become the next Doge of Venice and make waves that would never be forgotten.
 
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The North Winds Do Blow Cold

With the new Doge in place, Fredrik reinforced the point amount the other electors that he was most fit to be successor. It must have been weird to plead one’s case before children, but it was a necessity for him and he did it proudly. As he prepared for the Doge’s death, the Doge made sure the status quo stayed the same. He sent a letter ensuring that Fredrik would continue to be Steward. Fredrik, of course, agreed, knowing that having the access of his position would be important if he was to stay ahead of his competitors. He may not have had the genius of his father, but he was no fool.

He then quickly moved to declare war against one of the other families of Venice for control of a trade port in Byzantine Croatia. New ports had sprung up all over the place in the Venetian Gulf and Fredrik was sure to control all of them. He travelled to the more… disreputable side of Venice and found a seedy bar, a true hive of scum and villainy. There he hired a group of mercenaries, fifteen hundred strong, called the Bulgarian Band. It was quite the haggle of the price and poor Fredrik nearly got his head lopped right off, but he got away with quite a steal I hear. With his retinues reinforcing the Estate, he gathered as many ships as he could from his fleet and sent the Band off to a province called Spalathos. With only a hundred guards, it was one of the shortest takeovers in recorded history and one of the most violent too. The Bulgarians showed no mercy and ended up cooking some of the men a huge stew. This victory did not guarantee them the war however, and the post had to be held until the family that owned it agreed that they couldn’t claim it there’s anymore.

Time rolled on for the Súrr family. Fredrik commissioned an, apparently, stunning runestone. It’s said that it was next to his father’s a declared his father one of the greatest men to have ever lived, yet when I was there I saw neither hide nor hair of the thing. A shame really, since his Venetian neighbours started to take influence from the family and raised their own, in Italian trappings of course. Several months later, a trade galleon that Fredrik’s own father had assumed lost to storm was found floating into the harbour with its sails shredded and arrows lining its hull. After a few horns filled his blood, the captain told quite a tale that has been passed down to this day. In the winter, Fredrik started to notice that coins from this now famed galleon had started disappearing without a trace. He called Greger into his chambers and demanded an explanation. After the old man confessed innocence, they went on a hunt to find out where the mystery would lead them. As it turned out, it was the cook who was promptly given the special Viking treatment of a Blood Eagle. A gruesome death indeed, but he was the basses for many fun stories and where the phrase, “Don’t let the cook into the treasury” comes from.

It was in August of the following year that everything changed for the Súrr family. Steinn’s second son, Steinn Steinnson, followed in his footsteps and became quite the fortune builder. Not as fine as Fredrik, but a fair rival. As it turns out, at the time in the Norse lands, there was a large bride shortage. This shortage would lead to many wars and the eventual unification of Scandinavia, but that’s another tale for another time. This was a problem for Fredrik as Steinn was set to inherit after him and he couldn’t have an heir that didn’t have sons himself. The only available brides were their half-sisters and even Fredrik found this a bit too close to home, so word was sent to the cold North along with a small parcel of Venetian gold. Before too long, a woman arrived at the docks claiming to have come according to the note. She was enormous and quite ugly, but also the best that could be done at the time. Now you may wonder, what on earth does this have to do with the grand scheme of things? Well, as the luscious lady was wandering the streets of Venice, she happened to overhear that the Orseolo dog had managed to out bribe Fredrik and was set to become the next Doge as Badoaro was on his deathbed. She waddled all the way back to the estate and breathlessly proclaimed this to the young Súrr. Enraged, Fredrik went about to set it right. A small fortune later, Badoaro passed on to the side of the Lord and the election council was held. Both men sat out of the proceedings but it was barely a minute from when they had gone in, that the electors did come out again. The roar of the Norse was loud and triumphant as they declared Fredrik the new Serene Doge of Venice, placing the Súrr’s as the most powerful family in Venice.
 
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The Shadow of Venice Does Go Far

The ripple of shock and awe ripped through Venice like a great wave. Most of the old ways of how Venice was run remained the same, but the small changes were the ones that shocked the most. Firstly, there was the matter of the old Doge. His body still lay in it casket, waiting for a good burial. Fredrik denied that request and, instead, had his body placed upon a traditional Viking funeral pyre and set to drift out to sea. Many people were outraged, but others found the ceremony to be preferable as they had always seen him as a man of the sea. Interestingly enough, over time, this became the method of burial for all Venetians and continues to this day. The next move of the new Prince Mayor was to lower taxes for all cities. Almost no one disagreed with the measure, but it was seen as quite revolutionary as no one had changed tax laws in a good century. Unsurprisingly, it was met with universal acclaim and soon Fredrik had petitioners out the door wanting their tax laws changed. Next, Fredrik had some of his council members sent into the city to do important work. One such councillor, the Steward of Venice and the venerable Greger, found a master builder so good at his craft that he could he could erect a building that might take a year, in half that time. He was commissioned at once. The surprise came when everyone found out that he was of peasant birth. Many called for a revocation of his licence, but Fredrik stood his ground and today he is known for building some of Venice’s most famous buildings, like the Great Tower and the Blue Gold Lighthouse.

At home, a son was born to Fredrik by the name of Beowulf. This was cause for great celebration and revelry. However, at the feast, as Fredrik stood and stared out at the crowd who waited for his speech, the words would not come to him and he let his wife take the stage in his stead. Ashamed and humiliated, he vowed to never let such a thing happen again and actively sook out ways to improve his abilities. As Fredrik wallowed at the Palace, two months of envoys from a distraught lordling next door, caused him to almost nail the hats to the poor men’s heads. Fortunately, Fredrik was a just man and had his servants gather up some roses that his had grown and sent back with the envoys. He then took this opportunity that had raised him from his depression and went out to attempt to become a better warrior than he was. He took the time to befriend Greger, laying the foundations for a friendship that would last the rest of the great man’s life. During one of the daily conversations that the two men would have, a letter from Fredrik’s nettlesome neighbour came to him. The man was deeply touched and humbled by the gift and promised to leave Fredrik be from thence forth. Fredrik was proud of this, but Greger pointed out the power that the roses held and urged him to keep the hobby up. So Fredrik set about gardening, a hobby that would expand into a lifetime of toil in the dirt. His passion lead to the beautiful Royal Gardens in Venice today, should you ever find yourself in that far away land, I urge you to pay visit to it, it’s quite humbling.

Word came to Fredrik that the lords of Byzantium had declared the Emperor worthy of an authority that had never been seen before in all the lands. His word was almost absolute in power and word of it had travelled far indeed. But another thing occupied the mind of young Fredrik. Word had come to him from the seer that the gods were displeased that he had been at peace for so long. If he did not meet someone in the battlefield soon, their disfavour would fall upon all of Venice. Discussing the issue with his new Marshal, Mayor Sölvi of Lido, they found the perfect place to find the favour of the gods again. The city of Amalfi was ruled by Norsemen who had abandoned the old ways in favour of the true Lord. Of course, Fredrik didn’t see it this way and at once sent word to Price Mayor Snæbjörn that the province of Foggia was to become Venetian land whether they liked it or not. He gathered up a group of foreign men from a faraway land called the Pecheneg Band and sent them to claim Foggia for Venice. The men were smashed by the Amalfi soldiers, so Fredrik called forth his personal mercenaries, the Bulgarian Band. Still run by the man who had brought him victory in Croatia, they were paid handsomely to deal with the failure of the Pecheneg Band. Together, the two bands wiped out over three quarters of the Prince Mayor’s men while only a few hundred themselves. It wasn’t long before the city was theirs, leaving only the outlying barony and chapel to take.

While the war raged on, matters at home became major issues. Two priests had arrived in the city from foreign lands and had begun proselytizing the word of the one true Lord. Showing his true colours, the justly Fredrik let them be, to the annoyance of many courtiers, allowing to spread the great and wonderful gospel in the city. Some say that he only let them be as to continue his work against the Orseolo family. He had begun pressuring them to pay more than their due to the Palace and undermining their word amongst the other Patricians. Their hold on the city was still strong, but the new measures gave their leader, Marcello Orseolo, reason for pause.

Winter rolled in again and the Barony of Lucera had been won. By December, Fredrik’s troops were besieging the Chapel of Siponto when the Prince Mayor’s men were seen on the horizon. With a force smaller than Fredrik’s but newly invigorated, they sought to, once and for all, end the war of supposed Venetian aggression. Amalfi sword battered against Venetian shield but the mercenaries held their ground. It wasn’t long before over half of the Amalfi men were dead on the field and the rest fleeing for their lives. When word of the crushing defeat came to the Prince Mayor, he travelled to Foggia himself. On Christmas day, both men celebrated peace between the two republics with Amalfi ceding the land to Venice. But it was not all good news. Emperor Leon the VI sought Venice as his own. His aggressions were made plain to all who would listen and the lords of Byzantium rallied behind him. Fredrik saw an opportunity to be held for greater expansion and protection. A treatise was quickly drafted and sent to Constantinople. The Seal of Venice stamped deep into wax, the paper proclaimed, if he would have it, Leon VI as the new liege to the lords of Venice. The night rolled into day and a new century was proclaimed, in the year of our Lord nine hundred, Fredrik Súrr sat in his library, eagerly awaiting a reply from the mighty Byzantine Empire.
 
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The Anatolian Oak Doth Bear Sweet Fruit

He didn’t have to open it to know what was inside. It came in a box of Anatolian oak, the soft edges showed velvet lined inside. The brass hinges made no sound when the clasp was finally broken and its lid lifted. The declaration lay atop a pillow, fine, thick paper with a purple wax seal holding it shut and the great crest of Byzantium burned into it. The calligraphy was fine, well done by, probably, one of the finest writers in the world. It read off quite quickly, for the mighty Leon VI was not a man to mince words, “To the Magnificent Prince Mayor Fredrik I, Your wisdom and mercy are legendary. I accept you as my vassal. Henceforth, you will enjoy my protection as your liege lord.” It is still, to this day, held in the Venetian palace, quite prominently in the main hall, for it was this accord that paved the way for the return of the Byzantine Empire to the greatness of Rome.

Soon after Venice was introduced into the Empire, Fredrik was called to Constantinople to be declared Sakellarios, or steward, to the Emperor and part of his Council. I can only imagine the sights and sounds that he saw when he arrived. Having been born in Venice and never left the city, it must have been incredible and mind altering. He kept up with the events of his city, however, and ruled Venice well from Nova Rome. He had his daughter, Clara, sent off to the cold North when she came of age and married to a king, of all things, when it was shown that she had much skill in diplomacy. He had the appropriate troops sent to Foggia when it was taken by the Bulgarians, a whole three thousand to fight only a few hundred. When Leon fell ill with pneumonia and perished at the young age of thirty two, he ensured a quick rise to his younger son, Andreas, and appointed the regent himself. It was only in November that he returned back to Venice, to perform the ritual of the blót.

The refusals were plentiful, but so was the gold that came with them. As his father did before him, Fredrik had thralls brought specifically from the North for the great ceremony. Idols were burned and the throats of goats and cows were slit open, blood pouring from their throats as they writhed about in sanguine puddles of mud. Then the slaves were brought out, their necks brought into the noose and the pedestals beneath them wrenched free. Two died quickly but one would not. Only after his stomach was cut open and its contents spilled out onto the grass beneath the tree, did his body hang limp. What happened on the inside of the manor, I do not know, for the reports stop there, but I can only imagine the monstrosities that occurred. Fredrik did have a flair for the dramatic that his father tempered in the knowledge that he was foreign to these lands, but Doge’s do as they please and Fredrik certainly did as he pleased. Interestingly enough, apparently a merchant like myself stopped over during the feast and, after regaling them with fine tales I’m sure, passed on a man into Fredrik’s service. He was a Nubian named Ezana who, oddly enough, never went on to have any children.

He took Ezana with him when he returned to Constantinople. As he got settled into the Royal Palace again, he when on a stroll through the streets with the Nubian when he saw a large crowd gathered before a large tower. At the top stood a man, crying and wailing that he was going to jump while the crowd jeered and urged him off. Fredrik had Ezana talk to the man while he went inside and rushed up to the top of the keep. Seeing him, the man stepped onto the ledge and screamed at Fredrik to stay back. The Doge continued on slowly towards the man and shouted out to him that he just wanted to talk. He was gentle and fair, telling him of the good of life and reminding him of all he would be missing. After a few moments, the man agrees to come down and was promptly arrested. When Fredrik protested, he was informed of the fact that suicide is a sin, something they don’t have in the Norse faith apparently. When he returned to the Palace, he was called to the Emperor’s chambers immediately. The Bulgarian king had inherited the crown of Italy and sook to join the mighty Empire. His motives were unsure, but it was apparent that Venice’s joining had given him cause. The deliberation was intense, but after hours of debate, the Royal seal was stamped onto an acceptance letter and sent off to the king in the same fashion it had been to Fredrik. With this, the Empire was the largest kingdom in all of Europe, rivalled only by the Arabs. It spanned from France to Armenia and Fredrik was at the heart of it.
 
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The Hammer of Venice Does Fight the Cross Well

Life in Constantinople was fine, filled with fine wines and good food, Fredrik lived better in the city than he had ever in Venice. The best part of it all, I’m sure, was the lack of threats on his life at all times. However, at thirty five, he wasn’t getting any younger and the death of his wife from illness caused a pang in his heart for home. So he travelled back to Venice, sending out word to his son-in-law in the North that he wished a wife before he left. The price was fair and the woman fine. Her sight, wandering the manor with huge, wild eyes brought a soft light to Fredrik’s heart. The two were married and duty gold was called upon to pay for an investment that Fredrik had in the works.

He had gotten word that a Sicilian lord had started to forge a claim on the province of Benevento. Should he succeed in his claim, he would lock Fredrik out of other good investments against the Amalfi dogs. He raised his men to battle with haste and hired a band of mercenaries called the Brothers Rus. The false Northmen moved quickly to take Foggia, breaking through the city’s walls in only a few short months. By the time that Fredrik’s men were marching to Foggia, the bulk of the horde had moved on to blockade Apulia.

Apulia’s fall was unsurprising to Fredrik, it was poorly armed and undermanned, but it could be reclaimed. What did surprise him though was the crushing defeat at Lucera. Once the sight of one of the greatest battles in Súrr family history, Fredrik’s seven thousand man army were almost halved by a horde that was two thousand less than them. The embarrassment was almost enough to cause Fredrik to end the war at once, but he had an ace card up his sleeve, one that had never failed him. It took two months for the Bulgarian Band, still run by the man that did battle against his father’s enemies, to arrive in Apulia. The Russians had retreated there and managed to recapture the trade post there, but the horde still besieged Foggia and it wasn’t going well for Fredrik.

It must have been a sight to see, nine thousand strong with an ancient war hero leading the charge against the worn thin Amalfi troops. By the battle’s end, the field lay raw with the blood of the false Northmen, over three quarters of their army left as carrion before Lucera. The Doge’s men hadn’t even been decimated by the Amalfi and were hot on their heels as they retreated. Reinforcements refreshed the Christian soldier’s ranks, but at Benevento they lost another two thousand men at little to no loss of Fredrik’s. Within a week, the castle was theirs, a month before the city gave in and two days for the chapel; Fredrik could taste victory on his tongue and it tasted sweet indeed.
As his troops arrived in Amalfi, they got word that the enemy had arrived in Benevento. A bait and switch game was played to avoid a cat and mouse chase. A small number of men were sent to Neopolis to act as though that was where most of the army was headed. Unbeknownst to the horde, the bulk of Fredrik’s men marched on Benevento. By the time that the Amalfi were enlightened to the ruse, it was too late. The small contingent managed to re-join the army just as they battled the horde at Acerno, obliterating the frontline and causing the enemy troops to pull out too early, before they could be surrounded and truly torn to pieces. The two groups split in half, the larger headed south to Salerno and the other west, most likely to try and enter the mountains in Interamnion as the Doge’s men thought.

The ruse worked well, buying the Amalfi troops enough time to regroup and recruit before the arrival of Fredrik’s men. However, the second contingent had moved back down to Foggia and their siege had not been going well. Within two weeks, the horde pulled out and back into Benevento, attempting to reclaim their fort and hold the line as the Bands began their march up the mountains. Their failure was legendary. Over twelve hundred men strong lay dead. Any who had fled were long gone and there was no horde anymore. The Doge’s men had marched back down the mountains and were besieging the city of Amalfi itself. The Mayor Prince of Amalfi sent a messenger to the Doge’s war camp, urging for surrender. Benevento was his and all its holdings were his.
 
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The Son Does Take After the Father

With the war over, Fredrik retreated back into the standards of court life. He returned to Constantinople, taking his son with him to ensure his continued education. Before leaving, however, he made sure to increase his brother's power within the court. He put him in touch with the right people and handed off sums of gold that would make your poor wife wilt in excitement. He also put him in charge of the City of Fusina, a lovely little place just outside of Foggia. The city had recently been built near an alcove with the intention of becoming a safe harbour for ships on their way to Venice, funded heavily by Fredrik himself. Placing Steinn as the mayor of the city gave him the respect he needed to command within the court, access to a variety of resources and took a heavy load off of Fredrik's back and giving his brother room to grow. This was especially important if Steinn was to take control of the family after his death, for we wouldn't want a fool for a leader now would we!
Only a few months after arriving in Constantinople, Beowulf had already shown great competence and ability. The boy was a hit with the court, charming all with a wit as sharp as a rapier, especially at his age. He wandered the halls of the Royal Palace as if it were built for him and him alone and declared that he would, one day, be the most powerful man in all the Mediterranean. His ambitions and sociability were only fertilized by his diligence. Never a task was left undone by the boy, who often times went above and beyond what was necessary. Fredrik was proud of the boy and saw great potential in him. He set up plans for the future to ensure that Beowulf would achieve what he desired, but only as he earned it.
City life did not agree Steinn, however, for, by the time that word had gotten to Fredrik of his brother's illness, he was dead from the pox. His son, Borkvard, was young and his father's death had scarred him deeply. Unfortunately, he was also the next legal heir to the House of Súrr and Fredrik, while sympathetic to his troubles, had no intention of seeing that happen. This turn of events would lead to the eventual downfall of the house, but at the time, it was a great opportunity and Fredrik was going to take it. He called a blót in Constantinople, knowing full well that none of his fellow Patricians would never show. With the small gathering of allies he had and the sacrifice out of the way, he began plotting and planning to ensure the ascention of Beowulf. He knew that he would lose control of Venice, but it was a small price to pay for a greater scheme of things. As the feast wrapped up, a courier burst through the doors of the great hall, breathless and exhausted. Filled with a horn of ale, he blurted out that the King of Bulgarian had broken from the realm behind a minor count's claim to the throne. War was upon the Empire again and, as we know well, in time of discord there are profits to be had.
 

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And So the End Doth Come to Pass

Taking full advantage of the discord, Fredrik immediately declared war against Hysing, Prince Mayor of Amalfi. Seeking to take the capital of the duchy and put an end to the stronghold the traders had over Italy, he raised of over 9000 strong and fleets number over a hundred. They moved quickly into the bay of Foggia, unloading before the Amalfi men had a chance to arrive in Beneviento and take it under siege. Marching through the Sicilian highlands, they rained down from the mountains upon the Amalfi men in Salerno, killing 2000 of their men at a quarter of that lost and capturing one of the Patricians (although, being blind, he probably blundered right into the camp). They then moved onto Amalfi, following the remnants of the Amalfi army. The battle of Sorrento was a slaughter; over half of the Amalfi men lying dead in ditches with only ten men lost on the Venetian side. Within twelve days, not expecting the horde that fell upon them, the city had fallen. The Prince Mayor had become distraught with the slow collapse of his once great city and entered a state of repose. With the loss of the man, the regent called for peace and conceded their capital to Venice on the condition that all men captured were to be released. With that, the war was over.

The war was lauded by the men of Venice and even his fellow patricians had come to, grudgingly, respect the mighty Fredrik, but the issue of succession filled his thoughts as he approached his final hour. Borkvard was set to inherit both the Duchy of Beneviento and the position of Doge of Venice. He was a fine man, but a wastrel who gave all his money away to the poor and the needy. Beowulf, on the other hand had not only become twice the man Borkvard was but also inherited his forefather's skill with money and seemed to outdo Midas when it came to making gold. Fredrik sent him to Amalfi to act as mayor of the city, allowing him to gain the skills that would be needed as Prince of Beneviento while Fredrik plotted and planned, but all that rapidly fell apart in a single instance. When a wealthy merchant arrived in town seeking safe harbour for himself and his goods, the dockmaster gladly accepted for an exorbitant fee. A few weeks later, when the merchant was set to leave the city again, he stopped at the Doge's Palace to give his regards to Fredrik. He told his tale of how he was chased out of his home and how he ended up in Venice and then, he lent closer and over the desk, and told of how Borkvard approached him with the desire to purchase a nightshade cocktail. When asked what it was for, the stupid boy hinted that he sought to kill Fredrik. By nightfall, Borkvard was in prison and the next day was hanging from the grand oak in the Súrr woods. By the end of the year, Fredrik passed onto the hand of the Lord, we can only presume, forgiven for all crimes of heathenry by our God, so merciful. Beowulf ascended to his father's rightful place as Prince of Beneviento and Mayor of Foggia and Amalfi. Due to Venetian ascension laws, he did not become Doge but that did not matter, for there was much promise in him.

Unfortunately, the best rulers are almost never those with great promise. When he broke from Venice and positioned himself as the Prince Mayor of Beneviento, his downfall was swift. He got himself into wars over territory that his new position could not handle. The families that rose up to great heights due to Beneviento's independence were snakes in the grass and slowly, but surely, tore him down from the throne. It's said that when the blade cleaved into his back on a cold winter morning, he looked at his killer and whispered, "At least now I can join my fathers in Valhalla." Without a head to lead them, the family fell by the wayside and never again reclaimed the glory it once had but their legacy continued. The estate was fought over for centuries by the families of Venice who saw it as the true Royal Palace. The story of the vikings of Venice invited many prospective merchants to travel to the city and try their luck, leading it to become a financial hub. Beneviento soon rejoined the city on the condition that it retain its cultural heritage and became a prominent centre of Norse culture outside of the cold North. As for the Empire? Well I'm sure that you know the story of how the mighty Roman Empire returned from the ashes like a soaring phoenix. And as for the Súrr's, well I'm sure they're out there, plying their trade as they have since the days of Steinn.
 

Orjasmo

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Jan 20, 2011
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Requiem

"That was terrible."
"Yes Lord William, what happened to the Súrr's is unfortunate. But, even as great as they were, they were still pagans and God does punish heathens."
"No, your story, it was terrible. I kept sitting here, desperately waiting, hoping, praying it would end but it would not come. I wanted to slit your throat, cut out your tongue, just in the feign hope that it would make you stop but I was afraid that the rolls of fat would protect your throat and that even dead and without a tongue, you would not stop. Then I would have you haunting me to the end of my days with all the boring dredge that you could come up with."
"Well I never..."
"And how did you manage to clear out both my pantry and my larder? You're like a Stygian Pit that leads directly to Tartarus and, should I toss anything into you, it shall never return."
"I don't have to take that from you!"
"What are you going to do? Smother me in fat? Bore me to death with more stories?"
"THAT DOES IT! Guards, to ARMS!!!"

That night saw the death of both Lord William and the fat, traveling merchant in one of the bloodiest battles that Brittany had ever seen. If you liked this work and would like to read more fantastical tales in different styles, join me in any of my other AAR's. If you did not like this work and would like a refund, call (440) 473-7999. If you are confused and would like to know the way to the restroom, head right over to the Bioware forums.