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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Spothisto

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You Win or You Die.

You Win or You Die. A Story of the Old and the Young.​


The tent was situated on hill few miles away from the castle. Decorated in gold, blue and crimson. Red as dark as blood. Suits our House, thought Eudes recalling the field around the castle. Bodies had been everywhere you looked. Men striked into pieces, men stripped from their equipment, burned men, men pierced with arrows, men with smashed and unrecognisable faces. Some among the dead not much older than boys, some as old as Duke himself. Huge siege ladders, slippery with red blood and with human entrails, leaning on the castle wall. Main gate smashed in and still burning ram in front of it being extinguished. Huge pile of bodies before the gate telling the price of victory. But surroundings weren't comperable with the outer and inner yards. And the keep itself the bloodiest of all. Eudes didn't even want to think about it. Total bloodbath. But the Savoians fight to the end with bravery, you have to give them that much.

Hugeness of the tent was magnificent. It had standed there as long as the siege lasted. Eudes hardly remembered how much time had passed since arriving to the outskirts of Savoian capital, without asking a priest he wouldn't know that a new year had come and gone. The Tent of Duke of Burgundy and half his court. The other half was staying on their own tents around the Duke's. Lower knights and soldiers slept nearer the castle in smaller camps under the stars. Whole encampment filled with tents was surrounded with sharpened stakes and a deep ditch. Only entrance was a short wooden bridge across the ditch. At the moment entire court was pressed into Duke's tent and Eudes was clad to be out of it. Winter's end was mild as spring so far down to south. He rather enjoyed himself, despite sweating under that heavy armor, helmet and everstill crimson cape. So far from the castle, only its highest towers were visible. Whatching proudly over its surroundings, like it had never lost the siege. Behind his back were fifty knights. Most of them he had never known before the war, now he had shared with them something that one could never share in peace. They had drawn blood together.

Soon their objective was approching over the next hill. Tiziano of Savoie, Count of Savoie. Eleven years young boy, who had drawn a bloody sword out of a knight in front of him and then surrendered by kneeling and rising his sword high above his head, to offer it to his Lord Father, Henri of Burgundy, who had been about to capture the young Lord in the Keep next to his Seat. His loyal followers had stared around with suprised eyes, but after a moment lowered their swords. Eudes himself had exchanged puzzled glances with his elder brother Hugues few feet behind their father. And now this young boy lord was approaching on his black gelding, wearing a worn and pained expression. He had his own honorguard. Twenty or so knights in battled and worn armor. Regent and uncle to the Count, Amadeo de Savoie, was riding beside him. His following knight not much in better shape then the defeated ones, Eudes rode out to greet newcomers.

"Greetings, My Lord," Eudes welcomed Tiziano with the bow of his head and Amadeo, "and Regent. Be welcomed in our humble encampment, Lord Protector." Sending his Heir's second son to greet them, did them no honor. Eudes had no land, no title. All he had, he had with him there and then. A horse, armor, sword and his purse. A great insult. And it was all plain on their face. Despite his youth, Count got his emotions under firm control more quickly than his Lord Protector.

"Greetings to you also, Knight," answered Tiziano in fluent French as Eudes went to his other side. His fifty knights went to join the twenty, who probably were the last and the only ones of Savoian Knights who weren't captured. Eudes himself had captured a few. His purse promised to grow considerably. Amadeo was staring intently in front of him, digust on his face. Eudes had known that would happen and only smiled a little. "I trust you had enjoyable night, my Lord?" Eudes asked, with all the goodness in his heart. Just yesterday evening he had surrendered and today at noon he was riding to meet his judgement. Tiziano's face reddened with anger for a second, but he remained calm. Regent had to put all his strenght into it to smooth his face. Eudes felt his respect for this young boy rise and his objective got harder. If he remembered correctly, he had been still practising with woodenswords when he was eleven. This little boy had killed and had lost. He was a man in more ways than Eudes. He had lost and was taking the consequences like a grown man. Some other at his age, would cry and demand his toys back.

"I could hardly sleep, when there were so many lives taken yesterday. Every soul needed prayers and I gave them as good as I could. God's work was done yesterday, Man, by mortals. Pray that his wrath don't fall on us, that did the work," the capital on Man was clear to the ear. Not a young boy indeed, thought Eudes.

Rest of the way to the stakes was ridden in silence. Even Amadeo got his emotions under control and was examinig the surroundings as for some kind of treachery. Guard of Honor was left behind the stakes and only three rode over the bridge. Regent, who was also the Marshal of Savoian armies, whatched the defences with intrest. "You have stakes and ditch all around your encampment?" he continued without waiting for an answer, "Why? You could hardly have feared our numbers so high to build them for defence against us. Who are you at war?" Very keen eye and sharper mind. They had built them, because Kingdom of Germany had thought he could muster enough men to defend his vassal far down to south in the middle of the civil war. But one can't be careful enough with Germans and Italians. He said as much and Regent nodded thoughtfully. Why?

A groom took their horses to water and feed them and they were admitted into the tent full of people by two guards in crimson cloacks. There was a long empty road from the flaps to dais in the other end of the tent. The road was bordered with masses of courtiers on both sides. Eudes led them to the dais before the sitting Duke, who wore his best clothes and despite his high age, seemed quite young and seemed to be going for another ten or twenty. He was short and lean, but quick and deadly with his sword. He was already a grandfater to scores of children. And his first great-grandchild was on the way. Very few lived that long. Eudes had heard talks of him being black magic user. "There is still much to do," would he answer when talking led to his age. Places of Honor next to Robert were filled with Henri of Burgundy, Heir and Marshal to the Duke, Hugues of Burgundy, Son of the Heir and Huges of Macon, Diocese Bishop for Duke Robert, to let the God witness todays events by his eyes. Duke was clothed in crimson, dark blue and gold. Tent wall behind him was filled with Burgundian coat of arms. There was no mistaking who he was.

"We surrender ourselves to your will," began Tiziano by kneeling before the Duke, offering his sword to his conqueror, as Eudes left the scene to join other courtiers, "We were defeted and deserve your judgement, Duke Robert of all Burgundians." Count's voice was calm and accepting, which enraged the Duke. He had hoped they will come meekly like defeted people should. Like came Count of Neuchatel a decade back. For some reason, Eudes noticed, Amadeo's face, few feet behind his Lords back, was more confident and somewhat brighter than it had been on the way here. Eudes glimpsed a flicker of a smile as Lord Protector was looking up to his conqueror. They were waiting for answer. It came.



"My judgement," began Duke with even greater difficulty to get his anger under control than Regent had had, "will be as follows. You will pledge to me for protection and for that you will answer to my calls, should I need your armies." Both still kneeling, but they brightened as if they had been given a crown of kingdom. Now came the hard part. "Amadeo will resign from the honor of Regent. He may still command its armies, for all I care, but the new Regent, who I will put into office, have the aouthority to do as he wishes until you," he rose and took Tiziano's chin into his right hand, "my young count, come of age. And after that he will remain your advisor until death." He slapped the Count's right cheek with the back of his right hand, "And that is for defiying me." He turned around to return to his seat, but sudden coughing stopped him for some moments. When he took his seat, he continued after taking a good look at his soon to be Count's abashed face, "Five hundred men will stay with Regent at his beck and call. Will you accept my judgement?" Five hundred men, soon to be bored and thirsty for wine and women, will certainly cause trouble, but Tiziano answered almost momentarily, "Yes, my Lord!"

"Then swear your oath," commanded Duke Robert the Old of Burgundy extending his hand with the ring of his House, and Tiziano of Savoie swore.

After it was done and old Duke embraced his new vassal as a son, Count of Savoie asked, "If I may be as bold and ask, my Lord, who is this person who will take Amadeo's place?"

"Oh, child," Duke began with a warm smile, which seemed to anger Tiziano, "of course you may, you may. Step forward!" he commanded and began to cough again, a little longer than before. But then again, he may not see his great-grandchild afterall, thought Eudes smilingly and stepped forward.
 
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Spothisto

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My second try at AAR world. Lets hope it will last longer.

All the coments are welcome. And say straight out if it is s**t, then I know and make needed changes.

And English isn't my first language, so grammatical or spelling mistakes are sure to happen. Hope it is understandable.

And I don't know much about medieval traditions and customs, so I make them as it goes on.
 

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You Win or You Die. Story of Beginnings and Endings

Duke Robert didn't waste any time. Two days after Tiziana's oath swearing the army was gathering on a field next to the hill where Duke's tent had stood few hours ago. And the sun was barely visible in the east. Now the stakes and the ditch surrounded a muddy hilltop covered with abandoned fireplaces and piles of needless equipment. Men had died from tents also and taking their things would only slow them down. Survivors's belongings were already loaded on the wagons and oxen were ready to follow whereever they were led. Everything was ready by the time when normal people still slept. Eudes would have slept also, had not Duke requested his presence early this morning. Rather late in the night. Robert had told him his last commands struggling with his coughing. Eudes was new leader of this County in all but name. But he would never feel like it, when this army was still present. And for that, he wished them long gone.

As he watched the procession move north from a balcony in his high Regent Tower - it was the first tower to have a name, probably taken to use by lower Savoians to slight him somehow, but Eudes accepted the name with pride - he thought over his plans. He would never inherit something from his father, if Hugues lived and he seemed healty enough to live as old as Old Duke. It fell on the second son to make his own fortune and he was cladly being who God had chosen him to be. If he wouldn't have been at the right place at the right time, he would ride with other knights to meet Germans right now. It was clearly a sign from God. The right place had been the Dukes's tent after the surrender of Count Tiziano, when he stepped into it just at the moment when Duke was choosing who would be the new regent. His finger had fallen on Eudes. At first he had cursed his timing, but in the following morning he had is schemes ready. When I have completed my plans, Savoie will be just the core of my power. For that to succeed, he needed to succeed here.

The slow procession headed by Duke Robert himself, was disappearing as it passed hills and trees. Last of the wagons would be visible for a while yet - five thousand strong army needed lot of equipment - and he had his duties to attend to, so he turned to go, giving a short glance at the big grave where all the lowborn soldiers were buried. Knights and higherborn were buried all in private graves around the huge one. Tiziano had insisted that every grave needed funeral, so most of yesterday had been used up by praying. Eudes had accepted with his demands only to satisfy his need of command. He should remember it well, there won't be next time very soon. Courtyards and walls were now empty of bodies, but dry black blood was still covering the ground and walls.

Eudes turned around with disgust. His four constant companions in this campaign were in his sitting room. Sir Guillaume was sitting in a cushioned chair, accepting a glass of wine from a serving wench, smilingly as ever to pretty girls. She averted his eyes shyly. Sir Odo and Sir Charles exchanged an amused knowing smile, trying to hide it whit their wine glasses. Knowing that she won't wear that modest crimson dress for long. She went to offer a glass to Henri, who was reading a book and didn't even notice the girl. Only knights who had chosen to stay behind the army. All of them second or third son of minor Houses from Burgundy. Aside from them Duke had left him one hundred guardsmen of House Burgundy, as much archers, some light cavalry to carry messages and servants of course. It seemed five hundred aspromised was too much to spare. "I'll send them when the Germans are dead," Duke had said. It was enough. Everyone fitted into his tower. Servants seemed accepting that they had to sleep in dungeons, but no matter. There were more urgent matter in hand.

"For God's sake, Henri, accept the glass, or we will have a girl crying in my first hour as Regent," Eudes said too loudly, "we don't want that, do we?" The knight put his book aside, accepted the glass and Eudes gestured to the girl to leave. Guillaume watched her leave with regret. Eudes liked about them and enjoyed about himself that they were intelligent. They all had spent time under the guidance of priests, had learned writing and reading, had learned latin and other languages. Arts that were not meant for firstborn sons, who are too valuable to waist on intelligence. Henri had spent a little too long under their guidance and he hardly spent an idle moment without a book.

"Where is my young protectorate and his uncle? I would like to do some regenting in my first hour as Regent," he continued with a smile. He took a place in highbacked chair next to a fireplace and warmed his hands over the fire. It is colder outside than I noticed, he mused. Then there was a sound on the other side of the door and soon Tiziano and Amadeo were admitted in by a big grizzled guardsman with a beard almost to his waist. Philippe, Eudes recalled his name. The door was closed behind the newcomers. He stood a little too late and bowed to the Count a little too slowly and clearly not deep enough, to show who is in charge. His friends weren't any faster.

"So good that you have come, my Lord. I was just thinking on discussing matters of state with you," no matter that he had summoned them. Tiziano and Amadeo supressed their anger. They had no more to put against his two hundred man army than their twenty knights and some fifty guardsmen. Castle had suffered more in numbers than in damadge. "Let us sit down and discuss some documents," Eudes said after the formal introduction between his friends and the italians were made, leading them to a rectangular table. He sat on the far end in yet another highbacked chair - and extremely uncomfortable, I must remember to change them for more comfortable ones - that made him sit straight and seem commanding to Tiziano and Amadeo who took places in his right and left hand. Four knights continued their silent converstaion where that had been when Count and his uncle had entered.

"Firstly, Amadeo, let me assure you. I think you are a good choice in the place of Marshal. You need not worry about your status," Eudes watched them questioningly and continued, "I hope you won't mind familiarity? We are going to work closely and I think it is so much more comfortable that way." After their agreement he took the lead again, "As this is settled, let us continue with important matters," he said as if they had brought this matter into notice, "Amadeo you must reqruit and train guardsmen and archers to refill the caps on the walls. As you surely know, you have too few of them as it is and them needed on duty. So I can spare you some of my most experienced men to help you prepare your new reqruits."

"He will make the whole garrison loyal to him if I use trainers named by him," Amadeo said in italian to answer his Count's questioning expression.

"He stated clearly that we cannot use our own men. What choice there is? It is necessary," Tiziano answered him in italian.

"Tziano speaks wisely," Eudes spoke also in italian, what suprised his two subjects and drained their faces from blood, "So it is settled. I will give orders to my Captain of Guards. You can discuss with him more detailed plan of reqruiting." Communicating with a lowborn seemed to anger Amadeo enough to bring red back into his back.

So the matters of state were discussed. Dictated by Eudes and grudgingly accepted by young Tiziano. How to restore foodstore and where to invest incomes and who to punish and who to praise and so on and so on. When they left, they seemed to be drained of life. Eudes was truly the new Count of Savoie in all but name. He had even managed to send this young boy, who had impressed him few days back, back to studies under the local priest. That will get him nicely out of the way. Seeing him sulk, he was convinced that the Count had still a childness in him. He should enjoy himself while he had time. Childhood shouldn't be taken away from a child.

Three weeks passed. Reqruiting went well. Burgundian army had mostly lived at the expense of the surrounding farms. When all of their supplies were taken or bought from them, peasants started to wander and looked for a meal whereever they went. Now they were needed and were brought into the castle for training. Soon the numbers were close to eight hundred. Whole population over a thousand. Every mouth wanted feeding and food was getting scarce. Northern farms and holdfasts and minor castles owned by minor lords were mostly destroyed by Burgundians. So they looked south for supplies. Farmes there had little left after the winter, but enough was given to feed the castle for few months. Neighbouring County of Piedemont was raided for extra food and soon the problem melted away as captured knights were exchanged for gold and food and other supplies. Even his uncomfortable chairs were replaced. Repairs were done to castle gate and walls. Everything seemed to go smoothly.



One evening three weeks later from the day of surrender, Eudes was sitting in front of his fireplace, thinking about his plans and changing them as need rose, a ragged rider who had an arrow through his hand and his woolen cloack had several arrow holes in it rode into the castle yelling about an approacing army.
 

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Very promising start. Your English is excellent by the way. What year are we in by the way? I am intrigued as I too am writing about the dukes of Burgundy at present and it is grat to see a totally different take on them. Keep up the good work!
 

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You Win or You Die. A Story of the Dead and the Living.​

Dijon was a growing city around a castle which some called Heart of Burgundy. Very suitable calling, as it is home to its Duke, who no doubt is Heart of Burgundy. Founded by the ancient Romans, it is no less important than Royal Capital Paris. It was a rich city, center of trade in its region and home to many noble families. Rich merchants and skilled craftsmen made Dijon famous among all Franks, Wester Germans and Northern Italians. People of many nations ihabitate it.

Today the splendid city was in morning. Duke Robert the Old had returned from his campaign on the shield. Few months shy of his senentieth nameday. He had rode out seein as young as his firstborn, so it took everybody in the army with shock, when on the morning of third week the Duke didn't wake. The day before that a messenger had come from north to announce that Count Guillaume of Nevers and his son Count Guillaume of Auxerre had destroyed a German ragtag army. "Emperor would give up all the claims on the lands of Burgundy for all time, if they remove their armies from his Empire," messenger dictated his message. "Rest for one night, I'll give you the answer tomorrow," Robert had answered. In the morning he was dead, like all he had lived for had been defeating the Germans, and now that it was done, it was time to join their forefathers.

So it was left on Henri to accept their surrender, what surely his predcessor had intended, and send out the summons for all lords, low and high, to join them in Dijon. And now he was watching from his balcony, how the flag of golden lion standing on his two back legs on a blue and gold field was leading the Count of Nevers into the city. He, his son and Tiziano of Savoie were the last ones. Pierre of Semur with his mother, Regent Adelais, and Guy of Macon had already been there when he arrived, full of false sadness and faked condolence. Everybody had disliked his father, even himself, for his cruel and angry personality. But everyone who might have opposed him, disliked each other even more. Robert had seen to it that they did. The black sheats and flags tied to the windows so that everybody would see that burghers mourned deeply for Robert, all of it was fake. He already wished this to be over and done with. Cooks and servants, especially serving girls wished it also, no doubt. As long as he had been back to the Heart, they had worked days and nights to be ready with the food for Funeral Feast and for his Anointment Feast and then Departion Feast. Not to mention huntsmen who where looking for interesting game, that lords would have something to spend time with. Two weeks after Robert's death, one after reaching Dijon and he was tired for a lifetime. He saw flag of Auxerre following the first and went to wait for them in the courtyard.

Hugues the Marshal, his son and heir, had already shown his promise as general after the sad day on the road. He had taken them home in one week, without putting them in any danger, others would have made it in two. It had evolved into tradition, that heir should hold the position of Marshal. So that council would be smaller and more family oriented. His son deserved it more than he had. Broad shouldered and tall, he was the very example of knight. His sword at his side seemed part of him, ready to be used in a moment. Then the gates opened wide - it had taken more time to descend from his rooms than it had seemd - and Guillaume of Nevers rode in beside his bannerman, followed by household knights and personal servants and guardsmen in blue and gold.

"My Lord, I offer you my sincerest condolences! I made sure that every church and chapel on my way would pray for your Lord Father's soul," Guillaume began taking Henri's hand and kissing the Ring of Burgundy.

"I'm sure you made his way to heaven more quicker. I thank you for your grief," he answered and pointing to his son, "I hope you remember my firstborn son, Hugues. He was still young when you saw him last."

Count went to the Marshall and seeing his badge of office holding crimson cloack over his shoulders, he changed what he was about to say, "It seems congratulations are in order, but one can hardly congratulate someone who has lost a closeone so recently. I'm at loss what to do. I felt my heart broke when the messenger came with the news and now I feel it heal as I see how healty offsprings he has left to rule after him." He sure is good with words. Speaks many words, but makes little sense. Had there been a threat?

Hugues didn't seem to notice it or he was hiding it very well. He wore a sad little smile, "I thank you with all of my heart. Friends are needed on these troubled times. Speaking of which, where is my good friend Guillaume son of Guillaume. I trust he is alright?" That put shock into Count's face. Everyone knew of his son's health. At that moment the gates opened again and another group pushed itself in, led by a bannerman for Count of Auxerre and a palanquin, where Guillaume Junior had spent most of his journy here. Wounded in battle, survived by some godly intervention and now came hear barely alive. Henri respected him for that courage, foolish courage, but still.

"It is getting crowded here," soon-to-be-duke told silently to his son and to everybody else he rised his voice, "There are quarters ready for you, which will be showed to you by the servants," he indicated to the young girls waiting to escort the men, "We will let you wash off the dust of road and tomorrow we will send the Duke on his way. " And with that he left the courtyard, his son following close behind. That night a lone messenger came from the south.

The Funeral began in early morning, lasting through most of the day. A numerous procession carried the body of Duke Robert to the church, where Diocese Bishop Hugues of Macon prayed and sang, prayed a little more and told everybody how a man should live, praised the deeds of Duke like he was some kind of saint. Noone in the crowd cried. Even Dutchess Agnes, nineth month pregnant, seemed bored. She was still young, only twenty seven and her two children hadn't taken anything away from her beauty. After that the Duke was buried in the cementary ouside of the city. And then began the feasting in the Great Hall. A huge room filled with tables and benches, with a dais in one side for higher lords. Seat of the Duke was in the middle of the dais, ready to be retaken by Henri. Walls were filled with tapestries of famous battles and mighty animals. Windows were as huge as walls itselves. Today the Seat of Duke remaind empty, tomorrow Henri would sit on it. He took the place at the right hand of the Seat, Agnes of Aquitaine took the left. Then came the vassals and then the heirs. Everybody else took places where there was room. Noone seemed to take notice of a missing lord.



Next day began with curchial matters also. Henri was officially anointed and graced with the title of Duke. Before he had been simple 'my Lord', now he was 'Your Grace'. The procession wasn't larger than the one in the funeral, but a lot louder. Men sang and danced and joked and chatted when they escorted their new Duke. Good day for beggars. Most attendants were generous and tossed silver or gold coins whereever a hand rose. And then they gathered into the Great Hall to feast once again. Now Duke took the Duke's seat and as he put Agnes to his right hand he announced, "I have asked and recieved agreement. We are to wed in a week. So today is also engagement feast. So let as rejoice!" And they did through the whole night.

Next day Duke Henri called in emergency council. All the vassals and advisors were needed. "How is Cecile? I hope she hasn't fallen ill? It would be saddening," Henri asked his son as they walked to the Council Hall. "My Lady Wife is at good health. Just this morning she was delighted that the time of morning sicknesses has passed. She will be glad to know your concern," Hugues answered as he opened the huge door for his Lord. The room was simple and small. In the center of the room was a long table, surrounded with cushioned chairs. Chairs for Duke and Marshal were the last empty ones.

"Good, everyone are here. We can begin at once," Henri said as he went to his chair and sat. Even Guillaume Junior was present, but he leaned on his cushions as if he is going to fall off any minute. Spy Master Simon of Burgundy, his brother, was looking worriedly around the table, as if waiting for an assassin to jump out of thin air. Steward Elisabeth von Rugen, Henri's second brother Robert's wife, was considering lords one by one as if calculating their wealth. Diocese Bishop Huges of Macon had been talking livingly with his distant relative Guy of Macon, Count of Macon, but now was silently praying. Chancellor Robert, his third son, had been conversing with Guillaume Senior and Regent Adelais of Ponthieu to Count Pierre de Semur of Chalons, now they all watched him expectantly. Heir Hugues sat at his right hand.

"I recieved word from Eudes few days ago, my Lords and my Lady." Every council member had such a title, whether he owned lands or not, "It seems Savoians were in over their head. They are in state of war with our good King Philippe and also with Robert of England As if they weren't enough, Duke Artaud of Dauphine has an army on their way to take those lands away from us. Most likely it is already there, menancing commoners and sieging nobles." Horror was on their faces. To stand in defence of Savoie, it means defying King Philippe. "What should we do? Advise me." Everyone wanted to speak at once. The noise was loud enough to drown Henri's voice and he had to slap the table, which made his palm sting. "You first, Chancellor."

"Thank you, You Grace. I think we should advance with caution. But reports from some of my friends have given me reason to believe that events have turned for us. I believe Lord Simon can assure you with his reports. It seems Philippe and Robert of England are at war with the Emperor. I think if we are fast, which our new marshal sure is, we can finish off Duke Artaud before Philippe or Robert can turn their attention to south. Then we will negotiate and make peace between them if we can and if we can't, then our power have doubled and we can proceed with agressive negotiations," Robert spoke with his charming voice, that made everybody listen carefully. He wasn't chancellor with no reason.

"Thank you, Lord Robert, I think it is good advice. You may speak, Lord Guillaume of Nevers," Duke allowed.

"Thank you, Your Grace. I saw with my own eyes how badly shaped the Germans fought," he began, but Heir Hugues cut him short, "I think you son disagrees, my Lord." Guillaume Junior had closed his eyes, but now he opened them suddenly and watched around him anxiously as if he didn't remeber where he was.

"My son, Lord Hugues," Count of Nevers began angrily, "was rash and uncareful. He was running down the last men when suddenly one of them turned and stabbed a spear through his side. This don't make a difference in battle itself. Anyway, they broke quicly and rest of it was mopping up. I don't think they last long against Philippe and Robert. I doubt that the war lasts enough for us to destroy Dauphine."

"If they are taking Savoie," Marshal began as he saw possibilities where others didn't, "they will concentrate all of their forces south. We go from north and be the hammer, Savoie an anvil. And they will be a piece of rusty iron. Only problem may be the time taken by assembling the army." He finished thoughtfully.

"No problem there, Marshal. I already sent the commands. I was convinced that we don't stand idly," Henri reassured him.

"Why did you call this council, Your Grace," Lord Guillaume Senior started angrily rising, "if you had already decided what to do?"

"Whatch your tone, Count!" Heir Hugues barked rising and grabbing for his sword. Henri stood and calmed his son by putting his hand on his swordhilt, pushing it back in the sheath. "Lord Guillaume, I am Duke of all Burgundians. I demand the respect that goes with it!" Henri leaned over the table supporting himself with his left hand and driving his forefinger into table to make the point, "I won't swallow your insults next time. I called you to inform about the situation and because I respect your opinion and I would have taken it in account, had it been any different."

"I will wed tomorrow and Department Feast will have to do for Wedding Feast. Day after that we leave. We have much to prepere," Henri announced and began to leave, but Diocese Bishop had something more to say. "Yes, Bishop?"

He exchanged enxious glances with his relative and began, "Your Grace, its just that Pope have announced a Crusade to liberate the Holy Land. I wonder how you feel about it?" So that had they discussed so lively when he entered. Everyone else except Guy of Macon looked abashed. It was a suprise to all. Henri got his emotions under control, "That, I won't even consider before our current situation has improved." And he strided out of the room. He had a lot to do before departing the city.
 
Last edited:

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Excellent story so far.
 

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You Win or You Die. A Story of Loneliness and the Heart.

Heart of Burgundy was deserted. Dark shadows were the only company to its inhabitants. A few servants went about their business, curtsing or bowing to Beatrix as she moved blindly, not remembering where she had intended to go, but otherwise deserted. No knights, no lords, no ladies. No decent company. A pair of guards stood ready by doors to rooms, which were still occupied. Too few of them. Just few months back the Heart was bursting with people low and high. It had been time of joy, time of dancing, time of singing. And now its dark and cold halls and corridors felt like catacombs, where only ghosts roamed. She felt herself as ghost.

Good tidings from south didn't change it. It didn' take away the darkness. Whole County of Lyon was taken by her brother in less than two months. Hugues the Marshal had taken this castle, Hugues the Marshal had destroyed Duke Artaud of Dauphine on the field. Hugues the Marshal did that and won that and killed those. He seemed to be the only talking subject among those that were left behind
... to rot.​
Count Guillaume's success in County of Forez was overshadowed by her brother. She knew she should be happy, happy that war went so successfully and fast, that they would be home faster for that, but she didn't found it in herself to be happy. War was a dreadful thing. People die there. Her brother Eudes was in some castle that was under siege. And she feared for people she even didn't know the location of. Everyday may come the news that someone would die.

Tapestries and paintings of famous men and beautiful women, warm carpets under her light slippers nor summer Sun shining through the windows to light her way didn't diminish her dark mood that was on her for the last three weeks. She only saw the shadows cast by the Sun, bare walls between tapestries, bare floor around carpets. And then she heard a woman scream somehwere close by and everything came back to her, where and why she had walked. To join

Agnes of Aquitaine, her step-mother and her step-grandmother childbirth had started this moring, giving a last child to her dead husband Robert the Old and an uncle or aunt to Beatrix. Oh God, dodn't let me have a similar fate! she prayed. It would be horrible fate, to be treated like that, as an property that goes from father to son. Horrible! At least her mindless wandering had brought her to the right door, she discovered as he saw two bearded old guards wearing red cloacks and the coat-of-arms of Aquitaine, a roaring lion on a red field, on their chests. The Old Brothers of Agnes. Not that they were her real brothers, nut thay were the last and only ones who had remained with Agnes rather than return home to Aquitaine. They admitted her without questions. She walked through a beautiful sittingroom without noticing its beauty and stepped into the bedchamber.

Usually a young mother was surrounded with tens of ladies and dozens of handmaids in this situation, but today only one handmaid was present and she were just leaving as Beatrix entered. She curtsied and left. That left only Agnes, who was in her bed eyes closed, Steward Lady Elisabeth von Rugen, Lady Regent of Chalons Adelais of Ponthieu and a midwife brought from the city as soon as the pains began. "The best!" people had assured. Beatrix didn't know much about these things, but it must be true as the midwife was holding a little baby boy. She had lingered too long. The two ladies were congratulating the new mother. Noone noticed the newborn baby's sister Ermengarde crying in her grid beside her mother's bed.



And this boy is my uncle? Midwife wrapped the crying baby boy into a crimson planket and put him into his mother's arms, who helped her son to find the nipple of her left breast. He quieted instantly and suckled at her breast fiercly. Beatrix took Ermegarde from her grib and joind Elisabeth and Adelais beside the bed, giving Agnes her congratulations. Ermegarde was little shy of one year and was perfectly capable showing what she wanted. Now he wanted to join her mother and Agnes allowed her to join them. She hugged her little daughter tightly with her free hand.

They left soon after that. Midwife said, "Young mother needs her sleep and I won't tolerate your chatter disturbing it." Midwives were listened and with that they were out of Agnes's rooms. "There is a messenger in your sitting room, my Lady," a young servant surprised her as he stepped out of the Duchess's rooms.

"What?" she asked, still surprised.

"He didn't say his name nor his sender. But he seemed to be a decent young man and I allowed him to wait for you in your sitting room. I hope my judgement don't displease you?" he asked worriedly.

"Not at all," he said hopefully, "You may go!" He looked puzzled and Beatrix had to snap "Go!" before he went, half runningly. Beatrix had already forgotten it when she turned the corner. She felt butterflies in her stomach waking when she saw a familiar face standing in front of the heart, warming his hands. Guillaume.

"My Lady," he bowed, "a letter for you from a desperate man." He placed the letter on Beatrix's anxiously shaking hands. As she red she felt a faint coming over her and supported herself on mantelpiece. It was from Philippe himself, written whit his own hand, and full of love. He was warring in far east with Germans and faced death everyday. "That's why it took three weeks!" she exhaled.

"I'm deeply sorry for that long time, but it was a long road," Guillaume apologised. Beatrix forgot herself and hugged the messenger tightly,whispering, "There is nothing to forgive." She detangled herself and smoothed her dress and hair, "I will write an answer right away! You can start you journy at once!" She saw his pained face and apologised, "Oh, forgive me, Guillaume. You must be tired. Rest for a few days. I'll have an answer ready when you leave."

He thanked her and left Beatrix to her thoughts. Philippe had passed Dijon on his way to Germany shortly after her father and brother had left for Lyon. He was most charming man, polite and generous with compliments, but Beatrix was only one who had found a letter waiting for her on her mantelpiece. At that afternoon Guilaume had appeared on her door and asked for a reply and from that day they had had a most delightful exchange of letters.
 

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Love the images. They fit in well with the story.
 

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You Win or You Die. A Story of Dreams.​

The flags of Dauphine's nobility had began to appear on the outskirts of Castle Chambéry a week ago. Now the outskirts was covered with them. Not one spot was empty. Close to four thousand in numbers, not counting servants and workers. As soon as Eudes had learned who was leading this closing army and what his intentions were, he had sent out a rider with hope. Hope that his family would come to aid, but so far there were no sign. No message. He had ordered every scrap of food that can be found in twenty miles to be brought into castle. At first he sent small bands ofcollectors, but as they didn't return or returned empty handed and wounded, he sent larger bands. They managed to get it from greedy and hungry peasants. Every unneeded hungry mounth were put out of the Castle and every able hand was wielded with a weapon. He had done the best he could with so little time and now he had over one and a half thousand armed men on the walls.

Already two assaults had been pushed back. And ceasefire announced two times, to collect the dead and bury them, or in their case burn them. There was no cementary in the Castle, a little chappel, but no more. And left waiting for proper burial, diseases may spread and destroy them from within. Eudes didn't intent to make it so easy for Artaud. As he was watching the enemies prepere for another assault from the wall on the maingate, he was considering if Tiziano had made the right choice, when Artaud himself had arrived.

"Surrender, swear your oaths and I live you be," he had offered in the negotiations, ignoring Eudes who had warmly welcomed him, in his shiny armor and a huge sword behind his back, the hilt covered with rubies.

"I have sworn enough oaths for one life time, Artaud!" Tiziano had said angrily, "I rather die before doing it again!"

"So be it! Don't worry, little boy," Duke of Dauphine had said mockingly eyeing Count's crucifix between his hands, "I'll give you proper burial when they bringme your head. But after your head has spent enough time on a spike!"

With that it had been over and Duke Artaud hadn't left his encampnet, a mile or two north. Rest of his army was everywhere around the Castle, prepering for and assault. Again.

There weren't many high lords except him and his four companions, so the job had befallen on their and Marshal Artaud's shoulders to defend the walls. Artaud had showed full cooperation since the news of the army arrived. He had even led some collecting parties. He don't want to see Chambéry fall under him again, Eudes guessed. They had come to him to report that there was an assault beginning at their walls. It had drawn blood from all of their faces, when they saw each other approacing Eudes, all at once. That meant that assault was beginning on every side. Artaud had tried enough, it seemed. Now he was finishing what he had started.

"Return to your places and we will show these bastards, what we are made of," he commanded whit encouraging smile. They left with unchanged white faces.

Warm sun, that had shined whole day, had disappeared. Replaced by heavy dark clouds. A thunderclap drowned the first horn that announced an attack. So the first wave was on its way when Eudes heard the following horn sounds. "A thunderstorm ruined their assault!" Eudes laughed loudly to be heard over the heavy raindrops that came splashing down, "Clearly, God doesn't favour them!" Men around him joined his laughter. And then the first ladders were placed on the wall. Eudes swinged as a steel cap appeared severing a bearded man's head almost to his neckbone. At the same time a man beside him thrusted a spear through the assaulter's eye. He fell down, takind two of his friends with him. Laughter continued as Eudes blocked a sword and dodged a spear, before he put his sword into a man's armpit, where it stayed. He crouched to pick up someone's fallen sword and felt an arrow pass him inches from his head. After that everything melted into one. He only saw his enemies, he killed them and looked for another one. It lasted only an hour or so, he thougt. It was realy hard to judge time in this wet bloodbath, but afterwards he was on the same wall he had been at the beginning watching enemy retreat to their camps at safe distance. Arrows flew after them, taking down one in ten. "Stop it! You need those arrow later!" he tried to shout, but he was too tired. Noone heard him.

And so it went. Sometimes only one assault in a week, sometimes more. Time passed differently when your life was at danger. Every hour seemed a year. Every day seemed a decade. A week was like a lifetime. It lasted four lifetimes. At the end there were around two hundred men left. Eudes was suprised to find himself and his friends among them. Even Tiziano had left his rooms and stood beside Amadeo on the inner walls. Women of the Castle had picked up weapons also, standing beside the men. Eudes recognised a serwing wench, who had served him and his friends wine a long long time ago, standing beside Guillaume, wearing a determined expression behind her too large helmet with iron bars to defend that pretty face.



They hadn't come. They had left them here to die, forgotten. His family had betrayed him. He would never forget that. He looked around him and found familiar faces, faces that had seved him, faces that he had saved, scarred faces, worn and tired faces, defeated faces. He watched and saw men and women, who are about to die because of his family's betrayal. Then the horns announced an another assault. Before long, men died in front of him and beside him. Women screamed as they died, men screamed as they died. He saw Guillaume rise from a lifeless barhelmeted body and strike out with enormous strength and ferocity. Enemies in blue and gold ran from his sword, but he was soon overcome and went down. Tiredness reached his hands faster than they had at first. Soon he barely had strenght to defend his life. Eudes felt something hitting his helmeted head and died.

He knew it had been too good to be true, when he opened his eyes and found himself from a dark room. His head was aching and he lost conciousness soon after, without realising where he was and why. He was in dungeon beneath his own Tower of Regent. Servants had lived down there, so they were well kept and quite comfortable with haybeds and a stool beside an uneven table. He woke again, not knowing how long he slept. He discovered food from the table, ate it and slept more. So went his days, or nights. It was always the same down there. He might have slept days or minutes, he didn't care. He knew he was prisoner or wouldn't be there.

Once, a long time after he had first woken, four men came for him. Clothed in ringmail over boiled leather, wearing blue cloacks with gold stripes, Eudes knew them for Artaud's men. His head ached again and his vision wasn't the best, so he didn't saw where he was taken. They released him and a deep voice said, "So you are the son of Duke Henri?" Duke Henri? Robert must have died quickly. "I don't know any Duke Henri," Eudes answered.

"Don't play with me, boy. I have little patience. Are you son of Henri of Burgundy?" Artaud of Dauphine demanded angrily. Eudes nodded and instantly regretted it as a sharp pain cut through his head. His vison began to clear and he noticed that he was in the Small Hall surrounded by Dauphine guardsmen and Duke Artaud with his not-so-shinyanymore armor.

"Do you know that your pitiful father is pillaging my lands, while you are my prisoner, to do as I wish?" he said smilingly, "No matter. Where did you hide Tiziano?" he asked suddenly. Tiziano is missing?

"Look for Amadeo and you find the Count," Eudes said dizzily.

"But Amadeo is in a cell right next to you. I trust you aren't lying to me? I really do hate liers." Eudes couldn't concentrate on what he was hearing. Standing straight was all he could do.

"What is the matter, boy? You sick?" he asked mockingly as he stepped forward. He slapped Eudes, who lost conciousness for a second and discovered himself from the floor. "Take him away!" was the last he heard.

"Left us here to rot, they did," someone was saying.

"Be happy, Arnaud. They war in the west, while we eat and drink and enjoy women," someone answered, "Tell me true. Would you rather have a naked girl beside you or dead Burgundians?"

"What do you think? Of course naked girls," Arnaud answered, " But I have a bad feeling..." And that was all he heard that day.

Some time later, a day or a week, it made no matter a man ran somewhere, coming closer. "Enemies at the gates!" some new voice yelled, "Every sword needed on the walls!"

"What? Who?" asked nameless, but familiar voice worriedly.

"Burgundians of course! This wretched Marshal of theirs managed to hide a large force by the Lake Leman," newcomer answered.

"I told you I had a bad feeling about this," Arnaud said as they ran somewhere. Eudes wasn't capable to comprehend what was happening, but something good I think.

Next time he woke he saw a familiar face of his brother Hugues, badge of Marshal shining on his chest.
 

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You Win or You Die. Literally.​

Rhone river flowed on the right flank of the army moving south. They had crossed it in Lyon after conquering the city - for some reason Hugues hadn't taken the City itself - and before that the whole County of Forez with very little resistance. It seems my young nephew was right afterall, mused Robert of Burgundy, Duke's brother. They were moving south along the riverbank and soon should reach Vienne. Lyon was a rich trade city and plenty of river galleys had docked at its port. Now those ships were loaded with food and equipment for the army and slowly following the army on the river. All in all, they moved much faster now, than they had before, with wagons and oxen.

Forez had been taken holdfast after holdfast, keep after keep, castle after castle, but Lyon's Mayor had opened the gates as soon as Guillaume had promised not to loot the city. And he didn't, but when soldiers siezed the docking ships and began to take whatever and whoever they wanted, Mayor Philippe came to their council at once, accusing Count of Nevers and demanding that he call his men back as he had promised. "Why, kind man," Guillaume had said mockingly, "I haven't promised no such thing." Seeing Mayor's unbelieving face he had added, "I promised that I wouldn't loot. I didn't say anything about my men!" And he laughed. Mayor, who was accompanied by his fifteen years old daughter, had been as if stricken to the head with a club. When Guy of Macon had licked his lips hungrily and had grabbed for the daughter Mayor tried to protect her. A dirk in his belly stopped him, but the girl had ran. "Now I have to chase her down," Count of Macon said annoyedly. Guillaume had smiled to dying Mayor as if it all were a great joke. Robert had been discusted and still were as he watched Guy riding beside him a happy grin on his face. Everything was a joke to him. Robert would have been much happier with his brother and nephew. "I need someone, who I know I can trust, with them," Duke Henri had said.

"Taking Dauphine of Viennois is quite another matter, Robert," Guillaume had told him after Mayor had drawn his last breath, "We move south by the river and take its capital Vienna first. They will be confused and unorganised. Then its only picking them up one by one. Savoie fell to them, Artaud is probably on his way to stop us, thinking we will be somehwere in north still. Well, he will be surprised to find us in his capital." And that was the plan. There was no arguing with the man, when he had been given command.

"Two days to Vienne," a scout had told them this morning. Now the sun was setting and the cold winds of fall were rising. They blowed right through his cloack and furs. Armor wasn't no help at all. He noticed that everyone were tightening their cloacks and furs around them. This war have to end soon or we all die in this cold. He didn't want to imagine what it would be like in winter.

An outrider on a black gelding galloped to them breathlessly from south. He wore thin woolen cloack with a furlined hood. A long beard covered his neck warmly. A smart man. "An army!" he reported to Guillaume after he had got his breathing under control, "six or seven miles south. About two and half thousand strong. Duke Artaud's flags are leading them, my Lord!" Everybody had stopped. Their over two thousand strong army had stopped as if one. Already questions began to sound from behind. "What happend?", "Whats the matter?", "Why they stopped?" and even "Who died?" Outrider waited for commands.

"Good job, soldier. Return and keep me posted what the do and where they go!" Count of Nevers commanded the outrider. He signaled on of his esquire, "Get every officer here and get the ships to stop. Go!" Soon after Robert found himself from a meeting. "Arnaud," archer's officer, "get every archer and everyone who can throw something to the galleys and harry the enemy from the river. Should they move away from the river, don't come ashore unless I send a command." Arnaud bowed and left to folow the orders. "Francis, Charles and Philippe," the commanders of infantry, "anvil formation!" They knew what to do and left after bowing. "And we will form the hammer!" Guillaume said to Robert, Guy of Macon and Humbert, Marshal of Auxerre.

An hour later they were leading close to five hundred knights in a long circle around the main body. One young lightly armoured outrider was leading their way. It made a powerful sound. Fivehundred heavily armored knights racing for victory and loot. Birds fleed from their nests and animals ran from the horsehooves. Men with shields decorated with their coat-of-arms and swords or maces or axes of every size. Armors of every kind. From full plate to simple ringmail armors. Only one thing they shared. Their ferocity and need to do man's business.

They reached a field and it was getting dark. Suddenly another force was at the other end. Robert recognised the coat-of-arms of Duke Artaud in front of enemy knights. They galloped towards eachother. Robert unhursed a knight with his lance. He took his mace and started to smash heads. He lost count soon. He remebered only the coat-of-arms of the ones that yielded to him. They will bring great ransoms afterwards. He glimpsed Guy of Macon flying from his saddle with a lance through his side. A just fate! The outrider, who had guided them, defeated two knights before someone's sword removed his head.



And then he was face to face with the man whose shield was decorated with a dolphin. Duke himself. He striked with his mace, but Artaud dodged and smashed his heavy hammer into Robert's side. He fell from his horse. Guillaume of Nevers blocked a sword few inches from Robert's neck, striked the blade holder down and offered his hand to Robert and drew him up saying, "Don't die on me! I'm not ready to suffer Henri's wrath!" And then he was gone, striking and parrying with his sword. Artaud was back, now a sword in hand, hilt decorated with rubies. But it wasn't for long. Duke saw that his knights were retreating and cursed. But he followed them.

As it turned out, the enemi infantry had been routed soon after first clash. They hadn't considered with the arrows raining on them from the river and ran. It was said that it was the fastest battle ever. Infantry had fought only few minutes. Cavalry not much longer, howerver long it may have seemed to Robert.

It was two days later, when they were celebratying their victory in Vienne, when Caunt of Nevers approached Robert. After Robert had once again thanked him for saving his life, Guillaume asked, "How would you like to become a duke?"
 

Slinky

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This is getting better and better. Robert is made a duke, has someone become king? :D
 

Zebedee

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Spothisto said:
And English isn't my first language, so grammatical or spelling mistakes are sure to happen. Hope it is understandable.

It's written in excellent English. As for pics, some ingame shots of things wouldn't be that out of place for me personally, although I appreciate what you're doing :)
 

Spothisto

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You Win or You Die. A Story of Wars and Wars.​

Cold wind was blowing through their soaked cloack. Moring's heavy rain had left them all wet to the bones. It was getting colder by the day and soon it would be white snow falling from the sky. Henri actually hoped it would already come. It would be colder, but at least not wet. He had had a lifetime of wetness, as had had everybody around him, based on their expressions. Geoffroy of Semur wore a suspicious frown, looking around as if waiting for a trap. Once or twice he spared an annoying look to the sky shrugging under his thick cloack. Hugues, who had the command of the army, had a determined expression on his face, looking expactantly forward. As he pulled his cloack thighter around him, he betrayed himself. He felt the cold like all the men behind them. All of the hundred household knightsthat followed them. No battle equipment. Just light armor, warm clothes and swords. A true knight cannot leave his sword just as he cannot leave his hand behind. Sword was what fed them, what gave them their place in the world. Thruth be told, a man feels himself much safer with a sword at his side, thought Henri, and we may still need them.

Early this morning a messenger had approached Duke. He had been sent by Duke Artaud, who requested a meeting. Requested! he smiled to himself, as if he had had any choice. Rumors move faster than armies and they had heard of battle fought somewhere in a west. By a river, some of them said. Ships that sail on land and breathed fire, other added. Couple of days later a messenger had come from Guillaume of Nevers, reporting that he had defeated Artaud on field, but he had retreated almost untouched, leading two thousand or more. Guillaume had also taken Vienne and was resting his army there. And now as he was trying to flee into Savoie, Artaud found an enemy army two times his numbers waiting for him and requested a meeting! But they were going, because november had already caught up to them and they wanted to be over with this business before snows. Battling them might have stretched into months, which they didn't have.

They had left Chambéry the day after it fell. Fell was hardly a right word for it. Rather it had been given them. With only hundred or so men left to protct it, the castle had been theirs in matter of hours. It was a shame to find Eudes in such a bad shape, but he was taken care of. He had been left to heal in the castle. But events had turned in his favour, as Tiziano had disappeared, leaving Savoie leaderless. Amadeo, Marshal of Savoie, was still alive, but Henri was keeping him close, so he wouldn't cause some not needed trouble. At the moment he was riding beside Henri, to show the unity between them. Too bad that Savoian knights and lords were all dead or missing. More than one Italian would have been a better show of unity, but it seemed that recent wars had destroyed Savoian nobility. Good riddance, Henri mused.

A small encampment was appearing through the leafless trees. Rather it was one tent surrounded by dozens of fires in the middle of circles of knights. Henri didn't bother to count them. He knew there were a hundred of them. Their horses wandered freely on a pasture on the other side of the "encampment". Knights had unsaddled them and were now using saddles as pillows or chairs. Some had a saddleplanket over themselves and were loudly snoring. "Geoffroy, Hugues," Henri told as they rode out of the forest, "I think we are waited inside the tent. Follow me. The rest of you, wait for us as you choose." He looked around and saw that they were still out of earshot, "And be wary!" he said loudly enough that everyone of his hundred companions heard. As Henri began to move towards the tent he remembered, "And you Amadeo!" he called back, "Join me!" The man followed silently.

Noone challanged them as they passed the knights. Young grooms took the bridles of their horses as they unmounted and promised to take care of them. Henri mesured the grooms and decided that they looked enough trustworthy for the job. They entered the blue tent. Inside it was bare and boring. Just four walls and a roof to protect them against the weather. Like a cave. Duke Artaud was sitting on the only chair that there was. There were two men, one to his right and one to his left. Noone Henri recognised. Some unknown household knights. Duke of Dolphins as he sometimes was called was honeing his rubied sword and looking at them as at defeated foe. Henri understood what his enemy was trying and decided to play along. Hugues joind him on his right and was looking at Artaud defiantly. Geoffroy of Semur, Marshal of Chalons joind Henri on his right and frowned suspiciously at the sword in Artaud's lap. Amadeo went to the left also, but stayed a little appart. We will discuss it later, Henri promised himself.

"So," Duke of Dauphine began with a smileafter proper introductions were made, "What will we do about our little quarrel?" All the while still sharpening his sword. "Why have you invaded my lands?"

Hugues and Geoffroy were surprised by that. Amadeo was interested, like hearing a thrilling story. Henri was amused and not hiding it, "A qurrel? I don't think it a quarrel, when somebody invades my vassals. I think it a war!" Sharpening stopped. Henri stepped closer - before he had stood like an unruly vassal waiting for his lord's judgement, now he stood looking down on Artaud as if looking down to unruly child and not intending to be merciful - and continued, "And in all my experience, I think you are loosing."

He had forgotten all about sharpening his sword, now he was gripping it nervously. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded angrily. Now everybody except the two Dukes were puzzled.

"What is the meaning of this, you ask?" Henri smiled pleased with himself, "This is the matter of you surrendering."

Duke of Dauphine was taken aback. His mouth moved, but no words came out. "But we had a deal!" he finaly managed. Rest of the men were even more puzzled. A little more and Geoffroy's eyebrows would touch the ground.

"You welcome me in you peace with a sword on your lap! You put my son into a dark cellar with a head injury! You defy your rightful King! And you expect me to honor a deal made by the likes of you?" he finished disgustedly as he stepped forward, grabbed Artaud's sword and jerked it out of his numb hands. Two of his knights began to unsheat their swords, but Hugues and Geoffroy had dirks under their chins and hands on their swordhands before they could blink.

Artaud still sat seemingly unworried, but he gripped his knees thightly. "Do you follow a man, Amadeo," he asked turning to the man, "who made a deal with me to invade your precious Savoie? And all because he wanted me to kill your little nephew for him. That he could get his hands on Savoie!" he spat. Amadeo looked lost. He was angry about what he heard, but he wasn't stupid. He saw where it was going and knew he couldn't do anything. He stood still.

Henri turned back to Artaud, whose blooad had left his face. "You dare to accuse me? You, who would attack innocents to get allies in struggle that is doomed from the very beginning." Henri pointed Artaud's rubied sword his neck, "And now we discuss your terms of surrender. I would take all from you, but I don't step higher than myself and honor my Kings authority."

"Did you really made a deal with him?" Hugues asked from him silently, when they were done with negotiations and were riding back to their army. Henri nodded, but he saw from his son's face that more explanations were needed. "Son, you have mastered the arts of warfare, there is no question in it. But there is another form of war, no less important than the one you know best. It is the intrigues and schemes of court. You may win every battle on the field, but in court one well placed letter or couple of special words here and there, can make those victories meaningless as soon as they are achieved. And for that you must know know how to win in this war as much as in other."

"But isn't it unhonorable not to keep given promises?" he asked puzzled. It seemed as if his whole world had been turned around. Well he had to learn sooner or later. I can't protect him forever, Henri thought.

"When Artaud decided to defy our good King Philippe he was patient and hoped the Duke will come to his senses. But he didn't. So the King asked my help to weaken or destroy him. He had business in east so he couldn't to it himself. At the same time Artaud approached me for alliance. I decided to accept it, but only if he does something for me. I hoped we could get to him before he reached Chambéry, but all plans don't go as you choose. So answer me this: Should I have kept a promise given to my King or to a traitor Duke?"

Hugues only nodded and didn't touch the subject for the following days. Amadeo had kept quiet also, but Geoffroy seemed to accept his way and was quite bragging about their victory, but very suspicious as always. A week later they reached the outskirts of Chambéry.



The journey had been full of starving families on the roads, little bands of men who ran as soon as saw their outriders. Burned farms, deserted villages, abandoned keeps and holdfasts. Not a day passed without dead bodies on the roads. Untouched bodies dead from starvations, bloody corpses dead from stabwounds given by bandits. Seeing all this Henri began to regret his decison to send Artaud against Savoie. But then again, now Savoie was his and with time it would heal from the scars of war. The Castle waited them with great anticipation. Only two weeks ago they had left. "Already back?", "What happened?", "Is the war over?", "Is the Duke dead?" Henri could only guess which duke they meant. Eudes was feeling better and was on his feet welcoming them.

"Is the war over, my Lord Father?" he asked and was surprised by getting a nod for an answer, "Well, it deservs celebrations! I order a feast prepared!"

"That would be a welcoming sight," Henri answered. But prepering feasts took a long time and this evening they shared a small dinner with family and closer friends. Duke Henri sat at the middle of the table. Eudes at his left hand and Hugues at his right. After him came Geoffroy of Semur. At his left after Eudes came Amadeo. An then there were the four friends of Eudes: Sir Guillaume, Si Odo, Sir Charles and Sir Henri. More officers from the army: Sir Philippe, Sir Robert, Sir Simon, Sir Pierre, Sir Folqued, Sir Renaud. All of them household knights of Burgundy. They ate and drank and joked and laughed and cursed and sang. Not everyday was a war won.

"Eudes, I think it is as good a time as any," Henri began, but someone was telling a great joke and he laughed.

"A good time for what, my Lord Father?" Eudes asked impatiently.

Henri laughed his bellyful and drank a goblet of wine before continuing, "I have decided to grant you all the incomes and landsthat goes with Savoie. You are to be the next Count of Savoie!" Eudes smiled smugly so he continued, "And you are to have a wife. A princess from the North! A sister to King of Norway and Duke of something. I never remember those northern names. They are so..so northern." He laughed, joined only by Eudes. All the others were abashed. Hugues looked somehow terrified and then he remembered.

"And you," Henri told to the Marshal quit sternly, "You are my marshal no longer. I'm afraid," Hugues face was loosing blood, it was all he could do not to laugh, "I have to send you away. To rule the incomes and lands of Forez as you please. They are yours!" And then he laughed and most everyone else with him at the great joke. Soon Hugues joined in. Only Amadeo stayed quiet and soon left the table quietly. In the moring he was nowhere to be found.

They celebrated almost through the night. When Henri woke next morning, noon actually, he was surprised to find a map from his table. He had forgotten all about that order. He looked at his lands and smiled being pleased.

 

Slinky

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You have made some nice progress.

I am wondering who will be the biggest problem in the future: Amadeo or Tiziano :D
 

Enewald

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The burgundians have really had some skill so far with getting more land! :eek: