The Lords of the Marne

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The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:05 am

It is now half a year since Barbas Acacius was received in the Bright Hall of the Clarus Mons and swore fidelity to Berenger Loncrin, Duke of Auvergne, to act as Vice-baron and representant of his master, the Imperial Prince. While no one voiced their disagreement or doubts about the affair, and only thoses jokingly referring to the Duke as the "Master of the Emperor" were heard in the corridors of the ducal palace -and only in whisper between close friends- it didn't meant that thoses who fear that the Duke is slowly abandoning himself to the Empire didn't exist, or that there was only a few of them.

One of theses silent peoples was the Lord of Meaux, Sigebert Boarhunter or, as some called him, the Quarrelsome, of the Wodinids family. Sigebert was an ambitious man, with very little loyalty to anyone but himself. The Oath he made to the Duke of Auvergne years ago was only because he saw that the alliance between the counts and barons of Champagne was weak and that there was more to win by joining the southerner early. And he indeed took his fair share of the spoils of war and was now one of the most powerfull "Lords of the Marne", and even desired for him the title of Count of Champagne.

But titles were nothing but self-petting if no wealth came with them. And the wealth was measured in lands, herds and servants and by thoses measures, Sigebert was a wealthy man indeed. But he wanted more, always more.

And once of theses things he desired was Chateau-Thierry. The Duke had kept the castle and its bourg for him during the division of the old County. He thought, if he was patient and skilled enough in how he handled the Duke, he could gain the titles of this barony. It would have been just enough to tip the scales in his favor and make him the most rich and powerful man east of Paris.

But Berenger wasn't a fool and knew of theses plans and how much of a bother Sigebert could become if they realized the moment he saw him, years ago. After all, he wasn't nicknamed the "Quarrelsome" for nothing. He kept Chateau Thierry for himself and just now finaly accepted to let it go, but to a foreigner, someone uninterested in the petty quarrels of Francia. This angered Sigebert, who had all his petty plans thrown back to his face. And to make it worse, now that Berenger was King, Sigebert hoped to become the "Duke of Francia", except the title was given to the second king, the son of Berenger, Richard. Sigebert, and many other plotters of lesser importance, did not took it well.

More, now the newcomer wanted a road. A real road, like the romans did in their time. This, more than "losing" Chateau-Thierry, was what Sigebert saw as a threat. Because most of his revenues come from the taxes on the traders and merchants travelling on the Marne. If they had another way to go, especially if it could avoid them to go against the current of the river, it could theoreticaly cut him up to half of thoses taxes. It would be the end of him.

He could go with this Barbas. They could go hand in hand and make a road so both could profit from it. But Sigebert's pride wouldn't allow it. Beside, he was already devicing a new scheme, a plot to stop this greek, to make him loose face and to retake what the Count saw has rigthfully his.

Yes... this wasn't a setback, but an opportunity. Once he's done, he too shall be Duke. And then, maybe ? King of the Franks. One can have dreams, after all.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:08 am

Meaux, in the castle of the count, at night.

The men were finally assembled. They had come by horses, in the night, with almost no escort, alerting no one of their departure, of their destination or of their reasons. They each sitted on a chair, in circle in the middle of the room. On one wall, a chimney fire desesperately tried to warm the cold air. On the opposite side, a window let the light of the moon slide inside the castle. Both lights gave the men distorded faces of silver and rubis, with their traits ever changing be it because of the clouds sometime covering the sky or because of the fire's danse. They were a dozen, in black clothes and fur, with only minimal signs of their functions or identities. But there another one who didn't sat down like the other. Instead, he was contemplating the imposing chimney, turning his back to the others.

"Well, then." Said the man standing up while turning to finally face the others. "Welcome in my humble domain. I am glad to see so many of you answered my call. We all had a rich correspondence during the past few weeks and it was a pleasure to know more about a lot of you. But now, it is time. We are united together today, because a new threat appeared. The fragile statu quo of Francia is being shattered by you know who. Guildmasters, lords, bishops... one way or another, this Barbas is threatening our buisness and the peace of our lands.

Tonight, my partners, we take an oath : to defeat the Greek and to restore the honor of our blood against the newcomer, to support one another in this task and to know no rest until he is back to his land, at the other end of the world !"

The dozen of men rose up and unsheated their swords that they crossed. The Count joined them. Thirteen blades united and thirteen voice taking the vow in unisson. Sigebert couldn't help but smile. This council of schemer was united by very loose ties. The Grandmaster Alibert just wanted to see no one threat his hold over trades on the river. His brother, the Bishop of Meaux, was here just because he followed his brother in most matters. And the others expected to win something out of it, be it money, lands, or even Chateau-Thierry itself. Some even believed Barbas was a real threat for the Duchy and it was their duty to protect the Gauls from this foreigner. Sigebert has already took note of whom would be a threat later and who was too passive to do anything out of this without someone to lead them, which will be him, of course.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:28 am

As suspicious as the silence was, Bardas decided to forget the Count of Meaux and the other lack of responses for now, taking solace in that Berenger apparently still owed the Emperor a debt.
Bardas would instead pen a letter to the Lord of Soissons, and try his luck there. It read as follows, translated into French by Bardas' assistants.

"To His Grace, The Lord of Soissons, Guardian of Saints Crispin and Crispinian,

Your Lordship, my name is Bardas Acacius, Baron of Chateau-Thierry; Acting in place of His Majesty, the August Emperor of the Romans, and of the Hellenes.

I was recently looking over my maps, and trusting the accuracy of the French cartographers as much as I do, it seems as though you do not have access to the river Marne, at least not easy access. I, similarly, do not have access to the river Aisne.

As such, I have a proposition for you, Your Lordship. It is simply to build a road between our two holds giving one another access to more trade opportunities. Each of us building the road halfway.

You would also be able to build villages along this road if you wished, furthering your profits.

His Majesty, Emperor John would be most pleased with you if you were to agree, I am sure.

I eagerly await your response,
Bardas Acacius, Baron of Chateau-Thierry
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:12 pm

"To his Honor, the Baron of Chateau-Thierry, Bardas Acacius

It is a pleasure to receive news from you, our most recent neighbor. We have heard of your projects, to create a road to help trades in our region, and it is something that please us. The savages lands between our two domains needs to be controled and it would be an occasion as good as any to do so.

But before, we wish to discuss the matter more in details. We invite you to our City of Soissons, to be our host, so we can debate the plans and the actions needed for this enterprise to be successfull.

In the hope to see you soon,
Lord Theodomir of Soissons"
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Sat Feb 25, 2017 5:56 am

As eager as Theodomir seemed in his letter, combined with the silence from the other Lords, Bardas would risk being captured and set off with an Imperial guard wearing symbols of the Imperial regalia, and a French speaking interpreter, the Imperial soldier, if killed, Bardas thought, would be provocation for a war, and thusly, acted as a deterrent for capture, in Bardas' mind at least.

Bardas travelled through the sparsely populated fields between Soissons and Chateau-Thierry, making sure to avoid forests, even if it extended his trip some.

The group rode on and eventually came upon the old Roman approach roads leading into the small city. Bardas would then, with the help of his interpreter, locate and ride to the necropolis outside of the city proper, where they would locate the burial basilica of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, and pay their respects. Bardas didn't care to do so, but he thought if he was seen doing this it could improve his standing as a man that cares for the Gauls as a people.

The group would then ride to the residence of Lord Theodomir, and wait to be received.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:20 pm

The visit to the resting place of the saints was indeed well received by the City, even if considered somewhat normal and to be expected.

Lord Theodomir received Barbas in what looked like an hybrid between a mansion and a castle. Or more exactly, like a palace that times of need forced to transform into a bastion, a change of nature that the passing centuries only made less obvious, but still gave to the building a strange appearance.

If Barbas was a scholar, Theodomir was everything one would expect of warrior. Tall, claded in a grey coat and a pale cape, an impressive sword always at his side, he kept a long beard which was odd, since the Franks and the Auvergnats seemed to prefer to shave. He took the place of his brother, Tomas, at the head of the barony after the Robertian Crisis, when Soissons sided with the Austrasian and only the fact Theodomir had fled the city and joined the Auvergnats with his little troops saved the city from their wrath.

The Greek Baron received a warm welcome and was offered a supper for him and his men after their long journey. At the table, there was of course Theodomir's family and servants, but also two delegations Barbas didn't recognize.

"Ah yes ! I didn't informed you. Well, Baron Acacius, I present to you the Archbishop of Reims, Ebles, and the Baron of Laon, John. I took the liberty to invite them to our discussion because your project concern them, one way or another."

Once the dinner finished, the tables were put away and the room cleaned and the four men left alone, with four chairs left at their disposition near the chimney.

"Baron Acacius, If I wanted to see you is not only because of the road." Said the host. "You arrived at an important time and it changed a lot of things to a lot of peoples. We -he designed the two others lords- have informations coming from the Clarus Mons. Rumours are spread about you being a spy and an incompetent warrior, unfit to lead men be it on a battlefield or on a day to day basis. We don't believe them because we know who are spreading them and they all have interests to see you down, to destroy the Emperor's credibility in the region while they still can. Be very careful about the lord of Meaux. He is your ennemy. He is a brutish coward and will attack you at every occasion. I don't know when he will act, but it will not be subtle.

Do not expect help from the Kings as if it was granted. They have as many reasons to support you than to let the situation take care of itself. I believe you are an intelligent man and will know what to do. But I'm afraid we cannot tell you how important Sigebert's Conspiracy is, because we didn't manage to uncover all of his partisans. The ferrymen are with him of course, it would be a huge blow to their monopole if a road was built, and his brother, the Bishop of Meaux, is obviously on his side. He don't have the brain nor the spirit to do something else than follow. This is, by the way, why you can trust Sir John. He had his own misadventure with Sigebert's family." -The Baron of Laon aggreed- "and will help you against them if it come to it. And so will we.

Now that it's said, Let us talk about less urgent but more important matter !" Theodomir clapped his hands and a man, obviously of the church by the look of his robes, was let inside the hall, with his arms crumbling under piles of parchments and papers. "This is father Daniel, my secretary, he will help us design something that will satisfy us all. Now, let us start, shall we ?"
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:13 am

Bardas had the look of a scholar, and the attributes of such a man, picking up on some words and mannerisms without his translators help.

Bardas thanked the three men for their support, and while going over the plans for the road, he would ask aloud, "If I were to forget my plans for a road to the west of Chateau-Thierry leading towards Paris, would Count Sigebert be content to forget me for a time and let me conduct the duties of Baron in peace, or is conflict inevitable?"

"Perhaps I can speak with the man at the Council of Vassals in Clermont that I have heard of, I may have a plan that may buy me some time, though, I must ask, what is the relationship, as you all know it, between Sigebert and the Lords of ,for example, Paris, Eperney, and the other towns upon the Marne?"
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:58 pm

Theodomir stroke his beard, thinking. "Well, I do not think Sigebert would let it go that easily. We don't call him "the Quarrelsome" without reasons. At best it would cost him some supports from the merchants, at worse it might make you look weak. Sigebert is an animal that can jump on you at any sign of weakness. I'm afraid what was started cannot be stoped this easily.

But yes, having your voice at the Council is a good start. Soon, The Kings will hold one to discuss budgets and millitary operations. It might be a good occasion to defend yourself.

As for who will support or oppose you, it is hard to tell. Robert, Count of Paris, is a good friend of Sigebert, but he knows he cannot oppose the Kings. The traders guilds will follow whoever interests align with theirs. I do believe most of the Lords east of your domain would agree with your plans, but most of them are too weak and poor to stand up against your ennemies. the Lord of Provins might help you. He is a rich man, but his poor choices of allies during the Auvergnats conquest of the region left him alone and too weak to go against Sigebert, who was free, by blackmail and threats, to impose himself as the unofficial leader of Champagne. He might be helpful, but I cannot say how the Kings will take it. He has forgiven him once, but he never appeared again at the Clarus Mons."
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:51 am

"I can respect a man that demands the best from his colleagues, but from what I've seen, he's a viper of a man.
Perhaps I can talk to the guildsmen and convince the less powerful ones to join together momentarily."

"But" Bardas said rising from his seat "I shall have to do that from Chateau-Thierry, as lovely as Soissons has been. I thank you for your welcoming, Lord Theodomir. Your Excellency, Ebles, and you, Your Lordship, John, I thank you for your friendship."

"I trust the roads are all in order? In that case, I shall be getting back to Chateau-Thierry, before Sigebert's scouts notice my absence. I welcome a healthy correspondence between us all, and I shall look into the Lord of Provins as you suggested."

When Bardas, and his company returned to Chateau-Thierry, under the advice of the captain he was travelling with, he would scout his own city, and look at which areas of the defenses that Sigebert or any enemy could see from outside. Those would be the areas to given extra patrols to make it seem as though the guards of the city numbered far greater than what they were, and perhaps deter a full siege.

Bardas would enter the Barony, and begin to pen a letter from the relative comfort of the keep there.
It was directed for the spymaster of the Empire, and written in Koine. It look the liberty of using codes in case of interception. Decoded, It read as follows:

John,

I am having more than expected troubles with the Lord of Meaux, Sigebert.
I need a distraction for him, he is as a red hot blade, and is need of quick tempering.
I've been thinking, I'm no match for your prowess in matters of subterfuge, though, perhaps you'll like my idea enough to see it through.

I grabbed my inspiration from the stories of fabled Eris, and her apple.
I wish for you to send two locked chests and a uninteresting looking man to Clermont, they should be delivered once the annual Council meeting begins, and Sigebert and his fellow Seinese Lords arrive. I will attach a description of the heraldry of these Lords so they are identifiable.

One of these locked chests is to be addressed to 'The Lord of the Loire' which is to be given to King Berenger, the second of the chests shall be addressed to 'The Lord of the Seine' which I believe to be disputed enough of a title to cause a distraction and perhaps, a conflict. I will post my claim to this title in an effort to remove suspicion of my involvement, which I will later revoke.

The first should be filled with finery, gold and bronze colored robes, perhaps a diadem of silver. The second should be more of an insult, as I believe Sigebert will be the one to eventually be given the key by your agent. This one, I'll let you decide the contents of.

I wouldn't ask this of you if it were not necessary to maintain our post here, so far from Constantinople. If it proves too costly, you may ask of my kinsmen to help pay for it, as I will gladly work off any debts I owe to my family.

May this letter reach you, God willing,
Bardas Acacius

The letter would arrive in Constantinople, and be funneled through the bureaucracy in order to lose the trail, eventually, it would be delivered to a gerocomium, (a place for the elderly), where it would be delivered to the hands of the superintendent there, a late-middle aged man, Ioannes, who was in reality, the spymaster of the Empire using the elderly's home as a cover.

Ioannes broke the seal of the letter, and read through it, decodeding it as he read. Ioannes stood up, and walked to the fireplace, throwing the letter in. He would have to requisition the supplies, the most fun part of being a spy.

The requested 'supplies for the elderly' arrived in two wooden chests, and were transported to the city's southern docks. One was filled with bright, golden orange colored robes, and a silver diadem. The second chest was filled with a pair of woman's robes, a silver brooch, a bottle of perfume, and the two books of Tibullus' poetry. All this could be seen as a mistake, or be taken to heart, if Sigebert was adamant on accepting the chest, he would be labelling himself a woman or a crossdresser in front of everyone by opening it, after all, what 'Lord' wears womans clothing. That, and Ioannes was not the greatest fan of Tibullus' poems, so this was doubly an insult, in Ioannes' mind.

Ioannes sent these chests off with an agent of his, an ordinary looking Venetian man. This messenger was to sail around Sardinia, and be seen arriving in Auvergne from that direction. If the Council hadn't begun, he was to pretend to be a merchant from Sardinia, otherwise, he was sent to act on the behalf of a fake 'Lord Spiniensis of Sardinia'
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:03 pm

The Council of Vassals was held once a year, just before the harvests, in the Clarus Mons. It was an important part of the political life of the regions commonly known as "Grande Auvergne" and saw lords from all over the Gauls come to the savages and untamed mountains that encircle Clermont, the domain of their Masters : The Kings Berenger Loncrin and Richard the Wise.

This assembly is inherited from the old Carolingian tradition. The Kings presented to their Vassals their projects for the next seasons, the millitary campaigns they'd like to undertake or the new laws to apply on all their territories. Then, the nobles discusses, debates and decides for or against theses projects and proposes a counter-offer that the Kings then agree with or not. Depending on the Balance of Powers, the vassals can just agree with what their King proposes or, the King can only give his vassals what they want or face a rebellion he has no chance of defeating.

For the moment, the balls was deeply in the Armandian's side. Their violent -and lucky- rise to power in the void left by the disparition of the "Old Kingdom" of Francia and the Germanic Empire made them stronger than any Rex Francorum before them since at least a century. The absence of Dux Francorum or of a large coalition of minor lords left the kingdom with no opposition to speak of to counter-balance the powers of the Kings. This was due to the relative youth of the Realm, as all instances of power had yet to form, but already, some started to emerge. Notably the leagues of traders, such as the Septimanian and Sapulian Traders Guilds, powerful organizations with influences far outsides of the Kingdom's limits, over the Alps and the Middle Sea. But also strong personalities, such as Hugues of Burgundy, Baldwin of Septimania, Robert of Paris and,of course, Sigebert the Quarrelsome.

The presence of Barbas at the Assembly was one of the main attraction of the day. For most of the nobles, it was the first time they saw the representative of the Emperor. Even the Marquis of Rouen, the other new guy, didn't held so much attention. That lords held possessions in differents realms wasn't new, but still uncommon. Especially an imperial prince.

The opening of the Assembly was Hugues of Burgundy recieving the title of Duke. Bathing in the light of the Bright Hall, Hugues was kneeling before the two throne, where Berenger and his son Richard sat. Berenger himself put the Ducal insigna upon the frank lord and soon, they kissed each other on the cheek. The assembly applauded, especially the Burdungian nobles, whom saw their, up until now, unofficial leader being recognized as such. The more northern Franks weren't so happy, as the title of Dux Francorum was held by Richard, putting them under the direct control of the Kings.

Once theses and other rituals, such as the mess pronounced by Etienne, Archbishop of Clermont, over, the Assembly could finaly took place. Some sort of foldable chairs were brought in the Bright Hall for them to sit on. Most of the Clarus Mons, like any other Frankish castle, had its furnitures easily transportable in case of long journey through the lands. Even the Thrones of Berenger and Richard could be folded, just like the tables. Naturaly, the lords formed groups of interests, of friends and other supporters of each other, only half-consciously showing the differents "parties" in the game in Grand Auvergne. Barbas was invited by a group of peoples to come with them. They weren't nobles -they lacked the symbols of such- but theses four men soon presented themselves as delegates of the Guilds in Clermont. Why they invited Barbas to come was soon obvious, as they lost no time to ask him many questions about the ways the Emperor wish to do politic in the Gauls, how Barbas imagined futur trades between the Empire and the Kingdom, and so on.

The lords spent long hours discussing budgets, taxes, threats, oportunities, diplomaty, harvests, trades, with each other. Propositions were made in each of theses matters, by the Kings or the vassals, and were thoroughly debated, opposed, negociated, then voted.

It was during a quite heated debate about how much of the royal treasure should be reserved to help vassals in the need that a man was announced. "The Representative of Lord Spiniensis from Sardinia as come to present his respects to the King of the Franks !" shouted the guard. Then, the agent entered the Bright Hall and slowly, as the etiquette asked, came to the throne and bowed before Berenger.

"You Honor, I come with presents." Said the foreigner in his soft voice. "For you, the Lord of the Loire."

He presented a little chest with the key. Berenger took them and opened the chest, looking to what treasures were inside. Soon, he presented to the whole assembly the diadem of silver and the robe of gold and bronze. Rich presents that kept the attention of the Council. Berenger thanked the foreigner, who then bowed and from his mantle, revealed another chest, similar to the one before. He then turned to the Assembly and announced :

"This, I shall give it to the one among you who is the Lord of the Seine."

Three men almost immediatly stood up, before giving each other killing glares. The Marquis of Rouen, Sigebert the Count of Meaux and Robert the Count of Paris. The tension was palpable in the Bright Hall as everyone waited to see the resolution of this "stand off".
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Fri Mar 03, 2017 8:02 am

Bardas accepted the guildsmen invitation, telling the men that if trade and relations did well in Chateau-Thierry it would be a good indicator for all future Imperial trade.

Bardas said this hoping to gather support for his road project amongst the guilds powerful enough to attend. He wasn't completely lying, he wasn't told this by any Imperial authority, but, it would likely prove to be the case.

When the "messenger" arrived, Bardas, a normally stoic man, had to contain himself. This was rather exciting for a man of a family of bureaucrats. He had to steel himself, this was more risky than anything his father would have done if he were in this position. But, this could pay off massively, and to get the graces of the next Emperor this early could place his family at a higher standing.

Bardas rose with the three other men, and broke the silence: "It is my belief that as Augustus, my Prince, Philip* should be considered for that title, Your Majesty." Bardas said.
The Vice-Baron then readied himself for the death stares to be directed at him.

The messenger, following along his script, followed Bardas' cue, and turned to Berenger, gestured with the chest in his hands, and in a meek voice said: "Your Majesty?"

*:
Didn't realise that I'd ever have to write 'Prince Philip' in this rp.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:46 am

If a look could kill, Barbas would have died a most gruesome death. Even the Kings seemed dubious about Barbas claim for his master.

"Master, you cannot... !" started yelling Sigebert before being silenced by a look from Berenger. Meanwhile, Robert was grinding his teeth and obviously reached for a dagger under his coat. The Count of Rouen, seeing very well where this was going, wisely decided to sit back and wait. Obviously, no one really noticed him.

"Vice-Baron, you obviously have the best interest of your master at heart. But here in the Gauls, I am the Augustus." and with another move of his hand, he ordered Barbas to sat down. There was some sniggers coming from the Assembly, but they quickly dissapeared as Sigebert and Robert were now face to face, like two dogs ready to jump at each other's throat.

Doing like he did not saw what the two counts and their friends were doing, Berenger rose from his throne and came closer to the messenger.

"The Seine is an important river. That, everyone agree with." Said the King, looking at the Assembly.

"Everyone also agree with the fact the Seine and its region is inhabited by the Franks, who are the lords and princes of theses fertiles lands." The assembly did not answered, but seemed to be in agreement with what their King said, even if they didn't follow his reasoning nor saw where it was going.

"But the Franks also have a master, don't they ? Do the Franks have a Duke to guide them ?" this time the assembly understood what Berenger wanted to do. Some smiled, some agred, Sigebert and Robert were turning green.

"Then perhaps this gift should go to the Dux Francorum, shouldn't it ?" Sigebert made a step to the throne, shaking in anger, but a look from the Archbishop Etienne, standing next to the throne, made him understand it wasn't a wise idea.

Berenger took the boxe, thanked the messenger and gave it to his son. The second king opened it, look at its content and smile. He took the two books out of it and showed them to the rest of the Assembly. Most of them couldn't read and where too far to do so anyway, so they just saw a very rich present from the Silenian lord. Books where hard to come by.

Robert returned to his place. But Sigebert stood where he was. The whole ordeal seemed to have render him mad with anger. It looked like he wanted to say something, but was just to much out of his mind to do so. He finaly sat back when it was obvious, even in his state, that he was just making a fool of himself and Berenger announced that the Assembly hadn't decided yet the budgets of the coming year and this matter had to find a satisfying solution before the end of the day. Everyone returned to their political deals and debates, except for the Count of Meaux, who just sat there, watching Barbas with his murderous glare.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:35 am

Bardas knew he had to maintain himself in front of Sigebert, he couldn't even shift himself in his foldaway seat, if Theodomir's advice from their Soissons meeting was true.

Bardas returned Sigebert's gaze, trying to match the man's intensity for as long as Sigebert wanted to test him.

He wasn't used to such a blatant display of anger in politics, usually, in Constantinople at least, high stakes politics was played with mind games and persuasion.

However, perhaps this was Sigebert's idea of mind games? A display meant to show his animalism.

Bardas though, to try to add to his safety, would make sure to move with the guildsmen who had invited him to join them, chatting about inconsequential things, such as trading 'possibilities'.

The Vice-Baron however, was approached by a guardsman who said that Berenger wished to speak with him in the throne room, Bardas bowed lightly to the guard, and responded in the affirmative.

This was most likely about Bardas' interjection, he thought. Asking for the title of 'Lord of the Seine' was probably not welcome as it undermined Berenger.

Even the presence of the powerful guildsmen couldn't protect Bardas from his own mouth, it seemed.
It was time to prostrate himself before Berenger and ask for forgiveness, something he wished to only do once, and then live the rest of his life in (relative) peace.

Bardas began his walk down the halls of the palace towards the throne, his crimson robes flowing over him.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:45 pm

It was for the end of the day that Berenger called Barbas, after the days reunions. The throne room was now empty, the animation of the morning and afternoon seemingly long gone while the twilight sun gave to the walls a bright red color.

Berenger was there, in his more casual attires. Like Charlemagne in his time, he wear the Typical Frank dress. Next to his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk; while hose fastened by bands covered his lower limbs, and shoes his feet, and he protected his shoulders and chest by a close-fitting coat of otter or marten skins. Most of the tissues had been colored green, red and yellow. The colors of Auvergne. He signaled to Barbas to come closer and after a long sight, he seemed tired, he spoke in greek.

"Vice-Baron Barbas Acacius, what did you expected ? How longs your teeth are for you to think you can just come and impose yourself in Francia ? I tried to warn the Emperor but there you come, you I had heard so many good things about. But to be fair it was trully impressive. I never saw someone managing to make so many ennemies in such little time. If it was your master Phillip that was here I wouldn't have been to bothered. I can defend ten Imperial princes without noticing if I had too. But you ? Why would I deploy so much efforts ? Your foreigns clothes are not an armor with the Franks, quite the opposite actually. So why would you go to such lengths to paint a target on your back ?

Anyways, this is not really the problem. tomorrow morning you will be the last one to enter the Bright Hall and to present your respects to me. You will bow a little bit more and a little bit longer than needed. It should be enough humility for some to forget today's display.

But I do believe you have met with Sigebert. He always was a bit of a wildcard, but your master's projects and, really, just the fact that you exist seems to have push him over the edge. I'm afraid, but while Chateau-Thierry itself is undamaged, I cannot say so much about the others farms under your watch. Really, I cannot blame you nor your guards, theses brigands weren't normal ones.

So, here's a present from me. One night. One night to prepare your defenses and arguments against thoses of Sigebert. By tomorrow morning, you'll have to be able to chase the Devil with your words alone, If you can't, I'll have to strip you out of your titles and send you back to Constantinople with a letter asking for another Vice-Baron.

Unless you prove yourself and your education in the art of rhetoric, then it will be the last present from me. You are not in an hopeless situation yet. Yet."

Then the King just dismissed the greek before he could say a thing, to return to the room alocated to him and his delegation in the castle.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:00 am

Bardas would humiliate himself, this was commonplace for noble interactions, and Bardas respected the monarchical system of conduct.

Bardas would bow before Berenger and sing the exaltations of the man to a necessary degree, and he would have to hope his loyal servant, Esaias could handle the apparent chaos in Chateau-Thierry, as Esaias was acting Baron during Bardas' obligations in Clermont.

Esaias Acacius, assistant to the Acacius family, was trying his best to emulate what he thought Bardas might do in this situation, the dark smoke from the nearby farms had turned a lighter grey, and many farmers had stayed behind to defend their steads, but some had fled to the sanctuary of Chateau-Thierry.

They couldn't let the small town get overwhelmed, but they also had to assure the safety of the farmland, else, the town was irrelevant. The army of the town now numbered thirty-six, consisting of Imperial soldiers, Frankish recruits, and now, armed citizens, who were now to be given their training in a less-than-practical fashion.

The town was to act as though as this was wartime, the enemy unknown, all the farmers could say is that the attackers were, like themselves, Franks.
Esaias had his inclinations, namely Sigebert.

If he wanted to play it dirty, that was how it had to be, he supposed.
The river was ordered to be chained, lifted only once ships had passed a thorough inspection.
He wished he could chain it permanently, but it wasn't his to do that with.

The Imperial soldiers maintained the garrison, some of the Frankish recruits guided the farmer-soldiers to their steads, and the groups patrolled the most productive fields.

Esaias hoped that Bardas could make it through the lands, and back to Chateau-Thierry before chaos fully engulfed the area.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:57 pm

The ennemy soon proved to be bandits and thiefs not unlike thoses met in every parts of the world. In Francia, they spend most of the year in the wild forests, staying near the roads and the rivers to attack caravans and traders when it was possible, only coming out to raid a farm or two during summer or autumn, after the harvest, so they could too not die of hunger during the winter.

At first, this band didn't seemed so special. They attacked and retreated rapidly with everything they could take, burning the rest. They fled the troops of Esaias as soon as they could, but didn't seem to have good enough sentinels to guess the patrols or the movements of the guards in advance. Sometime, they would even fall right into the guards when attacking a rich farm. In fact, they seemed kind of dumb.

If fleeing wasn't an option, they would fight like an angry -and desesperate- mob. Their weapons were clubs and rocks, mainly, while only a few of them had spears and even less swords. None had armor or protection of any kind, only dirty shirts and bandelets for boots. They looked just like the fruit of an unholy union between wolves and farmers. the oldest among them, the chief of troops so to say, seemed to still be in their twenties. The rest were adults and boys so young they didn't even grew facial hairs yet.

Their total number was hard to guess, but it seemed they never were more than twelve at a time and there was maybe two or three groups of them.

Meanwhile, In the Clarus Mons, debates and negociation returned in the Bright Halls. Barbas humility seemed to have eased some tension. This time, its a group of minor nobles east and north of Chateau-Thierry that invited him to their discussion.

But soon, the slow drum of rumours started to get un-naturally loud. Words like "did you see the Greek ?... Yes, a spy of the Romanoi... I've heard they still practice the traditions of Sodom in their mountains, what would Chateau-Thierry become with such men in it ?... I've heard they are completely overrun by bandits right now. But could we really expect more of foreigners ?..." and so on, spread at an uncanny speed, to the point some didn't even bothered whispering anymore.

Its at the high of this sudden outburst of petty accusations that Sigebert appeared, a smile under his moustache and joined the groups of Barbas without invitation.

"Ah ! my friends !" He said while saluting the knights of the Meuse, putting his hand over their shoulders while they only seemed embarassed and, yes, fearfull. Then the Count turned his wolf-like gaze to Barbas. "And you, my most recent neighbor. I've heard so many things about you. And about the recent turn of events in you domain. What a poor work for a supervisor, to not even guard correctly his master possessions. Care to explain ?"
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:40 pm

"Hmm, well, usually, back home, the higher-up lords would have never let bandits inside their borders, so, I would say a lack of a strong Lord is to blame. There's not a man, in the region at least, powerful enough who can claim to be Lord of the Seine as we've all seen in the council, if you agree with His Majesty King Berenger's ruling as I do?

Therefore, I must look to His Excellency, Prince Robert who, of course, is the true Lord of the Seine.
If only he had been named sooner, I'm sure these bandits would never have dared to appear to begin with.
No matter, I intend to be the man to remove the disease from those lands and prove myself to His Majesty Robert, the Duke of Francia, and Lord of the Seine.

Those responsible, the barbarians, will be brought out, I have full confidence in my charge, Esaias, for he is a lime-hound of a man.
I am certain he can sniff out the cause of these troublemakers like no other."

Bardas made his speech to the general crowd around him, but when he spoke of 'removing the disease' he made sure to catch Sigebert's eyes for a moment.

Esaias, meanwhile, would eventually realise that he'd have to attempt to capture a bandit or a group of bandits, and bring them back to Chateau-Thierry to interrogate.
That's what a Baron would do, he imagined.

Only a few of his men had horses, so running the brigands down might be difficult, and would lead the horsemen away from more vital areas.

As such, a little plot was concocted. Esaias wasn't used to this kind of thing, but he was sure this was an enemy that even he could outsmart militarily.

After seeing which farms were prioritised for attack, Esaias would order a group of 5 soldiers to lie in wait inside a targeted farmhouse, and wait for a raid to begin.

The signs of life were shown throughout the stead, the fields were sown, candles were lit inside the windows, and the patrols stayed away for the time being. Now, it was time to see if it was worth it.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:16 pm

"Oh, what a bold claim." Said the Count of Meaux. "And what let you say so, except the ego of an outsider, of a foreigner who don't know the traditions and the customs of the Franks ? Do you have anything to back you up, except a Master month away from you, who just learned to walk ? By yourself, you are nothing. You are poor. You don't have the ressources to do anything but talk. You don't even have the talents to fight with a sword, nor with a spear, not even with a club !

No really, I ask you : how can such a man be a leader of men ? Such Foolishness, such pride. My advise to such a character : he should return home and stay there, far away from what will only be his downfall if he doesn't find a more sane spirit. He should do that, and let his better, thoses he thought he could come in their home and steal from their plate, do their work as leaders and protectors of the people, rather than hiding behind their back, using their names to protect himself, to give himself a false sense of glory.

Yes, as a Frank ever meddled with the buisness of the Greeks ? Then why should a Romanoi do so in our domain ? When their ways aren't made for this land ? When no one can say what kind of dark rituals such a man practice, looking to a man in a purple robe when he pray than to Our Savior ! Yes ! What can someone of his kind do right for a people he doesn't even consider his ?"

And so speak Sigebert. Meanwhile, the men of Esaias prepared the farm for the trap and were ready before the night. Like coackroaches, the bandits soon appeared around the farm. Two of them at first, spying, looking for anything interesing. Then they disseapeared and its six of them that returned. Like burglars they came closer to the complex of wooden buildings, thinking they had the effect of surprise, completely oblivious to what was really going on.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:21 am

"Lords and Ladies, all I have said is that I hope to prove myself to His Majesty, Prince Robert, by defeating these bandits, is that not correct?
Does that not prove that I care for the Franks? As for what I have to back my claims up, that is a willingness to put myself in danger in order to protect the citizenry of Chateau-Thierry.
My men, some of them born of the Empire, would also put themselves at risk for them, and they are doing so, as I speak."

"And to speak of the young prince Philip with a venomous tongue is most unbecoming of a Lord, don't we all think?
Lord Sigebert insults a young boy only because he is, as he has said, a month away, and he sees this innocent child as a opportune target.

Noble Lords and Ladies, Lord Sigebert says that I am poor?
Let it be known that my family is one of the most accomplished of all Europe, and has served diligently since the era of the Valentinians.
I would not throw away that reputation for a greed of Frankish gold.
No, I have even gone as far as to spend my own money, not Frankish money, not even a Imperial allowance to assist in building Chateau-Thierry, and feeding the populace thereof.

Such dedication to our duties, and to God, has led to a good life for us indeed, yes."
Bardas emphasised by gesturing to his crimson robes.

Yet again, people, Lord Sigebert insults me, and this time he speaks of my combat prowess?
Well, let it be known, In a land where all young Lords practice with the sword, the spear, the bow, and the hands,
I was no exception. His claims of my incompetence with the art of warfare are totally unfounded.

Though true, fair people of Auvergne, I may not carry myself as a brute, only interested in solving problems through violence, like some may prefer.

But, as we all know, Lords and Ladies, looks can be deceiving.
Just as I may look a scholarly man, I can fight just as the noble caballarii.
And just as some may look the noble warrior, they are truly, one who must resort to attacking a child."

The soldiers, meanwhile, would lie in wait, waiting for the badly-equipped bandits to funnel into the main farmhouse.

It was then that the soldiers came crashing out of their hideaways, one soldier running to the door, slamming it shut, and then hiding behind his shield, blocking the door.

The soldiers would surround the bandits, yelling at them to drop whatever weapons they had, and whichever man asserted himself as leader of the group would be prioritised for capture should things turn hostile.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Thu Mar 09, 2017 9:48 pm

At first, the bandits tried to flee. When it proved to be impossible, they all charged the door, trying to break it and push the soldier behind it. A fight ensued, other soldiers joined, one or two thiefs died in the confusion, maybe one escaped if the guards weren't careful or too occupied by the others but soon, what was left of the group of burglar was face first against the ground, captured.

The "leader" of the band was a small , almost a dwarf, smelly with croocked teeth, cross-eyed man. He was skinny, but a bit less than the others. Obviously, he took a better share than the other of the stolen meals. But not that much.

Kilometers south, Sigebert was not happy with the turn of event. The little talk of Barbas has been well received. Especially the fact he could pay for himself. Wealth was very well seen by the nobility of the Gauls, if only because it was the sign a leader could trully buy the fidelity of his subordinates. It wasn't good for him, but Sigebert didn't had much cards left to play so he decided to retreat...for now.

"We'll see, greek, if you trully have anything than your tongue to offer." He then leave, trying to appear calm and grave, when he was obviously fulminating and his steps a bit too quick. Some of the more powerful, or far away, lords laugthed a bit when seeing this. The other seemed grave. It was a declaration of war and war was bad for buisness.

"Who do you think the Duke...pardon me, the King, will support ?" whispered one man to another.

"I don't know, this Barbas have the Emperor behind him, but Sigebert was one of the first to join him. Old loyalties are hard to replace."

"Eh. The count of Meaux is not exactly what you'd call a loyal men but true that, it would send some strange signals if he alienate him."

And so the chatters returned and the day slowly passed away, then the next one... until the week was done and it was time for everyone to return to their realms. The Franks to the north and the Seine, The Burgundians -or "Eastern Frank" as the Auvergnats liked to call them, to the east and the Saone, and the Goths to the South and the Middle Sea. Each obtained a little something of the discussions and negociations that took place and now were in peace, knowing they had the support of their Kings, and other importants factions, for at least the following year. All except of course the lords of Francia, who returned home with dark thoughts about the conflicts that the Bright Halls revealed.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Fri Mar 10, 2017 5:28 am

Bardas made sure to wrap up any unfinished business in Clermont before he he would begin setting off towards Chateau-Thierry.

The way Berenger spoke of these bandits near Chateau-Thierry made him uneasy, it would seem as though the men assaulting the Barony were, in some manner, in Sigebert's employ.
That was dire enough news, but, if they were, that could mean they signed a contract, perhaps that, or maybe some letters with Sigebert's signet on them.

Bardas knew he would have to find evidence before Sigebert dared to do something as foolish as levy an army.

The soldiers of Chateau-Thierry meanwhile, would let the one bandit that got away leave, this could prove a good deterrent if he spread the word, the bandits might think twice if there was a chance of ambush and death.

The dwarfish man, and the other men captured were brought to the castle which once held King Theuderic IV.
The captain of the guard took control of the situation, as it wasn't a job Esias was ready for, the captain commanded the Frank and Greek soldiers alike.

"Right," began the captain to his Frankish confidant.
"Tell him to tell us why he's attacking our farms, and who is leading them, else I'll pull out his teeth, and bury them back in his skull, only straight this time."

The captain would have told the bandit this himself, but he wasn't totally confident in his French enough for such a serious task, less he mess up a word, and ruin his intimidation.
The captain and the axonais guard all walked towards the area of the castle that held the bandit prisoners to begin the interrogation.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:57 pm

"Yesepa ! Yesepa ! L'aut hui, v'la qu'l'chef, Bertou, y vy un sieu' à ch'val. Desuite quoi y nous dit : "gars, nous partons !" alors nos, ben on estois parti. Moi on m'dit rien d'plus, moi j'fais juste l'boulot et c'marre !"

The guard would then look at his captain. " He says he doesn't know much. But the other day, their leader, "Bertou", My guess is that his real name is Bertrand, met a horseman a few days ago. Once the Horseman left, Bertrand sent his men on us."

"I don't know of this Bertou" continued the Frank "but it wouldn't be the first time bandits are paid to wages war by proxy. The man we call the Rogue Lord of Orleans is the son of such a bandit, who was under the then-King, Hugues Capet, payroll.  He took Orleans after his employer death and never stoped using the city as a base for his assaults. This Bertou might just be the same kind of man, but without any lands to call himself Lord."

Far away from Chateau-Thierry, Barbas left the walls of Clermont, leaving the Dark City and the Bright Halls behind him. Soon, he would pass a little river called the Tiretaine, but before he could, he and his men heard a horse coming at full speed. Turning their heads, they saw a beared horseman in a long grey coat coming. It was Theodoric of Soissons, a sword in his hand and a chainmail under his vest. "Don't go to the bridge ! Don't go to the bridge !" the lord shouted. "It's a trap ! They're waiting for you !"

But it seems Theodoric came too late. Masked men, hearing that their plans were discovered, jumped out of the crops in front of the bridge. The assassins were armed with long swords, daggers, clubs, some spears they threw at their targets, a few shields. All had gambisons and other kinds of padded armors. They were tall and strong, unlike simples bandits, and fought well, even without the effect of surprise. There was maybe seven of them and none came after them from the crops. Theodoric, at full galop, joined the melee and helped Barbas and his guards.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:02 pm

"Well ask him where Bertou is operating from, or the last known place he was operating from." The captain said.
"We'll send a scout to check it out, and if he's lying to us, well, I'm sure you get the idea..."

Bardas meanwhile, had been trying to fall back to Clermont, thinking that hopefully these mercenaries wouldn't want to fight the towns garrison, or an actual fair fight.

He could still clearly see the cathedral of the city, and he figured it wasn't too late to be spotted by the town.

That was the hope at least, desperately outnumbered, even with Theodoric's assistance, the group could ride their horses back towards Clermont, even under danger from the spears, set up a defensive position further back, and from there, slowly move back up the road towards the city.
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Grand Auvergne on Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:46 pm

Theodoric proved to be an excellent warrior. He managed to hold back two of the assassins alone, but even him had problem holding against the seven of them. His chainmail saved his life and only the pure trust between his horse and him saved the life of the mount.

He only leaved when he was sure Barbas was out of danger and then followed him. He arrived, visibly tired by the fight and looked behind him.

"Something tell me they won't follow us, nor that we will ever find who they were exactly. Either well payed brigands or free men taking a job on the side while waiting for the next campaign."

"Anyway, I don't think we can return to Clermont, I'm afraid. If I could come to your help, it's only because my peoples have seen some groups of citizen behave strangely. Sigebert left a certain numbers of "gifts" for you in Clermont, in case his agents failed. Beside, we lack proof to accuse him to the King. We should return as soon as possible to Francia, we can't let Sigebert free of his actions there."

"I'm not an Auvergnat, so I cannot guide you through their secrets ways through the mountains, but I do know a few roads that could help us to travel unnoticed. We should go now, time is against us I'm afraid."

In Chateau-Thierry, the dwarfish man refused to talk. That is, until correctly threatened or hurted. After a while, the confidant came to the captain to make his report.

"Bertou seems to favor the forests. He and his men have a few bases inside the savage lands to the north. Our guest was wiling to give us enough indications to find the one from which he came from. Something about following the road until a tree with two broken branchs facing the north, then there going straight for about an hundred feets... and so on.

Should I send the scouts ?"
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Re: The Lords of the Marne

Post by Hellas on Mon Mar 13, 2017 5:48 pm

"Very well, let's depart as soon as we can, I've been away from Chateau-Thierry for too long already.
Hopefully I can still enter the city without resorting to sneaking into my own Barony."

Bardas got atop his horse, and paused for a moment, before speaking again.

"It has to be said, thank you. I would likely have parished had you not come along, and that's just beginning to set it.
It's good to know a noble lord in these lands. I know Sigebert isn't a fair subject by which to judge every man here."  

"To think, this is all because I sent a letter to him asking if he'd be interested in building a road between our settlements. If he had just declined in a response, this all could have possibly been avoided. Well, I suppose there's probably more to it than just the road, what he sees as foreign influence in his County.. but... Well, let us set off, perhaps we can speak of it some more on the road."

In Chateau-Thierry, the captain thought for a moment before speaking.
"Well, these lands, you say they are savage, but surely some men may be safe?
Could we disguise one of the soldiers as a merchant of sorts? Or, ...perhaps a priest?
Surely even these savages would know the importance of a man with a stable access to supplies. Or, should we instead send in armed men to scout, and attempt to hide in the forests and the like?"
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