New Russian Chronicles
Surviving monotaxocausofilia

Peace, reconstruction and murder

Finally, peace has come to the kingdom of Bulgaria. Nothing did the king want more than peace. But peace was elusive, since the king had to finish all those wars of aggressive and unjustified conquest. But now that no weak and easily conquered states remain within his reach, he can enjoy peace for his serfs.

All hail Ioannes Dukas, King of Bulgaria, prince of Tyrnovo, titles titles and count of Serdica!

But peace does not bring about the end of troubles. Insidiously, without any warning a Nervous Fever, the kind that had killed the Athenian leader Pericles and signalled the end of Athenian dominance over the Greek city states so many centuries ago reared its ugly head in Serdica. Not even the children of nobles were spared.

But the epidemic goes away within a year, without grave consecuences, other than making the heir to the throne, Mircea, sick. After his illness, though still an amiable person, he becomes much more retracted, sometimes being swept by fits of rage.

In the meantime, the kingdom builds. Commerce and travellers bring new techniques to the kingdom, and, under royal patronage, a school, dye works, a spinning mill, a windmill and a glass factory are built. Bulgaria builds, and dreams.

A big part of the merit for these constructions is due to Kera Vosivslavjechik, steward of the kingdom. She, undoubtedly, is a very capable woman, and her many investments and wise and honest managment of the kingdom’s coffers bring many riches. But she was not without fault. In many ocassions she earned money for the crown by lying to both the peasants and the burghers of the guilds. In one instance she convinced the local peasants that she was representing the city guilds, and that they refused to pay more than one copper grivna for a fotmal of pumpkins, 10% less of the usual agreed price. She then went to the city guilds and said that she could only sell them 3/4 of the agreed quantity, but for the same price under royal prerogative, claiming the peasants had heard of the love of the queen for pumpkin pie, and given her 1/4 of the harvest. She pocketed the difference and put it in the royal coffers.

This lasted for some months until a representative of the city guilds spoke with the heads of the local peasant community, and screamed to their faces until he lost his breath. Initial confusion, since the peasant didn’t know what he was talking about, gave way to anger. Two different angry mobs gathered in front of the royal palace asking for justice and the king, fearing a revolt, favored the peasants’ demands. As he said to a close advisor, if the peasants had revolted he would have had to kill a lot more people.

Some months later, during the summer, Demetrios of Byzantion sought an alliance with Bulgaria. The emperor was caught in yet another bloody war with the Seljuk dinasty, and the very future of the empire was on question, so it is no surprise that he wanted to secure his rear borders. Although no great artist, the king, after some hours penched over some blank parchements was able to draw a very convincing fist, with but the central finger extended.

He was about to send the parchement to Byzancion when his advisors caught wind of this and convinced him to be reasonable. Even if the Empire lost the war, they would still be strong enough to thoroughly transmit kinetic energy from the emperor’s leg onto Ioannes rear end. And so, an alliance was forged, to the piece of mind of both rulers.

Shortly after, the emperor asked for assistance in his wars against the Seljuks and their vassals. The declaration of war was more a simbolic gesture than a real threat. Both rulers knew that Bulgaria was too far away, and his troops too few to be of any real influence in this war. Since the declaration of war was of no consequence for Bulgaria, the King sent a very angry letter to the Seljuks.

This period was known as “The phony wars”.
It is noteworthy to mention that Ioannes vassal, the count of Mesembria, did take enthusiastic part in those wars, sending his large army to help the byzantines, and was rewarded with lands in Sinjar, near Mosul.

Amongst the more interesting events of the period was the vassalization of Dyrrachion. The dukedom had declared independence of Byzantion taking advantage of the war, but they knew full well they wouldn’t survive alone.

They were also aware that one of their counties was considered to be Bulgarian territory, and that Bulgaria didn’t demand an excessive scutage, as Byzantion did to pay for the war. And so, before Ioannes started coveting the weak dukedom, they asked Ioannes to be their liege. One more county of rightful Bulgarian lands comes to Bulgaria, Styrimon.

Meanwhile, trouble was brewing in the court. One morning, Mircea, heir to the throne, demanded to be given the post of Spymaster. Although he was a talented diplomat, when it came to intrigue he would be liable to mix his ass and his elbow. For respect or fear, though, no one in court had told him so.

No one, however, doubted why he asked for the position. It was to spite his wife, Anna. She was an extremely intelligent and skilled woman, who had served faithfully as Spymaster. But despite the admonishements of the Court’s Bishop to her and his father’s advice to him, they had never managed to get along well. The entire court pretended not to hear the screams that echoed the chambers of the palace at night, and would ignore the bruises in Anna’s face during the day.

Ioannes flatly told his son that we would in time become the kingdom’s Chancellor, but that he would never be Spymaster. Not used to not having his way, he fell into depression. Later on, his brother Kosmas, more competent than his brother but worse diplomat, asked to be made steward. This was, however, just a spell of seriousness from his life of carousing. The refusal didn’t affect him particularly, and soon he sobered up from his seriousness and got drunk again. The easy life of the second in the line of succession!

For years after that, life followed its natural course in court. The king would confer with his advisors in the morning, spend some hours acting as a judge and, once a month, he’d survey the buildings in construction. Nothing disturbed the peace of the kingdom until that fateful night.

One night, the court couldn’t ignore the screams of Anna anymore. One discussion that started like any other grew more and more violent, and the noise of thrown objects disturbed even the sleep of the king. That was the same night that some thieves entered into the castle, probably aided by someone amongst the service, and stole some chandeliers from the main hall, and a tapestry. This wouldn’t have had much relevance, if it wasn’t because, in the small hours of the night, a brief silence overtook the corridors, broken shortly after by Anna’s shrieks, calling for the guards.

The guards found Anna trembling near a corner, terrified and covered in much blood. One look at the situation gave them much to gossip later, but upon seeing the dead body lying on the floor, all the guards could think of was how deep in trouble they were.

The heir to the throne was dead.

The news greatly upset the court. Anna was put under arrest in the palace’s cells, and the king spent two days locked in his room. The servants, in lowered tones, whispered of him crying.

When he came out he was a changed man. His first order was to bring Anna to his presence and hold a fair trial. During the trial, the young woman explained how Mircea had exited the room where they were arguing, and came face to face with the thieves, who stabbed him and fled. She claimed that if blood covered her clothes it was because she had tried to assist the wounds of her unloved husband. She also said that, of the attack, she had only seen the fleeing lowlifes, and of the blade that had killed Mircea, nothing. No one was there to bear witness about that, since the thieves had been cut down by the palace guards. All depended on the decision of the king.

For more than 15 minutes, the bloodshot eyes of the king stared at Anna, while the court observed the heaviest and most complete of silence. Finally, in a croaking, dry voice, he absolved her daughter-in-law.

The king was never the same. He became curt in his answers and sparse in his speech, and old age seemed to have overtaken him suddenly. He never again addressed Anna, other than for matters of the kingdom. No more balls or celebrations were held in court, and all communication between courtiers seemed to be done in whispers. Whispers that, very often, commented on how the king had probably spared the murdering woman’s life, since she was so useful as advisor. Other voices spoke of the malchance of the dead heir. Yet other spoke of how the king had preferred his younger son Kosmas, and how Mircea had it coming for beating his wife. The undisputed first casualty of the murder, though, was truth.

The death of the king, with little surprise to everyone, came barely a year later. One morning he was found in his bed, his fists clenched and a bitter expression on his face, the expression that he had carried from that fateful day

The king is dead.

Long live the king!
Long live the king!


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