New Russian Chronicles
Surviving monotaxocausofilia

The short-lived kingdom

Kosmas Dukas, king of Bulgaria, titles titles and count of Serdica!

I never wanted to be king. My brother was supposed to be. My father would annoy him for hours on end, forcing her to sit by him in the privy council, taking him on campaigns, forcing him ever harder and harder to study strategy, heraldics… anything that my father, that harsh taskmaster, deemed necessary “for a future king”. That didn’t even stop when my brother contracted that terrible illness as a child. All the concessions my father made was to send his tutors to his room. A fat lot of good that made, writhing in pain as he was.

As for me? So far I’ve coasted through life easily, easily even by the standards of the nobility. My father was content if I could swing a sword passably and didn’t make a mess when we had a guest. Other than that, all his attentions were centered in educating his favorite. I know that my brother would have given anything not to be the favorite. I have never been religious, and books are heavy and require effort… to accomplish what?

By the lord that the life of the court was easy and pleasant. I didn’t want to be king, I was content enough drinking and chasing after ladies. Though I must admit I was getting doubts about my life, and always wondered if I couldn’t do something more. And here I am, king. And I can’t shake this load from my shoulders any more than my brother could.
In one of those attacks of doubts I asked my father to give me a post, chancellor or something like that,  to make myself useful. But my father refused, said I wasn’t up to the actual chancellor. I was hurt and closed the matter.

Well… to be honest he always could, flee from thislife I mean, and so do I. The guards at the gate won’t stop me, I just have to walk out. But what would I do? I have no trade, I would have no money and… essentially I lack the courage to do something different.

Stupid asshole, my brother was… if only he hadn’t gotten himself killed by his own wife… but it’s not that I can blame her. He wasn’t as hateful as many suggest, but he did hit her when he was very frustrated, and the fact that she was infertile drove him (and our late father) crazy. She also had a hell of a character. I guess you shouldn’t push people to the limit, or, at one point, they simply snap.

My rule came as a short, sharp shock. I remember being in shock, and quite numb. When my chancellor brought me the good wishes and the offer to continue the traditional alliance from the emperor of Byzantium, I just nodded.
In those first months I relied very heavily on my advisors, God bless their wringing hands and the petyness amongst them.

I knew literally nothing about ruling, and their advice was very useful. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have ideas of my own, but I was sufficiently humbled (or shocked) to admit to myself that I knew less than my advisors, and so I listened and asked endless questions. After a while I started taking the initiative more. But I fear that history will treat me as a mediocre ruler. I can manage the everyday affairs of this kingdom, and spare time to get drunk. But I know I lack the initiative, the drive to do something great. I tend to think things are fine as they are.

That said, and even if I relied on them, it didn’t take me long to start ruffling my advisors’ feathers. The bastard son of the count of Karvuna knocked at my door and asked for a place in my court.
And I admit it, I bought his storabout being mistreated in court hook, line and sinker. I think the bands of roaming comedians lost quite a talent with him. But he soon revealed what he was, a disgusting mongrel who ate my food, harmed my courtisans (this I learnt later) and was short a beating. He had the gall to fill my head with disgusting stories about how it would be in my interests to kill his father and set him up as heir.
I would not stand for cold blooded murder. Yes, even then I knew many rules did that, but not me. I was having enough trouble with myself as it is. I didn’t want to make the weight of the crown even harder to bear.
He ended up exiling to another ruler. I hope the next gives he the beating I should have given him.

It was only later that the royal historian came up with that common explanation now, that I had changed the laws regarding bastards because I knew my wife was infertile. I didn’t know. It’s a fancy explanation, and some boys have probably been treated better thanks to that change. But I cannot claim the merit.

Then I annoyed my sister in law and Mistress of the Coin, Anna. She had kept much to herself after that regretful night when Mircea died by the knife, but she did protest when I proposed to send her son, and my nephew, Rad, as a fosterling in the court of Byzantium. I will be forever sorry, as I know how much pain she suffered, I loved the wee lad heartily myself. But he would benefit from having tutors as good as those of the Byzantine empire, and anyway he had to get away from the rarified atmosphere of the court in those days. Also, he was heir to the throne, and I certainly wanted him to be educated. But I was not going to resort to my father’s methods.

We were all a little touchy in those days. The court had witnessed murder, and the alleged murder walked among us freely. (What’s more, we depended on her, this realm hasn’t yet known a better Master of the Coin). My wife couldn’t conceive, and I was short on sleep… This load we impose on women is horrible, we expect fertility from them, and woe to them if they can’t manage. As if it depended on them, as if it wasn’t hard enough on them. I might have a short temper, but I’ve never bruised my wife other than with my words, sometimes. I was always kind to her. I have my defects, I drink and I eat, I guess I don’t attract her and I am probably not a very good king… but I could understand that she had been taken from her home and thrown into my arms, the arms of a stranger. But what am I saying? I have read too many knightly stories.

And in the meantime, the dogs of war were unleashed again. Or more to the point, I released them. Byzantion fought another of their countless war with the Turks, and asked for our help. The entire privy council egged me on and on to go to war. I didn’t see the point, but I ended up caving, and attacked one of the vassals of the sultan, and so he declared war.
I resolved to attack the small sheikdom of Abydos, a Seljuk enclave deep into Byzantion territory. I figured that I could mobilize faster than Byzation (whose troops were elsewhere), conquer a bit of territory and call it a war. And so I did.

The troops of Abydos were far away, fighting for the sultan. My own troops and me, we moved swiftly, and the plan worked like a charm, we besiegued the castle (and waged the entire war, actually) without a single loss, other than those men who found a pretty wench on the way, or drank fouled water, or liked a particular town…

The siege was very short. In all honesty, we didn’t have time to build the siege engines. The second day of the siege, the besieged asked for parley. I will never forget what I saw. At first I was outraged that they would send a woman (a WOMAN!) to meet me. I almost did something rash. It was only her eyes and her manner that stopped me. I fell completely silent because of the aura of command of a woman who addressed me in my own language. Her language and words left no room for doubt: There was no insult, as there was no Sheik. She was the Sheika, and she addressed me as an equal. I was dumbfounded, but I responded in kind. You just cannot understand how serene, how in command this middle aged woman was. That I would disrespect her was out of the question, as I would not disrespect another ruler during parley.

I know I was very critizised because of my decision, but what else could I do? Kill her? Drive her into the desert with a band of children and women, to be raped and killed, or die of starvation? No, to this day I stand by my decision, I offered her to be my vassal and to be the ruler of her county, if only she’d convert. I never cared much for religion, but I couldn’t do it otherwise, lest I upset my court too much. And I did so to preserve her life, and her dignity… for another couple of months. My only regret is that maybe I didn’t plead enough in front of the Byzantine emperor, that maybe I should have threatened him with war if he didn’t leave my vassal alone. A hopeless war, for sure, but who knows?
That is the biggest regret I have from that war, and from all the wars I’ve waged, although certainly not the only one. He hadn’t known the Sheika. And he didn’t show any mercy.

No, no, nothing’s wrong… just speck of dust in my eye, don’t worry, give me that kerchief.

Where was I? Ah, that war… that war taught me my first lesson in war, and perhaps the most valuable, to me, the dullest ever student of war.
That in the track of great armies there must follow lean years.

My advisors never warned me about it. Were they stupid? Couldn’t they see that keeping the men away from the fields would only make harvests go to rot? That we were going to lose many able hands? Idiots… I came back to a homeland that had noticeable more beggars and bandits than before.

But that was not, unfortunately, my only war. Years later, the Byzantine emperor asked me to declare war on our western neighbors of the kingdom of Croatia. And again, my advisors pushed me, and pressed me until I relented. They kept repeating that we could not offend Byzantion, that Croatia would fall readily and we would make easy gains. The bastards went as far as to remind me, in ominous nuances, that my own heir apparent was a guest of the emperor… idiots. If the boy had had time to write me a missive babbling incessantly about some girl or other that he had met at court, he obviously was being treated well. I wonder if he has realized that he’ll be king if I die without heirs… but no, he’s young and careless, and I’m still vigorous.

The war itself, though? It was a disaster. The Croatians were very well prepared in both numbers and technique of war. I realized very quickly that they were going to smash their way to Serdica, and there was nothing I could do about it, and Byzancion certainly wouldn’t help, they had managed to get themsleves entangles with the Turks again. I always wondered what was wrong with them.

It was then that I had what I believe is the only stroke of genius in my life. You see, while the Croatians crossed the difficult terrain between their kingdom and ours, I took a longer but easier route, flanked them and took one of their provinces, then I sent a message to the Croatian king. I don’t remember what I wrote, but the message was simple: “Either you agree to a white peace or we loot the province”. I didn’t want to loot that province more than my soldiers had done just by passing, but I was worried sick, I knew the Croatians would defeat us. The king was probably an intelligent and merciful man, we agreed, and I left his lands. He ended up gaining some handsome territories from Byzantion.

And me? I got something out of that war allright.
It still hurts, quite often actually, and it’s ugly. At least I can tell when the wheater is going to change, because it itches.

Can you please fetch me a cup of water? I haven’t been feeling well, and since this morning I have this heavy stone on my heart… I must be getting old.

Anyway, I should leave soon. I have to speak to my wife. No, don’t look at me like that, I don’t rage often or without motive. I have to tell her to keep appearences in court. I trust her, and I even like her, but she’s been getting drunk lately and flirting around the court. I sincerely trust her, but she has to keep appearences in court.
But it’s going to be a mess, I have known her long enough to know she is stubborn and I am not the most patient of men, it will probably turn into a fight.

I’ll get going, thanks for listening to me, you are a clever young man, and it felt good to share some of my burdens.
– “What’s going on here? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, WOMAN! You have poisoned him!! GUARDS!”
-“No sire, we have been here all the time, they were arguing, the king just lost consciousness all of a sudden.”
-“Then what are you waiting for, idiot!? Go bring the meister here! run! NOW!”
(click here)

The king is dead. LONG LIVE THE KING!


I have to break this very dramatic moment, with your permission and, I hope, forgiveness, to add a word or two about Aliens.

I mean, it’s an awesome action movie, it’s got all the elements to make it great (even if I hate facehuggers, they give me the creeps). It’s fun, the characters are great.
Things worth mentioning:
– Strong female characters HELL YEAH. My generation benefited from it all right. In Alien, Ripley is scared, but puts on a brave face. In Aliens, she’s less scared, and kicks all kinds of ass. By the third she’s kicking so much ass it’s scary, because she’s lost a big part of her humanity. By the fourth there’s no human at all, so she spends an entire movie kicking ass like a robot. That little progression is very cool I feel.

– Old computers LOL.

– The movie looks super well polished, specially the science fictiony bits. (Except computers)

– I don’t like all the gloryfing of the military and the “Hoo-ha, we are tough hombres”, but I don’t get a say.

– If you pay attention, ALL the quotes from the dropship pilot were copied WORD BY WORD then incorporated into Starcraft.

– Every single scene in the extended ultra special director’s cut is… not worthless, but it doesn’t add anything and it substracts from the suspense. For instance, the scenes when we learnt how the colony was lost. I don’t frigging care, it’s way cooler, as spectator, to be in the same state as the characters, to discover the derelict colony and not having a clue of what the hell had happened there, just as the characters.

– The team being locked in a room and having to survive….. best of zombie movies or what? 😀

Anyway I had fun.


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