Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR) - Chapter 1: Robertus Augustus (1220-1224)

Published: 2017-02-28, edited: 1970-01-01
A role-play heavy, character-heavy AAR set in crusader-era Constantinople.

Part of the campaign:

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR)

A quick word from the author before we begin.

Thank you for clicking on this, and showing at least some modicum of interest this AAR. I am u/CargoShortsSensei, who quite a few of you might recognize from "A Destiny Made Manifest," a rather political-focused American AAR in Victoria 2. This is clearly a very different thing, but I hope to do (more or less) the same with this AAR: tell a story about the politics of a nation and get into the heads of the characters on a personal level. However, this will be the story of the House of Courtenay and the Latin Empire and will be much more character-focused than my previous AAR.

For those who don't know how I play these games: I do not min-max, I roleplay. I will obviously be expanding my empire when it makes sense, but I also try to get into the brains of the characters that I play. I will, more than anything else, try to make a compelling narrative. If that happens to coincide with the Latin Empire becoming the most powerful nation on Earth, great! If it involves my character being in a desperate fight for survival, even better.

That's not everyone's thing, of course, and that's rad. There are lots of hardcore, gameplay-focused CK2 AARs out there. Those are great, but this is not that at all. So if watching someone play this game slowly as all hell drives you nuts, this isn't the story for you.

I'll be writing this from the first-person perspective of the head of the House of Courtenay. When I wish to add metacommentary, I will signal that I'm doing so by surrounding my sentences with brackets [such as this]. Also, I'll be using names that history remembers these people and places by, but at the same time making them fit in with the historical times; the actual title of the Latin Empire was the "Empire of Romania," and that is what it'll be referred to in the narrative.

I'm using nearly all of the portrait packs, and I have *some* of the unit packs, but not all. I have all the major DLCs. I am using the Historical Immersion Project mod, which is a set of tweaks to the vanilla game that mostly flesh it out more, with a few added mechanics here and there. Oh, and this is the 1220 starting date.

Let us begin.
As I sit in the Palace of Bucoleon, the sound of chatter from the streets of the grand old city of Constantinople fades away. I overlook the Bosphorus in such a position that my ancestors could only dream of; as Emperor of the Romans.

And yet, these people are not my people, are nor are they Romans. They are Greeks, with their Patriarch in the Hagia Sophia and the language of their ancestors on their tongues. I am French, born and raised in Namur, and I regard the Pope above all else. I am a foreigner in these lands; I am an occupier.

I am Robert of Courtenay, Emperor of Romania.
The crusade that destroyed the Eastern Roman Empire in 1204 put in its place the "Imperium Romaniae," outlined in the "Partitio terrarum imperii Romaniae." Baldwin of Flanders was given the crown, given a set of vassals he barely held sovereignty over, and given Constantinople.

My father, Emperor Peter, died four years ago. My lovely mother served as regent until August... just six months ago. I had expected my older brother, Philip, to take the crown, but he declined, content to just hold Namur. I rushed to Rome as soon as I could, where Pope Honorius III declared me "Emperor of Constantinople" on Christmas day. Just a week ago, I arrived here. The city of Constantine. A city in which I am no more welcome than I would be in Baghdad.

As such, I hold a crown so worthless that my brother decided that being the Marquess of Namur was a better fate.
I hope that I am sufficient enough to hold this crown and possibly make some use of it. My educator, Emelisse, tutored me in matters of diplomacy; I have always been better than most at making people like me. Hopefully, this will be of some use as I attempt to establish myself in this foreign land.

As a result of my education, however, I know almost nothing of war. Indeed, I find the notion of crossing swords with someone even a bit more capable than me to be terrifying. As such, I will focus my free time on the study of war. I will read dusty tomes, spar with servants, whatever it may take.

While the love of God burns brightly within in me, I will be the first to admit that I am no saint. My appetite's reputation precedes me; my many brothers and sisters often made fun of me for it in the court of Namur. In addition to this, I engaged in several sexual trysts in my time in Namur, but those days are behind me now. An emperor, after all, needs an empress.
For my vassals to respect me, I need to prove to them that I am strong and capable. I prayed that a winnable war would fall into my lap.
On the topic of my vassals: My empire is so decentralized that most of them pay bare-minimum lip service to Constantinople. When I arrived in this great city, I summoned my vassals to me so that I could meet them one at a time.

A man of about my age approaches me, swaggering a bit. "Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Prince of Achaea," he says, an easy smile on his face. "An honor to serve you, my emperor."

My uncle and closest advisor, Robert [who I shall call "Count Strymon" from here forward to avoid confusion with *our* Robert], takes me aside soon after our meeting. Having spent years in this empire, he has quite a few connections.

"The peasants in Peloponnese seem to like him quite a lot, despite high taxes. While he is not the most pious man in Greece, he is supposedly refreshingly honest. He could make an excellent ally, given his power. And, of course, his family hails from Champagne. The French must stick together in this far-flung corner of the world."
The next man to approach me is an older man, a bit shorter in stature, and with a much friendlier smile than that of Geoffrey. "I am Duke Otto de la Roche, of Athens. A pleasure to serve you, your imperial majesty."

"My sources tell me," hisses Count Strymon, "that Otto is a kind man to his courtiers. However, they also say that he is capable of truly terrible acts of treachery. But what more else should one expect from a Burgundian? Regardless, I do not believe him to be any threat to your rule; he is content to sit in Athens and rule his little fief."
The next to seek me out is an older Italian man whose girth rivals my own. "I am Duke Marco of the Archipelago," he says in Venetian, which I only understand small bits of. "I hope that we will be close as kin."

"He's related to the old Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo," warns my uncle. "He is your vassal, but I worry about his loyalties. Still, he is by all accounts a just man. He scaled the walls of this very city a decade and a half ago. Despite his tongue, he will be important to keep at your side."
An old man comes to meet with me, whom my uncle embraces, much to my surprise. "This is Count Conon of Adrianople," he explained. "While you were on the way from France, he served as regent."

"An honor to be of service to your imperial majesty," says the old man with a bow.

I soon realize from the general chatter of the court that Count Conon is a living legend. He fought in the Third Crusade as well as the Fourth, he was a renowned poet and rhetorician, and he was humble to the point of self-deprecation. If all my vassals were as benevolent as Conon, I would reconquer the Empire of Rome to its fullest extent within a decade.

I dug up some of his poetry and was astounded by his sick bars.

"Up early in the morning trappin'
You can get 'em how you askin'
How many chickens? You can get 'em whichever way
N*gga, trap turned Zaxby's."

[Did you expect me to reference a Migos song in this AAR, and by proxy stake that Takeoff is a great poet and rhetorician? Because I didn't think I was going to do this either, but here we are.]
A man with a pointed red beard walks up to me, looking noticeably timid. "Count Narjot of the House of Toucy, my liege," he says. "It is an honor to serve."

My uncle tells me that Narjot is a bookish man who does not much care for social graces. Still, by all accounts, he was a virtuous man, and he held an important county with Thrace.
Finally, a young boy approaches me, perhaps 14 at the most. Despite this, he regards himself with pride and perfect posture. "I am Demetrius of Montferrat, King of Thessalonica," he says theatrically. "I am glad you have finally arrived, my emperor."

"He is a temperamental young lad," cautioned my uncle. "He's powerful, and he knows he is powerful. He has been king since he was barely able to walk. You need to keep an eye on him; he is Italian, and my friends in Thessalonica tell me he is prone to temper tantrums."

[I somehow forgot to take a screenshot of Demetrius, despite the fact that he's massively important. That painting up there is of his father, Boniface of Montferrat.]
[I went back in and took a screenshot of Grown Demetrius just as I'm editing this chapter. So here is the man he will become. He really sucks and I don't like him, not one bit.]
With all my vassals gathered, I announce some changes to my administration that I had been planning for some time. After consulting with my uncle and Count Conon, I decided how I might best keep my empire under me. While my mother was lovely and benevolent, her administration seems to me to have been inefficient.

"To my valorous uncle, I gave the lands of the Duchy of Strymon. This branch of the House of Courtenay shall govern Strymon in perpetuity."
"In reward for his outstanding service both to the Empire of Romania and to God, Count Conon shall be given the County of Philippopolis to govern in my stead."
"To Duke Marco Sanudo of the Archipelago, I shall return to him his rightful lands as laid out in the treaty that established this grand empire."
I enjoy a grand lunch with my vassals. Today, with the stroke of a pen, I signed away more than half of my lands. Whatever it takes to keep the peace, I suppose.
After our meal, I award the various honorary titles of the court to my eligible vassals. While King Demetrius may sulk that he was left out, he is but a child; I shall grant him a position in due time.
In addition to this, I officially appoint my commanders. With Count Strymon in my ear, I select the men that are most capable as opposed to the men that are most noble; the commanders of my armies are mostly mayors of my cities, with the notable exceptions of my uncle and Prince Geoffrey.
Once I am done with all of that nonsense, I name my privy council. Prince Geoffrey, the skilled diplomat that he is, shall serve as my chancellor. My uncle, Count Strymon, is gifted in the arts of war, and so he shall be my constable. Duke Otto's reputation with money precedes him, so he is made my seneschal. While I do not exactly trust Count Leonardo of Chios, he seems to be adept enough with cloak and dagger, so he shall serve as my spymaster. Bishop Adrian of Chalcedon is to be my court chaplain.

[I forgot to show you Count Leonardo as well, but he's kind of irrelevant. He's cynical, slothful, and paranoid.]
On the topic of bishops: the Patriarch of the Greek church, Manuel, still holds the Hagia Sophia and a few surrounding neighborhoods. He refuses to acknowledge my rule but is hardly powerful enough to stop me. Still, with the city I rule from largely answering to his authority, taking action against him would be unwise.
As dinner comes and passes, I meet with my privy council for the first time. Prince Geoffrey, as chancellor, takes the time to outline the status of our neighbors.

"To the west, that scoundrel Greek, Theodore Komnenos Doukas, controls Epirus and Thessaly," he explains. "The man claims to the be the true basileus of the Eastern Roman Empire. We will ensure that this will not happen."
"To the east lies the other pretender, Theodore Laskaris. He rules from Nicaea, and poses a much more direct threat to us."

"Why is that?"

"He has the better claim and the bigger army," explains Geoffrey. "They do, however, serve a great purpose to us. They are a bulwark to the east; should the Muslim hordes try to overrun this holy city, they would have to fight this pretender emperor first."
"To the north is John Asen II, who keeps a leash on the barbarian hordes of Bulgaria. Your father and the emperors before him skirmished relentless with the Bulgarian Empire, and it earned them nothing. In my estimation, it would be best to secure an alliance of some sort with them," counseled Geoffrey.
As the topic of marriage is brought up, my advisers suggest sending a proposal to Queen Isabella of Cilicia, which would ensure that the lands of the Armenians would fall under the domain of my children. Both Count Strymon and Prince Geoffrey shoot the idea down, however, believing her regent to be too smart to sign away the kingdom to a foreigner Catholic.

In truth, I was greatly relieved at this. The idea of being betrothed to a 4-year-old girl filled me with nothing but unease.
Geoffrey thumbs through a large tome (I still don't exactly understand what it was), and mutters to himself as he reads. "Princess Marie of the Holy Roman Empire is visiting family in Naples," he suggests. "It would not be difficult for me to contact her and invite her to court. She would prove a worthy bride for the Emperor of Rome."

"What do you know of her?" I ask.

"By all reports, she is virtuous, if a bit shy. She would make a fine wife."

A German? I never would've foreseen myself marrying one, especially not a Hohenstaufen. After a few moments of consideration, I give Geoffrey the go-ahead.
Weeks pass. I receive word from Mary that she would be delighted to visit the city of Constantine. She would arrive in just a day or two; I am more than a little anxious.

While I am on a peaceful stroll along the shore of the Bosphorus, a now familiar voice calls out to me.

"My emperor," says Prince Geoffrey, with a bow. My personal retinue of guards was supposed to ensure that no one bothers me, but I guess exceptions had to be made for such a powerful man.

"What is it, Prince Geoffrey?"

"As you know, I am your loyal servant," he says with a charming smile. "However, Duke Otto... something about him worries me. He is treacherous, and I frequently catch him lying about the pettiest of things. I would offer you this: let him serve me directly, rather than you. That way, I can keep a closer eye on him. And I'll be frank, my liege - it would benefit me as well as you."

I could hear my uncle in my ear - "Keep your servants weak and divided, so they may not be able to rip your empire out from under you."

"I am extraordinarily grateful for your vigilance," I say, "I will keep a close eye on Duke Otto as well. I would need more substantial evidence of his untrustworthiness before I might act, though. I'm sure you understand. My subjects mustn't see me as arbitrary; I do not want the Italians to betray me to Venice."

His smile fades for a millisecond. I wonder if he can hear my breath hitch as I wait to hear his response.

"I understand completely," he says, a smile returning. "I merely wanted to bring it to your attention. Have a good afternoon, my emperor."
Later that very day, Duke Marco finds me enjoying a book about the military exploits of Scipio Africanus, which I struggle through with my imperfect Latin.

"My emperor, Leonardo of Chios worries me," he says flatly. "The Anatolian lands you granted me are lovely, and I am honored by your generosity, but I have just one smaller request for you."

While he had addressed me in decent French, I decided to flatter him and speak in Venetian. "What might that be?"

"Leonardo is treacherous. We are countrymen, you see; I know firsthand how dangerous a man of Venice can be when power is given to him. We are naturally stubborn; we do not easily bow to foreigners. So I would ask for him to serve me directly, so he does not consider disobeying you."

I set down my book, and rise to my feet to address Marcus on a direct level. "Marco, I trust you a great deal. I trust you more than I trust my French vassals, simply because we are so different but so similar. We French argue amongst each other so often that it drive me mad. I trust you, Marcus, but I cannot act arbitrarily."

"I understand, my emperor. I hope I have not offended you."
Marie arrives in Constantinople on February 13th. I greet her at the harbor and show her around the city. We get to talking (in French); Marie mentions that her mother was once the empress here, so she always found herself drawn to it. I had not known that she was half-Greek; what an even greater match! We arrive at the palace, and I officially propose. "Would you like to be empress of this great city?"

She looks overwhelmed, but she quickly nods yes. She says that she'll need to write back to Germany to secure official permission, but that she's happy to stay here in my court until that came back.

While we are barely more than acquaintances, I hope it may blossom into more. She was delightful, if a bit shy.

Her eyes, as blue as the sky, have already entranced me.

[That is a depiction of Beatrice von Hohenstaufen, who is the sister of Marie. I couldn't find an image of Marie to save my life.]
A week later, King Demetrius finds me running through economic matters with Duke Otto. I excuse the Duke of Athens to speak to my temperamental young subject.

"You do not know Duke Marco as I do," Demetrius says in perfect and flowing Latin. "Anyone in Italy will tell you that a Venetian cannot be trusted further than one can spit. We of Montferrat are honorable, and I aim to be your servant. I'm giving you a generous offer; should he serve me directly, I could keep him in line."

My mind moves a mile a minute. I had never expected to weave such a web of lies and deceit in the city of emperors, but here I am. "King Demetrius, you have been master of Thessalonica since you were two years old," I say, a bit cautiously. "I know you're a much wiser man than your age suggests, but the fact is that you're still a minor in the laws of Justinian. We will have to review this when you officially ascend to manhood."

Demetrius certainly did not look happy, but he accepted my answer.
While we wait for an official word to arrive from the Holy Roman Emperor, I excitedly plan my wedding with Duke Otto. "It will be an expensive affair," he warns. "We are not exactly a wealthy realm as it is."

"We'll bump up taxes temporarily, then."

I'm no fool, but if I am to be a true Roman Emperor, I need to display my opulence when I can. People respect and fear it.
On March 5th, 1220, Marie and I are married in the chapel of the Palace of Bucoleon. My court chaplain, Bishop Adrien of Chalcedon, performs a lovely ceremony in Latin. While Marie and I are still scarcely more than acquaintances, we have become bonded by the spirit of Rome.

It is my intention for my son, however, to be married in the Hagia Sophia, with the ceremonies performed by the Bishop of Constantinople. The days of the Greek patriarch are numbered.
After the wedding, most of my vassals travel back to their lands. Prince Geoffrey, despite serving in my privy council, asks to return to the Peloponnese to ensure his court was running smoothly. Of course, I accept the request.
Before long, it becomes apparent to me why Geoffrey left. A letter arrives in Constantinople on March 29th - Geoffrey had raised his levies and intended to Athens by force of arms.

Duke Otto pleads with me to intervene, but I tell him that the laws of the empire forbid me from doing so. He storms off, vacating his seat on my privy council.

This is an utter disaster. I had hoped that Prince Geoffrey would be a good and trustworthy man. That does not seem to be the case.
I run through the laws once more, hoping to find a loophole. Alas, I find none.

[I think it's interesting that the Latin Empire doesn't count as a crusader state. I mean, sure, its capital is technically European, but c'mon. This was a crusader state.
Duke Marco, upon hearing of Geoffrey's actions and learning of Duke Otto's absence, writes me a letter asking me to place him on the council. I write him back as soon as I can, imploring him to be patient, and asking for him to wait and see the result from Athens.
The numbers heavily favor Prince Geoffrey. It seems as though Duke Otto's cause is lost.
As if things could not get any worse! The elder Count Conon passes away, a death that saddens the court.
His lands are divided. Adrianople is given to his first son, Conon the Younger, while the younger Baldwin receives Philippopolis.

They both write letters to me, ensuring their loyalty to the Empire of Romania. We shall see.
As summer begins in earnest, more news reaches my ears. Duke Marco, worried about the power of Prince Geoffrey, raises troops for an invasion of Chios.

Count Leonardo, rather than plead for my intervention, quits my council on the spot to defend his land.

My first few months have been an unmitigated disaster, and little can console me.
King Demetrius declares his intention to subjugate Count Narjot. Truly, I am a man forgotten by God.
All around me, my empire is in civil war, and I am as impotent as a eunuch to do anything about it.
In order to placate Marco Sanudo, I agree to name him as an official advisor to the crown. Should all go well, he will stay loyal to me.
The Archipelago and Chios clash on the Troad. While Count Leonardo puts up an impressive fight, I know it will not be enough.
As 1221 is upon my land, I begin to dream of ways to assert my control. Declaring war on one of the Greek remnant states might boost my prestige, but it would also empower King Demetrius. I consider my options.
A supposed financial prodigy petitions me to earn a spot on the privy council as my steward. He is lowborn, however, and not worth my time. If the poor man understood imperial politics, he would know better than to bring such a foolish proposal before me.
Several distinct groups emerge amongst my vassals. Prince Geoffrey, with the backing of my uncle, rules the most powerful. This so-called "Saint Matthew's Faction" is concerned with matters of money. Given my relationship with my uncle, I believe it to be powerful but harmless.

Saint Michael's Faction is somewhat smaller and led by Duke Marco. Apparently, I overestimated Marco's willingness to loyalty, as the purpose of his little band appears to be greater freedom for my vassals.
Feeling a bit worried about my power (given the large number of vassal armies across my empire), I order the expansion of barracks in Constantinople.
Geoffrey leaves his army in Greece and comes to my city, acting as though he *isn't* stomping all over my direct order to him. When he arrives, he greets me like kin and tells me that he met a lovely young lowborn woman while he stayed here - Theochariste - and that he's interested in her hand in marriage, political considerations be damned.

Marie protests initially, as Theochariste had been her favorite handmaiden, but the young Greek woman is ecstatic to find that Geoffrey desired her. I consent, not wanting to upset the prince, and the two depart back to the Peloponnese to be wed.
Through Marie, I learn that an Anti-Pope has been set up by Emperor Freidrich. Given my precarious position on the very edge of the Catholic world, I do not side either way in the dispute.
I retire to bed one late summer night to find Marie sitting at my personal desk, cup in her hands, gazing listlessly at the wall. I wonder what she finds so fascinating about it.

"My dear? Will you come to bed?" I ask in her native German.

She doesn't turn, but she raises her cup to her lips. I had never once seen her drink wine, so I assumed it was water. I suppose once can never be sure. "I slept too much today," she murmurs. "And yet, I can hardly ever sleep. Isn't that strange?"

I grab another chair and bring it up so I might sit next to her. She visibly flinches and sighs, finding my eyes. They're red.

"What's wrong, Marie?" I ask.

She averts her gaze. "I don't know," she admits. "I'm in the city of Constantine... I always wanted to be here. I've always wanted to be this city's empress. And yet... I'm not... I'm not happy."

"Is it something I have done?" I ask.

She laughs humorlessly and turns to me a bit, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes. Her shoulders are hunched together, as though she was trying to occupy as little space as possible. "No, my lord. You have been nothing but kind. It's not something you can fix."

I place my hand on her shoulder as silence takes us for some time, interrupted only by the distant sounds of the Bosphorus and the city. It feels as though the earth is moving beneath us, though slowly enough that I can hardly sense it. I know she does too.
After a brief few skirmishes, Count Narjot bends the knee to King Demetrius.
I add Count Baldwin to my council as an advisor, hoping to keep the Bulgarian border strong.
Unexpected news reaches my court on November 18th. The King of France approaches! As King Phillip II has marriage ties to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he leads an army to the Holy Land to defend it against the Muslims. Wishing to expand my reach diplomatically, I send my messengers to meet with the king and invite him to stay a day at my court.
King Phillip sends a note back.

Yo bud I got shit to do, I don't talk to irrelevant motherfuckers anyway

-Philly C

I'm more than a little insulted by the entire affair.
It so happens that an outbreak of smallpox is ravaging the Anatolian coast. It would be a real shame if that jerk of a king caught the disease, wouldn't it?
As King Demetrius comes of age, he urges me once more to give him a spot on the privy council. Unwilling to part with any of my other councilors, I assign him the same seat I once gave Count Leonardo - spymaster. Despite all of Demetrius's pride, he is more than under-qualified for the position.
Demetrius also grows closer Geoffrey, and my uncle confirms that he has sided with Saint Matthew. I should only hope that my vassals will stay loyal to me over Prince Geoffrey.
As Duke Marco has failed to defeat Leonardo in full thus far, King Demetrius declares his intention to subjugate the islands himself. However, given the superior position of Marco, it seems unlikely that this will come to pass.
Just about two years into my reign, I find Marie engrossed with the hunting birds that my retinue and I use while hunting in the countryside of Thrace.

"I just absolutely need one for myself," she says. I haven't seen her smile so broadly in over a year. "They're perfect and beautiful creatures of God."

I immediately agree to buy her a falcon. Anything to have my empress happy again.
After asking my permission first, my uncle officially adopts the title Duke Robert of Strymon to elevate his standing in my empire. Hopefully, his power bordering King Demetrius will keep the Lombard in line.
Surrounded by vassals undermining my authority, I have a major crisis of conscious in the summer of 1222. I consider for a brief time the option of taking the law into my hands and interceding in Prince Geoffrey's war against Duke Otto, but I decide instead that justice should come first. Geoffrey might dodge proper adherence to the law, but he will certainly pay for his treachery in the afterlife.
As Count Leonardo finds himself in a hopeless war, he befriends a Greek priest, and after a few months publicly declares his conversion to the Greek Orthodox Church.

As soon as I hear of this, I write him a letter, openly threatening him for his disobedience to the Pope and to *me.*
Leonardo writes back to me, ensuring me that he would reconvert if it pleased me.

Suddenly, I am reminded of what King Demetrius once said to me: "Never trust a Venetian."
Emboldened by this, a minor baron in Anatolia announces his conversion. I send a letter to this man as well, but he informs me rather rudely that he intends to follow the Patriarch of Constantinople from now on.
As I continue my study of war, I decide to focus on rough terrain. Greece is not a pasture; it is a rugged and hardy place. In order to thrive here, my armies must prepare for the ground we will fight upon.
After holding out a few more months, Count Leonardo finally surrenders to Marco Sanudo. Peace takes the Aegean.
A small outbreak of smallpox in Nicaea spreads to Nicomedia. Fearing its spread to my city, I order my men to make preparations for seclusion.
Another one of my minor French vassals briefly converts before I threaten him. It appears as though converting to Orthodoxy is the newest fad, along with dabbing and flipping water bottles.
After a three-year long fight, Prince Geoffrey's brutal campaign in Attica comes to an end. Duke Otto agrees to vassalage under Geoffrey.

The balance of power in my realm begins to tip further and further in the direction of Villehardouin.
Duke Otto, returning to the council along with Prince Geoffrey (there were a few awkward meetings for a couple of weeks), is clearly stressed with his duties as my steward. However, with smallpox ripping a bloody swath across Nicomedia, something must be done. I decide that my Duke of Athens could use a vacation, so I send him to deal with the problem.
Marie lays in bed one night, silently, as I join her. While she had certainly improved from her darkest days those years ago, she still struggles. But she found herself more willing to talk to me in recent months

As I undress and slip into my nightwear, she's laughing at me. "What are you looking at?" I ask.

"Nothing," she says with a crooked smile.

I join her under the covers and hold her close. I drink in her smell; I listen to her heartbeat.

"I'm pregnant," she says, after nearly a minute of silence.

I won't lie, a brief flutter of worry made itself known in my gut beforeĀ I feel pure joy, and I find myself laughing as I hold her close. She begins to laugh too.

We lay there laughing for what seems like hours until I find tears streaming down my face. I hug her tightly.
Another minor French vassal converts to the Greek church. It's a worrying situation, that much is certain.
As the new year begins, I feel as though I've ruled long enough that I can get away with a minor change to the laws. I propose a raise in taxes on burghers in exchange for a far-reduced level of military obligation. My council instantly approves the change, as they would stand to profit as well.

The waters have been tested. This small victory gave me hope that I might further project my power internally.
As King Demetrius was now an official adult, he planned for an opulent coronation in beautiful Chalcidice, where his palace was located. He sent invitations to most of the vassals of the realm (a notable exception being Duke Marco), as well as an invitation to me.

Being Emperor of Romania, of course, I shall attend!
News trickles down to us that the King of Denmark has granted a small holding in Estonia to the Teutonic Order, a Germanic order of knights. Hopefully, they will continue to pursue the Northern Crusade and end the scourge of paganism.
Marie and I travel to the gorgeous Chalcidice to oversee the coronation of Demetrius. Prince Geoffrey and I view the proceedings from a raised platform.

"I wonder what sort of ruler the lad shall make," Geoffrey wondered aloud. "He seems harmless enough, but one can never so sure."

"Every vassal is a snake, Prince Geoffrey," I say tersely. "The hard part is figuring out which snakes have fangs and which do not."
We return to his castle overlooking the water and the festivities begin!
During the festivities, a kinsman to Demetrius, Guglielmo, rises to his feet and declares that he has a poem to read in the King of Thessalonica's honor.

It is the worst poetry I have ever heard.

"Folding clothes
Watching Netflix
Catching up on our shows
Eating breakfast
Raisin Bran in my bowl
With bananas and some almond milk
I never thought I'd see the day
I'm drinking almond milk
(You soft!)"

It is utterly embarrassing. While someone at the party argues that Guglielmo went double platinum with no features, he is roundly ignored.

[Did you expect me to roast J Cole in this AAR? You should've. He's fucking trash.]
Word reaches me that Count Baldwin of Philippopolis has embraced the old and vile sect of Gnostic Christianity known as Bogomilism and he refuses to reconvert. I immediately boot him from my privy council.
His brother, Conon the Younger, is given the seat instead.
King Demetrius officially ascends his throne. While his power could be far more than that of Geoffrey, I predict that the only way to keep my three biggest vassals from turning on me is to play them off of each other. While Demetrius, Geoffrey, and Marco all serve on my council, there is a level of tension between them. Keeping these men squabbling is going to be necessary for my security.
I practice battlefield tactics with my uncle using small wooden figurines. I'm quite taken with battlefield strategy, finding it fascinating.

A very pregnant Marie enters the room and covers her mouth to stifle a laugh. "Are you playing with toys, my lords?"

The gruff Duke Strymon grumbles that they're not *toys*, they're *figurines*."
On June 8th, 1224, Marie goes into labor. I wait anxiously at her side as physicians help her through her pains. She wails and wails, certainly enduring pain that I cannot imagine.

And yet, she stops. A physician holds up a baby, covered in Marie's waters. "It's a boy," the doctor announces.

A rush of excitement rushes over me. A boy. A boy!
Marie and I agree to name the small lad "Phillip." I've never cared about a thing in this world more than I have him.

This will be his empire one day. I will deliver it to him as best as I can.
Thanks for reading Chapter 1! I'll be working on this when possible, so I might not be uploading all that consistently. I'll do the best I can, though.

Also, if you have any suggestions, please toss them in the Reddit comments.

Next chapter:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR) - Chapter 2: Obedience (1224-1229)

Images: 59, author: CargoShortsSensei, published: 2017-03-03, edited: 1970-01-01

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Game: Hearts of Iron III

Die Kaiserzeit : Chapter 1, A Thousand Year Reich

Images: 48, author: Mattekillert, published: 2017-02-01, edited: 1970-01-01