Hello everyone, I suppose I should just get this out of the way immediately: I have decided to restructure this story. Initially, I planned for act one to be the whole war in West Francia and the whole unification of England, twenty-five chapters, after that, I intended to have a ten chapter second act and a ten chapter third act, however, I never had super concrete ideas for those two acts. I have decided that act one will end with chapter fifteen - next chapter - Paris and London have been mentioned a lot in act one and it feels that act one should end with introducing Paris in the 12th century plot and London in the 8th century plot, act two and act three will both be five chapters each, the story will end where act one was supposed to end and the ideas I did have for the latter two acts will be woven into the final half of the story. This is the most natural ending with the story, both characters complete their respective journeys - sure there's stuff that happens in their lives after this, sure there's a few plot points that are dropped just because they can't be incorporated, but this will be better for ASC in the long run, the story doesn't need to be longer than Marchioness, the story needs to be as long as it does to put my characters through the journey I want to put them through, I can do that by chapter twenty-five.
I am not abandoning this story, I'm keeping what I planned and what I think is good and I'm cutting two arguably unnecessary acts - the new act two will begin with chapter sixteen and the new act three will begin with chapter twenty-one - I think this is better for the story. With all that being said, I'd love to see reviews, follows, favorites, or any other kind of feedback, even if it's constructive criticism. I honestly feel like I'm cutting out filler and I feel that the story after act one would've felt different, maybe one a day I can write a sequel continuing the story of the two Aethelthryth Queens, but I'm telling you that chapter twenty-five will feel like an ending, it will be what these acts were building up to. Now, I know that might be a turn off for some of you, but I hope that you'll still read through the end, for those of you who want that too, here is ASC chapter fourteen, the penultimate chapter of the new act one.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
The Rise of The English.
Spoils of War.
"Aethelthryth!" My husband rather unexpectedly greeted me with a hug when I returned from Wessex, I have ensured that my grandfather Wulfstan stepped aside and made my mother Petty Queen of Wessex - however, my mother was still here in Dover as she was my Chancellor, that meant that, in reality, I ruled all of Wessex, even if I officially only ruled over my new Duchy of Somerset - all of the realms within The Kingdom of The Anglo-Saxons would be Duchies and Archduchies eventually, however, Somerset was the first one to wear that name as Somerset is the first realm that I actually created. I was rather surprised by my husband's affection, especially given that I would rather think about politics or my lover, however, I let him hug me for a moment and I even hugged him back a little, meanwhile, Lady Godgifu, who was both my lover and my steward, patiently waited to shower me in both love and politics.
"Hello Offa, you seem happy." I greeted with a smile but a slight question to my expression, he knew that, despite traditional gender roles, I held the power in this relationship, very rarely did my husband show affection without me approving it - he may be a lot larger and a lot stronger than I am, but he knows that, when it comes to politics, I am infinitely more powerful than he can ever be, he knows that, now that I have Aethelthryth II who shall by heiress to my realm as well as his, I could lift the people of Northumbria into an all out revolt against their rulers altogether, replacing Offa's father with my young daughter, however, I have no intention of doing so, I will bring Northumbria in peacefully because I do not wish for a civil war in the north, however, I am still confidant in knowing that I could and, just this one, my own confidence is enough for me. Prince Offa shall become Petty King of Northumbria, in that position, he'll effectively be my vassal, then, I shall become Queen of The Anglo-Saxons and he shall become my vassal outright as the first and only Archduke of Northumbria, replaced by our eventual second eldest daughter. Aethelthryth shall inherit the lands I shall administer directly as crown lands, she does not need Northumbria, Wessex, or anything else.
"How could I not be? My beautiful and talented young wife is home once again, no doubt bringing tales of her wonderful success and unbelievable accomplishments, I am so utterly unworthy of you." Well, Offa certainly got the second part right, he wasn't worthy of me, Lady Godgifu on the other hand...now she's worthy of everything I can give her and then some, she's a catch, Prince Offa certainly is not, however, he clearly considers me a catch. I suppose that I should be flattered, I know that I'm having the wrong reaction - the person who I'm married to, the person who I promised myself to, is showing affection and all I can think of is politics and my adulterous and sinful affair with a beautifully twisted lesbian - however, I can't help myself, I don't feel anything for Prince Offa, not after finding Lady Godgifu anyway, however, based on his conduct here, I get the feeling that he is very much ready for that second oldest child I mentioned, that child who I am eager to include in my plans but also the same child who I don't wish to actually give birth to - having Aethelthryth II was enough for a lifetime as far as I'm concerned, I finally have a legitimate and undisputed heiress but now I still have to have children just so I can name one of them Duchess of Lancaster once I run out of sisters to award titles to. I suppose there's no reason why I couldn't, for instance, name Wulfwynn as Duchess of Cornwall and Duchess of Essex, however, I knew how ambitious and ruthless my family could be, I can't trust them to divide their land later on and having such powerful vassals in the long term can severely damage the authority of the Anglo-Saxon crown. If a mere Countess of Sussex could topple three Petty Kingdoms in southern England, the Duchess of two Anglo-Saxon Duchies could present a very real threat to my eventual Kingdom of The Anglo-Saxons, which is why I intend to cut apart the large Petty Kingdoms of England into smaller, more controllable Duchies and Archduchies and only award one realm to one member of my family, that, combined with the fact that only women can inherit in my system of enatic succession - meaning that my vassals won't be able to marry into each other's land - will keep my vassals weak enough that I can concentrate power in Dover.
I had some reservations about making Dover my capital, it was nowhere near as extravagant as I wanted my capital to be - to be honest, no city in England fulfilled my high standards, however, with a high population and with all of the resources of England at my disposal, I could turn a city of drab Anglo-Saxon architecture into a wonderful, planned, marvel of a capital, centered around a masterpiece of a palace stocked with representations of the greatness of antiquity, a palace that shall make this place in Dover look like a derelict barn. This shall be the greatest architectural marvel in all of England ever since the fall of The Roman Empire, perhaps I can even build a palace that wouldn't look out of place in Rome at the height of the Empire, at the height of civilization. I didn't know if Dover could provide that, additionally, Dover is literally on the edge of England, I don't need a centralized capital, I'll have vassals running over the vast majority of England, however, I do want a capital that is a major economic and population center with a convenient location - ideally, my capital will sit on a major river, Oxford, Reading, and London all sit on the River Thames for instance so perhaps one of those cities will serve me well as my capital, however, all three of those cities are within The Petty Kingdom of Mercia, the largest and most powerful state in England - it's dawning on me now that I'll have to conquer Mercia piece by piece and I'll have to start soon because I will no doubt have to sign a few treaties with Mercia.
"You flatter me Offa," I responded, somewhat awkwardly before getting out of his embrace and turning to Lady Godgifu, instantly shooting her a smile before wrapping my arms around her in a hug, Godgifu missed me, I missed her too, however, she's the needy one, she's definitely the needy one, maybe that's why she positioned her thigh between my legs, using our dresses to cover the motion - for the first time ever, I'm happy that both Godgifu and I were fully clothed because, if not for the fairly heavy fabric between us, she definitely could've made me moan "Lady Godgifu, it's...a pleasure to see you again! How is my favorite steward? I trust the realm is doing well? You and my mother didn't burn anything down, did you?"
"Well we started a few fires, we have to keep you on your toes after all, can't have you gone for too long." Godgifu smirked as she took my hand and we began walking into Dover Palace, I glanced covertly at my husband Prince Offa and I saw the hurt expression on his face. I don't think that Offa ever truly believed in the excuse I gave him about Godgifu and I dancing in the throne room, he assured himself that my lies were true, however, he was incompetent, not stupid, he saw how much more excited I was about seeing Godgifu than seeing him, even Offa can put two and two together. I was surprised at how quickly I gave up hiding it, once I told my family about my sexuality and once I realized that I effectively controlled the Catholic Church in England thanks to my arrangement with Archbishop Cerdic and the second arrangement which stipulated that Bishop Eorconberht will replace him, that meant that I had nothing to fear, I've gotten careless, I've done too much with Godgifu, and now, my husband knew, he doesn't know everything, but he's pieced together enough to confront me.
"Speaking of fires, I hope you understand what you're doing with my wife is sinful, Cornwall." My husband barked at my lover, not even having the decency to address her by name - the last time he and I discussed my relationship with Godgifu, it was in private, this time, he's not giving me that luxury, more importantly, he's making a scene in front of the court. I eyed my sister Cynethryth, Archbishop Cerdic, Eorconberht, several scribes, several minor clergymen, and several Baronesses, Ladies, and noblewomen of the realm - this was going to be a scandal regardless of what happened at this point, however, perhaps I could turn this into a scandal that would benefit me in the long run. I smirked and prepared my political face.
"And what are we doing, husband? Shall you tell the whole court that you've failed to please me? Shall you tell the whole court that the heir of Northumbria is such a sad excuse of a man that his own wife had to take on a mistress?" I smirked, making sure that I was loud enough that everyone in the room heard despite the fact that I was sure all of them were listening intently already. I felt more powerful than I did when confronting Osweald II here in Dover, I felt more powerful than when I killed two Petty Kings in rapid succession in Cornwall, and I felt more powerful than when I removed my own grandfather from the Wessexian throne, I was potentially burning down my future, I was confessing my sexuality in front of the whole court in no uncertain terms in the hope that I could turn this whole situation around and end up stronger than before, I was gambling on myself and I knew that the numbers were not on my side, however, I also knew that nobody at this court, nobody who knew me as well as the men and women here, would dare to bet against me, they've seen me do the impossible and they weren't going to take their chances that I was going to somehow fail at a second attempt.
"I shall tell the whole court that you are a sinner! I shall tell them that you are a homosexual!" He shouted, his pale face was almost as red as his hair from all this yelling and embarrassment, meanwhile, I was even paler than he was, but I didn't blush even once, my ivory skin wore on the usual freckles, my green eyes wore fiery passion rather than embarrassment, and my red hair was distinct as always, there was no blush to drown it out. I rolled my eyes, I was a bisexual but that didn't really matter at this point, the fact that everyone in this court is focused on is the fact that I'm having a lesbian affair with my lesbian steward, it didn't matter much at all if I was attracted to men as well.
"Then tell them!" I shouted in reply "Tell them and see if anyone will raise a finger to do anything about it!"
Offa and I immediately broke contact, both of us surveyed the crowd of onlookers - by this point, the yelling had drawn a much larger crowd, by now, I could see all of my sisters and, standing in front of my throne wearing her new crown was my mother, the Petty Queen of Wessex, she gave me the most sympathetic glance she could - I'm sure that she'll chastise me for risking the alliance with Northumbria later on, for now, her concern was with whether or not she'd be chastising me in my moment of greatness or my moment of great defeat. I glanced around and waited, I waited for Cerdic or any other Bishop to make their objection clearly, but they simply stared at the floor and made no move to object, I glanced over the noblewomen who discussed what was going on in hushed tones, however, I soon saw that Baroness Aebbe of Rochester stepped forward as their leader and made eye contact with me, nodding that I had the nobles on my side. I knew that my family supported me and I knew that no one else in this room would dare object when they realized they would be in the minority. I turned to my husband Offa with a smirk.
"I'm still your wife Offa and I'll offer you this - what do you want from me to make this work now that you know Godgifu is my mistress?" I extended an olive branch to the Prince of Northumbria, I still wanted the alliance and I still wanted him in my life, now I just had to hope that he'd take it.
"I want you three nights a week all to myself and I want to try for more children." he replied, all in all, that was quite reasonable and I'd still have more nights with Lady Godgifu than with him, additionally, that meant no more sneaking around and pretending that I fell asleep in our bed next to him only to then wake up in Godgifu's chambers after a long and passionate night, however, if I was the type of person to accept that without even negotiating, I would've gone running to old grandfather Wulfstan and begging Wessex to protect me from Kent rather than defeating Osweald on my own, I'd be a vassal rather than a conqueror, therefore, I pressed on, not because the offer was bad but because I knew that I could get a better one.
"We'll try once a week for daughters until I have enough female relatives for every Duchy in my Kingdom of The Anglo-Saxons." I countered, this way, my obligation to him ended once all of England had someone to rule it and, in the meantime, I'd get six nights with Godgifu.
"Two nights." He countered and I accepted, five nights a week with Godgifu was a blessing after publicly outing myself in front of the whole court here in England. Satisfied, Offa left the throne room, no doubt heading to our chambers to shake off the embarrassment of today's events, meanwhile, Godgifu and I climbed the steps to the throne.
"Queen Cynethryth of Wessex," I bowed before my mother and Godgifu did the same, sure, I was in charge, but my mother was now officially my equal and I was happy for her "How was your morning?"
"Oh not nearly as eventful as yours," My mother shook her head and chuckled, I did too, this was hardly how I pictured my return to Wessex, however, Godgifu and I didn't need to hide anymore, if anything, this made our relationship stronger, if anything, this strengthened my rule because I proved that my court and the bonds I forged will stand even the strongest tests. The peasants can be homophobic all they want, everyone important in Kent sided with me because they know that, bisexual or not, I've done the impossible and, even if they did try and use my sexuality as an excuse to overthrow me, even if they did manage to raise a force against me, they were still afraid that I'd be able to defeat that.
Feeling bold, I grabbed Godgifu's hand and sat down in my throne, motioning for her to sit down in the consort's throne, however, Godgifu felt bolder, she sat down in my lap and gave me a kiss in front of the whole court. The bishops averted their eyes and busied themselves, pretending they didn't see or hear anything - Cerdic would later explain to me that he and his clergy would keep my sexuality out of sight and out of mind as they couldn't come out as tolerant, that was more than enough for me, I knew I wasn't going to get more from the Church but what Cerdic and Eorconberht did for me today was more than enough - but the noblewomen approached us with eager smiles and questions - within a week it became fashionable in my realm for women to take mistresses, at first, it was Aebbe or Rochester and some other women who I already figured were somewhere on the sexuality spectrum, then came the women who were curious, and finally, even the heterosexual and pious women of the court would take "lovers" just for show, most of these noblewomen were married and many already had kids, however, they took to the practice all the same. This went better than I could've ever expected, I could now be open with Godgifu and the nobility were so supportive that they turned lesbianism into a facet of court life in Dover, regardless of whether or not the women in question even had feelings for their mistresses.
Norwegian ships clashed with the Danish navy as we attempted to cross the Oresund from Lund to Copenhagen, we had won The Siege of Lund and crossing the strait to Zealand was our prize, however, the Danes were intent on denying us our rightful prize. The Danish denial meant that, rather than focusing on getting back to shore, our ships were locked in combat, arrows, projectiles, and other missiles bounced back and forth from ship to ship as we attempted to maneuver around each other, grappling in our enemy ships and boarding each other, fighting on the decks and effectively turning this sea battle into a land battle. The Danish navy and the Norwegian navy both evolved from Viking vessels and that meant that their main role was rapid transport rather than naval combat, that is more of a Venetian specialty, however, given that both sides of this battle shared the same handicap, it seemed that The Battle of the Oresund would be decided by numbers rather than tactics. Judith of Cairo was an excellent general on land, however, that did not make her an expert in naval combat, none of us were really, however, the Irish-Norwegian woman who proved herself in the service of The Kingdom of Egypt was doing a surprisingly good job and her barking orders proved decisive as our men boarded their vessels, one by one, until it was clear as day that the number of Norwegian ships in the Oresund was much, much higher than the number of Danish ships. The Danes sailed away as our men harassed them, trying to inflict as much damage as possible before their navy fully escaped, however, nether myself nor Princess Cwenburg saw the Danish navy as a priority. Princess Cwenburg had her eyes set on sacking Copenhagen and forcing The Kingdom of Denmark out of this war, my priority was helping the Norwegians so that they'll help me, allowing me to march on Paris with a Norwegian army at my back - my mother may have tried to banish me to England, my mother may have tried to sabotage my campaign in West Francia at every turn, my mother may have seen me as nothing more than a loyal Princess who would serve as a convenient puppet in Paris, but I would prove her wrong, I would beat her in the race to Paris.
Paris was my prize, however, I understood my deal with Princess Cwenburg, we would pillage Copenhagen first. Fortunately for me, Judith envisioned a wonderful plan for The Battle of Copenhagen, Judith and I would lead most of the Norwegian forces through Zealand and to the walls of Copenhagen, distracting the guards with a believable siege - seeing Judith, the infamous young general, will give us credibility and the Danes seeing me - our entire alliance's claimant to West Francia - will excite them enough to not think about the missing body, they'll be too occupied with trying to end Judith's string of victory and an end to this war by capturing the most dangerous of the seven claimants, to notice the fact that Princess Cwenburg and the Norwegian navy will come around the city and dock in their own ports - the Danish navy won't be able to defend themselves after being defeated in the Oresund, therefore, an assault from within will cripple the Danish, all we'd need is a single runner to arrive at the gates and open up Copenhagen from within, at that point, Denmark is finished, we shall win. Judith and I would be the perfect bait for the Danes, our enemies will take it and Princess Cwenburg will spring the trap, it was a brutally simple plan but perhaps that is why it shall be so brutally effective, The Kingdom of Denmark will face the wrath of the next generation of Aethelfrithing Queens.
"People of Copenhagen! My name is General Judith of Cairo and we are the Norwegian army, we are the loyal servants of Princess Cwenburg of Norway and Queen Aethelthryth of West Francia, we are the harbingers of your doom! Surrender now or prepare for all Copenhagen to be cleansed in flame!" Judith of Cairo shouted to the guards, none of us expected the Danes to surrender and, obviously, they did not, however, Judith had a reputation to keep up and if she wanted to be theatrical, more power to her, it only made our distraction that much more effective, allowing for my Norwegian ally to bring down the city from within. I was proud that Judith addressed me as Queen of West Francia, everyone knew that I had that claim and everyone knew that I already has Anjou and Poitou under my occupation, along with the English Viceroyalties of Aquitaine, Gascony, and Normandy and our Duchies of Upper Brittany, Lower Brittany, and Penthievre, all of which would become a part of my Kingdom of West Francia regardless of what my mother wanted. The Viceroyalties would likely become hereditary lands simply to ensure the loyalty of Vicereine Wulfburh and the other continental possessions. Wulfburh sided with me at Angers, however, that was before my epic failure at The Battle of Blois, now she would need convincing, making her lands hereditary would do the trick - of course, it wasn't exactly a loss for me, Aelfgifu was a great friend of mine and I'd appoint my cousin to the position of Vicereine of Aquitaine once her mother passed anyway, having her as Duchess rather than Vicereine made little to no difference in the short term. I'd prefer if I was able to get rid of Sunngifu due to The Duchess of Upper Brittany siding with my mother at Angers, however, the Breton Duchies were already hereditary regardless, that's been the case ever since the creation of The Kingdom of Brittany within the larger Crown of England - if I had to make the Viceroyalties hereditary, there's no chance that I'll be able to so much as touch the peninsular situation.
I was a sixteen year old girl and I was about to be Queen of West Francia, deciding who will be the Duchess of Auvergne and what will be the fate of the Viceroyalties along the coast of West Francia should be more than enough stress, however, I had to fight first, I had to beat West Francia, Denmark, Sicily, Hungary, and Jerusalem in order to sit on that throne, I had to defeat five Kingdoms just so that I could rule one - I suppose that this was as best of a situation as I could hope for given that my only blood connections are with England and Scotland, I have no claim to West Francia other than what Carlomann IV allegedly promised to my mother, a promise only witnessed by a French Bishop I've never seen before he arrived in Bordeaux - needless to say, I find the whole situation fairly suspicious, however, I held my tongue for now, my mother made it very clear that she's told me all that she's willing to tell me and our relationship has only gotten worse since then - and I was also fortunate enough to have the support of Italy, Egypt, and, especially Norway, four Kingdoms to the enemy's five, however, as I heard the sound of battle erupting from the other side of the walls, I knew that Princess Cwenburg had sprung her trap, I knew that we would win The Siege of Copenhagen almost as soon as it began, I knew that we'd even the odds, bringing the war to four Kingdoms against four, at which point, I knew that we had the advantage.
West Francia has a higher population and greater potential than The Kingdom of England, however, England had an edge when it came to centralization and warfare, therefore, we've beaten the West Franks time and time again and now we're going to takeover their Kingdom entirely. The Kingdom of Norway has all but defeated Denmark already, despite the fact that, on paper Denmark is stronger and more populated, The Kingdom of Italy is slightly larger and is richer due to better trade relations than The Kingdom of Sicily - the Normans in Sicily are a particularly belligerent bunch, though at least their relationship with The Latin Empire has, thus far, been better than their relationship had been with The Byzantine Empire. The Kingdom of Egypt is less stable than The Kingdom of Jerusalem, however, when the Anglo-Saxon ruling class does manage to wrangle in Egypt's vast population and wealth, they are stronger than Jerusalem - perhaps that is why Jerusalem had been a part of so many Islamic civilizations centered on Egypt, most recently, The Fatimid Caliphate, however, the Shia Egyptian state has been pushed out of their homeland and now, only remnants of the once great Caliphate are left in North Africa, often the victims of Norman Sicilian raids. The Kingdom of Hungary is interesting in that they're a strong realm, however, they're isolated and they do not border any of our allies, that means that we don't really have anyone designated to fight them, however, they don't have an easy way of fighting us either, therefore, I'm not too concerned about Hungary at this stage, I do expect to encounter Hungarian cavalry and nobles attached to West Frankish armies, but I do not expect needing to campaign into Hungary itself during The War of The West Frankish Succession. I am somewhat interested in how West Francia drafted these alliances, most alliances these days are between individuals, however, West Francia's allies have all come out in support of Queen Adelinde, even if Louis of Normandy flirted with the Sicilians and Jourdain Karling did the same with the Jerusalemites, neither seems to have been enough, as all of them pledged loyalty to Queen Adelinde after her victory at Blois, she succeeded where Pepin had failed miserably - anyway, when I do become Queen of West Francia, alliances with Hungary, Denmark, Sicily, and Jerusalem could prove to be very, very useful, between West Francia, Denmark, and Hungary, I could launch three pronged assaults into Austrasia and East Francia, expanding my future Kingdom to the Rhine and perhaps beyond, however, I knew that it would be difficult to get my current enemies to become trustworthy allies so soon.
I did have a trustworthy ally in Princess Cwenburg though, and that was confirmed when Cwenburg sent her runners ahead to open up the gates of Copenhagen, Judith of Cairo did not hesitate in ordering our troops to pour into the Danish capital and eliminate the last remnants of resistance in Copenhagen. I suspected that King Christian of Denmark had fled Copenhagen during The Battle of the Oresund, however, Judith of Cairo was still determined, she ordered her troops to fight through the streets of the small but modern Danish capital, the Norwegians had two objectives here in Copenhagen - one to connect with our troops in the port and prevent the Danes from encircling our troops in the port and two to capture any members of the Danish royal family left in the city - King Christian being the favorable part, however, as I said, I expect him, his wife, and most of his children to be long gone, however, there is certainly a chance that one of his sons is trying to play the role of the heroic Prince and lead the defense of Copenhagen in his father's absence.
There was no room for glory hounds in Copenhagen, if any of Christian's sons were here commanding the Danes, they were killed in the street to street fighting and, if not, they were burned in the fires that erupted all around Copenhagen. Wooden buildings acted as little more than fuel for our hungry flames, Copenhagen burned as our troops looted everything they could. I stood with Princess Cwenburg and Judith of Cairo as the three of us watched our Norwegian soldiers carry chests of gold, exquisite jewelry, and pieces of art from the Danish Palace, all of these riches would go towards making Akershus spectacular, all of these would serve as evidence of the fact that Princess Cwenburg defeated the Danes before she even became Queen Cwenburg XIV, all of these would serve as proof that the next generation of Aethelfrithing Queens is exactly what our dynasty needs to remain just as great going forward as we have thus far. The House Aethelfrithing rose up from mere Earls to Queens of England, Egypt, and Norway, with an agnatic Italian branch reigning in Rome and with The Crown of West Francia being contested, that's already a great place to start, however, we're growing stagnant, my mother wants West Francia as a weak, glorified vassal state rather than another Kingdom from which our dynasty could expand its influence throughout western Europe, meanwhile, Cwenburg XIII over in Norway wanted nothing to do with this war to begin with, which is why its her daughter, not her, that's taking these Danish riches back to Akershus, and down in Egypt, the third Anglo-Saxon Kingdom has seemingly halted its expansion after the conquest of Cyrenaica, not opting to expand into the Fatimid remnants in North Africa due to the open secret than the King of Sicily plans for a crusade on Tunis, intending to expand his holdings to the valuable lands around the city of Tunis, the city built by the Muslims on the site of the ancient city of Carthage. Well if the Normans wanted to role play as Carthaginians, then that was their problem, The Kingdom of Egypt is more than capable of expanding and I wish that we could find an Egyptian heiress as ambitious and as willing to revolutionize our dynasty as Cwenburg and I, there is no reason why our Anglo-Saxon Egyptian state cannot expand towards Tunis, into Syria, and down the Arabian Peninsula just as the Islamic Egyptian states had before, the Aethelfrithing Kingdom of Egypt can become all that these Egyptian states are and more, all they need is the right person on the throne.
It's a shame that such an heiress couldn't be here with us, though I suppose that, in a way, Judith of Cairo does represent The Kingdom of Egypt, but it's not the same, Cwenburg and I are united by blood, as great of a general as Judith is, the Egyptian-born Hiberno-Norwegian cannot compare to true Anglo-Saxon royalty, the three true Aethelfrithing Kingdoms should all be represented here, all three should be a part of the next generation, all three should plan on how we can dominate as much of the world as we possibly can, but Egypt is only represented by a general serving the Norwegian crown. I'd love to find an Egyptian heiress to complete our trio, however, my priority right now is reaching Paris and, beyond that, becoming The Queen of West Francia, both de facto and de jure, and if I can end this war without journeying to the Outremer, then I'll do so, however, I will travel to the Outremer eventually, I'll have to reaffirm the alliance between West Francia and Jerusalem now that I've become Queen and, while I'm there, I can travel to Cairo and meet with the Egyptian branch of The House Aethelfrithing, hopefully there, I'll find an heiress to fill that missing role alongside myself and Cwenburg. Missing role or not, we crushed Copenhagen, now, all we needed to do was defeat the Danes in Jutland and then my obligation was fulfilled, it would be Cwenburg's turn to help me and, together, we'd do what my mother failed to do - we'd take Paris.
"How did it go?" Lady Godgifu asked the morning after my first night with Offa under our new arrangement, we were trying for a baby as Offa demanded more children - I wanted to give birth to another daughter, she could be the heiress to The Archduchy of Northumbria within my Kingdom of The Anglo-Saxons and the more potential heiresses the Kingdom had, the better, I am too smart to believe that Aethelthryth II is guaranteed to survive long enough to have her own children, being a Queen is dangerous work and I must recognize the fact that my enemies may target my family in order to get to me.
"Offa is many things, but he is not a good lover, not nearly as good as you anyway." I smirked as I grabbed her hand and lead her to our council meeting, we were going to discuss my plans for a war against Mercia - I know that taking The Petty Kingdom of Mercia apart will take many wars, that's why I want to start pulling Mercia apart before launching campaigns against East Anglia, also, there's the fact that sharing a border with East Anglia will make it a lot easier to go to war against them. I know that I was planning on awarding all of my English Duchies to my family, however, I still wanted give Godgifu land and a greater title than just Lady, perhaps I could make her a Countess beneath an Aethelfrithing Duchess or Archduchess - given that her father and then her treacherous uncle had both been Petty Kings of Cornwall, it's only fitting that I give her estates in either Cornwall or Devon, however, though she and I both know she'd rather be here in Dover with me, but her position as a member of our council and the fact that we're lovers means that she's more than capable of staying here while paying for a relative or friend to watch over her Cornish lands for her, perhaps I could even make my Cornish Lady the Countess of Cornwall, subservient only to the Duchess of Cornwall in Devon - at the moment, that position is vacant given that I'm Petty Queen of Cornwall - amongst other titles - and reigning from Dover.
"Members of the council!" I yelled for everyone's attention as I took my seat at the end of the table, everyone sat down and paid attention - Godgifu sat down, she had the first seat to my left, that was because the trio of Godgifu, my mother, and I were effectively running The Petty Kingdom of Kent before Wulfwynn even approached me about starting this council. Speaking of my new spymaster, Wulfwynn sat next to Godgifu, beyond Wulfwynn sat my record keeper and sister, Cynethryth the Younger, and beyond her sat Zoe of Alexandria - Zoe's grandfather had been a Byzantine refugee who brought knowledge of the wonders of Egypt to England, I had studied his writings from the comfort of our palace outside of Chichester whilst I was growing up, now I had the opportunity to actually work with his granddaughter, she would help me bring a little culture to the drab and simplistic Anglo-Saxon world. On the other side of the table, was first and foremost, my mother and Chancellor Cynethryth the Elder, next to her was our marshal Eorconberht, next to Eorconberht was Archbishop Cerdic - initially I had Cerdic sitting closer while Eorconberht sat faster, however, my mother and our former court chaplain got along so I moved Eorconberht back up next to my mother, the Archbishop of Canterbury didn't mind, Rounding out the council beyond the Archbishop was Eadweard, an architect and artist who had served the Earl of Surrey before I crushed him, Eadweard claimed to be the best and brightest artistic mind England had to offer, I was going to but that to the test - anyway, all the members of my council sat, all but one, my mother remained standing just as we agreed upon, we shared a quick glance and I went ahead with my speech "I have returned from Wessex, King Wulfstan has agreed to my terms and he has retreated to the confines of his palace where he will be kept under guard, meanwhile, his realm has been split into two, his daughter - my mother - Cynethryth of Wessex shall rule as Petty Queen of Wessex - a governor shall rule in her place in Winchester whilst she remains a part of my council here in Dover. The northwestern territory of The Petty Kingdom has been split off as The Duchy of Somerset, I rule Somerset outright. I thank you, mother, for your continued service to my realm despite now being my equal and ruling over a realm of your own, you may now sit."
"Thank you, daughter," My mother smiled as she sat down, receiving applause and various congratulations from the other members of the council now that my mother was, on paper anyway, a ruler as well, however, the whole council already knew that and the whole council also knew that I held the real authority, the introduction was just to be official and the applause was just the appropriate response, now that the obvious has been addressed, I can move forward with the real purpose of the meeting, I can move forward with my plans for The Petty Kingdom of Mercia.
"Now, I know I have just returned from my campaign into Wessex, however, The Petty Kingdom of Mercia is a truly massive realm and now, with the only realms left in England being Mercia, East Anglia, and Deira, it's time to start taking Mercia apart, this time, the priority will be to create a border with East Anglia, I will then take advantage of the peace with Mercia to deal with East Anglia on our border and hopefully by then, my husband Offa shall be King of Northumbria, if so, I will journey to Northumbria and conquer The Petty Kingdom of Deira, bringing York into my realm, beyond that, I shall deal with Northumbria's northern Pictish vassals, my priority is creating a unified Kingdom of The Anglo-Saxons, if I can rule the Picts from Dover, that's great, but if it's more trouble than it's worth, I have no problem handing those vassals over to The King of Pictland in exchange for an alliance." I explained, I was playing with the truth on that second remark, the truth is, I already knew that the land wasn't worth it to me, the Pictish vassals were a tribal and belligerent bunch, I didn't want them in my Kingdom right now, England was large enough as it was in my lifetime, if my successors wanted to reign over all of Britain, they could try, I was concerned with England and with getting the Anglo-Saxons to follow my enatic succession and highly centralized government.
"With all due respect, my Queen, perhaps it is best for you to remain here, after all, you and Prince Offa are trying for another child, you can stay here and focus on that while we fight the war against Mercia for you." my marshal Eorconberht proposed, I suppose that he had a point, I couldn't logically argue against it, even if I personally would much rather go on campaigns against Mercia than try for another baby with Prince Offa. I sighed, I guess this is what I agreed to when Prince Offa confronted me and I guess that, if nothing else, I could enjoy those five nights a week I had with Godgifu whilst Eorconberht and his fellow commanders directed the war effort against Mercia, I'm sure that they can get me Essex and The Hwicce, I wouldn't have made Eorconberht my marshal if I didn't believe in him.
"Very well then," I eventually agreed, so, that was that, I'd stay here and get impregnated while my former court chaplain and his fellow commanders get to have all the fun fighting Mercia, I sighed again only for Godgifu to rest a reassuring hand on my knee below the table, she shot me a smile - I knew that, war or pregnancy, she was with me, she'd make either one more tolerable for me. I'd lie back and think of England while Prince Offa does his thing, then, when he was done and asleep, I'd sneak away and see Godgifu, only to sneak back to fall asleep and wake up with Offa - Offa would think that he had two nights while Godgifu had five, the reality is that Godgifu had seven nights but two were cut short thanks to Offa, still, at least I didn't have to keep up a charade.
Copenhagen burned first, but now, as Judith, Cwenburg, and I fought our way across Denmark, fighting across the island and then down the Jutland peninsula, all of Denmark was burning, all of Denmark was looted by the Norwegians, all of Denmark had been utterly defeated. In West Francia, I was fighting a war of conquest, I had to hold myself and my armies back because I wanted to be Queen of a prosperous and powerful Kingdom, not a war torn and famine ridden shadow of a once great civilization, however, Princess Cwenburg was fighting in Denmark for her own glory, she was fighting to ensure Norwegian supremacy in Scandinavia, therefore, she held nothing back and she took everything.
Finally, King Christian revealed himself, he surrendered to the Norwegians, giving the valuables and jewels he managed to get out of Copenhagen to Princess Cwenburg in exchange for her sparing his life and the lives of his children, she did, but this leg of the war might as well have killed Denmark's reputation. Christian was crushed, his Kingdom went from wealthy to broke, and I doubted that his vassals would respect him much after this, therefore, this could only be the beginning of a very troubling time in The Kingdom of Denmark. I thought it was rather unfortunate, the Danes could be a valuable ally given that they effectively controlled the entrance to the Baltic Sea, but by the time I'm secure as Queen of West Francia, Christian may be long gone and I'll have to forge a brand new alliance with a brand new Danish crown. That could prove to be unfortunate in the future, however, with Denmark out of the way, that means that I have a Norwegian army invigorated by their victory and their looting and I'm about to lead that army down to the walls of Paris. I shall be sitting on the throne of West Francia sipping wine by the time my mother enters the city and it shall be glorious. The Jewel of West Francia awaits!
Alright, this has been chapter fourteen, I hope you enjoyed it and it turns out I wasn't able to get a double upload done for ASC before the end of the summer, I'm sorry, I'm sorry that it seems like I'm favoring Romans over ASC but it just came out that way that ASC weeks happen to be weeks where I'm busy - I settled into this upload schedule before I even thought about writing Romans, I settled into this schedule with TSWTSE and I definitely favored this over that long since abandoned Star Wars story, anyway, I doubt I'll have a chance to do a double upload anytime soon do to school, but, who knows, maybe I'll surprise you! See you in two weeks time for the end of act one!