Dominion of the Dreki: The Dutch in the Medway

I’m beginning to think I should have suggested “England’s on the Anvil” for the naming theme of this game, rather than “Recessional”. Kipling’s telling phrase, “little bits of kingdoms cannot stand against their foes”, keeps recurring to me as I write these AARs; a splendid description of the blobbing phase of a megacampaign, in which those players not lucky or skilled enough to grow big are ground out of existence. Unfortunately it applies just as much to republics.

England’s being hammered, hammered, hammered into one; but not by me. Rather, I’m the iron clanging from the Severn to the Tyne. However, before getting into that, a recap of relevant geopolitical events on the Continent. Oddman, playing Frisia, had more-or-less united Charlemagne’s empire, from the Oder to the Bay of Biscay, with bits missing in the south where Fimconte as Iberia had taken a bite. He had two fairly powerful player vassals in Synario and Alexei, Bavaria and Aquitaine respectively. He had several times fought against Fimconte, attempting to contain Muslim Spain south of the Pyrenees. Now, however, he turned this longstanding foreign policy on a dime. (Well, perhaps not on a dime – no doubt there were lengthy negotiations of spheres of influence.) When Fimconte DOWed for some land that belonged to Alexei, Oddman promptly surrendered; he then vassalised Fimconte, revoked Alexei’s capital, imprisoned Synario, and handily won the resulting revolt. Where there had been two polities with four players, there was now a single united empire stretching from Gibraltar to the aforementioned Oder, with two players in it. Fimconte then went independent again, taking the south of France with him. Then both of them (and separately an AI vassal of oddman’s) declared holy wars on me.

There wasn’t any question of fighting two humans that individually outnumbered me two to one; I surrendered promptly so as to retain my army for the fight against that vassal. But it’s clear that this is a stopgap measure at best; truce timers end, and oddman’s character could keel over any moment. (Indeed, I feel confident that the RNG will cause him to die at the worst possible time for the English Resistance; why should the lifespans suddenly become convenient now?) Unless, then, a diplomatic revolution occurs, it appears that I will be taking the Dreki back to Scandinavia whence they came. Admittedly, going into exile and plotting revenge for the next millennium is kind of my thing in these games, but I was hoping to avoid a second iteration. Besides, Scandinavia is full of snow and Ynglings, and dignobbit, I’ve played that position already. Three times. But needs must when the Dutchman drives; with our house rules, it would be very difficult for anyone else to come to my aid. Without a good claim, the best that could be done by any of oddman’s neighbours – who in any case have their own problems – would be to declare holy war for a duchy; and quite apart from his possible ability to just fight on two fronts, oddman could simply surrender, beat me senseless, and return to the Continent later on.

It seems that Kipling will have all sorts of applications in this game; but then, history is long, and empires rise and fall. This week it is “The Dutch in the Medway”. Next month, who knows? Perhaps “Cities and Thrones and Powers” will be the poem of the day.

If wars were won by feasting,
Or victory by song,
Or safety found in sleeping sound,
How England would be strong!
But honour and dominion
Are not maintained so.
They’re only got by sword and shot.
And this the Dutchmen know.

Some maps:

England, 910

England, 910. The green blight is in Wales; incidentally, Fimconte has converted his family to Welsh culture, presumably for the archery tactic. The whole of England-south-of-Thames is in Dutch hands.

Western Europe, 910

Western Europe. Note Iberian gains in southern France, where Aquitaine used to be; presumably the quid pro quo for oddman’s adding England to his domains. Note also that the Roman Empire no longer rules Italy.

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Azure Three Bezants: The African Campaign

There have been Further Developments in the issue of the naval-invasion rules. In particular, after the acrimonious debate that ended the February 26th session early, Baron sensibly recused himself and asked Fivoin, as vice GM, to rule on the issue. Fivoin, determining that the rule had been unclear and that, if it had been clarified as intended, Tazzzo and Blayne could easily have complied and launched their invasions anyway, issued a finding of no fault, no rollback. Baron then quit the game, leaving us without a player for England.

We then lost Tazzzo and Jacob temporarily, in both cases to additional shifts at their civilian jobs; the way modern countries prioritise butter over guns is disgraceful and unmanly, and cannot last very long in the view of history. At some point a virile military movement will arise to sweep aside these garbage-heaps of feminised kindergarten-states. However, on the timescale of weeks and days on which we need leaders for our Great Powers, the certainties of such dialectic analysis are not very helpful; the “if” is sure, the “when” is uncertain but probably not before Sunday. However, Blayne was able to fill the slots with subs; Dragoon returned to play Fox, Clonefusion played Germany, and Achab played England. Thus on March 5th we soldiered on; on the 12th, however, we were unable to find subs and skipped the session. We have great hope of being able to find sufficient players for the 19th.

The Suez Front, early in the session. The Sinai Defense Force is retreating in good order towards the fortified Suez Line; there are level-7 fortresses on both sides of the Canal.

So much for metagame developments. In the actual game, the fighting was, at the beginning of the March 5th session, on four fronts, or perhaps as many as six depending on how you count Africa. In the north the front ran along the Urals, with most of this line lightly held and active fighting only in the southern part, near the Caspian. There was another front crossing the Caucasus; in both of these cases the Commonwealth powers (German and Danish troops, for this part of the world) held good defensive positions, for the simple reason that wherever their position had not been so good they had been driven out of them. However, as they had managed to dig into mountains, there was little movement in these areas.

Thracian Front; under heavy attack by superior German numbers, I was driven back, though more slowly as the front narrowed, and in good order – there were no encirclements. The retreat was slow enough to give me time to build three levels of forts in Constantinople itself, which still holds – although the forts are now effectively nonexistent due to English strategic bombing.

In Thrace, Venetian troops had managed to cross the Straits to seize Constantinople, fending off an English landing in Anatolia; however, as my troops here were outnumbered three to one at the start of the session, there was plainly little hope of launching any offensives – and the obvious strategy of crossing the Black Sea to land in the Commonwealth rear had been tried, and foundered on the large enemy reserves that suddenly turned up – reinforcements headed for the Ural front, perhaps? At any rate, there seemed to be little to be done here; I thinned out my line and took the troops thus freed up south for Africa instead.

The siege of Constantinople; as of February 1938 it is still ongoing, in its sixth month. Constantinople has faced siege before; and in this timeline it is supplied, if tenuously, across the Straits, not betrayed by faithless allies and left to fight on its own resources. My main difficulty on this front is in finding a balance between having enough units in the city, and not having them go out of supply.

Africa could be considered as one front, two, or three, depending on taste. There was Tazzzo’s landing in the southeast, Blayne’s in Morocco, and then there was the Suez Front, where I had occupied the line of Egyptian fortresses that originally faced the Suez border – now repurposed to face into the African interior. In the first part of the session, while I was redeploying from Anatolia, Achab pushed me out of this Egyptian line and back into my own fortresses defending the Suez Canal; there, defending two provinces instead of five, I was able to stop the retreat in spite of the very superior numbers of English troops. At the same time Clone was launching attacks in Thrace that were much more effective than Jacob’s similar efforts had been; my toehold in Europe was driven back and back, eventually ending up in Constantinople. Foreseeing this possibility, however, I had fortified that great city, and although attacks on it continued through the session it is still held for Venice.

The Red Sea Landing, right up the English rear. Unfortunately there was no followup for two weeks due to logistical difficulties.

Returning to Africa, the obvious strategy was the same one I had pursued against Kuipy: Cross the Red Sea, sweep north behind the Suez Line to cut it off from supply, and wait for the resulting pocket to starve. If this had worked against Baron, who saw me do it to Kuipy, that would have been immensely satisfying; against a sub, it was less so. Still victory is victory, so I ordered the naval invasion and got troops across. It was then I noticed that the large Lend-Lease shipments I was getting from my allies, which were instrumental in keeping my infantry supplied, were also taking up all my shipping – leaving none for the followup troops of the invasion. The game engine, apparently, will prioritise naval invasions over trade, but will not prioritise mere troop movements; my spearhead divisions were therefore left without support for two crucial weeks while I shouted to stop the Lend-Lease shipments. (This might have been more effective if I had a microphone and could, actually, shout. Chat just doesn’t carry the urgency.)


Eurasia, with a closer look at the Nile Front, in October. My motorised exploitation division there is about to go rocketing off into the desert, effectively unopposed; but the main landing is suffering a heavy counterattack.

One of the Jackal’s patented sandstorms blew up and slowed my free advance across the desert sufficiently that Matruh was garrisoned by the time I got there. Achab was able to shift divisions off the Suez Line – as he was occupying the Egyptian fortress line, I couldn’t advance there any more than he could – and counterattack, forcing my motorised spearhead back south and briefly threatening to drive even my main infantry force back across the Nile.

A swaying back-and-forth combat in the desert, as both sides try to rupture the enemy lines with temporary local superiorities.

I did eventually get the rest of my army across; but by then Achab had, obviously, had fair warning of my intentions. Instead of a swift coup-de-main seizure of his supply ports, I faced a grinding attritional struggle down the Nile Valley. Achab fought a tenacious rearguard action, constantly thinning out his line in places where he had stopped me for the time being, gathering together this Peter-robbing-Paul reserve, and counterattacking somewhere else. On several occasions my spearheads were in danger of being cut off; at other times the front was driven back towards the Nile, and it wasn’t until Foxy reinforcements arrived on a large scale from Ethiopia and Central Africa that I was able to reach the coast. Even then, each individual pocket, formed around a port, held on grimly until crushed by mere superior numbers. It was only at this final stage that Achab’s generalship failed: These doomed positions should not have been held to the bitter end. When it was clear that Africa was lost, the pockets should have been evacuated to Europe. I admire the tactical skill that allowed him to hold against superior numbers (both of divisions and of human players!) for so long, but this is somewhat overshadowed by the immense strategic error of losing fifty or sixty divisions to not-one-step-back orders. It’s true that my subs in the Med would likely have caught a few convoys, but that can hardly be compared to the half-a-million men that were lost when the ports were captured; as for surface fleets, England’s ten battleships still go anywhere they like.

New World Order advancing from the south and west; perhaps this is about the point when the struggle for Africa should have been given up as lost, and the strategic aim changed to evacuation, with as much of a delaying rearguard action as possible. Notice the Venetian gain in Algeria, where I have claims dating to the nineteenth century.

The first column reaches the coast, splitting the English forces into pockets that can no longer reinforce each other. Of these the Suez Front pocket is by far the most powerful, and indeed the front line on the Nile is going to prove unbudgeable until the English are driven from their supply ports.

England still holds a sliver of Africa, in Morocco, where the Atlas mountains are heavily fortified and a formidable barrier; I’m reminded of another conflict. It is, obviously, not from mere stubbornness that England is choosing to hold these barren peaks; the Atlas range is about as far north as it is possible to launch a rocket with the technology of 1938, even augmented by alien knowledge, and have any hope of reaching orbit. The Jackal does not give a damn whether England wins the war, as such; it will gladly spend a million subhuman lives and ten thousand tanks to retain its launch site and its last hope of reaching home. If, after the rocket is complete, the subhuman state it is currently controlling collapses, and its enemies storm through Europe, for lack of those million men that might have stopped them – well, that is not the Jackal’s problem.

Near the end. Matruh has fallen and any hope of evacuation with it. Forty divisions are about to surrender in what was the Suez Front, now the Suez Pocket.

It looks rather grim for the European powers, at this point; the one bright spot is the Caucasus, where an attack spearheaded by Danish troops has been making slow progress along the Caspian coast. If they can fight their way out of the bad terrain and into the open plains of Mesopotamia, it might yet be possible to force Venice to surrender; if that happens there will be many troops freed from the siege of Constantinople, and perhaps a cascade of victories can be achieved. But I would not care to take the Commonwealth side of an even-odds bet.


Overall war situation, February 1938. The loss of Italy remains a heavy burden for Venice, although the recovery of Algeria (lost to British rapaciousness in the nineteenth century) is some compensation. Egypt is liberated, and building divisions; even Mongolia has managed to put some tens of thousands of savage Slavs into the field on the Ural Line; the postwar settlement of these two defeated countries is a matter of some controversy. On the other side, the English people are having some difficulty reconciling the loss of Africa with their government’s propaganda. But it is Europe that is decisive – as long as the Commonwealth prevents any incursion into that ethnic and industrial heartland, they are not defeated.

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Dominion of the Dreki: Gameplay 889-898

The path of the righteous continues to be strewn with thorns. In particular, the RNG seems to have it in for me with respect to lifespans: My good Genius character died in prison, while m’liege – an idiot in all respects except for his damnable Intrigue score, which incidentally is completely unrelated to why I was in prison – goes on and on like the damn Duracell rabbit. (Perhaps I date myself; do CK players still catch that reference? If you don’t, just substitute “like a thing that goes on for a very long time”, and then get off my lawn.) He outlasted my next head of household as well, not that this was a great loss, and looks like he’s settling in to reach his eightieth birthday. Or perhaps he’ll keel over just the day after my current head dies, leaving me bereft of the Respect I need to get elected and without time to pump up the election fund.




My three Fylkirs this session: Kjartan, Starkard, and the current incumbent Kol; and their common liege. Why, oh why, can the RNG not see that this deadwood needs to go, and let the fresh new shoots reach the lifegiving sun?

That is as the RNG wills; I have, actually, larger problems. As I prophecied last session, the powers of Europe have begun to take an interest in this strategically located island with the many good harbours. Little bits of kingdoms – in this case, the petty-kingdoms of England-south-of-Thames, namely Essex, East Anglia, and Hwicce – cannot stand against their foes; unfortunately I wasn’t the foe in question. The Mussulman is at the gates! No doubt Fimconte plans to dominate the entire western seaboard of Europe, taking the entire colonisation game for himself. True, he’ll have to subdue a powerful Frisia to take the French coast, but he’s got four hundred years of CK to do so; why not pick up England while it’s cheap?

The evolution was rapid. Here is England in 889; all is quiet except for the usual state of quasi-civil war. (That is to say, I’m very polite about picking up Lincoln; everyone else behaves like football hooligans. Not a civil war in the sense of being internal to a polity.)

891, and the green blight is far inland: Fimconte’s doomstack of 5000 (a vast host, by island standards) has hammered East Anglia and Hwicce into submission, though Hwicce survives by dint of having more than one Duchy available. The invasion continues into the Welsh mountains; my stack of a little more than 4k is about to intervene.

894. My intervention did not go well. Fimconte pulled another 3k warriors out of nowhere (he’d moved his capital to England in the interim; perhaps they were mercenaries), his liege the Caliph sent another doomstack of 8k, and I suspect that with even numbers I’d still have lost, just not as badly – Spain being more technologically advanced than England. There was nothing for it but to end the war and watch Fimconte absorb his gains.

On Wenlock edge the Norse are troubled;
his bearded flank the Serk-king heaves…

My bearded enemy, the Serk-king!

896. Oddman has decided to absorb those bits of England that Fimconte didn’t get to, to keep them out of Muslim hands. Yay for the balance of power. It’s more amusing when someone else is the apple of contention. Note also the colour change; Fimconte, getting wind of a Christian coalition forming to invade Iberia, strategically switched his allegiance to another player, over in Egypt. Taking on the AI Umayyads is one thing, even if they have a powerful human vassal (in fact, Fimconte was about 80% of Spain by this point); taking on a human Egypt is something else entirely. The coalition dissolved. “To defeat your enemy without combat is the acme of skill.”

898, and England is neatly divided into three parts: Norse pagan, Frisian Christian, and Iberian Moslem.

I did manage to expand a bit, using take-county CBs on my neighbouring Christians. This does lead to quickly hitting my demesne limits; I was handing out baronies like candy, and getting so desperate for adult courtiers that at one point I gave one to an Yngling. As Fivoin pointed out, not giving land to that dynasty is Scandinavian Governance 101; but needs must when the devil drives. In any case I got a fair return, for he taught wisdom to the Fylkir Kjartan, and now all the Dreki know an ancient rune-song, handed down from Frey, the ancestor of the Yngling line. It does not translate well into the vernacular, losing all its magic power for calling vengeance-spirits down onto the heads of those who have wronged you; this is just as well, since why should I give away secrets of power? But the sense of it, without magic, is clear enough: It is intolerable. It shall not stand.

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Dominion of the Dreki: Gameplay 874-889

It turns out that the elections of the Grand Principality of Denmark are not honest ones, in the following sense: They don’t stay bought.

Obviously, I made it a bit of a priority to get elected; the blobs are coalescing all over Europe, and we shall not see them splintered again in this game. All over Europe, that is, except in the Isles and Scandinavia – partly because these areas are poor, and partly (I assume) because of a slight reluctance to enter another player’s clear sphere of interest, and thus create an enemy. But such forbearance is not to be relied upon for any long run. Sooner or later someone will decide that they have a use for these poverty-stricken tribal provinces, even if I don’t. Indeed, zilcho (subbing Finland) tried it on even this session, with a Holy War for Trøndelag; the AI surprised us both by handling him rather roughly. Still, the omen is clear for those with the wisdom to read it.

Refil Storr

Grand Prince Refil at the beginning of the session. Time presses…

I therefore delayed my conquest of York. At the beginning of the session I was 12 and Grand Prince Refil was 62. So, if I got lucky for the four years I needed to become electable, Refil would be 66 and could keel over any day; I needed to have a good reserve for a huge campaign fund, to overcome the 2000-point disadvantage of being 16 in a republic full of fifty-year-old patricians. No money, therefore, for the mercenaries I’d need to take York. Instead I amused myself with chasing tiny AI armies, losers in the five minor wars m’liege got himself into, across England-south-of-Thames. I also looked about for participants in my eugenics program; there seems to be a great lack of Genius, Germanic women of a reasonable age. My plan for this generation is just to pump out kids from whatever half-acceptable women I can, so to speak, lay hands on; one of them ought to be a Genius who can be designated heir. The rest will form the basis of a Norse-Germanic population explosion, drastically increasing the pool of candidates for back-breeding in the next two generations; the more women, the more likely that randomness will operate in my favour. Also, when we are sufficiently many and hungry, we will have a moral right to take away others’ lands to feed our children; and we will then be possessed of a very large and hungry army.

Kjartan Bjardsson

Kjartan Bjardsson as a hungry young man.

Eugenics aside, then, I did basically nothing for four years; but once I reached my majority, I sprang into action! To wit, I Ctrl-clicked the “add to campaign fund” button no less than four times! Which wasn’t sufficient; at this point the leading candidate had Respect of over three thousand. So I unclicked it – no prizes for second best, and therefore no point in buying the election until I could actually win – and picked Intrigue as my focus. This did at least give me the opportunity to repeatedly click the “No, I’m sure he’s up to something” option – action at last! This excitement aside, though, it remained the case that my full treasury wouldn’t suffice to win. And while Refil had lived to be 78 (!) in a single-player test game, still, the RNG had to be sharpening its scythe for him.

Election 874

Insufficient money; does not elect.

Increasingly desperate, I appealed for loans, and Khan, very kindly, sent me a gift, a favour which shall not be forgotten. With this money I could bring up my campaign fund north of 600 ducats, and become expected successor. Just in the nick of time, too; Refil died mere months after I finally had the money. Aaaand the second-highest Respect was elected. Again.

I admit to finding this a bit annoying. Since the electorate had disappointed me, I decided to dissolve it and appoint a new one, by making the Midlands a personal Dreki fief, starting with York. This went well: Little bits of kingdoms cannot stand against enough money to hire mercenaries. This, at least, worked; I now hold York and Derby, and Lincoln will fall shortly. Added bonus: Handing out the baronies to the adult-male Dreki drastically cut my expenses.

Election 889

The current election status.

I enter the next session, then, embittered but hopeful: I have what seems like a commanding lead in the next election, I have a Genius son by a concubine, and my Genius wife is pregnant. And, between me and the AI, the little kingdoms of England are looking pretty tattered and moth-eaten; if the Grand Prince would just do me the favour of dying at a reasonable age, it’s not entirely unreasonable to hope for English unification before the century is out.

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Azure Three Bezants: Italia Oppressa

In which we contemplate two forms of exile; and emerge with the understanding that it need not always mean defeat, or damnation.

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Azure Three Bezants: Recap

In which I summarise 800 years of narrative and 3 months of gameplay.

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Dominion of the Dreki: Gameplay 862-874

The path of the righteous is strewn with thorns, and their portion is care and toil; but the unrighteous prosper in the fallen world. Consequently, you can easily tell from this session’s events who is righteous among the players – to wit, me – and who isn’t – basically everyone else, with the possible exception of Sebokan (playing Austergotland).

In 862 I was, I admit, somewhat impatient for m’liege, the esteemed Grand Prince Ofeig, to die so I could take over and show the world how to run a pagan trade republic; I had therefore picked the Intrigue focus for the Spy On perma-plot. That didn’t work out; the Grand Prince learned about my spying and flung me in the dungeon, where I promptly picked up a case of the crazies – but no matter, that turned out the least of my troubles. A merchant prince worthy of the title, of course, always keeps an emergency fund on hand for these little contretemps that spice up the life of truck and barter, so I just headed over to the Diplo screen to ransom myself. That’s when I learned that my uncle, Starkad, was

a) my Regent and
b) my Rival.

Uncle Starkad. Not stupid, by any means; but his defection from the Dreki family to anywhere else on the planet would, as the saying goes, improve both averages.

Also that the Regent is given veto power over ransoms, including your own ransom. I opine that this would not pass a twentyfirst-century conflict-of-interests review; in fact it doesn’t even pass tenth-century conflict-of-interests review, in that one of the acknowledged duties of vassals was to contribute to their liege’s ransom. Although in fairness I should note that Starkad is not actually my vassal, merely my kinsman and a partner in the family business. In any case, this difficulty held up my plans for some time, until I realised that Starkad, being an AI, was both smart enough to be bribed and stupid enough to be bribed into freeing someone whose imprisonment he had deliberately lengthened. One gift, one honorary title, and one appointment as Seer later, I was free, and pissed. (Also mad in the literal-ish sense of having the Lunatic trait.) Nonetheless, the thought of that 40-opinion tyranny penalty gave me pause. I decided to get my revenge more obliquely: I cut Starkad out of my will by making my son the Designated Heir. This had the additional desirable consequence of bypassing a pretty average-type human and putting in a Genius instead; eugenics for the win. It was, nonetheless, a somewhat risky play, in that my son was four years old and not eligible for the Dogeship if I died. But pff, I was only 35 myself; what are the odds, right?

My son and heir. Not yet adult, and yet I see there are several players who would like to have these stats for their rulers.

While I’d been in prison, the AI had surprised me by actually doing something useful: It waged Holy Wars for Vestlandet and SmÃ¥land, winning both. This incidentally brought Denmark into conflict with Sebokan, playing the two-province petty kingdom of Austergotland. Pitched battles were naturally out of the question, although I did briefly entertain the notion of giving Sebokan enough money to hire a large mercenary army that might have managed to kill Ofeig. Turns out the Regent has veto power over gifts, too, and apparently Starkad’s bad traits included some primitive notion of loyalty to the polity over the family. The upshot of which is, Sebokan, if I see you raiding my provinces again I’ll make an absolute point of parking my army on top of your capital. Asymmetric warfare only works if your target has political constraints on his retaliation; I don’t have a bunch of liberals preventing me from reinstating the good old custom of inscribing the Blood Eagle on the offender’s body, family, cattle, pets, relatives out to the fifth degree of consanguinity, and random visitors.

Bjard at something close to the height of his powers, though not yet a Godslayer. The eugenics program is something of a success.

Ofeig did eventually die of natural causes, and I was duly elected Grand Prince. A momentary paralysis delayed what should have been my immediate attack on a preselected enemy: There were just so many possible targets! Hwicce, and retake Bristol? But Hwicce was in the throes of rebellion, and Bristol was occupied by them; who knows what the game mechanics would do. Essex, and a rematch for London? But Essex is allied to half of England. Powys, and wipe out the festering sore of resistance in the Welsh mountains? Then again, who needs a bunch of unruly sheep-shaggers for subjects? I finally settled on Northumbria, with wealthy York as my target; but the AI was faster. (The Singularity, incidentally, is near.) Essex declared war for Kent; crushing them and their allies took me two years. While this was going on I got the Chtulhu event chain and acquired the Godslayer trait, and began to think about ascending into godhood myself.

Situation in England in 872: Somewhat chaotic.

I contented myself, however, with declaring war on Northumbria, and was halfway through the required siege of York when the RNG, jealous of all possible rivals, cut me down in the prime of life. Leaving my 10-year-old son, unelectable to the Grand Princedom, as head of House Dreki… and his great-uncle Starkad as Regent. At least this time we are not rivals, and Starkad seems to have mellowed in his old age; he actually approved my suggestions for educating the Dreki children. But I face another lengthy wait before I command resources beyond those of the Dreki family. The path of the righteous…

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