Fought they out on Ronces Field,
days both two and three,
when sun could not shine
for reek of the man’s-blood.
Rode they out of Frankish land
with precious loot in saddles;
blow your trumpet, Olifant,
on Ronces Field.
Ye know, oh nobly-born, that I write no chronicle; many deeds worth recounting have passed before me, leaving no trace on parchment or paper. And yet the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes; should I do less? Know, therefore, that in the years before England fell, when the kingdoms of the elector-princes lay spread under the Foul Emperor like silken cloths sparkling with jewels, and the sons of Roland ruled with justice and splendor in the lands that men win from the cruel sea, certain plots that had spanned dark centuries came to fruition; and for half a decade the Empire tore at its own breast and spilled its best blood from the Elbe to the Rhine. Hear, then, the last tale of the Sons of Roland.
- The Dwarves of Zurich: For his own reasons, which do not necessarily include being suborned by eldritch horrors from beyond the walls of Creation, Ranger has consistently supported Mike, my southern neighbour, in our struggle over who was to be master of the Rhine. In the previous session we fought each other to a standstill, and during the week agreed to truce between us. Now, on the first day of the new session, Ranger struck, treacherously, declaring war for the Duchy of Brabant. Switzerland I might have fought; its pikemen are not so formidable away from their mountains, when the arrows sing in massed thousands and ton weights of chivalry charge into the gaps in their ranks. But behind the Swiss came the Aquitainians, thousands of men serving the gold leeched from the Mediterranean trade, and among them a few who serve neither gold nor blood nor god, but only the thing that rules in Provence and takes the shape, but not the thoughts, of a man. Against such a number I could not fight. But I thought me of a desperate expedient, and gathered my troops in retreat, keeping my army in being, as the core around which future reinforcements might coalesce, if I could be rid of:
- The Foul Emperor: Khan, though he had avoided playing an inbred dwarf, was not at this time well served by his characters; his Emperor Eugene was a child, his heir Naveen likewise a child and a remarkably useless one, whom Khan was at some pains to be rid of. And, although Ranger had treacherously broken his word, my diplomacy during the week had not been entirely useless: Of the seven prince-electors, three supported me for Emperor, and the others’ votes were split, giving me the plurality. Thus, if Eugene were to die, I would be Emperor; and an Emperor commands resources which a prince-elector does not, and might bring even an over-mighty republic to heel. So I ordered the death of an Emperor, and did not ride at the head of my men to meet the Aquitainians in a final death-ride; not yet. Not while the hosts of the Empire might yet ride to my relief.
- Faithless Electors: The plot on Eugene’s life went smoothly; but in the intervening few months, the politics of the Empire had shifted under my feet. Khan found himself playing his useless brother Naveen – against whom he had plotted, so as to remove him from the line of succession – but still Emperor; he was, somewhat understandably, annoyed. He revoked the kingdom of Austrasia from me. Not seeing a way to recover from that, I resisted – seeking, mainly, to at least die gloriously. Much to my surprise, roughly half the Empire rose with me in revolt, and I found myself with an army that could, credibly, win me the throne instead.
- Saxon Shadows: In this matter Hagbard’s actions are of some interest. When I looked at the succession and saw myself with three votes, six votes had been cast. There are seven prince-electors. Who then was the missing one? Unclear. But when I protested that the election had been bugged, and Dragoon held a new election in chat to check, there were three votes for me and four votes against; one of them Hagbard’s. And yet Hagbard supported my rebellion. Was he, perhaps, voting not for Khan, but for the civil war to tear the Empire apart? I do not know; only the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
- Blow the Trumpet, Draw the Sword: Khan had to leave, and was subbed by Mark; Khan, it turned out, was trying to save up for the builder bloodline, and had six thousand ducats available. Khan instructed Mark not to buy mercenaries for the poxy little revolt, he needed the money for his project. Mark considered the sixteen thousand men I was suddenly able to raise, and decided to exercise initiative in interpreting his instructions in light of conditions on the ground. Shortly thereafter roughly half the mercenaries of Europe clashed with roughly half the feudal levies. Alas, as it turns out, levies are about half light infantry, and the mercenaries included the Emperor’s retinue, a solid core of pikemen. Still I retreated from Auxerre in good order, since the actual army survived, only the useless swarm of light infantry perishing. The second time I met Mark’s army, I won; and for one long spring, the hearts of Europe sang with the hope of freedom, of justice, of the restoration of the old customs. But the Foul Emperor retreated, and spent gold as it were water, or the blood of levied peasants; and a third time the mercenaries marched on the rebel strongholds. I went to meet them; and the gold that is spent on Earth prevailed, temporarily, as so often happens, over the gold that is stored in Heaven. Blow your trumpet, Olifant…
A desperate fighting retreat through the snow at Auxerre.
The two battles I lost. For some reason I have no screenshot of my glorious victory, which however will be remembered in song – at least where the Emperor’s men cannot hear – for centuries to come.
- The Norns Spin: Having lost my kingdom title, and half the territory I had started the session with (since Ranger’s war had continued uninterrupted through the struggle for justice in Europe!) I felt that the possibilities in Holland were somewhat played out – and anyway I had certainly ended gloriously; it would be hard to follow up on that one. I looked about for a new slot; the options were Ireland, Venice, and Denmark. The British Isles already have three players, two of whom are each twice the size of the whole of Ireland; I passed. I have already fought one Long War with an eldritch horror whose plots span centuries, as a merchant of Venice; and there, too, there are several powerful players nearby. I am, evidently, fated to play in the North, no matter where I start; well then, no man escapes his wyrd, and the Norns weave as they wish, not as we might wish. I took Denmark, and plot my return to the Rhine at the head of an armada of dragon-headed ships.
Ends here the saga of the Sons of Roland.