Great Game part II

Each of these posts covers one session of four hours’ gaming. This second session was plagued by technical problems; I fought a largish war with Poland over the ownership of Gotland, and the game then crashed and the save was corrupted. We were thus forced to return to a save before that war, and with foreknowledge of just who was the more powerful, I was careful not to attack Poland this time. But because of the lost time, not very much happened this session, so perforce I report trivia.


7. SVEARIKE (1086)

To the east of Norway lies a large country, filled with deep forests, vast lakes, and hills. The people of this land call themselves Svear, and so their land is called Svea-rike. These Svear were the last people in the North to abandon the old gods, and some say that even now there are held secret sacrifices to Frey in the dark forests where the Church will not see. For this reason many in Norway and Denmark say the Svear are a backwards and foolish people; but for all that they are fierce fighters.

In King Olaf’s time Erik Stenkilsson had the kingly power in Svearike, and he held rich estates around Västergotland. Erik was a handsome man, well regarded by his countrymen because he was not given to plaguing them with levies. But as time passed, he became jealous of the warlike accomplishments of King Olaf, and set out to emulate them. Thus he gathered his warriors to fall upon Poland, for Boleslaw, King of the Poles, was at that time campaigning on the Dvina.

Now when King Olaf received word of this, he at first thought to march upon the Svear and make them swear fealty to him, for he did not think it quite honourable to make war upon a king while he was away; but when word was brought that Vastergotland was suffering from a plague that made men break out in fevers and sweats, he desisted. “Give me a sword,” he said, “and there is no man I am afraid to fight; but I will not take up arms against the punishments of God.” So King Erik had peace for his fight with Boleslaw; but that skilled and deadly warrior, hearing that the Svear had landed at Danzig, marched his troops swiftly south and defeated Erik in a great battle, and forced him to give Boleslaw the overlordship of Gotland. At this King Olaf was not well pleased, for he had a claim on that land through his wife; but as Boleslaw had a great reputation for victory-luck and many men besides, Olaf was forced to let the matter rest.

(OOC : In fact, we fought a war over the issue, which I lost, but it disappeared in a crash. As did my three strong sons, bah. I’d rather have had the war and my sons back, frankly.)


Now, Botaid had borne King Olaf five daughters, and had little joy of that, for he wanted sons to carry on his line. So when her belly swelled yet again with life, there was small rejoicing in the court. Nor did Botaid herself hold out great hope for the future. “I feel my end coming upon me, and I shall die unmourned,” she said. And when she was confined for the birth, the child was found to be turned in her womb, and although the midwives laboured for many hours they could not save either mother or child. King Olaf ordered three masses said for his wife, and buried her with great honour; but there were not many who thought him greatly grieved, and soon he began to look for another woman to bear him sons.


Dagmar was the eldest daughter of Erik, Duke of Sjælland, who had no sons. As Sjælland was a rich and prosperous country, and Dagmar was greatly renowned for her beauty besides, Olaf lost no time in sending off messengers to Duke Erik to ask for her hand. Erik, like Munkair before him, was pleased to have such a mighty warrior in his family, and forthwith agreed. Indeed there were some who whispered that such haste was unseemly, and that the meats served at the funeral of Botaid had coldly furnished the marriage table of Dagmar. But of this King Olaf took no notice. And when Dagmar presented him with a strong and well-shaped son, who was baptised Erlend, his joy knew no bounds, and he called her a paragon among women and showered rich gifts upon her. But his elder son Olav, born to a frill-wife, took little joy in this.


Dagmar bore Olaf several children; Thora was one, Eystein another. But as he now had legitimate sons, Olaf did not look upon Olav – his son by the frill-wife Ragnhild with as much favour as heretofore; and not only Olav, but his friends at the court, who had hoped to gain greatly by their friendship when Olav came of age, felt this bitterly. Therefore they put about the vicious rumour that King Olaf was impotent, and that Dagmar was not a chaste wife, but had lain with others to present Olaf with sons. King Olaf paid no heed to these slanders, instead praising his wife. But Dagmar was most unpleased, and conceived a virulent hatred of Olav and his friends.


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