The Great Game III

My first goal was to control the Baltic, and for this my easiest targets were Finland, Denmark, and Sweden, in that order. I had also to contend with the kingdom of Poland, played by a human and therefore a much cannier opponent than my actual targets; the Polish player naturally wanted to dominate the Baltic himself. To begin with, though, he had to carve himself a path through the pagan tribes of Livonia and Prussia just to get to the coast; while he was doing that I was establishing Finland as my sphere of interest. Campaigning at such a distance was not trivial for a minor kingdom like Norway, though – pretty soon I ran out of money and had to declare victory and go home, keeping only a few provinces on the coast. That was when Sweden declared war on me.

I was able to avoid decisive battles and attrite the invading Swedish army down, but that sort of war is deadly for the economy; I was a generation recovering from the events of this session.


11. ON FINLAND (1094)

One year Olaf decided to go in east-Viking, and set forth to Finland with a fleet of sixty ships. There he burnt widely around, and many Finns said they should acknowledge him as their overlord. But one great chief of those parts, Lemett, was skilled in casting runes; and he counselled battle. “The One-Eyed does not always give victory to the numerous,” he said, “and it may be this Olaf shall find something to surprise him.”

So the Finns drew up their host and came forth to give Olaf battle; and Olaf arranged his men so that the Viken men were on the right, and the Skånings on the left, with his own household guard in the center. Seeing that the Norwegian host was twice as numerous as the Finns, everybody felt certain of victory. But as they advanced, a great wind blew in their faces with a sting of snow in it although it was summer; and many said later that they had heard the old gods howling for the blood of Christians in that wind. So when it came to blows, the Norwegians were tired, while the Finns were still fresh; and in the end Olaf’s host was forced to retire. So they came to peace with the Finns, and only that part of Finland that had already sworn to obey Olaf was kept under his control.

(OOC : Gah, pagans with 16 martial skill…)


Olaf had not forgotten how the Danes had insulted him, and so the year after he came home from Finland he once again called out the men of Viken and Akershus; but because the spring was late that year, he set the muster point to be in Jylland and not Norway, and set out with only the Akershus men.

Now as they arrived in Denmark, they found that the Danes were roused against their coming, and had come out to meet them on sea; and that boded ill for the Norwegians, for they had only thirty ships, while the Danes had sixty. But Olaf was cheerful, saying “Now we’ll show these Danes who is the coward. Let each man kill two!” And seeing their king leading the way, nobody dared object. But as the battle wore on, the Danes got the upper hand, clearing many ships.

However, around vespers, as the Norwegians were hard pressed, more ships were sighted on the horizon; and Olaf, whose sight was sharper than any’s, shouted for joy : “Here come our friends to our aid! Forward, King’s men!” And his guards took new heart, while the Danes were discouraged. The Viken fleet thus won Olaf a great victory; and King Estrid was forced to flee Jylland. Thus that country was added to Olaf’s domains.


Now Erik Stenkilson, King of the Svear, had grown old and died in sickbed, and his son Inge (*) ruled in his place. This Inge was shorter than his father, but very strong; he could wrestle two men at once, and his axe was heavier than any other man’s.

Now as soon as the Svear had hailed Inge as their king, he said, “Now let us go and make a name for ourselves, and teach the Norwegians to fear us.” For he had not forgotten how King Olaf had marched through Västergotland. So he sent the war-arrow around the land, and also sent to Boleslaw of Poland for aid. And he marched to Viken with a great host, almost five thousand men, and burned widely around. King Olaf did not have enough men to face him directly; instead he marched down to Västergotland and laid siege there. But as Boleslaw was now raiding Jylland, King Olaf was forced to send emissaries to him to treat for peace, swearing an oath never to press his claim-by-marriage on Gotland.

However, the Svear would not have peace; for three years they would call up their host each spring, and ravage around Akershus and Viken, and even as far as Oppland. The bønder muttered of revolution, and the land suffered; and still the Svear would not speak of peace, though King Olaf even swallowed his pride and offered to pay tribute. Still, after so many battles the Svear, too, were growing tired. Therefore Olaf called every man in Norway to his banner for a final battle; even the men of the Isles were summoned, at ruinous cost. And so the hosts met for a great battle in Oppland; and there King Olaf had the victory, and sent the Svear running back to their forests. But as the Norway was impoverished after so many years of war, he did not pursue the victory, but instead gave the Svear peace without either side paying tribute. For this wisdom he was much lauded, but there were also some who felt that he should have made the Svear pay the price of the war they had started.

* OOC : Actually, the Swedish king is named Olaf, but that’s just one Olaf too many. He can have his brother’s name.


Now Olav, the King’s son by the frill-wife Ragnhild, had come of age; and the King granted him Tavastland in Finland to hold for his own. But this did not please Olav, who had hoped to become King of Norway in his own right; and he soon raised the banner of rebellion, hoping to gain support from those in Norway who were displeased with Olaf’s rule. But the Jarls remained strong for the King, and Olav was soon forced to flee to Castille, where he was received with great honour and made Chancellor; for he had always been a good speaker.


Now as Erlend, the King’s eldest son by Dagmar, had come of age, King Olaf sent messengers far and wide to find a bride for him; and when one reported that King Sancho of Castille had a daughter who was renowned for her beauty and kindness, Olaf decided that he would seek her hand for his son. King Sancho was not displeased with this, for Olaf had a great reputation as a warrior, and the betrothal was soon arranged. But Boleslaw of Poland, who had also wished to acquire the princess of Castille for his son, was outraged. Not wishing to fight another war with Norway so soon after the last, he instead sent bribes to Rome to have Erlend banished from the Church, and in this he was successful. But Erlend made a pilgrimage to Rome to argue his case before the Pope, and at the sight of his dusty rags the Pontifex relented. Still Erlend did not forget who had conspired against him.


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