Great Game VIII: Archbishops and Assassins

A more interesting session, showing two game mechanics not yet mentioned. The first is the creation of bishops and archbishops – these correspond to Counts and Dukes, but are religious instead of secular feudatories. The creation of such a vassal is the easiest way to get large amounts of piety when there is no Crusade, which is useful for reducing vassal loyalty loss; and in this case, the creation of a Duke-level vassal made some particularly troublesome counts vassals of the Archbishop, rather than me personally. Thus I still had the money and troops, but they were out of my hair and under someone with more compatible traits.

Second is the assassination. This is the first example of it, but as time went on I got quite skilled at finding vassals in other countries, with no sons but at least one daughter of marriageable age, matching the daughters up with men from my court, and giving land to the offspring. If the landholder had one of the semisalic inheritance laws, that is, not forbidding inheritance through the female line, then on his death my own vassal would inherit the land. The one drawback of this was that it tended to annoy whoever had been the overlord of that land before; I had to fight several wars in defense of Yngling heirs to non-Yngling land. And, of course, sometimes the landholder would remarry and have another child after I had inserted my kinsman into his line of inheritance. Which is where the Ynglings first got their rather ripe reputation. Later they graduated to crimes on a larger scale.



Because King Erlend had died unexpectedly, he had not set his affairs in order, and his sons had not yet reached a man’s height. Therefore, a Ting was called to decide who should be King in Norway henceforth; and at this meeting there was much argument. For some held that Torgeir, the eldest, should inherit; but there were also many who spoke out for Håkon, his brother. For although Håkon was younger, he was swifter of tongue and a better swordsman, and many had heard King Erlend say that in a few years he would make Håkon Jarl of Akershus. And that was the office Erlend himself had held before becoming King.

For a while it seemed that there would be civil war in Norway once more; but at length Håkon spoke out. “Ill would it be,” he said, “for brother to make war on brother. And I would not have it said of me that I let greed bring Norway to such a pass. So here is my offer : Let my brother have the throne, and I shall take for my portion no more than my father promised me, the Jarldom of Akershus.” And the Ting held this to be wise speech, and much to be praised in one so young. And so it was done. But still there were some who grumbled, and plotted in secret against the new King.

(OOC : Ack, my King died too young… My incompetent eldest inherited, and he has all the wrong traits! All his vassals hate him!)


Now it might be thought that the Svear would have taken advantage of Norway’s disarray, to gain their lands back. But this they were unable to do, and that passed in this wise. Sörkver was Jarl of Uppland in those days, and he had fought in both the wars with Norway and had lost many men in the doing. So now when King Magnus called yet again for war on Norway, Sörkver refused. “Twice we have fought the Norrmen and lost,” he said, “and now we should lose yet more land? For surely the Ynglings would swiftly unite against us. Better to hold what is ours and hope for better days; we cannot stand alone against Norway.” And many Svear agreed that this was the best counsel for their nation; and they rose up and deposed Magnus, taking Sörkver for their new King.

(OOC : Fortunately for me, the new Swedish King was even worse off for traits. Every remaining vassal DOWed him simultaneously… Unfortunately I was a bit too busy to take advantage.)


Now Torgeir knew that he sat uneasy on the throne of his father, for he had never had the gift of making himself pleasant to all men, which is needful to a king. In other matters he was skilled enough, choosing honest stewards for his lands, and when he trained with the hird there were few who could stand against him. But when he spoke in council, he would often become angry if men did not agree with him, and then his tongue turned spiteful. Later he would recant his harsh words, and send gifts of gold to the man he had wronged; but in this wise he made many enemies.

Therefore, Torgeir determined that he would do good works, to show his piety and bind his vassals closer; and so he ordered stone churches built in many places around the realm. Also he sent to Rome, asking the Pope to give Norway an archbishop; for hitherto all the Norse lands had been under the archdiocese of Hamburg, but now Norway was grown so large, there was good reason to have an archbishop of Norwegian blood to care for Norwegian souls. And this the Pope granted. To further show his friendship with the Church, King Torgeir made some of the western Counts, who had been the strongest supporters of Håkon, vassals of the new archbishopric. Thus he did not have to deal with them so often, and their tempers had time to cool.

(OOC : Yay, prestige, piety, and my worst vassal off my hands, in one fell swoop!)


The third son of King Erlend was named Eilif; he was a handsome man, light of hair and mood, always with a friendly word for everyone. Now one day he came to his brother King Torgeir, saying that he wished to be married, and asking the King’s help in this. And to this Torgeir gave his assent, and sent emissaries far about, seeking a suitable bride for his brother.

Now in Scotland there was at this time a duke by the name of Eochaid, who had a daughter named Ragna. Her mother had been from Norway, and had told Ragna many tales of the dark mountains; and she had often wished to see her ancient homeland for herself. So when the emissaries came bearing word of a prince seeking a bride, Ragna was eager to go; and her father gave his assent. A child was soon born of this union, and was named Arnmod.

Now Eochaid also had a son, named Simon; and to further cement the alliance, this boy was fostered for a while at King Torgeir’s court. He was a likely lad, who soon came to be popular in the court for his winning ways; but somewhat given to bragging. One day he bragged that he could outrun the Norwegian ponies, and Hetfinn, a young man in the hird, who was very proud of his horse, challenged him to a race. This Simon accepted, and handily outraced Hetfinn’s horse. “It seems to me,” he then said, “that your horses here are no faster than your wits.” At this Hetfinn was enraged, and the matter came to blows; and in this fight Simon took his bane-wound.

For this deed Hetfinn was outlawed, and a price put on his head beside. And as Eochaid had no other sons, Arnmod, King Torgeir’s nephew, fell heir to the Duchy of Galloway. Soon thereafter Eochaid died – most say, of grief – and thus an Yngling came to rule in Scotland; and since Torgeir appointed the regency council that was to rule Galloway until Arnmod came of age, the duchy was soon removed from the Scot-King’s rule, and fell under Norway. But it was said in some places that Torgeir had no great sorrow of Simon’s death, and that to take a Duchy under such circumstances was a nithing deed.

(OOC : OK, I admit it, I brutally assassinated the boy. It was either him, or no dukedom for my nephew.)


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