The Great Game XIV: Recovery

Another war with Germany, reducing the former first power to penury and giving me some nice loot. Also the first breath of Polish intrigues in Russia, of which we shall hear more.



Since King Gunnar, like his grandfather Erlend, had died untimely, the succession was not clear; and therefore a Ting of all the Ynglinga jarls was held to choose who should be king in Norway. At this meeting there was much dissent, for some held that Halkjell Kongs-sønn should be crowned, as he was the greatest warrior and poet the land had seen since Egil Skallagrimsson. But others held that as he was born out of wedlock, he could not inherit; and among these bishop Bjarne was prominent, who had much renown for his exorcism of Konrad Piast. And this faction therefore held that Sigfred, the eldest son of the King’s first wife, should inherit; for he was also a strong warrior, though not as splendid in strength and size as his brother Halkjell. But still others held that the Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway should be divided among the living sons according to the older pagan custom of their forefathers; for they grumbled that the Yngling kings had grown over-mighty, and that a jarl could no longer rule in his own lands as he wished, but must always be taking thought for his overlord’s wars. And there were also some who held out for one or another of Gunnar’s younger sons, hoping thereby to win favour and influence if their candidate should take the throne.

The other sons of Gunnar :






Now when the Ting was in its third day, Halkjell spoke for the first time : “We have seen before what disaster the Ynglinga jarls can bring to Norway, when they would quarrel over the throne. The Great Rising started thus, and the land was brought low with war for thirty years. It was not for your quarrels that my father died to bring peace to the land! Therefore you shall now hear what the sons of Gunnar have decided. We shall draw a lot for the kingship; and because I and Eirik are not born to lawfully wedded wives, we shall each have one lot to our brothers’ five. In this wise the will of God will be made clear, for if it should chance that I or Eirik win against such odds, it must be clear that the hand of God has intervened. And we shall all swear an oath to serve the winner faithfully.” The jarls saw that this was wise speech, and consented thereto. Bishop Bjarne blessed the lots, and Eirik Jarl of Trøndelag drew one, which was marked with the sign of Olaf. Therefore the jarls and the Gunnar-sons all cried Olaf hail, and he was crowned king of Norway and Denmark.

(I don’t see what other criteria the game could possibly be using : I hadn’t given any titles, and just going by traits he’s certainly not the strongest, even of the non-bastards. :confused: Anyway, he’s better than a civil war. :p )


Now the Jarldom of Bergenhus was not held by an Yngling, but by a man hight Bjarne of Agder, except for the city itself, which belonged to the Pope in Rome. Bjarne was a mighty warrior, who in his youth had subdued the Swedish jarldom of Norrland, and held wide estates around Hälsingland as well as his ancestral domains in Agder. But in his age he had grown somewhat fat, and was therefore known as Paunch-Bjarne. As Bergen was the last part of the Kingdom of Norway which had not made submission to the new Yngling King, Olaf sent word to Paunch-Bjarne that he would have speech of him, and invited him to guest at the King’s farm in Skåne for Yule-tide. And this Bjarne accepted.

When he came to Skåne, Olaf gave to Bjarne many rich gifts : Five armrings of the red gold, four black horses, three good brynjer, two thrall women, and a sword with a jeweled hilt. At this Bjarne was much pleased; but when he picked up the sword, Olaf said : “Now you have taken a sword from my hands; and it is old custom in Norway that the one who takes a sword from a King shall be in his service thereafter. And therefore you shall do homage to me for the Jarldom of Bergen.” And as Bjarne had but a single ship with him, he was forced to concede this; and when he left after the Yuletide celebrations, his son Svein stayed behind to ensure his obedience. But it is said that Olaf was careful not to lay any heavy scot on the old warrior for as long as he lived. From this we get the saying “Bjarne-gift”, meaning a present with hidden conditions.

39.WAR IN GERMANY (1189)

Now King Olaf held wide lands, and gave his brother Sigfred rule of Brandenburg, and his other brothers who were of age he also gave lands after their deserts, except Halkjell, whom he made Chancellor. But in Germany was a new King, Hermann von Thuringen, who did not look with pleasure upon the Norse king giving out lands his kingdom had once held as Crown estates. Therefore he fell upon Sigfred with a mighty host, and drove him from Brandenburg before Olaf could come to his aid.

But now Norway had gained greatly in strength since last Thuringens and Ynglings clashed; and also Philip of England and Aubry de Flandre marched against the Emperor in obedience to the call of their ally. Further, Konrad Piast, King of Poland, scenting profit and also wishing to make amends for his invasion of Denmark in King Gunnar’s time, mustered his host and crossed the Oder once more. Against such a coalition even the German King could not long stand, though he fought mightily and defeated many Flandern armies. After five years his cities were so emptied of men that he was forced to beg for peace; and thereby Olaf regained Anhalt and Altmark that his brother had lost, and took Brandenburg and Rugen besides in payment. But this time he was more careful, and did not give his brother a weak Duchy next to a powerful enemy, but instead granted him Rugen to hold for his own, and Rostock he gave to his brother Einar, keeping the duchy of Brandenburg for his own. But what Sigfred thought of this, the saga does not record.

However, Konrad Piast was less lucky, for – proud warrior that he was – he was the last to make peace with the Thuringen Emperor, and so when he demanded Brandenburg, got for answer only that “No man can give what he does not own; as for Brandenburg, you must ask the Yngling.” At this Konrad flew into a rage, screaming that Norway had betrayed him who came to their aid, and swearing the vengeance of the Piast line upon the Ynglings. And from that day there was little love between Norway and Poland.

(Well, what can I say? I do feel the Oder makes an excellent border between the Norwegian and Polish spheres of influence. And I didn’t straight-out promise that Sterk could have Brandenburg; my exact words were “You have a claim on it, so you can still ask for it in the peace treaty” – this after I had, shall we say, been a little slow in relieving the German siege when it was on Polish hands. And, well, I wasn’t lying, by any means. Sterk could indeed have sued for Brandenburg if he hadn’t been nice enough to let me peace out first. :D)

Yngling domains after the (fourth? fifth?) German war :


Note the duchy of Akershus, inherited away to (grrr) the English duke of Oxford, who – oddly enough – is a Swede of the the family “av Dal”. Whom I thought I exterminated around 1120, but I guess one got away somewhere. I’ll make sure to do a better job when next I invade England, which admittedly may have to wait for EU2. 😀


Now Konrad Piast was a cunning man, and in his youth he had married Rogneda Rurikovich, daughter of Seronis who was King of the Rus. Of this union were born several sons, but the most of them do not concern us here, and so pass out of the saga. Their eldest son was named Trojden, and when Seronis died of the hacking cough he fell heir to the entire land of Gardarike; which many held was enough land for one man, but Konrad Piast made Trojden his heir, and hoped that upon his death one man should rule both Poland and Gardarike.

But when this came to the ear of King Olaf, he grew pale, and summoned Halkjell Kongs-sønn to give advice; for Olaf had come to rely strongly on his elder brother, who always gave wise redes. Now when Olaf had explained what concerned him, Halkjell said, “This is a cross matter, Sire Brother, and I do not know what will come of it. It may be, though, that we need not worry, for the Rus are a fractious people, and it may be Trojden will find a rival poisoning his wine-cup.” But Olaf replied, “I fear that would not serve our cause, for Trojden has no sons, and Konrad Piast would fall heir to his lands. And then we should be overwhelmed as an oak overshadows a rose.” At this Halkjell frowned, and said, “Then, Sire Brother, we must pray that Trojden will have strong sons, and soon. And we should send him a gift of narwhal horn and white-bear fat.” These remedies are well known to make a man’s member strong and capable of siring sons; and Olaf followed his brother’s advice.

Now after a few years Trojden indeed sired two strong sons; one was named Leszek, the other, Wincenty. But Trojden was still the heir of Konrad Piast. And therefore Olaf sent again for Halkjell, and asked what was to be done now, at which Halkjell said, “Sire Brother, I have not been idle. While Trojden lay with his wife, I have made inquiries in the south and among our allies; and there are many who would not see a Piast rule both Poland and Gardarike. And it may be that Trojden shall find something to surprise him one day soon. But we must take care that his sons are well advised and guarded in their minority.”

Now soon it happened as Halkjell had suggested, that Trojden choked on a fishbone in his soup, which was held to be a punishment from God, for the soup was made from elk-meat. In this wise the Kingdom of the Rus fell to Wincenty Piast, who at this time was two years old. Therefore, also, Konrad’s younger son Ziemomysl became heir to Poland. But as Wincenty was so young, and had no son, his grandfather Konrad was still the heir to Gardarike. At this Konrad’s greed awoke, and he most foully sent men of his guard to guest in Gardarike, with instructions to kill his two grandsons. For this deed God will surely judge him; but He also held His hand over Norway, for although Wincenty was murdered in this wise, his brother Leszek escaped, and the Piast guardsmen were hanged. And when he heard of this, Konrad Piast became so enraged that his heart failed him, and he died. Thus did Poland and Gardarike fall to separate lines of the Piast family, and all Norway breathed a sigh of relief.

(And the Polish king gained a bunch of badboy with those failed assassinations, too, and likely won’t be bothering anyone for a while. Truly, God watches out for fools, madmen, and the Kingdom of Norway.)


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