Here I step back from the saga for a moment and take a look at the situation in game terms. Maps!
My promised geopolitical update.
The Middle East. Jerusalem is a vast sprawl, the Seljuks are dealing with a huge uprising, Egypt is gone – that yellow is Castille. Byzantium is holding the line in Anatolia, but shows no sign of expanding again – the border has not moved except to retreat within living memory.
Central Europe – seat of the action! Byzantium has absorbed Croatia and is pushing back towards Italy, which is fighting right back by absorbing a vastly enlarged Bavaria. Meanwhile Norway and Poland spar on the Oder, and a weakened but still mighty Germany tries to regain its lost lands. Note Venice held by Poland; a source of friction with Italy, but not much income, what with the awful corruption and constant revolts.
The Western Med. Iberia has almost recovered from its disastrous flirtation with Gavelkind. Flanders still holds two counties; The rest of Africa is a hidge-podge of Napolitan and Iberian holdings, with the occasional independent sheik or emir thrown in for variety.
Eastern Europe and the steppes, dominated by a powerful Kingdom of Rus. Hungary stretches to the Caspian, but is having trouble with rebels; an equally bloated Poland has just come out on the losing end of a dynastic struggle, and may find itself with troubles of its own, what with a new king and a bad reputation. The red province on the Black Sea is indeed Norwegian, my Dukes seem to have a talent for inheriting provinces at random. This one belongs to the Duchy of Bergslagen, and is in constant revolt against its distant overlords. Note also the scattered German possessions, legacies of more successful wars than the recent ones.
Western Europe. The British Isles are united, a powerful and wealthy kingdom – but no Royal Navy holds the Channel secure against invasion. Grown huge, the Duchy of Flanders (our own homegrown Big White Blob) seeks lands both in Germany and France, the latter bringing it into conflict – thus far only diplomatic – with an England that has ambitions of its own in that direction. And, indeed, Norway would prefer that no Flandern-loyal Counts pop up east of the Weser. Of course, Norway also has ambitions to recover its island possessions; the time may come when the Scandinavian kingdom has to choose between its allies.