Great Game XVII: Great Svithjod

This session a Great War, with our Polish player finally managing to inherit the kingdom of Russia, and instantly creating a balancing coalition against himself. Unfortunately, as can so easily happen, the coalition proved more fragile than any single kingdom, and the war sort of petered out. Besides, our Bohemia player – a vassal of Poland – dropped out when everybody declared war on him, his subjugation to Poland being the technical casus belli.

YNGLINGA SAGA

Due to some unfortunate technical problems, we lost the last two years of our playing time today, in which many interesting things happened. This means, unfortunately, that I am forced to report some fairly repetitive minor wars; I fear, then, that this week’s update is not up to my usual standards. Apologies, and better luck next week.

44. ON POLAND AND THE GREAT SVITHJOD (1211-16)

It is said that the earth’s circle, which the human race inhabits, is torn across into many bights, so that great seas run into the land from the out-ocean. Thus it is known that a great sea goes into Njorvasund, [the straits of Gibraltar] and up to the land of Jerusalem. From the same sea a long sea-bight stretches toward the northeast, and is called the Black Sea, and divides the three parts of the earth; of which the eastern part is called Asia, and the western is called by some Europe, by some Enea. Northward of the Black Sea lies Svithjod the Great, or the Cold. The Great Svithjod is reckoned by some not less than the Saracens’ land; others compare it to the Great Blueland [Africa]. The northern part of Svithjod lies uninhabited on account of frost and cold, as likewise the southern parts of Blueland are waste from the burning sun. In Svithjod are many great domains, and many wonderful races of men, and many kinds of languages. There are giants, and there are dwarfs, and there are also blue men. There are wild beasts and dreadfully large dragons. From this land came, in the distant past, our ancestors, following Odin, as is told in the Ynglingatal.

Now in the days of King Olaf, it had come to pass that Mieszko Piast, the crafty and war-wise King of Poland, had gathered to himself the kingly power over this great country; this he had accomplished by making war on his brothers, by the use of foul and unnatural magics to make children strangle in their sleep, by secret marches on unsuspecting chiefs, by sending bribes to the greedy and threats to the weak; and by many other evil means, which would take too long to here relate. In this wise the natural order of things had become disturbed, and a darkness was upon the land; which made itself manifest in the numerous plagues that struck the people.

Mieszko Piast :

Miezko

Now King Olaf was greatly perturbed by the evil that had come upon his kingdom, and he sent emissaries to Edmund of England, and to Jacques of Flanders, and also to the great kings in the southern lands, saying “Shall we not move upon the man, Mieszko, and bring freedom to Gardarike? Are we not Christian kings, sworn to fight injustice wheresoever it may occur?” And to this the other kings agreed; but there were also some who counselled that they should wait, and bide their time; for travellers from the far east told of a great Christian King, called Prester John, who marched with a vast army from the seas of grass. “Therefore,” they said, “we should wait until we can ally with this king, for surely he is sent as God’s punishment upon the deeds of the Piast line.” And all agreed that this was wise counsel, and emissaries were sent to the east to find Prester John and offer him alliance. And meanwhile swords were sharpened, treasuries filled, and many other warlike preparations were made. For Poland was a mighty kingdom, and its overthrow would be no simple task.

But when men lay plans, it is best for them to write in sand, or in running water; for the fates take no notice of such things, and spin the world as they choose, not as men would have it. Thus it happened now that Drogo de Hauteville, King of Naples, quarreled with his vassal Johann von Nordheim, who held Bavaria and the German lands on the Danube from Drogo. Both men held that the Malaspina family of Tirol owed them allegiance; for Johann claimed that Tirol had been part of Bavaria since his grandfather’s time; but Drogo said that since the Malaspinas had rebelled against the von Nordheims, and asked protection of the King of Naples, they were his vassals and owed Johann nothing. Soon this matter came to blows, and Drogo marched north to bring his vassal again to obedience; but Johann, seeing that he could not win the war his words had brought about, turned to the Piasts for protection. And Mieszko Piast, ever eager to see his domains increase, gladly promised Johann a liege-lord’s aid; and he marched south to meet Drogo in battle.

But at this there was great outrage in the courts of Europe, and many said that the end times had come, and that Mieszko was the Anti-Christ. For now his realm stretched from the Caspian to the Oder, from the Urals to the Alps; and men said that this must surely be the Great King of Terror spoken of in the Revelation. And so all over Europe men armed themselves for the final battle; in England the Dukes forgot their quarrels and answered the call of their King; from Flanders and Spain, from Hungary and France men marched to oppose the Piast.

Now at this time Olaf was campaigning in Germany in support of the King of France, and also because the German king held Holstein, which from time immemorial had been Danish land. But when he heard of the new aggression of the Polish king, he at once sent emissaries to Eberhard von Thuringen, asking for peace; and as the Emperor was hard pressed, he agreed to this with thanks. Then Olaf turned his army about and marched towards the Oder, and also he sent men ahead to Ernst Finlands-jarl, bidding him raise the countryside to attack Novgorod and bring that city under Norwegian rule. But because Ernst did not gather all his men in one place, saying it would be too difficult to feed them all, but instead sent each leidangs-led’s men marching across the countryside, the Poles were able to fall upon them separately, and there was a great loss of life; thus Novgorod was still held for the Piast.

But now Drogo, stealing a march upon the Piast, met Johann’s army with a great host, and leading his men forward, he came upon Johann in the melee, and they fought; and in this fight Johann von Nordheim got his bane-wound. And now also even the hard heart of Mieszko Piast was perturbed by the many armies that were marching against him, and he sent emissaries to treat for peace, saying he would give Bavaria back to Drogo, and restore things as they had been before his meddling. And by this means he divided the counsels of the allied kings of Christendie; for King Olaf held that what had been begun, should be finished, and Krakow burned to the ground and the land sown with salt; but other counselled waiting, and biding the time until Prester John should arrive, to crush Poland the more easily. At this King Olaf replied angrily : “Does God not help those who help themselves? Here are five strong kings all at war with the Piast; who knows when such a chance shall come again? Let us crush the viper, not coddle him to our bosom in anticipation of a saviour from the East!” But the other kings would not hearken to his words, and called their men home; and so King Olaf, too, was forced to bide his time. But as was to be expected, Mieszko did not keep his word, and only two parts in three of Bavaria were returned to Naples; and with this Drogo had to be content.

Eh, our Bavaria player dropped, which made the war a little inconvenient, so we patched up a peace. Damn stupid reason to drop, though, just because half the known world DOWs you. We were going for Poland, honest!

45. ON GERMANY

Now the von Thuringens who ruled in Germany had fallen far from the power of their ancestors, and many kings looked with greedy eyes upon their remaining lands. Therefore Jacques of Flanders called together his vassals, and fell upon the German counts east of the Weser, to replace the lands he had lost in Normandy. But this did not please King Olaf, who held that the Weser should be the border between Norway and Flanders; still, he did not wish to attack a kingdom that had in living memory been a vassal to his own, and also he did not wish to weaken the accord of the Christian kings against Poland. Instead, therefore, he called out his army to campaign on the Elbe, to force the chiefs there into submission so that he could better protect them from the ravages of the de Flandres. “And,” he said, “once this matter of Poland is dealt with, we shall see whose allegiance the Weser chiefs prefer.” In this wise Norway’s lands in Germany were further extended.

Norway in 1220. Note Flanders on the Elbe, and Poland on the Po! My own gains of Holstein, east-Lausitz and Sjælland look rather unfortunately modest. However, Norway is actually rather stronger than it looks at this point in time, due to the services of the sons of Halkjell Yngling, as Marshal, Steward, and Chancellor. My adjusted stats are 19-27-28-31! Hence a truly vast income, no assassination worries, enormous manpower relative to my actual wealth, and of course people pledging themselves to me quite of their own free will.

Norway1220

46. ALLEGIANCE OF SJÆLLAND (1218)

Now the Sjælland area had fallen under the Munsö family, and they were a proud and haughty breed, who held no allegiance to any king. But when this was brought to the attention of Olaf, he was most angry, for he held that only Ynglings had the right to rule in the North, and here was a land that had indeed been under an Yngling chief at one time. Therefore he sent a message to Jedvard av Munsö, saying that he might either submit, or have his lands taken away and given to a man with the God-right to rule; and this message was delivered in a most insulting fashion, for King Olaf hoped that he should be able to march upon Sjælland and reduce it to obedience, and install an Yngling chief. But Jedvard swallowed his pride, and submitted to Norwegian rule; for this he was most ferociously mocked in his family, and it is said he had little joy of the bridal bed from that day onwards. Yet King Olaf kept his word, and permitted him to rule Sjælland as an under-king; and later he had cause to be thankful for this mercy.

Well, at any rate that was true in our lost two years; but comrade Jedvard is still in line for the inheritance that enabled me to usurp Sweden, so it should still work.

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