Great Game XXX: Fifth Polish War

I’m transferring all these posts at once, with the intent of dribbling them out one-a-day later. I’m beginning to remember why I had my Ynglings be so harsh whenever they got the chance to overrun parts of Poland. Stubborn sorts! Not given to reasonable compromises like doing it my way and giving me the land I so clearly deserve.

YNGLINGA SAGA

(Again a short session due to many wars; we cannot go very fast with all the orders being given, plus the need for reaction time when fighting on a front stretching from the Oder to the Dvina, indeed to Lake Ladoga.)

78. THE GREAT KILLING (1372-1375)

It has been told how the King of Poland had unlawfully seized the throne of Bohemia, and how King Håkon had desired him to repent of this act and return that land to its rightful rule. Also we have heard how, upon receiving Håkon’s word, Sieciech returned only scorn and mockery. Now when this reply reached King Håkon, he was most unpleased, and ordered that all the land should be readied for war; and also he sent to Trifon de Hauteville, the young King of Italy, who was likewise outraged by Poland’s ambition, and urged him to war. And to this Trifon agreed.

Trifon Hauteville
Comrade Trifon, whose alliance turned out to be a pro forma disaster. His excommunication is kind of interesting; I think it is related to his uncle-and-vassal

Miloslav HautevilleMiloslav Hauteville. Note the cruel, selfish, and vengeful traits – just the sort of Papal Controller who would excomm his young relative for snatching the throne!

But now while the men of Norway and Sweden, of Denmark and Finland, of Poland and Gardarike, of the Po and of Bohemia, were mustering for war, it happened that the kings of Spain and Burgundy became jealous of Italy’s good fortune; for that land is accounted the wealthiest and most powerful of the Christian kingdoms. Between Burgundy and Poland there existed in any case an ancient friendship; and also the Italian kings had intervened in recent wars to the support of France, Burgundy’s enemy of many years. Therefore, after the world had heard Italy declare enmity towards Poland and all its works, Garcia de Jimenez gathered a great fleet and set sail in secret for Italy, falling upon Trifon’s crown lands and ravaging widely; and Roger de Flandre declared that, although he would raise no blade against Norway, no Italian soldier should set foot north of the Alps upon pain of his armies’ displeasure. “It is enough”, he said, “that Poland and Norway should fight. They are ancient foes; well and good, let them settle it between themselves, once and for all, who is the stronger. No man shall lift a sword who is not party to the quarrel; and in this wise we can have an end to the long wars of the North.”

Roger de Flandre
Roger de Flandre, a murrain on him.

Garcia JimenezGarcia Jimenez, likewise a murrain on him! Or at any rate his advisors. Imagine interfering with my plans for the partition of Poland, just because he’s worried about the balance of power in the Med! Who cares about the Med? It’s the Baltic that’s important!

Now it began to go ill for Norway’s fortunes; for the men of Poland are many and brave, and the norns do not spin unending good luck for any man, or any nation; and it is often true that the Lord of Hosts gives victory to those who are the most numerous. Or it may be true as they say in Svea-land, that the old One-Eyed still walks the land, giving victory at a whim, and taking the best of the fallen to feast in his hall awaiting Judgement Day. If it is so, his whim was in these days quite even-handed; for there were many great battles fought, and the Norwegians were as often left in possession of the field as not; but whoever had the victory, there fell many of the best men. And from the deep fields and wide reaches of Poland there came an unending stream of new warriors, eager to avenge fallen comrades; but the thin soils and harsh rock of the north did not bear as many strong sons. And in this wise the armies of Norway grew ever smaller, and yet no end was in sight.

Novgorod 1374
Novgorod again
Germany 1373
Some early battles of the war.

Now King Håkon sent to William of Normandie, whose kingdom had of old been a Norwegian ally, and asked aid; but William replied “Of old our two kingdoms have been friends, and were it mine to give, help would be sent; but Roger de Flandre has said to me, that if English soldiers sail through the Sound, then Flanders will cross the Weser and make war in the German lands.” And when he heard this, Håkon agreed that it would be best if the Normans stayed on their isle; but his words for Roger de Flandre were not of the friendliest.

Another William
I’m not sure if this is the second or the third William. At any rate, he is certainly quite useless if his entry would bring in Burgundy against me.

Now the war went on in this wise for a while, and Brandenburg and Novgorod were taken by the Poles; also they burnt widely in Thuringen, and raided Gotland and the Swedish coast. Here they had a great defeat when the farmers of the district fell upon them and caught them away from their ships; the Polish army was marching through a steep vale when the Upplanders rolled stones and logs upon them from above, and attacked from both sides. It is said that only one man in ten saw the Polish plains again. But in the main there were few soldiers to oppose the Polish hosts; and men grumbled in Sweden that the war-luck of the Ynglings had deserted King Håkon.

Now it happened one day that a herald from King Sieciech came to Håkon, and told that his master offered terms for peace. “That is very well”, said King Håkon; “peace is a thing all men desire. But tell us now what your king would have for his price; for we all know that the Piasts do nothing from the goodness of their hearts, but require in all things an advantage.” “As to that,” replied the herald, “the same has often been said of the Ynglings; but my lord’s desires are small. He wishes the return of Brandenburg and Novgorod, Silesia, and the Dvina-land; and in exchange, he offers you a peace to last until the Judgement Day. But if you do not agree to these terms, he will come into your northern strongholds and pillage and burn there, and will not rest until all of Gardarike is once more under Polish command, and Yngling rule in Germany is only a memory.”

A Peace Offer From The King of Poland-Rus, Lithuania, Bohemia, and Bolgar, Lord of the Steppes, Bulwark of Christendom, Overseer of All from the Elbe to the Urals, Protector of the Kingdom of Cuman, and Benefactor of the Slavic Peoples to Hakon, King of the Scandinavian Peoples and Ruler of the Swedes, Norwegians, and Finns:

We have thrown our soldiers against each other for years now, and my generals have achieved victory over your invasion forces. Soon the fight shall come to your doorstep and your noble line’s great constructions shall be brought to the ground. Once Polish troops have their foothold in Sweden, there shall be no mercy, no quarter shall be given. The forests will be set aflame. Make your decision now, for I offer you this peace.

The Counties of Brandenburg, Novgorod, Sambia, Lower Silesia, and Tver to the Kingdom of Poland.

That is my offer, and it is only to retake land that is rightfully Polish, lands stolen not through a just and fair war, but deception and assassination. If you do not accept this peace, I fear that the war must be brought to Norway itself. Once I have laid your realm prostrate the peace shall be much harsher on your Norwegian kingdom. All the lands south of Onega shall be demanded, as well as all the lands east of the Elbe, in addition to the demands already set forth.

At this King Håkon frowned, and said “You speak boldly for one who stands among so many armed men; but we will not be the first to break the truce given to heralds. As to your offer, we shall consider it closely, and return our answer to you tomorrow.” Then he gathered his closest advisors around him, and they held counsel. Now earlier that day there had come word from Gardarike that Romny, Syrj, and Zyriane had fallen to the Poles; and as these were Håkon’s lands from before he had become King, this news pleased him not at all. Nor could his advisors cheer him; for there were no good tidings to be had of the war. In Germany the Polish armies were fifty thousand strong, and only twenty thousand Norwegians opposed them; Bremen and Mecklenburg were besieged with no relief in sight, and Rostock had been put under contribution. And withal, scouts had brought word of yet more Polish armies marching towards the Oder. So there were few in that counsel who thought further resistance wise, although the Piast’s blood-price was heavy. So it was decided that there was nothing to do but agree to the terms, and plot for later revenge, when the omens were more favourable.

But in the morning King Håkon had the herald brought before him, and he gave this answer : “The Yngling Kings are not merchants, to barter away the freedom of kinsmen like fish in the marketplace. Our Yngling jarls in Silesia and Tver have a call to Our protection, and they shall have their rights. Give this word to your King : The Yngling ætt will stand together, or fall together. But no scheming Piast shall break us apart. And God will protect the righteous.

Now when the herald had departed, Eystein Yngling, who ruled in Lausitz, asked King Håkon why he had given this answer, and not the one agreed upon the day before. And King Håkon replied “Yesterday as I went to sleep, my heart was heavy. But as I slept, there appeared to me a white light, and out of this light rode our ancient King : Olaf Halkjellson, who sleeps under Dovre until Norway’s hour of need. And he said to me, “This is a harsh year; but my time to wake is not yet. Give you a strong word to this Piast, and I will work for you; and we shall yet see if the tide is too strong to turn.” Then he turned away, and I woke.” Now when he heard this, Eystein replied “That is a good omen, and glad tidings indeed; for I think it would go ill with me if Silesia came again under the Piasts. But how will the warrior-King aid us?” “As to that,” said King Håkon, “I do not know; but a thought has come to me, that we have not yet spoken to all the unfriends of Poland. And perhaps there are yet men of fighting age in Norway, who would come to the colours if we asked.”

Eystein YnglingEystein Yngling, my kinsman with a right to not have his lands invaded by nasty Poles. Though if I didn’t think I could win I might be a little more forthcoming.

Then the King made a proclamation, that henceforth no man could be held as a trell in Norway, if he were willing to take up arms for the kingdom. And in this wise many good men were found to fight; for although no trell may carry a blade, they are always given the worst and hardest work, and so become very strong and angry. It is said that three days after this news reached a town, there would be no male trell left in it, unless he were a cripple or a child still suckling. And thus a great army was raised to fight the Poles.

(Actually, I just remembered – easy to forget in the heat of battle – that many of my regiments had been fighting forever. It turns out that I can triple the size of my German force by re-raising them. I believe this will suffice to fight Sterk to a standstill. He has been breeding for martial, sure, but his reserves cannot be inexhaustible.

Incidentally, this war offers a perfect example of what I was speaking of in my earlier strategic analysis : Largest army or none, Norway is being beaten quite badly in this drawn-out war of attrition. With even a single ally, I could take Poland easily. (You will note that I did not attack until Italy had already DOWed; unfortunately RP chose that moment to make his threat of war if Italian soldiers crossed the Alps.) Without allies, I have kept Sterk at bay in a long-drawn-out retreat, but it is indeed a retreat. Only a few cities remain on the mainland; I am about to fight for Scandinavia proper. Stay tuned…)

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