There Will Be War: Two Can Play

The war mentioned here is the one from my previous TWBW post, wherein I lost the title King of Denmark.

Two can play at that game.

They say there is a curse on the Isles, and so there is: where Great Powers contend for mastery, there is neither peace nor bread, neither justice nor mercy.

(I have heard that the outlaws in Britain, the men driven from their lands, pray to the White Christ for justice. They are fools. Twice fools: Once to believe in that old fairy tale; and again for asking an all-powerful god for justice. The Christians have this much right: We are all flawed, all sinners. Who should know better than the Ynglings, who killed a world for a chance at power? Justice, indeed. Only a fool would demand such a thing, when he could beg for mercy.)

But I digress. There is a curse on the Isles, indeed: The curse of powerful men. And now – with the armies held at bay by the threat from the East – we find that there are agents of the Empire in Finland, in Ireland, in all the periphery of the kingdom, gnawing away at the loyalty of our subjects. Telling them tales of a lost Golden Age. And it will work, too, never doubt it. Our rule is as merciful as we can afford; but still it is ours, and in living memory these islands have ruled themselves. They cannot do that anymore, of course. One or another of the Great Powers would swallow them and barely hiccup. But how can you tell that to these ignorant peasants?

Even the nobles, here in the downtime, have no sense of history, of the movement of impersonal forces. They believe in justice between nations, and god-given rights. They build states from personal loyalties, and expect them to outlast their lives. They take oaths of fealty before their god, and think that they have enforced their rule! They are children, their minds full of blood and glory and honour. “Du vet at en helt, det vil barnet være, du vet, han vil vifte med sabel og flagg! Og så skal han ut i en skur av stål og henge igjen i en piggtrådsvase, og råtne for Ynglingens herskende rase!” We hanged that poet, but he had a point. And here they are all children. Is there a ruler in the land above the age of thirty?

So. We’ve fought with steel, and that was a draw; and now our enemies think they can fight with words and reverse the verdict. Two can play at that game. They would have our peasants remember a Golden Age in England, when the fields flowed with milk and honey? Very well; we shall make the land prosperous. No man revolts who has a well-fed child. They would have them grumble under foreign rule, and mutter about making their own laws? Fine; let us make local Tings, and let any landowner speak, as in Norway; and our settlers will ensure that the biggest decisions are in our favour. They would point to the English king as their best hope for justice? Splendid; we shall make sure that tales are spread of his madness and his rages. And if there are a few little green drops in his food to make our tales true, why, none will know but us. They would encourage our subjects to hopeless revolt, and move in “to restore order”? We shall see who has the better of that.

Man for man, we are the finest army in this continent. It is not enough. Our enemies are too many. We killed three for one in this recent war (*), and what was the result? The loss of the Danish crown, and an unequal treaty. But I suggest that this is not all to our disadvantage; it is not only in weapons that uptime knowledge gives us an edge. Propaganda, infiltration, weapon smuggling: Did we not fight a Long War of two centuries with precisely these means? The downtimers have lived with arms all their lives; our edge is not so great. But with words – do you realise, no man here has seen a printed book? There are few who have seen even a hand-written one! So, no, I think we should not plot to break the treaty. We should strive to use it, and win by peaceful means.

Two can play gentlemen. Whatever the game, that remains true: Two can play. But only one can win.

Harald Håkonson, speech before the Yngling council.

(*) As far as I can tell, I really did. Prussia sent three armies of 20k each to invade me. I opposed them with one army of 20k, the rest having been sent to England. Two years later neither of us had an army to speak of in Norway. Mainly this was attrition, but still. On the other hand I could see another 20k crossing the Baltic, and not a flake of manpower anywhere in my realm to oppose them.

As an aside, Norway has Regal Supremacy and Royal Prerogative for ruling laws. This is of course not at all ideal, from a powergaming perspective; my vassals all hate me. I do this to represent the Ynglings trying to build a state that the world is not yet ready for; they are going against the grain of the times, and it shows.

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