Realpolitik – Yngling style!
The Mediterranean War, beginning with the conflict of Brittany and Byzantium over the division of the Balkans but eventually expanding to include the entire world, was by almost any measure a disaster for the Western Alliance, consisting of Brittany, Italy, Germany, Prussia, and Norway. In particular, the decisive battle of Quiberon Bay, where a Norwegian-German fleet confronted half again their own number of Byzantine ships, not only ended Norwegian control of the Atlantic, North Sea, and Channel, but also broke Norwegian sea power for a generation. Nevertheless, by a combination of smooth diplomacy, luck, and having no land borders with any power of the Eurasian Federation, the Ynglings contrived to end the war with more territory than they had started it with.
The origins of the conflict lie in the squabble over the Balkans between the Domination of the Bretons and the former Vernacular Republic of Georgia, renamed – after yet another of its innumerable revolutions – Byzantium and claiming to be the Third Rome. The area had been divided between the conquerors of the ‘Second’ Rome, also confusingly referred to as Byzantium; the Georgians, claiming to be its successor state, demanded that Brittany hand over its share. The Bretons, having poured out a river of blood to subdue the armies of the Last Emperor after he had defeated the Georgians, very naturally refused, and war ensued.
The Byzantines, having much easier logistic access to the disputed areas, were able to swiftly overrun them; but this did not force the Bretons to the peace table. Nor were the Byzantine armies able to effectively invade Egypt, and the Breton economy, literally the size of Africa, could ignore a blockade of its coastline – the African coast in any case lacks good harbours and navigable rivers, and thus most of Brittany’s internal trade was along the excellent Imperial roads. The resulting stalemate was broken by Byzantium calling in the Eurasian Federation, its network of alliances among the Asian powers; Brittany perforce responded by invoking its links to the European nations, and the war took on a truly continental scale. With the single exception of France, the colonial empires controlling Europe, Africa, and the Americas were ranged against the whole of Asia: Novgorod, India, Malacca, China and Japan all joined the Byzantine cause.
The Western war plan was for Italy and Germany to swiftly subdue France while Prussia held the eastern flank, then turn east to destroy the invading Russian/Indian/Chinese hordes. Although a blockade was quickly established – the French fleet, half the size of the Norwegian although more modern, kept to its well-fortified harbours for this initial phase of the war – and Normandie occupied, this plan foundered on the stubborn, effective, and infuriating resistance of the excellent French army. Its generals escaped all attempts at cornering their army and forcing it into the decisive battle against superior numbers it could not have won; at every turn they slipped away after bleeding the invaders of their country. By the end their field army was reduced to a third of its original size, but the invaders were scraping the bottom of their respective barrels for manpower, and Prussia was bleeding to death from trying to hold back the armies of all of Asia. When the Byzantine fleet broke the blockade at Quiberon Bay, and Indian troops landed at Marseilles and Naples, the Western powers sued for peace in quick succession.
The resulting Treaty of Alexandria was the largest transfer of land ever seen, easily exceeding even the Germano-Prussian conquest of Scandinavia leading to the Diaspora. Norway, however, got away lightly, for two reasons: First, its armies had not been much involved in the fighting apart from some last-ditch efforts at trapping the French, and it had no conveniently adjustable borders with any of the victorious powers. Thus, apart from token Corfu, no Norwegian territory was annexed. The contrast with, to take but one example, Prussia’s loss of Finland, the rich trading center of Riga, and five border provinces was much noted by its allies.
In addition to this, the withdrawal from Scandinavia of Prussian and German garrisons near the end of the war, to be flung into the cauldron of the Eastern front, created the opportunity of a century for the Yngling rebels in the Dovre highlands. They had already established control of the unproductive mountain plateaus, in the sense that the garrisons entered these areas only in regimental strength – the uncanny ability of the rebels to avoid the place where punitive expeditions struck, and retaliate against isolated patrols, attested to by successive Prussian viceroys and generals, is one of the stranger parts of the history of this period. Now, with the troops that had held them out of the farmlands and cities ‘temporarily’ gone, they expanded their area of control by the simple expedient of shooting Prussian and German administrators and installing their own men. Then they offered to recognise Norwegian sovereignty in exchange for being allowed considerable internal autonomy; since administration by local assembly was the preferred Norwegian mode of government in any case, this was readily granted. When peace returned, the German and Prussian governments, weakened by annexation and by the dreadful bleeding of their armies on the Eastern Front, found themselves confronted by a fait accompli: Norway was in effective control of its old domains, with the exception of a strip of land along the Baltic and the heavily German-settled area of Skåne. Unwilling either to antagonise their recent ally or to confront the Norwegian navy (much reduced but still quite capable of dealing with the minuscule coastal patrols of the Germanic states), the German statesmen swallowed their anger, reminded themselves that Scandinavia was a poor and cold land, and turned their attention to rebuilding.