After the long Twenty Years’ War arc I now return to the second half of this pair of alternate timelines, the campaign called There Will Be War. We are about to enter the Victoria phase of that game.
A man’s allotted years are said to number three score and ten; and if that’s true, then the uptime intervention in history can be measured in eleven men’s lives. Study eleven men – a family line, perhaps – from first squall to final sigh, and you will know what the Quantum Device has wrought. A neat theory! But the sea of time is not to be so swiftly summed up. It is both broad and deep, and though you may plumb the depth in a single place, you will remain ignorant of the undercurrents and flows; and the great beasts of the deep will retain their secrets.
In the depths of time, human purpose is lost. A man might hold to some single aim steadfastly through his life, may work every day for his one cause – but when he dies, how much of his goal will he transmit, uncorrupted, to his sons or apprentices? “It is his disciple, shall make his labour vain”, and over the centuries an organisation composed of humans flows like water, bending in the face of every obstacle until its very founder would not know it, and would strive with all his might for its destruction.
The Ynglings at Dovre are an exception. Every quarter-century, their purpose is renewed by the arrival of an uptimer agent, fresh from the chambers of the Quantum Device and primed with the uncorrupted agenda of the Secret Hird. Over the past two hundred years, they have painstakingly built their control over the Scandinavian peninsula and over the genome of its inhabitants. They have built an army, and a state within the state; more, they have built a mythos. Every year, at the great festivals marking the passing of the seasons, their great epic is sung; there are prizes for the best singer, and for the poet who adds a new verse telling of how the year has gone. Such is the Dovringar saga.
It tells how from the nadir of their fortunes after the bioweapon release, when every man’s hand was raised against them, they waged a hundred-year war against the German occupiers, and at last threw the invader into the sea. There are verses on how they found the secret of healing, and used it to save the strongest of the race, but a jealous foreign sorcerer corrupted the forests of all the world, thinking thereby to make the Norse race weak and stupid once more. It is told how they rose above that blow by agreeing all among themselves that only the worthiest should bear children, and how they wrote down what was to be held worthy so that none should twist its meaning. The formation of the militia has an entire epic to itself, twenty verses of ranks, tables of organisation, and billeting ratios. All these events and many others are recorded in the Dovringar saga, and children spend years of their lives in memorising it.
Also part of the saga is the great Numerical Coda, which reports in verse form the average and maximum running speed, weight lifted, reaction time, vocabulary scores, and arithmetical ability found by the Dovre Tests every year since 1703, for Norse and for the Control Group that every year is invited from the Norwegian community in Lubeck. Memorising the Coda is considered a great achievement, even though it is rarely performed in song at the feasts.
Other Norse, it must be admitted, tend to consider the Scandinavians a little strange. But that is not unusual, in this year 1836; the enormous territorial states that rule the world are nowhere culturally united – they are all nations separated by a common language. It is true that the effect is particularly pronounced in Norway, but there is also little in common between a Sus-born civil servant and a settler of the South African interior, although both are free Bretons of the ruling caste. The language spoken from the tip of Africa to the Channel Coast of England, across seventy degrees of latitude, three polities, and two continents, is nominally called French; but a traveller from Kent would be ill-advised to ask for directions in Johannesburg without a phrasebook and some practice with the local dialect.
In addition to the insular pagans of the peninsula, there are three major and two minor groups within the Norwegian state. Foremost in power and influence are the smallholders of northern North America and the burgeoning industry that builds on their agricultural surplus; it is no accident that when the Ting fled the Breton armies that sacked York, they built their New Bergen at the confluence of the Ohio and Miami rivers (*). The breadbasket of the nation has always been the backbone of its armies, and is also becoming its workshop, for the smallholdings that the setters carved out of the wilderness cannot be economically divided, and second sons must seek their own fortune. The farmers and shipowners, by and large, keep themselves to themselves; but they do not object to seeing the army sent to fight in faraway lands and the navy sweeping other nations’ commerce off the oceans. What is it to them, if the Hird takes dreadful casualties in European struggles? The eldest sons will inherit their lands, and the navy will keep foreign invaders on the other side of the Atlantic. No dreams of Empire and glory are dreamt in the public squares of the small towns. The crops and the weather are the staples of conversation. But if the Ting finds it convenient to support one party or another in Europe, the farmers shrug their shoulders; what matters a distant rumour of war to them?
In the South, such things are taken more seriously. The descendants of Gunnar’s colonists, and the natives they settled among and taught to make iron and written law, have a strong belief in honour as part of state policy; some of them even take Christian doctrine seriously as a guideline in such matters. They are generally isolationist, pacifist, and opposed to any war which cannot be construed as a direct defense against aggression. Since their Peace Party has been in opposition for a hundred years, they are also somewhat isolated from the practical realities of politics, and shelter a good number of dreamers and ideologues. Nonetheless, their solid core lies with the tribal councils and small merchants who hold to a rigid conception of personal honour and a man’s word, and wish to hold governments to the same standard. Although duelling has been forbidden and nearly unknown in Norway since the events of 1100, in the southern states it has been reinvented independently, and the law is haphazardly enforced; one insults a southern gentleman only at great personal hazard. In a bit of historical irony, the most pacifistic area of Norway has thus taken up a fighting custom that even the rabidly expansionist uptimers at Dovre have abandoned as impractical.
The third major power-grouping in Norway is the squirearchy of the Norse Law, exemplified by Gunhild Ingeborgsdatter. Having suffered through decades of Breton occupation, they are the most self-consciously patriotic and nationalistic party of any in Norway – not even beaten by the uptimers at Dovre, who for all their theoretical expansionism have not fought a deadly guerrilla war in recent years. The squires want, above all, to keep foreign armies out of the Isles, including England-south-of-Thames. Any proposal for naval expansion can count on their support, and having seen how an efficient occupation economy works under the Bretons, they are not above getting a bit of their own back in the form of attacking Continental powers – preferably ones already fighting on another front. It was the squires who funded and armed the rebellions that drove the Breton regime out of southern England, and it is they who push for measures to keep that area economically dependent on the Norse Law proper. In this they have been unsuccessful, for the Peace Party outnumbers them and finds in the French and English farmers as a natural ally for their program, while the northern industrial interest wants England-south-of-Thames, with its large population, to be prosperous and thus a market for their goods. Still, the squires have managed to keep the Catholic and French-speaking population socially and politically marginal. With Norway’s strong tradition of local autonomy, keeping the French out of the Tings in the British Isles gives the squires a strong position for their next moves.
England-south-of-Thames, home to French settlers on the coast and what remains of the English ethnicity inland, form the only non-Norwegian interest group, and are further isolated by Catholicism in a nation overwhelmingly (except in pagan Scandinavia) Protestant by profession and largely secular in outlook. Their political power is not helped by the divide between the landlord/merchant class – largely French – and the farmers, predominantly English. The mainstream of their political agitation is directed towards getting a local Ting meeting at London instead of being ruled through the squirearchy-dominated Norselaw Assembly at York; although the national Ting in New Bergen is some protection against direct exploitation, it is still hard for a Frenchman or Englishman to find the business opportunities available to a Norse-speaker. However, as the years pass without any apparent progress on the London Ting, French opinion is becoming more radicalised, and some calls for an independent English state, or a return to the division of the Isles between Norse and Breton rule, are being heard.
The last, and least, political group are the Irish, including the Norwegian settlers in the Emerald Isle and the Highlands. Ireland and Scotland claim, with ironic pride, to be the oldest parts of the Norwegian Realm: They were conquered well before the settlement of America began, and dismiss Scandinavia and the Norse Law on the grounds that these were occupied by foreign rulers for hundreds of years. For continuous allegiance to the Norwegian Crown, then, no land (except tiny and poor Iceland) can claim a longer history. Other areas, to the extent that they take any notice of this at all, dismiss it as just what you would expect of an irrelevant backwater, and the taunt has some truth in it. Still, having avoided occupation and looting by foreign armies, the Celto-Norse areas are richer than one would expect; centuries of uninterrupted building of capital and infrastructure have had their effect. The Celto-Norse provide a disproportionate number of the engineers and inventors who are beginning to transform the Norwegian economy, and form a counterweight within the Isles to the dominance of the Norselaw squires.
A fractured state, then, with different groups pulling in all directions, from the near-complete isolationism of the radicals of the Peace Party, to the world-domination dreams of the uptimers at Dovre. Their squabbles may drive the history of the next century; or perhaps not, for in the larger world, Norway is counted only a second-rank Power. Perhaps it will be another nation that strikes for global hegemony, and becomes the engine of change in the nineteenth century. But what is certain is this: The End is Not Yet.
* OTL Cincinnati.