The Sons of Raghnall: Fox and Wolf

December 7th, 1912
A cheap apartment in Copenhagen, Norway
Some time after midnight

Geir had expected that they would break down the door, or at least wake half the building with a thunderous fusillade of night-sticks on lintel; that was how these Things Were Done, after all. In fact, the knock was quite polite, almost apologetic, as if his visitors were just neighbours coming by for some emergency and sorry to roust him out of bed. Nonetheless, he opened the door on no less than five constables in the sky-blue uniforms of the police. He had been expecting them – that was why he’d stayed up; at least they hadn’t got him blinking muzzily out of bed, as they liked to do on these midnight arrests – but he felt his heart sink in spite of that. Prison reform was among the many causes he’d fought for, in a long life in the Movement, and one of the few where he’d had some success; but he was older than Gjest had been when he went in, and feeling every year of it. He did not expect to breathe free air again.

He nodded politely at the constables anyway; a life of politics had taught him, if nothing else, how to put on a brave face. “Good evening.” He raised an eyebrow. “Not the Kongelige Sikkerhetstjeneste?” He wasn’t quite sure whether to be insulted or relieved; true, he was no longer leader of Landsorganisasjonen, but still, you’d think he was well-known enough to rate a visit by the infamous greyshirts. On the other hand, the regular police were known to be much less rough on their prisoners, which his old bones welcomed.

The man in front, presumably their leader, made no comment, but merely said, “You’d better come with us, sir.” Geir blinked a bit; since when did police say ‘sir’ to notorious agitators while arresting them? But he supposed that, as a political prisoner, he’d better learn to be grateful for anything he got; so he nodded, grabbed the bag he’d made ready earlier, and closed the door behind him. No rushing around the apartment for him, trying to prepare his one bag while the pigs shouted at him to hurry and rooted through his bookshelves; and the bag contained cigarettes, canned hams, and a little money as well as clothes. By prisoner standards he’d be rich – irony! – if they let him keep it; it was worth a try, at any rate.

They didn’t handcuff him, but then, five hulking young officers should be quite enough to deal with a man who wouldn’t see seventy again; Geir didn’t bother with the formality of trying to fight, though he did spare a wistful thought for the constant escort of Strike Guards he’d commanded as leader of Landsorganisasjonen. He rather suspected that young Gerhardsen wasn’t huddling in an apartment somewhere, waiting to be arrested; not, at any rate, by less force than a battalion.

The ride in the black maria was silent. Geir had nothing to say to the pigs, and it seemed they didn’t have anything to say to a rabble-rouser, either. It did occur to him that he might ask why they weren’t in the Army – but why should he court a beating? Instead he huddled down in his good woollen jacket against the draft from the barred window, and cultivated patience; no doubt he’d need it. The ancient nag of a horse, at least, couldn’t be accused of shirking; clearly the Army had taken a look at it and said “no thanks, we’ve got all the glue we need”. But it wasn’t just the slow pace that made the ride seem to take forever.

Geir was half dozing when the wagon finally stopped; one of the policemen poked him in the ribs – not very hard – to make him get out. He did so, and looked around in confusion. The street lights, running on rationed gas, were burning very low; but still, he was clearly nowhere near Kastellet, the old fortress that the government were using to store their politicals. In the dark he couldn’t make out details, but the houses surrounding him weren’t just houses, they were mansions, villas, estates even – the homes of the wealthy. Had he been brought here to make some kind of taunt? Or was he going to be “shot while trying to break-and-enter”? But no, even this wartime Norway of 1912 had more law than that, surely – arrests in the middle of the night, yes, but at least the fig leaf of a trial.

“This way, sir,” one of the policemen said, and led him to the door of one of the mansions; they were expected, for a servant opened the door without any knock and ushered them inside. The room he led them to was furnished in marble and aged teak; Geir was happy to find it was also warm and well lit. Two men stood at one end, where a vast fireplace crackled cheerfully – there was no rationing of wood, the one thing Norway would never be short on. Not waiting to be prodded, Geir approached, then nearly stumbled as the younger man turned around. Tormod MacRaghnall, no less; Duke of Jæmtland, leader of conservative Høyre and of the governing coalition, and Statsminister by 45 percent of the vote and the King’s nod.

They had met, and clashed, before, in Storting and in the back rooms where the real work of politics was done; but it was the first time Geir had been in the other man’s home. He nodded icily, indicating the furnishings; being unsure of what was going on, he might as well take the offensive. “I see it pays well, being at the top of an unjust society.”

If the insult fazed Tormod, he didn’t let it show; in fairness to the man, although he’d been born into the top five percent he hadn’t got to the very pinnacle of power by knowing the right fork to use and mentioning his name at every opportunity. “What’s the point of exploiting the working man, if not to afford nice things?”

Of course he didn’t actually believe himself an exploiter; it was a rhetorical device to defuse the accusation, a subtle way to indicate that their axioms were too different for sensible discussion. Having been down that path before, Geir didn’t pursue it; besides, he was up past his bedtime.

“What do you want, Tormod?” he asked bluntly. “And don’t the police have better things to do than roust old men out of bed in the middle of the night?”

“You would have preferred an engraved invitation, perhaps, with ‘requests the pleasure of your company’? We’re at war, Randall; time is precious.” No first names from the Duke, Geir noticed; no ‘Herr’ either.

“Well then, if it’s not for the pleasure of my conversation you had me arrested, why not spit it out? I’m an old man, I need my sleep.”

“Quite so.” The other man, who had been standing with his back turned, now entered the conversation. “How would you like to join a government of national unity, Herr Randall?”

That was not what Geir had expected when the police came to his door in the middle of the night, and he struggled to adjust to the new situation. But there was the reddish-blonde beard, streaked with silver; the somewhat lumpy nose; the famous grey-blue eyes – the second man was, in fact, Olav MacRaghnall, King of Denmark and Emperor of the North Sea, and in principle he had the power to appoint his dog as head of government.

“Perhaps you’re not familiar with the inner workings of Landsorganisasjonen,” Geir said, buying time while his thoughts whirled, “but I no longer lead it.” Bitterness welled up in him again; fifty years of loyal service to the Cause, and what did he get? A vote of thanks and a suggestion that “new ideas were needed”. And now young men would be shot like dogs in the street because Gerhardsen had been hungry for power and had chosen the issue of armed revolution as his wedge to get Geir out of the top spot… he returned his attention to the King; no use fretting over old conflicts.

“I am aware,” the King said dryly. “Believe it or not, I read the newspapers on occasion. In particular, I read about your ouster by the champions of væpna revvolusjon. I thought you had rather the best of the argument, even as reported in Ny Dag.” The Party organ, quick to follow the changing winds of power, had not been kind to Geir’s attempt to stay in charge. “But then, I am perhaps more aware of just how much combat power the Army commands these days, than the average worker. Too bad you didn’t dance quickly enough to avoid the vote.”

“It would have happened anyway,” Geir sighed, the bitterness leaving him. “Young men are impatient; they want the Revolution now, today, or at least this year. And they don’t believe in statistics and throw weights. They get half a million rifles and they feel their own power to destroy, to bring down the regime; they can’t be convinced that battles are won and lost by a few hundred pieces of modern artillery.”

“Not until they’ve been on the sharp end of a barrage,” the King agreed. He’d been an officer in his youth, and fought in the war with India, Geir recalled; perhaps he was speaking from experience. “But they’re fighting street by street in Bergen; Oslo too, and Stockholm – well, all over the peninsula. And I’d really prefer not to destroy my kingdom in order to save it. Artillery is no respecter of property; even the MacRaghnalls can’t make money from renting out ruins.”

“I see,” Geir said; it was clear now what was happening. “And so you’re bringing in the fox to keep the wolf at bay; the gradualist to draw power away from the revolutionary.”

“As you say,” the King nodded.

“And you’re prepared, of course, to make some concessions,” Geir pursued, “to still the worst discontent and make people feel they can lay down their arms without dishonour.” That was why they’d brought him in a police wagon, he realised; they’d known there would be a negotiation, and had wanted him a little off-balance so they could get his assent as cheaply as possible. He snarled mentally, feeling his energy return. Try to rattle him, would they? With five policemen? There had been machine guns rattling in the streets, yesterday and the day before, to quell the riots. These rich men had no idea what off-balance meant; they were amateurs at negotiating when scared, where Geir was an old hand. He crossed his arms.

“You’ll release the political prisoners,” he stated, “and there’ll be no more midnight arrests. And no more greyshirts.”

“We can’t have agitators running loose in the streets!” Tormod objected. “There’s a war on, you know!”

“Anyone with strong convictions about bringing the Revolution while the army is busy is already on the barricades,” Geir countered. “You’re arresting half-literate pamphleteers who’ll print anything to make a shilling, hangers-on, people who attended three meetings to impress their girlfriend. I know these people, Tormod. You’re getting the wrong ones. Satan, you didn’t even arrest me, and I’m a lot more dangerous as agitation goes than the likes of Håvard Johannsen! You’re running scared, and it shows; it’s making you look weak. Let my people go.”

The MacRaghnalls looked at each other; the King nodded. “Very well.”

“You said, would I like to join a government of national unity,” Geir continued. “No, I wouldn’t. But I’m willing to form one.” He smiled nastily at Tormod. “I know just the man for Governor of Greenland.”

Tormod pressed his lips together, not appreciating the suggestion. “I’ll have the War Ministry, thanks. Or I’ll go into opposition.”

It was Geir’s turn to think a bit. It wasn’t as though the man was incompetent, and he’d been running the actual war effort anyway. The King could appoint whoever he liked, so he didn’t strictly speaking need Tormod’s support; but trying to govern without the support of half the Storting would be… difficult. Being appointed Statsminister was one thing, getting any laws passed was another; and he needed to reform the franchise, if nothing else, if there was going to be another Labour government.

“Oh, all right,” he said. “I think you’re making a mistake, though; Greenland’s got very good skiing.” The Duke was known to be a passionate skier. “There’ll be economic reforms,” he went on.

“Expropriations, you mean,” the Duke snarled.

Geir shrugged. “Justice by any other name smells just as sweet. Anyway, feel free to negotiate with the people barricading the streets of Bergen, if you prefer.”

The King held up a finger. “Well, that’s the nub, isn’t it? Beyond a certain point, Herr Randall, we genuinely do prefer to ‘negotiate’ with the rebels – using the final argument of kings as necessary. If we have to flatten Bergen, still, we’ll own the land and can rebuild; a sad loss and one we’d rather avoid, but not an irreparable one. We can crush this rebellion without your help; we merely think it will be more costly. But property lost to a legal government won’t be recovered. Be aware, then, of the limit: The moment it looks better to let the Navy blow Sandviken to rubble, we will do so. Honestly, the place is due for some urban renewal anyway; there’s warehouses there that were standing before I was born.”

“Gradualism, yes,” Geir sighed. He wasn’t immune to the romance of bringing the Red Revolution and tearing down the unjust structure of capitalism in one fell swoop; but that wasn’t the opportunity he had before him. The MacRaghnalls had too many guns, too many loyal soldiers; the bravery of the comrades on the barricades would come to nothing, in the end, against the sheer weight of metal. But he’d spent long years thinking about what was possible, and had the plan ready. “No tax on capital; no levy on property. But I’ll increase the income tax, and use the money to build State-owned factories, that’ll pay fair wages.”

Tormod relaxed, and the King nodded. “I can agree to that,” he said. “Especially if they produce war materiel. The way silver flows out of this country every time someone rattles a sabre is amazing.”

“Fine,” Geir said; as long as there were jobs he didn’t much care what the factories built. They could dig holes and fill them up again for all it mattered to him. “Then I think we have a deal.”

“One more thing,” the King said. “No peace with France without annexations.” His face became still, and Geir thought of men by the hundreds of thousands, marching into the trenches; thought of the thunder of tens of thousands of guns. “We helped them against Spain, and this is their thanks? I won’t have it; make your reforms, but leave the peace to me. I’ll have the Baltic coast for this.”

Geir looked down. The King had a point, but it was easy for him to be angry; it wasn’t his sons that would be dying in the trenches. Not Geir’s sons, either, but his grandsons were near fighting age; and anyway, there was such a thing as class solidarity. The labour movement had always been against wars, and for good reason. Not for nothing were cannon called the final argument of kings. The King’s demand was not unreasonable… but it was one more compromise with the ideal of the Revolution; one more strike against the dream of a truly socialist government, one that would create a brotherhood of man.

And yet – after all, the damn Frogs had started the thing, and for no better reason than sheer imperialist aggression. A socialist government still had to survive in a world of empires and international competition; if the word got out that Norway could be attacked with impunity, wouldn’t even more men die? And the French armies had not been gentle in their invasion of Denmark; they had learned to fight in the hard school of the Pyrenees War, against the infidel that had been pressing on their border for centuries, and it showed. Geir didn’t trust the atrocity stories in the papers; but he’d heard things from men he trusted, who’d gotten out of Denmark after the occupation began, that made his hair stand on end. There was a slow burn of anger in him, matching the King’s, when he looked up again; brotherhood of man be damned.

“Yes,” he said. “No peace without land.”

—————————————-

Some screenshots. This will be the new government of Norway after I install the Socialists:

Norwegian Politics, 1913

Here is the rising that gives Geir his chance, and against which he argued:

Communist Rising

Notice there’s a war with France going on… damn sneaky commies, trying to topple the government when it’s busy! However, the war was actually going pretty well at this stage, after some early setbacks; of course, Norwegian policy in these Baltic spats – I think this one will be the Fifth Baltic War – has always been that Jutland and the German coast can be abandoned in the first year or so. In Vicky, which has ticking warscore, that doesn’t work as well as it did in EU3, but it remains true that I needn’t defend the imperial marches; as long as the navy holds the Baltic I can gather my strength, and allies, and come back in force. In particular, I can land at the “base” of Denmark and cut off the French forces occupying the north of it. Unfortunately I didn’t take the screenie until those stacks had already rushed south to try to break out of the pocket I’d just created:

Denmark Pocket

In fact, the French attempt to rescue that pocket became the twin battles of Flensburg and Kiel, possibly the decisive clashes of the war, drawing in well over a million men:

Denmark Campaign

Notice that in both provinces France is attacking, and there are prewar fortifications. In Kiel, I’m rushing in men as fast as I can from all over the Baltic – mostly freshly mobilised stacks, recently blooded in the Great Rebel Hunt of 1912. Two closer views of Flensburg:

Flensburg
More Flensburg

Finally, a quick look at an earlier war, the War of the Spanish Ooops:

Spanish Mistake

Quote of the Decade: “That’s what I get for trusting Russia”. And in my own case, I guess this is what I get for helping France.

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2 Comments

Filed under God Will Know His Own

2 responses to “The Sons of Raghnall: Fox and Wolf

  1. Pingback: The Sons of Raghnall: Two Revolutions, part II: Study War no More | Ynglinga Saga

  2. Pingback: The Sons of Raghnall: The Work of the Day | Ynglinga Saga

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