After last week’s session, when it was clear that Oddman had decided to abrogate (a much nicer word than ‘betray’) our initial arrangement and directly absorb England himself, my situation was somewhat dire. Oddman was kind enough to point it out himself, in a PM offering to negotiate terms of surrender:
Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m essentially in a position to dictate terms. Barring a diplomatic miracle or metagame weirdness, there is no way you can defeat me.
The terms we arrived at were that I should give up England, keep Ireland and Scandinavia, take Scotland until EU4, and become Oddman’s vassal. In return he promised to help me expand eastwards, presumably in the Russian steppe – which, it’s true, would have given me a chance to revisit the Rolandoviches. This negotiation was, however, entirely a sham on my part, since as the man himself had pointed out, the solution was obvious: Just arrange a diplomatic miracle.
Perhaps Oddman was indulging in a bit of hyperbole in order to convince (again, a much nicer word than ‘browbeat’) me to accept his terms. Really now, how miraculous is it to find an ally willing to prevent a major power from eating a smaller one and becoming even more of a threat? In a sense this is the fundamental game mechanic of all multiplayer strategy games! As miraculous as an unreliable ally; as rare as turning on a weak friend to strengthen yourself directly; as unusual as an aggressive Yngling!
I therefore approached Pavski, saying in effect “Help, help, I’m being oppressed, and also you’ll be next”. We arranged that I, after getting rid of my wife, should marry one of his innumerable daughters and declare a Great Holy War for England. And it worked! Perfectly! Oddman was campaigning in Scotland when 30000 Saracens landed on his two 10k separate stacks; my mercenaries crushed the vassal stacks forming in England, and dragoon invaded oddman’s mainland demesne, destroying still more armies there. It was glorious! It was inspiring! Specifically, it inspired me to make a vast mistake: I said, in public chat, where Murphy and all the imps of the perverse could see, “Odin protects his faithful!”
Well, really now, I don’t know what I was thinking. Odin doesn’t give a damn about his faithful, per se. (Actually, wrong metaphor. Odin doesn’t have any damns to give; Hel’s afterlife is unpleasant but it’s not damnation in the Christian sense of separation from gods and grace.) What Odin cares about is warriors for Ragnarok – and armies must be led. So, obviously, as soon as Fylkir Valdemar (Second of that Name) had demonstrated his ability to form alliances, to win hearts, minds, and battles, to decisively crush his enemies by cunning and leadership and not merely raw strength – that was when Odin gathered him up to lead a company, a battalion, or a regiment on Vigrid field. And, to be fair to the Father of Battles, the defense of the whole of creation against the ice giants could reasonably be said to be of higher priority than the issue of who should rule one small island for the next hundred years or so.
The specific instrument by which the Asagrim chose Valdemar to be slain was an assassination plot; not originating, as one might expect, in oddman’s court, but from that of the Rolandoviches – who still survive, far off in the Urals. The killer was Harald Storr, spymaster of Bolghar, too distant to diplomatically interact with, and my rival along with his sisters Holmfrid and Gyla. Three siblings, all hating me; could there be a common cause? It turns out I killed their father, Hysing of Somerset, who at the time was ahead of me in the election. So in some sense I had it coming; but to cut me down at the very moment of my triumph, when I was reuniting England under Dreki rule – ah, the irony! Truly, a very Crusader Kings moment. As a side note, it also turns out that Harald is the rival of each of his two sisters; you have to wonder a bit about the dynamics of that family, but by CK standards it’s perhaps not that unusual. At least they’re not Zoroastrians.
The killer. Note how, apart from me, he’s rival to both his sisters; note also the Kinslayer trait and the dead brother. Hmm.
And speaking of interesting family dynamics, his father – whom I offed so I could save some money on my campaign fund; heck, it’s not as though he didn’t get a long and full life, that’s why I wanted to be rid of him in the first place – is also a Kinslayer. Honestly I think I did Denmark a favour ensuring that these guys didn’t get into power, not that anyone is like to thank me for it.
The Great Holy War ended with a “successful Jihad for England” (presumably because Pavski had the most warscore at that moment) and no land changing hands. We are still arguing about whether this counts against our fifty-year cooldown. I lost the Dogeship; my mercenaries departed; my new character was another of the Dreki geniuses, but this was small consolation since he was pretty shortly killed, leading the AI’s regiments, in a hopeless and useless battle against the Scots, who of course took advantage of Denmark’s disarray to invade. Oddman, likewise, grabbed York; nothing to be done about it since I was no longer allied to Pavski. My retinue was ground to bits before I could maneuver it away; the AI, of course, mismanaged the Scottish war, and although I lead the election, my current run of luck inclines me to believe that Grand Prince Hysing (not the one I killed) will live to see his three score and ten.
Oddman has made it clear that he is no longer inclined to grant any particular terms of surrender – to be fair, no doubt his laundry bill is unusually high this month; it all worked out for him but I bet the sight of 30000 scimitar-wielding Muslims landing in his demesne inspired some throaty Dutch cursing. So at the moment my best bet seems to be to fight to the bitter end; unfortunately the landing grounds are long gone, and this being 921 I don’t think there can be many streets even in London, but I retain some fields and hills. It will take a while to conquer Denmark at its current extent one Duchy at a time; who knows what may happen? Fimconte might decide to complete the conquest of France; Oddman might have a run of Inbred Lunatic heirs; I might inherit Italy. I rarely play all-powerful empires – my skills consign me to being eternally the underdog; and everyone knows in what circumstances a rat fights best.