Tag Archives: CK2

Dominion of the Dreki: The Dutch in the Medway

I’m beginning to think I should have suggested “England’s on the Anvil” for the naming theme of this game, rather than “Recessional”. Kipling’s telling phrase, “little bits of kingdoms cannot stand against their foes”, keeps recurring to me as I write these AARs; a splendid description of the blobbing phase of a megacampaign, in which those players not lucky or skilled enough to grow big are ground out of existence. Unfortunately it applies just as much to republics.

England’s being hammered, hammered, hammered into one; but not by me. Rather, I’m the iron clanging from the Severn to the Tyne. However, before getting into that, a recap of relevant geopolitical events on the Continent. Oddman, playing Frisia, had more-or-less united Charlemagne’s empire, from the Oder to the Bay of Biscay, with bits missing in the south where Fimconte as Iberia had taken a bite. He had two fairly powerful player vassals in Synario and Alexei, Bavaria and Aquitaine respectively. He had several times fought against Fimconte, attempting to contain Muslim Spain south of the Pyrenees. Now, however, he turned this longstanding foreign policy on a dime. (Well, perhaps not on a dime – no doubt there were lengthy negotiations of spheres of influence.) When Fimconte DOWed for some land that belonged to Alexei, Oddman promptly surrendered; he then vassalised Fimconte, revoked Alexei’s capital, imprisoned Synario, and handily won the resulting revolt. Where there had been two polities with four players, there was now a single united empire stretching from Gibraltar to the aforementioned Oder, with two players in it. Fimconte then went independent again, taking the south of France with him. Then both of them (and separately an AI vassal of oddman’s) declared holy wars on me.

There wasn’t any question of fighting two humans that individually outnumbered me two to one; I surrendered promptly so as to retain my army for the fight against that vassal. But it’s clear that this is a stopgap measure at best; truce timers end, and oddman’s character could keel over any moment. (Indeed, I feel confident that the RNG will cause him to die at the worst possible time for the English Resistance; why should the lifespans suddenly become convenient now?) Unless, then, a diplomatic revolution occurs, it appears that I will be taking the Dreki back to Scandinavia whence they came. Admittedly, going into exile and plotting revenge for the next millennium is kind of my thing in these games, but I was hoping to avoid a second iteration. Besides, Scandinavia is full of snow and Ynglings, and dignobbit, I’ve played that position already. Three times. But needs must when the Dutchman drives; with our house rules, it would be very difficult for anyone else to come to my aid. Without a good claim, the best that could be done by any of oddman’s neighbours – who in any case have their own problems – would be to declare holy war for a duchy; and quite apart from his possible ability to just fight on two fronts, oddman could simply surrender, beat me senseless, and return to the Continent later on.

It seems that Kipling will have all sorts of applications in this game; but then, history is long, and empires rise and fall. This week it is “The Dutch in the Medway”. Next month, who knows? Perhaps “Cities and Thrones and Powers” will be the poem of the day.

If wars were won by feasting,
Or victory by song,
Or safety found in sleeping sound,
How England would be strong!
But honour and dominion
Are not maintained so.
They’re only got by sword and shot.
And this the Dutchmen know.

Some maps:

England, 910

England, 910. The green blight is in Wales; incidentally, Fimconte has converted his family to Welsh culture, presumably for the archery tactic. The whole of England-south-of-Thames is in Dutch hands.

Western Europe, 910

Western Europe. Note Iberian gains in southern France, where Aquitaine used to be; presumably the quid pro quo for oddman’s adding England to his domains. Note also that the Roman Empire no longer rules Italy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dominion of the Dreki, God of Our Fathers, Recessional

Dominion of the Dreki: Gameplay 889-898

The path of the righteous continues to be strewn with thorns. In particular, the RNG seems to have it in for me with respect to lifespans: My good Genius character died in prison, while m’liege – an idiot in all respects except for his damnable Intrigue score, which incidentally is completely unrelated to why I was in prison – goes on and on like the damn Duracell rabbit. (Perhaps I date myself; do CK players still catch that reference? If you don’t, just substitute “like a thing that goes on for a very long time”, and then get off my lawn.) He outlasted my next head of household as well, not that this was a great loss, and looks like he’s settling in to reach his eightieth birthday. Or perhaps he’ll keel over just the day after my current head dies, leaving me bereft of the Respect I need to get elected and without time to pump up the election fund.




My three Fylkirs this session: Kjartan, Starkard, and the current incumbent Kol; and their common liege. Why, oh why, can the RNG not see that this deadwood needs to go, and let the fresh new shoots reach the lifegiving sun?

That is as the RNG wills; I have, actually, larger problems. As I prophecied last session, the powers of Europe have begun to take an interest in this strategically located island with the many good harbours. Little bits of kingdoms – in this case, the petty-kingdoms of England-south-of-Thames, namely Essex, East Anglia, and Hwicce – cannot stand against their foes; unfortunately I wasn’t the foe in question. The Mussulman is at the gates! No doubt Fimconte plans to dominate the entire western seaboard of Europe, taking the entire colonisation game for himself. True, he’ll have to subdue a powerful Frisia to take the French coast, but he’s got four hundred years of CK to do so; why not pick up England while it’s cheap?

The evolution was rapid. Here is England in 889; all is quiet except for the usual state of quasi-civil war. (That is to say, I’m very polite about picking up Lincoln; everyone else behaves like football hooligans. Not a civil war in the sense of being internal to a polity.)

891, and the green blight is far inland: Fimconte’s doomstack of 5000 (a vast host, by island standards) has hammered East Anglia and Hwicce into submission, though Hwicce survives by dint of having more than one Duchy available. The invasion continues into the Welsh mountains; my stack of a little more than 4k is about to intervene.

894. My intervention did not go well. Fimconte pulled another 3k warriors out of nowhere (he’d moved his capital to England in the interim; perhaps they were mercenaries), his liege the Caliph sent another doomstack of 8k, and I suspect that with even numbers I’d still have lost, just not as badly – Spain being more technologically advanced than England. There was nothing for it but to end the war and watch Fimconte absorb his gains.

On Wenlock edge the Norse are troubled;
his bearded flank the Serk-king heaves…

My bearded enemy, the Serk-king!

896. Oddman has decided to absorb those bits of England that Fimconte didn’t get to, to keep them out of Muslim hands. Yay for the balance of power. It’s more amusing when someone else is the apple of contention. Note also the colour change; Fimconte, getting wind of a Christian coalition forming to invade Iberia, strategically switched his allegiance to another player, over in Egypt. Taking on the AI Umayyads is one thing, even if they have a powerful human vassal (in fact, Fimconte was about 80% of Spain by this point); taking on a human Egypt is something else entirely. The coalition dissolved. “To defeat your enemy without combat is the acme of skill.”

898, and England is neatly divided into three parts: Norse pagan, Frisian Christian, and Iberian Moslem.

I did manage to expand a bit, using take-county CBs on my neighbouring Christians. This does lead to quickly hitting my demesne limits; I was handing out baronies like candy, and getting so desperate for adult courtiers that at one point I gave one to an Yngling. As Fivoin pointed out, not giving land to that dynasty is Scandinavian Governance 101; but needs must when the devil drives. In any case I got a fair return, for he taught wisdom to the Fylkir Kjartan, and now all the Dreki know an ancient rune-song, handed down from Frey, the ancestor of the Yngling line. It does not translate well into the vernacular, losing all its magic power for calling vengeance-spirits down onto the heads of those who have wronged you; this is just as well, since why should I give away secrets of power? But the sense of it, without magic, is clear enough: It is intolerable. It shall not stand.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dominion of the Dreki, God of Our Fathers, Recessional

Dominion of the Dreki: Gameplay 862-874

The path of the righteous is strewn with thorns, and their portion is care and toil; but the unrighteous prosper in the fallen world. Consequently, you can easily tell from this session’s events who is righteous among the players – to wit, me – and who isn’t – basically everyone else, with the possible exception of Sebokan (playing Austergotland).

In 862 I was, I admit, somewhat impatient for m’liege, the esteemed Grand Prince Ofeig, to die so I could take over and show the world how to run a pagan trade republic; I had therefore picked the Intrigue focus for the Spy On perma-plot. That didn’t work out; the Grand Prince learned about my spying and flung me in the dungeon, where I promptly picked up a case of the crazies – but no matter, that turned out the least of my troubles. A merchant prince worthy of the title, of course, always keeps an emergency fund on hand for these little contretemps that spice up the life of truck and barter, so I just headed over to the Diplo screen to ransom myself. That’s when I learned that my uncle, Starkad, was

a) my Regent and
b) my Rival.

Uncle Starkad. Not stupid, by any means; but his defection from the Dreki family to anywhere else on the planet would, as the saying goes, improve both averages.

Also that the Regent is given veto power over ransoms, including your own ransom. I opine that this would not pass a twentyfirst-century conflict-of-interests review; in fact it doesn’t even pass tenth-century conflict-of-interests review, in that one of the acknowledged duties of vassals was to contribute to their liege’s ransom. Although in fairness I should note that Starkad is not actually my vassal, merely my kinsman and a partner in the family business. In any case, this difficulty held up my plans for some time, until I realised that Starkad, being an AI, was both smart enough to be bribed and stupid enough to be bribed into freeing someone whose imprisonment he had deliberately lengthened. One gift, one honorary title, and one appointment as Seer later, I was free, and pissed. (Also mad in the literal-ish sense of having the Lunatic trait.) Nonetheless, the thought of that 40-opinion tyranny penalty gave me pause. I decided to get my revenge more obliquely: I cut Starkad out of my will by making my son the Designated Heir. This had the additional desirable consequence of bypassing a pretty average-type human and putting in a Genius instead; eugenics for the win. It was, nonetheless, a somewhat risky play, in that my son was four years old and not eligible for the Dogeship if I died. But pff, I was only 35 myself; what are the odds, right?

My son and heir. Not yet adult, and yet I see there are several players who would like to have these stats for their rulers.

While I’d been in prison, the AI had surprised me by actually doing something useful: It waged Holy Wars for Vestlandet and Småland, winning both. This incidentally brought Denmark into conflict with Sebokan, playing the two-province petty kingdom of Austergotland. Pitched battles were naturally out of the question, although I did briefly entertain the notion of giving Sebokan enough money to hire a large mercenary army that might have managed to kill Ofeig. Turns out the Regent has veto power over gifts, too, and apparently Starkad’s bad traits included some primitive notion of loyalty to the polity over the family. The upshot of which is, Sebokan, if I see you raiding my provinces again I’ll make an absolute point of parking my army on top of your capital. Asymmetric warfare only works if your target has political constraints on his retaliation; I don’t have a bunch of liberals preventing me from reinstating the good old custom of inscribing the Blood Eagle on the offender’s body, family, cattle, pets, relatives out to the fifth degree of consanguinity, and random visitors.

Bjard at something close to the height of his powers, though not yet a Godslayer. The eugenics program is something of a success.

Ofeig did eventually die of natural causes, and I was duly elected Grand Prince. A momentary paralysis delayed what should have been my immediate attack on a preselected enemy: There were just so many possible targets! Hwicce, and retake Bristol? But Hwicce was in the throes of rebellion, and Bristol was occupied by them; who knows what the game mechanics would do. Essex, and a rematch for London? But Essex is allied to half of England. Powys, and wipe out the festering sore of resistance in the Welsh mountains? Then again, who needs a bunch of unruly sheep-shaggers for subjects? I finally settled on Northumbria, with wealthy York as my target; but the AI was faster. (The Singularity, incidentally, is near.) Essex declared war for Kent; crushing them and their allies took me two years. While this was going on I got the Chtulhu event chain and acquired the Godslayer trait, and began to think about ascending into godhood myself.

Situation in England in 872: Somewhat chaotic.

I contented myself, however, with declaring war on Northumbria, and was halfway through the required siege of York when the RNG, jealous of all possible rivals, cut me down in the prime of life. Leaving my 10-year-old son, unelectable to the Grand Princedom, as head of House Dreki… and his great-uncle Starkad as Regent. At least this time we are not rivals, and Starkad seems to have mellowed in his old age; he actually approved my suggestions for educating the Dreki children. But I face another lengthy wait before I command resources beyond those of the Dreki family. The path of the righteous…

Leave a comment

Filed under Dominion of the Dreki, God of Our Fathers, Recessional

Dominion of the Dreki: Gameplay 849-862

New playing position, new name for the AAR: The Matter of Spain is at an end, The Dominion of the Dreki begins. I have been here – that is, Northern Europe, bordering the North Sea – before; the Ynglings of the Great Game and the MacRaghnalls of God Will Know His Own were both North Sea powers, and the Ynglings of There Will Be War spent most of their EU3 time fighting over England. So the playing style, if I survive, will be familiar; I admit to some concern that the AARs may also, um, have a certain ring of familiarity to them. There’s a reason I wrote, in the first post of Children of the Fatherland, “It is a thrice-told tale”, and moved myself south to Rome. It didn’t work out that well for game success, but at least the AAR was fresh! Also, why I wanted to play Spain in the first place; or Russia. C’est le jeu; I will make the best of it.

That said: I had ideas for how to write a Crusading kingdom in Iberia; I had ideas for how to write a Cossack-ish Norse tribal based in the Urals; but this week I find myself a bit short on narrative. So for the time being, my plan is to do gameplay reports until I have a feeling for this new dynasty, and inspiration for writing them.

Casting your minds back to the distant depths of December 2014, before our catastrophic save-bloat problems were fixed by the leet Python skillz of Oddman, you may recall that Vaniver left me with rather a nice position: Doge, Fylkir, quite a bit of cash, trading posts and vassals from Denmark to Ireland. Also, my heir was the expected winner of the election; that was the part that didn’t work out. The RNG giveth, the RNG taketh away; the infrequent second-guy-wins roll happened and I was left as Fylkir and ruler of two counties, plus my family palace and trade posts.

The new AI ruler of Denmark, naturally, instantly got into a disastrous series of wars:

  • Fraticelli Revolt: Fought in southern England and Ireland. Eventually crushed by my very expensive mercenaries holding them off long enough for the AI to get its act, and troops, together.
  • Denmark Revolt: Most of England-south-of-Thames. Not actually a problem, since they were hostile to the Fraticelli; it was just a question of sieging their provinces back. Didn’t do our levies any good, though. Additionally, my Genius character who was first in line to inherit the Dogeship died in a battle against them.
  • Powys: Another thing about being an AI with massive revolt issues, every jumped-up Welsh tribelet with more than two cousins to call on thinks they can take advantage and get their de-jure stuff back. My retinue was enough to show these guys what-for.
  • Essex: Tried for Kent. Allied to most of the other petty English kingdoms.
  • Norway: Wanted Agder back. Once I had dealt with the Fraticelli for it, the AI shipped its army across to Scandinavia to deal with this one-county challenge, plus the Second Danish Revolt in Skåne. Five thousand troops trying to fight in Norway in winter, three winters in a row. Now, admittedly they did finally convince the stubborn Norse to give up their claim. However, they left England, much wealthier, essentially defenseless against raiders, and also against:
  • Second Fraticelli Revolt: Which was successful, and created a Catholic kingdom covering most of England-south-of-Thames, including Bristol. In fact it’s probably the most powerful feudal entity in the Isles.

 

This is what happens when you elect a non-Dreki as Doge, you nitwits.

Well! At least this should be a most salutary lesson for the idiot Danish electorate. As the saying goes, they got the government they deserved, and they got it good and hard. Naturally, the one thing grand prince Ofeig proved adept at was detecting assassination plots, hence my little stint in jail. But he saw my point of view, to wit, “can’t blame a man for trying”, and also he needed the ransom money to pay his armies. It could also be that he felt a bit odd, imprisoning the one vassal who was actually doing something effective about the dang Fraticelli.

Election 862

It really shouldn’t be this expensive to bribe a bunch of filthy jumped-up peasants.

My agenda for the eight-sixties, then, is firstly to win the dang election, and let’s hope it is not long delayed; since I’m about thirty, and my competition is north of sixty, that 2x term in (x+1)^2 is hitting my campaign score with 70 points a year. Second, once the right family is in charge of this place, to recover England-south-of-Thames, show the Essexians who is boss, and demonstrate to the Norwegians that raiding does not pay.

Little bits of kingdoms cannot stand against their foes: England-south-of-Thames is mostly Wicked – excuse me, Hwicce. London and area is Essex; north of that, East Anglia. York is Northumbria, the middle kingdom is Mercia, the blue in the far north is Lothian, and the Welsh mountains still hold an independent Powys. All shall be hammered into one!

Leave a comment

Filed under Dominion of the Dreki, God of Our Fathers, Recessional

The Errolaniad: The Bitter Years

I started over as a five-province Count in the Urals. In the best tribal style I was at war for essentially the entire session, ending as Duke (titular ‘King’) of Volga Bulgaria, with thirteen provinces total. All dirt-poor steppe ones, to be sure, but a nice quick expansion. It did not all go my way, though: Single-province Narim at one point managed to conjure 9000 men out of thin air, plus of course its 183 levies. The doomstack then rapidly attrited down to about 2000 – which was still too many for me to deal with, unless I wanted to blow 500 prestige on one damn province. I exited that war with a WP, and went west to the Volga instead. There I ran into my first eastern player conflict: Kodalem, ruling most of modern Finland and largish bits of historical Novgorod, apparently fancies himself protector of the Suomenusko faith. I was informed that any further raids of Suomenusko temples would be met by retaliation. Naturally I immediately switched to county conquest, but this apparently wasn’t acceptable either; a raiding stack of 2500 men (a vast host!) promptly appeared in my western domains. I fear that Steps will have to be Taken; as a Norse player, it is my duty to make the world safe for rape, pillage, and plunder. Being forbidden to raid Just Won’t Do; what would my loyal warriors do all day? Drink mead and plot against my rule? No, no! It is intolerable; it shall not stand!

Near the end of the session m’liege decided he wanted my province of Ural, which I naturally resisted. In retrospect I should have given it to him; even if I win the war I’ll be at truce with him, and I want to DOW him for the Khanate at some point. Now I’ll have to wait for him to die or the truce to expire. However, spilt milk; in any case, the two mountain provinces are the heart of my domain and I’m reluctant to give them up even for good tactical reasons.

My AAR for today, however, cares for none of these things; it tells of the beginning of Ogier’s journey, in which – as is clear in the screenie – he learns many things. Most notably, how to trim a mustache so it’s actually cool, not the silly thin frippery he sported in Iberia.

Jarl Oleg

——————————————————

December 15th, 815
Fortress atop Clarus Mons, Auvergne
Evening

“Fine. I’ll give you a straight answer, then, since you insist. No. It cannot be done.”

Ogier flinched; he had been expecting it, had forced the issue precisely so that he wouldn’t have to waste more time on half-promises and delays – but it was still a blow, to hear his sister tell him “No” straight out, without prevarication. All the old arguments rose to his lips, but he choked them down; Argilo had heard them, and had not been convinced. There was nothing to be gained by going over that old ground again, when she had committed herself – and her touchy pride in ruling a country without formal title, when her brother had lost his power and her sisters had married theirs – to the denial.

“I thought it would take a miracle,” he said instead, softly and a little bitterly. “A miracle indeed, to make the fractious thrones and powers of Christendie unite against a common enemy. What does it matter that the infidel is at the gates, fifty thousand strong?” But that led down the road of argument, again, and he checked himself. “But we are none of us saints, in these latter days; and so there will be no miracle. No army of Christian paladins; no reconquest.”

Argilo pressed her lips together, perhaps likewise swallowing argument; they’d been arguing for weeks, and it was hard to break the habit of trying to make the other see. “I’m not the only ruler in Christendie,” she pointed out. “Perhaps the miracle will come, only not here.” She hesitated. “Which brings up the question – where will you go next? Unless you stay here,” she amended hastily. “You know you are welcome to stay however long you like.” You and your hundred men, went unsaid, whom I can rely on if any Frankish lord decides to take exception to a woman’s rule. He shook his head slightly; he wasn’t going to become his sister’s strong-arm man – he, who had been a war-leader of Asturias!

“England,” he said shortly.

Argilo raised an eyebrow. “Not Bourbon?”

“Riciberga cannot decide in her own right to support me, she must convince her husband. And the Duke will be just as worried about the situation here as you are, and as unwilling to get involved in foreign adventures when he has threatening wars at home. No. In England there are no great wars impending, and many young men who might be glad of a righteous fight in foreign lands.”

“Ye-es,” Argilo said doubtfully. “That’s what I would do, too, if I wanted the best chance of gathering an army. But you say yourself, to unite Christendom against the Saracen can’t be done the usual way; you need a miracle. And that may come just as well in Riciberga’s court as in England.”

“That’s true,” Ogier agreed. “But then, a miracle can also come just as well in an empty field, or in a trackless forest, or atop a barren mountain, or for that matter sitting here and arguing with you for the next five years. By that logic, it doesn’t matter where I go.”

Argilo flinched slightly at his mention of arguing with her for five years; did she intend to suggest he do precisely that, thus keeping his fighting men where they could serve her purposes? He reminded himself again that it might have been her green eyes that attracted the attention of that dead Frankish Duke, whatever-his-name-had-been, but they weren’t why she now ruled lands wider than what their father had held.

“Quite so,” she said, shrugging. “Then why not stay here? Perhaps the miracle will come tomorrow, and I’ll pain a red cross on my bodice and lead my army south under your command, eh?”

Ogier smiled thinly. “No, sister mine. I think it would need more than a mere miracle, to take you away from these lands you hold. The Holy Spirit itself, I think, would have some difficulty moving you.”

That was insult, and Argilo realised it; her lips thinned. “Fortunate, then,” she said coldly, “that the Holy Spirit, at this present moment, is not very obviously favouring your cause.”

Or yours, Ogier wanted to fling at her. It wasn’t without cause, after all, that Argilo worried about sending fighting men out of her duchy, and regarded a mere hundred soldiers, if their captain was reliable, as an important addition to her rule. But there was no gain in an open quarrel; there was always the chance that he would come back this way another time, at the head of an army, and want his sister’s support.

“I’ll not quarrel with you,” he said instead; he was aware that his tone was absurdly formal, but that was better than hot anger and words that couldn’t be forgiven. “We had too much of that in Asturias, even when the infidel was at the gate. That’s what did for us, as much as their armies. I’ll be on my way tomorrow.”

“Yes,” Argilo said. “Perhaps that would be best.”

It occurred to Ogier that she sounded slightly relieved, and with a jolt it struck him: Argilo thought a hundred soldiers with a reliable captain would be a valuable support for her rule – but did Ogier have to be reliable, just because he was her brother? A hundred men were nothing against this castle, if it was stoutly held – but they were already inside the walls, and a palace coup was a different matter entirely from an open battle. A brother had some claim to inherit, under Frankish law; if he gave out that she had gone mad, or decided to take vows, and he held the strongest castle in Auvergne…

Then he remembered a young girl who had asked her elder brother for help climbing an apple tree, and smuggled him two of the apples when their father sent him to bed without dinner; and was ashamed. That was an ill deed he had just thought of; no luck could come of it… and although being a ruler in this France on the verge of civil war was not nothing, still, it wasn’t the same as returning in triumph to drive the Moor from his own sun-drenched Iberia, where olives grew. There would be no miracle for a man who did such a thing; nothing but this one duchy, for all his life, and the knowledge that whoever looked at him would see a man willing to betray his own sister for power. He squared his shoulders; he was a beggar in his sister’s court, but he needn’t become a thief, for all that.

And besides – he met his sister’s green eyes again; after all they were come a long way from their father’s apple orchard. Was this a woman who would take a hundred men into her castle, even if her brother did command them, without knowing what to do should they prove treacherous? He thought not.

“Tomorrow,” he repeated, and Argilo nodded.

“You’ll go with my good wishes,” she said. “Worth their weight in silver.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Errolaniad, God of Our Fathers, Recessional

The Matter of Spain: Loyal Submission

Session recap: Asturias, and separately my County of Leon, were both at war with the Umayyad Sultanate; the former war was the Sultan aggressing on m’liege for Galicia, the latter was me retaliating by declaring Holy War for the Duchy of Leon. With much-appreciated financial aid from outside Spain, and a Jewish loan, I hired two bands of mercenaries, which turned out to be not quite enough to crush the Sultan’s doomstack. However, the Sultan then turned east to fight the invading Franks for Barcelona, and together we were able to destroy his army. The AI then white-peaced Asturias. Unfortunately I dismissed my mercenaries a little too early, thinking that between the loss of his army and the vast Catholic uprising the Sultan would be helpless to prevent me occupying Leon and force-peacing for the Duchy. And so he was; but Fimconte, sneakily holding back for just that moment, raised a new stack, defeated my levies, and forced a white peace between me and the Sultan.

Umayyads in trouble

Catholic Revolt, coinciding with the Frankish invasion; unfortunately the rebels were somehow defeated, I think through losing enough battles to reach 100% warscore.

Corrino intervention

Fimconte’s intervention in my holy war for Leon.

Later, having married my son Ogier to King Guttier’s sister, I pressed her claim to the throne, intending my grandsons to inherit. Unfortunately, I had no truce with the Sultan, and he immediately declared war on me. I was faced with the unpleasant necessity of making peace with the King, and losing my chance of putting a relative on the throne – but keeping my lands, since the King’s truce with the Sultan would then protect me; or “making peace” with the Sultan and being knocked out of the game. I chose the former.

Finally, adding injury to injury, Fimconte declared a separate holy war for Galicia, and I was unable to stop him taking it; the kingship of Asturias, these days, does not look like such a prize as all that.

———————————–

May 27th, 792
Asturias de Santiago, north coast of Iberia
Noon

“The man Oliver de Errolan comes to make leal submission to Guttier, Dux of the Visigoths, Princeps of Asturias!”

Oliver ground his teeth; “the man”, indeed. He might be a rebel and a dead man walking, but by God he was still a Count, and if it weren’t for the damned Saracens he’d make Guttier remember it… but then, if it weren’t for the damned Saracens, Guttier would no longer be King. It would have to be endured; there was, no doubt, worse to come than the mere eliding of his titles. He kept himself under tight control as he approached the high seat. To either side the long benches were full of Guttier’s men, soldiers who might have faced his own following across a stricken field had matters been other than they were – and died for their salt. Between them, the marcher lords who had followed Oliver’s banner could field twice the army that Guttier could raise from his protected coastal valleys.

Much good it does us, Oliver thought darkly; the Moors had twice the fighting men of the whole northern kingdom, king and rebels together. He ignored the hostile glares, focusing on the man who had actual power to decide his fate – the boy, rather; Guttier had yet to see his fifteenth birthday. The boy-king sat in a high chair, carved with winged lions and filigreed eagles; a man grown might have made its grandeur imposing, but the slight fourteen-year-old boy who reigned over the northern coast of Iberia disappeared into the ornaments. With him stood his advisors, the men who actually ruled; greybeards all, inherited along with the kingship from Guttier’s father. The bald dome of Roderico, the Regent, rose prominently among them; a nothing of a man, raised from the lesser ranks of the nobility to his high position precisely because he had no following of his own, and could not hope to make his power permanent.

Regent Roderico

Roderico, the Regent.

Reaching the dais that raised the high table above the common ruck, Oliver stopped; he had to look slightly up to see his victorious enemies. The room was silent, except for the sound of a hundred men trying to breathe quietly, and the slight rustling of their clothes; the moment drew out and out, until Oliver almost wished for someone to shout “Off with his head!” if only to have it over with. At last his nerve broke, and he bowed his head, acknowledging overlordship. Freeborn Visigoth males did not kneel to any man.

King Guttier

Guttier, slightly later in life.

“Princeps,” he said in greeting – the old form; perhaps, if his revolt had succeeded, he would have been able to make “rex” the style of the kingship, as the leaders of Asturias had tried to do since Pelagius, but he was damned if he was going to grovel. It wasn’t as though Guttier was likely to be appeased by a word.

“Count Oliver,” the boy returned, then flushed; Oliver concealed an unexpected smile. Carefully coached, no doubt, to address him as “freeman”; and he’d blown it in his very first word. Vindication, in a way; one of the causes of the revolt had been that it was no time to have a child commanding the front line of Christendie. Guttier’s slip had just proven the rebels right; best leave the business of government to adults.

“You will give me your sword,” Guttier rallied, and Oliver’s fleeting amusement died. Slaves went unarmed; so did the subject Romani, the gutless Latins who had lived in the peninsula when Oliver’s people arrived as conquerors. To take a freeman’s sword was the same as declaring him no longer a freeman, to strip him of the privileges of the Gothi rulers. His hand tightened on the hilt of the sword. It wasn’t the sharpest blade in all the world, that he had borne since before he needed to shave; that was safely in Ogier’s keeping. It was just an ordinary sword, well-made enough in its way, but nothing special. But it was the badge of his freedom. And, what was more, an adult male with a sword could, if he didn’t care about his own survival, kill a boy of fourteen quite easily – the work of seconds – and go on to carve a swathe through the old men who advised the king, before the warriors behind him could react to bring him down. An unarmed boy, and several greybeards who might have been formidable once but were old and frail now, against a man in the fullness of his strength, a warrior who had personally wielded Durendal against the infidel on stricken fields… yes, it could be done. Oliver would die, but Ogier would declare himself king, and the marcher lords would follow him; the coastal valleys would splinter into factions, easily crushed one by one… and then the Moslem armies, unbound by truce, would flood across the border, and the splintered kingdom would fall. No; the choices were the same as they had been a week ago, when he had first received word that the Sultan had taken the field. Fight, and die, and see all that he had worked for ground to dust by the victorious infidel – or make leal submission, return to the shelter that the sworn truce between Sultan and boy-king gave to a loyal vassal, and accept his personal fate. Ogier, at least, would live, and retain the family estates and titles; that much could be saved.

“Yes,” he said at last. Moving slowly, deliberately, he brought the sword out of the scabbard and gave it, hilt first, to the King.

“You will stay here,” Guttier continued, and Oliver nodded.

“Of course,” he agreed. In Asturias de Santiago he was hostage against Ogier’s good behaviour, as well as assurance that Oliver himself could get up to no further rebellion; next year the Sultan might be campaigning in Africa. He felt an emptiness in his stomach, nonetheless; it was quite likely he would never see his own estates again, or sleep in his own bed.

There was an odd look in Guttier’s eyes, not the flaring triumph of a man who has overcome a threat to his life, something almost – hurt? When he spoke again, his tone was much quieter.

“Why did you do it, Oliver? You served my father loyally; and the Moors are at the gates! You killed a hundred men once, to preserve the castle-peace of this besieged kingdom. And you were right, too. The moment we were disunited, the Sultan jumped right in. If we don’t have unity, we’ll have nothing. Why did you, of all people, rebel?”

Oliver blinked, lips parting slightly in surprise; Guttier didn’t sound angry, as you would expect from a boy coming into manhood when an adult disparaged his competence. Rather, he sounded bitterly disappointed. Between one breath and the next he understood, and almost laughed out loud. The boy had admired him! Oliver was surely the foremost warrior in his besieged kingdom – the wielder of Durendal, no less, who had led Christian armies on many bloody fields. Just the sort of man that a young king might admire, seek to emulate, even hero-worship – right up until he turned around and raised his banners in rebellion, and broke that fragile peace that he had spent his life upholding and defending. Oliver laughed, bitterly. What harm in speaking truth, now, when all was lost?

Battle of Tarragona

One of the stricken fields on which Oliver has led Christian soldiers – in this case, defeating the Sultan in conjunction with our esteemed Frankish allies.

“Why did I rebel? After Tuy, which the royal army sat out in safety at Coruna, thirty miles from the fighting? After the retreat to Burgos, with the Sultan’s zenatas swarming around us like bees, and the king’s promised aid to his vassals always a day late and ten miles short? After the Galician Campaign? I needed those troops, dammit! We were so close; just a hundred men on the right flank…” Oliver realised that his voice had grown loud, and blew out his breath gustily, trying to let the old anger go with it. “Unity in war is a fine thing,” he said in a calmer tone. “But it needs the substance as much as the form. If the royal forces had been under my command at Tuy, the Sultan would be fortifying Evora.”

Battle of Tuy

The disastrous battle of Tuy; note the royal Asturian army sitting in Coruna, not lifting a finger to defend the King’s lands, while Leon pours out blood and treasure like water.

Guttier swallowed. “I was too young then,” he whispered. “If I’d been older – or better advised…” he trailed off, glancing aside at the row of advisers, standing quite literally behind his throne. The old King’s marshal was among them, Oliver saw; his old antagonist, Johan, greyer now than when they’d last met outside Coruna, but just as dim. His cheeks were red, whether with drink or with anger Oliver couldn’t tell.

“It is done,” Oliver said tiredly. “All things are accomplished in accordance with the will of God.” He sat down on the low dais, at Guttier’s feet, and rested his head in his hands.

Leave a comment

Filed under God of Our Fathers, Recessional, The Matter of Spain