Who knows what moves the hearts of men? The fires of faith have seemed dim, this past generation. Asatru have lived in peace with Christian; Moslems have waged only the inner jihad, and have not sought to extend the House of Submission; Christians have not attempted the recovery of the Holy Land; even the vile Suomenusko have, a few disavowed adventurers excepted, fought mainly against the mosquitoes and against their own children. A weak and decayed generation, far from the mighty deeds of their ancestors! But there is an ebb and a flow to history, and in the seventh year of Godfried, the inrushing tide of war at last reached its high-water mark: The Emperor in his wisdom, may the White Christ protect the righteous warrior, proclaimed the Crusade for Anatolia, to recover the mountain peninsula for Christendie and to prepare the way for a campaign for the Holy Land.
The warriors of the Crescent, however, were not slow in answering. The moribund sultanate of Syria (currently unplayed), it is true, did not mobilise with all the decisiveness that might have been looked for. However, the rival Caliphates of Persia and Egypt both responded with declarations of Jihad, for Frisia and France; war objectives which, if attained, would cripple the Empire and reduce it to the level of a second-rank power. (For a moment, seeing ‘Caliph’ and ‘Jihad for France’ together, I thought the long-awaited inevitable betrayal by Fimconte had finally arrived; but I had the wrong Caliph. Iberia remained scrupulously neutral, although no doubt carefully scrutinising both sides for a carelessly exposed kidney.) These Jihads brought out the old warrior spirit of the desert nomads; at one point I had over 80 “Emir X joined the Jihad for France” notifications in my message queue. That wasn’t, however, an advantage for the Muslims. The various Emirs insisted on sending all their troops in stacks of 1k and 2k, so that for a while Central Europe was covered in the banners of Islam, but the Emperor had the advantage of numbers in the decisive clash of the main forces.
The Muslim powers began their campaign with African troops invading Ireland; the Persians, having no navy to speak of, marched towards Europe through Anatolia and the Balkans, incidentally reinforcing the Syrian defenders along the way. The Crusaders, faced both with equal forces defending the difficult terrain of Anatolia, and with a direct threat to their homeland, consequently retreated somewhat rapidly. Thus Istanbul was saved for Islam; and for some time there was a real question of whether Christendom could hold Western Europe against the savage Saracen. The loss of so strategic a location as Ireland, obviously, would have demoralised the nobles of Germany, notoriously more concerned with land and privileges than with religion; and if any significant fraction of them had taken the turban to save their estates, resistance might have collapsed entirely and the Crescent flown from the Danube to the Channel. (Or, in other words, the CK warscore model is kind of gameable; occupying Ireland, indeed.)
However, with the main Crusading forces’ return to the Netherlands, the invasion of Ireland became untenable. The Emperor’s superior sealift capacity, due largely to the Norwegian merchant fleet, gave him such mobility that he was able to force his enemies to battle on unfavourable terms; and in a decisive clash in which Cross outnumbered Crescent 40 thousand to 30, destroyed their main fighting force. Had the two dozen little warbands of the various Emirs managed to be within supporting distance of their Caliphs, this might have gone quite differently; as it was, the warriors of Islam were left with quite a few troops in the field, but scattered all over Germany in futile sieges, with nothing able to stand against the hammer of the Emperor’s relieving column.
All this had, nonetheless, taken time; and more time was lost in mopping up the Emirs and their fanatical ghazi warriors, apparently stimulated by the defeat of Islam into ever-more-suicidal efforts to reverse the tide. The net result of all the bloodshed, therefore, was the status quo antebellum: The Jihads for France and Frisia failed, but so also did the Crusade for Anatolia. After five years of war the Syrians were able to say, with some justice, that if the White Christ had intended to deliver their homelands to His faithful, he’d had His chance. Recognising the point of diminishing returns, the Pope therefore called off the Crusade. This is, of course, the kind of thing that will happen when you insist on using false gods in your Holy Wars.
And what was Norway’s contribution to this clash of titans? Well, apart from the war-winning sealift capacity of our merchant fleet, someone had to keep an eye on the savage Suomenusko! The last thing the Emperor needed, at a time when he was straining every sinew in defense of the heart of his realm, was a second front opened by an ankle-biting opportunist. I’m glad to say that I accomplished this vital mission with great success; so scary were the fierce Norse faces I made in the general direction of Finland, that the Suomenusko Holy War for Uppland did not occur until after the Emperor’s great victory against the Muslims. This turned out to be a strategic miscalculation, since the defeat of the main Muslim forces left the Emperor’s veteran army free to sail north on the aforementioned merchant fleet, and crush the Suomenusko utterly. Having thus put my heathen enemies off-balance, I followed with a strategic masterstroke, declaring Great Holy War for Suomi – the heart of darkness! Unable to face us in battle, Yahmik has instead turned to assassins, presumably hoping to end the war by making me lose an election. This was, indeed, a pretty good move on his part; I lost two Doges before I realised that making an Yngling named ‘Ormr’ my spymaster was probably not a good idea, even if he did have Intrigue 25. I mean, the guy’s name is literally ‘Snake’; great indicator of trustworthiness, there. Fortunately my latest Doge was quicker on the uptake than me, saw through Ormr’s agent, and arrested him. Execution will follow pretty shortly; also, a kinsman is spymaster now. This conflict is not yet settled, but I think I may say without fear of contradiction that it is going my way. The Baltic shall be united under the Dreki! Who in turn are under the Emperor, making some kind of threesome, but it’s ok – Godfried’s nickname of “the Kind” derives from his habit of giving a reacharound.
Well, I don’t know what I was thinking.
Then again, it’s also possible I’ve made myself a teensy bit unpopular.