1657-1664: Karl Talken Goes Crazy
In the months following his brother's death, Syndic Karl Talken started to leave the everyday administration of Brunswick to his advisors. He was losing interest in everything except for the goals August had died trying to reach - spreading the Catholic faith and increasing Brunswicker power. The latter part of his reign would be the most expansionist and most zealous era in the nation's history.
After contemplating his next move for some months, Talken decided to strike at Yaroslavl. Many thought that the small nation was indebted to Brunswick after her liberation, and the Syndic therefore sought to vassalize it.
The war itself was a simple matter. Sweden, the only notable enemy nation, signed peace in exchange for status quo within months, and Yaroslavl's ruler pledged his allegiance to Talken in March 1658. As part of the agreement, he converted to the Catholic faith and strived to have his people do the same.
The next month, Smolensk was forced to start following the True Faith as well.
Next, the angered Syndic suggested a war against Krakow for similar reasons. Some in the army were worried by these aggressive developments, but Talken made sure they were reassigned to positions where they had no say in the matter. While the Syndic made sure that the new positions were reasonably good, not everyone was pleased with the changes.
Still, Talken had got what he wanted, and war was declared on Krakow in June. As the tiny nation had no allies, their subjugation only took a month.
But Talken wasn't satisfied. He had his eyes on Fyn, one of the Danish islands where his family had a claim. Displaying his lost sense of proportion, he commissioned a new twenty ship fleet of modern two-decked battleships for the conflict despite the fact that Denmark wouldn't stand a chance against the ships that Brunswick already had.
War was declared in September, with Denmark's allies deserting them. Denmark could only muster token resistance, and when Copenhagen fell in January 1659, Talken successfully negotiated a peace deal that saw Fyn ceded to Brunswick.
Karl Talken might have been a brooding man at this stage of his life, but he knew Brunswick's traditions as well as anyone. With no more proper claims on his neighbors, he saw no choice but to stop his expansionist ways for now. Increasing the nation's power wasn't currently possible, but spreading Catholicism still was. The normally meager conversion efforts were essentially doubled inside the nation.
After two years of anger and sorrow, Talken didn't seem like a good candidate for re-election: most voters supported a more cautious approach much like the one Brunswick had followed for the past centuries. However, surprisingly many people worried for the Syndic as ruling the nation was all he had left. Reluctant to take that away from the suffering man and confident that his advisors could keep the domestic matters in good shape like they had for the past two years, the voters narrowly kept Talken in his position in the December election.
As the new twodeckers were finished, Heinrich Ferdinand Wassman was hired to continue his father's legacy as the admiral of the Brunswicker fleet.
1660 had an interesting beginning as Grodno and Vilna defected from Bohemia to Lithuania.
However, it was not Lithuania that Talken decided to target as something even better came up. According to the Brunswicker Cartographers' Guild, Danzig should have been a part of the lands Brunswick claimed from the Ottomans earlier.
After the recent passing of general Brach, no-one was available to lead Brunswick's army in the upcoming conflict. The supremely talented Heinrich Lindemann was promoted to take the role.
War was declared in September, and the Teutonic Order was annexed a month later. Apart from the Jylland peninsula, Brunswick controlled the coastline from Vlaanderen to Estland.
The province of Danzig was incredibly prosperous, especially after the administration worked on bringing the local farming techniques up to Brunswicker standards.
The conversion of Kalisz in December signaled the beginning of a time where Catholicism spread faster inside the nation. Sieradz followed suit in September 1663 after a quiet couple of years in Brunswick's history. Talken appeared to have calmed down.
Everything being silent in Brunswick didn't mean that it was the case for the rest of the world however. Perhaps the most interesting development was the Golden Horde's victorious war against Denmark that led to the Horde's expansion into Scandinavia.
This time the Syndic had an easier time winning the December election: he had seemed more stable, and the country was in great shape. But the peaceful conduct might have been only an election ploy. As soon as his position was secure, he sought to smite the heretic Bohemians, looking to conquer the Catholic province of Ratibor.
The inhabitants seemed to be fine with the proposition of joining not only a Catholic nation but also their Silesian brethren in Breslau.
The Bohemian king was understandably less enthusiastic, so he had to be persuaded by force.
Newly promoted general Julius Hehn would take care of Bohemian ally Liege, while Lindemann was sent to Bohemia. The gifted general made sure that even the largest Bohemian army was eliminated with minimal casualties.
Liege paid cash for peace in February 1664, and by the late month the western part of Bohemia had fallen. Peace was signed, with Bohemia giving up Ratibor and Poland gaining its independence in Volhynia and Lublin.
Brunswick had yet again grown in size at the expense of the Bohemians. But nobody knew what the loose cannon in the Syndic's office would do next.