Everyone Loves the Underdog: Croatia’s Return to Power
(Note: I try to explain the war between Venice and Hungary/Croatia that’s on during the beginning of the game. If anyone knows otherwise to what I have made up, please correct me. Thanks.)
Chapter I, In Which the Protagonist Throws Off the Yoke of Oppression and Thrashes the Doge
The viceroy was growing complacent. That old fool Gingic was letting the Hungarians tread all over him, and subsequently us. Half of every harvest, half of every taxation was tithed to those damnable Magyars, and what did they do with it? Spent it on lavish balls to court Austrian women. Pah. Croatian money belongs in Croatia, not floating around some German’s parlor. For every crystal goblet that’s discarded after a single use, we could put a halberd into the hands of a Croat to fight for his homeland. The “Partnership” the Magyars spoke of had to end. The only question was how to do it without incurring their wrath.
Ironically enough, they solved that problem for me themselves. In late December of 1418, tensions were high in the Balkans, as Venice tried to exert her commercial might over the lot of the tiny states on the peninsula. Hungary, adversely affected by the trade sanctions, and having no navy of her own to counter the Venetian forces with, sent riders through Zagreb with a message: Hungary was at war with Venice. Croatia could join Hungary in this war without any further commitment to alliance, or she could join Venice, and be crushed.
Since being appointed as the Viceroy’s advisor, I had long seen the reclamation of the Adriatic coast as the key to regaining power for Croatia. The Venetians held it, and this could be the perfect opportunity to both break free of Hungarian oppression and reclaim lost Croatian lands. I got Gingic’s rubberstamp approval and sent the reply to Budapest: Croatia would fight alongside her Magyar “brethren”.
The Hungarian troops would take at least a month and a half to reach the Venetian borders, while my own border guard was a mere thousand pikemen and four thousand cavalry. I ordered the forging of ten thousand halberds and the training of men to wield them, split into two divisions out of Krain and Zagreb. My border force was immediately sent southwards towards Triest, where they had orders to begin a small-scale siege and run at the first sign of Venetian troops. I had my own plans for the Venetians.
Meanwhile I faced the problem of the empty coffers under the palace at Zagreb; the tributes to the filthy Magyars had run our finances dry. I began relaxing the controls on trade and Croatian merchants, going towards a more laissez-faire approach. This in itself caused some turmoil in the country, though it was quickly repaired; for all of his ideological shortcomings, Gingic was an administrative genius, and a diplomatic prodigy to boot.
As my divisions left their training camps and formed up for the march to the sea, Hungarian forces passed through Zagreb on their way to begin the siege of Trieste. Marcovic, commander of my skirmish force in Istria, told me later of the look on the Magyar commandant’s face as he saw the ragged band of men laying siege to the city. “He was astonished we were here, let alone alive; he had just engaged a force of 15,000 Venetians and lost 20,000 of his own men, a full half of his force!” We had a good laugh about the incompetence of the Hungarian commandant the night of the treaty signing, without a doubt.
My timing was perfect. Just as the battle in Istria ended, with my forces nearly intact and the Hungarians limping along at half strength, my rider reached Budapest with a scroll bearing the seal of the new Kingdom of Croatia. No longer would half our income flow into the pockets of the Magyar oppressors, we were a free people. Our partnership in military affairs could last as long as the Hungarians liked (Like it or not, they had to accept that we had priority in the siege in Istria.). It was, of course, worded much more politely than this, so as not to offend them into attacking Marcoviæ’s force, but the gist remained the same.
Our people had become lazy and unused to change, and the severing of our ties to Hungary caused some significant unrest in the land. Noone took up arms, as there was a war on and the people knew better than to betray their country so, but it took a few months before everything was back to normal.
Meanwhile, the Venetians had mounted more than a few counterattacks, all turned back by the Hungarian hordes, while Marcovic and his troops sat quietly in the siege. Their band had been reduced to a mere 500 men, 100 of them mounted, because the province simply could not provide enough food to feed the Hungarians and our force. But as long as the Hungarians followed the modus belli, they could not assume control of the siege. Marcovic issued orders left and right to Hungarian siege engines and troops, and in general enjoyed himself immensely. Meanwhile my two fresh divisions arrived in Venice and Dalmatia a few days ahead of the Hungarian reinforcements, laying claim to those cities as well. Hungary itself was reconquering Croatian lands for its former vassal, and I had but to sit back and wait.
Well, sometimes waiting is the hardest part. The sieges themselves took over four years; ironically enough, the last to fall was the first to be besieged. Dalmatia fell in a mere 9 months, the canal city of Venice a year later, and two years after that, the beleaguered citizens of Trieste finally raised the white flag of surrender. I was in the middle of drafting my demands to be delivered to Venice when the rider burst into my chambers, panting from exhaustion.
“My lord Baron! The Venetians send you a peace offering.” He knelt, offered me a scroll with an imprinted wax seal, and left the room at my dismissal. My jaw hit the cold stone floor as I broke the seal and read the letter; right there, translated into perfect Serbo-Croatian, was an offer of two hundred and twenty five chests of gold ducats, and possession of the provinces of Istria and Dalmatia, in exchange for peace. This went beyond my wildest dreams; apparently when my troops had seized the port of Venice, no orders had gotten out to the island territories in the Aegean, and no reinforcements were enroute to break Croatian control of the area. I drafted my reply with a shaking hand, ordered a scribe to recopy it, signed and slapped some wax on it, and used my ring to imprint the seal. I had just doubled the size of my country, and freed it from oppression and tyrrany… but this was only the first step towards assuring the survival of the kingdom. I would need to cement my powerbase in the Balkans and build a strong coalition with which to resist the growing Turkish threat in the east.
(That's all for now, cause I took PSATs today and I have work to do for my CompSci courses. Will play more tonight and write more tomorrow! Comments, please!!!)