Part I : Otto I.
Chapter 1 : The Reigning Countess
Immediately after Werner's death, Emperor Heinrich did as promised and bestowed the title of Count of Stettin upon Werner's son, Otto. The young boy very soon noticed, that after his father's demise, a lot of things changed.
All of these changes were somehow tied to his mother, the countess widow Reginlind, who swiftly took the position of a regent silenced with threats anyone who dared to oppose that. The only one who remained a danger to her was her late husband's friend and chaplain, the oh-so-righteous Siegmund, bishop of Basel.
During April that the steward of Soldin, the seat of the county of Stettin, was staying in Aargau to plead for soldiers. After an audience, he engaged into conversation with Reginlind, even though she wasn't exactly happy with another problems.
'My lady,' he started, 'surely you understand that those Pagans are a danger to your son's rule up there. Should they start a full rebellion, I am afraid that only the Emperor will be able to stop them.'
'Then bother him! Or do you think I have time for your nonsenses about some old-god-lovers?'
'My lady, surely those problems aren't worse that a direct threat to your rule?'
'They are, because it's a threat right here, in Aargau. That cursed Siegmund is gathering support for his opposition and there is nothing I can do to stop him!'
'I am very sorry to hear that, my lady.' Here, the steward stopped talking for a while. Then, with a devilish smile appearing on his face, he continued: 'My lady, surely it is every priest's duty to spread the Word of our Lord.'
'I believe so, yes. And what do you think he does? He gets most of sympathizers during masses.'
'Well, my lady, such a pious and noble servant of God could never refuse to turn Pagans to the Light.'
'To the light? What do you... I see. That, my dear Hesso, is a great idea. I am only afraid that some of those Pagans may be quite angry if a priest comes amongst them.'
The years went by and nothing could threaten Reginlind's rule. In September of the year of our Lord 1074 a message came from Stettin that poor Siegmund was tortured to death by Pommeranians somewhere near Wollin. That same year the emperor showed that Werner probably really was his friend, as he raised Otto to a duke by giving him the duchy of Mecklemburg (alas, without any titles tied to it) and betrothing his oldest son Ludwig to Werner's younger daughter Serhilda. But slowly, Reginlind's rule was coming to an end as Otto was almost and adult.
In January of the year of our Lord 1076 the castle of Ulm was quite lively. A wedding of duke Otto of Mecklemburg and duke Berthold's sister Adelaida was being celebrated and almost every important noble of the Empire was present, including the Emperor. And yet everybody could see that Otto's poor mother, widow of the late count Werner, was bothered by something. But only Hesso von Solothurn, steward of Soldin, knew why.
'You understand, dear Hesso, don't you?' she asked him while holding a cup of wine. She didn't even wait for an answer and emtpied it.
'Of course, my dear lady. But I cannot make the decision for you.'
'Yes, yes, I know. Years of planning, years of plotting, and everything to vain because I can't do it now.' She took another cup from a servant an drank it all just like the one before. 'I am old, you know? I hold power for five long years, in a constant fear of revolt, in a fear that Siegmund will take it all. Then Siegmund died and suddenly, everything was quiet. And now this.'
'I understand, my dear lady. And please, stop drinking the wine, it's not good for you,' he added as Reginlind ordered another cup.
'Yes, thank you, Hesso, you are right. As always. Do it.'
The news spreaded troughout the Empire like a forest fire. The young boy, duke Berthold of Swabia, drank too much wine during his sister's wedding and then fell of stairs in the castle's tower. He was dead on the spot and his poor sister inherited the duchy. Quite some luck for that Habsburg's boy, some added. First a duke of Mecklemburg, now a duke consort of Swabia too! And yet, no one, ever, suspected foul play. And finally, for the first time of her life, Reginlind was content.