I'm very sorry for the delay. Due to time restrictions and motivation combined limiting how much research I can do in one sitting, I think I'll continue to produce some story updates with interludes only coming as I complete modwork. That way this AAR won't simply die out and we can begin advancing the story without having to wait for us to finish the entire mod first (something that is clearly unreasonable). Hopefully this means I will continue on a more reasonable update schedule henceforth.
Glad to make you jump!
Originally Posted by Fookison
I hope everyone enjoys!
Interlude II – Stewards of the Baltic States
“In continuation of my assessment of the Realm, I must take heed of the many lands outside of Denmark which fall under our rule. I speak mainly of Vendland, Prussia, Lithuania and Livonia, although a more detailed list of settlements will have to follow at a future date as we are still attempting to solidify our knowledge of the region.”
By 1088, the Baltic Crusade had forged some semblance of order out of the chaotic states of the past. Only three enclaves of Pagan freedom remained: Estonia, Finland and the Isle of Rügen.
“I have included a copy of the map commissioned by my father of the Baltic, in the hopes of furthering your understanding of the Baltic as we know it. You should be able to see how to the west, Denmark stands implacable at the gates of the Baltic and to our south is the vast and chaotic German Empire, whose ruler claims the title of Kaiser of Rome even as his realm crumbles around him. The Polish King to the south is traditionally a friend of Denmark, but now he may cast envious eyes on our Realm which grew substantially at his ambitions' expense. Hvide rule of Stettin and the Baltic, as well as our part in the creation of the Pommeranian state, have increased tensions with King Boleslaw the Bold. To the east are the vast lands of the Rurikid that lay beyond our own, and finally there is the Baltic Territories of the Hvide. From Prussia to Estonia, from Livonia to Palenke, we have come to rule over a large and daunting territory that maintains great hostility against its new rulers. We must show caution.”
Once the home of the powerful Obotrites, Vendland was the first pagan land to fall to Skjalm and Auden. The defeat of Krutoj, the supposed King of the Vends, marked the first victory of the Baltic Crusade.
“South of Sjælland is what is often spoke of as the fourth land of Denmark: Vendland. Although I am told the landed men of Vendland now mainly worship Christ, the majority of the peasant masses here remain devoutly pagan and unwilling to convert easily. Vendland's power is mainly based at two separate cities: Rostock, seat of the Vendland Diocese and Lybæk (named Lübeck in German), a growing Christian settlement built around the fortress Bucu on the river Trave. The region is dependent on trade, as both towns are popular sites for Baltic traders to arrive and peddle their goods. This brings a large and important source of revenue to Denmark. Rostock pledges its allegiance to the Hvide while the Greve of Lybæk pledges his allegiance to the King.”
“Although the cities are our most important areas for drawing silver into our purse, it is the castle at Mikilenburg that serves as the ting for Vendland and its most important fortification. It should be noted that there are other settlements in the region, none are of import compared to the value of those mentioned and shall not be discussed further.”
Truthfully, Harald had not been able to recall the names of the lesser settlements of the Baltic, nor had his brief research through the letters and accounts brought up any respectable list of items. He wished that he could come up with a more complete list, seeing as how Erik would be leaving within the week for his new home in the east, but in truth he would probably need to rely on Erik for a more reliable list of settlements in the future. Detailing an account of the realm was a more difficult task than he had originally envisaged.
The Baltic coast was the most populated and important region of the new Baltic Territories and also the easiest for the Hvide to maintain order and march armies through.
“In the east, our Clan holds vast territory; from the borders of the Ordensstaat to the Lithuanian Highlands (Aukstaitija or Terra Eustoythen) we have earned the blessing of the Holy Father himself to reign. This is, however, a complex territory where we are outsiders. Nordic and German settlers clash with pagan natives, priests attempt ineffectually to tame their souls and all the while Rus and Pole alike press in on all sides.”
“The core of Hvide land falls along the Rivers Memel and Pregel in the south, and around the city of Riga in the north. The old Prussian settlement of Tvankste on the Sambian Peninsula, once a major fort, was burnt down and rebuilt during the Baltic Crusade. It is now known as the city of Skjalmsborg, after my uncle, and is one of the fastest growing settlements in the west as well as the location of the Baltic landsting. Sambia lies just eight days from Sjælland by longship and so we should be able to stay in contact with the east most of the time.”
“The real nuances, however, lie within the subject nobility of the realm. Virtually all of the native ruling class were killed or forced into exile during the Baltic Crusade. By far the largest landowners in Lithuania and Prussia are the Bragde Clan. Harald Bragde rules much of Zemaitija (Samogitia) in the north, while to the south his brother Abel and cousin Gunnhild hold substantial land themselves. We are blessed that the Bragde look so fondly upon our own family, and that they seem to lack ambition thus far.”
“Kurland along the northwest coast is divided into three parts, split almost evenly in hides, not area. In the south rules Clan Kaas, led by their elder brother Yngve Stærkbue, a veteran crusader. Near the centre of the region is a Norwegian Clan under the rule of Olaf Kane, whose loyalty lies deeper with the King of Norway than with our own. North of that, the Livonians are ruled by Rune of Clan Scavenius,one of our most loyal vassals.”
“The last and least loyal of our vassals in the east are Clan Memel, based along the Lithuanian coastline. Ruling one of the most heavily populated regions in the Baltic Territories, they are rich and powerful and should be watched carefully. Thorben Løvenson, ruler of parts of Suvalkija (Sudovia) in the east, is not nearly as rich but is known for his cunning and deceitfulness. He too must be watched with caution.”
Livonia is a difficult term to quantify, but is commonly used for Latvia and Estonia combined despite technically referring to the Livs, who live only on a small part of this region.
“The Livs were not Scavenius' only realm, following the successful conquest of the Estonian conquest they were trusted with the rule of the west. I understand they have built a strong relationship with the Gotland Republic, who rule the islands guarding the mouth of the Gulf of Riga. The free islanders have defied the attempt of the Svea Kings to enforce their reign, and have often looked to us for aid, and war between Hvide and Sweden may eventually be inevitable if our northern rivals do not back down. To the northeast, one of Estonia's three major towns has fallen under Hvide rule: Rääveli. Although I personally sacked the town during the march east, it has since been rebuilt and restored and its wealth has only grown as Russian traders begin to move west from Novgorod.”
Aukstaitija, a region split in two, is the last region to hold native pagan nobility and the cultural heartland of Lithuania to boot.
“Southeast of Hvide we enter the territory known as Aukstaitija. These highlands are not as densely populated as the coast, but form the heart of Lithuanian culture and pride. The Aukshayts Tribes fought hard and well during the Baltic Crusade, and my uncle negotiated a more reasonable peace with them that permitted them to maintain control of the Highlands as long as they paid tribute and fought for Hvide. Although it was a matter of serious contention, they were permitted to retain their faith and promises were made to help them reclaim their eastern lands from the Rus of Polotsk, who had seized them years prior. Only in the northern land of Selija was a Danish jarl placed in command, the man Stigandr Astrup, whose notability is only rivalled by the notability of his land: which is to say that they have none. It is an unimportant region ruled by an unimportant man.”
The south-eastern march of Hvide territory was not the most valuable region of the Baltic, but it was an important buffer region against the Rus of Kiev.
“The south-eastern lands, which I believe are known as Dzukija, form our border with the Rurikids of Kiev and Chernigov, who my uncle already bested once in warfare. This territory too has been trusted to the Bragde, who fought with skill and determination against the Rus. There is not much to say, this territory lacks major settlements and has few fortifications. Its population is minimal and so is its important, but it serves as a march, at least, for the Rus have to cross the empty wilderness to reach Hvide's core along the coast.”
A sighing Harald set the pen down and rubbed at ink-stained fingers. Writing was hard work, more than he'd expect, but it would hopefully be worth it. Part of him was a little excited to think that his descendants for hundreds of years to come would be able to read his words and learn about what life was like for him. Even if it came to little practical use, Harald was at least deriving some kind of enjoyment from it. Maybe he should start to write poetry or song, or great tales like were spoken of in old – what excitement that idea brought!
The sound broke Harald's daydreaming in an instant; all thoughts of fun and games were immediately swept from his mind and his well-trained combat reflexes replaced them. What he heard was no idle sound, no, that was the sound of someone stepping upon a nearby floorboard. No, it was not just nearby, it was in this very room, behind his very back. His head and body felt light for a moment and the passage of time seemed to slow as the heat of the moment fuelled him into a state ready to fight. Slipping the dagger looped around his belt free of its sheath, Harald turned and sprung from his seat into the room, chair falling freely to one side with a clamour.
Harald aimed the tip of his blade at the intruder, and received only a cold blank stare in return. A moment of silence passed between the two and Harald eyed up this stranger: an ageing man garbed mostly in black with a suspicious hood that cast shadows over his face. He was familiar somehow but Harald couldn't quite place it and this bothered him. The young Chieftain's face contorted into a snarl and he pressed the point of the dagger a little closer.
“Who are you and what are you doing in here?" He demanded.
Harald's interrogation brought forth a hint of a smile from the stranger, who raised his hands slowly. “Easy, Harald. We don't want things to get messy again, now do we?”
His voice was heavily accented and clearly German. To Harald, it was just as familiar as his face, and the realisation of this strange man's identity suddenly dawned upon him.
Hans Ackerman was a skilled assassin and a loyal servant of Harald's mother, Gro Svendsdatter. Harald had no doubt that his presence was a very bad thing.
Harald's scowl only deepened. “You may have defeated me as a child, Hans, but now I am a man and you are clearly old. What makes you think I won't just kill you here on the spot? Tell me why you're skulking in my chambers!” Harald looked at the man, who remained defiantly mute for the moment. “TELL ME NOW!”
Although Hans was indeed old, his hands moved like lightning; Harald felt the blade slip out of his hand and watched it skid across the floor. He raised his knee defensively, expecting some kind of strike at his exposed midsection, but the assassin simply stepped to one side with a grin. “Don't point your blade at me, boy. You're still a child compared to me, and I'm here on a matter of peace besides. We have no reason to fight.”
Harald glanced over at the blade, judging its distance, then looked back at Hans. “Don't even think about it." Hans said with a grin.
"If you're here for peaceful reasons, Hans, why break into my chambers? What purpose does that have?”
“It's quite simple, Harald.” The assassin returned Harald's chair to its position and sat with his back to the desk. “I have two pieces of work to complete here; two missions, if you will. First, I've brought you a message from your dear beloved mother...”
Harald's eye twitched at Hans' words. His mother had not sent him any letters nor couriers since her imprisonment, although he was quite sure she would be able to do so even from exile if she wished. Why did she choose now of all times to contact him? What kind of trick was she up to now?
“Fine, a message from my mother. And? What's your other purpose in being here?”
Hans leaned back in the chair, balancing it on two legs and resting his hands behind his head. “Although you're young, you're a man now. You're old enough to understand what I'm about to say, and how it might value you. Harald Audensen, I have a business proposal that may interest you...”
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On an unrelated-to-this-AAR but still important note, the AARland Choice AwAARds are still going on! We haven't had a great turnout this quarter (although advertising is increasing the number of ballots) and I'm sure authors would appreciate it if you'd stop by and give them a vote. You don't have to vote for me or for every category, but do consider showing support for your favourite AARs! It's a great way to show your appreciation for the authors who work hard to produce their stuff, and I know seeing active awards puts a smile on my face. Also, if anyone wants to vote but is confused by the rules or anything like that, feel free to PM me and I'll talk you through it! (It's been a problem in the past, I readily admit).