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Thread: A Song of Mostly Ice

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    Bergenhus festning
    April, 1123


    Are was now fourteen, a lanky boy with a towering intellect. And he'd long had a nagging suspicion that his father was slowly dying. It had been all but confirmed when his uncle and cousins had taken one and a half thousand men and gone north last spring, to subjugate the last remaining territory held by Finnish pagan. On his father's insistence, Are had gone with them – but Harald himself had stayed at Bergenhus.

    Now that they had returned, the Jarl's worsening health was public knowledge. He had to delegate more of his Jarl's responsibilities than ever before, spent more time bedridden than up and about, and barely ate. Both a Frankish physician who had visited the Norwegian royal court as well as several local seidmenn were in agreement: Something cancerous was growing in Harald's gut. On his way to his father's chambers – Are had been informed that his father wanted to see him – two brown-haired children raced past him. Njål and Ravn were two of his legitimate half-brothers. Whatever his condition, Are thought sourly, his father certainly had no problem fulfilling his matrimonial obligations. There was a girl, too – Svanhild – and an infant boy named Harald.

    Upon entering the chamber, Are found his father awake and up. He looked weary and thin, but in good spirits. Harald eyed his son with mock suspicion. “When did you grow that tall?”

    “Must be something in the water up north – I could have sworn I was shorter than Vetle-Tor and Åmund when we left for Finland.”

    “Getting along well with your cousins, then?”

    “Mostly. They treat me like a younger brother, in all respects, but they're men grown. They didn't take me very seriously in matters of war - until Uncle invited me to help him map out the overall strategy.” Are grinned involuntarily at the memories. His cousins' normally square faces had seemed uncharacteristically long that day.

    “So we have you to thank for our resounding victory, son?”

    “I wouldn't underestimate Uncle's contributions, father.”

    Harald chortled. “Never. Though I am surprised he didn't let his own boys try their hand at strategy... “

    “He says they're good fighters and solid leaders on the field of battle, but that they haven't got the heads for planning an entire war.”

    “He actually said that?”

    “Yes. Well, to me, anyway. I'm not sure what he tells them.”

    They stood in silence for a while, before Harald broke it: “Sit down, son.”

    Are sat. Harald continued. “Everyone knows by now – something cancerous is eating away at me from the inside.” He poked his gut. “There's some kind of lump here. It grows bigger, while the rest of me shrinks away.”

    Are swallowed. He wasn't entirely unfamiliar with concepts of mortality. He had seen his mother killed, after all, and just earlier this year he had cut down some Finnish skirmishers himself. But his mother had died quickly, and the Finns – well, that had been war. That was something else.

    “You're the heir – you're the oldest, and I know you're capable. You're young, but everyone's been at some point.”

    “I've been named heir?”

    “Yes. When you were younger, your uncle Tor was the natural heir, but you'll be coming of age in just two years.”

    “Do you … “ Are trailed off, looking for the right words.

    “What?”

    “How long will you live?”

    Harald laughed wearily. “I don't know, boy. I can promise I'll hang on for at least those two years – when you're of age, the succession is going to be a lot easier. Beyond that, I am content to leave it in the hands of God.”

    “And the Allfather?”

    “If he wants to have a say, he's more than welcome to it.”

    Harald coughed. Are remained seated, lost in thought while his father struggled to end the coughing fit. What would he do when he was Jarl? Conquer? He suddenly realized he was terrified – what if he didn't live up to his legacy? His grandfather had built a Jarldom out of almost nothing, his father had carried on the legacy and cemented their place as a major power within Norway, putting the fool Queen in her place. What would he amount to?

    “Father?”

    “Yes?” Harald had finally recovered.

    “What about Uncle?”

    “What about him?”

    “What if he wants to be Jarl?”

    “Don't you think it may have crossed our minds a long time ago to have that discussion, boy?”

    “I – suppose?”

    Harald sighed. “Tor and his sons will remain Lendmenn of Agder, and he'll be your advisor for as long as you want, once you're Jarl.” Then he added, as an afterthought: “Or until he's no longer capable.”

    Comforting, Are thought. But he wasn't entirely sure how Tor's sons – and their sons again – would feel about the arrangement. Weren't they being shunted aside?

    Harald curbed another string of coughs. “I think I need to lie down – see?”

    Are nodded glumly.

    “You can go. Just be ready, boy.”

    “I will.”

    On his way towards the bed, his father grumbled: “If I should drop dead today, there's just one piece of advice you absolutely have to remember – don't trust the Queen.”

    “Why? Is she planning something?”

    “Always. But I expect her to try to capitalize on any momentary weakness we show – my passing, the succession, a young and inexperienced Jarl ...”

    Are nodded. He had grown up with constant tales of Queen Gyda's frequent injustices. He had never actually met the Queen, but felt a kind of grudging respect – queer, feeble, and a little mad she may be; but she still had all her Jarls constantly on their toes for a variety of reasons.

    “I take it she doesn't forgive, or ever forget any kind of slight?”

    Harald rubbed his forehead. “I've never known her to do either, no. Go on now.”



    Stegeborg, Östergötland
    May, 1123


    Immediately after Karin af Sverkers sixteenth nameday, she had done two things in short order: Exiled her aunts, and wed Halkjell, all over the course of a single, hectic week. While the Norwegian had nominally been the regent since their betrothal six years ago, her aunts had continued to exert their influence behind her back, their hand visible in every facet of what little court intrigue was to be found in a place like Östergötland. They had been locked in state of constant, quiet war these past years, fought with whispers in the hallways. Halkjell's expediency in killing her aunts' single combat champions had at least dissuaded them from openly making a bid for retaking the regency, and the behind-the-scenes stalemate had kept them off her back until she was of age.

    If Halkjell intended to maintain the same level of effort he had displayed in their bedchambers during the wedding night, she would soon have an heir, too. Admittedly, the child would be of Halkjell's line, but it would grow up here – and be of her blood. That was enough. Now that they had both kept their parts of the bargain, their relationship had become somewhat strained. Whenever Karin looked at herself in a mirror, she knew she could have done better than Halkjell – he could fight, he wasn't an imbecile, and he was pleasing enough to the eye – but he was a bastard. So much for the Prince in shining armour she had hoped would save her. She was determined to see it through, however – she couldn't deny that she owed her husband quite a lot.

    As the guards – loyal to her and Halkjell – massacred what remained of her aunts' household guard and escorted them to the castle gate, they had shrieked curses and sworn revenge. Halkjell hadn't been worried: “They're essentially powerless – no connections, no army, no significant claim to anything. Just two old widows with a sheen of nobility.”

    She had realized then that he had grown. He was cleverer, more experienced, and not quite as easily distracted. The prospect of Halkjell as the de facto Jarl no longer terrified her as it had when the arrangement was first made. His boundless hate for his father's house, however, continued to cloud his vision, and – she had often thought quietly – obscured his true potential. Just months after their betrothal, he had begun trying to construct some kind of implausible scheme to punish the Åsanemenn. She suspected he might be exaggerating just a little in his vivid descriptions of how they had wronged him at every turn, but nonetheless, they sounded like an unpleasant, barbarous band of people. Halkjell's secret – having abetted in the attempted murder of his half-brother and father – had been unsettling at first, but Karin had come to appreciate the implication: Halkjell could be counted on to do what was needed. As he had done now.

    She could only hope he wouldn't rush off to Norway to reclaim his birthright. Her Jarldom's armies were small and ill-equipped, and the King himself had spent the past couple of years ruthlessly draining her coffers of gold and villages of men for yet another war with the Danes, again over some insignificant scrap of land on the southern shores of the Baltic. Halkjell had suggested they petition the King to attack Norway instead.

    “The Queen is weak and feeble, with no hold on her Jarls!” he would exclaim, eyes glowing.

    Then Karin had to remind him that the Jarls would probably still object to an invasion of their territory, even if the Queen remained unloved. She had, in the end, managed to keep him from sending embarrassing letters to the King, but he seemed to expect that sooner or later, he would be allowed to take her armies and go to war in Norway. It wasn't that she didn't want to expand – her Jarldom was stagnating, and new lands would hopefully be a breath of life – but even a child could see that trying to expand into Norway without the support of the King when their Jarls and the Queen weren't at each other's throats would be disastrous. They would retaliate, and she could lose everything. She didn't doubt for a moment that the King would sell both Karin and her Jarldom off to the Norwegian throne without a second thought if it meant avoiding a serious conflict.

    Of course, Karin thought, things had a way of not turning out entirely like she had hoped. Like now, when Halkjell almost knocked down the door entering, looking absolutely jubilant for something that was probably the wrong reason.

    “Joyous news!” he announced. “My father is dying!”

    “Does that mean you're satisfied? Surely letting God do your work of vengeance for you must be … – ”

    “No, you don't understand,” Halkjell interrupted. “He's named my idiot half-brother heir!
    He took a deep breath. “I'll be willing to bet anything that my uncle is going to try to take the Jarldom for himself, he's always wanted it.”

    Karin cocked her head, indicating curiosity. Halkjell continued his rambling speech.

    “If the Jarldom is plunged into a succession crisis when my father finally dies, all we have to do is wait for them to nearly destroy one another, and then swoop in and lay claim to it. We have the blood, the claim, and the army!”

    “I can see a few flaws in your plan, husband.”

    “You – what?”

    “What if your uncle doesn't dispute the succession? Your entire plan hangs on that, and remember – he obviously didn't dispute it the last time he was a potential heir.”

    Halkjell looked momentarily deflated, but quickly found something else to hold on to. “Even if he doesn't, the new Jarl will still be a boy – a pretty stupid boy, if I remember correctly.”

    “Why stupid?”

    “He was always doing stupid things …”

    Karin looked incredulous. “Halkjell, you last saw him when he was – what, six years old? I'm sure he's grown a little smarter since then.” Halkjell stammered, so Karin continued her barrage. “And he's probably been groomed for the Jarldom, too. Don't underestimate him just because you remember a small boy who did stupid things.”

    “But he's fourteen! He's probably not even going to be a man grown when father dies!” shouted Halkjell.

    Karin lost her temper and shouted back: “I'm sixteen!”

    Halkjell slowly realized he had overstepped some kind of boundary. It was fascinating, Karin thought – she could almost picture his scattered thoughts running around in his head, before they suddenly gathered up and began making sense.

    “And you wouldn't underestimate me, now would you, husband?” she added.

    Halkjell shook his head. “I didn't mean ...”

    “I'm pretty sure you did, but it doesn't matter. We'll get you your birthright – I swear it. But remember, getting us where we are just now took six long years.”
    Karin had a sense that she might regret this promise, sometime.

    Halkjell nodded meekly. “So we wait.”

    “Yes. When your father dies, we simply have to see what happens. If there's an opportunity, we'll take it. If not – we wait for the next opportunity.”

    “But – I might not live that long.”

    “Oh husband.” Karin smiled wearily. “It doesn't have to be about succession, the opportunity could arise from anything – an incompetent Jarl, an unfortunate death, another civil war. Anything.”



    Skiningssal, Vestfold
    June, 1123


    “Vigleik!”

    The Queen's shriek rang through the halls. Vigleik gathered up his robes and jogged towards the throne room. The last few years had been good to him – mostly because the Queen had been utterly passive, content to sit in her study and construct elaborate plots to enact her revenge on all those who had opposed her in the war, years before. The defeat had stung for Vigleik, too, but all things considered, they had come out of it relatively well, he thought: They hadn't been stripped of power, maimed, or killed. It would probably be in their best interest to simply – move on.

    The Queen, however, had been completely unwilling to leave the war behind.

    “Yes, Queen?”

    The Queen looked elated. “I have it on good authority that the Jarl of Vestlandet is seriously ill – he'll be a long time dying, they say, but the sentence seems to have been doled out already!”

    “Who inherits? His brother?”

    “No!” the Queen exclaimed gleefully. “Brigida's runt is in line to be Jarl! He's fourteen, Vigleik!”

    Vigleik raised an eyebrow. “Well, what do you have in mind?”

    She gave him an exasperated look. “What it means, Priest, is that we now just have to wait –“, she said, including a dramatic pause. “... And then, when Jarl Harald is dead, I can give the Åsanemenn their due!”

    Vigleik wasn't as elated as the Queen. He could, sort of, see the strategic merit of it – a young and inexperienced Jarl might be easier to outfox than a notorious schemer like Harald – but...”

    “What about the Jarl's brother, then? Is he ill, too?”

    “Not that I know of. It's a shame he's too good a man to be bought, or we could have done that.”

    That posed a problem. While the prospective Jarl may well be young and inexperienced himself, the boy's uncle remained a haggard reaver, who had spent a lifetime crushing lesser men and armies.

    “Well, not to criticize your plans, Queen, but can we really expect Tor av Åsane to simply sit by as we … Well, what, exactly, do you plan to do, anyway?”

    “If you weren't always interrupting, you would know by now.”

    “This document,” she began, producing a roll of parchment. Because that went so well last time, Vigleik thought morosely.

    “This document, Vigleik, is of known origin and absolute veracity, and states that Akershus, by right, belongs to the crown.”

    “Really?”

    “Yes. The terms of the peace was that we never try to use the authority of papal decrees – well, this isn't a papal decree! So we aren't violating the terms of the peace.”

    “But it is fabricated?”

    Gyda gave him a flat look. “Of course.”

    “And you think the new Jarl will simply give you Akershus once you present this document?”

    Gyda stood up, and tried to look triumphant. “I am absolutely certain. He can't risk another civil war – and since there are no violation of those old terms, he can't count on the aid of his old allies. He would be a fool to risk a war.”

    “I … Yes, it sounds brilliant.”

    Vigleik hoped he sounded enthusiastic enough. The Queen seemed to think so, as she studied the parchment again, looking immensely pleased with herself. It had been clear a long time ago that he had thrown his lot in with the wrong people, but up until now, his life had been salvageable. If the Queen managed to provoke the Åsanemenn into instigating yet another civil war, however...

    Adding further to his concerns was that the period of civil war had coincided with some of the worst mismanagement of the Kingdom since the Jarls had first decided to grant Harald Hårfagre a crown. Vigleik knew that Jarl Harald was acutely aware by the growing threat of the Swedes, and he sympathised with his view. Norway could ill afford to occupy itself with internal strife again.

    Vigleik felt as if a great weight lifted itself from his shoulders, and realized that he knew now that he would do anything – well, within reason, of course – to prevent another civil war. It simply couldn't be allowed to happen. He might even have to betray Gyda. It would be for her own good, he chastised his conscience. For her own good!

    He looked over his shoulder at the Queen, who now sat humming to herself. She didn't know, did she? No – she couldn't.
    My CK2 AARs:
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    Leon: A Treatise on the Medieval History of Iberia (Historybook)

  2. #62
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    Poor Vigleik, stuck between a rock and a hard place. I wonder what hes got in store for the queen.
    Voltaire - "I would rather be ruled by one lion than by one hundred rats."

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  3. #63
    Earl of Groan Tufto's Avatar
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    Just caught up. You have another reader here, this is great stuff .
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  4. #64
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    New readers are always great.
    (Old ones too, obviously).

    Hoping to get some writing done today, so the next update should be out quicker than the last.
    My CK2 AARs:
    Bergenhus: A Song of Mostly Ice (Narrative, not AGoT-based - Character writer of the week 23/7-12)
    Leon: A Treatise on the Medieval History of Iberia (Historybook)

  5. #65
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    This pleases me
    Voltaire - "I would rather be ruled by one lion than by one hundred rats."

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  6. #66
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    Reign of Are II, Jarl of Vestlandet



    Bergenhus festning
    May 25th, 1125


    This wasn't the first time Tor had lit a funeral pyre to hasten the ascendancy of a loved one, but this would be the hardest one, he thought as he jammed another torch into the loose woodwork.

    Harald had died, finally, two days earlier. He had been chained to his bed for the past six months, and barely awake for some time now – until he simply stopped breathing one night. The cancer in Harald's gut had been grisly business. The seeping blood and foul smells had been constants for the past year – no way for a man to die, Harald had once remarked grimly. Climbing down, Tor realized that in a way, he was relieved that it was over – and not just for the sake of his brother. This brush with mortality and the death of his youngest brother had reminded him that he, too, was ageing. Maybe he had already grown old? The entire court seemed to regard him as some kind of ancient, immovable constant – and could he blame them? He had survived most of their grandparents and a good few of their parents.

    Two years from now, he would celebrate his 70th name day, and he could still swing a sword harder than most of them. His oldest nephew – well, counting out the bastard – stood close to the pyre, flanked by his step-mother and her flock of children. Are looked eerily like a young Harald – tall, lanky, and straw-haired – except the young Jarl kept his hair cropped short. He barely had time to come of age before his father died, and now he was set to manage a fourth of the Kingdom. And with that quick head of his, everyone expected him to be granted his father's old position on the Queen's council. The boy had his work cut out for him.

    Tor could only hope his own sons would be staunch supporters and good advisors.


    ***



    Are sat in his father's study. His study, he corrected himself. He was Jarl now – and felt completely lost. He knew, technically, what to do, but he had expected to be filled by some profound sense of purpose now that he ruled Vestlandet. Well, on behalf of the Queen, but still. The Jarldom was rich and powerful. But what should he … Do?

    He turned to look at a strategic map, detailing their holdings in Karelia and greater Finland. The Swedes had taken the southern parts of it – but the were still large territories loosely held by scattered tribes. Further east, bordering the Siberian waste, some kind of steppe people herded their flocks. Bulgars, his father had called them, and advised strongly against making war on them. They didn't settle down and build farms, but lived their lives on horseback – which meant, essentially, that the entire population were dangerous and capable warriors. Besides, stretching their dominion that far east seemed risky without a stronger base of power in central Finland. What about the northernmost peninsula that stretched eastwards? Control of that would allow easy access to all of central Finland via the sea – and could serve as a forward base if the Bulgars ever threatened to move west. Kola, it was annotated on the map.

    He needed some way to exert the force of Vestlandet, to show that the Jarldom would not be content to sit and wait. If he lead the campaign himself...

    Are's musings were interrupted by heavy knocking on the study doors. Hand on the dagger whose scabbard he always carried at the back of his belt, Are got up and approached the door. “Yes?”

    Muffled voices responded from the outside. “Visitors, Jarl!”

    Are opened the door, and found two guardsmen outside. “Who?”

    “Well, ah... “

    Are raised an eyebrow.

    The guardsman found his tongue. “One of them's expected – the lady from Gardarike and her retinue.”

    Are nodded. He didn't know what to expect from his betrothed. He had never met her before, the marriage had been arranged – unbeknownst to him – some years ago by his father. The lady, bearing the relatively unflattering name Boleslava, had some connection to the House Rurikovich. The Rurikovich men had, by now, united all the petty kings and chiefs in Garaland to an enormous Kingdom – just like his father had predicted. Nikita Rurikovich called himself King of All Rus. Even though the Rus lands were collectively known as Gardariket in Norway, it hadn't really ever been a coherent Kingdom before – the Rurikovich rulers tended to breed profusely and then split their domain between a vast brood of sons. King Nikita seemed to have no such plans.
    Harald had also insisted that Boleslava was a bright young woman with diverse talents, and that Are would enjoy her company very much. He could only hope so – breaking the betrothal would be a slight the Gardamenn couldn't accept.

    Are nodded. “And the other one?”

    “A priest, Jarl. Says he has 'very important information' – but he won't tell anyone but you.”

    “Really. Did he have a name?”

    “Uh – I suppose his mother must have given him one, but I'll be damned if I can remember it, Jarl. Uh – Vidkun? Gudleik – something?” A more high-strung Jarl might have been offended. Are was not. The guardsman still apologized when he realized that his words might be taken as insolence.

    Are waved it away. “Nevermind. I'll deal with the Priest first. Send him in, under guard.”

    The Priest turned out to be a toady-looking man in ragged robes. He looked like he had travelled across the country to get here. As it turned out, he had.

    “My name is Vigleik Gudbrandsson,” he introduced himself. “And I have some very important news for you, Jarl.”

    “Your name sounds familiar, but I don't know if I've ever met you before.”

    “Ah – I believe your father and uncle were once acquainted with me. I …”
    The priest struggled to move on. Are said nothing. “I serve Queen Gyda as her Court Chaplain, advisor, and occasional confidante.”

    Are remembered, then. The priest was often thought to be Queen Gyda's right hand. Are had never met Vigleik – or the Queen, for that matter – but he knew of him.

    “What is this important information you have?”

    “Yes, straight to the matter at hand.” Vigleik folded his hands. “The Queen wants to take advantage of your father's untimely death – she has been fantasizing about revenge ever since she was humiliated in the civil war.”

    Are thought that was faintly amusing – The Queen was still smarting from her defeat, nearly a decade later? The rest of the news, however, had him focused. “What is she planning?”

    “She wants to take back Akershus.”

    Are's mind was working in overdrive. Akershus wasn't terribly important, Are thought – it was more or less empty now, but functioned as a home away from home for the Jarl of anyone from his court who were doing business in the eastern part of the country. Harald had stayed there during the busy parts of his tenure as royal steward. The Queen probably knew this, and only wanted to demonstrate her power, as well as make the Åsanemenn lose face. If she wanted to destroy them, she would have to come at them in Bergenhus.

    “I see,” replied Are. “She must have some kind of pretext?”

    “Yes,” the priest sighed. “She has – try not to laugh – a flamboyantly false document stating that Akershus must always be a part of the royal demesne.”

    Are leaned back. If the Queen stayed on this course, he could very well end up leading the Jarldom through another civil war. “If you've had time to learn this and then travel here, why hasn't the Queen done anything?”

    The Priest shook his head. “I've known since knowledge of your father's condition first became common enough that the Queen knew. I haven't been able to get away – she was waiting for your father to die. Of course, you and your uncle have muddled her plans by being so amicable and well-organized through it all...”

    “How noble, wanting to capitalize on our family's troubles.”

    “The Queen is … The Queen,” Vigleik opined wearily. There was always a rational core in what she did, he had come to realize, but that core was always obscured by layer upon layer with incoherent, half-mad schemes.

    Are didn't really suspect that the Queen would be clever enough to have sent Vigleik here with misinformation in order to make Vestlandet play into some grander scheme on her part – but he had to be certain.

    “Tell me, Vigleik,” Are began calmly. The priest abruptly sat at attention. “By being here, I suppose you're betraying your master?”

    “Well, she has never explicitly forbid visiting – frankly, I don't think the possibility ever crossed her mind –“

    Are cut him off. “If you would betray your master, why should I trust you?”

    “No, I – what?” Vigleik rubbed his forehead frantically.

    “Maybe I should simply have you killed – you did come here bearing threats from the Queen, after all...”

    “I did no such thing!” Vigleiked shrieked. “I came in good faith, to warn you – I'm doing you a favour!” He was out of his chair, sweating, and backing slowly away from Are.

    “Sit down, Priest.”

    “I have risked everything – everything! – to warn you!”
    Vigleik was waving his finger furiously at Are.

    “Why?”

    “Why – what … What do you mean, why?”

    Are stepped forward and nudged Vigleik's chest, forcing him back into the chair.
    “Think, Vigleik. You have a history of ill will towards our house – and now you come bearing news that the Queen is plotting against us.” Are sat back down. “Why? What do you stand to gain from this?”

    Vigleik exhaled slowly. “Right now, I suspect I shall receive nothing.” He leaned forward, talking in a high-pitched, fevered voice. “But you must understand – I want to avoid a civil war, Jarl. For all my faults, and, I know you of all, must consider them many – even I can see that the Kingdom would suffer.” Are nodded, and Vigleik continued: “The Swedes, the Danes, even the Finns – we are surrounded by potential enemies. Surely you already know this –“

    “If you too know all this, why haven't you convinced the Queen to pursue something more productive than endless plotting against her own Jarls?”

    “Hah!”
    Vigleik remembered with dread his attempts to do so. His many, many attempts. “How I have tried, Jarl – but she is blind. Or perhaps blinded. She could have been a good Queen – that's what I thought when I first arrived at her court – but her ill-fated civil war and the humiliation inflicted on her by your father must have pushed her over some kind of edge.”

    “Is she mad?”

    “Not quite. Maybe. Whatever she is, she becomes less suited to run a Kingdom with each passing day.”

    “You do realize, Vigleik, that even with your warning, actually preventing the Queen from instigating a civil war is going to hard, if not impossible?”

    Vigleik swallowed. This was what he had feared, but he knew what he must do. “Yes – and that is part of why I have come. You must make sure that you have the support of your father's old allies – at the very least one of them – if a civil war should again divide the Kingdom.”

    Are would have tried to secure their alliance either way, but Vigleik had clearly throught this through to some degree. “Go on.”

    “It's very simple, Jarl – the Queen wants a war, and probably will get one – and you must be victorious!

    Are raised an eyebrow. “That would likely mean the end of your tenure as Court Chaplain.”

    “I am aware of what I stand to gain and lose, thank you.”

    “If the Queen provokes another war and then loses, she'll lose the throne – you realize this?”

    “Yes. That's why you must win. The Jarls must elect a new King. Someone capable.”

    Are thought of the various Jarls. One of them would be elected if a majority of the Jarls supported his candidacy – and they could all vote for themselves if they wanted, though in the end, whoever doled out the most favours and otherwise seemed the most able candidate would be King. Tryggve, his father's old friend and ally would be the logical candidate. He was experienced, ruled a large Jarldom, and of Yngling blood. No one – perhaps the Queen's Orkneyan lapdogs – would support the Queen's daughter by her Dane husband.

    “You have my thanks for bringing me this information, Vigleik. Now I need you to return to Vestfold.”

    Vigleik looked aghast. “Why?”

    “If you remain here, the Queen will know you betrayed her. Go back to Vestfold and … Do what you normally do.” Whatever that is, Are thought. “I personally guarantee your safety if there's a war, and also if Queen Gyda loses it – as long as you don't do anything to deliberately jeopardize it.”

    Vigleik nodded, resignatedly. “I hadn't thought of this, but – of course.” He stood, and made to leave.

    “Priest!” Are called. “My men will take you by ship as far as Akershus. And – I suggest you get a change of clothes before you ride back to Skiningssal.”

    The Priest bowed his way out.

    Are went back to the desk, looking at the map. He could take Kola before the Queen did anything.

    Time to meet my wife-to-be, he thought, and braced himself as he called for the guardsman outside his door.


    ***



    Boleslava Nikiteva didn't think this northern Kingdom was quite as cold as everyone had claimed, but there were other things to marvel at. Her homeland was crisscrossed with rivers and streams, most large enough for small boats to travel down them. Here, no one seemed to have – or even know of – river boats. And why should they? It seemed that whereever she was, she needed only turn to either side and the open sea would be there.
    Their long, flat boats were also strange – oddly elegant, in a way, but decidedly alien. The trip north had been long, and there had been much time to sit and let her thoughts idly drift. She knew she was important, but not in any official capacity. Her name indicated that she was the daughter of one Nikitia – but not many knew that her father was King Nikita I of all the Rus from Kiev to Novgorod. She had been born out of wedlock, and so was no Princess – just a seamstress' daughter. A conspicuously well-fed and comfortable seamstress, perhaps, but nonetheless a commoner. Boleslava also knew that her father cared a great deal for her, supposedly because she was his first child, illegitimate or not.

    She had always thought she was destined for greater things than sewing dresses for other, better women – and suddenly an envoy in expensive clothing had arrived in her mother's house, and informed them that Boleslava would be betrothed to a young man in the Kingdom of Norway. The young man would be a Jarl – what they called Dukes, she thought – one day. A rather powerful one, too. The Rus traded more with the Swedes than the Norwegians, she had heard some riverboat traders mention once, but the precise geography of the northern Kingdoms had been unclear to her before. Truth be told, it still was, but she knew now that Norway stretched along the west coast, west of Sweden, north of Denmark.

    She relished the prospect of marrying into power, although not knowing anything about her husband in advance unsettled her. What if he was a brute? She had plenty of practice swatting away hands that wandered too far underneath her skirt, but that wouldn't work indefinitely if they were actually married. She said a prayer.

    When she arrived, a large pyre in the courtyard was still aglow with embers. “The old Jarl – I mean, the new Jarl's father, he just died,” one of her guides said helpfully. The Jarl, she thought. Wait, did that mean …

    “Excuse me, guardsman –“ she started.

    “Yes, m'lady?”

    “The Jarl – is he young?”

    “I dare say – youngest Jarl I ever saw, that's for sure. Barely a man grown, come of age just this past winter, he did.”

    “Thank you.”

    “Y'welcome, m'lady.”

    So her husband-to-be was already Jarl. That was a pleasant surprise. Of course, she reminded herself, that also meant that her husband had just lost her father. The concept of even having a father was a little arcane to her – Boleslava's own mother had sworn herself to celibacy after giving birth only once – but she knew that most boys worshipped their fathers.

    She tried to think of how to greet her betrothed. Something was occupying him, she was told. Some important guest had arrived unexpectedly just before her. She was getting fidgety and impatient, when the door into the hall opened, and a tall figure was illuminated by the hallway torchlight.

    Finally!

    The man who approached her was clearly no older than she was, but a head or two taller, and short, straw-coloured hair. He certainly looked the part of a nobleman.

    As he approached, she curtsied uncertainly.

    “Welcome to Bergenhus, Boleslava Nikiteva,” he said. “You – look very pretty.” He bowed back, more than a little flustered.
    Last edited by Zealuu; 26-06-2012 at 15:26.
    My CK2 AARs:
    Bergenhus: A Song of Mostly Ice (Narrative, not AGoT-based - Character writer of the week 23/7-12)
    Leon: A Treatise on the Medieval History of Iberia (Historybook)

  7. #67
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    Hmm, I think young Ave has found his purpose. To procreate and become king!
    Voltaire - "I would rather be ruled by one lion than by one hundred rats."

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  8. #68
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    One wonders about little Are; he certainly seems competent, but whether or not he will be able to rule such a realm with that indecisive and nervous streak...
    House of Ivy: A Europa Universalis IV AAR FINALLY UPDATED. My Inkwell.

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  9. #69
    You have found yourself another reader, I find your story quite pleasent to read, especially the historical words.
    I like Tor the best, trustworthy old veteran. My CK2 Brothers are not as nice and stab me most often in the back.
    Keep up the good work.

  10. #70
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    I'm willing to cut Are some slack for now, personally - he's barely sixteen, after all.

    Welcome to the thread (and forum), VivalaHell! Glad you like the AAR - hearing stuff like that keeps the motivation up.

    I also just noticed we've reached 5000 views - woot!
    My CK2 AARs:
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  11. #71
    Quote Originally Posted by Zealuu View Post
    I also just noticed we've reached 5000 views - woot!
    Well to be fair, you are an amazing writer

  12. #72
    Imam Of The House in Imp. Off. Herbert West's Avatar
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    I can safely say that you are indeed one awesome writer. Great work!

    If you plan to include any ROTW stuff, could we get a quick overview?
    Last edited by loki100; 26-06-2012 at 08:21. Reason: removing all references to forum bans

  13. #73
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    great AAR. cant wait for the next update
    Last edited by loki100; 26-06-2012 at 08:22. Reason: remove reference to forum bans

  14. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafinius View Post
    Well to be fair, you are an amazing writer
    If this was a book, that would totally be on the back of the cover - thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert West View Post
    I can safely say that you are indeed one awesome writer. Great work!

    If you plan to include any ROTW stuff, could we get a quick overview?
    Thanks for the praise, and bear with my cluelessness for a while - what does ROTW mean in this context?

    Quote Originally Posted by grumphie View Post
    great AAR. cant wait for the next update
    You're in luck, I'm going to start typing it out today. Tomorrow (with 1.06 in tow) I'm planning on finally updating my other AAR.

    Also just realized I forgot to give Are his own headline. He's getting one now.
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  15. #75
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    Um. Any chance of an update?
    House of Ivy: A Europa Universalis IV AAR FINALLY UPDATED. My Inkwell.

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  16. #76
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    Congrats, Zealuu, you're the new Best Character Writer of the Week!
    Read A New Era for an Old Town: An Oldenburg DW 5.1 Narrative AAR
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  17. #77
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tufto View Post
    Um. Any chance of an update?
    Things have kind of ground to a halt lately, I haven't had the time to even continue the game, much less write. It's ridiculous, because the actual plot is fully formed for at least a century ahead. If things work out the way I want I'll have an update ready this weekend.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rauchen View Post
    Congrats, Zealuu, you're the new Best Character Writer of the Week!
    I didn't see that coming at all, thanks for nominating me! Now I have to try and figure out how this works so I can name a worthy candidate next week. :P

    ... And if someone wants to enlighten me about the whole "ROTW" thing, I'm all up for it. As an honest question to anyone who reads this: Would you like more pictures from within the actual games (screenshots)? I haven't been great at screenshotting events up to now, so it's going to be a little hard to do retroactively, but I can make a conscious effort to connect the actual gameplay with the narrative in the future. And if there are any plot points you're wondering how came to pass mechanically, just ask!
    My CK2 AARs:
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  18. #78
    I guess ROTW means Rest Of The World?

  19. #79
    Imam Of The House in Imp. Off. Herbert West's Avatar
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    ROTW: Rest Of The World.


    Personally, I'd rather dislike screenshots in such a story, seeing as it is rather divorced from the realm-based gameplay of CK, and focused more and more on a small and not so small family. It would kind of break my immersion to see another CK screenshot like a typical "conquest" aar.

  20. #80
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    Rest of the World, that seems blindingly obvious now that I think about it. Thanks. I can whip up one of those in a historybook-style, I've sort of been planning a historybook intermission to give a quick overview over the wider political and territorial changes in and around Norway, anyway.
    My CK2 AARs:
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