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Thread: A Song of Mostly Ice

  1. #21
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    – Bergenhus festning, Courtyard
    Winter of 1090


    A spectre stalked the Norwegian coast. No one knew precisely where it had come from, or why it seemed to have settled here in the north. Men called it Koppepesten – The Smallpox Plague. In the year past it had struck without warning, and spread like wildfire. The grotesque disease left a wake of orphans, heirless fathers and desolate farmsteads.

    Ida von Sachsen stood morosely in the glare of yet another pyre, silently cursing whatever it was – Spectre, Plague, Pox – it didn't matter, it had taken two of her children. Are had insisted on lighting the pyre himself. Seeing how powerless the old bull felt against something he couldn't scare away, or kill with a sound axe-blow, was perhaps the most frightening thing Ida had ever experienced. For her own part, she had done the only thing she knew how to: Prayed that her family be spared. First only to her own God, and later, when Årolilja first took sick, to the other ones as well. The prayers hadn't helped, and Skofte had followed soon after.



    As she watched the fire consume what remained of her two children, she felt nothing but disdain for any kind of God.



    Vestfold, Skiningssal
    November, 1101

    Gyda Yngling watched as yet another pyre lit up the night. There had been a lot of pyres these past ten years, but at last, the plague was slowly dying out. She had reserved a special kind of bitterness for this – seeing her entire family live to see the plague wither and die like its victims, only to have her father snatched from them now.

    The Reign of Olav III hadn't been nearly as long as everyone had hoped. From her grandfather's long-awaited passing in 1083, he had expended most of his efforts on keeping the Jarls peaceful, the Danes off the warpath, and various ambitious Lendmenn at bay. Subjugating pagans had become a secondary concern amidst all the politicking.

    “My Queen. Accept my condolences. Surely a high seat is reserved for your father in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Her brother Harald, the designated heir, had eloped with a Danish shrew, effectively removing himself from the line of succession. Her uncle Arne was widely regarded as incompetent, and that had left only Gyda and her sisters – of which Gyda was both the eldest and best suited to rule. Her father's death had been abrupt enough that the Jarls simply followed the old King's vote, naming her the principal heir.

    Now, those Jarls were filing into Akershus Fortress, offering their condolences. A few days from now, she would be formally inaugurated as Queen Gyda I.

    Her father had succeeded in keeping one of Ylving blood on the Throne, through her. Gyda, too, was determined to ascertain that her house still held the throne when she departed this world – and to that end, she knew she had already committed one potentially fatal mistake. Her husband, Glum, was a Dane as well, and through their patrilineal marriage, her children bore his name. Though, she thought, it's not children yet, strictly speaking.

    Gyda would never understand how those lowborn women managed to give birth every second year until they had more children than they could count on both hands. She thought her husband was a foul, unseemly thing. Despite all their matrimonial efforts - they had tried several times! - Gyda and Glum had produced only a single child – little Sanna. Sanna was four, and her future was uncertain at best. The Jarls would never back someone they saw as a Dane, no matter her claim.

    Adding to that, the realm had others of Ylving blood, who could challenge her claim. Gyda bit her lip. Worst of all, her aunt Brigida had been sent off to marry one of the Åsanemenn as soon as her sixteenth nameday arrived, and given him two children so far – both grandchildren of Harald Hardråde. She had to do something about them, her father always reminded her. “They will climb a mountain of corpses if it helps them get ahead”, he once said. “Never give them an inch!” King or not, she had never been entirely convinced. If all they wanted was a Jarldom – wouldn't it be better to win them over to her side? With a debt of gratitude, they would support her candidate...

    Inside the fire, she thought she saw something crumple and die. Frowning, she shook it off.

    “Quartermaster!”

    “Yes, Queen?”

    “Light more bonfires in the field. We celebrate tonight - a night of ten years has ended!”


    – Telemark
    1104


    Are av Åsane, now aged 67, looked at his remaining sons. Tor was one of the largest men known in all of Norway, and unmatched in any contest of arms. Harald was smaller, fairer – and to Tor's dismay – much more intelligent. Tor was no brute, but Harald, again, was sharper than a tack.
    Both his boys were grown, married, and had fathered children of their own. Admittedly, Tor had lost two subsequent wives to the plague, but even that seemed to have died down lately.
    Are still held only the title of Lendmann, but he was more powerful than many Jarls.

    He had done well, all things considered. That was the one coherent thought that would keep him afloat for the next couple of years. Today, he had called his sons to this makeshift study in their easternmost holding. He wanted to add more lands to their domain. The Queen had moved the royal seat from Akershus to Vestfold, leaving Akershus in the hands of an inexperienced Lendmann who had only a cursory force of fighting men at his disposal.



    Telemark, the staging ground for the seizure of Akershus



    “I'm too old to lead armies”, Are admitted wearily. “Take one half of our hird each and convince whatever his name is that we should be the custodians of Akershus.” The hird of Bergenhus now numbered some fifteen hundred men.

    “Ogmund”, Harald offered.
    “What?” replied Are and Tor in unison.
    “That's his name … Nevermind.”

    “There's also the matter of my succession,” Are said grimly. His sons looked aghast. “Oh, please,” he continued. “It's not a secret that I'm old.”

    He sighed. “I'm naming Harald my heir – he's better suited to administration.”

    Tor was about to protest, but an iron gaze from his father stilled him. “I know you're the eldest, Tor, but I've come to realize my limitations with age.” he started, smiling wearily. “ We're cut from the same cloth, you and I, Tor. We bark orders and kill men. Men like Harald are better suited to administrate what has grown into a significant amount of land.”

    Harald looked about as dumbstruck as Tor. “But father – I'm not –“

    “I won't hear it.”

    “We can split the domain between us!”

    “That's the one thing I won't do, and you both know why. I want to preserve unity.”

    “But this could break us apart just as easily!”

    “And here I thought I had raised men, not a pair of crying girls! You – both of you – will honour your blood and house! When we are granted the Jarldom …”

    “Father!” Tor shouted in exasperation. “Your Jarldom is a dream! Nothing more! The King will never name you Jarl! Or us!”

    Are abruptly stood, bristling with barely contained fury. When he spoke, he was absolutely composed. “Out, both of you.”

    “Father –“

    “Go! Claim Akershus before I don my armour and do it for you!”

    They both scrambled out of the tenth.

    Harald tried desperately to think of something to say. Tor beat him to it.

    “So. You'll be the new Lendmann.”

    “Tor, I'm sorry, I swear I never asked for –“

    Tor simply shook his head. “I know – I know. Let's just go and do this.”
    The huge man trotted down to his waiting ship. His men cheered him on as he arrived.


    – Somewhere in Pagan Karelia
    Spring of 1106


    On their father's orders, Tor and Harald had launched a campaign eastwards into pagan lands – both to conquer more land, and to deny the Swedes that same land. The various Finnish tribes were mobile and well suited to skirmishing on the tundra, but they were outnumbered and lacked central organization. Norwegian victory had been all but inevitable.

    Tor and Harald now sat in their war camp, relishing the prospect of returning home. The strange veil of silence that had slid between them after Harald was named heir, still persisted. Between the niceties and matter-of-fact events of the war, they had little to talk about.

    The stupor of the warcamp lifted as a rider approached, a speck of dark against the incessant white. Arriving in the camp, he simply announced: “I have a message for the Åsane brothers.”

    Tor and Harald both stepped forward. “That would be us. What's the message?”

    The courier coughed, and produced a sealed letter. “This is from your mother. Your father has died.”
    Last edited by Zealuu; 10-05-2012 at 17:31.
    My CK2 AARs:
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  2. #22
    Committed Anti-P'doxian Sleight of Hand's Avatar
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    This is great as always buddy.
    Yeah, well... sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

    HERSHEY'S: MORE SUSTAINING THAN MEAT (fact)

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  3. #23
    Imam Of The House in Imp. Off. Herbert West's Avatar
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    Very, very nice.

    Soon, you'll need a dramatis personae

    I hope Tor accepts his position as the Master Of Arms, and will not rebel.

    Are you planning any changes in religion? Will you stay true to the Forn Siðr?

    (as you should, one does not spit on ones ancestors)
    Last edited by Herbert West; 10-05-2012 at 16:58.
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  4. #24
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    I'm planning an interlude featuring an overview of the dynasties at play, with character sheets and so on. The only problem is I lack my set of initial saves, where I could grab portraits of Are and Ida in their prime (both looks and stats tend to deteriorate with age :P)...

    As for religion, I'm obviously stuck being "Christian" from a mechanical point of view, but - let's just say neither Tor nor Harald are avid churchgoers.

    Also, in the frenzy of last night's writing I seem to have made some semantic errors, that I'm going to edit about now. Pretend they were always like that if you spot them!
    Last edited by Zealuu; 10-05-2012 at 17:29.
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  5. #25
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    Interlude I - The av Åsane and Yngling Dynasties in 1106


    It's getting late, so I'll be adding the Ynglings tomorrow. There's a mistake with Are's character card - he was a Skilled Tactician, not a Brilliant Strategist. Also, because of the aforementioned savegame issue, both Tor and Harald look a bit older than they would be at this point. Finally, it's been a while since I dabbled in Photoshop, but I hope this is servicable.


    The av Åsane Dynasty
    Generation One





    Progenitor of the Åsane dynasty. His own father obscure or unknown, rose to his position by merit. Elevated from Lendmann of Åsane to Lendmann of Bergenhus by King Harald Hardråde after having served in his Kongshird for some time. Noted warrior and commander, with a assumed by many to have held pagan beliefs. Added substantial territories to his personal domain through conquest, and established his own hird, at odds with traditional custom.

    Married to Ida von Sachsen, who is the mother of all his children.


    Generation Two




    Eldest son born to Are and Ida. Always large for his age, Tor eventually grew into a behemoth of a man, earning him the moniker «Digre» (The Huge). Widely thought to be the largest man in the realm, he is also considered one of the premiere warriors and commanders subject to the Norwegian Crown.

    Married twice before and during the Smallpox plague, both wives gave birth to a son each (Tor and Åmund) and subsequently died. Married a third time after that, to one Elene of Georgia.




    Youngest son of Are and Ida. Renowned for his intellect, foresight and charm. Often outshined by his brother on the battlefield, he is nonetheless considered a highly competent commander.
    Notoriously popular with the ladies. Sired a bastard (Halkjell) before he wed his betrothed, Princess Brigida of Norway.


    Skofte Aresson, 1068 - 1090
    Middle son of Are and Ida. Died in the Smallpox Plague of 1089-1101.

    Årolilja Aresdotter, 1071-1090
    Eldest daughter of Are and Ida. Died in the Smallpox Plague of 1089-1101.

    Raghnild Aresdotter, 1074 -
    Married Vigleik, Stendmann av Nordland, patrilineally.

    Ingebjørg Aresdotter, 1075 -
    Married a Rus Prince, patrilineally.


    The Yngling Dynasty
    Generation Nill





    The youngest half-brother of King Olav II of Norway. Left in self-imposed exile after the death of his brother at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030, and spent years roaming Europe, traveling through the Rus lands as far as Constantinople. Over the course of his service in the Varangian Guard, he outlived three Emperors, cemented his relationship with the roughly five hundred men who had joined him in exile, built a reputation as a warrior and commander, and amassed no small amount of wealth. Upon his return to Norway in around 1046, a civil war almost erupted between Harald and his bastard nephew, Magnus «the Good», who reigned as King. Magnus was advised to accept a joint Kingship with his uncle, not least because of the wealth he would add to the treasury. By 1047, Magnus had died, leaving Harald as sole King of Norway. After several unsuccessful attempts at invading Denmark, Harald then turned his eyes on England, at the behest of Tostig Godwinson. The invasion began in 1066, and lasted until 1079, when Harold Godwinsons's German allies crushed the much smaller Norwegian army in the field. The wounds sustained by Harald Hardråde is thought to have hastened his death, which occurred in 1083. His moniker “Hardråde” can be taken to mean either “Hard Rule” or “Stern Counsel”, although during his reign he is known to have provided an abundance of both.

    Generation One




    Eldest son of Harald Hardråde. Magnus was perhaps most famed for his father's lack of faith in him – his younger brother Olav was named the principal heir, for instance – and his reputation never recovered. He died alongside Tostig Godwinsson when the Norwegians were defeated in England. His son Tryggve is now Jarl of Trøndelag.




    Second son of Harald Hardråde. Ascended the Throne as Olav III in 1083, and was generally considered a competent, well-respected King. Made some small territorial gains during his reign, which was cut short by the Smallpox Plague of 1089, leading to his death in 1101.




    Youngest daughter of Harald Hardråde. Betrothed to Harald av Åsane at a young age, they were wed immediately after her sixteenth nameday.


    Arne Haraldsson, 1083 –
    Youngest son of Harald Hardråde. Widely considered a lackwit. Was made Lendmann of Västerbotten, supposedly because Harald Hardråde was tired of having him at court.

    Ingegerd Haraldsdotter, 1046-1095
    Eldest daughter of Harald. Married a relatively unimportant Dane. Died during the Smallpox Plague.

    Ragnhild Maria Haraldsdotter, 1050-1096
    Married Jarl Gudrød of the Isles. Died during the Smallpox Plague.

    Maria Haraldsdotter, 1060-1066
    Died at the age of six from illness.

    Åsta Haraldsdotter, 1078-1094
    Second youngest daughter of Harald Hardråde. Died a month before her planned wedding, from the Smallpox Plague.


    Generation Two
    Only the children of Olav





    Ascended the throne as Gyda I after her father's death in 1101. As of yet relatively untested, but her patrilineal marriage to a Dane has the jarls displeased. Talented administrator, but relatively uninterested in territorial gains and warfare, and afraid of speaking in front of crowds. Rumours circulate claiming that she is both barren and prefers the company of her chambermaids to her husband, but her daughter Sanna is usually presented as evidence to the contrary.

    Harald Olavsson, 1073 –
    Originally the preferred heir of Olav, Harald eloped with a Danish noble, who would later ascend the Danish throne as Queen Jutta I. Harald sits by her side, with little hope of uniting the two crowns as long as the Jarls of Norway remain fiercely opposed to the idea.

    Sigrid Olavsdotter, 1082 –
    Second daughter of Olav. Married Queen Jutta's brother Torben at the behest of Harald and Gyda.

    Kristina Olavsdotter, 1085 –
    Youngest daughter of Olav. Married the Lendmann of Shetland.
    Last edited by Zealuu; 11-05-2012 at 11:13.
    My CK2 AARs:
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  6. #26
    Committed Anti-P'doxian Sleight of Hand's Avatar
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    Really love these extra bits of info buddy. Great AAR so far, I hope it goes on for a while and we get to really flesh this dynasty out and see different people ruling all sorts of places as time goes on.
    Yeah, well... sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

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  7. #27
    Committed Anti-P'doxian Sleight of Hand's Avatar
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    Oh I should ask; on the subject of linked names would the Danish name Ture correspond to Thor or am I way off the mark? It just looks vaguely similar to Tor/Tore so thought I'd ask.
    Yeah, well... sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

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  8. #28
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    Tore, Thore, Ture and Thure should all be linked.

    Fun fact: Whether Tor and Tore (and their variants) have the precise same origin is still under debate. So linking them all is certainly viable, but there are bound to be people who disagree. I'm not sure where I stand, personally.

    There, that's the two principal dynasties of the story so far accounted for down to the youngest generation.

    If there's anyone you think is missing, just let me know and I can make a character card for them as well, though I'm not sure who that would be right now.
    Last edited by Zealuu; 11-05-2012 at 11:14.
    My CK2 AARs:
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  9. #29
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    That was a nice interlude. The images were especially good!
    Voltaire - "I would rather be ruled by one lion than by one hundred rats."

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  10. #30
    Committed Anti-P'doxian Sleight of Hand's Avatar
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    These bio cards and descriptions are great. Can we have similar stuff for the Saxons too? (I know it's a Norse AAR but the Saxons are cool as everyone knows).
    Yeah, well... sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

    HERSHEY'S: MORE SUSTAINING THAN MEAT (fact)

    R.I.P. Peter O'Toole

  11. #31
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    At this point (!) the only relevant Saxons were the two Godwinsons, though. But if you like extra tidbits of info, here's one: After keeping England in Saxon hands, the game decided that Harold should be known as "The Bold". So King Harold The Bold of England is canon in the AAR timeline.

    In other news, I aim to have a normal, non-interlude update out by tonight. For various reasons (alright, just two: Work and The Secret World), little actual writing has been done. But loads of mental composting!
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  12. #32
    Imam Of The House in Imp. Off. Herbert West's Avatar
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    Huh, The Secret World is out?
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  13. #33
    First Lieutenant Zealuu's Avatar
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    Not quite yet, but there's an ongoing beta weekend event (the first of several) for pre-orderers, ending tonight. I think that's just fancy talk for a semi-limited stress test, though.
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  14. #34
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    Reign of Harald I, Jarl of Vestlandet


    … On that barren field in Karelia, everything changed because a rider brought along a few words from Vestfold. None of the men present could have predicted then, just how profound the effect on all our lives would be.
    – Excerpt from Are Haraldsson's Ærede Forfredre (eng. 'Honoured Ancestors', c. 1138)


    – Somewhere in Karelia
    February 1106


    The thick silence was interrupted by the harrumphing of the rider. “There's more.”

    “Go on.”

    “A few days before he departed this world, your father was recognised as Jarl of Vestlandet by Queen Gyda.”

    Harald blanched. “What?”
    Tor simply stood at his side, mouth agape.

    Looking at Harald, the rider said. “With his passing, you are now Jarl … It's all in the letter.” The rider stretched his arms. “Would it be permissible for me to dismount and rest a spell? It's been a hard ride, and –“

    “Of course. Do as you please.”

    The courier dismounted and was about to lead his horse away, before he suddenly halted and addressed Harald once more: “Jarl, I nearly forgot, forgive me – The Queen requests your presence at court in Vestfold as soon as possible. Your brother, too.”

    The occasion called for a celebration, but there would be no time for a proper blot at Bergenhus before they had to present themselves in Vestfold. And there, the new god was King. Here, however, where the ground was always frozen several feet down, and the sky lit up as if the old gods themselves demanded tribute. And tribute they would have, Harald and Tor had jointly decided. The foremost sign of a good Jarl was his ability to orchestrate a proper offering, and the passing of their father, too, called for a sacrifice.



    Harald, Tor, and some of their hirdmenn who followed the old ways, cut the throats of a large part of the cattle they had brought along for the war. They would have enough for the way back. The blood – now called laut by virtue of its sacrificial status, was drained into vats. From there, they would sprinkle it onto the tents – for lack of permanent homes and stables – and the horses, the remaining cattle, and the men.

    Some of their men had turned to the new gods. Harald considered himself a man of tolerance, and they were allowed to shy back. However little they wanted to “sully themselves” with the laut, they were men – hungry men who had been at war for months – and they would eat and drink with the others when the feast began.

    And the Allfather would know.



    – Skiningsal, Vestfold
    June, 1106


    Queen Gyda wasn't entirely pleased. She had planned on making that nettlesome Are av Åsane Jarl, and then placate him further by giving his two sons high positions within the realm. Now it would like she was favouring the youngest one, who had inherited the Jarldom, if she gave him a high position as well – but, however reluctant she was to admit it – she needed them. They were both far too talented to have roaming around unleashed. Their recent forays into Karelia had proven that. Maybe she could play them against one another somehow. The elder was the one who hadn't inherited – that was bound to cause some friction, wasn't it? Either way, she consoled herself, she couldn't dwell too much on the Åsanemenn, not without exposing her flank to another threat.

    Her cousin Tryggve, the Jarl of Østlandet, was also looking to assert himself. The Jarl of Iceland would check her every move out of spite, as per the proud Icelandic tradition. Håkon of Orkney was the one Jarl she could rely on – but the odds decidedly did not favour her, not if she couldn't win the Åsanemenn to her cause.

    They arrived in the usual fashion, dressed for war and with little time to spare for formalities. A rumour had spread that the new Duke and his brother had celebrated the occasion with a pagan feast, out on the Karelian tundra. She would have to let that slide, for now.

    “Queen Gyda. We honour you.”

    “Jarl Harald! Lendmann Tor!” She tried to sound gregarious and pleased to see them, if not overjoyed. When the words left her lips, however, they sounded more like a squeak. The elder brother, Tor, had been made the Lendmann of Rogaland as soon as Harald had reaffirmed his Jarldom.

    “I know you are not men of idle talk, so I will be brief."

    The brothers nodded in silence. The Queen continued. “In recognition of both your power and your service to your Queen by subjugating the Finnish pagans … I would like to assign command of the Kongshird to you, Tor – and make you, Harald, steward of the realm and custodian of the treasury.”

    The silence that followed dragged on. Gyda wrung her hands in her lap, and asked tentatively: “Do you accept?”

    Harald looked amused. “What about our abilities, Queen?”

    “Wh-what?”

    “You are granting us positions in recognition of our power and service – but not our abilities. Do you doubt our abilities?”

    Harald's wolflike smile was piercing. The Queen tried to keep her face from flushing red, but to no avail. She had forgotten to mention their abilities. She felt nauseous. Phrased as she had, her offer could easily be construed as a thinly veiled insult.

    “No! I –“

    She cut herself off, realizing she sounded like a blushing chambermaid. She felt like a blushing chambermaid.

    “Of course not. Forgive me. Your abilities and expertise in various fields are widely known, and highly valued – and will be instrumental to the well-being of Norway as a unified Kingdom.”

    “Then I gracefully accept your offer”, growled the larger man, shortly followed by his brother: “As do I.”

    Gyda smiled pleasantly. “Good! Now – the next order of business.”

    “Yes?”

    “I would like your support for my heir – Sanna – when the ting assembles to elect the next King... Or Queen.”

    Tor looked puzzled, while Harald merely cocked an eyebrow, asking; “A bargain, then, is what you propose?”

    “A … No, not at all, I – I, simply want to ask what you think about –“

    She was stammering, and Harald capitalized on it, raising a hand as if to calm her.

    “I'm not one to take issue with bargains, Queen. As far as I understand, the King – or Queen – must be prepared to bargain with the Jarls at every turn.”

    Gyda remained silent, her hopes rising.

    “But this is one bargain not even a silver-tongued Gardarmann could hope to secure for you.”

    Gyda blinked in surprise.

    “A Dane will never be king or queen of all Norway. That is a foolish dream you should let go, my Queen.”

    Gyda stood up, fixing her furious gaze on the insolent Åsanemann. He continued, unaffected.

    “I propose a counter-offer – denounce your Husband, leave your girl out of the succession, marry someone of the right blood, and produce an heir. I will support that child in a bid for the throne.”

    Gyda bristled with rage. “You may leave. Now.”

    The Åsanemenn stood up, bowed, and left.

    In the courtyard, Tor nudged Harald on the shoulder, prompting him to turn around. “Will you really support her child if she does all that you asked?” the large man inquired.

    Harald laughed. “Maybe I would – but I am absolutely certain that it will never become a reality.”

    “Why not?”

    “Our dear Queen is not fond of men. She barely tolerates her husband, and his leash is shorter than that of the hounds in our courtyard. She'll never find another husband. Everyone knows.”

    “Knows what?”

    “She prefers the company of her chambermaids to that of her husband.”

    “Oh. Oh. So that's why –“

    “That's why she only has the one child. And probably why her husband looks so downtrodden, too. Hence why I doubt there will be more. Either way...”

    They crossed the courtyard, and made sure they were well out of earshot of any curious listeners-in.
    “I won't suffer a Dane on the throne," Harald declared. "None of the Jarls will, save for that Orknian toad.”

    “So what are we going to do?”

    “Nothing, brother. While we play our parts, I have a feeling this Queen is going to unseat herself.”

    Tor fell silent. Harald joined his brother in silence. The Queen was rash, eager to please, stumbled over her own words, and had tried to bribe them with position only moments into their talk. She seemed to have little regard for the old ways, and that was the safest route to riling up the Jarls – the Jarls who were her base of power. Yet she was still headstrong, convinced of both the legitimacy of her daughter's claim and of her own cleverness.

    The next few years could easily become very interesting.
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  15. #35
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    Brilliant update. We want more!
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  16. #36
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    Sounds really interesting; I love what I've read so far!
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  17. #37
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  18. #38
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    – Skiningsal
    November, 1111


    Queen Gyda was frustrated. There had been a lot of that over the last couple of years. After she had been humiliated by the Åsanemenn, her moronic uncle Arne had tried to crown himself King. He was now the undisputed King of her dungeons. Then she had received news that her aunt, Brigida, had given a son to Harald av Åsane. He was – predictably, she thought – named Are. As the maternal grandson of Harald Hardråde, that little boy, too, could claim descent from the first Norwegian King, Harald Hårfagre. So could Sanna, obviously, but her father was a Dane, and the Jarls wouldn't have it.

    The source of her frustration now, however, was the Åsanemenn, yet again. They already held substantial lands, and now they were about to continue their practice of absorbing the realms of less powerful Lendmenn. With their Jarldom formally secured, they suffered no issues of legitimacy. Now, they had set their sights on Viken, the southermost strip of land under Norwegian dominion, and an ancient seat of Jarls.

    “Bishop, tell me about your proposition.”

    Vigleik, her Court Chaplain and Bishop of Østlandet, was no political eminence. His ties with to the Pope, however, often allowed him certain political insights, such as now.

    “Yes. Yes. Ahem.”

    “Yes?”

    “First I must stress that I mean no disrespect towards you or your glorious Kingdom, my Queen. With that said...” Vigleik produced some kind of document.

    “The Holy Father”, he began. “Recognises that anyone who has been inaugurated as King – or Queen – with the blessing of God, should be sovereign in their realm. Of course, they must still have vassals, if else, the burden of administration should be disastrous …”

    Gyda rapped her fingers on the nearby table. The Cleric seemed intent no avoiding brevity. Her attention was waning as he continued.

    “And therefore, one can petition the Holy Father for a Papal Decree. A decree that, when effectuated within a realm, commands vassals – Jarls or Lendmenn – to make war only on the behest of their Sovereign Ruler. That is, you.”

    Gyda sat, mouth puckered, and tried to decipher what Vigleik had said. The Priest cleared his throat loudly.

    “Allow me to elucidate, Queen. If the pope grants you this decree – which he will – you will be able to deny your vassals, such as the Åsanemenn, the right to wage war within the realm. On the basis of the supreme legality and holiness of the Papal Decree.”

    “Wait – you mean, if you petition the pope for this, the Jarls and Lendmenn won't fight one another? I can keep the Åsanemenn from expanding?”

    “Well, of course, one can never completely extinguish the embers of old feuds in a land such as this, but generally - yes to both. Their might will be limited to your purposes.”

    “But, Bishop...”

    “Yes?”

    “Why should the Jarls accept this? Whatever my faults, I at least know I am not exactly well-loved.”

    The Bishop looked outraged. “What … Accept? There is no question of acceptance! The Decree is Papal! It would be completely unprecedented across all Christendom for the local rulers to not … Accept this law of Royal Sovereignty. It has never happened! Not once!”

    “Really?”

    “Yes! And though a backwards land this may be, it is simply not imaginable that anyone would dare refuse a direct command from the Holy See!”

    Reassured, Gyda stood up. “Very well, then. Petition the Pope, and let me know as soon as we have an answer.”

    “At once, Queen!”



    – The Coast of Viken
    Spring of 1112


    Some twenty longships glided towards the shores of Viken, ancient seat of Kings. The two first ships were Harald and Tor's. Harald had inherited his father's ship, Draug. Tor's ship, Sjørå, had been built to mirror it. Tor's eldest son, Gudrød, was in command of his own ship, further back.

    Harald had been reluctant to offer Halkjell the same. Harald's son he may well be, but the very presence of the bastard tended to set Brigida's temper alight. Showing him favour, like giving him command of a ship, might very well see Harald chased from their bedchamber.

    He now had a true heir, a son by Brigida, born just the year past. He was named Are, but it was still too early to tell if he would take after his father, or grandfather and uncle.

    “Shore!” someone called from the prow, pulling Harald from his reverie. They were nearing Viken, seat of the Ting where Harald Hårfagre had been proclaimed the first King of Norwegians. The Lendmann of Viken knew of their reputation, and had let them know in advance that he would lay down his arms when they came. He saw no point in wasting the lives of his men, when they were outnumbered to such a degree.

    Therefore, it was with some surprise that Harald found a rather more sizeable army waiting as the first ships beached.

    “Jarl Harald!” a feminine voice called.

    A muttering went through the men from Vestlandet, as the remaining ships made their way onto the beach. Harald thought he saw the colours of the Kongshird amongst the men who had been waiting for them. A quick count assured him that they still outnumbered them, maybe so much as by two for each one of theirs.

    “Queen Gyda! What an unexpected pleasure!” Harald called back, as he vaulted over the edge of his ship. “To what do we owe this honour? If you come for the feast, I fear you have arrived a little too early!”

    Chuckles spread amongst the men emerging from their ships. A menacing mood settled over them, as they watched their Jarl tangle with the Queen.

    “I have come to inform you that all of Norway is under a new law, by Papal Decree.”
    Then Queen sat astride a horse, flanked by her hird, and for a fleeting moment, she looked like the commanding presence she aspired to be. Harald walked closer, followed by Tor and several men.

    “And you brought your entire hird just so you could tell us?”

    “Yes, I – Wait, don't you want to know what the law is?”

    “Oh yes, by all means. Do tell.”

    The Queen waved a piece of parchment. “This document ensures the legal legitimacy of Royal Sovereignty over all territories that swear fealty to the crown – and so the King, or Queen – I – am the arbiter of who holds what territories inside Norway.”

    Harald remained silent, so the Queen continued. “And thus, since I have not granted you the right to Viken …” She allowed herself a look of genuine smugness.

    “May I look at this document, Queen?”

    “W-why would you want that?”

    “This is nonsense!” A priest next to the Queen piped up. “The document is written in latin letters, surely you can't –“

    “I can read latin letters.” Harald cut him off. “May I?”

    “I … Yes.” The Queen looked deflated, and was back to her usual, stammering self. Harald approached the Queen's party. She then uneasily thrust the thick sheet of parchment into his hands. As he read, Harald walked back towards Tor. The phrasing of the document was arcane and cumbersome, but the meaning was clear, as it has been when he had read the copy that had found its way into his hands a month earlier. With the Pope's blessing, the Queen intended to consolidate the power of the King in a manner not unlike the Saxons or the Eastern Romans. The Jarls would be at the King's mercy rather than the King being a person entrusted with his position by the Jarls – and the succession would be dynastic, not elective. It was an outrageous suggestion, but if the Jarls in a ralm failed to present a united front, it would become reality, as it had elsewhere.

    Harald nudged Tor, muttered something to him, then turned back to the Queen.

    “This is an affront against all tradition and custom.”

    That was what Jarl Håkon of Iceland had said in his letter to Harald, where he had enclosed the first copy of the document. Gyda had tried to win Håkon to his side. Håkon had responded by exposing the designs of Gyda to Harald, who had in turn let the Queen's cousin Tryggve, Jarl of Trøndelag know.

    “What?” The Queen looked flustered. Her hird shuffled nervously.

    “I said, this is an affront. You forget, Queen, that the King of Norway remains King only as long as the Jarls deem him fit for the task, and that his children only inherit if they are worthy.”

    “You … You worthless upstart!” the Queen shrieked. “Your father was no one, you became Jarls only a few years ago, and already you speak of custom and tradition!?”

    Harald laughed mirthfully. One by one, his men joined him. Facing the squall of laughter, the Queen felt herself flush. She was being embarrassed by the Åsanemenn – again!

    “I'll see you stripped of your land and titles!” she threatened, on the verge of tears. “The Jarls stand with me, Harald av Åsane! Me!”

    Harald's laughter came to an end, and a heavy silence fell as the two hosts faced one another. Finally, he said: “Or do they, Queen?”

    Harald tore the parchment to pieces, and let the wind carry what remained of the Papal Decree out to sea. The snivelling Bishop looked aghast. Vestlendingehirden had quietly arrayed themselves into formation as the Queen and Jarl argued. When Tor bellowed “Fram!”, after seeing the agreed-upon signal – Harald tearing apart the piece of paper – all two thousand men under Harald and Tor's command charged forward from the beach.

    During the fighting, Tor found himself face to face with the Queen and her retinue, who were desperately looking for a way off the battlefield – the Kongshird had been taken by surprise, and were soundly outnumbered. They could either flee or die, and the Queen had quickly chosen the former. Remembering Harald's words, he let the Queen pass unscathed, instead opting to bury his axe in the chest of the man to her left – in turn steering her right, towards a clearly visible gap.

    An eager hirdmann was about to fling his axe towards her royal person, but instead found himself dangling by his scruff as Tor hoisted him off the ground and flung him back.

    “Let her pass!” he shouted to the men who made to pursue, as the Queen managed to break free and ride away, surrounded by what remained of her retinue.


    – Skiningsal
    May 1112


    Gyda still felt battered and bloody after having escaped the battlefield a few weeks prior. She shuddered violently whenever she thought about the chaos. The men who hadn't surrounded her as human shields and then escorted her from Viken to Vestfold, had all died on the beach. She had lost some seven hundred men from the Kongshird. They could be replaced. The damage to her reputation, however, could be irreparable, if she didn't act quickly.

    She had called the banners of all her vassals, and intended to send one half of the army to expel the Åsanemenn from Viken and then lay siege to Akershus. The other half would sail for Vestlandet proper, and take Bergenhus. Outnumbered and with their bases of power lost, they would have to surrender quickly...

    “My Queen!”

    “Yes?”

    Bishop Vigleik, now elevated to her Chancellor, was red-faced and panting.

    “The Bannermen ...”

    “They should be here within a few weeks!”

    “No, you don't understand!” He straightened himself, and caught his breath. “The treacherous Jarls of Iceland and Trøndelag have refused your call, and instead pledge their support to Jarl Harald!”

    The Queen suddenly felt nauseous.
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  19. #39
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    I like the way this going. No papal decrees for Norway, thankyou very much!
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  20. #40
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    The White God shall never rule, his servant shall never decree, his queens and kings shall never sit council in the lands of White Frost. Our customs are as old the earth our fathers and grandfathers and kins bones are buried in. Our blood wets this earth, our hands tilt the soil, our scythes harvest the grain. We shall rule ourselves, not bow to someone far away.
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