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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

coz1

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Well, that's one way to get of the wife. But then, Vikings don't tend to do things half-assed. To wit:
The army landed near the northern town of Borglum, attacked it, removed everything of value, then burnt it to the ground.
That sounds about right. :D
 

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3
A Valkyrie from the Sea

Sometimes it happens that a marriage just doesn't work out for one reason or another. Often it happens that one of the partners has no idea that anything is wrong until it is too late. Suddenly and without warning they find themselves cast adrift, abandoned in a sea of bewilderment, taken utterly by surprise by a turn of events that they had no idea was just around the corner. This was precisely the experience of Thora Thorbergsdottir. Out of the blue she had just had a definite falling out with her husband. In Thora's case, the falling out was more literal than usual as she fell from the royal drakkar in which she and her husband Harald Hardraade were returning to Norway from their pillaging spree in Jutland, into the ice-cold waters of the Kattegat. "Did I miss some warning signs somewhere?", she thought to herself as she flailed about in the sea, surrounded by the cries of the Danish prisoners who, by her own idea, had also been thrown overboard in an attempt to stop Svend Estridsson from pursuing the Norwegians any further.

Svend Estridsson, rightful heir, as he thought, to the throne of Denmark, was what is known in the trade as "a Good King". He was a wise and capable administrator, and most people in Denmark did indeed consider him to be their rightful King. He had just two weaknesses. One was his woeful ineptitude on the battlefield which left Denmark wide open to the predations of the despotic warrior King Harald Hardraade. The other was women. Svend had more children than he knew what to do with, but looking for a legitimate one among them was liking searching for a needle in a haystack. Pretty wenches just seemed to leap into his path at every turn, and he knew from experience that resistance was futile.

Though Svend did not know it, at this very moment yet another woman was heading his way. Her name was Thora Thorbergsdottir, and if he could have foreseen what trouble she was destined to bring him, he would almost certainly not have bothered to rescue her from the death-cold waters of the sea. But as we have said, Svend was a Good King, and a damsel in such distress as Thora's had no chance of being left to her fate by the gallant Svend.

For, luckily for her as it turned out, Thora's idea had indeed worked and Svend had abandoned the chase of his enemy King Harald in order to rescue the Danish prisoners from the sea. And how was he to know that one of the helpless souls thrashing around in the water was not Danish at all but the wife of King Harald himself? By the time she had been hauled dripping onto the deck of Svend's ship she realized that her survival probably depended on what she said next. She gazed up at her rescuer and went for a well-tried line.


Thora Thorbergsdottir: Ouch!

Svend Estridsson, rival claimant to the throne of Denmark: What ails you my lady? The cold? You there - find a blanket for this poor woman!

Thora: Nay my Lord, the cold is nothing to me - I think I have just been smitten by a thunderbolt!

Svend: Gosh I hadn't noticed any thunder - all the other excitement must have drowned it out. Are you badly hurt, my lady?

Thora: Smitten to the very core of my being!

Svend: Err… sounds pretty serious then. You actually look OK to me.

Thora: You must be the great Svend Estridsson.

Svend: Well, you know, I don't like to brag but yes, that's me.

Thora: I've heard so much about you my Lord, but nothing could prepare me for this moment - a moment of destiny, surely, prepared by the gods!

Svend: Um, right… By the way, what's that round your neck, my lady?

Thora, who now notices the sign for the first time and squints down at it: Er… good question.

Svend, lifting the sodden object and reading the blurred words with difficulty: It says "To Svend, from Harald Hardraade - with love".

Thora: Oh.

Svend gazes at her and suddenly for the first time he perceives her striking beauty beneath her bedraggled condition. He is smitten as if by a thunderbolt.

Svend: Ouch!

Thora: Well, you know, I guess it wasn't really working out. It's just so sad for the kids though, isn't it?

Svend: Nay, my lady, I mean "Ouch!" as in "I think I have just been smitten by a thunderbolt!"

Thora: Ah - you too! Did I not say, my Lord, that this was a moment of destiny?

Svend: Surely prepared by the gods!

Yet again, Svend's other weakness had got the better of him. Resistance was indeed futile, and Thora was taken back to join his household. She was rather astonished by the number of women Svend had in his court, with most of whom he seemed to be on very familiar terms. One of them was reputedly his lawful wedded wife but nobody seemed very sure which it was. However at least Thora was alive and living in reasonable comfort. Besides, Svend soon found another use for Thora's unusual talents.

Thora was overjoyed, for this was an honour that King Harald had never conferred on her. For the next ten years she and Svend fought an almost constant war against the Norwegian despot. With Thora's help Svend at last had some chance of winning battles against the Norwegians, although on the whole Harald still had the upper hand. Of course, when Harald found out what had become of Thora he was furious, but there was nothing he could do except continue the war and hope that one day he would get his revenge in battle.

Thora also bore a son to Svend, Bjørn who was born in 1053, three years after the fateful day when Svend had plucked her from the sea. Unlike Magnus and Olaf, her sons by Harald, Thora felt a great motherly affection for little Bjørn. She doted on him, dreaming of the Martial Education he would one day receive, and the fearless warrior he would one day become. To Svend, Bjørn was just another bastard kicking around his court, but he treated him well as he did all his children. As for which of Svend's sons would be his heir and one day sit on the throne of Denmark, nobody was quite sure about that. Each mother did all she could to put her own son in the King's favour eagerly hoping that she would be the lucky one, and Thora was no exception. But wise King Svend said nothing to anyone about this for the moment.


Extract from the Saga of Thora Thorbergsdottir

Svend the Sage spied her, stopped to save her
Her beauty struck him, beneath her bedraggledness
Back to his household he brought his booty
Daughter of Thorberg, the deadly damsel

The mighty King, he made her his Marshal
She slew the foes of Svend her saviour
Hard-hearted maiden, she hated Harald
Asked in blood for the alimony he owed her

Bjørn was born to her, a beloved bastard
Diapers were dirtied, she dealt with them daily
Love she gave him and looked to his learning
Wished one day to see him a warrior

The name of the next king, nobody knew it
Silent he stayed, Svend the secretive
Bjørn might be blessed, kingship became him
Thus thought Thora, Thorberg's daughter
Of course Thora's duties as Marshal of Denmark meant that she often had to leave the care of little Bjørn to someone else, even though he started his military career at the age of six months, strapped to Thora's back as she led the Danes into battle against Harald's armies. Ragnhild was another of Svend's children who took a liking to little Bjørn. She was eight years older than him and as Bjørn grew up Thora was glad to have her as a willing babysitter when she got tired of combining childcare with army command.

But what of Thora's two sons by King Harald, Magnus and Olaf? They were growing into fine young lads. Magnus, the older by a year, had a good head for figures and a grasping nature. He would be well-suited to continue Harald's policy of taxing the people of Norway to the bone and filling the royal coffers. However it was Olaf who inherited his parents' martial skills, and indeed outshone Magnus in every other domain as well. King Harald was sorely tempted to name him as his heir despite being the younger son.

Young Skofte Ogmundsson, the new Count of Trøndelag, returned home to complete his education. Like Magnus and Olaf, he was probably fortunate to have been separated from his "crazy Aunt Thora" and King Harald did what he could to make sure he was well looked after, in remembrance of his father Count Ogmund.

The war dragged on for many years. Thora was very happy about this of course, since it meant that she could continue fighting most of the time. It was not good news for the ordinary people of Denmark, however, who saw their land pillaged and wasted countless times as the years passed. For the sake of such people Svend was determined never to give in to Harald, whose own people in Norway were less than enthusiastic about his heavy-handed rule. For his part, Harald was growing weary of the war with Denmark and finally in 1064 he decided that it might be more interesting to try to press his other royal claim, that of the crown of England. He therefore announced that he would henceforth recognize Svend as rightful King of Denmark, but that henceforth King Harold Godwinson of England had better watch his butt.
 
Aug 3, 2008
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Wow! Usually, it is one piece within a chapter that speaks to me more than others, but that one was all goodness. I really don't now if I liked the description of married life better, or the one of Svend's court, or the piece of dialogue, or the saga. Great work! :rofl:
 

coz1

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Seems Thora is turning into another Eleanor of Aquitaine, marrying to Kings who war with one another. Her kids ought to have a fun time fighting each other when of age.
 

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The_Guiscard: I'm glad you liked it! I still feel like I'm settling into a definite style for this AAR.

coz1: Well her kids will certianly be playing a significant role in things, that's for sure! ;)

J.Passepartout: :D I think that was Svend's point of view for sure!
 

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4
The Kinslayer

Thora Thorbergsdottir was bored. Since Harald Hardraade had made his announcement two years previously in 1064 that he was formally renouncing his claim to the throne of Denmark, the war between Norway and Denmark had come to an abrupt end. That meant that Thora's duties as Marshal of Denmark had been somewhat lessened, and were mostly now reduced to routine paperwork. Thora could not even read or write - as far as she was concerned paper was basically kindling, useful when poor weather would otherwise retard the burning of an enemy town or village. the necessity for any other kind of paperwork was a mystery to her.

Nevertheless Good King Svend was a fanatic for having everything well ordered and properly documented. The long war with Harald had wearied him, and now he was using this time of peace to try to rebuild the shattered ruins of his realm. The army must be kept ready to defend the realm from danger, but it must be done on a tight budget and that meant close scrutiny of every aspect of its organization and maintenance.

Thora longed for the good old days of the war. She constantly urged Svend to go to war with one or other of his neighbours, for example against the pagan Mecklenburgers to the south east, or against the Count of Lübeck, or the Archbishop of Bremen. Anyone really, as long as it meant a chance to do some battlefield killing and the slaughter of some innocent civilians. But Svend would have none of it, so that Thora's frustration only grew greater day by day.


Thora Thorbergsdottir, Marshal of Denmark: Sire, I have brought you the quarterly report on the state of the army. Bjorn here has written it all up for me - writing isn't exactly my strong point as you know.

Svend Estridsson, King of Denmark: Ahem, yes. Anyway, I trust all is well.

Thora, snappily: No all is not well, Sire. The morale of the army is at an all-time low.

Svend: Really? I'd have thought they'd be happy these days - no more humiliating defeats at the hands of the Norwegians every few months.

Thora: On the contrary, Sire, the army would welcome a bit more fighting. All this peace and prosperity is getting very tedious. What of the great and valorous deeds of old? What of the noble Viking traditions of pillage and slaughter, not to mention mayhem?

Svend: Old hat, Thora, old hat. We're never going to build a prosperous Denmark by behaving like barbarians.

Thora: Barbarians? You call our noble forefathers barbarians?

Svend: They were, Thora. They were a bunch of lawless thugs with horns on their helmets.

Thora: Hah! And you think you're so great, Mr Wise King Svend. You're just a wimp, though, aren't you?

Bjorn: Mum, he's the King - I don't think you should call him that.

Thora: Oh no? Well he is a wimp. And a lecher as well, aren't you Svend? A lecherous old git.

Svend: Shut your mouth you foolish woman, before I shut it for you.

Thora: Want to fight it out, do you?

Bjorn: Mum!

Svend: I will not fight a woman.

Thora: Oh, listen to him, "I will not fight a woman" - you are a woman, Svend. Why won't you fight like a man?

Svend: I'm warning you, Thora…

Bjorn: Mum - please!

Thora: The man's a coward, Bjorn - you must be ashamed to have him as your father.

In a sudden rage Svend draws his sword and lunges at Thora with a cry. Thora is just drawing her own sword when Bjorn throws himself between them. Svend's sword plunges into him and he falls to the ground in a pool of blood, twitches, utters a gurgling sound and then lies still. Svend and Thora both stare at his lifeless body in horror for several seconds, before Thora turns to the King and spits out words of doom.

Thora: Kinslayer! You will pay for this, Svend Estridsson, I promise you - you will pay for this!

With that Thora turns and strides out of the room.



 

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Mmm...

... Oops indeed I would say...:D
 

coz1

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Doh! Killed his own son. Bad news. What sweet revenge will Thora cook up? Burn him, maybe?
 

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kadvael56: I think maybe Thora's has had it with Kings by this stage - she hasn't had much luck with them one way or another. :eek:

J.Passepartout: When Thora said "the morale of the army" I think she was really meaning her own personal morale, since as Marshal she sort of embodied the army. Perhaps she lacked that feminine sensitivity to other people's feelings.

Murmurandus: "Oops" is of course a bit of an understatement. Just how much of an understatement nobody quite realizes at this stage. ;)

coz1: Now that would be very fitting - Thora could burn him alive on a pyre of his own paperwork! :D

Well, thankfully we've now actually reached 1066 and the start of the game proper so it's maybe time to give a few game notes. First of all, all the characters so far mentioned are real in-game characters. Thora really is the mother of Harald Hardraade's two sons, Magnus and Olaf but she is not shown as Harald's wife. Her relationship with Svend is not indicated in the game at all but some historical sources indicate that she was one of his "concubines", and name a son Magnus that she bore him. The character of Bjørn is the one point where I have "tampered" with the game. He was actually born in 1066, a bastard with no mother indicated, and since Thora was by then aged 49 it was certainly not her. I brought his birth date forward 13 years in order to place it between the birth of Olaf to Harald and the upper age limit at which she might have borne a son to Svend.

I didn't notice for some time that King Svend had the Kinslayer trait, but when I did I then searched back to find out when he got it. I found that he already had it in my very first savegame, from January 2, 1067, just a week into the game. I therefore assumed he had it from the start but was puzzled because I couldn't find any historical evidence for labeling him as such. Eventually I found that at the very start of the game Bjørn was still alive and Svend was not a Kinslayer. I suppose then that in the first few days of the game Svend got the "convenient opportunity to get rid of a bastard" event, but was found out and got nailed with the Kinslayer trait. The only mystery remaining was why Svend, virtually all of whose children were bastards, should have been so desperate to get rid of Bjørn. It was from my attempts to explain that mystery that the story up to this point grew and developed.

The only slight hitch is that, at the start of the game, with Bjørn still alive, Thora is already in the court of Skofte Ogmundsson Count of Trøndelag. This is another slight stretching of the game events to fit the storyline, but everything should soon be lined up nicely and we'll be off into the game proper.
 

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5
The Asylum Seeker

It might perhaps have been wise for King Svend of Denmark to prevent Thora Thorbergsdottir from leaving his court, but he had other things on his mind. He had just committed murder, albeit accidentally. But now a young boy, his own bastard son Bjørn, lay dead at his feet. Filled with dread and horror, Svend knelt there for a long time, contemplating his fate.

Thora was therefore left to her own devices, and she lost no time in packing some belongings and leaving with a few servants, saying farewell to the court of Svend Estridsson for good. Where exactly she was going to go she was still rather hazy about. What she was going to do she was absolutely sure of. She was going to wreak vengeance on King Svend the Kinslayer, murderer of her son Bjørn.

Thora's first port of call was the court of Rogaland. When she had left Norway sixteen years before, the Count of Rogaland was her aged Uncle Aslak. By now his handsome son Svein should have inherited his title. Thora asked for an audience with the Count, was shown in, and started into a well-tried opening gambit.


Thora Thorbergsdottir: Ouch! My lord, I think I have just been smit-… Oh.

Aslak Erlingsson, seventy-five year old Count of Rogaland: Eh? What's that young lady? Speak up, I'm a little deaf!


What is he doing still alive?​
Thora: Er… nothing my lord. That is, I was wondering how your gallant son Svein was doing these days?

As it turned out Count Aslak's gallant son Svein had recently married another of King Svend's bastard children, none other than Ragnhild Svendsdottir, who had put in so many hours of babysitting duty with little Bjørn. It had proved to be good training as the happy couple were now rejoicing in the arrival of their first son Knud. Thora soon found that the whole family seemed to be on sickeningly good terms with their royal in-law, so she decided the court of Rogaland wasn't the best place to start plotting King Svend's downfall.

Thora's next port of call was the Royal Court at Trondheim - perhaps King Harald, who was after all still her lawful husband, could be persuaded to take her back. It was a long shot, but maybe he would be willing to ally with her against King Svend - after all Harald too had cause to seek revenge on the man who had ultimately defeated him in Denmark. But when Thora got to Trondheim she discovered that King Harald had recently moved to a brand new capital city which he had called Oslo, situated at the head of a long fjord that opened southwards into the Skagerrak. But bad news travels fast, as they say, and long before Thora reached Oslo a messenger had already reached Harald ahead of her.


Messenger to the court of King Harald: Sire! I bring important news!

King Harald: Well let's hear it then.

Messenger: It concerns your wife, Sire.

King Harald: My wife? You mean Thora Thorbergsdottir of Giske? That crazed imbecile last seen whoring with the snot-nosed King of Denmark?

Messenger: Indeed Sire. However she is now back in Norway.

King Harald: What? Good grief, man - she's not coming here is she?

Messenger: That is exactly the news, Sire.

King Harald: Cripes! What on earth does she want?

Messenger: Sire, rumour has it that she is hoping to be reunited with your Royal Highness.

King Harald: Reunited? You mean as my wife?

Messenger: I believe so Sire.

King Harald: This gets worse and worse! When is she likely to get here?

Messenger: She is still a week's journey away, Sire - perhaps more.

King Harald: Ah, excellent! Time for me to get away, perhaps.

Messenger: Do you wish me to convey a message to her ladyship, Sire?

King Harald: NO! In fact, she must not even know that you have been here, do you understand?

Messenger: Very good, Sire.

King Harald: Now - where can I go where that creature will never find me?

King Harald lost no time. He immediately summoned his two sons, Magnus and Olaf, and announced to them that he had suddenly decided to invade England.

Olaf Haraldsson: Great news, Dad - can I come too?

King Harald: You certainly can, son. I will need you at my side as I smite that fool Harold Godwinson, drive him out of his kingdom and unite the crown of England with that of Norway.

Magnus Haraldsson: Er - what about me, Dad?

King Harald: You will stay here, Magnus. I need you to look after Norway while I am away.

Magnus: Wow! That sounds like fun. But why have you suddenly decided to invade England, Dad?

King Harald: Ahem - well, actually I haven't just decided, I decided quite some time ago as it happens. I have just been keeping it quiet - Harold's spies are everywhere, you know. It is crucial that we have the element of surprise!

Magnus: Oh, right!

King Harald: So - Olaf, prepare to leave as soon as possible. Oh and Magnus, just one thing.

Magnus: Yes Dad?

King Harald: If anyone - er… unexpected should happen to arrive looking for me - don't tell them where I am.

Magnus: Sure, Dad - boy, you're sure taking this "element of surprise" thing seriously, aren't you? Who were you expecting?

King Harald: Well I'm not expecting them, am I? If I was they wouldn't be unexpected!

Magnus: Um - right.

And so King Harald hastily mustered a large army and sailed with his son Olaf to the shores of England. King Harold Godwinson's spies were indeed everywhere. He had been waiting with his army on the south coast, expecting an invasion by Duke William of Normandy, yet another foreign ruler who seemed to have a claim on his royal title. But when he heard that Harald of Norway was invading Yorkshire he quickly marched north. At the Battle of Stamford Bridge the two armies met, the great, though not very popular, King Harald Hardraade of Norway was killed by an arrow through his throat, and the Norwegians were defeated.


The fateful Battle of Stamford Bridge​
Olaf managed to escape and fled with the remnants of the army. But even as Harold Godwinson was celebrating this victory, Duke William was sailing across the English Channel to Pevensey…

Back in Oslo Magnus was unaware of the disaster that had befallen the Norwegians in Yorkshire. He had also just had an unexpected visitor.


Thora Thorbergsdottir: My goodness - you must be… er… Olaf, is it?

Magnus: No, I'm Magnus. And you are…?

Thora: Why, I'm your mother, Magnus! Oh - my long lost son! How my heart has longed for this moment!

Magnus: Oh brother.

Thora: And my dear husband, Harald - is he here?

Magnus: Ahem - no mother. Hey, wait a minute. He said…

Thora: What?

Magnus: Er, no - he didn't say anything. Nothing at all. He's not here.

Thora: Oh - where is he then?

Magnus: No idea. He said he was… going on a trip. Him and Olaf. And a few friends.

Thora: How strange.

Magnus: Yes isn't it? Well Mum, it's been really nice meeting up again after all these years but I'm sure you've got things to do, people to see. I won't keep you.

Thora: What? Are you throwing me out? My own son?

Magnus: Seems like it, Mum. But I'm sure you'll find some King or other somewhere to shack up with. Toodle-oo.

Thora: Ooh! The impudence! You just wait Magnus Haraldsson - you just wait. I won't forget this!

And so in December 1066 Thora Thorbergsdottir made her way bitterly back to her family home, the island of Giske in the County of Trøndelag. There she was given a polite though hesitant welcome by her nephew young Skofte Ogmundsson, Count of Trøndelag. The truth was that the Count was somewhat short of courtiers and was willing to welcome just about anyone as long as they could do something useful. Aunt Thora was given the job of Spy mistress. This of course suited Thora down to the ground. For by now she had a growing list of people upon whom she was determined to wreak vengeance. They had no idea what was coming to them.

 
Last edited:

Murmurandus

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I was happy to learn what really happened back in 1066... :D
 

Alfred Packer

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Brilliant! I love Thora's homecoming...the dialogue between Harald and his sons and the way Magnus blew off his mom...hilarious!
 
Last edited:

coz1

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There won't be many people left after Thora gets her revenge on everyone. ;)

So does Olaf or Magnus inherit? I can't remember who's first in line. Magnus should be considered after the deft way he handled dear old mum.