Chapter 1: For Odin’s Glory and the Rurikid Dynasty! (1 January 867)
Here follows a modernised account based on the chronicle of Gumarich der Schreiber
, court scribe and keeper of the scrolls for King Rurik of Holmgarđr. It is annotated and presented in the idioms, procedures and graphic representations of the Crusader Kings II
universe and historical reconstruction method [Ed. Ahem ]
. The chronicle unfolds as a mixture of historical observations, gossip and conversations recorded by Gumarich and between key figures at court and various 'external' advisors and correspondents. Some are known to history, some are now anonymous. The trove of recently discovered scrolls has become known as the Blut und Schlacht (Blood and Battle) Saga
. It tells the story of the Rurikid Dynasty, starting with King Rurik’s reign in 867 AD.
An illustration believed to be a representation of Gumarich
The Realm – an Overview
Schreiber, found with the store of recently discovered scrolls
from the early period of King Rurik’s reign.
The map below shows the realm of the ‘Petty Kingdom’ of Holmgarđr as it stood at the beginning of 867 AD. It is surrounded by many independent realms, chiefdoms, dukedoms and kingdoms. It sits between Russian, Norse and German influences. Holmgarđr at that time had access to the Baltic Sea, Lake Ladoga (to its north) and some of the great Russian river systems. Gumarich noted that in time, much more would need to be discovered about these neighbours, their disposition towards the King, strengths, weaknesses and motivations. But for now, the King's advisors must take stock of their own realm and see to its welfare.
Taking the wider context first, we know Holmgarđr was part of the de jure (?) ‘Kingdom of Rus’. While that great kingdom did not exist at the time the Rurikid Saga
began, its concept was known and could be aspired to. Naturally, other such potential entities surrounded it.
And looking even further out, imperial concepts also existed to make the minds of rulers feverish with ambition and (more often than not) delusions of grandeur inspired by an inflated belief in their own abilities. Even the pettiest chieftain in the vicinity of Holmgarđr could dream of one day being the conquering hero who would create the great Russian Empire.
The Kingdom of Holmgarđr has a Germanic cultural tradition, is Pagan and is organised on a tribal basis. These tables summarise these key national characteristics.
[Ed. Q1: I have highlighted which of these seem to be of significance, and may be substantially different from other types of CK2 societies. Of these, vassals not minding if levies are raised; rulers losing prestige if at peace for too long; the use of prestige to build tribal holdings; not getting vassal tax from tribal government vassals and ‘De Jure Law effects ignored’ seem especially significant. Though I don’t really know/understand what the last one means or exactly how it would manifest in-game. Any key observations, hints etc on how important any of these are and what should be taken out from them would be useful.]
King Rurik and His Family
Gumarich wrote that Rurik was “a master of strategy, brave as a lion and driven to achieve great heights. Quick of wit, warm of personality and generally well-liked. A just ruler who is respected by all. A master horseman in battle.” Even if there is some license to be taken with this description, Rurik appears to have been an impressive character. He was 37 years old as Gumarich wrote of him in January 867, so he was already seasoned and experienced by that time.
Rurik’s heir is the 17 year old Helgi Ruriksson, Marshal of Holmgarđr. He was clearly the son of a previous wife (given the current queen, who we will meet soon, is the same age as Helgi), but Gumarich’s notes shed no light on Helgi's mother's name or background. We are aware (when fully translated) the chronicle will mention more detail of the young Helgi’s personal characteristics and attributes in subsequent chapters (an overview can be seen in the illustration below), but for now the main thing to know about him is that he is very fond of his father, Rurik’s opinion of Helgi seems healthy enough (for a tough and demanding father to his teenage son), and he is not yet married.
Rurik’s courtiers are firm in their advice: finding a wife for Helgi is a top priority. Of the prospective brides on offer, Gumarich recorded that all but two were considered lowly born for the Prince of a even a 'petty' kingdom. Marriage to whom would have resulted in a major hit to Rurik’s prestige, a difficult thing in such a reputation-based social system. And none of the lesser noblewomen are from neighbouring or nearby locations where a claim or alliance seemed to be of much value [Ed. Though I could have been wrong in that of course ]
. Both the potential 'peer' brides are daughters of Chief Ketill of Mann. Both are of good Norse stock and seem to have a reasonable mix of personal characteristics.
Jorunn Kettillsdottir (at 26) is a little younger than her sister and has more good qualities than bad. Seven years older than Helgi, but that matters not. Gumarich described her reputation as being “a master manipulator and weaver of intrigue and arbitrary in nature. But honest, charitable of heart and a contented woman happy with her lot in life.” The King hoped she would make a good match for Helgi. And produce some heirs in a hurry! The Isle of Mann is distant (between Britannia and Ireland) but should also be fairly secure and not present any difficult entanglements for Holmgarđr in the future [Ed. Or so I boldly assume ]
. A marriage proposal is sent, with good reason to expect it will be favourably received.
Rurik's wife, the young Queen Ingjerđr (17 years old in January 867) must have only recently married him, but Gumarich’s chronicle sheds no light on her background. Her regard for Rurik is reasonable, but could be higher. She is also Rurik’s Spymaster, so seeking an increase of her regard for her liege seemed a wise course - as both his wife and Spymaster. Gumarich noted Rurik was soon looking for opportunities to do so. More detail on her will be explained later in the Saga
State of the Realm
Rurik’s kingdom contained five vassals in 867 AD. Four are tribal chieftains, the fifth a cleric. Most were noted by Gumarich as being either neutral or well disposed towards their liege. However, as chieftains in a tribal society, none of them contribute taxes to Rurik, though the cleric Porolfr (the Godi of Tikhvin) does. Clearly, most income will need to come from other sources (looting, trade etc). The attributes and motivations of these important personages would need to become well known by the King.
[Ed. Q2: Any tips or suggestions as to how to review them and what to look for when doing an initial review?]
A report summarising some key statistics for the realm at the beginning of the Rurikid Era was found among Gumarich hidden scrolls. The potential army size (2,066) and fleet (40) is straightforward. The 676 troops and 40 ships displayed on earlier kingdom maps [Ed. Described as ‘event spawned’ in the mouse-over, so presumably just scenario starting forces]
are already in place. The treasury of just over 1000 gold seems
healthy [Ed. Let me know if it’s not!]
and there is a very small monthly surplus - of negligible size. This may change after a few minor titles are awarded. Gumarich had made some marginal comments on some of the other statistics, which is fortunate as they may not have been so clear to the novice and uninitiated observer!
[Ed. Q3: The Demesne Size seems to have plenty room for growth for now. I will check these current holdings over in a subsequent chapter. The Vassal Limit lists only 4 out of a permissible 16 – does that means only Chieftains (ie not Clerics) count in this number? Prestige seems very important in this society – 30 seems quite low, but is this about normal for a game start? Looks like I’ll need to nurture it and look for opportunities to boost it. Not sure how much Piety is worth in a religion that doesn’t have a head! Other than adding to a game point score, does there seem much use for pursuing it in this context? Any thoughts, tips or hints welcomed.]
Of course,the level of technological development was rudimentary at this time in history and advances were slow . It would be some time before any of these areas could be improved, but every long march begins with a single step.
Helgi, as Marshal, had provided a quick summary of available forces in January 867. A closer examination of the arcane mechanics of raising levies, preparing for war, retinues, shipbuilding, hiring mercenaries and keeping bloodthirsty tribal chieftains happy will have to await another day!
So too will the mysteries of the kingdom’s Pagan religion. Godi Porolfr would no doubt be consulted at some point. At least it appears he was well disposed towards his King.
Council Tasks and Decisions
The start of the year 867 saw the King’s Council already fully appointed. By Gumarich's descriptions, at face value, all seemed to be well suited to their responsibilities. But all were idle, "taking their winter's ease at the King's Court" and needed to be put to work. As a new King, in this case Rurik decided to make some quick decisions:
“Good King Rurik set his Council to task with a Magisterial Hand. Some Councillors stayed with their Liege Lord to help exalt the homeland. Others were sent further afield, beyond the Kingdom’s borders, on missions more dangerous,” recorded Gumarich. “Her Majesty Queen Ingjerđr travelled as Spymaster to Kalevan in the High Chiefdom of Estonia to attempt to discover learned tomes of Arcane Knowledge.”
“Chancellor Hrörekr was sent on a mission most clandestine to create a legitimate claim on the Chiefdom of Toropets, which the King did sorely covet. Its possession would join the Kingdom proper with its southerly county of Smaleskya, which sat in dangerous isolation, prey for the wolves and vultures that surrounded it.”
“In Holmgarđr, Marshal Helgi oversaw the training the levies. Seer Porolfr zealously sought to increase the piety of the people. Steward Alfgeir saw to the building of prestige in the realm through the description of the legendary exploits and achievements of the esteemed Rurikid Dynasty.”
The council also recommended other decisions be taken, but the King was not yet persuaded to take all of them and in some cases sought more advice than his Council alone could provide. One such suggestion was to hold a "Great Blot". This would cost 50 gold, which seemed quite affordable at present, but its benefits were not immediately clear or obvious. The King reserved his opinion [Ed. And he would warmly welcome any advice on its value or best timing, given it can only be performed every ninth year].
A "Vassal Inheritance Warning" was also issued, but the befuddled Gumarich professed not to really understand the warning nor know what – if anything - to do about it! Nor did the King's Council seem any the wiser. More study of this arcane subject was ordered.
Importantly, King Rurik – ambitious as he was - pondered carefully what his initial ambition for the realm should be. Gumarich noted that he "sought further deep counsel on this most important matter". Rurik apparently had no great interest in piety or becoming known as a paragon of virtue and ‘Holy’ king. And while another child would of course be welcome - and a daughter would be useful for dynastic marriages - he hoped "for nature to take its course quickly and repeatedly" in that regard. And again, it seems Rurik had no great craving for increased piety at this stage in his life "his best friends were Sword and Spear, to be Borne into Battle with a Strong Arm and atop a Swift Steed," so Gumarich helpfully explained.
Becoming Exalted, to both seek great prestige and gain more in doing so, sounded more appealing and would help retain the loyalty of his vassals. Though would the need to build prestige inhibit his ability to build his demesne in this tribal society? The mystical lure of becoming acknowledged as the King of all Rus was also tempting for one as ambitious as Rurik. If achieved, it would gain him very great prestige and an apparent free hand (as a good Pagan Ruler) to declare war to subjugate any part of the prospective realm. But he was also advised that once declared, this ambition could not be revoked, so he must be sure the timing would be right to make it. He was not yet fully informed enough to decide between these two prestigious options and would think hard on it.
[Ed. Q4: Am I right in assuming that you can only have one ambition at a time? So choosing one that cannot be cancelled prevents seeking any others for the rest of the ruler’s life? Whereas if one of the more limited ambitions were chosen, it could be achieved and perhaps the dream of a united Rus pursued later?]
Rurik’s council also pointed out that he could “Press de jure Ducal Claims”. But other scholars had noted that under the realm’s tribal customs, “De Jure Law effects are ignored”. There was some confusion as to whether this was talking about the same set of circumstances, or something different. Certainly, an actionable claim on Toropets in particular would be very useful.
While the Chancellor had been sent to see if he could fabricate (er, discover) a claim on Toropets and the Lawspeaker researched the issue of de jure ducal claims under tribal customs, Gumarich recorded that the King sought to see if Chief Sviatopolk could be ‘persuaded’ to join the realm voluntarily. But the Chancellor advised there would be no chance of that and it hardly seemed worth bothering. So he didn’t. While the power differential was in Rurik’s favour, differences in religion and culture told against acceptance, while the rank difference was not sufficient to be persuasive.
Finally, the Council suggested some vacant minor titles should be allocated, but especially the office of Regent, which was allocated to the Queen to further demonstrate the King’s trust and foster mutual esteem. Most other titles that could be allocated were, mainly to vassals or courtiers whose loyalty looked like it could do with a boost.
So ends the first part of the Rurikid Blood and Battle Saga
. Any learned comments are most welcome. Apart from noting any advice arising from this first episode, the next chapter will examine things like the state of the counties that make up the realm, current holdings/buildings and building plans, and the realm's laws. [Ed. Plus whatever people think are other things that should be delved into at game’s start.]
May Odin’s Spear smite the unworthy, to the greater glory of Rurik and Holmgarđr!
[Ed. The game won’t be progressed until I’ve had a chance to consider any comments or advice and complete the initial review of the realm, after which the action will start.]