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Introduction

Peter Ebbesen

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Born to Breed: House of the Prophets

featuring the Sigurdr dynasty
in a world gone mad

- An Introduction of Sorts -

Karmavision, January 1st 2119

Joining us tonight for a short interview about his upcoming book is somebody who needs no introduction, but for the benefit of any viewer who has been in seclusion the last few years, I give you one anyway.

AUDIENCE: LAUGHTER

I present to you the winner of the 2115 and 2116 MSR awards, of the 2117 MLR award, last man standing on last season of the reality show Real Princes of Asia, author of the bestselling self-help book, “Inbreeding is how you get the best racehorses”, the world famous descendant of prophets, his serenity prince Sigurd af Sigurdr of Isfahan.

AUDIENCE: APPLAUSE

Sigurd – may I call you Sigurd?

Om.

Thanks. Your upcoming book, “Born to Breed: House of the Prophets”, is shrouded in secrecy, but I understand that it is a history of sorts rather than a new book on the marital arts, and it has been strongly hinted by your publisher that you will be drawing on confidential dynasty records to present a scandalous and/or modern take on the traditional authorized telling. Would you care to comment?

Your understanding is wrong. It is not a history, but historical fiction, a collection of educational tales written for the edification of youth, that happens to feature historical people, many but not all of whom are my ancestors, members of my house, or other members of the dynasty.

That certainly puts a different complexion on it. One thing I particularly liked about your last book were the instructional illustrations and the selfies taken by your wives. Dare I ask?

There will be illustrations, but not of that sort.

I guess your fans will just have to wait for a sequel when you are up to it, right?

AUDIENCE: LAUGHTER

But back to your forthcoming book, you said that it was for the edification of youth. Would you care to give an example?

Assuredly so. I take you are familiar with the history of the third prophet Sigurd, praise be, he of the Snake-in-the-Eye?

Candidly speaking, history in my school mostly covered post-enlightenment empire, but that tale was covered and it is not one to forget. “How the young pigs would grunt if they heard how the boar suffered” etc. The northern conquest laying the foundation to empire and so on and so forth. Loved that one, even if I wondered as a child where the king got all those venomous snakes. Hardly something to find lying around in England, let alone in somebody's eye.

Yes, that is the one tale everybody knows, and to answer your childhood fascination, according to surviving records from the Ivaring investigation, the snakes were imported. And the one in Sigurd's eye, praise be, was a sign of his cosmic significance. As you were undoubtedly taught. But there are other tales about him, such as the tale of the Courtship of Sigurd.

Errr. I was probably thinking about snakes when that was covered.

AUDIENCE: SNIGGERS

Relax, this isn't an examination. The official tale of the Courtship of Sigurd, blessed his name, is that first he married the daughter of the king who killed his father Ragnarr, and that upon her death at much too young an age he first grieved bitterly, then he travelled the world and wooed the fairest of maidens in the courts of Europe, even in the heart of Christendom itself, dancing with them at balls, giving them gifts, singing the falalala song beneath their balconies, and then marrying them and taking them back to Denmark so be seated beside him as queens in his great hall in Lejre.

Rousing stuff, no doubt, but not all there is to it, you say?

Well, for one thing while Sigurd, in his mortal role as hand of the one-eyed, was the king who brought women's liberation to the world by freeing the weaker sex from the ancient bonds of concubinage to become true wives, honoured and respected by all, that was something he accomplished near the end of his long life, not as a youth. For another marriage between a non-Christian and a Christian was forbidden by the Christian church.

Fascinating; I am not an expert on dead religions, but that is really interesting. Why would they mix religion and marriage? Strange people, am I right?

For a third, the idea that a northern tribal lord, no matter how powerful, would spend his time travelling Europe attending parties for years on end without being deposed is ridiculous. For the fourth, the idea that he would marry the daughter of the king who killed his father is rather far-fetched for somebody, who didn't stay in England where it might have been useful to consolidate his rule, doesn't it?

A bit.

And as for his concubines being the fairest of maidens in Europe, that's probably poetic license. The family records make clear that he had other priorities.

Would this be the secret records of the Sigurdr dynasty you are talking about?

If you can call a collection of runestones that is in public display but few people apart from historians and priests bother to visit a secret, I guess it is. You do know what a runestone is, I hope?

Sure, it is a stone. With runes. People used to write on them before the printing press.

They stopped a bit earlier than that. Runestone records were mostly phased out in favour of paper during the early 10th century despite spirited arguments at the time that runestones made for more persistent storage, but were still used for royal proclamations. They were left in place until near the end of the reign of king Gormr 'the Blood-Father', who apparently thought they cluttered the landscape and ordered every runestone to be collected and properly filed for the permanent record. Surely you must have learned this in school! Those runestones include the birth certificate of empire!

I may or may not have been paying attention. But I'm definitely going to see them now! Sounds utterly fascinating, a saga writ in stone. Where did king Gormr file them?

He was apparently a literal man, so they were initially filed in Wiltshire, England, next to Stonehenge. When he later moved the capital to Cairo, they were refiled next to the Pyramids in Gizeh, where they still stand to this very day.

How utterly riveting. To get back to your point, do I understand you right that Sigurd left a runestone about his courtship practices and priorities?

More or less. Runestone 327, a majestic three-sided stone raised in his old age, says on its largest side:

King Sigurd ordered this stone made in memory of Yeldem, Gertruda, Iacoba, Irmele, and Skuld. They were his women. That Sigurd who won for himself all of Denmark, Norway, and England and reformed the faith. The second and smaller side is covered by images, and on the third and smallest side it says: Know secret of Odin. Brains before brawn. Brawn before beauty. Plough daily. King Sigurd was born to breed. That's where part of the title of my book comes from, you see.

What do the images show?

Let's just say that some things seem to run in the family.

Thank you, Sigurd. And on that perfect note our time is up, so say it with me.

Are you serene?

AUDIENCE: WE ARE SERENE!

We'll be back after the news. Today's headlines:

  • King of Hellas claims mantra shortage to blame for forest fires
  • Hardened criminals in Vinland rob bank without apologizing
  • Unrest in Cairo as the count's slippers spontaneously catch fire. Is witchcraft afoot?


-------​

Crusader Kings 1.3.1 with Northern Lords, slightly modded

Posting will be infrequent and erratic.

My goal is to continue playing until I get bored or there is an update to the game that spoils my adventures

It originated as a thought experiment. I usually have a specific set of overall goals for my AAR games, but beyond that the story follows the gameplay. What if I were to write an AAR where the gameplay flowed from the story rather than, as is usual, the reverse? How would I go about doing that? And would it make for a good or a bad fit?

When I got CK3 this spring I realized I had an excellent platform for the experiment. Write a story outline with prophets and other major characters at key points in the development of a realm, filling in the details of what each character must achieve through his life – and then play the game, with any character theoretically able to meet the next milestone in the story attempting to achieve it. So House of the Prophets goes story outline => gameplay => AAR based on gameplay.

There's plenty of room for reacting to developments in the game - it is a quite broad outline apart from the key achievements of major characters - but it imposes interesting and ever changing constraints on my play depending on which ruler I am playing, which is great fun.

And I did an abandoned CK2 AAR game, Born to Breed: The Estridsen Lectures, which unfortunately had to be abandoned after only nine chapters due to work, so with the Northern DLC dropping.... well, the choice of starting ruler was obvious to this Dane.

I played a short 150 year test game before I began the AAR to get a feeling for the norse DLC gameplay, and then I sat down to write the general outline for House of the Prophets, drawing on lessons learned and introducing new twists. Then I began a new Sigurdr game, and this is the game played out in the AAR.

So when e.g. I introduce Gormr the Blood Father in the introduction, who moved the permanent runestone record to the pyramids after he moved the capital to Cairo, that is because my story outline calls for it, not because the game has already been played, and my task when playing is to ensure that this comes to be. And it will - I'll just need to engineer the election of somebody named Gormr at the appropriate time when the decision can be taken. Hasn't happened yet, but it should be easy.

I try not to play too far ahead of the AAR writing, as that has been known to kill some of my AARs in the past, so most events described in the AAR happening decades later than a given AAR entry covers have not actually been played at the time of writing, but it is my goal to make them come to pass no matter how ridiculous things I have to do to achieve them.

(This spoiler explanation was added during the writing of the Sverker Diaries, which was the first time that the story outline vs. actual gameplay was tested, hard. It will not be the last.)
 
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List of the Prophets

Peter Ebbesen

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PZ9Onv.png


The journey so far.
 
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Peter Ebbesen

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So... these Prophets are prophets of the Æsir and Vanir?
 
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Peter Ebbesen

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The Courtship of Sigurd, part one

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Born to Breed: House of the Prophets

The Courtship of Sigurd, part one
with brief comments on the world of 877

As is told in the tale of the revenge of the Ragnarssons, it came to pass that the brothers decided to conquer England. Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan Hvitserk would lead the invasion, while Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye and Bjørn Ironside divided the patrimony, Denmark to Sigurd and Sweden to Bjørn Ironside.

It might be thought that Sigurd, the youngest brother, would be unhappy to be left behind, but nothing could be further than the truth. Of all the sons of Ragnarr, the living and the hallowed dead, only one was born with a snake in the eye, and that was Sigurd: he was farseeing, and he saw true.

Already at the tender age of three it was his advice that sent his mother Aslaug and his brothers to attack the Swedish king Östen in revenge their dead brothers Erik and Agnar, for though it was widely believed that Östen's possession of the holy cow Sibilja marked him as favoured of the gods, Sigurd knew better, and he was well spoken.

Now in the prime of his life, undisputed lord of the Danes excepting those in Jutland, who followed Bagsecg, son of Eirikr the Stinking, it was time to show the world the true measure of his rulership. There was a time to sow and a time to harvest, a time to raid and a time to conquer, but most of all, there was always a time to breed, for Sigurd had been granted a vision by Odin.

One thing Sigurd saw truly was that the value of Blæja, daughter of king Ælla of Northumbria, whom he had taken as wife on his last visit to England, was dwindling fast. Ivar or Halfdan would be in Northumbria soon and on considerably less friendly terms than last time (which come to think of it hadn't been that friendly either), and once Ælla was gone her usefulness to Sigurd would be at an end.

Apart from personal enjoyment, really, but as Blæja, though brave as a lion and honest to a fault, was a paranoid schemer whose attempts to ferret out which of Sigurd's men were women in disguise had caused more than one embarrassment, and as she just didn't stop chattering even in bed, Sigurd did not mind letting her go. As reward for the three children he had by her he divorced her gently rather than by the sword. A purse of gold, a good horse, and an escort to the border, she was now free to make the most of the rest of her life, and good riddance.

4w7HSN.jpg



And with that, gentle reader, you must have realized that this story already diverges significantly from what you learned in school, but it is as nothing compared to that which is to come, because this is where one of those historically important people who never got main billing enters the story.

His name was Eigill, and he was a henchman. He'd earned a name for himself raiding as part of Sigurd's crew, and though it wasn't a big name, it was respected. Such men, however, are plentiful.

Much more importantly he had demonstrated a certain moral flexibility, had an ear for languages and a glib tongue, and had shown himself to be quite handy at resolving minor problems without the use of either sword or axe, and such people are valuable. Over the past five years he had helped Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye resolve, or in some cases remove, a few inconvenient problems, and been richly rewarded for his efforts.

His new instructions were rather unique, but one of the most important rules of a henchman is not to question their master unless it is necessary to carry out orders, so Eigill didn't.

Sigurd wanted four (4) unmarried women, preferably young, but definitely of childbearing age, either with great intellects or truly outstanding physiques. If they didn't speak a civilized tongue, so much the better, for he had had enough chatter to last a lifetime. If they were once married, no matter. So long as they weren't married upon delivery Sigurd didn't care, and he trusted Eigill to ensure finality on this issue.

Rather lacking in specifics those instructions, you might think, but chiefs don't sweat the small stuff. That's what henchmen are for, and Eigill could hench with the best.


Meet Yeldem.
QiRu9J.jpg


The daughter of a minor chief in distant Bulgaria, her father Kormisosh was happy to ship her off to rule beside the prince of the north. Partly because she was a deceitful, stubborn, and cynical brat, who was too smart for a woman, and partly because Eigill was a good drinker and told amazing stories, but mostly because Eigill convinced him that a mutual alliance with the foremost chief of the north would provide security and, he hinted, might even prove helpful were Kormisosh to engage in a bit of local expansionism.

Diplomatically Eigill didn't mention that Sigurd was unlikely to aid Kormisoch once his needs were satisfied and he only needed the daughter for that, and fortunately the chief refused to listen to his daughter when she made that very point, on the grounds that a mere woman didn't understand strategy.

If it cannot be said that Yeldem went fully willingly to become Sigurd's bride, bartered away for an empty promise to a distant realm she knew nothing about and whose language she did not understand, neither can it be said she was unwilling, because this was not an uncommon lot for noble women at the time.

According to Eigill Sigurd was in his prime, had most of his teeth, had killed a lot of enemies, was served by many chiefs, and was a wealthy man. Even if only a fifth of Eigill's boasting held true, a woman could do worse, and there was something to be said for being the wife of a high chief rather than one of the chieftains back home or, worse, ending up as a concubine or unmarried, as was often the case for overly smart women.

Thus Eigill returned in triumph with Yeldem, but in at least one respect was Sigurd to be disappointed: As the intelligent woman she was, Yeldem had used the return trip to learn Danish so she wouldn't be at a loss in the foreign court that was to be her home for the rest of her life. As Sigurd ruefully had to admit, that's the danger of marrying intelligent women.

XKcwIb.jpg



Sigurd's mother Aslaugh was a wise woman and took Yeldem under her wing, for she had much experience managing Ragnarr and his unruly brood, and she told the most important rule for handling Sigurd: Never chatter. In the due course of time Yeldem grew to become Sigurd's most important supporter, his true helpmeet. She bore him three sons and four daughters, and when she died under mysterious circumstances in 901 at the age of 50, she was sorely missed.


The life of a henchman is not an easy one, and no sooner had he delivered Yeldem than he was off for foreign parts again. He had been making inquiries, and had tracked down another promising prospect closer to home, a courtier in the court of chief Jaromil of Slupsk on the Baltic coast.


Meet Gertruda
vN14ol.jpg


Daughter of an assistant to chief Jaromil's steward, Gertruda hung around the court with no ambitions in life beyond attending the next party, discovering who of the other courtiers were not plotting to kill her, and solving diophantine equations. Famously lazy, she ignored all her father's hints that she ought to apply her prodigious intellect to attracting the interest of an important and wealthy man, or failing that, any man at all that wouldn't bring disgrace to the family. Even the lure of the carnal act, which her parents swore was even better than solving equations (whatever THAT was), couldn't convince her to give it a try.

“All good things come to those who wait”, was her philosophy, much to the chagrin of her long-suffering parents.

All of this Eigill knew through impeccable sources, or at least gossip, so he decided that a forthright approach was the best in her case. He approached her parents with a heavy purse of gold and told them that the great chief Sigurd of Denmark was smitten by their lazy daughter, wanted her as his woman, and he would have her one way or another, because Sigurd always got what he wanted. (Which admittedly was stretching the truth a bit, but truthfulness is not a primary requirement in henchmen.)

Gertruda's parents were quick to see his point, and how it was in the geopolitical interest of Slupsk to maintain good relations with Denmark, and anyhow it certainly wasn't something to bother their chieftain about, or their daughter for that matter, so they took the gold and shipped the unflappable Gertruda off to Denmark.

“Thus is my philosophy validated”, she told them, and they had to grant her the point.

Now, it had to be said that Eigill was slightly nervous about Gertruda. She met all the formal requirements, and she was looking forwards to a life in luxury and couldn't get enough of asking questions about Sigurd and Denmark so she wouldn't put her foot wrong. So far so good, but Sigurd had already had to deal with one paranoid woman in his life, the discarded Blæja, so he instructed her carefully on the return trip NOT to start looking for women in disguise amongst Sigurd's men. “Not to worry”, said Gertruda, “so long as they aren't plotting to kill me, I don't care about their sex”.

Thus a potential crisis was averted and when they reached Lejre in later November 868, Sigurd, recently returned from a raid, liked what he saw. Even if Eigill had again brought a foreigner who spoke the language well enough to make herself understood, at least it was evidence of her intelligence.

Fortunately both Sigurd and Gertruda were gregarious, and they hit it off right away when she explained her philosophy, how her parents had tried to get her married off earlier, and how by sticking to her principles she'd earned the grand prize, so to speak. Sigurd said that there was certainly something to be said for it since it had brought her to him, but though it was a wise philosophy to hold for some, it was not for him.

He explained his own philosophy and proposed they examine the empirical implications of the differences. Since concubinage does away with half of the wedding and bedding ritual wives get, and since Sigurd's philosophy was “all good things come to those how know to take advantage, and there's no time like the present”, Sigurd followed words by action.

He claimed Gertruda as his concubine on the spot, dragged her to his bed, answered her desperate request for delay and a manual of instruction so she wouldn't disappoint him by telling her that her body knew and all she had to do was what came natural, and gave her a tumble. Finally they had no need for words at all.

Until afterwards.

“And thus”, said Sigurd when he was spent, “is my theory validated”. He was mightily satisfied with himself, but somewhat puzzled at her complete silence during the act.

He gazed into Gertruda's clear eyes, that gazed lovingly back, to divine the reason. The snake in his eye saw no deceit; it saw neither madness, abject fear, great hatred, nor enduring what must be endured, which would have explained the behaviour. None of those emotions were in her; insofar as the snake could tell she was enjoying herself, just silent, so silent. This was something else, something new. The age-old question had to be asked: “How was it for you?”

“Are you done already? I'm afraid I didn't pay much attention as I was solving diophantine equations, but I guess it was fine? Have another go and I promise I'll pay attention this time.”

VW8jKU.jpg



Some things you just have to take philosophically, Sigurd told himself as he rose to the occasion, and at least she didn't chatter. In time, through vigorous experiments with her man carefully documented and rated (the originals of which are lost as they didn't enter the permanent runestone record, but see Saxo Grammaticus: Triangular Sex), she came to appreciate the carnal act though she never did agree with her parents that it beat solving equations. Fortunately she could multitask.

An eccentric but much loved addition to Sigurd's court, Gertruda became famous as a poet and reveler. Her lasting regret was that she only bore Sigurd one child, their learned son Arnbjørn. In one way or the other, one suspects mathematics was to blame.


If Eigill was pleased with the ease of acquisition of woman #2, he was to have rather more problems with the third, but that story will be covered in the next episode.

-------​


Excerpt from: He was a good king, and that was a good thing

t8vwDe.jpg



877 marks the true start of national consolidation. Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, praise be upon him, has consolidated his grip on Denmark and declared himself king after defeating Bagsecg of Jutland, and has furthermore established a foothold on the Baltic in Slupsk, whence came his fair wife, the poet Gertruda.

In the west Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan Hvitserk have recovered from the early wars and are ready for more, while Mercia, Wessex, and Alba await the coming storm.

In the east Bjørn Ironside has tightened his grasp on Sweden and declared himself king; Saddened by the tragic loss of his firstborn son Eirikr, he yet rejoices that the intervention of his brother Sigurd saved his grandson and heir Bjørn, son of Eirikr, and put him in charge of Memelpad.

UA4vQL.jpg



The younger Bjørn, whom history will come to know as king Bjørn II of Sweden, is currently enjoying the first anniversary of marriage with Sigurd's daughter Alof. Of an age and bethrothed while they were small children, they always got along well at family gatherings and were married at 16 as soon as propriety allowed. If their firstborn son Karl came perhaps a bit early to those who can count, well, it is in the nature of youth to experiment and no harm done. Little do they suspect looking at his sweet baby eyes, one assumes, the dreadful things he will order done as king of Sweden during the Smålander bloodletting.

Karl, of course, is special, as he is considered to be of the house of Sigurd rather than Munsö due to a detail in the marriage contract that neither Bjørn's father or grandfather noticed in time – or perhaps they just didn't care. As Bjørn Ironside is famously said to have remarked when it was brought to his attention, “either way it stays in the family”.
 
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Still got a few women to go, it seems. Some territory too. Large tracts of land all round, as it were.
 
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The Courtship of Sigurd, part two

Peter Ebbesen

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Born to Breed: House of the Prophets

- Chapter the Second: The Courtship of Sigurd, part two -
with brief excerpts from the world of 880 and 883

Excerpt from: He was a good king, and that was a good thing

The years following unification king Sigurd raids the lands of the Franks. The pickings in Anglia have grown slim, but the Franks, distracted as they so often are by fighting their greatest enemies, the Franks, look ripe for the plucking.

877-879 he raids the Rhine, to the grief of king Lothaire II of the middle Franks, who can do nothing as he is fighting in the west, but as the Rhineland goes up in flames and targets of opportunity grow sparse and the pressure on Lothaire to “do something” about the wrath of the norsemen grows too high to ignore, Sigurd's fleet returns to winter quarters and Denmark.

He spends winter with the family, eagerly awaiting the spring of 880 where he will set out with more ship crews than ever to raid the western Franks.

P99uBN.jpg



-------​


Meet Iacoba:
kePKbr.jpg


This well-endowed woman was the exemplar of what the Æsir had in mind when they designed the choosers of the slain. A balcony you could do opera from, a supremely healthy physique, a martial upbringing, and better at fighting than most men.

She was also as greedy and on her worst days as paranoid as a drunk badger, which while arguably survival traits is not necessarily what you want in anybody you have to rely on. If, however, you can accept the occasional friendly stab as the cost of excellence, and Odin was not a harsh master in that regard, she would do.

Only one character flaw disqualified her, for she was content with her lot in life serving as spymistress to the chief of Neamt near the Black Sea, a giant of a man named Igor

wx8g2y.jpg



She came by her job in an unusual fashion. Having decided early in life that she quite liked living and would prefer to keep on doing so, wealthy if possible, she ruled out becoming war maid or otherwise engage in risky adventures due to the risk of risk of death, disfigurement, or dismemberment, and she ruled out marriage due to the risk of death in childbirth, not to mention the expenses of raising children. If everybody would just leave her alone rather than plotting to take advantage of her, as she knew very well they were, life would be good, so she turned down every offer of marriage and told people to mind their own business.

Her tribe, though reluctant to accept such a curious point of view, had come to appreciate its virtues after two of the tribe's more optimistic young warriors, Gavriil and Zhrets, upon catching her alone at the ripe age of 17 picking mushrooms in the forest, had tried to press their suit by wooing her in that classic fashion so beloved by men in a hurry that has nothing but directness and forcefulness to recommend itself.

They were to be found sorely wanting. When they made their intentions clear, she panicked, burst out of the Zhret's grapple, kneed him in the groin so hard his eyes popped out, and Gavriil, trousers around knees and mind oriented more towards offense than defense, was too slow to react as she ripped out his intestines, and strangled Zhret with them. And after that he was too busy screaming.

Iacoba sat down to have a good, hard, think, at this unwanted intrusion in her life. The men had family who might to avenge them, and she might be outlawed to secure the tribe's peace. It was all a bother really, but much depended on how the situation was presented to the tribe's elders.

Coming to a decision, she ripped off the heads that the two optimists no longer needed, fashioned two stakes, and mounted the heads upon them. She collected a few other memorabilia of the encounter, returned to the village, and rammed them into the ground in front of the chief's house, demanding an audience with him. People were leery at approaching her, for bloodsplattered as she was and with her hair and dress an utter mess she appeared fey, so chief Igor was soon found.

She told him about the attempted assault and handed him their wedding tackle, explaining that they no longer needed it, which to be fair Igor already suspected after seeing their heads. Assessing the situation he assigned her the job of spymistress/bodyguard, a comfortable sinecure as he couldn't afford any spies, and told her that so long as she protected him, he'd protect her.

As the years passed Iacoba and Igor lived happily with this arrangement, and it is likely that Iacoba would have lived and died a content spinster in Neamt, were it not for Eigill coming into her life, and it happened like this:

In Iacoba's 26th year of life, a fortune teller came to town.

Not, perhaps, the most original disguise, but one guaranteed to intrigue, and chief Igor sent Iacoba to ascertain whether this was a mere charlatan, a true fortune teller, or perhaps even a magician. Not being born yesterday, she brought two guards.

Little did she expect as the entered the fortune teller's tent, cloudy with incense of some kind, that she was embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.

Iacoba crossed the fortune teller's palm with silver, and told him that it had better be good.

He told her that her destiny lay far away with a tall fair stranger, a mighty chief and ring-giver, who would feed her well and give her many children.

She informed him that she'd never been further than the next village and had no intention to, was not the marrying type, and disliked being played for a fool, so unless he could prove himself to be of some use to chief Igor, she predicted that his life prove eventful, painful, and above all, short.

He asked her if she would bet good gold on that, because he felt really sure of his vision.

She agreed to the bet and called for her guards, but none came as Eigill's throat-slitters had already done their job.

Her paranoia spurring her to action, she tried to jump up, but as the drugged incense was finally getting to her, it was too late.

For safety's sake, she was conveyed in a cage, and as everybody who has travelled through Europe with a cage containing a paranoid valkyrie who wants your guts for garters will know, it makes for a stressful trip. It cost him two goons and a broken rib, and he was lucky to get off that lightly.

They arrived at Lejre in September 870, and presented with the caged woman, Sigurd was decidedly of two minds. While he had to agree with Eigill that Iacoba perfectly matched the stated requirements, and while he had nothing against spirited women, this one looked ready to spit fire or bite her way out of her cage.

Furthermore, this was the second eccentric paranoid woman Eigill had brought and unlike Gertruda, whose eccentricities tended to be of the intellectual variant, this one seemed, to the snake in Sigurd's eye, to be as likely to try to kill him as to kiss.

Which would certainly add spice to the relationship, and at least it wouldn't be diophantine equations all over again, whatever they were (he had never dared to ask), but he rather suspected that unless he were to break her, which would lead to weak children, an indirect approach was needed to gain her cooperation in the world's oldest leisure activity.

Fortunately Sigurd could be patient when he had to; it was one of his defining traits, the ability to plan for and wait for the right moment to take advantage to arise, and then to strike without delay.

Sigurd thus enlisted the help of his wise wife Yeldem, who took Iacoba in hand, had her cleaned and dressed as befit her new station, and acted as Sigurd's intermediary in a subtle seduction over the next five days. As Yeldem had a better understanding of Iacoba's culture and language than Eigill did, due to coming from the same general region, or at least the one a few mountain ranges over, and as Iacoba was smart enough to realize that however she had come to be here, there was no way home for her, she was open to persuasion.

Yeldem showed Iacoba the positives of her new life and urged her to let go of her old, where she was neither liked nor loved by anybody, but merely tolerated. Here, she was given to understand, she would have home, security, wealth, and rank as woman to a strong chief. She might even find friendship, though that would largely be up to her.

Of Sigurd himself she spoke, a great chief who, though given to streaks of zealousness and talking to his gods, and though not by any measure a kind man, was yet good to his women and required nothing from them but the obedience due his rank and the opportunity to sheathe his sword without risking life and limb. Born with a snake in his eye that saw through all deceit to the true nature of people, he was yet vulnerable to flattery so long as the flatterer understood that he knew very well what was going on but chose to tolerate it. Obey his rules and dominion over his household were theirs; Mostly Yeldem's, as his wife, but his other women were not without power of her own, as Gertruda could explain.

Iacoba mulled this a few days and agreed that Yeldem had a point. Certainly the good food and rich clothing she'd been given were a point in his favour, and while killing Sigurd, the architect of her misfortune, might be deeply satisfying, it did not seem conductive to her long term survival. Coming to terms, while terms were being offered rather than imposed, seemed the wiser solution.

And if the price was occasionally sharing his bed – but not too often, as much of the year he was away fighting and when he was home they were several sharing that particular job and he took turns - well, that was perhaps a price worth paying, depending on how you calculated the risk of dying in childbirth.

Not that Iacoba ever studied probability theory, you understand. Her calculations were of the “either you die in childbirth or you don't, so it is 50/50” variant so popular amongst the poorly educated, and this is what scared her off the idea in the first place.

But here, amongst strangers in the north, Gertruda was able to set her straight with a ratio of 1 to 4 out of 100, which sounded a lot better to Iacoba as Gertruda carefully didn't mention that that was per childbirth and the risks added up, because being the only concubine for Yeldem to lord over was a solitary lot when Sigurd was away on business in foreign lands and she wouldn't mind sharing.

Seduction complete, Yeldem and Gertruda high-fived as Iacoba went to Sigurd and told him in her broken Danish that they had a deal. She was his woman and he her man, she would obey him and defend him, and she would bear him strong children. In fact, if he'd come to her quarters they could have a go at the latter as she was quite interested in experiencing his highly praised sword-sheathing technique. She was 26 and not getting any younger, after all. She just had one small request first, one debt to repay to be done with her old life.

Sigurd, who had been lusting after her ever since he first saw her, growled that that there was no time like the present and looked ready to take her there and then, but with his veterans watching and as the lord he was, he asked her what debt that might be?

She explained her bet with Eigill and Sigurd agreed that such must be honoured, so Eigill was soon found and dragged to the hall, where he was presented to the royal couple.

Iacoba handed him a gold ring from her finger, congratulated him on winning their bet, and then, as he was struggling to find a proper answer, punched him in the gut, ripped out his intestines, and strangled him with them. Some habits die hard.

Initially stunned at this development, the hall erupted in laughter when she followed it up by apologizing to Sigurd for the mess, but Eigill had offended her and she always avenged a slight. With that out of the way her slate of grievances was clean (for now), so could they please get on with their business?

Sigurd laughed as loudly as any, for he realized then that Iacoba would fit right in. He carried her off to the cheers of his veterans.

Til17S.jpg



And thus Iacoba came to live in matrimonial bliss, or the next best thing anyway, and she bore Sigurd one son and two daughters and outlived him.

To Sigurd's ever-lasting regret, he never learned her impressive trick of ripping people's guts out without a blade, though not for a lack of trying on his foreign adventures. As Iacoba consoled him, it was all in the wrist action.


But as for the courtship of Sigurd, it was not yet done. Eigill was out of the picture, his task unfinished, but Sigurd's vision yet drove him.

The fourth of his four fair roses was yet to be found, and the finding consumed years. When he finally found Irmele on a business trip late 873 it was in most unusual circumstances.


-------​

Excerpt from: He was a good king, and that was a good thing

Jarl Bagsecg, the old enemy, has committed a fatal mistake.

Having served Sigurd ever since Sigurd defeated him and took the greater part of Jutland for his own, leaving Bagsecg only with Slesvig, Sigurd's apparent weakness following the losses of the Norwegian campaign of 881-883 has led to spontaneous acts of armed disagreement, and this leads Jarl Bagsecg into overconfidence.

He offends Sigurd at his very table in the summer of 883, and that is too great an opportunity to pass up on. Sigurd rallies his champions and moves to eliminate the Jutish pest once and for all.


Akj5Ns.jpg
 
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HistoryDude

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Well, Sigurd certainly isn't into monogamy.

That made it into the religion, I suppose?
 
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Peter Ebbesen

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Well, Sigurd certainly isn't into monogamy.

That made it into the religion, I suppose?
As was noted already in the first post, Sigurd was a great proponent of women's liberation and freed women from concubinage.

In other words, yes.

---

In other news, I'm finding the long-winded passive voice I've adopted for the Courtship of Sigurd rather tiresome to write and somewhat tiresome to read, so while the Courtship's third and final part will retain that voice, I've decided it is something Sigurd of Isfahan adapted especially to that particular tale of ancestral flattery and history polishing rather than being used throughout his work.
 
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In other news, I'm finding the long-winded passive voice I've adopted for the Courtship of Sigurd rather tiresome to write and somewhat tiresome to read, so while the Courtship's third and final part will retain that voice, I've decided it is something Sigurd of Isfahan adapted especially to that particular tale of ancestral flattery and history polishing rather than being used throughout his work.
I hope you resolve this problem with a change in the AAR's style and not its continuity. I've really enjoyed it so far and from your preface I gather the rest of the history of this dynasty is even more interesting.
 
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Nikolai

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Haha, wonderful story as always Peter. :D Enjoying this immensely.
 
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Peter Ebbesen

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I hope you resolve this problem with a change in the AAR's style and not its continuity. I've really enjoyed it so far and from your preface I gather the rest of the history of this dynasty is even more interesting.
No continuity changes! Not only am I much too far into the game for that, I quite like the way the game has been going; I'm just not satisfied with my own presentation. Part 3 of the Courtship has the same style as parts 1 and 2, later stories will have different styles, or a different mix of styles to get something a bit more active mixed in (we might even see a return to this passive style for the occasional entry, just not several in a row).

I've been a bit busy the last month but part 3 of the Courtship should be up soon. I'll update my .sig to reflect this when it is up.
 
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The Courtship of Sigurd, part three

Peter Ebbesen

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Born to Breed: House of the Prophets

- Chapter the Third: The Courtship of Sigurd, part three -
with brief excerpts from the world of 889 and 898


Excerpt from: He was a good king, and that was a good thing

As the Great Year of 889 comes to an end, the fighting in Norway is all but over with only a few holding out against the new order. 49 years old Sigurd is king of Denmark and Norway. Sweden remains in the hands of his brother Bjørn, whose health at 63 remains fine.

It will be another 7 years before the kingship passes to Karl Alofsson af Sigurdr, his great-grandson by his grandson Bjørn and Sigurds daughter Alof, as a result of the unfortunate deaths of Karl's father, grandfather, uncle, and others that might under other circumstances have inherited before him.

vXqEBu.jpg



In the south, the short-lived glory of Hæsteining rule is over, and the few surviving enclaves of northmen send for help, but none has come.

In the west Ivar's two eldest sons hold an iron grip on the north while Halfdan's sons hold the east. Both the Ivarings and Whiteshirts have expanded in Ireland as well, but for now the tide of Northmen conquests seem stopped by a resurgent Mercia and Wessex, while Alba looks on with concern.

But not all is as it seems.

Alfred of Wessex is caught completely unprepared when Sigurd launches the Christmas invasion, sending an army attack the soft underbelly of Wessex under the leadership of his brilliant son Baldr. To this hardened winter warrior and his veterans fresh from fighting in the coldest reaches of Norway, the English winter will prove little obstacle.

T8AuGw.jpg



Meet Irmele:
cCIjIl.png


This daughter of Franks was proof positive of the dangers of the lack of female education and the powerful influence of the skjalds. Hailing from the court of Zollern in East Francia, she grew up in a Christian household and her unladylike behaviour would undoubtedly have seen her packed off to a nunnery were it not for divine intervention and the miracle of 870.

For Irmele the Mighty was no dainty flower of Christendom. Brave to a fault and generous to all, she lived for adventure, as she told her confessor, father Filibert, in 867, aged 14, when asked what she wanted in life.

She'd go forth and fight for Christendom against the heathens, defeat bandits, save villages, rescue manly princes and/or stray dogs, be married to one of them, and be feted for it by bards! After a quick clarification that she meant marriage to a rescued prince, not a dog, so father Filibert need not worry on that account, she elucidated on her strengths. She exercised harder than any of the other children, fought better than most, she had her health, her youth, and her strong arm, and was she not righteous? What more could possibly be required?

200 ave marias and soaking her head in a bucket, apparently.

Her abilities were well suited for young men seeking adventure, but God was dead set against women engaging in such acts and in addition it was well known that manly princes were the rescuers, not the rescuees, and how was her embroidery coming along these days?

By 16 she had realized that not only father Filibert but the world itself was set against her dream. She had also realized that the so-called stronger sex might have more than one use, something she had long suspected and was eager to test in practice, and her parents were getting worried for she had a glint in her eye that would have spelled trouble were it not that her poor cooking, awful embroidery, and lack of substantial dowry discouraged formal suitors, while her ability to bench press a knight and kick down a door discouraged suitors of a more informal bent. But it was only a matter of time before she set her mind to running down somebody and having her wicked way with him, they worried, and they began shopping around for a nunnery that would take her.

In her 17th year a miracle occurred. Savage Hæstein, terror of the west, had gone on adventure and killed good king Ludwig III, subjugating East Francia and renaming the realm West Franconia for unknown reasons of his own, and he began appointing new lords.

SFDEOi.jpg



One such was Ragnarr the Lucky, one of Hæstein's huskarls who'd had the good fortune of being close enough to Ludwig when he lost his head to a well-aimed chop, that he caught Ludwig's head in flight. He was rewarded with a “Good catch!” from Hæstein, granted the county of Zollern, and sent on his way to his new home with men who swore themselves to his cause, and his good friend, the famous godi, skjald, and unrepentant mischief-maker, Knud Sneakpisser, went with him.

The invasion and Hæstein's famous “Purge of the Nunneries” put paid to her parent's plan, and no sooner had Ragnarr arrived in Zollern than Knud put paid to Filibert in theological debate with the ever popular Thorian argument that consists of the direct application of hammer to skull, something father Filibert for all his Latin wisdom was unprepared for. “O tempora! O mores!” he said, and expired.

Standing over the body of his vanquished opponent Knud proclaimed himself their new confessor with very reasonable rates for the abolition of sins. Furthermore he would recount the deeds of greatest of men for entertainment and praise Ragnarr for generosity, being a veritable two for the price of one.

He settled in quickly, and was in his element charming and/or horrifying the crowd when young Irmele first heard him tell the story of the old kings of the north and their exploits in years gone by before men softened, from Ivar Vidfamne though Harald Hildetand to Sigurd Ring, and what Irmele heard was a call to adventure.

So she confessed her old dream to Knud, and in him she found a very different type of confessor. Seizing her up, he liked what he saw: The raw material for a saga in the making, or at the least a good joke to play on Ragnarr, but raw material in need of toughening up.

Rather than ave marias, he demanded arms training, every day, every week, until none could stand against her. As for the lusty dreams she confessed to, well, what else would one expect from a fine woman like her? He suggested gritting her teeth and channelling her frustrated sexual energy into violence – that always worked for him when on campaign, and it beat biting shields and was gentler on the teeth to boot.

And so she trained. By the time of her 19th birthday in 872 Knud thought her worthy of seeking adventure and broached the topic of her adventuring goals. She had originally indicated that she wanted to fight for the weakling Christ, defend pitiful serfs from valiant raiders, and rescue a prince (she'd gotten over dogs by the time she met Knud), and if that was still her goal, who was he to say that her priorities were wrong? But he urged her to consider the ideal of Brynhild and other famous heroines of old.

Princes worth the having were not rescued, they either rescued or had to surmount challenges. As an example Sigurd had had to cut Brynhild out of a suit of armour, but what with technological advances in defensive design that sounded mightily uncomfortable to him, so perhaps that was not the best example. And as for challenging princes to ride through a wall of fire to get to her, walls of fire were few and far between in these lesser days. Perhaps the old “I'll only yield to the man who beats me?” challenge was more to her liking?

Irmele granted that he had a point about Christ, but she was adamant that she'd be the one doing the rescuing and she'd set her own challenge, thank you very much. Knud appreciated her confidence and sent her on her way with his blessing, though he urged her not to get tempted by just any prince, because a good man was hard to find.

UDwTuz.jpg



By iron and blood she carved her way into the wider world, and it was a wiser and battle-hardened Irmele who greeted her 20th birthday on the road in Orleans.

The Church did not want defending by a woman, the serfs considered her a freak, and the only prince she'd seen had set his hounds upon her and gotten himself, and them, killed as a result.

Her latest adventure, declaring herself the war-maid of Orleans and offering king Charles the Bald her sword to save Francia from the Wrath of the Northmen, had ended in ignominy; Whatever she was, she was certainly no maid of theirs and the king was much too busy to hear such nonsense from a mercenary. Outlawed in nine counties and severely disliked in another three, it would be enough to turn anybody bitter.

Anybody but a true heroine, that is! If the Christians would not have her, perhaps the Northmen would. She set her sight north and began her journey into legend.

And thus, gentle reader, we approach the fateful meeting at the Ditmarsch Ford in the fall of 873, so beloved by the incurably romantic. On the one side of the ford, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye with seven of his trusted men, wondering what the huge man in an ill-fitting helm and breastplate challenging their right to pass was thinking.

On the other side, Irmele, fresh from waylaying and plundering a band of Christian pilgrims. Having realized over the past year that if she wanted to rescue a northern prince, she'd have to catch one first, she had planned carefully and set this trap for the grand prize of the north.

Contrary to popular tradition, Irmele's shouted challenge, “I challenge you to single combat for the right of passage” was not followed by a romantic poetry contest or single combat between Irmele and Sigurd, but by javelins. She cut the javelins from their flight and mocked Sigurd's men to do better. Intrigued, Sigurd motioned three of them to charge the knight, and she slew them all.

Greatly pleased that Sigurd had passed her challenge of wits by not accepting single combat when he had the numerical advantage, she leaped across the ford, threw Sigurd to the ground with a mighty slam of her shield, and slew the rest of his band.

Sigurd woke in the evening to a disturbing chant and the unexpected feeling of somebody manhandling him. Eyes closed he tried lightly moving his limbs, but found himself well and truly tied up, spread-eagled on his back on the ground with each hand and foot firmly secured by rope.

Then he felt a knife's edge sliding gently down his ribs without cutting, and deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, he carefully sneaked a peek – and saw a gloriously naked young amazonian woman with all the bits in the right places leaning over him with a knife. The source of the noise became clear, as she was chanting “a hard man is good to find” over and over to herself while cutting away at his armour.

He did not recognize her, and felt reasonably sure he would if he had encountered her on his adventures, so she was probably the sister or daughter of one of his victims, or a camp follower of whatever band the knight that assailed his camp belong to. But what a body! Definitely concubine material, if he had not been stripped of his weapons, tied up, and was undoubtedly about to be horribly tortured and/or killed.

Various conversational approaches flittered through his agile mind, but none readily recommended themselves to the situation on hand. “What are you doing?” seemed self-explanatory, “unhand me!” was perhaps too demanding in the circumstances”, and “I'm the king. I need help. I'll reward you”, while at least 2/3rds true, seemed rather needy. He was considering variations of “please be my concubine”, “don't kill me” that would not cause him to be stabbed, when she spoke first, saying: “You can open your eyes now, Sigurd. I know you are awake.” Sigurd's eyes remained firmly closed, and she continued:

“Is that the iron rod of dominion in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, and gave it a pat.

Thus betrayed by his body, Sigurd sarcastically responded, “definitely the iron rod of dominion.”

“And a mighty one it is. Two points. Now, don't move while I'm rescuing you,” she continued while cutting away at his armour, “this is tricky.”

“Dear lady, might I suggest you cut the ropes if you are planning to rescue me before the bandits return?”

“Doesn't work that way, sorry,” the amazonian beauty responded cheerfully while removing the last of his chest armour and upper clothes, “there aren't any bandits for you to worry about, and you need to lie still while I'm cutting you out of your armour. If I cut the ropes I'll lose all the effort I put into capturing you as you'll either get all excited and run away, or you'll fight me and get yourself killed, spoiling my rescue, so that's not going to happen.”

“So.. you are rescuing me from yourself after killing seven of my men. Are you aware of how insane that is, woman!” Sigurd shouted, his mouth for once running faster than his agile mind.

Her head lowered over his, she gazed into his eyes and spoke softly: “I've been planning on rescuing a prince for years and I've finally chosen you, and I've got a speech, and a candlelit dinner for two, and everything ready for you to have a good time... so, Sigurd, riddle me this. Should you be complaining about every small matter that annoys you to the possibly insane and/or dangerously unstable woman with a knife, who has very definitely killed seven of your men all by her lonesome, or should you shut up and let her rescue you?”

And Sigurd's Snake-in-the-Eye saw her earnestness, and it saw beyond her earnestness into the utterly sane but seriously weird mind of Irmele, and he answered, “A reverse Brynhild with you playing Sigurd, is it? Kinky. Cut away.”

And so she did, cutting away his lower armour and clothes with care, while Sigurd contemplated the irony of the situation.

“Behold!” she cried, “thus I have rescued you, fair prince, and you have passed my tests of wits and of patience!” Getting into the spirit of the thing Irmele declaimed her long-rehearsed lines: “Now skyclad I greet you, and I will marry you and give praise to Freya once you've passed my third and final test!”

“Amazing speech! Truly one of the greats. Praise Freya!” Sigurd cajoled her, “And as for the rescue, very well done indeed. I've never felt as rescued and safe before so I'm all for marrying you, what a splendid idea. Not insane at all. Now, how about you untie me and tell me about the third test while we have that dinner for two?”

“Nu-oh, you aren't going to trick me that easily. No dinner until after R&R and the passing of the third test!”, she responded, a bit crossly. And then smugly, “you'll be too exhausted to run from me then”.

“What third test?” Sigurd wondered, “got a wall of flame handy?”

“Stamina,” she replied, gripping the iron rod of dominion. “You are in for Rescue and Ravishment. To the victor go the spoils, and you are mine.” A dreamy look mugged her face and would not let go, “I've been dreaming about this for five years.”

“Pretty sure that wasn't part of the tale of Sigurd Ring and Brynhild, lady”, Sigurd gasped as she got to work, substituting an abundance of youthful energy for skill.

“Well, if not, it should have been”, Irmele replied, “Pretty sure that princesses are in for both rescue and ravishment when saved by a hero whether they need rescuing or not, or else why would they get married so soon afterwards in the stories?”

“Poetic license, probably. Woman, have mercy! I don't even know your name!”

“I doubt that ever stopped you, so lie back and think of Denmark. You will be graded on performance.”

Resistance finally overcome, she gave him a tumble, or as much of a tumble as could be achieved while he was tied up, anyway, and fettered or not it is impressive how man can rise to the occasion when his life depends on it.

Of what followed nobody knows, but possibly they had a romantic candlelit dinner for two. Irmele and Sigurd returned to court as lovers some days later, Sigurd looking rather the worse for wear, and about their meeting they were reticent.

This story was recorded by the poet Gertruda, Irmele's fellow concubine, and long thought lost. Whether flight of fancy or long lost truth no mortal can know: the truth is lost to history.


mu3y02.jpg


Irmele the Mighty bore Sigurd but one child, their daughter Rizika, and while the other concubines stayed at home she accompanied Sigurd on most of his foreign adventures, always first into the fray. She died fighting in England in the 55th year of her life on August 12, 908.

Thus ends the Courtship of Sigurd in late 873, the last and most prickly of his four fair roses plucked. His fifth rose, Skuld, the rose of his old age, was yet a child and it would be many years before she crossed paths with Sigurd.


Pre-Enlightenment Religious Art

The famous painting known as "The Family Picnic", showing a proud Sigurd 'Snake-in-the-Eye'and his four fair roses, which has been reproduced faithfully in religious art since the 10th century, is believed to have been originally painted from life in 874. Temple tradition has it that Sigurd himself is responsible for the annotations.

ohWVzw.jpg




Excerpt from: He was a good king, and that was a good thing

Long designs find their culmination in the year 898. For nine years the armies under Sigurds' sons have been fighting holy wars in England and West Franconia, and using an admittedly flimsy pretext Sigurd displaced his nephew Styrbjørn, son of Sigfrid, son of Halfdan Whiteshirt in Jorvik.

LZc6iP.jpg



With Jorvik, Paderborn, and Ranaheim all under his direct rule, and Uppsala held by his grandson Karl, Sigurd at 58 years of age and still going strong organizes the Asatru faith to resist the foreign faiths that surround them. The new and improved Asatru is a harder and more fundamentalist faith with less room for wishy-washy plurality thinking.

Sigurd knows the gods, and they know him, and his views will prevail, for he proclaims himself Fylkir, and the godis proclaim him the saviour of the true faith, consecrating his bloodline. He, his sons, and everybody who follows the true gods will sweep the false religions from the world whereever encountered.

While to most people few things will change, to others the changes are far reaching indeed. The godis are now secular rulers in their own rights rather than theocratic vassals of the ruler, and in time this will change their role in society immensely, but few people care.

What people do care about is the empowering of women. Odin has granted Sigurd a vision, and it is nothing less than a revolution in the relationship between men and women.

No longer will any women be forced into concubinage at the whim of a man with no say in her own destiny, and no longer will any women be discarded from concubinage when she grows old or her man tires of her, for concubinage is outlawed in favour of polygamous marriage. If a man wants a woman he can have her in holy union and accord her her rightful due as wife or not at all (women employed in houses of negotiable affection and those encountered on foreign adventures don't count), and the more holy unions the better. If he tires of her, he will divorce her legally and grant her her rightful share.

Moreover, so long as it is done in holy marriage, aunts are allowed to lie with nephews and uncles with nieces, for love knows few bounds and, frankly, that's how the gods have been living all along.

Fylkir Sigurd, mightiest of his name, has seen far, but divinity is complex and he has not seen all – he has merely seen as much of it as he could possibly comprehend given his background and the times he lived in.

Like all save the first and the last prophet he could neither see what came before nor what came after, but his life was glorious and he is celebrated by the righteous as the third prophet and the protector of women.
 
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Peter Ebbesen

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Post #2 updated with the list of the prophets revealed so far.
 
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Well, that was one helluva impressive shield maid.
 
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filcat

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Certainly the most memorable song of EU2!
Agreed with absolute joy.

That is the only file left in the current hard-drive from the original cd, as carried it through eight computer-overhauls for the past nineteen years (original cd is still on the shelf of hall-of-fame, though:D)
 
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Peter Ebbesen

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Well, that was one helluva impressive shield maid.
Indeed she was. Her in-game stats weren't bad either. ;)

She reached her height of prowess with 39 (12 base, 3 brave, 8 amazonian, 3 shield-maid, 5 berserker, 6 blademaster, 2 Holy Site - she ended up a faithful (2) follower of Asatru), and declined in old age to 28 before she was finally slain in battle aged 55.

Her one child, Rizika, who was ambitious, arrogant, and fickle, inherited her mother's amazonian build and became a pretty good shield-maid too (30 prowess) before she settled down as the duchess of Deheubart in Ireland to mass produce adorably tough babies, having been married off (matrilineally) to another of Sigurd's champions, an honest, calm, and forgiving herculean bisexual adulterer.

Both were illusive shadows by education, but Rizika had skill 17 and her husband skill 8, including +3 bonus from his spouse, because honesty and forgiveness aren't prime intrigue traits. Frankly, that pair belongs in a sit-com.

But I get ahead of myself. :D
 
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The Autumn Rose

Peter Ebbesen

the Conqueror
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Mar 3, 2001
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Born to Breed: House of the Prophets

- Chapter the Fourth: The Autumn Rose -

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Excerpt: The Man and the Myth: Sigurd 'Snake-in-the-Eye'

What shall we say then of Sigurd? That he was an avaricious man in his youth, a warrior full grown? That he was a learned man, dedicating his latter years to scholarship and the search for knowledge that could extend his life? That he was a complex and multifaceted man? All of these are true, but they are not the whole truth.

Drawing upon surviving sources, we have attempted to reconstruct his Klamphugger-Jensen diagram in 901, a decade before his death:

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The Autumn Rose

The death of Sigurd's beloved wife Yeldem the Wise in 901 under mysterious circumstances led to a curious power vaccuum amongst his wives. As a quartet they were the well-oiled machine that kept Sigurd happy and motivated and the royal household running smoothly, duties carefully parcelled out between them, and the lack of Yeldem was cruelly felt as she had shouldered most of the household duties all along.

Irmele the Mighty had no interest in governing his household at all beyond training the guards, Gertruda the Poet was too lazy and utterly opposed to extending her household duties beyond arranging parties and teaching children, and Iacoba the Mostly Serene, while possessing many positive qualities, was a bit too eager to put servants to death for potentially plotting against her and it had taken all of Yeldem's wisdom to employ her profitably with an acceptable casualty rate.

What they needed, Gertruda explained to her fellow wives, was a replacement Yeldem, though perhaps one with less of an authoritarian streak. Somebody amenable to suggestions. She proposed that they pick a fourth wife for Sigurd and present him with her as a fait d'accompli; if they stood together he'd never stand a chance.

Somebody old enough and wise enough to be of help, strong enough of spirit to stand up to Sigurd when necessary, yet not so smart or devious as to prove a threat to them or their children or to ignore their suggestions, nor so young as to see Sigurd as anything but her final chance for matrimony and a decent old age. Somebody good looking and already experienced in the matrimonial arts who could charm a snake to life, for the old boar wasn't getting any younger, and, ideally, somebody infertile without children of her own.

Irmele and Iacoba were greatly impressed, but questioned the feasibility of finding on short order a learned infertile widow in her thirties without children, who had a body built for sin and a mind with no deceit amenable to wifely conspiracy and suggestions.

By fortunate coincidence, Gertruda told them, she just happened to have the perfect candidate on hand: Her protégé Skuld, widowed a few years back and without children, who had long served as her good right hand in arranging parties and doing mathematics on the side. Skuld was both diplomatic and learned, excellent at commanding servants and unyielding in the face of opposition, and was of personality ambitious, generous, and just and a true pleasure as a friend. Moreover, she didn't have a deceitful bone in her body and wasn't smart, and, even more importantly, she was aware of her own limitations and knew how to listen to advice. Finally, as for her body, built for sin was perhaps stretching the truth, but it definitely had the right curves and she had cunning hands, red hair, and she knew not to chatter. It should be enough to fire the old boar's blood.

Sitting on his throne Sigurd may have blinked once when confronted with Skuld and orders to marry her from his three wives, but he didn't blink twice, for he saw right through Gertruda's intrigue, as she had no doubt planned for.

He liked her solution to the power vaccum, and if bright Gertruda had chosen Skuld, she would undoubtedly do her job well and faithfully, for Gertruda's love and loyalty had never been in doubt and she was a keen observer of character. And, he admitted to himself, in Skuld he liked what he saw. He might be old, but he had his iron constitution, and with the right ministrations... Aye, there was life in the old fellow still. Calling for a godi, creaky knees and aching back were forgotten as he rose to greet his bride. After all, there was no time like the present, and if life gives you melons, grab them while you can.

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Skuld survived Sigurd and bore him no children.
 
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