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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Green Rice

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Cover Pic.png


"Give 'Em the Ol' Basel Razzle-Dazzle"
A Habsburg After-Action Report
by Green Rice

Foreword

Hello and welcome to my first-ever After-Action Report! My name is Green Rice and I'm excited to share this story with you!
Please feel free to leave constructive feedback so I can improve your reading experience.
I'll mainly be looking for what details I'm glossing over that you want to see, and what you consider information overload.

I actually didn't start this game with the intent of doing an AAR, but I was having so much fun that I wanted to immortalize it. So I apologize in advance for the lack of detail and screenshots for the first few chapters. I don't have as many save files as I would like to go back and get screenshots and information I've forgotten. Insert clichéd phrase about hindsight. So bear with me in the beginning if you're the type of reader who loves the nitty-gritty, I promise you'll get it soon!

Okay, with the disclaimers out of the way, let me give you the overview of this campaign:

Starting Character/Date: Werner von Habsburg, Count of Basel and Baron of Habsburg. 15 September 1066.
Game Rules: Exclave Independence set to Harsh, De Jure Requirement set to Required, Absurd Events Off (I know, burn me at the stake, but it's just my preference, I don't dislike anyone who actively seeks out Glitterhoof. It's just not my cup of tea), Supernatural Events On, Historical Epidemics/Events, Border Dispute Wars Off (for extra challenge), Custom Realms Off.
DLC: All expansions minus Rajas of India, The Republic, and Sunset Invasion.
Mods:
  • Community Patch
  • Better Looking Garbs
  • Visible Health/Fertility
  • In Heaven's Graphic Overhaul Lite (and Font)
  • Better Council Scaling
  • Councillor XP
  • Favor: Impossible Invitation Warning
  • Less Random Deadly Duels
  • Improved Genetics 2.0
  • Rich Childhood
  • Homemade mod that improves compatibility between the previous two mods and tweaks the AI decision-making process when it comes to trait interventions. (e.g., if a kid wants to become Wroth from Brooding, and the tutor is Temperate and gets the intervention event but the tutor is also Wroth himself/herself, the tutor will lean towards letting the kid be Wroth). I had dreams to flesh out that mod to a super-intelligent guardian-matching system, but I ran into technical difficulties. Any experienced event modders in the audience who would be interested in lending a hand, PM me!

3 Primary Goals of the Campaign:
  1. At minimum, gain the titles most commonly attributed to the Habsburg dynasty: Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and of course, the Holy Roman Empire
  2. Move capital to Wien/Vienna
  3. Obtain the Iron Crown of Lombardy
In addition to the Primary Goals, I'll also be trying to get good traits and bloodlines, primarily ones that improve Cultural Opinion with the subjects of any foreign titles we obtain. Unlike the real Habsburgs, we're going to keep our multi-ethnic dominion in as close to one piece as we can!

The Table of Contents below is just for show. New chapters will be threadmarked.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Werner Gets Hungry for Hungary
Chapter 2: Maladies, Mirth, and Mishaps
Chapter 3: Polish Politics and Problems of Posterity
Chapter 4: Franche-Comté Chainsaw Massacre (sans Chainsaw)
Chapter 5: Devil's Due
Chapter 6: Habsburg Hungary Pans Out, but Premyslid Poland Perpetuates Problems
Chapter 7: The Wars of Amalie and Adelbero
Chapter 8: Bohemian Rhapsody
Chapter 9: Simon Enrolls in the Electoral College
Chapter 10: Babes and Bank Accounts
Chapter 11: Movin' On Up (Through the Line of Succession)
Chapter 12: Quid Pope Quo
Chapter 13: Omnes Laudate Regem
Chapter 14: Victors, Voters, Vexers, and Victims
Chapter 15: Whack-a-Rebel
Chapter 16: Fishy Situations
Chapter 17: The Best Laid Plans
Chapter 18: Kaiserschaft
 
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Good luck! Ready, set ... :)

PS: it was the corny Dad puns that got me to look in :D
 
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Chapter 1: Werner Gets Hungry for Hungary

Green Rice

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Chapter 1: Werner Gets Hungry for Hungary


Werner Start.png

Our story begins in the quiet Swiss province of Basel. Count Werner von Habsburg rules a little fief next to that of his brother-in-law, Count Ulrich von Lenzburg of Bern. Werner is a tough soldier, patient, diligent, gregarious, and…content. Well, maybe he’s content with his lands, but Werner seeks to leave the next generation of Habsburgs with more than he alone can give.

Fortunately, the Kingdom of Hungary is in regency for their newly-teenage king, Árpád Salamon, and Werner has two children, Otto and Ida, with which to forge the alliances necessary to take Salamon’s throne for a more worthy candidate.

Hungary has a virtual buffet of attractive, young, and hopefully fertile princesses. There’s only one hiccup in Werner’s plan: he’s already married to a lowborn woman named Reginlind, and even if the Pope cared about a backwater count in Switzerland, Reginlind has given no cause for His Holiness to grant Werner a divorce.

However, the one benefit of marrying a commoner is that no one cares about her life, so Werner hardens his heart and orders Reginlind imprisoned and then hanged, her neck breaking to match her heart. To ease his troubled mind, Werner begins a pilgrimage to Rome. Scholars would wonder for years why Werner didn’t spare Reginlind and order her to join a convent once she was at his mercy in the dungeons, and their colleagues would point to Werner’s low learning skill and to a particularly incompetent advisor who went straight to the prisoner screen instead of the targeted decisions menu.

Reginlind.png


Returned from Rome with what Reginlind would almost certainly consider an ironic newfound appreciation for charity, Werner begins planning his second marriage. His new bride is the 17-year-old Princess Árpád Mária, a woman with a head for sums and money, although her self-restraint meant she sometimes passed the most lucrative opportunities.

Maria Start.png



While on pilgrimage, Werner had written back to his regent, Bishop Simon of St-Ursanne, to arrange the betrothals for his children. Ida’s hand was promised to Prince Bretislav Premyslid of Bohemia, eldest son of Duke Vladislav. With this pact Werner gained the backing of the second-largest military force in the empire: 3,400 levy troops and counting. However the Bohemians would be a belated reinforcement should an enemy attack close to home, so Otto, the heir, was matched with Gisele d’Ivrea, third daughter and sixth child in total of Duke Guillaume of the neighboring realm of Franche-Comté. For extra insurance Werner got a written agreement of mutual defense signed by his brother-in-law in Bern.

Bretislav and Ida.png
Gisele and Otto.png



With these three pacts, Werner now has access to an army six times that which he could have raised on his own. And none too soon, for King Árpád Salamon is drawing near the age of majority and his coronation within the next two years. After that day, his reign will be too legitimate in the eyes of Werner’s new allies, and he will not be able to call them to depose Salamon in favor of his cousin, the new Baroness of Habsburg.

And so, on 21 February, 1067, the fourteen-year-old King of Hungary receives a sealed scroll of cheap parchment informing him that a minor Swiss count is declaring war to press his cousin Mária’s claim to his throne. Salamon promptly snorts with laughter and asks his regent, the Queen Mother Anastasia of Rus, if she was trying to audition for the title of court jester. His mother replies sternly that this is a legitimate diplomatic missive and reads a second letter from the Duke of Bohemia. Salamon’s laughter cuts off abruptly, and within the hour messengers are on their way to every corner of the Carpathian Basin, calling all loyal sons of Hungary to war.

War on Hungary.png


Salamon’s forces manage to win an early victory at Esztergom against Count Werner himself in 1068, but the Lord of Basel regroups his coalition’s forces and leads them to a victorious rematch at the Second Battle of Esztergom in January of the next year.

In February of 1069, while the Habsburg forces are in the process of laying siege to the Hungarian capital of Esztergom, Werner realizes one ally hasn’t yet appeared: the Duke of Franche-Comté. Werner soon discovers why: the treaty of alliance he had meant to send for the Duke’s signature had been left on his desk at Habsburg Castle! One swift horse and one beheaded advisor later (rumored to be the same dullard who had “conveniently” forgotten about the existence of nunneries during the Reginlind debacle) and Duke Guillaume’s banners are crossing the Danube to aid in the capture of King Salamon’s personal holdings.

A third and final battle of Esztergom takes place when the coalition arrives to break a siege against their garrison by King Salamon’s main army, desperate to reclaim the capital. Werner distinguishes himself as a specialist in the skilled deployment of heavily-armored infantrymen, while the king distinguishes himself by losing his right eye in a battlefield duel. Unfortunately for posterity, so many of the allied commanders claimed to be the man who took the king’s eye (some even brandishing macabre trophies ostensibly from the royal head) that the true identity of Salamon’s opponent that day has been lost to history. Salamon himself, rather than offer up any useful information, would instead offer up a jest when asked if he had any idea: “How should I know? He came at me from the right!”


By May of 1070, even the now half-blind Salamon can see the writing on the wall. On the morning of the 15th, he walks into the throne room of Komárom Castle in Esztergom, dressed in full regal attire. He sits on the throne as a board is laid on his lap, a roll of parchment rolled out on it, and a quill placed in his hand. The young king reads the proclamation in Magyar, his voice stirring the audience with its combination of honesty and righteous indignation towards his enemies. Then he signs his name, presses his royal seal in wax next to it, and hands the parchment to the court chamberlain. The board is taken away, Salamon rises, and his court kneels before him one final time as he turns and lays his scepter, his robe, and finally his crown on the throne. Retaking the parchment from his chamberlain, he walks silently to the front steps of the palace, where Mária and her shabbily-dressed husband are waiting. The normally talkative Salamon says not a single word to his cousin, any remaining familial love for Mária buried deep behind an icy stare, as he hands her the official notice of his abdication. He passes by Werner on his right, so as to avoid even the pretense of a glance to acknowledge the count's existence, and begins the journey to his new seat in Sopron, trying not to hear the crowd behind him chanting, “Long live Queen Mária!”

Dethroned Salamon.png
Queen Maria.png
Edited on 2020.5.18 from original to fix typos and inconsistent tense.
Edited on 2020.5.21 to correct Bohemian troop counts, which I had somehow doubled in my head.


Next Time...
Count Werner receives tidings both good and ill, and young Otto begins to walk a path of darkness...
 
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Green Rice

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Good luck! Ready, set ... :)

PS: it was the corny Dad puns that got me to look in :D
Thanks for the well-wishes! I'm actually several generations into the actual game, so the first few days are going to be playing catch-up, but I won't spoil how things are going just yet! Glad you enjoyed my title, it came to me in a brain wave and thankfully my search of the forums didn't turn up any AARs that had already used it, I was half-afraid someone else had beaten me to the punch! I think you'll enjoy some moments from my first chapter where I throw in a little self-deprecating, fourth-wall-breaking humor.
 

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Off to an excellent start!
Scholars would wonder for years why Werner didn’t spare Reginlind and order her to join a convent once she was at his mercy in the dungeons, and their colleagues would point to Werner’s low learning skill and to a particularly incompetent advisor who went straight to the prisoner screen instead of the targeted decisions menu.
This is the kind of thing I’d do. ;)
One swift horse and one beheaded advisor later (rumored to be the same dullard who had “conveniently” forgotten about the existence of nunneries during the Reginlind debacle)
Had there been a dog lounging innocently nearby, I’m sure it would have received a sharp kick and a portion of the blame from the irate but self-excusing Werner. :D
I think you'll enjoy some moments from my first chapter where I throw in a little self-deprecating, fourth-wall-breaking humor.
Oh yes, you were right there. Humour + gameplay details adapted into the story etc. I’m enjoying it already and looking forward to the start of the ‘fully AAR played’ part.

PS: I love the opening shot of Werner. Looks like he’s auditioning for an 11th century ZZ Top cover band! :cool:
 
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Chapter 2: Maladies, Mirth, and Mishaps

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Chapter 2: Maladies, Mirth, and Mishaps

I
t was May of 1070 A.D.,
and the new King Consort of Hungary, Werner of Basel, was relaxing in his new chambers in Komárom Castle, while his wife, Queen Árpád Mária was seeing supplicants downstairs in the throne room. Much had happened during his three-year campaign that he needed to reflect on.

He coughed and felt his stomach churn a little. Early in the year his Court Physician, Siegfried, had given him the grave news: cancer. Siegfried was an excellent healer, and Werner knew that he was as infallible when it came to medicine as the Pope was on religion. He put his head in his hands. Mária had yet to conceive him a child, the future Habsburg king of Hungary, the reason he had sought her hand in the first place and left his two children behind for the past three years, with neither father nor mother to comfort them. If he was to die so soon, it would have all been in vain. Was the Lord punishing him, or the ghost of poor Reginlind?

“Fear not, my liege,” Siegfried had reassured him, “for before I came to Basel I traveled far and wide to study with the greatest medical minds in the world, from Hispania in the west to Baghdad in the east, and I have collected their knowledge on the proper treatment of this disease. If you ask it of me, I will treat you with one of their methods, or…” he trailed off.

“Or what, Master Siegfried?” the count had demanded to know. “Do you see another way in which I might defeat this affliction?”

“It is merely a hypothesis,” Siegfried warned. “I have yet to test it on a patient, but if I am correct, it could combine the benefits of all the various methods I have seen.”

“How confident are you that you are correct?”

“As confident as any general before a well-planned battle, sire. Optimistic but prepared for the enemy to have tricks of his own.”

Werner had sighed. He had risked his life in two battles already and was already on his way to a third. What difference was it if he wagered it on a field of battle or in Siegfried’s tent?


Cancer.png



“Then as your liege, I give my blessing to your stratagem, General Siegfried. Go and collect what you need for this experimental treatment at once. I shall remain here until your return.”

Siegfried had bowed his head and left the tent. He returned an hour or two later with a small package wrapped in a small leather satchel.

“Thank you, my lord, for the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of the healing arts by practicing on your noble personage. What I have in this satchel may be…unsettling, but rest assured that its efficacy will outweigh its unpleasantness.”

“Siegfried, just what are you plan—SAINTS ALIVE, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!”

Werner wasn’t sure which had been more frightening: his first impression of the satchel’s contents or reality. At first glance, he thought that Siegfried had brought a spider of gargantuan size, but Werner had quickly realized that the “spider” had only five legs, and one shorter than the other — it was a hand, black and foul-smelling and distorted from the blood pooling within. No doubt Siegfried had removed it from a wounded soldier some time ago.

“WHAT KIND OF SACRILEGE—“ Werner had continued, but Siegfried had laid a gentle finger to his lord’s lip.

“Hush, lord, it would not do you well in your state to agitate yourself. You have put your trust in me, and I have not misled you about my research. Continue to trust me, and you will live to see your ambitions fulfilled.”

Werner had relented and lain back on the table as Siegfried touched the putrid thing to his bare chest and manipulated the cold, dead fingers to make them press various points. The smell had been horrific, but Werner woke up the following morning feeling much rejuvenated and with fewer symptoms. He had congratulated Siegfried that evening, right before his glorious second victory at Esztergom that had cinched Mária’s ascension.


Cancer Treatment.png



That was now several months behind him, and Werner was beginning to worry that the cough was returning. Perhaps Siegfried had only bought him time, not a complete cure. If so, all the more reason to give Mária an heir.

There had also been troubling developments back in Switzerland even before the cancer. Werner hadn’t been gone two months from Basel when a messenger had caught up to his army to inform him that on 16 May, 1067, Kaiser Heinrich IV ‘the Young’ had made Count Géraud de Genève of Genfergau and Vaud the first Duke of Transjurania, and given him the counties of Bern, Neuchatel, and Basel as vassals. Included in the announcement was a request for Werner to join his new liege’s council as Chancellor. Werner sent a reply to Genfergau accepting the position but regretfully informing Géraud that he would be Chancellor in absentia for the foreseeable future. It would be an annoyance to have to split his time between his own keep, his wife’s, and his liege’s, but if this Géraud turned out to be a thorn in Werner’s side, it was better to keep him under a close eye.


Geraud.png



And what a thorn the new Duke proved to be, immediately writing back to demand Werner join the council in person at once or be declared in rebellion. Werner reluctantly made all possible haste back the way he came. If he was unenthusiastic to be stuck in Genfergau, by the end of his first council session he was ready to break through the walls of the castle at Genf with his bare hands if it meant he could escape. Géraud seemed two men in one body. With his right hand he gave generously to others, later even going so far as to grant the county of Vaud to his spymaster, an Egyptian convert named Ghaysan, in April of 1071. But with the left hand he brutally maintained restrictions on the common folk and his vassal lords. The other painfully obvious contradiction in his character, Werner observed, was that he both coveted that which he did not have, be it another man’s land or his wife, and yet was a trembling coward whenever he was challenged by the same man. On top of that, the Frenchman’s disdain for his Germanic subjects was made plain by the way he dismissed their suggestions with barely a moment’s consideration, and Werner in particular seemed to draw Géraud’s ire whenever he made a contribution to the discussion his liege disapproved of. The Duke regularly mocked Werner’s tentative title of King Consort of Hungary and made lewd comments about Mária. Such conduct came not completely as a surprise to Werner, as Géraud was known to be an occasional rake (he'd later father and acknowledge a bastard by the wife of one of his courtiers in 1071), but were still offensive enough that Werner vowed silently to avenge his wife’s honor.

There were other, less personal reasons to consider supplanting Géraud, Werner realized as he mulled over his thoughts later that evening. Whether or not Mária would provide him with a child was yet to be seen, and in the worst case scenario, if such a child was not to be, or if this gamble of a war failed to pay off, then the next generation of Habsburgs would have no more to inherit than Werner had, and that was not acceptable to him. So over the next two years, while still campaigning, Werner had sent secret letters seeking out other disgruntled persons of note in and around Transjurania. A mayor here, a bishop there. But the strangest bedfellow came in the form of the Duke of Savoy, Pierre. Genfergau had been part of his lands since antiquity, until the Kaiser had elevated its count, and so the Savoyard was intrigued at the possibility of knocking his former vassal back down a peg. It had been difficult, though, to negotiate Pierre down from his initial demand that Genfergau be immediately returned to him upon the successful conclusion of Werner’s coup.

“My lord,” Werner had said, “I can assure you that Géraud will insist I adhere to the gentlemanly rules of warfare and allow him to retain the county and its associated estates, and I would not consider it Christian of myself to thrust upon you an unwilling and untrustworthy vassal such as him. Therefore, let us agree that I will retain him and Genfergau as a vassal until his passing. His heir is still young and moldable, and can likely be educated into a more pliant subject than the father. When he inherits the estate, I shall be more than happy to return him to his rightful liege, but until then, allow me to assume the risk on your behalf.”

Evidently satisfied when they had formalized this secret pact in writing, the Duke of Savoy had worked quickly, delivering on his promise before the war in Hungary had even entered its final stages. Werner was now in possession of documents claiming his mother’s descent from the now-extinct house of Welf that had once ruled Transjurania. And now that that war was behind him, Werner was almost free to pursue his new goal. A couple more years in Hungary were still needed to firmly establish Mária’s authority as queen, and for Werner and his allies to train up fresh levies, but afterwards a return to Switzerland was in order, if only long enough to see this new and hopefully final campaign through. When the day to return to Basel arrive in 1072, Mária is unhappy to leave her homeland for a second time after what was always going to seem too short a stay, but she recognizes that she needs an heir if Hungary is to avoid being torn apart on her death, and thus she needs to stay close to Werner.

Werner declares war on Duke Géraud on 2 May, 1072. Reversing their roles from the Hungarian campaign, this time the Duke of Franche-Comté provides the battlefield support, while the Bohemians, owing to the travel time needed to cross through Bavaria, mainly aid in the sieging of Géraud’s castles.


War for Transjurania.png



The Bohemians do see brief action at the Battle of Basel shortly after their arrival. Duke Géraud, soundly driven from his own holdings, decides on a desperate strategy to take Habsburg castle and use Werner’s family as bargaining chips. The garrison, however, fully aware of King Vratislav’s imminent arrival, dig in until they see the Premyslid eagle flying on the horizon. Werner and his red lion arrive at the same time to outflank the Genevans, who are slaughtered.

Werner briefly pauses his campaign to enter his keep and check in on Otto and Ida. Queen Mária was also there, and Werner, exuberant with his victory, makes passionate love to his wife. After several weeks in a besieged castle, even the usually chaste Mária is remarkably eager. Werner has to leave the following morning to resume the last few sieges on Géraud’s lands, but his spirit is notably light. With the surrender of a couple more cities and parishes loyal to Géraud, Werner is ready to declare victory on 12 January, 1073.

Arriving back in Habsburg Castle to celebrate (and throw his predecessor in the dungeon), Werner is met with more good news: a glowing Queen Mária with a swollen belly. The new Duke of Transjurania orders a week of celebration and merriment to honor his twin victories on the battlefield and in the bedchamber.


Pregnant Mária.png



The peace does not last long, however, as not long afterwards Khan Kegen of Pechenegs declares a war of conquest against Queen Mária of Hungary. The Habsburg forces make the long march back to Hungary, this time to defend it. By the time Werner arrives, however, the Hungarians have already been badly reduced by Kegen’s tribesmen. Now even combined, the defenders are marginally outnumbered.


Armies.png



Werner initially marches to meet the Hungarians in Wallachia, but when the Khan’s forces pass back over the Southern Carpathians to attack the besiegers from the east, he changes tactic. He follows the Pechenegs over the same pass but turns the other direction with the aim of sacking the Khan's personal holdings in Odessa while they are undefended. But once across the mountain pass, his good nature gets the best of him when his scouts report the enemy is about to overtake the Hungarians, who are digging in instead of retreating despite their numerical disadvantage. Hoping he can win the day by attacking the enemy rearguard, Werner changes strategy yet again and orders his men to give chase. But the Tengri Khan proves a more wily foe than Werner had given him credit for. The horsemen circle back on the Transjuranians, catching them by surprise at Târgoviște, forcing them to retreat back over the mountains, and blocking the way to Odessa. It is Werner’s biggest military blunder.

Happier news arrives on 13 August, 1073: Princess Amalie von Habsburg, gifted with a genius mind at the cost of traditional feminine charm (or any feminine charm), is born to King Werner and Queen Mária, securing a Habsburg into the line of succession. She is promptly baptized by Pope Alexander II and betrothed matrilineally to the baseborn but quick-witted Kazimierz, the grandson and namesake of the Piast king of Poland Kazimierz ’the Restorer’ through his second son Duke Wladyslaw of Kuyavia and the duke’s lowborn lover, an ambitious tomboy named Katarzyna.


Amalie at Birth.png



As the year draws to a close, Werner, having earlier been appointed a commander to Kaiser Heinrich IV, is called away from his ongoing campaign in Hungary to fight the pagans of Pomerania in the Emperor’s Holy War for Obotritia. Queen Mária writes several pleading letters begging Werner to stay in Hungary, but Werner replies that his oath to his Kaiser and his duty to God has to take precedence. Additionally, in private, Werner’s commanders are advising him that after the disaster at Târgoviște , the war is a lost cause. Werner decides to go and fight to claim Pomerania for the Christian church and hopefully repair his military record.

Sadly, the decision proves to be yet another mistake. On 18 February, 1074, Werner von Habsburg, King of Hungary, Duke of Transjurania, Count of Basel, and Baron of Habsburg, is slain in the Battle of Werben against the armies of High Chief Waclaw of Pomerania, by a Finnish Suomenusko mercenary named Voitto Kukkonen. Werner looks at the spear thrust through his chest. “Well,” he notes with a smile, a trickle of blood starting at the corner of his mouth, “At least I don’t have to worry about the cancer anymore.” Saying a silent prayer to God for granting him a soldier’s death, he closes his eyes and drifts into eternal rest, his work on Earth complete, even if he didn’t have much time to enjoy it. Doubtless he would have been happy to know that his troops continued the fight without him and delivered a victory in the name of the Kaiser. After a brief battlefield memorial in his honor, he is sent back to Habsburg Castle to be laid to rest. He was 49 years old.

Werner Death Screen.png
Voitto.png
Author's note: Really sorry I didn't get a screenshot of the succession page to share here, folks! This was pre-AAR decision!

With the heroic passing of King Werner, a regency begins for his son Otto, and the alliance between Transjurania and Hungary breaks down, removing the Swiss from the fight against Khan Kegen. With the Hungarian army already depleted, the path is clear for Kegen to claim victory and County of Szekelyföld on 28 September, 1075.

Otto is eager to see that his father’s legacy is not threatened by his untimely death. Amalie may be Queen Mária’s firstborn child, but a queen cannot not stay a widow for long, and any future sons will displace the Habsburg line from the throne of Hungary. Otto dives into his studies. His father had ordered that his heir receive a thorough education in diplomacy and statecraft, and Otto has an aptitude for it, perfect for the head of a house on a rapid but fragile rise to prominence. On his 16th birthday, New Year’s Day 1076, he assumes full control of the Duchy of Transjurania, although his vassals aren’t quite sure what to make of their handsome and hard-working (frankly, overworked) yet irreverent and malicious new ruler.


Otto Start.png



On 26 January, 1076, Otto gets an unusual visit from Count Friedrich of Magdeburg and Werben, Spymaster and Regent of Saxony. Friedrich recognizes Otto’s cynicism for the church, after all, if it wasn’t for Werner’s zealotry he would still be alive today. Friedrich reveals to Otto that there exists an…alternative to the rigid and arrogant ways of the Catholic Church. Otto is shocked by Friedrich’s invitation, but he cannot resist the allure of power that promises to help him eliminate the threats to his family. Otto seals his recruitment into Lucifer’s Own on 12 June by losing his virginity to a 48-year-old Castilian maid named Cristina Alfonsez de León.


Otto's Recruitment.png
Seduction.png
"100% Legit" screenshot on the right :p

Emboldened with his newfound powers, both political and supernatural Otto visits Géraud de Genève on 10 July in the oubliette where he has been wasting away since losing the war with Werner.

“I should count myself lucky,” Géraud mutters venomously up to the trapdoor where Otto is peering down, “the new Duke of Transjurania has come to visit me in my lowly prison cell, something his predecessor never bothered to do. But I suppose you have personal experience with your father’s simple-headedness, how his focus was always shifting, leaving behind whatever or whoever he had just seemed so interested in. I’ve always wanted to know: what did he tell you when he sent your mother to the gallows, or when he left you and your sister here while he sent the men of this county halfway across Europe to put that Hungarian whore on her throne? What excuse did he give to justify his vain ambition?”

Otto is unfazed by Géraud’s barbed words. “My father was not a perfect man, I’ll admit,” he began, “but he knew how to lead his house, ensure the family name will live on, and not only live on, but be renowned, and feared.” Géraud can not see the malicious look in Otto’s eye, but he hears the darkness in younger man’s voice and recoils in terror nonetheless.

“You’ll recall,” continues Otto, “that per the Treaty of Varais you and my father signed three years ago, my father agreed to preserve your title of Count of Genfergau for you and your heirs, since you had already stupidly given away Vaud. Well, I am here to inform you that seeing as my father is no longer with us, that treaty is null and void. Additionally, I’ve just gotten the council’s approval for a new law granting me the right to retract the titles of my vassals. I’m sure my uncle Ulrich and the Count of Neuchatel will be less than pleased to hear that I’m taking possession of your lands, but they have nothing to fear, for they have been loyal to me, and I reward loyalty, just as much as I remove those who would plot my undoing. I will never trust you, nor your son. I could just crush either of you in the field, but I would hate to spoil such good land as Genfergau with the tainted blood of traitors. So I will be merciful and take that land off your hands, so that your dynasty may fade peacefully into oblivion. For that is the privilege my father worked so hard for me to have: to watch all those who would try to have us bend the knee wither like leaves in autumn, falling to be ground underneath my boot. Whether he cared more for my mother or me or Ida than he did for my step-mother or for Amalie makes no difference to me. What matters is that the Habsburg colors will be flying over this castle and yours long after your bones have turned to dust.”

With that, the trapdoor was slammed shut, and Duke Otto would speak no more to his prisoner, for a mere eleven days later, the humiliated Duke Géraud de Genève wept until he fell into a sleep that would never end.


Geraud's Death.png

Edited on 2020.5.21 to fix a typo and incorrect character information.
Edited again on 2020.5.22 to fix bad French. Thanks to @roverS3 for eagle-eyed proofreading!


Next Time...
Duke Otto protects Amalie's inheritance by any means necessary and continues his descent into darkness. Meanwhile, a succession crisis in Poland opens a door.
 
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Bullfilter

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Alliterative chapter titles too - it has everything! :D FYI, I’ve just nominated this for the Weekly AAR Showcase award, so the pressure is on. ;)

“Then as your liege, I give my blessing to your stratagem, General Siegfried. Go and collect what you need for this experimental treatment at once. I shall remain here until your return.”
The experimental treatment? Courageous!
“Siegfried, just what are you plan—SAINTS ALIVE, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!”
Well, that’s what you get. :D
The new Duke of Transjurania orders a week of celebration and merriment to honor his twin victories on the battlefield and in the bedchamber.
It’s good to be the King Consort! ;)
On 18 February, 1074, Werner von Habsburg, King of Hungary, Duke of Transjurania, Count of Basel, and Baron of Habsburg, is slain in the Battle of Werben
Oops. :(
Otto is shocked by Friedrich’s invitation, but he cannot resist the allure of power that promises to help him eliminate the threats to his family. Otto seals his recruitment into Lucifer’s Own on 12 June
Well, this promises to be a juicy tale. :p
"100% Legit" screenshot on the right :p
Glad you clarified - thought it might have been the front cover of some bodice-ripper. :D
 
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Green Rice

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Glad you clarified - thought it might have been the front cover of some bodice-ripper. :D
I’m actually referring to the fact that if you look carefully, I had to do some photo editing because I reran the event chain from a previous save to get the screenshot but they gave me a new Tinder date so I had to get creative.;)
 
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HistoryDude

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Hmm... this is actually looking interesting.

Perhaps you can create Austria-Hungary early?

Hopefully the new Duke can be brought back to the light, but if not... then he deserves his punishment from the Almighty! - said the Pope, actually saying the will of God non-politically for once in Medieval Times.
 

Green Rice

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Perhaps you can create Austria-Hungary early?
That’s one of my goals! Eventually I’ll need to decide if I’ll be creating the Archduchy of Austria for the historical title, or the Kingdom of Austria so that the de jure borders are closer to the starting EU4 map.
 

roverS3

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I'm loving this. The ruthlessness, the devils-worship, and the overall tone. It all fits into a compelling and humorous tale. A rise to power, by any means necessary. Long live the Habsburgs.

the House of de Genève
As a french speaker I feel compelled to indicate that 'de Genève' means 'of Geneva' and thus the sentence above is, fully translated: 'the House of of Geneva'. It should be either 'the House of Genève' or 'the House 'de Genève' '. If you want to include the French language title in an English language sentence, that is. My apologies for this nitpick.
In any case, good riddance. He wasn't very nice anyway, more importantly, he wasn't loyal.

Looking forward to the next phase in our young non-virginal Lucifer-lover's life.
 

The Number 9

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Excellent read !

I'm caught up and will follow through. This is really fun. :)
 

Green Rice

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It should be either 'the House of Genève' or 'the House 'de Genève' '.
Thanks for catching this, I’ll fix it shortly. I’m embarrassed to admit that I took 7 years of French and still made that error. All I’ll say in my defense is that it was definitely not a conscious decision to write “of de Genève.” Glad that you’re enjoying the story so far! Chapter 3 should be dropping this afternoon or evening (going by Eastern US Time). I’m trying to crank these out (without sacrificing the quality, ofc) so that I can get back to actually playing Crusader Kings and hopefully wrap up the campaign before September, at which point I will more than likely try this same campaign again in CK3 to see what a difference the new mechanics make. :p
 
Chapter 3: Polish Politics and Problems of Posterity

Green Rice

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Chapter 3: Polish Politics and Problems of Posterity

The year is 1076, and the reign of Duke Otto von Habsburg is off to a prodigious start. He controls not only his father's castles in Basel, but also the counties of Genfergau and Vaud. Vaud had serendipitously passed to Duke Werner after Count Ghaysan died heirless of poor health only a month after Werner won his bid for Transjurania. With Genfergau revoked from the late Géraud de Genève, Otto has a respectable force of 2,200 levy troops at his command, three-quarters of which come from his own personal demesne. In addition, he has alliances with his soon-to-be brother-in-law Duke Renaud II of Franche-Comté (Duke Guillaume had died of food poisoning in 1071) and the Duke of Bohemia (or rather, King, as of 1074), Vratislav Premyslid. These alliances are worth an additional 1,500 and 4,500 troops, respectively, bringing the bloc’s total strength over 8,000, the strongest triumvirate in the empire. The military Otto has at his disposal is greater than that of his stepmother in Hungary, greater than that of Poland, and is even approaching parity with the Kingdom of France. In a word, Otto is untouchable.

Otto is not the only budding ruler, however. There is a new Kaiser: Gottfried the Tenacious of the Brabantian house of Wigeriche, elected on 18 August 1075 following the death of Heinrich Salian at the hands of a rebellious baron named Martin of Andechs. Truly an unforgettable way for a Holy Roman Emperor to meet his doom.


Gottfried.png

Heinrich.png
Baron Martin.png


After some light badgering by Otto, Kaiser Gottfried appoints him as Chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire. Otto is extremely pleased, as he knows his father would have been to see his son on the council of the Emperor.


Otto on Council.png


The first two years of Otto’s reign are uneventful for most of Transjurania, but Otto himself finds some enjoyment in desecrating the church in his own realm’s parish of Thun to prove his worth as a member of Lucifer’s Own. He also at least nominally joins the new Kaiser in a couple of Holy Wars for Sardinia and Tunis. Most notably Otto helped suppress a peasant revolt that originated in Verdun, smashing the poorly-armed rabble at Bar in August 1076. Coincidently, that same month, his father’s killer Voitto Kukkonen becomes Captain of his Finnish mercenary band after the suspicious death of his predecessor, a commoner named Mielitty. Surely it is also coincidental that Voitto has an intrigue education and is a known trickster.

In January 1078, Otto is finally wed to Gisèle d’Ivrea, solidifying the alliance with Franche-Comté. Gisèle is a healthy and surprisingly muscular girl, and this has clearly made her fearless, as she marches down the aisle with her head held high, practically dragging her brother along behind her. She takes her eyes off the altar for just a moment to cast a withering look at Ida in her seat in the pews. Queen Mária had sent her stepdaughter a fine dress of red and yellow silk with accents of cloth-of-gold woven in. The ever-fashionable Ida wore it so well and carried herself with such grace that a stranger walking into the ceremony would have thought her to be the bride, based on the way the other guests crowded around her. Gisèle is less than pleased with her new sister-in-law outshining her on her wedding day. She must think herself better than me, Gisèle thinks, her a daughter of a king—even if a king in address only—and I only the daughter of a mere duke. And yet it will be my child who will rule her homeland one day, God willing.

Ida catches the glance and sees Gisèle’s jealousy for what it is immediately. We shall always have what the other wants, she muses. She will have the power I seek, and I the traditional feminine beauty she longs after. The two young women resume their silent battle at the reception, Ida casting taunting looks Gisèle’s way in between dancing with partner after partner. Gisèle, having discouraged most of the men from seeking her as a dance partner after her husband shuffled off the dance floor with more than one badly bruised toe, sits on the dais and grumpily stuffs her face with delicacies.


Gisele.png



Another two years pass, with only the third of Gottfried’s Holy Wars, this time for Holstein, to pass the time.


Vratislav.png



King Vratislav of Bohemia declares the first War of the Polish Succession in 1080 to place his son Vladislav on the throne of Poland, based on Vladislav’s lineage through his mother, Swietoslawa Piast, sister of King Boleslaw the Bold. But the regent for the current occupant, Boleslaw’s 12-year-old daughter Maria, has had two years to build support for her since Boleslaw’s death at the hands of the pagan chief Wratislaw of Byrcow. The Poles muster a stalwart host in defense of their tween queen. Vratislav calls Duke Otto to assist him in the war, and Otto honors his obligation. Otto supports Vratislav more out of a desire to remain in the king’s good graces should Otto need the favor returned than in any genuine interest in seeing the Premyslids expand their power.

On 18 October, though, Otto gets a bit of unambiguous good news: his first child has been born. Sophie von Habsburg is a small child but endowed with a hardy physique. As Otto and Vratislav celebrate among the troops at camp in Poland, Otto, knowing the king’s reputation as a just and fair man, loosens him up with a few drinks and begins to lament:

“Well, any child is a blessing, but it is a shame she could not have been a son. I worry if this could be an ill omen of things to come. My father had but three children, and I the only male. If God has cursed my house with feeble seed, I fear for our survival. Should I fall in battle tomorrow, doubtless lesser men with vain ambitions would seize the opportunity to dismantle my father’s legacy and steal Sophie’s birthright from her. I doubt that on her own, my wife could defend against them.”

“Nonsense!” sputters Vratislav through his ale. “I would gladly ride to defend your house, as you have ridden here to support mine!”

“I know I can depend on you, my lord, but great and noble as you may be, mortal you remain. Would your brother Konrád* be as willing to send his men to the aid of such a humble estate such as mine? Or his heir when both of you have gone to our Father in heaven? How can I ensure that the houses of Premyslid and Habsburg will stand together in future years as we stand together tonight?”
*The Bohemians practiced succession by seniority, so the next-eldest male Premyslid, the king’s younger brother, was his heir apparent.

“I’ll tell you,” Vratislav answers, raising a finger to ask Otto’s patience as he takes another swig before continuing: “My youngest, Ojír, is not yet promised to anyone. He is beloved by his brothers and his uncle. And he is fair of face and sharp of wit. He will make a fine husband to your Sophie.”

“My dear Vratislav!” Otto feigns offense, “I do believe you seek to beguile me while I am deep in my cup! Clearly you Premyslids enjoy collecting titles. First you declare yourself King of Bohemia, and now, while in the midst of a campaign to seize Poland for one son of yours, you scheme to trick me into giving away Transjurania to another, and leaving my line bereft of even the castle that bears our name!”

“Nonsense!” Vratislav exclaims again. “I would not dare deceive such a loyal friend and ally! I will prove my trustworthiness to you, my lord! SCRIBE! SCRIBE! WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU?!”

“Yes, sire?” replies a meek-looking man stepping forward into the light of the campfire.

“Fetch pen and parchment! We’ve got a marriage contract that needs drafting!” The scribe returns a few minutes later with the requested items.

“Took you long enough!” complains Vratislav. “I could have won the war in the time you were gone! Write this down: ‘I, Vratislav of the House Premyslid, King of Bohemia’—oh, you know all the titles, just fill them in—‘do give the hand of my son, the Prince Ojír, to the lady Sophie of the House von Habsburg, to be bound in holy matrimony following her sixteenth birthday’—just fill in all the usual stuff— ‘and declare, that any children to come from this union, shall bear the name and heraldry of von Habsburg.’ And throw in a sizable dowry as part of the deal, too. Consider it compensation for your house’s invaluable assistance to mine in this time of need,” he adds to Otto. “Now hurry up so we can sign it!” he barks at the scribe. The scribe, despite his constant shivering, manages to scribble out a legible document. Vratislav signs and seals it, Otto counter-signs and counter-seals, and the pact is made official. Come hell or high water (knowing Otto’s hobbies, likely the former), the Habsburgs will remain in control of their lands for at least one more generation.


Ojír and Sophie.png



The next few days see the Poles fleeing before the combined might of the southern invaders, so with the war entering its final stages, Otto prudently takes a leave of absence (and his copy of the marriage agreement) and rides back to Basel. On the way, however, he stops to visit his sister in Praha. Ida has been married to Bretislav since she turned 16 earlier this year (in fact her birthday is the same as her brother’s: 1 January), and so far the marriage seems to be a relatively happy one.


Ida and Bretislav.png



“We talk for hours and hours with our friends every night,” she tells her brother in her new apartments at the royal palace. “And he’s such a sweet man, always gentle and giving me little compliments. I’ll admit I’m a bit lazy when it comes to running the place, and I’ll snap at him when he tries to remind me of my duties, but we’ve managed to sort it all out every time. Oh, how I wish I could control that temper of mine! Perhaps I should consult with Bishop Ales sometime when he’s not to busy advising the king.”

“You’d do better not to seek that fool’s advice,” Otto blurts out to even his own surprise.

“Dear brother!” Ida exclaims, “What possesses you to say such unkind things of a man of God?”

“You can cease the act around me, Ida,” Otto chides. “I’ve known you longer than anyone now living. You may be able to fool the others around you, but not me. You have no great love for the sermons and sacraments of the Church, same as I, although you were more subtle in your disdain than I. You enjoy the power your anger can give you against spineless pansies like Bretislav. Why should you suppress your emotions, the very things that separate us from the beasts? Why be a sheep, when you can be a lioness?”

“What are you trying to rope me into, Otto?”

“There is a group of people like us, those who have a more…pragmatic view of human nature. Where emotion and desire are not excised from us but embraced and encouraged. Where you can be your truest self, and if you desire, even more.”

“Brother,” Ida whispers, checking the hall outside for eavesdroppers, “do you speak of witchcraft?”

“Some may call it that,” Otto whispers back. “I call it truth. You were always a gossip back home, always searching for the truths hidden among the lies people tell each other. Don’t you want to know what truths men like Bishop Ales have been hiding from us?”

Ida does not answer for what feels like several minutes, although it was probably no more than one.

“If someone were interested in such things, how would one arrange an introduction with these people?” she says slowly.

“Through someone who knows how to find them,” Otto replies smugly, placing a hand over his chest. He leaves to make the arrangements with the head of the Prag chapter, and on 27 November 1080, Lucifer gains a new servant: Ida von Habsburg.


Satanist Ida.png



Otto arrives home in Basel in time for Sophie’s first Christmas (not that he cared one bit, but it made Gisèle, who was unaware of her husband’s clandestine activities, happy, and that was important if he was to father a son one day). He receives regular reports from the front in Poland, but the war is all but won at this point, morale is high, and his commanders are leading well even without his direct presence. Thus a letter from his step-mother dated 13 March, 1081 finds Otto still at Habsburg Castle. Mária of Hungary has given birth to a son, Sviatoslav, with her new husband Roman Rurikid. Amalie von Habsburg is now only second in the line of succession behind her baby brother.


Hungarian LoS.png



“Well, Amalie and I might be disappointed,” Otto muses to his spymaster, Theodorich, that evening in his study, “but one cannot account for the will of God in matters of life or death. One must have faith that He has a plan and hope that His plan aligns with one’s own. Though I’ve personally never treated faith as a substitute for preparedness or…proactive measures.”

“My liege,” replies Theodorich, catching on the subtext, “this talk of the goings-on in Hungary has reminded me of a tale going around court that the air in Esztergom does marvels for one’s health. Might I have your leave to go and see if it might do this humble servant some good?”

“Yes, I think that would be an excellent idea,” Otto agrees with a satisfied tone. The spymaster turns to leave. “And Theodorich,” Otto calls after him before the door closes.

"Yes, my lord?”

"Stay as long as you need to see this endeavor of yours to a successful conclusion. Your health would certainly be ill-served if you were to journey all that way and back again with nothing to show for it.”


Murder Plot.png



Next Time…
Otto meets with unexpected challenges, and even more unexpected opportunities, but faces the consequences of his demonic affiliations.
 
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HistoryDude

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So, you plan on killing until a Habsburg sits on the Hungarian throne? How very... pragmatic.

Also, did you seriously get your ally drunk to arrange a marriage? Wow..

Also, it seems that Otto is recruiting people to his... club of devil-worshippers.
 

Green Rice

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did you seriously get your ally drunk to arrange a marriage? Wow..
I’m afraid that’s just in my imagination, I don’t think any such event exists in the game. But I found it amusing that I was able to arrange a matrilineal match with the son of a king. Obviously the seniority succession helped a ton, because Ojír was Vratislav’s youngest legitimate child and very far down the line of succession, but matrilineal marriage was historically a much more uncommon arrangement than what the average game of CK2 depicts, so I felt I needed to include some element of mild manipulation into the tale.
And Vratislav later acquired the drunkard trait, so between his and Otto’s personalities and
given that this happened while on campaign, I figured this scenario was a plausible “in-universe” explanation of how Vratislav was willing to accept such a marriage for one of his own sons. But I don’t think he had to have been drunk to be convinced, and I hoped I implied so successfully by referring to the fact that Vratislav was also just. Otto certainly had the diplomatic skill to negotiate the arrangement in any circumstance by appealing to Vratislav’s good nature, but it would’ve been a more protracted discussion without some alcohol lowering Vratislav’s inhibitions, and when you’re in the middle of a war, time is of the essence. I imagine Vratislav woke up the next morning realizing what he’d done but then deciding that it was the right decision by his friend either way.
 

Bullfilter

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One feels Otto has really only just begun his real descent into evil ways. A bit of church desecration here, a murder plot against a pesky relative there: not nice, but ... we need some lycanthropy, gruesome abductions etc. Then a rapid fall into demonic madness. :p