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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Nuka75

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Hi everyone,

So I'm starting my first AAR, trying a fun game in homemade Ironman, as king Ælla of Northumberland with a ToG campaign. As a disclaimer, I have to say that English is not my mother tongue, but I'll be trying my best nonetheless. Every comments are welcomed, especially the ones about writing.

Current version : Vanilla 1.1.1

For the game, I took king Ælla on 867 running with every DLC, in vanilla.

The house rules of the game are:
1) Playing on normal difficulty (it is already a hard start…)
2) No reload (beware that the story could come to an ugly end quickly)
2) Playing as RP as possible, given the traits of the character.
3) No game breaker.

The goals are (in order of importance):
1) Survive!
2) reunite any part of the kingdom of Northumberland that could be lost
3) Drive the heathen out of the British isles
4) Become king of England by uniting the heptarchy into one great kingdom.

For the AAR itself, I'll try to change my style to describe and let feel the personality of every characters in the game. I am clearly not a specialist of history so I will sometime have a point of view that may be inaccurate historically speaking. If you think I made a mistake, don't hesitate to point it out, it is always nice to learn something. One last thing... I'm not a specialist of paint and I will learn during this AAR to manage the paradox forum about joint image. The first one may be very simple but as we say, you learn by doing it, so I will try there and then some new things. Oh, and one last thing. I will try at the beginning to update it every week at least, but maybe more, given the time I have.

I really hope you’ll enjoy it!

Table of content:

BOOK 1: The Brothers' War
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Book 2: The Karling Duke
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11

Chapter 12
 
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Book 1: The Brothers’ War


The Heptarchy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heptarchy

Chapter 1: The Forthcoming Storm

Fall, early year of 860, Petty Kingdom of Northumberland – Castle of Bamburgh.

Ælla would long remember the curse Ragnarr Lodbrok. His enemy had casted it on him as his body was bitten by poisonous snakes; he would for a long time see in his mind the grim look on the Viking’s eyes, dripping with boiling blood:
“How the little pigs would grunt if they knew how the old boar suffers.”
How he laughed when he heard the pitiful words.
“So shall die the mighty warrior, screaming like a woman!


Yep! I executed him. And look at all the vengeful sons he has!

He turned to his son:
- Look at him, Aelfgar… Take great pride of his suffering. Because so shall suffer my enemies. And so shall you make them suffer when the time has come for you to take the crown over my dead body.
Ælfgar looked at the snakes’ pit, his face as pale as a corpse while he was looking at the last trembling of the mighty Viking king. He turned a scornful face to his father:
- Is that how a fallen enemy should be treated? Is it what our lord Jesus Christ told us to do?
- The Christ told us to treat other human as equals! They are heathens, worshipping the devil and his minions as gods!
- Nonetheless… I insist in saying that you should have kept him a hostage. You know how eager his sons might be… and now, they have nothing to lose to avenge their father, and everything to win.
- Phhh, did he answered, spitting on the ground. Are you stupid? His sons should scream like little boys when the new will reach them. Dare they come, I will ROAST the piglets one by one!”


Ælla - King of Northumberland - and his family : a way of management by fear and cruelty


Ælfgar - a potential fit ruler? Oh... he really hates his father...

He turned his back to his son – this gentle stupid son of him, too tender in his mind – followed by his guards. He is still young, did he think, he will grow more mature with the coming age. I hope so! Night has come as death has taken the soul of his old enemy : slowly. It was a good day, nothing else could be said. He could see on the road back to the castle the worrisome faces of the peasant scums around him. Whip them all if they don’t trust their master, was he thinking, but he knew he had better to do right now. After ordering his Chancellor to transport and hang the body at the gates of the town of Newcastle, and to let him rot until the bones only remained, he entered his chamber.

“Do you think, My Lord, that the heathen will put war into our lands? Asked him his wife Ecgwyn.


The still beautiful Ecgwyn (with a still ugly name)

He stared at her with lust. She was coming to her forties. Maybe his body would be soon barren, but she was still desirable. A proud one, this kitchen wench he rose to power by marrying her. Love had long taken leave, but she knew her duty well enough to open his tight at the will of his king, husband and master.
- What does frighten you?
He never gave her My Lady in private, as a way to remind her of her low birth. She didn’t answer, her eyes on the fire dancing in the fireplace. He answered for her.
- Blæja choosed her fate when she married this scumbag Sigurd. How they call him? Ah yes ! Snakes-in-the-eye! Well… Know she tastes his snake! Are you happy to know that every son she’ll lay will be a heathen monster? She has chosen her fate! And I should never have tried to make peace with Ragnarr and spoke of conversion… Instead of bringing a child to the Church I’ve lost mine.
She rose and went to the window, refraining a sob in her mouth. He started to shout:
- I say they can kill her as a revenge! She’s no daughter of mine anymore!”
He stormed out of the room. He has more important matter to discuss than the fear of a late mother.


Blaeja - the traitor daughter - let her die screaming!

[HR][/HR]

1st January 867 – in the hills of Anglia.


Two brother, bounded by a common enemy... me!

“How much you say they are?
- More than twenty time a thousand warriors, My Lord! Fear and Death follow their steps, and they've put the churches to the torch! answered the captain of the guards, a gaunt man with a ugly scar marking his right cheek.
- They hang corpses on trees... Prisoners they've made, mainly our priests. They let them root in the air! Their Chief, Ivar the boneless, claim that so shall perish the Christian who let his mighty father corpse root, his body eaten by carrions!
Ælla turned an eye to the young soldier who was trembling with fear. He couldn’t say anything, for fear had also taken a grasp on his heart.
- There is one man they let alive, walking disoriented. He claims to have seen Jorvik, the great heathen castle. He put an eye on Halfdan Whitshirt, son of Lodbrok, and on his great heathen army. The scorched insist to give you a message from the Nordmen.
- Well… What are you waiting for…? Bring him forth!”
The look on the messenger was too much to bear. He has been flayed and one of his eye was missing. He gave a crazy grin to the King and started to laugh like a damned. None teeth remained in his mouth.
“Here is the mighty king! Hail to him! Hihihihihihihi!
- Why are you laughing like that! Who are you? Answered the King, with anger in his voice.
- I am nothing than can live anymore. I have seen the devil and looked into his eyes. I have suffered in his hand and he told me… He told me…
- What? Answer, you fool!
- He told me that you will rise! Rise as the blood eagle Niahahahahaharrrrrr!”
Ælla could fell his belly aching as he ordered his captain to hang the man. He gave then orders to gather his army and, after the messengers rode there horses to all his vassals lords, he summoned his council.

The same day, evening, the council room, castle of Bamburgh


The small council

His son, steward to the king asked the question that was on every tongues.
“My King… What is the blood eagle?
The king did not answer, his face becoming pale. He reached with a trembling hand his glass of ale, his mouth was so dry. It was Bishop Wulfhem who answered. He went to Rome in his young age, a hard journey, where he came back with a great knowledge. The bishop of Abercorn, a large church near the Scottish border of the realm, had a small voice, but everyone went silence when the scholar started to speak.
- blóðörn… The blood eagle. It is an execution practice, that shows the hatred these heathens have for life. It consists in cutting the back of the prisoner, detaching the ribs from the spine and opening them, like the wings of an eagle, hence bringing with them the lung of the still living man. A horrible practice if you ask me.
He turned to his king:
- My lord, don’t worry. God should give you the strength to vanquish your enemies. This… Vikings… They will be driven out of the Christian soil. You will prevail, believe me.
- I don’t know how I will prevail with so few troops, truth being told… Marshal… What is the levy in the kingdom?

Hrodberth, Mayor of Newcastle, and the one who put the dead body of Ragnarr Lodbrok on the gates of his city, cleared his voice. He was clearly uneasy.
- My lord. With the counts who swear fealty to you, we can count at most on four time a thousand soldiers. Maybe if our allies or other kings in Ireland or Scotland where to join us, we could have more soldier. But… Truth being told, I doubt we will ever equal the number of the heathens…
- You can count on my words and on my army, my king, said earI Eardulf of Durnham. As for our potential allies, I can send forth envoys right now. Would they dare to refuse help of a Christian kings?”
He was the noblest man in the council, beside the king and his son, and usually, everyone was hearing his soft and singing voice as he was speaking.

When the council was over, everyone left, except father and son.
“You were right Ælfgar. I should have listen to you.
- There is no time for regrets anymore father.
The young man went on one knee and took his father’s hand. He put a kiss on it and watched him in the eyes as he said:
- I am your son and subject. I would rather die in battle for your cause than let unholy hands grasp the crown of Northumberland. We will prevail.
- We will prevail…”
Ælla gave a worrisome look at the windows, and beside the windows, at the infinite hills expanding all over the castle to the horizon.
Will it stay mine? was he asking himself, or will it be the end of my bloodline and the fall of the Christian kingdom of Northumberland?



It is going to be hard... really hard...

To be continued...
 

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Chapter 2: A shining in the dark


The great battle of Roxburgh - 7 may 867

The wind was blowing strong that day, the summer has been stormy, as if the war of the two brothers wasn’t plaguing enough the good inhabitants of Roxburgh. In front of the city, the soil of the dale of Teviot was drinking blood. The blood was from the children of the land, for some part, but mainly from the heathen in the east.

The Viking lost their battle.


A great victory to start the war!

They fall in the trap of Ælla. It has been his son’s idea, once they knew that the other kingdoms were rallying under the banner of Northumberland. The help came from every corners of the British Isles, from the kingdom of Wessex in the South to the king of the Picts in the north, even from the Irish island.


I have a lot of allies, that helps, but not enough


The small council has gathered again in the far north of the Kingdom. During the march of the army, they all hear along the road the curses shouted by the peasants of the counties of Lancaster, Durham, Cumberland… All the lands they abandoned, to flee from the unstoppable army of the rotten Danes. In Burgh, in the Cumberland, they rested from their long march.

“I say we should meet the heathens on the plains of Ulster. Should they be foolish enough to cross the strait, we will crush them.
Ælfgar was looking more and more lordly those days. He was eager to fight, dreaming of the great battles that were awaiting him.
- I doubt they will fall in the trap, my Lord, answered with his uneasy voice Hrodberth, Marshal of the Kingdom. He was always afraid to speak against his betters.
- Even if they don’t, we can meet in Galloway with the armies of our Irish friends and combine with the troops of our ally, King Constantine and his ferocious Scotts, and maybe take position in the hills of the North!
- My Lord… I am unsure… we cannot go north and wait for them… The heathen army has splintered. They are ravaging our Kingdom in the south and put some forces to destroy the south of our Isles! East Anglia has already fallen, and that is dire news…
- East Anglia was none but a rotten fruit! answered Ælla. If it weren’t for the Vikings, I would have taken a bite of the soft apple myself. Edmund was week, without wife… childless. He deserved what happened to him. We can’t blame them. Nor can we wait for them to go north and meet us.
Ælla turned to his son:
- We will gather our troops in Galloway, meet with the Irish and the Scotts there. But then, we will march south again to meet the Heathens.”


Edmund... once a king... Now, merely a shadow of himself in a foreign court. Will I finish like him?

Ælla was still catching his breath. The sun that pierced the dark clouds during the battle was hidden again, as if God was willing to veil the horror of war from his eyes. Everything reminded Ælla of his young days. His face was covered with the Nordic blood and the men were cheering him. His son came to him, wearing on his face the same red blood mask that made them look alike. Was he a living image of his past? He looked like him when he was younger and he was cheering him, like all the soldiers.

“Ælla Rex!” were they screaming. All his men and the Irish and the Scotts. All the old enemies, united under the banner of the Christ. Ælla smiled and hug his son. He greeted Hrodberth and promised him for the next battle ten gold coins for every ten Vikings he will put to death. Then, he gave him the order to kill the wounded and told his men to get their plundering from the corps of the plunders’ race dying on the ground. He did notice the frown of his son.

“We could use leveraged, father…
- Shut up! I am the king and this is the law of the victors!”

Nothing else was said this day and Ælfgar did not speak during the great feast at night. Only when the messenger of the king of Mercia entered the castle did he spoke. This man of the south announced them that a few days ago, king Burghred managed to vanquish a Viking Army on the plains of Westmorland. Ælfgar shouted with the others. The cheers of joy were heavy. For in the heart of the English, the idea of a victory was growing. Not only were the heathens mortals like them, but they could lose battles, and fly screaming.
“Tell me friend, how was the battle? did he ask the messenger, after inviting him to share the bank he was seating on and the wine he was drinking.
- Even if both armies were smaller than the ones who fought today, the battle was terrible. The heathens were screaming the name of their forsaken gods as we were standing our ground. King Burghred took an ugly wound on the shoulder. My prayers go to him.
- To king Burghred!
He raised his cups, drank, and ate the toast that was lying in the glass, thinking of the battles to come. He asked about the rest of the great heathen army.
- They are numerous, ravaging the south of Northumberland. We learned that the petty kings of the heathen lands answered their call to war. Rumors say that large armies are gathering in the east, readying themselves to travel to our beloved Isles and join with the troops of the sons of Ragnarr.”


The situation of the war : to the north, the battle of Roxbourgh, to the south, the battle of Westmorland, lead by my allies

The storm broke in the night, washing the blood on the ground. The sun rose in the morning over the wet soil, bringing in the air a rotten mist. The head of Ælla was heavy and the news his son brought to his ears weren’t helping.

“Are you sure?
- I am, my King. A second heathen army is gathering. They should be there within the year.
The king listened to the news that Ælfgar reported, then turned to his Marshal. Hrodberth was looking uneasy. He cleared his voice:
- My king… I am a prudent man. Yet, I say that we cannot wait. If we were to let the second army set foot on our lands, we would see our chance of winning the war reduced to void.
- I agree with Marshal Hrodberth my King, said Ælfgar. Drive the army south! The victory of Mercia opened for us a way to the south. We can join with it and reunite with the men of Wessex. With their help, we can strike at the heart of the heathen army.
- Then so be it, decided the king. Let us gather our troops and depart south. It is time to reclaim our land.”

As the men of the council were departing, Ælla took a look at the window. He could see the sea to the far west, and get a glitch of the hills in the north. Beside them was the kingdom of the Scotts, their allies... Who would have thought?

He remembered the gaze of Ragnarr as the snakes where drinking his blood. There was no fear in his eyes, no hatred… That was the worst, for he gave the king a contemptuous smile as he was dying, whispering: “how the piglets will cry…”
“You were right Ragnarr. They will cry. I will make them cry…”


 

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Chapter 3: A feast for crows ©



On the plains around the city of Penrith, county of Cumberland.

It was a rainy day; it was always raining since the beginning of the summer of rampage. It was as if the weeping of the farmers were falling from the sky. His troops were standing behind him, but Ælla had eyes only for the army in front of him.

“See Hrodberth. That is Halfdan the whiteshirt. Next to him is his ally, Bjorn. Another king...
He pointed with his steel gauntlet to a tall guy, yelling to his troops as he was marching along the line. Sometime, he turned to the Christians to point back at them. The gesture was followed by shouts of insults mixed with the name of their many gods. Some of the heathen were miming explicit sexual gestures at them.
- I can see the Whiteshirt my king. I was thinking… if I were to kill him today, would you knight me?
The king laughed in a roar!
- Were you to kill him, I would make you pope, if it was in my power! But shush! Get down of the horse, the bishop is coming for the blessing!
He turned to Ælfgar.
- You also my son. Show our men that we are the defenders of the Cross.”

The son mumbled in his beard but obeyed. They went on the ground on knelled in front of the bishop, as he was shouting hermetical words in Latin. Obviously no one could understand, except a part of the nobility and the clergymen around them. But it was the last words, pronounced in English that make his soldiers cheers Ælla:
“May God, his son Jesus Christ and the holy spirit bless you, Ælla Rex, and make you a defender of the Christian faith. Rise and drive our enemies out of the kingdoms of men, as they shall be casted out of the kingdom of heaven.


The blessing of the leaders is an important part of any holy war

- Amen, answered the king as he rose. Now priest, let the men fight. Hrodberth. Go back to the flank, you will be needed there. So do you also, my son.
He turned to his soldiers and shouted to them:
- Soldiers! These foes! Are they Christians?
- NOOOOOOOO! Shouted the crowd.
- Are they Angles like us?
- NOOOOOOOO!
- Then which right do they have to be on our sacred soil?
- NOOOOOOOOOONNE!
- Then we WILL drive them out!”

The soldiers’ shout was overwhelming. In front of the army, the heathen troops were also screaming with the same hatred. War... was he thinking, its taste is in our very mouth. What did Ælfgar tell me? Ah yes. “War hasn’t been invented by humanity. It waited for it in the shadow.”
The heathen started it. The Nordmen charged, soon followed by the Christians who were eager to meet them. Ælla was confident. Number was on his side. And they had their longbowmen! The devastating arrows where flying and flying, putting more and more Vikings to the ground. Ælla was in the frontline, his sword unsheated. The barbarians were wearing their ugly axes. An ugly weapon for an ugly race. We must prevail, was he thinking as the lines were getting closer.


A horrible viking warrior!

Should it be than in battle, fear only lasts until the first shock? There was no fear anymore once he killed his first Viking. A young lad, not even on his twenty. He was laughing with an evil grin when the blade put away half of his skull. Then, another, and another. He was dancing with them. They were mostly footmen and he was on his horse. His long sword was drinking blood. Nordbane shall I call you, did he think during a glimpse of clear mind. His troops were doing well. They were winning the ground. He gazed in direction of the right flank. Brave Hrodberth was charging. On the left, he could see his son on his horse. A true knight indeed, hacking through heathen flesh his mighty flail. His son was on his task, an example for his men. He failed to spot the group of heathen archers on the hill behind him.
Three arrows flew, three arrows entered his back.

“Ælfgar, murmured his father.
- Ælfgar has fallen!” shouted a man behind him, soon followed by many other shouts: “Ælfgar has fallen.”


And now my bitchy heathen daughter is my heir? NO WAY!

A roar of furry burst from the king’s mouth as he charged to the hill, to the ugly archers with their ugly arrows painted in black. They shot at him, but no arrow dared to stop the furious king. He killed their leader in one blow, almost cutting him in half. The others started to run away. One had his left arm removed in a cut, falling on the ground and screaming like a pig as the blood was pouring out like the water of a fountain. He charged the last one, trampling him with his war horse. His body was a mess once he was done, his head crushed into a sanguine pudding.


Am I overreacting?

He was turning back his might to the heathen army. They were losing, those barbarians, yet they were still fighting and laughing. For them, death in battle was a way to enter paradise. Foolish people! Let them burn in hell! He hated them and charged again. As he was going to hit another group of Nordmen, his horse fell, an arrow in its head. Ælla managed not to land under his horse. As he was standing up with difficulty – his armor wasn’t light – a monster of a man stood before him. A heathen brute! Hairs red as blood, arms thick as trees and his body covered in orange hairs. He was lifting his heavy axe toward the king’s head. Ælla managed to avoid the deadly blow. Another one was aimed to him but, once again, he made a move to the left. He knew he would have to kill him swiftly, for he was feeling in his muscles a growing tiredness. The man grunted as his third blow let the axe stuck into a tree and Ælla managed to throw the blade into his belly, letting his inside go outside.

The berserker fall to the ground, head on the mud, and Ælla, remembering his dead son, started to yell at him, climbing on his back as he was unsheathing his dagger. He yelled “Blood eagle! I will give you a blood eagle!” as he tried to open a way in the hairy back of the dead man. His efforts were fruitless for he didn’t know how to detach the ribs from the spine. It seemed that the blood eagle needed some practice to be performed, and he started to cry as he was stabbing over and over the body.

The plains around Penrith were won. The army of the Whiteshirt had fled. The men around him gave him the nickname “Brownpants” as they were suggesting that he soiled himself while fleeing the battleground.


At least, the death of my son wasn't for nothing

But nothing was cheering the king. His body was hurting so much and blood was in his eyes. He was wishing that this blood would have blinded him, so that he wouldn’t have been able to lay his gaze on the body of his son. Here he was, lying on the ground. A soldier told him that during the battle, a heathen near him took the effort to cut his throat as he was dying. The wound on his neck was ugly, dark and crusty, and flies were already flying on it and laying eggs. His eyes were open and they were looking at his father in some sort of ultimate blame. Ælla put his ungloved hand on the cheek of his son’s body. The flesh was cold already, as white as milk. His young face would remain young forever.
“My son… my sole heir…” mumbled the king. Around him men had gathered, looking at him uneasy. Some cried, because their prince died in the battle.

There was no feast on the city this evening. The king ordered a silent prayer for his son.
“If the king permits it, I would say it is a bad idea. The men need to rejoice into victory, to gather their moral for the upcoming battles” would have said Hrodberth if he had survived.
He did face the Whiteshirt.
“He was in front of me. I challenged him. He laugh my king… He laugh as I was fighting… I stand no chance… He was seeing through all my moves… Then, he yawn… he… yawn… as to mock me… indeed he was right for… when he fought back… well… it was over… in a single move… He was so powerful my king… I am happy to have faced him.”

Hrodberth died several hours after.

Too many died this day.

It was time to go back to Bamburgh.

To bury his son.
 

Nuka75

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I did make a mistake in the house rules (first post) which has been since corrected. Initially I put "playing on easy difficulty"... Well, I play this game in "normal difficulty". The confusion comes that normally I play in hard settings. So, putting it to "normal" was, in my mind, making an easy game (which is not... it is really a ugly start this 867 Northumberland...)

Nonetheless, so far it is a really nice game given the huge challenge :) Can't wait to see what will happen to Aella!
 

alscon

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Good luck for this AAR. In my Northumberland game it was Ælla who died in battle, but it worked out after. Now you need another heir though, or it will be game over soon.
 

Nuka75

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Good luck for this AAR. In my Northumberland game it was Ælla who died in battle, but it worked out after. Now you need another heir though, or it will be game over soon.
I know. Tension is high. In fact, it would have been better for Aella to die, so Aelfgar would have taken the throne. Even if he wasn't exceptional, he had better traits than his father. What is terrible in the game is the "alliance" you have with the vikings thanks to your nice daughter who married one of them... Massive prestige hit in case of declaration of war and allies who hates you and will never join you! Yeah!!!
 

Nuka75

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Chapter 4: The wheel of fortune


Fortune rises and falls

A fly went on the white face, wandering on the cold skin for several seconds, before the hand of the Lady of Northumberland chased it away. She have been staying near him since the day he came back to the castle in a box. It has been two days only... Two days during when she had to suffer that the murderer of his son was allowed to sit next to his husband. He was breaking the bread under her roof, the man who broke her life when he ended the one of her son. She couldn’t hand it, so she stayed near the decaying body of his son, mourning.


The grieving Ecgwyn

The Whiteshirt had sent an envoy few days after the battle of Penrith. He wanted a peace. Their army was shattered and he was afraid to lose his precious city of Jorvik. His lord husband accepted to receive him. Some beloved people were sent to the small army outside the castle of Bamburgh, as hostage, to assure the safety of the Viking king. Ælla asked her to go with them; she refused: her duties were to stay with the body of his son.

The Viking was eating like the boar his father took as a sigil. The dish was mostly made of several lamb they killed for the occasion, that and the usual pig meat and other pastries. Ale was flowing, cheering a bit the ambiance, but the look on Ælla’s face was revealing his murderous thoughts. Halfdan was smiling during the whole dinner, but he spoke no words. He seemed to be ignorant of English. He’s chancellor was translating every conditions of the peace they were settling. The Whiteshirt had to retreat into the kingdom of Jorvik for at last five years. No Vikings were allowed to wander to the north and no Angle to the south. It was apparent that the constant smile on the Viking face was to hide the shame he was feeling at failing the invasion of Northumbria. At the end of the dinner, where they was not so much rejoice, Halfdan rose his glass of wine to his guest and told him, in a perfect English:
“To peace, Ælla King, may you have many grandsons growing in our Fjords.
The room went instantaneously silent. The toast of Halfdan was poisounous, neither a true cheering, nor an insult. Yet, he reminded the king of the loss of the son and the fact that his offspring would never be true Angles. The face of the king became red, yet, he had to swallow his pride and rose afterward his glass of wine:
- To peace, Halfdan.
- And peace to your son. He died a heroic way, in battle, and now the gates of Valhalla would have been opened to him, weren’t he from your effeminate faith…
The insult was plain now, and Ælla rose, unsheathing his swords, his face distorted by wrath.
- I should have your head heathen! You took my son!
The whiteshirt did not move at all. He stared at him with scorn, and a cold took the strength into Ælla’s arm as the Viking king answered:
- At least I would die in battle, an honor you denied my father, letting him die like a dog. Go on Ælla. Kill me under your roof, and soon, there will not only be the sons of Lodbrok invading your kingdom, but all the followers of the thunderer.
He rose, opened his arm and showed his chest to the king:
- Kill me Ælla. It would be the greatest thing you would let me do for my father.
The king gave a trembling look to his chancellor and knew what he had to do. He put the sword in place and sat back.
- You would be too happy. Take your peace Halfdan, and your men. Crawl back behing the wall of Jorvik and pray to your false gods that they will save you. They won’t answer, because they don’t exist. The dinner is over. I want you gone in the hour.”
The Viking looked at him with hatred, turned then to his crowd and shouted some words in their ugly tongue. Soon, the Nordmen were all leaving the castle. Before Halfdan the Witheshirt took leave from his guest, he turned to him one last time:
“Enjoy your peace, Ælla king. For a storm is coming from the north. My eldest brother cherished our father. Pray that you’ll die in battle against him… Pray for he has only one dream: to make you rise as the blood eagle.”


That should give me some time to catch my breath.

Ælfgar was put into the family crypt to rest forever around the bodies of his ancestors. The priest said the words. Ælla felt in his heart a deadly cold, and as he parted forever from his son in the crypt underneath, it was his face he had seen when the heavy stone that closed the tomb put an eternal shadow over his body.


The tomb of the poor Aelfgar.

He followed his wife to their room. Both were silent during all the ceremony. Ecgwyn was now shaken, softly sobbing in her white dress. The king closed the door behind him and gazed his wife. She was still sobbing, holding in her hands a small hair lock wrapped into a dark ribbon; the guard reported that at some time, during the feast, she started to cry abundantly, pulling her own hairs. It was only after she cut some blond hairs from her son body that she started to grasp control again. Now she was softly singing a lullaby to the hairs, a lullaby she has song to his son when he was but a baby:

“Soft kitty,
Warm kitty,
Little ball of fur.
Happy kitty,
Sleepy kitty,
Purr, purr, purr."


Is that how Ecgwyn sees in her head his son Aelfgar? Ah my... a crazy lolcatz girl...

It was too much to bear. The king went to his wife, pulled away the hair lock and tossed it through the window. Ecgwyn started to scream so loudly that a guard open the door, but only to withdraw at the one look of the king. The woman shouted:
“Ælfgar! My only baby boy! It was his hairs! I need to get other now! My only baby boy!
- Shut up you stupid cow, shouted the king. You are still young! We can start it again, but for now, stay her! Focused!
Ecgwyn was crying on the bed, as Ælla let his worse fears come out:
- If… when I am going to die… This, this witch, my daughter Blæja… She is going to become queen of Northumberland, and she will offer it to his evil snake of a husband! Think about that, woman! We need another heir!”
He stormed out of the room, asking the guard to enter and prevent any attempt of the queen to jump through the window.


Knud, the only grandchild of Aella, and the heir of his current heir Blaeja. He has nothing of an Angle.

“You ask for me, Ælla king? Asked his steward as he entered the warm room. A heavy fire was burning in the fire place, as a servant was putting a massive load of wood into it. For some minutes, the fire was roaming and the light went intense, playing gloomy shadows on the face of the king and his steward.
- Approach, my father. I need you for a great task.
The bishop Ceolwulf of Saint Cuthbert approached uneasy. He was not happy from his place in the council. He was clearly more competent in theology than the mere money play. But he was the most competent steward since the death of Ælfgar. He was longing to become the Court chaplain, an office currently hold by the rather incompetent Wylfmær, a lowborn scum. Since the tragic death of the bishop of Abercorn (he fall from the donkey he was riding) he was waiting for an opportunity to raise.


Ceoldwulf, the competent wannabe court chaplain and the man who currently hold the office

- Ceolwulf, I need to focus my spirit on something. Tell me what to do… I mean… For the good of the realm.
- My king… You want me to turn your keen spirit away from the matters of war? Is it wise?
- I am slipping into madness, Ceolwulf. I need to do something. Anything.
- Well… If you tell me so. There is a matter that bothered me since I arrived her after… well after the death of your son. I have been looking through all the complaints from the cities, the bishoprics and the towns, and it seems to me that every subject who ask for a certain form a justice is invoking a different custom. The issue is that, they all want justice but under a different rule. Every one ask for customs from his land, or for personal laws coming from our ancestors’ place in Germany… I think that maybe a compilation of these laws could help to clarify things and make our justice more legitimate.
- Very well. I don’t understand a lot of this, but if you can do it and discuss the matter with me, I am fine with it. I will also look at these different laws… As long as they pass only after my will.
- Your will must be set under the law that made you king, my lord. You cannot do as are pleased. All come from God.
Ælla looked at him, hesitating an instant to make him taste the deadly cold of the dungeon tower. He was the cleverest man around him though, so he closed his eyes, agreed and dismissed his fellow steward.


Aella is arbitrary... he comes with good idea for a crazy tyrant.

As the bishop was leaving, a young servant girl passed through the door:
“My lord, the queen ask for you in your bedroom. She told me that your words have lifted her and that she was willing to do what are her duties”.
The king had a wicked smile and prayed to God that he it was still time to have a boy. His wife quickly fall pregnant again. Fortune was favoring him after all.


It's good to be the king!

Two month later, the wheel of fortune was about to turn again...
 
Last edited:

mike the knight

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Great achievement to survive the onslaught :eek: It seems that wheel of fortune turns in mysterious ways :laugh: You should repay them the massacre soon !
 

Nuka75

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Great achievement to survive the onslaught :eek: It seems that wheel of fortune turns in mysterious ways :laugh: You should repay them the massacre soon !
Well, the IA made the common mistake to split its troops into manageable armies for my general 4000 men. Once I was able to merge with irish and scottish troops I could go down and win two good victories (I was lucky also. As it is my first AAR, didn't pay too much attention to the battle. I should have looked at it to understand why I won).
I made white peace as fast as I could. The bad thing is that the army of the Boneless is still huge and has got reinforcement from scandinavia. Things won't be easy.
 

Nuka75

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Chapter 5: The tomb of Ragnarr


He won afterall

The boneless stood there for a silent prayer. All his men were silent, which his, he knew it, a hard thing to ask them. But everyone here worshipped already Ragnarr Lodbrok, his father, as a legendary king.
“My king, asked the Seer Ofgey, a young lad of thirty years. We should rise a runestone here, to honor your father.
- Truth being told, it was what I was thinking about. And when Ælla will be dead, I will let his bones whitened at the foot of it.
He turned to his Chancellor:
- Is he here already?
- He just arrived, my King, to let you take the lands that were his. His wife is there also, with his toddler.
- Good. If the gods are with us, neither he nor his twin sister will reach adulthood. Then the line of Northumberland should disappear, forever. Come Harfn, let us meet them.”


Two very competent and heathen men

It was a bright day, a happy day for Ivar. Even though he hadn’t completely crushed the old king Ælla, he had taken half his lands. His army was simply too big for his. The fellow warriors of Scandinavia came in number, and it was soon completely over.

Today, they were settling a peace. A mere break in the invasion. His kingdom was bigger now: he took a large part of the north and the land south of Jorvik, the kingdom of his coward of a brother. He still was angry for Halfdan to have broken so quickly. They could have wiped out Ælla if he hadn’t settled a peace, and today his blood eagle would have risen for everyone to see.

Ælla was waiting with a group of his guards. His wife Ecgwyn was near him, cladded in warm furs. Winter had come and the misty air was burning the lungs. Ecgwyn looked afraid, feeling in her heart why it was explicitly ordered that Ælla came with her male child, the little Eadweard. Instead of that, they took with them Beornflæd, his sister. It was too risky to bring there the new heir of the kingdom of Northumberland.


The two twin babies, the hope of my dynasty.

“Welcome in my kingdom, Ælla King, said Ivar with a wicked smile.
- This kingdom is mine by right. You are no more than a thief.
- A thief with an army, my king. Yet, my men need to enjoy the spoils of war. I love the castle of Bamburgh. It is… kingly. Nonetheless, I fell more at home at Finlagann. It is surrounded by the sea, all over. Reminds me of my youth. What a nice place. This castle, your old caste… it will go to my son Gudfrid.
The young man at his right nodded. He spoke in a horrible English:
- I shoul raign on your castol! It is Bamborg now! For I can’t say the way you say it. And then, I will crush you!


My second sworn ennemy, after Ivar.

Ælla ignored him. The young lad was wearing a small silver hammer around his neck. His wannabe court Chaplain, Ceolwulf, told him that these were the more zealous one. Sons of the hammer they were called. The boy was obviously burning with hate.
- So, is it peace Ivar? Asked the king.
- It is. For some time you should be at peace, old man. But I will take something from you, something very precious, to make sure that you will never assault me or betray me.
He pointed to the baby held by a young lady who was nursing it, beside queen Ecgwyn. The queen fall on her knees.
- I implore you, brave King. Don’t take a newborn baby from her mother’s side. She would die without her mother around!
- Shut up, you stupid cow! Yelled at her Ælla.
- Her? Answered Ivar as he took the baby girl from the arms of the lady and unwrapped her clothes. He frowned and turned to Ælla.
- It wasn’t what was expected…
- Taking my land wasn’t what was expected neither, answered Ælla.
The king Ivar bursted in a roamy laugh:
- Ha ha ha! You win this one Ælla. I should take your girl. She is as precious to you as your son. And we know how fragile these young children are. She might be your heir one day, who knows?
Insensible to the shriek and the fury of Ecgwyn, Ivar gave the baby girl to a monster of a Viking woman who took it with disdain. She was enormous, with breasts as big as her head.
- Farewell, Ælla. I think none of this is truly over, but we will see the end in only a few years.”

[HR][/HR]

Ivar left them and Ælla, shamefull, had to crawl back to his new castle of Durham. He had to withdraw the titles of the young earl, for the Viking sized all of his demesne. Eardulf was now at the court of Wulfmær of Sussex, in the southern kingdom of Wessex, hating him and publicly denouncing his tyrannical way.


This guy may cause troubles...

The day after the peace was settled, Ælla summoned his council. He had major things to do, to ensure his safety and the safety of his line. Not accustomed to the smaller castle, he sat uneasy on the chair that was previously owned by his not anymore vassal, Eardulf. The situation of the Heptarchy was cataclysmic. In truth, it was more correct to call it now the Hexarchy or, to be even nearer the truth, the pent-and-a-half-archy, for half of Northumberland was now in the filthy hands of Viking. A big map was laid on the table to show the dire situation. It was the Chancellor, Beornwulf, Mayor of Hartlepool who spoke to explain everything:
“To the north, and also in place of the kingdom of East Anglia, the Kingdom of Sudrejar. To our south, the small kingdom of Jorvik. Both allied. If the army of Jorvik is decimated, it isn’t the case of the army of Ivar. They have more than nine thousand men… Attacking them is… currently impossible my liege.
- Why that?
- Well, your vassal wouldn’t follow you and… I mean… your prestige took a major hit at losing the war. You have to wait. Besides, the army of Ivar can crush any one now. They are roaming the mountains of Scotland as we speak. It is good time spared for us.


The political situation of the Hexarchy. It does not look good.


Norse religion is spreading on our christian realms!

- Maybe my lord, we could summon a summer fair? Peasants like it and after the two years’ war, it would be something appreciated by everyone, proposed Ceolwulf, the still steward of the kingdom.
- I agree.
- I was not over, my king. Our old subject won’t take easily their subjugation. For years, the land the Vikings have stolen should provide them poorly. Well… with the exception of Teviotdale… The peasants immediately withdrawn their faith to the Christ to embrace the heathen gods.
- When we take back Teviotdale, those peasants will burn! Dismiss now, I have to think. Not you Ælfwig.
When everyone was gone, the Marshal looked at the king.
- You will come with me this evening, and post guards hidden behind the closed doors of my reception room. I will summon my… beloved Sæxræd, the earl of Cumberland. When he shows up, put him to jail before his men can understand why.

The marshal nodded without questioning the words of the king. The poor Sæxræd was going to question a lot of things, especially why, as a spymaster, he gave by error to the king notes about his plot to make a claim on the kingdom of Northumberland. He wasn’t more than one week in the dungeon before he confessed everything. It was terrible, horrible treason, confessed and confessed again. The day of the judgment, everyone looked astonished when Ælla pronounced the sentence:
“By my right as king under God, Sæxræd, for the account of high treason, I sentence you to be stripped from all your lands and goods in the kingdom, banished from my kingdom and to wander the earth as a lost soul. May God have mercy on you.”




All is done rather Quickly... before he understand anything, the earl is not anything more than a beggar

He then took a large hammer and destroyed the shield harboring the sigil of the traitor. The same night, Sæxræd was put at the southern border of the realm; rumors tell he is now at the court of the earl of Lancaster, Oswine. It was when he heard that that Ælla knew he would have to change entirely his council.
Apart of Chancellor Beornwulf, everyone changed office or were dismissed. His two vassals left, Oswine and Ælfwald became respectively Spymaster and Marshal. The first one, still angry and outraged by the tyrannical action of the king was somehow appeased by the position of cupbearer he was appointed to. The second was perfectly content with his new post. The old Marshal, Ælfwig become Steward, a position he wasn’t very happy with. Poor and incompetent Wylfmær had been dismissed to let the position of Court Chaplain vacant for Ceolwulf, very happy at this turn of events.


The new council. Better than the old one, but I am not really liked... oh well, I am arbitrary and cruel afterall. It's okay...

The first orders were given and the council dispatched. Beornwulf and Oswine were to travel to Finlagann, at the court of king Ivar. Beornwulf was to settle tensions between Ivar and his vassals, while Oswine was plotting to help Ælla to put an end at Ivar’s life. The Viking was simply too dangerous, and Ælla was hoping that his death will put in charge his rather incompetent son Sygtridd Ivarson, and start a true old fashioned succession war. Truth being told, it was going to be hard to make him die.


Well, I won't see him death in the coming month. It will be a long process. I hope little Sygtridd will be happy with the gift.

The other member of the councils were sent to Cumberland, at the new and fertile holding of Burgh, to raise tax, train troops and get good relations with the bishop there.

Once it was done, Ælla thought at a way to preserve his kingdom. With no daughter even near to the age of wedding, he didn’t know how to act.
Things were dire indeed.
 
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mike the knight

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Nuka75

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Chapter 6: The wench's tale (Part 1)



My name is Ecgwyn. I am a former kitchen Wench, a former queen and a duchess.

My husband is the Duke of Northumberland and the former king of that petty kingdom. His name is Ælla, and he deserve to be hated... truly hated.

I remember him when I first saw him. Merely a young knight he was at that time. Things were so peaceful then. From time to time one of the kingdom of the Heptarchy was fighting against another, or we were massacring the poor Scots and Irishmen. Good time indeed. Now the heptarchy doesn’t exist anymore. But I am digressing...

I remember Ælla at the time there was no heathen, I was the servant and concubine of the king Osberht, and the queen of the kitchen servants. I was serving them ale after a feast for a long forgotten victory against Pictes raiders.

Ælla. He was younger then, a young king freshly made. He looked at me with lust from his seat at the table, and I wanted him also. He was so handsome with his bushy beard and his long hairs stitched together by never washed sweat. He smelled of manly odor truly, with not any strange fragrance that some foreigners from eastern countries wore. His brother was the king at that time. I had to honor him in many ways for I was the prettiest servant girl - a young girl of only sixteen years - and he was the king after all. Ælla asked for a night with me. His brother Osberht refused.

Less than one year later, the later was laying dead at the feet of his throne while Ælla sized it, and me with it. He married me. That part of the oath he kept true.My influence at the small court was already overwhelming as the former king lover. I had some kind of… talent… to arrange things in my way. When people started to hear me, they obeyed me. It was so easy indeed. And so, I helped him to form his coalition first, the one that made him king.



Things were going well… Until he arrived. We first heard of a monastery ravaged and burned, its monks killed or taken as slaves or sacrifice. Ragnarr Lodbrok just hit the holy island of Lindisfarne.


The monastery of Lindisfarne before the heathen sized it.


What was left of it afterward

Soon more and more raids came, until Ælla put an end to it. Ragnarr died, thrown in a snake pit. An idea that rose from the twisted and cruel mind of my lord husband. Yet, it was only only going to bring doom to the British Isles… The sons of Ragnarr came and invaded our beloved country. Things put short: Ælla lost half his kingdom. If the kingdom of Jorvik stood small, the kingdom founded by the first born of Ragnarr, Ivar the Boneless, rose to power.

After the war ended, in 869, I lost my beloved baby girl in the hand of these ugly vikings. A hostage, to assure peace. After the war, my husband made nothing... he was only throwing great summer fairs or hunts, the later were he took risks which could have injured him. But none of them did, and he became somewhat stronger and more fit to the art of war.



He also used a lot of the taxes money to a rare book about the lore of the old gods. He became quite obsessive with it, spending a large part of the night reading the weird letters. He had Ceolwulf instruct him in the meaning of the strange symbols our foes were using. Ceolwulf, the scholar... always near him... always speaking for him. But I am digressing again.



Everyone was worried around me. Not only the lords and lady, but also the common people from which I came. Ivar was conquering every counties hold by the king Constantine of Scotland, one by one. Few years from then, he would call himself king of Skotland and would melt a golden crown made of all the gold and jewelries stolen from our churches.



We would have fallen if my king didn’t put away his crown to wear the ducal diadema, and call another one “my king liege”. Northumberland is now the province of the great Karling king of West Francia Louis, second of his name, also called the Stammerer. He dragged me to this foreign and distant country, across the sea, to the city of Paris where he humbled himself and kneeled to the mighty king. In fact, the ceremony was supposed to be quick, especially for the allegiance of a foreign and small country to the french crown. We were supposed to arrive there, my husband would have to make allegiance and the king consent.
Yet... as king Louis was shutter, he couldn't prononce correctly the name "Northumberland', and it took him about five minutes to manage to go from "No... no.. Noor..." (Ælla told me after that he was afraid Louis was about to refuse plain and simply...) to "Nor-umbeland". Quite close it was agreed. We were now his subjects.



The protection of the mighty kingdom helped us, for Ivar didn’t dare attack us. It was curious because the lack of good ships rendered a french help virtual. Even though, with the king of west Francia inheriting the kingdom of Aquitaine, our liege is currently one of the most powerful, save the Basileus himself.



Each day, my husband grew more and more weary… He yelled at me and hit me so often that I did not took notice anymore. No one dared to comment the marks on my face. Anyway, he yelled at everyone : at the men on Ivar court for loving him too much to join his plot, at his spymaster who was building a useless spy network there... His wrath was hurting everyone at court, and everyone hated him... Everyone expect his good Court Chaplain who spoke so softly and whispered everyday sweet words to his lordly ears.

Wise Ceolwulf… He was telling him on a daily basis about the great deeds of a true holy Christian king. He told him that God was by his side, that he was going to retake the lands stolen by the heathen.
Mystic Ceolwulf... each day they went to the lost tower on the forbidden island... A tower in ruin my Lordly husband granted to Ceolwulf when we sized the castle. Each day he was showing him through the smoke of some dark fire images... Images of his future glory... and through troubled water black things and deadly knowledge... Images again... Images of his foes defeated... Beaten... Tortured...
And my husband listened to him... he listened with all the desires that his blackened heart was feeding inside of him...



The Vikings could not rest... First of all, Ivar, the ugly heathen - may the devil eat his soul -, against all odds, ransomed my baby girl. I can't blame him, for my mother's heart secretly desired it, and I was overwhelmed with joy when I heard my daughter was ransomed. But still... I can't forgive him and prayed each day the Lord to bring doom upon the heathen monsters.



The Christ seemed to have heard our plea, for the ugly Vikings started fighting wars all over the Scotts, the irish and themselves. During that time, one of the son of Lodbrok died. It was the Snake eyes, the husband of my beloved Daughter. Now my grandson is on the throne of the kingdom of Sjealland and he hates us to the core for being Christians. Would he face me, he would kill me, the blood of his blood… When he heard the news, Ælla only said : “One less piglet; but I am still hungry for pig meat.”

Ceolwulf spoke softly to his ears...

Ælla declared war on Haldfan Whiteshirt, the king of Jorvik.



To be continued...
 
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