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Four centuries later, Europe remains in shambles from the loss of Rome. The men of the frozen North, inspired by the mighty Ragnar Lothbrok's successful invasion of the British Isles, now stand uncertain after his death to the snakepit of King Ælla. Their invincible Huscarls hold paralyzed while the piglets of Lothbrok squabble pointlessly over what scraps remain and the Saxon armies mobilize, Scandinavia once more fractured under a thousand petty Jarls.

In the farthest Northern reach of human civilization, Rögnvaldr, the Jarl of Nidaros, takes refuge in his longhouse against the deathly bite of a January snowstorm; the frozen waters forbid anything else. One of the two huscarls standing guard outside suddenly squints, stepping forward with the uncertainty of hallucination. In the violent glare of a howling snowstorm, the warrior, his beard matted with frost and dirt, sees the ghostly outline of a human figure, trudging steadily forward against the oppressive white mass. "Tell the Jarl." The Veteran grunts in gutteral Norse. "Anyone coming against the storm is either a madman or a legend. He'll be interested either way." The other Huscarl offers no protest - any excuse to take a few moments in the warmth of the Longhouse is welcome.

From the blinding storm, a great figure steps forward to present himself to the Longhouse, a pair of ice-blue eyes, hardset on an unforgiving face becoming visible before even the heavy furs that drape his massive form, or the flash of bright blonde hair against a scarred visage, nearly invisible alongside his pale skin in the eye of the white storm. Jarl Rögnvaldr makes himself known, alongside a few members of his court, as the stranger approaches, a smile on his face at the gall of a man to travel through death itself for indeterminate purpose. The Jarl is an aging man, nearly forty, and remarkably unambitious, but physically powerful as most Norsemen are, standing well above six foot with powerful, corded muscles. Yet before this nameless man he pales, eyes made to look upwards to meet a terrifying gaze.

"Rögnvaldr av Trönde." An authoritative voice growls, barely loud enough to be heard over the whistling storm and the furred hood insulating the stranger's face. "You are weak and impotent - unfit to hold dominion over the lives of free men. I challenge the right to your title."

The words hang in the freezing air, looming over the small, silent group outside. To accuse a Jarl of weakness and ineptitude has only one end for all involved, written plainly as the smile falls. The wind's howling grows louder, deafening over the wordless few as Rögnvaldr's hand moves to rest on the hilt of his blade, clearly displayed in its sheath against his side. A huscarl takes a single step forward, then stops - halted by an outreach of Rögnvaldr's arm. No man follows a coward.

"Come then, stranger." The Jarl demands, a soft scrape hidden under the winds as he draws a long, battle-scarred blade, its handle lined with runes and notches of war. The silent man gives his response in the form of throwing back his heaviest layer of furs, a brilliant, pure-white axe held high in his hand, the slim handle engraved in a mass of entwined runic notes. Only the clang of a blade's edge caught against the butt of an axe rings out over the snowblown wind - the grunts of effort are lost. A forward slash is hit to the side, and the central thrust that follows it caught in the hook of the axe. In a fraction of a second, the stranger is against Rögnvaldr, close enough to share breath for a single instant as the axe is brought upwards, the sheen of its reddened edge flashing a glare against the white sun above. The gathered men hold still once more, frozen as the air around - and then the moment is over, and the driven snow is coated with a gentle vermillion. The stranger rests his axe against his hip, taking note of the warriors cricled around.

"There are plans to be made." Growled Jarl Sigurðr, trudging towards the longhouse.

Heavy boots crunched against the slickened snow, making a soft squelch as the founder of an Empire stepped over the first few drops of Imperial Blood.



IMPERIAL BLOOD
Early Imperial Flag.png

A CK2-Stellaris Megacampaign



Birth and Blood
 
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Table of Contents:

Chapter One: Our Forefathers Before Us War Drums
Konungr Sigurðr the Dragon (867-897 ER)
Part One: Sigurðr Kynligr
Part Two: The Dragon of the North
Part Three: Dragonslayer
Europe, Circa 897
Emperor Maximilian the Jackal (897-943 ER)
Part Four: And So we March
Part Five: Imperium
Chapter Two: The Den of Wolves Unchecked Ambitions
Empress Elisa the Wolf (943-952 ER)
Part One: Wolfpup
Part Two: Wolf-Bitch
Part Three: Wolf Hunt
Emperor Tjudmund the Lamb (952-976 ER), Emperor Styrbjörn the Tyrant (976-1000 ER)
Part Four: Iron Shadows
The Turn of the Millenium: Europe, Circa 1000
Chapter Three: Northern Light Chills at the Edge of the World
Emperor Felix the Smiling Fox (1000-1033 ER)
Part One: Kvikréttr
Part Two: Fang and Claw
Part Three: Foxhound
Emperor Vilhelm the Hound, Odinsword (1033-1037 ER)
Part Four: Unstoppable
Chapter Four: Scarlet Sun A Blade to Mark the Grave
Emperor Helge the Holy (1037 - 1053 ER)
Part One: Ave
Part Two: Cry Havoc
Part Three: Daybreak
Empress Sigrid the Fearless (1053 - 1068 ER)
Part Four: Pawprints
Part Five: The Axles Turn
Emperor Trond the Good (1068 - 1078 ER)
Part Six: Earth and Sky
Emperor Balder the Lecher(1078 - 1093 ER)
Part Seven: Eir's Mercy
Europe, Circa 1094
Chapter Five: Death Come Not Silent Heartbeats of the Dragon
Emperor Bård the Unbroken King (1093 - 1114 ER)
Part One: The Ballad of the Broken
Emperor Aleksandr the Brute (1114 - 1156 ER)
Part Two: Sons and Servants
Part Three: The Last Norseman
Emperor Erik the Able (1156 - 1165 ER)
Part Four: Tomorrow Comes
Emperor Sigurd II (1165 - 1194 ER)
Part Five: Disunion
Part Six: On the Road to Tomorrow
Part Seven: Virtue's Wages
Europe, Circa 1194
Emperor Aleksandr II the Mad King (1194 - 1213 ER)
Part Eight: The Darkening Sky
Part Nine: The Pit
Chapter Six: Decadents Strange Stars in the Sky
Empress Karoline the Unchaste (1213 - 1233 ER)
Part One: Unburied
Emperor Finn the Victorious (1233 - 1257 ER)
Part Two: Thunderclap
Part Three: Wines and Horses
Part Four: Leechsting
Emperor Felix II The Silent (1257 - 1286 ER)
Part Five: Oleander
Part Six: Dragonfire
Emperor Maximilian II (1286 - 1311 ER)
Part Seven: The Candle Flickers
Part Eight: Blaze of Glory
Part Nine: The Length of a Shadow
Chapter Seven: Winter Eclipse Shadows Come to Bear
Emperor Felix III (1311 - 1321 ER)
Part One: The Rooster's Call
Part Two: A Winged Crown
Part Three: The End of an Era
The Imperial Crisis (1321 - 1324 ER)
Part Four: The Imperial Crisis


This is going to be an megacampaign AAR: CK2 to EU4 to Victoria 2 to HOI4 to Stellaris. I will not be going for a world conquest (before HOI), and the actual AAR will be a stylistic mix, though mostly narrative. I reserve the right to make use of the console for the purpose of narrative and to offset things that I think are stupid, like having to pay a small fortune to the Gods in order to claim titles. I will also be preventing bordergore. Feel free to make suggestions or requests, I'll reply and act on them as best I can.

Times of peace/stagnation (50-100 years) will be mostly skipped past to stop this megacampaign from lasting longer than a literal half-decade or more. This will still likely be the longest part, aside from maybe Stellaris.

MODS USED:[/SIZE]
None.

DLC USED:

Legacy of Rome
Sword of Islam
The Old Gods
The Republic
The Conclave
Way of Life
The Reaper's Due



Imperial Hierarchy:


Fylkir (Emperor/Empress)

Konnungr/Dronning (Independent King or Queen, i.e. Frisia)

Storhertug/Storhertuginne (Grand Duke)

Jarl (Originally Count, now more analogous to Petty King)

Hertug/Hertuginne (Duke)

Kurfryste/Kurfrystinne (Elector)

Sjef (Chief) - Gradually dying out, soon to be replaced

Below this point are non-official nobles who do not get a vote in the Upper House of the Grand Assembly

Herre/Dame (Gentleman; son or daughter of a lauded and titled noble)

Húskarl (House-Man)

Freeman (Property-owning, non-thrall, independent Imperial free of debt - citizens with significant rights, exempt from being levied and held in high esteem)


INDEX OF TERMS:
Asatru - Contemporary name for Norse religion, and generally used by the Norse to refer to it in more formal terms. Literally meaning 'True to the Æsir', Asatru values honor, integrity, and individual strength in mind and body above all. Though an Asatru man (or woman) can only have one wife, concubinage is an accepted practice, and it is typically expected for powerful men to have at least a few concubines who are valued as inferior to the legally wed partner.

Fylkir - Imperial Norse word meaning 'King of all men', roughly. Technically a separate title from Emperor of the Imperial Union, the two are ineffably linked to one another, though Fylkir refers to the religious head of Asatru, whereas Emperor refers to the secular head of the Union. According to Asatru theology, the Fylkir is the rightful lord of all Mankind, elected and confirmed as the best choice to rule over all Earth. As such, no restrictions whatsoever are placed on who can legally become Fylkir, in terms of background, gender, or even religion. Instead, the Fylkir is appointed by the current Fylkir, and confirmed by a two-thirds majority in the Imperial Assembly.

ER - Eptir röm or 'After Rome', the Imperial term for AD on the Julian calendar. Adopted by Emperor Maximilian as part of accepting a Union between the North Way and Germania.

The North Way - Ancient Imperial term for Scandinavia. Gradually became just the region known as Norway, as opposed to Sweden, the 'South Way'.

Imperial Union - The government and nation that rules over most of the Norse, Germanic, and Finno-Ugric peoples on Earth. Created as a quite literal Union between the Scandinavian and German states by the Emperor Maximilian, who proposed it to southern dignitaries while under dire threat from the rebellion of his brother, the Union grew into a sprawling Empire encompassing dozens of ethnic groups.

The Brother's War - The war that led to the founding of the Imperial Union. After the death of Konnungr Sigurðr, he posthumously appointed his first son, Maximilian, as his successor. Olafr, the second son, disagreed, and took a majority of his Father's kingdom up in rebellion. Maximilian's desperate alliance with the Danes and Germans to the south to defeat his brother formed the spine of the Imperial Union.

The First Crusade - The first experimental crusade launched by the Christian world was a reaction to Maximilian's unification with parts of Christian north Germany, and an attempt to push back the injured Norsemen from the European mainland. Despite the Christian forces being larger, well-supplied, and under better command, Maximilian was able to stall them for long enough to negotiate a white peace in which he paid for their safe travel home. Elisa, his youngest daughter, hated this humiliation, and the First Crusade was one of the primary reasons behind her declaring an Asatru crusade that conquered most of Germany.

Jafnadgr - The ancestral home of the Av Sverdklydige, a mountain-fortress and palace that sits above Oslo. Evolved from Sigurðr the Dragon's constructed longhouse, which he fortified and improved over a three-decade reign with his enormous riches from raiding and conquering into a proper palace and near unassailable fortress. Dubbed 'Jafnadgr', or 'The Hall of Justice' by Maximilian, his first son and the founder of the Imperial Union. By the decree of Maximilian's daughter and successor, Elisa, Emperors of the Union are forbidden from sitting in a throne, so the throne room of the Union is a cold stone hall that features only some stark decoration, statues of the three founders of the Union - Sigurðr, Maximilian, and Elisa, with the cardinal virtue of each ruler above their head (Strength, Cunning, and Ambition, respectively) - and the Union's motto, vér þrá, or 'we persist'. This was also built by Elisa.

Rítaðr guðrún - The Words of Divine Mystery, codified rites and theology of Asatru written in the times of the Norse Reformation.

Kappeidsman - The elected, secondary religious authority to the Fylkir. Directly elected by a small group of Seidsmenn from around the Union, the Kappeidsman assumes many symbolic responsibilities and practical theological affairs, such as crowning the Emperor. Based out of Cologne, this title is typically held by a German.

Imperial Diet - The bicameral legislature of the Imperial Union, housed in the Grand Assembly of Oslo. Officially known as the Keis-Stórrþing av Miðgarðr, or Imperial High Assembly of Midgard, the Diet consists of the High Thing(Assembly) and the Low Thing(Senate), the former of which consists of titled nobility that confirm the Fylkir's appointment for their successor, and the latter being composed of semi-elected, semi-nominated village officials from around the Empire that offer legislative proposals. More commonly referred to simply as the 'Grand Assembly' and generally only referred to as the Diet in formal settings.

Dróttkvætt - Originally an ancient and highly complex skaldic form meaning 'Lordly Verse', the term came to refer to the office of historians and records-keepers established by Maximilian shortly after the Imperial Union itself.

Húskarl/Alsverk - Made an official title by Empress Elisa, a Húskarl (Huscarl) is an elite soldier who has proven his bravery and skill in battle, and has therefore been honored to bear the howling white wolfshead that represents house Sverdklydige in either the form of a tattoo or as a marking on their clothes. Though originally intended as battlefield commanders, the Huscarl were eventually replaced in that role by Sersjantr. 'Alsverk', or 'Blackshirt', is the slang term for these units, as they wear black uniforms with red trims due to the black-and-red colors of house av Sverdklydige. Throughout the late medieval period, the blackshirts were given sole constabulary powers in Oslo, and served both as guardians of the peace throughout the city and the elite strike units of the Imperium's armies.

Fyrgavörðr ('First Guardian') - Title created by the Emperor Sigurd II, refers to the head of the Húskarl. Typically held in parallel by a lower noble such as a Kurfryste, while most Húskarl are freemen.

Bjóðr - Also drafted by Empress Elisa, the bjóðr, literally 'announcers', were the first midfield commanders of the Union. Under Elisa's small, elite-focused organization, the bjóðr commanded a company of 100 men each, relaying orders from command and keeping their units organized as best as possible. Under the Emperor Felix, they were made commanders of the leiðang, leading a brigade of two thousand men each.

Vilikir - The ancestral axe of Sigurðr av Sverdklydige, a radiant and terrifying greataxe the size of a man. The metal of the axe is a stark snow white, covered in intricate, shimmering runes and sigils. Despite its centuries-old blade, Vilikir never seems to dull, and its edge cuts through armor better than even Damascus Steel. Lost by Sigurðr upon his death to the French in Normandy and taken as a trophy, the Empress Elisa would eventually wage a 'War of the Axe' against France and their German allies to recover the weapon. Elisa is also the one who gave the axe its name upon recovering it, meaning the 'Imperial Will'.

Sersjantr - 'Servants', a rank between bjóðr and húskarl in the army introduced by Felix.

Leiðangr - Ancient word for the Norse levy. Originally requiring a certain number of valid and healthy troops from each village and city within the Empire, the leiðang was revised early in the history of the Empire to instead call forth all valid non-property-owning freemen within the Union, a more efficient draw made possible by actual recordskeeping. Under Emperor Felix, revised with Roman inspiration to also refer to groupings of two thousand men within the Imperial army, originally led by a bjóðr and merely twenty Sersjantr. Each leiðang has an attached meiksmandr, or standard bearer, who brings the black, red, and white flag of the Union with them.

Skræling - Barbarian, Savage, generally anyone dark-skinned and outside Europe and the Mediterranean. The term was drafted by Norsemen upon founding their first colonies within Vinland, or Canada, who encountered and were attacked by Inuits in heavy fur cloaks.

Kvikréttr - The 'Law of the Living', or the extensive legal code fully rewritten by Emperor Felix in 1005 ER. Completely unrelated to the widely-adopted Roman codes, the Kvikréttr serves as the backbone for the Union's entire legal structure.

Miklakveð - "Holy War", as declared by the Fylkir of the Norse. Roughly translated, this means the 'Great Call', which asks all ardent and able believers to take up arms in the defense of Asatru. Though the first event matching this description was Elisabet's war against Bavaria, the term was coined by Emperor Vilhelm as he waged a highly successful war against the emergent states of Bohemia and Poland.

The Fourth Crusade - The second Crusade launched against the Imperial Union, organized by King Giselbert of Bavaria in response to Vilhelm's earlier wars taking an enormous chunk of Bavarian territory. Well-organized between England, France, Italy, Bavaria and Poland, the Fourth Crusade was launched against the incompetent, secretly Christian Emperor Helge, resulting in the Union losing significantly more land than it had gained in Vilhelm's wars. Backlash from this humiliating defeated resulted in Helge becoming the first ruler to abdicated to his talented elder sister, Sigrid.

Arne's War - A failed but highly destructive revolt led by Duke Arne of Nidaros against Emperor Helge, resulting in his shameful abdication.

The War of the Third Alliance - A retaliation to the Fourth Crusade by King Giselbert, itself a retaliation to the Second Miklakveð by Emperor Vilhelm, the War of the Third Alliance was an opportunistic strike launched on a heavily weakened Bavaria, embroiled in a disastrous war against Italy and shaken by the death of their king, Giselbert. However, the heir to the throne, Matthias, proved a brilliant military strategist who could stand up even to the Union's fearsome armies and Sigrid's own martial prowess, and though the War was ultimately won by the Imperial Union, this was only after taking significant losses to gain less than expected.

Successor Wars - Refers to the devastating civil war caused by the early death of Emperor Erik the Able, who had appointed his eight-year-old son Sigurd II as successor. This was contested by his older brother of twenty, Anund, and the forty-eighty year old highly respected Jarl of Denmark, Harald Knytling. While the Successor Wars lasted for over a full decade, the majority of this time was spent in political deadlock between Harald and Sigurd, who refused to accept the other's points on the contested legality of Sigurd's succession. Sigurd eventually emerged victorious, mostly due to the loyalty of the elite Alsverk corps and popular support due to the perception of being appointed by the well-respected Emperor Erik.

First Birthright War - Empress Karoline's successful revanchist war to reclaim lost Polish territories. Often seen as the catalyst that reversed the Union's sociopolitical decline in the 13th century.

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https://www.patreon.com/sverd
 
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OUR FOREFATHERS BEFORE US
Part One
Sigurðr Kynligr

20170307164509_1.jpg

Though not much of a viking, the short poems of Jarl Rögnvaldr, most famous for being supposedly killed and usurped by Sigurðr av Sverdklydige. would provide some basis for the rítaðr guðrún's theological tenants in the next century.
A day later, the corpse of Rögnvaldr, Jarl of Nidaros, burns on a small, well-crafted ship, laid to rest with his blade and jewelry. Lazy and foolish as he may have been, content to feast without ambition for years on end in his comfortable longhouse, he had at least managed to die with honor, in fair and honest combat. Jarl Sigurðr's first actions are to arrange the man's burial and ensure that his children - five of them, though Rögnvaldr never married or took an official concubine - are tended to appropriately.
Only then does the true work begin.​

20170307164228_1.jpg

The Dragon of the North, mythical founder of the av Sverdklydige, has faced a great deal of both slander and praise over the centuries. Many rival nations have claimed both he and Ragnar Lothbrok as little more than fairy-tales, while others depict him as a violent ape or cruel sadist. What documentation remains on Sigurðr indicates that he showed little mercy, but had a keen sense of justice. We can be almost certain of his existence, and entirely certain of his military genius.
Sigurðr sleeps little and speaks less for the first month of his rule, though not for anxiety or depression. Every waking moment is instead tirelessly spent at work, barking harsh orders to Huscarls and courtiers for immediate organization and ritual. By the time the first news of his usurpation reaches the surrounding Jarls two weeks later, a list has been composed of all able-bodied freemen within Nidaros, and Huscarls sent to the farthest reaches of Rögnvaldr's former domain to bring those willing to fight for glory and wealth before the new Jarl. Word spreads quickly of Sigurðr's dramatic challenge and short display of martial ability, and men come from surrounding counties to seek their fortune. Sigurðr Kynligr, they call him. The Stranger of Nidaros.


By mid-February, roughly three hundred and fifty men have assembled to pledge allegiance to the stranger, gathered in something resembling organized lines outside Nidaros's modest longhouse, the insides of which rapidly have become covered with hand-drawn maps and military reports. Sigurðr, facing down the assembled men, holds them silent in the snow, his imposing presence quieting the small group of rough, large men before him.
"For ten thousand years, while Empires to the south have risen and fell, we of the North have squabbled and bickered over tribal holdings, leaving good men in early graves over the candlesticks of their neighbor. Even as our blood takes the lands of Britannia and Francia, they see fit to laugh at us as savages, unable to hold a nation by the reigns and tell the world, 'This is ours'!" The Stranger pauses, and vibrantly-colored Northmen lean forward, hinging on his words. "They are WRONG!", The great man shouts. "And it is well past time we, who claim to be free, prove it! It is not just for wealth and glory I bring you before me today, but also to forge a homeland where all freemen might live indefinitely, one where our sons and daughters can live unchained and unmolested, without the need to escape for glory and wealth - a land with cities to outshine Constantinople and Rome, wrought from our own hands, not that of other men! That homeland is birthed today in the spirit of every man in front of me, in the fire I see burning in your eyes and souls! You are right to place your faith in me, men of the North. Stand behind me, and I shall deliver unto you not only riches, not only glorious renown in the sagas written throughout all ages, not only land to hold your name and children for a thousand years, and not only the sweet taste of victory, but a nation of the North - and when they ask the names of its founders, they will be Sigurðr av Sverdklydige, and the men brave enough to stand at his side!"

With those words, Sigurðr slams his axe against his shield, signaling a roar of reply amongst the assembled warriors. The Jarl's shield is painted in the red and black of Trönde, the colors of blood and strength, with a single white wolf as its centerpiece, a marker of justice - honesty - ambition. It was a crest soon to be known across the whole of the Western world.


The southern Jarl of Hordaland, Eirikr, scarcely hears of Sigurðr's ascension before the Jarl is marched on, an insulting declaration of war delivered by raven. Unprepared as the forces of Sigurðr reach Hordaland proper in mid-April, Eirikr foolishly pulls back, forcibly conscripting men from southern villages before sallying forth to meet the Stranger's army in late July, his forces over a hundred men stronger. The conflict is maneuvered by Sigurðr into a fjord, where the narrow pass and water prevent Eirikr from utilizing his superior numbers effectively - an inconvenience, but not enough to pull back, Eirikr thinks.


By the time his main force, clustered into one bundle, slams into the spearwall of Sigurðr's ranks, any route of escape has been closed off, as a small detachment of fifty men approaches from the rear of the Fjord. Seconds after the battle is started, a hail of arrows flies down into the sides of Eirikr's lines, as young, unproven archers, hidden on the cliffsides, begin to fire. Realizing the tactical failures made, Eirikr attemps to divert men from his main force against the archers, splitting off a detachment from his left flank. A minute later, a group of eighteen Huscarls, led by the first man to swear loyalty to the Stranger - an honest warrior named Freyr - crash into the depleted flank, paving the way for Eirikr's forces to be fully encircled.

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The battle is a slaughter. Dozens of Eirik's men fall for every loss on Sigurðr's side - the battle only lasts ten minutes before what men remaining give up their arms, denouncing Eirik and pledging their service, having been clearly bested. Sigurðr orders the battle to halt and the Jarl of Hordaland to be found; an impossible task, as he has well since escaped. With his numbers well bolstered, Hordaland offers little resistance, and Jarl Eirikr is not seen again.

The next few months are spent reorganizing Hordaland and the fledgling military, as more freemen turn their heads to the Stranger of Nidaros, now having proved himself in a greatly successful clash. A good commander is well-valued to the Northmen, but a good warrior is even more respected; those under the Jarl's wing spread truthful tales of him taking down at least four or five men on his lonesome in Hordaland. Legend grows quickly after Lothbrok, and the freemen under Sigurðr swells to nearly five hundred.

In early November, it is Sigurðr who is caught by surprise as a letter comes from Jarl Heljarskinn of Rogaland, giving some modicum of notice as they march to 'remove the usurper', bringing eight hundred men against him. The Jarl has a mere week to prepare and organize before the armies of Rogaland are upon him, with almost double the number of men he has, supported by the southern Danes.

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The Rogalanders fall before him like the flow of a stream against rock. In a brutal and pitched combat, the mighty force shatters in Hordaland, driven into the mountains and smashed against them as a hammer on an anvil. It is a repeat of history - and, to the world, proof that his victory at Hordaland was not a fluke. As Heljarskinn of Rogaland is ousted and his lands claimed under what Sigurðr refers to as the 'North Way', the other powers of Scandinavia begin to pay attention. The Stranger of Nidaros, now sharing a border with Sigurðr Snake-In-The-Eye, one of Lothbrok's children, he has become a cause for concern. Still, as Fairhair marches against minor Jarls and Snake-In-The-Eye struggles to keep order within Sjaeland, the Stranger is keenly aware that he has a window of opportunity. After a month of organizing Rogaland's villages and people, Sigurðr marches north, his ever-growing army moving against Grjotgard of Naumadal.

The terrain itself fights against Sigurðr at Naumadal. Unable to spare the time to maneuver Grjotgard into a more favorable terrain, Sigurðr risks an assault over Naumadal's fjords into the waiting force of the local Jarl. With both a numerical advantage and the benefit of terrain, Grjotgard feels certain in victory, waiting as the band of Nidaros slowly appears over snowed-out, iced-over waters of Naumadal's Fjords, once-green grass bleak from August's death. "Sigurðr Kynligr," He growls to a Huscarl, "is no God of mine." The grey-bearded man turns back to his soldiers, positioned firmly at the heights behind him. "The man who brings me the head of this arrogant little boy ensures himself a place in Valhalla, and, more importantly, at my table for the rest of his life! If he thinks to call himself the Lord of the North, I'd say that he better damn well prove it!" Grjotgard bellows, almost cut off by the roar of approval that follows near-immediately afterward. The men of Nidaros have approached quickly, and by the time he turns back, they're nearly in range, below the mighty Fjord's river. "Look! He comes now to die. Get those blades up, you weaklings! Don't keep the Stranger waiting too long now!"

Sigurðr himself marches at the front of his men, arrows thudding softly into his upturned shield as the men around him stoicly march up the Fjord, the snow's pattern disturbed only by the occasional, gentle hiss of a thin arrow whizzing through the air, thunking against reinforced leather or skittering against rock uselessly. Grjotgard, too, stands at the front of his army - and as the men of Nidaros draw closer, he recognizes the great form of the Stranger, approaching in parallel. "Pehaps!" Grjotgard bellows, loud enough to be clearly heard by the approaching army. "Perhaps I might have to take the boy's head myself!". Drawing out his axe from its position against his side, the old Jarl stares down Sigurðr. The reciprocation of his glare makes their intent to duel obvious to all around - and as brother clashes against brother, slamming against and through shieldwalls, the two Jarls circle.

It is Grjotgard who makes the first move, lunging forward at Sigurðr with a shockingly strong overhead swipe that smashes the top of Sigurðr's shield into wooden chips, forcing the stranger to throw it to the snow, in the midst of battle on all sides. A second slash is caught in the hook of Sigurðr's axe, leaving Grjotgard open to the head slamming into his ribs, staggering the older man. The greybearded viking is only barely able to bring his own shield up to catch the edge of the stranger's brilliant white axe, the overwhelming force splitting it into two splintered halves, the wood raining down on either side of Grjotgard. A valiant push forward through the stun gashes Sigurðr's chest, opening the leathers and giving a brutal, bloody cut from his abdomen to his pectorals - a cut that Sigurðr ignores entirely, burying his axe into Grjotgard's leg with just barely enough restraint to stop from ripping the limb off, and bringing the old viking to his knees with a howl, their mixed blood pooling on the snow below. The noises of battle quite suddenly slow, then cease entirely as Sigurðr wrenches out his axe, a final attack from Grjotgard parried with enough force to send the second axe across the snow, landing past the blood and bits of shield littering the ruined field.

Both armies are silent, surrounding Grjotgard and Sigurðr. The greybeard spits blood, the trickling bubble of red from his exposed thigh almost unbearably loud. "You win, boy." Grjotgard growls. "Go ahead and prove it."

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The soft hiss of a falling axe christened Sigurðr's dominance of the coast. Over the next few months, the assembled army of freemen grows and grows, inspired by the legend of Jarl - no, Konungr Sigurðr. A simple band of iron, wreathed with intricate runes, is crafted by the most skilled blacksmith of Rogaland, an iron crown for the King of the North Way.

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As the Jarl of Herjadal, Olafr, pledged himself to the Stranger of Nidaros, the stage is set for a final conflict between the rising powers of the North. Four men vy for dominance of the North Way, and freemen flock to the banners of each. Most pledge only wealth, prestige, and combat.
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Sigurðr Kynligr promises an Empire.​
 
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stnylan

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A sense of something important - of establishment.
 

Firespread

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20170312225224_1.jpg


Part Two
The Dragon of the North
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War.

The most powerful word any human knows 'war'. To some, 'war' is a chin held high, an imperial standard waving proudly over a red dawn, a brave patriot standing alone on a narrow bridge. To others, war is a fifteen year old boy shitting his pants as a spear punctures his eye, or the man using the spiked edge of his standard to do it.

Jesus said, "All who will take up the sword, will die by the sword." Tyr says otherwise: "To prevail is the greatest honor that any man can aspire." The Empire has always held fast to Tyr, and despite the words of their savior, the Christians of the south - both within and without - fight with just as much passion, and have been just as defined by combat. What would the world look like if the Persians had conquered a fledgling Greece? If Caesar had not crossed the Rubicon? If Sigurd av Sverdklydige had died at Heidmark? To make history is to destroy your enemies, and few knew that better than Sigurd, the Dragon of the North. Having risen to power with the near mythical slaying of Jarl Ragnvald at Nidaros, the venerable Sigurd quickly rallied his men to soundly defeat the petty Jarls that surrounded him, establishing a secure domain over the coast of the North Way hardly three years after claiming Jarldom. This act, alongside the announcement of his claim to Kingship and the subsequent swearing of allegiance by the neighboring Jarl of Herjadal, Olaf, put Sigurd directly at odds with the three other major factions of the North. Rising tensions and competing claims to Kingship would eventually cause a four-year war that would later be marked as the definitive founding of the early Empire: The War of the North Way.

This period is riddled with superstition and misconceptions. The first is that this was, as the name would imply, one single, drawn-out war. In truth, the War of the North Way is more like an entire historical period - it would be almost a full decade and five separate wars before the full extent of the North Way would be one, and the historical event popularly known as the War of the North Way is itself a series of two mostly unliked wars. The first was between Sigurd av Sverdklydige and Harald Fairhair, and the second a coalition war of Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye and Bjorn Ironside, the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, against Sigurd av Sverdklydige.

The preliminary section of the war is referred to in formal terms as the War of the Two Kings. Diplomatic efforts between Harald and Sigurd were limited, as both were natural warriors, inclined to solve their issues through the medium of conflict. As both had placed forth competing claims for the North Way(A note for any non-Imperials: The North Way is the ancestral capital region of the Empire, stretching from roughly Gotland to Nordland), a war to settle the dispute was inevitable, and in December of 868, it erupted.
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Sigurd's troops were initially taken off-guard and without leadership at Naumadal as a large group of Freemen rallied to join the great conflict, and suffered heavy initial losses, but as the battle - between roughly eight thousand men - continued for some time, Sigurd's arrival with reinforcements forced Harald's troops back to Heidmark to recover and reinforce. Despite a skillful pullback by Harald, Sigurd's troops were able to catch them in the mountains of Heidmark, surrounding Harald's forces within Hamar. Reinforcements from neighboring Jarls and a careful fortification had left Harald with almost five thousand men to Sigurd's three, and though winning against all odds had become a habit for the Dragon, the battle of Hamar would be one of the most dramatic, defining, and infamous victories in the Empire's history.


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Entrenched, in the mountains and with a significant numerical edge, the only advantages Sigurd had were the unsteadiness of Harald's troops after pulling back at Naumadal, and the fact that he would be on the offensive, and therefore able to define the terms of combat. Both of these factors were leveraged to their full advantage. As the first night for Harald's troops grew thin, two small forces of about two hundred men each, coated by darkness, broke into the sides of the entrenched men, catching Harald's forces by surprise and exposing - if only for a few minutes, as the small, elite groups struggled to hold the line - a gap in the spearwall. As dawn cracks over the horizon, the two thousand men of Sigurd's troops had become quite suddenly visible to Harald's men, forcing their way through the chink that had been wrought in Harald's army to split them in half, leaving a solid portion of Harald's men to become lost and disoriented within Hamar itself. By focusing all effort on singling out and striking down the Jarls and commanders, Sigurd managed to scatter Harald's reinforced armies, leaving both Hamar and a clear path to Akershus entirely exposed.

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The perhaps most famous scene of the battle of Hamar, of King Sigurd offering a hand up to a gracefully bested Harald Fairhair, is unfortunately entirely historically unverifiable. The early Empire comprised an impressive amount of sagas and raised more than one runestone on the mighty friendship between the two, and the descendents of Fairhair still proudly hold a place in the Imperial Assembly, but we know precious little for a fact about the details of their encounter at Hamar. From what we know of their personality, a display of martial brilliance or valor from Harald would be, in all likelihood, what earned his place, but whatever it was that he did at Hamar is lost to the ages. Somewhere around the year 870, Harald formally surrendered to Sigurd, ending the first half of the War of the North Way. With Fairhair's swearing an oath of fealty, Sigurd was free to claim the title Konungr - the undisputed king of the North Way.


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As the remaining small Jarls of the north swore fealty to Sigurd, the kingdoms of the South began to take note. King Lothaire of Lotharingia famously declares "The Dragon of the North will lie slain soon enough." Sigurd, already famous for his ruthlessness, size, and intensity, becomes referred to as 'The Dragon' almost constantly in near every work afterwards; from that, we can best infer that he liked the name. Early rulers of the Norse were famous for taking intimidating surnames to match the fear and glory they hoped to show and take respectively, and association with the death of the world as we know it - the prodigal son of Jörmungandr itself - is far from off-key.
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And much like his namesake, Sigurd was unquenchable in his ambition.
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The Dragon's claim to the kingdom of the 'North Way' was, as he described it, from Skane to Finnmark, with all the land it contained being the rightful homeland of the Norse. His eyes, then, were set upon the kingdoms of the south; Ragnar Lothbrok's two children of Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye of Denmark, and Bjorn Ironside of the South Way. The alliance of Lothbrok extended to the fertile land of Smaland and Gotland, meaning that nearly all the Southern Kings would stand as one against any move he made.

The Dragon only hesitated for a single moment - to get married.

Ludwig the German, the King of East Francia, had been eying the North Way with a mixture of suspicion and pragmatic endeavor for years. In fact, well before the War of the North Way, he had sent a missionary, a man named Anselm, to the court of the Dragon, where he served quite faithfully as a physician for Sigurd - though cowed into submission with threats of death if he attempted conversions. Still, the tolerance of a Catholic in Sigurd's court served to bolster relations between the two nations significantly, and served as a springboard for later diplomacy.
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In the short lapse between the first and second half of the War of the North Way, one of Ludwig's sons, Karl the Fat, had a child out of wedlock, a daughter, come to his attention. Unwilling to legitimize the child despite her intense beauty, Karl realized that he would not have to make the choice of infuriating his wife or casting away the child - but could instead offer her hand to a barbarian king, securing East Francia from raids while effectively ignoring the bastard.

Sigurd cared little for her bastard roots, noble name, or Catholic faith. He saw only a fair, young virgin, one sharp enough to run a longhouse and proud enough to stand by his side. The marriage then, was sealed.

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Scarcely a month after the marriage, a small skirmish with Bjorn Ironside's men began the second half of the War of the North Way.

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The isolated holdings of Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye proved easy targets, and were taken by the Dragon's forces scarcely a month into the war, with minimal resistance. For that matter, the Dragon's military tactics resulted in a series of early victories against the sons of Lothbrok, and it seemed that the war would be won in an instant - until, his pride kicking in, Sigurd sent nearly half his men to fight the Danes alone while he managed the occupation force of Ironside's lands.

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Ironside's forces, held out in more southern lands, managed a speedy interception of Sigurd's detachment, and without leadership the poor soldiers were like pigs to the slaughter. Our modern estimates say that nearly five hundred men must have died in the battle, purely from Sigurd's side, with the remaining few scattering off from the Dragon's army. Quite suddenly, the tide had turned, and the sons of Lothbrok began an aggressive push against the emaciated armies of the Dragon.

But as the sons of Lothbrok soon discovered, no force on Earth can hold down a Dragon enraged.

After a series of minor skirmishes and cleverly-oriented assaults, it was soon the coalition armies that lacked numbers and organization. And while they were cleaved down the middle, cut off from Akershus and Imperial territory, the Sons of Lothbrok met their doom at Vestfold.
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Pinned down by Sigurd's superior forces, the Dragon gave no mercy to the encircled forces of Bjorn; those who had willingly chosen not to join under his banner would never do so while they remained free. And so once he had them in his claws, the Dragon of the North slaughtered the Danes and Southlanders to a man, sparing only those who pledged their loyalty unquestioningly to his name once the grounds were littered with corpses. There was no strategy or honor at Vestfold; none of the military genius that had given Sigurd the North Way. It was just a slaughter.

A necessary evil? Undoubtedly. The massacre of Vesterfold caused the final surrender of the Sons of Lothbrok, allowing Sigurd's ambitions in the North Way to go unchallenged. The heads of freemen on pikes outside Akershus paved the way to an Empire - the greatest this Earth has ever seen. At heart, we, humankind, have always been a warrior race. It is in our blood; we yearn for combat, victory, glory, and the destruction that comes with it. In blood, the Dragon of Sverdklydige had ended the War of the North Way, spelling out the future of his race on the point of a sword.
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We, the men and women of the Empire, are forged from blood and iron.
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We are born from flame; tempered by the hammer of war and the drums of imperium.

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And now, as the fist of the Empire closes upon the world, I declare under the eyes of the wanderer: Let us never forget it.

- Johan Olsen, On the War of the North Way, circa 1653
 
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stnylan

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Most impressive. And Europe remains divided and ripe for the taking.
 

Z-Z-Z

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Go catholic!
 

Firespread

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Most impressive. And Europe remains divided and ripe for the taking.
Yep. Though poor Sigurd seems to have lost the drive of conquest, East Francia in particular stands dangerously close to collapse - after Karl the Fat, his third son, died of gout, the German finally died at the ripe old age of seventy-three, and the Dukes have decided that the succession skips his living second son, Ludwig the Younger, and goes directly to Ludwig the Third - a bastard child of his first son, one who Ludwig the German had *not* legitimized himself. With Ludwig the Younger quickly dying from an onset of cancer, the Dragon's sons might find themselves with a legitimate claim to the German throne through Gudrun's Karling blood.

Go catholic!
Hah, I doubt it. The plan for the moment is to reform Germanic Paganism and allow the Catholics to live in peace in the south. Mostly. The Rurikids are doing extremely well in Russia, and I think it might be extremely cool if they reformed Slavic as well. Islam is in danger of getting wiped off the map (Byzantium has made a serious comeback and reclaimed a ton of land, plus the Ummayyadds collapsed and are getting Reconquista'd hardcore; their civil war has lasted the term of three successful holy wars by Asturias) but by the Stellaris era a very religiously diverse Empire would be interesting. Norse Paganism, unless we end up becoming Christian, will probably be the official religion, but there'd be little reason to persecute non-Norse.

Christians will probably end up being one of the Pacifist factions in Stellaris, since the Norse sure as hell are not.
 

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Nooooooo! You neeeeeed tooooo seeeee theeeee liiiiiighhhhht!
(Popemutantabomination starts spewing strange liquid)
 

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20170312222551_1.jpg

Part Three
Dragonslayer



At the edge of the world, Sigurðr Kynligr, the most feared man in Europe, stood over the balcony of his longhouse. A decade had come and gone as King of the North Way, years spent in the shadow of victory; Akershus's longhouse, rebuilt in iron and stone, now stood more as a castle, engineered by an expensive Francien architect, as the first notes of ivy grew on its enormous sides. His hair had grown longer and did not shine so brightly with near-white splendor; his eyes, too, had lost the intense blue flame that glowed perpetually in his youth. His scars had grown longer and more numerous, and his beard did too, covering the grotesque sagas displayed across his visage.

Behind him, a woman who bore the name of Europe's owners called his, accompanied by a chorus of Europe's fairest. Faintly, the Dragon of the North could hear the sounds of his children playing; he recognized six, handsome and strong all, forged in war and tempered in peace. His place alongside - or, perhaps, exceeding Lothbrok in history was guaranteed, his hoard enormous, the freemen behind him a force to rival the great powers of the world.

For a brief moment, Sigurðr contemplated jumping. Another beckon rang out.

The Dragon recalled, quite suddenly, the old Jarl of Naumadal. His name was - it was Grjotgard. He had been a worthy opponent, for the extent of their short duel - few lasted long enough against him to call it dueling at all. Perhaps if the old Viking had been forty years younger, it might have been his life taken that day. It was not, Sigurðr realized, the duel itself that caught attention - it was the glimmer in his eyes, the instant before a mighty, white axe had cleaved his skull in two. His face. It was a look that Sigurðr had forgotten for many years. Honor played across it. Bravery. And - and - something else. To face down death with honor, Sigurðr had seen that a great many times. But on Grjotgard's face, something else played. A worthy death, perhaps? The glory of a due ascension to Valhalla?

No.

Sigurðr turned back to his chambers, his great hands immediately moving for the polished handle of his pure-white Greataxe, the burning blue flame returning to his intense eyes. It was well past time to find his worth in the cradle of oblivion. And that, Sigurðr knew, would be impossible before he understood the glare in Grjotgard's eyes.

The Dragon rose from his slumber once more. The world would burn.


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Six thousand men sailed to a land where Gods had lived and died the next morning. In the sands of Jerusalem, the Dragon had heard, peasants tore down Empires, and great warriors slaughtered thousands for a glimpse of another man's blood.

Acre was disappointing. As freemen piled up the corpses of the city's guard and lit their torches with oil, a man in rags approached the Dragon, falling to his knees to kiss at heavy, blood-caked boots. "Spare," He croaked in gutteral Norse. "Spare,", Again and again.

"You wish this city saved?" Sigurðr asked, his gaze overbearing and unbreakable. The ragged man nodded his head rapidly, never stopping as Sigurðr brought his arms outstretched, presenting his mailed chest. "Kill me."

The ragged man could not. Acre burned.

No miracles present themselves in Asqalan or Arsuf. No savior slits the Dragon's throat in Bethlehem. And none step forth to strike him down at the gates of Jerusalem. "Perhaps Gods walked these sands a thousand years ago," Sigurðr growls on the holiest of grounds, "But I see none today."

In a rage, Sigurðr orders the Dome of the Rock destroyed, setting most of Jerusalem ablaze in the effort. Once the great monument is reduced to smoldering rubble by a hundred men with great hammers, the Dragon leaves, unsatisfied and infuriated. The Mohammedans would suffer for their weakness, and the world ought see their example and make ready for the Dragon's arrival; left untamed, his appearance on every shore was little more than a matter of time.

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Venice is given no time to prepare for the Dragon's arrival. In the wealthiest city in the world, an army of Mercenaries stand opposed to the Northmen, halting their advance with pike.

Half of them turn tail the second the line is broken. Venice, for all its accumulated wealth and glory, is unable to hold against Sigurðr. Hundreds, if not thousands of gold's worth of fine silks and expensive jewelry are burnt or smashed in the streets, all that Sigurðr can find. Though the hulls of his fleet keep more than enough space, the point rings true: Wealth is no excuse for weakness.

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As Sigurðr's raiding grows increasingly furious, it is largely Maximilian, Sigurðr's first-born, who keeps the North Way in line. Though his slightly younger brother in Olafr (plagued by a slight bout of depression for a brief moment in his teenage years, but nevertheless) demonstrates the unbroken spirit, boundless ambition, and inspirational military genius of his father, Maximilian - a name demanded by Gudrun as a merger of Roman homage and Germanic root - shows instead an uncanny shrewdness and capacity for rule. Though Sigurðr has avoided naming a successor from his children, the Jarls increasingly expect Olafr to be the choice, as Maximilian's soft features and carefully-planned words are unbecoming of a Free King.

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In far-away lands, Sigurðr grows desperate. In the ancient city of Rome, he cuts down twenty men by himself, his towering figure and immense skill with the destructive greataxe tearing through holy men as wheat to a scythe - some have begun to attribute mythical qualities to the mysterious blade, or speculate on the origin of its pure-white metal, claiming that to slice through iron and bone like softened wood it must be from the hand of Tyr himself. Few ancient buildings are so much as touched, but the new churches and forts are largely ruined over shouted curses about imposters living in stagnant shadow.

The ancient conquests of the Norse in the British Isles - both islands already once conquered by Northern hands and held for centuries before - hold next on the Dragon's increasingly shorter list.

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The Scottish give almost no resistance as their churches and villages are burnt to the ground, what meager riches can be scraped out of their lands taken and loaded. Not even the descendents of Northern blood themselves can challenge the aging Sigurðr, a fact that sinks his heart heavy and raises his brow with rage.

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In fact, enough men are left after leaving Scotland that the Irish are given no pause in invasion. A mere five years ago, the lands of Ireland had been almost entirely subjugated under Norse hands; a remarkable comeback by the Jarls of the area. A poor choice of raiding caused their men to be sparse thoroughly the reconquered territory, however, and a minor revolt spitballed into an effort that pushed the Northmen out.

The Dragon can't help but chuckle at the thought, cleaving and Irishman's chest with enough force to spill his entrails. The loss would never have occurred under his hand.

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Upon returning, Olafr requests to be allowed to leave for the lands of the Greeks, where the Roman Emperor, legends of the Dragon and the conquests of the Northmen extending from Russia to France reaching his ears, has formed an elite mercenary vanguard exclusively comprised of those of Northern blood. Sigurðr is more than happy to allow his leave. Olafr is a strong and confident warrior, tall and brawny as his father, and the Roman recognition is immensely honorable. The name of av Sverdklydige has already found great renown as far south as New Rome; and no child of his is better than Olafr to further its notoriety in distinguished battle.

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Five more years of raids commence, successful only in securing riches and glory. His hair growing fully gray and his eyes nearly settling into lethargy, the Dragon launches a final expedition to the new lands of France, where the house of Capet rules after the death of the last Karling, solidfying the uncertain early borders of Karling rule significantly. Ten thousand freemen follow behind the Dragon - the largest Northern host ever assembled, with enough numbers and battle experience to take on the entire army of most southern states head-on.

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Paris burns entirely. Every fortress, every home, every church. Viking conquerors in Brittany were appeased by giving them land north of Paris, a land now called 'Normandy'. It has a catch to it, certainly. As the armies of the Frenchmen rally up, a pang of hope arises within Sigurðr. Perhaps here - now - will be the glorious trip to Valhalla. Perhaps above the ruined fields of a broken Paris, rife with disease and death, he might find truth. Perhaps here, he might finally absolve the burning question of Grjotgard. The French King rallies half of the country in a grand army to repell the Dragon from his shores, leaving the capital to burn in favor of organizing their counterattack.

Just above the burning fields of Paris, in Pontoise, over the dim light of early Autumn, battle is engaged.
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The Frenchmen attack with a full host of twelve thousand men to meet Sigurðr's four thousand,the rest of his own lost in razing or off to take spoils back to the North Way. Outnumbered three to one, in the heart of foreign territory, with every advantage and scrap of terrain bending for the French, Sigurðr, the Dragon of the North, loses for the first time. The French are pushed to the brink of the Seine. Orders grow increasingly hazy over the red smear of battle from Sigurðr's command tent; a hundred Huscarls to smash the weakened right protrusion. A close-range hail of arrows that neck the horses of a knightly charges. A defensive square that draws a small section of the Frenchmen in like a slaughterhouse. Each man, hardened from war and under impeccable command, kills at least two hastily-quaretered peasants apiece.

It's not enough.

The French have a seemingly infinite reserve, reinforced eternally by fresh levies coming from Paris and Normandy. The lines of the Northmen begin to crack. There's too many holes; the French can press from too many sides, and even if they kill two for one, the gap in numbers only seems to grow larger. With a final, determined growl, the gray-haired King of the North hoists up his massive axe, and steps forward onto the field.

In the pitched battle of thousands of men, the presence of the Dragon can be physically felt. A true giant of a man, he looms over even the other Northmen, standing almost two heads taller than the average French soldier, and the great swings of his massive arms quite literally cleave men in half; the white edge of the Dragon's axe slices through even mail as though it were little more than soft leather. The battle wears on into darkness, and the lines of the Northmen slowly break in death. But never in courage.

"TIL VALHALL." Sigurðr grunts, wrenching his hand from the mouth of a screaming Parisian, taking multiple teeth with the effort. His body is covered with a thousand tiny cuts, small trickles on his face and arms that drip blood painstakingly slowly, but the enormous armspan of his axe's swing prevents even the French pikemen from closing the distance; getting close to the Dragon seems only to guarantee a gruesome death. At some point, Sigurðr becomes acutely aware of the fact he is the last man in red, white and black on a field of fear and dead men. The corpses nearly trip his movement, so piled up around his feet. It's dark; faces can barely be seen, and the glint of a white axe flashing in the black depths.

Sigurðr's tired joints bring his axe crashing down into the shoulder of the man in front of him, burying it to the hilt. The enormous man moves to wrench it out from the flesh and lamellars it has embedded itself in - and finds himself unable to wrench it out. He pulls again and opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. But it is only the gentle trickle of liquid against his throat that shocks the Dragon back to reality. His head wrenches to the side, ice-blue eyes locking on the fresh, round, terrified face of a boy, no older than seventeen and clad in the blue-and-yellow rags of a French soldier, his hands trembling around the shaft of the spear embedding itself through the Dragon's throat. Sigurðr's hands drop the axe and reach out to clasp around the boy's throat, skinny and lanky and exposed. As the Dragon presses down, he can feel the strength leaving his body - and though the boy chokes, his windpipe remains uncrushed by Sigurðr's massive hand, huge green eyes wobbling in blatant fear over the fifty-year-old man. A full two heads shorter than Sigurðr, with hardly the strength in his pathetic, gangly frame to lift the spear he used, his eyes flickering in and out at the feeling of the Dragon's hand around his throat.

The battlefield was silent. Blood stemmed freely down Sigurðr's throat, coming from his mouth as he opened it, his fiery blue eyes twisting downwards. This was how it was to end, he understood clearly. And after a decade and a half, he understood Grjotgard.

"YOU!?"
Sigurðr spits in frothing rage, his fingers pressing down on the boy's throat with what little strength remains. His fingers freeze in place; no strength remains. Spitting blood onto the ground like a final breath of flame, the Dragon's weathered face lulls. A red sun rises.

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stnylan

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A fittingly violent end to a violent man :D
 

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Interlude
Europe, Circa 897 AD

The world stands on a precipice.

It is not just the lands of the North Way, shaken by the death of the Dragon and thrown to the brink of being wiped off the face of history as Ragnar Lothbrok's sons that holds its breath; around the whole of the world, the tides of fate shift, and the die of human civilization are cast by men in gilded masks.
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In Spain, the Arabs falter. The decadent Umayyad dynasty collapses into a two-decade civil war over minor political squabbles, tearing each other apart while the allied kingdoms of León and Navarra make daring advances. The new King of León, a young, proud, and sharp-eyed lad named Agila de Cantabria, declares Reconquista - an intent to crush the Umayyad caliphate entirely and create a single, Christian, Spanish state. Since the first Christian victory in Iberia a century ago, the Ummayyads have failed to stop the onset of the Christians, and now match even-handedly with the Christian Kings of Spain. The war for the fate of the peninsula begins in earnest.

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In East Francia and Lotharingia, the last Karling kings grasp power in ever-weaker hands. Ludwig IV holds the throne of the Germans after the death of Ludwig III. Whispers grow that the stuttering eleven-year-old's father was the last true Karling; that the child is an imbecile, and his regents fear the rising powers to the North and South. With the Dragon's death, the long-standing pact between the Germans and the Northerners is null and void. The East Francians stand culturally alienated, weak, friendless, and alone. The princes speak of revolt.

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The young king of Bavaria, meanwhile, holds genuine promise. A year younger than the Karling king to his north, Bertold II Fergant, at the age of ten, leads his men to victory against an opportunistic revolt with childlike glee. Contending now only with a powerful Austrian duke, the vassals of Bavaria hold confident. The future of Bavaria is surely bright.

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The house of Capet, rightful successors to the Karlings as the lords of Francia and home of the Dragonslayer, rename their dominion: France. The Francian Empire exists no longer. Challenged for dominion by the Burgundians, Lotharingians, and Italians, the Capets have much to prove, but in the subjugation of Brittany and the appeasement of the raiding Norsemen with the formation of a powerful Normandy, most vassals hold their faith in the new dynasty. The slaying of Sigurðr marks the start of an unshakeable rivalry between the two, and the Freemen of the North Way see the Norse of Normandy as little more than traitors, accepting the customs and rule of the man who killed the great Dragon of the North King Eudes is loathe to give up the French territory in Iberia won by Charles Martel in times past, but the pestering of allied Spanish Kings and the requests of his zealous children drive him closer to the decision with each passing day.

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Another young ruler, the seventeen-year-old Giovanna Bonifazi holds sway over Italy, a sharp-witted girl from the southernmost reaches of the peninsula, managing to secure the increasingly-elective country's rulership in a scheme that almost resembles a swindling. The powerful princes of Italy, including her own father, quickly realize that they've been tricked, persuaded to vote away from themselves to the 'irrelevant' duke in efforts to keep the other powerful lords from gaining Kingship after the demise of the Italian Karlings. Giovanna has, of course, thought little about securing rule as the powerful vassals of Italy come to grips with their new overlord; a teenage woman. The land that was once the homeland of the Romans appears on the brink of fracture...

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In a similar fashion to the Dutch Revolution in Lotharingia, the Irish manage to stage a successful revolt against their Norse conquerors. Though nearly two centuries of Norse rule and raiding has permanently featured the Irishmen with ice-pale skin and stark red hair, Conri the Liberator, the first Irish unifier of Ireland, has heroically secured his place in history as the first and greatest Irish king. Unfortunately, the two sons of the de Kells dynasty are weak and stupid, and while Conri holds a single Ireland together with unfettered zeal and courage, the sons of Ireland already prove themselves incapable. Across the lake, Britain remains rather pitifully dived between the petty Anglosaxon kings and the kingdom of Jorvik, locked in a perpetual and bloody squabble until a worthy lord arises from one of the sides.

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In far south, Byzantium rises from the ashes. Led by the strong and ambitious Macedonian usurper Basil, the Byzantines score multiple solid military victories within Anatolia, Italy, and the Balkans, where the grip of the Abbasids - much like their distant relatives in Spain - increasingly falters.

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Indeed, the Sword of Islam as a whole appears to be slipping from the grasp of the Arabs. The Sunni Caliph embodies the pitiful state of the religion, a half-blind, cruel, arbitrary coward with a great ability to torture and scheme - and little else. Infamous for his failures already, the hammer of Byzantium strides forth powerfully against its opponents, and the Caliph cowers. Basil does not yet declare a restored Rome, but with a potential collapse of Italy and the fall of Islam, could one be on the horizon?

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In the far East, the kingdom of Rurik continues to grow and subjugate the other Russian princes, though the mannerisms of the Rurikids become a cultural blend increasingly alien to the Norse, taking in the practice and thought of their local subjects. Some even begin to openly petition for a conversion to Slavic paganism, which King Olafr seriously considers. With the dissolution of Kiev and Drye's kingdom to revolts, the King of Rus appears to be the rightful lord of the East Wind. Olafr, arming his men for war, moves to realize it.

The rest of Europe stagnates under minor tribal leaders, or pretenders living the shadow of Charlemange and Rome. That is soon to change forever.
 
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What a lot of youth leading major states.
 

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What a lot of youth leading major states.
I'm pretty sure the Karlings all murdered one another, except for the Germans who all died from cancer. Seriously, Ludwig the Younger and Ludwig III both had severe cancer and died after like five years of rule. Other than that, I'm not sure myself how a seventeen year old girl got elected in Italy, but I doubt she'll last long. Regardless, the poor state of Germany makes them ripe for diplomatic talks...
 

Jakobb

Corporal
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Oct 29, 2014
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Author's note: The actual piece of shit Paradox text editor just gave me 'You must be logged in to post' and then deleted almost seven full pages of text (2,300 words or so) when I tried to post the update. God dammit.

I managed to recover a good chunk of the post because I had moved into the BB code editor to change something, so by backpaging and then resending the data on that specific page I managed to get what I'd written up to that point.

Also, the update was closer to ten pages overall, with three or four lost. I overexaggerated from my initial anger. Will delete this post when I'm less mad.


((You have gained Wroth))
i feel sorry for you
 

Scotty the Scot

Angry Wannabe Scotsman
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Though nearly two centuries of Norse rule and raiding has permanently featured the Irishmen with ice-pale skin and stark red hair....​

Not to be argumentative, and I definitely don't want to derail anything into debate, Irish people would have already had pale skin and red hair regardless of Vikings. For one, like the rest of Britain, Ireland is almost always overcast and rainy. Not something that lends well to anything other than super pale skin, and as for red hair, Celts were noted as having red hair (and blonde hair) well before any Germanics made permanent settlement in Britain or Ireland. Not to mention it's pretty ridiculous to assume that Viking rapes were thorough as to make it so that suddenly such features were ubiquitous in Ireland. And historically, Viking settlements were limited to the coastlines of Ireland, so again it's unlikely that the traits that form so many Irish (or pretty much all of them in the case of pale skin) were exclusively because of Norsemen.

Sorry for that outburst, I just felt I had to get that off my chest :p

Enjoying the AAR, btw. :D