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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Cornelius Rex

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I think Rus was also gathered by the Byzantines.

No backers for Esthonia or Lithuania? Or Serbia? Or Persia :D?
 

Cornelius Rex

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Kedjorna! (Letter from the land of lakes and ice)

My liege lord,

may these letters find you well and safe. I, your humble Duke Björn av Hälsingland, will hereby relate the dark and glorious tale of the conquest of Finland.



We had sailed from the lands that were Sweden and now bear the chained banner, and in the Spring of our Lord's year of 1104 landed our viking ships in surprise on the beaches of Viborg. Our longships were crammed with the brave and the hardy, as your call for Crusade had stirred the youngsters of Svealand and Götaland into proving that they are more valiant than our old kings. Also, your banner is glorious and your fame as gift-giver runs already in the legends. Two thousand spears, four thousand war-like arms to wield them, and the viking tradition all pushed us when the Baltic winds slacked. We would bring the White Christ and the Chains to the heathen, and we intended to do it before Summer. Little we knew of the Fates' designs.

The morning was young, and the sea-winds were crisp and cold, when the longships arrived in silence. The fleet was pushed on shore and the warriors jumped into the waves to haul the ships further. Then, while my marshall organized the camp, I divided our force in two divisions and marched across the swamps to the citadel of the Chiefs of Votes in Vibord.

The march was so swift, and the archers so deadly, that we reached the palisade before they had raised the alarm. We raised it for them, to the cry of "Kedjorna!". Which, as you doubtless know, means "The Chains!". The locals climbed to the palisade and were awed, for we were many and terrible, and completely unexpected.

We surrounded the little town before dawn was finally over. On the swamp land, we put archers; on the land side, pickets of our horse; and on the forest side, well-hidden infantry. I had also explorers sent into the countryside to warn us of reinforcements. I then sent a herald to call the heathen to the field, and gave them until noon before we'd shoot fire arrows into their fort and burn them all inside. The herald returned unharmed.

And so we waited. Then, shortly after the sun reached its zenith, the housecarls of the Chief of Votes started filing out of the wooden fortress, and after them, apparently, every inhabitant able to carry arms. My marshall and some counts wanted us to rush them before they would form their shield wall, but they had behaved well toward my herald and I wanted to give them a fighting chance. What would be the glory in rushing them? It was difficult enough being more than them, well-armed and trained.

Finally, they were ready, and their line formed before the walls. They were cunning, for they were close enough to be protected by the archers, wounded and old men they had left on the walls.

They sounded their warn horn and beat their shields. Looking at them from this side of them, those Finns were not very different from any Swedes or Norwegians I have fought. Indeed they were brave, for they could see most of our troops, and we were almost twice their number.



I wanted the fight to have some glory, so my guard and I formed a svynfilka or wedge-formation, sounded our horn, and charged roaring up the little hill, with the Navarran shield-wall cantering behind us. And we succeeded: shield crashed agains shield, theirs was the advantage of height and of rest, but our warriors were stouter and our swords sharper, and we cut at their legs under their shields and hammered their heads over them, and the weight of our formation broke their wall before ours had arrived. After that, many heathen ran and others fought unprotected, and many were the feats of bravery on both sides, although most of their heroes now lie dead. Many of my men took wounds, and my armor was damaged, but I was able to kill the marshal of the Chief and we captured those of their leaders that were not brave enough to die fighting.

After that, we laid siege to the fort without fear of counterattack. By early June, they were unable to hold us back, and we overran the defences with one final push.

Following your kind instructions, we didn't destroy the place nor sack it beyond the usual right of the viking conquest. We respected the lives and houses, taking only everything that was not bolted down and was not food. The Chief's house we took for you, and we left it under the Bishop of Nyland until the Count of Finland sent his governor.

Then, before the reinforcements arrived so as to gain what glory could be gained, we organized for the long march North, into the forests and lakes of the dark Finns, and the armies of the Tavasts. Your Count of Finland, Satajalka of Tavasts, led his armies against his cousin the heir of the Chiefdom, Otso of Tavasts, and killed more than ten heathen for every Navarran warrior that fell; many were too the feats done on that field. But we settled to capture the fortified capital of Tavasts, and the summer passed before it fell. Indeed, weakened by fevers and desertions, we were beaten back to the sea provinces by Otso in September.

We were forced to join your Duke Berthold d'Ardenne's forces, which had just landed in Finland, and again marched into the forests in October. The weather was dire, but our armies were led by Northmen (even if Berthold's troops were only northern Germans) and neither the snow nor the frozen lakes hindered us. In all, we now numbered almost ten thousand men, and the feet of so many warriors trod the land bare of snow and into earthy sludge. We met Otso again in November, and he made a valiant stand, but Berthold's methods didn't even give them a fighting chance. Even so, they broke at least one of our regiments, which was valiant considering we outnumbered them more than ten to one.

Indeed Berthold was so overconfident that he offended an envoy of the Prince of Polotsk and I had to challenge him to single combat. I won, and the Prince took it badly: he declared war on us. Berthold slapped me on the back when the news arrived and said that warring with Northmen was proving interesting. Whatever he meant.

We took the citadel of Tavasts in November. The Finns are not used to fighting in winter, whereas in Sweden we've often had to deal with Norwegian raiders in every season. Those Norwegians are fighting-crazy.

According to your commands, I gave the province to the young count of Finland, whose domain you asked us to enlarge if he proved worthy, and the title of Duke of Finland when the parchment arrived from Burgos. The example of largesse was very appreciated by the troops, everyone of which now dreams of becoming a Duke under your banner.

In December we received news of the royal marriage of Prince Sozzo and Beatrix von Zähringen of Verdun. We hope the couple are happy, and that her age, experience and sweetness help her care for his sick Highness and bring him to health. We also received news of your Marshal and his aide-de-camp; we were glad at Esteve's recovery, and saddened at the worsening of Amat's condition. A warrior should never be reduced to that, and I'm sure the glorious Amat would rather be here, losing his toes to the cold and his ears to the swords of the Finns, than wasting in bed.

We sent back then the news of the capitulation of Satakunta. The cowardly count didn't even wait to be overcome: as soon as we'd surrounded his fortress, he gave up. He said he didn't want his people "to die fighting the winter wolves". Go figure. The lands were entrusted to your Duke of Finland as well.

We had divided our troops to attack Satakunta and still arrive at Kajanaborg before Christmas; it was a mistake. Mielus of Tavasts beat the Germans of Duke Berthold in a snow-drenched battle in which our horse were useless and our archers almost too.

In March, we were reorganising the army when news of Amat's death of illness found its way to us. It stirred me, and it stirred many, and those that weren't stirred I moved to action, telling them of the feats of daring, of strength and of sheer audacity that Amat had performed as your Marshal. Did they want to die without such stories to make their name remembered? Did they want to die of sickness, old, infirm, wealthy and surrounded by a loving family! No! Better to die in the field of battle, as vikings always have, and fall in the name of the White Christ and the Chains of Navarra!

Unfortunately, the Germans could not be motivated that way, and Simon, your Count of Loon, failed to impress on the Finnish that their days of independence were over. I had charged him to make a foray on Kajanabord in April and he returned to Tavasts humiliated.

In May, your Dukes Berthold and Satajalka led less than three thousand lances North, and were beaten back again by half that number. In June, Simon was defeated too. But in August, I forced every chief to work as one. We raised the full levies of Finland and with seven thousand spears laid siege to Kajanasborg.

It was a very long siege, and meanwhile the forces of Tavasts defeated our stragglers and occupied some of the provinces of Finland. But in November 15th 1105, just as your Duke Berthold was getting beaten in Satakunta, I personally carried the red and chained flag across the palisades of Kajanaborg at last.



We captured the High Chief, and his nephew Satajalka sat with him for a day and a night, quarrelling, negotiating and drinking, with a bit of help by myself, and in the end the old man was convinced. He put the crown of High Chief of Tavasts on the brows of your Duke of Finland, and the young Satajalka grabbed him by the shoulder and declared that he should be count of Kajanaborg under his rule and the reign of King Luis.

And thus was Finland gained. For with that stroke, five provinces more joined your realm, and the crown of the North is within your reach.

We will remain in this land until your instructions are fulfilled. I will probably remain longer, since I've been very badly wounded during the last battle. I intend to ride to death as your royal father did. But it has been a pleasure and a privilege to live, fight and die for a king of warriors.

Your faithful Duke,

Björn av Hälsingland
 
Last edited:

Cornelius Rex

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Groups of battle-reenactment aficionados trying out viking tactics :). The first is wikipedia, the second from Flickr.

Well, and the first one is a painting of the last battle of Harald Haldrada on English soil. The Saxon usurper got rid of the Norwegians just in time to be squashed by the Normans. But I don't think you meant that one :).
 

Enewald

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Somehow, I dont think there was any Finnish fort worth conquering before the 13th century...
 

Cornelius Rex

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The Duke seems to have though they weren't much sport, either :).
 

Cornelius Rex

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A couple of retroactive maps and Fedora's picture just inserted on previous page :).

I expect to update a few times more before the graphics are fully back again, but we should eventually have pics in every update.
 

Cornelius Rex

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November 1105-February 1107: Setting the stage, or things to do in the North when the Pagans allow it.

Hey, who the hell...! Guards!

Oh, it's you. You almost scared me! How long has it been since you last dropped by, five years? I was beginning to think you wouldn't be back.

You missed the talks? Really? How kind of you. By the way, please get the dog off the sofa, last time he chewed half the cushions... thanks.

News? Oh, well, several, of course. With the Empire of Navarra now covering a third of the known world, hardly a week passes without something noteworthy. Especially since we're still working at covering a bit more of it. I'd be hard to sum up, but some things do stand out.

Let's see... you may remember we were bent on conquering the Eastern Baltic region, right? You heard the news from Finland? Good, good. And the fall of Karelia in January 1106? That was the last step of the main campaign. Pity the old Duke wasn't there. A colorful person, the Duke. Everything that we've done in the last months comes from his work.



In February 1106 we went for Kexholm and Beloozero. Beloozero was a vassal of Georgia, and the Kingdom of Georgia took offence, of course... And we got a surprise: Napoli was a Georgian vassal, so they invaded Roma. We retaliated, and also signed an alliance with the Byzantines to keep them busy. So... in short, Beloozero joined the Empire in March. Kexholm lasted longer, and I gave it to Juan to start getting his hands on the job. And, well, in June I constituted the new lands into the Kingdom of Finland to get it properly organised.







War has been continuous on the north-eastern frontier, and I expect it will continue until we reach the frontiers of the Byzantines. To the south-east of the new realm there were several isolated provinces run by the Tribe of Cuman, one of the most powerful pagan kingdoms. The Northern Army descended on them in August, starting another war that finished only in November... and Livonia was eventually next, although there Pagan resistance lasted much longer.





But there were skirmishes elsewhere too. About the same time Rashka left our empire for Byzantium and then split from Bizantium; we invaded before they had settled on a new national banner.



In September too we had conquered Napoli, and I decided to go one step further... and therefore had a claim on the Kingdom of Georgia very professionally fabricated. And one on the Princedom of Polotsk, just for good measure. The invasion of the Principality followed swiftly, and annexation was done in October. In November we gathered an South-East expeditionary force and sent it directly to the Georgian homeland.





Georgian vassals were in every nook. In October, for instance, we conquered Alexandretta.

But all that happened very far away. For most of the Empire, and for the Imperial family, the annual San Fermín festival in July and the grand Tournament in September were much more interesting. Especially considering that Estève, now acting as Marshall, led the Imperial side against all comers and won a famous victory. Another high spot was Juan's investiture as the duke of newly-created Novgorod and lord of the three counties just grabbed from the Cumans. Or when our other son, poor Sozzo, finished his education. Such a good, hard-working boy, such bad luck with his health. All in all, we had some good moments together last year.







The Pope chose December to come again asking for Rome, and did so in a most public and affronting way. We were lucky that our late Marshall's strategy has worked so well: all over the Empire, it was the Throne and not the Mitre that were seen as the defenders of the Faith. Rome revolted, but we were confident that would be all the damage done...



... and in truth, we had no shocks until February 1107 when Castellón rebelled; the Valencia garrison took care without missing a step. Indeed, the start of this year has been very tranquil, if not peaceful. The clergy was either joining our side or failing to stir rebellions: the barons were definitely behaving well. The burghers were generally given voice, and happy about it. And our wars of aggression were going very well, with the slight exception of the irreducible Livonians which made our armies sweat until February 1107. After the armistice, I asked Mendune of Livs to send a Livonian body of guards to Navarra, and they're a hit with the population.





And now... I'm preparing to do something that will change the direction of the Imperial policy and set the ground for the greatest project of all. Some of my advisors fear it may be a serious mistake. I'm sure Doña Muña would not approve. But there's some risks I just can't run. The Jiménez Dinasty will survive even if I sink. And I could sink.

The details... no, I'm afraid you'll have to wait just like everyone else. Yes. Really.

 

Cornelius Rex

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Sorry to have to confirm that the game was abandoned, having run out of free time :).