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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

alscon

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Prologue 1

Ah, yes. So you want to hear yet another tale of Ragnarr's sons? If you desire it...


Which one? Ivar the Boneless, terror of the Scots?


Halfdan Whiteshirt, the nightmare of the Anglo-Saxons?

Björn Ironside, the master of Sviþjod?


Or is it Sigurdr Snake-in-the-Eye who interests you with his Danish saga?


No? Ubbe? Ubbe who? Ah... So he did manage to find his way into your thoughts. Very well. I entirely forgot about him, I must admit to my shame. Which doesn't mean he accomplished nothing of note. I will refresh my memory. And then we shall hear if it is the story of a great warrior or yet another man overshadowed by his mighty brothers...





So yeah, this is the introduction. As you've probably noticed, the Forgotten Fifth is Ubbe Ragnarrsson, courtier of Halfdan Hvitserk in the 867 bookmark. Most players who start in the Old Gods will likely never meet him other than as one of Halfdan's commanders. My encounters with him and his descendants were rare and often dealt with the counts of Lancaster. He deserves more, especially after my last encounter with the Ubbings.

I've wanted to write another AAR, and have been inspired to try one centred around one person. An objective soon formed – lead Ubbe to greatness, outshining his brothers if possible. Amass more prestige, gain a fancy nickname, achieve a prepared invasion on his own. And with Jade Dragon coming, the concept of a one-man-AAR appealed a bit more. I've settled on Ubbe, as a short narrative AAR. He is 40 after all, and there likely won't be that much to say.


Here are the rules I've set:
  • all DLC active
  • standard game rules
  • never fight one of Ubbe's brothers, but ally the ones on the Isles. His nephews are fair game though should Ubbe outlive his brothers
  • stay Norse
  • I'll try to follow Ubbe's traits. He's brave and proud, so that justifies his conquests and pursuit of glory.

I did one test run. In which Ubbe died of cancer after a few insignificant conquests while his invasion of Mercia was being crushed. I learnt from these mistakes (or not) and will strive to do better. Although recounting the story of a failure can be fascinating too. So let us return to the England of 867. To be more precise, Jorvik. Even more precise, the commanders of the Great Heathen Army.
 
Prologue Two

alscon

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Prologue 2: Preparations

Outside Jorvik, January 867


“And can you tell me again why I don't have my own men to command?”

“But you do, Ubbe.” Halfdan smiled. “The right flank is yours, almost 4.000 good warriors.”

“While I listen to your commands, don't I, brother?” Ubbe appeared vexed. “I am just as well one of Ragnarr's sons. We have all come to avenge our father. Yet Björn is in Sviþjod, Sigurdr in Sjælland, and you two are the declared leaders!”

Ivar spoke more to the army than to Ubbe in response. “If you so dearly wanted to, you should have been more energetic, my dear half-brother.”

While Ivar hardly meant what he said as little more than a fact, Halfdan was quick to pick up that remark. “What is it you wanted? Merely save our honour! We think bigger! These lands are ripe for the taking. We will turn Ælla into a blood eagle, but there's no reason to stop then. We are here. Here with an army. Here to stay. The believers of the dead crucified god will learn to fear us.”

“Halfdan's right. More than 20.000 men, Ubbe. It would be a waste if we just avenged father and returned home. Björn and Sigurdr might rule back there, send the men they can spend as soon as they can. We will rule here.”

“Yes, we will. We are three.”

The Boneless grinned. “There's the energy which I missed! He has a point. We should split up Ælla's realm between us three.”

“Why not also split the remains of his blood eagle?” Whiteshirt laughed. “They can symbolize our bond, our stepstone to Britain. So it is decided. We shall teach these Saxons to fear us! All three of us! We march tomorrow!”

Ubbe thought about claiming leadership of a third of the army right away, but then thought better of it. Already Halfdan commanded nearly twice the force of Ivar. And the two of them had discussed this long enough on their own. Besides, he would have plenty enough of Saxon Christians to kill with Halfdan.

And he had gotten what he wanted. A promise of land. His brothers may have dreamt big. But they were already big. Boneless, Whiteshirt, Ironside, Snake-in-the-Eye. It was enough to mention their name and the people he had met so far often scurried away. 'Ubbe' was not enough to make them run. Always had to be paired with his father or brothers. This would have to change. This was about to change.


When he was done, he would be the most feared.
 

stnylan

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I loved the introductory post. What a refreshing way to introduce the character.
 

Bullfilter

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Sounds interesting! The first thing Ubbe has to strive for - as you have indirectly hinted at already - is to earn a shock-and-fear inspiring nickname :D!
Snake-in-the-Eye - magic :cool:.
Boneless - sounds like it should be inspiring o_O, wonder what you have to do to earn it :confused:?
Ironside - yes, good and solid :).
Whiteshirt - well-known, though a little 'meh' perhaps as a nickname. But at least it is one ;).

So, is earning an awesome nickname through gallant and blood-curdling deeds another of your informal game objectives? I look forward to seeing how Ubbe fares. Let's hope it's not an early death at the hands of some quack scrub-doctor who thinks the best cure for migraines is an experimental decapitation, Borneo style! :D
 

JabberJock14

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Saxon125

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subbed
 

Asantahene

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Fantastic 1st post! Subbed. Always up for an AAR detailing the exploits of one of Ragnarr Lothbrok’s sons (being an avid watcher of Vikings too)

Let’s see what the fates brings
 

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I loved the introductory post. What a refreshing way to introduce the character.
Once I had settled on the character, it almost wrote itself. Poor Ubbe :p.

Sounds interesting! The first thing Ubbe has to strive for - as you have indirectly hinted at already - is to earn a shock-and-fear inspiring nickname :D!
Snake-in-the-Eye - magic :cool:.
Boneless - sounds like it should be inspiring o_O, wonder what you have to do to earn it :confused:?
Ironside - yes, good and solid :).
Whiteshirt - well-known, though a little 'meh' perhaps as a nickname. But at least it is one ;).

So, is earning an awesome nickname through gallant and blood-curdling deeds another of your informal game objectives? I look forward to seeing how Ubbe fares. Let's hope it's not an early death at the hands of some quack scrub-doctor who thinks the best cure for migraines is an experimental decapitation, Borneo style! :D
Good analysis of the nicknames. We'll see if they hold true to them in this world. And gaining one is definitely a main objective. I just have to hope it won't be a boring/bad one like 'the Fat' or 'the Ill-Ruler', and something more fearsome than 'the Wise' :rolleyes:.

One day I really need to finish Vikings. :)

Will be keeping an eye on this.
Sadly, I wouldn't expect much more than war in our short time with Ubbe, but there will likely be some time for interludes.

Fantastic 1st post! Subbed. Always up for an AAR detailing the exploits of one of Ragnarr Lothbrok’s sons (being an avid watcher of Vikings too)

Let’s see what the fates brings
At the end, we'll see if the narrator is just of the forgetful kind or if it is not a shame to leave Ubbe out of his repertoire.

This looks like it'll be going interesting places. Consider me a follower :)
I love your introduction. Will definitely be watching.
Glad to have you on board as well :).


So now that the plan is made, it is time to set out. To terrorize Northumbria, and carve out a name for oneself in flesh and blood.
 
Chapter One: Chasing Ælla

alscon

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First Book – The Great Heathen Army

Chapter 1: Chasing Ælla

Ivar and his men went to East Anglia. Sigurdr wanted to join him over there. Halfdan on the other hand had the firm objective in mind for which they had come in the first place: The king of Northumbria, Ragnarr's executioner, Ælla. Rumours snatched up from villages left burning in their wake suggested that the man commanded his troops himself.

He certainly didn't in Lindisfarne, the site of the first viking raid. How great it would have been to carve the coward into a blood eagle in this place. But Ælla was not offering them this chance, rather a short skirmish. Thirty-five unfortunate footmen attempted to protect the monks under Westmorland's command. What did they attempt to do? Protect the monastery from appearing as undefended as it did in 793? No matter their reasons, all they managed was to bravely (or foolishly) cover the way for their commander's escape, mere appetizers for the Norsemen's thirst of battle. Still, one dying man let slip that Ælla had gone into hiding.
“At least I shall find solace in knowing that you will never get your dirty heathen hands on the king.”


Halfdan didn't give much on the talk of one of Ælla's men. His enemy had a reputation of taking pleasure in the misfortune his eternal lying caused. Probably less pleasure if it is his lands which are suffering. The Great Heathen Army arrived at Bamburgh's gates, peacefully slumbering under a light snow cover.


The slumber soon found an end. The castle was stormed, any resistance opposing the assault didn't amount to much, for they were horrifyingly outnumbered. The Norsemen joyfully plundered Ælla's capital, explicitly looking for any hole the so-called king of Northumbria might be hiding in. But while the fury of the warriors engulfed the place, it led to no results, at least for now.



Supplies and alcohol on the other hand didn't. The leaders of the Great Heathen Army thus planned their next steps in the castle's great hall over a few horns of mead.

“The coward's hiding well enough, that much is true.” Halfdan spit out those words in pure disgust. “If he's not here, perhaps with his army. The scouts report that he somehow assembled over 4.000 men for his cause. They are fleeing. Fine defenders of their kingdom!”

“They don't even feel safe behind their walls, only far away!” “We can smell their path!” Laughter erupted as more and more stories about the Northumbrians were told.

The young woman behind Halfdan joined in the men's laughter. “The followers of the dead crucified god are as weak as he is. You won't find Ælla here.”

Ubbe raised his horn in her direction. “And how would you know that? The coward in all his paranoia could have dropped false hints. Somehow, he doesn't find a blood eagle appealing.”

She merely smiled and put her arms around Halfdan, in whose eyes lust flamed as he turned his head around. “Trust me, I know.”

Ubbe knew better than to ask more about Asa's methods. For all he knew, she might do the same as Ælla's men, but for Halfdan, whose mistress she had become - in more than one way. With his brother's initial reluctance to give him a part of Northumbria as his own, Ubbe decided to keep close watch. Asa and her spies could not be trusted.


The army's leader drank some more mead as he returned the attention to the Saxons. “So, we won't find him here. Perhaps we won't find him with his army either. But one thing we'll find there for certain – battle. And I say it is hard time that we finally teach those cowards a true lesson!”

Heads nodded around the hall. Ragnarr, Halfdan's son, then hesitantly raised his voice, urged for patience. “I am as eager as you are to strike at him, but I say we wait. And no, I am as brave as any of you. But Ælla certainly hopes to join forces with other Christians. As his numbers grow, so will his confidence, and he will reappear. Then we'll meet in a battle worthy of song!”


“He'll have to come out sooner or later anyway, and I'd like to see his face if he comes out only to know he's been reduced to a nobody!” Ubbe slammed a knife into the table. “And then he'll be a blood eagle. As the nothing he has always been.”

More roaring approval. Halfdan's mighty if slightly mead-affected voice then filled the hall with promises of battle soon to come, and the pleasant evening went its way.



_________________________________

St.Moluag, Suðreyar, March 867

The rain continuously fell on the field. The clouds had hung over them for days now, but they had reached their target. The Christian army was in sight, on a slightly elevated position.

“Do you think Ælla is here?”, Steinn, one of Ubbe's huscarls, asked.

“I doubt it. But look at them”, Ubbe gestured towards the enemy, preparing his formation. Some of the Northumbrians were seemingly deep in prayer. “Their prayers won't save them. Let us send them to their god.”

“What do you think they are trying to accomplish here?”

“Take Ivar's lands while he is in the south, I suppose. To force a concession of defeat. That's the Christian way, running from battle while looking for another way out.”

Steinn nodded as the Norse readied themselves for battle. They formed ranks and begun bashing axes against shields, as well as hurling insults at the enemy, who may not get their meaning, but whose fear certainly increased, prepared them for what was to come. From the opposing side, any sound made was mostly drowned by the rainfall. Then a horn sounded.


Ubbe's shieldwall began to advance, while Halfdan's light troops rushed forward to harass the Northumbrian centre. Someone of importance led them, that much the vikings could see, but it didn't look like Ælla was present. Ragnarr sent forward archers and exchanged arrows with the enemy.

The Saxons tried to hold off the Norse, but were vastly outnumbered. As the distance between the armies diminished, the hopelessness of their situation became even more apparent. Their leader in the centre tried to rally his men and brace them for what would come next, while another man recited Latin verses.

Ubbe's shieldwall accelerated as they got closer. This may be the long awaited battle to avenge Loðbrok, but it was one more thing too. The first real battle since they arrived, thirsty for Saxon blood. Finally the time had come. With a terrific war cry, the melee begun as his flank stormed the Northumbrian line.

And then, it was over before it really begun. The Saxon leaderless left flank began to rout first. Shortly after, a man with fairly rich clothes which seemed not to be made for battle rode away from their right flank with haste, and his men – those who could – followed suit. The heavy rainfall came to the aid of the fleeing Christians, as the ground quickly turned to mud, making pursuit even more difficult for those men who had managed to cross the blood and corpses spread around the line where the two armies met.

Only a core of more hardened warriors remained at the centre, around the man who Ælla had obviously confided his army to. Sæxræd of Kent, the Earl of Cumberland, tried to lead his men by example, but it was far too late for that. The bishop at his side furiously swung his weapon at anyone getting close enough, breaking more than one shield in the process. While an admirable effort, it was futile in the end.

Both Cumberland and Bishop Eadmund of Tyninghame were taken captive as the last of the more valiant Saxons fell. A decisive defeat for Northumbria, even though many had managed to flee. The Great Heathen Army under Halfdan had tasted its first real battle and victory.



__________________


“I always pictured Christian priests differently”, Ubbe told Örvar as they walked to the prisoners. “If all of them were like this one, Lindisfarne would hardly have been undefended!”



Örvar, whose massive body consisted more of fat than muscles, hardly fit into the Christians' image of the Northmen either, but rather one of a merchant who didn't have much hard work to do. So in a way, he was the perfect man for the task as he made his way to the top of the hill with quite some difficulty. Between pauses to catch his breath, he silently cursed Halfdan's decision to speak with the prisoners there just as he asked himself why Ubbe had presented him. “Just as it would... hardly be defended if... most Northumbrian soldiers were there.”

“True that. If they were as fleet with their swords as with their feet, then we'd be far closer to Valhalla.”

Örvar inhaled and exhaled deeply for a few moments as they reached their goal. What had seemed like a short eternity to him had been run by most of the others not long ago, and he shuddered at the mere thought.

Halfdan addressed him. “Not all of us have our qualities on the battlefield. You can tell them that.”

After lengthening his pause as much as he could, he obliged, translating Halfdan's words into Saxon. Cumberland didn't budge. Eadmund acknowledged his presence with a short prayer and offered him a smile of compassion. “And so the Lord in His eternal wisdom offers us a chance to communicate with these lost souls.”

“Ask them where Ælla is.”

Cumberland continued to blankly stare ahead. The bishop answered, cited passages from the Bible, hinted at Ælla's presence in Wessex, continued citing, then hinted at the Scottish court, cited more, hinted at Ireland...
Half-way through his translation, Halfdan stopped Örvar. “Does that priest have anything useful to say?”

After a short hesitation, he answered. “He named all possible locations he could think of. All his talk can be resumed with 'Violence is not the answer. In time, you too will realize that.'”

As the corpulent man stopped the discussion truly began. Not that they hadn't debated before on how to extract the knowledge they wanted. It was fairly clear none of the dying Saxons which were finished off on the battlefield knew anything, and they had settled on asking the high-ranked prisoners.

Ragnarr kept advocating for patience instead of giving in to his father's unmistakable expression. “In time, he might realize something else.”

“He's just a priest of their dead god. I doubt I have the means to make him speak. He's worthless for us.”

“They know it”, Ubbe interjected before Halfdan could pick up his lover's words. “I can see it in their eyes. I'm with Ragnarr. They'll speak sooner or later.”

The king of Jorvik shook his head. “Perhaps the one without a tongue will.” He approached Cumberland energetically, then delivered a strong blow to his face. “Ask him again.”

The Saxon sputtered a little blood, but kept silent. Halfdan turned to his commanders and advisors. “We just need one of them if they are to talk. And we might leave Ivar a gift at the same time.”


When the Norsemen left, a lonely figure marked the top of the hill. Halfdan had ordered the bishop bound to a post, then he and his brother shot arrows at their prisoner. Either he would talk or he would die. Asa in the meantime tried to make him recognize the superiority of the Norse gods, but Eadmund continually prayed throughout his torture to God. When it became fully clear that he wouldn't talk, Halfdan agreed to Asa's demands and had Eadmund decapitated, his head thrown away. A headless watcher stood guard over the corpses of St.Moluag's battlefield.
 

stnylan

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There are only so many places Ælla can hide ... but he is proving to be a slipper Saxon isn't he?
 

JabberJock14

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I was going to suggest Eadmund's fate is a preview for Ælla, but I suspect the king's eventual death is going to be far worse than the bishop's.
 

Specialist290

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I was going to suggest Eadmund's fate is a preview for Ælla, but I suspect the king's eventual death is going to be far worse than the bishop's.
"Suspect," nothing -- from what I've read, the "blood eagle" is downright gruesome.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Well, this is a brilliant start. I'm rooting for Ubbe, may his name be etched in history by his brothers'.
 

Bullfilter

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Sainthood doesn’t come easy in 9th century England. A full-blooded start - and I’m sure it will get bloodier! :eek:
 

Asantahene

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Those Norsemen mean business. If I was Ælla I’d be cacking myself frankly
 

alscon

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Ælla's realm will not stay out of Norse hands for long at this rate.
He had it coming. Being hopelessly outnumbered helps, too :D.

There are only so many places Ælla can hide ... but he is proving to be a slipper Saxon isn't he?
I had the feeling that each time I looked, he was somewhere else. Leading troops, not leading troops, in seclusion (for whatever reason)... So I had to convey that in the story as well. It also fits with Ælla's main strength - well, his only one - being intrigue.

A moment of silence in remembrance of Bishop Eadmund (and props to the author for working a new take on the classic martyrdom of St. Edmund into the narrative flow).
And I thought somebody would recognize it :). As Edmund of East Anglia is out of my reach as Ivar's invasion, this other Edmund had to fill his role. That Ubbe is thought to have been involved in Edmund's martyrdom made me want to include something like it.

I was going to suggest Eadmund's fate is a preview for Ælla, but I suspect the king's eventual death is going to be far worse than the bishop's.
"Suspect," nothing -- from what I've read, the "blood eagle" is downright gruesome.
I think it has been answered. Let's just say that it won't be pleasant for Ælla should he not manage to slip away.

Well, this is a brilliant start. I'm rooting for Ubbe, may his name be etched in history by his brothers'.
Carved in the flesh of the Christians. At least a few of them are done, but there has to be a lot more before we can truly compare.

Sainthood doesn’t come easy in 9th century England. A full-blooded start - and I’m sure it will get bloodier! :eek:
Definitely not. I don't think it will spoiler much if I say there's going to be a lot of wars in the future - after all, I didn't promise anything else, and any time spent idling is time not spent to increase Ubbe's glory.

Those Norsemen mean business. If I was Ælla I’d be cacking myself frankly
I think the most terrifying thing for Ælla is to find himself on the other side of what he used to do. If you look at his traits, he strikes me as nothing but a sadist. Which makes his punishment all the more creative, should it happen.:rolleyes:


Tomorrow the next chapter should be ready, and we'll get a look at how another of the brothers fares so far.