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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

RhaegarTelcontarTargaryen

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Subbed, I tend to have a soft spot for the House of Af Munso, seriously, they're the descendants of Ragnarr Lodbrok himself, pure badassery right there. And you just destroying the Imperial Army like that? I can see why the Vikings are making a comeback.
I too number af Munsö among one of my favourite dynasties, so it was obvious choice for my first AAR.

When I got that message about declaration of war, I froze, I was certain I am doomed this time. They could master roughly ~35k troops, compared to my 26k, and my retinue was in England. Fortunately for Ragnar, AI was never great at coordinating multiple stacks of troops, usually they either end up in one province suffering attrition, or divided

What Will the corrupt Norse do now? Re-establish their Eastern kingdoms?
To be honest, i have no idea yet, or to be more accurate, I have way too much ideas. I would like to take Norway, but HIP is quite restrictive when it cams to laws and Casus Belli's, if you are unreformed pagan, and I am way too big now to have prepared invasion available.. On top of it, it's almost impossible to convert a province to your faith, with 33% moral authority, I have 0.60% yearly chance... and I can't declare subjugation wars against either Dukes or Kings until I get to medium or high crown authority.. which I can't do if I am unreformed pagan. And I can't reform until I conquer either Brugges or York. Catch 22 of sorts.

Roughly my idea at the start of campaign was to replicate Kalmar Union and Knud the Great's Kingdom, which would mean Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Kingdom of the Isles, and England, probably Ireland and Frisia as well, under the great Scandinavian / North Sea Empire.. Ambitious goal, and with an uncertain end. As things stand now, game might take completely different course.
 
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Rath12

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The losses to the H.R.E. are staggering - once again. That has to be having an impact on their stability.

And I like your take on the Norse colonies.
They did find a few blue eyes within the native population up north, which would have been impossible without somebody with blue eyes having kids with the members of the native population.
 
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Awesome AAR so fAAR!

A quick sidenote: why is Brugge a norse holy site? York I can understand, and those in scandinavia make sense, but what was in Brugge historically?
 
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RhaegarTelcontarTargaryen

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I assume York is either, because it was held by the Danes for very long time, probably longest area in which the Danelaw was upheld, or because Aella of Northumbria executed Ragnarr somewhere in that area, or because of both.

Why Brugge, or Damme I have no idea, they are not even in Frisia. I have looked for the answer myself, and I assume the only reason is either game balance, to make it harder to reform the Asatru / Norse faith. It would have much more sense if the holy site was in Iceland, as it is in CKII+ if I remember. I can't remember do you need 3 or 4 holy sites to reform pagan religion in vanilla and CK2+... If I remember vanilla or CK2+ have Zeeland as a Norse holy site, but there Germanic and Norse are the same pagan religion, not split, Zeeland was for a time ruled by Vikings and is close to Frisia, which again was pagan for a long time, and had ties with south Denmark. I might ask in HIP forums actually....
 
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RhaegarTelcontarTargaryen

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Can't believe it has been almost two months. Damn.

I'm working on the next one, I had a combination of writer's block plus chronic lack of time, and I'm playing a couple of games at the same time, so something had tu suffer. But I expect I will get an update or two soon. Well 'soon' in my time, anyway.
 

RhaegarTelcontarTargaryen

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Chapter XI: Odin Owns Ye All

Maelstroems slowly rises, rises from the depth.
Glowing eyes of death and pain, a thousand men to keep.
The dragon bravely battles in the jaws of hell.
Let the North Star lead our way.
Silence, behold, at last. Under the stars is our destiny.
Hear the song of Valkyries, hear tomorrow call.
Odin owns ye all!
Sacred land before our hand, a victory is won.

Odin owns ye all!*

Danelagh

Like many Viking warriors, jarls and kings before him, King Ragnar spent most of his lifetime fighting and raiding, with feasting, wenching and drinking in between. The period after 1104 marked expansion of the Swedish rule and power, the greatest since the time of Ragnarr Loðbrók and his sons.. Not only did the territories which came under the rule of the Sweden expanded, but so had the influence of the Norse religion. Despite most of the south being Christian, Norse faith stopped being an oppressed minority, and was not any more forced on it's back foot. There were still people who converted to the Christianity, but there were also cases of people converting from Christianity back to the Norse gods. Although these were rare and scarce, it did happen, from time to time, and for the most part because of the sponsoring of the said conversion by King Ragnar, and other pagan nobles. However, the tensions were still high, and while the Christians and the Pagans were getting used to live together in one kingdom, under equal laws, every once in a while something would happen that would disturb the peace, and remind Ragnar that it was doubtful that Christians, nor the Pope in Rome as their religious leader, would have any peace, as long as pagan ruled a kingdom, especially such a large and powerful kingdom as the Sweden.


Ragnar had spent many years, trying to extend the area in which Norse dominated Christians[1]

In 1094, William the Conqueror died, and his eldest surviving son, Richard I, took the throne of England. However some ten years later, in 1105 his brother William Rufus, urged on by Richard the Cruel, Duke of Normandy, and a distant cousin from the House de Normandie, rebelled. Ragnar knew both Richard and William Rufus from his youth, when he was educated, in England, by the Conqueror. He offered his help to Richard, but at first he refused, in fear of the Pope in Rome, and being excommunicated, for having a pagan king and a famous raider as an ally. This was actually the second rebellion against Richard I, and Ragnar already helped him once, during the first rebellion which lasted from 1095 until 1104, by raiding and looting the lands of the rebels[2]. This time two rebellions broke out, one to place William Rufus, and the other, led by the merchant duke from the "Isle de la Manche". Thus Ragnar sent again his troops to pillage in the lands that belong to the rebellious Duke Richard the Cruel of Normandy, and Prince William Rufus. This proved to be decisive, as Ragnar first raided and occupied the area of Lincoln, in East Midlands, in 1107 and then besieged Rouen, the capital of Normandy itself. During this war, Richard I, the son of William, died, and was inherited by his son Richard II. Richard II was much more competent than his father, but his health was not always good, despite him being an excellent swordsman and commander. He inherited a fractured and divided realm, and many believe that his father's bad rule, as well as the state of the realm when he took the throne, only worsened his health condition. He continued to fight his father's wars against the rebels, and managed to actually win both of them, but died after only 3 years, wounded, depressed and ill. His son, Richard III, became King of England at the age of eight, in 1112. This had further implications, because his mother, was Hylda Salian, daughter of Heinrich the Black Salian, a Holy Roman Emperor. When Heinrich died, the Emperor's crown passed to Wiegriche dynasty, but his son inherited his possesions in Franconia and Northern Italy. When Heinrich son died childless in 1109, the son of his sister, Richard de Normandie inherited the lands in the Holy Roman Empire, and in 1112, upon the death of his father, he also took the throne of England. Thus England extended continental possessions, not only controlling the Duchy of Normandy, but vast and rich area of land in Franconia and Northern Lombardia. But another matter was of more important to Ragnar, then the dynastic struggles of England the House de Normandie. In 1109, after he conquered Rouen, Duke Richard the Cruel and Prince William Rufus, were forced to accept Swedish rule over the area of Lincoln, on the shores of the North Sea. More than two hundred years after Ragnar Lodbrok first came to England, leading Viking raiders and more than two hundred years after he was executed by king Aella of Northumbria, and his sons led a Great Heathen Army to avenge him, taking much of England in the process, and almost hundred years after King Knut the Great ruled a great North Sea Empire, King Ragnar of House af Munsö of Sweden, managed to follow in their footsteps and conquer a piece of land in what was once known as 'Danelagh' or 'the Danelaw'. So it came to be that the place in which army of King Harold, fought and defeated Harald Hardrada, Stamford, came under Norse rule. But Ragnar had no intention to stop there.


Ever since William The Conqueror took the throne, England was plagued by rebellions.
This was the second attempt to remove Richard, and place William Rufus on the throne of England.

A peace treaty, between Prince William, Duke Richard and King Ragnar.

Duke Richard the Cruel of Normandy. Numerous cousins and children of his and of William Rufus were captured by Norse, but his daughter was kept as a prisoner for several years, and later become King Ragnar's concubine.

Richard I de Normandie, King of England

Richard II, unlike his father was much more competent, and had much better results in suppressing the revolts, although he ruled only for three years, and died, depressed, sick and wounded.

Richard III. King Ragnar offered to educate him, as a sign of return of good treatment he received from the Conqueror, but his regent and advisor's refused the offer, mainly in fear of Ragnar being Pagan.

King, or better to say, Kings of England, were not entirely happy with loosing a part of their realm to Ragnar. Some claim that Ragnar promised to return the land after some time. Others that there was supposed to be a marriage and alliance, and as an exchange the land would again pass to the English rule. Nominally, Swedish nobles in Lincoln accepted that they were part of the English realm, but that was just a farce, a letter written on a paper. They paid their taxes to Ragnar, and sent his troops to them, and they were Norse as well, not Christians. In fact Ragnar personally insisted of giving the land exclusively to those who followed the Old ways, so that they would not consider switching allegiance and accepting English sovereignty. But in their current situation, they lacked sufficient strength to challenge Ragnar's claim on the area.

During the time when Swedes invaded England and Normandy, one more thing became apparent. Ragnar's brother Halvor, and his bastard son Erik, accompanied him on the raids, and both boys came of age in 1108. Ragnar was unmarried, and without children. Although his father considered making a match for him, while he was still alive, as well as his mother who tried to persuade several Christian rulers to gave their daughters to be his Queens (which they refused, on the grounds of him being pagan), he remained unmarried for many years. He had numerous lovers and affairs[3] but only his affair with his mother's half-sister bore him a child. Both his brother Halvor the Posthumous, and his son Erik the Bastard[4], who were born within a month of each other, grew to become Christians, much to Ragnar's disappointment. He respected their choice, and did not pushed nor punished them for it. But he was determined that no Christian may rule as the King of Sweden, and follow him in his footsteps. He knew that if the Christians were to gain an upper hand in the realm again, that meant another civil war, between them. Besides, he was his father's son, and respected the Old Gods of his ancestors.


Erik, bastard son of Ragnar, Hirdman and Commander of Sweden.


Halvor the Posthumous, and Erik the Bastard
From the young age, Halvor has quarrelled with his sister, Astrid. She was five years older, and as their grew, their quarrels turned into serious animosity, and then into open rivalry, hatred, hostility and resentment. Ragnar intervened, warning that they are family, and that they must stay loyal, and keep together, if they don't want to bring ruin and downfall on their house, and themselves. But there was little he could have done. She was quite devoted to the pagan gods, even served Ragnar as his seer at one point, and resented that Halvor took to their mother's faith. Soon childhood rivalry turned to much more serious hostilities.

Halvor was barely of age, when Astrid was caught polotting to have revenge, for some insult she suffered from Halvor, when they were both younger. Ragnar threatened to marry her to some unimportant Christian baron, or banish her from his lands. For a moment, it seemed that situation calmed down. But while on campaign in Normandy with Ragnar, in October 1108, it was discovered that Halvor, in turn, tried to have Astrid assassinated. Ragnar was furious, and imprisoned him at first, but decided to set him free later. They quarrelled a lot because of it. Ragnar accused him of turning his back on his own family, even though he raised him as his own son, since their father died, and respected his choice of religion. Halvor demanded to be named as Ragnar's heir, in case he died without any sons of his own. In the end, all Ragnar's plans to marry Halvor to some Christian princess, turned to dust, and not only because he was often met with refusal, because he was pagan, despite the fact that Halvor himself was Christian.

Less than two years later, Halvor was found dead. At first it seemed that the young Christian Prince of Sweden had died in his sleep, but Ragnar knew better. Although he never found any evidence, he was sure that their sister, Astrid was behind it. Without evidence, he did not want to condemn her, even though he was assured that she was responsible for the assassination. Ragnar was thorn, because he loved both his sister, and his brother, and because he also had plans for them, to ensure further alliances, and prevent Christian invasion, especially in Slesvig and Juteland, which were the most vulnerable parts of his realm. In the end, few years later, Astrid indeed did marry, not just any noble, but King Dmitar of Croatia. Ragnar, in part, felt responsible for what happened, he blamed himself for not being able to control and teach his family members, as he was furious with both Astrid and Halvor for behaving in such a way. So five years after Halvor's death, when the marriage proposal came, as much as he was surprised that a Christian king, from such a far away land would be interested in marrying a heathen princess, he accepted the offer.




Rivalry between Astrid and Halvor turned into enmity, hatred, rivalry and resentment.
After the victorious expedition to the west, and the conquest of land on the coast of England, King Ragnar turned his attention closer to home. His fleet returned with significant amount of silver, gold, jewels, as well as steel and iron, various luxuries and other sort of plunder from the English lands. With that wealth, Ragnar embarked on an extensive program of expanding his personal standing army, as well as fortifying castles and strongholds, expanding towns, markets and various buildings of military importance. When Halvor died, it became apparent that Ragnar should marry. In his youth, Ragnar was courted by Ælfthryth Hiort, daughter of Thane of Järnbäraland, but a marriage did not happen because Ragnar was focused on building the strength of Sweden, expanding his army, and balancing between various noble fractions, as well as raiding across Europe. There were also talks of marriage, and even a rumor of romance and affair between Ragnar and Astrid Gårdske, daughter of Thane of Kettilmund Gårdske from Norra Skåne. In the end, when his brother Halvor, and son Eirk came of age, Ragnar took two young girls to act as their guardian: Ulvhilde Blad, daughter of Thane of Finnveden and Ingrid Horn, whose grandfather was Björn Thane of Alir, famous viking, who many years served as marshall of Sweden. Interesting enough, she was the daughter of Ælfthryth Hiort and Botulf, Björn's son, whom she married, after it became apparent that Ragnar will not marry her[5].



Ragnar married 24 years younger Ingrid. It is rumoured that in his youth Ragnar bedded her mother too.

Erik 'the Bastard' Ragnarsen married Adalgarda de Flanders

Princess Astrid of Sweden married King of Croatia
Ragnar had spent a lot of time, hoping that either he, or his sisters, brother and son can marry into some of the most powerful Housed of Europe, not only for prestige, but he hoped that he could gain allies, in case Christians decide to try and break the pagan power in the north. In the end, his sister Aslaug, married a cousin of King Ringaudas of Lietuva. At the time of their marriage, he was the heir apparent to the throne of Lietuva, but some time later, he fell out of favour.[6]. Aslaug had two children with Mindaugas Palemonaitis, a daughter and a son, but died in 1117. By the time of 1119, Ragnar was nearing his fiftieth year of age, and had two children. A bastard son Erik, who he didn't legitimize because he was Christian, and a daughter Freyja. Her mother was a concubine to King Ragnar, Alison de Normandie, daughter of Duke Richard the Cruel, taken captive when Ragnar raided Rouen. This meant that if King Ragnar died childless, or at least without legitimate children, a prospect he slowly begun to accept as inevitable, the Kingdom of Sweden would either pass to his, at the time one year old daughter, Freyja[7], or his four year old nephew. Romuvan Lithuanian Sotvaras Palemonaitis. Both prospects filled Ragnar with dread, not because he disliked any of the children, but because he knew, that at a time like this, Sweden needed a strong ruler, to keep both the external threats at bay, and to keep the unruly, rebellious nobles at check. Thus, Ragnar stubbornly decided he was going to live, either until he raises a son, or until one of the two grows to be old and strong enough to deserve the Kingdom of Sweden.


Daughter of King Ragnar and Alison de Normandie

Swedish Invasion of Normandy, part of the Danelaw reconquest 1104-1109

Battle of Crotoy, decisve battle which decided the outcome of the invasion, and crippled the rebels.


[1] Two provinces converted to Asatru, one was in Jutland, but that was done by a vassal of mine. (strange enough some 20 years later, he converted to Christianity, but the province remained pagan). The other was done by me. For 20 years almost I had an active ambition to convert a province, but HIP makes that very hard for unreformed pagans. I was actually surprised when the event fired, it had a chance of 0.60% or something. So surprised that I forgot to take screenshots, so later I reloaded, used console and took screenshots.
[2] Previous chapter, when I raided
[3] Aside from his aunt, I did not had any specific events nor lovers, nor any children, but it goes with Ragnars character I would say, to be a ladies man.
[4] Nicknames, are a nod to William the Bastard and Ladislaus the Posthumous but they suit them well, Erik is Ragnar's bastard, while his brother Halvor was born few months after his father, Erik the Heathen died.
[5] I wanted to marry late, to minimize the chance of having many sons, and thus dividing the realm. Ælfthryth Hiort was genius, and so was her daughter, but while educating her I got that event which changed her from genius to quick. Worse still, she inherited her mother's gluttonous trait, which is the reason why I decided not to marry her mother, besides not wanting to have a lot of sons. All the other girls had quick trait, that was my filter for even considering them Ælfthryth Hiort was educated mostly by Erik the Heathen, and the others by Ragnar (I hoped to get some events to create either friendship or lover relation between them, but nothing happened). In the end I picked the one I considered best, when Ragnar passed the age of 44 or so. I would marry him to some famous noble house of Europe, but since I am heathen, no one wants to consider my offers... Had I known better, I might have married her genius mother instead. I tried to marry Ua Brian, Rurikovich and Estonian genius daughters, but Christians refused me, and the girl from Sakala house proved to have much to bad stats and traits.
[6](I forgot to take a screenshot of that, marriage happened sometime between 1099-1103
[7]I took the screenshot when she was born, so I change the name in the panel.

I planet to write one chapter, but wrote too much, and tried to put too many things in it, so in the end I split that one in two, so there is less to read. Since half of it is already there, I hope to get another update before New Year's Eve and my trip to Krakow for it.

Well it has been a while. But I am back, and so is another update. I was considering abandoning this, since it takes way too much time, and goes much too slow, but hell, I'll stick with it, at least until I don't buy 'The Reaper's Due' and the 'Monks and Mystics'. Another reason for this hiatus of a sorts, is that I play games in bursts, I get really addicted, play and then I need to take a break, and play some Skyrim, Deus Ex,...

But the main reason was that I come to a point were two things happen. One, I like my games to take at least semi-plausible historical ways, and in my current campaign, France fractured, and ERE completely dissolved, and Rurikids are in a mess... the second thing was, that I simply could not decide what to do as my next move. Try to conquer York or Brugges, to reform. Conquer my neighbours? Conquer Norway, to form Scandinavia, but how to get CB? I even considered to conquer Thrace and Miklagard and give it to either my bastard son, or my brother, both of whom were Christians, and let them to try and reform the ERE. Anyways, after some time I started missing CKII, like a stormtrooper misses the target, so eventually I got back to it. I also considered cheating (not to my benefit, but to the benefit of the AI and ERE) but decided it's best to sometimes just let go, and see where the road will take you... the sum of all those things got me stuck in a sort of a writer's block. But hopefully I am back, and will put out updates a bit more often. At least let's get to 1200's before this AAR ends, if not any further.

The chapter recounts fairly well what I did: England was in a state of civil war, Richard the son of the Conquerer was fighting against the rebellion to place his brother William, historical William Rufus the King of England 1087-1100. The rebellion was led by a Duke of Normandy, from another branch of de Normandie dynasty. So I took a chance, declared war on the rebels, and conquered Lincoln. I was afraid they might sign a white peace or something, and make my war invalid, but I was lucky enough to raid and siege with my retinue the province of Lincoln, and parts of Eu and Ruen, to get to 100% while they were still fighting Richard. In the end, thanks to my intervention as I destroyed the rebel troops, Richard won, kept his throne. He died during the war, from old age, but his son, Richard II, inherited the throne. Then I turned my attention around my realm, but more about it in the next chapter... wars in this chapter mostly happen 1104-1110, while some events and marriages occurred between 1110-1119. Next chapter will be about wars during that second period.

My younger sister, got married to King Dmitar of Hrvatska ( Kralju Dmitre Zvonimire :p ). I was surprised, cause I got really few marriage offers from Christians, aside from some really unimportant counts, but I decided to accept.

Speaking of marriage, I married my bastard son, with the Duchess of Flanders (The one i tried to kidnap, few chapters before, but failed, in hopes to marry her to Ragnar when he was younger). I cheated on this one, cause she would not accept my offer, so I used console commands to send an offer to Ragnar. But the marriage is matrilinear, so the children will be of de Flanders dynasty. And we are not allied, since i did not wanted to exploit the game, the cheating was for more role playing reasons. My bastard son WAS Christian, and still is. He has a sympathy for pagan, but is Christian. And why would a Duchess refuse an marriage offer from a very powerful King, for his Christian son, in a matrilinear marriage. It seemed like a nice thing to spice it up, as I did not wanted to legitimize him, pure out of role playing reasons (nobles won't accept bastard as heir, plus he is from a partly incestuous affair, etc, etc.. and it seemed to easy to do it like that ) so I felt it was better to marry him to some important character, but that his descendants do not become part of my dynasty. I wonder if I made a huge mistake there, since I can not seem to get any more sons.

Regarding important events, Capetians lost the crown of France, to a fraction demand to de Burgogne dynasty, and Bohemond Ironside de Hauteville formed the Kingdom of Sicily and conquered all of southern Italy.

So this was basically my chapter recap, just to make some things clear.
 

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You know, that sounds like a truly delightful family at times :D

It also sounds like Ragnar does not feel entirely secure.
 
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Glad to see you back in action :)

I have to agree with stnylan: Ragnar's family are certainly a quarrelsome bunch. Let's hope they can channel that against Sweden's enemies rather than wasting their energies on petty family squabbles.
 
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RhaegarTelcontarTargaryen

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Chapter XII: Lion In Winter
Lionheart.
Almighty king,
Freedom you'll bring.
Lionheart.
Spread your wings,
King of the kings.*

On a warm and sunny spring morning...

Two men walked, side by side. Both had long swords dangling from their hips. Both wore mailed armour, studded boots, and held their helmets in their hands. The older had a long hair, that fell well below his shoulders, and a beard, both the colour of dark copper-red, with a few hints of grey hair. The younger had a more blonde look to him, but was a good head taller. They walked together, along the shore of the sea, waves crashing against the shore in the sunny morning.
"It is done, now. It is finally over. Ringaudas had surrendered. You will keep to your promise, I hope. Our promise. I would not like that it turns out that I lied and cheated on him."
"I will. After all, you are the one who won this war. Without you, I would still be no one."
"You are.. well, were, the husband of my sister. I wishh Aslaug lived long enough to see you crowned. To see her children crowned, when their time comes. Besides, that is not the only reason why I did it. As much as I loved my sister, and as much as I respect you, and want to see my nephew growing strong...Weakened or conquered Lietuva, would mean stronger Christian lands in the Baltic. I was not willing to risk that."
"My children... they will stay with you. I want you to raise and educate my son. He deserves to be raised by the greatest Viking that ever lived, and the best general that walked the earth in our lifetime."
"The greatest Viking that ever lived bears the name Ragnar, that is true, but that man is not me. He died long time ago. However, if you leave your children under my guardianship, Ringaudas, and the other chiefs and nobles of Lietuva will say that you are nothing but a pawn of Swedes, a pawn of King Ragnar."
"Let them. Would that be far from the truth anyway, when we come down to the core of it?"
"You are a King now." He roared. "Act like one."
"But it was you who put the crown of Lietuva on my head. If it wasn't for you I would be just another pretender of House Palemonaitis, trying to gain the favor of a King, and maybe one day sit on a throne.. or get executed by the King in the process.. I will never forget that. But, they will be safer with you.." In his hand was a simple crown, made from silver and bronze, nothing ornate like the most Christian Kings used.
"You may have put this crown on my head, but that does not mean that all of the Romuvan chiefs will accept me at once. I may fight a few rebellions in the near future. It is best if they stay in your care, until they come of age. When they do, my son can marry your daughter, and take the throne of Lietuva after me, if you agree to that proposal. I would like for them to grow up close, so they can get to know each other. That is the other reason to leave my son in your care."
The tall, blonde King Mindaugas of Lietuva paused, after a deep sigh...
"Speaking of sons... "
"Speaking of sons," his tone was brusque, with a hint of anger in it. "If I don't get one, your son will one day sit on my throne too. On the throne of Kingdom of Sweden."
"That... that is not what I meant. I own you one crown, my crown, already. I don't mean to ask for yours, nor take it from you."
"I know... but there may be still time. I am still not that old and feeble. We shall see...." His voice faded.
"King Ragnar... I hope, from my heart, that you will have many sons and daughters. At least only one, one son is enough. Besides there are relatives, and your bastard son Erik.... "
"And others. Relatives, distant cousins, descendants... They will not do. They are all Christians. Even my own son. Bastard son, good boy, raised by his mother. A good warrior and commander, you saw that for yourself when he fought beside you.. But still a Christian, even though he is tolerant of us heathens, unlike many of his brethren. But that ship had sailed long time ago. I could have legitimized him while he was still serving me as a general. Now that he is far away, In Flandria and my brother dead... And Freyja is a daughter of a concubine, you know that yourself. Concubine from a noble family, but still. Not only that she is a girl, but many of Swedish and Danish nobles will see her as a bastard born. No, Mindaugas, if I was to die without a son, it is my nephew who will fallow me in my footsteps."
He put the helm on his head, and turned back towards the ships anchored in the bay. "But enough of it. You have a kingdom to rule, as well as I do. Go, the ship awaits you. And thank you for returning my troops without any significant losses. I would have lead them myself, but I felt it was necessary that they be led by you, if you were to gain any support for your claim, they needed to feel that the throne was won by one of them.. My son and my men.. . they say your leadership was quite exemplary, worthy of a place in Valhalla. You might not be Norse, but you fought like one."
"Thank you for giving them to me, and thank you for fighting for me and winning me my throne. I will never forget that."
With that, the Mindaugas the Tall, King of Lietuva, boarded the ship, and sailed towards his Kingdom, never to set foot on the Swedish soil again, as long as he lived.

Uppsala, Spring of 1117


When King Ragnar's returned home, his fleet was laden with plunder and prisoners. All of them were ransomed, except Alison de Normandie. Her father was in debt, after he lost his war and rebellion. Unlike some other minor and unimportant nobles, Ragnar did not released Alison, but kept her under house arrest, under reasonable mild conditions, with the intentions to ransom her back after a few years, when her father manages to gather gold for her ransom. In the meantime, Ragnar considered his next move. South of his Kingdom, along the coast of Baltic Sea, or the Eastern Sea, how the Norse named Baltic, were various chiefdoms and tribes, all of them Pagan. In the east were the Finns and Estonians, and in the south, Wends, or Western Slavs and various Baltic tribes, who followed their Romuva faith. Even before his fleet arrived in Denmark, carrying plunder from England and Normandy, Ragnar left command to generals, knowing that, at least for the moment, power of the Duke of Normandy is broken, and returned to Denmark. From there he ordered the mustering of forces from his personal lands, in Sweden and Denmark. Not all were called into action, leaving some five thousand as a reserve, Ragnar gathered around twelve thousand troops.

High Chiefdom of Veligrad

High Chief Aron of Veligrad, united the Pagan Slavic lands along the shores of Baltic
Wendish tribes had manage to unite themselves under one Chief, and even expelled catholic Nakonid family from their western regions. Even united, they posed no threat to the Norse, but Ragnar was more worried about their Christian neighbours, and the possibility of Polish or German conquest of the region. Hence he decided to strike first. Slavs were proud and stubborn, and although he tried at first to achieve subjugation or at least and alliance diplomatically, they refused to accept Norse rule. In 1109, Poland was engaged in a war with Lietuva, or Lithuania. High Chief of Veligrad tried to use this opportunity, to claim parts of the Poland for himself, but Poles managed to fight on two fronts, and repel the attack. Ragnar, who was considering this move even before the war between Catholics and Slavs erupted, decided to strike at once. He demanded that High Chief Aron of Veligrad, accept Swedish suzerainty, or to meet him in battle.

Intial Norse advance into Slavic lands

Slavs tried to outmanoeuvre Ragnar, and strike from the direction of Elbe river, but were quickly intercepted.

First major battle of the war

Only two major battles took place during the Norse invasion of Veligrad

Ragnar had considerable sympathy towards Slavic pagans, as they, just like his Norse people, had suffered from attacks, force conversions and lost territories especially in areas which came under Christian rule. At first he was reluctant to do so, but since his highly trained personal army was still raiding various rebellious areas in England, he was forced to pay for the use of his levies. Because of considerable expenses, Ragnar ordered the same tactics he often used against Christians be applied: That every castle, temple and holding is first to be plundered and raided, and only then occupied. For the most part, this covered the expenses of the war, but made Wendish acceptance of Swedish rule much harder. The war was one sided affair, and the only reason why it dragged on for three years, was that at first Wends, knowing they are heavily outnumbered, tried to avoid open battle, even circling around through the German lands, and trying to strike at Slesvig from the direction of river Elbe. After they suffered defeat in that first battle, their forces retreated to the Island of Rugen, where the famous Temple of Sviatovid in Arkona was located, a holy place for all the Slavs. From that Island they launched raids on Burgundaholmr, but they did not have sufficient force to cause any major trouble. Ragnar decided not to pursue them to Arkona, and instead capturing area, one stronghold, and one town at a time. Few minor skirmishes ensued, but only one more larger battle until the end of the war happened. In the end, all Slavic attempts of resistance only prolonged the inevitable for some time. They had to accept the loss of their independence.

Peace treaty between Norse Swedish-Denmark and Slavic Wendish tribes
Ragnar was quick to issue and edict, which proclaimed that all Slavic people were free to remain Slavic, and were of equal status to Norse and Christians. Needless to say, this did not go down well with everyone, especially not the Christians. Between most pagans, either due to them knowing many gods and deities, or because they had all been on the receiving end of Christianity's dominance at some point, there were less tensions between Slavs and Norse, but far from it that there wasn't any at all, and some incidents did happen. Ragnar however, gave his best to keep Wends in peace, and give them no reasons to complain of their treatment, while point out that united under one realm, they stood much better chance against Christians in Poland and Germany. No land, nor holding were take from Aron of Veligrad, but he had to accept becoming one of many Ragnar's vassals, and to pay a portion of the taxes to him. However Ragnar did on his behalf promised that he will try to support Wendish claims to the bordering areas, where some Slavic people still lived, and which were now under the German yoke.

Loot from Lincoln and Midlands.

Loot from Normandy and Wendish lands
(plus some from the bordering regions that went directly into treasury)


Ragnar tried, for many years, to gain an alliance with Lietuva, which had grown very powerful, even defeating Polish invasion led by Boleslaw the Bold, uniting most of Prussian and Lithuanian lands, and taking wast areas from the lands of the Rus', controlled by Rurikids. But they had found themselves in a bleak situation. Kind Ringaudas of Lietuva, had fought and executed several of his relatives, who tried to take the throne, force him to give them more lands or gain independence. This lead to a serious of several large peasant rebellions, which threatened to rip the kingdom apart. Timing their action perfectly, at such a critical moment, Both Grand Knyaz of Chernigov, and King of Poland, decided to strike at a weakened neighbour, and take large chunks of land. Realizing that Ragnar decided to play the last card that he had. A decade ago, his sister Aslaug, was married to then heir apparent, Mindaugas Palemonaitis, a cousin of King Ringaudas. At a time he was considered prime candidate, but over time he lost favour, and influence, and being landless, was not considered someone who is likely to sit on the throne of Lietuva one day. Since he was only a distant cousin (closely related to the King that preceeded Ringaudas) Ringaudas refused to form an alliance with Ragnar. A decision he came to regret, when Lietuva found itself attacked from two east and west simultaneously, and ripped from the inside by no less than five peasant revolts at the same time. Several years prior, after one of the rebellions, Ringaudas executed several of his relatives, including Utenis, the eldest son of Sotvaras the Just, and the eldest brother of Mindaugas. This caused Ringaudas to be feared and resented upon throught many parts of Lietuva.


Kings of Lietuva. Mindaugas 'the Usurper' is the youngest son of Sotvaras 'the Just'.

Ragnar invited Mindaugas to Sweden, along with Aslaug and their children, and immediately put into action his plan. He sent word to Ringaudas, to either renounce his throne, or be ready to fight for it. But the army of Ringaudas was already severely depleted, by losses they suffered fighting Polish army.


Mindaugas 'the Tall' Palemonaitis, the pretender, and Ragnar's brother in law.

Ringaudas ruled for twenty years, and greately expanded Lietuva's borders, but the last years of his reign were marked by a decline, internal strife, and a loss of territory to Poland.
Ragnar sent his personal army, now some 8500 strong, as Ringaudas could not muster more than five thousand men, and most of his strength was fighting Poland in the south. At the same time, Chief of Pomorsko, or Pommerania declared his war on Lietuva, in an attempt to subjugate Ringaudas, and take the crown of Lietuva for himself. Thus, Lietuva was put in a desperate situation. Not wanting to be seen as a foreign invader, but rather than a son of a former king taking back what is rightfully his, Ragnar gave command of his troops to Mindaugas, and sent his son Erik to act as his commander (albeit only until 1114, when Erik departed to marry Duchess of Flandria). The war would last for more than four years, but saw very few battles between Balts and Norse. Most of Ringaudas troops were busy fighting Poles and Pommaranians, and only a couple of battles occurred, which Norse won with ease, as they always had overwhelming numbers. Just as was the case in previous two wars in England and Normandy, and in Wendish lands, Swedes also besieged many holdings, and took many prisoners, all of which were later either released or ransomed for gold, as Ragnar did not want to enrage anyone by executing prisoners, which could come back to harm Mindaugas once he took the throne. Christian Kings, for some reason, seemed to believe that if they keep sending their bishops to preach the word about their dead god, they might gain enough sway in the Norse realms. Needles to say, Ragnar imprisoned many of those, but given the fact that he tried to maintain order in the realm, as well as give equal treatment to all religions, all of them were ransomed.




For years, Ragnar ruled a large demesne and even larger Kingdom]


It was of utmost importance to focus on governing it well

When the war ended in the autumn of 1117, Sweden was one of the richest Kingdoms in Europe. Ragnar not only filled the treasury, but wisely invested in building and further development of existing castles, as well as enlarging both his standing personal army, as well as the number of levy troops that he could muster in the case of war. For many a year his focus had been on the stewardship and governance of realm. It seemed that the time has come to focus on a matters of home, especially as Ragnar still suffered from bearing a guilt for the death of his brother Halvor. To make matters worse, his sister Aslaug died, without ever seeing her husband sitting on the throne of Lietuva... To make matters worse, Ragnar only had two children, and none of them was in a position to rule Sweden after him. In a desperation, some two years after getting married, Ragnar took Alison as a concubine, but she only manage to give him one daughter. Privately Ragnar was on the verge of despair, and came close to accepting that his nephew will come to rule Sweden after him...

Ragnar's his skilled leadership, great prowess in battle with both sword and axe, and supreme understanding of both tactics in a battle, but also of strategy on a larger scale, between different realms and kingdoms, and dealing with those, while managing to push Sweden to dominate the Baltic region. His raids and conquests, made rulers, especially Christian rulers, around Europe fear his name and the sight of his warriors and longships. When Norse bards and skalds mentioned 'The Greatest Viking' many immediately thought of Ragnar. Such fear and fame earned him, not only comparisons with Ragnarr Loðbrók, Bjǫrn Járnsíða (Björn Ironside), Haraldr harðráði (Harald Hardrada) or Knútr inn ríki (Cnut or Canute the Great ) but a nickname, by which he became know. That name was was accepted not only by his friends, allies or fellow Norsemen, but also by his foes and rivals... Ragnar the Lionheart of House af Munsö, King of Sweden and Denmark.

For anyone who is wondering: Brilliant strategist, strong, trained diplomat, shrewd, crowned, skilled fighter, viking, scarred, administrator, ambitious, proud, patient, just, brave, diligent, charitable.

For the end of this chapter, some interesting events from the world...
Ragnar's despair and anger at the death of his brother, are a reflexion of my own. I started to regret not legitimizing Erik, and also not managing to keep family in line. Actually, that rivalry between Halvor and Astrid is also my fault, it came from a children growing up event, just as it does rivalry between Ragnar's wife Ingrid and her mother. Even worse, Ingrid was genius like her mother, but I got that fucking event which turned her to quick...


'Love' between mother and daughter... all because they both wanted to bed a Viking King.


By the time Richard III came of age, and took the throne for himself, he had managed, with the help of his regent and council, to suppress all rebellions, defeat second French attempt to take Normandy (de jure claim) and defeat Holy Roman Empire's attempt to take back his lands in Frankonia. Also Pope Ioannes XIX Salian, formed two catholic holy orders, The Knights of St. John or Hospitallers, and The Knights or Templars and declared Crusade for Jerusalem. Deus Vult.






P.S. No I did not know that he will get "The Lionheart" nickname when I picked the name for Chapter X.. I actually believed only Christians can get it.
 
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stnylan

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Ragnar now stands athwart the world stage - powerful, pivotal, and maybe his realm is a little precarious too.
 
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Public glory mixed with private tragedy: The eternal cycle of Crusader Kings. After all, what good is a great and prosperous kingdom if you have no fit heir to properly take care of it and cultivate your legacy after you're gone?
 
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I'm seriously thinking, if he dies without Children, his daughter will inherit. But his nephew will get the claims too. Funny thing is they are betrothed to each other (Yaay for inbreeding among relatives, Habsburg style.) But I wanted to say, marriage is not matrilinear, so I am thinking should I keep playing with af Munsö relatives, or switch to Rmouvan dynasty, and convert to Norse... well I'm rushing things, Ragnar is yet to reach 50, he might have son still... but I feel slight panic in my guts whenever I open that saved game.
 

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His daugther, obviously. After all, Freya receives half of the fallen, and there is nothing saying that a woman can't lead. She'll make a proud and proper shield-maiden, and show those following The Nameless God that their ideas about inheritance mean as little as their God.
 
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