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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Saithis

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Table of Contents:

Trophy Cabinet:
  • Winner of Favorite CK1/2 Narrative AAR: Q1 2012
  • Inspired WritAAR of the Week AwAARd: March 25th, 2012
  • Inspired Character WritAAR of the Week AwAARd: June 5th, 2012, August 5th 2012

Preface:
The North Star is a story that was started by myself years ago for CK1. My update schedule and lack of motivation led to the original stopping and starting far too frequently for my taste. For those curious, this AAR will follow the life and tales of the Hvide Clan, one of the most powerful of medieval Denmark. Based in Sjælland, they were historically an important force in Danish politics. This AAR, however, will not start in 1066, but will instead pick off where the story of Piety of the North Star, my previous AAR, left off. Allow me to state clearly that you do not have to read Piety to understand what is going on. Part of the reason I changed to CK2 was to get a fresh start and hopefully pick up a newer audience. Although I will be using the characters and may reference the old AAR occasionally, I will make sure you are kept in the loop about what is going on. I want this to be something that anyone can read.

At some point after the Prologue is complete, I have a small series of updates planned to give a brief primer on world history and the map of Europe in 1088 (our startdate). Much has changed in the past two decades and even established readers will probably want to know what's going on! This, however, will take a little bit of time, due to the modwork involved...you'll understand in a bit.

About/Rules/Mods:
  • Valour of the North Star is a CK2 Narrative AAR with a few History-Book interludes. This will be heavily character-focused and may include long stretches of text. I apologize in advance to those who do not enjoy such AARs, and will try my best to keep my verbosity from running away with me.
  • I will be playing on Normal Difficulty, I will not permit 'cheating' in the traditional sense but am prepared to edit the save and mod things to help develop a realistic story. I'll also try to keep that to a minimum and I don't plan on making any secret of it! If you want pure gameplay, this isn't the AAR for you.
  • This AAR will be made with an in-progress CK2 overhaul mod, which doesn't yet have a name. It's being made by myself and the fantastic RGB (with only some difficulties due to distance/schedules), and we're hoping to have a fully working version of it sometime this lifetime! Work responsibilities etc. have slowed progress but I've at least gotten enough done to take some screenshots and get started with this thing.
  • If my main character gets Game Over for any reason, I reserve the right to jump over to another Hvide holding, assuming any of my family still own land (if it gets bad enough that they don't, I'll figure something else out!)
  • I will be using high-quality .png images, probably an average of 1-2Mb worth every update. I apologize for the size of these images, but it is the only way I've found to display transparency without completely losing the quality of the image OR soaring the file size up to ludicrous levels. Hopefully with the length of the updates and the frequency of comments, I can avoid more than one update a page to minimize loading times. Sorry for anyone with slow internet, I just like my art!

I think that about sums it up. If you took the time to read this and read on, I hope you enjoy!
 
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Saithis

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Prologue – Part I
27th of January, 1088 Anno Domini
Søborg Castle, Hertugdømme of Sjælland

First it came from the north. It was still and silent but as time passed it grew in intensity. A cold wind was the first sign of its coming, so bitter that it chilled men through fur and skin and caressed their very bones. With it came the frost, and then the first snowfall of the winter. White powder danced its way down from clouds of dark grey, slowly entombing the land in its icy embrace. Green life became extinguished and replaced by a blanket of white serenity.

From Søborg's walls, Harald Audensen watched the coming of winter in awe. The winter had been quite warm and dry up until this point and most of the people were surprised at the sudden chill that overtook Sjælland. The young man had always enjoyed the rain and the snow, despite the difficulties and dangers it presented. There was something about the serenity of it that soothed him. It distracted him from the world, from-

“Brother!” a voice called from further down the wall. Harald turned to the source, his younger brother Erik. The youth was waving to him somewhat urgently from the west wall, and shouted again. “Come quickly, you must see this!”

Harald sighed, disappointed to be interrupted from his peaceful thoughts. Since he first left Søborg for the Livonian campaign two years ago, Harald had found little in the way of peace and relaxation. Even as a youth, his life had been more about work and discipline than freedom and enjoyment and once again duties called to him. Turning, he carefully walked down the stone parapets, wrapping the heavy fur cloak around his figure to protect from the snow. He had grown through his experiences into a tall, strong man of good reputation. His father and Uncle Skjalm had placed their faith in him, expected him to lead the Hvide Clan into future glories. Now he just needed to convince the Ting that faith in him was well-founded.


Harald Audensen was regarded by most as the natural successor to his father Auden, despite his many brothers as competitors. His talent and ability were thus far unmatched in the North, in spite of his youth.

“Erik?” Harald leaned into one of the crenelations as he reached his brother. “What's going on?”

His brother merely pointed into the distance. Harald squinted and peered across the landscape, trying to see what it was through the snow and mist. At first, nothing jumped out as unusual, but then he caught sight of movement – lots of movement.

“Are those soldiers?” Harald frowned. “Red...they're garbed in red.”

“Who would be marching on Søborg at this time of year? And more importantly why haven't we heard of it?”

“It must be the King.” Harald's lip quivered slightly in repressed anger. “He's likely coming to try and influence the Hvidesting. Damn, we should have held it yesterday when everyone was present but him.”

“Is he coming as a friend or an enemy, do you think?” Erik looked to the older brother, concerned. “The Hvidesting is certain to make you our Chief without his interference.”

“Jens wouldn't come here just to put his faith in me, that's too simple for marching all this way with a host like that.” The young heir to the Hvide clan moved to the steps and began to carefully descend. “We need to make preparations, come quickly brother. Jens will likely try to place someone friendlier to him in power.”


Jens was King of Denmark thanks to the support of the Hvide founder Skjalm Tokesen, and had been raised in the court alongside Harald.

“But how can he?” Erik followed. “Your father is dead, and the Hvide leadership is chosen by us, not by the King.”

“Haven't you been paying attention in those fancy lessons of yours?” Harald looked up at Erik, somewhat befuddled. “He can't prevent me from becoming leader of the Hvide, not if the Hvide all agree to it. By the laws we have established, however, he could convince the Tings of the various lands in our demesne that I am not a suitable ruler. Watch your step.”

Erik had nearly slipped on a patch of ice, but had caught himself on a notch in the stone wall. “Meaning that the lands we have worked hard to earn...” The youth's eyes widened as he realized what Harald meant.

Harald shook his head. “I won't let the King dictate the future of our lands, or steal our hard work.” He gestured to one of the guards. “Send word into the village, the King is coming with his men. The villagers and my army are to immediately retreat into the walls as a precaution. Hurry! He is not far. Erik, go and inform the Ting what is happening, but keep the calm, the last thing we need is a panic.”

His brother nodded and left immediately, while Harald set himself to prepare a potential defence. He had never let an enemy catch him unawares, and he knew that if Jens had brought enough men to attack this place, the entire leadership of the Hvide Clan and its demesne could be wiped out by a surprise assault. Even if he survived such an attack, he would never again be seen as a safe liege. He sincerely hoped that the boy he grew up with had not become so power-hungry or foolish.

----- -=-=- ----- -=-=- -----​

The column of heavily armoured riders came to a halt before the village, gazing up at Søborg's walls. The cluster of huts that formed the peasants' homes were clearly deserted and it was obvious that there were many men on the walls watching them.

“Why have we stopped?” An irritable voice shouted, nudging his horse forward through the ranks until at last he emerged from the crowd. The mounted Hirdmen at the head of King Jens' host were blocked by a line of heavily armoured Sjællanders, garbed in the white and red colours of the Hvide Clan's huskarls.

“Why do you block our way, men? Do you not know this is the King's host, come to visit Søborg in this cold winter?”

“It is by my order, Jens!” Said a tall one at the back. Jens squinted, and it took him a few seconds to recognize the large figure.

“By God, Harald, is that you?” The young king seemed genuinely surprised. “You're not the boy you used to be, for sure. Why do your men block my path, why is this village so ill to welcome my presence? Are you displeased to see me, cousin?”

“You? Not at all.” Harald frowned. “Your friends, on the other hand, seem to be rather well-armed for a simple visit. I had to take precautions.”

“As did I, Harald.” Jens put on a toothy smile. “Caution is advisable these days, surely you heard how the Dal tried to kill King Stenkilsen last year. Even a King may not always be safe in their own lands, and I will not fall prey to some crazed pagan or power-hungry jarl who thinks it's in his best interest to end his master's life.”

Harald's expression did not change. “Precautions are understandable, cousin, but you can trust the Hvide. Regardless, I cannot give your men berth, for our own walls are full of my forces, who are too many even to all sleep in proper beds. There is plenty of room at the riverside for your men to camp, if you wish it. May I ask what brings you to Søborg, of all places?”

“The Hvidesting, of course, Harald. This is not just a matter of importance to you and your vassals, Harald; it is a matter of importance for all Danes.” He looked to his army, then up to the castle. “You can't expect me to go into Søborg without any defences, can you? Allow me to bring some loyal men, at least.”

“Ten.” Harald said coldly.

“Two-score.” Jens replied, his smile fading slightly.

“Make it twenty and five. The Hvide welcome you to Søborg, cousin.” Harald grunted and waved to his men, walking away without a further word.

Jens watched the lordling walk away and his smile faded. One of the King's gloved fists clenched the hilt of his sword tightly and a curse was whispered under his breath. The Hvide had grown far too strong over the previous two decades; their great success in the Baltic had made them figures of public adoration while his own clan slipped in prestige. His own clan, the Kings of Norway and Sweden, all had become secondary to the walking folk tale that was the Hvide. Their success in the Crusades were objects of song and legend and their vast holdings on the Baltic Shores were too dangerous. The capture of his uncle in a battle not long ago had been the last straw – the Hvide needed to be contained.


Harald had successfully captured Jens' uncle Olaf and forced him to surrender his Jylland demesne to Hertug-Biskop Auden. Hvide power in Denmark was greater than ever before and the Knýtlings were nervous.

“What's the plan, cousin?” A thin, hissing voice spoke to him.

Jens looked to his companion. “Your brother has underestimated us, Ernst. It's time to make you a Chief and put an end to his manipulations and lies.”


Ernst was Harald Audensen's bastard half-brother, although most of the courts were unaware of this. He now came to claim leadership of Hvide for himself.

“And once I am in power...” Ernst grinned, a mad glint in his eyes. “Harald and everyone else who crossed me will pay...”
 
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Ilyavania

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Let me be the first to say that Piety was a great AAR, and that I'm looking forward to this one very much. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from where the other AAR ended. From the prologue, it seems that it will be just as grand as Piety was, with loads of scheming and backstabbing.

Jens' wish to put Ernst in power is obviously a great way to keep the Hvide in check, Ernst is mad and easy to manipulate after all, and don't get me started on the feud he has with Harald... Harald is everything Ernst wants to be and now that Jens, the King, wants to put him in charge over his halfbrother... Things will get hot. I'm rooting for Harald, though, and when he becomes Chief of the Hvide, I think he should aim to become King. Because let's face it, Jens and his clan will not stand a chance against the might of Harald and the Hvide. Harald for King!
 

unmerged(127999)

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Good to see this transferred to CK2; it fits even better in a better game! Glad to see that Harald's at least somewhat prepared for Jen's machinations. Hope Ernst is disposed of shortly. He's too weak and crazy to be the leader of the Hvide clan. Here's hoping Harald can remove Jens as well.
 

Stuyvesant

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Must admit I never followed Piety, but I will endeavor to tag along for this one. Narrative AARs require more thought than gameplay or comedy ones, but then again, you get out of it what you put into it. :)

Nice setting of the scene. Things look like they will not be going well from the very start.
 

unmerged(59077)

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Screenies look sexy!

Very glad to see this continue in CK2, much smoother game. Also, the new family display really makes a point of how actively Auden's been procreating. It's like Harald's presiding over a kindergarten!
 

Avindian

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This sounds like a really good AAR; I've enjoyed your past stuff! I'll dive right in.
 

Hannibal X

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Great to see this continue, but I must ask- where is Astrithr? Harald had no wife in his screenshot.
 

The Kingmaker

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Great stuff! I'm glad to able to follow this one from the beginning. :D

Piety was truly epic; I'm confident this will be more so. (Although it may be hard to outdo yourself. Skjalm was pretty awesome.)
 

aldriq

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Like AP, I'm very happy to catch this one from the beginning! Looking forward to the unfolding/unravelling/any-other-ings you have prepared for us :)

This AAR will be made with an in-progress CK2 overhaul mod, which doesn't yet have a name. It's being made by myself and the fantastic RGB (with only some difficulties due to distance/schedules), and we're hoping to have a fully working version of it sometime this lifetime!
Where do I have to sign?
 

Tapscott

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Holy crap, this looks good! I will follow, but will most likely continue to lurk as i always do. You actually forced me to come out of the shadows and comment on your aar and you've only done the prologue so far. I am impressed!
 

Saithis

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Wow, that's a lot more response than I was expecting from a single overnight prologue! I hope I live up to your expectations.

Let me be the first to say that Piety was a great AAR, and that I'm looking forward to this one very much. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from where the other AAR ended. From the prologue, it seems that it will be just as grand as Piety was, with loads of scheming and backstabbing.

Jens' wish to put Ernst in power is obviously a great way to keep the Hvide in check, Ernst is mad and easy to manipulate after all, and don't get me started on the feud he has with Harald... Harald is everything Ernst wants to be and now that Jens, the King, wants to put him in charge over his halfbrother... Things will get hot. I'm rooting for Harald, though, and when he becomes Chief of the Hvide, I think he should aim to become King. Because let's face it, Jens and his clan will not stand a chance against the might of Harald and the Hvide. Harald for King!
Ernst is definitely a good puppet, at worst if he does slip and his insanity grows too obvious, he'll break faith in the Hvide clan, it's win-win for Jens. Glad to have you reading, I hope to live up to the original's level of scheming and backstabbing, although with Gro tucked away that may not be so easy anymore!

Good to see this transferred to CK2; it fits even better in a better game! Glad to see that Harald's at least somewhat prepared for Jen's machinations. Hope Ernst is disposed of shortly. He's too weak and crazy to be the leader of the Hvide clan. Here's hoping Harald can remove Jens as well.
Welcome back and glad to see you! I think I can do a lot more with this story in CK2 than I ever could in the original, but I'll have to finish the mod before I can really buckle down and make serious progress. Ernst is definitely dangerous, but thankfully he's nowhere near as competent as Harald, so our hero has that in his favour.

Must admit I never followed Piety, but I will endeavor to tag along for this one. Narrative AARs require more thought than gameplay or comedy ones, but then again, you get out of it what you put into it. :)

Nice setting of the scene. Things look like they will not be going well from the very start.
At the end, it didn't seem like very many people were following Piety, but it gathered a fair bit of following in its day. Like I mentioned in the Prologue, part of why I converted to CK2 was in the hopes of attracting new audience. :) I do have to disagree about comedy being easier to write though, writing good comedy is a heck of a lot harder than it sounds!

Things certainly don't get to be easy in the North. The strongest survive up here, etc. etc. and the Hvide could be in serious trouble in Ernst's bid for power gets anywhere.

Screenies look sexy!

Very glad to see this continue in CK2, much smoother game. Also, the new family display really makes a point of how actively Auden's been procreating. It's like Harald's presiding over a kindergarten!
I'm happy with them too. :D Can't wait until we have the entire map done!

CK2 is definitely a much cleaner game for doing this, once you get used to the new stuff. At some point I'll have to post a Hvide family tree (which will invariably be linked into the Ylving/Knýtling/Estrid family tree).

This sounds like a really good AAR; I've enjoyed your past stuff! I'll dive right in.
Glad to hear it, I hope I live up to your expectations!

Great to see this continue, but I must ask- where is Astrithr? Harald had no wife in his screenshot.
Good catch! At this point technically they're just betrothed, Harald had to leave for the Baltic as soon as possible and she was still underage, I think. She'll definitely be brought up before long, as he's back in Scandinavia for awhile and the alliance with Norway could be very useful right now.

Subscribed.
Welcome abord, thanks. :)

Great stuff! I'm glad to able to follow this one from the beginning. :D

Piety was truly epic; I'm confident this will be more so. (Although it may be hard to outdo yourself. Skjalm was pretty awesome.)
I enjoyed Skjalm a lot, he'll definitely be one of my favourite rulers for some time, I do hope that Harald can live up to his name and achieve something truly awesome himself! Glad to have you reading this one from the beginning AP, hope you enjoy the ride. :D

Like AP, I'm very happy to catch this one from the beginning! Looking forward to the unfolding/unravelling/any-other-ings you have prepared for us :)
I have a whole lot planned if the game goes my way, and plenty planned before I'm even ready to let her go at proper speed.

Where do I have to sign?
There's a dotted line here, but what are you signing up for? ;)

Holy crap, this looks good! I will follow, but will most likely continue to lurk as i always do. You actually forced me to come out of the shadows and comment on your aar and you've only done the prologue so far. I am impressed!
I'm glad to have pulled a lurker out of the shadows with the prologue, I definitely hope this will live up to that. Enjoy the reading!

Subscribed! :)
Welcome aboard! :)

Now this is just terrible, forcing me to read the predecessor like that. Quality is a cruel mistress.
I'm sorry, I couldn't help it! Actually I give you fair warning that the original can waver in quality, I hadn't nailed down my writing or art style, rarely drafted any of my chapters and generally didn't put a lot of effort in. Also my background research on the period was terrible going into it. It wasn't bad, but it could have been better!

-----

There should be a new update tomorrow, most likely, as I already have the images ready for it and I just need to find some time to sit down and write it (and my HOI AAR is overdue an update first). Thanks to everyone for subscribing!
 

Stuyvesant

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Saithis said:
I do have to disagree about comedy being easier to write though, writing good comedy is a heck of a lot harder than it sounds!
Oh, I agree. I didn't make myself clear enough: it's easier to read a comedy or gameplay AAR than a narrative one - it doesn't take as much mental effort, I find. Hence my comment about 'you get out of it what you put into it'. :)

Anyway, it sounds like there's a big fat backstory that I might have to start dipping into - based on some of the comments, it seems that it could substantially increase my enjoyment of what's to follow.
 

JuvenalianSatyr

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At the very least this narrative style and strength is inspiring me towards working on my own Georgian national epic style game (starting in the unenviable position of David the Builder's coronation, surrounded by Selquk and Rum), though one unfortunate side effect is that I just spend six hours reading instead of modding the game and adding the historical figures of the time (vanilla CK2 Georgia is woefully boring compared to the intrigue of its historical counterpart), or, you know, sleeping.
 

Saithis

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Oh, I agree. I didn't make myself clear enough: it's easier to read a comedy or gameplay AAR than a narrative one - it doesn't take as much mental effort, I find. Hence my comment about 'you get out of it what you put into it'. :)

Anyway, it sounds like there's a big fat backstory that I might have to start dipping into - based on some of the comments, it seems that it could substantially increase my enjoyment of what's to follow.
Ahhhh, right. I agree with you completely that it takes more focus and attention to detail to read a Narrative AAR, I'm going to attempt to put in some extra effort to try and make sure it's easy on the eyes, although I'm not very good at 'simple' writing (so to speak.)

There is quite a lot of backstory to be had in Piety. I will try to cover all the important bits through brief moments of plot exposition and a couple historical primers, so it's certainly not necessary to read the old one, but if you want to do so, feel free!

At the very least this narrative style and strength is inspiring me towards working on my own Georgian national epic style game (starting in the unenviable position of David the Builder's coronation, surrounded by Selquk and Rum), though one unfortunate side effect is that I just spend six hours reading instead of modding the game and adding the historical figures of the time (vanilla CK2 Georgia is woefully boring compared to the intrigue of its historical counterpart), or, you know, sleeping.
Ah, that's good! I ran a brief Georgian AAR for EU3 (although without any modding) and the research into the setting was very fascinating. It'd be a lot of fun to see an AAR about it. :D
 
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LordTempest

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Excellent start! I'll try to keep up.

BTW, what is the rightmost, negative-looking trait in Ernst list of traits? I don't think I've seen that one before