Not Yet Lost (Chapter VI): Homeward Bound

Author: Malafides
Published: 2017-01-27, edited: 2018-01-24

Part of the campaign:

Not Yet Lost (1320 - 1392)

Previous part:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost (Chapter V): Look to the West

Images: 31, author: Malafides, published: 2017-01-27, edited: 2018-03-25

Don't think I don't see you.

I've felt your presence throughout my life, like a nagging thought. Watching. Judging. And why? What do you get out of my suffering?

The world is getting redder and redder. They're carrying me home now. At least I'll die on my shield.
My eyes can't stay open any longer. My old life flashes through the darkness. I breathe a sigh and the last decade melts away.

I thought I was so smart, so powerful. I thought I had it all figured out. I beat down every enemy that stood against me, destroyed their Houses and humiliated them at every turn. When I returned from the Kaiser's capital at Mecklenburg, Hilda showered me with even more good news -- she was pregnant. I was so sure that God Himself was behind me.

What an idiot I was. What an idiot I am. But no more. It's too late now to regret. Too late to change a thing. I'll leave the present and escape into the past.
Ah, what a time to be alive! Hilda's pregnant and the world is abuzz with my victory. Now little Spytko's bigger than me. He's still a lunkhead, but the country can always use another lunkhead on the battlefield. He'll bore Hedwig for sure, but hey, at least he's easy on the eyes.
Soon after the New Year, Dietwin of Luxembourg declares war for his claim on Poland.
When Dietwin marches his ramshackle army into Silesia, I scatter them and drag their leader to Krakow's court. Dietwin may be a man without honor, but I'm not. I decide to convene the Wiec, a council of nobles and important figures usually assembled for the election of a King. I can't control them once I'm dead -- but I can use them while I'm still alive.

I let the council decide Dietwin's fate. They vote to execute him in an almost unanimous decision. The people of Poland have spoken. King Winnie the Monkfucker will hate me even more than he already does, but I don't care what he thinks.
After 25 years in power, Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos dies in his sleep, and the dream of his family dies with him. After the House of Osman crumbled, Andronikos left their Karesili successors with only the rind of their old holdings.

But his triumph could not save his House. The Empire's scheming nobles refuse to bow to his young son, and his death undoes all his life's efforts overnight.

His fate could be mine. No man rules alone, and one moment of weakness is all it takes to lose it all.
The Eastern Empire has long been subject to Western influence. Michael VIII, the founder of the Palaiologan dynasty, tried his best to mend fences with the true Church. The only result was a bunch of excommunications getting lobbed back and forth.

The last Emperor's predecessor was his grandfather, Andronikos II. We'll call him Andy Junior. He repudiated his dad's attempts to reconcile with the Pope, but he was a weak and incompetent ruler. Andy the Third overthrew his grandpa, Andy Junior, but he could do nothing to stop the Westerners from infiltrating at all sides.

The d'Anjou King of Naples lords over Epirus and Achaea while Venice lurks in every port. The House of Barcelona ruled in Aragon and Sicily, and now Italians and Catalans alike swarm the underbelly of Greece and Anatolia. The new Emperor was born in Italy, but he spent most of his life in Athens when he inherited the Duchy from his father. Once William of Barcelona, he is now Iakobos Varselonikos, with a name borrowed and Hellenized from his great-grandfather.

William may be a coward, but he's a brilliant strategist in both war and politics. He speaks and prays in Greek, but he cultivates an image of an outsider, one step removed from his country's ancient feuds.
A small revolt crops up against Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, but it's nothing she can't handle. George Telegdi is a good soldier with shit for brains.
After almost ten years of civil war, Lubko usurps his nephew's throne. With the Popes too busy to crown him, Lubko crowns himself King of Lithuania, and his exhausted vassals go along with it. So now my favorite neighbors are ruled by a turd sandwich. That's just great. At least he'll be too busy keeping his own house in order to bother me.
The situation starts to get serious in Hungary as Ernő Osli rises up to join the rebellion. He's a fearsome general, with ties to the 108 original Hungarian clans who conquered the Carpathians. Ernő claims to be a descendant of Arpad himself.
King Phil V of France gets an early Christmas present when Pope Marinus III finally surrenders the throne of St. Peter. Pope Benedictus XII leaves the Archbishop of Auvergne to another loyal supporter of the King to take his seat in Rome. He fought at the frontlines for his right to rule, but his opponents call him "the Kneeler."
Spring brings good news -- Hilda is pregnant again. This could be my last chance at a son.
My father taught me that even Kings are small and common in the eyes of the Lord. That's why he insisted I train under his greatest generals and study the annals of war, no matter how much I protested. He said that Christ took pity on us, but God could not. He makes sure to humble every creature on the Earth.

God has given me a third daughter, born sick and too soon. Her mother, born frail, falls ill as well. Why does God punish the ones I love for my sins? Why can't he strike me instead?
Eufrozyna's birth brings more than physical suffering. On my death, my Kingdom will surely fracture between my daughters, and my vassals will abandon them. No mere Testament can hold the country together. I resolve to transform Poland's entire legal system from a city of brick into a city of marble.

Poland's flourishing trade overflows into my pocket, so I use it to grease some palms. Sometimes, even the noblest act must grow from the seed of corruption.
Speaking of corruption, the so-called "Holy Order" has become a breeding ground for heretics. 8,000 Prussian zealots rise up in Marienburg to take what they can from the Knights and Mother Church.
Queen Elizabeth "the Spider" beats the rebels without my help. Plenty of her people hate her, but none can oppose her. Eventually, they all get caught in her web.

She gives me the creeps, but she's taken her place beside Gunhilda Ascanian as one of my daughter's heroes.
I convene the Wiec once more to pass a series of laws. For this they will call me "the Polish Justinian."

This council will standardize and centralize the laws throughout Poland, establishing my supremacy over the petty dukes. Most importantly, the succession has been set in stone.

I've taken Hedwig's promise to heart. Poland's ancient laws require Poland to be ruled by a King, not a Queen -- but no law on record states that a woman cannot be King. Only the firstborn son shall rule in Poland, but if there is no son, then the firstborn daughter will take the throne. The council consents, but I can only pray that they'll honor the law when I die.
Hilda suggests I take on a project to make me excited about the future. We've been talking about remodeling for ages, but I think it's time to turn Wawel Castle into a palace fit for a King.
Meanwhile, the Teutons' heresy infects the people of Kujawy, my father's birthplace. If I'm not careful, this could erupt into a revolt just like it did in Marienburg. The Teutons have quieted their dissenters, but I hope my priests can get the job done with less bloodshed. I'd hate to hurt my own subjects.
Another year passes and Hilda gives birth to another daughter. She seems a little worse for wear, and I keep trying to get her to take it easy, but she can't help it. She knows me too well. I love my daughters, but I can't help but hope for a son to ease the burden of succession. She seems desperate to give me what she knows I want. I keep telling her otherwise, but still she blames herself.
I take a trip with my wife and daughters to visit France. We need a breath of fresh air, and a future alliance wouldn't be amiss either. I take a visit to Cluny Abbey on the way and make a sizable donation, hoping for God's forgiveness.
Lubko won his war for power, but now his country is weakened by the struggle. The independent Rurikids that remain Christian band together to seize Minsk and render it unto the Grand Duke of Chernigov.
Only one of the handful of Dukes to escape the Mongol yoke hasn't broken with the Patriarch in Constantinople. The rest have turned to a gnostic adulteration of their already wayward faith. Still, even Orthodox Moskva joins its brother-duchies.
The corruption is spreading to the very heart of Poland. Even I can't escape it. My spies apprehended a madman today with plans to take my life. I'm starting to lose sleep. Some nights, I dream of getting buried alive. In others, I'm strapped to a rock like Prometheus, as the buzzards tear at my insides.

What will happen when I leave this world? Oh Death, I can feel you lurking at the corners of my mind. What do you want from me? Why won't you leave me alone?

The pain is beginning to pull me back into the present. I can hear the soldiers marching and murmuring around me. The end is coming soon now, but you can't take me yet.

I take a breath and plunge back into the past.
I've hardly gone gray, and already the Dukes are testing their limits, squabbling for power. Meanwhile, Hilda has become pregnant again. I can't seem to muster up any happiness. Even if she gave me a son, how many years could I push the grave away? These greedy nobles would take whatever they pleased from a child King.
I call together the Wiec and command that the Duke of Kuyavia abandon his campaign for control of Slupsk. The Wiec votes unanimously in my favor -- I'm not letting any power slip into anyone's hands without my say. Duke Usciech grits his teeth and accepts my judgment. There's nothing he can do.
Heresy blooms no matter how hard the old faithful try to weed it out. Bogomilism incubated in Bulgaria before moving North into the Rus, while King George II Terter embraces a new strain of gnostic blasphemy.
At home, Kujawy's infection spreads to Kalisz.
Hilda gives birth to a son, but he comes into the world without a sound, without a heartbeat.

Just like His power, God's cruelty knows no limit.
I'm tired of this world. If God should find my soul unworthy, then let Him take me, and render His judgment.
March sees the death of Lubko's dreams as well. His reign ends without a moment of peace, and his cousin Karijotas takes the throne.
Time is taking its toll on me. The former King-Consort's son was not born to the Queen, and he rises up in Nyitra to steal the throne from his half-brother.

Queen Elizabeth calls me to battle, and I answer the call. Who am I to deny the Reaper? I can feel you urging me on. "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted."
I meet the foe in Esztergom and charge at the head of my armies. I let out a warcry, not for this battle, but for the great battle of life, the battle that has no mercy and no end, and leaves no prisoner alive.
I can feel the men carrying my body as my soul slides away. I can hear them singing a hymn for me. It is a song for everything a soldier suffers, and all men and women are soldiers in the war of survival.
I am ready now. Take me, and do with me what you will.

Next chapter:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost (Chapter VII): Penitence

Images: 32, author: Malafides, published: 2017-02-01, edited: 2018-01-24

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