The Trials of the Sons of Odin: A Paradox AAR. Chapter 15: The Tainted

Published: 2018-03-26

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The Trials of the Sons of Odin: A Paradox AAR

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Game: Crusader Kings II

The Trials of the Sons of Odin: A Paradox AAR. Chapter 14: The Warrior-Scholar (Part 2)

Images: 39, author: RandomHero1992, published: 2018-01-29

An overlooked son can cause great trouble for a realm, reflected in lore in Loki and the birth of Fenrir being foretold as the doom of Odin. So too is this reflected in the mortal world as the new Fylkir had been overlooked for so long by his father, was now in control of his kingdom. Thus begins the story of Fylkir Klas, the Tainted.
The second son of the Warrior-Scholar was not originally destined for the throne. Covered for so long by the long shadow of his older brother, their fathers favoured, Fylkir Klas had long grown use to this level of anonymity, even as a member of the royal family. Cynical and paranoid, whilst many would dismiss this as a symptom of his father’s favouritism, the truth was much darker.
The newly crowned Fylkir had, for several years, been a member of the Fellowship of Hel. A secret society whose foundation had sprung up shortly after the reformation of the faith so many generations ago, it had been dedicated to the Goddess Hel and the general sowing of chaos throughout the lands. Joining the society had been an act if youthful rebellion, a chance to get back at the brother who had for so long excelled at everything he had not. But now Valdermar was dead, and Klas was Fylkir.
One of the first orders of business of the newly crowned Fylkir was to arrange a new marriage for himself. Having already been married previously and sired an heir, the Fylkir was able to arrange a betrothal to a local Dutchess, gaining loyalty of an influential part of the realm. This also meant placing another member of House Herja on a throne, when their future son would eventually inherit.
The need for this loyalty was quickly demonstrated when a collection of Dukes and Counts sought to take advantage of the instability following the succession. Despite their differences, Klas remained as committed to the integrity of the realm as his father and he ordered his levies raised for the first time.
With the flurry that had been the beginning of his reign, the Fylkir had not had a chance to spend much time with his son. As the demands of rulership and war forced the two apart, father and son spent one final afternoon together before Fylkir Klas matched out at the head of his warhost at first light the next day.
Yet the wholesome father and son setting that many courtiers saw was not the last of the depraved Fylkirs evening plans. Sneaking out of the Castle along half-forgotten dungeon paths, the dark apostate and his fellow cult members performed their wicked rites, and the body of Fylkir Klas was ‘blessed’ with unholy strength for the upcoming war.
Yet the favours of the underworld came at a price, and the ritual used to infuse his body began to affect his mind. Constantly tired, yet unable to find sanctuary in rest nor sleep, the march south for the Fylkir was not a plesent time, even by the low standards of an army marching to war.
As the army marched through the friendly city of Holstein, the Fylkir ordered the army hold whilst outriders and scouts were sent ahead. Whilst camped, Fylkir Klas and another member of the Fellowship met together and, in worship of their infernal deities, had a local tavern turned into a nightmarish scene of lust and violence.
This proved too much for the Fylkir, whose nightmares were filled with the scenes of his infernal acts. Whilst the Fellowships leaders had sought to promote Klas further within their organisation, the newly repentant monarch instead responded by returning icon of membership they had presented to him many moons ago.
His soul freed at last, Fylkir Klas rededicated himself to the source of his title, the Gods and the Faith. Whilst many close to the Fylkir were surprised at this sudden fervour from the traditionally cynical man, they merely attributed it to his new role and title, and his secret past remained buried.
It seemed that the nobles were not the only ones to try and continue the follies of the previous reign. With the rebellion of the southern Skottish lands from the Fylkirs crown, the priesthood sought again to expand further their temporal realms. Fylkir Klas would see to it that they would never again endanger the realm, and an invasion of Skottland was planned once the rebellions on the mainland was resolved.
This rebellion had not been as well planned as the ones that had plagued the reign of the previous Fylkir. Perhaps it was because most now knew better than to question the might of the crown, or perhaps it was because this rebels had been more opportunistic with the succession and had not had a chance to coordinate their efforts. Either way, rather than a united force, the Fylkirs army would deal with one traitorous holdout before moving to the next. Finally, only the rebels in Irland remained.
Rather than finish of the rebellion, the Fylkir instead deployed his army to Skotland. The priesthood had counted on the armies of Norway to take longer to resolve the war on the mainland, and longer still for an invasion fleet to be prepared. On both5 counts they were wrong. Culminating in the Battle for Dunragit, the High Priest himself was cornered on the battlefield and brought in chains to the Fylkir whilst the rest of his army fled its destruction.
With the priesthood defeated and their leadership in chains, the Fylkir marched on the castles taken by the invaders from Skotland. Knowing that their plot had failed, the remaining traitors quickly gave themselves up, and the war came to an end. Rather than return home however the Fylkir instead marched south, to the Jomsviking capital of Jorvik.
Already there was the royal court, as well as the warchiefs of the Jomsvikings and the leadership of the priesthood and the rebellion, both still in chains. Many had wondered at what the Fylkir had planned, as he had not shared the reason for the summoning of all his nobles except for a few, and they had kept the Fylkirs trust, unlike some present. With all the lords of the realm before him, Fylkir Klas made his announcement that would, like the great reformation his forefather had stood over, shake the Norse world to its foundation.
Whilst for centuries before the crown of Norway had been enough to demand the respect of the Odin’s faithful, the rebellions of his father’s era and the traitors before him had determined that this was no longer enough. Therefore, by right of birth and conquest, the North Sea Empire would be born, with Klas as its first High King.
[Note: I didn’t notice the double up of Empire in this picture. I will be able to change the mod to remove this in the future]
In the stunned silence of the room, the first move was made by the Jomsvikings Warchief. Bowing before the new High King, he once again committed his order to the overlordship of the House Herja, and the North Sea Empire. Unbeknownst to many present, the Welsh republic had been found to have been preparing for an invasion of the east of the isle, and the Fylkir had offered a simple solution, reaffirm their oaths of allegiance and he would prevent any attack by merit of Norways larger army.
One by one, the vassals of the King of Norway announced their loyalty to the new High King, last of which were the leaders of the rebellion, but they too reaffirmed their loyalty. Finally, the priests were unchained and brought before Fylkir Klas, for the second great reveal. Announcing to all present that the constant invasions were unbecoming of priests and disastrous to the faithful they were supposed to protect, the leaders before the Fylkir were to be given a simple choice. The Holy City of Lothian and its surrounding lands would be kept by the priesthood as a vassal of the new empire, but the crown of Skotland would be surrendered to the High King. In exchange the High Priest, not the King of Norway, would lead the faithful as the Fylkir. Should the priests refuse, they would be free to leave, but he would march forth and press his claim for the Kingdom, as Fylkir and leader of the church. Given the choice between sole custodian of the faith or destruction, High Priest bowed and pledged his loyalty to the High King, and rose as Fylkir of the Norse Faith.
It seemed however, that the words of loyalty meant little to the Irish, for no sooner than had the celebrations of the Jorvik Coronation completed than the lords of the Emerald Isle raised one of their own as King of Irland. The Duke of Dublin, a vassal that had for generations caused successive Fylkirs problems, had convinced the majority of dukes to bad together in defiance of the new High King. For the first time these lands had been united and they determined that they alone would be the masters of their future. To the surprise of many though, the Fylkir did not march is army to the rebellious island kingdom, for events closer to home were demanding his attention.
To the east, the ambitious Queen of Sweden sought to reclaim her kingdoms possession of the crown of Finland. Despite the assistance of the Lithuanians, the Finnish were being pushed back, and it seemed only a matter of time until the empires closest neighbour regained their former strength, and would they then turn their eyes to the lands they had lost to the Norwegians. Despite being controlled by subjects of previous Fylkirs, there was some legitimacy in the claims that these lands should be part of the Swedish crown.
At the same time, seeking to reinforce the pride of the newly formed nation, the High King expanded the funding that the crown provided for the Félagi Auðr. Since their foundation, the elite band of raiders had maintained their size at 3600 men. However, times were changing and this force, one sufficient for the task was now vulnerable to counter attacks and retribution. Increasing the force provided inspiration for the fighting men of the North Sea Empire, and further displayed the power of the preeminent Norse nation.
In hindsight, the unwillingness of the High King to fight the Irish rebellion was almost guaranteed to cause problems later on. With the focus of the military on preparations for a war in the east, several minor nobles saw their chance to create a Skottish realm ruled by a Skottish king. Marching from town to town and calling on the peasantry to fight off ‘foreign’ invaders, despite the fact that Norwegians had been on the isles for centuries by this time, the rabble eventually found its way to the Holy City of Lothian.
This time, the High King acted. Irland was a backwater, with very little of value on the island and full of unruly nobles that would rebel more often than not. But Skotland was different, as a significant holy land and a strategic buffer against the Welsh it was of vital importance to keep a Norwegian presence there. On top of this, it would not do to have the lands that had just been incorporated into the empire leave a mere year after. Such would spell the end of the newly formed North Sea Empire, as none would respect its authority.
With the proper sacrifices performed, the High King boarded his ship and lead the empire to war.
Confident in the abilities of his men, the High King marched his army north from the landing in Northumbria to confront the rebels. Smashing into the foe on the fields of Tyninghame, the well trained and well equipped levies had no problem dispatching any who stood before them. However, in the High Kings haste he had not had the men properly scout out the lands surrounding the battlefield, if he had he may have seen the other rebel armies, aware of his landing, converge to the battlefield.
What should have been a glorious victory was turned instead to a preventable loss. Whilst none could deny the ability and bravery of the men who fought, as for every man who fell, four or five of his foe fell with him. The numbers of the peasants were too many and the High King was forced to order his men to fall back into the highlands, where the terrain would favour the smaller, elite army. Despite the orderly retreat, many would lose their lives to lesser nobles on horseback, which the Norwegian army still lacked in any meaningful amount.
Perhaps the rebel’s believer that the loyalist army would not be able to mount another battle so quickly, or perhaps after beating them once they believed they could do so again. Either way the rebels spread out again and setup sieges in the surrounding counties. When the High King returned for the Second Battle of Tyninghame with an army ready for retribution, he was determined to make sure that there was not a third.
There was not.
With the war in Skotland completed, the High King looked where he could to expand his realm. By custom, his vassals would not support him if he was seen to be too weak by not engaging in wars of conquest. Paradoxically, if he declared too many wars, or the wars dragged on for too long, they would grow more frustrated at having so many peasants away from their homes, which was a detriment to the local communities, and more importantly the noble’s fortunes.
A good target appeared to be the county of Braunschweig, which was legally a part of the Duchy of the same name and thus the North Sea Empire. The land was controlled by the merchant republic of Denmark. Whilst a powerful nation on the sea and in trade, their army was no match for the forces that could be raised by High King Klas. This would prove to his vassals that he had the strength required to lead the realm whilst also proving that he would fight for those below him and not just for his own glory.
Going to war with the major trading power in the area meant that, in the short term, the crown was required to assist the local traders and merchants so that trade did not collapse completely. Strengthening the realm against the influence of outsiders was a good result in any case.
The High King was not able to march with his armies this time, as he had suffered an injury in the Second Battle of Tyninghame. Whilst not serious, it had prevented him from riding and fighting for extended periods of time. With rest though the wound soon healed, with a large scar all that remained before long. It would not be the last that High King Klas would receive.
As expected, the Danish merchants did not put up much of a fight. Whilst one army captured Skane, another marched towards the peninsula, talking first the objective of the war and then marching to the city of Holstein. With these two major centres taken, the merchants quickly accepted terms.
Whilst this victory over the Danish was being celebrated, dire news came that shook the High King. His son and heir, Duke Ragnvald, Crown Prince of the North Sea Empire had passed away, leaving his infant boy, born a few years earlier, as both Duke and Heir. Whilst not an old man, the age of High King Klas meant that he would have to live to an old age to avoid a regency.
The lessons of the Skottish rebellion had been simple and embarrassing, the High Kings army lacked the ability to meaningfully engage is harassment against fleeing enemies and preventing this harassment when falling back. The answer to both was light cavalry. Traditionally not part of Norwegian military history, the few mounter warriors that accompanied the High Kings forces had been part of non-Nordic vassals. This would no longer suffice and across the crownlands, castles were supplemented with additional stables as well as training grounds and armouries to service these new troops.
Despite his renouncement of his depraved and sinful ways of his youth, High King Klas knew that he would have to spend the rest of his life devoted to the path that Odin had laid out for him. Separating the realm from the demands of the church meant that the faith would be protected from unfaithful kings, whilst separating the church from the demands of ruling meant that the priesthood would not be tempted into treason and other material gains that could corrupt the heart from faith.
As many had predicted, the realm of Great Moravia had been completely unable to defend its borders and the Catholic realm of Pannonia had grown more powerful. The king’s ego had been his folly and was now a detriment to the faithful as the most powerful Catholic power was on the border of three separate realms, and was growing more powerful.
With the creation of an empire, what had begun as an attempt to unite the kingdom and further the prestige of House Herja had evolved much beyond that. For centuries the bounds of tribal, then feudal law had been the foundation of society. There were only two institutions, the crown and the church. Yet as the North Sea Empire became further entrenched, more and more roles of state were being delegated not to nobles but to functionaries. Whilst this had stared earlier with previous Fylkirs establishing groups such as the Varðmaðr Heimdallr, who served as scouts, explorers and even spies; or the Félagi Auðr, who although spent the majority of their time raiding also recovered items of value for rulers, or put pressure of foes to prevent aggression and as a display of power. Whilst subtle, the North Sea Empire began showing signs that instead of being simply a kingdom, it was evolving into a nation state.
With the rebellions of his father and his early reign now a thing of the past, the realm had finally begun to shows signs of recovery. Once ravaged fields that had been the sites of vicious battles were being returned to prosperity.
The peace in the realm allowed for the High King to shift his focus from war to culture. Artisans and musicians were making their home in the court in Castle Lade. Of note was the creation of a stunning landscape of the Castle Lade itself, which had invoked a strong sense of the moral struggles of men.
With Catholics right on the border, it had been a constant fight for the kingdom to protect the faithful from their vile teaching of weakness and subservience. Despite this there were those that fell to the teaching of Jesus, and one of them was the Duke of Mecklenburg. Given the option of recanting or death, the traitorous vassal decided he would take his chance that he had the belief to save his soul in the afterlife.
Whether the execution of a vassal was the cause that rebellion, or if the timing had just worked out so that shortly after the execution the letter arrived. Either way the results were the same, the dukes demanding that the High King relinquish some of his near absolute power over the realm, including the right to unliterary order executions. Joining them in rebellion was the new leader of the Jomsvikings, with the wise old leader that had bowed before the High King having passed. Determined not to have his new position turned into a symbolic title, Klas rode out with his host to defend his rights as High King.
As had become tradition, when the Catholics got bored they declared a Crusade for a far flung part of the world that they are unable to hold. The target this time was Jerusalem, centre to the Catholic faith and the grave of many faithful soldiers. With most of Anatolia in Muslim hands and the Greek lands divided between the faiths, just how the Pope thought his soldiers would be able to sustain a campaign was a surprise to many in the court in Lade.
What came as more of a surprise to those in Castle Lade was the sudden arrival of ten thousand rebels upon the capital. Not waiting to siege their foe the traitors stormed the walls, perhaps hoping to capture the High King, and hoping to end the war quickly. High King Klas was not present as he had departed only a day earlier by boat with the levies gathered to fight the war in Skotland, unaware of the rebels so close to his capital.
Despite the loss of his seat of power, the High King had an advantage that the rebels simply did not. A well drilled and veteran army. Having spent the reign on a High King and a Fylkir at war with few reprieves, the core soldiers of the North Sea Empire were well drilled and hardened. Against peasant rabbles, the war was quickly decided.
Returned to his rightful home, the High King quickly sought to calm the realm to prevent further rebellion. One idea, presented by the new Chancellor, the previous having forfeit his position by joining the rebellion, was to create meaningful foreign alliances. Of late the web of marriages and loyalties had worn thin for the North Sea Empire so in an effort to strengthen the remaining connections, the heir to the empire and grandson of High King Klas, Duke Eirik, suggested his grandfather and lord learn some of the languages used in these foreign courts.
Perhaps one of those languages should have been Finnish, as with the war completed the High King was able to turn his attentions to this kingdom. The source of this conflict was the succession of the Dukedom of Mecklenburg moving to a lord within the realm of Finland. Despite familial ties to this neighbour, High King Klas ordered the armies to march from Castle Lade.
Once again, the Catholics spent the lives of many men in the harsh deserts of their holy lands. And once again this had achieved nothing more than watering the ground with Catholic blood. With the Catholics in retreat, now would be a good time to strike south.
These ambitions of southern expansion though, would not come to fruition. Shortly after victory was declared against the Finnish army, the High King was found bent over his desk. Maps of the northern German lands were found underneath him, with a report of the weakness of the southern Catholics scrunched up in his hand, clutched to his heart. With his firstborn son dead, the crown fell to the young grandson of the dead High King, the first time the crown had skipped an entire generation.

Next chapter:

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The Trials of the Sons of Odin: A Paradox AAR. Chapter 16: The Young Duke

Images: 41, author: RandomHero1992, published: 2018-04-26

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