Not Yet Lost (Chapter III): Blind Ambition

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 II): The Heights of Greatness

Images: 20, author: Malafides, published: 2017-01-27, edited: 2018-01-24

The Kaiser dared to march on Polish soil, and now he soils himself at the thought of Polish horsemen.

Ludwig IV "the Bavarian" was flying high before he met me. He struggled for years to secure the throne over his Austrian rival, Frederick the Fair. Ludwig held Frederick captive for over three years, until the Pope nagged him into setting him free. Frederick recognized Ludwig's claim and promised to convince his younger brothers to relent, but he vowed to return to captivity if he could not fulfill his promise. When his brothers refused, the Pope released Frederick from his oath, but he still came to the Kaiser as a willing prisoner. Ludwig decided to let bygones be bygones and rule together, at least until Fred kicked the bucket a few years back.

Now the Kaiser is approaching death himself, and he wants to make sure the House of Wittelsbach will keep the Imperial Crown. Ludwig thought that Poland would make for easy glory with its young king and its long history of disunion. He's Icarus, and I'm the sun.
One of my spies slips through Silesia to deliver a message about my father-in-law. I thought he was just a coward, but it turns out he had other reasons not to turn against the Kaiser and press his own claim to the throne. King John has been gravely ill since last winter, though the details of his illness remain unclear. His advisors have tried to fend off the vultures with silence, but the rumors spawn like rabbits. King John is on the brink of death -- and so are his ambitions.

John's father Henry VII was Holy Roman Emperor before Ludwig IV snatched the crown from his family. Henry was a great man, the first Kaiser of the House of Luxembourg, but he died only a year after his coronation. God has a way of shitting all over the petty plans of mortals. So what will come of my ambitions? What does God have in store for me?
Poland is cleansed of German soldiers by the end of the year and the Kaiser surrenders. The Treaty of Gniezno will do to the Kaiser's wallet what our soldiers did to his men.
But when one war ends, another one begins. Philip Druget came from Sicily with King Charleth to help him corral Hungary's bickering aristocrats and rescue the country from anarchy. It seems his loyalty died with his liege. Now that my niece's armies are exhausted from the war against the Kaiser, he's taken his opportunity to seize even more land. It's a bad day for the Queen of Hungary.
Meanwhile, the English have been having a bad day for the last twenty years.

Edward II set new standards for incompetence. He bungled his way into a massive famine after losing a war to the Scots, heaping favors upon his "special friend" Piers Galveston all the while. Eventually, his wife Isabella got sick of it and took her son to her dad's house. Unfortunately for Edward II, her dad was the King of France. She invaded the island with her teenage son and Edward III was crowned at the age of 14. Little Eddie grew up and promptly got pushed off the balcony.
Now his brother John is on the wrong side of a Succession Crisis with no clear heir in sight.
Chaos reigns in the Empire and the Kaiser's capital is surrounded. Over 10,000 French peasants are still loitering in Verdun, listening to their priestly leader drone on about this and that. The Kaiser tried to seize Hainaut from the Count of Holland in a desperate attempt to pay off his debts, but the Count called his bluff. Now 7,000 Dutchmen stand at the gates of Breda, and even more peasants have risen up in Mecklenburg after years of war and hunger.

This whole year has been a sobering lesson. Even the strongest ruler must balance on the razor's edge. Your supporters will turn against you at the first sign of weakness. I make sure to reward my own vassals for their loyalty with the Kaiser's gold. No one rules alone.
My Chancellor brings news from Bohemia -- King John's sickness has broken, but it took his eyesight when it left. What good are his ambitions now?
The people are tired of war, but I send a small detachment into Hungary to crush Druget's rebellion. Don't want the Dukes at home to get any funny ideas.
Jewish funding was indispensable in dispensing with the Kaiser's forces. Where so many turn away from the Jewish people, Poland welcomes them with open arms. The Battles of Poznan and Kalisz were proof of their potential. I make sure to pay them back with interest. A Piast always repays his debts.
Poland's last chronicle was written over a century ago, when Bolesław Wrymouth was still King, when Poland was still whole. Now we are united again, and our new victories deserve a new story.

And here's something that's not going in the chronicle, but oh my God, guys, I've just got to tell you. Judy finally agreed to bang me again a couple months ago! I could really use a son, but do you think it's weird that she kept whispering her maidservant's name? Is that, like, a thing women do?
Back in Hungary, things go from bad to worse. Matthew IV Csák "the Fowler" was the strongest power in Hungary besides the Queen, and now he's risen against her as well. I'll teach him the same lesson I taught Druget and the Kaiser.
Queen Judith gives birth to our daughter Jadwiga on April 20th, as the monks snicker to themselves and make jokes about trees. I know I should be upset it's not a boy, but God, isn't she beautiful? For now, all I can think about is my wonderful little girl.
Combined Polish-Hungarian forces crack Csak's forces against the walls of Esztergom. My soldiers capture Matthew IV and ransom him off. Taxes are nice, but that gold tastes so much sweeter when it belongs to someone else. The Counts of Vas and Pecs still hold out, though the Csáks have signed a ceasefire.
By summer, Druget's men see the writing on the wall. Sieged and starving, they surrender their leader to to the Queen.
Civil wars continue to rage around us. King Narimantas of Lithuania converted to Catholicism under foreign pressure, but now his brother has declared war for his own claim on the Kingdom. For decades, Lithuania played a game of cat and mouse with Mother Church -- their Kings would promise conversion to get out of trouble, but they'd always stay pagan so they could use the same trick later down the line.

Liubartas is playing a new version of the old game. He claims to be Catholic, but his open pagan sympathies make it clear to his supporters that his rule will return Lithuania to the old faith.
Lubko of Polotsk throws his hat in the ring to contest the sons of Gediminas. His father was Narimantas' uncle Vainius, and he's a recent convert to the Eastern Church popular in his domain. His entry turns this conflict into a three-way war of religion.
Liubartas' army gets torn apart outside Narimantas' new capital at Vilnius. After his conversion, Narimantas sent letters throughout the West. Not only did he denounce the Teutons, but he claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to turn the growing town into a great city. He invited merchants throughout Germany to seek their fortunes in Vilnius and help fulfill his divine mandate. With this victory and the Empire's defeat, Vilnius is sure to blossom.
By the end of the next year, Narimantas smashes Lubko's forces with equal ease. At least for now, Narimantas has ensured that Lithuania will remain a Catholic country.
My niece is growing up to be a total bitch. She's arranged a marriage to the Kaiser's son, after all I've done for her.
A little poison should send the message loud and clear. I'll gladly take dishonor over death.
I'm sure Queen Elizabeth knows it was me. Her Regents call for a war with Basarab of Wallachia, a wayward voivode who broke with her father before his death. I agree to lend at least nominal support. Hopefully this means there are no hard feelings about that whole murdering-her-fiancé fiasco.
His last hope extinguished, Kaiser Ludwig IV von Wittelsbach dies in poverty. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The Electors select Heinrich of Mecklenburg as the next Emperor. He's a man whose skills match his ambitions, but the Princes chose him for his weakness. All he controls is one backwater province in the Northeast with little hold on the rest of the Empire. Once again, King John has been passed over. Everyone knows his vast holdings scared the Electors away, but they claim his blindness disqualifies him. John is furious.
At last, King John declares war for his claim on the Empire. We answer the call, along with the Duke of Brunswick and the Duke of Austria. The Austrians were close allies of the Wittelsbachs, but they cut their losses after I cut off their balls. Now the Duke of Austria has thrown in his lot with his more powerful neighbor.
The other Princes are terrified of Bohemian power, and quickly converge on Domažlice to smother John's rebellion in the cradle. As a Polish army assembles along the Olza river, I use the excuse of war to further centralize my own power.
The Germans left 5,000 troops to siege Prague as they regrouped their forces for their winter. John's armies have to cross the Vltava to relieve their capital, and Polish reinforcements rush in to ensure their victory.
Our forces clash at Chomutov in a battle both sides know will decide the war.
King John already lost his eyes, but the Battle of Chomutov takes his leg as well. He commands his men to lead him into the thick of battle and let him die on the battlefield.

"Far be it that the King of Bohemia should run away," he says. "Instead, take me to the place where the noise of the battle is the loudest. The Lord will be with us. Nothing to fear. Just take good care of my son."

His most loyal soldiers tie the reins of their bridles together and charge forward to carry the King into battle. He kills several of the Kaiser's soldiers before they cut him down.
The world lauds King John's bravery, and we celebrate his courage to avoid mourning defeat. But there's a new saying in Poland: "to fight like a Bohemian," means fighting blindly. Bravery is all well and good, but I can't let my ambition cloud my vision. King John wasted his life, and I don't intend to waste mine.

Next chapter:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost (Chapter IV): Love and War

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

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