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

Author: Malafides
Published: 2017-01-27, edited: 2018-03-25

Part of the campaign:

Not Yet Lost (1320 - 1392)

Previous part:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost (Chapter IV): Love and War

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

Poland is no longer the kingdom my father left behind. I've sewn that patchwork of sleepy provinces into a garment that would shame Joseph and his silly dreamcoat.

My father had to wheel and deal to get anything done. Now Poland's priests and princes alike must kneel before me. Some may grumble and call me "King of the Peasants and Jews," but I've embraced the title. Let them gossip. They lack the vision to realize what I've done.

Throughout my reign, I've let the Magdeburg Rights spread like ivy across the land. These laws privilege and protect the country's growing urban population, whether Jew or Christian. The townspeople grow stronger and stronger the more I heap upon them, and their loyalty lies only with me.
Poland has always embraced what other nations throw away. When Poland was still divided, my kinsman Bolesław the Pious issued the General Charter of Jewish Liberties, better known as the Statute of Kalisz.

Jewish funds were essential in my first war against the Kaiser. As part of the victory parade, I convened a council at Kalisz and reaffirmed the Statute for a new united Poland. The laws include the following stipulations:

1. ...Should a Jew be taken to court, not only a Christian must testify against him, but also a Jew, in order for the case to be considered valid.
10. ... As punishment for killing a Jew, a suitable punishment and confiscation of property is necessary.
11. ... For striking a Jew, the usual punishment in the country shall apply.
13. ... Jews shall not pay for the transport of their dead.
17. ...Any Jew may freely and securely walk or ride without any let or hindrance in our realm. They shall pay customary tolls just as other Christians do, and nothing else.
30. ... No Christian is to accuse a Jew of blood libel.
36. ... Jews are allowed to purchase any items, as well as to touch bread and other food.
My envoys send me countless princesses from distinguished houses, but only one catches my eye. Osterhild Reginar was the daughter of the late Duke of Brabant. Marrying her would grant me no great dowry and no important alliance, but she has a mind no other bride could match.

Her brother is too young to rule, and his Regents rule only for themselves. The people come to Hilda for their problems, and by wits alone, she solves them.
I arrange a betrothal for Jadwiga while I'm at it. She'll marry Spycimir Piast, the future Duke of Masovia. If I die without a son, at least the crown will stay within my House. Jadwiga is not too fond of him, but she'll learn to live with him. She's too mature for her age, and little Spytko will outgrow his moods and his temper tantrums eventually.
Even after wolfing down a heaping helping of humiliation, the Kaiser is still hungry for more.

Heinrich VIII took a trip down South to conquer Istria and prove his power. It's not working out too well.
The Croatians have stumbled into another catastrophe. The Regents declared war against the Bulgarians, but their bungling commanders bring shame to the country with every battle.

Thankfully, Gisela already bitched me out and broke our alliance, so I don't have to do shit. The House of d'Anjou can see how they like saving their own asses for a change.
King John II declared war on France to expand his holdings in Gascony, so his rivals seized their opportunity to reignite the civil war. After only five years of peace, England has reverted to its usual shitshow.
John's enemies in France are in better shape. He attempted to capitalize on France's own civil war, but King Philippe V has already crushed his enemies. All that's left is negotiation. The King of England scrambles to protect his throne as Phil's battle-hardened armies march into Aquitaine.
Phil makes his next move as his armies settle down for a summer of siege.

See, the French and the Italians have been playing tug-of-war with the Papacy for about 40 years. Back in 1302, Pope Boniface VIII issued a Papal Bull called "Unam sanctam." Bonny VIII claimed the Papacy had both spiritual and temporal authority over Christian Kings, and submission was necessary to achieve salvation.

Obviously, Phil's dad thought that was some Papal Bullshit. Bonny VIII got beaten up and imprisoned. Then he died, and Benedict XI took over. Benny XI reversed the "Unam sanctam" and moved his court to Avignon, a Papal enclave that was nice and close to his buddy on the throne of France. Then he died 8 months later.

The next Pope Clement V was French, and he stayed in Avignon. His successor John XXII was a frog too, but then he croaked in 1326, and Nicholas V took his place. Nicky took his court back to Rome, and things have been pretty quiet since then. Now King Phil is confident enough to play his hand.

The King took a shine to a young soldier named Jacques de Motluel during the civil war against him. Jacques was a petty, landless noble, but he was a good commander with a good head on his shoulders. Phil made him Bishop of Auvergne, with lands and title seized from a rebellious Duke. Now Phil calls him Benedict XII, the one true Pope.

_____

[Editor's Note: There's a lot of Papal numbering confusion in the game, because there was a loooot of numbering confusion in real life. Historians misread old records and thought there were two other Johns to become Pope, when they never existed. The game counts Popes correctly rather than historically meaning John XXII gets recorded as John XX -- though technically, there never was a John XX. With Benedict XI, though, I just think the game can't quite handle the regnal numbers for Anti-Popes. Benedict XI was Pope from 1303-1304, and I started the game in 1320.]
Back in Krakow, I catch one of my most trusted vassals rifling through the treasury. He's God's problem now.

'Ol Philly Cheesesteak might be onto something. It was the Pope in Rome who planted this snake in the grass in my country -- and it was the last French Pope who crowned my father. Don't I owe them something for that?
The Croatian Regents empty the country's wallet in exchange for peace. King Charleth is rolling in his grave.
Meanwhile, the Mongol Khans throw down in the Caucasus.

My money's on the Persian. They say he's a real son of a bitch, but he sounds like my kind of guy. Sure, he spends more time boning his butlers than his wives, but his supporters are Jews and cityfolk like mine. Besides, he's throwing rocks through my neighbor's window. Not the good neighbor -- the other one. You all know who I'm talking about. You all have one. If not...well, it might be you.
With the Khan humiliated by Inancha Borjigin, the Russians are doing their best to throw off the Mongol yoke.

It's going to be a long, bloody affair for sure. A handful of Orthodox Duchies have already severed ties with the Khan, but the Russians are far from a united people. A bunch of Russians rulers under the Khan's control have converted to Islam to win their ruler's favor and reap those sweet, sweet tax breaks. Roman Rurikid fights for his people's freedom, but in many of their eyes, he'll always be a traitor.

The lands to the East are more trouble than they're worth. Even if I tried to conquer them, they would earn me more blood than gold. No, I need to find a more prosperous target.
The Kaiser is weak, but his lands are wealthy. Brandenburg will be the perfect conquest.

The "Northern March" was once inhabited by the Wends, Poland's pagan ancestors. When my forefather Bolesław I the Brave tried to absorb them into the Kingdom, the treacherous Kaiser supported them against his fellow Christians. Soon, Poland's rightful lands shall be returned after 350 years of German oppression.
The young Matthew V Csak dies twitching on the ground and clutching his heart. Most point to poison, and rumors fly that the Queen killed him herself.

In any case, there is no one left to oppose her. Her son now holds more land within Hungary than anyone besides his mother -- but since he's too young to rule, Elizabeth controls it all. Hungary's future will rest in the hands of the Csáks, but for now, it belongs to the Queen.
I find Hilda poring over my maps when I wake up this morning. The bed's too comfortable to get up now. Besides, I'm still groggy from planning my campaign in the West. I rub my eyes and her image blurs. The light touches her hair like fire lending color to copper.

"What're you doing over there?" I yawn. She turns her head, gets up, stretches.

"Oh, just perusing," she says. She already speaks perfect Polish. "I found a few mistakes on your maps, so I went ahead and corrected them."

Hilda steps over and the floor sighs beneath her feet.

"I'm writing a few letters, too," she says. "I know plenty of people in Brandenburg would rather serve you than that eunuch they call the Kaiser." She bends over me and plants her green eyes into mine. I blink.

"Forgive me," I mumble, "but I thought...well, to be honest, I worried you might be against the whole shebang."

"What, because I speak German?" Hilda turns her head with an exaggerated look of indignation. "Even in Brabant, we never much cared for the Kaisers -- and they never much cared for us." She turns back to me, then grabs me by the shoulders and pulls me into a kiss.

"I can speak whatever language I want," she breathes. "My people are the Poles now. And I am their Queen." She pushes me back into the pillows and climbs onto my knees. For 10 years, I imagined what it would feel like to be loved by someone. I could never have imagined this.
Now is the time to strike. I split my forces to catch Brandenburg in a pincer and swallow it whole.
With both England and Germany distracted, King Phil writes a damning letter against the Roman Pope, declaring him a usurper of St. Peter's throne. He sends copies of the letter as far and wide as he can as the Pope dukes it out with his Neapolitan allies.
I take Hedwig with me on campaign. If she does become Queen, she'll need to learn the harsh lessons of war to survive. Her mother might have protested, but she's not here anymore.

We inspect the war camps together, talking and laughing all the while. She loves horses about as much as any 14 year old could, but she can ride them as well any soldier. The air is filled with the smell of roasting meat and the sound of tuneless drinking songs. Then her horse whinnies as she pulls him to a sudden stop.

"Father," she says, staring me down. "I know you don't think you I can do it."

I stop behind her. My mouth is open, but I can't find the words to speak. I close it again. Autumn is starting to crisp into winter. The trees are scattering red leaves all over the grass.

"Do what, darling?" is the best I can manage. She rolls her eyes.

"Spare me," she says. "I know you don't think I can rule."

I shake my head as a sickly feeling creeps through me. It's not that I don't think she's worthy. She's as capable as any man I've ever met. I'm no an idiot, but sometimes she makes me feel like one. Still, this country is young and fragile. The world is full of little minds. Could they accept her on the throne? Brains are not enough for power, and no one rules alone.

"I don't want you to feed me any false promises," she says. "I want to make you a promise instead." Her eyes glitter like diamonds, brilliant and cold like her mother's.

"I will be no Queen. But in the name of the Lord, I swear -- I shall be King. The sheep may bleat, but I shall be their shepherd, and they shall bow before me."
Hedwig and I stumble across a commotion as we make our rounds. A local German is shouting at my Marshall, held back by two of my soldiers. Marshall Dytryk looms over him, arms crossed over his barrel chest.

"Everyone shut the fuck up," I say. The German keeps mumbling, but he quiets down. Dytryk turns to look at me, a sneer still plastered on his face, along with the blond hint of a beard. "What's happening here?"

The Marshall hawks a loogie and spits on the ground. "This guy snuck into our camp, looking for you. He's either a madman or a spy." Dytyrk narrows his eyes and turns to the man. He looks like a simple farmer who's seen better days. His thick black beard can't hide the pain in his face. "Either way, he's better off dead."

Dytryk was a common man once. But he was a strong man. He distinguished himself as the greatest warrior within my army, so I rewarded his service with the City of Czarkow. Now Dytryk is a wealthy man. But is he a good man?

"And you?" I speak in Hilda's German. "What do you have to say?"

At first, the man stares at me, his mouth gaping open in shock. Then he swallows and stares at the ground, but his eyes are far away.

"Your...your man," he gasps. "Your dog! He and his men came riding into my village. I didn't want to get into trouble. My family, we gave them food, we gave them drink, we talked with them, we laughed with them. Then they stole my daughter out from my home. They made her drink..." he trails off, the words caught in his throat. "And then they tried to take advantage of her."

He lets out one long sob and closes his eyes. The soldiers are silent. They can't explain the weight in the air, but they can feel it nonetheless. A swallow chirps from a nearby barn. The man groans and composes himself.

"She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her. Like an animal." Flecks of spittle fly from his mouth as his eyes boil over. "Her nose was broken. Her jaw was shattered. She couldn't even weep because of the pain." He gulps down the tears. "But I weep," he says. "Why do I weep?"

He shakes his head.

"She was the light of my life. A beautiful girl."

A breeze passes through the camp.

"Now she's gone. Now she will never be beautiful again."

Hedwig catches my eye. This is not the reality I wanted her to see. But her eyes are filled with rage, not terror. Dytryk is a powerful man, a man I can hardly afford to lose. What example shall I set for my daughter?

By now a crowd has gathered around us. I can feel Hedwig's anger smoldering beside me. I can almost hear the words fighting to erupt from her throat. I turn my gaze to the soldiers holding back the man's shoulders.

"Release him," I say. They let go as a murmur ripples through our audience. I turn to Mayor Dytryk. "And arrest the former Marshall. This dog will rot in a cage until the war is over. Then the law and the Lord alike shall punish him."


_____

[Editor's Note: The local's speech is taken directly from the Godfather, so thanks to Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola for that one.

What? It's an alluuuusion.]
1350 is not a happy New Year for the Kaiser. Thousands of Hungarians occupy the Southeast of his Empire while his troops battle rebels at its Northern edge.
Heinrich made peace with the Venetians, but they took a pound of flesh, and now he's bleeding money.
By June, he finally gets his shit together and sends an army to break the siege at Brandenburg. We have the river Oder to defend us, but the Kaiser still outnumbers us. I send a messenger to my men in Lubusz as soon as our scouts hear the Germans marching. The enemy is close to breaking, but I need them to abandon the siege and join the battle. Lubusz will have to wait.

The Kaiser's forces are led by the Margravina of Brandenburg herself. The last of the Ascanians, Gunhilda would never have inherited anything if she wasn't a tough cookie.
No matter how tough she may be, no German army can stand against the Polish cavalry. We slaughter the German armies, but I command my men to spare the Margravina. She can run with her tail between her legs and fight another day.
My soldiers sack Brandenburg's weakened walls when the battle is over, but the wily Margravina still escapes. Good for her. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Unfortunately, my messengers always love to bring me down. Apparently my ex-wife's brother doesn't realize that she likes the ladies. He's still pissed about the divorce, so he declares his claim on the Kingdom of Poland that his father renounced.

Unlike his father and his brother, Dietwin spent his days among the Germans, not the French. Now he's gathering an army terrified by the sack of Brandenburg. He promises to be a gentler, more compliant King of Poland.

That's fine with me. If he wants to volunteer for the slaughter, I'll be happy to fuck him up myself.
As Neapolitan troops pour into Rome, Pope Nicholas V keels over and dies. The Cardinals convene and let out the white smoke under siege, electing the Italian Pope Marinus III. The last Marinus was a Roman Pope of the 10th century, a reformer known to favor monasteries over more wealthy Bishops.

His election is a meager concession, designed to appease King Phil's claims of the Roman church's corruption. It won't do them any good. It doesn't really matter who they choose -- without his armies stepping foot in Rome, the French King is already on the doorstep of success.
As the war rages on, Hedwig celebrates her birthday with the warcamp. It's clear to all she's no longer a little girl. She's a beautiful young woman, but the men are afraid to touch her with me around. She forces them into dancing anyway. I'll admit, it worries me. Lord knows what she could do to those helpless saps.
The King of Naples is already stretched thin, but he's trying to spin a web across the continent. After securing marriage ties with the Kaiser, he joins the war against me. Naples is too far away to bother with and Chuckie 3 has better things to do than ship his troops to Brandenburg. His declaration of war is nothing but a brownnose.

Still, this war has gone on for too long. It's time to put an end to the struggle.
We march into Rostock and erase the German armies. Then we crack the fortress like a hammer butting heads with a walnut.
Heinrich of Mecklenburg cowers in his sole province, praying not to die. Our men give his home the same treatment as Brandenburg and Rostock. Surrounded by enemy soldiers and a pile of dead bodyguards, the Kaiser signs the Treaty of Mecklenburg, a permanent disgrace on his House.
The Kaiser recognizes my rightful claims on the Duchy of Brandenburg and the County of Lubusz. Better yet, I sent a spy to deliver a message to Margravina Gunhilda before she escaped the sack of Brandenburg. I offered to let her keep Anhalt so long as she swore fealty to me. We both know she hates me, but at least she respects my might. With Gunhilda in tow, the great city of Magdeburg is in my hands.

Poland has never stronger, and the people cheer my name as loud as they boo the Kaiser. This above all is the vindication of my father's hopes. They've called me "Great" since I took the throne, but now I've earned it. It feels like even the once-distant stars are within my grasp.

Next chapter:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost (Chapter VI): Homeward Bound

Images: 35, author: Malafides, published: 2017-01-27, edited: 2018-01-24

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