Not Yet Lost (Chapter XIV): Judas Kiss

Author: Malafides
Published: 2018-11-02, edited: 2018-11-03

Part of the campaign:

Not Yet Lost (1392 - 1444)

Previous part:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost: Italian Interlude

Images: 21, author: Malafides, published: 2018-02-23, edited: 2018-11-03

When I first heard of Bert the Third, I dismissed him as another in a long line of ineffectual Kaisers. Instead, he's bridged the gap between Rome and the Empire in leading what almost seems like a Crusade against the Pope in Avignon. However things shake out, he's already carved his name into the rock of history. I wish I could say the same. Rycheza warns me that I often let my optimism cloud my judgment. I always see the good, but that means I see the world the way I want it to be. For now, my hands are tied. I can hardly disagree with the Kaiser's cause, but his armies march in my nephew's lands. The Kings of France are our greatest allies, and the Kaisers our greatest foes. If he should emerge victorious, what will that mean for me?
The war is scarcely begun, but the Kaiser is off to a good start. After coming out on top of several border skirmishes, the wealthy city of Troyes lies in his hands while he stands strong with 20,00 soldiers in Bourgogne. Meanwhile, my nephew’s Regents scramble to organize an army in the South.
If I can survive the onslaught of events, it will be through my wife’s efforts. The might of Polish armies will mean nothing if we’re outmaneuvered on the field of diplomacy. Rycheza will never let that happen. After securing an alliance with both Sweden and Lithuania, she’s also taken pains to bring both our allies closer together. Now we stand together in a triple alliance people are calling the “Baltic Pact.”
But Rycheza has just brought something even more amazing into the world – our young daughter. She promised we could name this one after my mother, but she had trouble coming into this world. I can only pray she survives the shock. Fortunately, both my wife and my daughter turn out looking as healthy and beautiful as ever. I’m a lucky man.
My Swedish allies must be feeling pretty lucky themselves. Everyone likes when their two stronger neighbors declare war. Even if they can’t capitalize on the opportunity, they can breathe a sigh of relief.
In Provence, the rebels’ luck has just run out. Venetian mercenaries squash their hopes for independence from the Neapolitan regime. King Monty’s succeeded once more in sitting on his hands long enough for someone else to solve his problems.
Even more distant news filters in from Iberia. The famously paranoid King of Portugal has been killed in a mysterious accident. Guess he had reason to be suspicious. 
With his many enemies, it’s hard to say who exactly was behind the assassination. If I had to guess, though, the new King of Portugal would be a safe bet. He’s already known as “Bermudo the Despicable,” and nobody’s celebrating the restoration of the House of Bourgogne. He’s a real sight to behold, battle-scarred and hardened by the wars in Morocco. His favorite activities include getting black-out drunk, slurring every curse he can remember about the Church, punishing any slight with unspeakable cruelty, openly having affairs with young men, trusting no one, and betraying everyone. Oh, and impaling people. He loves impaling people.
I have monsters in my own country to worry about.

Gierolt has already murdered his own father—Rycheza and I might not have proof, but the truth is plain to see. Now he wants me to betray my own? I cannot let this stand.
My closest councilors all agreed that Gierolt had to go—all but the two people whose opinion I valued most, who I most expected to be on my side. Rycheza’s wisdom always surpasses my own. I wonder where she gets it.

“I wish to see my brother pay for his crimes more than anyone,” she’d said. “Yet even though we now have proof of his schemes, we cannot afford to try him. Gierolt will never go down without a fight. If we attempt to charge him, it will only mean a rebellion. Thousands more will die for the sake of his ambition.”

The truth sat like pitch in my stomach. Gierholt would make any battle against him as bloody as he could. While the war raged on, Poland would be ripe for invasion. I swallowed the bitter taste at the back of my throat.

“And you, father?” I asked. “It was your life he threatened. You were once a King, in your own way. What would you do?”

He leaned back in his chair, stroked his beard, and used a long drink of wine to cover up his contemplation. Then he let out a loud, “Ahhh,” like he does after drinking anything. He’s done it for as long as I can remember.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all these years,” he said, “it’s to listen to your wife. And you’re lucky, she’s a sharp lady, like your mother was.”

I could see Rycheza wince at that. My father never noticed those things. He saw what he wanted to see. Unfortunately, it’s a trait we share.

“We cannot lock up our family.” And my father nodded at his own declaration, like it had just occurred to him. “We just have to wait and see. And if he strikes, then I’ll strike him down myself.”

This new century brings another massive change, this one in the Mongol East. Khan Menggei the Just is dead, and his son seeks to forge a different legacy. 
Menggei was a tolerant man, but his young son Tinibeg is anything but.

Tiny was your prototypical angry teenager. His father supported the Mutazilites, a religious faction that favored reason and compassion—so of course, Tiny got involved with the Ashari, who believe in a hardline version of the faith. He’s apparently a fine soldier, but with his political inexperience, the Golden Horde is sure to fracture even faster.
After Menggei, another good man dies a little closer to home. Archbishop Jakub was a fixture of courtly life, an accomplished statesman, another remnant of the order my mother imposed. He will be missed.
His replacement is the young firebrand Archbishop Maciej, full of ambition and fury. In some ways, he reminds me of the stories of this new Khan.
At least this summer holds some promise. Duke Wanko is all grown up. He’s like a son to me, and his grandfather was my mother’s closest friend. After the untimely death of Wanko’s father, I raised him myself. He’s eager to take his place on my council, and starts his career by urging me to declare war against the Kaiser for his claims in Pomerania. I give him a pat on the head and tell him to be patient.
In France, the Kaiser’s armies have been cut in half by attrition, but still dominate the field. Though the Scottish armies are beating Papal forces in the Battle of Bar, German cavalry are about to cut them down again.
As one war rages in the secular world, another conflict ends in the spiritual. Maciej proves a charismatic and able administrator. His impassioned speeches have quelled the heresy in Poznan, returning its people to the true faith.
Back East, the Grand Duke Rostislav “the Innocent” smells blood in the water. He declares a holy war to reclaim Russian lands from the collapsing Golden Horde.

As his armies win their first victories in Przemysl, the province opens up before them. The Christian faithful rise up in support of the Russian invasion on Chernigov’s side of the Dnieper.
Finally, the Western Schism comes to an end as my nephew comes of age. Chuck’s matured into a young man with all the hints of greatness. He grew up with a distaste for the religious disputes that brought ruin to his country, so he dismisses his regents, signs peace with the Kaiser, and recognizes Pope Alexander V’s rightful authority. I guess everything worked out?
The Schism is over, but the Kaiser is still licking his wounds. I finally give into Wanko’s constant whining and agree to press his claim on Wolgast.
I get a letter from Hungary, expecting a letter of support from King Moses. Instead, I get a declaration of war. I spent three miserable years of my life fighting for him, and he repays me with a knife to the back.
The Baltic Pact stands at our side, but France is too exhausted to lend her support. None can afford for them to break the treaty that brought peace to the True Church, its ink barely dry. We are surrounded by enemies, in Germany, in Hungary, in Aragon, in Naples, even in far-off England. It’s a stressful situation.
Night comes, and I can't seem to fall asleep. I know in the morning I'll have to leave Wawel Castle, my wife, my friends, my family. I want to savor it all while I still can. For now, I can only pray that all hope is not yet lost.

Next chapter:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost (Chapter XV): The End of War

Images: 27, author: Malafides, published: 2018-11-04, edited: 2018-11-10

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