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

Author: Malafides
Published: 2018-11-04, edited: 2018-11-10

Part of the campaign:

Not Yet Lost (1392 - 1444)

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Game: Crusader Kings II

Not Yet Lost (Chapter XIV): Judas Kiss

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

The men-at-arms have ways of keeping themselves happy among the military tents. They drink and sing, wrestle and gamble. I join them when I have to, so they’ll know I stand beside them. But my favorite pastime is daydreaming of home. When I think of the war ahead, all I can do is wish that it was over. But then the next thought comes—will I even survive?
The treacherous King Moses rushes headlong into Zwolen, bent on recapturing Orava Castle. My army is hot on their heels, but the Magyar are experts at mountain combat, already dug into the hills in preparation for the siege. Still, my father’s lessons have taught me well. He’s the best connection I have to the King that came before me, who casts such a long shadow before her. I think of all the times they spent together in the war camp, planning the next offensive. It makes me feel more worthy of this burden.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play. Rycheza sends word that her my brother-in-law is at it again. Even as I fight tooth and nail to defend his own holdings, Gierolt is hungry for more. He marches into the Archbishopric of Sacz, looking to make his claim a fait accompli.
As we battle in the South, the Swedes land in Wolgast and destroy the local defenders. King Osten is eager to prove his country’s mettle against Europe’s greatest power.
After weeks of grueling mountain combat, King Moses retreats. Crows circle the bloodied hills of Orava, but the Castle remains in Polish hands. I can only hope that will mean something to the men who died for it. I know it will be little comfort to their families. How much it would mean to Rycheza, if it was me she had to bury?
At least the country is safe in her hands. Rycheza’s envoys tell me she mustered what garrisons she could to form the semblance of an army while mine was away. Then they surrounded her brother’s forces while they were encamped in Sacz. There Rycheza said that I’d demanded he come South to help lead the armies of his King. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse without cutting down his own sister and starting an open rebellion. Gierolt didn’t like his chances at that, so he gave his grudging agreement and rode his troops to join me. He’ll be easier to deal with if I keep him close by.
A Frantic Swedish messenger brings news of a second Battle of Wolgast. King Osten only won against local Pomeranian armies, but Bert’s personal forces are too much for him to bear. I hurry North as fast as possible.
But it’s too late. All of Sweden mourns as their King dies in combat, killed by the Kaiser himself as his troops routed around him.
I hunker down in Brandenburg, heart heavy. If not for this damned war, Osten would still be alive. My soldiers steel themselves for battle, waiting for the Pecheneg mercenaries that served my grandfather so well.
When our armies set foot in Werle, we outnumber the Kaiser almost 2-1. My father Spycimir leads the charge with Gierolt at his left side, which he takes as a personal slight. The Pecheneg host forms our right flank, riding onward to surround the enemy.
Engelbert the Serpent of Holstein leads the Kaiser’s troops. He’s a symbol of the Empire’s moral bankruptcy—he may be a genius, but his mouth is full of blasphemy. He swears that the Holy Church is a vessel for the Devil, and that Jesus Christ Himself whispers in his ear.
The serpent fights like—well, like a man possessed, but his brave last stand can’t stop a two-to-one advantage. The false prophet flees back into Germany, only for the Kaiser to lock him up on charges of heresy, outraged by his defeat. We settle in for a siege while snow is still months away.
Little Wlady insisted on coming with me to war. I did my best to refuse, but when he tried to muster in disguise, I had to relent. Otherwise, he would’ve made a scene in front of the soldiers. Still, I refuse to let him take up arms. Even with a cold garnered from our many nights in camp, he keeps asking to ride alongside me to battle. That I can never accept, not while he’s so young. I couldn’t live with myself knowing I’d let him throw his life. Wladyslaw may think he’s a man, and he might even look like one—he’s almost as tall as me already—but he’s still my little boy.
Soon after Christmas, word arrives that the Kaiser is approaching with a new army in tow. The Pechenegs have been dismissed and our troops are battered by winter. This time, it’s the armies of the Baltic Pact who will fight outnumbered and underfed. Gierolt snaps into action and demands we move into Brandenburg.

“If we stay in Wolgast,” he insists, “there will be no surprises for the Kaiser. He will be free to do to us in Wolgast what we did to him in Werle. No doubt the Germans of Brandenburg will offer no resistance as he rides North to red this snow with our blood. Better to beat him to Brandenburg, and use the Elbe to our advantage.”

We spend New Year’s Eve riding as fast as we can.
We make it to the opposite edge of the Elbe and fortify as best we can. The Kaiser declines to slow his course—he must be desperate to press whatever advantage he has and end this conflict before bankruptcy ends it for him. We make hell for the German soldiers as they struggle to cross the frozen river.
The Battle of Brandenburg is a resounding victory. Gierolt’s genius saved us – but at a price.
My father was unhorsed during the battle, his leg crushed underhoof. Even after amputation, he insists on fighting on. “Only need one leg to ride,” he says.
Wladyslaw celebrates his 16th birthday as illness sweeps the camp. It took pneumonia to cut short his constant demands to lead the troops. I can only hope it won’t cut short his life. We might be winning on the field, but I don’t know how many more blows to the heart I can take.
Wladyslaw survives his illness, thank God. My brother-in-law is not so lucky. No man could subdue Duke Gierolt, only nature. I mourn the passing of Poland’s greatest warrior—but I’m ashamed to say I feel relief as well.
My nephew Niezamysl takes his place as the Duke of Silesia. He’s an idiot savant, with all his father’s bravery but none of his strength or skill. His only gift is a preternatural talent for manipulation. I can only hope he doesn’t take too much after his father.
Winter cleared soon after the Battle of Brandenburg, and with it, the Kaiser’s stomach for war. Now the war is finally over. After four years away, I finally get to come home.

My father throws himself into passing on the wisdom of a life in the saddle. I can’t stand to think about it, but I know I’m going to lose him soon. He knows it too. We only have so long to be with the ones we love. After that, all that’s left are memories.

When I see Rycheza for the first time, I can’t hold it in. I start sobbing openly, and she has to cradle me in her arms. Let them talk, I don’t give a shit. I’m the King, and I can cry if I want to.

I wish it were a more lasting peace. Vainius asks for my help dealing with some domestic problems. After an attempt to curb his most powerful vassal’s power, the Duchess of Vitebsk has risen in rebellion. I’ll send a small battalion to support his troops, but that’s the most I can do.
I can’t tell if Niezamysl is dumb and lucky, or if he just pretends to be. Despite his general incompetence, he managed to uncover some startling evidence. The Archbishop has his hands in almost every plot against me throughout the Kingdom. With both Gierolt and the King away, he’s become the focal point for opposition, fomenting discord wherever he can.
Peace is so hard to come by. Why do people insist on corrupting it with violence? I’m not sure there’s any greater blasphemy—yet it comes from a man of the cloth. Still, I cannot simply let my men lay hands on a priest and bring him to Krakow in chains. I send messengers instead of soldiers, demanding his appearance in court. He will answer to the law, not to my arbitrary whims.
The Archbishop refuses to face justice. Instead, he rallies his most loyal followers and raises the flag of rebellion.
We scatter the Archbishop’s troops in both Sandomierz and Sacz, but he still refuses to submit. His charisma means he has significant support within the Bishopric, and he lurks from lair to lair to avoid capture. One or two battles won’t end this war, no matter how decisive.
Hungry for revenge, the Kaiser pounces while we’re distracted, claiming the war against the Archbishop is a crime against the Catholic faith and demanding an end to the “illegal occupation of German lands.” At least King Moses has had his fill of Polish steel. Instead, it’s the Kaiser’s turn for a backstab as Hungarian armies join us in defense. Still, he has the support of Aragon, England, and Denmark. The great King Vainius will fight beside us, but France and Sweden both in recovery. Less than a year after coming home, and this conflict starts all over again. All I want is peace, to enjoy time with my wife and family. Instead, the words of Plato ripple through my mind:
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

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