Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Tale of Five Empires

I bring to you today one of the final chapters of the tale of House Estrid (formerly House Ylving), who start in 1066 as the rulers of Denmark. This is actually the first game I started of Crusader Kings II, before all of the expansions (except Sword of Islam) and patches. I've started a few others, but I always come back to this one, and thankfully the save has had enough integrity not to explode after each major update. This being my first game, I didn't really know what I was doing initially, which led to some interesting situations (such as having a Danish Catholic rule the Byzantine Empire for about 5 minutes before it turned on him). Since I've only recently developed an interest in doing AARs, I don't have any screenshots chronicling the previous 300+ years of history, so instead I'll give a very brief background and then show a few of the recent highlights.

Brief History:

The noble House of Estrid starts in 1066 with King Svend II of Denmark (quickly known as "the Old") and his many illegitimate children. However, the old king manages to have a single trueborn son before his death, young Prince Wulfgar. Due to the elective succession rules in the kingdom at the time, one of Svend's older bastard sons takes the throne, but he turns out to be little more than a regent for the youngest of King Svend's sons, for he dies shortly after Wulgar comes of age. The nobles wisely decide that only Wulfgar can be the true king of Denmark, and since that day a bastard has never again sat on the throne.

Over 150 years later, in 1237 A.D., King Aleksander II, a man all agree is an attractive genius, hands a bag of gold to a shadowy man outside his door before going to grieve over his mother, the recently deceased Empress of Byzantium. As his mother's firstborn son (and thanks to the fact that Born in the Purple wasn't a trait yet), he inherits the ERE as well as Constantinople itself, a place of power that would only grow into a more potent symbol under the control of House Estrid over the next century. First, however, the Greek lords must be convinced that Basileus Aleksander I "the Wise" is a worthy master, something that over half of them don't agree with and make very apparent with a dozen rebellions erupting all over the empire. Some territory is kept, but much is lost, and the success of the rebels pushes crown authority to an absolute minimum. The Danish usurpers will have their work cut out for them, but true to their Nordic roots they are a hardy, resilient people, and Aleksander is already planning the course for his future descendants to not only retake the ERE, but obtain some other prizes in Europe as well...

Current Affairs:

So, that brings us to the present, almost 130 years after the rise of the first Estrid Emperor. The family has undergone many cultural changes, much as the Empire has come to include many cultures. And the primary title of the realm is no longer the Greeks' Byzantine, but rather a title more true to the family's Danish roots: Scandinavia.

Here is the empire as it currently stands:

The Northern, Southern, and Eastern portions of Scandinavia, respectively.

The Seat of Five Empires, protected by His Majesty's Imperial Guard

As you can see, all formable Christian empires are now governed from Constantinople. This task took quite some time, since 3 of these aren't formed at the game's start, and the Holy Roman Empire collapsed into a massive war and dissolved after the Emperor became a Waldensian heretic. Each Estrid ruler since Aleksander "the Great" (grandson of Aleksander the Wise, mentioned above) has tried to educate their heir to be the culture required by the empire they next wanted to form, which has not always been the best for the realm's stability. In fact, for the last 80 years leading up to Svend II's coronation, only constant holy warring has made it possible for the disparate lords of Scandinavia to put aside their differences and their clamor for independence in order to fight a common foe. This has given the main branch of House Estrid a tenuous grasp at best on their position of power. Indeed, when Svend took the throne at only 6 years of age, things looked extremely bleak: He was the youngest of 5 children, and his 4 older sisters stood to benefit greatly from his demise, with each becoming a sovereign Empress over some part of Europe.

However, thanks to a war started by his father, the realm holds together for a few years after his succession, and if his sisters did plot against him, it never came to fruition. Shortly after the inherited war ends, the young Emperor is clever enough (he is a genius, after all) to start another war and drag it out until he comes of age, by which time his vassals are growing more accustomed to his rule. He takes a strong wife, hoping she will provide a likewise strong heir, and settles into the business of stamping out heresies and infidels.

In addition, however, there are two Catholic kingdoms that remain sovereign, without the noble guidance of Scandinavia to keep them on the right path. One is the Kingdom of Aragon, ruled by a branch of House Estrid itself, and the other is the Kingdom of Hungary, ruled by the Arpads. Emperor Svend rightly believes it is the duty of his dynasty to rule all of Christendom, and so puts into motion a plot to remove the Arpads, but to do so subtly, through a seemingly innocent betrothal to the firstborn daughter of the heir to Hungary's throne.

Not pictured: Three suspicious accidents involving Hungarian royalty

The betrothal had been made several years prior to the scene depicted above, and Queen Sophia was rather quickly thrust into the role of ruler after the quick, successive, and most unfortunate deaths of her father, grandfather, and uncle. Now, unfortunately, not everyone was as happy as Svend had hoped at Sophia becoming Queen:

The War of Status Quo

This led to several uppity dukes trying to press some distant relative's claim, and of course Emperor Svend, being ever the gentleman, offered to help Queen Sophia keep her seat.The call went out, the levies of Germany and Bavaria were raised, and thousands of Imperial troops marched into Hungary to fight the traitorous forces.

Victory! The Plot Moves Forward

Ah, sweet victory. The vile would-be usurpers have been buried under a righteous mass of Emperor Svend's soldiers. His son will come of age in several years and be wed to Sophia, cementing the downfall of House Arpad. And then...


Some far-off member of Sophia's dynasty has usurped the kingdom from her! While His Majesty was distracted preparing for an invasion of the Golden Horde, Sophia managed to lose her crown to a different upstart. The Emperor laments his plan, now fallen to ruin...but then he remembers that Sophia will have a strong claim on Hungary, one that can be passed to her heirs. How well will the new king and his descendants fare when one of Svend's own grandchildren has a claim? It will not be the most bloodless of solutions, but then again House Estrid has never shied from spilling blood for its ambitions before.

The joy is short-lived, however, for the son of the great Khagan Timur has not slowed the conquests his father began, and soon the empire may be on the brink of a truly great war...

The Situation in the East

I'll stop there for now. If I see interest in this post I might write again highlighting any major events in the last 43 years of gameplay. Otherwise, I'm getting ready to start an AAR from the beginning with the Old Gods. Look for a poll where you can vote on what religion my ruler should be, and based on that feedback I will choose an appropriate lord. As always, thanks for reading!


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