The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    I'll vote to give Germany to the Archpriest. It seems appropriate to let the priests deal with all those Christians. I'll also vote to not annex any territory, for much the same reason.

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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Depending on how big you are, you might even be able to grant all the counties to priests before granting the kingdom to the archpriest.
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    Rockphed said it well.
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Give it to Niezamysl if he is still around, or if not give it to Warriors of Perun.

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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Quote Originally Posted by Tehnar View Post
    Give it to Niezamysl if he is still around, or if not give it to Warriors of Perun.
    As far as I understand, the game considers Niezamysl legally dead ever since he left for China.

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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Quote Originally Posted by SilverLeaf167 View Post
    As far as I understand, the game considers Niezamysl legally dead ever since he left for China.
    Can you console him out of China? He seems like the kind of guy to lead a country full of Catholics. Interesting things are bound to happen.

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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    I'd say give it to the warriors of Perun personally, as are essentially a mixture of by world and godly affairs, but I feel I'm outvoted. :P
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Quote Originally Posted by Tehnar View Post
    Can you console him out of China? He seems like the kind of guy to lead a country full of Catholics. Interesting things are bound to happen.
    No, I mean, the game literally considers him dead. He has passed on. He is no more. He has ceased to be. He's an ex-Pole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sian View Post
    Keep Bremen-Saxony, with the promise to gift it to the Warriors of Perun as soon as you conquer Holstein and its environs
    Does this count as a vote for the Warriors of Perun?

    EDIT: I'll interpret it as "give it to the Warriors later" with no vote on the rest of Germany. It would've just led to a tie anyway, in which case I would've had to be the tiebreaker.

    The vote is now closed, as I'm starting to play the next chapter. Thanks for participating!
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2018-12-30 at 04:09 AM.

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    Chapter #9: Apocalypse After Another (Strasz + Skarbimir, 1057-1082)

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    1 October, 1057

    • High King of Poland: 0
    • Lesser Lechowicz: 0
    • Archpriest of Perun: 3
    • Warriors of Perun: 2
    • Other (please specify): 0

    • Keep Bremen-Saxony: 1
    • Give it to Germany: 1
    • Give it to the Warriors later: 1


    In the end, everyone seems increasingly convinced that control of – or “responsibility for”, as some put it – Germany should be given to one religious authority or the other. Whether that should be the Archpriest or the Warriors is a rather even split, but ultimately it is deemed that the Slavic Church would be better suited to rule, since as we all know, the priests are defined by their wisdom and contact with the gods.

    It’s all relative, of course: though the Church has adopted the system of temples led by priests with some authority over the surrounding area, they definitely haven’t had any resemblance of an actual government structure, never mind anything like what they’re going to need for Germany. The idea of priests holding temporal power isn’t that strange in itself, as priests in the Slavic Church are simply individuals of magical might, and the legends provide plenty of precedent for rulers who could be considered such. However, in the largely feudal Europe of today – the Papacy is the only real theocracy around, not counting the Caliphs – people don’t seem entirely sure whether this Germany is supposed to be an actually permanent setup, some sort of short-lived occupation or purely an extension of Poland.

    The Archpriest himself ends up being left out of it, at his own request and others’, as it's deemed best that the spiritual head of the Slavic Church stay at least somewhat detached from politics to avoid losing credibility as has happened to the Papacy. Besides, it’d mean abandoning his snazzy new temple Bialaskala. Instead, Germany is divided between a number of priests who together form the Congregation of Germany and elect one of them to serve as Guardian. It remains to be seen how the Christians appreciate being ruled by a very literal coven of witches.



    As the runner-ups of the vote (which they don’t need to know about), the Warriors of Perun are granted a total of seven major castles within Germany, with the understanding that they’ll use these in their continued defense of Slavdom and now the Congregation. As a full consensus couldn’t be reached about Bremen-Saxony, it’s decided that only the land between the Elbe and Aller Rivers remain in Polish hands while Brunswick and Verden go to Germany; the final fate of this “Allermarch” will be rediscussed should Poland acquire another North Sea port in the future. Finally, the seat of the Guardian is placed in Weimar right at the Polish border, but the priests can feel free to move it in the future if they wish.



    As one might expect, the Christians stand poised and eager to take back Germany and prove that the Catholic Church can’t be so easily humiliated by mere barbarians. New knightly orders are being founded in the vein of the Warriors and Jomsvikings. Germany really will need all the help it can if it’s to stay in Slavic hands.



    Over the course of 1058, Germany already has to deal with several petty Francian lords who think they can just sneak in under Poland’s nose without the High King intervening. They are very wrong.



    However, June 1059 brings something much bigger: a true Crusade, the Christian answer to the Great Holy War. Shockingly, the Christians have decided to bypass Germany entirely and aim for Pomerania, a well-established part of the Polish heartland! Perhaps they hope to do Poland the same that the Poles hoped to do with the conquest of Germany.



    A truly massive battle takes place in Zgorzelice, January 1060, where the Francians once again make the mistake of trying to cross the frozen Elbe right into Polish lines, only for the Poles to bombard the river with stones and sink the heavily armored knights into the icy depths below. With more reinforcements arriving by the day, the battle becomes a real meatgrinder with truly appalling losses on the Christian side, the likes of which will later become the norm for this great war.



    The war is off to a good start for the Slavs. However, they shouldn’t get complacent, since there are plenty more Christians to cut through. The Pope’s war of vengeance has attracted plenty of supporters, mainly inside Francia since, again, it controls practically all the Catholic lands; meanwhile the Kingdom of Poland enjoys widespread support from here to Russia, even if most of the eastern lords are comparatively weak.



    While the Poles’ defensive tactics are highly effective on the, well, defense, they’re far less suited to assaulting strong enemy positions. On the flipside, the Christians’ bad habit of splitting up their forces gives them the opportunity to establish a bridgehead farther north even when the Poles are decimating them elsewhere. This strategic situation proves very inconvenient for the Poles, and much of Pomerania falls under Christian occupation while the High King’s forces try to pick off those who stray from their allies.

    However, unlike the Emperor, he refuses to sue for peace the instant that the situation looks grim, and instead, the fighting goes on for several years. West Pomerania changes hands countless times as the Poles rush in to drive off the Christian garrisons whenever the main forces are elsewhere, only to retreat east as soon as they show up again. Still, this constant skirmishing leads to the Poles getting caught up in several unwanted battles, leading to great casualties for them as well. They’re forced to turn to foreign mercenaries to top off their numbers, though they try not to make much noise about it.

    On the 24th of September, after five years of war, High King Strasz ‘the Great’ becomes the second ruler of Poland to fall on the battlefield, right next door to Werle where King Mszczuj ‘the Lecher’ met his end. His reign was dominated by holy war to say the least, with him leading from the frontlines through most of it, and it falls to his successor to lead Poland to hard-earned victory in its greatest trial yet.







    The High King is dead! Long live High King Skarbimir of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania and Lithuania, Liege Lord of Bohemia and Galicia-Volhynia!



    Interestingly, the House of Elders has decided to elect one from amongst their own ranks. He seems a bit too much like a kindly old man to rule in times like this, but we can only hope he’ll prove worthy.

    At least the Battle of Wolgast is another victory, despite the High King’s passing. Thus begins another cycle of the Poles liberating Pomerania, doubtful that it'll last.



    High King Skarbimir does try leading from the front to earn his place, but promptly gets seriously wounded, leading to the infection and amputation of his left leg. Looks like he’ll have to sit in Krakow and get his thunder stolen by more valiant individuals such as the Grand Mayor of Gdansk himself, who keeps fighting on despite serious injuries. Admittedly, his own Republic is among the territories on the line, so he has reason to be committed…



    Indeed, so great is Grand Mayor Bozydar’s fame that after his death in 1068, the Archpriest declares him an exemplary Blessed Ancestor to try and raise morale for the war.



    That internal unrest the Poles have long been waiting for proves a godsend for the war effort, as the King of Aquitaine among others decides to try and break off from the weakened Emperor’s rule, thus drawing Francian forces elsewhere. Tragically, Germany has been caught in the crossfire with Poland too busy to protect it, and the Christians have managed to retake some land in Swabia; hopefully it can be re-retaken after this long, incredibly bloody war is over with.



    No matter how many times they’re sent packing, the Christians always come back, though with dwindling numbers. Luckily, as the defender in this war, Poland has a distinct logistical advantage in recovering from its own losses, and the Christians’ attempts become more and more desperate, their gains more and more fleeting. As time goes on, the winner starts to become clear and the war more tedious than anything, plus a massive waste of lives. The Pope receives several letters saying as much, but apparently takes this as a sign that Poland is just about to fall and decides to push on even harder. Clearly he isn’t putting his own life on the line…



    Many think the war was already settled years ago, but it takes until October 1070 for the Pope to finally accept a peace settlement under growing pressure from his allies. The only actual demand is for sizable reparations to be paid to Poland; however, the implications of the peace paint the whole Crusade as a huge failure, and Catholic unity continues to deteriorate.



    While hardly a crushing a victory for Poland either, being so long and hard-fought makes it all the more sweet. This great conflict has involved most of mainland Europe from Moscow to Barcelona, even if the fighting was concentrated in Germany and Pomerania. Though no one has the exact numbers, combined casualties must have easily exceeded a hundred thousand, not to even mention all the civilians lost to famine, looters or the outbreak of camp fever that swept across the warring nations.

    This Crusade has been largely conflated with the much shorter Great Holy War that preceded it, forming one long 14-year war commonly known as, well, the 14 Years’ War, the Slav-Christian War or a whole variety of other names. Even with the break in between, the last 11 years have been filled with near-constant fighting deep in Polish territory, truly defining a generation. Local temples across Poland have been decorated with frankly rather tasteless imagery of Perun burying his axe in the skull of what seems to be some type of Jesus with a sword.

    As for the end results, Germany lost some ground in the south but still exceeded all expectations by actually fending off several attackers and even grabbing a piece of the Dutch coast. Francia finally lost its latest civil war, allowing Aquitaine, Pest and others to shake off the imperial yoke, while rebels in Francian Pomerania managed to do the same and very promptly get grabbed by Sweden and Norway. Overall, a great success at a great cost.



    On the downside, some opportunistic Christian rebels in Poland’s own Moldavia have managed to establish independent control of the area and will have to be dealt with in the near future.



    However, even as Poland starts its painful recovery from the camp fever and war, a pandemic far greater and deadlier lurks just beyond its borders...



    Now of all times, the weakened Emperor decides that it’d be a good time to invade the Byzantine Empire and march right into the heart of the plague. The war will prove another long and expensive failure.



    The Black Death (as it has come to be called) manages to spread throughout all of Francia before the first reports of outbreaks in Polish territory finally arrive from Moravia. At his advisors’ behest, High King Skarbimir has funded a number of purpose-built hospitals in Upper Poland where the infected can hopefully be isolated, but it might be too little too late…

    October 1072 marks the point that the Black Death is almost knocking on the gates of the royal palace, which the High King orders to be shut up tight until the wave of devastation has passed. Many other lords follow his example. Major cities in general are recommended to set up quarantines the best they can, while traffic into all of Upper Poland must be kept to a minimum.



    Indeed, even though major epidemics are nothing new in Europe, this one is extraordinary in its apocalyptic spread and severity. Bodies are burned by the cartful in a desperate attempt to slow it down, but it’s of little use. Many Christians proclaim it a godly punishment for their failure in the Crusade, but in that case, why are Slavs being affected despite being model servants of their own gods? So universal is this Black Death that untouched regions are more remarkable than those infected, including some isolated mountainous areas and, miraculously, innermost Poland. Perhaps there is some divine intervention at play after all.



    By 1074, the Black Death has reached even northernmost Europe, but is slowly starting to falter in its southern regions, if only due to already wiping them clean of every available victim.



    Perhaps due to the High King’s wise judgment, or more likely dumb luck, Upper Poland manages to survive almost entirely unscathed. While the rest of the world goes up in flames, his advisors continue their efforts and research to keep their corner of it safe.



    It isn’t until 1077 that the plague is considered to have left Poland and most of Europe, evaporating as suddenly as it came. People can hardly agree on where it came from, besides passing into Europe through the Byzantine Empire. While the court at Krakow was spared from personal tragedy, High King Skarbimir still managed to lose both of his sons living elsewhere in the kingdom, where far more nobles were lost as well. More importantly, if people thought that the 14 Years’ War was bloody with its casualties at a couple hundred thousand at best, the Black Death’s casualties so far are measured in the tens of millions and Europe’s whole population has taken a noticeable dip in just five short years. The second half of the 11th century really has proven harsh on the whole continent.



    Even this hasn’t stopped the Europeans from indulging in their usual wars, though. In addition to the fighting in Germany (which the Poles have mostly sat out), the Grand Duke of Galicia-Volhynia has been hard at work to reclaim rebel-held Moldavia, with little success. Given the end of the epidemic, the royal army finally mobilizes for the same purpose. The war is settled in months and Moldavia returned into the kingdom, the Grand Duchy of Wallachia formed shortly after to hopefully keep a better grip on the region.



    Germany also manages to retake Swabia with some Polish help, but in the east, Jewish Khazaria has exploited the chaos of the last two decades to conquer almost all of Ruthenia. It might be time for another holy war sometime soon…



    No one’s eager to rush back into battle after all this, though. The First Crusade is unlikely to be the last, either, and certainly proved that the Catholics are capable of banding together even when their higher authorities seem weak. While the Poles are confident that they could win another time through sheer perseverance, they’ve had their share of death for the time being…

    On the 20th of July, 1082, death finally comes for the elderly Skarbimir as well. Though one of the most mild-mannered monarchs so far and an armchair strategist at best, under his guidance Poland appears have to weathered the storm of both the Crusade and the Black Death. Years of isolation in his palace brought out a pettier, angrier side of him, but he still remained a wise ruler who always listened to his advisors. Unfortunately, his reign will likely be overshadowed by the crises that most defined it.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Pelka of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania and Lithuania, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia and Wallachia!


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    The opportunity to place the capital in Weimar was too good to miss. The reason I didn’t give Germany to the Archpriest directly was that I couldn’t sync up their successions, so once the Archpriest died, Germany would likely pass to someone else. It now has Absolute Cognatic Elective succession, meaning that the priests actually elect the Guardian, with equal rights for priestesses. Weirdly for a theocracy, they can also elect the current ruler's children, but who cares, they're pagans.

    The Crusade was a really close call, dipping as low as -80% due to occupations giving so damn much warscore, but unfortunately a bit hard for me to describe in that much detail while also dealing with all that micromanagement. Although, personally I think these larger-scale descriptions make more sense than taking a picture of every single battle anyway.

    Quite a long and eventful (?) chapter, huh. The Black Death couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, either. Right after the bloodiest war in Medieval European history and all that.
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 12:40 PM.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    This is looking pretty gritty already. Thats a lot of fighting, and apparantly pretty close as well.

    And always beware Khazaria. They always seem to be a wildcard.
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Quote Originally Posted by Tentreto View Post
    This is looking pretty gritty already. Thats a lot of fighting, and apparantly pretty close as well.

    And always beware Khazaria. They always seem to be a wildcard.
    Heh, indeed. Last time everyone was surprised they managed to blob and stay Jewish, but that seems to have become the new norm.

    I'm out on holiday (Madeira!), so the next chapter will likely be out on the 9th or so.

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    Chapter #10: No Time to Lick Old Wounds (Pelka + Gaudenty, 1082-1104)

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    20 July, 1082

    The Black Death has really thinned out the ranks of Polish nobility, to the point that the House of Elders had trouble finding a High King to their liking. Their eventual nominee Pelka is a veteran of the 14 Years’ War, distinguished by faithful service, a missing eye and left hand, and what may or may not be mild brain damage. He’s a very intelligent and forthright man, but hard on his opponents, and with an awkward tendency to break out into raving, foaming rages every now and then.



    The stump of his hand causes him no small degree of trouble, either. Shamans have told him that his soul hasn’t gotten used to its meaty vessel missing a piece, and this disparity causes it to cry out in pain.



    The Archpriest-slash-healer suggests a very complicated and painful-sounding procedure that would, in some way Pelka can’t even pretend to understand, rid him of this pain. Given how much it’s impairing his abilities as High King, he’s willing to accept the risks.



    Unfortunately it doesn’t pay off, and the Archpriest’s clumsy poking around just makes things worse.



    Around the same time, Upper Poland – which was so graciously spared the Black Death – is struck by a large outbreak of measles, forcing Wavel Castle to go on lockdown once more. The start of Pelka’s reign isn’t really going well for anyone, to no fault of his own, and his health keeps getting worse and worse until by 1085 he’s barely capable of getting out of bed, needing a regent to take care of daily affairs.



    Mere months later he dies in his quarters after suffering a long, intense seizure. Apparently his soul decided that no body was better than bad body. His 3-year reign is a tragic little footnote in Polish history, and another grim reminder of the toll that this era has taken on all of Europe.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Gaudenty of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania and Lithuania, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia and Moldavia! (Quietly renamed due to covering none of actual Wallachia)



    High King Gaudenty is similarly battle-scarred and one-handed, though he is too young to have fought in the 14 Years’ War and actually suffered his wounds in a much smaller battle in Moldavia. As usual, his young age means that he might have a very long reign ahead of him, or it might be cut short by random tragedy just as well as anyone else’s.

    Speaking of the 14 Years’ War, something really must be done about Poland’s Slavic allies who so bravely came to her aid but have since been struck with misfortune. As usual, the nomad conquerors themselves seem less than stable, but the fact remains that most Slavs east of Poland are currently under foreign occupation. Make no mistake, these so-called Georgians are just another offshoot of Khazaria.



    Poland is still recovering from its past troubles, but all agree that something must be done. If there is to be war, Gaudenty wishes to be at the front, despite his disability. In order to protect himself from further harm, he decides that the Axe of Plusdwa, Obsidian Axe and Amber Crown should finally be joined by a further royal relic in the form of an exquisite suit of armor. The greatest blacksmith in the kingdom is located and given all the funding he needs to craft the masterwork of a lifetime.



    Crafted from legendary Syrian steel and Polish leather and embellished with German Rheingold, “the Immortal” is a fine symbol of Polish military might and the High King’s personal prestige.



    It’s a matter of opinion whether the funding actually from Francian coffers is supposed to be awkward or just further proof of Polish superiority.



    Indeed, by 1088 the latest Archpriest decides that the time is ripe for another Great Holy War for Ruthenia, just like the first one that previously liberated it from the Jews. Gaudenty will have his chance for glory, decked out in the best gear money can afford.



    Compared to Francia, these Khazars prove quite easy pickings, and even the High King manages to find himself in a duel that he wins single-handedly (heh), his inept opponent’s blows glancing helplessly off his armor. As Gaudenty prepares for the finishing blow, the man sputters and claims to be of Slavic faith himself, but traitors who fight on the wrong side of a Great Holy War receive no mercy.



    The war is over in less than two years, the Kingdom of Ruthenia given to the daughter of the man who ruled it before the Jewish conquest. The Poles have their doubts of how this second attempt will fare, especially since it looks quite weak already, but given that they were just hoping to take some of the land for themselves, they hold their tongues. The nomads’ defeat in the war has also led to the other tribes shaking off their tyrannical yoke before it was even over.



    Poland isn’t the only one involved in some holy wars. The Byzantine Empire, representing the “other” branch of Christianity, has never gotten much attention due to lacking a border with Poland or seemingly any northward ambitions. Just as Francian Empire controls almost all Catholic lands, the Byzantine controls all the Orthodox. It long had a strong foothold in the Levant, but after the failed Francian invasion and a further civil war, several of its neighbors decided to exploit its moment of weakness. The Sultanates of Egypt and Iraq, as well as the Khanate of Syria, have all been grabbing whatever land they could get.



    After a bit of a break, in 1090 the High King decides that the Poles must push into the Khazars’ own heartland to stop this cycle of conquest from repeating. Khazaria is already under attack on several fronts, so he adds another to the list by invading their lands this side of the Dniepr. Predictably, the war only lasts a year or so. Even without their current trouble, these nomads have a long-standing reputation of being quick to rush into an area but equally easy to push away again. Around the same time, Polish vassals succeed in pushing south towards the Danube River, rounding out Poland’s borders quite nicely.



    This is a new situation for Poland, though, since it’s the first time that it’s actually a conquered a bunch of Jews, Khazars, or Jewish Khazars. Not a lot of them, since – being nomads and all – most of them simply move away, but a notable amount still remain in the more established settlements along the river or simply eking out a living in the wilderness. It’ll take some effort, including border fortifications, to stop them from moving back in and actually make some use of this mostly deserted but very fertile land.

    Interestingly, these new conquests also give Poland a border with the Byzantine Empire. Since the Empire seems to be wracked by another civil war, it’s a great opportunity for the first “official” Polish raid into very juicy Byzantine lands. It’s about time the Orthodox get their share.



    Emboldened by his successes thus far, High King Gaudenty is hard at work to perfect the way of the one-handed waraxe, including the use of his hook hand as a tool in combat. However, a terrible fumble leads to a horrible stumble that leads to his face getting cut wide open in a seemingly routine sparring match. The Immortal isn’t much use when he isn’t wearing it. He will live; however, his noseless, oft-festering face is disgusting enough that he opts to wear a mask whenever in public. It’s quite imposing in a sense, but also incredibly off-putting.



    In 1098, the masked Gaudenty is contacted by Queen Thordis ‘the Just’ of Norway, England, Scotland and Ireland, an already legendary warrior queen who’s brought most of the pagan north under the heel of her so-called North Sea Empire. However, just like the Poles long ago, she has found the organization of her traditional Norse faith insufficient to serve such a wide realm, and wishes to join the Slavic Church like the Estonians before her. Such a potentially powerful ally and boon for the faith is something the Poles cannot refuse.



    Of course, a conversion of such scale is quite a boost to Gaudenty’s own reputation as well. For Thordis it means dealing with quite a few dissatisfied subjects, but surely she can handle a little rebellion or two? The priests of Germany have been struggling to figure out how much they can compromise with the Christians without… well, compromising the Slavic Church, but in Norway’s case, Thordis can just take the same approach as the Poles with their Norse minorities and Sjaelland, letting everyone keep their traditional ways with a few cosmetic changes. In time, this arrangement would come to be known as the Nordic Church, somewhat separate from the Slavic.



    His encounter with this woman convinces the previously somewhat disheartened Gaudenty that he can’t give up his own martial pursuits. Though you’d think that he’d learned his lesson, he makes the unprecedented decision to try and join the Champions of Perun. Somewhat confusingly named, not to be confused with Warriors of Perun, the Champions are a less official society where men – and women – come together to drink, sing and fight. One of the basic rules is that all are treated equally, regardless of their rank, but the introduction of the High King himself stretches those principles a liiittle bit. He actually ends up getting trounced – by a woman – in his trial match, but the leaders dare not deny him entry, baffled as they may be by the whole situation. Gaudenty is invited to continue fighting and training with them.



    Speaking of conversions, it was previously assumed that the Congregation of Germany being governed by priests would make it resistant to the dynastic oddities of many other states, but on the flipside, it seems that the shamans’ disinterest in worldly concerns can lead to some strange results as well. Upon the previous Guardian’s death in 1100, the Congregation decides to elect not one of themselves, but the recently converted Dutch-Norse leader of Scania who awed them with his magical might. Whether this means Onno's holdings in Scania and Saaremaa being integrated into Germany, or in fact the opposite, is a matter of perspective.



    The growth of the Slavic Church and the final touches on Bialaskala put Krakow well on the path to becoming a center of worship and pilgrimage, in addition to the trade hub that it already is.



    The Archpriest of Perun further decorates Bialaskala with the unveiling of what he calls the arm bones of an ancient hero, hung from the ceiling above the altar for all to see. It’s not entirely unlike the ancient fingers and bones that those Christians keep hoarding, except far more impressive: almost six feet long, this arm must’ve belonged to a real giant!



    That’s all good, since the Christians in the west seem to be stirring once more, and the Slavs are going to need all the zeal they can muster...



    Come the 11th of April, 1102, the Crusade for Germany begins. The Pope has been making many rousing speeches over the past several years, and now finally urged the Christian faithful to go and reclaim what they lost 45 years ago. God wills it! Well, unfortunately for them, the Slavs have more gods who will that it stay with them. Both sides have just about recovered from the devastation that the 14 Years’ War and the Black Death caused, and now they want to do it all over again…?



    By all accounts, it looks like the Christian offensive should actually be weaker than the last time around, but that doesn’t mean the war will be any less messy. It comes at a very awkward time for them, seeing as both Francia and Aquitaine are struggling with several more of their trademark civil wars, but as it happens, Germany itself has just about lost control of Swabia: the Polish priests there have refused to accept the Dutch upstart Onno, believing that his election somehow betrayed all that the Congregation stood for and that they’d rather run their own coven than be part of his. Further, Germany’s location means that it’s surrounded by enemies and may prove much harder to defend than Pomerania, where Poland had the home advantage.



    At least this attack didn’t come as a total surprise, so the High King had some warning to ready his troops. He decides to seize the Francian holdings in Pomerania for starters, to stop them from threatening his rear after he moves into Germany. He is of course leading from the front, being one of the best warriors in the realm by far.



    Massive fighting is already taking place farther south, with the combined Polish-German vassals performing admirably so far. On a much less positive note, Swabia’s declaration of independence leads to its nigh-instant annexation by Bavarian forces. May this stand as a reminder of just how reliant the Slavs are on their graceful lords’ protection.

    In January 1103, the High King finds his first real battle that soon becomes the largest of the entire war to come. Over 100,000 soldiers smash against each other throughout the plains, hills and woods of Hammelburg near Würzburg, the German capital. With over 50,000 combined dead in this drawn-out fighting, this war really is shaping up to be just as bad as its predecessor. The High King’s personal levies, having led the charge, take the worst of the Polish casualties, and Hammelburg will go down in history as an infamously hard-won victory.



    After driving out the remaining Christian garrisons, the High King marches west to reinforce his allies in another massive clash. However, his great valor shows its dark side once more, as it leads him to face the equally formidable Duke of Modena and receive a critical hit that sends him sprawling into the mud.



    With the High King down for the count and enemy reinforcements swarming in, the Poles are forced to retreat. At least they get some spiteful joy from the fact that the vassals of Francia are unable to put aside their existing grievances even for the Crusade, leading them to fight each other at least as much as the Slavs.



    Lacking their valiant leader, the Polish armies take a slightly more passive role for the time being and focus on rooting out Christian occupiers rather than seeking pitched battles. On their way they sacrifice many of their prisoners to the gods, hoping that they’ll accept these lives as payment to spare the High King’s.



    No such luck: Gaudenty gives up the ghost on the 9th of May, 1104, after almost a year comatose in bed. Gaudenty ‘the Legendary’ was one of the best battlefield commanders that Poland has ever seen, but his track record in personal combat proved less flattering. Judging from his constant mishaps, naming his armor ‘the Immortal’ may have been tempting fate, and he seemingly did everything in his power to make his reign as short as possible. Of course, all this posthumous snarking (a vital part of the mourning process) does nothing to reduce the great prestige that he brought to Poland and the Slavic Church in these two decades. Considering how fond they are of warrior kings, he’ll surely go down as a hero the likes of Lechoslaw and Skarbimir, and his considerable litter of nine children will carry his legacy far into the future. May his successor continue to find glory on the fields of Germany.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Zelibrat of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania and Lithuania, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia and Moldavia!


    Spoiler: State of the World in 1104
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    • Queen Thordis’ civil war for the conversion of Norway enters its sixth year, with her narrowly taking the lead again in the last few months. However, the end result may be unimportant in the long run: even if the rebels win, the Nordic Church has already taken root in Norway, Lapland and all three kingdoms of the British Isles.
    • The fight for Germany is about even for the time being, but it looks like the Slavs are getting the upper hand - if you ignore the fait accompli loss of Swabia.




    • The Pratihara Empire continues to prosper and expand, but is also facing a second formidable Jihad for Persia, this time from the Sunni. Ever since the coup in Africa, the Shia seem to have faded into obscurity.

    Spoiler: Comments
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    Should they survive into EU4, Nordic and any other variants of Slavic will become religions of their own. Unless something dramatic happens, the Congregation won’t be “Germanic” or anything given its origins and relationship with us, but if the faith continues to spread into completely different cultural spheres, I’ll split it up further. I mean, there’s always a chance that the Mongols or something decide to adopt it all of a sudden…

    I didn’t even realize how big Norway had gotten, but Queen Thordis is a very cool character, especially if her legacy actually remains. Norway has Elective Gavelkind, but seeing as she has no living children to split the pot and all four kingdoms have elected the same heir, I think the North Sea Empire might actually survive for at least a while longer? It’d certainly be an interesting great power, but here I go thinking too far ahead again.

    As a sidenote: I still don’t know how I should treat Arabia being part of the Western Protectorate. It’s kind of inexplicable fluff-wise, which has led me to ignore it and hope it goes away, but if it persists much longer, I’ll probably have to take an official stance on it sooner or later. It helps that we’ve had zero interest in either China or Arabia thus far, but…
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 12:54 PM.

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    Chapter #11: Architecture of Demise (Zelibrat, 1104-1116)

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    9 May, 1104

    High King Zelibrat, Prince of Bohemia, has been in charge of the late Gaudenty’s army ever since his tragic accident last year, and is thus a rather natural choice as his successor. He’s also actually Gaudenty’s half-uncle, despite being younger than him. In addition to his powerful physique and skill in combat, he’s extremely well-learned by Polish standards, especially in the field of “applied architecture” – that is, knowing where to hit things to make them fall. Before this war his main claim to fame was the construction of a great tower in Prague, but during it, he’s earned himself a fierce reputation across the realm.



    With a gleaming axe in each hand and a massive suit of unbreakable (but apparently not impregnable) armor, the High King of Poland is a very visible and imposing presence on the battlefield, which clearly has its downsides but also makes less valiant enemies flee at the mere sight of him.

    It seems more and more that the risk might be greater than the reward, though, as the freshly-crowned Zelibrat heads south and gets wounded in the first battle of his reign. At least the wound itself is shallow and the battle a victory, but people still see it as an ill omen.



    Realizing that war will just turn into another decade-long meatgrinder if the Poles only stay on the defensive, Zelibrat marches for the appropriately-named Francian capital Nancy, which sits conveniently close to the German border. The Christians fighting each other even in the middle of the German warzone makes it easy to get past them. However, as the loss of Nancy seems to do nothing to the enemy morale – imperial capitals are a dime a dozen, apparently – the notoriously brave Zelibrat realizes that this calls for more radical measures.

    In the summer of 1105, pagans arrive at the gates of Rome.



    Zelibrat writes a scathing critique over the form-over-function design of said gates, which fall over with a light push. However, it turns out that Rome is indeed more important than Nancy – so much so, in fact, that Francia sends 20,000 men to defend it. The relatively small Polish force is driven off with heavy losses, having delivered insult in exchange for injury. At least he himself didn’t get wounded this time. He considers it a good excuse to go home and restock.



    In 1107, Queen Thordis of Norway’s war against her uppity chiefs ends in her victory and the establishment of the Nordic Church throughout her four kingdoms. However, the 73-year-old conqueror ends up dying of the measles she caught on her march through England. Still, her great legacy in the form of the North Sea Empire survives, being passed in its entirety to his distant cousin Inge, who soon adds Vladimir to his growing list of kingdoms.





    The Crusade rages on. In January 1108, fate comes full circle once more as both sides brave the Alpine snows to fight in the mountains of Switzerland, and suddenly Zelibrat lays his eyes on the Duke of Modena! The very same man who struck the lethal blow against Gaudenty ‘the Legendary’! Obviously tempting fate, Zelibrat immediately charges the man on his horse and, after knocking him to the ground, dismounts to fight him one-on-one.

    “You! Milkdrinker! Slayer of Gaudenty Lechowicz, son of Gaudenty, High King of Poland, and my beloved brother in arms! The axe of Perun will show if it was truly your honor that brought you victory, or the black arts of the Crucified God! Tell him I say hello!”



    Unfortunately the Duke of Modena doesn’t know any Polish, only that there’s a very angry and heavily armored specimen coming right at him. He makes a valiant stand, but what he doesn’t stand is a chance. The Axe of Plusdwa strikes true. Blood for blood. Gaudenty is avenged, and Zelibrat’s own legend grows.



    For all his personal and tactical skill, though, Zelibrat might be a bit less talented at the strategic side of things (as his Roman expedition goes to show), and the Christians seem to be winning the war of attrition. He’s still convinced that he can turn the tables with a single perfect battle, though!

    …All the way until the 2nd of October, 1108, when word arrives that the Crusade for Germany is already over. For all the bad things said of him, Guardian Onno remained fiercely devout to his office and defended Germany to the death, which he found on the battlefield; the priests who had elected him were so impressed that they elected his 15-year-son as his successor. However, Lodewijk was far less zealous, and in fact thought the whole war was “dumb”. He sent the Pope a letter saying he’d happily convert or whatever if that’s what it took, and… well, that’s what happened.



    No one knows what’ll happen to the Congregation of Germany now while the rest of the priesthood is still in place, yet the Guardian (who isn’t even a grown man yet!) has suddenly become Catholic. Most of the actual populace seems overjoyed, placing the Slavic shamans between a rock and a hard place to say the least.

    Zelibrat is outraged, threatening to invade Germany himself and give Lodewijk a good spanking, with the vocal support of most of his warriors. However, the Crown Council is strongly against it, saying that six years of war have weakened the kingdom and any further invasions could leave it vulnerable to internal problems. A reasonable man at heart, he is forced to relent.

    Indeed, his council’s words seem almost prophetic, as mere weeks later, an alliance of chiefs demands that he hand over the Grand Duchy of Pomerania to a distant kinsman of his. The kinsman himself is just a childless old man, and probably entirely irrelevant. The true purpose of this plot is to even further decentralize the realm – as if the High King didn’t give his chiefs more than enough freedom to begin with – by making him hand over some of his lesser titles to his vassals. The chiefs make thinly veiled threats of armed rebellion should he refuse. That’s exactly what Zelibrat would like to do in the face of such treason, but he can definitely count, and the numbers aren’t in his favor; not only that, he isn’t going to start the remarkably stable Poland’s first major civil war over something so ridiculously minor. Stanislaw will have his Pomerania. With one exception: the Republic of Gdansk will remain a direct vassal of the crown, as it refuses to consider itself part of any Grand Duchy (and provides a huge chunk of the crown’s income).



    Though large-scale conflict is thus averted, the kingdom seems to be afflicted by countless feudal wars on a lower level as various chiefs note their neighbors’ current weakness and decide to press old claims here and there. Years pass as Zelibrat waits and works to replenish his own depleted retinues. However, he keeps a curious eye on the east: Khazaria and Georgia seem to be on the rise once more, giving him some ideas…



    He makes sure not to blame the Archpriests directly, but it’s become clear that the Kingdom of Ruthenia is simply incapable of holding back the nomads’ recurring conquests. As such, he believes that Poland should henceforth consider the Dniepr River its eastern border. Anything this side of it will be integrated into the kingdom; the other bank will be under its avowed protection to make sure that the Jews finally stop harassing the poor Slavs. The young Archpriest Sadzimir, frankly a rather incompetent crony, agrees with his plan and commands the other chiefs to accept it. When they inevitably refuse, Zelibrat has no choice but to force them for their own good.



    They don’t like this too much, though, and vow to band together against any further attack. Zelibrat wisely decides to give it some time rather than rock the boat too much.



    As the other Slavs seem not to know what’s best for them and Germany has proven a lost cause, Zelibrat sends a lot of gold and priests north, to Norway. King Inge’s vassals actually forced his return to the old faith at one point, but he immediately turned to Poland for support and readopted the Slavic Church with renewed vigor. Conversion work is going well, even bringing Sweden into the fold and leaving Finland as the last non-reformed kingdom in the north. In late 1115, Inge dies of the complications of an infected wound, and unlike last time, his five kingdoms are split among his five children; however, all of them have been raised in the new faith, and it’s in no danger of dying out. Every new believer is another shield against the next crusade.



    In less pleasant news, High King Zelibrat manages to contract the maligned great pox while visiting some camp or other. His court healer Wit, clearly not living up to his name, has the bright idea to treat it with a cocktail of quicksilver. As one might imagine, this doesn’t really help things.



    Indeed, though it’s obviously not understood by the medicine of the day, people in the distant future will one day scoff and see that it’s probably this so-called ‘medicine’ and not the pox that causes Zelibrat’s death on the 8th of December 1116. Dubbed ‘the Legendary’ just like his successor, he was indeed a great commander administrator, but again just like his successor, his hubris seemed to get in the way of success. Though it’d seem that Poland itself is under no existential threat for now, it’s clearly been having a rough patch this last half-century or so.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Nadbor II of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Liege Lord of Pomerania, Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia and Moldavia!


    Spoiler: Comments
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    Okay, so the Elective succession for Germany didn’t really work out. Sue me. Or just blame the Congregation being a weird social experiment to begin with.

    Remember all those times I said I was content with my borders? Yeah, that’s back when I thought Francia was about to collapse and I shouldn’t blob that much. Now it seems likely that we’ll be threatened by crusades for a while and Francia isn’t going anywhere quite yet, so I’m not too worried about expanding a bit.
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 01:01 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #43
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    Special #2: Politics & Estates of Medieval Poland (1116)

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    Despite being one of the three great powers of Europe (sitting somewhere between Francia and the Byzantines), many later historians would adopt the expression that Poland in its first few centuries was less a political and more a geographical entity. As with most states in this period, Poland’s so-called government was nothing like how we understand that word today. There was no bureaucracy, few permanent institutions, and precious little communication between its far-flung regions. Offices big and small were created at the whim of a ruler, often had no real meaning and were abandoned when people simply stopped referring to them. Certainly not the well-oiled machine of state that’d start to become more typical in the early modern era.

    Indeed, a feudal realm was less like a modern government and more like an amateur organization – a massively bloated, ambitious one – where people were given tasks to handle, only expected to report back if they absolutely had to, and then given free reign as long as they didn’t flaunt certain basic rules and paid their membership fees. Upstart Poland with its tribal origins and pseudo-imperial nature was a prime example of this. Though the situation was always in flux, the study of Polish history might be well served by a snapshot of a given year: in this case 1116, the year of the death of High King Zelibrat and coronation of Nadbor II. It isn’t particularly remarkable in itself, but to the people at the time, it was never clear what would be a passing trend, and what had come to stay…




    High King

    The title of High King itself could be considered an artificial creation of King Spytko (r. 1002-1014), but was eagerly adopted by the Poles and used ever since his time. Its purpose was to elevate the ruler of Poland above mere kings and into the ranks of emperors, where he admittedly belonged in terms of military might. The term "Emperor" was considered too Christian in tone, though foreign sources would occasionally fail to make the distinction and refer to the Emperor of Poland anyway. The Christian empires for their part were more than happy to consider Poland’s rank a notch below their own.

    The system of the High King being elected by an unaligned House of Elders has proven surprisingly stable. It allows Poland to avoid the regency councils and other succession crises that plague most feudal states, and though the elders obviously elect the most popular candidate and not the most competent per se, those often go hand in hand. The lords of the realm are used to the cycle of heirs building a career in their youth, being crowned in their 30’s or so and only ruling for a decade or two before making way for the next one. The change of monarch tends to cause little confusion or space for claimants to emerge. Rather than a single royal line, the Kingdom of Poland is seen as the shared responsibility of all descendants of its founder Lechoslaw (r. 883-924), and in fact it’s the norm for the throne to pass between extremely distant cousins. Of course, this leaves all the non-Lechowicz nobles out of the picture, but as we’ll see below, they’re kept in the margins in general.

    Partly due to the High King’s elected nature, partly due to the Poles’ tribal and pagan traditions, the difference in social status between him and his subjects – though still considerable – is much smaller than in the case of most Christian nobility. The High King is expected to mingle with the common Pole, and people feel free to critique and even backtalk him should the need arise. High King Gaudenty set a particular precedent by joining an informal warrior lodge and having frequent sparring matches with his fellow members. This does wonders for legitimacy; less so for authority. To a modern reader, the position of the High King may seem like a mix of contradictions, being simultaneously sovereign, highly respected and autocratic yet also down-to-earth, open to dissent and in the lords’ own view “democratic”. Of course, every High King is also his own person with his own relationships and hard to generalize.

    The High Kings traditionally consider the five provinces of Upper Poland their personal fief, and the capital has by now been well-established in Krakow. However, given the nature of medieval communications (or lack thereof), the ruler spends most of his time on the road, personally touring the halls of his vassals when he isn’t off leading his armies – military leadership is, after all, at the core of the Polish idea of kingship. Most Polish nobles remain barely if at all literate, so messages often have to be passed orally or through scribes, and any manner of bookkeeping is kept to a bare minimum.




    Nobility

    Outside of Upper Poland, the land is divided among a number of Grand Dukes and High Chiefs, each of whom has near-sovereign power in their own territory as long as they provide the crown with a portion of the levies and taxes they collect. All the Grand Dukes except Galicia-Volhynia are Lechowicz, and the vast majority of lords belong to one of the Four Tribes of Poland: Lechowicz, Piast, Kujawski or Mazowiecki. The Lyakhovich clan of Galicia-Volhynia is actually Ruthenian in origin, and this combined with their relatively strong position tends to cause a bit of friction with the others, but they’ve been a loyal part of the realm for over a century now. The Republic of Gdansk is obviously an exception, which we’ll discuss below.

    In addition to having exclusive rights to the crown, the Lechowicz clan is usually first in line for any new lands and titles added to the realm, maintaining their dominance in Polish politics. If the other clans are unhappy with this, their weakness leaves them unable to do much about it. Of course, it’d be naïve to assume that all the Lechowicz lords get along just because they’re family, but they have a vested interest in keeping one of their own on the throne and are thus ultimately loyal to the High King, especially as he tends to stay out of their personal business.

    It’d almost seem that lower-ranking chiefs are more heavy-handed than the High King, having a need to monitor their subjects more closely and wring everything they can out of their limited holdings. They’re equally bellicose towards each other, and the smaller difference in power leaves more opportunities to rise in demand of rights and privileges, invade each other and expand their fiefdoms by force, or try and revoke their vassals’ lands to increase their own. Despite the fact that some part of Poland is almost always at war with itself, open (not to mention credible) threats to the High King’s authority are exceedingly rare. In fact, the recent alliance against Zelibrat set the very first precedent for a real risk of civil war; the crown can only hope that it doesn’t become more common in the future.




    Crown Council

    The Crown Council is the closest thing that Poland has to a government office with established tasks and powers. It traditionally consists of a Chancellor, Marshal, Steward, Spymaster and High Diviner, each of whom is the High King’s second-in-command in their respective field of expertise. Originally they were simply the crown’s most respected advisors with no authority beyond their direct duties; however, after King Wladyslaw’s (r. 992-1002) reforms made the Council itself a seat of power, these positions suddenly became much more valuable. As such, the number of members has grown to seven. These two do-nothing councilors are generally given titles such as “Keeper of Horses” or “Minister of Rivers” to justify their presence, but in reality, everyone knows they’re only there to vote and eat some biscuits.

    Ever since the Crown Council was given the right to vote about important matters, the mighty of the realm immediately demanded to get in on it. Thus the basic function of the advisors was reversed from “best man for the job” to “best job for the man”, since every High King is practically obligated to reserve seats for the Grand Dukes and then make do with whoever he gets. It usually turns out decently enough, but every generation tends to end up with an useless buffoon or two. Unfortunately, a seat on the Council tends to be for life.

    Seeing as the councilors and their votes were originally needed in order to legitimize wide-spanning reforms to the kingdom, they still have extremely wide voting rights. All matters from taxation to execution to declaration of war must be brought before the Council, which only convenes once a year or so due to the logistics involved in summoning all those lords to Krakow. One major exception is the right to grant titles, since even the Council itself was forced to acknowledge that the country simply couldn’t run as long as all of them demanded every single title for themselves.

    In fact, the great power of the Council might be a major factor in the High Kings’ hands-off approach to the realm; the best way not to clash with the councilors more often is to not even bother to try. It’s not that unusual for the monarch to go above their heads in matters of either little or great enough import, though, and it’s not like they actually even want to be dragged to the capital for every little vote.




    Burghers

    Just like most of Europe, Poland is still largely rural, its towns serving more as crossroads of crafts and trade than as actual population centers. Most of those towns (not to be confused with villages) are less than a century old and heavily fortified at the expense of size. In fact, a mess of laws involved with their hasty founding has effectively made it so that only nobles, their staff, priests, merchants, guild members and a few other people are even allowed to live in them, notably excluding the peasants and assorted tribesmen who form some 97% of the population. Given the undeveloped nature of Poland’s towns, burghers haven’t really emerged as an official estate or even a distinct social class, but with these laws in place it’s only a matter of time. Generally speaking, Polish towns are bigger than in Eastern but smaller than in Western Europe.

    Among the most notable towns are Krakow, Rostock, Bremen, Belgorod, Szczecin and Prague, some of which almost resemble a proper city (if you squint), but the unrivalled jewel in the Polish crown really must be Gdansk. The oldest truly urban settlement in Poland, the “Free City” was given its special status as a republic by King Lechoslaw himself. With special laws allowing peasants to live in the city as professional laborers, its population of over 50,000 stands out as the largest of any city in this corner of Europe. Gdansk’s powerful merchant families dominate the trade of the Southern Baltic but have also established fortified trading posts in Stockholm, Reval, Bremen and most recently Hartlepool, always seeking new markets to get a leg up on each other.

    Gdanski politics are dominated by the five patrician clans who, not unlike Poland as a whole, elect one from their midst to serve as Grand Mayor for life. These patricians are the richest people in the realm, rivaling even the High King in splendor. The Grand Mayor is a frequent member of the Crown Council, and not without reason: the Republic contributes as much taxes to the crown coffers as the four Grand Duchies combined. Whatever they’re doing to make all that money, it’s obviously working, so the High King has zero interest in bothering them, even if these city folk tend to get a bit too snobby at times.




    Clergy

    Last but not least, the Slavic Church and its ever-nebulous hierarchy. The seat of High Diviner in the Crown Council is practically synonymous with the Archpriest; other than that, the priests have no official power, and the majority are in fact just local or wandering miracle-workers who help people with their everyday woes and entertain them with tales of gods, heroes and monsters, often in exchange for money. However, not all priests are such “hedge witches”, and some have been put in charge of actual temples rather than just cobbled-together shrines.

    The Slavic clergy often seems intentionally obtuse about its business, jealously safeguarding its trade secrets and powerful magics. All that’s clear is that everyone respects (but doesn’t necessarily answer to) the Archpriest of Perun, master of Bialaskala, supposedly the greatest temple in all pagandom. As a middle step below him are a number of Patriarchs and Matriarchs: a total of seven exist in Ruthenia, Norway, Scotland and the four Grand Duchies. Much like the Archpriest, they’re more like revered sages than official authorities.

    With rare exceptions such as Bialaskala, a monument of granite and masterfully worked salt crystals that glisten like gems, most Slavic temples are relatively simple wooden longhouses decorated with holy symbols, animal parts and loot. However, the priests within have started to gather increasing amounts of economic and even military influence from the towns forming around their temples. With the Archpriest’s support, the Crown Council tried to maintain the sanctity of the sacred groves by passing a law against any construction within a hundred yards of a temple; this has led to the uniquely Polish phenomenon of circular spots of forest in the middle of otherwise seemingly normal settlements. Many of these will survive well into modern times as beautiful parks, symbols of pagan tradition by their very existence.






    Summation

    All in all, the state of Poland could well be described as “everyone just doing their own thing”. They’re mostly brought together by their will to defend the Slavic Church, resist foreign aggression and expand their own power in the meantime. Indeed, in this the Poles have been remarkably united; it can only be hoped that this relative harmony will continue many years into the future…

    Spoiler: Comments
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    This special is a mix of some trivia that I haven’t gotten a chance to mention in the AAR, and my own “peek behind the curtain” of how the world of CK2 functions in general – sometimes very close to true history, sometimes with big abstractions. Things like the council are technically shared by every single ruler in the game, but a little flavor can still make them feel unique (if you ask me). If I ever make someone view a game mechanic in a new light, that’s a victory for me.

    We spend a lot of time in Poland so to speak, but since the vassals tend to keep their heads down, it falls to me to give them some attention.
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-07-05 at 06:04 AM.

  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Aw, anticlimactic ends to crusades like that are always a shame. Did the Slavic Church end up earning any converts in Germany that will hopefully be a thorn in their side?

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    There actually is a grand total of nine Slavic provinces in Germany, with the largest concentration in the Alps of all places. As the next chapter will show, though, Germany is quickly disintegrating, and those Slavs will likely join the various heresies as a thorn in Francia's side instead.

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    Chapter #12: An Island in the Storm (Nadbor II, 1116-1154)

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    8 December, 1116

    Nadbor II is another relatively young High King, and a rather odd one at that. Some claim that he’s the greatest military genius Poland has ever seen, yet he seems somewhat neurotic, nervous to lead from the front lines and prone to lashing out in anger or fear, meaning that most of his fellow warriors don’t actually want to see him in the fray. One of the sons of King Gaudenty who were assigned to govern the so-called “Wild Fields” conquered from Khazaria (despite being a literal toddler at the time), Nadbor has spent all his life on the frontier. Perhaps the constant fear of raids wasn’t really good for him. It remains to be seen whether he’s more of an asset or liability in a serious battle.



    The general opinion is that he should bide his time a while longer before continuing with Zelibrat’s “eastern policy”. As such, the world goes round while Poland remains at peace for the time being. This peace is only broken by an easily defeated nomad rebellion in one of his former provinces, obviously due to the mismanagement of the brother he gave it to after his coronation.



    The Grand Duke of Pomerania, that meaningless pawn installed by the nobles’ scheme against Zelibrat, decides to openly defy the terms of their agreement and invade the Free City of Gdansk, ignoring the huge damage that disrupting the Republic would deal to the entire Polish economy. Luckily, a “strongly worded” message from Nadbor is enough to make him back down, but the High King’s less than friendly relationship with his vassals is already starting an ominous trend.



    The Pope decides to bring back an old tradition by excommunicating the Emperor of Francia. Clearly Francia is about to fall. Speaking of: “Francia is about to fall” has become an extremely popular phrase throughout Poland over the last two centuries, both with and without irony.



    Nadbor decides to bring back an old tradition as well, by becoming the first Polish king in nearly a century to actually push some meaningful legislation through the Crown Council. The crown economy is strong and filling the coffers isn’t a problem, thanks in no small part to Gdansk, but that last farce of a Crusade proved that the Polish army, while massive, still lacks enough men to fight the fights that matter. As such, he continues the practice of promising less peacetime taxation in trade for more wartime levies. All it takes is a lot of flattery and monetary concessions to certain key councilors.



    The Archpriest seems to be doing his best to throw those soldiers away, though, as 1120 brings a Great Holy War for Perm: a pathetic strip of wilderness in the distant, frozen northeast. The High King will commit no forces to this idiocy, but if history is any indication, the zealous lords of the realm will jump at the Archpriest’s call.



    Meanwhile in the west, the fruits of past victories continue to fall to ash as more priests rebel against Germany’s new Catholic leadership and declare their secession. They’re going to have to think of something really clever if they want to avoid being quickly annexed by Francia. It’s enough to drive Nadbor to drink.



    Somehow or other the County of Provence and Knights of Santiago (who are nowhere near Santiago) manage to break out of Francian rule.



    Umayyad Iberia has broken apart into three infighting states.



    The seemingly so stable Tulunids of Egypt have lost control of their massive realm….



    And the Byzantine Empire was never stable to begin with, but now it’s losing more ground while also stuck in a three-way civil war for the throne. Listening to all these news from Europe and beyond, it’s like the world’s suddenly coming apart at the seams for no visible reason.



    Nadbor does his part to contribute to the chaos and keep himself occupied by raiding the empire’s defenseless borders. He also takes up hunting in the Carpathian wilderness. At the same time, though, the Council seems intent on blocking his attempts to conquer his way to the Dniepr River as Zelibrat intended. No matter how much he rages and threatens to have them all hanged for this insubordination, they seem to just get more stubborn in return. One summer day in 1124, this internal conflict reaches a new high as the High Queen herself, whom Nadbor had asked to investigate some worrying rumors for him, is ambushed and murdered in broad daylight in the streets of Krakow.



    The culprits manage to escape in the confusion, but Nadbor – foaming at the mouth with all Perun’s fury – sends the full royal retinue to chase them down and have them brought to justice. Slow, painful, satisfying justice. He gets nothing useful out of them, but is increasingly convinced that the Crown Council is running a deep-rooted conspiracy against him. Why else would his wife of all people, the mother of his children, be murdered like this?

    He makes himself very clear: if they don’t give him what he wants, right now, he will have them all suffer the same fate as his wife’s murderers. They pretend to be confused and have no idea what he’s talking about, but his threats ring worryingly true, and he finally gets their “agreement” for some limited expansion in the east, ongoing Great Holy War be damned. However, after this small concession, Poland’s pagan neighbors seem to once again lock ranks in protest and stop any further wars for a while.



    He also proves that he isn’t above kicking out the worst troublemakers to show who is High King, and who’s a washed-up Grand Duke only here for the drinks. The nobles resent not just their new obligations, but also the way that they’re forced upon them. Nadbor doesn’t care; he’s spent almost ten years now just sitting around because, for whatever reason, they oppose his every move out of sheer principle. Even his newly appointed, supposedly more favorable councilors seem to forget their loyalties soon enough, so he has to keep replacing them to push any reforms through.



    In 1126, the last major lord of the north finally sees what’s best for him and, as must be tradition at this point, approaches the High King of Poland with a humble request for aid in the conversion of Finland. Nadbor is happy to comply, seeming to think that this earns him a place among the greatest heroes of the Church.



    It doesn’t go quite that well: just as with Norway, many of the Finnish chiefs rise up in revolt, but this King has far less success putting it down. The actual conversion ends up being quite… limited in scale.



    Meanwhile, the war in Perm is finally wrapping up, allowing the warriors to return home frostbitten but supposedly victorious. That’s odd, though; no one can seem to find these great conquered territories. Is the Archpriest just lying through his teeth to cover up his bumbling or something?


    (That "Mongolian Revolt" is just the Kirghiz, not the actual Mongols)

    The 42-year-old, increasingly frustrated Nadbor seems to be having some sort of midlife crisis about how he’s going to be remembered after his passing, be it next week or decades from now. He of course realizes that his heavy-handed measures haven’t made him the most popular with his vassals. However, he also knows that he’s not in the wrong here! It’s the vassals’ own fault for refusing to pay him the respect a High King deserves! He shall devote himself to making sure they never forget just what that respect means.



    Until now, he’s simply ignored the Crown Council’s complaints and happily gone over their heads: if the High King just walks out and says something confidently enough, no one in the world will think to ask if it was approved the Council. However, if this autocratic power is to last – and pass onto his successors as well – he realizes that he’ll need to try and change some of the laws that give the Council all this power to begin with. Since he thinks that most of the realm’s "legal experts” are on the conspiracy’s payroll anyway, he’ll just have to figure out what he can do himself.



    In November that year, one of Nadbor’s new crony councilors comes up to ask, nay, demand that in return for his previous support, Poland should declare war on Francia for some backwater province deep in the Carpathians. Nadbor is already about to throw something at him for even daring to suggest wasting thousands of men on such a ridiculous invasion, only to stop and realize that the deeply unpopular Emperor is actually in the middle of his third, maybe fourth civil war in a row. Perhaps this really would be a good opportunity to humiliate him a bit?



    As it turns out, the invasion lasts less than a year and ends without a single real battle, besides a small squabble with some local rebels. Eventually the Emperor’s clearly overworked magnate simply sends a message that he really couldn’t care less about that stupid valley right now, as long as the Poles get off his goddamn lawn. They’re happy to comply. Although, Nadbor kind of feels like this war was too quick and easy to actually register as a humiliation.



    Nonetheless, perhaps the Poles should make a habit of doing this whenever the Francians are busy, which is very often. Excited that his councilors are being cooperative for once, he decides to start a separate border dispute against the other side of the civil war while he’s at it. It ends up being a similar success, allowing Poland to finally pick off one of those Francian exclaves in Pomerania.



    Despite these “glorious” victories, his vassals seem unconvinced about his fledgling legal reforms. To motivate them to stay in line and not try anything funny, he spends lavishly on foreign mercenaries to patrol Krakow and glare at them menacingly around the clock.



    The Francian civil war ends with the claimant taking the throne, which is relatively uncommon but not unheard of, and is then followed by yet another one starting literally days later. How, how does that country still stand? But at the same time, something… far more unusual is happening up north.

    A couple years back, the King of Svithjod ended up abandoning the Church and returning to his old ways. However, apparently at some point the priests of Germany ended up electing a Khazarian Jew, and then that Jew’s son, as Guardian of Germany. Where did they even come from? And now, these two giants of sense have decided to knock their wise heads together and convert Svithjod to the Jewish faith.

    Nadbor has no words.



    Indeed, it doesn’t take long before the clearly insane priests of Germany elect the actual Khagan of Khazaria as their new Guardian.



    Coincidentally, “Khagan” is actually one of Nadbor’s less flattering new nicknames. He has certainly accomplished his goal: everyone will remember him, but mostly as a power-hungry tyrant with no respect for tradition, civility or common sense. The power of the High King is supposed to be based on an implicit alliance between him and his vassals; people believe he has violated that alliance thoroughly enough to be beyond salvation, and his infamy will probably brand even his descendants for ages to come. Though no rebellion has been suicidal enough to rise against him, there’s no knowing how many of his illegitimate laws will actually stay in the books after his much-anticipated passing.

    It’s a questionable honor to say the least, but perhaps he’ll calm down a bit now that he’s had it?



    At least Nadbor ‘the Ruthless’ isn’t the only one who’ll go down in infamy. In 1142, he is startled to hear that the Catholics have started another Crusade… but shock turns to confusion when he hears that they’re actually invading the Byzantine Empire. It seems that the Byzantine Emperor, having regained some semblance of stability, originally requested the Pope’s help in driving the Muslims out of Anatolia. However, a sinister conspiracy between Italian and Greek merchants ended up steering the warriors north towards Constantinople itself, the richest city this side of the world, and what started as a holy war has basically turned into the largest, most brutal raid in history. Some make the ridiculous claim that the Byzantine Emperor is a Muslim puppet to be deposed; others say that Second Rome must be brought back under Catholic control to unite the Christians against heathens of all kinds. Whatever the reason, it’s fair to say that right now, all of Christianity is at war with itself. The Pope excommunicating the Emperor yet again does little to stem the tide.



    On the home front, Nadbor is content to continue his push for more and more men for the army. Since the Slavic priests are becoming increasingly important landowners with cadres of loyal warriors, yet little political presence, they make for a rather easy and uncontroversial target.



    After only four years of war, in 1146 the Byzantine Empire is completely shattered and the Latin Empire raised from its ashes. However, this is an Empire in name only, maintaining a tenuous grasp on the area immediately around Constantinople and nothing else. The Byzantine vassals are scattered to the winds. While the Poles feel a rush of spiteful joy at these news – any trouble for the Christians is good for the Slavs – they quickly realize that not only have their actual enemies the Catholics made great gains here, these break-off states might become easy prey for Francia as well. Should they remain scattered, good; but should they just be absorbed into the other Empire, all of Nadbor’s hard work to narrow the gap between Poland and Francia might be undone.



    Whatever the case, it’s a real mess for everyone involved. Sinope, Epirus and Serbia would seem like the most powerful successor states for the time being. The year 1146 may be remembered as one of the most important in Christian history. Francia might consider itself a new Rome, built on the acclaimed Charlemagne’s short-lived Holy Roman Empire; however, to everyone else, it is apparent that the last true remnant of the imperium that shaped European history has been shattered and broken to satisfy the Catholics’ simple greed.



    As Nadbor approaches his 60th birthday, having lived longer than most of his vassals would’ve liked, some would say that he’s actually softened with age. However, as he notices himself getting sick more and more often, he knows that his time on this earth is limited. Now that he’s accomplished his ambition of forging an undying reputation (for better or worse), if there’s one concrete legacy he wants to leave behind, it’d be to finally finish his decades-long project and claim the Dniepr for Poland. He spent so much of his youth banging tables and yelling about it, demanding men and immediate action, only for the plans to be sidelined by his councilors’ machinations.

    Bringing Poland’s entire army of what is now 55,000 into Ruthenia is a rather unnecessary show of force, though.



    The war is a success – not that there was ever any doubt – and though people are loathe to admit it, indeed a rather significant milestone. It is officially celebrated by the founding of the Grand Duchy of Ruthenia, held by the High King himself for now; he has no interest in creating another self-centered Grand Duke to obstruct him.



    With his life’s work complete, Nadbor proudly starts writing a book (about war rather than statesmanship, luckily), and then follows tradition by dying in 1154 without ever finishing it. The less is said about his 38-year reign, the better… but even if overshadowed by his unacceptable behavior, the actual reforms and goals that he strove for may really have been in Poland’s best interest. In addition to reaching the Dniepr as promised, he greatly expanded the Polish military, ultimately streamlined the government and kept the kingdom safe through some very confusing years. His name will live on in infamy, but perhaps with time, his accomplishments will be remembered longer than his less pleasant actions. Perhaps.





    The High King is finally dead! Long live High King Swietoslaw of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania, Lithuania and Ruthenia, Liege Lord of Pomerania, Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia and Moldavia!


    Spoiler: State of the World in 1154
    Show


    • In addition to Nadbor’s conquests, his vassals have grabbed some additional pieces of land beyond the Dniepr, in Scania and in Riga.
    • After brief unification under the North Sea Empire, the British Isles have become a mess once more, but the Norse presence remains strong even if divided. Worryingly, Francia has been slowly creeping up from the southeast.
    • Iberian weakness has, perhaps predictably, led to all manner of invasion by the accursed Christians.
    • Some of the splinter states in Germany still survive under Slavic priests, but there’s also a growing Papist presence in the area…




    • Despite the conversions of Sweden and Finland proving… abortive, the Nordic Church has come to stay in the North Sea Empire.
    • The Jewish faith remains in Svithjod, but has yet to spread very much.
    • Suomenusko pagans have regained some ground as well.
    • Despite the number of heretics within Francia dwindling over time and the Catholic Church technically being the strongest it’s been in centuries, they haven’t given up on their endless (hopeless) revolts.

    Spoiler: Comments
    Show
    The world is a mess. I do feel like it’s hard to write a coherent chapter when a long period of time is filled with back and forth wars in every direction; hopefully the end result doesn’t look that way. I actually considered splitting this chapter in two, but didn’t see a very good cutoff point and saw little point in it when I’d be posting them back-to-back anyway.

    Anyway, that special chapter had the side-effect of reminding me of things I’d neglected for quite a while. Luckily the next ruler happened to be the perfect person to toss the Council around a bit.

    Also, that bloodline we got…? Probably not that great. Right now I’m just glad we don’t have primogeniture, so hopefully we don’t actually have to play as any of Nadbor’s descendants. I think the reason we haven’t gotten any bloodlines so far is bugged somehow; I don’t see why none of our characters so far deserve bloodlines when the Archpriest keeps beatifying insignificant dorks from around the realm.

    As a bonus: Epirus seems to be ruled by a familiar dynasty. I know who I’m rooting for in the Byzantine free-for-all.

    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 01:40 PM.

  17. - Top - End - #47
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    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Honestly, what is it with your AARs and Jews ending up in the strangest areas? I don't think I've ever seen them last more than 100 years.

  18. - Top - End - #48
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    You tell me. I also really, really don't know how it's possible for the Catholic-Slavic vassals of a Catholic ruler to end up electing a random Jew from across Europe (and I did check, he really was elected). With the Skleroi making an appearance too, I think there might be some sort of Spiderverse situation going on here.

  19. - Top - End - #49
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    Chapter #13: A Sword in a Sheath (Swietoslaw, 1154-1174)

    Spoiler: Chapter
    Show
    27 October, 1154

    The new High King of Poland is the current Grand Duke of Pomerania, who just like his predecessor became of Nadbor’s most bitter enemies – and is in fact the first reigning Grand Duke to inherit the throne. The House of Elders wisely hid its choice from Nadbor, as he probably wouldn’t have taken it well. In this roundabout way, the forcefully removed Grand Duchy has been returned to the royal demesne, as Swietoslaw decides to hold onto it. He can’t be everywhere at the same time, though, so he has to give his actual estates in Pomerania to his younger sons to govern (the oldest has run off to join the Warriors of Perun).



    Swietoslaw wasn’t the one to conquer Scania, but at the time of his election, he’s using it as a staging ground to push deeper into Scandinavia with his Pomeranian army. Svithjod is a much closer match for Pomerania than for Poland, though. His inheritance couldn’t have come at a better time, as it allows him to order the royal retinue to be shipped across the Baltic to help him.



    With their help, the war is over in months.



    Actually surveying the lands he’s taken really drives home the difference between Poland and Svithjod, though. Denmark and Scania are relatively developed by this point, but when you go even slightly farther inland, the scenery looks more like Poland 200 years ago. People still live in tiny little villages protected by only the smallest of hill forts. For all the raiding they always do on the Polish coast, you’d expect the Swedes to put that loot to good use, but it seems like they’re just hoarding it or spending it on baubles. At least the local chiefs seem to have accepted the Slavic… uh, Nordic Church, so Swietoslaw lets them keep their lands and tribes as long as they keep spreading the good word.

    High King ‘Sword of Swarog’ himself is a rather zealous type, a true holy warrior who somehow managed to miss the Great Holy War for Perm, perhaps just realizing how stupid it was. He has learned from Nadbor's “example”, too, and is hopefully going to treat his vassals and councilors a lot better than the late autocrat. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s going to abstain from politics entirely. He is still the High King, after all. Nadbor’s half-baked and heavy-handed reforms have left much of the legislation in a state of limbo, something which Swietoslaw is eager to fix in order to clear things up. He makes sure that the new laws seem to favor the councilors and roll back the worst of Nadbor’s tyranny, so they’re happy to accept them without him having to force the issue. The modestly named but massively important Statement of 1156 is passed with only minor disagreement, clarifying the division of power between Crown and Crown Council.



    Those laws immediately bite one of said councilors in the ass: Swietoslaw asks the 17-year-old Grand Duke of Galicia-Volhynia to stay after the rest of the Council is adjourned. He gently reminds him that the Statement they signed dictates he must stop his petty squabble with the High Chief of Mazovia as well. The young man stumbles and stutters and almost starts accusing him of following in Nadbor’s footsteps, but is forced to relent as Swietoslaw notes that he himself appointed the boy to the Council mere months ago and is well within his rights to enforce the laws they all just signed. Swietoslaw has a long reputation as an understanding man, but also a stone-faced soldier who won’t stand for insubordination.



    Perhaps as an attempt to curry favor or just to apologize, the Grand Duke later presents him with a very beaten and rusty old blade, which he claims to be the sword of Lech himself. Apparently his men found it stabbed into a stone in the middle of the Dniestr River. Swietoslaw has never heard of such a sword, though, and neither has the Archpriest. While you can make out some engravings that might have looked nice back when the sword was made, it could be no more than a couple decades old. However, based on the great care he takes with the weapon, the somewhat simple young man probably believes everything he’s saying, and the High King decides to humor him for now. It’s the thought that matters.



    Overestimating the so-called Latin Empire’s weakness, the Grand Duke of Moldavia tries to invade their holdings on the Bulgarian coast, which for better or worse would put Poles right at the gates of Constantinople. However, with the help of the Knights Hospitaller, the Grand Duke is beaten back and his war only succeeds in bringing Byzantine (?) soldiers into Poland for the first time.



    Swietoslaw lets his vassals make their own mistakes and tries to focus on enforcing the Statement of 1156 instead. For one thing, it gives the High King wider rights and responsibilities to personally judge his subjects’ legal disputes. As such, 1159 brings a rather unusual case into Wavel Castle: a witch trial. Not for being a witch, as in the Christian realms, but for pretending to be one and taking money for spells that don’t work. The peasants who paid the woman to save their crops demand refunds as well as punishment. The baffled Swietoslaw consults the clergy, and after a brief interrogation, they can confirm that the accused doesn’t know a thing about magic. Lacking proper laws or precedent about how to handle this, Swietoslaw sentences her to brief jailtime and a moderate fine. The Archpriest starts working on a law against impersonating a witch to be presented at the next Council meeting. At least it’s a good thing that the laws of Poland are finally being written down into a coherent whole rather than being based entirely on “common sense and tradition”, which some people seem to lack.



    Archpriest Sedzimir (who has held the title for over 50 years now despite being the Council’s designated buffoon) seems to be quite fond of this new High King, which may contribute to his decision to beatify Swietoslaw’s late uncle, the Warchief of the Warriors of Perun, as a Blessed Ancestor; the second of his uncles to receive that honor, in fact. The process has always seemed quite arbitrary and the High Kings typically don’t pay it much mind, perhaps because not a single one of them has been chosen yet. The clergy has yet to make an official statement on whether this is intentional, but the significance of being a Blessed Ancestor has yet to be formalized either.



    Meanwhile to the north, as of 1159, the Kingdom of Novgorod has reemerged in the strangest of ways after disappearing for over a hundred years. In the wake of Norway losing control over the area, an adventurer with an army of zealots seems to have sailed up from the south and quickly reunited the tribes under his own rule. This Mehtar, apparently the son of an ordinary Egyptian Sheikh, has already adopted the local religion and culture, speaking fluent Russian, Polish, and most shockingly Finnish within months of arrival. Many of the fanciful stories regarding his past and incredible martial ability are eerily reminiscent of the long-lost Prince Niezamysl.

    Even though Norway was a friend of Poland as well, this turn of events doesn’t look too bad at all. Swietoslaw makes sure to send the newcomer his gifts and warm regards.



    The 25th of December, 1159 – a day on which both Slavs and Christians should be home celebrating with their families – brings a highly unexpected declaration of war from the Teutonic Knights. After establishing a small foothold in Jylland, they have now set off on a strange little Crusade of their own, targeting Poland directly. The High King makes a rousing speech in the light of the cemetery bonfires for people to rally under his banners and show these knights exactly who they’re dealing with.



    For a single knightly order, though, there sure is a lot of them. Apparently they too have called in volunteers of their own and mustered an army of a whopping 40,000 men in Denmark. While Nadbor’s surviving reforms should allow Swietoslaw to raise at least 60,000, that’s still one of the largest armies in Europe. To his great credit, King Mehtar already stands eager to join in the defense of his new faith. A few lesser chiefs follow his example.



    Given the distances involved, it takes almost half a year for the Polish armies to muster in Gdansk, just barely in time to meet the Teutons marching up the coast. However, following everyone's favorite Crusader tradition, the knights have split up their forces and decided to assault fortified positions against 2-to-1 odds. The Poles let the valiant crusaders skewer themselves on their pikes, taking absolutely laughable casualties on their own side. By the time that the Teutons’ reinforcements are in position to join the battle, they think better of it.



    The fighting moves inland as the Teutons desperately try to regroup, but their losses have only made Poland’s numerical advantage even greater, and now Mehtar has had time to arrive as well. Their already slim chances are dwindling by the day.



    Even if it’s largely a formality by now, the King of Ireland and England (actually a maternal grandson of High King Gaudenty, by the way) throws his lot in with Poland as well. It’s always great to see how a little Crusade brings pagandom closer together.



    The largest surviving Teutonic army is forced to flee south into the Carpathians. The Poles spit on the ground and smirk at the thought of what the coming winter will do to them, but leave a third of their own army nearby in case the knights try to violate the capital. Gdansk rallies its own forces to deal with some stragglers, while the main Polish force heads west to take the fight to the Christians.



    Their prediction proves correct, as December snows give the Teutons the push they need to descend from the mountains and launch a desperate attack on Krakow. The Poles are there ready for them, meaning that this war has now seen glorious defenses at the gates of both Krakow and Gdansk.



    The Teutons' defense of Jylland is much less glorious, and the piddly wooden forts there quickly fall under the Polish onslaught with a little Irish help. In March 1161, an armistice is signed, the Teutonic Knights’ great army thoroughly humiliated. Permanently pushing them out of Jylland will have to wait, lest Francia decide to get involved. Even though it’s spring, the High King calls for a repetition of the winter celebrations that the Christians so rudely interrupted twice in a row.



    The first seven years of Swietoslaw’s reign have been a refreshing change from the previous four decades, and with the great favor of his vassals, he seems to be starting to believe his own hype to speak.



    Archpriest Sedzimir finally keels over, but his seemingly more competent successor seems to insist on repeating his mistakes after all. The second Great Holy War for Perm starts in December 1161, only half a year after the Crusade just ended. Besides, didn’t the Archpriest claim Perm was already conquered, hmmm…?



    Swietoslaw has no more interest in that mess than Nadbor did. Rather, back at home, his warm and almost fatherly relationship with the Grand Duke has done a great deal to improve the crown’s relations with Galicia-Volhynia. Due to its distinctly Ruthenian lords and population, the region has always had an annoying tendency to consider itself somewhat separate from the rest of Poland, even if mostly loyal. However, as Poland’s rule has proven both lasting and mutually beneficial, these attitudes are steadily dying out and being replaced with a sense of greater belonging with the rest of the realm.



    Apparently that sense of belonging extends even beyond the Kingdom's borders: even as Swietoslaw is reluctant to continue Nadbor’s aggressive policies in the east, his great reputation is enough for the Chief of Bryansk to swear fealty voluntarily, further motivated by a generous donation of course.



    Rumors arrive in Krakow that Gniewomir, one of Nadbor’s sons, seems to have gotten some mad ideas about his family being mistreated by the other lords and himself being the rightful High King. He’s even raising an army to try and take the throne by force; a lost cause at the best of times, never mind now with Poland at the peak of its power. Of course, random invaders like this emerge and get swatted down like once a decade, but rarely is the matter as high profile and personal as this.



    When the attack does arrive, crossing the border into Lithuania, Swietoslaw feels that his legitimacy requires him to lead the defense himself. After all, he was already recognized as a great commander in his Pomeranian days. In the thick of the battle, however, he ends up being pushed off his horse and cornered by one of Gniewomir’s lieutenants, ironically named Nadbor – which he proudly announces before charging. Did the man have some sort of cult following? Even though Swietoslaw wins the fight, it’s clear that his years are getting to him, as the younger man manages to cause him some serious wounds in the process. Nadbor is taken prisoner by Swietoslaw’s soldiers, but before the High King can limp to safety, he’s caught by a surprise attack from another enemy commander.



    The High King is carted off the battlefield but lives to fight another day. His visible injuries do nothing to reduce the weight of the ceremony when Gniewomir himself is dragged to Krakow in chains and made to kneel before the throne he so desired. Gniewomir refuses to have him executed and become a kinslayer – half the nobles being somehow related has its downsides – but will gladly toss him into the dungeons for his treason and let time do the deed for him.



    Despite being a hardened veteran of many wars, this particular one seems to have a profoundly terrible effect on his majesty. Probably not because of his wounding – he already lost an eye in his days as Grand Duke, after all – but perhaps something to do with fighting fellow Poles, led by a fellow-if-distant Lechowicz. One sleepless night, he actually descends into the dungeons to go and see Nadbor, the very man who first attacked him. Nadbor snaps awake and thinks he’s here to kill him personally, not being kin like Gniewomir, but the clearly rattled High King just wants to have a stern talk with him. As they speak through the bars of his cell, Swietoslaw comes to the realization that this is just a mildly hapless farmer’s son, afraid for his life, who happened to get taken in by Gniewomir’s false rhetoric. He has seen countless tragic fates big and small in his life, but somehow… this moment, this one feels like it embodies them all, and the immense weight on every ruler’s shoulders.

    He returns to the nervous guard waiting outside and orders Nadbor released into the night, on the absolute condition that he never show his face again. Still, the 52-year-old High King seems to be having a bit of an existential crisis. Surely it’ll pass.



    At the same time, Poland is shaken by simultaneous waves of slow fever and measles. Swietoslaw doesn’t even want to hear it. Only after his own daughter Katarzyna is infected, which he rightfully blames himself for, does he finally seal up Wavel Castle. It’s too late, though, and apparently he manages to catch the illness himself. Eventually, as a breakdown in the castle’s rationing system forces them to open the gates again and get food from outside, the quarantine seems to have been a total failure.



    Swietoslaw receives treatment from his completely blind but very much reliable court physician Karol, a powerful wizard, who brews him his strongest potions. Too strong, it would appear. Alcohol seems to be a major ingredient.



    The Great Holy War is a failure, yadda yadda. Swietoslaw had so much on his plate that he basically forgot it was even a thing.



    As more and more eastern tribes join Poland by sheer diplomacy or through his vassal’s independent shenanigans, Swietoslaw organizes them into the Grand Duchy of Chernigov. He has no interest in hoarding any more titles, though, and grants it to the most loyal-looking of the local chiefs instead.



    Swietoslaw’s illness only recedes years after the outbreak is supposedly over, but its aftereffects (and the drinking problem, and the clinical depression) will torment him for the rest of his life. At least his little Katarzyna makes a full recovery, though, and even gets married to the similarly young crown prince of England on her 16th birthday.



    Prince Gunnarr actually inherits mere months later, but shortly after, the High King receives scandalous news that Gunnarr’s cousin, King Åle of Norway, has attacked his castle and forcefully taken away the 16-year-old Queen Katarzyna as a concubine! While there might be nothing wrong with concubinage itself, this is so wrong on so many levels, not least the massive insult to the honor of both England and Poland! Swietoslaw is the most furious he’s ever been in his life, yet King Åle has the utter audacity to refer to the non-aggression pact forged by his brother’s previous marriage to Swietoslaw’s older daughter Elzbieta.

    That’s it. This piece of filth is too good for war.



    Swietoslaw swears to the heartbroken Gunnarr that he shall have his wife back. A mere month later back in Norway, King Åle’s carriage is attacked by an unnaturally large group of armed men who easily overpower his bodyguards and drag him out of his wagon into the dark woods. As he is thrown to the ground, one of the attackers takes off their helmet to reveal themselves as Elzbieta herself before delivering the first stab to Åle’s stomach. By the time everyone's had their turn, not much is left of him. The absolutely terrified Katarzyna is “abducted” from the wagon and safely ferried back to England, but not before meeting his father on the beach for a heartfelt reunion. Though the attack is carried out in secrecy, Swietoslaw makes no secret of exactly who was behind it, and why.



    Perhaps impressed by the tenacity with which the Poles uphold their marriages, King Mehtar also seeks a Lechowicz as his new wife after the death of his previous Muslim one.



    On the 9th of December 1174, after almost exactly 20 years of accomplished rule, the 62-year-old Swietoslaw’s myriad health problems get the better of him and he finally gets his chance to feast in peace. Despite originally making a warrior’s career, after his coronation he turned out to be one of the most level-headed and peace-minded rulers Poland has ever seen. Still, even in his final difficult years he kept proving his will to protect his honor against threats both direct and indirect, something which his fellow Poles consider the greatest virtue of all. As befits someone endearingly called the ‘Sword of Swarog’, he should be remembered as another exemplar of a king, especially in contrast to the tyrant that was Nadbor before him.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Sulislaw of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania, Lithuania and Ruthenia, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia, Moldavia and Chernigov!


    Spoiler: State of the World in 1174
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    • As usual, Poland’s opportunistic lords have picked up a motley of lands in Cherson, Estonia and Russia. They even got some of that Bulgarian coastline they wanted.
    • After a Cathar Emperor inherited the throne, Francia was plunged into yet another civil war, but it’s just for the inheritance again and Poland isn’t in a position to exploit it anyway.
    • Not much of note has happened in former Byzantium other than Epirus violently splitting in half, with the Skleros-ruled Kingdom of Sicily actually being based near Athens.

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    Oh, so the computer’s Child of Destiny gets to work properly, huh? I see how it is, CK2. Keep your secrets.

    Many of my mental images of Polish politics are based on pre-Gustavian Sweden, which as a history major in Finland I’ve had to study quite a bit. While obviously not completely identical, it provides a decent comparison for how a random tribe turned largely rural kingdom might function, and there’s a fair bit of artistic license thrown in anyway. It helps that I’ve spent much of the last couple weeks reading books about legal reforms and witch trials…

    For some reason I’ve suddenly been generating a ton of Threat in these last couple chapters (currently hovering around 30% after already sitting around twenty years), meaning that I couldn’t really fight offensive wars if I tried. Luckily the game is keeping things interesting for me. Personal drama! Been a while since we had any of that.

    I find myself in a bit of a bind with that ugly land across the Dniepr, though. I wanted to release an independent Chernigov and then make it a tributary with the console, but there doesn’t seem to be a command for that, so it’d take some war shenanigans and risk angering the defensive pact. If I just give them full independence, I know for a fact they’ll simply be gobbled up before long. I’ll have to think of something. I guess one tried and true option would be to actually commit to this whole eastern expansion thing and then just release it all in the EU4 conversion – thoughts?
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 02:08 PM.

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    I am fairly certain that how much threat you produce scales with how large you are. So as you grow bigger, you generate more threat. So if you commit to further expansion, you will generate oodles of threat. At the same time, when your vassals win wars, they generate threat for you.
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    Hmm... Well, I won't start big wars against the defensive pacts, so I guess I'll just take high-priority land when I can and then patiently wait for it to tick down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SilverLeaf167 View Post
    Hmm... Well, I won't start big wars against the defensive pacts, so I guess I'll just take high-priority land when I can and then patiently wait for it to tick down.
    Just remember that rebels are never part of defensive pacts. Also, I am fairly certain that freeing land drops your threat by as much as it would raise it. I think kingdoms drop threat more than the sum total of their duchies.
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    Chapter #14: How to Build a Well (Sulislaw, 1174-1194)

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    9 December, 1174

    High King Sulislaw is a former Steward of Poland from another Pomeranian branch of the family, known as the country’s foremost number cruncher (not that there’s a lot of competition) but also a very devout Slav. While a skilled warrior and perhaps even a true jack-of-all-trades, he seems most interested in expressing his devotion through hard work and thrift, making him a very safe if somewhat colorless choice to run the realm.



    Whenever he finds the time, though, he’s determined to break the old curse and actually finish a book so he can share his knowledge with future generations.



    Given the long-standing prosperity of Krakow, a number of Christian merchant guilds from Bohemia have joined together to petition for Sulislaw’s blessing for their expansion into the capital, which has become a major center of trade. Were it not for his religiousness, Sulislaw would certainly appreciate the potential profit, but as it happens, he not only denies them his blessing, but actually starts considering further laws to restrict Christian activities outside their established minority regions.



    Despite being devoted to his faith, though, he otherwise sees all the various subjects of Poland as one people under one crown, and has no qualms about learning their languages and customs. In fact, he (somewhat exaggerating) takes pride in speaking all the languages common within the Kingdom, including “foreign” ones, from German to Ruthenian.



    In the spring of 1178, the Pope declares yet another Crusade for Germany. Poland has long since lost its foothold and frankly interest in the area, so most people assume this Crusade to be targeted at the disgrace of a Khazar state that the Congregation has become. However, it turns out that the Pope is actually calling the faithful to arms against the Cathar boy currently sitting on the Francian throne (following his Cathar father’s recent assassination). Given that Francia is actually in the middle of a civil war to depose said heretic, it’s left a little ambiguous whether the Pope is merely drumming up support for that war or actually intending a conventional, separate Crusade.



    As it turns out, the Pope’s armies end up becoming a third party in the civil war, capturing Germany from under the Francians’ nose and invoking divine authority to make it into an independent crusader state in 1180. The Congregation has thus been followed by another equally artificial religious order in the form of the Crusader Kingdom of Germany. Who knows whether this was the actual purpose, or if it’s just Constantinople all over again. The Pope could’ve even been pushing his own interests, seeing as he also owns a large chunk of Germany.



    The first Crusader King of Germany – or King of Crusader Germany, apparently – is a total nobody, the formerly landless brother of the Countess of Gloucester. Either he managed to distinguish himself in this short war or, more likely, had a powerful backer behind him. Indeed, what probably really matters here is his Karling name lending some veneer of legitimacy to this whole farce.



    The mess that Germany has become makes one wonder whether the Congregation was ever a reasonable idea to begin with, or just a zealous fever dream in the atmosphere of a victorious Great Holy War. Reasonable or not, the fact is that it ultimately fell due to an individual Guardian’s cowardly decision to convert in the face of aggression, not necessarily the state’s own impossibility. Of course, said decision was made under the pressure of a Crusade that seemed to be on the verge of success, so Germany might've been lost all the same, only with even more fruitless fighting. Most of the Germans who did accept the Slavic Church (but didn’t flee to Poland) currently live in Khazar Germany, “safe” from the Crusaders for now.

    Within mere months of this news, the Grand Duke of Bohemia invades Crusader Germany’s detached estates in Oldenburg in hopes of claiming them while the strange state is still weak.



    The vassals in the east are not about to be outdone, attacking and annexing the chiefdom of Karachev. Those original plans of reaching the Dniepr seem to have… overshot a bit, as the Poles are now mere miles away from the Volga (miles which they’re very much looking to conquer). Some are concerned that this might hurt relations with Novgorod, and some clashes have in fact already occurred. There's only so much that the High King denying personal involvement in his vassals' affairs can help, not to mention the poor impression it gives of Poland as a state.



    The High King seems to have little interest in external politics, though. In 1184, his 10-year writing project finally comes to an end with the publication of the humble but masterful ‘How to Build a Well’. Chronicling the founding and development of a hypothetical town in the countryside, starting with the very first well, at a glance the book appears very bland and matter-of-fact, even despite its quality illustrations. However, on closer analysis, it actually explains complex economical and architectural concepts, even original theorems, in a form that should be comprehensible to even the thickest, least literate Polish nobleman.



    Bohemia’s attack into Germany ends up being a failure, but right next door, the people of Frisia have finally had enough of Francia’s endless infighting and decided to unite behind a local rebel leader to found their own Kingdom. While not terribly large in size – barely larger than Upper Poland alone – these are some of the richest, most populous lands in the Empire, or indeed all of Europe, and may well stand a chance of maintaining their independence if Francia remains unstable.



    No feudal state is entirely solid, of course, and even the mighty Poland faces some internal unrest every now and then. One particular rebellion in Moldavia is notable for being the first such uprising organized by Bulgarian Orthodox Christians, but otherwise just as unremarkable as all the rest and easily put down. It’s always hard to tell whether such rebellions happen out of sheer desperation, or if they actually believe that they could ever win. Of course, Moldavia of all places did momentarily break off during the 14 Years’ War, but…



    Finland’s religious confusion continues as well, having toyed with the idea of Slavism in the past and now, in 1190, deciding to adopt the Catholic faith. The af Munsö kings of Sweden were once invaded and deposed for doing just that; Denmark didn’t last long, either. It remains to be seen whether Finland will become the first Nordic state to actually hold onto Christianity for any amount of time. Hopefully not. The immediate rebellion against the King's conversion doesn’t bode very well for him, at least.



    In 1193 the Francian civil war finally ends, having inexplicably lasted for 19 long, long years despite originally looking like it should’ve been over in months. Ironically, it seems that Crusader Germany was spared a lot of trouble by being invaded so early into the war. Even though he seemingly had the young Emperor on the verge of surrender for more than a decade, the Bishop of Trier in charge of the rebellion ends up signing a white peace, leaving the Cathar heretic on the throne on the condition that he keep his own seat as well. This can’t be good for Christendom’s future peace. Francia is about to fall, etc. etc.



    In those same 19 years, Poland has seen great prosperity under High King Sulislaw’s enlightened rule, including but not limited to the founding of over a dozen new castles and towns on the less fortified fronts and in the newly-civilized east. Even despite his vassals’ demands, he has refused to throw all that away by declaring any wars of opportunity, forcing them to try and do so on their own with mixed success. The next year, on the 24th of July 1194, that prosperity takes its price, as the 56-year-old Sulislaw’s worsening health problems finally lead to a heart attack and his almost immediate death – he appears to have simply worked himself to death, building wells and all that. His name is written on many, many a plaque around the country, and historians will surely appreciate him as the great builder he was, but even if he was also popular in his own time, his vassals seem to be looking forward to his successor…





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Wojciech of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania, Lithuania and Ruthenia, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia, Moldavia and Chernigov!


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    A bit of an in-between episode, but there’s some interesting stuff going on outside our borders. Doubt that Cathar situation will last, but I’m hoping it’ll at least cause some chaos.

    The next chapter should be a bit more aggressive, since our Threat has ticked down and the next High King looks like a pretty proactive sort… and yeah, looks like we definitely will need to release countries in the conversion, the way my borders keep expanding on their own. Still, thinking too far ahead again.
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 02:16 PM.

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    Hey, somebody finally completed a book! Polish now has literature!
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    Chapter #15: Witch & Witcher (Wojciech + Zygmunt, 1194-1240)

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    24 July, 1194

    Formerly a minor Allermarch chief, High King Wojciech is the archetypical Polish soldier. Despite charming the realm with his physical strength, martial ability, bravery, dashing good looks and wit, he’s best known for his heavy drinking and womanizing – though the lattermost has been just for show ever since meeting his wife Adleta, with whom he’s been head over heels in love for the last 30 years. Even with all this popularity, though, the promise that raised him to the throne was that he’d finally go and attack Francia. Poland has been gaining a lot of weight, and it’s about time it throw that weight around! At his coronation ceremony, he reasserts his promises and gives the chiefs some time to prepare.



    What the adoring public doesn’t know is that the jolly drunk is actually a member of the Cold Ones, a secretive cult worshiping the dark god Czarnobog, the evil counterpart to the good Bialobog. While not denying the less palatable gods is a central part of Slavic theology, outright favoring them is unorthodox to say the least, as are the Cold Ones’ brutal methods. Wojciech himself is a mere Uchenik, a “student”, an initiate of the order, but he has every intention to rise through the ranks. He seems to truly believe that Poland can prosper under the patronage of this dark deity.



    Moving into Wavel Castle gives him an ample supply of sacrifices, too: people captured on some raid or other and then simply forgotten in the dungeons. A young Greek woman is the first of his victims. One can only imagine what the Cold Ones might be able to do with the most powerful Slav of the world on their side…



    His membership being revealed would be a disaster, though. While no individual cult has technically been outlawed, many of the Cold Ones’ deeds themselves seem to be punishable by death should they be caught.



    One of Wojciech’s coconspirators is his good friend and Chancellor, the High Chief of Livonia. Their mutual involvement in politics in Krakow gives them plenty of opportunities to go out in disguise and perform dark rituals, often making the townsfolk their hapless partners in crime, yet the rest of the government remains blissfully unaware, assuming their nightly escapades are simply them going out drinking as they always have.



    He still has his actual job as High King to take care of, though. In the spring of 1197, the perfect opportunity arrives when another massive rebellion rises against the Cathar Emperor, just as expected. Wojciech’s invasion is seemingly modest in its goals, simply demanding the “return” of France’s remaining holdings in Pomerania, but if successful, it surely won’t be the last.



    At 50 years old, it’s considered inadvisable for the High King to participate in battle himself, though he still travels with the army and offers his sage commands. Of course, given that the Emperor in his current state can only muster some 20,000 soldiers to Poland’s 70,000, it’s not exactly a close battle. Realizing that any effort that he puts into this comparatively meaningless war will weaken his efforts against the rebels, the Emperor sees the horde of Poles flooding across the border and wisely buckles before the end of the year. Poland’s gains include not just the pesky enclave of Brandenburg, but also the Duchy of Mecklenburg. Lübeck and Hamburg are among the largest towns in Northern Europe, though unfortunately very much Christian.



    As the High King’s power grows, it’s time for him to summon himself a familiar, a guardian spirit. This is in no way unusual for a shaman or witch to be doing – in fact, in some traditions it’s a prerequisite of being a proper witch – but quite unprecedented for a High King. He chooses to summon a wolf, a fierce hunter and protector to follow him around at all times. Of course, most people can’t see this beast and have no idea it’s there, but to the High King and his fellow magicians, its presence is as obvious as can be.



    They might just be abusing the High King’s naivety or something, but the leaders of the Cold Ones – clearly enjoying amount of power they have over him – give Wojciech the task of corrupting the Archpriest of Perun himself. It might actually be possible for someone in his position, especially as the Archpriest seems to even be a personal admirer of his. Wojciech takes to his mission with great enthusiasm.



    It shouldn’t be that difficult, seeing as Sulistryj ‘the Ill-Ruler’ is a bit of a despot who often toys with people for his own profit and amusement, and seems to have a taste for young women. However, Wojciech actually hinting at these flaws in any way is enough to greatly anger him and apparently let him catch onto the plot to tempt him over to the dark side. He leaves in a huff, accusing the High King of tampering with divine authority, and even his involvement with the Cold Ones seems to be at risk of being revealed.



    Mere days later, on the 25th of February 1200, the High King is found dead after collapsing on the floor of his study, apparently having choked on a piece of food. Among the Cold Ones, it is said that the true cause of death was his own familiar crushing his throat with its jaws after deeming him unworthy. His short 6-year reign saw a great, long-expected victory against Francia, but frankly not much else, and High King Wojciech goes down as an unremarkable footnote in history for all those not in the know about his dark double life…





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Zygmunt of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania, Lithuania and Ruthenia, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia, Moldavia and Chernigov!



    The young Zygmunt is an all-around sharp and admirable Prussian chief. He was actually the late Wojciech’s favorite, and perhaps even a potential recruit for the Cold Ones, but despite possessing a great deal of religious and temporal knowledge, Zygmunt makes no pretensions of being a witch, especially now: the Cold Ones have – for some mysterious reason – been particularly active lately, rising from an obscure minor cult to a country-wide menace in the span of a few years. At least so you’d think from the way people speak of them in terrified whispers. It’s not entirely implausible that the Christians’ paranoia towards Cathars has somehow spread into Poland and transformed along the way to target a different kind of heretic. The clergy has its hands full making sure people remember the difference between Cold Ones and normal, benevolent shamans, and some even push for tighter discipline among them to emphasize this.

    Even Zygmunt’s own wife Rycheza, mother of his children, has recently been accused of horrible crimes in worship of Czarnobog and is currently imprisoned in her quarters. It was only due to Zygmunt’s own skillful rhetoric that this sudden scandal didn’t stop his election from going through.



    Following an interrogation by the Archpriest, who’s looking oddly shaken for some reason he won’t talk about, Zygmunt is allowed to divorce Rycheza. She is spared the death penalty due to the lack of evidence of specific atrocities, and being the (former) High Queen does still bring a degree of legal protection. Many would prefer her to be banished from the realm, but for political (not to mention personal) reasons, she is instead sentenced to extended house arrest at her father’s estates in Memel.

    Seizing on Christian weakness in the region, Poland’s vassals finally succeed in bringing the rest of the Duchy of Nitra into the fold. The mountainous northern half has been part of the realm since the days of Lechoslaw, but the border was ambiguous at best, and the Slovak population – although long Catholic – have always been considered brethren of the Poles, not that this saved them from the constant raids. Although small, the area is of great importance due to its proximity to Krakow.



    The continuing shifts in the east are far larger. Grand Duke Vladislav II of Chernigov has taken matters into his own hands and pushed the border all the way to the Volga in not one, but two different directions, north and east. This has introduced a great number of Russians, Mordvins and especially Khazars to the realm, but also given Poland a border with the Dulafid Sultanate, which has been similarly pushing in from the south. The Poles have generally had a degree of sympathy for the Muslims, given their mutual struggles against Christians and lack of clashing interests, but given the vassals’ behavior, the first major Slavic-Muslim war might now be just a matter of time.



    Not long after, the Archpriest declares yet another Great Holy War for Perm. Just the third? Could’ve sworn there’d been more. However, Zygmunt sighs and decides to become the first High King to actually join one of them. These repeated attempts are both a disgrace and a waste of resources that he should just put an end to, especially since Poland seems to have greater and greater interest in the east anyway.



    Given the lack of Uralic pagans almost anywhere outside Perm, which itself is large but poor and sparsely populated, Zygmunt really can’t even imagine how this has proven so damn difficult in the past. The answer becomes clear when the armies start marching in, though: the sheer distance between settlements is huge, there is little food to be found, the Permians keep launching surprisingly competent raids on overstretched supply lines, and then there’s the snow. Oh gods, the snow. He can only be glad he isn’t leading the army himself, as it seems to have shrunk to about a third of its old self by the time it’s anywhere near the Permian “capital”.



    It all makes for a fine reminder in the afterword of his long-awaited book, ‘On Feudal Warfare’, even less creatively named than ‘How to Build a Well’ but somewhat more interesting to the nobility. Detailing both the tactical and strategic aspects of warfare in light of Poland’s feudal military, the book might be a little too much on the theoretical side of things, but even if no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy, they’re still a vital thing to have. Right at the end, the fighting in Perm makes Zygmunt realize that his views were strongly colored by his past experience in the more fertile and temperate parts of Poland, and tries his best to amend that before release.

    These notes basically amount to “If however, Thou dost lack theyse vital Supplyes and the Means to acquyre Them, then That is too Bad and Thou hast better goe Hoome.”



    In the summer of 1202, after a couple dozen thousand brave Poles have marched up north and been eaten by wolves, King Tikshayka of Perm decides that he’d rather convert and keep his lands than lose them to some invader. Thus the Uralic Church has been born alongside the Slavic and Nordic ones, with the help of frostbitten Polish advisors terrified to hear that they have to stay behind. Hopefully it will grow and prosper, so we don’t need to have a fourth Great Holy War for these damn woods.



    Speaking of conversions, the situation in Scandinavia is getting outright bizarre. Not only has the King of Finland managed to spread Christianity to much of his lands, the King of Sweden has married an Andalusian woman and then decided to convert to Islam himself! Norse, Nordic, Jewish, Christian, Muslim… who knows, we might be seeing Hindus in Sweden before long. Not a lot of chiefs have decided to follow his example, but at this point the religious situation in Sweden is a real smorgasbord, with small portions of the population holding onto each religion the country has even briefly adopted in the past. Oh, and Poland is also there for some reason.



    By 1209, Frisia has continued to exploit small states breaking off of Francia every now and then, pushing down to Köln in the south. However, more importantly, it has previously grabbed a big chunk of Britain, and is now trying to expand its foothold in Ireland. To his misfortune, the young King Claes of Frisia has been using a lot of religious rhetoric and calling this a holy war against the pagan menace, giving Poland all the justification it needs to interfere. Previous rulers have been rather lazy about western affairs beyond Poland’s own borders, but Zygmunt can see that allowing Frisia to conquer the British Isles piece by piece might not be such a great idea when they’re such a good support base for the Nordic Church.





    Conveniently, the royal retinue was already raiding Francia right in the neighborhood and can easily march into Frisia. To their surprise, they find out that English troops are already at the gates of the capital, while the local defenders are nowhere to be seen, having been shipped over to Ireland. However, the High King soon realizes that no matter what they do on the mainland, a bad enough defeat in Ireland might still force them to surrender. As such, a large fleet is quickly raised from Poland’s local ports to carry the troops across the North Sea. Though no one comes to think of it at the time, it’s actually a rather momentous occasion, as Polish crown forces are staging a naval operation outside the Baltic Sea for the very first time.

    They arrive only days too late to save the Irish army, but just in time to stop the Frisians from causing any more permanent damage. The Norwegian troops running rampant in the area aren’t really helping things, but at least their feud with Ireland is only over tiny little Shetland in the north and not really relevant to the security of the Church. Months later, Frisia is forced to surrender and the Poles get to return home.



    While the war itself seems to have been a good idea, during it, High King Zygmunt has somehow managed to contract the great pox despite never leaving Krakow. The origin of the sickness is a whispered mystery, since he has barely left his castle and everyone else at court seems healthy. The high fever seems to do a number on his formerly so bright brain, as he soon starts introducing completely ridiculous or just plain unintelligible laws and pushing them through the Council. A couple more charitable councilors interpret that he wants to support the barter economy in the Polish countryside. He sternly clarifies that no, he literally wants to use turnips in place of gold, and that they better get working on it if they want to get their turnip salary next month.





    Down south, the Muslims succeed in their Jihad for Anatolia, thus seizing a huge part of the former Byzantine heartland. Whoever orchestrated this whole mess with the Latin Empire would probably be feeling pretty awkward if they weren’t long dead already. At the same time, Moldavia has succeeded in its ambitions to creep down the coast and is finally at the gates of Constantinople. Could the ruins of the Roman Empire end up being split in two between Muslims and pagans?



    In late 1212, the Pope answers these threats with a Crusade, not for Anatolia but for Sicily. While it is valuable land with a Christian population, it doesn’t seem all that useful for the defense of the east. The war is a quick success, leading to the establishment of Crusader Sicily under… the aunt of the King of Frisia, of all people. It’s unclear what exactly her involvement in the war was, but there you have it. A Crusader Queen.



    Of course, all parties are blissfully unaware that even farther east, a whole new potential threat raises its head…



    But more of that later.

    Back home, for 16 years after the highly publicized trial of High Queen Rycheza, the Cold Ones seem to have stayed remarkably quiet. However, as with any dark cult, staying quiet doesn’t have to mean they’ve actually disappeared. Indeed, in 1216, Zygmunt has to face some unpleasant memories as the High Chief of Pomerania himself is dragged into the throne room and accused of publicly worshiping Czarnobog in the market square, with a ton of witnesses. The High Chief is looking less than stable, but the same can be said of the High King. He is furious about having to deal with this in the first place and doesn’t hesitate to have the man burned for his crimes, distant kinslaying be damned. He lost his Lechowicz name when he turned to the dark gods and started gutting people in the street.



    The great pox never entirely lets go of Zygmunt, nor does his mind ever recover, even though his physical health seems fairly safe and he “reigns” for many, many more years. In between outright unintelligible rambling, he sometimes manages to make a remarkably lucid yet still utterly insane statement that his councilors and other helpers do their best to either veto or just ignore. At the same time, they’re actually forced to shelter their liege from a lot of information that he could have an unpredictable reaction to. For really the first time, the concept of the House of Elders being able to force the abdication of an incapable High King is discussed, but quickly dismissed. As such, despite having had such a promising start with Ireland, Poland’s foreign policy is torn between utter chaos and simple inaction, ultimately leaning towards the latter.

    Not so for the lesser chiefs. In 1225, the ambitious Grand Dukes of Moldavia and Chernigov, Poland’s biggest conquerors in these past years, join forces in their (in a sense) most ambitious plan yet, invading the Latin Empire once more and conquering the Duchy of Adrianopolis. Polish pagan warriors are now enjoying the sun and eating tzatziki on the Aegean Sea coast, and a wedge has been driven between Greece and Anatolia.



    A couple years later, this is followed up by the Emperor of Francia himself declaring the Latin Empire a failed experiment, outright seizing its final lands in an attempt to try and stop Second Rome from falling to infidels. The Latin rump state thus disappears after only 83 years of pained existence. Just as a slap in his face, the Poles put together a large army to storm and sack Constantinople in 1229, making that at least the third time within the century that this has happened to the so-called greatest city in the world. First time by Poland, though! A boatload of booty, including a great deal of art and other unique treasure, is brought to Krakow, but obviously the cream of the crop has already been taken by previous looters.



    GAAAAAAAAAAAH



    The mad king isn’t even informed of the Great Holy War, lest he get any weird ideas. As it turns out, it’s something of a personal affair, with the previously converted King of Perm’s daughter asking for help against a Jewish usurper. For once the war is a quick success even without getting the crown involved. However, the new Queen is assassinated mere months later, and Perm passes right back into non-reformed Uralic hands, so we can probably look forward to the fifth (?) one.

    Unfortunately, the combination of his long-lasting sickness, stress of his intensified madness and already quite respectable age finally brings Zygmunt an ignoble death by pox and malnutrition on the 18th of November, 1240. He reigned for a whole 40 years, but over half of that time was spent increasingly ill and unstable, letting his vassals run rampant (when they weren’t busy reining him in). Even his notable legacy in the aid of Ireland ended up being undone by later events. The Poles mostly viewed him as a somewhat pitiful figure, which just might be an even worse reputation than that of a tyrant. Indeed, even if it didn’t go anywhere, the very idea that the person elected to the throne could be deprived of it if he ceases to be the best candidate has some interesting (worrying?) implications for the Polish monarchy. Let us all hope that future kings prove capable enough to make people forget about these doubts.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Krzeslaw of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania, Lithuania and Ruthenia, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia, Moldavia and Chernigov!


    Spoiler: State of the World in 1240
    Show


    • Poland’s warmongering vassals have been expanding into every direction except west, even reaching the Caspian Sea, almost pushing the Khazars off the Black Sea coast, and conquering Estonia and half of Sweden just because they could.
    • In the end, both Finland and Sweden’s ill-advised conversions have simply led to partition by their neighbors, leaving only small independent chiefdoms.
    • Since the High King’s illness prevented him from continuing to defend the British Isles, Francia, Frisia and Aquitaine have all been making very worrying headway there.
    • The Sultanate of Fes has reshaped itself into the Sultanate of Andalusia.
    • With the fall of Anatolia, Epirus has decisively established itself as the most powerful of the Greek successor states. Serbia has curiously enough converted to Islam, but failed to affect much of its actual populace. The so-called Empire of Sinope maintains its meaningless claim to the Byzantine throne despite only holding a smattering of islands and individual castles.




    • Rajasthan continues to be absolutely massive, albeit under a few different dynasties. They technically even share a tiny border with Poland now.
    • Just to the north of them, the Mongols have already invaded China and set up the Yuan dynasty there, but as far as anyone in Europe is concerned, they still haven’t really consolidated the steppes and have thus been of little interest. Barbarian hordes come and go, usually without posing a real threat to the civilized realms; surely they will be no exception.

    Spoiler: Comments
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    As it turns out, Perm has by far the highest weight as a Holy War target for Slavic pagans out of any areas that don’t actually start with Slavic culture. I decided to finally tone it down in the code, because geez louise.

    Man, I didn’t even realize that Wojciech was a Cold One before some tooltip reminded me of it. Provided some random filler/interesting flavor for a short-lived ruler, though. I aimed to keep the supernatural aspects ambiguous again, but if they’re going to keep popping up with this sort of frequency, I might just have to start ignoring them, since this is still supposed to be at least very, very roughly historical.

    I also seriously don’t remember my vassals ever expanding this much before. I literally couldn’t stop them if I wanted to, though. In some ways it’s pretty annoying, since it gets me ugly borders, makes me blob against my will and often keeps my Threat too high for me to actually do much myself, but in a sense it’s also amusing to see what they get up to.

    That being said, it runs a high risk of ending up as directionless faffing about, so if there’s a specific goal you’d like to see us try and pursue, share! At this point it can even be pretty ambitious, up to and including the full dissolution of Francia, which I’ve mostly just “let happen” until now (with little success). Don’t worry about the specifics, I’ll make sure the EU4 conversion ends up balanced enough that we’ll actually have something to do. Of course, the Mongols are a wildcard, and given our location, they could actually cause us major trouble… or not, if they just don’t feel like it.
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 02:39 PM.

  26. - Top - End - #56
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Specific goals... I can't think of anything big, but please remove the Khazars from the Crimean if you can? That should deuglify your borders a bit. Though your border gore has nothing on Francias.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2019-01-19 at 09:12 AM.
    I solemnly swear,
    To devote my life and abilities,
    In defence of the United Nations of Earth,
    To defend the Constitution of Man,
    And to further the universal rights of all sentient life.
    From the depths of the pacific, to the edge of the galaxy.
    For as long as I shall live.

  27. - Top - End - #57
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    Chapter #16: The Great Oriental War (Krzeslaw + Sambor, 1240-1254)

    Spoiler: Chapter
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    18 November, 1240

    The already 50-year-old High King Krzeslaw is another relatively safe vote, a scion of the Dniepr branch of the family who has previously distinguished himself in the Crown Council and as the Chancellor of Poland. A hard-working and reliable man, if sometimes a little too hungry for gold and influence, he’s expected to lead Poland through a safe transition out of Mad King Zygmunt’s long, frustrating reign.



    He doesn’t intend to be seen as just an interim leader, though. One of Zygmunt’s most widely criticized flaws was his failure to keep protecting the British Isles, which have been falling under Christian influence despite his admittedly admirable victory in Ireland. Even now, the pagan-converted tribes of Wales are under attack by the Frisian Duchess of Mercia. Just like Zygmunt so many years ago, Krzeslaw vows to send Polish forces to defend this small area and hopefully mark a turning point in the battle for the Isles.



    Levies are raised and told to gather in Gdansk to be ferried overseas in smaller groups as they make it there. Despite never really considering itself a naval power, Poland does have quite an impressive coastline with lots of ports, and through wartime purchases and conscriptions it can muster a huge fleet of almost 700 transports – not that nearly that amount is actually needed for this war.



    After capturing a bridgehead on the coast, the Polish troops head to take care of Mercia’s. No other Christian lords seem to have seen it fit to participate.



    Mercia is too stubborn to surrender despite its crushing defeat, but after Poles storm Warwick in January 1242, the Duchess finally decides to call it quits. However, this time Poland has to be careful not to get complacent and turn a blind eye on the Isles after just this one victory.



    Meanwhile, Poland’s own chiefs keep expanding in the north. Sweden has become a free-for-all, with the Swedish chiefs brought in by Swietoslaw being the most active conquerors, while Livonia appears to have taken a foothold around the town of Siuntio in the Gulf of Finland. All this has happened without much input or even attention from the crown, yet pretty much half of Sweden has just “slipped” under Polish rule in the last couple decades. It may be that Poland will have to further consolidate or otherwise take care of this region in the future, up to and including the option of autonomy.



    Not to be outdone, Moldavia takes advantage of a revolt in Epirus to invade its northern parts. The problem with these independent vassals is that they have no care for administrative questions or foreign policy, only immediate opportunity and material gain, which leads the crown to wonder what it's supposed to do with all these scattered estates and angry new subjects.



    At least Krzeslaw seems intent on keeping his own promises, intervening in another Irish war in 1244.



    August 1245 brings far more disappointing and frankly mystifying news: the Warchief of Perun, from the Bohemian branch of the Lechowicz clan, has for whatever utterly insane reason decided to declare war on Poland to push another Lechowicz’s claim on the High Chiefdom of Yatvingia and bring it under the Warriors’ control. Apart from the political side – Poland and the Warriors have mostly been on good terms since their inception – this decision is quite strange for military reasons, as the Warriors can apparently muster about 5,000 soldiers to Poland’s… 95,000?



    It’s quite frustrating, since the Warriors rule only a few small areas in Chernigov, but a smattering of castles all over Poland from which they can launch raids and bother the citizenry. The nearest such fortress, Ostiecim, is mere miles from Krakow, and the obvious first target for the royal retinue.



    While it’s a shame that this war has to be fought at all, it isn’t a real threat to Poland. The same cannot be said of the other ultimatum that arrives in Krakow some months later in January 1246. Poland’s dealings with China have been extremely limited, and in the Polish consciousness it’s mostly associated with the legendary Prince Niezamysl, who took his fanatical armies and rode east towards the Chinese Empire. Some legends claimed that he’d gone and conquered the whole place, but this would suggest otherwise. The message is written in strange runes that no one at court can actually read, and the posh ambassador’s speech has to be clumsily translated by one of his local guides. He demands that the honorable High King bow to his rightful liege, the Yuan Emperor, and make Poland an official tributary of the Chinese Empire. The offer is blatantly ridiculous, and sent back the way it came: down the ambassador’s throat. Riders are immediately dispatched to the east to find out who the hell this so-called Protector General thinks he is.



    Apparently even the humongous Empire of Rajasthan, which the Poles have long considered the greatest state in the east, has been forced to bend the knee and become part of this so-called Western Protectorate (western relative to China, presumably). It’s not hard to see why: just as Poland has gotten used to having the mightiest army in Europe, reports estimate that this General Protector can muster an incredible 155,000 men, half again as much as Poland! Apparently the man is a Muslim, as is the Yuan Emperor himself, and has close connections to the… “Mongol Empire”? That’s a whole other can of worms that Poland will have to look at later. The first major Slavic-Muslim war has come in a very different form than anyone ever expected, and China has entered the Polish political scene with a bang.



    With this turn of events, the war against the Warriors immediately changes from disappointing to immensely frustrating, as Polish armies are forced to busy themselves with something so frivolous while the largest barbarian horde since the Huns looms over the horizon. At least they’ll probably take a while to make their way over, but this stupid squabble couldn’t be over soon enough, for Poland really should be getting ready for them.

    The closest thing to a silver lining is that the rumored Crusade for Thrace fails to materialize due to not gathering enough interest on the Christian side and Francia becoming too preoccupied with, yup, another civil war. Even if the Crusade itself hadn’t been that big, Poland is in no position to split its attention any further.



    In January 1247 a treaty is signed with the Warriors, forcing them to pay indemnities to Poland. How dare they fight Poland at a time when Slavic independence is under such threat, the High King says. "Not the Slavs, just Poland," they say. Look at a goddamn map, the High King says! Poland is the Slavs!



    A year into the war, the Chinese have yet to make an appearance, but are surely making their way across the continent. Polish troops start heading east as well, hoping to check their advance with a well-prepared defense. Poland has faced superior numbers before and won.

    Speak of the devil: a mere month later, the first wave of 23,000 arrives on this side of the Caspian Sea.



    The High King understandably doesn’t feel that great and relaxed after the events of these last few years.



    Luckily, these Chinese seem to have a bad habit of splitting up their forces much like the Crusaders do. The first major battle of the war is fought on the Black Sea coast of all places and ends in a crushing Polish victory against a smaller fragment of the Protectorate’s army. However, as latecomer reinforcements arrive on both sides, the situation devolves into a series of more, ever larger clashes. As Poland has the home advantage, it seems to acquire the upper hand for now, but the brunt of the Chinese forces are still on their way…



    At least 1247 is looking like a moral victory for the Poles, though, as Protector General Taghai himself is surrounded and slain by the royal retinue in December (while the High King follows the events from safely way behind the frontlines). One of Krzeslaw’s generals rides up to him and presents him with Taghai’s ornamental spear, decorated with the Yuan banner and more runes that no one can read. It’ll make a fine trophy back in Wavel, should this war end well…



    As it turns out, December 1247 will be the last bit of Polish success for a while. By next month the new Protector General has already managed to regroup his forces, rendezvous with the last reinforcements from the east and strike back, hard. Defensive positions or not, the Poles prove unable to stand against their sheer numbers, and are forced to retreat with less than half the men they brought. A year later in December 1248, the Chinese reach the Dniepr.
    (Now there’s a sentence…)



    All too suddenly, foreign (very foreign) armies are rampaging across Poland itself, and the possibility of imperial subjugation is all too real. The Poles can’t give up just yet, especially when it comes to the defense of their homeland, but their valiant efforts are once again met with the cruel reality of numbers. But, no matter how hopeless the situation, it simply will not do for Krzeslaw to present an offer of surrender, so his men will have to keep dying until they can say they really did all they could.



    Apparently some utter lunatics from India have brought along war elephants this far north. At least the surviving Poles will have tales to tell, that’s for sure.



    1250 brings a sudden glimmer of hope, as the Chinese mysteriously pull back their forces and leave their meager garrisons defenseless for Poland to move back in. Unfortunately, the extreme stress of the front proves too much for the 60-year-old Krzeslaw, whose health keeps getting worse, culminating in a fatal heart attack in May 1251. Though no one expected his reign to last decades to begin with, it was tragically overshadowed by completely unforeseen events outside his control, which he did best to deal with. He clearly did something right to get himself titled ‘the Wise’, though.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Sambor of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania, Lithuania and Ruthenia, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia, Moldavia and Chernigov!



    Sambor’s election is a real enigma, and probably a panicked decision by the House of Elders. Even older than the late Krzeslaw, in even worse health and frankly rather incompetent, with nothing but a long yet unremarkable service at court to his name. He himself is probably just as confused. Many speculate that he won’t even see the end of the war.

    A war which, against all odds, still seems to be undecided. Though the Chinese have occupied vast amounts of “Polish” territory, it’s mostly just recently conquered Jewish steppe, while the real heartland remains untouched. Despite them grabbing a few critical victories, overall the score in terms of major battles seems to be vastly in Poland’s favor. Hopefully they can capitalize on that now that the enemy’s main force is mysteriously absent.



    While most of the army focuses on clearing out the occupiers, scouts are once again sent east to find out where the hell this massive horde could be hiding, lest it make a surprise attack and turn the tables again. However, all they find is mass graves, covered with even more corpses that the enemy didn’t have time to bury! It appears that in his fury to avenge his predecessor, the new and inexperienced General Protector Eljigedei has learned the hard way what happens when you bring elephants into Poland. A succession of harsh winters spent deep inside Poland, well away from their own supply lines, led almost a hundred thousand Chinese soldiers to simply run out of food and either starve or freeze to death while the Poles only arrived to clean up the scraps. This could never have happened under the previous leader, a true warrior raised on the steppe, but his little protégé was a different story – and it seems to have won Poland the war. Not to celebrate too soon, since the war isn’t over yet.



    …Except it kind of is. When news of Eljigedei’s massive failure reach the Yuan court, he is ordered to make peace accompanied by his humblest apologies at once. In October 1252, a new ambassador arrives and an agreement is reached without either side having to formally admit defeat, though everyone knows who's the real winner here. After six perplexing years, the Chinese invasion of Poland is finally over, and people are wondering whether this will be a sign of Poland’s foreign interests (and enemies) truly shifting to the east. For what it’s worth, this war will come to be known as the Great Oriental War. Hopefully there’s no need to add a numeral to that name.



    So who is this Yuan Emperor, anyway? Sambor (who managed to outlast the war after all) sends out people to get to the bottom of this whole mess. The Chinese Empire, as everyone has at least heard, is a vast realm to the east of the great steppes and the Himalayan Mountains that has never before been relevant to Poland in the slightest. A couple Chinese artifacts have passed through several owners to end up at Wavel Castle, but that’s all, really. Apparently in 1224 the Mongol Empire set up its own ruling clan in place of the previous Bi dynasty, and this Gaozu – a son of Genghis Khan – has been in charge ever since then. Against all odds, China seems to be prospering under his rule, and leveraging that prosperity to expand its influence in the west; all the way in Poland, apparently. Had that war gone just a bit differently, the Western Protectorate would have stretched from the Bay of Bengal to the North Sea, at least in name.



    But what is this mighty Mongol Empire, then, to dictate the Emperor of China? The name is familiar, but has garnered little attention from Poland in the past. It was founded in 1213 by a tribal leader by the name of Temujin Borjigin, who has since become known among his people as the legendary Genghis Khan. However, while conquering China and almost all of the northern steppe is quite impressive indeed, the Mongols seem to have lost steam since then, and haven’t expanded much after Temujin’s death. His sons may or may not prove up to the task of keeping the tribes together.



    As for Poland’s own tasks, despite the country being so utterly relieved and exhausted after this windfall of a victory, it still has to send troops to help out in the British Isles with little time to rest. Sambor himself only ends up living for a while longer before his already poor health gets the better of him on the 6th of December, 1254. At 3 years and 7 months, he doesn’t even get the dubious honor of the shortest reign so far: that belongs to High King Pelka, who died of complications related to his lost hand after only 2 years and 10 months on the throne. Sambor becomes another footnote dismissed with a shrug, most of the historiography of the Great Oriental War focusing on the frontline generals instead. It does become a massively studied, glorified and strange part of Polish history, though, with many a tapestry depicting the colossal battle between the dragon, the white crowned eagle and the goddess of winter.





    The High King is dead! Long live High King Niezamysl (not that one) of Poland, Grand Duke of Pomerania, Lithuania and Ruthenia, Liege Lord of Bohemia, Galicia-Volhynia, Moldavia and Chernigov!


    Spoiler: Comments
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    …Well now. Can’t say I expected THE CHINESE to be a threat in this particular game, not that being their tributary is actually the end of the world. Does this count as a Mongol invasion? Because that’s what I was expecting. Well, anyway, I should probably pay more attention to Chinese events from now on.

    While the Chinese army being so utterly wrecked by attrition was very cathartic, it’s also kind of ridiculous and disappointing. They were way stronger and I made some mistakes, so by all accounts I should have lost that war. Now to see if they’ll try again.

    And don't worry, I'll definitely get around to cleaning up Khazaria. I was... kind of preoccupied, so to speak.
    Last edited by SilverLeaf167; 2019-06-04 at 02:58 PM.

  28. - Top - End - #58
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Okay, you should definitely conquer china. I don't have any advice on how, but you must!
    Quote Originally Posted by Wardog View Post
    Rockphed said it well.
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    We should change the collective noun for crocodiles to "an abundance of crocodiles".
    Dragontar by Serpentine.

    Now offering unsolicited advice.

  29. - Top - End - #59
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    Default Re: Paradox AAR - Saga of the Slavs

    Glad to see Poland stands strong, even against the OPness of China!

  30. - Top - End - #60
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    Sorry about the delay, I've been having issues with my hard drive (the one with the saves and other files is safe). The chapter will come out ASAP once I get that dealt with.

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