Crusader Kings Chronicles: Lords of the North, Chapter 2

T.J. Hafer

Victory or Valhall! With the release of Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods, the time has come once again to weave a stirring saga of war, love, betrayal, and adventure. This is the Crusader Kings Chronicle: Lords of the North.

Last time , I set sail as Chief Þórólfr of Nordland to raid the Baltic coasts. The plunder I brought back would allow me to hire mercenaries, and begin my bid to become King of Norway. My plans had to change, however, when Haraldr Fairhair dishonorably attacked my lands while my men were away, forcing me to swear fealty to him. The House of Stórr will not bow for long, however, and already the flame of freedom smolders. Onward!

Missed the original Crusader Kings Chronicle? Have a read!

On the 30th of August, 870, Þórólfr's daughter Alfrið was born while he was off raiding in Ireland. The emerald isle had become a popular destination for his rowdy warband, with its poorly-defended monasteries and weak local nobility.

Two years later, after five years of profitable plundering, Þórólfr contracted 1800 Lithuanian mercenaries and set his sights to his immediate south, on Chief Hakon of Naumdal. With a host numbering over 2100, Þórólfr crashed upon the territories of Hålogaland and Naumdal, demanding their fealty and naming himself the rightful king. On November 23, 872, Chief Hakon surrendered with winter fast approaching.

In a single war, I've gained the counties of Hålogaland, Naumdal, and Finnmark (the last of which Hakon conquered while I was attacking him). This has quadrupled the size of my realm, and my number of holdings has gone from one to six. Soon enough, I will be able to raise enough men from my own lands that I won't have to rely on foreign mercenaries to anchor my armies.

Before I run out of cash to pay my mercs, I'm immediately declaring a second subjugation war on Tröndelag, to the south of my new holdings. Controlling it would give me the entire Petty Kingdom of Tröndelag, though I still can´t form it as long as I'm Fairhair's vassal.

With the growing host of Norsemen sworn to Þórólfr's banner and their hardened mercenary allies, the chieftain's southward conquests continued. Rögnvaldr of Tröndelag surrendered his holdings in October of 874. In June of the following year, the besieged Chief Heljarskinn of Rogaland died of an illness while trapped in his own hold. Succeeded by his six-year-old son Haraldr, the thanes of Rogaland quickly decided to give up their resistance.

On the shores of Rogaland, Þórólfr distributed the loot of the siege and finally parted ways with the Lithuanian mercenaries who had helped him build his power base in Western Norway. The Wolf of the West now held far more territory, and the allegiance of far more holds, than his purported liege. The time for his revenge, leading a true, Norse army, was near at hand.

Despite still being a vassal, I directly own seven provinces and fifteen holdings. That's more than twice as many as the Ynglings. There is already an independence faction against King Haraldr led by Chief Sæmundr of the Faeroe Islands, but I'll wait for my manpower to recover before I join it.

On September 7, 877, a second son, named Sveinn, was born to Þórólfr and Rikissa.

It was the third of October, 878. The 46-year-old Þórólfr had sailed long to the remote Faeroe Islands to meet with the reclusive Chief Sæmundr, another subject of Haraldr Fairhair's conquests who desired freedom. Present at this auspicious council as well was Viotto of Kemi, a Finnish chieftain and supposed sorcerer whose lands had come under the Norse petty king's heel. With a pact signed in blood, they arrayed their forces to break the Yngling's grasp on the North. 40 ships set sail at dawn.

The War of Independence was fast and brutal, culminating with the decisive Battle of Iveland on January 20, 879. Haraldr's main host was dealt a crushing blow by Þórólfr, leaving less than 400 Yngling men to retreat to safety, while some 1100 Norldlanders remained to take up the assault on Fairhair's hall at Akershus. Noting his cousin's weakness, Rögnvaldr Yngling raised his own banners in rebellion shortly after the battle to claim Ostlandet as his own. The freedom fighters were unsure whether to consider him friend or foe.

On March 16, 880, the town of Oslo, Haraldr's last bastion, fell to Þórólfr's personal warband. He had the Yngling brought before him and cast to the ground, holding a long, sharp blade to his throat. The victorious chieftain threatened to make him swallow one inch of steel for each of the 13 years that his treacherous oppression bound honorable Norsemen to his unwilling service, but ultimately left him in the mud, disgusted, insisting that death by the sword would be too good a death for such a snake.

At last, I have my independence, and soon (with a bit more gold) will be able to declare myself a Petty King. For now, the conflict with the Ynglings is still on my mind. Haraldr has squashed his cousin's rebellion, and will no doubt be racing me to subjugate the few, remaining independent chieftains in Norway. Only one of us can be the One, True King...

In August of 880, Þórólfr rescued Chief Roald of Telemark from an Yngling invasion, and gained the man's fealty for himself. Þórólfr then set his sights on Chief Olafr of Herjadal... but while preparing his forces to attack, in his 50th year, his health began to fail him. Some among his court saw this as a curse, brought upon him for speaking out against the Yngling for his conquests, but then proceeding to do just the same thing with his own power. They dared not say so in his presence, of course...

I've gained the Infirm trait, which hurts all of my stats—and at a fairly young age, too. It also just so happens that Björn Ironside, son of Ragnar Loðbrok, has gained enough territory to proclaim himself King of Sweden, making him the first proper King in Scandinavia. This will undoubtedly make his house a powerful rival going forward.

In May of 882, Herjadal surrendered to Þórólfr, and the victorious chieftain gathered together 1500 loyal men for what he predicted may be his last voyage. Seeking a glorious death, he would sail for England, land of the stalwart Anglo-Saxons, where great riches were to be had at great risk.

In September of 882, Þórólfr and his viking raiders landed in Dorset, part of the Kingdom of Wessex, led by the Christian Anglo-Saxon, King Æthelred the Careless. The Norsemen knew they would not be fighting bands of forest warriors or fractious Celtic militias here. The Saxons had formidable armies of well-trained troops, hardened by years of fighting Norsemen under the Sons of Loðbrok and the Great Heathen Army.

And yet... his men met no great host of Saxons. First, they sacked the Barony of Wareham. Then, they burned the monastery of Corfe and the town of Dorchester. Daring a response, Þórólfr ordered an attack on the county capital of Winchester. The defenders were easily overwhelmed, but the king was nowhere to be found. As the Norse leader began contemplating a search for his cowardly foe, more bad news arrived...

King Björn Ironside of Sweden had laid claim to all of Þórólfr's lands, waiting until his men were away raiding, just like the Yngling had done all those years ago. Spitting with rage, Þórólfr sent word to raise every man in his realm who could swing a sword, to meet with his main host as they rushed home from England with their plunder. He had refused the yoke of Haraldr Fairhair, and he would just as surely deny the fetters of the Son of Loðbrok. Even if it was the last thing he did...

Björn is a formidable warrior with many, rich lands to draw troops from. This will not be like my independence war against Haraldr, in which I could count on outnumbering him at every turn. It will take ferocity, cleverness, and speed to make sure Nordland is not pressed under the Swedish crown.

Return next week to see the continuing saga unfold!

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