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 week , I threw off the chains of the oppressive Haraldr Fairhair, derailing Norwegian history irreparably and setting up the House of Stórr to one day rule the entire country. Then, out of nowhere, the Swedish king Björn Ironside, son of Ragnarr Loðbrok, declared a subjugation war on me and my people. We take up our swords for freedom once again! Onward!
Missed the original Crusader Kings Chronicle? Have a read!
On July 11, 884, the ailing Chief Þórólfr climbed the steps to the high table at his hall, where all the lords of the West had gathered. His body was weak, but his voice was still strong. Rumbling like thunder, he proclaimed his kingship over all the lands he had subjugated, and called upon all able men within his new kingdom to rise up and join his newly-returned warband in defending their homes from the Son of Loðbrok. Many answered, and by the fall, 2000 of Þórólfr's men were bound by ship for Sweden with oiled mail and sharp axes.
I've made myself a Petty King, a Norse rank equal to a duke in other realms, and a step below a proper King. This has allowed me to parcel out my land to vassal chieftains, so I don't have to try to administrate it all myself. For the time being, they are content with my rule and eager to send their men to fight for me. Björn's army is formidable, however, and we'll have to be smart to repel his invasion.
On the April 22, 885, Þórólf and his eldest son Ragnarr, newly come of age, received word that King Björn was on his way with swift ships to relieve their siege of the Swedish capital of Håtuna. Ragnarr, though only 16, was already showing great prowess in battle, and was given the command of 600 men who would hold the line at the shore, while Þórólfr's own detachment flanked from the East and drove them into a grove of trees that would be lit ablaze with oil and flaming arrows. Father and son were outnumbered by almost 700 men, but the plan worked, and three of Björn's men died that day for each of their own.
Håtuna fell not long after, but not before Þórólfr succumbed to a dreamlike state. The priestess attending him proclaimed that his mind had been taken from him, and he may never awaken again. Sorrowfully, the young Ragnarr took up his father´s banner and rode out to accept Björn's surrender.
My Infirm trait has escalated to Incapable, meaning death is near, and my son will take over as my regent. I had hoped for a more glorious death for such a glorious leader, but as all Norsemen know, fate is often not so kind.
As the year 888 dawned, Ragnarr had been ruling as regent for over a year. At the urging of his mother, queen Rikissa, he proclaimed right of conquest on all the lands of the Ynglings, his father's old enemies and former liege lords. While the Yngling line was said to be descended from the god Frey, whispers began to circulate that the mighty Ragnarr's blood was that of the god Thor, and that his line was destined to rule all the North.
Not long into his campaign against the struggling Haraldr Fairhair, King Þórólfr passed in the night. Ragnarr was named King, and his younger brother Sveinn was given dominion as Jarl of Nordland over their ancestral realm in the far North. Taking the throne at 20, Ragnarr had gained a reputation as a brilliant strategist, quick-witted as his father had been in his prime, proud, just, charitable, honest, and kind. On the battlefield, he excelled on the defense, having held the line against Björn's advance with only a handful of troops. The new king was married not long after to High Chieftess Freyja of Austergotland, a vassal of Björn Ironside.
My current succession law is called Gavelkind, which means that my holdings will always be divided evenly among my sons. It's not an ideal set-up, but I need to either convert to a monotheistic faith or reform the Norse religion to adopt a different means of succession. I'm aiming to do the latter, as it will also give me protection from foreign missionaries. I will need to hold three of the designated Norse holy sites, which will be no easy task.
The war to subjugate the Ynglings raged for the first three years of King Ragnarr's reign, but his victory came as inevitably as he proclaimed that it would. With Haraldr Fairhair's defeat, Ragnarr held dominion over all Norway, and the Ynglings were relegated to a backwater mountain hold, far from the coasts and the glory of raiding the open seas. Meanwhile, however, another son of Loðbrok was building his power. The jarl called Sigurð Snake-in-the-Eye had proclaimed himself King of Denmark, meaning Loðbrok's sons now held two thrones, forming a potentially dangerous alliance.
Two years had passed since Fairhair bowed, and Ragnarr had made a name for himself as a famous Viking raider, burning and looting towns and monasteries along the coast of Frisia. He even managed to capture a Frankish princess, Judith Karling of the line of Emperor Charlemagne. Back home, however, trouble brewed. Haraldr Fairhair was not content to owe fealty to another, and had been plotting with his brother, Jarl Bersi, to overthrow the Stórrs.
The Yngling rebellion raged from the spring of 895 until the late winter of 896. Bersi was brought to heel first, with Haraldr soon to follow. The two traitors were stripped of all titles, leaving the Yngling dynasty landless throughout Norway. The following Midsummer's Day, Ragnarr raised a runestone in the memory of his father, Þórólfr, and invited all his vassals to look upon it. Afterward, he stood before the great memorial and spoke in a booming tone that echoed his departed sire. The speech is recalled by the skalds in Ragnarr Þórólfsson's Saga:
“I have cast down the House of Yngling, who claimed to be descended from the god, Frey," he proclaimed. "If this were true, would they not be standing before you today, rather than me? I have scorched the temples of the White God of the South, and brought great wealth back to share with all of you. If their god were mightier than I am, would I not be struck dead, or stand before you empty handed? We gather today in prosperity and peace because my house is strong! Ours is the blood of Thor, son of Odin Allfather! And from this day forward, the Sons of Þórólfr shall rule as kings of all Norsemen, as is our birth-right!"
A thunderous cheer arose, as axes of warriors and tools of farmers and craftsmen alike were raised high in praise of the new King of Norway.
I have now named myself true King of Norway, putting me at a rank equal to Björn of Sweden and Sigurð of Denmark. Many new lords have sworn fealty to me peacefully, as I am now seen as their rightful liege: Iceland, Shetland, Vermaland, Medelpad, and Angermanland now eagerly follow the House of Stórr, making me the mightiest king in Scandinavia.
In the summer of 897, a son was finally born to King Ragnarr and Queen Freyja, named Rikulfr after his maternal grandfather. With a crown and an heir, Ragnarr turned his eyes eastward. The sons of Loðbrok had heard of his intentions to rule all Norsemen, and he didn't intend to give them the chance to strike at him first. He sent word to all of his vassals to prepare for a Great Blot—a grand sacrifice to the gods to bring good fortune in war.
A Great Blot can be held once every nine years. It will allow me to gain prestige, piety, good will with my Norse pagan vassals, and a small bonus to the morale of my armies for a limited time. It also includes an optional human sacrifice, which is handy for disposing of key prisoners...
The King's Blot was held on the last day of October. Many head of livestock were offered up in sacrifice, as well as the captive Christian princess Judith Karling. The traitor Haraldr Fairhair was given release from his disgrace, beheaded in the sight of his king to join his divine ancestors in the halls of Asgard. There was much feasting, and all the while, the hammers of smiths and boat-builders rang out in the cold, short daylight hours.
The end of the year and the festival of Yule were approaching. Come the first snowmelt, Ragnarr's men were going to war.
Come back next week to see the continuing saga unfold!