In our previous episode, King Berta the Lecher had narrowly circumvented a succession crisis created by his eldest daughter Senalat and her husband Iyasu. Murder was involved.
Semien (my home county, rather than the country as a whole) is doing great! I get the chance to add another holding slot to it. This is very expensive but worth is, since I can build a castle there. I already have three castles in Semien, and each provides a bunch of troops. The key is that one ability of your marshal is to increase troop strength in a specific county, so stacking castles in your capital helps a lot!
Senalat still hates me, but has had no more children. With two of my sons in line of succession ahead of her things look good.
Unexpectedly, her husband inherits the Duchy of Wag!
This gives me a chance to end the threat for good. Previously I was having trouble assassinating Iyasu because he was well-liked by everybody at his court. As Duke, he has a much larger court and a bunch of annoyed vassals who will help with the plot!
Although this is always a risk. Stupid mayors.
Even King Berta's legendary sex appeal can't overcome the negative opinion from attempted murder, alas.
While I'm waiting for my assassins to do their work, I grab one of the two remaining counties at the mouth of the Nile. I feel a little bit bad about fighting "Halil the Affable", actually, he seems like a nice guy.
Finding myself in need of a new steward, I discover everyone in the kingdom sucks. Fortunately, there are now at least a few Jews kicking around Europe (they get generated as visitors from time to time) so I can go looking for one who'd make a good steward and entice him to my court with a bag of gold.
Zula is some kind of weird mystic I picked up in the desert. His diagnostic skills aren't great.
Coughing is rabies, headache is measles. Got it.
So glad I hired Zula...
Doc, here's a hint. It's always cancer.
Zula manages to stave off King Berta's cancer with some kind of magic red powder. Also, what kind of idiot servant randomly tastes the king's medicine?
The last Nile county had been disputed for a while. Now that the war is resolved, I can press my own claim on it!
It's a pretty straightforward war, since I have a forged claim instead of having to declare holy war and risk intervention by others.
One of my vassals jumps the gun and declare a holy war for the Sinai, which is mostly owned by a Spanish sultan. Good luck, I guess?
Sure, we'll give the herbwoman a shot.
My assassins, annoyingly, have not had a chance at Duke Iyasu. However, my spymaster discovers he is trying to kill me, which is almost as good. It gives me the chance to arrest him without everyone hating me for it. As usual, that fails, but his rebellion is going to be short-lived.
The old herbwoman died soon after taking office, which frankly is not much of a testament to her skill. I installed the most learned man in the land, who happed to be some random courtier. He seems a dab hand with the cow dung.
Finally, Duke Iyasu is in prison, where there's no danger of his fathering non-dynasty sons.
In addition to cancer, at 59 Berta is sliding into senility.
With the king not long for this world and the war for the Nile finally finished, I have a quandary. I have a claim on the nearest province of the Sinai, but if I don't at least attempt to fight for it, it will end when the king dies. But the Veremondo Sultanate is embroiled in several wars that will make taking them on somewhat difficult. I decide to go for it and declare for my claim.
Very nice. That's exactly the trait I want in an heir, allowing me to have lots of land in my personal demense.
Once again, I enlist strange women into my council because the duke currently doing the job is mediocre. Welcome Lady Zenia!
The problem with fighting the Veremondo Sultanate is that their Sinai territories are already occupied by enemies, and their main territories are all the way over in Spain. However! I have recently acquired the mouth of the Nile, which means I now have Mediterranean ports! (The Suez Canal not being built for another thousand years.)
Whatever the sultan was expecting from the war, I bet it wasn't seven thousand troops suddenly landing in his capital. No one expects the
Spanish Abyssinian Inquisition!
A couple of revolt armies crop up back home, but it's nothing my vassal troops can't handle.
At this somewhat inconvenient juncture, with most of his army in Spain, King Berta dies. Long live King Aman!
King Aman is shockingly competent compared to his father, with excellent stewardship and solid martial prowess. I immediately set him to focus on having children to establish a succession.
Aman's wife Makeda is no slouch, either, and tops the list of potential stewards. (With my gradual increase in the status of women, they can now be stewards, which helps expand the talent pool.)
Unfortunately Makeda almost immediately dies of cancer. Aman goes looking for wife number two. In the meantime, the war is coming along, with the peasant revolts settled.
Then things get sticky. Several more nations join in, and I lose a battle or two. More ominously, a large coalition of my vassals is looking rebellious. I'm still ahead, on the balance, so the sultan agrees to a compromise peace. My army from Spain sets sail back to Semien.
Not quickly enough, however. Huge chunks of Semien rise in revolution against the new king. I raise my vassal troops and hire all available mercenaries.
The war is a mess, with several large rebel armies forming. My captains on the way back from Spain begin blowing into the sails to make the ships go faster.
My main army finally returns, and I begin the arduous task of bringing the rebels to heel. My older sister Senalat finally, finally dies, after about twenty years with syphilis.
I have the upper hand, but the war is still raging and it's draining my strength. More importantly, it's draining my treasury -- I'm out of money after paying mercenaries for so long. It pains me to let rebellion go unpunished, but I agree to a white peace and everyone goes home status quo ante. At least the realm is at peace again, and I can wait a while for my armies to rebuild.
Are there no just like, normal doctors? Why are we reduced to ransacking the prisons?
Peace is building up my treasury again while my armies recover. Aman hasn't managed to have any sons yet, but his succession looks good -- he's got a brother with a son, and sisters in safe marriages. So I'd like to have a direct heir, but it's not urgent.
My spymaster dies and everyone in my kingdom is terrible, so once again I go abroad with a bag of
cat treats money. Welcome, Shlomo of Philippopolis! I marry him to a half-sister to keep him loyal.
My chancellor having forged a claim, I go to war for Sinai, held by one of the smaller Muslim states.
Note, at this point, that my bank balance (top right, the first number) is 974 gold. I make about 40 a month, and consider 2,000 in savings to be huge. 150 gold is literally a king's ransom. 600-700 buys a new castle.
My vassal Kafnai, Count of Assab, dies without a valid heir. As king, I'm the default heir for everyone with land, so I inherit his county. More importantly, I inherit his treasury, and at this point I discover that Kafnai, aka best vassal ever, had saved up something like twelve thousand gold for a rainy day. This is like when the uncle you didn't know you had dies and leaves you a mansion!
I immediately start spending Kafnai's gold on upgrading my castles. I get the chance to put a sixth castle in Semien and deck it out with all the trimmings; that one county alone now produces more than 7,000 troops. I also get myself some retinues, which are permanent paid troops. Woo!
With Sinai subdued, the Veremondo Sultanate is taken over by a seven-year-old, so I renew my war for Farama. This time there's no third parties to interfere and I don't need to ship my army overseas.
The only fly in the ointment is that Aman has been unable to have any legitimate children. He has two bastard daughters, and as a result his actual wife is increasingly unhappy with him.
With Farama secured, it's time to move into the Holy Land proper. The Hajurid emirate is conveniently also ruled by a kid, so I declare holy war for the duchy of Ascalon, the biggest chunk of his country. This is going to bring in every neighbor with an army, so I raise all the troops I can.
The battles commence! As expected, a lot of countries join in. Fortunately they don't work together well, so I'm able to fight them piecemeal a lot of the time.
Shlomo, meanwhile, has been doing sterling work as spymaster, and hardly any nobles are conspiring against me at all.
Finally! It turns out to be a girl, but at least it's a direct heir of some kind.
The war for Ascalon is long and fierce. Most of my wars feature one or two big battles, this one has more than a dozen as I repeatedly smash the enemy armies and am occasionally caught off-guard. A revolt army is kicking up trouble, too, but I ignore them until I've got this locked down.
Finally, Ascalon is mine! Kind of ugly that it's not connected to my other territory but we'll clean it up later. That revolt army still needs to be put down, too.
Also, I've acquired a male heir! My lover had a son, who I legitimized. This was the last straw as far as my wife is concerned, though, and now she hates me. But we know how to deal with that problem...
I crush the peasant rebellion, as my old rival / UST partner Duke Iyasu finally dies in prison.
My wife, who is now Duchess of Wag in her own right, is not very popular there. Her own spymaster is willing to join the plot against her, for a consideration. This is why you keep your spymaster happy, folks.
Classic spouse-murder technique!
For once it goes off without a hitch, though. Time to find a new wife to get some backup sons. Pity she won't be as good a steward as Zauditu, though.
Glancing up at the map, France and their Aragonese allies have almost completed retaking Spain from the Muslims, while the Byzantines expand northward and Italy creates a North African coastal empire.
I'm waiting out a few truces to press my war in the Holy Land when the Caliph throws down on me again. I'm pretty confident this time, since my armies are in good shape. Bring it on!
At this point, supplies become an issue in warfare. Each county can support a certain number of troops -- 40k or more for prosperous counties, down to 4k or less for barren ones. Putting more troops then that in a county means you take attrition losses as long as you stay there. This means that once your armies get above a certain size, you have to split them up or eat the country bare. But splitting up also means tactical opportunities for the enemy! (The old military maxim of "March divided, fight concentrated" definitely applies here.) It's tricky to manage.
Quite a few countries has responded to the Caliph's call...
The war goes really badly for a while, for reasons that I don't fully understand. I keep losing battles that I ought to win, on the numbers -- maybe there's some really awesome commanders on the other side? Note here that one of my defeated armies has chosen to flee all the way up the coast to Ascalon.
Fortunately, I have a considerable advantage in numbers and coordination. In spite of some freakish defeats, I'm able to retain control of Arabia, and eventually convince the Sunnis to back off. It costs me more than I would like in terms of troops, though.
I crush a Samaritan revolt on the way back home ...
...and then another one literally days later. You'd think they'd have learned their lesson the first time.
A quick false-claim war for Eilat connects my Holy Land territories to the rest of Semien! Progress.
Count Berta, who I entrusted with Ascalon, jumps the gun a bit and launches a holy war for Jerusalem. I'd be fine with that if he won, but the computer isn't very good at warring. At least he'll deplete enemy troops, I guess.
One of my half-sisters is married to someone named "Oromo Zumbo", which is pretty awesome. Shlomo, my faithful spymaster, sadly dies of old age.
Once the Count of Ascalon fails, I decide the time has come to launch my own war for Jerusalem. Here we go!
Uh. This is unexpected. I'm in mid-war when this arrives -- that fellow there is the Emperor of Byzantium, who apparently has decided that he wants Ascalon in the name of God. Things just got very exciting.
Suddenly the holy land is a mass of marching armies, including Count Berta's, who takes this chance to declare another, unrelated holy war. I concentrate on fighting the Muslims, stalling the Byzantines as best I can. Fortunately, Byzantine armies take some time to arrive by land or trickle in by sea.
The armies of the Sunni states are mostly smashed, while the Byzantines retreat and then return with fresh troops. That's fine -- I need to take Jerusalem to win, but only have to hang on to Ascalon.
I have another son, too, with my new wife! That's my succession more or less sorted.
After quite a few big battles, Jerusalem is finally mine!
There's still some big Byzantine armies kicking around though. I decide to fight the war to the finish, since unlike in a Crusade/Jihad, the Empire will owe me a huge reparations bill if I win.
Gebereal, my legitimized-bastard son, takes after his father and becomes an awesome steward. I quickly marry him to get the next generation going.
Both founding Israel and rebuilding the Temple require that Jerusalem be Jewish, so I deploy the Court Rabbi at once to begin conversion.
Gebereal obliges almost immediately with a grandson, who he names after me. Aww.
(Unrelated, but one feature this game really lacks is a "nag children about grandchildren" button.)
I'm forced to invade Byzantine territory, losing quite a few men in the desert, in order to bring this war to a quicker conclusion.
When my Court Rabbi dies, I go abroad looking for a really good one. I end up with Afework the Blind, who had his eyes gouged out somewhere along the way but still debates a mean Torah.
Okay, no. I draw the line at giving random witches vials of my blood. You do not get to be my doctor.
In fact, when I look at people I've already got, Afework the Blind has the right traits! A blind doctor seems a little ... odd, but we'll see how it goes.
The Byzantines finally give up when I start taking their castles, and agree to a thousand gold indemnity. Very nice.
Soon afterward, now-independent El-Arish falls. Semien now extends mostly unbroken from Jerusalem to the Horn of Africa.
Okay, Afework, time to show off that high learning.
I mean, I guess what should I have expected from the Court Rabbi?
Although he also dabbles in the occult.
Well, he was right about the cancer. What now?
Literally in the midst of his cancer treatment, Aman is hunting the White Lion. That's dedication!
So Afework sent me on some kind of mystical drug-fueled vision quest...
Which actually cured my cancer! And also drove me completely insane. Hmm.
Another quick war adds Acre to my Holy Land territories. Soon, all the kingdom of Jerusalem will be under my control, and then we only need to convert the city itself to Judaism to create Israel! But there's more work to be done after that...
Current Year: 1063 AD. Current Status: Stark Raving Mad.