Last time, Hlothere became king at the tender age of 14, and we’re off to the Crusades!
Some business to take care of first. Hlothere needs a wife.
My first choice seems strong but she turns out to be a sadist which, among other things, allows her to murder her own children. No thanks.
I settle on Muirgel. She’s a bit paranoid but that’s appropriate for the wife of a king surrounded by Vikings, and she has great stewardship. She’s also ambitious and temperate.
Good old Bishop Gamall has forged a deed to some land held by Strathclyde. But that’s going to have to wait until Hlothere comes of age. It’s actually great he waited until after Ælla died, since forged claims are initially “unpressed” and you lose them if you don’t declare war sometime during your lifetime.
In the meantime, we’re got a Crusade to fight! The armies of Christendom and Islam are marching around the Holy Land. My pathetic little contingent finds a castle to besiege, in hopes of securing some loot.
I have a front-row seat as the proud armies of Christendom stumble idiotically into a meeting engagement with the entire Muslim army, the contingents arriving one by one so they can be defeated in detail. Great job guys, great job.
Afterward, a giant Muslim host descends on my poor little army and slaughters everyone. Sooooo that was a fun Crusade.
Guys, we’re gonna need some more soldiers. Just … go and and find some idiots. Tell them that I promise not to get them slaughtered in the Holy Land this time.
Given that Northumbria’s military strength is currently down to Hlothere, his dog, and a one-legged leper, it’s no surprise that our old friends in Suðreyjar immediately decide it’s time to come after Lanarkshire again. They’re relatively weak, but they have some strong allies, so this is quite bad.
In the midst of this disaster, Hlothere reaches his majority. Apparently what he’s most interested in about ruling the kingdom is friendship. He has, however, had an excellent education, and wound up with Midas Touched, the best possible stewardship result. Gold is going to be rolling in.
First step: wedding! Which gives me a chance to collect a bunch of gold that I will definitely use on a fantastic buffet and not to, say, hire mercenaries to defend the realm from Vikings.
Pope Badass Eyepatch just looks so sad about it. I want to cuddle him and tell him to cheer up.
Anyway. War. The initial wave of Vikings is too big to try conclusions with, so they end up besieging Lothian while I head over to their capital. They’ve got more troops on the way from allies in the south, though, so things are looking bad.
However, Alba has launched its own war of conquest against Suðreyjar. So what I really need to do is convince Yngvild she has bigger problems than me, while not wasting my strength fighting the Alban armies.
Hlothere is quick off the block in more ways than one.
Eventually, I capture the Viking capital, while they capture Lothian. But since Lothian isn’t the war target, I start getting ticks in my favor for holding Lanarkshire. Just as a big contingent of southerners arrives from Ireland, I persuade Yngvild to call the whole thing off and leave her to alone and fight it out with the Albans.
Literally as the ink is drying on the treaty, though, here come these guys. Hlothere is having a hell of a first year as king!
Fortunately a handful of peasants, no matter how infuriated, are considerably less dangerous than several nations of Vikings.
Hlothere’s first-born is a girl, which is not ideal. Now that I have control, I can manage the danger presented by daughters in non-matrilineal marriages, but it makes things a little harder. Since any son of Muriel’s would be my heir, she has to have a matrilineal marriage, as do any other daughters who come before the first son. Matrilineal marriages are safe but usually have to be to vassals or low-status husbands, so are less useful for alliance-building.
The perfect set of children would be exactly one son and a bunch of daughters, for a single heir and lots of alliances, but even then you’d have to be careful lest your son die unexpectedly.
So, for the moment, we’re at peace. To the south, Jarl Halfdan is aging but still formidable, much too dangerous to attack without a lot of mercenary support.
To the north, Suðreyjar is losing badly to the Albans. That could be negative in the long run if it means a powerful Alba I might have to fight.
Strathclyde is the only likely opponent, and I have a claim on some of their land. But I’m going to need to build up a little before I can take them.
What do you think, Pope Badass Eyepatch? Spread the wealth a little?
Nice! I feel less pious but considerably wealthier. I spend the money building up my military infrastructure and hiring some more knights for my court.
Huh. This guy sounds familiar somehow.
With my levies recruited back up to strength, it’s time to press my totally ancient claim to Galwyddel. Who’s a “content paragon” now, Dyfnwal?
I have a mercenary company still hired for a few months, leftover from the war with the Vikings. I manage to fight and win a battle against Strathclyde’s army before they pack up and go home, so my remaining army is enough to besiege Galwyddel.
Down in Jórvik, Halfdan’s eldest son Sigfrið — who has spent much of his life in my dungeons — finally dies. I guess Hlothere saw him as a rival? This is unfortunate, because I now have no hostage to protect me against Halfdan’s ambitions.
No sooner has Sigfrið died then Halfdan is getting in my face about how Dad’s old friend Earl Gryth killed his niece. Given my current state of war, I pay him off immediately. Happy Vikings! Happy, happy Vikings.
Hlothere, who is temperate and honest, is basically the polar opposite of his conniving, deceitful father. It helps me win over the clergy, but it does mean that it’s harder to be an arbitrary tyrant without accumulating stress in cases like this. Fortunately some quick cash is always useful.
Hooray, more Vikings! At least these ones are being polite about their extortion. Sure, let’s ‘trade’.
The war with Strathclyde goes on a lot longer than I’d hoped, but I finally pull off a tight battle when they try to retake Galwyddel, and they’re forced to surrender. This is my first piece of land outside the original Northumbria — after a long fight, the realm is growing again!
Muriel is briefly captured by raiders, but it doesn’t stop her from asking questions. I really don’t think “in the dungeon” is a good time for the sex talk though…
I track the raiders down and get her back, but I feel like she’s learned some bad habits from hanging around with Vikings.
Old Bishop Gamall finally dies, but the new bishop already likes me! As I said, there’s some payoffs to being humble and temperate.
Alba is still fighting Suðreyjar but the Vikings are definitely losing. I start forging another claim on Strathclyde since I’d like to gobble them up before Alba looks my way. I also start trying to make nice with the Alban king, since the last thing I need is a war on that front.
And there we go. Suðreyjar, my inveterate opponent, is finally swallowed up by Alba. One less thing to worry about?
And here comes that bastard Jarl Halfdan again! He’s … publicly dedicating heartfelt poetry to me?
Has Halfdan just been super into Hlothere all this time?
Cautiously, I tell him I liked it.
Halfdan: “Well, he is a devil-spawned Catholic, but he liked my poem!”
Year: 895 AD