Jun 11, 2018

CKII: An Empress of Mercia

Fennis mira feritas, foeda paupertas: non arma, non equi, non penates; victui herba, vestitui pelles, cubile humus: solae in sagittis spes, quas inopia ferri ossibus asperant.
- Tacitus, Germania, XLVI

Emperor Éomer I (1056-59) inherited both the Mercian empire and the crusade in Finland. With his son, Éomer Éomersson (I did not pick that name), coming of age on his succession, we now have three consecutive generations of crusaders against the Finnish pagans. I was all set to write up our conquest of Finland, with an appropriate epigraph and everything, but then:

God may have been pleased, but I was not. Looking at the map, you can see why I was excited by a foothold in the north: the Seljuk juggernaut still blocks our way east. If you squint a little, you can see a splash of Mercian purple on the Baltic: that's where the Queen of Scotland, Wærburg the Daughter of Satan, conquered a chunk of Prussia. With my ambitions in Finland thwarted, maybe we could look into expanding there.

First, though, Spain. With the collapse of the Iceling kingdom of Italy and Africa, there were suddenly a lot of small independent counties and duchies in the Iberian peninsula, and at some point several of them were taken over by Vikings. We got some of them back.

Sadly, in addition to smiting the infidel, Éomer I also liked eating, and he passed away at the relatively young age of 45 from the gout. We barely knew him.


Éomer Éomersson succeeded to the throne as Emperor Éomer II (1059-1083), and got some help:

In his capacity as King of Jerusalem, Éomer II immediately vassalized the Templars, giving us almost ten thousand holy warriors to call on against the infidel, and most importantly, a massive force of heavy cavalry. Having been on the receiving end of the Catholic holy orders, I assure you they're no joke. Éomer put them to work in the Baltic.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Jerusalem completed its de jure drift into the Mercian empire.

One aspect of Éomer II's reign, however, stands above all others. We finally gathered enough cultural technology points to raise Tolerance in Leicester to VI, which meant that once enough members of the council were persuaded, Éomer II enacted full status of women in Mercia.

With that done, it was time to change the succession law in the empire, and in every damn kingdom I still held in it. Luckily, this doesn't require council approval; unluckily, it requires something even worse. To change the succession law in a kingdom, no dukes in it can have a negative opinion of you, nor can they be fighting each other. That's a tall order!

The problem is that if you get some but not all succession laws changed, the inheritance may get split. I had this for a long time, with the duke of Jerusalem fighting an interminable war with the King of Ireland for Jaffa. It eventually ended before Éomer died, but it made for a nervous time.

While that was getting sorted, we declared a holy war on the pagan Lithuanians. The supply limit in pagan counties is very, very low unless you have enough Military Organization tech. We don't, so we had to split up our army into several detachments. They had to be small enough to not take horrible losses from attrition, large enough to succesfully besiege the tribal holdings, and close enough to each other to take on bigger pagan armies together. As a sign of our new realm laws, the empress is in command of her husband's army.

Our superiority in both quality and quantity was crushing, so the outcome was never in any real doubt.

Eventually, Éomer II succumbed to severe stress. He left behind the core of a Mercian Lithuania, and more importantly, achieved my most cherished goal for this playthrough: full status of women and equal succession.


Now that we have equal succession rights, Éomer II was succeeded by his oldest child, Empress Éowyn the Great (1083-1123). As you can see, this is starting to be more like it.

To start off her reign, Éowyn expanded Mercia to the Persian Gulf by snapping up a county from the Aramid Empire.

Then, as we were busy fighting in Lithuania, the Pope called another crusade.

Sadly, crusades seem to be out of fashion, as no-one except a couple of tiny independent states joined in. Since it looked obvious that this was a lost cause, Éowyn sent in the holy orders, and rotated her commanders and vassals through so everyone got a Crusader trait. Meanwhile, domestic affairs intruded:

I don't know where the kid ended up, but I did have her mother killed.

In her younger days, Éowyn picked up the Poet trait, which nowadays has uses I never knew about:

However, in the middle of all this fun and games, we had no idea that the greatest challenge to Mercia since the Vikings was just over the horizon.

I said before that I was shocked we were able to hang on to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but with both Abyssinia and Byzantium conquering Muslim realms north and south, we were mostly ignored. Now, though, Islam was resurgent: the Seljuks had reconquered most of Mesopotamia, and now their co-religionists were coming for us.

We met the first major enemy force at Rafha, in the Nefoud. After a tremendous battle and some dicy moments in the skirmish phase, our massed heavy cavalry rode them down. Empress Éowyn led her troops in person, and paid a price:

She would eventually recover from her wounds, but was left permanently disfigured. But what mattered was that we won the war: the jihad failed.

With Arabia secure, we were free to expand our foothold in Lithuania far enough to create the kingdom.

As a good hermeticist, Éowyn also spent a lot of her time studying the stars, and eventually wrote her magnum opus on astrology.

I realize in retrospect that while the Hermetic Society missions are a bit repetitive, it's the magna opera that make it worth it. They're essentially hereditable stat bonuses, and the ability to pick your apprentice lets you ensure your heir also has access to them. Éowyn eventually became head of the whole society.

While fighting to expand our holdings in Lithuania, Éowyn was seriously injured again, this time losing a hand.

Look, being Empress ain't easy. She fought in one last great war, this time against a Shia jihad for Arabia, and won.

Finally, in 1123, Empress Éowyn the Great left us. I really feel that along with Éomer the Strange and the demon-emperor Gedalbert, her reign was one of the high points of the game. After securing the Kingdom of Jerusalem and expanding all the way to the shores of the Persian Gulf, we finally faced not one but two serious Muslim counter-attacks - and defeated them. Our northern expansion seemed foiled, but Éowyn ended up Queen of Lithuania, alongside her other titles. She was valiant, succesful and as the first Empress of a newly gender-equal Mercia, set an example that will never be forgotten.

No comments: