Part 4: Broken
"Poor Christina. She deserved better.
"My name is Auden. I've been here since the beginning. Skjam, the count of these lands some thirty years ago, was my brother. Christina was the best thing he ever did, but the poor girl's moment in the sun had passed after the Battle of Sjaelland. When she came home from that war she was feted as a hero, and all men praised her as a paragon.
"And I'm not really sure what happened next. It wasn't a fall... it was just kind of a slump. Nothing ever really went her way again after that."
"In a cruel quirk of feudal law, even though she'd pressed the claim of King Vladimar and overthrown Bjorn, Bjorn kept his Ducal title and his authority over Christina. He was locked within the dungeons of Vladimar so wasn't able to punish Christina for her betrayal, but being beholden to a Ylving even after everything she'd done set Christina's teeth on edge. She clearly wanted to be in the court of the king who she adored, but was prevented. She rarely saw him face to face."
"And the Ylving Dynasty, even if they were no longer kings, kept their stranglehold over Denmark. Christina had been warned that her great revolution would be more symbolic than anything and that her personal political position would be just as paralysed as before, but now the reality was setting in and she couldn't do anything about it."
"She normally controlled herself well, but when her second son, Yorrik, questioned the nature of fairness to her she beat him savagely. I was surprised at her."
"Many nights I found her, stewing over tables and charts, troop dispositions and numbers, seeing if there was room to manoeuvre. Unfortunately, with the crippling war debts she'd taken on to hire the Great Company the numbers just didn't add up."
"Her time, when not spent scheming, was spent encouraging her children not to make the same mistakes she had."
"And in Yorrik's case, this meant disciplining him on how to keep and conserve money. Money and mercenaries, Christina had decided, were the only way to enact change in Denmark.
"As for her first-born son, Hamlet, he was being trained by her estranged husband as an assassin. They rarely spoke."
"At this point in my life, my dear old wife was on her deathbed. I sat with her for many days as she slipped in and out of consciousness, and as a result I wasn't there for Christina as much as I should have been. But in the final moments of her life, my wife called both of Christina's vassals to her and made her swear to her that they would be eternally loyal to Christina and her family. 'For I go to the Lord now,' said Ida, indomitable even dying, 'And I'll carry your oaths with me to Heaven. The Lord will bear witness!'
"What could they do but swear?
"She passed away soon afterwards."
"But after my period of mourning was over, Christina surprised me again. She told me her research had found a Castillian Princess who believed that she could hear the voice of the Lord, and she wished to examine her to see if she was mad, and document her pronouncements if she was not. The best way to invite her here from France, she said, was to arrange her marriage to me."
"What was I, in my dotage, to do with this beautiful young firebrand? I couldn't remotely imagine. She was a saint in taking care of me, without doubt, but she could have been my granddaughter. I simply allowed her and Christina to argue it out over Church theology, and often the halls of the castle shook with their bickering long into the night. Christina would argue doctrinal thought and the assembled learning of saints and history, and Belaskita would argue what was right and what was wrong without regards to Church lore. Christina found a lot of Belaskita's views disturbing, especially as they clashed with her own memories of the Sorcerer of Gotland and the direct consequences of impiety.
"But for all their bickering, they were two halves of the same whole. They made a sweet couple together, and Christina was never quite as happily distracted as she was with Belaskita."
"My advanced age was impairing my duties, though, so I finally stepped aside for a younger man to enjoy my retirement in peace."
"But there was a certain kind of rot that never goes away. As I was tending the stables, as my honorary title demands I do, I discovered the two young children practising a satanic ritual using the corpse of a rat. I dragged the little devils before their mother, who flew into a fury and lectured them for hours about sin and damnation. I was more concerned with the nature of the rite they were attempting - it seemed like the corrupt taint of the Sorcerer of Gotland had not left us yet.
"I started making enquiries, but it was too little, too late."
"... ah, I wish it was someone other than me who had to tell dear Christina that her son had been murdered. I wish I had never had to see the poor child's body like it was. Even in death, Rune's black hands strike at our poor family again and again and again."
"The spymaster Sven who Christina's mentor had appointed had been an old disciple of the Sorcerer, but Christina had kept him where he was because he seemed loyal and had renounced Satan before her. She was so trusting, and the world just kept taking advantage of it.
"But this was her son. Something in her broke."
"She locked him in the dungeon, and then walked out through the back of the castle with a shovel. She started digging, and dug and dug until she was exhausted. She came back and slept, and the next day she left and dug again.
"Finally, when that filthy pit was deep enough for her to be satisfied no one would climb out of it, she threw the murderer down into the depths."
"And then she covered it over and nailed it shut.
"I was shocked and horrified, but I didn't say anything. I felt like if she didn't do this, take some form of direct, extreme revenge, she'd go mad.
"The screaming from the pit eventually died down."
"There after I wanted to know less of my home, and listened to the news from abroad. The Muslim leaders had conquered Byzantium and there were rumours they would strike next into Germany."
"Norway had lost it's grip on England, which was now an anarchic patchwork."
"Christina twice wrote to King Vladimar, to no response. She spent much time weeping."
"The hated Sven begged for forgiveness before he died. Christina never went to see him, but I did. In the moments before his death I convinced him to name his fellow traitors."
"Rune's influence ran deep, but I believe I rooted the last of it out."
"Christina had endured much. Betrayal, rejection, death. But the final straw was losing a stupid bird. She couldn't take it. Even though a blizzard was coming, she was determined to find this bird, in the foolish hope that setting this one small thing right she'd somehow set her entire life to rights.
"She saddled her horse and made to ride out into the snow. But just as she left the gates, her son came before her, tugging on her sleeve.
"'Don't worry, mom,' he said, smiling bravely. 'I'll take care of everything back here. I'll do everything you never got around to.'"
"She was smiling when she rode away."
"They found her body the next week. A frozen eagle's feather lay across her eyes."
"The boy was crowned the next day. He's a good lad, young and strong and with a good head on his shoulders. I'll be passing soon, but I'll be leaving the county in capable hands.
"It's been a sad story, but it's had it's moments. It's had it's triumphs. I don't regret being there to see it."
- 106 gold ducats
- 1 County
- 2 Vassals
- 1 Jesus
- 1 Sister
- A Long Life Ahead Of You
QUESTION TO THE AUDIENCE:
The biggest problem with a small nation is a lack of qualified help, and our council is comprised primarily of shitbags, scores around 7, following Christina's purges. However, money spent on recruiting new staff is high risk compared to investing in infrastructure.
Do we want to try and recruit more help or invest for the future?