Part 18: Small Thingsit's not a short update, it's part of a very, very long one
It began as all things do in Denmark, with a plot.
Murder most foul, the death of a King - assisted by his scheming and treacherous wife. This vendetta had gone on too long, and too many had died, for peace to be an option. All that was left was the knife, the garrotte, and then the war.
The naive King of Norway did not see the forces beginning to array against him, and he made an offering of peace - a marriage. He tried to wash away generations of blood and hate with love.
He was denied. This war had been too long in the making to stop now.
Duke Gotfred had much to do. In order to rally support for his war, he called a great feast and spoke before his vassals about the brutal, opportunistic war in which the sons of Norway had stolen the crown from the honourable sons of Denmark.
And in order to ensure that his armies were ready, he turned out the homeless from the castle, ordering that fighting men be trained and armed every hour of every day. A dark cloud came to pass over Denmark, an anticipation of a final showdown for the future of the nation.
Murder was the first blade in this war.
The Queen of Norway, Asta, went to her husband as he ate and made merry with all his vassals. She carried for him a pitcher of poisoned wine, and she smiled as he drank glass after glass. His enormous gut trembled as he forced more and more poison through his gluttonous lips until, with a final, satisfied sigh his throat closed and his eyes went dim.
The King had been so gluttonous that he had drunk five times the poison required to kill him, and his bloated corpse took the strength of three strong men to move. As to who had poisoned him, none could say - the King drank anything that was put in his hand, and drank from cups intended for others. There were so many possibilities that the investigation was cold before it began.
Even though there was no proof, the wise would have seen who stood to gain from this dark deed. The very day after King Arnvid's death, Duke Gotfred of Denmark declared war.
Suddenly the new king, the fifth of the name Magnus, found himself plunged into a sudden war with no time to gather the support of his vassals or confirm his coronation.
Just as importantly, with the death of the old king the laws of Gavelkind had split the crowns of Norway and Denmark between Magnus and his brother, Gudbrand. Duke Gotfred had timed his assault perfectly.
The first battle of the war, the Battle of Varberg, was a victory for the Danes - but a costly one. Half their force lay dead on the battlefield. This would have been a triumph if not for one unfortunate twist of fate: The Swedes had entered the war on the side of the Norwegians, and this fight would be the first conflict of many."
At Helsingborg the army of Sweden met the Army of Denmark and their mercenary companies. It was the largest battle that had ever taken place on Danish soil before now, nearly 30,000 men fighting and dying for control of the future of Denmark.
Though the armies had been perfectly matched and the casualties were perfectly even, the Danes broke first and retreated. A victory by the narrowest of margins was still a victory.
Another battle, much the same in terms of the even match, settled the matter. Denmark had suffered a humiliating defeat, and was forced to surrender.
This was not easy for Duke Gotfred of Hvide. The war reparations were more than a thousand ducats and the renunciation of his claims. In addition to the loans he had taken and the costs of his mercenaries, Denmark was rendered bankrupt.
The Hvide family was so impoverished by the costs that Duke Gotfred had to take to hunting the woods himself to provide meat for the castle. While his skills became honed and his mind cunning, it was insult to injury and made Duke Gotfred swear vengeance against the line of Yngling.
A chance to regain some of his dashed honour rose surprisingly quickly. King Magnus sought to seize the crown of Denmark back from his brother, despite the laws of Gavelkind passing it from him, and Duke Gotfred resolved to intervene.
No one was expecting the penniless, starving, exhausted soldiers of Denmark to act in this conflict, let alone triumph over the armies of Norway that had beaten them such a short time ago, but triumph they did. The hunting tactics of Duke Gotfred served him well throughout the campaign, and it ended with a victory.
Denmark and Norway were still divided and individually weak. As soon as the finances of Slevig were righted, Duke Gotfred would return.
A long and arduous task for a country on the brink of bankrupcy, though Fate would soon intervene.
It was amongst the strangest quirks of fortune that Denmark has encountered that Duke Torben was struck down in his prime by pneumonia. If random chance hadn't killed him then and there, the course of history would have been very different.