I am the twenty-nine-year-old Saxon count of Narbonne, deep in Occitan territory in southern France, and neighbour to the Catalans. The first decision, as it often is, was choosing a wife. While there are several tempting princesses, the ones I really want to look at - of course - are all Scandinavian, so that we can start to reclaim our birthright. Our family may be Saxons now, but our roots and blood are Nordic!
While both Denmark and Norway are elective monarchies, Norway has significantly fewer competitors to the Yngling family... and the potential to be kings of England if they win their invasion, too.
The first order of business is to have a son... by any means necessary. I propose marriage to Princess Maria of Norway... and while waiting to hear back about the marriage, fortuitously tumble with a teenage courtier named Aethelflaed. A man's got to do what a man's got to do, after all. Maria arrives a few days later, and I gain prestige.
Immediately, I begin fabricating claims on nearby counts, and am met with a lucky success within a few months. I raise city taxes to harsh as a first move, to maximise income. France is declared on by the HRE, a de jure war over Ghent, but I'm not concerned with this struggle.
Aethelflaed has a bastard daughter of mine... not a son, unfortunately. I acknowledge Aethelgifu as my child, to keep my options open in case of a lack of fertility. Maria doesn't appreciate this much... but she's not bearing my child, so damn her! Soon, another daughter is born to Aethelflaed, but she is a hunchback and the mother does not even acknowledge me as the father. Just as well.
Finally, my wife has a child... and it's another girl. Damn it! Still, Eanswith is my legitimate heir... shortly afterwards, a civil war brews up in France for elective monarchy.
Seizing the opportunity, I attack the neighbouring county of Melgueil, with the help of the Saxon Band and - naturally - my savings. I win two battles, eliminating Count Raimond's army. None of his allies help him.
During the war, my young lover Aethelflaed complains that I do not spend enough time with her. I buy her a gift for ten gold, becoming Charitable, and soon after, she becomes pregnant. At last, I have a son! A bastard, that I legitimise swiftly. Young Canute, as I have called him, will hopefully live up to his name. Much to my good fortune, the boy is Strong! My wife Maria is upset, naturally... but she should give me sons if she wants to avoid this problem.
By the April of 1071, I have won my war and become Count of Melgueil. My demesne doubles in size, and I now control the whole Mediterranean coast of France. In celebration, I order an upgrade to my castle's walls back at my court in Narbonne. And have a tumble with another courtier, who bears me a second bastard son, Maccus. My wife may hate me, but I do need the heirs... he is legitimised. Unfortunately, he is a hunchback: but a son is a son.
King Harold of England finally wins by 1073. For now, we need to be patient, and not fail like both Harald Hardradr and William the Bastard did... My wife, Maria, bears a second child. Another daughter. Meanwhile, another civil war I do not care about erupts in France.
With little else to do, I decide to go on a pilgrimage. To curry favour with the Holy Father, I elect to go to Rome, ponder the universe, and become a mystic. While in the market in Rome, I become Kind after attending a fair. As this makes me weak, it's time to take the ambition to improve my Intrigue.
Years are spent waiting for claims to be fabricated... and then two come along in 1075, with both Foix and Carcassonne being fabricated by my chancellor. Once my levies are reinforced... it'll be time for war! After the dragon hunt, that is. My son Canute becomes six years old, and naturally, I choose to tutor him myself.
War is declared on Raimond-Rogier of Carcassonne in December 1077. The Saxon Band, once again, will be my loyal shock troops. The count's all does not aid him. His army fears to engage in combat, and I besiege and take all of his territory, winning the war without bloodshed. As my mercenaries are already raised, they immediately march upon Foix at the conclusion of the war for Carcassonne. Foix does no better, and now I am ruler of four counties in southern France. Next stop, the duchy of Toulouse...
My liege, Guilhem of Toulouse, starts a plot to revoke the county of Narbonne from me. In retaliation, I can now plot to fabricate a claim on his duchy! A few cheap bribes here and there to barons and mayors who give me five percent power each, plus the support of the King and a couple of other major dukes... and I have one hundred percent. The claim is fabricated.
Now, I need to gather allies. My thirteen-year-old daughter Eanswith is betrothed to King Sancho of Castille, who is being tutored by a certain Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. An unimportant nobody who will never amount to anything, clearly.
I'm waiting for the moment... and then the King of France, Philippe the Lame, creates the Kingdom of Aquitaine and tries to institute Medium Crown Authority. If he succeeds, I will no longer be able to press my claim... the time for war has come, ready or not. It is September 1083. The die is cast! William the Bastard has joined in on the side of the Duke of Toulouse, making this a challenging fight. As the Saxons are unavailable, I hire the Catalans and the Irish. Jewish money will finance the mercenaries, and then I must try to weather the storm!
I defeat Guilhem's army at Gevaudan in a swift battle, after chasing them down through the northern half of the Duchy of Toulouse, and then see an enormous army of William the Bastard's Normans approaching. I avoid them, while they besiege my capital, taking up the siege just to the north, over the border in Rouerge. William's army abandons the siege and marches north to confront me at Vabres...
It is a pitched battle, with even numbers on both sides. We are triumphant, thanks to our use of the river for defence and my own heroic leadership. William's son Richard leads a second, smaller army south, but is despatched easily as well. Long live Duke Aelfwine of Toulouse!
The former Duke is still a brief problem... but as I only have one count-level vassal other than him, the tyranny penalty means little, and I imprison and banish him, seizing his gold and titles. My court is moved to Toulouse, as is suitable for my new status. It is April 1085.
Now that I am a Duke, my sons become marriageable. My eldest, Canute, is betrothed to Princess Adelheid of the Holy Roman Empire, and earmarked for the County of Rouerge. My second son Maccus is betrothed to Princess Giselle of France and earmarked for the County of Foix. I am now over my demesne limit, but will give a county each to my sons, and solve the problem.
Berenguie, the Count of Gevaudan, soon begins plotting to take away my son's title of Rouerge. As he has a high Martial score, I invite him to become my Marshal... only to make it easier to imprison him. Sadly, the imprisonment fails, but my army was ready for this possibility, and begins besieging his rebelling county in 1086. The war is quite a mobile one, with armies popping up everywhere and being defeated by my levies. It is a slow war, going on at the same time as a rebellion for lower crown authority by the Duke of Aquitaine.
Sadly, my eldest daughter, and former Queen of Croatia before the King died under suspicious circumstances, dies of pneumonia while visiting her new husband Duke Eadwin of Mercia in 1088. The first child of mine that has gone to the Lord. In a subsequent battle, I gain insights into military organisation techniques. I finally win the war, and grant my son Canute the County of Gevaudan, formerly held by the man who dared try to take my son's title from him.
As the mighty Duke of Barcelona has usurped the Kingdom of Aragon
by 1090, my plans to expand into his Duchy have become moot. I must look elsewhere, within France, instead... as a temporary measure, I fabricate a claim on the County of Auvergne. I do not intend to use it, just yet... for now, my sights are on the still-independent duchy of Brittany. A man could declare himself a king if he were to hold that land, after all... my son, Maccus, being an even better diplomat than I am, is sent to fabricate the claims.
My daughter marries a Prince of the Byzantine Empire, after her husband, Eadwin of England - formerly Eadwin of Mercia - dies in battle fighting a revolt against his rule in 1093. Prince Hippoyltos is an experienced diplomat, and more expendable than my son. He goes to fabricate the claims instead. He also becomes a Catholic, later on. Meanwhile, the young King of France dies under suspicious circumstances.
My wife Maria has long since forgiven me for my trespasses. As three of her daughters have become queens at one time or another, and she never bore a son, it seems she is pleased with how my plans have turned out, as she is with how my two legitimised bastard sons are doing. She died after a brief illness at age 48 in February 1095, freeing me up to choose a new wife before Maria's body is even cold. And who better than my liege's beautiful daughter, Princess Blanche of France?
Finally, I have a legitimate son, by my second wife, the beautiful young princess. He will, of course, be named after me! It seems he is a beautiful boy, though very sickly... some time afterwards, another bastard son, Uhtraed, is born with my lover. I do not legitimise him, but I acknowledge him as mine. Sweetly enough, my wife falls in love with me despite all of this, not minding the unlegitimised bastard even slightly, it seems.
France erupts into a civil war to lower crown authority, in which I am a participant. Shortly before this, I had fabricated a claim on the Duchy of Brittany and declared war upon them. My mercenary forces and levies defeated Brittany. As my only vassals were my sons, I could banish the imprisoned lords freely, then grant the lands to my sons. A Crusade was called, but everyone in Europe is too busy fighting each other to go, including me. It fails horribly, making no gains at all. It'd be a black day for Christendom if my own personal lordship wasn't going so well.
Several factions appear in France and press their demands for elective monarchy by 1101, as the King is far too weak to resist. France and Aquitaine both become elective monarchies by 1104. In vengeance for what his dynasty did in the past, however... I have set my sights on the title of Duke of Normandy, betrothing my son Aelfwine to his youngest daughter, Mabel, and assassinating his eldest son Asclettin and his first daughter Matilda. This will clear the way for my dynasty to eventually inherit Normandy.
In the spring of 1106, there is a revolt against my rule in Brittany, seeking independence under a new Breton ruler. My forces are outnumbered, and mercenaries are hired to deal with them. By the time they get there, however, the French army has already crushed the revolt for me. After this, my wife's elder sister appears in my court, with her husband, after her husband lost his title as Duke of Flanders. Immediately, she comes to my chamber - this old dog of seventy years has it in him yet, with two sisters, both princesses of France!
It is January, 1107. I am now an old man, but one at the height of my power and ambition. Plotting for my dynasty to control Normandy, in charge of the duchies of Toulouse and Brittany, with three lovers, three legitimate sons, and many influential daughters. I press the claim on Auvergne, as a gift for my son, using the mercenaries hired earlier for the abortive Breton revolt.
King Henri of France dies of old age on the 9th of September, 1107 - only slightly older than myself, at 72. As both France and Aquitaine were under elective succession due to separate factions which I was not even involved in, that puts us now as vassals of Aquitaine, not France. Aquitaine individually is far weaker than France was together, and I am in an excellent position to declare independence, or else demand that I be made King of Aquitaine, as by far the most powerful lord in the new kingdom.
A revolt against Duke Robert the Cruel of Normandy begins. My armies, fresh from their victory in Auvergne, begin marching north, with myself at their head, to protect my enemy's lands so that his daughter - my legitimate son Aelfwine's betrothed - will inherit when he dies. The night after my troops heroically rout the rebel Count Tybalt de Vassy's army at Evreux, on the 11th of September 1108, I lie down on my folding camp bed after the victory celebration, head full of mead and wine, arms full of the pretty young courtier Wulfgyth who keeps me warm on the long nights on campaign. I drift off to sleep, contented and full of vigour... and never wake up again.
So ends the life of Aelfwine Knytling, duke of Toulouse and Brittany, count of Narbonne, Melgueil, Carcasonne and Toulouse. True king of England, Denmark and Norway. May your reign be just as prosperous and successful, Duke Canute...First come, first served. Who's next? If the next turn is not finished by Monday night by whoever is first, it will pass to the second person who asked, to have until Friday to finish it, and so on.