Oh, how times have changed. Time stands still for no one in the real world and that is equally true in Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings 3 – pause button notwithstanding. Last time I had left things on the cusp of a potentially bloody feud between me, the King of Bohemia, and my son, the freshly-crowned King of Hungary. After I forcibly vacated the Hungarian throne for my son, new fractures opened in our relationship. We were no longer simply father and son, king and vassal. Now we were neighbouring kings and rival claimants for the Imperial Throne of the Holy Roman Empire. As the father, I held a weak intrigue hook on my son. I was able to use this to secure an uneasy alliance between our kingdoms. We rejoin the narrative here, as the dust settles from my Hungarian campaign.
With hostilities postponed for the time being, I turned my attention to internal matters. When he became King of Hungary, my son took the two counties he ruled as my vassal with him, depriving me of tax revenues and levies for my army: vital resources in these turbulent times. Fortunately, my coffers were looking healthy after my invasion of Hungary. Loot from many successful sieges ensuring that I could afford to implement a building plan. Construction would take several years and thus was not a quick fix. Maximising the eventual return by investing smartly will be key to future successes. I opt to add taxable farmland and levy providing military barracks to my own holdings, ensuring that I am the one to benefit from my sizable expenditures. I also take this opportunity to build a new city. When it is completed I will be able to add more buildings, further solidifying my position well into the future. With the Royal Investment Programme™ underway my coffers were significantly reduced as a result. An interim monetary source was required in order to bridge the gap until the construction works bear fruit.
Until now my focus has remained firmly on my own personal objectives; almost entirely ignoring the wars of my liege, the Holy Roman Emperor. In recent times the wars intensified. Several duchies sought independence but, ironically enough, independent from one another so none of them were much of a threat and their failure to join forces ensured that they would lose eventually. The trouble for the Emperor was his forces fighting on multiple fronts. If he stretches those forces too thin, he would lose battles he should win. If he concentrates his forces too much, he won’t be able to relieve the multiple sieges he was facing. To make matters worse for the Emperor, the King of France opted to take advantage of the turmoil facing him and went to war to claim land on their shared border.
It was my time to shine on the battlefield once again.
I joined the war against France first. I made a beeline for the border county and lifted the siege, preventing the French from taking their war target; denying them a quick victory. A second French army was caught in a pincer movement between my forces and an imperial army that was chasing them southwards. A five-month siege of a nearby town followed. It was a nervy end when a much larger French army approached as the siege entered its final days. Had they made it in time, they would have likely defeated me and prolonged the war, however they arrived a few days too late. The settlement fell. That secured some gold for my coffers and was enough to put an end to France’s opportunism. From there it was plain sailing; capturing the capitals of each rebelling duchy, securing victory for my emperor and plenty of gold for me. A win for everyone… unless you’re a rebellious duke that is.
As the fighting drew to a close once again, my spymaster brought me some troubling news. Someone was plotting to kill me. The question was who? My ungrateful son? A disgruntled neighbour? One of my vassals? There were many options. Motives to kill a king, especially an ambitious one like me, spread like wildfire and I’ve spent my life playing with petrol. Several months of nervously looking over my shoulder awaited me while my spymaster investigated. Disgruntled neighbours that I’ve bullied and taken territory from, particularly the Duke of Austria, are likely candidates to be keen to spite me. The Duke of Austria, though still considered a powerful vassal to the Holy Roman Emperor, is a much diminished force thanks to my manoeuvring over the years. Less likely is my son; he is busy dealing with rebellious vassals of his own in Hungary. Plotting to kill me and risking another war, should it be uncovered, wouldn’t serve him particularly well. Besides, he doesn’t stand to gain much; he won’t inherit my titles. However my brother would.
So, it turns out my brother was trying to kill me. An impatient heir is a dangerous thing indeed. This could not be allowed to stand. Now that his secret was known, the criminal had to be punished. There was only one way to settle things: single combat. His sword up against my mace. My countless military exploits to his mediocre prowess. With victory I intended to imprison him and use that as leverage to strip him of his titles and claims. But, in the heat of the moment, one thing led to another and… I killed him. A powerful blow from my mace found its mark and put an end to him. Naturally, I was oh so sad about it. He was my good-for-nothing brother, after all. Though it solved one rather important problem, killing him created several more. Not least of which is that no one is particularly keen on a guy who killed his own brother, regardless of the justification.
In addition to the relations penalty I took across the board for being a kinslayer, my other vassals didn’t like seeing one of their number meeting a bloody end at my hands. Particularly my other brothers. Now they know that our blood ties won’t save them should they fall afoul of me. My nephew, taking his now deceased father’s place, also isn’t exactly a fan of me. My once stable kingdom is looking rather shaky all of a sudden. Attempts to stabilize relations don’t bear fruit and so I go for the nuclear option. I demand that my nephew renounce his titles and dare any disgruntled vassals to join him in rebellion if he refuses. A big gamble to reassert my total authority over the Kingdom of Bohemia. Should I fail, the kingdom could be irreparably shattered. Only a few vassals remain loyal, the rest join the rebellion. A poor start.
On the eve of the civil war being declared I receive some further unsettling news. My son is dead. My army musters as I’m overwhelmed by grief for my beloved, ungrateful son. The King of Hungary died in battle against his own rebellion; an ill omen for the campaign I am already committed to if ever there was one. However, I remain resolute in my plans. Opting to move forward as my son would have wanted I tell myself, if he were still alive. I take in his son; my grandson; as my ward to ensure his safety as I set off to war. My allies, the King of Denmark and Duchess of Tuscany, move swiftly to answer my call to arms. Our collective might and my allies making up for my diminished forces make short work of the rebellious vassals and their small, scattered armies.
Most of the rebels find themselves in my dungeon. Negotiating their release in exchange for what I want is easy enough. One brother gets banished from the kingdom altogether. A few mayors are released in exchange for favours or gold whilst younger rebels, who remain redeemable in my eyes, are released for free; no doubt feeling the weight of expectation upon their shoulders as they leave. My other brother, the final rebel and heir to my title, didn’t escape imprisonment: my ally captured him. I could have paid his ransom to deal with him myself but why waste the gold? I left him to rot, no longer of any concern to me.
With my realm stabilized once again, things were looking up. That’s when I received a rather disturbing message from the game: it was my turn to die. At the age of 54, in entirely uncontroversial and ordinary natural circumstances, apparently, I relinquish this mortal coil and take up residence in hell. A suitable punishment for killing my brother and not the countless thousands who met their end in the wars I’d waged. Those were a-ok in the eyes of God and the Pope. No, they weren’t even a footnote in my judgement it seems. Instead the ledger merely says one thing as it condemns me to damnation; kinslayer.
It’s a funny old world in Crusader Kings 3.