“News from the emperor, my liege”, cringes the chancellor, as he loiters awkwardly before the door of his lordship’s privy. But the only answer he gets is the rhythmic thump of buttocks on wood: once again, the Duke is having intercourse. The chancellor is used to this sound, of course. It is the furtive drumbeat which underscores courtly life in this game of Crusader Kings 3, beneath the faint and ever-present cacophony of the War. And it is distinctly uncomfortable to listen to.
“Urgent news,” stresses the chancellor at last, through a grimace of social anxiety, and after a few more moments of thumping, there is a grunt of annoyance from behind the door (the chancellor hopes it is a grunt of annoyance, in any case), and the unseen motion stops.
“What sort of news?” asks the Duke, in a gelid, patrician drawl.
“Good news!,” insists the chancellor, voice leaping to the octave reserved for only the most desperate of liars. “Emperor LinkedIn has seen fit to grant your lordship with two new counts, to serve as thine vassals.” There is another grunt, of dismissal this time, and the thumping behind the door resumes.
But the resumed shagging is lacklustre, and soon peters out, as the Duke’s mind works.
“That is all?” asks his lordship, in a tone rigid with suspicion. “Two new vassals?”
“Not… quite, my liege,” admits the chancellor, fingers wiggling nervously in his oversized sleeves. “You, yourself, have been… ah… granted as a vassal,” he cringes, “to a new lord”. There is one loud, final thump then, and a brutal silence. “Who?” hisses the Duke.
“His excellency King Sausage & Chips,” blurts the chancellor in a mouselike register, “lord and master of Fight World.” There is a much longer silence, now.
“Fuck,” says Duke Dukeroonie, and absent-mindedly kicks the privy door off its hinges. “That’s not ideal, is it?”. His immense body unfolds from the space like a loose cluster of haunted tent poles, and he stands with a weary sigh, willy swinging unpleasantly in the breeze.
“Not ideal at all,” concurs the chancellor morosely, as Queen Saexburh of Fight World, wife of King Sausage & Chips, emerges blinking from the privy.
It is the year 981AD. Or rather the year 1AG – after Gigaknight – since Catholicism is little more than a fringe cult, following the 114-year reign of that horrendous, incredible man. Gigaknight was an experiment to see just how overpowered a human being I could create, using CK3’s custom ruler designer. He was extremely powerful. And now that he is dead at last, the world has become a warzone, battled over by his legion of mighty sons.
I decided to experience the first chunk of this postgigaknightian epoch as Duke Dukeroonie, the youngest of Gigaknight’s adult sons, and a character in an interesting position.
He’s the ruler of Anjou, an independent duchy in the middle of the kingdom once called France. Gigaknight renamed France ‘Fight World’, and it’s certainly living up to its name: before he died, the Big Man modified all his childrens’ feudal contracts so they could merrily declare war on each other at will, and as a result you can basically walk from Calais to Marseilles on the bodies of dead men-at-arms.
As you can see, Europe is a complete fucking mess. There’s currently a horrific war going on between Beast Knight and Wretch Knight, and another messy conflict further East, which I think involves high priest Horse Boy and a guy called Misery Knight.
Dukeroonie, however, managed to stay out of this carnage. And as I settled into his shoes, I decided that what he should really be doing was trying to ruin the lives of all his older siblings, so as to creep up the inheritance hierarchies. It made sense that he’d be bitter, I think: while most of Gigaknight’s surviving progeny are arranged in loose genetic batches, grouped around the late emperor’s final quartet of wives, Dukeroonie is the only son of a horny berserker called Vigdis, who a 110-year-old Gigaknight shagged after a cracking chat about economics at a feast in Estonia.
I imagined the Duke would hold his clannish elder brothers in contempt, and none more so than Sausage & Chips, the affable, paranoid King of Fight World itself. And so the ambitious young man set out to ruin his sibling’s life using his two greatest talents: “lying” and “boning”. Within what felt like minutes, Dukeroonie had not only embarked on an endless series of privy-based shag marathons with the Queen of Fight World, but had become nothing less than her soulmate. Wowser!
And so the ambitious young man set out to ruin his sibling’s life using his two greatest talents: “lying” and “boning”.
But then the news came: as part of the desperate, ceaseless rearrangement of feudal hierarchies necessary to postpone an empire-shattering rebellion, the weary emperor of the Gigaknight Ascendancy, LinkedIn LinkedInson, had folded Anjou into Fight World. This move had tripled Dukeroonie’s effective territory – but had also put his life in the hands of the violent, paranoid man whose wife he was ronalding.
Knowing that he would be imprisoned and likely eaten if his secret was discovered (because Gigaknight made cannibalism a key tenet of the state religion, of course), Dukeroonie changed his priorities rapidly. He needed to get as deep in the emperor’s good books as possible, in order to be in with a chance of begging an imperial pardon when the shit inevitably hit the fan.
For the next few years, then, the Duke hurled himself into the front line of every scrap of beef the empire got involved in. And there was a lot of beef. As Gigaknight had travelled the world, he had handed out eligible grandchildren to the local nobility like crisps, purely to spread his astonishing DNA. Dozens of meaningless alliances had been forged. And following the Big Man’s death, his geopolitical chickens were coming in to roost at last.
Admittedly, one factor helping Dukeroonie’s success immensely in this glut of back-to-back warmongering was the support of King Bloodmaster of Prawns World, the greatest general in the world, and apparently the greatest fan of Duke Dukeroonie too. If a campaign was going south, all the Duke had to do was whip out his wooden nokia and call his half-brother, and within moments, this bloody eight foot tall, scar-from-the-lion-king-looking medieval space marine would show up with a horde of grizzled sword bastards.
Dukeroonie didn’t care, so long as he got to participate in a war. Whether it was a messy siege in the Ruhr valley, or some incomprehensible horse fight on the giddy extremities of Central Asia, the Duke would make a beeline for the action, accompanied by five thousand snarling yokels. Maybe he took a wagon full of sex-havers, to keep him busy on the trip. Or maybe he just got down to it with the yokels. Either way, at some point he had a son, who he absent-mindedly named FIST KNIGHT.
Meanwhile, things were just getting more awkward with King Sausage & Chips. Presumably unsuspicious of his wife’s constant, mysterious odysseys to distant sieges, the jovial king decided to give the Duke another couple of vassals. The lad must have seemed like a safe (and enormous) pair of hands, I suppose.
And then, of course, the inevitable happened. At the Fight World Christmas party, or its neohellenic equivalent, in the year 4AG, Duke Dukeroonie got completely mangled on wine, and boasted about his queen-bungling exploits… to one of his new vassals, who happened to be best mates with King Sausage & Chips.
One can only imagine the hangover dread which must have set in the next day, and the ghastly, head-pounding rush with which Dukeroonie must have grabbed his fancy parchment, in order to scribble out a frantic begging letter to the emperor in between bouts of sick-barking. The letter was nailed to a pigeon and sent on its way, and the race was on: would the emperor’s forgiveness reach Duke Dukeroonie, before the wrath of King Sausage & Chips?
In the end, it would be the emperor’s forgiveness. But by then it would not matter – because something else arrived first.
It was a letter from King Sausage & Chips. But not even a rude one. It had been sent before the fateful feast, and promised the Duke nothing less than a position as the King’s spymaster. You know, the person in charge of making sure the King does not die, and entrusted with full authority over all matters of state security. Sausage & Chips had apparently thought this a great idea, because of the Duke’s extraordinary talent for scheming.
The King found out about the Duke’s betrayal, not long after that. And when he did, he was so cross, he sat down to angrily chomp his way through a massive dish of his favourite food: sausage and chips. It was the last mistake he ever made.
As a reward for this heinous act, Duke Dukeroonie was recruited into Witch Squad. There were no further consequences.
“You are a witch, Harry” Whose vile adventures would you like to see next? Barring poor old Sausage & Chips, pretty much everyone I mentioned in last week’s post is still alive (apart from Wretch Knight, who I’m 90% certain was murdered by Beast Knight), and I could jump into any of their minds if I feel like playing some more. Let me know in the comments who you’d like to see, should I do just that, and be careful not to put undue trust in seven-foot-tall dukes.