The Young King’s War Background Notes

4 Mar

I’ve been toying with ideas along these lines for a while, but I was thinking this time I might get them into a proper story. And this owes a lot to Henry II …

Once, the continent was ruled by sorcerers.

That much is known, although very little of precisely what happened is known to history. A sorcerer might rule a kingdom successfully for years or decades, then either get assassinated by another sorcerer or slip into madness … a madness that generally ended in mass slaughter, devastation and consequent destruction of records. It was a dark age, with legends of everything from demons being summoned to terrorise the locals to humans being twisted into monstrous creatures by sorcerers with vast powers and no sense of ethics. A sorcerer might start off with good intentions, but their powers eventually corrupted them.

The dark ages continued until Sihir the Great, the first of the wizards, developed techniques for controlling magic that didn’t risk madness. A wizard might not be as powerful as a sorcerer, in raw terms, but his increased skill at magic – and his ability to work with others – gave him an edge. The wizards eventually broke the power of the sorcerers, both by destroying them and by teaching youngsters with magic how to use wizardry instead of sorcery. As the sorcerers faded, the wizards steadily established order over the continent; they backed kings and princes who were prepared to uphold the Magic Accords, an international set of agreements concerning the proper use of magic, a flat ban on certain kings of magics (the Black Arts) and a handful of other details. It didn’t escape anyone’s notice that this gave the wizards – now led by the Council of Wizardry – a great deal of power, but it was so much better than what had come before that everyone was grateful. However, as the years turned to decades, the kingdoms became established and memories faded, the united council started to fracture at the seams. There were simply too many wizards who were unwilling to put the interests of wizardry ahead of either their kingdoms or themselves. Worse, there were hints that some wizards were experimenting with the Black Arts, claiming that their wizardry gave them enough control to escape the madness …

This was already an unstable situation. It shifted, again, with the rise of King Harold the Great of Kline. A young and deeply ambitious man, with family ties to a dozen other kingdoms, Harold decided that it was his destiny to forge an empire and unite the entire continent under his rule. His combination of a strong and very well-trained army and a formidable force of wizards gave him an edge – he also had the advantage that many of his enemies underestimated him until it was too late – and his marriage to Queen Eleanor of Gallardo cemented it.

It was an odd match, but it was advantageous to both of them. Eleanor had not been expected to inherit. (She wouldn’t have, if her brother hadn’t died young.) She was queen, but her noblemen were reluctant to bend the knee to a woman. Indeed, they expected her to marry one of them and let him do the hard work of ruling. The match to Harold ensured that she wouldn’t have to surrender to the aristocracy, as they would hesitate to pick a fight with a man who had a large army and a demonstrated willingness to use it, while leaving her with queenly authority within her kingdom as Harold had no interest in ruling Gallardo. Indeed, in the early years, Eleanor had far more authority than most outsiders would have expected. She was Harold’s regent as well as his queen – and the mother of his children. They had nine children in fifteen years, starting with Harold II (aka ‘The Young King’) and Ricardo the Red.

Harold took advantage of his son by marrying him, at two (!), to Lillian, the daughter of King Mathew of Malang. This alliance ensured that his empire grew too large and powerful to be defeated easily, giving him a chance to promote himself to Emperor and forcing the majority of the remaining monarchs to pay homage to him. Mathew of Malang wasn’t too pleased about this, but he took comfort in the fact that his grandchild would be ruling the combined empire.

Trouble started to creep in as the children grew older. In order to ensure that the empire remained intact, Harold arranged for Harold II (hereafter the Young King) to be crowned at 16, while his father was still alive. This would, in theory, avoid a succession crisis as soon as Harold died. However, real power still rested with his father. The Young King had a title, but little real power of his own. He didn’t even control lands and castles that were technically in his name. Worse, Harold kept his son with him at all times, ensuring that he couldn’t win any glory either. Worst of all, from the Young King’s point of view, his younger brothers were given meaningful work to do. Ricardo, for example, spent a lot of time in Gallardo, knocking heads together when the aristocrats got out of line, or serving his father on the front lines when a monarch proved unwilling to admit that the empire was pretty much unstoppable. A prideful man, the Young King feared for the future. What would happen, he asked himself, when his father died? Would his brothers calmly accept the Young King’s rise to power? Or would they rebel?

Matters were made worse by his courtiers – who expected him to provide for them, which he couldn’t – and his father-in-law. The former pressured him to demand real power from the king; the latter fretted over his (as yet unborn) grandchildren and nagged his son-in-law to take a stand for himself. Torn between different pressures, the Young King didn’t know what to do. He found himself, not entirely willingly, the focus of dissent within the court. His father responded by treating the Young King like a child, rearranging his household at will and sending away courtiers he thought were bad influences. This was maddening

Making matters worse, unknown to the Young King and his father, Mathew of Malang had secretly been dealing with Dark Wizards, men who wanted to tear apart the rules and explore the Black Arts. Neither ally liked the other very much, but they saw advantage in working together.

Matters came to a head when the Young King was finally allowed to live with his bride (he was 19, she was 18). He demanded some real power for himself – lands, even, lands he could use to support his bride. Harold refused – and, in a staggering insult, gave some of the Young King’s castles to his youngest brother as a sweetener in the marriage market (Harold would, of course, keep control of the castles.) This was too much for the Young King to bear.

Taking his wife, and their unborn child, and his closest allies, the Young King fled to Malang and declared himself the true king of the empire, starting a civil war …

… And that is where the story would go.

13 Responses to “The Young King’s War Background Notes”

  1. Vaporus March 4, 2019 at 12:59 pm #

    Looks interesting. Any chance this ties into SIM?

  2. Daniel March 4, 2019 at 4:30 pm #

    Interesting. I like the concept. Does the young king have any magical talent?
    When does magic manifest in this world
    If it shows up after full growth it could be interesting if the young king also had sorcery and using the knowledge of wizards gained some control over the sorcery.
    What makes this world different from Zero and SIM?

  3. Bruce March 4, 2019 at 7:26 pm #

    toss the dark wizards to the twisted emperor side and any other evil piece of crap so that there is a clear good and evil side or I wouldn’t consider reading it, The Emperor is evil by you description and his son joins dark wizards to fight him. so we just have evil fighting evil PASS!!!!!

  4. Dani March 4, 2019 at 11:14 pm #

    The questions about the SiM tie-in are well-taken. From the description, the degree to which this world is similar to the SiM is a matter of auctorial judgment. (E.g., how similar do you want sorcerers to be to necromancers?) At one extreme, this could be the origin of empire which broke up in the SiMverse. The question becomes: What is different enough about this milieu to repay a separate existence?

  5. G March 5, 2019 at 12:44 am #

    I would re-work it to a pre-quel series on the rise of the empire and its dissolution in the SIM universe–otherwise its too close–as part of the SIM universe it would start with a cohesive history and already existing readership–and it could still run as long as you want, with a different cast of characters. It would also answer questions like what happened in the fairie wars, etc. I would avoid getting too many universes going–it confuses people…

    • Ann March 6, 2019 at 12:34 am #

      Agreed

      Please no new series until your health is restored. I’m too invested in current series.

  6. SP March 6, 2019 at 3:23 am #

    I would like to see this as a spin-off to SIM and as others mentioned set around the time of the Empire. I have a suspicion Emily’s storyline is coming to a close but a lot of us love the SIM universe and would love to see it developed further.

    • G March 6, 2019 at 5:13 am #

      Marion Zimmer Bradley in the Darkover novels would write a trilogy with the main character a teenager, then later another trilogy with the same character in his 20’s, then a novel with that character in his 40’s, etc. interspersed with other books and trilogies in the same universe…Emily could come back in a new series in her 30’s facing Fairie from the new continent, or a resurgent necromancer threat, or sorcerers invading from another universe, etc…As a parent, I’d enjoy seeing Emily guiding Hearteye and Zangaria while trying to raise powerful children with more brains than common sense…

      • SP March 6, 2019 at 7:23 am #

        That’s similar to Ark Royal series. Not sure if we can do that in SIM verse, if Emily becomes as powerful as Void and can generate chairs from nothing, its hard to make credible bad guys. Could work if Emily was a secondary character, like how Harkin is mentioned every once in a while.

      • G March 6, 2019 at 2:57 pm #

        Emily switches from facing individual bad guys to groups of bad guys, sane coalition of necromancers, a “Benedict of Amber” shows up leading an army of sorcerers from another universe, Emily tries to re-take and re-populate the dead lands of the necromancers, someone opens the way for an army of demons to enter the real world, and my favorite, parenting…

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 6, 2019 at 5:46 pm #

        Going along with parenting 😉 there are the problems that “magic can’t solve”. 😀

        IE Emily may be the “Most Powerful Sorcerer” on the Nameless World but the problems she’s facing may require “People Skills” which is her weak spot.

      • G March 6, 2019 at 6:08 pm #

        Yup–she might also have to become more of a leader, coordinating others–with a different set of challenges

  7. Anarchymedes March 11, 2019 at 8:45 am #

    There is a tendency in British fantasy recently, for this evil-fighting-evil approach, which makes for no real protagonist(s), and no one really to root for. One notable example, IMO, is The Ten Thousand, by Paul Kearney. Towards the end, you just can’t help fantasising about taking a ‘good old’ Death Star and putting this whole bloody world out of its endless (and pointless) misery.
    I don’t know: maybe it’s the antithesis of the Hollywood’s ‘happy ending’; or maybe the desire to rub everyone’s nose in the harsh reality, making sure no one escapes the (author’s?) pain. It’s getting close to the masochism of the French and Russian classic literature: everything is hopeless, evil is immortal, good is doomed, but we must, because God wants it, etc.
    I’m afraid this idea is a recipe along those lines, which is why I personally don’t like it.

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