It is the year 980AD, in a very odd game of Crusader Kings 3, and under the brassy gloom of a midwinter afternoon, Europe holds its breath. For one hundred and fourteen years now, the continent’s fortunes have been driven by the whims of a single, anvil-sized heart. But today, in a sprawling fortress-chapel beside the Thames, that monstrous drum is striking its final, furious beats.
The last of the succession parchments have been signed. The last threats have been sent to the East. In the great hall, beneath the alabaster snarls of Zeus and Demeter, a marsh of sick cools from the near-apocalyptic revels of the emperor’s farewell feast. And now, in the imperial bedchamber, with a wheeze like a ruptured bouncy castle being leaned on by thirty builders, the soul of a god escapes its prison of flesh at last.
It is an hour before even the bravest of the royal physicians dares approach the body. When at last she places her head against that hillside chest to listen for a heartbeat, she finds it still hot as a stovepipe from the residual fury of his metabolism. But it is only the memory of a fire; the body is still. Trembling, she turns from the tennis-court-sized bed, and confronts the shadows gathered in a ring around it.
There are maybe two dozen of them, swathed in black wolf pelts, and they are giants. Even the shortest of them towers two heads above her, and they do not so much have facial features, as they have architecture. They stare at her, down noses like the prows of the royal triremes, as they wait for the inevitable words. But the terrified physician can only nod, as the truth she bears is too vast to pass to pass mortal lips.
Emperor Gigaknight Excelsior - the winner of one hundred wars, the patriarch of three hundred lords, who forced a continent to venerate Olympus, and then lived long enough to reform his own church - is dead. He has left behind an empire that girdles the western world, guarded by an army of one hundred thousand, as well as a treasure-hoard containing the majority of the world’s money.
And gathered around his cooling body are twenty-odd massive, superhuman witches, ready to kick the ever-living shit out of each other to get their hands on it. Welcome, friends, to the Age of Witchfights.
For those of you being introduced to the Gigaknight cinematic universe for the first time, this is a followup to my post from last month, in which I used CK3’s custom character builder to make a ruler with every setting turned up to the max, and then unleashed him on medieval Europe. In fact, this is technically a Gigaknight reboot, as I made the character again and inflicted him on the world in the year 869AD, rather than 1066.
It was… a trip. Gigaknight was, quite simply, a conquest machine. Any battle involving him was, by definition, one-sided: he waded around Christendom in a permanent re-enactment of that bit from the start of Lord Of The Rings, where Sauron won’t stop monstering people with his huge spiky hammer. He tended to start wars in batches of five or six, so as to save time, and on one occasion even defeated the Faroe Islands singlehandedly, after the rest of his army starved to death during the boat crossing from Andalusia.
"he turbo-charged the Hellenic faith to focus on precisely three things: conquest, cannibalism, and the idea that he might be reincarnated at any moment following his death."
What’s more, thanks to Gigaknight’s unparalleled genius, every territory he conquered was transformed into an economic powerhouse at breakneck speed, packed to the brim with coin-belching temples, castles, and cities teeming with man-fuel for the furnace of his ambition. And he did this all, while simultaneously dragging his empire to the cusp of the high medieval period in the space of a hundred years, and casually replacing Catholicism with the worship of the ancient Greek gods.
In just a single, earthshaking year, he kicked the pope out of the Vatican, conquered the ruins of Carthage from the Tunisians, and grabbed the city of Alexandria with the passionless hunger of an extremely muscular child seizing a fistful of chicken nuggets from a buffet. Then, like a villain from a cartoon who’s assembled the fragments of a haunted pirate map, he turbo-charged the Hellenic faith to focus on precisely three things: conquest, cannibalism, and the idea that he might be reincarnated at any moment following his death.
But while that final act had theoretically secured Gigaknight’s immortality, he was still bound to a corporeal body. And at the age of 129, he came to the sudden, mystical understanding that its limits had been reached.
Most rulers, seeing the reaper’s scythe in the mist ahead, would have focused on securing a stable inheritance for their favoured progeny. Not Gigaknight. The Olympian had sired around forty children in his life, some born well into his thirteenth decade, and each had inherited at least some of his stature, skill, and talent. Also, he had personally inducted each of them into his personal coven of witches. They were all hard as nails. And Gigaknight thought it right that they should fight for his legacy.
Laughing at the very idea of succession laws, Gigaknight spent his deathbed days throwing a gargantuan feast for all his kin, while divvying up his dozens upon dozens of titles as broadly as possible among his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And then, with a final “good luck chumps”, he suplexed himself off the top ropes of the mortal coil, and left them to battle over the carcass of his achievements.
The contenders are a fascinating bunch. Entertainingly, while most of Gigaknight’s kids inherited the extreme physical properties I’d created him with, they didn’t all inherit his "beautiful" trait, which was what prompted the game to try to hammer his deep-sea features into something resembling classical proportions. As a result, most of the participants in the succession crisis look like they belong somewhere on a spectrum between “goblin” and “statue of a bear made from gone-off ham”.
Anyway. In the next post, I’ll fill you in on the opening moves of the century-long royal rumble that followed Gigaknight’s death. But for now, you need to know who's going to be battling for the big man's legacy. Please enjoy perusing the following guide, which introduces just a few of the key participants in the unfolding power struggle, and let me know in the comments who you're rooting for: