Sigismund II of Haense
Otto Sigismund Barbanov, (10th of The Deep Cold, 1748–present), regally known as Sigismund II, was the sixteenth King of Hanseti and Ruska as the Grand Prince of Kusoraev and furthermore eldest son of Andrew IV of Haense and Maya of Muldav. He ascended the position at the age of five when his father succumbed to fatal wounds after saving the Queen Maya from captivity. The beginning years of his reign would be under the regency of Tiberius Barrow, until his death, and later the Grand Prince of Muldav, Otto Alimar. In 1762, at fourteen, he was crowned and anointed at his coronation and ruled without regent thereon.
When Queen Maya of Muldav was kidnapped by Haeseni rebels, revolting against the monarchy for the aftermath of the Ruberni War, King Andrik IV took up arms to rescue her. Though successful, the King sustained critical wounds that would soon lead to his death. The young Sigismund watched from the hospital as his father slowly died from his wounds, and those close to the future King believed it was at this moment that Sigismund formed such a strong desire to protect and cherish his family.
When King Andrik IV died from his wounds shortly after the rescue, Sigismund II became King at age five and Tiberius Barrow was appointed as his Lord-Regent, though when he died, he was replaced by Otto Alimar.
The Athera Expedition
While Sigismund II was a child, Haense was among the many Descendant nations that embarked on an expedition to the lost continent of Athera. Unbeknownst to the crew of the Haeseni expedition ship - the Geltenkaros - the boy king had snuck aboard the ship to accompany them and was not discovered until the ship had ventured too far to turn back. Thus, Sigismund II formed part of the Haeseni explorers that traversed the ruined land in search of the ancient Haeseni capital of Siegrad.
It was as the crew of the Geltenkaros delved into the harsh lands that their ancestors called home that they first encountered the Scyflings - Atheran tribal natives who had feuded with the denizens of Siegrad long ago when Haense was first founded. The explorers were astonished to find that the Scyflings remained alive on Athera, and they greeted the Haeseni like ancient enemies. Scyfling skirmishers under the leadership of a warlord who named himself Bralt the Boar chased the Haeseni into the valleys near Old Ayr, where they were cornered.
Bralt the Boar, proving himself to more than a little theatric, challenged the Haeseni party to a duel, and fought with Prince Rupert. Bralt was quickly revealed to be a far superior warrior, but before he could kill Rupert, Sigismund II rushed forward and stabbed Bralt. Their warchief injured - but not dead - the Scyflings prepared to finish off the cornered Haeseni, before another band of Scyflings - the Voliks - rescued the Haeseni and extracted them from the valley.
Sigismund II and his party soon learned that most Scyflings believed in a prophecy called Crowslayer’s Vow, which claimed that the Scyfling who killed the descendants of the Barbanovs of Siegrad - their ancient nemesis - would be anointed by their gods to unite all Scyflings under their name and end their culture of warfare and infighting. Only the Voliks - one of the many Scyfling clans - defended Sigismund II’s party owing to a vow their own ancestors had made to the House of Barbanov.
The crew of the Geltenkaros and their boy king continued towards Siegrad, pursued by Bralt’s skirmishers all the while, and narrowly saved by the Voliks on more than one occasion. When they reached Siegrad, they found massive holes in the ground created by the Wyrms that had originally destroyed the continent. Sigismund II joined the explorers in descending into one such hole, at the bottom of which slept a Wyrm. Their Volik guides explained that this was the very Wyrm that had eaten Saint Karl Barbanov -- the founder of Haense. Careful not to wake the Wyrm, the Haeseni crept inside its mouth and found Saint Karl’s skeleton, alongside several of his artefacts. Just as before they could leave the hole, Bralt and his Scyflings threw metal objects into the pit to deliberately wake the Wyrm, which led to the death of one of Sigismund II’s knights -- Primrose Kortrevich -- before they escaped.
Sigismund II was also present when the crew of the Geltenkaros entered Siegrad castle and reclaimed several ancient artefacts, only to be ambushed by the brunt of Bralt’s forces immediately after. The ensuing battle led to the death of most of the Volik clan, and those that survived joined their longships with the Geltenkaros for the return journey to Haense as refugees. Sigismund II awarded the surviving Voliks a small patch of land, and in turn the Voliks warned him that Bralt and the Scyflings may well follow them back to Arcas with an army.
In 1762, when Sigismund II reached the age of fourteen, he was formally crowned in New Reza. At the ceremony, a pair of goblins who infiltrated the palace attempted to assassinate him with crossbows. One of the bolts struck Sigismund II near the neck, badly wounding him. While the assassins were quickly dispatched, the King was rushed to the hospital. It was only through the expert treatment of the-then Surgeon General - Missa Demaris - that he managed to survive and recover completely except for a throaty rasp to his voice.
Storming of Ekaterinburg
Shortly after his coronation when King Sigismund II’s mother - Maya of Muldav - was killed by the same Ruberni rebels who had killed King Andrik IV, Holy Orenian Emperor Peter III stormed the Haeseni palace in a supposed fit of madness, accompanied by several armed soldiers. The Emperor demanded to see the body of the Queen-Mother’s killers, he learned that they had already been dumped into Lake Milena. The Emperor marched into the late Maya’s room, and set fire to it. It was only when confronted by the young King Sigismund II that a blazing row ensued between the two monarchs, and the Emperor finally left. Though violence had been narrowly avoided, the Storming of Ekaterinburg marked the beginning of a bitter and hateful relationship between the King of Haense and the Holy Orenian Emperor.
Though Haense was a vassal of the Holy Orenian Empire for the entirety of Sigismund II’s reign, his time as King saw heightened political tension between his Kingdom and the Imperial Government and Emperor. Haense had always sought as much autonomy as possible as a vassal and to retain their identity as a peoples, and thus when the Imperial Government began making efforts to better integrate Haense into the Empire and reduce its autonomy to create a culture of ‘one people, one empire’, divisions flared as a result. A number of key issues in particular led to entrenched opposition:
- The King’s right to ennoblement: When Sigismund II enfeoffed Erwin Barclay as Duke of Reinmar, it led to a confrontation between the Haeseni King and Holy Orenian Emperor Peter III at a sitting of the Imperial Court where he publicly stated that only the Emperor could appoint vassals within the Empire, Haense included. This restriction of a historic right of the King was made more bitter by the fact that in order to enfeoff a new noble, the noble candidate would have to go through the House of Lords - the upper legislative chamber of the Imperial Government - which was composed of a mix of lords from Haense, Kaedrin, and the Crownlands. The notion that lords from the Crownlands and Kaedrin, some of which were mere barons, could deny the wishes of the King of Haense to ennoble someone was viewed by most Haeseni as a scathing insult.
- Taxation: There were two separate occasions where attempts by the Imperial Government to levy taxes on Haense further alienated the Haeseni people.
- The first was when Haense began to settle vassals on the former lands of Suffonia, the purchase of which by the Empire Haense had contributed hugely to. After Haeseni vassals had finished constructing their keeps on the new land, however, the Emperor attempted to place huge taxes on them for being in violation with an Orenian law on vassal fortifications. Not only had the tax been levied by surprise and with no prior communication to Haense, but the Emperor employed the Hounds of Johnstown - a group which had settled in Haense at Sigismund II’s invitation - to collect the tax, sowing further discontent within the Kongzem.
- The second incident of taxation was a gradual push within the House of Commons, where non-Haeseni politicians, prompted by the Imperial Cabinet, began to advocate that Haense should pay tax to the central Imperial Government. Those who argued for Haeseni taxation claimed that it was unfair that Haense could elect citizens to the House of Commons and avail of Imperial institutions, while Haense itself claimed it had no choice to participate in the House of Commons and refused to pay for Imperial institutions that they did not want nor use. Furthermore, there was significant concern within Haense of poor management of the Imperial treasury that they did not wish to propagate.
- Member of the Commons George Galbraith, who had just been named as Minister of the Imperial Treasury, introduced a taxation bill in 1774 F.A. (327 E.S.) in the form of the Treasury Taxation Revisions at the height of the Scyfling War, but was defeated. Thereafter, negotiations occurred between the Imperial Government and Sigismund II’s Aulic Council in an attempt to find a compromise on taxation, but Haense ultimately refused to pay any tax. In the years that followed, members of the Imperial Government continued to advocate for Haeseni taxation but no second bill was ever published.
- Culture: A more fundamental source of division between Haense and the rest of the Empire was culture. Since the War of Two Emperors, Oren had undergone a cultural revolution that touched all aspects of their society, from architecture to fashion. While a celebrated rejuvenation of ideals within the Crownlands and Kaedrin, this new cultural identity clashed entirely with the traditional culture of Haense. A mindset arose from the Crownlands and Kaedrin that Haense was savage, tribalistic, and stuck in the past, and Haense was vocal about its disdain for the new Orenian culture, particularly fashion and politics.
- Law: Another point of contention was the Orenian Revised Code -- the supreme legal codex that applied to all lands of the Empire. While a thorough, if complicated, lawbook, it restricted Haense from enacting any laws of its own that did not conform to the Oren Revised Code. The Oren Revised Code and the House of Commons rendered the Royal Duma nearly entirely obsolete, and discontent brewed among Haeseni who, similar to the issue of ennoblement, rejected the notion that Crownlands and Kaedrini politicians should shape law in Haense.
- Institutional integration: Throughout the reign of Sigismund II, Emperor Peter III’s government made several efforts to integrate Haeseni institutions into their Imperial counterpart. The most notable example of this was an attempt to incorporate the Haeseni Royal Army into the Imperial State Army, which was outright rejected. It was also known there were Imperial parties advocating for the creation of a united interior administration body, incorporating stewards across the Empire, and a single Imperial treasury.
- The ‘Orenian’ People: One of the most divisive factors that soured relations was the idea that all of the Empire’s peoples were a single Orenian people. Haeseni citizens should, in their eyes, regard themselves as Orenian people first, and Haeseni people second. This attitude, however, proved to be a massive rift; with its rich and extensive history as a people, Haense was utterly unwilling to conform to this idea of a single Orenian people even without existing tensions and issues. The pursuit of this united Orenian mindset was ultimately ignorant of the proud culture and history of Haense, and ironically proved to be the largest source of alienation.
The Scyfling Invasion
Warnings of a Scyfling invasion of Arcas finally came to fruition in 1767 F.A (320 E.S) when Bralt the Boar anchored a massive fleet of longships in the bay near Valwyck. Sigismund II rallied a host to meet them at the shore, where Bralt the Boar compelled the King to surrender his own life to spare both their people from a brutal war. Sigismund refused, and thus began the Scyfling Invasion.
Sigismund II himself took an active role in many of the battles that followed, which was much of the reason his moniker became ‘the Soldier’. Though his presence on the battlefield inspired his soldiers, it was not without great risk: in the Raid of New Reza, when Scyflings infiltrated the Ekaterinburg Palace, Sigismund II was gravely injured and had to have his left arm amputated. Similarly, he arrived at Mondstadt for Ruslan Amador III’s birthday party, completely oblivious that the manor was being raided by Scyflings at the time, and suffered another grievous wound from a javelin.
The Scyflings slowly began to swallow up Haeseni territory - notably through their victories at Vasiland and Fort Buck - which was exacerbated by growing tensions in the south as the Begrudged Alliance and the Sutica War threatened the Holy Orenian Empire.
The Begrudged Alliance & Death
As the Scyfling Invasion raged in his own lands, war broke out in the south in 1775 F.A (328 E.S) when Holy Orenian Emperor Peter III declared war on Sutica after the Sutican Trade King - Corwin von Alstreim - killed the Emperor’s nephew, Peter Amadeus, and his mother, the Countess of Pompourelia. In response to the declaration, the Kingdom of Norland, Grand Kingdom of Urguan, Princedom of Vannmark, and the Hanged Men mercenaries joined with Sutica to form the Begrudged Alliance to oppose the Empire. Despite the extremely poor relationship between Sigismund II and Peter III, Haense fell under heavy pressure to officially join the Empire in the war against the Begrudged Alliance. Sigismund II hesitated in committing Haeseni soldiers, as he felt that, despite their allegiance to the Empire, Haense had no grievance with Sutica and little desire to help an Emperor most Haeseni viewed as a tyrant. Sigismund II’s brother - Prince Nikolas, and Lord-Lieutenant of New Reza - issued a formal declaration that Haense would join the war, though this was without the consent nor knowledge of the King and his Aulic Council.
In response to what many perceived as a betrayal by Prince Nikolas, Sigismund II took his own life in his office, throwing the Kingdom into chaos.
King Sigismund II was dubbed ‘the Soldier’ upon his passing. This moniker was awarded not only for the King’s brash, to-the-point attitude, but also his earnest and simple desire to protect his family and Kingdom. Sigismund II was renowned for the bond with his family, and especially his sisters. He defied tradition in promising that his sisters were free to marry who they chose, and disregarded all notion of courtship or martial alliances. On the battlefields of the Scyfling War, he frequently fought alongside his soldiers on the frontline - much to his own expense - that built a sense of loyalty among the military that no King had since managed to match. He was also celebrated for embodying the Haeseni spirit at the time in rejecting attempts by the Holy Orenian Empire to integrate Haense.
Despite the circumstances of his death, King Sigismund II remains one of the most commemorated Kings in recent memory.
Titles, Styles and Honors
Titles and Styles
- 1748-1753: His Highness, the Grand Prince of Kusoraev
- 1753–1776: His Majesty, the King of Hanseti and Ruska
Full title as King of Hanseti-Ruska
The official title of Sigismund II is: His Majesty the King Sigismund II of Hanseti and Ruska, Grand Hetman of the Army, Prince of Dules, Ulgaard, Lahy, Sorbesborg and Slesvik, Duke of Carnatia and Vidaus, Margrave of Rothswald, Count of Graiswald, Karikhov, Baranya, Kvasz, Kavat, Karovia, Kovachgrad, Torun, Turov, and Kaunas, Baron of Rytsburg, Venzia, Esenstadt, Krepost and Kralta, Lord of Alban, Reza and Markev, Lord of the Westfolk, Protector of the Highlanders, etcetera.
|Nataliya Reza Barrow||7th of the Deep Cold, 1768||Alive||Petyr Wick||Firstborn daughter of Sigismund and Viktoria. Disowned.|
|Josef I of Haense||8th of the First Seed, 1769||5th of the Snow's Maiden, 1806||Isabel of Valwyck||Firstborn son of Sigismund and Viktoria. Successor to Hanseti-Ruska.|
|Prince Stefan Wilfriche, Duke of Akovia||9th of the Deep Cold, 1773||Deceased||Unwed||Secondborn son of Sigismund and Viktoria. Twin to Aleksandr.|
|Prince Aleksandr Hieromar, Duke of Greywyn||10th of the Deep Cold, 1773||Alive||Unwed||Thirdborn son of Sigismund and Viktoria. Twin to Stefan.|
|Juliya Ipera, Princess Royal||11th of the Grand Harvest, 1775||Alive||Lord Fiske Vanir||Secondborn daughter of Sigismund and Viktoria.|
|Prince Franz Leopold, Duke of Schattenburg||12th of the First Seed, 1777||Alive||Lorena of Dobrov (divorced)||Fourthborn son of Sigismund and Viktoria. Born posthumously.|