For glory! I'm currently in the middle of an epic undertaking: chronicling an alternate history of Europe in Paradox's Crusader Kings II, with a new entry every Wednesday. I am Duke Brian II ua Brian of Munster, and I have one goal: unite Ireland under one High King and secure its independence, laughing in the Norman face of actual history. Last week, I put down four (count 'em, four!) rebellions and expanded my realm, but I need one more important claim before I can declare myself king. Onward!
May 1, 1095: King Erik of Denmark, Duke Brian's brother in law, calls to Munster for aid once again in conquering the Livonian tribes, looking to expand his trans-Baltic kingdom even further. Duke Brian raises his hosts and sends word for the Danes to expect him once again.
Good ol' Erik has been conquering Baltic barbarians since my father's reign. My father, in fact, took the famous injury that left him mentally vegetative while brazenly chasing a host of fleeing Zemigallinas that outnumbered him five-to-one. And yet, the one time we asked Denmark for aid in our wars, he totally gave us the brush off. Nonetheless, I've been sailing off to join his conquests over the last several years, partly to make him less likely to ignore us again, and partly because I don't have any workable claims at the moment and need something to do.
With all of the territory I seized from rebels in the Connachtian Schism, my personal host now numbers over 700, which will make a significant contribution to this war. Munsterians now count for 13 of every 100 men in King Erik's allied forces. Our foe this time is High Chief Bikshe of the Lettigallians. He is far from the most formidable warrior we have faced in our ongoing conquests.
July 15, 1095: Duke Brian's legitimized bastard daughter, Dubchoclaigh, grows old enough to be educated. He sends her to his mistress, her birth mother, Gormlaith de Ennis.
August 13, 1095: After a relatively bloodless siege at Jersika, the Lettigallians put up a fierce fight at Erle, killing 561 men before surrendering. 78 of the dead are Duke Brian's. Once Erle is taken, High Chief Bikshe kneels to King Erik immediately, and the Munsterians head for home.
September 3, 1095: A famous Danish poet asks to be allowed to chronicle the history of House ua Brian, and their alliance with Denmark. Duke Brian agrees enthusiastically.
This will give me a nice prestige bonus, and I gain the Proud trait. The church will see it as a vice, but I see it as well-earned.
September 26, 1095: Duke Brian arranges a marriage between his son Fáelbe and the 18-year-old daughter of Duke Donnchad of Leinster, Máire.
The Duchy of Leinster is the second most powerful realm in Ireland, and the only one that has any prayer of challenging me for kingship as of now. By uniting my house with the ua Cheinnselaigs, I can hopefully bring them into my fold without waging war.
January 20, 1096: Duke Brian reinstates his once-rebel son Énna as Earl of Connacht. To Fáelbe and his new wife, he gives the Earldom of Briefne.
Énna really seems to have learned his lesson, and this title has put him at the maximum of +100 opinion with me. This will also eliminate the prestige penalties I've been taking for having unlanded sons.
While I'm at it, I arrange a betrothal between my son Énri and his half-cousin, King Erik of Denmark's young daughter Princess Sanna. Yeah, we're getting into some weird marriage territory here - they're both grandchildren of King Svend II, but King Erik and my wife Sigrid (Énri's mother) have different mothers. So... they're not that closely related, and I want to make sure our alliance with Denmark persists after my death. Of course, this could backfire horribly if Énri decides to rebel, and the Danes back him over my heir, Murchad. But these are the risks you take.
April 20, 1096: Nobody is shocked when King Erik calls for troops... again! His target this time is High Chief Riku of the Tavastians. Duke Brian pledges his personal host once more, and calls upon all of his landed sons to join him for the first time.
Distributing my land among my sons meant my personal retinue shrank back down to a rather paltry 225, so I decided to make a family outing of this. All of my sons are able commanders, and our combined forces are over 1000 strong. Also joining us will be the Kingdom of Poland, who have also recently married into Erik's House Ylving.
February 20, 1097: After joining forces with Finnish rebels, King Erik's allies crush the Tavastians. Roughly 100 Munster men have fallen by the time the survivors return to their ships.
September 15, 1097: As the ua Brians return home after a tumultuous voyage, they receive word that King Magnus II of Norway been usurped by Duke Austmond of Ostlandet. Magnus still holds the title King of England, though, and nearly all of Norway's former holdings on Britain.
Harald Hardrada's legacy is now utterly crushed, with his heir's claim to their home nation usurped and England still divided among the pretenders. Magnus' realm is now just called "England" on the board, though Duke Estmond of Lancaster still holds more de jure English soil than anyone else.
November 5, 1097: Duke Brian invites a group of visiting hedge knights to a grand feast.
I've gained the Gregarious trait, which will generally improve public opinion of me.
May, 1098: The Cathar heresy takes hold in Ormond. Duke Brian sends his court chaplain, Earl Tadgh, to bring them back into line.
The Catharists were a heretical group of medieval Christians that took issue with Roman religious offices, baptism, the Eucharist, and a few other things. Details aside, letting their ideas spread invites crusade and inquisition to my lands. So we won't be having that, thank you very much.
August 2, 1098: Duke Brian's son and heir, Murchad, dies of severe stress at 28. He is survived by his wife, Princess Joan of Scotland, and their one daughter, Catriona. For reasons beyond the duke's understanding, the title Lord Mayor of Ormond is inherited by Domnall ua Ruairc, a club-footed hunchback who seems like an all-around horrible person.
Well that came out of nowhere. My new heir is the once-rebel Énna, age 27. He has three children with Countess Dubchoclaigh so far: a son, Áed, age nine, a daugter, Dubchoclaigh, age eight, and a second son, Máel-Sechlainn, age one.
King Erik sends a raven expressing his condolences... but also that he really needs troops to drop-kick some more barbarians. Seeking the solace of battle to take his mind off his eldest son's death, Duke Brian readies his arms and his ships.
April 15, 1099 The combined host of Danes, Poles, and Irismen, numbering over 11,000, secures victory over the Käklisalmians. Duke Brian has lost only 37 men over the course of the course of the 9-month war, which had no terribly exciting battles to speak of due to the absurdly lopsided troop numbers.
February 10, 1100: Duke Brian rings in the new century when a spy is discovered sneaking around his castle, and the duke decides to kill him with his bare hands.
Come on, right?! That was actually one of my options! How could I not pick that one? This will inspire fear in my vassals and subjects, and probably deter future spies.
April 8, 1100: Duke Brian's daughter, Annábla, comes of age. Tutored by Máiread, the Warrior Maiden, the girl has become an able fighter herself. A few weeks later, she marries the 19-year-old Danish Duke, Ragnar of Skåne.
October 28, 1100: A holy crusade is called to take Jerusalem from the Shiite Fatmid Caliphate. After a long discussion with his council, Duke Brian sends word that he will be bringing his personal host to the Holy Land.
Pope Boniface VII has never been my biggest fan, and I'm going to need to pay a lot of piety to create the title King of Ireland. This is, in the long run, a fairly low-risk way to do that.
November 1, 1100: A roaring crowd stands on the shores as Duke Brian and 331 men who will be the first Irish crusaders board their ships to begin the long journey, down the Spanish coast and across the Mediterranean to Jerusalem. Even at 52 and known for his streak of cowardice, Duke Brian is eager to lead the host himself.
February 2, 1101: Duke Brian's crusaders come ashore in the Holy Land, sending outriders to look for vulnerable enemy formations that could be attacked before joining with the main host.
Just for showing up, I've gained the Crusader trait, which will give me lots of street cred both among those who value honor and bravery, and those who cleave closely to the church.
April 21, 1101: After cutting down 50 Fatmid skirmishers at the Battle of Nazareth, Duke Brian confronts the 228 men of Wáli Hashmaddin of Pella.
May 19, 1101: The Wáli is routed at the Battle of Sahab. Duke Brian has lost over 100 crusaders since landing already, but has also managed to cut down almost twice that number. As tales of their liege lord's crusading exploits make their way back to Ireland, the Cathar heretics lose their footing in Ormond.
July 2, 1101: Duke Brian's men join the main crusader host at last, at the siege of Tiberias. Duke Brian is given the command of the center by the Pope himself, having seen more battles than any other soldier present.
I've let my realm sag in other areas by focusing so heavily on breeding and training excellent military commanders, but it really pays off in times like this. I have the command of some 5300 crusaders, a fact that is not likely to be forgotten by history.
September 21, 1101: With the threat of Muslim reinforcements from the South constantly looming, Duke Brian orders the crusaders to storm the castle. Stones from catapults whistle through the air overhead as siege towers and ladders grab the walls of Tiberias in their clutches. 40 brave Munsterians die in a single day, as do many other bold crusaders, but the hold is taken. Sheik Musa of Tiberias surrenders at swordpoint, and the first great victory of the crusade is won. After a day of rest, the crusaders begin a march to Nazareth, where Duke Brian won his first minor engagement.
As they prepare to depart, a message arrives that King Erik of Denmark, while fighting the Orthodox King Vsevolod of Rus, was captured and imprisoned. Denmark is now ruled by his regent, Baron Frode of Kallundborg.
I've got one word for you, Erik: karma. This has also created an interesting scenario. As long as Erik is imprisoned, my wife Sigrid actually has a stronger claim on Denmark than the current regent. Technically, I could go to war to make her queen. I have no way of knowing how many Danes would support her over the Lord Regent though, so I've deemed it a little bit too risky.
November 11, 1101: The crusaders lose only three men taking Nazareth, but word arrives that Duke Brian's third son, Earl Fáelbe of Breifne, has died in a freak accident at 22. He is survived by his widow, countess Máire, and their son and daughter, two-year-old Máel-Sechnaill, and newborn Áine. Duke Brian punches the messenger out, burns the letter, and tells his men they will march on nearby Tabor immediately.
December 1, 1101: A few more men are lost, but Tabor is captured. The Tiberias province now belongs wholly to the crusaders.
April 4, 1012: After storming the fortress of Scandalon in Tyrus, defeating the boy Sheik Ali, only 130 of Duke Brian's original 330 crusaders remain among the larger host. He discusses with his captains the possibility of returning home.
I would lose out on further prestige, but things seem to be going well, and I risk being wiped out or captured the longer I stay.
April 10, 1102: At the Battle of Sarafand, Duke Brian sees several of his men in danger when one of the flanks collapses and they are about to be set upon by a large group of enemies. Mustering his love for his countrymen and the lingering outrage of losing two sons so young, he charges into the thick of the fray and sends the Fatmid advance fleeing nearly single-handedly, drenching the sand in blood. Those who have heard the stories of Brian's father Murchad, and his Baltic Company, see much of the old duke in their liege that day.
My bravery in battle has removed my Craven trait! Huzzah! That particular quirk has been plaguing me all my reign, lowering the opinion of me among any who value valor. Now at last, after having been through dozens of battles from the Baltic Sea to Ireland to Jerusalem, I have proven to myself that there is nothing to fear that can't be dealt with at the point of my blade.
June 1, 1102 With a battle cry that can be heard all the way to Jerusalem, the newly-emboldened, 54-year-old Duke Brian is the first over the wall the day Sarafand falls. Only the Great Mosque of Tyrus remains before another province is secured by the crusaders.
June 19, 1102: The Great Mosque falls in 17 days, and the crusaders march for the nearby Madaba province, home to the scholarly Sheik Sirhan.
August 25, 1102: the crusading army is joined by 700 fresh men from Venice, swelling their depleted numbers back to almost 5000. The reinforcements come just in time, as they are set upon by 3800 Muslim warriors from the East at Umm ar-Rasas. The Papal and Venetian forces make up the right flank, with Duke Brian leading the center and Bishop Crimthann of Tyrconnel, a fellow Irishman, leading the left.
September 25, 1102: 4200 men lie dead at Umm ar-Rasas: 1400 crusaders and 2800 Muslims. It is the bloodiest battle anyone involved has ever witnessed. Less than 20 of the casualties are Duke Brian's men. It is nonetheless a victory. While the main host takes up the siege, Duke Brian's remaining 107 men, the "Holy Hundred," seek to repeat the tactic of Duke Murchad's Baltic Company and pursue the fleeing enemy surivors
There are nearly 2000 Muslim survivors of Umm ar-Rasas, but their morale is currently zero and ours is still fairly high. Now is the time to attack and whittle them down, and earn tons of glory for winning such a numerically lopsided battle.
October 30, 1102: The fleeing Fatmids manage to rally, turn, and crush Duke Brian's pursuit. They only manage to slay 62 of the enemy, before they are surrounded and cut down. Duke Brian's personal guard spirit him away from the battlefield against his immediate wishes, barely evading capture by the enemy.
I guess, "Did not go as planned" is an apt description. Note to self: even having zero morale will not stop an army 20 times larger from stomping you into the dirt. Tuck that one away in the ol' satchel of wisdom. At least I didn't get imprisoned, though. Since my armies no longer exist, I kind of just "teleport" back to Ireland after a period of time.
December, 1102: The Crusade takes a turn for the worse. Even with the Venetian reinforcements, the crusaders are set upon and routed at Madaba when the Fatmid Caliph hires over 10,000 Shiite mercenaries from El-Arish. 1000 Scotsmen led by the Duke of Lothian land and valiantly try to turn the tide, but it is clear that the overwhelming Muslim number cannot be overcome unless more major nations become involved.
January 12, 1103: Duke Brian arrives home in one piece, tales of his battles already having become the stuff of legend in Munster. He gives a speech to the waiting crowds, calling on all able men to join him for an immediate voyage back. Some 1700 answer the call, and he spends barely a month on Irish soil before setting out once more.
April 30, 1103: The full might of Munster arrives off the coast of Ascalon. 7000 Muslim soldiers await inland, skirmishing with what remains of the Duke of Lothian's army. The Papal host and their Venetian allies now number fewer than Brian's own, having fallen back to Tiberias, and there seems no safe place to land and gain a foothold.
May 8, 1103: After sailing back west, the Munsterians come ashore in Farama to the South of Jerusalem, ambushing the forces of Wáli Muhammad of Gharzali.
May 21, 1103: The Battle of Farama is won handily, as 288 of the enemy fall, to only 85 crusaders. The Munsterians take up the siege of the local fortress, Darum.
Even fully consolidated, we couldn't take on the mercenary host right now. The best I can do is capture some outlying provinces to bolster our warscore and hope for more help to arrive.
September 5, 1103: After wiping out the Duke of Lothian's forces, the main Fatmid host sweeps down and crushes Duke Brian's crusaders against the walls of Darum. No reinforcements are coming, and Duke Brian informs his surviving 600 men that they have done all they can, and more. It is the more righteous path for them now, he assures each one, to return to their families rather than die fighting a hopeless battle in the hot desert sun.
This crusade looks all but lost. If Denmark or Poland or Hungary were to send troops, we might have a chance, but they seem disinterested.
December 17, 1103: The 626 survivors of the crusade, just about a third of those who departed, come ashore in Desmond and stand down. Almost 1500 Munsterians have died, all told, for this crusade, and Duke Brian laments that it was seemingly for nothing.
As has often been the case when a Duke of Munster returns from overseas, it is found that England has once again fractured. In addition to Duke Estmond of Lancaster, King Harald, and Duchess Æthelswyth of Norfolk, six new pretenders have joined the game.
1104: An uneventful year. The rebel state of Viken is conquered by Norway.
1105: Dubchoclaigh, Duke Brian's daughter by his mistress, Gormlaith, comes of age. She is a detached priest, charitable but also deceitful and cruel. Like her mother, she is attractive, but her beauty is marred by a disfiguring scar that Duke Brian suspects Sigrid had something to do with.
1106: Der-Lugdach nic Áed, the most notorious rebel in Munster's history and wife to Duke Brian's half-brother Amalgaid, dies in the duke's dungeons at 37.
August 21, 1107: Woe comes to Munster, as Duke Brian's heir and reconciled son, Énna, dies of severe stress, like his elder brother Murchad before him, at the age of 26.
I've lost my three oldest sons in a crushingly short period of time. It's a good thing I had so many kids, as otherwise I would be in deep trouble right now. For some reason (again, this game rarely ceases to confuse me), my new heir is not my surviving son, Énri, but rather Énna's son, Áed macÉnna. He is only 18, a misguided warrior, greedy cynical, and depressed after his father's passing. My grandson is also just, like me, however, which I believe will make him a good ruler one day.
November, 1107: Norway conquers Cornwall.
1108: A year passes without consequence.
March 22, 1109: Duke Brian's step-mother, Alfhild, dies a natural death at 79, having outlived her late husband, Duke Murchad, by 24 years. Within a week of the funeral, word arrives that the crusade on Jerusalem has been called off.
May, 1109: Duke Brian's legitimized daughter Dubchoclaigh dies at 19, making her the fourth of his seven children that did not live to see 40. The Duke suspects Sigrid's involvement, and becomes a gluttonous slob in his elderly sorrow.
This is getting ridiculous. I know people died young a lot in the middle ages, but this is over half of my children at this point, all before 40, and all but one before even reaching 30. I can't even be angry about my vice increasing. It's more than appropriate, given the situation.
Dubchoclaigh had one son, three-year-old Radulf, who will remain part of House ua Brian despite his mother's illegitimate birth.
Meanwhile, England has conquered Oxford, Warwick, and most of Kent (now ruled by the two-year-old Duke Robert II after his father died of an illness.)
July 1, 1109: A breathless messenger of Duke Brian's Chancellor, Eógan, arrives in the grizzled old crusader's bedchamber and shakes him out of his sedentary stupor. The boy bears a document confirming that claim has finally been fabricated on County Kildare. Duke Brian stirs, dreaming of the battlefield, the only place he has ever found solace. He orders the messenger to fetch his armor immediately.
And just like that, it seems a very small window has opened for the end of my story to change from one of sorrow to one of glory. County Kildare, if conquered, would give me a claim on the Duchy of Meath. If I were to press that claim as well, and make myself Duke of Munster, Connacht, and Meath... I would own just enough of Ireland to declare myself king. I am 62, and going into battle will be risky, but I can't resist the challenge.
August 5, 1109: Duke Máel-Sechlainn, hoping to strike before the main Munsterian host arrives from the South, marches his armies on nearby Castle Dromahair. The defenders are vastly outnumbered, but reinforcements from Connacht arrive just in time to turn the battle into a bloody rout for the pretender. 339 Meath men are cut down, while only 79 Munsterian lives are lost.
August 11, 1109: The full might of the Realm of Munster, 2200 men, is gathered in Breifne. Duke Murchad sits atop his horse, looking down on his assembled banners, knowing that this "war" will be merely a formality.
August 28, 1109: Duke Brian's army besieges Castle Knockaulin, as Máel-Sechlainn dispatches 61 brigands to attack the Munsterian capital of Thomond. Duke Brian knows it will not be enough to do any serious damage to the garrison there, and ignores them.
September 9, 1109: The defenders of Knockaulin lead a successful sally, and Duke Brian loses nearly 100 men. Even so, it does not delay the inevitable for long.
October 16, 1109: Duke Brian's youngest child, Aife, comes of age. She has become a tough soldier like her father, strong, patient, gregarious, chaste, and ambitious... though also craven, deceitful, greedy, and arbitrary. She is betrothed to the 15-year-old Welsh Duke, Gwerthern of Deheubarth.
Wales is a small, divided realm, and looks the ripest for conquest once Ireland is mine. They are Celts, as well, so will not resent being ruled by an outside culture as much as they would otherwise.
February 8, 1111: After a long siege, Knockaulin finally falls. Duke Brian's army marches on the nearby town of St. Brigit.
February 16, 1111: Máiread the Warrior Maiden loses her husband in a peasant uprising, leaving her with no children. Duke Brian remarries her to the young, brave Sir Dúnchad, one of his knights, hoping that her line will not end just as it is starting.
What. The. Actual. Frak? We are so far down the line of succession at this point, it's just depressing. I'm really starting to think that either the game has it out for me, or someone has been systematically picking off my heirs and my spymaster is just too dense to realize that the given cause of death is total B.S.
April 25, 1111: St. Brigit falls, and Duke Brian becomes Count of Kildare. Using the title's historical footing as a seat of the Duchy of Meath, he immediately declares himself Duke of Meath as well.
I now hold three ducal titles in Ireland, and have a de jure claim on County Dublin. Holding it is the last requirement for me to create the title King of Ireland. Before I step on its current owner, Duke Domnall of Leinster, like a bug, I grant my long-unlanded son Énri County Kildare to govern.
May 15, 1110: A small detachment of Munsterians are defeated at Kildare when the Duke of Leinster raises his armies to defend Dublin, but reinforcements rush in almost immediately to avenge the 94 loyal men killed.
May 30, 1111: The Leinsterians are killed to the last at the Second Battle of Kildare, with Munster losing only 124 men to Leinster's 600.
June 11, 1111: Over 2000 Munsterians arrive to besiege Castle Ath Cliath in Dublin.
December 3, 1111: Duke Brian's dear, sweet, conniving, murderous wife, Princess Sigrid of Denmark, dies in bed at 63. For once, the duke is not so broken up to lose a family member. Duke Brian wastes no time in marrying the 16-year-old Princess Thorborg of England. She is the eldest daughter of the Norwegian King of England, Magnus II. As he has no sons, any male issue of the union would be the heirs to that kingdom. Thorborg herself is a fortune builder, zealous but cowardly.
So what if she's 40-something years younger than me? And I have granddaughters older than her? And... okay, yeah, that's definitely the creepiest marriage I've arranged so far. At least we're not related. With any luck, she can give me another child or two to fill the hole left by the four that died. Oh yeah, and our son would be the King of England. You know, just a nice perk.
December 12, 1111: Ath Cliath falls to Duke Brian, and shortly after, the city of Dublin follows.
February 25, 1112: Duke Domnall surrenders. Duke Brian becomes Earl of Dublin, and orders all the lords from across the land to gather in the great city, under the protection of his armies.
Earl Indechtach of Tyrone, Earl Indrechtach of Ulster, Earl Eógan of Oriel, and Earl Áed of Tyrconnel ride from their northern holdings to join Brian's bannermen, never having met the legendary crusader face-to-face before.
Domnall of Leinster, hanging his head in defeat, is joined by his former vassal, Earl Donnchad of Ossory.
Standing atop a pavilion in the town square, the 64-year-old Duke of Munster calls on his chancellor to bring a silk-draped parcel before him. He speaks at length of Irish unity and independence, and the importance of banding together as true Irishmen to oppose all the forces who would seek to subjugate the Emerald Isle. He speaks of glory to be earned, and a seat at the table in world affairs waiting to be claimed. A seat that never can be claimed by a handful of squabbling, petty kingdoms, such as England has become.
The silk is removed to reveal a shining crown, and Brian ua Brian, son of Duke Murchad I, crowns himself High King of Ireland before all the realm. The cheers are so uproarious that even the cobbles of the city streets themselves seem to shake. Dancing, singing, shouting and drinking break out among all those assembled.
For a man who has lived through many a dark hour, it is a good day.
And so it is spoken. And so it is done. The ua Brians have risen from a humble house governing two counties in the south of Ireland, to the first High Kings it has seen in generations. It has been a long road, fraught with sorrow and adversity. But we have persevered, and we have prevailed.
The time for celebration is now, but I know that my realm is not yet secure. Ossory, Leinster, and the four Lords of Ulster remain independent. My next task will be to offer them all the protection of my kingdom as vassals. If they do not take kindly to this suggestion, it could spell the greatest civil war Ireland has ever faced.
Come back next week. Now, my true reign begins.