Crusader Kings Chronicle, part 2: 1076 - 1086 A.D.

T.J. Hafer


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 Murchad I 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 made my first steps toward the throne by uniting the Duchy of Munster. I've still got a long way to go to forge a crown, though. Onward!

Get caught up: The Prologue , Part 1 .

A long-awaited claim

October 14, 1076: The 10th year of Duke Murchad's reign comes to a jubilant end as a son named Fáelán is born to the duke's half-brother Conchobar, and his wife Ingebjørg.

March 8, 1077: A letter Duke Murchad has been waiting to recieve for years comes to him. His cousin and chancellor, Toirrdelbach, has finally fabricated a claim on County Connacht. By cross-referencing several ancient annals of Irish history, Toirrdelbach found some workable, archaic law giving his liege sovereignty over the desired lands. Duke Murchad wastes no time declaring war on Earl Áed ua Conchobair, the reigning Lord of Connacht. He raises 885 men to Áed's mere 386, and calls on King Svend of Denmark, father-in-law to his son and heir, Brian, to join the war.

It's about time! As you may remember from previous installments, CK2 makes you give a reason for declaring war. If you don't have a marital, blood, religious, or legal claim on the land you want to conquer, you need to send your chancellor to make something up. That's exactly what Old Man Toirrdelbach has been doing for the last several years. He delivered, though, so I'm not going to get on his case about the "albeit slowly" part.

March 12, 1077: King Svend replies that he unfortunately won't be able to join the war, but wishes the ua Brians his best.

May 21, 1077: Murchad's forces win the day against the Connachtians at the Battle of Waterford. 239 of the enemy are cut down, while the Munsterians lose a mere 73.

June 6, 1077: Murchad runs Earl Áed's forces down at Gowran, killing 47 more with no losses. They are left with less than 100 standing.

June 22, 1077: The Connachtians have fled east into the neutral county of Kildare, where the Munsterians find them and slay them to a man. Unopposed, the Munsterian army marches back for Roscommon, seat of Connacht, to put it to siege.

July 6, 1077: Énna mac Brian, Duke Murchad's second eldest grandson, grows old enough to be educated. He is sent off to Lord Mayor Skofte of Ormond, the finest warrior in the land who is not currently busy leading troops against Earl Áed.

July 26, 1077: Some men inside Roscommon Castle turn their cloaks for Murchad, leading a few men through a secret passage and advancing the siege.

This is one of the few randomly-generated events that can happen when besieging a castle. Some are good for the attackers, others are good for the defenders.

August 25, 1077: The defenders at Roscommon attempt to sally forth and break the Musnterian siege, but are stopped hardly beyond the walls. It seems they cannot hold for much longer.

The fall of Roscommon

September 15, 1077: Duke Murchad turns 50, and a small feast in his honor is held in the siege camps, even as he refuses to give up his turn on the watch.

December 13, 1077: With the onset of winter, disease strikes the Munsterian camps and claims 40 lives.

December 22, 1077: Roscommon falls at last. After almost five months, Murchad's army has lost nearly four times as many men to chill as they did to the defenders.

February 11, 1078: Earl Áed, having been smuggled out of the city during the siege, comes to parlay with Duke Murchad and offers his formal surrender. County Connacht is declared a domain of the Duchy of Munster, and Áed is stripped of his lands and titles. Murchad elects to govern Connacht himself.

The advantage to giving counties to myself is that I don't have to worry about whether a subservient governor likes me. I'll always get the full troop levy when I call for it, and the risk of rebellion is much lower. The disadvantage is that I lose a potent gift. Few things make the lesser nobles under you happier than a landed title. Also, if my "demesne" - the counties I control directly - gets too large, my vassals and sons will start to get annoyed with me.

Once the annexation is done, Murchad names himself Duke of Munster and Connacht, giving him claim to the Duchy of Connacht in addition to the county for which it is named.

Excellent, this does two things for me. First, holding two Ducal titles is one of the prerequisites to declare myself King of Ireland. So, check that off the list. Now I just need to control 50% of its counties and pay a whole bunch of gold and piety, but that's a ways off. Second, Duke of Connacht gives me a de jure claim on County Breifne, which is historically part of the Duchy of Connacht.

I'm hoping I won't even need to raise a sword to claim Breifne, though. As you might recall, my grandson Énna mac Brian is betrothed to the child countess Der-Lugdach, who is currently the rightful ruler of Breifne (under a regent, since she's about seven years old.) My hope is that, when they are wed, the people of Breifne will accept Énna as their liege lord, and he will agree to be my vassal.

And if not... yeah, then the part with the swords happens.

Now, I've received a pop-up from the game that brings a new problem to my attention (which the commenters on previous installments of this column were astute to point out). My current succession law is called "Gavelkind," which boils down to, "When you die, your lands get split up between all of your living, legitimate sons." That's going to spell disaster for any one of them becoming King of Ireland someday, creating an endless series of kinslaying succession wars among cadet branches of House ua Brian. A freaking feudal fiasco, so to speak.

I can only change one law every 10 years, but as luck would have it, it's been 10 years since the last time I did so. I change my succession law to Primogeniture: the oldest son (or daughter, if I have no living, legitimate sons) gets everything. This will make all of my other sons resent me, but hey, you can't build a kingdom without coming right out and saying that you love one of your children more than the rest of them.

But wait! This ongoing chain of unintended side-effects isn't over yet! Now that I'm using Primogeniture succession, I take a prestige penalty for all my unlanded, legitimate sons over the age of 16. I give Brian, my heir, the title Earl of Connacht accordingly. He more or less adores me for passing the new succession law, so I need not worry of rebellion or stingy levies.

Welcome to the realm!

My new Connachtian bannermen, reporting to me through Brian, are Mayor Domnall of Galway and Bishop Iacob of Tuam.

Mayor Domnall is an elusive shadow (CK2 short-hand for "badass spy") who loves gardening. He is honest, chaste, and content... but also envious and greedy.

Bishop Iacob is a dutiful cleric who also happens to be a proud, greedy drunkard that fancies impaling the unrighteous on spikes (yes, that is an in-game trait). The Impaler of Tuam is very cynical, but in his favor, quite brave and temperate.

December 28, 1078: A few days after Christmas, Pope Alexander II passes on and is succeeded by Pope Pius II.

June 17, 1079: Old Toirrdelbach proves, at 70, that he's still a master of diplomacy by fabricating a claim for Duke Murchad on County Kildare. He is sent north to do the same in County Oriel.

Kildare is one half of the Duchy of Meath, and capturing it would let me add a third Ducal title to my realm. Oriel, to the north, is part of the expansive Duchy of Ulster, which will be a bit harder to claim.

July 2, 1079: At a private council, plans are laid to press Murchad's new claim on County Kildare. After much debate, it is decided that Munster should wait until new levies can be raised in Connacht to assure victory.

When you conquer a county, it gains a "recently conquered" debuff for a few years that prevents you from raising the normal number of troops there. I could probably take Kildare with what I have in Thomond and Ormond, but I happen to know that the Duke of Meath is already in a de jure war with Kildare. It would be way too easy for him to wait for me to weaken the castle, and then sweep in and wipe me off the map. I'll need the levies from Connacht to assure that I can win against two armies.

On the other hand, I'm not getting any younger. Well into my 50s in an age when making it to 60 was quite rare, I could drop dead any day now. And because my claim on Kildare is fabricated, Brian won't inherit it. Toirrdelbach (assuming he's still alive) would have to fabricate a new claim for Brian. So I'm taking a gamble in waiting. Hopefully, it will pay off.

April 16, 1080: After a romantic stroll along the rocky coasts of Thomond, Duke Murchad and Duchess Alfhild fall in love.

This is a pleasant surprise, especially in an era when nearly all noble marriages were politically-motivated. It will improve the duchess's opinion of me greatly, and would also give us a higher chance of having children were it not for the fact that Alfhild is 50, and I'm 50 and change, meaning we're likely no longer capable.

May 24, 1080: Duke Murchad I becomes known as Duke Murchad the Able.

Not bad. Each ruler in my line will get a title like this when they've done something to warrant it. I was hoping for "the Conqueror" or "the Great," but I suppose I'll leave that to my descendants, as my reign seems to be winding down.

A fateful voyage

1081: Aside from something about a Jihad taking place a world away, nothing notable transpires.

Let me get my kingdom in order. Then maybe, just maybe, I'll start caring about these massive holy wars going on in the Middle East.

Spring, 1082: A horrible outbreak of typhus strikes Ireland. Earl Muiredach of Desmond, Duke Murchad's half-brother, Conchobar, and Conchobar's son Cennétig, are among those to come down with the affliction. By some grace, they all eventually pull through.

September 15, 1083: On the day that marks the end of the 17th year of Duke Murchad's reign, a letter arrives from King Erik I of Denmark. Erik is the son of King Svend II, who died in a suspicious accident earlier in the year. He is also the brother of Princess Sigrid, wife of Brian mac Murchad. He seeks Munster's aid against the Baltic Zemigallian tribesmen. Having never sailed the seas or seen the lands of his Norse kinsmen by marriage before, the aging Duke Murchad gladly accepts. He calls upon his personal retinue of 225 excellent warriors, and sets out on three galleys from Bunratty, Thomond.

This will give me the opportunity to win some prestige without risking my own lands. I'm sending only my own levies so that I won't upset my bannermen by sending their troops across the sea, which will also leave me plenty of strength to defend my lands if anything unexpected happens while I'm gone. Erik's army is over 4000 strong, with reinforcements from allied Norway also on the move. But I'll still win proportional prestige for my contributions.

November 15, 1083: After a long row and inland march, the Munsterians join the battle at Bauska. King Erik's host numbers some 4400 with the arrival of the Irishmen, against roughly 1100 Zemigallians. As a decorated warrior, Duke Murchad is given the honor of leading the center column. King Erik himself takes up the left flank, and the right is commanded by a Saxon mercenary commander, Captain Æthelbald.

Wow, I had no idea the Danes had that much reverence for my skill in battle. Leading the center column of over 1000 men is a huge responsibility, and a huge honor. If the center falls, the flanks usually don't fare well. Though a mere fifth of the men under me are my own, in a way, the entire battle could hinge on my skill as a commander. The Zemigallian leader is High Chief Kurlemuše the Lion, though, known to be a brilliant strategist. We will make a formidable match for each other.

November 27, 1083: The day is won at Bauska. 109 men are dead on King Erik's side, including 27 Irishmen, but so are 726 of the foe - well over half of their strength.

December 10, 1083: Unbidden by King Erik, Duke Murchad leads the remaining 200 of his men after the broken and fleeing Zemigallians into the Zhmud province while the main host besieges their holdings. Though they are outnumbered, the Munsterians are fresh and fiery in the face of the routing, disorganized tribesmen.

January 9, 1084: While fighting the Zemigallians across the fields of Jurbarkas, the aged Duke Murchad charges once again into the thick of battle, and takes a fierce blow to the head. His men rush to surround him and pull him out of the fighting, but once he is brought to a healer, he is found to be barely conscious and robbed of his wits. A sorrow falls over the camp as the healers proclaim their fear that the brave duke's mind will never heal from the injury, and while he remains alive, will never again be fit for rule or battle, or even speech.

I guess that's what I get for sending a 56-year-old man into battle against a numerically-superior foe. I've gained the "Incapable" trait, which basically condemns me to being a vegetable until I die. Lord Mayor Skofte of Ormond has taken over as my regent until then. I didn't get to pick, and I'm not exactly sure how that works. I would have assumed my heir would be first in line for that duty. Skofte is a genius, though, so he should do a fine job.

January 22, 1084: Despite the loss of their liege and commander, along with 84 more men, the Irishmen send the Zemigallians fleeing further into the wilds. The ferocity and skill of Duke Murchad's legendary Baltic Company has won great victory, but at great cost. The remaining captains decide unanimously that it is time to take what remains of their host and their lord, and sail for home.

England in flames... again

March 8, 1084: The 114 Munsterian survivors of the Danish-Zemigallian War come ashore in Connacht, bearing Duke Murchad the Not-So-Able. 121 men did not return, nor did their lord's faculties, but the tales of their fearless deeds are sure to spread across the Baltic and the rest of Europe, bringing glory to House ua Brian.

They learn that England is burning.

It seems that while Duke Murchad was away, King Harald the Conqueror of Norway was killed in battle at 68, by Prince Robert of England, son of the late King William the Conqueror. King Harald's son, Magnus II of Norway, is now fighting a losing battle against the Norman Prince Robert, who has claimed the Kingdom of Kent from Norway, and Duke Estmond I of Lancaster, a Saxon, who has declared independence as well. Once again, as in 1066, England is divided between Norman, Saxon, and Norse.

March 10, 1084: Word arrives that Chief Kurlemuše the Lion has surrendered to King Erik of Denmark, who sends his kind condolences to the ua Brians for what happened to Duke Murchad. He swears that their contribution will never be forgotten by House Ylving. The Kingdom of Denmark now has a foothold in the Baltic, and Erik shows no signs of ending his conquest there.

May 1, 1084: A marriage is arranged between Flaithbertach macMurchaid, son of Munster's late spymaster, and Seca nic Iocilin, daughter of Duke Conchobar of Meath. The surviving ua Brians hope this may create a claim for them on Meath one day.

August, 1084: A fourth claimant arises in England, when the Saxon Duchess Æthelswyth declares the independence of the Duchy of Norfolk. England is now nearly as divided as Ireland.

August 19, 1084: Bishop Fogartach of Killaloe dies of his syphilis at 53. The Bishopric is succeeded by a 29-year-old, inbred, incompetent, lowborn man named Crimthann.

September 24, 1084: At the amazing age of 75, Toirrdelbach fabricates a claim for Murchad on County Oriel. Unfortunately, it seems he will never know of this news, much less be able to take advantage of it.

November, 1084: Prince Richard, another son of King William I, carves the Duchy of Maine out of Norway's holdings in what was once Normandy. Meanwhile, the Saxon Duke Harold II declares the independence of County Bedford. The British realm King Harald of Norway once ruled is now six separate, sovereign states.

This is actually very good for me. As long as England is embroiled in constant, entropic civil wars, I don't need to worry about what happened to the Irish in actual history. Namely, having some powerful English king decide to try to conquer the British Isles. If my long-term plans line up, it will eventually be the other way around.

Farewell, my lord

March 28, 1085: All the realm is in mourning. After reigning for 19 years, Duke Murchad I dies in a coma at 58. All of his relatives and bannermen, as well as the court of King Erik of Denmark, who fought beside him, come to attend the grandest funeral Ireland has seen in living memory. Murchad took House ua Brian from a modest noble lineage to a legacy that rivals even many of the six lord-claimants of England. His wise rule, tenacity, fearlessness, and skill in battle will be remembered for ages to come.

And thus, I am now Duke Brian II ua Brian, named for Brian I, the progenitor of our great house. At 37, I am just a touch younger than my father was when his reign began. I am a tough soldier just as he was, patient, diligent, and ruthless. Secretly, I am also a coward and taken to gluttony.

The new duchess is my wife, 36-year-old Princess Sigrid of Denmark, sister to King Erik I. She is a charismatic negotiator, humble, diligent, and gregarious. Yet, she has also shown herself to be cruel and short-tempered. If the words of my late father are to be believed, she had two of his spymasters assassinated. If she proves to be my enemy, at least I have already taken the precaution of keeping her close.

Sigrid has given me many children since we were wed 19 years ago. My eldest and heir, Murchad (named for his grandfather), will come of age next year, on the anniversary of his namesake's death. Énna, my second eldest, is 13, and dislikes me greatly as he believes himself a more capable ruler than his elder brother. My third son, Fáelbe, is only 6, and thinks better of me - as do my youngest boy and only girl, 2-year-old Énri and newborn Annábla.

I also have my 15-year-old half-brother, Amalgaid, to contend with. He was born during the time of gavelkind succeession, and still resents that our father bequeathed all of his lands to me in breach of ancient tradition.

I seek to continue my father's quest to make the ua Brians High Kings of Ireland, but my work is cut out for me. I didn't inherit the claims my great-uncle Toirrdelbach fabricated on Kildare or Oriel. On the bright side, Amalgaid is soon to marry Countess Der-Lugdach of Breifne, which will hopefully bring that county into my realm.

My father was well-loved, but many of my new vassals do not think so highly of me. The Norwegian Lord Mayor Skofte of Ormond knows of my cowardice and resents me for it. He would rather see the half-Norwegian Amalgaid have my seat. Bishop Iacob of Tuam, for a variety of reasons, also thinks I am the scum of the earth. I will have to prove them both wrong if I am to build a strong realm.

As my first act in office, I send great uncle Toirrdelbach to do for me as he did for my father, hoping to write my name into the claim he previously created in Kildare.

April 27, 1085: Countess Der-Lugdach of Breifne usurps the title Duke of Connacht from Duke Brian II.

Wha-oh. So, this doesn't mean I lose County Connacht, but it does mean that Der-Lugdach now has a claim on County Connacht, and my claim on County Breifne is weakened. I also no longer meet the "two Ducal titles" requirement for declaring myself King of Ireland. More importantly, it also means she's not looking like she wants to play nice.

June 4, 1085: Earl Muiredach of Desmond dies in a coma at 60. His son, Tadg mac Carthaigh, becomes Duke Brian's new vassal. He is a skilled tactician, though not so much as House ua Brian's own Tadg macDiarmait. The new earl is also a scholar, whose subjects laud him for being just and patient - while they also fear him for being cynical, cruel, and lustful. Though they were rebels at the beginning of Duke Murchad I's reign, the mac Carthaighs have proven themselves one of Munster's most noble and loyal sworn houses in the intervening years.

Union and division

July 22, 1085: Bishop Crimthann of Killaloe dies unexpectedly at 30. The newly-minted Earl Tadg of Desmond becomes Munster's new court chaplain, and Killaloe is succeeded by a lowborn bishop named Bróen. He is a theological mastermind, charitable and content... though also slothful and short-tempered.

Bróen is the most capable bishop my realm has ever seen, but I can't revoke the title of court chaplain from Earl Tadg without losing the support of many of the troops he could bring me. I elect to allow my religious affairs to be conducted by the less skilled of the two, for now.

July 28, 1085: Duke Brian's half-brother Amalgaid comes of age, and arrangements are made for his long-awaited wedding with Duchess Der-Lugdach of Connacht.

Amalgaid has grown to be a skilled tactician, brave and zealous like our father. He is also deceitful, gluttonous, and slothful, however. In battle, he is said to be his teacher Marshal Tadg's equal: the first man in Munster to be able to boast it in my lifetime.

August 6, 1085: The Rebel Wedding. Amalgaid ua Brian and Duchess Der-Lugdach are wed. However, the duchess makes two things very clear at the wedding feast: She will rule in Connacht, not her new husband, and she has no intention of bowing to Duke Brian of Munster. The Munsterians storm off in a huff when Amalgaid supports his wife over them, and begin planning to show the duchess her place.

This, unfortunately, means war. Of the many possibilities that could have come of this marriage, this is one of the worst for me. Luckily, I doubt Breifne can hold off against the armed levies of four counties unless they have some secret ally up their sleeves.

September 15, 1085: Duke Brian's son and heir, Murchad, comes of age. He was also tutored by Marshal Tadg macDiarmait, and has surpassed both his teacher and his uncle Amalgaid. A brilliant strategist the likes of which Ireland has never seen outside of lore and legend, he is honest, shy, zealous, and chaste. His father immediately makes him Marshal of Munster.

My son has the makings of a legendary warrior, and it will be he who leads my armies against Breifne. Sure, this will hurt my relations with Tadg, who has been Marshal for some 19 years now, but he already likes me enough to let the insult slide.

Shortly after, word comes that the Norman Duke Nigel I has split off Cornwall as the seventh splinter kingdom of England.

September 27, 1085: The 16-year-old Murchad, heir to Munster, is betrothed to the 12-year-old Princess Joan of Scotland. She is the only daughter of King Malcolm the Cruel, who is delighted to promise his girl to such a powerful heir and peerless fighter.

The Scots would make fine allies, and as fellow Gaelic Celts, won't cause as much cultural friction as marrying into the Norse lines did. They're also rather close by, and frankly, kicking all kinds of ass fighting the squabbling hedge lords of what was once England.

October 19, 1085: Duke Brian II of Munster proclaims himself Duke of Connacht and Earl of Breifne, declaring war on his sister-in-law, Duchess Der-Lugdach to secure his claim. Word is sent to King Erik of Denmark, who swore Brian's father's contributions in the Zemigallian war would never be forgotten, for aid.

Nearly 900 men from across Munster and Connacht answer Brian's call to arms, though Lord Mayor Skofte of Ormond notably sends only eight. Der-Lugdach manages to raise just over 300 in response.

True colors are revealed

October 24, 1085: King Erik of Denmark declines to send aid to the Munsterian war against Breifne.

What a dick! My father lost his mental faculties fighting like a beast to help Erik win some backwater province on the other side of Europe. And he can't spare, maybe a couple hundred of his 4000 freaking soldiers to help put down a rebellion really quick? Some friend he turned out to be.

December 9, 1085: The Munsterians defeat the Breifneans at the Battle of Bunratty, slaying some two-thirds of the traitors while losing only 65 loyal men. On New Year's Eve, 44 more rebels are cut down in their camps, though joined by 62 fresh men led by Amalgaid, bringing their numbers back over 150.

January 10, 1086: The main Breifnean host is killed or captured down to a man at the Battle of Gowran. The Munsterians move north to besiege Der-Lugdach in her seat at Castle Dromahair.

March 7, 1086: Munster's former marshal, Tadg macDiarmait, is married to Princess Constance, a daughter of the late King William the Conqueror. This brings the first Norman blood into a lesser branch of House ua Brian. Constance is the mother of the current Duke Robert of Cornwall, one of the Seven Pretenders to the throne of England.

I'll be honest, I did this to get back at Erik. He supports King Magnus II of Norway for King of England, but after the massive middle finger the Danes just gave me, I sure as hell no longer do. This marriage will put me in league with England's Norman claimants, which will hopefully send a message to Denmark about what happens when they don't reciprocate Munster's friendship.

March 20, 1086: Rebellion! Lord Mayor Skofte of Ormond declares independence from Munster, and raises his armies to oppose Duke Brian. Upon hearing this, Brian's armies abandon the siege of Dromahair and rush away south to meet the Ormondian traitors.

Well, that wasn't entirely unexpected. Skofte has never liked me, and he's Norwegian. Apparently throwing my lot in with a Norman pretender to the kingdom he still believes rightfully belongs to Norway was the last straw. Now I'm embroiled in two wars: one with Der-Lugdach in the North, and one with Skofte in the South. Can the House of ua Brian withstand such strife and arise as the High Kings of Ireland?

You'll just have to come back next week to find out!

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