Italy and Beyond - Part Two: Folco's Revelations

Author: Malafides
Published: 2017-01-27, edited: 1970-01-01

Part of the campaign:

Italy and Beyond

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Game: Crusader Kings II

Italy and Beyond - Part One: The Confessions of King Folco

Images: 11, author: Malafides, published: 2017-01-27, edited: 1970-01-01

The world is a dark fog the eyes of man cannot penetrate. Only God sees Creation as it truly is -- and he has revealed his visions to me. As I look upon the sinners of this world, I can see the threads of fate twitching within them. God and Satan both whisper their judgments into my ear, but the way ahead is clear. The world is ready for a reckoning.
My wife Alfonsina Aleramicci, Queen of Italy and Duchess of Genoa, is the only soul on Earth I can trust. When I was the Devil's plaything, she murdered and backstabbed beside me. The two of us together eliminated every obstacle in our way. Even freed from the Devil's clutches, I cannot help but feel a sense of comfort and companionship with her. Her body has never brought me much pleasure -- but pleasure is a tool of the Devil, who tempts me into the beds of other men. She may have been unfaithful, but our relationship has never had much to do with the flesh. As a match for my brutality, only she can check my darkest impulses. Only our sinful hearts can understand each other.
To the west lies the Kingdom of Aquitaine, torn from the French throne at the turn of the century. King Centolh de Bearn rules this country, the latest in a long line of frivolous drunkards. Centolh considers himself a zealot, but God knows his true devotion belongs to wine, women and song. Even with a crown on his head, he gallivants around his country as a troubadour, rubbing elbows and writing poetry. These Occitans revel in the beauty of their words, but the Devil lurks within that beauty. Beauty is nothing but the beginnings of terror we're still just able to bear, and why we adore it so, is because it serenely disdains to destroy us. Each single angel is terrible.*

[Editor's Note: Enjoy the ahistorical Rilke quotation.]
The Occitans had long resented French dominion. When the death of France's weak young King Philippe, the southerners elected the strongest of their number to become King of Aquitaine. Guilhem "the Lecher" was Duke of Toulouse, where his family had ruled the hub of Occitan culture for centuries. His brief and venal rule would reflect the character of the country. The Occitans are a cheerful and creative people, but they live for the pleasures of the flesh. They are unequipped to grapple with the sinful world. God has granted me a hazy vision into their future -- they will find great riches in faraway lands, but those riches will corrupt them. They will distance themselves from truth and righteousness, softening their souls with foreign substances and foreign faith. Surely, the Lord will strike them down.
King Raoul II de Bauchaumont "the Rash" rules over France, a match for Centolh's debauchery. His House briefly held both the Northern and the Southern crown under Guiges de Bauchaumont, but God afflicted him with pestilence and dragged him to Hell.
Raoul was only appointed through political infighting. The French nobility used him as a pawn to assert their power independent of the monarchy. He replaced King Herman de Vlaanderen, who was himself placed upon the throne through scheming factions. Herman overthrew Hugues de Capet, but his attempts to exert power along with his Dutch heritage quickly undermined his position. The same conspirators who gave him power took it away and gave the throne to Raoul. Over a decade later, impotent and destitute, Herman took his own life. For that, I envy him. God saw fit to relieve him of his responsibilities. Even though his soul must rot in Hell, at least he has escaped this Hell on Earth. I have penance yet to pay.
The French have always been too weak and divided to assert their will on the world stage. Their new king is nothing more than the latest fashion in French failure, a low creature excommunicated from the true Church.
King Andreas "the Fat" of Bavaria lounges on his throne to my North. When the wind blows my way, I swear before God I can smell his flatulence. In his youth, Andreas was a warrior poet. Like my noble father, he built on the work of his ancestors to establish a great kingdom where no kingdom stood before. Unlike my father, he has since fallen into decadence. Though he may still be honest, humble, and brave, he is a glutton and a drunk. He lives his life only to drown his sorrows in beer. May God have mercy on his soul and soon reclaim him.
The Bavarian King's chief rival is unworthy to bear my name. Though he is undeniability skilled with gold, God knows his heart is leaden. Folco Premyslid is cowardly and avaricious, blind to what truly matters in this sinful world.
Bohemia's holdings in Provence led to this Italian admixture with Bohemian culture. Many of the Counts of Provence are Italian now, not Occitan. The region has become a melting pot of cultures and ideas that have infected even his Czech homelands. Born to an Italian father, King Folco has one foot in each half of his Kingdom.
Morcar of Hwicce rules the Kingdom of England, a distant island of righteousness in the ocean of sin. England fought the blasphemous Kaisers during the first Investiture Crisis and forced them to submit to Rome. King Morcar himself fought alongside my father's armies in the victorious Second Crusade. Morcar may be a slave to his carnal desires, but at least his sword belongs to God.
King Eadwin was the first Hwicce to sit on the English throne, leader of the Anglo-Saxon effort to throw off the Norman yoke. It was Eadwin who stood with the Pope against the Kaiser, and for that he will live on forever in Italian memory. He soon fell to madness and incapacity, but his shining example lightened all the world.
King Ulf was the longest reigning of the Hwicce monarchs (at least so far). His faithless ways hardly made him a man to admire, but his lineage gave his claim to the throne great symbolic significance. King Harold Godwinson "the Holy" was his grandfather, immortalized for his bold defense against the Norman invaders. Godwinson was captured by King William the Bastard and died in his dungeons, but God would avenge him.
When King William the Conqueror died, his worm of a son took the throne. William II "the Fat" lacked any inkling of his father's greatness. After eight short years in power, King Eadwin of Hwicce deposed him. This sinner suffered the same fate as the saintly Harold Godwinson. He lived an ignoble life, then died an ignoble death in Eadwin's dungeons.
God has still not revealed his plans for the Kingdom of Pomerania to me. Their country is ruled by a child, but that child is betrothed to a Frisian princess. Italy is a friend to Frisia -- might it some day be friend to Pomerania as well? Only recently Christian, they now spread the gospel across the East.
King Kaspar's father Jaromar II has not left his son an auspicious legacy. Jaromar's incompetence and impiety nearly led his country to ruin. After being excommunicated, Pomerania faced a brutal war with the King of Poland. Only Jaromar's death ended the conflict and brought peace back to the land. Perhaps Kaspar will walk in closer step with the Lord.
The founder of his dynasty's history is no less mysterious than the ways of God. No record exists of his family or his background, but after the last of the Wislawid Kings died childless, the Pomeranian nobility convened and crowned Jaroslav Grzymala King of Pomerania and Lithuania. Despite his infamous quibbling with the mother Church, Jaroslav's greatness cannot be denied. A master of all disciplines, his reign was a golden age. His Kingdom was on the brink of destruction, but he rescued it from obscurity.
By God's grace alone, there is still some virtue in this hive of scum and villainy. King Galindo "the Holy" has united the Kingdoms of Galicia, Leon, Castille, and Navarra under his enlightened rule. After a decade-long conflict against the Queen of Castille and the King of Aragon, Galindo ended decades of squabbling in the House of Ximena. He has already begun to reclaim the wayward South from the jaws of the heathen. God has revealed their illustrious future to me, where they will restore the faith to all of Hispania and spread it to all corners of the world.
A few faithful holdouts remain outside the grasp of Galindo. Besides the King of Aragon, there are two petty principalities who by some miracle have clung to life. Galind Aftasid calls himself the Christian Emir of Badajoz, but he controls only the tiny province of Plasencia. Duke Osmund Ironside is more impressive, a powerful Castillian ruler who bends the knee to none.
King Godfried "the Liberator" of Frisia* is a man made in my father's mold, one of the great figures of the age. During my father's struggle with the Kaiser, Duke Ludwig Gerulfling "the Careless" of Holland demanded his independence. The Duke of Holland was known to be a master on the battlefield, and the Kaiser relented without calling Ludwig on his bluff. As the forces of Italy, Hungary, and the Pope bled for freedom, the Duke of Holland won with empty words. But the Duke's actions would brew a storm he could not control. After my father shattered the Kaiser's armies and forced him to peace, almost 20,000 soldiers rallied to the banner of Godfried van Willemstad to fight for Frisia's freedom. With Hungary and the Pope still nipping at the Kaiser's Eastern front, no army could match van Willemstad in the field. His hand was blessed by God and none could touch him on the battlefield. Even Duke Ludwig paled before him. Though he was from some petty noble house, he had no holdings. He had some connections to the aristocracy, but most of his support came from the people themselves -- not just those who spoke his peculiar dialect of German, but all the common folk who had suffered in the Franco-German wars over their lands.
The Zahringen Kaisers refused to make peace with the upstart Dutch, but Kaiser Heinrich Udonen relented. In 1132, the Pope crowned Godfried van Willemstad the King of Frisia. With that, the independent Duchy of Holland was surrounded and consumed.
The Frisians have quickly become Italy's closest allies. Their struggle for liberty is a mirror before us, but they cannot survive alone. God has revealed that the so-called "Holy Roman Empire" is nothing more than glove for Satan's hand, and we must slay the beast together.
[*Editor's Note: That would be something like, "Kenning Godfred de Befrijer fan Frisia," in his native tongue.]
Kaiser Lothar-Udo Udonen II now rules the Devil's Empire. He whores out his body just as he whores out his soul to Satan, but God has warned me not to underestimate him. The Devil has strengthened him and gifted him with caution and ambition in equal measure. Only God can know how the future will unfold, but surely Lother-Udo II will have a part to play in the coming judgment.
Truly, his Empire is Satan's Kingdom on Earth. My family has been its greatest foe for over 100 years. The Kaisers kidnapped my grandmother and murdered her kin, but still La Gran Contessa stood against them. Kaiser Heinrich IV did his best to usurp the rightful authority of God's representative on Earth, but my family refused to bow before false Caesars and their false prophets.
The First Investiture Crisis ended during the reign of Kaiser Berthold the Usurper, who folded in the face of English invasion. That was Berthold's only achievement before he died after mere years on the throne.
Kaiser Reinhard's early reign brought new stability to the Empire. With little authority to exert, he ruled with a more even hand than his predecessors, too paranoid to step out of line. After a decade of contentment, the Kaiser was beloved among his German subjects, and he decided to shatter everything he'd worked so hard to build. He appointed a new Anti-Pope in Augsburg and ignited the Second Investiture Crisis, bringing ruin to the Empire and freedom to its enemies.
But God's vision is not myopic -- the Lord sees all, and his angels sing baleful songs from the East. The Germans are not the only servants of the Devil who wear the corpse of Rome. The schismatic Greeks in Byzantium wear one half of the Empire's rotting skin, and their Kaiser is an even greater threat.
On the surface, Ioannes III seems like a man to admire. He is brave and ruthless, and his enemies tremble before him. He has even recognized the Jewish infection and banished them from his land. But his heresy damns his soul, and makes him subject to the Devil's will.
The noble Michael Doukas the Just stands against this slave of Satan, but his days are numbered. He rules as Despot of Bulgaria with rich estates across the Bosporus, he cannot match the Emperor. Besides his palace in the Queen of Cities, he stole Sicily from the grasp of the African Sultan. Now Italy's rightful lands have become his personal fiefdom. It is a blemish on my family's honor, and on righteousness itself.
Greater dangers still lurk outside of Christendom. The Fatimid Caliph in Egypt has darkened Jerusalem's doorstep before, and there is no doubt that he will soon come knocking again. We have not yet tangled with the Seljuk Sultan -- indeed, Persia may feature in God's plans to punish the Greeks -- but should they decide to invade the Holy Land, I am not sure how we can defend it. God's armies may bring us victory, but our sullied flesh is too weak to stem the flood. God have mercy on us all.

Next chapter:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Italy and Beyond - Part Three: Dies Irae

Images: 29, author: Malafides, published: 2017-01-27, edited: 1970-01-01