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

Author: Malafides
Published: 2017-01-27

Part of the campaign:

Italy and Beyond

Re Folco d'Este "l'Impalatore" d'Italia

Behold this world of sin! I know its wickedness better than any, for God and the Devil are raging inside me. Creation balances on the razor's edge, ever-tilting towards Hell. I myself have risen up from the abyss, from the clutches of Satan into the light of the Lord. And I have much to atone for.
Satan himself lurked within me since the days of my birth. He led me down my dark path to power, whispered in my ear, guided my hand across the throats of my kinsmen. My rule brought blood and terror to the land. My spies infested Italy like a horde of rats, and all who opposed me soon found themselves rotting in the oubliette or beneath the sod. Only recently have I been freed from the Devil's clutches -- still, my sins are mine to bear. I know I am damned to Hell -- but I swear before the Lord that I will go to Hell with sword in hand, screaming the name of Christ.
Three years ago, a mysterious priest approached me with enough gumption to offer an exorcism. Satan laughed within me, but what remained of my soul cried out for help. Too proud to see the danger, the King of Lies allowed me to agree.
The priest was sent by Christ himself to save me. He banished the Devil from my body, and for the first time, my terrible sins were revealed to me.
Requiescat in pace, dear nephew. Heaven forgive me for taking your life -- and your father's. No one knows who killed my brother. He died when I was only a boy, so they never suspected me. He was my guardian, our father's pride and joy. With my soul returned to me, the memory came rushing back. My first murder, poised above his bed. He was meant to protect me, but there was no one to protect him from my little dagger.
King Matteo was a good man, but Satan wanted his puppet on the throne. Matteo had big plans and a brilliant mind for war, but he thought he could pacify me with the Duchy of Verona and a place as his Spymaster. His trusting nature was his downfall. Sometimes I question if it was the Devil's will or the Lord's. He should have never placed his faith in the Jews -- or in me.
[Editor's Note: This character's opinions are not my own. I'm Jewish myself.]
With our brother dead, it was an easy task to murder Adelaida. God forgive me -- but she was a young seductress, ready to whore herself out along with all of Italy. Satan may have led me to the throne, but even the Devil's machinations may play into God's great plan. The King of Lies wanted a pawn on Italy's throne -- but now I am subject only to the Lord.
Forgive me, father! It is your legacy whose shadow looms over me. I swear I shall not disappoint your soul in Heaven. It was you who first restored the crown of Italy, you who delivered our people from the German yoke, you who seized the holy land from the heathen's clutches. Now the Eastern bastard of the Roman Empire has stuck its foot into Italy's boot. I promise you, father -- I shall cut it off from the ankle. The world must remember -- Rome does not belong to the Germans or to the Greeks. It belongs to the people of Italy.
But there would be no Italy without my esteemed grandmother, Matilda di Canossa. Truly, it is her work that I continue. Without La Gran Contessa, the people of Italian would still be scattered and dominated by the Kaiser and his lackeys.
The House of Canossa's motto was a prophecy of sorts: "Quando il cane finirà l'ossa, finirà casa Canossa." When the dog finishes his bone, so too will finish the House of Canossa. Matilda only came to rule the sprawling estates of Tuscany when her father and brothers were untimely ripped from the world. She sacrificed her house in her marriage to Folco d'Este, son of the Margrave of Milan. When his brother died of mysterious circumstances, Folco became the heir to his father's lands. My grandparents' union was one of both love and politics, supporting each others' war efforts to split the peninsula between them. Their marriage was the foundation of my father's kingdom.
So too did they plant the seeds of Italy's freedom. Matilda and Folco were the Pope's chief supporters against the Kaiser during the Investiture Controversy, which would only burn out in the early days of this century. When Kaiser Heinrich IV proclaimed an Anti-Pope in Augsburg, the Italians refused to recognize him and Matilda maintained close ties with the Pope in Rome. The pathetic and short-lived Kaisers finally renounced their false Pope when the King of England defeated the German armies on the field, but another of their number re-ignited the crisis by proclaiming another Anti-Pope. By then my father had been recently crowned King by the true Pope in Rome, and he refused to accept such blasphemy. He declared Italy's independence along with the Doge of Ancona. After my father routed the Kaiser's forces in the Battle of Nice, the vultures came for the Emperor's bleeding body. The Pope convinced the King of Hungary to march their forces into Germany and depose their false prophet in Augsburg. The people of Frisia rose en masse under the charismatic Godfried van Willemstad, a petty noble among their number, and the Emperor was impotent to stop them. The Emperor has been a shadow of its former self ever since, a deformed facsimile of the true Rome.
Across the Mediterranean, my brother Bonifacio rules the Holy Land. Entrusted with the throne under a regency as a teenager, he has grown into a formidable and ruthless leader. He and my father fought many trying battles to keep Jerusalem within the warm embrace of Christendom. Now he continues to push back the Mohammedan and spread the true faith. He won Damascus in a recent campaign, which he rules personally along with the holy land itself. The Templars and the Hospitalliers have sworn fealty to him, in return for the lands of Galilee and Oultrejourdain. In truth, I much admire the man. I can tell my sins have left him little love for me, but a large donation of gold during my recent pilgrimage should help to staunch the blood.
Even now, Satan scrapes his fingernails against his prison in my ribcage, his tongue pressed to my heart. Only Christ can save me from his whispers in my sleep. Only Christ can save my people from my limitless potential for destruction.

Next chapter:

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Italy and Beyond - Part Two: Folco\'s Revelations

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