Added with minimal comment as I don't even know if I like any of this at all. I do know that no game - ever - has inspired anything of this nature before...
Fergus awoke to the dawn. Echoes of clashing swords and thundering hooves began to fade as the mornings creeping light made its way to his eyelids. As they gradually opened, feelings of half remembered unease began to fade, the last vestiges of a nights dreaming slowly releasing it's grip...
Save the first shards of dawns light, the room remained dark. Dark and still. Not even the servant girls had come to restart the hearth, burned to all but embers through the chilled night. Slowly rising, Fergus could hear the first stirrings of the waking keep. The din of armour and boots as the guards changed shifts, merging with the blacksmiths hammer as he started his crafting for the day. The rising cacophony below grew louder and more distinct, denoting the morning had begun for the shepherds, servant girls, stable boys and general members of Castle Ua Briain.
Fergus dressed himself to get ready for the day, his wife Cobflaith had always found this unbecoming of a king, but Fergus detested such formalities in private. There was ritual to maintain for the people of his kingdom of course, but surely one could dispense with such notions when it was only himself and god watching?
Barely acknowledging the bowing guards and curtsying servant girls Fergus made his way from the bedroom and up the winding stone staircase he’d travailed ever since he could remember walking, to emerge on the parapet along his keeps walls to greet the day, his morning ritual whenever in his family keep here in Galloway.
It was a brilliant summer dawn that, while clear for once, gave no warmth. What little respite this offered though would not be lasting; ominous clouds gathered in the distance, dark and full of fury. The wild Scottish mountain winds would bring them overhead soon enough. While his ancestral home of Eire was famous for its inclement weather, this Scottish variety seemed even harsher and more unforgiving than its cousin. Even the summers here could be bitter. Fergus had been to Eire as a boy and still loved visiting his kingdom and motherland whenever he was able - his wife the Queen also being the Duchess of Leinster affording a wonderfully handy excuse to see the rolling hills and beautiful green expanses, while keeping a close eye on his Dukes, Earls and subjects. He had a nostalgic love of the harsh mistress that was Scottish weather however, having been raised in these unforgivingly beautiful lands despite the families irish origins.
It had been his grandfather, Brian The Second of Ireland who had moved the family home north to further secure his claim as the King not only of Eire, but Scotland as well. "The Celtic Kingdom" he had always referred to it as privately. A staunch lover of the celtic culture, a trait passed down through the family for generations, he'd been determined to unite the peoples of the surrounding lands, Irish, Scottish and Welsh under a single ancient banner. The kind of kingdom that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the the likes of the French, The Holy Roman Empire and even the very Papacy itself. The celtic cross held high.
Fergus had never met his grandfather, but his legacy loomed large over the family and the kingdom, for both good and ill. “Caesarian ambition” is the way Fergus father, Lugaid The Second, had described it. King Brian had expanded the kingdoms borders and ruled justly throughout his half century as regent, but he had fallen foul of a costly war in Cattilia in the south at the end of his life that had nearly brought the kingdom undone. As he looked out over the rolling mountains and wilds of Galloway as the first rays of sun dappled the forests below him, Fergus let a bitter smile grow upon his lips. Ah yes, the Cattilian War. Can a simple feud between members of the same family be considered a war? It had all begun with Fergus great grandfather, the great King Lugaid The Wise, a man spoken off only in the most hushed and reverent tones. He was the titan all the family heirs to his throne since had aspired to, and Fergus’ hero . As a boy at his fathers knee, he had loved to hear the tales of his grandfather and great grandfather, Lugaid and Brian. Brian had tried so hard to live up to his fathers legacy - both being known throughout the lands as ‘The Wise” - that it had nearly lost his family the kingdom to Spanish interlopers. The fact they were Brians brother and his family was immaterial.
As he surveyed the horizon and thought of the weight of family history upon him his hand absently fell to the pommel of his great-grandfathers sword. The embossed insignia of the kingdom, the Irish harp, felt cold to the touch. Only just past his thirtieth year and Fergus had already reigned longer than his father, taken from the world when he was not much older than his son was now. Fergus almost couldn’t remember what it was like to not have the weight of two kingdoms upon his shoulders, having been asked to take up the mantle of regent upon his immediate coming of age. Father had already been dead three years by that time.
Fergus looked out to the southwest, squinting and pretending he could see his mother country from the high vantage point of the keep out over the Irish Sea, a little game he enjoyed playing with himself on occassion. As he did so, a speck caught his gaze in the distance. Fergus could make out the beginnings of a horse and rider, making its way to the castle.. As the rider approached, Fergus could see he was barreling up the castle road at speed. While this was not overly unusual in the day to day comings and goings in this seat of celtic power in the world, a rider this early and at the speed this messenger seemed to be at tho did catch the kings attention. As the horseman slowly grew into focus,, Fergus heart skipped a beat. The crest upon the horses saddle and the messengers tunic were unmistakable; Zachary II, His Holiness himself . The voice of the Pope was here at his gates.
From his vantage point the king could see across directly to the gatekeeper above his portcullis. “Open the gates immediately” he cried, startling the poor sod half to death. “At once your majesty!”.
As the gate slowly rose the clouds that had been but a distant backdrop as Fergus had taken to his walls were now on their way at speed, and growing darker. The distant rumblings of thunder a backdrop to the ringing bell of the keep walls, the announcement someone of note was arriving.
The king strode back down the spiral stairs and almost crashed into his Chancellor, obviously on his way to find him. Basileios Pegonites was a small wiry Greek Fergus had plucked from obscurity in a little Greek fiefdom simultaneously with his spymaster, Gregorios Kontostephanos also from a neighbouring court in Greece, the young Gregorios only just coming of age a few months before his invitation to become the Kings spymaster. Fergus eyes and ears throughout the lands suggesting this young man may be gifted in the art of espionage. Both Greeks had been solid councillors for the last decade, both married to local courtiers of the kings and converting to the true faith. “The Royal Beta” he liked to jokingly refer to them as.
“My lord, you have seen the rider?” Basileios asked excitedly,, his hands fiddling with the rosary beads that had become a permanent addition since his conversion. “I was the first to spy him Chancellor, though the mans been in my court now for an entirity of almost seven minutes,, so no doubt you already know almost all there is about him?” the knowing smile played across both mens faces, an understanding between them borne from years of close association. “Of course Your Highness, I already know much.”... both men retired to a quiet corner of the corridor, Basileous eyes darting to remain vigilant of eavesdroppers. Had the fates played out differently, Basileous would have made almost as good a spymaster as his countryman Gregorious. His true talent tho, was for diplomacy. “It has come at last your majesty, Pope Zachary is calling all the Christian rulers of our world to march south and retake Jerusalem itself! Already there are assurances of troops and aid from all over Christendom, Emperor Kaiser Hugo, Emir Olaf of Seville, King Lampert of Hungary, and all manner of Dukes and Earls from throughout the world.”
Thunder echoed over head and the first beatings of heavy rain started on the keeps roof. The storm was here.
Jerusalem! The Holy City of Our Lord! This was it, the great crusade that even his forefathers would envy. His grandfather Brian had died fighting the last great crusade to reclaim Sicily from the infidel hordes. An act of atonement for his misguided attempts to claim Cattilia and near bankrupting the kingdom, the poor man had stepped off the ship on the shores of Italy, praised God for his safe passage only to drop dead that very evening, the journey being too great for a man in his seventies, even a King as in need of salvation and as great as Fergus revered forefather. The Lord had a dark sense of humour on occassion. Brian’s son Lugaid had immediately taken up the mantle of King and continued on with the crusade, Sicily eventually returning to the warm embrace of The Lords grace but it was King Brians untimely demise that had always cast a pall over the affair.
Here was a chance at true greatness at last! Fergus was known throught the lands as The Good, but now he would not only be Good, but a Holy Warrior as well. Never the greatest general, Fergus understood enough his own weaknesses to know he had to surround himself with men of a true martial spirit. This had been achieved in the last decade, the King careful to foster and shelter those with in his court with the hearts of a true gaiscíoch. His lords and priests would be as enthused as he himself was.
Forewarned as he now was by his trusted aide, the King retired to his chambers, where servants were already laying out his ceremonial finery, reserved only for the most important of guests.
Time to greet the Popes emissary.
Time for The Celtic Kingdom to raise it’s sword in the name of the Lord.
Time to take up the mantle of his forefathers and become worthy of the family name Ua Briain
In this year of our Lord, 1248, it was time to become one of the greats.
A Crusader King.
Fergus could not keeep the smile from his face as he was being made ready...
Edited by The Rain Dog - 8/9/12 at 11:54pm