So far! It gets real messy soon....
So far! It gets real messy soon....
Mess is stress.....
Sometimes I long for the peace and tranquility of Ireland.....
Duke Bohemond I of Sicily took King Robert’s title, becoming King of Sicily in his place. After some limited intelligence I find out that Bohemond is viewed in a much better light by his vassals than Robert was. Not surprising really, he hasn’t treated them like crap and abused the hell out of his privileges. Bohemond is a brave, diligent soldier, with a preference for those of the same sex! Good luck continuing that line of your dynasty!
Anyway, enough of the niceties, King Bohemond wasted no time in introducing himself to me personally, by starting to lay siege to Salerno castle! Looks like he isn’t going to mess around like the old man did!
Not wanting to break off my siege in Apulia, I am left with no choice other than to enlist the services of a certain Aleksii again. At the same time I see that Duke Gerard of Sicily has also joined the melee, landing over two hundred men by galley, on the coast of Apulia. Just to add to the conundrum I notice that over seventeen hundred infidels start marching from Catanzaro towards Salerno. I cross my fingers and hope that they are going to engage my enemy.
I was disappointed to see that the infidels skirted Salerno, keeping a wide birth of King Bohemond and continued northwards. Nothing for it then, I send Aleksii into the fray and quickly dispatch Bohemond’s sieging army. But the good news ends there, and I am devastated to learn that Typhus is running rampant through the County of Salerno. I’ve got enough on my plate already, without having to deal with the outbreak of a midsummer plague!
Summer is at its height and Aleksii is doing an excellent job of mopping up the various scattered groups from King Bohemond’s army, while I continue to lay siege in the County of Apulia. Aleksii joins me in the siege, in an effort to speed things up, and no sooner has he set up camp than King Bohemond sends an envoy and presses for peace, with me becoming the new liege of the Count of Taranto. Exhausted, I waste no time in accepting his offer and order my men and Aleksii to return to Salerno and then disband.
Just in time too it would seem. No sooner had I sent my levies, and Aleksii and his gang, back to their homes, than The King of Croatia turned up in County Benevento, with two thousand five hundred men in tow!
With my ducal claim war successfully completed, I turn immediately to internal affairs. First up, the succession laws of my realm. As there are only two possible voters at the moment, and I hold the veto vote, I switch to Elective succession law immediately and nominate my son, Niccolo, as heir. My new vassal follows my lead and confirms my selection. Good, I’ve finally got rid of Gavelkind Law!
Next up, it’s time to sort out some marriages, and my eldest daughters in particular! If I’m not entirely mistaken I think I may have pulled off a bit of a coup! I managed to set up a matrilineal marriage between Nicolina and Arnost Premyslid, son and heir to Duchess Matilda I of Toscana! He’s still fourteen years old, but the Duchess has accepted in theory, so our dynasty should inherit the lands at some stage in the future, if all goes to plan?
While I’m sorting out other, less crucial, marriages I am approached by a travelling troubadour and his wife. I seem to recall them from my great feast, and they were very popular, so I welcome them and gain favour with Bishop Heraklios for my actions. As the good Bishop is almost in my pocket now I recall my Court Chaplain from converting my Orthodox vassals in Napoli and ask him to improve religious relations there instead. I could do with bringing more of these Bishops into the fold and profiting from their tithes!
Eager to capitalize on my latest acquisition, the County of Taranto, I start a secret plot to revoke the title from Count Gerard of Taranto. He’s only thirteen years old and quite unsuited for ruling such a strategic position. The Gulf of Taranto is a great gateway into the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, not to mention easy access to the toe of Italy and the Island of Sicily itself!
I start my plot by enlisting my newly content Chancellor and Mayor, Mr Meletios.
While I am plotting my neighbours are being much more active! The King of Croatia and the King of Sicily combine forces and march on the infidels who are still laying siege to Catanzaro. Over three thousand Catholics clash with sixteen hundred Muslims in a bloody mess of a battle.
I take the opportunity to enact my plot against Count Gerard of Taranto. My chances look good so what could go wrong?
Well, pretty much everything it turns out!
Count Gerard, understandably, doesn’t like my sneaky little plot and declares war on me. That in itself shouldn’t be a problem – his one little county against my three strong ones! I raise my personal levies, sending almost seven hundred and fifty men back out to the field. Interestingly, Count Gerard doesn’t raise any men, preferring to stay huddled in his castle – I can’t say I blame him really! I move in to start the siege as soon as possible.
The siege starts less than ideally when Count Gerard successfully sallies his men and I lose a number of men through his surprise move. The I receive news of another outbreak of Typoid in Salerno, and my thoughts immediately turn to my family and dynasty, rather than the machinations of siege warfare.
While I am distracted by the plague running rampant through my lands I am ambushed by The Sheikh of Palermo! What the! Where the hell did he come from and why is he attacking me without warning? Almost twelve hundred infidels descend from the hills of Catanzaro and slam into my men, catching them all of guard!
Raising my realm levies would not give me enough men to repulse the Sheikh, so I turn to my trusted friend Aleksii. Unfortunately he has already accepted a commission elsewhere, so I flail around my list of contacts and call up Ponc of Cabrera. Thankfully he arrives soon after, but his troops are severely demoralised and far from full strength. No matter, I throw them straight into the fight as I am losing men hand over fist in Taranto!
Ponc joins the battle and the numbers are almost equal. A vicious battle ensues, with the advantage swinging back and forth, but no-one looks like taking a commanding advantage. After many weeks of this stalemate something very unusual happens. Both forces split and the Sheik moves off towards the heal of Italy, while I withdraw to Salerno to try to take stock of what has happened. I count my men and am horrified to find I have just over a hundred men left alive. I feel terrible for all those mothers, wives and children who have lost their men!
During this break from combat my son, Niccolo, reaches the age to start his education. What better way to educate a future ruler than on the field of combat? I call him to my side to learn from this chaotic situation that I find myself in. At the very least he should learn that the infidels are never to be trusted and always to be treated as enemies!
After a month of no combat I am ecstatic to see that the King of Croatia and the King of Sicily heads towards the Sheikh of Palermo, to drive the infidel from his lands. But to my astonishment they bypass the Sheikh and head off towards Apulia!
There is nothing else for it then. I gather my beleaguered men and join them with Ponc and his troops and head back into battle with the Sheikh.
Another ghastly slaughter ensues, and many more men are lost on each side, but we eventually start to dominate and gradually the Sheikh’s men start to collapse. A few weeks later the battle is won and what is left of the Sheikh’s army limp off back to Sicily.
I am exhausted and demoralised by these chaotic events. What I thought would be a quiet little plot exploded into a bloody battle that lasted many months. We take stack of our numbers and see that we should have just enough to continue the siege of Taranto, which seems like it was started and age ago!
Indeed, it must have been because while travelling back to Taranto I receive news that Arnost Premyslid, son of the Duchess of Tuscany, has reached maturity and the matrilineal marriage to my eldest daughter has gone through. Too bad I wasn’t there for the ceremony. It is a very special time for a father, to see his first daughter joined in wedlock, but I hope both she and the Duchess understand that matters of statecraft sometimes take precedence.
My latest arrival to my court, Arnost Premyslid, wasted no time getting his foot in the door, suggesting that he would make a far better Chancellor than Mayor Meletios. To be honest Meletios had been a pain for me since the year dot, but I wanted to concentrate on the martial matters at hand, so I told him to bide his time and we’d see after things settled down.
Late summer and I finally got back to sieging Taranto. What a disastrous few months I’ve had to endure, and all because of the Sheikh of Palermo. He was now the number one target on my list!
By December 1086 I had captured the castle and town of Taranto with no further incident. I sent an envoy to Count Gerard, eager to bring things to a close before the year ended, and to my joy he accepted! I took County Taranto for myself and dismissed my shattered men and Ponc and his band!
Part 7. Holy War! – 1087 to 1092
With my latest campaign concluded it was time for a New Year council reshuffle. I finally got rid of Mayor Meletios, my Chancellor, and brought in a new mayor, the Mayor of Taranto. After welcoming him to the team I sent him off to Reggio to continue trying to press claims for me.
I also took the opportunity to relieve my eldest brother and Marshal, Landolf, of his position. There was just no pleasing my brother, and my patience with him had run out. I had an excellent new candidate lined up, Arnost Premyslid, and I eased him into his new job by getting him to research military advances in Napoli.
As I wanted to recoup some treasury funds as soon as possible I also decided to send my Steward off to Capua, to collect a special post war tax.
I also had a new job for my Court Chaplain. I needed my relations with my vassals improved, so I sent him to speak with the Bishop of Salerno, to try to convince him to pay his tithe to me instead of The Pope.
Little happened over the spring and early summer, the highlight being that my son began showing a very mature attitude to the power that he was growing into. He showed no signs of abusing his privileges and was adopting a very humble persona.
I also decided that it might not be the best idea to keep my youngest daughter, Gemma, in the education of Mayor Meletios. He’s not very happy with me right now, and I’d hate for an accident to happen to my daughter. I decide that the Mayor Osbern of Taranto would be the best person to continue her education, best to keep my new vassals happy!
The only drama of the summer was when I discovered that some lowly courtier in Taranto was seeking to kill my son and heir! I wasted no time in throwing her in the deepest cell of my dungeon. Goodbye!
Excellent news arrived in November. The Sheikh of Palermo declared Holy War on King Bohemond of Sicily! Awesome! Let them wear each other out over the next few months, hopefully fighting to a stalemate, and I’d look into the situation as soon as my levies had replenished from my recent campaign. I was currently just under half strength and didn’t want to go to war until they were back up to full strength. I had over four hundred gold for emergencies, but didn’t want to dip into it if I didn’t have to.
December was a bad month. First I received news that Count Tancred of Catanzaro had fabricated some ludicrous claims to my latest acquisition, the County of Taranto. Then I had the terrible news that my faithful Steward, Ildebrando, had died in his sleep of old age. Ildebrando and I had been through a lot together and I was sad to see him go. I guess the pressure of his job was just too much for him in the end.
I looked for a suitable replacement, but there was very little talent anywhere near as good as Ildebrando, so I had to bring my eldest brother, Landolf, back into the council, this time as Steward instead of Marshal. I tasked him with continuing Ildebrando’s work of collecting a war tax in Capua.
The new year brought better news, albeit news that forced my hand somewhat. In March news arrived that the Sheikh of Palermo had been captured during battle and imprisoned by King Bohemond. I called an emergency war council, and after receiving information regarding the Sheikh’s depleted defences and news of the imminent arrival on the scene of the Doge of Genoa, King of Croatia and The Pope, with their considerable retinues, I decided that I would have to jump the queue and get into Sicily before them! I sent of an urgent message to my old friend Aleksii, but he was busy elsewhere. Thankfully he recommended a Bulgarian band of mercenaries, led by a Captain Momchil, so I enlisted their services instead. I decided not to beat around the bush this time and paid for over two thousand, two hundred men, comprising mostly of light infantry, but with a healthy number of heavy infantry, light cavalry and archers. They arrived in Salerno a bedraggled bunch, but they would have the journey to Sicily in which to sort themselves out.
Last edited by Penry; 12-05-12 at 03:43.
While my mercenaries were on their way to Sicily I received message that the Sheikh of Palermo and King Bohemond of Sicily had signed a peace treaty. The Sheikh remained a guest of King Bohemond, but all hostilities had ended. I can’t say that I was surprised, at least the Sheikh would only have to deal with one enemy now, and King Bohemond and his vassals might be able to exploit any weaknesses closer to home. I’m glad that I had made the choice to call upon hired hands again and kept all my men at home.
Just before Momchil sets foot on the island of Sicily, I am visited by an urgent courier from Taranto. The Sheikh has flanked me by bringing up galleys from the south coast of Sicily and landing them on the coast of Taranto. Almost five hundred men pour forth from the galleys, heading directly for Castelaneta castle. I toy with the idea of recalling my mercenaries, but decide that Taranto is close enough to home to rely on my personal levies instead. I raise over six hundred men and send them off to relieve Castelaneta.
To add to my worries I am visited by all the mayors of my realm, with, surprise surprise, Mayor Meletios as their spokesman. Meletios proceeds to demand that I lower city taxes, saying that all the mayors are sick of such crippling taxes and that they are unable to operate profitably with such draconian measures in place. Not wanting multiple revolts to ruin my designs on Palermo and Syracusa, I give in to their demands and lower the city taxes slightly. The mayors, led triumphantly by Meletios, leave with many a smug expression on their faces.
Eager to capitalise on this increase in opinion amongst my vassals, I decide to release Emma de Giouinazzo, the plotting courtier from Taranto. My vassals view me as just and forgiving – I need to keep the boat steady in such perilous times.
In June Momchil finally reaches Palmermo and, encountering no resistance, immediately starts the siege of the formidable Monreale castle. His host number over twenty two hundred men, almost six hundred defend the castle.
Soon after my personal levies reach Taranto and break the siege of Castelaneta. It is a tight fought contest, the Sheikh’s men having the advantage of high ground to defend from, but I eventually send them scattering to Bari, after wiping over half their number out.
No sooner have I broken camp than my attention is drawn to the tallest tower of Castelaneta castle. I see my dear son hanging from a window shouting at me to make haste. I consider breaking off my chase, but boys will be boys and I can’t wrap him in my protective embrace for all his life. If he is to carry on my ambition to unite southern Italy he must be strong and he must be brave. I salute him and ride off in pursuit of the infidels!
Battle is met again soon after in Bari, over four hundred of my men against almost one hundred and fifty of the Sheikh’s. But his men are demoralised and broken from my relentless chase. I overrun them with ease and they make no attempt to fight back, instead wheeling around and heading over the hills towards Salerno.
This suits me down to the ground. I can destroy the infidels in Salerno and then stand my men down in their capital county, with a display of much pomp and ceremony to accompany it.
And indeed, I catch up with the last few stragglers of Sheikh’s army in Salerno and put them to the sword in the fields outside the city. I show no mercy and make great example of my military prowess. After the last infidels fall, I march my men into the city and parade them for all my people to see. I make a great speech about the threat of the infidels to the south and how, by uniting the lands around I will bring peace, prosperity and security to everyone, no matter their place. I am cheered by every last man, woman and child within earshot, and soon news of my speech has spread to all corners of my realm and beyond. I am, from that day forth, known as an orator of much skill and talent, able to stir the very souls of my people, all except Mayor Meletios.....
Winter brought the completion of the siege of Monreale castle. It had taken nine months, and to be honest it fell a lot quicker than I expected. It was a magnificent castle and I thought it would cause me a great deal more problems than that to conquer. Job done, Momchil moved onto the Sheikdom of Cafalu next.
By early summer the Sheikdom had fallen and the City of Palermo was next in line.
The only items of note at this time were various small domestic matters to deal with – brothers wanting land, Court Chaplains insulting those that they were meant to butter up – the usual bread and butter of ducal life.
My education of my son Niccolo also continued, and I had to be firm with my son, as he started to show signs of complacency, saying that he was happy with his life at is was and saw no reason for further improvement. I took him aside and gave him a good beating. He would, one day soon, be the one who must pick up the baton and run with our dynasties dream to rule all of southern Italy. If he showed enough ambition he could even be the one to rule the whole peninsula, but he certainly wouldn’t do that if he was happy with a mere four counties. Never rest on your laurels young Niccolo!
The siege of Palermo city was completed at the beginning of the winter of 1090. The last piece of the puzzle in Palermo county was the equally formidable Gratteri castle. Momchil organised just under twenty two hundred men around the castle, almost eight hundred men defended the place from my siege.
Just before Christmas I received news that King Robert of England had died, age thirty five! His heir was a young boy of seven! I was once again reminded of how fragile life can be, and that I should make the most of the time allotted to me.
A few weeks later I got more sad news, this time regarding a dear friend. Beatrix of Poitou had passed away age sixty three. She had recently been taken very ill and had spent the last few weeks in a coma and had finally given up the fight for life. Beatrix had been a good friend of mine, helping me through a very low point in my life, when my closest family hadn’t been there for me. I would cherish her memory for ever.
Winter passed, spring came and went and summer was almost over before I finally managed to capture Gratteri castle and complete my fight for the County of Palermo. The Sheikh sent me terms for peace, but I wasn’t satisfied with just the one county. I wanted to rid Sicily of its Shiite presence for good and solidify my hold on both the island and the south of Italy. I moved onto the County of Syracusa to start the next round of sieges, starting with the castle of Cartagirone.
While on the way to Syracusa, King Bohemond of Sicily was keeping himself busy, first installing medium crown authority and then ransoming off the Sheikh of Palermo for a handsome sum. This left King Bohemond with over two hundred gold in his coffers and also left the Sheikh broke. I wouldn’t have to worry about the Sheikh summoning up any resistance, but I might have to watch for some trickery from closer to home.
I also received some good news during the journey from Palermo to Syracusa. My daughter Nicolina and her husband Arnost had a baby girl!
The New Year, 1091, brought more news of intrigue against my dynasty. The Count of Bari had fabricated some wild claims to the County of Taranto. Now two counts of Sicily had worked up some ludicrous claim to my realm, and the King also greatly desired a slice of my lands. The pressure from the Kingdom of Sicily was mounting, I must be quick with my Holy War and be prepared for trouble closer to home.
By March the castle of Cartagirone had fallen and Momchil started to siege the city of Syracusa. I could call an end to the Holy War, but that would mean having Muslim vassals and all the inherent problems that that brought. I think it would be best to continue to the end and ensure a smoother transition, even if I would be leaving myself exposed to an attack from King Bohemond.
Just two months after the city of Syracusa fell and the final piece of the jigsaw was in my grasp, the Sheikdom of Lentini. While the siege of the Sheikdom was underway I was informed by my Marshal that King Bohemond had grown tired of sitting on his hands. He had declared Holy War on the Emir of Tripolitania again! Would this Holy War rage on and off for ever?
At the end of September 1091 I finally took the Sheikdom of Lentini, ripping down all signs of the Muslim faith and installing Catholic iconography instead. I had successfully rid Sicily of its Shiite presence, and claimed two more counties for myself in the process! Long live the di Salerno dynasty!
My first call of duty was to thank Mumchil and his men, then send them back to their homes to be with their families, they had been away from their homes for three and a half years! I was once again glad that I had relied on mercenaries to do the dirty work of siege warfare and used my levies to deal with matters closer to home. At least I still had a reasonably happy bunch of vassals to deal with.
More pressing problems reared their head though. With the conquering of Palermo and Syracusa, my personal demesne was now twice as large as it should be. I needed to hand out some land quick. I toyed with the idea of giving my siblings some minor titles, but they had been a thorn in my side for the whole of my reign, so I decided to promote some talented men, already in my favour, from my immediate court instead. The one close relative I did promote though was my eldest brother’s son, Landolf junior. I gave him the Barony of Sorrento in Napoli. While it was a Barony it was still subordinate to my holding in that county. I kept Monreale castle for myself as it was such a magnificent stronghold. Coupled with the City of Palermo it would make an excellent foundation for my further expansion into Sicily! The good Sheikh had done a lot of work on my behalf!
I also took the opportunity to have another shuffle of my council. My old Court Chaplain made way for the new Bishop of Cefalu, who I immediately sent to Palermo to start an inquisition. Once again I relieved my brother Landolf of his position on my council, installing the new Mayor of Palermo, Tybalt, to the position of Steward instead. I sent him to Capua to collect some emergency taxes, to try to rebuild my treasury as soon as possible.
As tensions in Palermo were understandably high I also thought it wise to send my Marshal, Arnost, to try to quell any signs of unrest. The transition from Magreb Muslim to Italian Catholicism would be long and hard enough without any open unrest!
The reminder of 1091 passed in relative peace as I regrouped from my long holy campaign. My son showed signs of unwanted aggression, so I taught him how to rule with a firm, but fair hand.
Prince Richard of England called me to arms, to aid him in the civil war that is raging in England, but I politely declined, citing having to rebuild my own war torn lands first. Prince Richard wasn’t impressed, but his trouble was too far away and too soon after my long troubles in Sicily.
My last news for this entry is a matter very close to my heart. My dear mother, Gemma di Capua, passed away at the age of seventy three. She had led a long and full life and she will be greatly missed. I think that, with the expelling of the Shiite threat in Sicily she could finally rest easy, safe that her son was very much on the ascendency, and would be able to further advance the clan name during his lifetime. I’m sure she’ll be looking down on me from above, making sure I continue my ambitious plans. I love you Mum and I’ll always miss you.
Last edited by Penry; 09-05-12 at 07:29.
And so I leave you with a quick overview of my realm to date.
My military situation.
My eldest boy and girl.
And of course, yours truly!
He controls 6 couties. If I count right, there's 11 more. Makes 17 counties in the kingdom. He needs 9 then.
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Palermo is a nice prize. Genoa is even nicer though. Just sayin...
I did. It's totally worth it. Genoa is a great prize with 6 holding slots, all of them already built.