They are all morons, do you hear me, morons!
September 15, 1066. In the master bedroom.
As I awoke this morning, a thought struck me with such an unexpected force, that I was quite amazed: I realized that I am a genius. This came as a shock to me, as you might well imagine – not, that I am a genius, it should be obvious to everybody but a dullard that the duke of Achaia is a genius, but that I realized it myself. I am, as you well know, the most humble of men and not given to self aggrandizement. Alexios Murzuphlos, humblest of men, is what they'll put on my tombstone, even if “Emperor Alexios Murzuphlos, genius, gift of god, and humblest of men” would be more fitting. One day I will be emperor instead of the emperor. It is my... destiny! Though come to think of it, perhaps it is time for the family to have a newer, bigger, family crypt, one open to all comers.
But I digress. Shocked by the realization, I jumped out of bed, wrapped a towel around me (I always believe in being prepared), and ran into the great hall screaming EUREKA! Propriety must be served.
Alexios Murzuphlos, Humblest of Men
March 3, 1067. In the master bedroom.
As my sainted father used to say, the difference between aristocratic depravity and perversity is as the difference between chick and chicken; one clucks and lays well, the other lays eggs.
I caught my lustful six-year old son Mikhael being perverse today. I fear he is an idiot like his late mother, may she rest in peace, who thought babies were found under cabbage leaves. (Boy, was she ever surprised when I introduced her to the ducal mace). I must introduce him to the proper use and wear of the domestic staff, as soon as I've checked the minimum age for such a father-son bonding exercise with the Patriarch. I'm taking his education in hand my very own self. No more tutors. I'll make him a real man!
...I'm feeling peckish. Perhaps send out for fresh meat? I've always been partial to the Iberian cuisine.
April 4th, 1067. In the master bedroom.
I received a welcome package in the post today and am installing it in the master bedroom. It doesn't know how to act in public and isn't capable of speaking a civilized tongue, but it beckons to me to “StOp BloOdY WrItInG In ThE DiArY aNd CoMe OvEr HeRe”, so needs must when the devil drives. Time to whip out the ducal mace and go to town.
Emisu de Ribadouro, Idiot & Portuguese Delicacy
May 4th, 1068. In the master bedroom.
I received word from the utmost east, that the aggression of the eastern dukes has triggered what can best be described as a calamity, as untold numbers of unwashed turks have invaded. The incompetent bastard on the throne, may he live forever, has once again raised our levies and is sending them to death against the eastern menace. Thank god for the stalwart eastern dukes – I have no doubt that they'll manage to contain the threat that they so carelessly stirred up.
I would go myself, were I not busy planning the liberation of Sicily. I need to gather a large sum of money to afford the outrageous rates mercenaries charge and, of course, I need to secure more heirs of the body with the willing help of my dear wife; she doesn't have much between the ears, but she sure is a bonny bunny. Besides, I need to mow the lawn, and these things don't get done by themselves, do they?
But sometime after my undoubtedly successful invasion of Sicily that is scheduled for 1073 (I have maps and charts and everything!), I'll be more than happy to help mop up the turks, if the eastern border dukes have failed in their duties, which god forbid.
I caught my son setting fire to a page. Sometimes I wonder.
That's a lot of turks...
May 20th, 1072. In the master bedroom.
Drat and bebother! My “fellow” dukes of Epirus and Dyrrachion, backstabbers and mountebanks, have invaded Sicily in an unfair and ill-advised war preempting my brilliant invasion that was planned for next year.
It is this sort of criminal shortsightedness and lack of broader vision that will one day lead to the fall of the empire, unless wiser men step up to the task and are chosen emperor! Wiser men capable of reigning in such adventurous dukes. Wiser men such as, and I hesitate to suggest it, but since the candidate is obvious to every sensible man I must, wiser men such as the great Alexious Murzuphlos!
I caught my oldest son behind the chicken coop with a maid and two chickens. I guess that counts as an improvement?
Unfair and Ill-advised Invasion of Sicily
August 6th, 1076. In the master bedroom.
As I awoke this morning, it struck me that I wasn't getting any younger. Moreover, that as I got older, I got wiser. My charming wife suggested that I was having a bad reaction to having discovered the first white hairs, but what would she know? I'm as black as ever where it matters where she is concerned, and having a fine white head of hair is emblematic of true philosophers. The best of whom were always well aged. Just like me! I'm working on the beard. Any day now.
But I digress. Being as I am a philosopher, it struck me that though my oldest son is a lustful idiot, wastrel, and layabout, he is also, though it pains me to write it, older than my children by my charming but idiot wife. It follows from logical deduction, that he is also smarter. The law, however, requires that land is split between heirs rather than granted he, who'd be able to make the most of them, which would be the smartest one.
As a consequence, I have broken with the shackles of tradition and enforced Seniority succession in Achaia! From this day forwards, to the wisest goes the spoils!
My idiot wife thinks this is madness, but I explained patiently to her that as a woman's mental age is 1/3rd of that of men according to divine mathematics, she was actually less wise than a boy of nine, which made her inability to understand the logic of my position perfectly understandable and not at all her own fault. After all, if God had meant for women to understand mathematics, he'd have given them an abacus, I told her, and shook the ducal mace in her face. Which inter alia isn't as easy to do in my venerable age as it used to be, but I've installed a trampoline in the bedroom – score one for genius!
She's been shouting ever since, but I have long ago perfected the art of writing while accompanied by her ever cheerful background music. Oh, my Emisu – so dumb, and yet so beautiful.
To the oldest and hence wisest goes the rule!
October 17th, 1077. In the master bedroom.
My vassal, the incompetent catholic idiot of Methone, whose name fails me at the moment, rejected my wise suggestion that he step down and hand over Methone to somebody more able to rule it. For instance, duke Alexious Murzuphlos!
Not only that, he raised arms against his lawful liege and, as a result, must now be crushed like the insignificant bug he is. It'll be a bit of a challenge, as he raised legs as well and is currently running for his life, but I have no doubt that my incompetent marshal, whose name fails me at the moment, will run him down in short order.
I caught my oldest son in the stables flogging a stableboy while riding a scullery maid and setting fire to chickens. While I'm impressed by his agility, I swear, he does this to drive me crazy.
September 24th, 1079. In the master bedroom.
Ever since the death of dear wise Konstantinos X back in May, I have been gripped by a terrible fear! His grandson, the young, stupid, and incompetent emperor Konstantinos XI is a sickly hunchback with severe defects of character. Due to the dastardly deprativty of the living Doukases and their deadly ways, this leaves his mother, the unpleasantly fertile wife of Theodoros of Cherson, that mighty but utterly vile and unprincipled eastern border duke, heir to the empire!
Now, were she to succeed to the throne, she'd no doubt suffer an unfortunate bathing incident, at which point Theodoros could well seize the purple!
Thus I, like all loyal dukes of the empire, spend my time in daily prayer for the life of young Konstantinos! Long may he live!
The Emperor Konstantinos XI Doukas
His Utterly Unprincipled Mother
June 21st, 1083. Aboard the good ship “Moab's Washpot” off the coast of an undisclosed location.
I am writing this message from an undisclosed location even as the first of the Achaian troops are setting foot on foreign shore and being cut down mercilessly by the defenders! Yes, Murzuphlos has gone to war!
With the Sicilian plans foiled, I spent a long time looking for a suitable target of opportunity, and it struck me with the force of a thousand hammers that the undisclosed location right across the water was the the place to go to demonstrate my military prowess to the world!
Now, timing is everything! The undisclosed location, which I dare reveal only in code lest unfriendly eyes be warned (it is acianeryC), is ruled by an idiot with no allies whatsoever. None, not a single one! His great neighbour, a vassal of the Caliph, is invading Armenia as part of the Caliph's crusade for that imperial province – an invasion that I am sure the eastern border dukes can handle with few problems.
Now, some would consider this venture insane, as the rule of undisclosed can raise far larger armies than are available to Achaia, but as all men know, one good Greek is worth at least ten barbarians. Twelve in a pinch.
I also have enough gold to hire one of the expensive mercenary bands and have done so. This will be a short victorious holy war, as I attempt to convince the ruler of undisclosed that he must relinquish undisclosed to me!
FOR THE EMPIRE! FOR GLORY! FOR MURZUPHLOS!
The Invasion of Undisclosed!
March 11th, 1085. Inside tent during battle of Cyrene.
Ever since the entry of the Emirate of Tunisia in my short holy war for Cyrenaica, thus uniting two Emirates that are each stronger than Achaia in a common struggle, the war has gone to hell in a handbasket.
I have hired yet another band of mercenaries to support my dwindling forces and we are making a stand in occupied Cyrene. This day we'll show the saracens the true meaning of war, and once they have been crushed, their alliance will no doubt fracture.
But I must go. A dozen saracens just broke through the side of my tent and seem intent on further vandalism. Time to show them what it means to go up a Murzuphlos in close combat! I pity the fools!
The Battle of Cyrene
October 13th, 1085. Inside tent during siege of Benghazi.
I must joyfully inform you that the old goat, is dead. The humblest man alive has passed on. He's expired and gone to meet his maker! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! Well, pieces. If he hadn't been chopped into tiny pieces by the saracens and thrown in the sea, he'd be pushing up the daisies for sure, but noo. He didn't even have that dignity. "Natural death" my foot, he's kicked the bucket, run down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible. He's an ex-duke!
I pity the angels – he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.
Be that as it may, my Honeybun, I am now Duke of Achaia, master of all I would be surveying, if I was at home with you doing the surveying, as it were, rather than stuck in the bloody desert prosecuting my idiot father's idiot war against overwhelming numbers of infidel towelheads, who don't have the grace to lie down and die.
I have sent out a chain-letter to my fellow dukes, promising my ever-lasting gratitude to anybody who'll join me in this war and help bring it to a sensible conclusion, but they all keep mumbling about securing their own personal extracurricular conquests or screaming about defending Armenia as if the eastern dukes aren't perfectly capable of dealing with that minor nuisance on their own.
Typical lackwits, one and all. Do they not understand that only I, Mikhael 'the mighty' Murzuphlos, most zealous of men, understand the truth and the way that will lead to the empire's greatness?
Evidence would suggest not, dear Honeybun.
I remain your devout,
Mikhael Murzuphlos, Most Zealous of Men
July 17th, 1086. Somewhere in the desert.
I wish you were here. No, scratch that. I wish I were with you instead. I wouldn't inflict this awful place on even my worst enemy. There's sand, sand, sand everywhere and it gets into everything.
I just heard the news that the criminally insane duke of Cherson, old Theodoros, is running around torching his lords and bragging about it. Yes, I know... It sounds incredible, but here it is in the words of his own herald:
Now, I am not against setting the occasional servant alight for negligence, a bit of a light roasting never hurt anybody, but this strikes me as the act of an impious pyromaniac. Somebody should do something about that man, if you know what I mean. The Emperor would be well advised to keep Theodoros at a distance.
Originally Posted by Theodoros' Herald
Ps. Dear Honeybun. It strikes me that we have been married for years and still don't have any children. I know that your heavy duties as countess of Galatia keep you occupied much of the time, but really, you must keep turning over the cabbages until you find a son or daughter. We need an heir and preferably soon.
December 31st, 1088. Somewhere in the desert.
I am pleased to inform you that there is no risk of us running out of sand anytime soon. Nor Saracens. The Chancellor of the Empire, duke Ioannes of Karvuna, has joined me with a contingent of some 400 men, which, while too small a contingent to seriously affect matters, has done much to improve morale. Moreover, both Karvuna and Paphlagonia have donated 62 ducats to help fund the war effort. I thus currently owe two (2) instances of “ever-lasting gratitude”. Gratitude may come cheap, nowadays, but a ducat is a ducat. We still hold all of Cyrene and are reducing Benghazi, putting an end to the war, if not in sight, then at least on the distant horizon.
I remain your devout,
April 6th, 1089. Palace of Benghazi
I have good and bad news for you today.
The good news is that I'm sitting here on the throne of Benghazi, lording it over the remaining towelheads, and that occupied Cyrene remains under my control, even if the tribal dummies running around in Cyrene are becoming worrisome.
The bad news is that another 3,000 towelheads rode out of the western desert, Tunisian reinforcements for the local tribal dummies.
Which means that my forces are outnumbered two to one.
So I'm calling it a day. My thankfully departed father's insane plan for a short victorious war lies in ruin, a generation of Achaian young men lies dead, and I, I have had enough of sand to last me a lifetime. I'll sign a white peace, send the few remaining mercenaries home, and I'll be returning any day now in the good ship Moab's Washpot.
My Honeybun, I am returning to you. Perhaps we could spend a few months playing “hide the sceptre” in your charming garden? I'll bring the chickens.
I remain your devout,
Time to take a stand! Somewhere else. Preferably at home.
July 24th, 1090. Imperial War Council
I am sneaking out of the current meeting to send you an update on the situation, which is dire. The towelheads have declared a Jihad for Anatolia, up to and including your own wonderful little Galatia, where we've had so much fun. What is worse, none of the imperial war council are willing to be sensible: they keep egotistically thinking of themselves rather than seeing things my way. You should expect no succour from the empire.
But I, my dear, I will ride to your rescue! Just as soon as I have broken that insolent count of Korinthos. He really should have known better than to insult you by claiming you are infertile. I'll cut off his head and send it to you stuffed with cabbage!
I remain your devout,
Jihad for Anatolia. What could possibly go wrong?