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DiagorasCinna

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Hey everybody! New to the forum, but I love Paradox's strategy games and have found the idea of writing an AAR intriguing, so I figured I should take a stab at it.

A disclaimer first: While this isn't my first time writing AH, it is my first time with this particular format (that, and it's been a while since I've written in general). I'm definitely open to any sort of criticism or feedback, since you all probably know what you're doing better than I am. My goal is to eventually make this a megacampaign, all the way to Stellaris, so hopefully I'll figure out my voice as I go along.
 

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Welcome!
 
Chapter 1: A Foreign Visitor

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Chapter 1: A Foreign Visitor

"769 AD," flickered the display, just before the last of the vehicle's energy gave out. The time traveler stared at the blank screen in disbelief. It was supposed to be a short trip back in time. How did it come to this? Was it his own fault, perhaps? Some misplaced digit in the endless procedures behind every leap? Did the machine foul up somehow, as they were wont to do?

He tapped the lifeless monitor with his finger. All the mysteries of how he got here would be forever unsolved. He intended to visit a more recent past, one where refueling for a return trip would be no trouble. Unless he could personally bring about a millennium's worth of advancements in engineering himself, there was no hope of return. His eyes widened as the sobering reality finally reached him.

"I'm stuck here," he mumbled. Wherever "here" was. He opened the door of the time machine to take in his surroundings for the first time, and was greeted by an endless verdant field, a shade of green so blinding his eyes could scarcely believe it existed.

upload_2020-3-19_18-35-21.png


“Ireland,” he realized after much wandering. How the hell did he get there? His original plan, long since discarded, was to travel to the same location he had been back in the past, back at his best chance to set things right. Though he’d never been there himself, he knew he had Irish blood. Maybe the time machine, unable to take the traveler to himself, settled for the nearest genetic match? The closest man on the patrilineal line?

He shook his head. Focus on the future, or at least what passes for it now. His mission’s been derailed, but it was not beyond salvage. He intended to travel to before The Catastrophe, and he had, albeit far further back than planned. He could still prevent it, he reasoned. It just wouldn’t be as simple as he first hoped.

There were other advantages to his new medieval life. Without fuel, his time machine was nothing more than a large pile of metal, but there was no shortage of local smiths willing to pay for just that. Even better, the local tribal chieftain was quick to cede his title at the sight of a modern firearm. In no time at all, the stranger had become the Chief of Airgialla.

upload_2020-3-19_18-35-31.png


With a position of power, however minor, the traveler could begin his new plan: manipulate the courses of history to create a new world, a better world, so far removed from his own time that nothing resembling The Catastrophe could ever happen. A future that every person in the 8th century, himself included, would be too long dead to see.

If there was any hope of his dreams being realized, the world would need successors as devoted to the cause as he was. They needed to know what to do. They needed instructions.

upload_2020-3-19_18-35-42.png


The chief’s first act was to write a book. A set of commandments that all in his throne would be obliged to obey for centuries to come. A set that, on a small corner of an island of tribals destined for British conquest, were highly in danger of becoming worthless. To prevent this fate, the chief delivered his first order:

I. Retake the Ancestral Lands

The time traveler may have now been an Irishman by the error of machines, but his blood spanned throughout Europe, as well as more distant lands none of his new subjects had ever heard of. The commandment served two purposes: To give whoever holds the book a greater position of power to enact its will, and to increase the chances that the time traveler, or someone close enough to him, would still be born to see this better world.

To take the ancestral lands in their entirety was an unthinkable task, one that may never be achieved, but the time traveler could start small. The first goal was a simple one: Take Ireland.
 
Chapter 2: Bígí Torthach

DiagorasCinna

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Chapter 2: Bígí Torthach

With the book, the time traveler’s heirs would have the means to carry out his will, but this meant nothing if he bore no heirs. A royal marriage was in order, and he found his bride in Princess Cyneswith, daughter of King Aethelred of East Anglia.

upload_2020-3-19_18-37-53.png


Though few at the time knew it, the princess possessed a remarkably gifted mind, and was willing to accept her new husband’s claims of coming from the future. However, her genius was accompanied by zealotry, and she viewed the time traveler’s tale through a religious lens that he repeatedly denied. How can a man gladly admit he came to save the world from a dark fate, yet claim God had nothing to do with it? The royal couple’s nighttime conversations frequently turned into arguments, but it was no matter to the chief. However strained his relationship with the princess was, it was good to have somebody, anyone, to tell the truth to.

Besides, she could bring him an heir, as she did in September of 770.

upload_2020-3-19_18-38-10.png


With his title secure, the time traveler turned his attention to the conquest of rival chiefdoms. In December of 772, he had usurped Chief Eochaid mac Fiachnae of Ulaidh from his title, granting himself a demesne large enough to be called a petty kingdom. His next closest neighbor, Chief Domnall of Tir Chonaill, was a proud man, but not a foolish one. He rode to Airgialla to personally swear an oath of fealty to the strange new conqueror, who now already ruled a quarter of the island.

upload_2020-3-19_18-38-21.png


upload_2020-3-19_18-38-40.png


With Ulaidh conquered, the time traveler set his eyes on the chiefdom of Meath, to the south. The sacred hill of Teamhair had been used to crown High Kings since days already seen as ancient. If he dared to take such a title for himself, it couldn’t be done without the hill.

As he readied his armies for a new war, the father of five (with a sixth lost in infancy) placed even more attention within his home. The children of Ulaidh, born before their father, were given many things by him, but one was held above all else: Duty.

upload_2020-3-19_18-38-56.png


The time traveler’s descendants would not merely inherit a title. They would inherit a duty, the unenviable task of struggling to steer the world in a new direction. A duty that would continue long after they, and their own children, had been reduced to dust. It pained him to leave his children with such a burden, as much as it did to carry it himself. Nonetheless, it had to be done, and they had to understand it from an early age. The future was bigger than any of them.

The petty king’s firstborn son and heir apparent, Tanist Aillil, understood his duty and then some when he came of age in 786, a masterful soldier, yet with a cruel temperament far unlike his father. Day after day, he was told of how he was a slave to destiny. “You MUST rule after me,” said the time traveler. “You MUST retake the ancestral lands. The future depends on it.” Despite the prestige granted by his princehood, he had never known a day of true freedom in his life, and channeled this resentment to anyone in his vicinity. Even his betrothed, the Frankish Countess Bernegildis, was often frightened by his presence, and secretly dreaded the destined wedding once she had come of age.

upload_2020-3-19_18-39-14.png


As the time traveler prepared his family for the task ahead, his rivals favored a more direct approach. By 790, Meath, Dubhlinn, and the Hill of Teamhair he had coveted for so long were all under the rule of King Cathmug of Connachta.

upload_2020-3-19_18-39-31.png


King Cathmug was a man of many virtues, his only flaw being all too eager to spy on his councilors. He was a gifted strategist, a tireless worker, and one who only ever thought of the best for his fellow tribesmen. In another lifetime, the Duke of Ulaidh would’ve hoped to call him a friend. But he was in the way of the future, and for that, he would need to die.

upload_2020-3-19_18-39-41.png
 

Specialist290

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Welcome to the forums! :)

I'm enjoying the story so far, myself. The time traveler metaplot reminds me a bit of stories from the early years of the AARland forums, back when authors used to experiment a lot more with narrative styles and "fantastic" framing devices.

Going to keep an eye on this one, and hoping to see more!
 

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Just as with @Specialist290 this scenario echoes some happy memories of AARs gone by.
 
Chapter 3: A Viking Comes Early

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I've opted for a more character-focused approach with this chapter, but I'm not sure how much I like it. Any feedback is appreciated. Do you prefer this, or something a little more clinical and textbook-ish?

Chapter 3: A Viking Comes Early

Though all of Ireland would hate him for declaring war without apparent cause, and his face would be forever scarred from a Connachtian axe at the Battle of Meath, the time traveler would hold yet more land to his name by 791.

upload_2020-3-23_18-2-48.png


He would have little time, however, to enjoy this triumph before great loss overshadowed it. It was a warm autumn evening, as the time traveler sat down with his wife to another dinner of roast swan.

“Best to bide my time before striking Cathmug again, I think,” he said as he bit into a leg, trying his best to avoid any sign of disgust. The food was the hardest part of his new life. Though the meat was tender, something about its preparation ensured it would never taste quite right. “We’ll take the smaller tribes for now, expand our armies. God willing, our chancellor will have found a proper claim by then.”

“Why pray for His will when you disregard it every other time?” asked the princess, crossing her arms. The time traveler rolled his eyes. It was an all too familiar argument, one he suspected she only started each time for fun. “Perhaps you’ll get your claim if you’d attend a service or two.”

“Cyneswith, you know I don’t have time for that. I’ve got too much planning to do. Real work, to save us all.” The princess bit off a piece of the swan’s neck.

“Bishop…” she stopped a moment to catch her breath, rubbing at her chest as the food made its way down. “Bishop Coilboth says you can’t even save yourself.”

“Then I’m glad I don’t attend his services.” As one hand tore off another chunk of the swan, the king’s other held a pen, scribbling down indecipherable plans.

“Not just you…” The princess took a deep breath. The indigestion was unusually difficult tonight. “Nobody can save themselves, he says. Only Jesus can get you to Heaven when Judgment Day comes.” The time traveler looked up from his papers. His fist clenched involuntarily.

“Judgment Day?” He rose from his seat. His wife gasped. “I know about Judgment Day. I’ve seen it, and it makes The Revelation look like a children’s bedtime story.” Cyneswith hunched her shoulders, suddenly without the energy to speak up. Her right arm grabbed her left, as if she was trying to hide herself. “Jesus didn’t save anybody. He didn’t save me. I did. So the next time Coilboth thinks he can lecture me about the End Times…” The princess’s chair tipped over backwards, as she fell to the ground. In an instant, all the anger left the king’s voice. “...Cyneswith?”

upload_2020-3-23_18-3-3.png


As the time traveler sat at the front of the church, staring at his wife’s corpse as Bishop Coilboth eulogized her great faith, he couldn’t help but realize the cruel irony that she had got him to attend a service after all.

For all their disagreements, the princess had been a confidant to a man in a situation nobody could hope to truly understand. She had patiently suffered the burdens of a man who cared for lofty visions of the future, and the guilt of yelling at her as she died would stay with the time traveler for the rest of his days.

Still, though he suffered, the plan could not. No death could interfere with the plan. Not his own, not his wife’s. Cyneswith had only just entered the ground before the time traveler looked to a new marriage, with new claims to the ancestral lands to gain.

upload_2020-3-23_18-3-19.png


He found his answer in Ylva af Munso, sister to King Ragnar Lodbrok of Svitjod. As councillors and courtiers alike gathered for a royal wedding in the same church where, just weeks prior, they had attended a royal funeral, few felt any joy for the new councilor. To the proudest among them, Cyneswith was already too foreign for their liking. Ulster being under an English queen was too absurd for them to even think about. But few were entirely sure where this woman was even from.

However, her culture was the least of her problems to the masses. Far more damning, literally so, was that Ylva was a pagan. Ulaidh had gone from a queen who loved Christ above all else to one who didn’t even know of Him. An outrage to all but the time traveler, who saw only opportunity.

upload_2020-3-23_18-3-27.png


The traveler was not a religious man. Not anymore, at least. He once prayed for an end to The Catastrophe, as had many others, and when no answer came he decided any gods out there must have forsaken him.

In truth, he had no more faith in Odin and Thor to help him than he did Jesus. But even if all of those figures didn’t exist, the Pope did. If he could rid his realm of that influence, he reasoned, the plan would have one less hindrance. His trusted heir, Aillil, was quick to agree.

upload_2020-3-23_18-3-39.png


Though he may not have truly believed in his new gods, it seemed as if his conversion was enough to earn the favor of Tyr. He launched a series of new campaigns against the poorly equipped chieftains of central Ireland, each of which ended as quickly as it began.

upload_2020-3-23_18-3-46.png


However, this was not to say that the traveler’s many battles were won without cost. The first morning after returning home from the conquest of Dublin, he found himself so exhausted he could barely leave his bed.

“I’m just tired,” he rationalized it. “Tired from the war.” But he knew it wasn’t true. By now he’d been tired from war dozens of times, some of them even before his journey to the past. It was never like this before.

“It’s time to begin the day, elskandi,” said Ylva as she rose from the bed herself.

“I … I don’t think I can,” the time traveler admitted. “I can’t … I can’t move.” In an instant, dread overtook Ylva’s face.

“Where is Flaithbertach?” she called. “Flaithbertach? Flaithbertach!”

Weeks later, the court physician was staring down the duke’s throat with uncertainty. His mind was elsewhere, conjuring images of boats that breathed fire. How he wished he was still studying them instead. On the day he was summoned, he was in Constantinople, unraveling the secrets of technological marvels known only to the Byzantines. He was none too pleased at having to take a long boat back to Ireland, and to do it all again once the visit was done.

The time traveler was no more pleased by the examination. Though Flaithbertach was skilled enough to serve both jobs, he couldn’t help be disturbed that his spymaster and doctor were one and the same. He was trusting his life with a professional master in abusing the trust of others.

Personal issues aside, the time traveler just hated the fact that he lived in a more primitive age of medicine. Though he had no real training, in many ways his medical knowledge was better than those who did. Flaithberthach had no idea that germs caused disease.

“Well, it isn’t a flu…” mumbled the spymaster.

“I could’ve told you that.”

“Of course you could have, my liege. You seem … impatient today. An imbalance of the humors, perhaps. I recommend we drain you of your yellow bile, then…”

“Again with the humors. I’ve told you before that’s all nonsense, right? Fuck, ‘yellow bile’ isn’t even a thing. It’s all just bile. Now do you have any real advice for me or not?” screeched the duke, specks of foam flying from his lips with each word.

There were many words the time traveler’s subjects could have used to describe him, but one stood out more than any other at this moment. He had always been a man of passionate beliefs. He focused on his goal to save the future with a rabid determination. He was rabidly opposed to spending any time with the priests. As difficult he could be at times, his military campaigns proved that if anyone threatened his family or his subjects, he would fight back with unimaginable rabidity.

The time traveler was rabid.

upload_2020-3-23_18-3-53.png


Once the diagnosis was official, the time traveler found himself overwhelmed with the unique sort of dread that only came through thoughts of mortality. For a few days, he spoke to nobody, not even Ylva. He mostly sat at his throne, staring at the other side of the room, lost in his thoughts. He knew from the start, of course, that he would die with his grand scheme still in its infancy. But there was still something about knowing just how soon it would be.

In another life, he would’ve succumbed to the despair. He would’ve collapsed on his bed, abandoned all hope, and waited for the end. Deep down, he still wanted to take that path. But that when he was an ordinary person. Now lives depended on him. The future depended on him.

Though he didn’t have long for this world, he was still alive. And as long as he could breathe, there was a job to do.

upload_2020-3-23_18-4-28.png
 

Specialist290

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I think the character-focused narrative works pretty well. Either style would work, to be honest, and I've always believed that a writer should find and use the techniques they're most comfortable with.

A superstitious man might say that King Ryan's sudden bout of rabies might be divine punishment for his apostasy, if they knew -- though, of course, I doubt Ryan himself would believe that. It'll be interesting to see how his great mission is carried forward once he's gone, and it's in the hands of his son Ailill, who of course has only the stories of what his father witnessed at best (if he even believes them).
 
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Chapter 4: Death of the Future

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Chapter 4: Death of the Future

Pope Anastasius III stared down at the man kneeling before him, trying his best to maintain composure. The man embodied many of the seven virtues, but patience was not one of them, and he’d had nothing but reluctant thoughts since the day he was first invited to crown the King of Eire. A trip from Rome to Airgialla would’ve been dreadful enough at an ordinary time, but now any route he took would lead him through West Francia, where King Gedalbert Karling had declared his spymaster an antipope. For every night until his last, he would thank the Virgin Mary he had somehow passed through enemy territory unnoticed.

But even these troubles were trivial compared to when the pope finally set eyes on the time traveler. He’d heard many rumors about the new king along the way, from his magical book to his secret animal sacrifices. The pope saw fit to dismiss it all as hearsay, however amusing. Even if he believed them, though, it would’ve done nothing to prepare him for the sight of the man.

Nine years before, the time traveler suffered a scar across his face at the Battle of Meath. Since then, he’d been in a state of near-perpetual warfare, and to the public he showed more scar than skin. There was a metal hook where his right hand once was, the result of an ill-fated treatment for a disease that the foam around his mouth proved he still had. Most unsettling of all, though, was the fact that he was smiling. Every minute the Pope saw him, he grinned, proudly showing the teeth that had now gone thirty years without modern dentistry.

This man shouldn’t be happy, the Pope thought. He shouldn’t even be living. But unlike many of his predecessors, he took the duties God had chosen him for seriously, and wouldn’t let these feelings show for a second. He spoke to the king about the procedures for the coronation, and made sure to not say a word of anything else.

The king also kept to himself, out of necessity’s sake. An atheist, pretending to be a pagan, pretending to be a Catholic, had an audience with the Pope. Wouldn’t it be fun to reveal his double deceit, asked a voice in his head? You could do it right when he gives you the crown. By now, the king had survived much that should have killed him, but even he knew such a thing would do the trick.

upload_2020-3-26_19-12-8.png


In the end, the coronation occurred without incident, none of the many spectators in attendance privy to the secret awkwardness behind it all. The next morning, the Bishop of Rome set on a boat back to the Eternal City, and the two men never spoke again, though they thought much of each other.

The time traveler was now the King of Eire, at least by law. For him, however, this was no more than a symbolic victory until the entire island was his.

upload_2020-3-26_19-12-28.png


At present, two rivals remained to challenge the new king’s rule. The first, King Eichnechan of Connachta, was the son of the late King Cathmug. Born into a humbled dynasty, Eichnechan thought of little besides avenging the many humiliations he and his father had suffered in the midst of the time traveler’s conquests. Day after day, he would train to become the perfect soldier. Whether he would start it himself or not, he knew war with the time traveler was inevitable. Even if he could not win, he’d be sure to take as many of the king’s men as he could on the way out.

upload_2020-3-26_19-12-35.png


The second, King Mael-Duin II of Mumu, though a gifted warrior, lacked Eicnechan’s martial passion. His interests laid in stewardship, and was content to manage his realm at its already considerable size. He thought little of the king’s realm, and assumed the apathy was mutual.

upload_2020-3-26_19-12-41.png


Mael-Duin would quickly pay for his carelessness, as the time traveler had yet to feel the weight of the crown on his head before commanding his armies towards Tuadhmhumhain. On Christmas Eve 800, Mael-Duin swore an oath of fealty to his newfound vassal.

upload_2020-3-26_19-12-48.png


Only Connacht remained, though an existing truce signed at the end of one of the king’s previous campaigns kept Eicnechan safe for the time being.

As he waited for the opportunity to strike again, the time traveler focused inward, building new facilities across Eire, as well as recruiting fellow pagans wherever he could, with varying degrees of success. One day, as he sought out sympathetic councillors, the man who saw himself destined to save mankind suffered a failure that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

upload_2020-3-26_19-12-54.png


In what little spare time he had, he worked alongside Flaithberthach in hopes of bringing an end to the disease that caused him so much pain each day. One fortuitous evening, the pair managed to devise a cure for the king’s rabies, albeit not without great cost.

upload_2020-3-26_19-13-0.png


Had the king believed in divine arrangements, he would’ve surely called it so that Ylva was pregnant one last time before his penultimate sacrifice. When the baby Aibinn came in October, the king was be a father of eighteen children, twelve still living, and eighteen that number would forever remain. His armies now numbered 3,750 men. King Eicnechan had 180.

upload_2020-3-26_19-13-6.png


The child was a blessing, but an even greater one came soon after, as the time traveler was now free to disregard the Connachtian truce. Though he lacked the means to perform the same immediate vassalization he had for Mumu, not that Eicnechan would ever agree to such a thing, he could still take apart the rival duchy piece by piece, as with the capture of Breifne in 807.

upload_2020-3-26_19-13-11.png


By this point, Connachta would be helpless in the fact of any future attack, and the king thought less of his foreign conflicts than those back home. Prince Ailill had grown restless within the comforts of his castle, and demanded a share of royal responsibilities to better prepare him for his succession. Knowing full well how likely he’d be to accept a refusal, the king put his heir where his temper would do the most good, appointing him court marshal.

Despite his father’s initial fears, Ailill quickly proved as skilled a commander as the king had ever had. Each night, the time traveler convened with his son, discussing war plans for Connacht, Britannia, and all the lands beyond.

“Hel take the truces, I say,” scoffed the marshal before taking a swig of ale. “Slaughter the Connachtians now, and we’ll be in Pictland this time next month.”

“If Pictland’s not in us,” the king retorted. His son may have mastered the battlefield, but he had much to learn about the court. “If we’re seen as truce breakers, everyone with a sword to swing would have it in for us. The conquest must be a gradual thing, you see. Take the Ancestral Lands so slowly nobody thinks of putting an early stop to it.” Ailill put his beer down, the vestiges of a smile forming as he swallowed.

“A bit of advice for you?” asked the marshal.

“Advice for your father?” The time traveler laughed. It had been so long since he last did it he barely remembered how to. “Sure, go on then.”

“Never show weakness,” he said. “You don’t want Pictland coming after you? Don’t make them think you’re the kind of boy who bows down to truces. You let them see you like that, even for a second, and the whole world will walk all over you.”

“I … see,” mumbled the king. It amazed him how sure Ailill was of himself as he spoke. Though he rarely agreed with his son, he did trust him. When the time traveler’s plans passed to him, he knew the future would be in good hands. “Until tomorrow, then?”

“I’ll be ready to go before you are.”

The next morning, the king woke up with a strange rush of motivation. Somehow, he’d positioned himself in his bed the night before in a way that granted him near-superhuman energy. Today was a day to be productive, he thought. Maybe he could storm Connacht this morning, all by himself!

“Wake up, Ailill!” screamed the king as he swung open the door to his son’s chambers. “The night’s too far off! What do you say we head over to the keep and check in on our troops?” The room fell silent. No answer, no insults demanding to let him sleep.

Ailill was a cruel man, but he was not a hypocrite. He followed his own principles, and never showed weakness. Not to his enemies. Not to his father. Not even to his physician.

upload_2020-3-26_19-13-17.png


By now, the king was no stranger to loss. He’d already seen his wife die, buried seven other children, and witnessed countless soldiers fall in battle, to say nothing of the things he’d seen in his former life. But even then, he was unprepared for the agony of finding Ailill’s corpse in the morning. It wasn’t just the death of his firstborn son, his marshal, his heir. It was, or at least felt like, the death of the future. Whatever his faults, Ailill understood the plan. He’d been trained to since childhood.

upload_2020-3-26_19-13-22.png


The newly chosen tanist was Ailill’s second son, a candidate of considerable appeal. He was almost as skilled a soldier as his father, albeit without the vicious temper. “He can be trained,” the king assured himself. “There is still hope.”

But the new heir was already eighteen years old. That was eighteen years of life without instruction, without expectation. What if the plan failed to imprint on him the same way it had his father? What if he carried an even further imperfect mutation of the plan onto the next generation?

Meanwhile, the king was fifty-eight. He no longer thought of himself as a man from the future, though those privy to the secret still did, as he’d now spent more of his life in the past. He also no longer saw priests with the same venom he once did, as the fact that he hadn’t died long ago could only be the work of divine grace. Perhaps Jesus was protecting him. Or maybe Odin. Or some strange unseen force gave him temporary immortality until he was old enough to have it taken away. Still, he would soon be dead. How much time did he have to prepare his heir?

For now, all the king could do is mourn his old heir, and pity the new one. Eighteen years old, and he’d been trusted with a millennium.
 

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Ryan is certainly have a life filled with incident
 
Chapter 5: Tráth Breithe, Tráth Báis

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Chapter 5: Tráth Breithe, Tráth Báis

Tanist Ryan put a hand to his temples, his whole body growing tense with anxiety. Maybe it was just a headache, the young heir thought? Surely not everyone with a headache has it. The quarantine was starting to take its toll on his mental health, with the king decreeing everyone must stay indoors as an outbreak of slow fever plagued Eire. He knew it was a necessary decision. As the heir to the throne, he may have to make a similar one someday. But by God, was it taxing. He’d almost give his soul just to go outside and spar with one of the commanders again.

“His Majesty has requested you, Tanist,” said a chamberlain standing at his door. Without a moment’s hesitation, he leapt from his seat. Normally he faced the regular instruction from his grandfather with reluctance, but with the seclusion he was just grateful for something, anything, to do.

It soon became clear, however, that this was far from a regular meeting. A team of masked physicians stood over the time traveler’s bed, staring down at their king as if he was nothing more than a science experiment. The king himself was covered from head to toe in bright, blood red sores. Despite his best efforts to stay isolated, the infection had come to him as well.

The tanist wanted to speak, but couldn’t conjure any words from the myriad of thoughts that raced through his head. What could he say that wasn’t already clear to everyone in the room? The king was just as silent. Without words, he stretched his arms out to his heir. He was holding something in his hands, something large and bound in leather.

upload_2020-3-29_11-38-42.png


Many within the time traveler’s family had been told of small parts of the book, but until today only he had ever had the privilege of meaning it. The implications of this gift went without saying.

“I’m not ready, Grandfather,” the tanist admitted. The king stared back at him sorrowfully, fighting the urge to cry.

“Neither am I.” With that, the king sent to save the future breathed his last. Born 1991, died 813.

upload_2020-3-29_11-38-52.png


As the newly-crowned king, only twenty years of age, read through his instructions, it soon became clear just how out of his depths he was. Most of the book wasn’t just complicated, it was impossible to understand, laced with terms and names that nobody could ever hope to understand. Instructions, he hoped, that were intended for rulers of a later age.

For now, he would focus on what he could read. Retake the Ancestral Lands, he already knew that part. Of equal interest was the rule that followed after.

II. Rule with strength, but not cruelty.

Seeing it spelled out so plainly, King Ryan could see how his grandfather followed this rule in life. Whenever the choice presented itself, he always reacted with a sense of mercy near unseen in the rulers of these times. Prisoners were always released as soon as it was safe to, and the civilians of enemy cities would always be spared at the end of a successful siege.

At the same time, though, he showed little patience for any challenge to his authority. Over the course of his reign, he’d managed to erode, though not erase, the political powers of his council, allowing him to make most decisions unopposed, without a hope of veto. Strength, but not cruelty. The new king was unsure what to make of the prospects of a benevolent dictatorship, but he’d sworn to follow the time traveler’s instructions.

He decided the best way to prove himself a worthy successor was to complete the task that the time traveler had left unfinished. In the first few months of his reign, the last pocket of resistance in the county of Muaidhe capitulated. He was now the king of all of Ireland.

upload_2020-3-29_11-40-2.png


To those not privy to the king’s secrets, one would imagine that this victory was a cause for celebration, that the nobles were holding the most raucous party imaginable in the comforts of the king’s castle. In truth, King Ryan II mostly spent the day after receiving the news sitting on his throne, lost in thought. This was an important first step to reclaiming the Ancestral Lands, but a first step was all it was. He, and those who followed after him, were still expected to conquer the rest of the British Isles. Even that was only a second step. Then came war against the Karlings, the Vikings, the Byzantines, and a place none of his best scholars had even heard of. The thought of it all made the king tired, and he expected he would feel tired for the rest of his life.

Even if he could stop thinking about the plan for a moment, there was no time to celebrate. The time traveler was dead, but the epidemic that claimed him was still alive and well. The Slow Fever was not satisfied with taking one the king was close to, and saw it fit to infect his wife, Queen Gormlaith.

upload_2020-3-29_11-40-10.png


Though the epidemic still subsided, the queen continued to suffer chest pains long after. In a way, so did the king, now overcome with anxiety. Desperate for any sort of release, he took to combat. If he was destined for a life of war, he may as well enjoy it. The sparring chamber was now a greater source of pleasure than the bedroom, and he developed the skills to justify his hobby.

upload_2020-3-29_11-40-16.png


Day after day, the king attempted to transform himself into the perfect soldier. He thought little of the tedium of court life, even avoiding his family as much as he could help it. Let the courtiers care for his children, worry about whatever it is his wife was complaining about today. The first king of Ireland saw his wife die of a heart attack. The second was so occupied with wargames he didn’t hear his wife died of a heart attack until the next day.

upload_2020-3-29_11-40-23.png


In life, as in the battlefield, the king had trained himself in pragmatic thinking. As the court arranged the funeral for the mother of his children, he thought only of who to remarry. The obvious choice lay in Countess Ecgwyn of Chester, an English title his dynasty could easily take through inheritance.

upload_2020-3-29_11-40-29.png


The new king had been instructed to not rule with cruelty, and he obeyed, in a sense. He would never delight in death, never spill more blood than was necessary. But the time traveler, wise yet imperfect, had only said to avoid cruelty, not coldness. He expected his grandson to be a machine, a tool to further his goals without thinking about what he was doing, and that was precisely what King Ryan II had become.
 

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In a way the time traveller is proving almost psychopathic, viewing this people as things rather than people
 
Chapter 6: The Last Vote

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Chapter 6: The Last Vote

“The Council of Eire is now in session,” read the king, a phrase he’d recited so often he could swear he mumbled it in his sleep. He looked up to see the usual six faces staring back at him. “All are present and accounted for. Chancellor Conn, how have you fared in Dyfed?”

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“I long for Dyfed as much you do, my liege,” said the chief of Westmeath, son of a Welshwoman. “But there’s not much I can base a claim on. It doesn’t seem like your family’s ever set foot in Dyfed.” The king frowned. All this talk of claims and diplomatic channels before the war. He had the book. He had his orders to take the Ancestral Lands. That was the only claim he needed, though nobody outside of this castle would ever believe it.

“Well, keep at it. Those tasks are what your talents are for. Steward Natfraech…”

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“Tanist Natfraech,” corrected the king’s brother, leaning back haughtily in his chair. Having studied and excelled at proper administration since childhood, the chief of Tir Eoghain had proven such a capable governor that the kingdoms’ electors had declared him heir apparent. Though he secretly envied the crown, he loved his brother more, and hoped to be as faithful a councillor as he could be.

“Tanist Natfraech, of course,” said the king with reluctance. “How is the war chest proceeding?”

“Taxes come almost faster than I can carry them,” his heir boasted. “At this rate you’ll be able to outfit your men with golden swords.”

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“Golden swords would be useless in a battle,” interrupted Marshal Ailbrenn, a wandering knight who had pledged himself to the crown’s service. “Although His Majesty will be pleased at our smiths’ latest work, I should think.”

“If you are pleased, then so am I, Ailbrenn. You know I trust your judgment. In all things.” The king leaned slightly closer to his marshal, staring directly at him with a knowing glance. “Onto the next matter. I have a proposed royal decree that awaits the Council’s vote. He passed six sheets of paper, copied by hand, to the council.

“Did you dip your bod in ink for this?” asked Conn, staring at the decree with confusion. The whole text seemed to be scribbled in a haste, its text borderline illegible. What few words could be made out were too strange for the chancellor to comprehend.

“You know I was never too good with my hands, Conn.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, my liege!” said Ailbrenn. “You’re nearly as deft with a sword as I am!”

“Yes, thank you, Ailbrenn.” The king looked back to his chancellor. “You can call it a decree to reward all of you, my faithful council. Each of you have worked so hard and given so much in the name of this kingdom, and I want to ease your burden, give all of you more time to spend with yourselves and your families…”

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“It means he’s in charge of everything,” scoffed Bishop Martan, tossing the sheet behind him. The court chaplain was a learned man, but not a civil one. Early into his priesthood, he decided to read the entire Vulgate, from “In principio” to “Iesu Christi cum omnibus.” When he’d finally seen it all, he decided he’d had enough elegant words for a lifetime. He’d only use plain ones going forward. “This vote here? He wants it to be the last vote. He always gets his way, and we can all go to Hell.”

“Are you serious?” asked the chancellor. The whole council was staring at the king now, though he barely seemed to notice, as stoic as ever.

“It’s a mutually beneficial agreement. Better for all of you, even. You’ll all have the same share of the treasury you do now in exchange for less work. With the extra time you can spend on your own desmesnes, you’ll likely make more money.”

“We’re not stupid, Ryan!” The bishop slammed a fist on the table. “You want to rule over all of us like slaves and make sure nobody can stop you.”

“If there’s a slave in this exchange, Martan, it’s me, as I’ll be assuming the full brunt of royal responsibilities.” The king’s eyes sunk lower. He was beginning to believe what he was saying. Despite what he’d become, there was still a voice deep inside him, the remnants of the child that once was before his royal grooming, who knew this was all wrong. He didn’t want this decree. But he needed it. “If any of you have objections, of course, that’s what this process is for. How does the council vote?”

“Nay,” said Conn.

“Nay,” added Martan.

Ailbrenn looked around the room with uncertainty. He was a soldier, not a politician. He barely understood the decree, much less how to feel about it. The only thing he knew for certain was that he’d sworn undying loyalty to the crown, and that much hadn’t changed.

“Aye,” voted the marshal. The king smiled, though just slightly.

“One for, two against,” he counted. “Advisor Fallaman, your vote?”

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The king stared at his uncle, a silent reminder of the secrets the two men were privy to. The Duke of Laigin was the youngest son of the time traveler, and by now the only son still living.Though he’d never been a serious candidate for the throne, the late first king made sure all of his children, Fallaman included, understood the plan.

“Aye,” said the king’s uncle. The liege nodded contentedly, only to have the next vote instantly end his mood.

“Nay,” voted Natfreach.

“Really, Steward Natfraech?” interjected the king.

“That’s Tanist … no, Brother Natfraech! And as nice as inheriting absolute power sounds, I could do without the kingdom of angry subjects that come with it.”

“You know about the plan, brother.”

“I do know about the plan, yes. But unlike you, I also know about dealing with other people, getting them on your side. The plan won’t go anywhere if you make the whole world mad enough to want your blood. The bigger you make your crown, the more likely it’ll crush your head.” The king glared at his brother, unsure of just what to say, before turning his attention back to the paper in front of him.

“Natfraech … votes … against,” he read flatly as he wrote down. “Two for, three against. Spymaster Eorcenberht, your vote, please?”

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As in most of the council’s meetings, the spymaster had yet to speak a word. Much of this was due to how uncomfortable he was speaking outside of his native tongue. The son of an Essexian duke who did not live to see his birth, Eorcenberht had been brought to Eire by the time traveler to marry Scathach, one of his many daughters. The hope was that he would bring more children to the time traveler’s dynasty, a task he’d utterly failed at.

But though he was a bad husband, he was an able spy, and took full advantage of his talent of disappearing into a room. Why talk when he could listen? In this moment, though, the silence was to his disadvantage, as now the whole room waited anxiously for his vote.

“...Aye,” whispered the spymaster.

“Three for, three against, and in the event of a tie a vote falls to the crown. The motion passes.”

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“Diabhal Sassanach!” screamed Martan. The court chaplain ran towards the spymaster, forcing the marshal to get between the two and restrain the priest. “How much did he pay you, Eorcenberht? What did you sell our freedom for?”

“Everyone knows the Englishman would dig up and suck his father if the coin was good enough,” said Natfraech. “You bought him off, you must have.”

“I don’t believe I’m even capable of what you’re accusing me of.” The king straightened the papers in front of him, clearing the meeting room for another day. “As you’ve admitted, I don’t know how to get people on my side.”

“You can’t take our voices like this!” demanded Conn. “Not off of a tie! It isn’t fair! This whole vote was rigged!”

“All the more reason to do away with them, then.” Without another word, the king departed, leaving his council in the chamber to argue and scream among themselves. As he traveled the halls of his castle alone, forced to listen to his own thoughts, he nearly wished he was back at the meeting.

Establishing absolute rule was a difficult decision, but a necessary one. His grandfather’s book said much about the world from which he escaped. Most of it was nonsense beyond the new king’s comprehension, a long series of words he’d never seen before, and that nobody in a thousand years ever would. Other parts, however, were easier to imagine. In the future, he was told, there were still councils and votes and arguments that seemed to never end. Instead of six, though, they numbered hundreds, nearly all of them vile. By the time the Catastrophe had arrived, half of them refused to admit it, maybe even wanted it, and the second half didn’t want to upset and drive away the first. The world ended while they were locked in debate over what to do.

If councilors and votes had doomed humanity once, King Ryan II knew they could again. It was far better to remove any potential hindrances to the plan. The more people who held power, the more chance of power falling into the hands of someone evil, someone who would bring the world to ruin once again. It was better to just act, to do the right thing without worrying about approval. Votes were nothing but trouble, but how could anything bad happen with an absolute dictator?
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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I imagine the king's vassals won't stand for this once word gets out to the rest of the realm. Whether they'll have the power to actually do anything about it, though...
Who cares what vassals think? :D