Bertrand II: 1094-1102
As the learned Bishop Evrard of Aix tells me, it is spoken among the learned heathens of a man named Sisyphus, who was cursed by the devils that the ancients called “gods” before the revelation of Christ. For rebuke of his cleverness, which leads even the wise astray, Sisyphus had to push a boulder up a hill, in the full knowledge that it would roll down the other side once he had reached its crest. He was bound thus for all eternity, until we shall all made whole again with the Second Coming. Evrard is fond of offering to me this tale, when I meditate on the path that the line of Boso has taken down through history. He is a wise man, I know, because I appointed him myself.
I see now the boulder in front of me for the past thirty years, shaped like a great fish, and I turn my face from it. I think not that I will ever hold the title of Dauphin, which would make known to all my family’s rightful claim to Lower Burgundy as kings. It is not within the Lord’s merciful plan to make it so. As a devout Christian, living near to the end of times, it is not my place to question the fate that has been set for me.
And yet… my son’s fate is not set, as far as can be told. If I can, in my remaining years, I will set it for my beautiful boy and smile down upon the fruits from heaven.
Acfred will marry the eldest daughter of the current dauphin’s only son. Berchte is a fine girl, with a pride and kindness well suited to her noble blood, although I have already begun to find at times that she is a bit too proud of how kind she is to her maids. No matter, the doddering dauphin, Artau de Forez, agrees to the match, perhaps thinking that I am the doddering one, given that a match between our houses finally legitimizes his illegal control over Lyon and Forez.
Woe to him. My beautiful boy is already shaping up to be a genius at handling people. I will connive with him and his wife, once Artau dies, to dispossess the new duke of Dauphiné, by death if necessary, and see our houses united in the third generation, borne by a new Aeneas and Lavinia. When the snows melt in the first months of 1094, they are made one in matrimony and the first step is taken.
To be honest, I hate that it has come to this. The dauphin’s son Wilhelm is a pious man, which makes him dear to God but not to men. I had saved up a great deal of money to rally conspirators to my cause, but I spend very little of it. Eight nobles swear an oath to me, with my spymaster as proxy, and begin to plot. I turn my mind, not a little thankfully, to other things.
Indeed, my beautiful boy has taken well to his wife and to the business of the court. Less than three months after his majority, Acfred succeeded in proving long-lost claims to Savoy that I did not know were ever even held by the Bosonids. That fat idiot from Vienne, Guiges d’Albon, could not do the same in Lyon after three decades of work, good riddance! With our first claim happily in hand, we press it against Duke Pierre. The second War of Burgundian Restoration is underway!
Grand though its name may be, the war is relatively bloodless affair and ends in the summer of 1096 after only thirteen months of hostilities. The intercession of the newly-crowned king of Bohemia, brother to the husband of my oft-forgotten bastard daughter Cecilia, is a great factor in the peacemaking, which leaves the Savoyads with their holdings around Turin and the loose dependency of the bishop of Valais.
The only rival of equal power to my own is now the Neuenburger dukes of Upper Burgundy, who are distracted from the matters of the Middle Kingdom by their many vassals and their marriage ties to the distant duchies of Lombardy and Brandenburg.
Time passes. I still wait for word from my oathsworn brethren in the Dauphiné. My daughter and friend Faidida comes of age, so after several months of deliberation, I give her hand to Duke Hughes of Aquitaine, a powerful ally to counterbalance the dukes of Toulouse if the kingdom of France continues to disintegrate as the Robertian line of the Capets lose the power they inherited from the now-extinct Heinrican line.
I soon decide that this was a mistake. King Hughes II of France is a pneumoniac weakling married to a spinster, but his brother and heir Eudes is an able warrior with at least four sons to his name. I have sent my closest friend to live on the Bay of Biscay for naught. A match to the king of the Bavarians, just crowned on February 12, 1097 in Munich, would have been a far wiser choice, but… ah, whatever.
I cannot even focus on the frustration of a bad marriage because I have heard word again of that blessed fool Wilhelm. Did you know that he has survived nine attempts on his life? That is why I call him blessed. I call him fool because he is not yet alive to any murderous intent against him. He has even fathered a son in the intervening months. With this sign, I try to draw the reins of my conspiracy, but it is too late. He drinks poisoned wine at the feast of his son’s christening and is dead by the morrow. Even in death, I have never seen a man more beloved by God.
After half a decade of near-constant bloodshed, I found myself inclined to wait a few years to see if young Hans, the new duke of Dauphiné, is meant for a life on this earth, but I am soon confronted in this by my daughter-in-law Berchte. Still proud and still fond of women, she is now also prone to lies and troublemaking. Her father died before Hans’ christening, she says. If anything is a sign from on high that the succession should not pass from father to son, it is an untimely death of such a sort. While she speaks such obvious nonsense, she looks at me too long and too deep for my comfort, before returning to her chambers. I wonder…
Then, after I am done with that, though it took the entire night without sleep to do so, I call my council and tell them to prepare for war. Let her be called a usurper, I care not. I am defending the rights of a future generation, though I will miss my beautiful boy when he is far away in Lyon.
With that accomplished, assuring the providential future of the Bosonid kings of Burgundy, I —
Iah harrubah nauf. Shifh mah wabbuh naruh. Guh, auh whish nauh gah grabbuh leth nah. Hahuh! Naugah nun wah.
Tug nug grabbuh iah nauf. Wallah nah wah. Nun, nun.
Gah! Hanuh, hanuh, hanuh. Wag auf ish duh nah wah? Puh wallah nauf auh? Iah nagguh auf wah…
Buh awah! Ah! Ah!