The Last King of Ireland

Game Master Amergin the Wise

***Campaign synopsis below***

Historical setting - 1166

In Italy, Pope Alexandre III reigns over a Vatican in ruins, fighting a losing battle against AntiPope Paschal III and his ally, the powerful Holy Roman Emperor Frederic I.

France is enjoying a cultural renaissance. But King Louis VII finds himself unable to come to the aid of the Pope. Louis has been struck with paralysis; his kingdom’s coffers are empty after a costly crusade; and he must himself contend with the Holy Roman Emperor who has taken Arles to the East.

To make matters worse, King Henry II of England – who happens to also be Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, and Count of Nantes – has married Louis’ ex-wife Eleonor, Duchess of Aquitaine. With so much of France under his control, Henry is Louis VII’s vassal only in name, and could very well claim the crown of France. Henry recently invaded Brittany, and there could very well soon be war between France and England.

In England, Henry has only just emerged from a costly war against the Welsh, and the Scots threaten his northern border. Henry’s relationship with the church and his old friend Thomas Becket have soured. The Archbishop of Canterbury – who was once the King’s Chancellor – now stands in defence of the Church of England against Henry’s reforms, which are decidedly modern but unpopular.

In Ireland, there has not been any lasting peace since Brian Boru’s rule, over fifty years ago. Since the King of Ulster was named High King ten years ago with the support of the King of Leinster, the King of Connaught has schemed and warred to end his reign. With the death of the High King Murtagh MacLochlain, the King of Connaught will likely become High King. But will he rule without opposition?

The Church of Ireland is divided between those who would reform the church, and those who defend the old ways. The church having refused to enact reforms demanded by the previous pope Adrian IV, there now exists a Papal Bull that grants the King of England the right to invade Ireland. Given that England has long desired to conquer Ireland, the threat of invasion is very real.

Titles in medieval Ireland

From highest to lowest, these are the titles of nobility:

High King, Ard Ri
King of Kings, Rí Ruirech (ex.: Tiernan O’Rourke, King of Breifne)
King of Many Tribes, Ri Tuath (ex.: Eogan O'Reilly, King of Cavan)
King of a Single Tribe, Ri Tuaithe (ex.: Coffey McGovern, King of Largay)
aire forgaill (commanding freeman)
aire ard (high freeman)
aire tuise (freeman of leadership)
aire désa (freeman of lordship)

Below the nobles, are the freemen:

bóaire (cow freeman)
ócaire (young freeman)
fer midboth (a young freeman who has not yet established himself)
semi-freemen (a freeman who does not own land or cattle)

Along with semi-freeman, slaves constitute the largest part of the workforce, and are common in Ireland.

Ollamh - The highest class of poet, or the chief poet.
Fili - Usually educated at a poet school and raised in a family of poets. To reach the level of fili, a poet would have spent around 21-27 years in preparation.
Bard - Typically, bards were without formal training but considered 'natural' poets.
Cáinte - An illegal satirist. Those who practiced this committed a major offense since their existence was a threat to the entire poets class.
Banfili - Female poet.

Bards were highly respected, and an Ollamh could fetch a King's ransom.

Brehon Law

Life in Ireland is governed by Brehon Law.

Map of Ireland

This is a fairly accurate map of Ireland at the time.

Kingdoms of Ireland

After the death of Murtagh MacLochlain, King Rory O'Connor is the most powerful king in Ireland, and most likely to be crowned High King.

King Tiernan O'Rourke is an ally of the King of Connaught. He has a profound hatred for the King of Leinster who years ago captured and seduced his wife. It is rumoured that Tiernan's son is in fact the child of Dermot MacMurrough.
King Eogan O’Reilly of Cavan is O'Rourke's subject.
King McGovern of Largay answers to O'Reilly. While he is on the march with the armies of Breifne and Connaught, his son Fintan has remained in Tuaim.

With the death of Murtagh MacLochlain, the O'Neil and the MacLochlains now vie for rulership.

The Kingdom of Meath has long been allied with both Leinster and Breifne, and so has often chosen to remain neutral. The High King is traditionally crowned in Meath, atop the Hill of Tara.

King Ua Cerbaill is allied to King O'Connor, and his men fought alongside Connaught and Breifne at Leitr-Luin.
King Mulroney of Fermanagh is a subject of the King of Airgialla. He is rumoured to be a fair man, and agreed to send a bard to Boho to judge the matter of ownership of the shard, which was in the possession of King O'Fialain of Boho, and which had been promised should Fintan defeat Boho's champion, Sean Quinn.
King O'Fialain of Boho is a brute of a man – and long an enemy of Largay. His son, however, seems more reasonable and bright.

This small kingdom is ruled by King McGiolla. He is known to be a clever and agile politician. He is presently allied to Leinster.

With the death of his friend and ally Murtagh MacLochlain, King Dermot MacMurrough finds himself isolated and outnumbered. The Dubliners traditionally stand with him, but could very easily turn from him in his hour of need.

Thomond and Desmond:
King O'Brien and King McCarty have long battled to gain dominion over Munster.

Points of interest

(LN small town)
Corruption 0; Crime -2; Economy +1; Law +2; Lore 0; Society -2
Qualities: holy site (Killesher church), strategic location (ringfort)
Points of interest: stone cairn, 2 stone cashels, burial cist
Danger: 0

Government: Overlord
Population: 300 (10 households)
Ploughlands: 12
Warriors: 10

Notable NPCs
King Coffey McGovern
Queen Dubhdara of Largay, his wife, born McKiernan
Father Ó Máille
Amergin the Wise
Fintan McGovern
Sean Quinn
Padraic Ó Cinnéide and Brigitt Quinn, his wife
The 3 sons of Muirchertach MacLochlain

Base value: 1100gp; Purchase limit: 5000gp; Spell casting: 6th
Minor items: 3d4; Medium items: 1d6

Tuam is the principle settlement in the petty kingdom of Largay (population: 6000; warriors: 200).
King Coffey McGovern answers to King Eogan O’Reilly of Cavan, who in turn answers to King Tiernan O’Rourke of Breifne.

(N village)
Corruption -1; Crime -4; Economy -1; Law +2; Lore -1; Society -3
Qualities: insular, holy site (holy well & shrine)
Danger: 0

Government: Overlord
Population: 120 (4 households)
Ploughlands: 4
Warriors: 4

Notable NPCs
Bressal Murphy, a leper
Mary Murphy, his wife

Base value: 500gp; Purchase limit: 2500gp; Spell casting: 5th
Minor items: 2d4; Medium items: 1d4

Three households are in the village of Belcoo. The fourth household — that of Bressal and Mary Murphy — is one mile NW, near Holywell.
The Lord of Belcoo owns 50 cows and 44 heifers.
The Quinns of Belcoo swear allegiance to King Ó’Fialáin of the Tuath Ratha, who pays tribute to King Mulroney of Fermanagh, who is a subject of King Ua Cerbaill of Airghialla. The Kingdom of Airghialla fought alongside Connaught and Breifne at Leitr-Luin.
Upon the death of his father, Sean Quinn became lord of Belcoo.
When he escaped Boho to avoid a duel with Fintan McGovern, Sean Quinn was given sanctuary at the church in Tuaim. Thus, his family’s assets now belong to the Church of Ireland

(LE small town)
Points of interest: High Cross,

Population: 600 (20 households)
Ploughlands: 24
Warriors: 20

Notable NPCs
King O’Fialain (RIP)
Niall O’Fialain, his son, now King

Boho is the principle settlement in the petty kingdom of Boho (population: 9000; warriors: 300).
King O'Fialain has the shard of the Spear of Lugh.
King O'Fialain answers to King Mulroney of Fermanagh, who in turn answers to the King of Airgialla.

(LG small town)
Points of interest: St-Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral

Population: 8,000
Ploughlands: 300
Warriors: 300

Notable NPCs
Gelasius, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland
Amlaim Ua Muirethaig, Bishop of Armagh
The Green Man, leader of The Hood

***Campaign synopsis***

Chapter 1 : Ambush at Belcoo:

A rider rides into Tuaim, and announces that High King Murtagh MacLochlain is dead.

Fintan McGovern, son and heir to the King of Largay, is called upon by his father to ride to Belcoo, to demand tribute of Lord Quinn. Understanding the mission to be potentially suicidal, Braeden McGovern decides to defy the king’s order, and travel along with his brother. He recruits the loyal slave Aoife, and together they make their way to the parish church, to meet Padraic, the expedition’s guide. Brother Ó’Máille joins the group, and they all cross the river.

At Belcoo, they encounter a sad old man who is in fact Lord Fiacre Quinn who has been disguised by mysterious magic. Promising to help them find a stolen fragment of the Spear of Lugh, he sues for peace and misleads them into a trap. But he pays the ultimate price when he is felled by his own son’s javelin. Sean Quinn is severely wounded, and the day is won.

They make their way to Holywell, and claim cattle from the Quinn as the price for peace. While performing mass, Brother Ó’Máille has a vision.

Brother Ó Máille's vision: An arch of white marble atop a high mountain. A wailing woman in white, surrounded by four swans. Five wolves howling under a full moon. And finally, a High Cross.

They return to Largay. While Padraic is rewarded for his part in the mission, Fintan and Braedan are rebuked, and Aoife is punished by the king himself. When Fintan intercedes, the king offers to whip him instead. Fintan agrees.

While Brother Ó’Máille discusses his vision with his father, Braeden attempts to convince the king to allow him to find the fragment of the Spear of Lugh.

Chapter 2: The Marble Arch Caves:

After the King of Largay and his warriors have gone to meet with the army of Breifne, the heroes wait until nightfall and then leave to find the Marble Arch Caves. The moon is full as they follow the River Gladagh up from Lower Lough MacNean.

In the hills at the foot of the Cuilcagh mountains, they encounter five wolves. They defeat the beasts, and skin them to acquire five extraordinary pelts.

They reach the Marble Arch Caves, and carefully make their way inside. Descending into the depths, avoiding the pitfalls, swimming in the dark waters, and climbing a steep cliff to a balcony, they find Aoife, once wife to the King of Lir, now a banshee cursed and bound. She calls upon the Wolves of Largay to kill her in order to save her. In exchange, she promises the fragment of the Spear of Lugh. And then, the haunted spirit allows them to leave.

Chapter 3: The Vision Quest:

They escape the caves, and rest just outside until morning. Then, they travel West to the Forest of Burren, to the Druid’s Altar where they must embark on a vision quest. They light a fire in the small cave under the dolmen, drink an infusion of magic mushroom that they find nearby, and fall into a deep slumber.

They awaken in the same forest, but in another time. They meet Amergin Glúingel, the ancient druid of legends, who offers to aid them in their quest. The druid leads them to King Lir’s fort at the top of Knockeyon Hill, near Lough Derravaragh. He vouches for them, and they are welcomed as honoured guests.

During the feast, plenty of mead is served and tensions rise when Braedan, who is clearly infatuated, comes to the defence of Queen Aoife. To be fair, King Lir is a loving father, but a cruel husband. Braedan insults the King in his own home, and a brawl ensues. Amergin intervenes, and calls upon all to find peace, and return to their hearths.

Aoife leaves the hut to speak with Amergin, while Padraic walks out to study the fort and its defences. When Padraic is found lurking in the shadows and tensions rise anew, Amergin sings a song of love and peace. The King of Lir and his warriors are assuaged.

When Brother O’Maille steps out of the hut to listen to Amergin’s song, Braedan throws caution to the wind. He enchants his brother, who falls into a deep sleep. And then he disappears into the night. When the Queen is nowhere to be seen, they all fear the worse. They escape with haste, and find Braedan and Queen Aoife in the forest. Braedan has convinced the Queen that the King will love her if he misses her, and so that she must disappear. When she realizes that she has been charmed, she is furious and threatens them all.

Amergin joins them, casts an old prayer that puts the Queen to sleep, and urges them onward. He explains that Queen Aoife is under the spell of Aibell, the powerful spirit of the O’Brian clan who supplied King Lir with a potion that would win Aoife's heart were she to drink it every morning.

They all return to the Druid’s Altar. They light a fire, prepare the magic mushroom infusion, and participate in the ritual that will end the vision quest. Not surprisingly, Braedan choses to stay behind, to remain with Aoife, his love. Curious to discover the future and this God that Brother O’Maille prays to, Amergin takes Braedan’s place among the five who must return.

They awaken in the familiar forest near their home. It is morning, and all seems well.

Amergin quickly realizes a sad truth: the spirits will not answer his prayers. He is now nothing more than a wise old man.

Chapter 4: The Battle of Ross Lough:

The heroes return to Tuaim only to find that the small town was raided by warriors of Boho led by Sean Quinn. All but two of the few warriors that remained were killed, and the Queen was taken hostage.

Along with Kassidy O’Kennedy and Thorun Madsen, Fintan, Padraic, Aoife and Brother O’Maille rush towards Boho, which is merely a few hours away. When they arrive, they realize that they are outmatched, but the Heavens are in their favour: a majestic flight of swans flies above, and draws the hunters away from the town.

The heroes follow the hunters and, on the following morning, ambush them under cover of thick fog. The battle is one-sided, and Nial O’Fialain is taken hostage, along with two surviving warriors.

Brother O’Maille rides into Boho and offers an exchange: the King of Boho’s son for the Queen of Largay. King O’Fialain accepts, and offers his hospitality. That night, in order to cement the peace between Boho and Largay, a marriage is between Brigit Quinn and Padraic.

When Fintan insists on retrieving the shard of the spear of Lug, King O’Fialain proposes a duel between Sean Quinn and Fintan. Fintan agrees. However, on the following morning, Sean Quinn is found missing. He has run away.

The heroes pursue him and miraculously find him despite the weather. Rather than kill him, they take him to Tuaim where he asks sanctuary in Killesher church.

Fintan and the others return safely to Tuaim, and it is decided that Kassidy will travel to ask the King of Fermanagh to intercede in order to force the King of Boho to give Largay the shard, as is only just.

The heroes remain in Tuaim for a few days, waiting to know where the King of Fermanagh’s army is situated.

Chapter 5: Journey to Armagh:

The heroes find out that King Mulroney of Fermanagh is keeping the piece in Armagh. Upon starting their journey, they quickly discover that they are being followed. But they cannot catch their pursuer until the third night of the trip. They capture him, and he reveals himself to be Abiodun, an escaped slave who belongs to The Hood. He explains that the Hood is a group of bandits that is led by the Green Man, and that has been hired to kill them. In exchange for his life, he leads them safely to Armagh.

In Armagh, while waiting for an audience with the King of Fermanagh, they are approached by the Green Man. In exchanges for their lives, he asks them to escort and keep safe the three sons of Muichertach MacLochain. They accept.

They meet with King Mulroney and he agrees to send one of his trusted bards to judge the case. While Kassidy, Brother O’Maille, and Thorun travel to Boho, Aoife and Ruadhan lead the boys to Tuaim.

In Boho, the bard insists that they must find a witness who can corroborate their story, but is not tied to Largay. The heroes gather in Tuaim to decide how to proceed…

Chapter 6: The Battle of Boho:

The heroes return to Tuaim and convince Sean Quinn to testify. They also seek out Nial O'Fialain but he refuses to speak against his king and kin.

In Boho, Fili Airthuir judges in their favour. The King refuses to hand over the shard and instead attempts to kill the bard. The battle that ensues is bloody, and seems in favour of Boho until Nial O'Fialain intercedes. Nial kills his own father, claims the crown, and returns the shard as promised.

Brother O'Maille's miracles during the battle renew Sean Quinn's faith and he seems now more than happy to be ordained as was negotiated previously by his devious sister. Two warriors of Boho experience first hand O'Maille's healing touch, as does Fili Airthuir who will undoubtedly sing the priest's praise in Airghialla.

The heroes are invited to stay the night as friends to King Nial O'Fialain. They leave Boho after the burial ceremonies performed on the following morning.

Chapter 7: Old Biddy, Return to the Marble Arch Caves, and Beltane:

On their way back to Tuaim, they encounter Old Biddy in Holywell. She is an old friend of the Quinns and when she invites them all to feast, they accept. Over the course of the afternoon, she reads the pine leaves in their cups of tea and makes the following divinations:

Sean Quinn: "You will find peace as a priest."
She asks him: "Does your allegiance now lay with your kinsmen or with the church?"
He answers: "The church."

Aoife: "Your father will never be your father, and he will die in battle."
She asks her: "Would you give up your heart's true love to be free?"
Aoife answers: "No."

Ruadhan: "It is impossible to know if his children will be safe in Tuaim – that is up to Ruadhan himself. But there will be no safer place than Tuaim when the storm comes."
She asks him: "Would you turn against the High King and against your own people to keep your children safe?"
He answers: "My childrens safety would come first."

Kassidy: "Only death and time will quell the rivalry. But there is no telling whose death, or how much time."
She asks him: "Will you fight with the O'Brian or the MacCarthy?"
He answers: ?

Thorun: "He will spend one night only with his love. She is fated to rule. He are fated to fight."
She asks him: "What is her name?"
He answers: "Aoife MacMurrough."

In the afternoon, after a hearty meal that helps to heal the soul after the bloody battle of Boho, they return to Tuaim. They learn that Conchobar MacLochlain has run away back to the lands of his people. He plans to reclaim his birthright. Padraic has been sent to find the young man and bring him back.

Fintan refuses to allow them to go after Conchobar, and instead insists that they return to the Marble Arch Caves.

Guided by Brother's O'Maille's vision in Boho, Amergin, Thorun, Ruadhan, and Aoife return to the caves. Inside, where once had been chained the cursed spirit of Queen Aoife, they find the coffins of Braedan and his beloved, along with a strange sort of compass that was likely created by Braedan to find the Spear of Lugh.

They all return to Tuaim in time for Beltane... There, they meet Sister Cobhlaith and Daire McKiernan who agree to accompany them North to find Conchobar MacLochlain as well as the Spear of Lugh.

Chapter 8: Inishowen:

The heroes travel through Cavan, travelling along the North shore of Lough MacNean and then NW toward Lough Melvin to avoid the shorter route through Fermanagh. They struggle to cross the river Erne and then go West along the shore of Assaroe lake before being come upon near the Atlantic shore by O’Clery – a lord who is loyal to the O’Donnel who in turn swear allegiance to the Donegal of Tyrconnel.

Having guessed their identities, he shares his supplies and sees them off.

The heroes continue their way North, camping in the wild until they find refuge in Fahan. From there, they head across the Inishowen peninsula until they reach Culdaff.

In Culdaff, Ruadhan encounters an old companion, King Muircheartach Ua Duibhdhiorma. The man vouches for them all and accompanies them into the king’s hall to see Conchobar. They find the boy well and happy, but the festivities are short lived. A failed assassination attempt by Sitric O Maolfabhail draws the heroes into battle and leaves Conchobar, who survives only thanks to Sister Cobhlaith’s able hands and fervent prayers, permanently weakened and unfit to rule.

On the morning after, news arrives that Nial MacLochlain – Conchobar’s uncle – is marching along the coast of Lough Foyle. Led by Ruadhan, the heroes of Largay and the warriors loyal to Conchobar head out, intent on ambushing the approaching army when it crosses the mountains into the green plains. The ambush proves successful and the O’Gallagher cavalry is annihilated. The heroes push the advantage and strike at the flanks of the army. They kill Kings MacLochlain and Donegal and survive only thanks to King O’Donnel’s timely intercession.

They are stripped of their possessions and taken prisoner. Ten days pass before they are freed. When they are escorted to freedom, they learn that Fintan has paid the honour-price that was requested in exchange for their lives as the nobles of Inishowen refused to do so. The McGovern of Largay are ruined.

The heroes receive extraordinary gifts from the MacLochlain and prepare for the journey ahead. Reluctant to return to Tuaim under the circumstances, they plan to continue their quest to find the Spear of Lugh…