The Sons of Raghnall is ended; here begins The Matter of Spain, in which I played a Spanish dynasty descended from Charlemagne’s chief paladin, Roland. The campaign did not make it out of Crusader Kings, because one of the players won convincingly; but I wrung some good narratives from it. Here is the introduction, written before the first session of gameplay.
His only historical attestation is in Einhard’s Vita Karoli Magni, which notes he was part of the Frankish rearguard killed by rebellious Basques in Iberia at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.
Thus the English historian, child of the cold North, writing only what he can defend by reference to such-and-such a source, only what may be read in this dusty tome or that scrap of ancient parchment. In this way does he avoid error, writing only what is true, and can be proven true. But not everything true can be proven. The sun-drenched south knows other truths: Truths never set to paper or parchment to be learned by a later age’s skeptical scholars, but true nonetheless, passed mouth to mouth and heart to heart down the years.
The south knows, though it was never written, that Roland was born in the highlands near Santander, which never fell to the infidel. That from his earliest days he wielded sword and lance for Christendom, and that when Weyland Smith forged Durendal to his hand, it was not so that the sharpest blade in all the world should make up the deficiency of an untried boy. That long before Charles the Frank, him that men called “the Great”, made Roland his chief paladin; before his intervention spared the sons of Aymon; before he was set to watch the Breton March – before all this, his name was already strong south of the Pyrenees, where he rode always to the front in unceasing war against the Saracen. That among his deeds was the wooing of Liuva, a romance that for another man would itself be worthy of a song-cycle. And that when he died a martyr’s death at Roncesvaux, his legacy was not only a warrior’s fame to outlast nations and empires, not only a breach cut in the stony Pyrenees, not only the sharpest blade in all the world: For Liuva bore a son, and named him Oliver after his father’s friend, and raised him to honour God, hate the infidel, and speak no lies.
He that is faithful over a few things, is made ruler over many. Where Roland led, men followed; and he that has men will soon acquire land, though the reverse is not always true. So when he came of age Oliver was master of seven mountains and three strong castles; no broad acres or rich earths, but spear-won land retaken from the infidel and held hard against them, on the doubtful border where civilisation and savagery meet. Little grows, in that stony soil, except fighting men and honour; and the de Errolan, the sons of Roland, are rich in both. And, as Oliver is his father’s son, Durendal does not rest over the fireplace, but flashes always to the forefront of the battle; the sharpest sword in all the world is not made for idleness, nor the son of its greatest paladin for taking his ease in a feather bed. There will be no rest for de Errolan until all Spain is cleansed of the infidel.
The Death of Roland