Gesta Filii Cunerici - The Deeds of the Sons of Cyneric

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Chapter I - Cyneric I "the Fox", King of Scots (891 - 935)

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Front Title.png

A History of House McKendrick

scotland arms.png



Chapter One.png


Cyneric Name.png


Founder of the House of McKendrick and father of the Scots Kingdom

Born to a Northumbrian father and a Gaelic mother, Cyneric of Annan (also known today in Scots as 'Kendrick' or 'Kenry'), united the lowlands with its hybrid population of Gaels and Northumbrians, forging the Scots people and a new Kingdom to last the ages.

Cyneric I on becoming King.png

Cyneric I as undisputed King of Scotland (c.891)

As the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria under King Aella collapsed around him, the young Cyneric stoutly defended his lands in Annan(dale) against the Great Heathen army. The skilled tactics and guerrilla warfare he used in the hills and forests of the lowlands earned him the sobriquet, 'the Fox'. Thenceforth. the fox became the symbol of his House.

Having established the nascent Scots (Petty) Kingdom in the lowlands from around 981, with Papal blessing he deposed the 'wicked' and excommunicate Gaelic King Caustantin of Alba and in 891, having been crowned according to ancient custom at Scuin, he became undisputed ruler of all of Scotland - Gaelic, Pictish, Saxon, Scots and Cumbrian alike.

Jerusalemite Crusader and bane of the heathen Northmen - Cyneric's fame had spread far and wide by the time of his death in 935 at age 84.


Cynric I the Fox.png
 

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TheButterflyComposer

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Now this looks good.
 

stnylan

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Very nice graphic
 

HistoryDude

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This looks interesting.

I assume that you will cover what Cyneric’s descendants did as well?
 

Nikolai

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Very nice graphics. :) Looking forward to more!
 
Chapter II - Part 1 - The Succession of Alasdair I, King of Scots - 935

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Leader of the Second Crusade, Conqueror of Syria and Subduer of the Highlands.

Famed for his victories in the Holy Land and against the Norsemen in the "Great Highland War" (942 - 947), Alasdair I shall nevertheless always be remembered for the infamous and tragic disaster at the Heights of Brae on the 12th - 13th June 944.

Alasdair I at War.png

Alasdair I During the "Great Highlands War"

Part One: The Succession of Alasdair and the Preparations for the Second Crusade
During the preparations for the Second Crusade (intended to annex the lands of Syria to the Kingdom of Jerusalem), Cyneric I finally succumbed to old age. Prince Alasdair, Earl of Albany, Cyneric's third and oldest surviving son was unanimously chosen as King by the Community of the Realm. At age 54, he was past his prime, but his deeds during the First Crusade, his powerful land holdings in Albany and his long career as Chancellor of Scotland made him the obvious choice.

He was popular too amongst the Gaels within the realm, being a nephew of the last Gaelic King of Alba through is mother, and being married to a prominent Gaelic noblewoman. During his rule as Earl of Albany, over the lands that had once formed the core of the Kingdom of Alba, he had made it clear that he had great respect for the Gaels and could speak their tongue as fluently as he could speak Scots.

However, he was not the only member of the House of Cyneric who enjoyed great power and prominence in the realm. His nephew, Cyneric, Earl of Lothian was the second largest landholder in Scotland with lands stretching from Eadinburgh to Durham. Earl Cyneric had won great renown on the First Crusade, and leading armies in defence of the Christians in Asturias. He was influential at home, having being Steward for over 15 years.

During the waning years of the reign of Cyneric I, the Kingdom of Scotland had two stars in a single sphere and neither men trusted the other. Now that Alasdair I was King and already in his middle fifties, the only clear choice for a successor was Earl Cyneric. Although Alasdair had three sons, his eldest, Prince Alasdair was undistinguished and little known in the Lowlands having been brought up in his father’s Gaelic lands in Albany. His second son, David had renounced any claims in Europe when he had accepted the crown of Jerusalem after the First Crusade and his third son, Raibeart was still young and inexperienced. Consequently, Earl Cyneric’s accepted status as King-in-waiting by the Community of the Realm, did not improve the relationship between Alasdair I and his greatest vassal and kinsman. Many at the time and since have believed that it was this rivalry that led to the tragedy at the Heights of Brae.


Nephew of the King the War of the North.png

Cyneric, Earl of Lothian


Therefore, there was good counsel that Alasdair should not leave the country for Outremer so soon after becoming King. He was advised by close councillors to focus on affairs at home and establish himself and his court before departing. However, since Alasdair had personally raised support for this Second Crusade and since it was his own son, David, who now reigned as King of Jerusalem, Alasdair considered himself honour bound to proceed in person.

Yet, marking well the advice he had received, Earl Cyneric was given the honour of accompanying him. A Man of his status and prestige could not be seen to refuse such an invitation. Alasdair I's nephew, Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria was appointed Regent. This was a wise choice. Eochaid despised Earl Cyneric, who had seized his lands in Durham. Moreover, not only was he was fiercely loyal to Alasdair I whom he counted a close friend, but his lack of prestige and influence in Scotland meant that he was no real threat to the throne (despite his claim to be the male heir to Cyneric I through his eldest son).

In Spring 936 King Alasdair and Earl Cyneric departed for the Holy Land....


Alasdair I Tree.png

House McKendrick in the Year 947 at the end of the "Great Highland War" against the Norsemen of Sweden and their allies (942-947)

Alasdair the Crusader.png

The Legacy of Alasdair I​
 

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stnylan

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Momentous goings on. Hopefully this Second Crusade has better success that its named counterpart in OTL. :D
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Beautiful graphics again. Scotland seems a very interesting place here.
 
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Nikolai

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I love these graphics!
 
Chapter II - Part 2 - The Second Crusade 935 - 937

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Chapter II:

Part Two: The Second Crusade




Second Crusade MAP FINAL 3.png.png

The Second Crusade: Movements of the Papal Army in purple, the Scots / Jerusalemite armies in yellow and the Abbassid armies in red.


King Alasdair I and Earl Cyneric arrived in the Holy Land with 4,000 men in Spring 936. In Galilee, they joined forces with the mustered troops of David, King of Jerusalem, and his allies. The combined force now numbered around 13,000 men. After conducting a council of war and gathering supplies the host marched on the great citadel of Damascus, hoping there to intercept any of Caliph Hashmaddin Ibn Al-Mu’tazz’s forces marching from his capital in Baghdad.

The Papal army, together with German and French detachments occupied Abbassid holdings in Cyprus, hoping to use the island as a defensible base of supply and was now proceeding to beseige the fortress city of Antioch. The Bey of Aleppo sent riders south to Baghdad, requesting urgent aid.

When Caliph Hashmaddin received this message, he was marching with 30,000 men from his capital in Baghdad towards Damascus, using the only viable road across the dry and arid lands between Iraq and Syria. Desperate to maintain his point of defence in the North, he sent 10,000 men north to support the Bey of Aleppo.

With his remaining 20,000 men, the Caliph continued to Damascus, planning to fall upon the Jerusalemite forces led by King David I and King Alasdair in their siege camps. However, when Hashmaddin approached the city on the evening of the 4th July 936, he saw with disgust the banner of Jerusalem flying above the battlements.

Damascus had fallen on the 1st July after Earl Cyneric had launched a surprise attack on the Northern walls during the night of 30th June, opening the Northern and Western gates and allowing the forces of Alasdair and David to stream into the city largely unopposed. Yet in the confusion, much of the city, including the grain stores had been consumed by flames.

As a result, the Crusaders may have taken the city, but they were out of food and supplies and had now received word that the Caliph's forces, thought to number more than 30,000 men was only a few days march away. Should they be besieged, there was no possibility that they could endure. King David argued for an immediate retreat to resupply. However, for once, King Alasdair and Earl Cyneric were united in their disapproval of this strategy. Earl Cyneric smashed his hands on the table in anger and stared at David - his eyes screaming contempt.

Yet before Earl Cyneric could speak, King Alasdair spoke smoothly. "My son. How can I retreat in the face of my enemy, after the victory our army has won today? I understand your concerns. You are right that we cannot allow ourselves to be besieged. However, we cannot withdraw. To do so would be hugely dangerous. we would expose our flanks to our enemy, whom you know is blessed with numerous skilled light horsemen, and we would do irreparable damage to the morale of our troops. We have won a great victory this day. The men are confident that the Lord of Hosts is with us. What are they to think when we run back at the first sight of the Caliph? No, I will not withdraw. Earl Cyneric?"

"I am with you, Uncle". Earl Cyneric was ill-accustomed to having nothing with which to disagree in his dealings with King Alasdair.

"Very well, Father. If you are resolved to remain - the armies of Jerusalem will not abandon you." David's voice was unsure, and his face had drained of colour. "But if we cannot endure a siege, what is it you intend?"

David I of Jerusalem.png

David I, King of Jerusalem and son of Alasdair I, King of Scots
The Battle of Damascus - 5th July 936

Caliph Hashmaddin opened his eyes. He was being shaken awake. "My Lord, the Christians are attacking!". It was early in the morning of 5th July 936. It was dark and still cool, but the camp was alive with shouts and the sound of armour being thrown on in haste and thousands of men scrambling for their arms. Hashmaddin donned his helm and mail, lifted his father's sword and strode out of his tent and into the camp. Quickly he attempted to rally his forces. He organised his detachments in two lines facing the city from where the crusaders seemed to be attacking. What looked like an enormous force was fast approaching from the city gates, wielding great fire brands. The very image of the forces of hell.

"Advance! Crush these savages. They wield mere torches, not lightening," Hashmaddin called. His forces approached the advancing torches. As he came closer, he could see that many of the lights were still and motionless, whilst a few were moving erratically. Nevertheless, some were approaching steadily and with purpose. At that point, a mule with no rider appeared out of the gloom. Panic stricken - it had a flaming branch strapped to its saddle. More riderless beasts bearing torches galloped madly into the Abbasid ranks, sending confusing through the Caliph’s troops. There was then a cry from the darkness and a small force of unhorsed Christian warriors could now be seen approaching. There were far fewer than the torches had suggested and now it was clear that each man bore a wooden yoke over his shoulders that extended several feet on each side. Three or four small torches burned along each yoke. Hashmaddin comprehended that he had been tricked, but to what end he could not understand. These 'flaming' men would only be slaughtered. Then he charged towards them, his troops with him.

But he was now committed.

At that point, behind and towards his eastern flank a new cry was heard. Seconds later, out of the dark, thousands of Christian men-at-arms collided with the rear of the Caliph's army. There was now panic. Beset from all sides in the darkness, the Abbassid army began to disintegrate, streaming west away from the new danger. Hashmaddin rode to the head of his fleeing troops. He would withdraw and fight another day. But as he led his men to the west, dark hills rose before him and he knew he was moving towards the uplands surrounding Mount Qasioun.

He called for his captains:

"Make for the passes. Find those who know the area well and order them to lead their detachments through". This was done and the Caliph's army, harassed to the rear by the enemy forces, steadily approached the passes of Qasioun. The sun was now rising. And as it rose the Caliph could see to his horror the glint and gleam of helms and spears and now being raised above them; a banner, bordered in red and blue and bearing a white escutcheon emblazoned with a red fox - the standard of Cyneric, Earl of Lothian.

The Caliph's army was trapped, and only now did he know it. To his rear the banner of Alasdair, King of Scots could now be seen as it fluttered proudly above the relentless host, and to the South and West, the banner of David, King of Jerusalem surged forward above galloping horsemen. Hashmaddin wheeled his white stallion around, raised himself in his stirrups and looked up to the heavens. He Paused. And then, with a mighty cry, he spurred the beast forward and charged alone into the the arrayed forces of Earl Cyneric before him. Thus died Hashmaddin Ibn Al-Mu'tazz, bravest of men.

As midday arrived on 5th July 936, the Caliph's army had been trapped, surrounded, and utterly destroyed. The Caliph himself lay dead on the field. King Alasdair's forces seized the plentiful supplies in the Caliph's camp and marched North to the support of the Papal army.

Battle of Damascus troops final.png

The Battle of Damascus - The Night Attack That Won a Crusade
On 20th July 936, near the village of Sarmada, the forces of the Bey of Aleppo and the remaining Caliphate forces were overwhelmed and destroyed by the combined forces of King Alasdair, King David, and Pope Gregorius II. By the small christian Church in that village, Earl Cyneric ordered an Abbey to be built at his expense in thanks for the victories at Damascus and Sarmada.

Largely unopposed from then, the Crusaders besieged and occupied the lands of Syria and in January 937, the boy Caliph, Hamadan, sued for peace, surrendering Syria which was then annexed to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Before departing the Holy Land, King Alasdair made a pilgrimage to the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and there founded an Order of Warrior Monks dedicated to protect Christians and Pilgrims in the Holy Land. Founding their order at the site of Solomon's Temple, he named them the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem - the Knights Templar.

Alasdair then bade farewell to King David, his son, knowing that he would not see him again, and set off for Scotland with Earl Cyneric. But Alasdair watched how his men looked at Earl Cyneric with admiration and awe and his heart turned cold. He had brought Cyneric with him to protect his throne, but in taking him he had given the Earl the opportunity to win great renown which his own sons could not now ever hope to supersede. He could see now that his sons would not rule Scotland.

Next Time - the "Great Highland War"
 
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stnylan

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A very grand endeavour - and successful to boot!. However I am more drawn to the last paragraph, and to be a very effective last line
 
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HistoryDude

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The Second Crusade was good, but that ending is ominous.

How bad was the Battle at the Heights of Brae?
 

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I'm really enjoying this so far, and I second what others have said about the graphics! The time and effort put into this is appreciated! Subscribed.
 
Chapter II - Part 3 - The Great Highlands War

castlera

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Chapter II

Part Three : The Great Highlands War

King Alasdair and Earl Cyneric arrived back in Scotland in the May of 937. Both men had greatly increased their prestige and honour in the eyes of the Community of the Realm.

Alasdair was now 56 years old. If his sons were to challenge Earl Cyneric for the throne, they would need to win fame and gain lands of their own, and there was little time to lose.

The King’s gaze turned northward, to the Gaelic Highlands of Scotland. Only a few decades ago, these lands had been overrun by the Norsemen of King Bjorn Ironside of Swiorice (or Sweden). Alasdair’s own personal demesne lands in Albany bordered the area of the occupation of the heathen menace. Should Alasdair conquer the highlands, he would be the first of the House McKendrick to rule all the lands once controlled by the ancient Kings of Fortriu.

And more importantly – he could distribute the conquests to his sons Alasdair and Raibeart who, with their own large tracts of land, could act as a counterweight to the growing might of Earl Cyneric.

However, the recent crusade had depleted the King’s treasury and his men who had only recently arrived home after two years in Outremer had no stomach for another war yet. He would have to bide his time and build up a war chest.

Alasdair’s first move, in 937, was to increase the fortifications at Dunnottar on the Eastern Coast, which bordered the land under the control of Swiorice. The new fortifications were entrusted to a man who had become the King’s trusted friend and comrade in arms during the Second Crusade, the Gaelic noble Cóelub (of Dunnottar). Cóelub was not from a family of great fame, but he came from a medium ranking Gaelic warrior family within Alasdair’s Earldom of Albany. Cóelub was a strong and tall man, known for his bravery, his honesty, and his skill at arms. Throughout the Second Crusade he had been at Alasdair’s side as the bearer of his standard, and Alasdair trusted him unhesitatingly.

Coelban Savious of Dingwall.png

Cóelub of Dunnottar, Friend and Retainer of Alasdair I

The King’s second move was to secure funding for his endeavour. He thus decided to make a journey to Rome to petition Pope Gregorius II for support and funds. The declared purpose of the journey was to make a pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles. At the meeting of the High Council at Scuin in August, Alasdair declared that once again, his great nephew, Eochaid II, Earl of Northumbria was to be appointed Regent whilst he was travelling to Rome.

However, the situation was different now, and even as the King spoke, the hall fell deadly quiet. The seated magnates looked at the King in astonishment and then each turned their eyes on Earl Cyneric.

The Earl sat at the far end of the wooden table in absolute silence. His eyes, unblinking, were fixed on the King. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke.

“Earl Eochaid?”, the King spoke clearly and directly to the Earl of Northumbria, who seemed not to have taken a breath since the King’s pronouncement “What say you? Do you accept the appointment?”

Earl Eochaid look at the floor for a moment. Then he raised his gaze slowly, opened his mouth as if to speak and then paused.

“Speak, man”, bellowed the King.

“My liege. It is my…honour to accept the…appointment”. Earl Eochaid’s voice was hollow and unsure.

At the end of the table, Earl Cyneric rose and strode out of the hall in silence. That night he departed Scuin with his retinue and rode for Lothian. The King and Earl Cyneric would not meet again for five years.

At the beginning of September, Alasdair, with his sons Alasdair and Raibeart and his friend Cóelub of Dunnottar, set out for Rome. The party arrived in October 937. And were greeted with honour in the Vatican City. At the first feast in his honour, Pope Gregory formally declared King Alasdair to be known henceforth as ‘Alexander Crucesignatis’ – Alasdair the Crusader.

During the time in which Alasdair was in Rome he held meetings with the Pope on most days, pressing his holiness for funds and support to drive the Norsemen from the Highlands of Scotland. But the Pope was unenthusiastic. He had little interest in the poor, rude and sparse Highlands of the Scots Kingdom, and his coffers were still themselves recovering from the Second crusade. However, he eventually conceded to give Alasdair some of the funds he required – unable to send the great Crusader home completely empty handed.

By Spring 938, Alasdair had returned to Scotland. He now had some of the funds for his expedition, but not all for which he had hoped. He could see that it would take several years to raise all the required funds. He was an impatient man and was painfully aware that his own time was running out. But wait he must.

The Royal council was convened in August 938 at Dunkendrick, the hillfort built by King Cyneric I in Galloway. The ‘close council’, at that time, comprised the King’s half-brothers, Fearghas, Earl of Westoraland and Malcolm, Earl of Eoforwic as Steward and Marshal, respectively. Eochaid II, Earl of Northumbria, the King’s great nephew and erstwhile regent, acted as Spymaster. Archbishop William was Lord Spiritual. However, once member of the council did not arrive.

On the morning before the council was due to convene, a rider arrived at the gates of Dunkendrick bearing the banner of Earl Cyneric, the Chancellor. The rider demanded to see the King. When Alasdair received him, the man knelt and handed him a scroll. It read as follows:

‘Dear Uncle. I regret that I am unable to join you at Dunkendrick. I have recently fallen ill and do not believe that I am capable of making the journey. Signed, Cyneric, Earl of Lothian.’

The King’s face turned crimson. He hurled the scroll to the floor, raised himself out of his chair and towered over the messenger, his fists clenched and pressed to his sides.

“Inform my dear nephew that we hope ardently for his swift recovery. Get out of my sight”.

Not a member of the court believed that Earl Cyneric was unwell. And not a member of the court believed that he wanted them too. It was clear to all that the Earl had slighted the King, and clearer still that there was nothing whatever the King could do about it.

Several years passed as Alasdair prepared his treasury and his forces for the Highland Expedition. In Summer 942, Alasdair was ready at last to strike. At that time, the King’s army was encamped at Dun Blaan (Dunblane), in preparation for the march north. The King had raised detachments under the following men:

  • Fearghas, Earl of Westoraland, Steward of the realm and the King’s half-brother;
Westoraland.png

The standard of Earl Fearghas
  • Malcolm, Earl of Eoforwic, Marshal of the realm and the King’s half-brother;
York.png

The standard of Earl Malcolm
  • Eadwin, Earl of Lanark, the King’s youngest half-brother.
lanark.png

The standard of Earl Eadwin
  • Cóelub, Baron of Dunottar, the King’s close friend.
  • Alasdair, Prince of Scotland, the King’s eldest son.
  • Raibeart, Prince of Scotland, the King’s youngest son.
scotland arms.png

The Standard of Alasdair, King of Scots, borne by his sons in the Great Highland War

Earl Eochaid had been entrusted with administering the realm during the upcoming campaign. Earl Cyneric had merely been ordered to defend the lowlands from any potential incursion. The King had no desire to make the same mistake he had made on the Second Crusade; he would not give Cyneric another opportunity to build his fame. Rather he would return the Earl’s slight, and leave him at home, away from honour and renown.

northumbria.png

The Standard of Eochaid II, Earl of Northumbria

Nevertheless, Earl Cyneric’s eldest son, Eadgar of Lothian, did indeed march with Alasdair’s grand army. He was the standard bearer to his friend (and the king’s half-brother) Eadwin, Earl of Lanark, who was around the same age.

On the eve of the expedition, however, the King fell ill. His physician informed him that his he marched north in his condition; he would die. Therefore, the expedition was delayed. As the rains came in September, Alasdair was still bedridden.

“My liege. I tell you your illness is a sign from God that we should not proceed with your planned invasion”. The King’s personal chaplain had been saying this since Alasdair first fell ill, and Alasdair had simply ignored him. But now, with his army wasting away in the field and beginning to murmur similar sentiments to the chaplain, the King determined that the attack must happen now or never.

Therefore, in September 942. Alasdair, King of Scots, and his army finally launched the invasion of the Highlands, taking the fight to King Halsten Bjornson of Swiorice.

Great Highland War FINAL reduced size.png

The Great Highland War - showing the Key Battles and the Movements of armies during the campaigns from 942-944

Progress was slow as the King’s army marched along the Eastern coast to avoid the treacherous hills and valleys of the central highlands. The King, still unable to ride, was borne on a bier. On 15 October 942, the King’s army arrived at the hill-fort of Eilean and prepared a siege.

After a week of the siege, Alasdair’s health was beginning to improve. He was also aware that the forces of Swiorce would soon be setting sail for the British Isles to meet his incursion. There was no time to lose and the King called his captains to him.

“Prepare your men. In the morning, we assault the palisade”.

“My liege”, spoke Earl Eadwin. I beg the honour of leading the vanguard”.

“And you shall have it, brother”.

As the sun rose on the morning of 23 October 942, the standard of Eadwin, Earl of Lanark, surged high over the palisade walls of Eilean. The red standard bearing four rings of gold and two bright escutcheons bearing the MacKendrick fox, fluttered bold and proud above the fray. It could be seen streaming into the midst of the defenders, whence it was followed by the inspired might of the Scots attackers.

But as the clamour halted and the Scots stood victorious, the hearty cheer that began to ring out faltered and there was silence. Eadwin’s standard had fallen. It was torn, trampled and bloodied. But Earl Eadwin stood over it, tears in his reddened eyes. He knelt and embraced the body of his friend and standard bearer. Eadgar of Lothian, eldest son of Earl Cyneric, was dead.

This was the sight that met the King as he entered the fort. He turned to Cóelub who rode by his side.
“Leave a garrison of your men here. In two days we march for Calder.” The King looked at the tattered standard before him and the broken body of his nephew’s son. “Send him to his father. He will want to bury him”.

“My lord? Do you not wish to send you own words to Earl Cyneric”. Cóelub disliked Earl Cyneric, but he had compassion for anyone who had just lost a son.
“That man will here only orders from me”, barked the King. But Cóelub marked how a single tear ran down the King’s cheek, and how his voice was racked with grief that he could not wholly conceal.

It is said that when Earl Cyneric heard the news of his son’s death, and received no words of comfort from the King in whose service his son had died, he fell to his knees in despair. But when he rose his eyes spoke not of despair but of hatred.

“By God’s blood! Dotard of Scots, not King”, he cried. His hand gripped the pommel of his sword. “By the saints I swear that villain’s sons will never be King!”.

By September 943, the Eastern Highlands has been occupied from Eilean, to Calder and Inverness. The Norse armies in the highlands, under Chieftain Ake of Ross, had been defeated in every skirmish and had retreated North into Katanes (Caithness), placing a garrison in the hillfort at Thingvoll (Dingwal) to impede pursuit. The King’s army had wintered in Inverness, and as the springtime thaw of 944 arrived Alasdair’s army had broken its camp at Inverness and was now marching north into the region of Ross. In early May 944, the King’s army arrived at Thingvoll and began a siege.

Yet a few weeks after the King had encamped at Thingvoll, riders had arrived from the East with evil news. Every day, Norse armies were arriving on the Eastern coast in large numbers. Even now, an army numbering more 18,000 men had gathered under the command of the famed Viking warrior, Eilif of Groningen and was marching this way.

“My lord, their army was not far behind us. Eilif will be at Calder by now, and if the fort there falls…”, the messenger started, but the King interrupted.

“…then he will march on Inverness and our retreat South will be blocked”. The king paused and closed his eyes. “18,000 men you say? By the martyrs I cannot have more than 6,000 fit men. Ride South to Inverness with ten good men. If the way is still clear, send a rider to me and we will retreat South at once.” The King knew the other order he must give, but it pained him to his core…. “Send a rider to Earl Cyneric. Explain the situation to him and order him to march on Inverness with all haste.”

On 30th May a rider returned to the King: “My lord, Inverness has fallen. The Norsemen control all ways South”.

The King’s face was ashen. “And Earl Cyneric?”

“Riders were sent out to him, but we have not yet received word”.

“Very well.” Alasdair looked up at the palisades of the Thingvoll fort across the river. If he could not take Thingvol before Eilif’s army arrived, his army would be destroyed in the open. “Summon my captains!”

“…We must therefore take Thingvoll now at all costs.” The King had now explained the strategic situation to his brothers, his sons, and Baron Cóelub. “If we can take the fort and prepare defensive positions, we can hold out long enough for Earl Cyneric’s aid.”

“…for Earl Cyneric’s aid?” Prince Alasdair’s voice was surprised and mocking. “Your plan is to trust to Earl Cyneric? Father, that blackguard desires nothing but your crown! I would rather place my trust in Lucifer himself than Earl Cyner…”

“Silence!” the King had risen from his seat. He looked at each of the men before him, took a deep breath and left the tent. Alasdair was right of course. How could he trust Earl Cyneric to come to his aid? But then….surely…. Earl Cyneric would not abandon his kin to the mercies of the heathens – the same heathens who killed Eadgar, his son. The King returned to the tent. “Demand the surrender of the fort – they must now be low on supplies. If they refuse, we will assault at dusk. Send out riders. I must have news of Earl Cyneric!”

On 31st May, Thingvoll surrendered to King Alasdair. The townspeople were largely Catholic Gaels who had sympathy for King Alasdair. Unable to keep the people in order, and running short of food, the garrison at Thingvoll surrendered, and having consented to being baptised and receiving communion, were fed and watered.

Immediately, the King ordered ditches to be dug and trees to be felled for new palisade walls. By 7th June, the works were finished, but the King had received no further word of Eilif or Earl Cyneric. But on the morning of the 8th June, rider arrived:

“My lord, the Norse army is approaching, it is now only four days march away.”

“And what of Earl Cyneric?” The King stared at the messenger intensely.

“My Lord, I have not yet received word of Earl Cyneric.”

“If Cyneric does not come, we cannot hold here for long – we will be trapped and starved out as winter comes. I must know that Earl Cyneric is coming, or I must march north now! If I have received no news of Cyneric by midday on the 10th of June – we must abandon our position and move North.”

But dawn arrived on 10th June 944, a bloodied rider arrived.

“Welcome, boy. Have you news of Earl Cyneric?”

“My Lord, I came to the Earl at Scuin on 28 May. He was already there with 3,000 men, having learned of the increasing norse numbers on the eastern coast. He was marching north to defend the lowland borders. I ordered him to come to you at Inverness with all haste, lest the army be destroyed by the forces of Eilif. He told me that while he would come as soon as possible, he must first raise more men for the task. He said he would march North East to Dunottar, raising the banners as he marched. He would then march on Eilean and Calder and thus come to Inverness with enough men to give you aid. I impressed upon him the need for haste, and that he must march immedieately to Inverness, but he would not be moved. He stated “I will not come to the King with so few men that I add greater tragedy to our defeat. I will come to the King with men enough for victory, or not at all.” With that he dismissed me. That is all I know, my Lord”.

The King clenched his fists. He felt a pain in his lip, raised his hand and saw blood as his teeth tightened in fury. “Traitor!”, cried the King, “Damned Traitor. Earl Cyneric knows well that the fastest road to this place is that from Dun Chaillen to Inverness. Had he taken that road he would now be in the enemy’s rear and we would have Eilif trapped! I see treachery in your ill news, I tell you! That swine means to abandon us! Cóelub, make ready to abandon the fort. We march North as soon as we are ready.”

At around midday on 11th June, as preparations were being made to abandon the Thingvoll, a rider bearing the standard of Earl Cyneric was seen approaching. When he arrived in the King’s presence, he nearly collapsed with weariness:

“My liege. I bear news from Earl Cyneric. He has gathered troops in Scuin, Dunottar and from the garrison you left at Eilean. When I left him, he was marching on Calder with 7,000 men. I believe that he will have arrived there on about the 8th June, two days ago. With all haste, he bade me inform you that he intends to arrive at Thingvoll on 13th June. I must also tell you that the Norse army is encamped not 10 miles away. They will be here tomorrow.”

Alasdair was taken aback by the apparent pace of Earl Cyneric’s march. Was it possible he had raised and marched so many men so quickly? If Cyneric could arrive on 13 June, Alasdair could hold the position against the Norse until then. Then the enemy would be trapped between the King’s army and Earl Cyneric’s, just as at Damascus. Very well then, though Alasdair. He would stay at Thingvoll and let the enemy come to him.

“Lord Cóelub”, King Alasdair called.

“My Lord?”, the Gael replied.

“Call my captains to me. We shall stand and fight. There is an opportunity here to win the war right here, and in the next few days. Lord Cóelub…”, the King pointed to the hills that loomed to the North and West above the Thingvoll fort, “Do those hills have a name?”

“Aye, my Lord. They call them the Heights of Brae.....

BattleofBraeFirstDay (reduced size).png

The Battlefield at the Heights of Brae

Next Time - The Battle of the Heights of Brae, Day One 12th June 944.
Coming this Week-End
 

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Henry v. Keiper

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DUN DUN DUN...

There's always that classic moment where a character declares the location of a well known battle.

Also, I'm still fairly new to Crusader Kings 3 - is there an actual crusader title the pope can give you, or was that just for flavor in the AAR story?
 
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castlera

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DUN DUN DUN...

There's always that classic moment where a character declares the location of a well known battle.

Also, I'm still fairly new to Crusader Kings 3 - is there an actual crusader title the pope can give you, or was that just for flavor in the AAR story?
That was just a bit of flavour I added since the Pope was his friend and they had been on crusade together. Would be a cool idea for an event though!
 
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stnylan

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With friends like Earl Cynreic who really has need to enemies :)

I am wagering these Heights will be rather better known henceforth
 
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