Gesta Filii Cunerici - The Deeds of the Sons of Cyneric

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

HistoryDude

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Ah, politics. They often doom realms...

Is Earl Cyneric really that disloyal, though? Shouldn't he act under a "better the devil you know" policy?

The Heights of Brae will be well known. If I'm remembering this correctly, this is a battle that the Scots lose?
 
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castlera

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Ah, politics. They often doom realms...

Is Earl Cyneric really that disloyal, though? Shouldn't he act under a "better the devil you know" policy?

The Heights of Brae will be well known. If I'm remembering this correctly, this is a battle that the Scots lose?

Who knows what Earl Cyneric is up to? Did he delay to raise the required number of men to face Jarl Eilif - or did he delay for his own reasons? King Alasdair does not trust him and so it is possible that his interpretation of Cyneric's actions is biased - but then again...
Great update! Could we get a family tree?

There is a basic family tree further up which covers this period - although it is summarised only. I plan on putting together a fuller family tree when i get the chance.
 
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Chapter II - Part 4 - The First Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae

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Chapter II

Part Four: The First Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae: 12th June 944

scotland arms reversed.png

The village of Thingvoll lay nestled to the North of the River Pheofharain (Peffery), which flowed through boggy flood plains, into the Moray Firth and to the South and East of the Heights of Brae. On the slopes above the river was a steep outcrop surrounded by a ditch and palisade walls. Inside the palisade were wooden halls and stables and at the eastern end of the compound stood a high motte crested with a wooden tower. Atop this tower now flew the standard of Alasdair I, King of Scots.

To the South of the Peffery, were grassy plains bordered to the East by the wetlands of the Moray Firth, to the East by dense woodlands and a horseshoe shaped hill and to the South by wider and deeper river, which is now known as Abhainn nam Braithrean.

Alasdair had ordered earthworks raised on the North Eastern banks of this river between the Firth and the dense woodlands. Earthworks had been constructed on the Northern banks of the Peffery also, from the boggy wetlands to the fortifications of the Thingvoll Fort.

His plan was to delay the enemy at all costs. Eilif had to be halted at the Abhainn nam Braithrean. Were Eilif able to position himself between the Peffery and the Abhainn nam Braithrean, he would be able to defend attacks from all directions even if Earl Cyneric did arrive as promised. If Eilif could be delayed long enough at the Abhainn nam Braithrean, however, he would be trapped between the forces of Earl Cyneric, the river and the Firth.

Therefore, the King’s half-brothers Malcolm, Earl of Eoforwic and Eadwin, Earl of Lanark were positioned with about 3,000 light infantrymen and 500 archers at the Abhainn nam Braithrean earthworks. Eadwin’s left flank met the firth, whilst Malcolm’s right flank was anchored in the thick trees. They were to delay the Norse so long as they could and force Eilif to expend his numbers trying to cross the river and surmount the earthworks.

On the horseshoe shaped hill to the Northeast of Eadwin and Malcolm, the King’s half-brother, Fearghas, Earl of Westoraland was stationed with the majority of the Scots cavalry, about 500 men. From here he could observe the approach of the Norse forces and could move swiftly to support Eadwin and Malcolm at need. Fearghas has positioned his men on the reverse slope so that they could not be seen from the Abhainn nam Braithrean.

King alasdair's brothers.png

The Brothers of the King - From Left to Right: Malcolm, Earl of Eoforwic - Fearghas, Earl of Westoraland - Eadwin, Earl of Lanark

Lord Cóelub of Dunottar, with 500 light infantry and about 100 horsemen, was placed to the North of Thingvoll, on the two highest peaks of the Heights of Brae. From here he could see most of the lands before Thingvoll.

The King and his sons, Princes Alasdair and Raibeart, with around 1,500 men, comprising light spearman as well as Huscarls and Gaelic noble warriors, were positioned on the Peffery earthworks, to mount a second defence if the Abhainn nam Braithrean defences were overcome. The King had with him no horsemen.

Prince Alasdair and Prince Raibeart at Heights of Brae.png

The Sons of the King - From Left to Right: Raibeart, Prince of Scotland - Alasdair, Prince of Scotland
Thus, it was that on the morning of 12th June 944, the 12,000 strong army commanded by Eilif of Groningen arrived before the Abhainn nam Braithrean, ready to give battle.

Eilif observed the earthworks at the banks of the wide river. He saw the bridge had been destroyed and the the Scots occupied a very strong defensive position. However, he knew well that to wait here could be fatal. Four days ago, he had received word that Cyneric, Earl of Lothian was approaching Calder. He had despatched 6,000 men from his army to meet Cyneric there and slow his advance, but Eilif could not rely on this.

Yet to assault the Scots' defensive position recklessly was folly – and Eilif was no fool. He had sent riders ahead to scout the position and ordered them to ride east along the river to see whether it could be crossed. When they had returned, they told him that while there was no ford, there was a narrowing of the river due to an islet splitting the stream. Therefore, he had ordered that trees be felled on the road from Inverness and hauled behind the horses. In secret, he had sent a detachment of 3,000 of his finest warriors under Jarl Geirr, with the trees to the narrowing of the river. This movement was entirely unobserved the Scots, obscured as it was by the thick woodland.

Whilst these men were secretly moving north along the river, Eilif ordered attacks on the positions of Malcolm and Eadwin near the destroyed bridge. He had to fix the Scots’ attention at that point of the field, and to pin their troops to a defence of that point. But his attacks were merely a display, confident enough to pin the Scots and tire them in the heat but not committed enough to inflict or take any serious loss. This skirmishing continued to several hours without any clear advantage to either side. But Eilif, with numbers of his side, was regularly replacing the men making the demonstrations, so that none of his warriors would become exhausted in the summer heat. He wanted to tire the Scots.

At around 2 O’clock a rider came to Jarl Eilif:

“Jarl Geirr has crossed the river in force. He intends to use the woodlands as cover and then to fall upon the enemy from the rear. As he attacks, he will blow his horn as you have ordered’.

Eilif smiled. “We must ensure that we are ready to launch a complete assault on the river as soon as the horn is heard”.

Jarl Eilif of Groningen.png

Jarl Eilif of Gronignen, Marshal to Halsten Bjornson, King of Swiorice (Sweden)

From his position atop the Heights of Brae, Lord Cóelub of Dunottar stared through the haze. The day was punishingly hot and there was no shade upon the hills. But a glinting to the far South had caught his attention. He though he saw something catching the light at the edges of the forest below. And as he looked, he perceived movement in the trees. To the east, he could see the earthworks under Malcolm and Eadwin holding steady, but he could see nobody guarding the woodland flank.

“My God”, Cóelub whispered, “they are being flanked”. Quickly he called for three of his horsemen. “Ride to Earl Malcolm, Earl Eadwin and Earl Fearghas. Tell them that…”

In the valley a horn call rang out. Cóelub watched as thousands of Norse warriors streamed out of the woodlands and charged into the rear of Malcolm and Eadwin’s forces. At the same time a cry rose in the distance and the Norse attack on the river intensified with thousands more falling upon the river and earthworks.

Earl Cóelub stared unblinking for a moment - the three riders stared with him. “Ride to the King at once and inform him that the southern river defences have been flanked”.

Earl Eadwin heard the horn in the valley. He heard the Norsemen cry as they charged from the woodlands and as they came up against the river earthworks. He heard his men panic. He heard the clash of shields and axes as the Norsemen impacted his forces. He watched as his brother Malcolm’s standard fell and as the Scots forces collapsed in on him.

As soon as Earl Fearghas of Westoraland, the Kings brother, heard the horn of Jarl Geirr, and saw the Norsemen emerge from the woods, he raised himself in his stirrups, hurled his skin of mead to the ground, raised high his sword and called to his men. “There is devilry abroad! Follow me. Follow me now for God and Valour! Charge!” His horsemen hurtled down the slopes, taking the Norse attackers by surprise and inflicted heavy casualties as they cleaved a wedge through the Norse warriors.

But it was too late. The remaining soldiers of Malcolm and Eadwin were already routing in all directions and the Norse were now crossing the river in larger numbers. Fearghas looked for his brothers’ standards – for the banners of Eoforwic and Lanark. The Standard of Eoforwic could not be seen. But his eyes did find the standard of Lanark. It fluttered proudly on a small raise of ground before the river. Fearghas wheeled his horsemen towards it, but even as he turned, he saw the flood of Norsemen falling upon the raise - as unstoppable as the tide. By the standard, helm shining in the sunlight stood Earl Eadwin. The young man, barely 20 years of age, now alone and adrift amongst the heathens, strode boldly towards them his sword held aloft. He was lost from view as the Lanark standard fell.

"Brother..." cried Earl Fearghas.

“My Lord”, cried one of Fearghas’ retainers. And as Fearghas turned to reply he saw the man riding towards him, leading a second horse by its reins. On its back lay a bloodied body, crudely tied to the saddle. In the man's hand was the ripped and tattered standard of Eoforwic. “Earl Malcolm is grievously wounded, My Lord”.

“Brother?” shouted Fearghas. There was no response from the bleeding lump of flesh splayed atop the panicked beast. But there was no doubt that it was Malcolm. Fearghas felt a rise of fury in his heart and lifted his sword high, ready to spur his horse and fly into the melee. By now, the Norsemen were now in control of the river crossing and were swiftly moving north towards Fearghas’ position.

"My Lord", Fearghas's retainer stopped him. "The King will need you for what is to come...".

Fearghas gritted his teeth, looked at the advancing hordes and then spoke, "take Earl Malcolm to the King at once!”

With that, Earl Fearghas called his cavalry to follow him, and rose back towards to the Peffery and into Thingvoll, with the armies of Jarl Eilif in hot pursuit.

But they were now losing the light. that evening, Jarl Eilif set up a defensive position between the Peffery and the Abhainn nam Braitrean, conscious that Earl Cyneric's forces could arrive at any time. He posted men to man the earthworks which had been defended by Malcolm and Eadwin, and others to defend the point at which his men had crossed the river to at the islet. In the morning, the King of Scots would be his!

As the sun set on the 12th June, a rider from Jarl Eilif approached the Peffery bridge. He dropped what looked like a red sack and rode back towards the Norse camp, now positioned between the Peffery and the Abhainn nam Braithrean. The King sent out riders to retrieve the ‘sack’. But it was no sack. Wrapped in the bloodied standard of Lanark was the severed head of Eadwin, Earl of Lanark, the Kings brother. Its eyes were gouged out and in its mouth was a parcel containing parts of the Earl cruelly chosen to inflame the King’s rage.

And rage would come for Alasdair- but the old king faltered at the sight, lost his footing, and was steadied by his sons before he could fall. His 63 years seemed at once to have caught up with him. He sank into his chair as his sons led him to it. Earl Fearghas knelt before him, clasped the Kings's shaking hands hands and wept. The King seemed not to notice for a moment, and then he gently squeezed his brother's hand - "Where is my nephew? Where is Earl Cyneric?"

The Norsemen had crossed the river and destroyed half of Alasdair’s army. Earl Eadwin was dead and Malcolm, Earl of Eoforwic and Marshall of Scotland was mortally wounded. In years to come the river where they fell was named the Abhainn nam Braithrean - the River of the Brothers.

As night fell, there was still no word from Earl Cyneric.

Battle of the Heights of Brae Day 1 annotated.jpg

The First Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae

TOMORROW - The Second (and Final) Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae

 
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Thus starting the ancient and noble tradition of the Scottish army getting its arse handed to it.
 
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castlera

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Thus starting the ancient and noble tradition of the Scottish army getting its arse handed to it.

Indeed - however Cyneric I never lost a battle! And Alasdair had done extremely well until he got to the age of 63 - and even then he is not inclined to blame himself...

Plus, Jarl Eilif really knows what he is doing.
 

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Things do not look rosy for the Scottish army, that's for sure.
 
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castlera

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Thank you!! Can I ask what you used to make the family tree and other graphics?

I use a mix of different programs.
I used Paint.net for most things to do with pictures.
The family tree was made with LibreOffice Draw - I don't know if it is the best software but works fine for me (tutorial I used:
)
for the maps i use a mix of paint.net and Wonderdraft.
 
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I use a mix of different programs.
I used Paint.net for most things to do with pictures.
The family tree was made with LibreOffice Draw - I don't know if it is the best software but works fine for me (tutorial I used:
)
for the maps i use a mix of paint.net and Wonderdraft.
I used Lucidchart for family trees. Its browser based and you can easily add images and stuff. Only downside is the object limit (60) on each document and only 3 documents per free account. You'll have to pay to get unlimited. If you have a student email ID you can get the education upgrade though.

Here's what my preliminary Jimena tree looks like:
View attachment 1599999757209.png

You can also add numbers to a line to show birth order if you have some particulary incestous trees (or just nicer organisation):
1600000449953.png
 
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Chapter II - Part 5 - The Second Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae

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Chapter II

Part Five: The Second Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae: 12th June 944

Alasdair I at Heights of Brae.png

King Alasdair I at the Heights of Brae

Jarl Eilif of Groningen looked up at the sky. The bright azure of yesterday was now a menacing grey. Storm clouds gathered over Thingvoll on 13th June 944.

“Jarl Eilif! I demand the honour of leading the first attack on the Fort”, spoke Jarl Geirr.

Eilif looked at him and narrowed his eyes. “Jarl Geirr, I have no intention of attacking the Scots where they want me to attack them. From our position here between the rivers, we can fight both Alasdair and Cyneric – we now have time. My objective is merely to prevent the Scots from escaping. Observe the heights beyond the fort”, he gestured towards the Heights of Brae which stood dark against the clouds. “Observe also the water”, he gestured towards the Moray Firth to the East of Thingvoll. “Between these obstacles is the only route of escape for the King. If we can take that pass, the King is ours and the war is over.”

..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

King Alasdair stood atop the wooden tower of Thingvoll and looked out over the Norse camp stretched out below like a snake waiting to strike. Last night he had dispatched additional troops to Lord Cóelub’s position on the Heights of Brae, concerned that in the night the Norsemen might attempt a flanking sweep over the hills. No movement had come in the night and as he looked out, he stared far into the horizon for any sign of Earl Cyneric. But there was no sign to be seen.

Alasdair’s army was severely weakened after the previous days’ fighting, and morale was low. If Earl Cyneric is not coming, Alasdair thought, the army must withdraw to the North – but he hesitated. He must give Cyneric time to arrive. It was now the morning of the 13th June, the very morning on which Earl Cyneric’s messenger had told him the Earl intended to arrive. If there was still no word by mid-morning Alasdair would order the withdrawal.

Cóelub of Dunottar could not see the enemy below him. It was still the early morning. On the Heights, the low clouds created an impenetrable deep grey mist. Cóelub had therefore sent riders out ahead of his position to give him early warning of any enemy movements. He peered into the mist and saw nothing. But he heard something in the distance, the stomping of a hoof, a nervous whinny and then a high-pitched squeal of a horse. Through the grey, a riderless horse emerged - bolting. Then behind it, a mass of dark figures slowly formed out of the grim.

“Shield Wall”, shouted Cóelub. He turned to his retainer, “Ride to the King at once!” Then Cóelub donned his helm, lifted his shield, and stood in the centre of his shield wall as the shadows of Swiorice approached.

………...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

The rider dashed through the wooden gates of Thingvoll. The King was on the tower, looking over the Norse camp. The rider dismounted, clambered up the ladder and knelt before Alasdair I. “My liege. Lord Cóelub is under attack on the Heights – the Norsemen have attacked there in force.”

“God’s blood” declared the King, “they mean to take the northern pass. I am a fool. Why did I wait for Earl Cyneric? My God, that wretch…...! Have my Huscarls prepared and call my sons and Earl Fearghas, my brother.” The King knew he had not enough men to defeat Eilif in the open. But he also knew that if he and his army were trapped by the Norsemen, the war would be lost. The protection of the fort would be of little value. And since Cyneric had abandoned them, they would all eventually be captured or starved if they remained here.

In the Bailey of Thingvoll, the King Alasdair’s huscarls, 500 elite dismounted warriors, were ready. The King ordered his sons, Princes Alasdair and Raibeart, and Earl Fearghas to gather all the supplies they could and to march northwards with the wounded at once. A small force was left to protect the earthworks to give them enough time to withdraw.

“I will march to the heights to support Lord Cóelub, and to slow the advance of the enemy long enough for as many as possible to escape along the pass,” explained the King, “Make for the western coast and then march southwards towards Dun Breatain. There send word to Earl Eochaid and tell him of Earl Cyneric’s treachery.”

“But, Father…”, interjected Prince Raibeart.

“My Son, it was I who led this army to this place. It was I who underestimated Jarl Eilif. I am an old man and you are young. Leave this place immediately”. With that the King rallied his huscarls, departed the fort from the northern gate and vanished into the fog as he ascended the heights of Brae.

The King’s men marched to the sound of spears and shields and shouting voices. They came to the highest peak of the Heights of Brae, where there was small, ancient stone circle. Let us hope the Faeries are with us, thought the king. This is their domain into which no man ought to stray lightly. Nevertheless, into the fray charged the King, his huscarls swinging their double handed axes. Cóelub could not be seen. To the rear of the fighting the King called to one of Cóelub’s retainers, “Where is Lord Cóelub?”

“My liege, we were attacked on eastern peak yonder. My lord Cóelub was wounded and ordered us to retreat and form a shield wall on this peak. Shortly after we arrived, we were assailed from the North and the East as you see”.

“That is evil news,” the King eyes dropped for a moment and then were raised with the flames of fury in them. “The enemy shall pay dearly for these heights”.

The fighting at the shield wall continued as an exhausting grind amid the clouds. The wind gained in strength and in the distance the thunder clapped. Rain began to fall, lightly at first but now it fell with a furious roar as if competing with the din of battle.

King Alasdair was renowned for his fearlessness. But as he saw his sons, through the fog and icy sheets of rain, riding up the hill to join him on the pinnacle, he felt a pang of the purest, coldest fear that had every gripped his heart.

“Father”, called Prince Alasdair as he and Prince Raibeart dismounted their horses, wiping the rain out of their eyes, “We shall not leave you!”.

King Alasdair’s face was grave – fear and pride intermingled in his eyes. “Very well, my sons”.

Now they stood by his side, the King, and his sons at the centre of the shield wall. The Norse army was falling upon the peak like water on stone. Their attacks were hurled back again and again as the Huscarls of the King stood unmoving as the ancient stones around them. But exhaustion was now wearing them down and with each new charge of the Norse warriors, more and more of the Huscarls fell and thinner and thinner the shield wall became.

King Alasdair stood tall at the centre, his shield shining in the rain and his sword leaping like the lightening above. But then he felt it, the agonising bite of a spear to his thigh. He lifted his sword and crashed it down upon the helm of the Norse spearmen, even as he fell. The King hit the ground, bright scarlet draining from his open wound and his sword broken in his hand. More Norsemen gathered around him, leering like wolves circling their prey. The King closed his eyes, but death had not come. When his eyes opened, Princes Alasdair and Raibeart stood proudly before him, their helms gleaming and their swords dancing with deadly purpose. More Norsemen came towards the King as he lay, but Alasdair and Raibeart felled them all, protecting their father with every ounce of their strength.

Their shields were now broken, shattered by a hundred blows, but still they stood. Yet then came a sickening crash as a great axe cleaved through Prince Raibeart’s helm and he slumped to the earth. Prince Alasdair lunged forwards with his sword and ran the axeman through. Then he saw his brother on the ground, his face cloven, his hand still gripping his sword. And in that moment of distraction, Prince Alasdair felt the breath forced from his lungs. As he turned to face the assailant, he felt a great pain in his chest and reached for it with his left hand. His fingers found the broken head and shaft of a spear embedded in his chest, piercing his mail. He roared at the oncoming Norsemen who seemed to pause for a moment, so great was the cry. Prince Alasdair swung his sword even as his vision blurred, and his legs gave way under him.

The King looked on in abject horror as he lay. Then he heard a bright horn call against the deafening rain. And out of the gloom rode Cóelub of Dunottar, a score of horsemen at his back, his arm strapped to his chest, a large gash across his face. Cóelub charged into the oncoming Norsemen, momentarily checking their advance. His men quickly lifted the King and his sons onto the back of their horses and galloped down into the valley. The Heights of Brae were lost.

the heights of brae.png


There was little time to follow Earl Fearghas’ retreat before the Norse army would control the valley. Cóelub’s horsemen carried the King as they galloped north after Fearghas. That night they reached the place in the hills where Fearghas and the withered remains of King Alasdair’s army had camped. The King and his sons were taken down from the horses. The King crawled over to where his sons lay. One dead and the other with a mortal wound. King Alasdair embraced Prince Raibeart’s lifeless body and howled into the thunder.

Prince Alasdair died of his wounds two days later as the battered Scots army limped over the highland hills in search of a safe route to the lowlands. A few weeks later, at Dun Breataain, the King's brother, Earl Malcolm, succumbed to his grievous injuries.

At the battle of the Heights of Brae, the King had lost two of his remaining three brothers, the Marshall and Steward of Scotland, and both of his sons who remained in Scotland. Alasdair's army was largely destroyed. However the Norse army too had been badly bloodied over the first and second days and therefore was not able to pursue the Scots army.

Yet after two years of War - the Norse remained in control of the Highlands, and King Alasdair's sons lay dead. It was impossible not to see that there was now no challenger to Earl Cyneric's succession to the Scots throne - and King Alasdair suspected that this was by design.

Second Day at Brae.jpg

The Second Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae
 
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HistoryDude

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This was a disaster...

Cyneric shall pay for this. Make him deal with the Norse - and be slaughtered by them!
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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...dang. That I did NOT expect. An unfortunate incident in terms of gameplay, and also in terms of the glory for the king, when his life has started out so well. Nonetheless, it definitely adds character and flavor to the story, and it will definitely be an event sung about in the tavern halls of Scotland for centuries to come.
 
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stnylan

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Cyneric's name will be damned for all time at this rate.
 
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Chapter II - Part 6 - The Battle of Calder - 12th June 944

castlera

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Chapter II

Part Six: The Battle of Calder - 12th June 944
lothian.png

The Standard of Cyneric, Earl of Lothian

Now let us cast our minds back to the Earl of Lothian...

When he had first received the King’s summons to Thingvoll, Earl Cyneric had been at Dun Blaan with a token force. He had moved there to cover the northern lowlands from potential Norse incursions during the King’s invasion of the Highlands – not to march on a much larger army.

It was the King who has sought fit to leave Earl Cyneric at the rear, to humiliate him. And Earl Cyneric knew why. The King sought to let his sons win glory and hoped to dim the light of Earl Cyneric’s. The Earl also understood well that the King’s Highland campaign was nothing more than an attempt to win lands and power for his sons. In this way, the King was trying to remove Cyneric from his rightful place as the next King of Scots. This was why Earl Cyneric had been left to ‘guard’ the rear.

Yet now the King needed him. Why should Earl Cyneric answer him? The man had treated him with nothing but disrespect for decades. And when Earl Cyneric’s eldest son, Eadgar, had been killed in the king’s service at Eilean in 942, no word came from the King. Low servants had brought his son’s reeking body back to him in Lothian, wrapped in mean sackcloth. The King had shown Earl Cyneric and his boy no honour. And now the King needed him.

But Earl Cyneric would answer. Yet he would not march at once to the King as ordered. Of what use would he be, arriving to aid the King with less than a thousand men? Such rash action would achieve nothing but disaster.

And so Earl Cyneric headed East, not North, raising troops as he marched towards Dunnottar. Consequently, as he arrived before Eilean, he had with him nearly 5,000 men. Eilean was quickly retaken. On entering the palisade walls of the settlement, the Earl strode into the church to pray for the soul of his son who had perished here. Then he ordered the external palisades torn down so that the Norsemen could not again retake and defend that place in the rear of the Scots forces. He could not afford to leave men to garrison Eilean.

And so, by the 11th June 944, at the head of 5,000 men rode Earl Cyneric, marching rapidly towards Calder. He had now sent word to the King that he hoped to be at Thingvoll by the 13th June. He was now aware that a much larger Norse force was camped at Inverness, blocking the King’s retreat to the lowlands, and threatening any day now to close in on the King. And so Earl Cyneric marched.

Great Highland War FINAL reduced size.png

The Campaigns during 942-944 of the "Great Highlands War" (942-937)
Shortly after midday on 11th June, the Earl’s forces approached Calder, but the palisades were unmanned, and the settlement was totally abandoned, smoking from the flames the Norsemen had apparently set when they had left the fort.

“My Lord”, stated one of his captains, “The Norsemen have clearly committed all their forces to the attack on the King. We must therefore pursue them with all haste”.

Cyneric stared at the smouldering palisade, deep in thought, “I am not so sure. Jarl Eilif has a famous reputation for deceit and trickery. Therefore, when I see a settlement so clearly abandoned, as you say, I do not so quickly conclude that it is so abandoned. Rather I think to myself, why would the Norse army abandon a fort in their control which lies in the rear of its main force and on the road taken by its enemy? I wonder… .” Then he ordered his men to torch the settlement and burn the whole place to the ground.

“But my Lord, the Church…”

“Burn it all down”, commanded the Earl. He then called ten riders to him and ordered them to ride ahead in wide arcs from the road between Calder and Inverness in search of the enemy. He suspected that he was being drawn in for an ambush, and he would be of no help to the King if his army was destroyed before reaching Inverness due to reckless haste.

Cyneric therefore ordered his men to make camp outside Calder, whilst he waited for his Scouts to return. That night, shortly before midnight on the 11th June, the riders returned to Earl Cyneric. They had seen signs that a force of men had departed from Calder a few nights ago, but the tracks along the road ceased only about a mile outside Calder, at a place where steep bluffs covered in thick trees arched over the roadway.

“This was why they sought to trick me into pressing on in haste”, spoke Earl Cyneric. “If we had marched heedlessly forward, who knows what would have become of us. But we must get word to the King. We cannot now come to Thingvoll by the 13th June.” He called the same ten riders to him, “Convey this message to the King, however you can come to him – tell him that I have come to Calder with 5,000 men, but that the road is guarded by a force of Norsemen. How many there are I know not. Tell him that I cannot arrive at Thingvoll until I have cleared the road.” As the riders rode away, the early hours of the 12th June began.

But Earl Cyneric and his army would have no sleep tonight. He split his forces into three groups; two detachments of 2,000 men led by his trusted captains and one detachment of 1,000 under his personal command. They then marched in the direction of Inverness in the early hours of the morning. But not all along the road. The two detachments of 2,000 men left the road and entered the dense trees. They were lightly armed and armoured, their heavy equipment left with Earl Cyneric’s force. White fabric was tied to the back of their hauberks for recognition in the dark. Each captain had been ordered to charge through the trees to the sound of the Earl’s horn when it was heard.

Earl Cyneric’s men marched loudly and proudly along the road, bright torches flaming and voices singing. His men were strung out in a long and widely spaced column, carrying many torches. As at Damascus, Cyneric hoped to give the enemy the impression that the whole army was with him along the road.

He himself marched conspicuously in front of his men, his white stallion gleaming and his bright banner lit by torches. His presence was clear to any onlooker.

Then a whir of arrows.

Cyneric’s horse reared as arrows thrust into its flesh. Streams of red patterned its white coat as it screamed. Cyneric wrestled for control. Thwish. Another volley in the dark. He reeled in his saddle as an arrow crashed into his shoulder. Again, the horse reared in panic as the Earl fell to the ground.

The horn call rang through the trees. A cry went up in the bluffs above. Around the Earl, his men at arms stared at him as he lay dazed on the dry earth. The Earl Raised himself to his feet, lifted his sword in his left hand, called to his men who stood dumbstruck around him and charged towards the bluffs and the enemy. At the same time, a cry of panic was heard from the Norse positions as the trap closed in around them. On both sides of the road, the bulk of the Scots army which had been proceeding quietly through the forest had now appeared behind the Norse positions, as if from nowhere. The Norsemen were now beset from both sides. Stricken with confusion, they were cut down where they stood.

As dawn revealed the field, the bluffs were strewn with the bodies of Norsemen and not a man of them was left alive. The Battle of Calder was won.

With only 5,000 men, Cyneric had crushed the 6,000 man force that Jarl Eilif had sent to meet him. He had ambushed the ambushers and lost less than 200 men.

But the arrowhead was still in his shoulder, and his right arm was broken from the fall. His men were exhausted from the night march and the heavy fighting. And they were still three days march from Thingvoll.

Even as his surgeon endeavoured to remove the barbed arrow from Cyneric’s shoulder on the field of Calder, Jarl Eilif’s forces were assailing the Abhlainn nam Braithrean near the Heights of Brae….

Calder 2.jpg

Cyneric, Earl of Lothian is struck by an arrow at the Battle of Calder - 12th June 944
 
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stnylan

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So that is what the good Earl was up to. Very interesting indeed - but it feels like there will be recrimination on all sides yet.

I get a definite sense of the grim about him too. It's like he knows he is going to cursed or something.
 

castlera

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Aug 22, 2013
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Amazing work with the pictures. The maps are wonderful and the way you present the portraits is great. How do you get such high quality renders of the models?

Thank you! I just take screenshots using the full screen barbershop mod. I also use high resolution setting on an ultra wide monitor (but no idea if that makes any difference).