HistoryDude

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Cyneric goes to such lengths to gain the kingdom, and then he mismanages it so badly that people call him "the Late"? Cyneric's doomed. He's definitely doomed.
 
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Chapter III - Part 2 - 967-968

castlera

Second Lieutenant
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Chapter III
Part 2 : 967 - 968
Griogair's War
Albany Arms.png

The Arms of Albany

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Map of Griogair's War 967-968, showing the Earldoms of the Scots Kingdom, Major Battles and Army Movements

Prince Griogair, Earl of Albany.png

Prince Griogair MacAlasdair, Earl of Albany aged 16
In November 967, King Cyneric II dispatched a troop of armed Horsemen from Dun Cyneric to Scuin. They carried orders to arrest Griogair, Earl of Albany.

The King had received word that Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray was engaged in the far north of Moray dealing with Norse raiders, and he had resolved to use this opportunity to seize control of the boy before he reached his majority.

The horsemen, bearing the King’s standard rode into the palisaded bailey at Scuin, dismounted, drew their swords, and burst into the Great Hall of Scuin. “By the order of the King,” their leader shouted to the young Prince, “you are to return with us to Galloway”.

“Indeed?”, spoke the boy calmly as he sat on his wooden chair, one leg draped nonchalantly over the armrest. “By what authority?”

“By the word of the King!”

“My cousin Lothian is no King,” Prince Griogair’s voice had hardened now, and he held the leader’s eyes in a fixed stare. The man, surprised, took a step backward. Griogair rose and walked slowly towards the armed men. “My cousin of Lothian is a villain and a traitor, a false servant and a wicked kinsman. By the Heights of Brae, I say to you - Cyneric the Late has no command of me. I am Griogair MacAlasdair, Head of the House of Albany and true King of Scots! Therefore, submit to me or perish as is just!” With this, armed retainers strode into the hall from all sides and surrounded the intruders. They had been expected.

“We bear the Standard of the King”, protested their leader, a tall man with a black beard.

“The Standard of the King held little sanctity for my cousin of Lothian, when he mutilated my Father’s herald. Nonetheless, you bear my standard for I see no colours of Lothian here. What say you, sirs? Lothian or Albany?”

All but one of the men fell to their knees, quite amazed by the conduct of the 15-year-old. Their leader, however, spat on the ground before him. But before he could speak, he was overpowered by Griogair’s men. The man was sent to Dun Cyneric, bound and gagged, where he was cast before the feet of Cyneric II. The message was clear.

Later that month, on his 16th birthday, Prince Griogair was presented with his father’s sword by the Mormaer of Moray. And on that day, his standard was raised for War.

Mormaer Cóelub had not been fighting Norsemen when the King sent his horsemen to arrest the Prince. In fact, he had been in the Western Isles, treating with Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles for support. He had betrothed one of his daughter’s to the Lord of the Isles’ son and Donncuan IV had sworn that Griogair was the true King and that he would answer the raising of his standard.

Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles.png

Donncuan IV MacDonncuan Neil, Lord of the Isles
Cóelub and Griogair had also written letters to Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland and the thirteen year-old Earl Malcolm III of Eoforwic. Earl Fearghas II was at this time Regent of Eoforwic for young Malcolm. Fearghas was not willing to openly support Griogair. Yet he had no love for King Cyneric II, and did promise that he would not in haste aid the King.

Eadwin, Earl of Lennox , although only around 24 years old, was Griogair's stepfather having married Queen Gunhilde after King Alasdair's death. His own young son, Eadwin was therefore Griogair's half brother. Not only was he closely linked to Prince Griogair by marriage, he also hated the House of Lothian. His father was Eadwin McCyneric, Earl of Lanark, son of Cyneric I who had perished at the Ablaith nam Braithrean at the Heights of Brae in 944. For this he blamed Cyneric the Late. Eadwin of Lennox had been left a fatherless child and Earl of Lanark. But his lands in Lanark had been seized by Cyneric, Earl of Lothian, now King, leaving him Earl of Lennox only. He at once promised to support his stepson in the struggle against the House of Lothian. He promised to provide a safe place for the Lord of the Isles to land his armies, and then to join that force and move on Dun Cyneric in Galloway.

Eadwin Earl of Lennox.png

Eadwin, Earl of Lennox
Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria, bound by his daughter’s marriage to King Cyneric II’s son, Prince Cyneric, supported the King. This greatly disappointed Mormaer Cóelub, for Eochaid III had ever been an enemy of Cyneric's. Indeed, it was the making of Eochoid Regent of Scotland by King Alasdair that led to the first major break between King Alasdair and Cyneric. Eochaid had been fiercely loyal to Alasdair I, but since then had proved himself as fickle as any other. No sooner had Alasdair I died than Eochaid had married his daughter to King Cyneric II’s son and abandoned the House of Albany.

The supporters of Cyneric II.png

The Supporters of Cyneric II, Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria and Prince Cyneric McCyneric, Earl of Lothian
On 16 February 968, the forces of Moray and Albany met at Lithgae in the Earldom of Lothian. No resistance was met and the armies marched West towards Galloway. At the same time, Cyneric II, having received word that Griogair’s forces were on the move, marched out to meet them. But hearing that the armies of Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles, had landed on the mainland in Lennox and were marching southward with the forces of Eadwin, Earl of Lennox towards Dun Cyneric, the King was forced to split his army, leaving a numerous force behind to defend against the Islanders. Therefore, when the armies of King Cyneric II and Prince Griogair met near Lanark on 12 March 968, they were evenly matched.

Meanhwile, Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian, son of the King had raised his armies near himself at Durham to support his father and called the armies of Earl Eochiad to him, but he had heard tell that the loyalty of the Earl of Westoraland (and since he was regent, Eoforwic too) was in doubt. Therefore, he delayed his march North, unsure of whether to march to his father or to move South against the southern Earls. It was well known that Fearghas II, Earl of Westoraland hated Cyneric II and blamed him for his father’s death at the Battle of Scuin in 946.

Westoraland and Eoforwic were preparing for War, but had yet declared for Griogair, or for the King.

Fearghas II and Malcolm III.png

Fearghas II, Earl of Westoraland and Regent of Eoforwic with Malcolm III, Earl of Eoforwic

The Battle of Kenlaw – 12 March 968

Cyneric II had decided to stop Prince Griogair’s army in a narrow pass between the River Clyde and rocky hills therabout. This place was about nine miles south of Lanark, on the main pathway towards Galloway. He anchored his left flank against the hills, his right flank against the Clyde and drew up his front line behind a small burn that due to recent Spring rains was swollen and difficult to cross.

He placed reserve forces behind his main lines and located himself, his Huscarls and his standard atop a small hill in the centre of his position, Cenhlaw Hill, after which the Battle takes its name.

On the night of 11 March 968, Griogair’s scouts returned to his camp at Lanark and reported the position of Cyneric II’s army.

“My Prince. The King is well positioned in a strong, defensive position. Perhaps we should wait or use another route to Dun Cyneric”, spoke Mormaer Cóelub.

“Dear Cóelub”, responded Griogair, “That would be well if Dun Cyneric was our target. But it is not. We need the false King. And the false King is here. We will go where goes until my father's crown is returned to me”

“Griogair”, Cóelub whispered urgently, “I urge you not to underestimate Cyneric Eadgarson. For he is a great soldier and has won many battles. He is the most cunning warrior I have yet heard tell of. I would sooner underestimate Ulysses himself”.

“I know his qualities, dear Cóelub, but he is here. And how can I claim his throne if I dare not face him on the field. I will fight him on a field of his choosing, and with the renowned Cóelub of Moray by my side, I will overcome him.”

“Very well, my Prince.” the Mormaer looked with pride upon the Prince.

“My plan is this, dear Cóelub. I will demonstrate against his left flank and centre along the burn, holding his forces there. At the same time, you, Mormaer Cóelub, shall attack him in great force on his right flank. He will be in greatest strength at the bridge in his centre, but we need not take the bridge at great loss. By forcing his men back on his weaker right flank, we will outmanoeuvre his centre, forcing it to withdraw and yield the crossing. We are evenly matched as you have said, so we will have to take this risk. We will gather our strength almost entirely on our left flank, leaving only much smaller numbers in the centre and on the right. We must pray that Cyneric’s right flank stay on the southern bank of the burn and do not sense our weakness before them. And so, dear Cóelub, think you well of my plan?”

"My Prince, Indeed I think well of it. And I am honoured that you have entrusted to me so glorious an office."

"I trust no man more, my friend, dear Cóelub. you have been as a father to me, and without you I would not be here to contend with treacherous Lothian".

Griogair’s army arrived at the northern bank of the burn on the morning of 12 March 968, having left Lanark in the very early hours. His left flank under Cóelub comprised nearly two thirds of the army. Grigoair himself, set up his standard in the weak centre to fool the enemy into believing the forces there were greater than they were.

Kenlaw battle 1.jpg

The Battle of Kenlaw - around 8 am
At around 8 o’clock, Mormaer Cóelub assailed the burn in strength in the west flank, overwhelming the defenders by the weight of numbers. At the same time, Griogair and his men repeatedly threw themselves towards the bridge, only to retreat before taking heavy losses, ensuring that those in Cyneric’s centre could not move to aid the right flank under Coelub’s assault.

Yet once Coelub and his men had gained the burn the moved westwards, threatening the King’s men defending the bridge, forcing them to withdraw to the line around Cenhlaw Hill. As they did, Griogair and his men, poured across the Bridge and surged forwards towards the enemy reserve line.

Kenlaw battle 2.png

The Battle of Kenlaw - Mormaer Cóelub assaults the right flank in force along the Burn, whilst Prince Griogair holds the enemy centre and left in place -around 10 am

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The Battle of Kenlaw - Mormaer Cóelub presses the attack, the enemy centre and left abandons the Bridge and Prince Griogair crosses the burn in force - around 1400 hrs

Coelub’s men now moved towards the right flank of Cyneric’s reserve line, between Cenhlaw Hill and the River Clyde. Griogair’s forces pursued the Bridge defenders and engaged the left flank of Cyneric’s reserve line, between Cenhlaw Hill and the hills.

Observing him men falling back from the burn, Cyneric II clenched his fists. And then he saw the boy. He saw Prince Griogair as he hurled his men forward, holding his father’s sword aloft. He wore no helm, and his red hair seemed a beacon for his men to follow. Around him flew the standard of Albany, and the standard of the King of Scots. But the boy was quite isolated now, his men had surged forwards and wheeled westwards at the base on Cenhlaw hill. Griogair’s lank was exposed to the hill upon which Cyneric II stood with his Huscarls. Cyneric’s great eyes flashed.

“Blow not the horn, herald. I choose to sally down unheralded this time”, Cyneric II lifted his sword high, bellowed to his Huscarls and threw himself forward down the hill, his golden Huscarls behind him, “Death to Albany”, they cried. And like a great wave they fell upon the rear of Griogair’s retinue, and cut their way through. Cyneric himself, aged as he was, slew many before him, his great sword flashing in scarlet, his bright eyes dancing. “So, boy, you would have my crown?”, he bellowed into the melee as he approached the young Earl of Albany. Several men around Prince Griogair fell back as the old man cut a swathe towards them. But not Prince Griogair.
“Indeed not, cousin. I come here merely for mine own, and for long awaited vengeance for the Heights of Brae”, shouted the boy as his sword darted masterfully, and more of Cyneric’s Huscarls fell dead.

For a moment, the King stopped as he heard those evil words that haunted his nightmares – the “Heights of Brae”. Those words that had won such glory for its victims but had held such ignominy for him who escaped it. Then he moved on, fury in his breast. The boys’ words would die on his lips. More fell before Cyneric and Griogair was increasingly alone. But Griogair was not scared. As Cyneric approached the boy, he was amazed at his composure and his impressive appearance. He watched the boy hold his ground with great valour. He could see now the boy’s piercing blue eyes and his great height. He looked like a King – no mere boy.

But at that moment, the horn of Moray sounded, and men bearing the standard of Mormaer Cóelub swept into Cyneric’s flank. The King was no longer on his hill. He was exposed now at its base, and would soon be overwhelmed. He lurched forward once more towards Prince Griogair.

“If I am to die for my crown, then it shall be in Battle. And this royal Prince shall not wear it.” Cyneric shouted. But before he could reach the boy, he was struck in the shoulder by a great spear and fell to the ground, writhing as a great slough of flesh hung from his pierced mail. And so it is, he thought to himself, so it is the end. But even as he prepared to fight gallanty till his last breath, he was roughly grasped by a large man of his retinue, who was surrounded by Cyneric’s remaining Huscarls. He was lifted over the man’s shoulder. The man and the Huscarls fought their way out, many perishing in the effort. But King Cyneric II escaped.

Kenlaw battle 4.png

The Battle of Kenlaw - Cyneric II charges down Cenhlaw Hill to attempt to destroy Prince Griogair, Mormaer Coelub comes to Griogair's aid and flanks King Cyneric at the base of Cenhlaw Hill - around 1500 hrs


As Cyneric’s army fled westwards after the heavy day’s fighting, the rear-guard defended burns to the west, slowing Griogair’s advance enough for the King to escape to the hillfort at Dun Cyneric. The King strongly fortified his hill fort with all of his reserve troops. Soon after he had done this, the armies of Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles, Cóelub of Moray and Prince Griogair, Earl of Albany met outside Cyneric II's walls and laid siege.

Kenlaw battle 5.png

The Battle of Kenlaw - Cyneric II is wounded and carried from the field back to Dun Cyneric. As a result, the King's army collapses and routs. Rear guard actions along the western Burns slow Griogair's pursuit, allowing King Cyneric II to escape - about 1600 hrs.

Word of the King’s defeat by the boy quickly spread. Prince Cyneric learned of it and cursed himself for delaying so long. He gave orders to immediately march North to relieve his father in Dun Cyneric. But other had heard the news. In the night, Earl Eochaid III (that old spymaster and dishonourable wretch) and his armies fled from Lothian back to Cumberland, sending word to Mormaer Cóelub that he now supported Prince Griogair.

The southern Earls, Westorland and Eoforwic, also heard of Griogair’s victory over the old soldier, Cyneric II. And when they did, Earl Fearghas II ordered that the banner of Albany be raised. Then they marched towards Morthpaeth, in the lands of Prince Cyneric. Prince Cyneric now discovered that his fears had been realised. He could not now come to his father’s aid until he had destroyed the armies of the southern Earls and therefore secured his rear. Consequently, he now had no choice but to march southwards towards Morthpaeth.

The King was now trapped in Dun Cyneric. The forces of Mormaer Cóelub, Donncuan, Lord of the Isles and Griogair, Earl of Albany stood arrayed before his walls in force. And no aid was near, for Prince Cyneric now marched south towards the armies of Westoralnd and Eoforwic, commanded by Earl Fearghas.

He met them in battle at the village of Morthpaeth on 16 April 968. After a full and bloody day’s fighting, shield wall to shield wall, neither had gained an advantage, but both sides had taken heavy losses. The battle was a costly stalemate. Prince Cyneric had also been struck in the face during the melee, and due to subsequent infection, lost an eye. Prince Cyneric may not been defeated, but he had been wounded and had not achieved the victory required to leave Lothian and come to his father’s aid.

The siege of Dun Cyneric continued as the Spring passed into Summer. In the south, Prince Cyneric and the southern Earls still threatened each other without engaging decisively. Skirmishes and raids were common during this time, but neither side was able to gain an advantage and Prince Cyneric was unable to march to the North.

King Cyneric II looked out over the assembled banners of his young cousin, Griogair of Albany. The wound in his arm stung constantly, and the pain to his pride festered even worse. He had seen the young Prince at Cenhlaw Hill as he shone brighter than all others.

“Oh, Alasdair, my uncle”, he whispered to himself, “Behold your son as he comes forth as Mars himself, gloriously armed, brave banners flying. His youth fresh but his dignity great and his strength full grown. How I wish that I had such a son as he. As my son delays and hesitates in the face of mean Westoraland and Eoforwic, Albany rises with the fury and decisiveness of noble Kings. In his face and bearing, I see the soul of my noble grandfather himself. Damn that dog Cóelub, for he has raised an Alexander.” Cyneric II closed his eyes and winced as another stab of pain flowed down his arm. His Queen, Ceinguled of Brittany, from her seat at the other end of the chamber, saw him sink to the floor, his head bowed. She knelt down to him and held his hands in hers, looking deep into his blue eyes. She said nothing, but her presence gave him solace as it ever had done.
But as she consoled him, she could think of little else but the festering wound to her beloved husband’s arm.

On 14 August 968, after four months of siege, a negotiation party came forth from Dun Cyneric to have an audience with the Earl Griogair. They were conveyed to him where he sat in state on a golden stool by a great Oak.

“My Lord of Albany”, they addressed him, “it is a great honour that we are come to your presence, great Prince. It is with joy that we inform you that the arch usurper, Cyneric, called the ‘Late’, is no more. He perished at the stroke of midnight, weakened by his wounds, his age and the rigours of your bright and noble arms”. They now knelt before him and the foremost amongst them brought out a gilded box which he now held out to Prince Griogair. “Behold, your father’s crown, now rightfully restored to your royal brow.”

And with that, Griogair was invited into Dun Cyneric, where he was acclaimed King with Mormaer Cóelub at his side.

Griogair now asked to be shown where Cyneric lay and he was taken to the place. King Cyneric II lay naked on the cold floor, his fingers stripped of his rings and his shoulders robbed of his cloak. He was red and bloated, dark blotches covered his broken body, his arm yellow and green with decay. No more did his strong hands bear his mighty sword. No more did his flame-filled eyes sparkle with cunning and vigour. When he saw him, Griogair wept and as he stood over the old man sprawled naked and alone before him, a great wroth seized his heart:

“Oh, Great Lothian,” he whispered “You have ever been my enemy, but you have also ever been my kinsman. Like myself, you were grandson of Cyneric the Fox, founder of our House and of this Kingdom. You were the terror of the Norsemen in the defence of Asturias and stood with my Father at Damascus. You humbled the Norsemen at Calder and it was you who hurled back ferocious Eilif of Groningen at Dun Chaillen. And now there is none to do you reverence. Oh, impious dogs that have left so great a man as this in such squalor”.

He now turned to the frightened attendants, “Where is Ceinguled, Lady of Lothian, my cousin’s wife?”

“We hold her in the Keep, my Lord”,

“Hold her in the Keep!? God’s teeth, man the Lady must be shown the honour due to her. Bring me to her”.

When Griogair came to the former Queen, she was unable to rise from her bed, her heart overcome with grief. He swore to her that her husband would be honoured as was fitting and that she would be treated as she deserved, as a Queen. She thanked him courteously, by she was weak and frail.

Griogair ordered that any man found to be in possession of King’s Cyneric’s jewels or clothes was to be flogged and executed. He also ordered that the King be dressed in dignity and honour, and commanded that he be buried with due ceremony at the Abbey near Dun Cyneric (Dunkendrick), where Cyneric I himself had been laid to rest. But he was not interred at sacred Scuin.

Less than a month later, Queen Ceinguled also died, some say of a broken heart, and was laid to rest alongside her dear husband.

Cyneric II and Queen Ceinguled.png

Cyneric II, King of Scots and Ceinguled of Brittany, Queen of Scots (c. 967)
Historians debate the death of Cyneric II to this day. He was an old man in his early seventies. He had been wounded at the Battle of Kenlaw, and diseases and malnutrition fester during sieges. Therefore, he may simply have succumbed to his wounds, or died of illness.

Yet there are those who claim that he was murdered by those close to him, who desired the siege to end, and sought to earn the favour of the besieging Earl of Albany.

There are even those who have said that Earl Griogair ordered the murder of the King. Whilst I would agree that Griogair’s show of respect for Cyneric II’s body was largely for show, I think it is unlikely that Griogair murdered King Cyneric II. There was simply no need. Cyneric II had been defeated in battle and he was now trapped by the young Earl of Albany. Victory was only a matter of time and murder would only act as a stain on Griogair’s rule.

Once Cyneric II had been laid to rest, riders were sent to secure the submission of Prince Cyneric, which was received on the condition that he be confirmed in his titles as Earl of Lothian. Eochaid III of Northumbria was pardoned for his actions, but it was made known that the new King would not protect the lands of Northumbria should any other Scots vassal seek to seize them for themselves. At the same time Griogair travelled North to Scuin with Mormaer Cóelub where he was crowned at the sacred stone of Scuin in accordance with the ancient traditions of Alba.

Thus, began the famous reign of Griogair I MacAlasdair, King of Scots.

But the House of Lothian was not finished and in Eadinburgh, Prince Cyneric licked his wounds, but he did not forgive and he did not forget...

 

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Need to go back and read everything properly, but this looks as good as advertised by @Dunaden – and as has been a constant mantra, the graphics are on point. Great work.
 
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stnylan

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I have to say I was definitely rooting for the young Prince - and let us hope he does not take after Alexander in all ways. But he has grown into a fine young man, and it sounds like the realm will do well with him on the throne.
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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I finally caught up with the updates I missed. I loved every jot and tittle of it! The drama between Albany and Lothian made for great reading. I loved the explanation of the drama within the kingdom, even the different lords and how they played a part. And yes, as others have said, the graphics utilized are well done.
 
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Chapter IV - Part 1 - 968-970 - The Calling of the Third Crusade

castlera

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Chapter Four.png

Griogair name.png


Part 1: 968-970
The Calling of the Third Crusade

Griogair I as King 968.png

Griogair I as crowned King of Scots (c.968)
After the ceremony at Scuin, before the Community of the Realm, Griogair appointed Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray as High Marshal of Scotland and right hand to the King. Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles was appointed Chancellor, and Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland was appointed to the King’s Council. In an attempt to heal the divisions in the Scots Kingdom, and in the ruling dynasty, King Griogair appointed Prince Cyneric, Third Earl of Lothian (son of King Cyneric II), as Steward. This would be a decision that he would come regret. Cóelub had warned the young King not to so easily forgive the lords of Lothian, but the King had refused to listen. He desired peace in Scotland and amity between Albany and Lothian – but this was not to be....

Shortly afterwards, as had been agreed, Griogair married Cóelub’s 16-year-old daughter, Caitilin NicCoelub at the now completed Abbey at Scuin.

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The Royal Abbey of Scuin, commissioned by Alasdair I on the site of the Battle of Scuin and the ancient Coronation Site of Scottish Kings - after its first phase of construction (c.968)


Caitlin, Queen of Scots.png

Caitilin NicCóelub, Queen of Scots (c.968)
An opportunity to win prestige and glory, and hopefully to unite the divided Kingdom came soon afterwards and the young King grasped it enthusiastically. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, ruled by David I MacAlasdair (Griogair’s much older half brother) had been strongly pressed by renewed Muslim attacks over the last two decades. Much of the Syrian lands won during the Second Crusade had now been lost, and the Abbey at Sarmada, founded by Cyneric, second Earl of Lothian (later King Cyneric II) on the site of the Christian victory there, had been destroyed.

The Greeks too, had taken advantage of this weakness and had themselves reclaimed Antioch.

The situation had become far more dire after David I, first King of Jerusalem had died of wounds received in the struggle against the Muslim warriors, at the age of 59, on 11 March 968. He had been succeeded by his 39-year-old son, David II, but the Emirs were now using this opportunity to increase the intensity of their assault on the Crusader Kingdom. David II had appealed to Pope Gregory and his kin for aid and as such, the Third Crusade was called.

This was Griogair’s chance to bring his Kingdom together in common purpose and live up the legacy of his Father, Alasdair the Crusader. But Cóelub counselled caution:

“Dear Griogair, the crown has not been on your head 6 months and you intend to depart to the Holy Land. If we leave your crown unguarded, it shall not be there if you return. Remember well that Lothian has its claws still”.

“My Lord of Moray, I heed now your words carefully as I have always done and know well the truth of what you say. Therefore, I shall not leave this realm unguarded, for you, my dear Cóelub, will guard it for me. I name you Regent of all my lands in my absence. The Earl of Lothian will not dare move against Cóelub the Spearmaster. He is not the equal of his father in cunning or in skill. Mark how he dithered and delayed in the recent struggle. Had he been as his father was, this crown should not be mine. And so, in your hands I despair for the safety of nothing, my dear Cóelub. Moreover, Cóelub, your daughter, my wife has begged to accompany me to Jerusalem for she longs to see the Holy places”.

Cóelub was amazed at the offer of the Regency. He was greatly honoured but saddened at the same time. He had been born into a lowly Gaelic noble family near Dunnottar, and yet now he stood, Mormaer of Moray, father-in-law to the King, High Marshal and Regent of the Scots Kingdom. How could this be? As for his daughter, she was the King’s wife and the decision was now for the King.

He was saddened though, for how could he watch his ward, Griogair, like a cherished son to him, depart for the Holy Land without his lifelong protector and guardian to watch over his safety?

“Have you nothing to say, my dear Lord of Moray? It matters not. I will hear not a word against it, for I will go to the defence of the lands my father won for Christ, and I trust no one else to hold my Kingdom for me”, said the King.

“Very well, my liege. But what of Lothian? You are right that Prince Cyneric is not his father, but in your absence I fear he need not be”, Cóelub warned.

“I know not. My father made the mistake of allowing Earl Cyneric (first Earl of Lothian) to win great renown during the Second Crusade, not trusting him to remain behind. I feel that I must not now do the same, and as I have said, Lothian (Prince Cyneric, 2ndEarl of Lothian) will not dare move against you, so great is your reputation”.

Coelub, Regent of Scotland.png

Cóelub of Moray, High Marshal and Regent of Scotland (c.969)

As the preparations were being made for the expedition, Mormaer Cóelub spoke to Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles. Donncuan had been one of the most prominent supporters of Griogair’s claim to the throne and was bound to Mormaer Cóelub through the marriage of his son, Eochu, to one of Cóelub’ s daughters. This meant that Griogair and Donncuan were married to two sisters, daughters of the Mormaer of Moray. A firm alliance of Albany, Moray and the Isles.

“You must go with the King to the Holy Land. I charge you most solemnly with protecting him”, Cóelub looked firmly into Donncuan’s eyes and placed his hands on the Lord of the Isles’ shoulders, “My heart is sick that I cannot be there myself. But, by God I will see my oath to King Alasdair kept”.

“Fear not, valiant Cóelub. I swear by Saint Cuthbert himself that I shall myself take the cross and I shall defend the safety of the King as my utmost duty. So will your oath and honour be defended, noble Moray”, Donncuan returned the sincere stare, and placed his own hand on Coelub’s shoulder. Then he laughed a deep and cheerful laugh., “Come, let us join the feasting, my friend!”.

And so it was that was that after several months of preparation, in the Autumn of 969, Griogair, King of Scots left for the Holy Land with Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles, and his Queen, leaving Cóelub of Moray as Regent of all Scotland.

Griogair’s army arrived in the in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in Spring 970. The army encamped outside Jerusalem, whilst the King, his wife, and Lord Donncuan entered the city to meet with the King of Jerusalem, David II, kinsman to King Griogair. There they also met Iain of Caimlan (in the Earldom of Lothian), Grandmaster of the Knights Templar.

David II of Jerusalem.png

David II, King of Jerusalem (c.970)

Iain, Grandmaster of the Templars.png

Iain of Caimlan, Grandmaster of the Knights Templar (c.970)


The Grandmaster was a man in his middle fifties who had joined the Templars soon after its founding by Alasdair I after the Second Crusade. As a very young man he had travelled to the Holy Land as part of the forces of Cyneric, Earl of Lothian (later Cyneric II of Scotland). He had greatly admired the Earl and looked upon this boy, who had laid Cyneric low and hounded him to his ignominious death, as little more than a traitor. But Griogair was now patron of the Templar Order.


David II was a charming an honest man. He was nearly forty and, given to feasting and drinking, he was a large man. He was no stranger to war, but he had no skill for it. On his face he carried the scars of his struggles with the Emirs, and in his heart, he carried the shame of being unable to defend the Holy Land as his father had done. He was deeply grateful that King Griogair had come to his aid, but he, like Grandmaster Iain, was doubtful of the young boy’s inexperience.


David II and Iain explained that much of Syria had been seized by three prominent Muslim Emirs, led by Emir Youkhanna of the Khattabid Emirate. He was followed in this tripartite alliance by Muslihidden, Emir of Tadmor (or Palmyra as the city was known to the Crusaders) and Muhktar, Emir of Homs (and cousin of Emir Youhkhanna).

Third Crusade Map (Prelude to Second Damascus).png

The Third Crusade

“We have received word that Damascus has now fallen to the combined armies of the Emirs”, explained David II. “This is indeed a heavy blow and it makes my soul cry out that we have lost the city where our fathers won such glory for Christ thirty years ago. Yet, we have been fortunate, Griogair, that these Emirs, though strong, have received no aid from the King of Arabia (Caliph Hamdan of the Abbassids). By God’s grace the Arabian King is engaged in a great struggle with the Persians and is now weak. The Grandmaster tells me that if we strike now, we can destroy the Emirs and regain our lands in Syria before the King of Arabia has yet regained his strength.”

The Three Emirs.png

The Three Emirs: From Left to Right, Muslihiddin, Emir of Tadmor, Emir Youkhanna of the Khattabid Emirate and Muhktar, Emir of Homs

“Aye, indeed!” interjected the Grandmaster, “We must move now and without delay!”.

Griogair paused, sized the two men up and then spoke softly, “On my march to Jerusalem, I have seen the state of your armies, dear Kinsman. I think it not wise to attack until we are more prepared. Your armies are scattered, and ill provisioned. If we rush to attack before we are ready, we risk defeat unnecessarily. Therefore, I must disagree with the Grandmaster. I say we wait to gather more men, to gather more food and provisions. I doubt that the Emirs will move from Damascus swiftly, and I expect they shall even now be quarrelling amongst themselves about to whom Damascus should be given. This means we have the time we need to gather all our strength so that we can crush them absolutely.”

David II looked unsure and glanced at the Grandmaster. The Grandmaster shook his head, and then he smiled and said “There you have it, young Griogair, the Emirs will be quarrelling. When better to attack?....”

As the Grandmaster impudently called the King, ‘young Griogair’, Lord Donncuan, who had been standing in silence behind the King suddenly strode forward with purpose, his hand firmly pressed against the hilt of his sheathed sword….

But Griogair extended his arm and halted him.

“I will remind you, Grandmaster, that I am a King and the patron of your Order. You will not address me so again”, warned Griogair,

The Grandmaster waved his hand cheerfully and dismissively, “Of course. You have my apologies.”, but then he turned to King David II, whispered something in his ear and took his leave.

Then David II sighed and said, “Noble Griogair. This is my Kingdom, as you know. Its protection is my duty. Therefore, I have decided to heed the advice of Lord Iain, for he is a trusted advisor and a great warrior of long experience. We will leave for Damascus in two days”.

In the Scots camp, Griogair and Donncuan brooded.

“But this is folly, my Liege…” protested Donncuan. “You have seen David’s army. It is weak and tired and not ready for farm work, let alone battle.”

“Yes. That is well said”, replied the King. But if the King of Jerusalem marches forth, how can we, with honour, remain? You know well, my friend, that there is no choice. We must go with them and increase their chances of success. But this is no great crusade as my Father saw. Where are the warriors of Francia? Where are the glittering spears of the Caliph? No, this is a much smaller endeavour, but we have much less aid, and we must do what we can. When we march tomorrow, I shall leave fifty of my Huscarls to guard my wife in Jerusalem, for I have learned that she is with child. A good omen is it not?”

And so, on the 15 April 970, the Crusader Army marched for Damascus. The previous evening they had received word that Pope Gregorius V, friend of King Alasdair, caller of the Second and Third Crusades and Griogair’s namesake, had died at the age of 97. Whether this was a bad omen none knew. The Knights Templar were well armed and experienced, but numbered only just over a thousand men. The Scots army was similarly well armed, but they were not accustomed to the hot climate and numbered about 3,000 men. The forces of David numbered around 4,000 men; his strength whittled down by years of intermittent conflict. David’s men had been hastily rallied and, other than a strong core of about 1,000, were made up of poorly armed levies.

Pope Gregory V.png

Pope Gregorius V, (r. 929 -970), namesake of Griogair I and Caller of the Second and Third Crusades

In early May, as the Crusaders approached, the gathered the forces of the Emirs were gathered in and around Damascus. Their armies each numbered around 4,000 men, but these were each camped separately. Only the forces of Muslihideen, Emir of Tadmor were inside the city. Agents of Grandmaster Iain had scouted ahead and returned to inform the Crusader Lords at their council of war.

“And so you see it!” cried Grandmaster Iain, rising with great vigour from his wooden stool, “the heathens are paralysed by their quarrelling. I will wager that old Muslihideen is terrified the other two will try to take the city from him if he lets them in”. He laughed proudly “Now that they are disunited, we must attack. My lord, King David, we should strike at once!”

“Not so” said King Griogair, “Not so.”

“What?” demanded Grandmaster Iain.

“The enemy seem spread out it is true, but I like it not. It is far too obvious, and as much as I believe that these Emirs are like to quarrel, I do not think that these men are fools. For the last decade these men have defeated the armies of Jerusalem time and again and seized the lands of Syria for themselves. No - these men are not fools, and I will not risk everything on the assumption that they are!”, King Griogair did not rise to speak, and addressed King David, looking into his eyes alone.

“Griogair,” Grandmaster Iain gripped the wooden table and leaned over towards the boy, “what is this cravenness? The Emirs are isolated. If we attack now we can destroy them. I will not hang back and run away like a frightened pup. These excuses not to attack – bah – I have never heard the like. Great Cyneric the Valiant, Earl of Lothian and King would not hesitate so. Weakness has flourished in Scotland I see. This is why you do not send a boy to do a man’s task. Why did you not stay in Albany and send us a man – why did you not send us Great Cóelub, destroyer of heathens? They say that noble man is a renowned warrior, I saw him myself at this city by King Alasdair’s side. Indeed, they call Mormaer Cóelub ‘Kingmaker’, for your crown was in his gift alone, it is said. You have fought one battle and that with Cóelub by your side. I have spent more than 30 years fighting these heathens!” Iain was now laughing directly at King Griogair, mocking him. Donncuan’s hand gripped his sword.

Griogair looked at him for a moment, rage rising in his breast. His fists tightened, but he remained calm, motioned to Donncuan to remain seated, breathed deeply and spoke slowly, clearly and calmly, “They say so, do they? Well indeed they that say Cóelub of Moray is a noble man are right justified. Those that say he is a famous warrior are indeed correct. Truly I say to you, Grandmaster, that I would not suffer any man to claim otherwise. But I also say to you, that although I am young and have fought but one battle, I had the victory. At Cenhlaw Hill, with even forces, I overcame valiant Lothian, whose qualities as a soldier you know well, for you were with him at Damascus and Sarmada. Yet wise Cóelub, whose glory is well earned, counselled that I withdraw from Cenhlaw in the face of brave Lothian. But I, mere boy that you say I am, humbled that great warrior and cast him down. I am the son of Alasdair, called the Crusader. My grandsire was heroic Cyneric the Fox, honoured by many victories. Battle, Grandmaster, flows through these veins and I shall not be condescended to by any man, even one so evidently ‘experienced’ as yourself.” Griogair looked at Iain’s grey hair and weathered face, “Therefore be silent lest you regret your words”

“Hah! I see your courage is reserved for mere words in servient company”, Iain glanced derisively at Donncuan. “Where is that spirit when the enemy are in view? My courage is for the field, not the pantry! My Lord King?”, Iain turned to King David II, “We must not hesitate. God has given us this opportunity, and we cannot be hindered by the caution of inexperience! I shall muster the Templars and the forces of Jerusalem!” The Grandmaster strode out of the tent. David II followed him.

At dawn on the 14th May 970, Grandmaster Iain and King David II launched their attack.


NEXT TIME: The Second Battle of Damascus (plus a family tree as at 970)
 

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Zamarak500

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Ok, you got some of the best visual support I ever saw!
 
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Dunaden

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Ooh, very exciting.

Will Grandmaster Iain be proven right and he and King David II win a great victory, leaving Griogar saddled with the label of craven for the rest of his days? Or has Iain led the Templars and the men of Jerusalem into a cunning trap to be slaughtered , and are King Griogar and his 3,000 Scots enough to save them?

Stay tuned !
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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Well, that's an unfair cliffhanger - with a major battle on the horizon. But I guess that definitely means I'll be looking forward to the next update, eh?

Part of me wonders how the lords of Scotland will like Coelub being in charge, given how he's gone (as he admitted here) from a lowly rank to now basically the head of the kingdom while Griogair is in gone. He has kind of a Alexander Menshikov feel about him. (Or even Janos Slynt, for those familiar with the Song of Ice and Fire character.) Also, I had actually pondered who Griogair was going to marry, and I suppose it makes sense he would marry his ward's daughter. However, that also makes me ponder if they knew each other pretty well growing up, and just what stories are involved there. Or maybe that's the romantic in me.

On another note, I like the mix of historical AAR and narrative AAR, and the way the two styles blend seamlessly.
 
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castlera

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Well, that's an unfair cliffhanger - with a major battle on the horizon. But I guess that definitely means I'll be looking forward to the next update, eh?

Part of me wonders how the lords of Scotland will like Coelub being in charge, given how he's gone (as he admitted here) from a lowly rank to now basically the head of the kingdom while Griogair is in gone. He has kind of a Alexander Menshikov feel about him. (Or even Janos Slynt, for those familiar with the Song of Ice and Fire character.) Also, I had actually pondered who Griogair was going to marry, and I suppose it makes sense he would marry his ward's daughter. However, that also makes me ponder if they knew each other pretty well growing up, and just what stories are involved there. Or maybe that's the romantic in me.

On another note, I like the mix of historical AAR and narrative AAR, and the way the two styles blend seamlessly.

Thank you. I’m glad you like the style - there was no particular intention - just seems to have ended up like that.

As for Coelub, he has essentially ruled Moray and Albany since 956 and so he is well established there. He is father-in-law to Eochu of the Isles (son of Donncuan) so he has strong links there.

The southern Earls in Eoforwic and Westoraland respect him for his fame and skill although they are bit more distrustful of a full Gael ruling Scotland.

And of course the is Lothian - Cóelub is hated in Lothian - but he is also feared.

In relation to Caitilin - she did indeed grow up with Griogair, but they had been betrothed since the age of four or five so it was not a match of love. Still they care for each other and are fond of each other.
 

stnylan

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Now that's a grand cliffhanger. Can't wait to find out what happens.
 
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Chapter IV - Part 2 - Second Battle of Damascus

castlera

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Chapter IV
Part 2

2nd damascus text.png


0589AD93-E9EF-4260-AF91-F1B81A28F445.png

Griogair I at the Second Battle of Damascus
“We shall cut off the head of the snake!”. Grandmaster Iain looked pleased with himself as he gestured dramatically towards the fires of Emir Youkhanna’s camp. “With all our strength, and with my hardened Knights of the Temple we, King David, will strike at Emir Youkhanna’s encampment. Their retreat will be hindered by the streams so that we will destroy them totally. Before Muslihiddeen even knows what has befallen his master we will have cut them to pieces in the mud. He will not then dare to venture from his walls in the City. I have sent word to Lord Donncuan, for I will not bandy words with that craven whelp they call King.”

David II looked at the fires of the camps and nodded his head.

“My Liege!”- there was great urgency in Lord Donncuan’s voice as he entered Griogair’s tent at dawn. “The Templars and King David have moved eastwards to attack Emir Youkhanna. Grandmaster Iain has left me word of his intent”.

“Reckless fool!”, responded Griogair sadly, “by God, I hope he was right….”. Griogair looked upwards and then closed his eyes.

“My Lord, he has asked that we support him by attacking the camp of Emir Muhktar in the west, with all haste.”

“What? And now Iain of Caimlan would have us split our forces totally, with the city held by the enemy between us? No, it is folly. My Lord Donncuan, I will not do so”, spoke King Griogair.

“What then shall we do, my liege?”, asked the Gaelic Lord of the Isles, “For whatever we choose to do, we must act swiftly!”

“Indeed. I must move to support my kinsman, King David. If his army is destroyed, there will be little to stand between the three Emirs and Jerusalem itself. We must keep our forces together as much as possible”, Griogair was looking out from the crusader camp, studying the field as the light of dawn burst forth from the heavens.

“I agree with you, lord King, but if we march to the east to support King David and the Grandmaster, we shall expose our flank, and our camp, to assault by Emir Muhktar’s forces.”, Donncuan pointed towards Muhktar’s camp as he spoke.

“I cannot believe that the Emirs could have so recklessly exposed themselves by so dividing their strength. Yet you are right, of course. Very well. You shall take our horsemen towards Muhktar’s camp – all 300 of them. See what you may there. If his force is great, use the horsemen to screen our flank, and send word to me at once”. Griogair smiled grimly, “I shall take our remaining forces on foot, and seek to aid David and the Templars. But you, Donncuan, must ensure our flanks are protected. However, by the Heights of Brae I must tell you now, that I do not believe there to be a great force in Muhktar’s camp. See there…”, he pointed towards Emir Youkhanna’s camp in the east, “see the fresh fires and the smoke rising high. That is a great camp. But see there to the west…”, he now gestured to Muhktar’s encampment, “through the night there were fires indeed, but look now. The smoke is weak, the fires are not being tended. I feel there is some devilry afoot here. Would Caimlan have but waited a few hours....”

Emir Youkhanna’s scouts now saw the Templars clad in shining white, and the arrayed forces of Jerusalem marching forth in battle array. The scouts sped the word to the Emir. The Muslim warriors leaped from their tents. But they ran not towards the approaching enemy. They ran away. They ran north across the first and second streams, across narrow wooded beams that had been placed there before, and which they carried off after they had crossed.

Grandmaster Iain gloried in his might as the Muslims fled before him. We must move quickly, he thought. “Forward, soldiers of Christ”, he bellowed. He pressed his men forward, his heavily armoured Templar Knights in the vanguard. They now fell upon Youkhanna’s camp, but the Templars, veteran and disciplined troops, stopped not to plunder and continued. The ground was wet and boggy by the banks of the streams and they now struggled to cross. In their heavy armour progress was now slow, but unopposed at the streams, the Templars surged force inexorably.

But behind the Templars came the Jerusalemite soldiers. And as they reached the Muslim camp, they scattered, laying their hands on all they could find, plundering and despoiling. They rummaged wildly amongst the tents, seizing clothing, fruits, and foodstuffs. And all the while, the Templars moved forward. King David furiously attempted to drive his men forward, but denied proper supplies during their march, the men refused to move further until they were satisfied.

The Templars were now at the heart of the boggy wetlands between the streams, isolated now from the Jerusalemite forces which now lagged behind.

And then the sound of drums...

The Muslims had gathered now at the northern side of the wetlands. The heralds cried aloud, and the brave Muslim warriors sprang forth like fierce lions from their lairs. They not been unprepared. Already, as they left their tents, they wore their armour and held fast their gleaming arms. Youhkanna had mounted his great black horse, draped in emerald and gold, “On, on for Islam” he cried as the horse darted forward. His drums were sounding now, and his clear horns called. From the west and south, they were answered by the horns of Muhktar and Muslihideen.

9787C5B2-B378-4BF5-9CEE-979AE8D5FBEA.png

Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles at the Second Battle of Damascus

Lord Donncuan and his horsemen descended upon Mukhtar’s camp, his bright helm glistening and his sword shining in his hand. Muslim horsemen rode forward towards him and he prepared for a struggle of arms. But then, in a swirl of dust, the horsemen wheeled around and sped away to the north and east. Donncuan came now to the camp and his heart turned to ice.

“By God….”, he gasped, “By God, there’s nothing here”.

Grandmaster Iain’s feet forged through the mud. He heard the drums now - and the horns. For a moment he was relieved. They were going to stand and fight. The cowards would not escape him.

But then he heard horn calls to the west, on his left flank and rhythmic drumming all around. He looked behind him and to his horror he could see that the men of Jerusalem were not with him. They were strung out in a disorganised group between Youkhanna’s camp and where Iain now stood. Many of them were only now making their way slowly towards him through the wetlands, weighed down with plunder.

And then a raucous cry from in front and to his left. A great host of the Muslims were now winging their way, arrow-like, towards his right flank from the west. In front of him, the enemy that had seemed to be fleeing a moment before, now swirled towards him. From both sides they fell upon the scattered crusaders like swathes of dark night. All around the Templars the mass of Muslim warriors whistled and shouted at the top of their voices – a terrifying and all-encompassing cacophony.

The Templars stood firm, but they could barely move in the clinging mud. The men of Jerusalem, seeing the enemy fall upon them from the north and west, tried to move to the rear, but enemy forces now appeared from the south, entering Youkhanna’s camp and cutting off retreat in that direction. They gathered together and King David II stood by his standard. “To me, men of Jerusalem! Stand fast with me!”, he cried.

It was far more than the 4,000 men of Emir Youkhanna which now encircled the Templars and the Jerusalemites as they stood, each isolated from the other. The combined forces of Youkhanna and Muhktar now assailed them – more than 8,000 men against less than 4,000 Christians. And the forces Muslidideen were even now hastening from the city. The Muslim armies had not separated at all.

Grandmaster Iain growled like a great bear as he swung his sword. Many fell before him, but there were too many. He groaned with exhaustion, parried yet another blow, and fell to his knees. As he dropped, he saw his men falling around him like autumn leaves, beset from all sides, and sinking into the mud. “What have I done?”, he whispered to himself. Everywhere the Muslim forces were slashing, hurling, piercing slicing. And in the maelstrom, the white standard of the Knights Templar slumped into the sodden earth. Where there had been white banners, there was now only emerald and gold.

Surrounded by the enemy, King David looked out to the north and saw the White Standard fall. The Templars had been cut off and destroyed. The same fate was soon to befall his men. He could feel the end, but he did not show it. “Stand with me!”, he shouted, “Soldiers of Christ – stand with me!”.

At that moment he marked the banners of Griogair, King of Scots, as they came into view, through the swirling dust….

King Griogair quickened his pace and ran out in front of his 2,700 men. He held high his father’s sword, turned to those who followed him, with a flourish of the weapon and cried “Forward, men of Scotland. To the Standard of Jerusalem and the Holy Cross! For God and valour – with me!” He wheeled on the spot, and charged towards the eddying torrents of Muslim warriors that swept violently upon the beleaguered men of Jerusalem. Those which attacked from the North were the forces of Emir Youkhanna,supported by contingents from Muslidideen,s army, but those now attacking from the west and south were the soldiers of Emir Muhktar.

Muhktar was not expecting the Scots army. The Scots were supposed to be vainly marching westwards to the ersatz camp and Muhktar, arrogant man that he was, had not secured his flanks. Thus it was that when Griogair charged into Muhktar’s forces, he hit them in their exposed flank and splintered them. Muhktar’s men fled northwards, and those that did not were now crushed between the Scots and Jerusalemites. In this way, Griogair came to David II.

“Dear Kinsman”, Griogair cried as he saw King David II, “We cannot hold Youhkanna’s forces here, and Muhktar will be back. I beg you, we must withdraw to more defensible land.”

“Aye…”, David II looked tired, weak and confused.” Already the men of Jerusalem were fleeing northwards in panic through the swathe cut by Griogair’s men.

“King David! You must rally your men to prevent a rout!”, Griogair now walked up to the large man and could see now he was quivering where he stood. Griogair turned to two of his Huscarls, “Escort the King of Jerusalem to the rear, and by God, try to prevent those men from fleeing as now they fly, for if we cannot rally, we are lost! I shall hold back Youkhanna’s forces. It is to be hoped that this shall buy enough time for an effective redeployment. Now, Go, and swear to me you will return on no account”

Emir Youkhanna watched with disgust as Muhktar and his forces withdrew in the face of the Scots attack! Fools, he thought, we had the King of Jerusalem and the ‘holy cross’ in our hands. But then he saw the standard that fluttered proudly before the Scots attackers – a red fox on a yellow shield backed by a white cross on an azure field. In his youth he had heard tales of this standard – the standard of Alasdair the Despoiler, Scots devil who had stolen the lands of Youkhanna’s people. Youkhanna’s eyes flashed. What vengeance to sieze that standard on the field of Damascus, where it had portended the defeat of great Caliph Hashmaddin more than 30 years ago. That standard would be his – and his would be the glory. Youkhanna pushed forward with a great cry, shouting ‘Behold the red fox! The man who brings me this shall have greater riches than ever he imagined!”.

Youhkanna’s warriors now massed towards that standard, ignoring those from the Scots and Jerusalemite forces who were retreating to the north. King Griogair was now cut off, with only a few hundred men, his bravest Huscarls.

Youhkanna saw the Scots King now, standing amidst his Huscarls who stood packed together in a circle forming a staunch shield wall. He saw the young King standing calm and tall, brandishing his sword like a beacon of hope. He saw as his own men fell upon the shield wall again and again and were repulsed. But each time, the shield wall was weaker and more noble Huscarls littered the earth. Youkannah could feel them breaking, could taste his vengeance...

Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles hurtled across the plains with his horsemen. As he rode, he saw a great dust cloud east of Damascus and heard the far-off din of battle. He spurred his horse onwards towards the sounds of war. As he approached the clouds of dust, he now saw streams of soldiers fleeing from the fight, many in headlong panic.

“My God! What evil is this?”, Donncuan said, “these men must stand! If we are to survive, we must establish a defensible position at the rear for survivors to rally. Without such a strong point, all is lost.” He rode towards the fleeing soldiers, waved his banner high and stood proud in his stirrups, his bright helm shining. He called out to those that were running and stopped them with inspiring words. He noticed a shallow rocky hill not far off. “See there that hill! Rally there, noble sirs for ‘tis a goodly place surrounded by many rocks. Fly not, for the Lord is with us.”

Donncuan now sent men to the crusader camp, saying “Bring as many of the tents and wagons as can be brought quickly to this hill. Pitch these tents inside and along the perimeter, spread them carefully to give cover and slow the enemy. Use the wagons, sacks and barrels, anything you can find, to shore up a defensive wall all-about. In this way we shall still have an army when the sun sets”. To those that were gathering now on the hill, Donncuan cried out, “raise high your banners and stand firm, my friends, and raise your voices to the Lord of Hosts. Remember always that God is with us. Now Behold the Battle is close about us. Therefore, fear not and let all warriors stand manfully against the enemy.”

As he spoke, Huscarls of King Griogair arrived at Donncuan’s hill with King David II, the Holy Cross and the Standard of Jerusalem. Donncuan smiled a great smile and called out again to the men he had now rallied strongly in this place, “Behold the Cross and Standard of Jerusalem which no enemy could defile! Be of one mind in the faith of Christ, and in the victory of the Holy Cross – and it will be so!”

The soldiers cheered and raised their spears towards the renowned Lord Donncuan, their morale now strong and their resolve undaunted. Donncuan now called to one of Griogair’s Huscarls.

“How goes it with King Griogair,” Donncuan said, “Is he yet far off?”

“My Lord, Donncuan,” the man replied, “I fear I have evil news.”

Donnucan stiffened where he sat, the smile vanished from his lips and a great fear swept his brow, “Lives he still?”

“My Lord, the King was alive when we left him, but as we moved to the rear, as he had ordered, I heard a great horn ring out. I saw the Royal standard surrounded with Emerald and Gold. I tell you there is no retreat for the King – if he yet lives…”

Lord Donncuan looked up and peered through the dust. His heart burned with dread and fury as the words of Mormaer Cóelub returned to him; “You must go with the King to the Holy Land. I charge you most solemnly with protecting him”.

“Alas”, Donncuan whispered, “Vain was Cóelub’s trust in me”. Then he raised himself in his saddle and called out to King David, “My Lord, I beg you to hold this point at all costs. I must to my Lord and King!” He then cried out to his horsemen, “Come, horsemen of Griogair. For Honour and Duty. For the King – Follow me!”. With that he leapt forward and with 300 horsemen, he thundered towards the King, every man of them crying; “For the King!”

King Griogair stood like a mighty Oak amongst his men. “Hold firm, soldiers of Christ”, he shouted, “there is hope yet and with courage and honour we will endure”, he twirled his sword high, “With this sword, my father here overcame Hashmaddin, King of Arabia and bravest of men. Therefore, take courage, my friends”. The shield wall yet held, but it could not hold for long.

Donncuan charged towards the sound of clashing spears and to the sight of rising dust. As he approached, he saw the standard of the King held aloft, yet unconquered. The surviving Huscarls of Griogair had formed a tight circle within which they desperately sought to weather the onslaught. Donncuan’s horn echoed loudly and his men cried out as they burst through the churning melee of dust, blood and spears. The horses crashed into the Muslim footmen and drove them back. Donncuan slashed with his sword and felled many foes as his horse tore through the enemy ranks. And then he saw him, noble Griogair like a statue of ancient Kings, undefeated and uncowed. A great joy danced upon Donncuan’s breast. The King was alive. He forced his way through with his horsemen slicing through the dazzled Muslim warriors.

0164E0FE-D764-4FDF-8C07-64FBAA854695.jpeg


The Charge of Donncuan, Lord of the Isles
“My Liege?”, Donncuan shouted above the din. Arrows were crashing and swooping all around. “King Griogair?” Donncuan shouted again as his horse bounced and reared in terror. The King looked up at him, great weariness in his young eyes. “My King, there is no time! I have rallied our men to the North, and we must withdraw there at once.” He urged his horse forward as more arrows spat around him.

The King called to his men, and he and his Huscarls began to withdraw northwards. But the Muslim forces, which had been momentarily driven off, were now returning, screaming terrifyingly in their own tongue. Donncuan’s horsemen wheeled around and charged into the approaching forces. Once again they forced them back as the King and his men withdrew. Again and again, the Muslim forces attempted to give chase, and again and again Donncuan and his horsemen held them at bay. Arrows flew wildly and more Muslim spearman were arriving with every moment.

All the time, Donncuan rode at the rear of the King’s men, defending their flank from any attack and stiffening their sinews. A great cry rang out and a thunder of hooves. A great host of Muslim cavalry now approached at great speed. Donncuan span around and his horse sprang forward again, “With me, brave brothers” he shouted and dashed forward. The two forces of horsemen crashed and crumpled into one another. Horses screeched in pain and fear whilst stricken men tumbled to the hard earth. Great Donncuan drove his sword into an enemy’s helm, splitting it totally. He knocked another from his horse and ran him down. He parried a heavy axe blow with his shield, which splintered in his hands. But he answered with the deft darting of his blade and his assailant was dashed to the ground. He looked around and saw that the King was now near the safety of the shallow rocky hill. The defenders gathered there could see Donncuan’s great feat of arms as he held back the enemy and a great cheer rose up from them all. As the enemy horsemen began to disperse another flight of arrows descended upon Donncuan’s cavalry.

Saracen infantrymen were now lurching forward towards the hill, gathering for a fresh assault.

Donncuan reined his horse to the side, raised his sword again and called to his horsemen to regroup at his position.

Then he reeled.

His head snapped back as the breath was knocked out of him. His horse thrust its front legs upwards, and pierced by an arrow, great Donncuan fell. A horrified groan went up from the men on the shallow hill. With dismay, the King watched as Donncuan plunged heavily onto the dust. At once, Griogair ran to where Donncuan had fallen, several of his huscarls following him. Together, under a hail of arrows they carried the Lord of the Isles to the hill, fortified as he had ordered.

“Lord Donncuan, can you hear me?” called the King, as he placed his hands on Donncuan’s shoulders.

“Aye, my noble lord”, murmured Lord Donncuan, weakly, “Aye..”. Griogair reached for the arrow and closed his eyes, sighing mournfully as he saw the deep and terrible wound. Donncuan spluttered and coughed. Blood was filling his lungs and as he struggled to breath the King propped Lord Donncuan’s head up on his knee.

“My King?”

“Aye, my honoured friend”, Griogair replied through his tears, “Aye, noble, Donncuan”.

“I see not your face, for my eyes are dim...”, Donncuan’s voice was quiet and strained. “I cannot live. I feel it in my soul.... . My Lord, I beg you...bury my bones in ancient Jerusalem….”. He coughed painfully, “but promise me….”, he wretched up dark blood from within his throat, “promise me you will bury my heart on blessed Iona, by the shores of the western sea, with my fathers.”

“I will do so, great Lord of the Isles”. Griogair swallowed and closed his eyes as they moistened with more tears, “I will do so, my friend. So, I swear to you, by my Father and by the hallowed Heights of Brae”. Lord Donncuan smiled weakly.

“Commend me...to my son....”, said Donncuan, now almost inaudible. The great soldier breathed heavily and slowly. “God be praised…that I have kept….my oath...”. Then his eyes darkened as he looked up - unto the heavens.”

So passed Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles, truest of men.

On the shallow hill, stood the remains of the Crusader army, intact because of the bravery and skill of the noble Lord of the Isles. But not far off was formidable Youkhanna and his brave warriors – and they had tasted blood.

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The Death of Donncuan IV

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NEXT TIME: The Defence of Donncuan's Hill
 
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Chapter IV - Part 3 - The Defence of Donncuan's Hill

castlera

Second Lieutenant
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Chapter IV

Part Three

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The Crusaders of Griogair I and David II Battle the forces of Emir Youkhanna of Khattab

By the valiant actions of Donncuan IV, Lord of the Isles and young King Griogair, the Crusader army was still intact. The Templars had been destroyed but 3,000 of King’s David’s men and 2,500 Scots yet held the shallow hill where Donncuan had rallied them. Griogair, seeing innumerable Saracens descending upon their position, shouting from afar with demonical voices, ordered all the horsemen of Lord Donncuan to dismount. The horses were enclosed in the centre of the fortified circle, in a makeshift coral made of tents and ropes. The horsemen now took their place in the shield wall as the enemy fell upon them.

Emir Youkannah’s brown eyes gleamed. The Fox standard had yet eluded him, but it was trapped now on the shallow rocky hill. That would not be enough to withstand him, even despite his cousin Muhktar’s incompetence. We shall weary the invaders with many arrows, he thought. And he gave the order. The circle of shields was showered with arrows for over an hour, before his men, running low on ammunition, could loose their arrows no more. Observing, the ring of spears surrounding the crusader position, Youkannah dismounted his great black horse and prepared the infantry for a great assault.

Muhktar, in support of his cousin, manoeuvred his forces to the south of the crusader position so they were now wholly encircled. But Muhktar had prepared another means of weakening the crusaders’ resolve. And now, as he circled his prey, he revealed it. Before his men, a great spear was raised aloft, and impaled upon its tip was the bloodied head of Iain of Caimlan.

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The Head of Iain of Caimlan, Grandmaster of the Knights Templar
Griogair felt a shiver of terror ripple through his ranks and heard a gradual groan from his warriors. And as he turned, he saw the head of the Grandmaster, wielded contemptuously before the Muslim forces. Griogair’s stomach tightened, and a fire rose in his heart. That man, though a reckless fool, was a heroic soldier of Christ. Such an affront must be avenged.

Then the horns of the Saracens shook the earth. And as Youkhannah charged, Muhktar’s men swept forward like the waves of the sea.

“Stand firm in Christ, my brothers!”, cried King Griogair, “Stand for brave Donncuan the renowned, and noble Caimlan. See how the villainous enemy have outraged the laws of God. See how they have humiliated our right noble friend, the great Grandmaster. See how now they rush upon us. Let us be like the righteous Scythe to their wicked grass. I swear on the Heights of the Brae, they shall not have my head, nor the bones of famous Donncuan. Therefore, take heart, for we shall conquer. Now raise your spears and hold fast your sinews.”

The ground shook now as the enemy were mere feet away. And then a sickening crash as the shields held firm and the spears did their work. The sound of slashing of scimitars and the screams of wounded men. The enemy had been slowed by the debris laid before them and the rocks and basic fortifications impeded their attack. From behind Griogair’s main line, bowmen now fired into the massed ranks of the enemy.

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Emir Youkannah the Fearless of the Khattabid Emirate at the Second Battle of Damascus (970)

And now the sickening scratch of tearing flesh. Youkannah shook with rage. This was not how his battle was supposed to play out. He had rightly reckoned on the hubris of the Christians and the weakness of King David. He knew these well from years of war - but he had never faced young Griogair, whom he had dismissed as a mere boy. He had not reckoned on the calm and measured decisiveness shown by the young King. But Youkannah would not be robbed of his triumph. He raised his scimitar and launched into the fray, the fox standard as his goal. Brave Youkannah cleaved through the enemy and with his mighty arms, rent a hole in the shield wall. He called to his warriors follow him into the breach and himself, surged through onto the crest of his hill. His men were flowing into the crusader positions and the shield wall was creaking at the sides. In mere moments, the Crusaders would be doomed. But then Griogair, perceiving the gravity of the moment, himself stood forth into the path of mighty Youkannah. The great Emir brought down his shining scimitar towards the boy, who met it with his wooden shield. Griogair thrust his own sword forward, but Youkannah, famous of his strength and skill, parried it away. The Emir now struck again and the impact threw Griogair back onto the ground. The Emir now loomed above him like a mountain of granite, immovable and terrible. Griogair raised his sword, but unrelenting Youkannah swept it aside, the boy fixed in the stare of his flaming eyes. And then, even as Youkannah raised his sword for the final blow, the great mountain collapsed to the ground, felled by a mighty blow of a Huscarl’s daneaxe. Youkannah the Fearless, bane of the Kingdom of Jeruslalem, was dead.

For a moment, all seemed quiet as the battle hung in the arms of providence. Griogair lay on the ground, his heart ratting the bony cage of his chest. But in an instant he had raised himself to his feet, embraced the loyal Huscarl who had saved his life and turned his face once more unto the battle.

Seeing glorious Youkannah fall, his warriors, who had been rushing forward with him, inspired by his invincible spirit, were suddenly cowed. They lost heart in an instant, and seemed to dissolve like morning mist in bright sunlight.

To the South, Muhktarsoon learned of his cousin’s death and, seeing Youkannah's men falling back in disarray, immediately ordered his men to withdraw. With Youkannah dead, the Khattabid Emirate could be his. But only if he had an army to seize it from Youkannah’s sons. He would not waste them against the Christians at Damascus. What was Damascus to him? He was a dishonourable and arrogant man, and Youkannah's death was, to him, an opportunity not to be missed.

And with that, the forces of Muhktar and Youkannah quit the field in headlong retreat, leaving the Crusader army battered and bloodied, but intact.

From within the walls of Damascus, Emir Muslihidden now panicked. Many of his own men had been killed during the fighting, and great Youkannah, the leader of their confederation, had been slain. With Muhktar’s army withdrawing to Homs and Youkhanna’s now leaderless army fleeing north, how could he protect his own lands from within Damascus. He could not defeat the assembled Christians by himself, and he did not trust that the withdrawing armies would not target his own lands during their retreat. He would not allow himself to be trapped here. And so, when night came, his army fled as one body, having set light to the city stores and granaries. Then the inhabitants of the city, many of whom were Christians, came out under the shadows of the night,, shouting at the top of their voices, “Run, most invincible Scots, run! For the Saracens, driven out by fear of you, are all departing”.

But Griogair, King David II and the Crusaders were too exhausted to give chase - and there was much mourning to be done.

At daybreak, the leaders of the city came down and willingly surrendered it, saying to King David II and King Griogair, “We seek for those who yesterday so bravely contended with the Saracens, and for the son of great Alasdair whom we hear is with you”. With that Griogair was invited into the city with great jubilation.

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