Gesta Filii Cunerici - The Deeds of the Sons of Cyneric

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

HistoryDude

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Griogair and Cyneric's confrontation was great. I liked the mutual respect.

Everybody seems to be underestimating Griogair.

The Lord of the Isles's last stand was glorious...
 

castlera

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Griogair and Cyneric's confrontation was great. I liked the mutual respect.

Everybody seems to be underestimating Griogair.

The Lord of the Isles's last stand was glorious...

I suppose it is easy to underestimate somebody his age, emerging from the shadow of his famous father and renowned guardian. He is still very young, not even 18.

I do miss Cyneric II, King of Scots (earlier Earl of Lothian) - but his legacy is not finished yet...
 

stnylan

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The Last Charge of the Isle-Lord will surely be remembered in song for many a generation
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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So a victory in the end? But a somewhat bittersweet one, and one that will be as tragic as it is celebratory.
 
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castlera

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So a victory in the end? But a somewhat bittersweet one, and one that will be as tragic as it is celebratory.

A victory but I doubt there is much celebrating. The army has survived, but only because of the calm resolve of King Griogair and the quick thinking and sacrifice of Donncuan, Lord of the Isles. And even then it still seemed all was lost until fearless Youkannah fell. Such is the chance of battle.
 

Avner

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A glorious end to a very sad moment. But I wonder with Donncuan dead...how Griogair's treacherous cousin will act once Griogair returns from the holy land
 
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DensleyBlair

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This continues to go from strength to strength. The trio of parts on the battle sequence was excellent, even moving in places.
 
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Chapter IV - Part 5 - The Struggle for Northern Syria

castlera

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Chapter IV
Part Five

The Struggle for Northern Syria.png


The swift actions of the denizens of Damascus had meant that the fires started by Muslihideens’s retreating forces had been quenched before the granaries had been wholly destroyed. Consequently, when Griogair, King of Scots, and David II of Jerusalem, entered the city on 15 May 970, bountiful supplies remained. With these, the crusader armies were resupplied and the exhausted men were fed as they had not been fed, since before they had left the Holy City.

Griogair despatched riders to Jerusalem to carry the news of the narrow victory at Damascus and of the deaths of Donncuan IV and Grandmaster Iain of Caimlan. He then sent out scouts to follow Mukhtar and Muslihideen. Meanwhile, as he had first counselled, he gave the army a chance to rest – at last.

Griogair’s scouts reported that Mukhtar had retreated to Emesa (Homs), but that after leaving a small defence-force in that city, he had marched north to the former lands of his cousin, Youkhannah, in the Khattabid Emirate. Even now he was marcing on Aleppo, intent on seizing it from Youkannah’s sons.

Mukhtar.png

Mukhtar of Khattab, Emir of Homs and Aleppo (c.970)
Muslihideen, had fled to Palmyra (Tadmor) where he was strengthening his fortifications and gathering more warriors to him.

“It was Youkannah that bound these three Emirs together. His reputation and wisdom united these men, and caused the many calamities that your kingdom has faced of late.” Griogair paced up and down the stone halls of Damascus as he spoke to King David II. “I tell you, our greatest threat at this moment is Muslihideen. His army was the least damaged in the struggle and he is a shrewd and crafty old man. He is gathering his strength all in one place. Mukhtar, however, is an arrogant fool, who thinks only of his own power. His march north affords us a great opportunity. I believe that we can seize Emesa, before Mukhtar, imprudently engaged in battle with his kin, can respond. Moreover, I perceive that Muslihideen will not risk Palmyra by coming to the support of Emesa, and he will not make any move until he has finished gathering his reinforcements. Therefore, I counsel that we march on Emesa, as soon as our men are ready; that we take it and garrison it. From there we can strike into the lands of Muslihideen, with the road from Aleppo through Emesa well-guarded”.

Muslididdin.png

Muslihideen the Wise, Emir of Tadmor (Palmyra), (c.970)

“My Kinsman, I cannot gainsay you, for I have learned to heed your words. Would that I had listened to you before the walls of Damascus, and not followed blindly the counsel of bold Caimlan,” David II shook his head as he spoke and looked downwards, “But for you and the worthy Lord of the isles, God rest his hallowed bones, we should have been completely destroyed and the Holy City itself should have been lost.”

“Noble King, and dear kinsman” responded Griogair, “I blame you not for following valiant Caimlan, for he was a famous soldier, inured to battle in these lands - and I am young - it is true. Therefore, let us move forward together and avenge the deaths of martyred Donncuan and the bold Grandmaster!”

Battle of Homs.png


So it was, that on 18 May 970, the combined armies of Griogair and David II set out from Damascus towards Emesa. Scouts and horsemen were sent out towards Palmyra to warn of any movement by Muslihideen, and reinforcements from Jerusalem were even now marching towards Damascus. These fresh troops would be vital in the struggle with Emir Muslihideen, but there was no time to wait for them before assaulting Emesa. It was essential to take advantage of Mukhtar’s avaricious recklessness.

And so, with 4,000 men, the Kings of Jerusalem and Scotland marched north. Griogair’s scouts had informed him that Emesa was now guarded by fewer than 1,000 men, with the majority of Mukhtar’s army fighting Youkhannah’s sons. After 5 days of marching, the crusaders approached Emesa and laid siege. On the night of 23 May, Griogair sent several agents into the city, with orders to spread fear and alarm. But he had also given them gold to buy allies, for speed was essential in this endeavour. In this way, Griogair was able to negotiate the betrayal of Emesa by one of the lesser officials in the city, whose deep personal rivalry with the garrison commander could be exploited. It was agreed that on the afternoon of 23 May, the crusaders would march to the east and south, as if they were withdrawing to face the forces of Muslihideen. Then, once the garrison of Emesa had lowered the intensity of its watch, the crusaders would march back after midnight and under the cover of darkness, to the city.

In the early hours of the morning on 24 May 970, King Griogair, with 60 chosen Huscarls, met the traitor, a man by the name of Vahan, underneath the western tower of the city. Vahan had ladders waiting for them. Griogair and his Huscarls ascended the tower, overcame the garrison there and seized control of that part of the walls and the postern gate. Swiftly Griogair’s men forced the postern open and the rest of the crusader army, led by King David II, burst forth into the city. So great was the fury of the crusaders, who had suffered so terribly at Damascus, that no enemy warrior was taken captive and the streets ran red with blood. When the day brightened, the standards of Griogair and David appeared, proudly flying, above the gates and walls of the city. Emesa, Mukhtar’s capital, with all its spoils, was theirs. The crusaders had suffered almost no loss in the assault.

Siege of Palmyra.png


On 25 May, with the first objective taken, Griogair marched South from Emesa with 2,000 men, leaving King David II to guard Emesa with 2,000 men of Jerusalem. Riders were sent to the north to bring any news of Mukhtar to the King without delay.

Griogair arrived back at Damascus on 30 May. Here, there were now gathered 4,000 men from the southern counties of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. ‘We could have used these men well’, thought Griogair ‘had Caimlan but waited as I begged. Alas for Donncuan the brave who need not have perished’.

After arranging for Donncuan’s body to be born back to Jerusalem with honour, King Griogair ensured the army was well-supplied and well-fed. Then, on 3 June, with 6,000 men he set out for the lands of Emir Muslihideen. After 7 days of march, he arrived outside the ancient city and marvelled at the antique columns of Rome that adorned it.

He had now received word that Mukhtar had defeated the sons of Youkhanna and seized Aleppo. Yet the battle had been bloody and Mukhtar, greatly weakened, remained now in Aleppo. There was no sign of him moving to retake Emesa, nor to aid Emir Muslihideen. Therefore, Griogair decided to prepare a siege and not to risk the dangers of an all-out assault.

Griogair could see that this was not a good place for the enemy to endure a siege. The city of Palmyra itself was surrounded by an ancient wall, but it was low and in a sorry state of disrepair, with large sections having crumbled into nothing centuries before. Therefore, in an attempt to fortify himself, Muslihideen, his army and many of the inhabitants had withdrawn into the small compound of an ancient classical temple; what had been in ages past the Temple of Baal. This was well defended with high and thick walls topped with triangular crenellations. But there was no water supply and not enough space for the numbers now crammed within. To destroy Muslihideen, all Griogair need do was wait. And with Mukhtar hiding in Aleppo, there was nothing to prevent his doing so.

Muslihideen now had with him, in the temple compound, around 5,000 men, about 1,000 of which were cavalry – useless in such a siege. As the weeks drew on and the hot summer sun glared down mercilessly, this number began to fall and by mid-August, the horses were food. Sickness now spread through the Muslim camp and Muslihideen himself, a man in his sixties, fell seriously ill. Morale was extremely low inside Palymyra, and every day, Griogair’s army turned a blind eye to deserters who fled from the city.

In Griogair’s camp, fresh supplies arrived every day, and morale was high as the men sang songs of the bravery of the Lord of the Isles.

Then, on 22 August, Muslihideen the Wise succumbed to his illness – and died.

The following day, spies informed King Griogair who now, once again, offered terms for the city’s surrender. Yet even now, the brave Muslim garrison refused to surrender. Mindful of the coming of Autumn and the opportunity afforded by the crafty old man’s death, Griogair decided that it was now time to act.

During the siege Griogair had ordered the construction six lofty siege towers, fashioned of wood and covered with animal hides. These were now advanced towards the walls of the Temple of Baal.

“We shall set the Temple ablaze!”, called Griogair to his Greek mercenary siege engineers. “By my faith, the enemy shall find no shelter in the arms of Beelzebub. Indeed, the flames of Lucifer shall fit their sanctuary best. Bring pitch and oil! And with the mighty catapults, unleash all hell upon this obstinate foe!”

For two days, the Temple of Baal was bombarded with flames and on 24 August, as the fires raged, the 6,000 crusaders stormed the Temple, defended now by fewer than 2,000 starving and leaderless men. From all sides the siege towers closed in, and between them ladders were brought up at every point of the walls. Griogair himself leapt upon the one of the siege towers, intending to launch personally into the fray upon the walls. Yet one of his Huscarls, called out to him:

“My lord. There is no man who doubts the courage of your heart, but I beg you to look to your own safety. For should you perish, the crown will surely fall to Lothian.”

Knowing the truth of these words, Griogair did not sally forth in the vanguard. Losses were heavy as the crusaders contended for the walls, but once they had breached the compound, Muslim resistance collapsed. The gates were flung upon and King Griogair surged forward with the reserve forces, into the flaming compound. The Emirate of Tadmor was broken.

Assault on the Temple of Baal.jpg

The Crusaders Assault the Temple of Baal at Palmyra (24 August 970)

wintwr 0f 970.png


As the winter of 970 approached, the Emirates of Homs (Emesa) and Tadmor (Palmyra) were now once more under crusader control. Leaving strong forces in Emesa, Palmyra and Damascus, and scouts to watch Emir Mukhtar, Griogair and David returned to the city of Jerusalem, where they arrived on 17 November November, Griogair’s 19th birthday.

King Griogair and Queen Caitlin, November 970.png

King Griogair and Queen Caitlin at Jerusalem (November 970)
There Griogair learned that his wife, Queen Caitilin had taken to her chambers in anticipation of the birth of their first child.

“It is well that my child shall be born in holy Jerusalem”, said the King to his retainers. “Truly it is a sign from God that he favours our endeavour.”

On 2 December the Queen was safely delivered of healthy twins, a son and a daughter. Griogair named the boy, Prince Alasdair, for his father. The daughter was named Princess Caitilin after her mother.

King Griogair was overjoyed, and wonderful celebrations were held in Jerusalem, where the children were christened with David II standing as godfather.

the Aleppo Campaign.png


Early in 971, as soon as the weather allowed, Griogair and David, with fresh troops, marched once more to the front, gathering men from the garrisons in Damascus, Emesa and the remains of Palmyra, and then advancing north upon Aleppo.

There Mukhtar brooded.

Having taken Aleppo, he could not leave it. There were bands of warriors in the country thereabout who still supported the sons of Youkhannah, several of whom had fled to Arabia. His army had been weakened in the internecine warfare and many of his commanders had previously been loyal to Youkhannah and his sons. Mukhtar trusted none of them, and so he kept them close. He gathered copious supplies and prepared to wear the crusaders down by enduring a long siege. Meanwhile he had sent out emissaries to the Caliph, begging for aid. But this would not come, for Youkannah’s sons counselled the Caliph not to help Mukhtar, whom they named ‘the deceiver’.

But still Mukhtar hoped – there was little else he now could do.

Griogair and David arrived outside Aleppo on 2 March 971 and began to lay siege. But Aleppo was not Palmyra, and Griogair knew that Mukhtar was well supplied. Therefore, after two weeks of siege, King Griogair convened a counsel of battle amongst the Christians. Forthwith, he and King David II agreed that a messenger should be sent unto Mukhtar, inviting him to meet with the Christian Kings to discuss terms of peace. The messenger bore the following words:

“The noble lords of the Christians, David II, King of Jerusalem and Griogair, King of Scots, bid the noble Emir, Mukhtar, greetings. You have fought hard and well, but honour requires no more from you but now to act to defend those in your charge. For we, the lords of the Christians, by the grace of the most high Lord Jesus Christ, have Aleppo in an iron grasp. See how Emesa and Palmyra have fallen before the might of our arms. See how great Youkhannah and wise Muslihideen have perished. In the name of Christ, we have no more need of bloodshed. The scarlet streets of Emesa and ruined Palmyra need not to be repeated in Aleppo. Therefore, we offer you quarter and mercy. Should you and your companions lay down your arms, we shall grant them safe passage to the lands of the King of Arabia. However, if you do not do so, we shall unleash the full wrath of our God upon thee. There shall be nowhere for you and your people to gain shelter from the fires of our fury, and not one stone shall sit upon another in this city. All will be put to the righteous sword, or else be led in chains to serve us and our children forever. Such is the mercy of the high Lords David and Griogair.”

But the messenger returned from the proud Emir bearing these, his haughty words:

“I, the Great Emir Mukhtar of Khattab wonder wherefore you have rashly and most arrogantly entered my lands. We had hoped it is because you most heartily wish to turn from your unclean faith, to deny your false God whom you worship with bowed heads, and become true Muslims. But I perceive that you come hither rather to harass and despoil the lands of the Muslims, as your wicked Fathers did to the destruction of their immortal souls. Therefore, I warn you now, quickly, to leave the lands of Allah and the Muslims. I permit that you may take with you your belongings, your horses, mules, cattle and sheep, provided that you never again so boldly enter my realm without accepting the words of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Therefore, speak no more of peace whilst your feet pollute my lands. Be gone - only then shall we have peace.”

“So be it!”, spoke Griogair as his eyes flashed with rage, “the Lord God knows how I offered mercy to the Emir Mukhtar and to his people. The bloodshed that shall surely follow shall be on his soul, not mine. Let not a man amongst them be spared.”

As at Palmyra, Griogair had immediately ordered that the city be threatened with great siege machines, constructed under the supervision of Griogair’s Greek advisors. In this way he constructed wooden towers and many other siege engines. Yet Mukhtar had seen these preparations and had received word of the manner of the fall of Palmyra. Therefore, he greatly strengthened the fortifications of the city and, by night, increased the height of the towers and battlements with anything that could be found within the city.

For days the city was bombarded by the catapults and flooded with fires. But the great and ancient stone walls did not fall, and the defenders were not cowed.

On 22 March, Griogair ordered a great assault on the city, and the men of Scotland and Jerusalem attacked from all sides. But they were driven off at great cost, and the men became fearful and discouraged. Griogair rode along the lines at the base of the walls, encouraging the soldiers and raising their spirits with stirring words. But seeing the morale of his forces ebbing away in the face of such strong fortifications, Griogair consulted with King David II.

“I must myself take the field, dear Kinsman. For how can I curse my soldiers who cannot take the walls whilst I stay here in safety? Therefore, King David, promise me that should I fall, you will protect my wife and my children and send word through trusted agents to noble Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray. He will know what to do. Ever I fear greatly the deceit of the lords of Lothian. But I see it is my duty to lead now, whatever the cost to myself. In the name of Christ, we will conquer!”

Griogair unsheathed his father’s sword, raised his banner high, and with his closest Huscarls advanced himself against the towers of Aleppo. As the crusaders saw the standard of the King rise against the western tower of the city, a cry went up and they surged forward as one man. In this way, Griogair, King of Scots, powerful in battle, gained the parapet of the western tower and none could withstand the ferocity of his arms. The Fox standard now billowed splendidly above the greatest tower, and when the Saracens saw the bearing of the King and the panicked faces of those who fled before him, they themselves flew from the walls and through the city. Griogair’s men, many more that had followed him, and others who now gained the walls and towers across the city’s perimeter, pursued the stricken enemy, killing and slaying them even to the walls of the ancients Mosques and Churches. There, the enemy having been trapped by the great stone walls all around them, the crusaders waded in blood.

From the great citadel, atop the steep hill in the centre of the City, Emir Mukhtar looked down as the Christians swept through the narrow streets and listened to the screams of those even now being put to the sword. He watched the inexorable advance of the standard of the Fox and gripped his shuddering hands. He stood there, like a withered tree in a cold wind; bent over and shaking. There was nowhere for him to go, but he could hold this citadel for days, maybe even weeks. And he could not now surrender. His defiant words to the Christian lords, and his desecration of Iain of Caimlan meant that he was now out of options. ‘How could this boy so humble the three great Emirs,’ he thought? This red-haired child who had even overcome mighty Youkannah. Mukhtar had been sure that the crusaders, so bloodied at Damascus, would delay and retreat, as they had ever done before. But this boy moved like lightning, seizing Emesa and Palmyra and leaving Mukhtar isolated and exposed in Aleppo. And he was exposed. He looked around him, his eyes narrowing at each of the commanders who stood with him. Many of these men had been followers of Youkhannah. Many of them did not take kindly to Mukhtar’s cynical attack on Youkhannah’s sons. And now, surrounded by the Christians, would these men stand by him or would they betray him?

By nightfall on 22 March, Griogair and David II had taken the city of Aleppo, save for the citadel. The siege towers could not be brought into the city, nor could they be effective against the steep slopes of the rocky hill on which the citadel stood. The small and medium sized catapults, however, were brought in and immediately began bombarding Mukhtar’s final bastion.

“By what means you may”, said Griogair to his retainers, “get word to the Citadel that there will be mercy and gold for those who yield to me the fortress, and the Emir Mukhtar. For, I know that he is not well loved by those who follow him, and I believe that there are those who are not willing to die for him.”

This was done and under cover of night, secret messages were conveyed to members of the garrison who consented to surrender the citadel and deliver the Emir to the crusaders. For this, they would be given quarter, gold, and safe passage to the lands of the Caliph.

And so, at dawn on 23 March 970, a black horse was seen walking dream-like through the great gate of the citadel. On its back was the shape of what seemed from a distance to be a man. But as it came closer, Griogair and his men could see that the figure was tied to the horse with ropes. And more than this, the figure had no head. The horse now arrived at the Scots lines, where it was halted. Roped to the grim rider’s arms was its bloodied head, and in its mouth was a stained note:

“Behold Mukhtar the Usurper, faithless and damned. By this token, we beg for your mercy and quarter, great Griogair, mighty Lord and King”.

Thus died Emir Mukhtar, and thus fell the citadel of Aleppo.

“See, my lords,” said Griogair quietly, gesturing towards the piteous remains of Emir Mukhtar, “See the vengeance of the Lord God for the evil this man did to audacious Caimlan”.

Therefore, by the end of Spring 971, the Crusaders had retaken the lands of Syria and destroyed the power of the three Emirs, all of whom were now dead, who had so harassed the Jerusalemite Kingdom for many years. There was great celebration in the Kingdom and David II thanked Griogair with all his heart.

“When you return to the west, noble Griogair”, spoke King David II, “remind all Christians that we need their aid in this Kingdom of God. Ever are we under attack by the Saracens, and I fear greatly what shall come when the King of Arabia no longer contends with the Persians. We need more men. We need more arms. We need more gold. We need all of this if Jerusalem is to endure. I know that you have seen this.”

“Dear David,” replied Griogair, “I will do so. But I fear that you cannot rely on such aid. For it was only me who answered Pope Gregory’s call for this third crusade, and that was out of kinship. In the West, the Franks battle the Muslims in Spain, and the Christian Spaniards are all but destroyed. In Britain, our Isles are infested by the heathen Norsemen, the enemies of my blood. The Germans daily contend with the pagans of the East. The Holy Church is beset on all sides by the enemies of our God, and I fear that sweet Jerusalem seems far off to many who so struggle in the defence of the Church at home. Sorely we are tested, my kinsman, but we must trust in the wisdom of the Most High, and never give up the fight in his name. I, myself, swear that by the Heights of Brae I shall not rest whilst the Norsemen stalk the Isles of Britannia. Yet, be assured, noble David, that we shall spread the word throughout the west of the glories of this crusade, and the heroic sacrifice of great Donncuan the most noble. As I leave you, I wish you good fortune and the Grace of God.”

As soon as it was deemed that his young children were strong enough to travel, King Griogair, with his wife, children, and warriors, set off by sea for Britain. With him, he carried a golden casket, bearing the mighty heart of valiant Donncuan.

Third Crusade Map -Whole War.png

NEXT TIME: The Return to Scotland
 

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stnylan

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Stirring stuff. Definitely more than a little touch of the Lionheart to him.

I especially like the write-up of Aleppo - that had a true chronicle-like quality to it
 
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castlera

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Really enjoying this AAR and love the graphics. I have nominated you for AAR writer of the week:

WritAAR of the Week

Congrats!

Thank you very much @smrice . I really appreciate the nomination and am glad you are enjoying the AAR. Thanks for commenting too, as its nice to see how people are reacting!
 

DensleyBlair

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Excellent as ever. As @stnylan says the Aleppo write-up was masterfully done. Really nice voice to it.

What awaits young Griogair at home, I wonder?
 
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guillec87

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subbed!!!
 
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Chapter IV - Part 6 - the Return to Scotland

castlera

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Chapter IV
Part Six
Return to Scotland.png


Moray Arms.png

The Arms of Cóelub of Moray, Regent of Scotland

Coelub, Mormaer of Moray c.972.png

Cóelub the Kingmaker, Mormaer of Moray - High Marshal and Regent of Scotland (c.970)
Scotland under Coelub.png


Let us turn our minds back to Scotland….

Once King Griogair had departed for the Holy Land in the Autumn of 969, Mormaer Cóelub, famed warrior and skilled diplomat, now ruled Scotland. He was the first Gael to wield such power in Scotland, since Cyneric the Fox had overthrown Caustantin, last King of Alba, in 891. Moreover, he had risen swiftly from a lowly Gaelic noble family, through the friendship and patronage of King Alasdair I. First he had been made Lord of Dunnottar, then Mormaer of Moray. On Alasdair’s death he had become Regent of Albany too, and now he ruled all Scotland.

In Moray and Albany, he was loved by the majority Gaelic population. And his close familial alliance with the Lords of the Isles and their Gaelic subjects, meant that the North was firmly under his control.

Britain in 971 labels (smaller).png

The Isles of Brittannia in 971:
Whilst the Norsemen have been driven from Scotland by the McCynerics, the Gaels of Hibernia now live totally under the the yoke of the Norsemen. The Britons of Cambria, too, have been subsumed by the avaricious Norsemen. Resurgent Wessex, under young King Aethelraed, having united the Saxons of Mercia and Wessex, has pushed the Norsemen back as far as East Anglia. But the vengeful Norsemen will soon return in the great invasion of the 970s.

Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland, and Regent of Eoforwic, was suspicious of the over-mighty Gael, but he had bound his fortunes to him in Griogair’s War (967-968) and dared not oppose him. Of course, he was also no friend of Lothian.

Fearghas, Earl of Westorlans c. 971.png

Fearghas II, Earl of Westoraland (c.971)

Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria detested the Mormaer, but his power was now weak, his lands diminished only to Cumberland, and having betrayed the House of Lothian during Griogair’s War (867-868), he now had little choice but to seek the favour of the Regent. Prince Cyneric One-Eye, third Earl of Lothian and son of king Cyneric II, had sworn vengeance against him. In his hillfort at Carleole, Eochaid looked eastwards, ever fearing the revenge of Lothian.

Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria (971).png

Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria (c.971)
Lothian festered. Prince Cyneric One-Eye loathed the Gaels, and hated Mormaer Cóelub with all of his heart.

In his view, it was this Gaelic dog, not that boy Griogair of Albany, who had brought low his esteemed father. Indeed, that barbarian Gael had used his control of Prince Griogair, little more than a pawn, to lurch the Kingdom towards its backward Gaelic past, and to shift the centre of the Kingdom’s gravity northwards. The Gaels were a defeated people. The Scots, based in the lowlands and the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria, had shown their mastery. Lothian, not Albany was rightfully the heart of the Scots Kingdom.

But for this filthy dog, Cóelub ‘the Kingmaker’, Prince Cyneric’s famous father would yet live and wear his mighty crown. Prince Cyneric would be the rightful heir to his father’s glorious legacy, which wicked Cóelub had so poisoned with his mocking words. How dare he name, great Cyneric II, ‘the late’! Cyneric II had been a brave and skilled warrior who himself had nearly been killed at the Battle of Calder as he dutifully raced to aid the foolish Alasdair I, who had lunged heedlessly into the trap laid by Eilif of Groningen. The disaster at the Heights of Brae should fall at the feet of hasty Alasdair, not wise and loyal Cyneric.

But even so, Prince Cyneric feared Cóelub, for the Mormaer of Moray was a mighty warrior and a brilliant military and political strategist. It was true that with his lapdog, Griogair of Albany, and his renowned friend, Donncuan, Lord of the Isles, in the Holy Land, Cóelub was weaker than he might be. Yet, he was still unassailable in the North, and the southern Earls were unwilling to move against him. Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland would never support Prince Cyneric after their bitter clash at the Battle of Morthpaeth (16 April 968) during Griogair’s War. And besides, Prince Cyneric, who had lost an eye at Morthpaeth did not greatly desire the friendship of the man whose armies had taken it.

Therefore, since Cóelub still stood in his way, Prince Cyneric would bide his time. He understood well that if Griogair should fall in the Holy Land, the crown would be his without a great struggle. He would build up his forces then and foster his own strength carefully and quietly. He was only 29 years old. He had time. He would know when the time was ripe to strike.
Cyneric One-Eye, Third Earl of Lothian.png

Prince Cyneric One-Eye, Third Earl of Lothian (c.971)

For two years, Mormaer Cóelub ruled with great wisdom, sensitivity and strength. He defended the coasts from Norse raiders and maintained the peace of the Kingdom admirably. He secured tribute and homage in the name of Griogair from all the Gaelic clans of the North, and ensured that the power of the King was well known in every hill and Glen of the Highlands.

He kept Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland close and had soon won his genuine friendship.

Cóelub also sent ambassadors to the court of the young King Aethelred Copsigeson of Wessex to begin negotiations for a potential alliance. Cóelub had heard how the young King united the Anglo-Saxons against the Norse settlements and believed that this young man would be a great help in the struggle to rid Britain of the Norsemen. To this end, he had initiated diplomatic links and his agents had helped to mediate the negotiations for the marriage between King Aethelred and Aelflaeda, Lady of Hwicce. Cóelub also believed that an alliance with Wessex might discourage the pride of haughty Lothian.

Ever he watched Lothian.

Aethelraed, King of Wessex (c.972).png

Aethelraed Copisgeson, King of Wessex (c.971)
All the time, Cóelub anxiously awaited news of King Griogair. He, like Prince Cyneric, knew well that were Griogair to fall, even he could not maintain his grip on power. The obvious successor to the crown was Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian, for there was nobody else with a like claim to the throne.

Then, at Christmas 970, news of the Second Battle of Damascus arrived at Cóelub’s court in Dun Cyneric. When he learned of the manner of the death of Lord Donncuan, he, like all Scotland, wept.

“Never has a more noble man drawn breath!”, he declared to all those at the Christmas court. Then he embraced Eochu MacDonncuan, son of the Lord of the Isles and said, “Take solace, dear son-in-law, for your father died admirably in defence of God and his King, and for this, I tell you, that even now he with the Father in paradise. Take now the Lordship of the Isles which is your right and let men forever sing of Lord Donncuan, to the honour of your House.”

Eochu II MacDonncuan, Lord of the Isles.png

Eochu II MacDonncuan, Lord of the Isles (c.970)

Death in Lonceastre.png


On 20 March 971, even as King Griogair besieged the city of Aleppo, word came to the court at Dun Cyneric in Galloway, of a most despicable crime. Fearghas of Lonceastre, the 14-year-old son and heir of Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland, had been murdered. On 4 March he had been discovered lying face down in the straw of the stables, pierced by many dagger wounds.

Immediately, there was uproar in the court at this outrage. Yet nobody could learn who had done this, nor why that had done it. Overcome with grief, Earl Fearghas II returned at once to Lonceastre in Westoraland to mourn and to bury his son.

But now Cóelub was without his skilled intelligencer and spymaster, and was suddenly unusually exposed to intrigue. He was wise enough to suspect that this may have been the intent of the person responsible for the callous assassination of Earl Fearghas’ son. He ordered the watch on Lothian to be doubled.

In June 971, Cóelub joyfully received word that the Third Crusade had successfully reconquered the lands of Syria from the three Emirs and that Griogair was alive and on his way home to Scotland. He was also delighted to learn of the births of his grandchildren, Prince Alasdair and Princess Caitilin. This news spread quickly, and soon it was well known throughout the realm that the King was returning.

At Eadinburgh in Lothian, Prince Cyneric also learned of Griogair’s imminent return. His heart told him that that he must act now, decisively, before Griogair could arrive in Scotland.

Treason in Lanark.png


On 15 July 971, Cóelub was at the small village of Lanark. He was travelling from Dun Cyneric to Scuin – a journey that he was called to make very regularly as part of his duties administering the King’s lands. Therefore, as he had done many times before, he had broken his journey at the wooden fort at Lanark, in the lands of the Earl of Lothian. He was the guest of Osgar, Lord of Lanark, vassal of the Earl of Lothian. Cóelub knew Osgar well, for Osgar had been a close friend of Eadwin Earl of Lanark (d.944) and Eadgar of Lothian (d.942) (eldest son of King Cyneric II), and had served in King Alasdair I’s armies during the Great Highlands War. Osgar had defended the body of Eadgar after his death at the siege of Eilean in 942, for which he won the favour of King Cyneric II, then the Earl of Lothian. At the Heights of Brae, he had been amongst the last of Earl Eadwin’s men to retreat from the Ablaith nam Braithrean that day Earl Eadwin was slain.

He had been given the wooden fort at Lanark after Lothian had seized Lanark from Earl Eadwin’s son, for Osgar was favoured by the House of Lothian and hailed from Lanark himself. He was a man of honour though and was liked and trusted by Lothian and Albany alike. Therefore, knowing him well, Cóelub trusted Osgar. And for this reason alone, always stayed in Lanark on his travels across the Lands of Lothian. Prince Cyneric knew this...

As was customary, the majority of Cóelub’s men were camped in the outer Bailey of Lanark, where they enjoyed feasting and drinking. In the Keep itself, Cóelub had with him only six of his most trusted retainers.

That night he feasted with Osgar and Osgar’s close retainers. They drank heartily and traded stories of the glories of the Great Highlands War. They laughed and caroused for many hours, but shortly after midnight, Cóelub and his men bade good night to the Lord of Lanark.

Yet soon after he had retired to his chambers, Cóelub suddenly heard a great clamour outside at the base of the wooden keep, and the sound of raised voices. The glow of torches could be seen, and then there came the sound of clashing swords. He was not wearing his mail, but his sword was close at hand.

Three of his Huscarls then burst into the room, crying “My Lord, there is treason. We must bolt this door at once”. One of the men went to the door to lock it and then turned to Cóelub, his face white, “this door has been tampered with, my Lord, the locks are broken.”

“Dishonourable villains indeed. How many are they?”, asked Cóelub calmly.

“I counted at least thirty”, replied Faelan, Cóelub’s most trusted retainer, “but, my Lord, they appeared as if from nowhere and already Cormac, Sionnach and Muirtach have fallen. The enemy now hold the Motte against our men in the Bailey.”

“Where is Osgar of Lanark?”, demanded Cóelub, “Is this his doing?”

“Alas, the Lord Osgar and his retainers are dead, but I saw not who killed them”, Faelan was speaking quickly, and now looked downwards. “I ran to his chambers soon after I became aware of our peril - for his aid or to revenge myself upon him I knew not. But the sight I witnessed when I came upon him and his men, I cannot describe...”

“That is evil news indeed, Faelan my friend”, said Cóelub, putting his hand reassuringly on Faelan’s shoulder.

Cernach, now stood, pressing his weight against the wooden door, his axe clutched tightly. The youngest of the company, Imchad, no more than 16 years old, rushed to the far end of the chamber and with his axe, began chopping at the floorboards. There were loud voices outside the chamber now and the crashing of blows raining upon the wooden door from the outside.

Imchad, who had been hacking through the floorboards now called out, “come quickly, My Lord. below here is the privy drain, through which we might escape”.

“Imchad, my lad,” exclaimed Cóelub as he drew his sword, “I tell you Cóelub of Moray will not live nor die crawling through a privy. If foul treason is to flourish over me, I shall meet it face to face and man to man. Were there ten times thirty men here for my blood, I would not look to ignominious flight. Whilst in my hand is this sword, which Alasdair King gave to me, and whilst in my care is this Kingdom, which my Lord Griogair entrusted to me, I shall not be daunted. Therefore, my brothers, my dear Faelan, Cernach and Imchad - speak to me no more of flight.”

“My Lord?”, spoke Imchad doubtfully, fear in his voice.

“I shall stand and fight, I say!”, shouted the Regent of Scotland. His Huscarls looked at him for a moment and saw the severity of his hard-grey eyes. Then they steeled themselves to face whatever would come through the wooden door.

As the broken door swung open, several warriors in bright mail burst through shouting, “Death to the Gael! Death to Cóelub!”

“I see you have not brought your colours of Lothian. But you fool me not!” mocked Cóelub as he stepped forward to meet them. The first man lunged wildly at Cóelub, but the old Mormaer darted nimbly to the side and thrust his sword into the man’s exposed throat. The second man now swung his sword but pressed closely to the Mormaer in the small chamber, he could not swing with effect. Cóelub lunged with his left hand and struck the man’s neck. The man stepped back and then fell to the ground as Cóelub ran him through.

But more assailants were now surging into the chamber. Cóelub’s three retainers hurled themselves forward like ravenous wolves, screaming fearlessly in the Gaelic tongue. With little room to spare, the assailants and Cóelub’s men were punching and gouging with their hands. Young Imchad, now screamed out in agony as he lay on the floor, an enemy warrior on top of him repeatedly driving a dagger into his chest. This man looked up as the boy died beneath his blows. But he saw only the tip of Cernach’s axe which brought swift vengeance upon him.

Now Cóelub struck another in the face with the pommel of his sword and as the man’s head fell back, his nose broken, Cóelub reached for his dagger, pushed its blade forward with his left hand and the man plummeted, wheezing, to the wooden floorboards. As he hit the floor, the downward point of Coelub’s sword finished him.

Horns now rang outside as Cóelub’s warriors, sallying from the outer bailey, gained the Motte and now poured into the wooden keep. The remaining assailants, in panic now, tried to escape, but there was none to be found.

“Do not kill them!” called Cóelub as his own soldiers came into his chamber, “We must discover who sent them!”

“My Lord you are hurt!”, gasped Faelan as he looked upon the weary Mormaer. Cóelub looked down and saw his shirt was stained with blood. He felt with his hand and a shot of pain twisted deep inside his stomach. Slowly, he sat down on the bed; his legs suddenly weak.

“I felt it not”, he chuckled deliberately - painfully.

wounding of coelub.jpg

The Wounding of Cóelub the Kingmaker at Lanark (15 July 971)
It became clear that Cóelub had suffered a deep stab wound to the abdomen. By good fortune, it had missed his vital organs. But the pain was very great, and the wound was grievously deep. It was washed as best as may be. However, he insisted that they must move at once and leave the lands of the Earl of Lothian. Therefore, that very night he departed from Lanark, borne on a litter, towards Scuin.

Yet, in the days and weeks that followed his arrival at Scuin, Cóelub’s wound reddened and became swollen. The wound seemed to deepen and widen, and the Gael became feverish and regularly shook with violent chills. By the end of July, the wound tissue, which had previously turned yellow and white was now blackening. A foul odour emanated from the wound and pus drained from it constantly. This was kept secret from all but Cóelub’s closest Huscarls. Even Cóelub’s son, in Inverness, was not informed, lest the word get out.

“It must not be known that I am so weakened”, Cóelub had ordered. “For we cannot embolden Lothian to rise. Should I die before the King’s return, you must tell no-one for I perceive that if it is known that I am dead, and the King remains abroad, nothing will stop Lothian from seizing noble Griogair’s crown.”

“Noble Moray,” his retainers had protested, “How can we maintain such secrecy?”

“We must try…”, had been the response of the Regent of Scotland. “Make it known that there has been an attempt on my life that has failed. That, I pray, will give Prince Cyneric pause. He is prone to hesitation, and I fervently hope such news will delay his plans. Faelan, ride to Dun Cyneric. You must inform the King of what has occurred as soon as he arrives in Scotland – we cannot allow Lothian to learn of this before King Griogair”.

On 3 August, King Griogair arrived in Galloway, and rode, with his victorious troops, to Dun Cyneric. “Where is noble Moray, for I long to see him?”, asked the King.

“My Lord, it is well you have come”, spoke Faelan, whom Griogair had known all his life, “I must speak to you to in private as soon as maybe.”

Griogair immediately went to speak to the trusted man. As soon as they were alone, Faelan turned to the King saying, “The Lord of Moray is grievous sick!”

“What?” cried the King, horrified, “Where lies he and what is the cause?”

“He is at Scuin, my Lord. An attempt on his life was made at Lanark several weeks ago. We were able to drive off the assailants, but brave Cóelub was gravely injured in the attack, and Lord Osgar was killed. My King, when I left him, honourable Moray yet lived, but I cannot promise we can come to him before he perishes.”

“God’s blood! Then I must ride there at once!” Griogair exclaimed, fury and anguish intermingled in his voice, “Tell me, is this work of Lothian?”

“I cannot be certain, my Lord”, said steadfast Faelan, “but I say to you, ride not through Lothian! And ensure the Queen and your children are well guarded by those you trust completely.”

Heeding these words, Griogair rode northwards, with Faelan, to the lands his stepfather Earl Eadwin of Lennox and from there travelled to Scuin through the lands of Eochu II Macdonncuan, the Lord of the Isles. His wife and children remained under strong guard at Dun Cyneric in Galloway.

Griogair arrived at Scuin on 10 August. “God be praised!”, muttered Mormaer Cóelub as the King entered the dim chamber where the great man lay, “How I have longed to look upon your face. How I have prayed that I might see you before I leave this earth behind me. I have heard of your famous deeds in the Holy Land. My boy, your father, the great crusader, would weep with joy and pride to see you now – as I have the honour so to do…”

“Cóelub, father in all but name. Thank the Lord I have come in time”, the King quickly approached the bed and held the Mormaer’s hands in his. “Know you who did this? For the fury of my heart shall never be quenched until I have revenged you upon him!”

“I know not,” spoke Cóelub, “But I feel in my heart that this is the work of Lothian, just as with the death of the son of Earl Fearghas. But listen to me now, my dear, dear Griogair for God knows there is little time… When I am gone…”

“Speak not of such things. I pray God you will be well...”, interrupted the King, his voice breaking as the grief quite overcame him.

“I beg you, my boy. Hear me, now, and pray not for the impossible. This is a slow and demeaning end and the agony is great, but it has been worth it to see you one last time, my dear boy” spoke the Mormaer in a soothing and kindly tone, his voice strengthening. Griogair looked up, his blue eyes reddening from the tears he now strove to keep at bay, and he nodded slowly. “When I am gone, do not underestimate the venom of Lothian. The grasses of that land are full of snakes. Cyneric One-Eye will think you weak without me and valiant Donncuan. I know that he is wrong! You must show him so….” Cóelub closed his eyes and paused. "Listen well I beg you. I tell you my son is weak and foolish, and Eochu of the Isles is not at all like great Donncuan, his father. You cannot therefore trust in the former strength of Moray and the Isles. You must look southwards to Earl Fearghas, for he is a wise and trusty man. Look also to the West Saxons, for I believe that friendship with Aethelraed King is crucial to defend against the ambitions of Lothian. Do you understand me, my boy".

“I understand you and will remember well your words. But whilst I trust not the Earl of Lothian, dear Cóelub, I have not the means to move against him. After the crusade, my armies are weakened, and my treasury is nearly empty. This you know. The men of the Isles, Albany and Moray are not ready for a fight with Lothian who has rested these two years. And I do not know Earl Fearghas well. How can I go on without you? I know nothing of ruling …”

“Lothian will only grow bolder…”, Cóelub said, “But I say to you, you have in you a greatness that even your father had not. I see in your eyes the spirit of Kings. I leave you firm in the faith that Scotland is safe in your hands. I fear only the wickedness of Lothian…”, a shot of pain stopped Cóelub as he spoke, and his head fell back onto the bed. He was utterly exhausted.

“Cóelub you must rest. These exertions help you not.” Physicians and young nursemaid women came to encourage Cóelub to sleep. Among these women was fair Etain Donchaidd herself. King Griogair retreated to the corner of the room and sat down, weeping, his head in his hands.

For more than a week, King Griogair sat by Cóelub’s bedside, hoping, and praying that he would recover. But to Griogair’s dismay, the Mormaer grew weaker with every day. By 18 August, the Mormaer was barely conscious for much of the day and would take no food or water.

Suddenly, on 20 August, as Griogair sat despairingly watching over the Lord Cóelub, the great man stirred. His eyes opened widely, and a terrible gasp lurched from his lungs. Griogair rushed towards him and held his hands once more. Then Cóelub seemed to calm, his breathing seemed to ease, and he smiled as he looked into Griogair’s eyes.

“My dear boy,” he whispered as he closed his eyes peacefully and gently patted the King’s hand, “My dear, dear boy…”. And with that, Cóelub the Spearmaster, Mormaer of Moray, High Marshal, and sometime Regent of Scotland, breathed his last. He was 57 years old.

Thus passed Cóelub the Kingmaker, greatest of warriors and wisest of men.

“Cóelub?”, Griogair wept, hoping desperately for a reply. When none came, he began to shake uncontrollably. “Leave me!” he roared like a wounded lion to the retainers and physicians in the chamber, who quickly departed. Griogair embraced Cóelub, buried his face into the Mormaer’s motionless chest and wept as he had never wept before. He howled with fear, uncertainty, and anguish. “What shall I do without you?”

As he wept, Etain Donchaidd silently entered the room. She knelt next to him on the wooden floor, and putting her arms around him, she comforted him. In his grief he embraced the young woman and wept into her bodice as she ran her fingers through his auburn hair.
 
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What on earth happened to Ireland? Oh dear...
 
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We are going to try and fix it!

At least it looks fixable. Every time I checked Scotland in Ged's game, it had undergone another layer of weirdness. The Picts and the scots went to war over race or something, the castillians showed up, the Norwegians ran away...it went a bit mental.
 
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