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

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks


    Front Title.png

    A History of House McKendrick

    scotland arms.png



    Chapter One.png


    Cyneric Name.png


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

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

    Cyneric I on becoming King.png

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

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

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

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


    Cynric I the Fox.png
     

    Attachments

    • Chapter One.png
      Chapter One.png
      84 KB · Views: 0
    Last edited:
    • 5Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 1 - The Succession of Alasdair I, King of Scots - 935
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter Two.png

    Alasdair I name.png


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

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

    Alasdair I at War.png

    Alasdair I During the "Great Highlands War"

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

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

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

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


    Nephew of the King the War of the North.png

    Cyneric, Earl of Lothian


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

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

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


    Alasdair I Tree.png

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

    Alasdair the Crusader.png

    The Legacy of Alasdair I​
     

    Attachments

    • Alasdair the Crusader.png
      Alasdair the Crusader.png
      15,5 MB · Views: 0
    Last edited:
    • 2Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 2 - The Second Crusade 935 - 937
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II:

    Part Two: The Second Crusade




    Second Crusade MAP FINAL 3.png.png

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    David I of Jerusalem.png

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

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

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

    But he was now committed.

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

    He called for his captains:

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

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

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

    Battle of Damascus troops final.png

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

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

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

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

    Next Time - the "Great Highland War"
     
    Last edited:
    • 2Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 3 - The Great Highlands War
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II

    Part Three : The Great Highlands War

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Coelban Savious of Dingwall.png

    Cóelub of Dunnottar, Friend and Retainer of Alasdair I

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

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

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

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

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

    “Speak, man”, bellowed the King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    northumbria.png

    The Standard of Eochaid II, Earl of Northumbria

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

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

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

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

    Great Highland War FINAL reduced size.png

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

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

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

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

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

    “And you shall have it, brother”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Lord Cóelub”, King Alasdair called.

    “My Lord?”, the Gael replied.

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

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

    BattleofBraeFirstDay (reduced size).png

    The Battlefield at the Heights of Brae

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

    Attachments

    • Great Highland War FINAL.png
      50,2 MB · Views: 0
    • BattleofBraeFirstDay.png
      31,5 MB · Views: 0
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 4 - The First Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II

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

    scotland arms reversed.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

    King alasdair's brothers.png

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

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

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

    Prince Alasdair and Prince Raibeart at Heights of Brae.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jarl Eilif of Groningen.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Brother..." cried Earl Fearghas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Battle of the Heights of Brae Day 1 annotated.jpg

    The First Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae

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

     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 5 - The Second Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II

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

    Alasdair I at Heights of Brae.png

    King Alasdair I at the Heights of Brae

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “But, Father…”, interjected Prince Raibeart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    the heights of brae.png


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

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

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

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

    Second Day at Brae.jpg

    The Second Day of the Battle of the Heights of Brae
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Love
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 6 - The Battle of Calder - 12th June 944
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II

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

    The Standard of Cyneric, Earl of Lothian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Great Highland War FINAL reduced size.png

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

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

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

    “But my Lord, the Church…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Then a whir of arrows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Calder 2.jpg

    Cyneric, Earl of Lothian is struck by an arrow at the Battle of Calder - 12th June 944
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 7 - The Battle of Dunkell - 10th December 944
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II

    Part Seven: The Battle of Dun Chaillen (Dunkell) – 10th December 944

    Earl Cyneric at Dunkell.png

    Earl Cyneric at the Battle of Dunkell


    It was the morning of the 13th June 944. The Glorious sun of the previous day had been overcome by great dark clouds. Earl Cyneric felt the wound in his shoulder as he rode ahead of his troops towards Inverness. He had been advised not to move, lest he open his wound, but he had ignored the physicians. One day of delay was enough. The King was waiting.

    The Earl of Lothian could hear the roll of thunder in the distance and see the far-off flash of lightning. The rain burst forth from the heavens with an unrelenting roar. And as the rain started to fall, the sons of King Alasdair were riding to the Heights of Brae - to their father's aid.

    As Earl Cyneric's men approached Inverness, a rider bearing the tattered standard of the King suddenly galloped forth from the gloom. The Earl raised his hand to halt his troops and called out to the rider:

    “Rider! What news of the King?”

    “My Lord of Lothian – I bear evil news. The Norsemen attacked our positions yesterday and drove us back to the palisade and the heights. We suffered grievously. The Earl of Lanark was killed and the Earl of Eoforwic was gravely injured – it is feared he has a mortal wound. This morning, Lord Cóelub was assailed on the heights and as the Norsemen threatened our road north, the King gave the order to abandon Thingvoll. Yet, the King himself rode into the hills to slow the enemy advance whilst the Earl of Westoraland led the retreat.”

    “My God!” spoke Earl Cyneric, “and what of the Princes, my cousins”.

    “I know not, my Lord”, replied the rider.

    “Very well. It seems the King’s army is overthrown. To continue there now would be folly”.

    “But, my Lord, you must ride to the King’s aid!”, the messenger was now raising his voice.

    “Be Silent”, growled the Earl, “This army could not come there for two more days. By then, the King will either be dead or he will have retreated North. From what you say, it seems that what remains of the army has already fled North. I will not risk my army, and the Kingdom to chase the King and his pursuers into the hills. Rather we must withdraw and regroup. We must retreat to Dun Chaillen (Dunkel) to defend our people from the Norse incursions which are sure to follow the King’s defeat.”

    “The King was right about you, my Lord,” the messenger stared at the Earl icily,. "He foresaw that you would so choose to abandon him and bade me say these words: 'I name you a coward, a traitor and a false subject, and damn you and your progeny to reap the vengeance of my House”, the rider’s firm words and defiant eyes turned to nought as he spoke and marked the increasing fury that stole across the Earl’s visage.

    “Arrest this man”, hissed the Earl to his retainers around him, his tightened fists twitching by his side.

    “But, my Lord, he bears the standard of the King”.

    scotland arms.png

    The standard of King Alasdair I

    “If my uncle is dead, my friend, then I am the King. And if he is not, I will not suffer any man, churl, King or King’s messenger, to call me a coward. Arrest that man and bring me his tongue, lest he speak so intemperately again. Now....we march for Dun Chaillen!”

    When Earl Cyneric arrived at Dun Chaillen on 18th June 944, he had the messenger’s tongue affixed to the gates of the settlement by an iron nail. The messenger himself had been set lose, without a horse, in the Highland hills. What became of him, wounded as he was, is not known.

    The following evening, the 19th June, news came to Earl Cyneric that the King was alive, but had fled North. The Earl also learned that both of the King’s sons had been slain.

    “And so, the House of Albany is spent…”, the Earl’s face was unreadable, but his thoughts had turned to the future of the House of Lothian.

    947 family tree = with houses.png

    The McCyneric dynasty in c.947 Showing the Houses of Albany and Lothian
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After the Battle of the Heights of Brae Jarl Eilif’s army stood victorious, but exhausted. The defiant last stand of the Scots King on the Heights had dangerously reduced the Jarl’s numbers. Therefore, he could not give chase, nor move immediately to invade the lands of the Scots Kingdom. He marched his army back to Inverness to recuperate. There he learned of the defaet of his forces at Calder and that the Earl of Lothian had withdrawn south towards Dun Chaillen. In Inverness, Jarl Eilif waited, bringing in more men and fresh supplies from Swiorice (Sweden) and the Norse holdings in Ireland. In late October, feeling strong enough, he began to march South on the Scots heartlands in Albany.

    At this time, King Alasdair and his depleted forces were still at Dun Breatain on the western coast, in the royal duchy of Galloway. The King’s wounded leg meant that he could not easily travel and so he was gathering troops from the lowlands to him there. Messengers had passed between the King and Earl Cyneric, but no warm words. The King could not move against the Earl, because Earl Cyneric was now the only thing standing between the Kingdom of Scotland and Norse Conquest. And Earl Cyneric knew it.

    Earl Cyneric and his forces remained in Dun Chaillen – right in the path of Jarl Eilif’s army. On learning that Eilif and his army was marching in force on Dun Chaillen, Cyneric began preparing the fortifications. He increased the depth of the ditches before the palisade walls to 10 feet and filled them with wooden stakes. Platforms were raised on the inside of the palisade walls so that the defenders could engage any attackers from atop the walls. But this was all for show...

    As soon as the Earl had finished preparing for the defence of the fort, he abandoned it in the dead of night, leaving only a handful of archers and infantrymen behind. The rest of his army dissolved into the surrounding hills with him, like mist at a bright dawn. He left his Standards at Dun Chaillen. He had ordered that wooden figures of men be carved and placed atop the walls. These were to be moved regularly, especially at night to give the impression that the fort was fully guarded with all the Earl’s men. Loud feasts and gatherings were to be held and as much noise as could be made was to fill the fort as often as possible.

    All the villages surrounding Dun Chaillen were emptied and the people and livestock were brought into the palisades of Dun Chaillen. Everything was to make it appear that Cyneric was making a stand in the fort.

    Thus, it was that when Jarl Eilif of Groningen and his victorious army arrived before the ditches of Dun Chaillen, the Jarl thought he had the Earl of Lothian trapped. He set up a siege around the settlement and ordered men to fell trees from neighbouring woodlands to lay over the ditches as bridges. He also sent a delegation to treat with the defenders, demanding to speak with Earl Cyneric. The Defenders agreed and a man, proudly armed and bearing the standard of the Earl of Lothian rode forth to parley. Shallow words were exchanged, Eilif offered terms and the ‘Earl’ informed him that they would be considered. The siege continued and the cold weather bit at the besiegers; the snow snatched at their faces, and the frost clawed at their toes.

    Jarl Eilif was no fool – but his confidence had soared after his crushing of the Scots King and his noble army at the Heights of Brae. King Alasdair was reckoned a great commander amongst the Christians – but Eilif had humbled him.

    Yet the Jarl’s hubris was not to serve him well in December 944. It led him to believe that the Earl of Lothian was cowering from him behind the palisade of Dunkell. It led him to believe that no help could come to the Earl, so thoroughly had he shamed the Scots at the Heights of brae. It led him to neglect his defences, so focused was he on his prey.

    The fort of Dun Chaillen was located on the northern banks of River Tatha (or Tay), at the end of a spur of high ground. North of the River were great wooded hills on all sides. High foothills dominated the southern banks too. Jarl Eilif had surrounded the fort of Dun Chaillen and had occupied the parts of the settlement which were unprotected by the palisade. He had pitched his camp in the farmlands west of the fort and had placed detachments on the South of the River to guard the bridge.

    But he had not bothered to fortify the rear of his army and in the surrounded hills Earl Cyneric and his men lay poised to strike.

    And so, as the sun dazzled above the frosted white plains before Dun Chaillen, on the morning of 10th December 944, Earl Cyneric closed his trap. A flight of arrows soared forth upon the Norsemen from the palisades, and out of the hills behind them, the Earl of Lothian charged.

    The Earl himself led his elite Huscarls from the west and into Jarl Eilif’s camp. Spearmen south of the river sprung out of the hills, slaughtered the Norsemen on the southern banks and seized the bridge of Tatha. From the East and North, spearmen and archers descended upon Jarl Eilif’s easternmost besiegers.

    Jarl Eilif did not panic. It was not in his nature. But he was not used to being taken so much by surprise. His chest tightened as he realised what he had done. He had not sent out scouts to check for enemy relief forces, he had not dug ditches behind his camp, nor raised any form of defence facing away from Dun Chaillen.

    “Coward!” he shouted to himself. The Earl of Lothian had no honour, he thought. To trick your enemy in battle was one thing, but to send an imposter to a parley was beyond low...

    Eilif could see that his camp was already overrun, with all his gold and booty in Scots hands. He could now see his men, standing with spears in hand but bearing no shields, wearing no mail, and donning no helms. These were largely left in the camp. Eilif’s western flank had already collapsed in the face of the Earl and his centre was crumbing as infantrymen sortied forth from the palisade, supported by arrows from the bowmen within and spearman sallying from the northern hills. This battle was lost. The morale of his men was destroyed. And if he ordered his men to stand and fight without armour, his forces would be annihilated. Jarl Eilif knew when to cut his losses. He ordered his horn to be called and his central forces under his personal command disengaged, fleeing north towards Inverness. He knew that the Earl of Lothian did not have enough men to pursue him.

    Earl Cyneric wiped his brow as he heard the horn of the Jarl of Groningen. He looked up and saw the Jarl’s centre fleeing north. This had been his plan. Knowing that he did not have enough men to attack the Norsemen from all sides, Cyneric had left the way north to Inverness open, hoping thereby to encourage the Norsemen to retreat to safety, rather than fight bitterly to the last men. Earl Cyneric could not afford such a desperate fight to the death against the Jarl’s numbers.

    Yet even so, the Jarl’s western and eastern positions and been overrun and slaughtered to a man. The men in the South, seeing the bridge held against them by Scots warriors had hurled themselves into the river to escape, where many had drowned. Those who did not were finished by the Scotsmen waiting for them on the southern banks.

    In this way, the Norse counterattack was stopped in its tracks by Earl Cyneric. As 944 came to an end, neither the Scots, nor the Norsemen had gained or lost any land in the war for the highlands. But the power and glory of King Alasdair had greatly waned, and the star of Earl Cyneric was rising still.


    Battle of Dunkell final 3.png

    The Battle of Dunkell

     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 8 - the Battle of Scuin and the End of the Great Highlands War
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II

    Part Eight: The Battle of Scuin (April 946) and the End of the Great Highlands War
    Moray Arms.png

    The Arms of Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar, granted after the Battle of Scuin

    Great Highland War FINAL reduced size.png

    After the heavy fighting and terrible losses which both sides suffered in 944, there was little serious fighting in 945. King Alasdair spent the year rebuilding his forces, whilst Earl Cyneric had withdrawn to his lands in Lothian. There were regular raids from Norsemen out of the Highlands, which were met by raids from the Scots into the Norse occupied Highlands .

    Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar led a large raid out of Dunottar, through Eilean and up to Calder during which he seized much booty and many captives. Several skirmishes occurred and Lord Cóelub returned victorious.

    The King held Christmas court at Scuin in 945, with his friend Lord Cóelub, and his brother, Earl Fearghas of Westoraland, in attendance. Much of the Community of the Realm, the greatest Magnates of Scotland, were also there. Earl Cyneric and his supporters were not present. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the King asked for oaths from his magnates that they would swear fealty to his brother, Earl Fearghas as their next King.

    Earl Fearghas was respected to a degree, but his prestige could not compare to Earl Cyneric’s. Although the Gaelic lords were supportive of Alasdair and were not great friends of the Earl of Lothian, Earl Fearghas’ mother was a Frank and not a Gael. Fearghas was not descended from the ancient House of Alpin, as Alasdair and Earl Cyneric were. Both Alasdair and Earl Cyneric were descended from Kenneth McAlpin himself, King of Dal Riata / Alba. As such, the Gaels would not support Fearghas for Kingship. However, Eochaid, Earl of Northumbria, a fierce opponent of Earl Cyneric, swore the oath in favour of Fearghas, and since the Earls of Eoforwic and Lanark were children (their fathers having died at the Heights of Brae), the King himself could choose their vote for now. In this way, Alasdair hoped to block Earl Cyneric from the succession.

    At his New Year feast in Lothian, Earl Cyneric learned of these oaths and was incensed. But he was not surprised. The King had, though Earl Cyneric, decided to threaten civil war on his death – simply to keep his rightful heir, Earl Cyneric, from power. It was pathetic, but the Earl was not scared of fighting and was confident that he would crush Earl Fearghas should a succession war break out.

    “I am no’ afeart o’ tha’ drunkard’, shouted Earl Cyneric to his guests as they revelled in the firelit hall at Eadinburgh.

    ************​

    That Spring, the King received word that Jarl Eilif of Groningen, with Jarl Geirr Niklason, was moving South with a great host of Norse warriors. On the 6th March 946, they took Dunnottar and sacked it, killing Lord Cóelub’s wife and daughter. Lord Cóelub himself was with the King at Scuin when they received this news.

    “My friend…”, spoke the King, “Oh, my dear friend…”

    “My liege”, replied Lord Cóelub. “I know your heart and I know that you feel my pain. I ask only that when we meet Jarl Eilif in battle, I may lead the vanguard”.

    “You shall have it, my dear Cóelub, “and God’s vengeance shall go with you!”

    The Jarl of Groningen had with him a force of 13,000 men, whilst the King of Scots had only 4,000 men with him at Scuin. Earl Cyneric was at Eadinburgh, only three or four days away at a swift march. The King ordered his captains to call for Earl Cyneric to rally his banners and march north to Scuin at once. But the King was prepared to withdraw if the Earl showed signs of delay. The King did not trust the Earl of Lothian.

    On 26th March, Earl Cyneric arrived at Scuin with 4,000 men. He may have loathed the King, but he could not allow the Norsemen to overrun his rightful inheritance.

    This was the first time the King and Earl Cyneric had met since the appointment of Earl Eochaid as regent more than six years ago. Both men looked at each other with contempt and hatred.

    “My dear nephew, welcome to Scuin.”

    “Uncle…”

    “When this is over you will answer for what you did to my herald!” King Alasdair could not restrain himself.

    “Any man who calls me a coward must look to himself and ensure that he is armed well. Even if he bears the standard of a King.” Earl Cyneric spoke coolly and without dropping his gaze from the King’s eyes.

    “An attack on my herald is an attack on the King!” The King was now raising his voice.

    “It was the King’s words he spoke…”, said Earl Cyneric in a slow and deliberate manner. Cyneric did not blink as he looked into the King’s eyes. The King gripped the arms of his chair in fury as his hands turned white. But he calmed himself, relaxed his grip and spoke quietly:

    “There will be time for this later. For now, my lord of Lothian, we must drive the heathens from my lands.”

    ************​

    Thus, it was, that on the 16th April 946, the King’s army, with the forces of Earl Fearghas, Earl Cyneric, Earl Eochaid III, and Lord Cóelub, faced the forces of Jarl Eilif at Scuin. The Scots had with them a force of some 8,000 men, whilst the Norsemen had arrived with their full force of more than 13,000.

    Scuin was the ancient coronation site of the Alban Kings, and the site where both Cyneric I and Alasdair I had been formally anointed King. This sacred place must be defended at all costs.

    The famous coronation site was atop a low hill overlooking the River Tatha (or Tay). To the North East of this site was a steeper, wooded hill. Here stood Lord Cóelub with his vanguard, fiercely arrayed in a shield wall, bright shields proud on the hill’s crest. To his left was Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria. To his immediate right was Earl Cyneric with his men of Lothian. Next in the line was Earl Fearghas of Westoraland. He was positioned at the lowest point of the scots line, where a small burn flowed towards the Tatha. On the high ground to his right was the King, at the far-right flank of the Scots army, anchored on the River Tatha on his right flank. The entire Scots army had its back to the river. There was no retreat.

    ************​

    Jar Eilif observed the Scots positions from the high hills to the north of Scuin. “Mark how the King is positioned at the right flank against the river, split off from the rest of the army by the shallow ravine where that burn flows. That is the weak point.” He motioned to Jarl Geir Niklason, “My intention is to launch a general attack on the Scots centre and left flank, on that wooded hill yonder. We will pin the forces there in a shield wall skirmish, holding them in place whilst the real work is done.”

    “The real work?” asked Jarl Geir.

    “The real work I have left for you. You will strike hard and fast with the main weight of our forces at the weak point, along the burn. Meanwhile, Jarl Bertil will attack the Scots right flank, pinning the King there in another shield wall action. You will then crush the enemy forces stationed along the burn and then attack the King from the rear, closing him off from the rest of his army, which will not be able to come to his aid whilst I pin them down on the left and centre. Once we have crushed the King, the Scots forces will break, and we will drive them into the river”.

    And so, at noon, Jarl Geir led 5,000 men down the ravine of the burn, defended by Earl Fearghas with less than 2,500 men. Earl Fearghas formed a shield wall, but it was disturbed and weakened by the uneven ground and the flowing water of the burn. And they could not hold back the flood of Norsemen that now hurled towards them in the narrow valley. Bravely Earl Fearghas led his men, shouting encouragement and brandishing his sword before him. But he could see his shield wall would never hold. Yet Earl Cyneric’s positions were in reserve above and to his left. Fearghas could see that Cyneric’s positions were not yet under attack. The wall was breaking, but Fearghas called to his men and held them steady, giving ground only gradually as they heaved under the pressure before them. He now reached for the horn around his neck. If Cyneric could charge down into the valley now, the position may still be held.

    ************
    King Alasdair, once again, stood at the centre of his shield wall. His men were the extreme right flank of the Scots army. He leaned on his axe. Since the Heights of Brae he never walked without his axe, both weapon and walking stick. Lord Cóelub had begged him to place himself at the rear of his men, but King Alasdair, the brave crusader, would do no such thing. He may be a crippled old man. But he was the King of Scots. And the King of Scots does not cower behind other men. And so, as the Norsemen of Jarl Bertil assailed him, the King was amongst the thickest fighting and many Norsemen fell to the great blows of his axe. An old man maybe, but even now few could match King Alasdair in strength. The Huscarls of King Alasdair gave no ground and the two shield walls struck and parried in an exhausting, equal balance.

    Earl Cyneric watched as the forces of Earl Fearghas were overwhelmed in the dell of the burn. He watched as Fearghas raised his banner high and blew his great horn. He watched as Fearghas caught his gaze and his eyes begged for aid. Yet Earl Cyneric only watched. His Huscarls remained stalwart on the hill, ready to leap forward at the slightest order. But Earl Cyneric watched. Earl Cyneric watched as Fearghas’ men gradually fell backwards, giving ground step by step and forcing the Norsemen to pay for every yard by its price in blood. He watched as more and more of Earl Fearghas’ spearman were left broken and bloodied on the field, trampled by the advancing hordes. He watched as Earl Fearghas parried blow after blow - as the Earl’s shield shattered. He watched as Fearghas fell to his knees, surrounded by Norse warriors. He watched as the banner of Westoraland was ripped and torn. And he watched as many spears lunged into Earl Fearghas. He watched as the stricken Earl was hacked by Daneaxes and crumpled into the mud. And then he raised his arm, called to his Huscarls and sallied from the hill and into the melee. But Earl Fearghas was dead. Earl Fearghas would not be King.

    Earl Fearghas.png

    Fearghas I, Earl of Westoraland, brother of the King
    Even as Jarl Geir assailed Fearghas along the burn, Norsemen surged towards the wooded hill in the Scots’ centre. At their head stood Jarl Eilif of Groningen, the architect of the disaster at the Heights of Brae. The great Viking stood tall at 6 feet, towering above his men, in his great spectacled helm. Tied to his belt were strips of the standards of Earl Eadwin of Lanark and Earl Malcolm of Eoforwic, and around his neck, Earl Eadwin’s teeth, taken from his severed head at the Abhlainn nam Braithrean, adorned a crude necklace. As the Jarl’s men marched up the hill towards Lord Cóelub’s shield wall, the Lord of Dunnottar saw him and fixed him in his sights. That man had humiliated his King, and that man had sacked Cóelub’s home and killed his family. Rage rose in Lord Cóelub, and in his fury of his heart, with his left hand, he reached for his spear. As the enemy drove closer up the hill, the Jarl roaring encouragement to his troops, Lord Cóelub drew back his arm. Eilif’s men were only 10 yards away, starting to run now towards the shield wall. Eilif turned to spur his men forward, waved his great axe high above his head and, for a second, Eilif lowered his shield. Like a thunderbolt, Cóelub’s spear hit home. Eilif was thrown back, the great spear embedded in his chest and the light extinguished from his eyes. As he fell, the men around him were stricken with doubt and fear, and, at that very moment Lord Cóelub and his men dashed like furies down the hill, crying the highland yell and driving the terrified Norsemen before them.

    Death of Jarl Eilif.jpg

    The Death of Jarl Eilif of Groningen
    As the Norse centre collapsed before Cóelub, the Lord of Dunnottar saw the forces of Jarl Geir penetrating deep into the Scottish lines and moving to flank the King. He blew his horn to halt his men, ran in front of them and shouted at the top of his voice, “Follow me! To the King!”
    Thereupon, he launched to the right, followed by his men, speeding to the relief of the embattled right flank. Earl Eochaid’s men continued to pursue the Norse centre which had now utterly dispersed.

    Jarl Geir hacked his way through the Scots warriors that now hurtled down the hill under the banner of Lothian. His men were now moving towards the rear of the King’s position, and even despite the arrival of the Earl of Lothian, the King was now Earl Geir’s. But then he heard the horn call of Lord Cóelub, followed by the great highland yell and the Scots centre smashed into his own flank - and Jarl Bertil’s. Bertil’s men broke almost at once and scattered back down the hill. With his front now disengaged, King Alasdair’s men wheeled around and descended upon Jarl Geir, who was no hemmed in on all sides by Lord Cóelub, Earl Cyneric and the King of Scots. Jarl Geir’s men were now being hacked to pieces as the space tightened around them. The Jarl gave a mighty yell and swung his great axe, smashing the shields of the Scots in front of him, but as mighty a man as he was, he was overwhelmed from all sides and perished beneath the mud as blows rained down on him from all sides.

    The Norsemen broke and fled at all points, scrambling madly for safety, floundering in the mud and drowning in the waters of the burn. Few escaped from the field of Scuin.

    In the moment of victory, King Alasdair’s heart soared, and his crippled leg was forgotten as he sprang forward with the vigour of his youth. He raised his axe high and shouted in the Gaelic tongue “Glòrmhor Bhuaidh – Glorious Victory”.

    Scuin final Battle.jpg

    The Battle of Scuin - 16th April 946
    Once the Norsemen had been slain or fully driven away, the King called for his captains. He received them at the ancient coronation stone above the River Tatha. “Where is my brother?” He asked them when the Earl of Westoraland failed to arrive, “Where is Earl Fearghas?”

    “My Lord, I know not”, spoke Earl Cyneric, “His men were heavily pressed along the burn and the banner of Westoraland fell. My troops then rushed to his aid, but I saw not the Earl of Westoraland”.

    The King stared at Earl Cyneric, distrust written on his face. “Where is my brother?”

    Survivors of Earl Fearghas forces were called for news of the King’s brother, until one was found who had been with him. “My liege, my Lord of Westoraland bravely held the valley, but I saw him fall to his knees under many blows, and then I saw him no more as the Norsemen surged over him”.

    The King’s leg suddenly heaved under him, and all its crippled weakness was remembered in that instant. His bright eyes dimmed and he sat down on his wooden stool.

    “Find my brother’s body”, he ordered, his voice weak and old and pierced with the hollow ring of sadness. “We must find his body and bury him in this sacred place.” He paused thoughtfully and looked up at the clouds, “My father, the King, had five sons. Only I now remain. My four brothers all perished fighting these monstrous heathens. Eochaid and Eadgar fell in Hibernia when I was only a boy. Eadwin and Malcolm were slain at Thingvoll and Fearghas at sacred Scuin. Alas for my brothers – ‘tis an evil fate indeed.”

    The King dismissed his captains, except for Lord Cóelub. The King buried his head in his shaking hands and gently rocked on his stool. The Lord of Dunnottar approach the King, and firmly embraced his friend. Both men united in their grief.

    It took many days for Fearghas’ body to be identified, broken and butchered as it was and buried amongst the Norsemen who fell around him in the mud. He was buried at Scuin, and in thanks for the great victory and in honour of his fallen brother, King Alasdair founded the famous Royal Abbey at Scuin, at which Earl Fearghas was the first to be interred.


    And so, the Norse army was crushed at Scuin – the ancient coronation site of Scots and Alban Kings. As has been said, in thanks, King Alasdair founded Scuin Abbey on the field of battle, giving directions that his brother, Fearghas was to be buried there with great honour. From Scuin, the defeated Norse remnants retreated north, leaderless, pursued by the King, Earl Cyneric and Lord Cóelub. Eilean and Calder were taken by the Summer of 946. In the winter, Inverness fell to the Scots forces and the army wintered there.

    On the 25th January 947 the final Norse army commanded by Jarl Hjalmar of Norrland, was faced in Ross where it was defeated utterly by the forces of Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar. Shortly thereafter, the Norsemen abandoned the highlands which were annexed to the Scots Kingdom. The Great Highlands War was over.

    After five years of war, King Alasdair had won his new lands. But his brothers, and his sons, to whom he had hoped to grant the conquered territories, were dead. There was no doubt in his mind as to who should be raised to the new Mormaerdom (Earldom) of Moray in their stead….
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Love
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter II - Part 9 - the Death of Alasdair I (956)
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter II

    Part Nine: The Death of Alasdair I, King of Scots

    Alasdair I 'the Crusader'.png

    On the same day that King Alasdair gave the order for the founding of Scuin Abbey and laid Earl Fearghas to rest, he called his magnates before him at the ancient coronation site at Scuin.

    In front of the gathered magnates, he gestured for Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar to come forward.

    “My dear friend, Lord Cóelub, I ask you to kneel”, spoke the King.

    “My liege,” answered the Gael as he knelt before King Alasdair.

    “Arise Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray and High Marshal of Scotland”, exclaimed Alasdair in his loud and sonorous voice. Cóelub rose, and the King embraced him, “My dear friend, I offer to you also the hand of my widowed daughter, Forflissa, Princess of Scotland, that we might unite our houses.”

    And so, Mormaer Cóelub of Moray, of relatively low Gaelic noble stock was now one of the most powerful men in the realm and son-in-law to the King.

    King Alasdair loved his friend well, but this was not his only reason. As a Gael, Cóelub was an obvious choice to rule over the Gaelic regions of the Highlands and to integrate them into the Scots Kingdom, but he was also an enemy of Earl Cyneric of Lothian and a loyal supporter of the House of Albany. In this way, the King hoped to maintain a balance of power in the realm, a counterweight to Earl Cyneric’s burgeoning strength…

    At the same time, Mormaer Cóelub was granted the addition of three red spear heads on his standard, in honour of his felling of Jarl Eilif of Groningen at the Battle of Scuin.

    Moray Arms.png

    The Arms of Mormaer Coelub
    Alasdair I was a tired man, aged by the griefs he had suffered and the great trials of strength that he had faced. And the thought of Earl Cyneric on his throne was more than he could bear – but it must be so. There was now no alternative. And Earl Cyneric knew this. All he had to do was wait for the old King to die and the Kingdom would be his. Earl Cyneric had won after all.

    But then, in 949, the King’s wife, Queen Muirgel died after a short illness. Soon afterwards, at the urging of Mormaer Cóelub, King Alasdair married again. His bride was Gunhilde de Ponthieu, a West Frankish noblewoman. She brought no great alliance, but she was known to be quick witted and beautiful.

    And so it was, that on 17th November 951, the newfound balance in Scotland was destroyed. On that day was born Griogair, Prince of Scotland. Once again, the King had a son to inherit the Earldom of Albany. The child was named Griogair after King Alasdair’s friend and patron, Pope Gregory IV who launched the first and second crusades.

    When Earl Cyneric learned that the Queen was delivered of a son, he hurled his tankard of mead to the floor in rage. But it was no matter…. The King was an old man and a child could not become King of Scots according to the ancient customs of Tanistry. And when the King was dead, the new Prince could be dealt with…

    The final years of King Alasdair’s reign were spent in bouts of ill health. His old wound from the Heights of Brae prevented him from walking and caused him extreme pain, particularly in the cold. Mormaer Cóelub administered much of the King’s matters for him in Albany and built up a strong base for himself in Moray.

    The following years were spent in pacifying the Highlands and overseeing the building of the Royal Abbey at Scuin. As the years passed, Earl Cyneric grew more impatient, and the King relied increasingly on the skills of Mormaer Cóelub.

    The Mormaer of Moray was himself gifted with daughters and a son from his marriage to Princess Forflissa, and these children were raised alongside Prince Griogair at Scuin.

    As the cold winter arrived in earnest in November 956, the King fell ill once more at Scuin. But this fever was stronger than those that had come before, and day by day the King weakened. By 20th November he was unable to eat anything but potage and gruel, and by the 25th he had stopped eating completely. Mormaer Cóelub was with him every day, talking about their past glories together on the Second Crusade and over their long friendship, but when the Mormaer arrived at the King’s bedside on the morning on 27 November 956, the King was paler than usual and had no interest in the tales of the past. His glazed eyes fixed on Cóelub’s as he entered the chamber, and the King motioned weakly with a finger for the Mormaer to come close.

    “My Dear friend,” he whispered with great difficulty, wheezing, “My dear, dear friend…. you must take my son. You must protect my son. I name you Regent of Albany and the Guardian of my son. Swear to me….”, his voice faltered, the pain of speaking was now unbearable, “…swear to me that you will protect my son from my nephew…. from Earl Cyneric… . My God, if Cyneric gets his hands on my boy….”

    “My liege and my dearest friend,” spoke Earl Cóelub, his eyes filling with tears, and his voice breaking with grief, “I swear to you that by my life and death I will protect your son. And more, dear Alasdair, and more I swear to you that by my life….by my life Griogair will be King”.

    The King smiled weakly as Cóelub grasped his cold hands. He did not speak again, and that evening, as Cóelub sat vigil over him, Alasdair I, King of Scots and bane of the heathens, breathed his last.


    Coelub's Oath.jpg

    The Oath of Coelub, Mormaer of Moray
    From Left to Right:
    Prince Griogair, Earl Cóelub, King Alasdair I and a monk of Scuin
    His life and reign had seen great glory and the deepest depths of tragedy. As a young man he had helped his father, Cyneric the Fox carve out the Scots kingdom. He had fought with great bravery and skill in the First Crusade, winning for his son, David the holy crown of Jerusalem. He had cowed and crushed the forces of Caliph Hashmaddin in the Second Crusade, winning Syria for Christendom. at Jerusalem he founded the Knights Templar, of immortal fame. In Britain, he had driven the Norsemen from the Highlands, had secured the borders of Scotland, and united the Scots and the Gaels in common purpose. But he had been dogged by treachery and deceit, tragedy and defeat - and by his nephew, the Earl Cyneric who must now succeed him.

    Map of Alasdair's reign 956.png

    Four days after the King's death, as Alasdair I was interred alongside his brother at the uncompleted Abbey at Scuin, the Earl of Lothian was crowned King in Dun Cyneric in Galloway, ignoring the ancient tradition of receiving the crown at sacred Scuin. The Earl had marched on Dun Cyneric as soon as he had heard that the King was thought to be dying. Even as the King breathed his last, Cyneric had seized the Royal Treasury at Dun Cyneric. When the news of the King's death reached him there, he was acclaimed King by the Community of the Realm.

    That same evening, Mormaer Cóelub, sitting in the corner of the room, watched over the sleeping Prince Griogair, Earl of Albany. He was just five years old.

    956 Family Tree bordered.png

    The McCyneric Dynasty at the Death of Alasdair I (November 956)

    View attachment 956 map with flags.png

    The Earldoms of the Scots Kingdom on the death of Alasdair I (956)
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter III - Part 1 - 956-967
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter Two.png

    Cyneric II name.png

    Part 1 - 956-967

    lothian.png

    The Arms of the House of Lothian

    Cynric the Late.png

    At 62 years of age, Cyneric was finally King. Alasdair was finally dead and the House of Lothian was finally in the ascendant. On the same day that Cyneric II was declared King at Dun Cyneric in Galloway, he raised his 16-year-old son and heir, also named Cyneric, to the Earldom of Lothian. The young Cyneric was a powerfully built young man, widely admired for his strong physique. However, his skills were limited to financial management and warfare. His arrogance and haughty demeanour won him few friends. He was the King’s second son, his elder brother having perished at the siege of Eilean in 942.

    Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian.png

    Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian
    There was great anger in the Gaelic lands of the North that the new King had spurned the sacred stone of Scuin and been crowned in Galloway. However, Cyneric had been wary of Scuin, for it lay in the heart of Albany, controlled by his enemy Mormaer Cóelub of Moray, as regent of Albany. And in any case, Cyneric II’s Scots Kingdom was based in the lowlands and the ancient kingdom of Northumbria. The Gaels would have to accept that their risible superstitions had no place in the Kingdom’s future, just as their crude language had no place in his halls.

    Cyneric II now felt that his position was secure. When King Alasdair had finally left this world, there were no serious alternative claimants. Cyneric II held the lowlands in an iron grip, through his power in the great Earldom of Lothian and his control of Galloway. The Gaels in the North and the Isles would never support the claims of the Earls of Westoraland or Eoforwic, for they lacked the blood of Alpin. The Earl of Northumbria was descended from Cyneric I and the MacAlpins, it was true, but his power was weak and his line was now very distant from any previous King. To further neutralise this threat the King had arranged for his son to marry Earl Eochaid III of Northumbria's daughter. Yes - the only threat was Albany. But all that remained of the House of Albany was a small child – who could be dealt with in time.

    But King Cyneric II had not reckoned on the oath of Mormaer Cóelub...

    In yearly 957, King Cyneric summoned Price Griogair, Earl of Albany to Dun Cyneric, ostensibly to become his ward. Yet the summons was refused by Mormaer Cóelub, who argued that he had sworn a sacred oath to the King that he would be the Guardian of the Prince and that the Prince would be under his personal protection.

    Cyneric was enraged at this disobedience, but neither Mormaer Cóelub, nor Prince Griogair came to Dun Cyneric.

    But there would be other ways to rid his Kingdom of the young Earl of Albany...

    * ************************************************************************************************ *

    After King Alasdair's death, Mormaer Cóelub had moved his household to Scuin in Albany, where he raised his own children together with Prince Griogair. Every night, he himself slept in the children's room, trusting the Prince's safety to no other. The Prince's bed was at the far end of the room, near no windows. To get to him, any assassin would have to get through Cóelub first.

    In 957, shortly after his refusal to bring the boy to Dun Cyneric, a dark figure crept into the chamber armed with a poisoned dagger. But Cóelub was upon him at once. He held him, disarmed the man, cast back his hood and, holding him tighter and tighter by the throat, demanded the name of his employer. The man never told. But he was never heard from again.

    Cóelub was ever a father to the boy, and taught him to ride a horse, to wield a sword, to hunt in Highland glens and to speak the Gaelic tongue. Ever he reminded the boy of the greatness of his father, King Alasdair and the deceit and treachery of Cyneric the Usurper. He enraptured the boy with the stories of his father’s heroism on the First and Second Crusades, of his father’s valiant stand at the Heights of Brae, and the great deeds of his fallen brothers. He reminded the boy that he was named for that great friend and comrade of his father's Pope Gregory.

    “You are the rightful King of Scots, my boy. And I shall not rest until the Usurper has been cast down in his arrogance”, promised Mormaer Cóelub.

    Griogair was becoming the image of his father. His bright blue eyes amazed all who looked upon him and his bright red hair shone like flames and as he grew it was clear he would even outmatch the strength and height of his great father. He was a charismatic boy, loved by all he met, and in Albany his fearlessness was well known.

    Prince Griogair MacAlasdair, Earl of Albany.png

    Prince Griogair MacAlasdair, Earl of Albany (c. 964 aged 13)
    In the Spring 964, Prince Griogair, aged only 13 was out hunting near Dun Chaillean. He had become separated from the main party with a handful of his young friends. Sudenly, out of the trees and undergrowth sprang Brigands. At least a score of them, well armoured and armed. One of the Princes’ friends, of a similar age, turned to flee only to tumble from his horse, a black arrow hi his back. Griogair did not turn to flee, but rode closer, his sword drawn.

    Immediately, two Brigands rode towards him. There was no attempt to rob the boy. Their eyes told him they were there for his life. At the last second, Griogair turned his horse to the side, deftly commanding the animal. As the first man rode past him, Griogair brought down his sword with all his strength upon the man’s skull. The second man struck the Prince on his exposed left arm and he went past, before Griogair turned his horse again, wincing from the pain, and gave chase. The assailant wheeled his horse to face the boy, smiled contemptuously at the child, raised his axe to strike him, and then his smile died on his lips as the boy skilfully avoided the axe blow and thrust his own sword into the assailant’s neck.

    But by now the other Brigands were nearing the boy. An arrow flew past him, whilst another struck his horse and it reared. Griogair was thrown off the horse, hitting the ground painfully as the horse galloped into the undergrowth. He pulled himself to his feet, waved his sword before him and advanced on the Brigands.

    They looked surprised as this child came towards them, fury rather than fear in his young blue eyes. “I am the son of Alasdair, King of Scots”, he roared, “and I command you who so basely disturb the peace of my lands of Albany to submit yourselves to my mercy and justice, or else face my sword!”

    A murmur of laughter came from the Brigands as they gathered around Prince Griogair. They were closing in now. Surprised and intrigued by his demeanour they had delayed in striking, they could have pierced him with many arrows by now, but for some reason they had not. But as they were finally about to strike, the bright horn of Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray rang through the trees and he and his horsemen galloped towards the Brigands.

    At that moment, one of the Brigands loosed an arrow. It struck the Prince in his shoulder and he was thrown backwards. The Brigands were now fleeing in all directions, but none escaped. Cóelub scrambled from his horse, his face ashen, running towards the boy. When Cóelub came to him, Griogair smiled up at him, wounded as he was.

    “My Prince”, gasped Cóelub, “Oh thank ye, God you live still. You have shown such bravery today, my dear boy.. My dear boy your father, the King, would weep for joy to see the man you are becoming".

    As Griogair’s wounds were attended, Cóelub searched the dead Brigands. He could see they were armed very well, and their fabrics were of high quality. “Truly I tell you”, he said, “these men were no Brigands. I see the hand of Lothian in this…”

    The tale of how the young Price had fought off 20 Brigands spread quickly throughout the scots Kingdom and beyond. His noble bearing and bravery impressed all who heard of it, all except the king. There were those who said it brought to mind his great Father as he stood unyielding with his sons before the Norse hordes at the Heights of Brae. In this way, Griogair was swiftly becoming a very serious threat to King Cyneric II. As the son of King Alasdair, he was respected. But as a brave and noble Gaelic speaker who was born and raised in Albany, he was loved. And he was now nearly a man. When the King received word of the Prince's 'great deeds', in a fit of rage he thrust his sword into the messenger's chest, and kicked the poor man's body to the ground. "Damn the child and his tame Gael!"

    During this time, Cyneric II was growing more and more paranoid as he received more and more word about the Prince. He refused to move his army to seize new lands in the South, nor to undertake an expedition to force the Norsemen from Ireland. He was terrified that the Mormaer Cóelub and his Gaelic dogs would attack as soon as his back was turned. His fear of Mormaer Cóelub and the Prince had paralysed his reign.

    He was now becoming aware of his increasing unpopularity. Tales of the Heights of Brae, emanating from the halls of Mormaer Cóelub, had spread into Galloway and throughout the Scots Kingdom, and nobles and commoners alike were now calling him "Cyneric the Late" and "Cyneric the Slow". As he rode past, he would hear sniggers and jibes from all manner of folk.

    There was tell of some calling him "Cyneric the Deceiver", and there were even whispers that some named him 'the Usurper'.

    Therefore he withdrew to his halls, took to wearing mail at all times lest he be assaulted by an assasin and became more reclusive, especially as his age caused him to hunch over, and lose the sharpness of mind that had once made him a matchless strategist. Everywhere he saw schemes to murder him, and his dungeons filled with innocents who were swiftly executed - many for singing Songs of the Heights of Brae. But his power was still great. All of Lothian and Galloway was loyal to him, and his and his sons armies far outweighed the power of the Gaels. Northumbria too stood with Cyneric due to the marriage alliance with Earl Eochaid.

    In 965, Norsemen from Gotaland invaded Moray. The Mormaer of Moray called upon Cyneric II for aid, but the King, believing this all to be some scheme of Mormaer Coelub’s, refused to leave his own halls in Galloway. This was exactly what Cóelub had hoped for when calling for his aid.

    To all who would listen, Mormaer Cóelub declared that “It is well that Cyneric shall not come to our aid, for it is known well that the aid of Cyneric the Late is worth less than his absence”.

    Mormaer Cóelub crushed the Norsemen in battle, winning yet more glory to his name. At the same time the King was ridiculed for his cowardice.

    Most provocatively, when he declared his victory, the Mormaer declared it in the name of Prince Griogair and not in the name of Cyneric II.

    Coelub and forflissa.png

    Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray and Regent of Albany with his wife Princess Forflissa MacAlasdair of Scotland


    In November 967, as Prince Griogair reached his sixteenth birthday, Mormaer Cóelub handed over him the regency of Albany. Full of pride, the Mormaer gave the Prince his father’s sword, saying:

    “Now, my boy. Take this your father’s sword and with it we shall humble the House of Lothian.”
     

    Attachments

    • Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian.png
      Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian.png
      1,4 MB · Views: 0
    Last edited:
    • 1Love
    Reactions:
    Chapter III - Part 2 - 967-968
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter III
    Part 2 : 967 - 968
    Griogair's War
    Albany Arms.png

    The Arms of Albany

    Griogair's War 967-968.png

    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

    Kenlaw battle 3.png

    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...

     

    Attachments

    • Kenlaw battle 1.jpg
      6,1 MB · Views: 0
    • Kenlaw battle 2.png
      7,3 MB · Views: 0
    • Kenlaw battle 3.png
      11,6 MB · Views: 0
    • Kenlaw battle 4.png
      12,4 MB · Views: 0
    • Kenlaw battle 5.png
      11,4 MB · Views: 0
    Last edited:
    • 2Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter IV - Part 1 - 968-970 - The Calling of the Third Crusade
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    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.

    5976D2D1-0C5A-458F-A2D7-CB7BF41C17D4.jpeg

    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)
     

    Attachments

    • The Three Emirs.png
      The Three Emirs.png
      3,4 MB · Views: 0
    • Griogair name.png
      Griogair name.png
      94,1 KB · Views: 0
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter IV - Part 2 - Second Battle of Damascus
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks

    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.

    185101A1-60E7-454C-980D-20B40143045F.jpeg

    The Death of Donncuan IV

    DCE5DEE0-86A5-4F50-B9AA-94EE54F28C6D.png

    NEXT TIME: The Defence of Donncuan's Hill
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter IV - Part 3 - The Defence of Donncuan's Hill
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter IV

    Part Three

    title donncuan's hill.png

    2nd Battle of Damascus.jpg

    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.

    Iain's head on a spear.jpg

    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.

    Youkanna of Khattab.png

    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.

    Second Battle of Damascus 4.png


    970 Family Tree (2).png
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter IV - Part 5 - The Struggle for Northern Syria
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    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
     

    Attachments

    • The Struggle for Northern Syria.png
      The Struggle for Northern Syria.png
      126,2 KB · Views: 0
    • King Griogair and Queen Caitlin, November 970.png
      King Griogair and Queen Caitlin, November 970.png
      2,9 MB · Views: 0
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter IV - Part 6 - the Return to Scotland
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    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.
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    Chapter IV - Part 6 - the Scheming of Lothian
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter IV
    Part 7
    Scheming of Lothian.png

    971-973.png


    lothian.png

    The Standard of Lothian

    Coelub funeral final.jpg

    The Funeral of Cóelub of Moray

    King Griogair sent riders to all corners of his realm to announce the death of great Cóelub of Moray. All the High Earls of the realm were ordered to come to Scuin to hold court with the King and to attend the burial of the murdered Regent. Cóelub was laid to rest in a place of honour near to his friend and master, King Alasdair I, at the Royal Abbey of Scuin.

    Young Cóelub, his only son, rode to Scuin at once, and there grieved bitterly with his sister, the Queen and his childhood friend and companion, King Griogair. Soon afterwards, Eochu, Lord of the Isles arrived at Scuin followed only days later by Earl Fearghas II and young Malcolm III of Eoforwic, his ward. But Earl Eochaid III of Northumbria and the Earl of Lothian did not come….


    Coelub II, Mormaer of Moray c. 972.png

    Cóelub II MacCóelub, Mormaer of Moray (c.972)

    When the word of Cóelub’s death reached Prince Cyneric One-Eye, he was at Bebbanburg. He clapped his hands together with joy, but in his heart, there yet burned a wroth, for he now saw that the old Mormaer had outmanoeuvred him once again. He had hidden his mortal wound, and so Cyneric, thinking that Cóelub of Moray was unharmed, had delayed. And now, King Griogair has returned, and was gathering the great lords to him.

    “So, the dog is dead at last”, Prince Cyneric had laughed. “Obstinate till the last, that rogue has stood in my way, and the way of my House, for too long. Yet even in death, he could not go quickly enough for me to make my move before young Griogair’s return. At least I know now how he suffered for it!”

    “Now that Cóelub is dead, we must waste no time!” exclaimed Cerdic of Rucestre, Prince Cyneric’s most trusted retainer. “We must march on Dun Cyneric and Scuin at once and drive the Albanite pup from these shores forever.”

    “We must act indeed”, replied Cyneric cautiously, “but I will not risk so blatant a rising until I know the mettle of my foe. All of us have heard of Griogair’s victories against the Saracens. Therefore, let us see how he responds, before we risk all. Long has Cóelub protected Earl Eochaid III of Northumbria, and his lands in Cumbria. But I perceive that young Griogair will not come to Eochaid’s aid. Mark how the boy swore never to aid Earl Eochaid when the Earl of Northumbria failed to support his audacious rebellion against my noble father. Now is the time to seize Cumbria. Then we shall control land from coast to coast and split the realm in two. Whatever happens, I will not be summoned by that usurping child. And in Lothian, that boy cannot touch me.”

    And so, in late October 971, several weeks after the burial of Mormaer Cóelub, a herald bearing the standard of Lothian, arrived at Scuin, and asked to be brought before the King. He entered the great hall, where the King sat deep in conversation with Eochu of the Isles and young Cóelub MacCóelub. Earl Fearghas and Earl Malcom had already returned south, desiring to be present in their lands should there be war in the Scots Kingdom.

    “Welcome, herald of Lothian. What words do you bring from my fair cousin?” demanded Griogair, anger and irritation behind his polite remarks. “I do fear for his health, for he did not attend my court nor the burial of great Cóelub”.

    “Noble Cyneric, Earl of Lothian, bids greetings to his honourable cousin Griogair, King of Scots and Earl of Albany, lovingly and with friendship. Let it be known that the Lord Cyneric, inflamed with righteous anger for the deceit of Eochaid III, so-called Earl of Northumbria, is in arms for the seizure of that land that is known as Cumbria. The worthy Earl Cyneric means no harm to admirable Griogair, well-beloved kinsman, and begs that the King will not interfere with his just designs on Cumbria and the Earldom of Northumbria. The Lord Cyneric reminds the King of his sacred oath that he would not aid Earl Eochaid III should any man seek his overthrow. May you, most illustrious king, ever rejoice and flourish in Christ the Lord of lords.”

    Griogair’s fists tightened as he sat. So, Lothian has risen indeed, he thought. “My cousin speaks with fair words, trusty herald. You shall have my answer in due time, but first, leave us””, Griogair had risen from his chair as he spoke to the herald. As the herald bowed his head and departed the hall, the King turned to Eochu and young Cóelub. “And so, this is the move of Prince Cyneric. What think you, my Lords?”

    “My King, there are none of us who love the Earl Eochaid”, replied Eochu II MacDonncuan, Lord of the Isles, but I warn you, we should not embolden Prince Cyneric One-Eye”.

    “My Lord”, said Cóelub MacCóelub, emotion overcoming him, “that villain murdered my Father. My father that made you King. You cannot stand by whilst be builds his power so flagrantly!”

    “Be silent!”, Griogair’s blue eyes narrowed as he looked at young Cóelub with distaste, “I beg you to control yourself for you are now the Mormaer of Moray. And I warn you, take not that tone with a King, such as I am. A King does not take orders from the likes of you!”

    “I apologise, my Liege”, young Cóelub grovelled, fear and surprise in his eyes.

    “Indeed?”, replied King Griogair dismissively. “For Eochaid’s treachery in the struggle for my crown, I did indeed swear, and upon Holy Relics, that I would not aid him against any man. I see now how unwise that was. Your father, my Lord of Moray, told me at the time of this folly – and I see now that the words of wise Cóelub were true indeed. But nonetheless, so did I swear and so shall my word stand…”

    “But my Lord, I must protest…”, interrupted the Lord of the Isles.

    “My word shall stand! A Prince is nothing without his word. I shall discuss this no further”. With that Griogair left the hall and retired to his chamber, leaving Eochu and young Cóelub greatly disturbed.

    That evening, the Queen, Caitilin NicCóelub, came to Griogair in his chamber. “Husband, my brother, young Cóelub, has informed me that Lothian has risen against Northumbria and that you are resolved not to interfere. Can this be true?”

    “Curse that boy!”, muttered Griogair, “Speak no more of this, for it is no business of a woman. I swore before God. My decision is made!”

    “Griogair. That man will stop at nothing to see you and your House in ruins. He has murdered my Father and now, fearing to attack you directly before he is ready, he is growing his power and testing your resolve. If Lothian takes Cumbria, your Kingdom will be split in half, with the lands of Lothian spanning from coast to coast across your realm. You must not allow this!”

    “Woman! You are too free with your words. I cannot know that Prince Cyneric was responsible for the craven attack on beloved Cóelub. Indeed, I have heard that there are those who say Eochaid III himself was the villain, attempting to incriminate Prince Cyneric so that I would move against Lothian before Lothian could attack Northumbria. And I saw not the Earl Eochaid at the burial of your father. How can I protect such a man? Moreover, when I became King, I confirmed Prince Cyneric in his lands and titles in return for his peaceful submission - which he gave. Therefore, I will not attack him without a certain cause. I desire peace in my realm and amongst my kin – not a never-ending feud between Albany and Lothian! And so, I warn you, speak to me no more of this and never again tell me what I ‘must’ do. I am your husband and your King. You will do as I say! Now be gone at once.”

    Queen Caitilin stared coldly at the King. “My Father loved you well, but I fear that he was deceived in seeing greatness in you. Look at you now – a scared little boy. You may excel in war, but I tell you truly – you are a fool if you believe the words you have just uttered! I perceive that you fear the Earl of the Lothian and hide behind your so-called oath to escape your duty; your duty to avenge my Father, who so loved you, to his cost. And your duty to defend your subjects, who will not follow a coward.”, with these bitter remarks, the Queen lifted her robes and stormed out of the chamber. Griogair rose with fury, hurling his wooden chair into the corner of the room. Her words had cut him deeply, but she was gone.

    Queen Caitlin 972.png

    Caitilin, Queen of Scots (c.972)

    He was scared. He was terrified. Without Cóelub to guide him, he had no idea how to rule a kingdom. He felt utterly alone. Soldier that he was, he knew that his forces were not ready to face the might of Lothian in battle. And so, as he had done regularly since the death of Cóelub, he called once again for the company of the beautiful Etain Donchaidd, to comfort him.

    In November 971, Prince Cyneric One-Eye, Earl of Lothian, invaded Cumbria and what remained of the Eardlom of Northumbria. No other Earls came to the aid of Earl Eochaid III, but he rode out to face the armies of Lothian, nonetheless. As he left Carleole on the morning of 14th November, he bade farewell to his children, to his young sons, the 10-year-old Eochaid and 9-year-old Eadric. He gave orders that they be escorted to Dun Cyneric in Galloway, to the court of King Griogair, lest they fall into the hands of the vengeful Earl of Lothian. Then he donned his helm and rode to war for the last time.

    Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria (971).png

    Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria

    His army comprised fewer than 1500 men, whilst he knew well that Prince Cyneric’s forces numbered well over 5,000. On the banks of the River Ituna, near the hamlet of Wetherhala, Eochaid III met the one-eyed Prince in battle. The forces of Earl Eochaid III were scattered and destroyed, whilst men floundered and drowned in the river. The Earl himself was captured and brought back to the Lothianite stronghold at Dunholm, in chains. He would never see his children again and died soon after in the dungeons of Prince Cyneric. He was 59 years old. Whether Eochaid III succumbed to illness or grief, or whether he was slain, is not known.

    Battle of wetherhala.jpg

    The Battle of Wetherhala (14 November 971) - Earl Eochaid III makes his stand

    Prince Cyneric marched into Carleole, raised his banners upon the walls and declared himself Earl of Lothian and Northumbria. King Griogiar had done nothing to prevent it, and now the Scots Kingdom was riven in two by the lands of Prince Cyneric.

    On 18th November 971, young Eochaid MacEochaid of Cumbria, and his younger brother Eadric arrived at Dun Cyneric in Galloway. And when King Griogair saw them, tired, hungry and terrified, a great shame came over him. He therefore ordered that the boys be given food and water, chambers and clothes. When he learned of the pitiful death of Earl Eochaid, he privately wept. Not for love of Eochaid, but for his own shame.

    “These boys shall be to me as sons. They shall have every facility and my love. But even this shall not wash away the stain of my disgrace”, Griogair was said to have declared. And indeed, from then on, young Eochaid and Eadric were brought up with great honour and respect amongst Griogair’s own children and enjoyed high favour with the King.

    Nevertheless, Griogair still refused to move against Lothian. He had sworn not to interfere in any attack on Earl Eochaid III and therefore had no just reason. He also feared Prince Cyneric’s military strength. The Lands of Lothian were far more populous than the lands of Albany, Moray and the Isles. Griogair’s armies were also still depleted from the Third Crusade, and his greatest commanders, Cóelub of Moray and Donncuan IV were dead. Griogair was simply not certain that he would triumph in such a struggle, and even if he did, what would be the cost? The losses caused by such civil strife would weaken the kingdom, perhaps irreparably, and how then would the prowling Norse sea-wolves be kept at bay? Norse raids were common, and large forces of Norsemen always stood ready to strike from their nearby lands in Ireland.

    For the next year, therefore, Griogair and Prince Cyneric, Lothian and Albany, each waited for the other to make the first move. Neither felt confident enough to strike, and each looked to strengthen itself for the inevitable confrontation.

    To this end, in the Summer of 972, Griogair sent secret envoys by sea to the Kingdom of Wessex. There they met with Aethelraed King and his wife, the Lady of Hwicce. It was agreed that Griogair and Aethelraed would enter into a solemn covenant and alliance, by which each would aid the other in times of war. Negotiations were short and friendly, due to the preliminary diplomacy carried out previously by the late Cóelub of Moray. The alliance was secured on the betrothal of Princess Caitilin NicGriogair to King Aethelraed’s infant son and heir, Aelfraed Atheling. Aetheraed and Griogair did not meet but warms word of amity and friendship were exchanged by means of many letters.

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

    Aethelraed, King of Wessex


    At the court of the Scots Kingdom there was much unease. There were whispers now that Griogair was not only weak and indecisive, but that he was a coward. It was clear to all that Prince Cyneric was now an independent King in all but name – and that Griogair had done nothing to establish his authority. Increasinlgy, there were those who credited King David II of Jerusalem with all the victories and glories of the Third Crusade, for how could such a feeble boy have done the things that were said of him?

    Queen Caitilin, enraged by her husband’s refusal to avenge the death of her father, and infuriated by his taking of a mistress, herself gathered a court faction to push the King into taking action. She wrote to Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland, begging him to come to court to convince King Griogair to move against Lothian. On 6 November 972, the Queen was further incensed to learn that her husband had publicly acknowledged the birth of a daughter by his mistress, Etain Donchaidd, named Muirgel of Dunblane.

    There was peace in the Kingdom, but the pressure of the increasing tensions must eventually be released. The unsteady peace of the stalemate seemed to be shattering in the Spring of 973. In Dun Cyneric, Griogair received word that Prince Cyneric had again called his banners and was marching northwards from Dunholm towards Lanark, intent on invading the Earldom of Lennox; the lands of Earl Eadwin. It was Earl Fearghas II who first brought this word to the King, having learned of Cyneric‘s preparations from his own agents. He had then made the perilous sea voyage from Lonceastre to Dun Cyneric, avoiding the Norse ships that dominated the Irish Sea.

    “My Lord,” Earl Fearghas had said, “I humbly advise that you should not allow Lothian to march unmolested on Lennox. Your inaction over Cumbria has emboldened him and his arrogance is greater now than ever. Should he take Lennox, the royal lands of Galloway will be cut off from all but the lands of Lothian. This is a prelude to war for the kingdom. I know I am not as wise as noble Cóelub, whose death weighs heavy on my soul, but I beg you to hear me. If we do not stop wicked Cyneric, accursed childkiller and villain, – he will have your crown.”

    Shortly after Earl Fearghas had said these words, a herald arrived from Prince Cyneric declaring that Lennox was rightfully a possession of the House of Lothian, and that Prince Cyneric intended to seize it for himself by right.

    King Griogair narrowed his eyes at the Herald and rose from his seat, towering proudly above the small man. “Know you that Eadwin, Earl of Lennox is not only my true subject and friend, but he is also my mother’s husband? Does the Earl of Lothian dare to oppose my stepfather with such unruly force? Does the noble Earl now doubt that I shall defend my own stepfather? If he does so, I say to you that he is deceived indeed. Tell Lothian that he is not to enter into Lennox under arms, by command of the King. Tell him that if he does so, he will be a traitor to my crown and his lands will be forfeit”.

    “But my Lord, you have no such authority to so command my master, the valiant Earl of Lothian. The King has not the power to prevent the Lords of Scotland from settling their own disputes”, protested the herald.

    King Griogair seemed taller now as he stepped menacingly towards the herald. “Were I your master, or your master’s father, I would have your tongue for such words. Yet I am merciful. The King’s power lies in what he can do, not in what he may do. Therefore, return to your master at once and tell him that if he does not stand down, I shall meet him in Lennox – on the field!”

    Once the herald had departed, Griogair turned to Earl Fearghas, saying, “My Lord of Westoraland, I will not abandon Lennox, nor allow Lothian to amass more power. I beg you, return to Westoraland and from there send riders west to Malcolm of Eoforwic, and south to King Aethelraed. Inform the King of Wessex that I am in need of his aid at once. Do not do this secretly, however. Once you are safely in Westoraland, ensure that the news reaches Prince Cyneric that Westoraland, Eoforwic and Wessex are amassing at his rear. I believe that he will not attack Lennox with such forces arrayed against him. He has not reckoned on our friendship with the West Saxons”.

    At Lanark at the end of May 973, Prince Cyneric prepared to march on Lennox. Once he had seized these lands, the royal lands in Galloway, and the treasury, would be easily within his grasp. And more than that, once Cyneric had seized Lennox, one way or another, Griogair and the House of Albany would be finished. It was well that Griogair had declared to Cyneric’s herald that he would fight to defend Lennox. For the young King was now in an impossible situation. Either he could break his word, displaying unforgivable weakness and lose all his already wavering political support. Or he could give battle – where he would be crushed by the superior forces of Lothian. Moray and the Isles, led now by young and inexperienced lords, could not possibly muster in time. Eoforwic and Westoralnd would be dealt with by the forces Cyneric had left in Dunholm under the command of Cerdic of Rucestre. Once Prince Cyneric had defeated young Griogair, his father’s crown would be his at last, and any resistance would surely melt away.

    But Prince Cyneric had not considered the Angelcyn. On 2 June 973, even as Prince Cyneric approached the borders of Lennox, a rider rushed up to him, exhausted and gasping.

    “My prince. I have most urgent news from Cerdic of Rucestre. The King of Wessex has raised his dragon banner, and with Earl Fearghas II, is even now encamped at Eoforwic in force. Aethelraed King has proclaimed that he stands firmly with his beloved brother, Griogair, King of Scots. He has given word that he will march on Dunholm at once, should you, my Lord, enter the lands of Earl Eadwin. My Prince, lord Cerdic begs you to know that he has not the strength to oppose the united forces of Wessex, Eoforwic and Westoraland. If you march into Lennox, Lothian itself may be lost.”

    Prince Cyneric stared at the boy for a moment, shock engraved on his face. “What is this devilry?”, he bellowed, fury overcoming him as he shook with rage. “By what means has my cousin of Albany ensnared the Lords of Wessex? This struggle is not theirs, and ever they strain under the strength of the marauding Norsemen in their lands.”

    “My Lord, it is said that Cóelub the Kingmaker befriended the King of Wessex and aided him in his negotiations to wed the lady of Hwicce….”, the rider began.

    “Speak not of that Gael to me”, Prince Cyneric nearly screamed with fury and bitterness. “Even now that dog interferes with my plans, long after his death. I tell you I will have my revenge! I swear it by my father and by my immortal soul. But for now, I must wait, for I will not lose Lothian to gain meagre Lennox”.

    With that, the armies of Lothian withdrew and Lennox was safe, for now.

    NEXT TIME: The Norsemen and the West Saxon Wars (974-977)
     
    Last edited:
    • 1Like
    Reactions:
    chapter IV - Part 7 - The Norse Invasion
  • castlera

    Second Lieutenant
    79 Badges
    Aug 22, 2013
    101
    96
    • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
    • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
    • Crusader Kings III
    • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
    • Europa Universalis IV
    • Stellaris: Federations
    • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
    • Victoria 2: A House Divided
    • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
    • Rome: Vae Victis
    • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
    • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
    • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44
    • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
    • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
    • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
    • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
    • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
    • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
    • Imperator: Rome - Magna Graecia
    • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
    • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
    • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
    • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
    • Stellaris: Distant Stars
    • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury Pre-order
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 -  Back to Hell
    • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
    • Stellaris: Apocalypse
    • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
    • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
    • Steel Division: Normandy 44 Deluxe Edition
    • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
    • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
    • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
    • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
    • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
    • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
    • Cities: Skylines
    • War of the Vikings
    • Victoria 2
    • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
    Chapter IV
    Part Eight

    Tje Wrath.png

    inv of 974.png

    Basengas 1.jpg

    The Battle Of Basengas, 16 July 974

    At Christmas 973, all finally seemed calm. Lothian was no longer in arms and civil war no longer seemed imminent. But nothing had been resolved. Nothing had been decided. There were few who doubted that Lothian would not remain quiet for long.

    Yet even as Griogair held Christmas court at Scuin, the King was receiving troubling tidings. On the East coast of Hibernia, there was an unusual level of activity amongst the Norse settlers, and Griogair had also received word from the distant lands of the Norsemen, beyond the eastern sea, that large numbers of longships were being built throughout the winter for raids into the Isles of Brittania. Therefore, Griogair had given orders throughout Albany, Galloway, Moray and the Isles that all men were to be in readiness for war.

    The Spring of 974 passed peacefully, and Griogair began to hope that all would be well. But he did not lower his guard, for he knew well the danger of the Norsemen. His two elder brothers, Alasdair and Raibeart, and all five of his uncles, had fallen to the fury of the Northmen.

    _________________

    On 2nd May, a man sprung from the prow of a great longship and his feet landed heavily on the sandy shore. His black braided beard blew in the sea-breeze, and his bright mail gleamed. His seemed to glisten, wet from the spray of the water and his great-head axe shone. This was Alfgeir Alfgeirson, son of the High Chieftain Alfgeir II Bjornson of Jamtaland, and he came here, to the beaches of Brittania, for loot, power and war. At 30 years old he was inured to battle, and proud of his scar that cleft half his face, leaving one eye clouded and useless. In Norway, songs heralded him as a mad adventurer and voracious sea-wolf, and his father was proud.

    Alfgeir Alfgeirson 974.png

    Alfgeir Alfgeirson, famed Beserker (c.974)
    Alfgeir II Bjornson, a man of 50 years, now joined his son on the beach, clapped his great hand on his son’s back and smiled.

    Behind them, 11,000 Norse warriors, from all over Scandinavia, descended upon Britain.

    They had landed in East Anglia, for this was still Norse-held territory, ruled over by Hildolf, Jarl of Estengle. Hildolf received Alfgeir’s forces enthusiastically, gave them food, mead and song at his capital in Rendelshaem. But Alfgeir and his men would not stay long. They would move swift as falcons fall upon their prey, before their prey had any chance to react.

    Alfgeir Bjornson 974.png

    Alfgeir Bjornson, High Chieftain of Jamtaland (c.974)

    In this way, on 9 May, with the fury of famished lions Alfgier’s 11,000 men stormed the settlement of Lunden, killing all who stood in their way. Here Alfgeir set up a permanent forward base of operations on the River Tames, easily navigable to his longships. From here he sent 2,000 men northwards to raid and seize undefended towns and villages, and 1,000 men south to seize Cantwaraburg.

    With the bulk of their forces, 8,000 men, Alfgeir Bjornson and Alfgeir Alfgeirson, marched towards the West Saxon capital at Witanceastre, having heard of the great riches of the Saxon Kings.

    When he learned of the arrival of Alfgeir and his son, Aethelraed King of Wessex was at Witanceastre in discussion with the Witan. He was already too late to save Lunden, and learning of the size of the Norse army, he knew also that he could not raise enough men, nor rally the Fyrd, to defeat the Norsemen before they reached his capital. Immediately he ordered the treasury and his family to be removed west to Sceaftesbyrig, and for armies to be raised and gathered there. At the same time he sent word with all haste to the King of Scots - for desperately needed aid.

    Knowing that time was short and that evacuating the treasury and gathering his forces would take much time, Aethelraed resolved to face the Norse army before it could reach Witanceastre. He raised his dragon banner and with 2,000 men gathered from near the capital, he hastened to face Alfgeir Bjornson and Alfgeir Alfgeirson.

    Near the royal estate at Basengas, on 16 June 974, Aethelraed’s 2,000 men met the 8,000 of the Norsemen, under Alfgeir and his son. When Alfgeir Alfgeirson saw the pitifull band accompanying the West Saxon King, he laughed and said, ‘Look my friends, we need not do battle today. Let us feast and drink for the women can clean this rabble for us whilst we make merry’.

    But despite his jest, he donned his helm and attacked the beleaguered shield-wall of Aethelraed King with merciless fury, but the Saxon Huscarls were doughty men and held for many hours, inflicting unexpected loss on the Norse forces.

    But then suddenly, in an instant, the resistance of the Saxons seemed to break and the Huscarls began to melt away, fleeing with their King to the north west.

    Just as Aethelraed had hoped and expected, the Norsemen did not give chase. Instead, driven by greed and love of plunder, they instead hastened Southwards towards Witanceastre, eager for the riches they had heard were kept there. This had been the Saxon King’s gamble. He had slowed the Norsemen long enough for Witanceastre to be evacuated and he had given the Norsemen cause to feel over-confident and dismissive of the weakness of the Saxon forces.

    Giving battle so close to the lure of Witanceastre, he had also given his small army the chance of escape after their inevitable defeat. The Norsemen would spend days looting and feasting at Witanceastre, and this was just the time that Aethelraed needed.

    It was humiliating to lose the royal capital of his House, but Aethelraed King was not finished yet.

    4C4D77C7-444C-4438-AC2B-739BC0D20E27.jpeg

    The Saxons hold the line at Basengas, 16 July 974
    ___________


    In early June, as Griogair, King of Scots, readied to go hunting in the forests of Galloway, he received word of this Norse invasion from Aethelraed King, shattering his hopes of peace. But he was already prepared for war with the Norsemen. Immediately, he sent riders to young Cóelub MacCóelub, Mormaer of Moray, and to Eochu, Lord of the Isles, asking them to rally what forces they may and march at once to Dun Cyneric in Galloway.

    These forces had gathered by the end of June and as soon as was possible, Griogair, and young Cóelub set out southwards, sending riders ahead to inform Prince Cyneric One-Eye, Earl of Lothian, that the King’s army would shortly be marching through his newly won lands in Cumbria. Before he left, Griogair appointed his wife, Queen Caitlin NicCóelub, and Eochu, Lord of the Isles, as his Regents.

    Prince Cyneric One-Eye welcomed the King into his lands with warm words and made no attempt to hinder or harry him. The one-eyed Prince had no love for the Norsemen, and moreover it grieved him not to watch the armies of Albany, Moray and the Isles march southwards towards bloody conflict. When and if they returned, the balance of power in Scotland would be changed indeed. Cyneric himself refused to accompany the King, saying “It would be unwise for all the lands of Scotland to be emptied of our warriors. I shall remain and guard our shores whilst you give aid to the Angelcyn”.

    Griogair had foreseen these actions of Prince Cyneric, and had therefore felt it necessary to leave ample forces behind in Galloway and Albany, under loyal captains, such as Lord Eochu. Yet this meant that we went to war with an army that was much smaller than he might have hoped.

    On 10 July, Griogair’s army of 3,000 men arrived at Lonceastre in the lands of is loyal councillor, Fearghas II, Earl of Westoraland. Earl Fearghas greeted the King warmly and ensured that the royal army was resupplied and well-fed. Earl Fearghas informed Griogair that he had received ill news from the Angelcyn; that Witanceastre had fallen, the Saxons had been defeated in battle and had now retreated to Sceaftesbyrig.

    Fearghas, Earl of Westorlans c. 971.png

    Earl Fearghas II of Westoraland

    “My dear lord of Westoraland” spoke the King to Earl Fearghas, “I thank you dearly for your tidings, though they be evil indeed, and for your generous aid. Have you news of the King?”

    “Aye, my Lord. Aethelraed King lives and awaits our aid at Sceaftesbyrig”.

    “God be praised for that at least. I beg you and young Earl Malcolm III (of Eoforwic), to keep your forces raised….”

    “Are we not to march southwards to the aid of noble Aethelraed?”, questioned the Earl.

    “Aye, my friend”, replied the King, “I shall do so indeed. But you and young Earl Malcolm must remain here, lest the Northmen attack our lands in my absence,” he paused and looked downwards painfully, “….or treacherous Lothian…. Oh, how it grieves me, my friend, that my own kin so hinder our struggle against these heathens.”

    Malcolm II of Eofrowic 974.png

    Malcolm III, Earl of Eorfowic (c.974)
    On 14 July, Griogair’s 3,000 men set out towards Sceaftesbyrig, resupplied. Griogair pushed them on with great haste, for he was greatly afeared that the West Saxons would be overwhelmed before he could arrive. The army marched around 15 miles a day, slowed only by the frequent downpours and harassment from Cameron-Norse raiders from the Welsh Marches.

    griogair's standard arty.jpg

    The Standard of Griogair I, King of Scots -
    The Rampant Fox Gules on an Escutcheon Or (of House McCyneric), over the Cross of the Scots Kingdom, flanked by the Ancient Triskell of Albany (derived from the symbol of the former Kingdom of Alba). The Crown of the Scots Kingdom and the Triskell of Alba was added to the Royal Standard by Griogair I during his reign.

    At last, on the 16th day after the Scots departed Lonceastre, on 30 July, Aethelraed King looked on with joy, as the Fox standard of Griogair, King of Scots, appeared in the distance. From the high hill on which the royal Burgh of Sceaftesbyrig sat, the Saxon King had daily gazed desperately northwards for just such a sign. When King Griogair and Aethelrad met in person for the first time that evening, they embraced one another as lifelong friends and feasted for many hours.

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

    Aethelraed, King of Wessex
    “I give thanks to God, for you are just in time. I see the hand of providence in this, my brother”, spoke Aethelraed. He was a shorter and slighter man than Griogair, with medium length brown hair and a ruddy complexion, over which grew a moustache, typical of the Saxon nobility. “The cursed Norsemen have set Witanceastre ablaze. I have this day learned that they departed my beloved city yesterday and are now marching here with 8,000 men. What is your strength?”

    “I say to you, the Lord is with us indeed and I have an invincible faith that together, you and I, shall triumph. One fine and glorious day, these Isles shall be rid of the Norsemen forever. Many great deeds shall we both perform before that day shall come to pass – but I know that it shall come to pass. I have 3,000 men, largely my most excellent Huscarls and Gaelic warriors. With me also is young Cóelub, son of famous Cóelub the Spearmaster whom I understand you knew well”.

    “I am honoured to meet the son of such an excellent man”, replied the King of Wessex. “Often do I grieve for illustrious Cóelub, the most noble and honoured – whose deeds of love and friendship brought us together. If not for him, these Norsemen should already have overcome me. I have raised around 3,000 men also. But even together, we shall be dangerously outnumbered when the enemy arrives. They cannot be more than three days march away. And Alfgeir Alfgeirson is a renowned warrior indeed, and under his command are the most fearsome Vikings and adventurers of the northern seas!”

    Norse invasion 974 1.png

    The Norse Invasion of 974 - Showing the Movements of the Norse and Christian armies and the Battles of Basengas and Sceaftesbyrig
    The following morning, 31 July, Griogair and young Cóelub, rode around the Burgh of Sceaftesbyrig. It was a goodly fortified town, located on top of an imposing area of high ground. This natural defensiveness was exaggerated by 9 feet tall palisade walls around the perimeter, in front of which was dug a wide ditch, at least 6 feet deep and 20 feet wide.

    The town was roughly in the shape of a rectangle, running from East to West, with four wooden gatehouses on each face. A main road passed from the eastern to the western gatehouses and split the town into northern and southern halves. There were few towers however, and in any case, neither Griogair, nor Aethelraed had with them enough archers to make use of such defences.

    At the south-eastern corner of the Burgh was the great Abbey Church, founded nearly a hundred years ago by Aethelraed’s ancestors. It was the only stone building in the town, and its compound was bordered on the western and northern sides by 6 feet tall stone walls. It was a tall edifice with many narrow windows. It was in this building that the King of Wessex had now stored the contents of his treasury.

    shaftesbyrig.png

    As Griogair walked through the Abbey compound and observed the wooden palisades and stone walls which hemmed it in from all sides, he smiled. He saw now how he might defeat the forces of Alfgeir and his son. But it was a desperate strategy...

    That evening, in Aethelraed King’s hall, Griogair feasted with the King and his wife the noble Aelflaedda,royal lady of Hwicce. He also looked with approval on the King’s young son, Aelfraed Atheling. He ruffled the boy’s golden hair and said “this boy shall make a goodly Prince. I shall be proud to call him ‘son’ when he and my daughter wed. But my brother, we have made merry and now we must share serious words of War”. Then Griogair took the West Saxon King to one side and both men retreated into a side room.

    “Aethelraed King, I have carefully surveyed the Burgh and the lands around it, and believe I have a plan to defeat the enemy”, said Griogair.

    “Noble Griogair, famous in arms, I beg you to let me hear it, for your reputation as a great warrior is well known”, replied Aethelraed anxiously.

    “I fear you will not like it, for, I must tell you now that it is a most dangerous gamble; it risks the Abbey. And it risks all the gold of your Kingdom which now resides within its stone walls.”

    “Indeed?”, Aethelraed looked worried, but he steeled himself and fixed Griogair’s blue eyes in his, “I understand well that risk is the very of stuff of War, my brother and it is said that you are mighty in the ways of battle”.

    “Firstly”, said Griogair slowly and carefully, watching for any small reaction, “we must ensure that the Norsemen know that the Abbey now houses all the treasure of the House of Wessex. For theirs is an army of opportunists and adventurers, here only for booty and spoils, not for duty. Alfgeir Bjornson has been robbed of necessary plunder at Witanceastre and will need to pay his impatient soldiers soon, lest he lose control of his heathen multitude. Therefore, he will not lay siege if he believes such essential riches are within his grasp. He will assault if he feels he can. We must make him, for we will not survive such a siege. Secondly, we must weaken the north-eastern palisade and ensure the Norsemen notice…”

    NEXT TIME: The Battle of Sceaftesbyrig - 2 August 974
     
    Last edited: