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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

kaydesmith

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G'day everybody, and welcome to my new Crusader Kings II AAR. I'm sorry to announce that my previous AAR, The Sunni Invasion, has been abandoned, but I will endeavour to complete this one! Our story begins in 1205, featuring the House of Mac Duib, originating in Fife. I have played from the 1066 start and the story begins here.

Game Information : Played on most recent patch, all DLC before Conclave activated. No Sunset Invasion. Played in Ironman Mode. Played on Windows 7.

THE LADY OF ALBANY
Chapter 1


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'So it's settled,' the King of the Scots began, 'the war between our two entities is to cease for time immemorial, and a truce enforcing this shall be valid for 15 years. Nothing shall change hands, everything shall remain as it was befo-'

'HA! Shall remain as it was?' The Lady of Albany's old and wrinkled face was wrinkled once more, this time in a cunning smile. 'What of those men who ascended to heaven before they were due, slain upon the fields of Fife and Gowrie, or manning the walls of Scone? And yet you have the audacity to claim that everything is the same, knowing it was your knee bending leading to those deaths being in vain?'

Both King Dermid and his Anglo-Saxon counterpart, King Eadweald, were silent for a time. It was true. With Dermid coming close to losing the war for Gowrie, he bent the knee and gave nominal lip service to the King Eadweald, in exchange for an alliance and protection. The Anglo-Saxon host had shattered the Swedish host running amok in theLothians, and had routed the Albanite host chasing the remains of what little men Dermid had. Eadweald's forces had retaken Scone with fire and blood, storming the castle, putting the garrison and many of the inhabitants to the sword, ransacking the surrounding town, looting and raping, and claimed protection. The work of Albion, no less. House Mac Duib had had few dealings with the South during Effie's lifetime, but the stories were culture.

Ever one to prove his bravery, Dermid was quick to speak up again. 'Do you know what it is they say, woman? They say, History is written by the victor. We all know I won, with your forces running off to prepare to die defending Cupar. The victor, I tell you!'

Effie smirked. 'No. History is written by the independent. And what are you? Oh yes, our good friend King England's puppet. I shall make sure the people of the future know who killed their fathers and sons, who despoiled their mothers and daughters.'

Dermid's face flushed a dark red, yet King Eadwald remained unmoved. She knew the sort, those who attempted to not be baited into anger, especially by a woman. His eyes remained downcast throughout the whole meeting, yet alert, looking prepared to interject at any wrong suggestion. Yet he had said nought but greetings.

Dermid took a deep breath, and exhaled. 'Good lady, in my name as King of Scotland, ordained by the King of England, I sign this treaty. I.... request.... you add your signature to it as well.'

The signature was signed, and the various parties retreated back to their capitals.


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Many things could be said of the old Duke Constantine, one of Effie's ancestors. Constantine the Just, Constantine the Pious, Constantine the Apostle, but to Effie, he was Constantine the Architect. His reign featured many things, one of them being the great expansion of the Castle Cupar, for which Effie was mighty grateful. The castle was, though not a large one, a comfortable one. Thick stone walls kept out whatever elements the outside sought to throw at them, and also allowed for fires to be lit deep in the basements of the castle, leading to the heat spreading through the walls and insulating Cupar during wintertime. It was a comfort all who entered the castle felt, and one which Effie felt now. How is the Kingdom out of our grasp? Successive generations of Mac Duib have lived and died in service to the King in Scone, and my father gave us independence from them. Effie's head was in her hands, her grey hair tumbling down and passing through the gaps between her old and wrinkled fingers. Yet I was the one to fail the dream right in front of me. Gowrie, and with it Castle Scone, was the key to the Kingdom, and without it, no pretender to Scotland could hold much legitimacy. We need not even make it our capital, just merely hold it. An estate, mayhaps. The Great Duke Constantine had reduced his own demesne down to merely County Fife and Castle Cupar, granting the other titles of his to his sons equally, which had led to successive rebellions, yet the Mac Duib in Cupar had always prevailed. Let us view the chronicles. A collection of ongoing books, one of the previous Lord's Mac Duib had been known as the Scholar, and ordered the creation of an ongoing chronicle of House Mac Duib. Effie began to read.

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House Mac Duib of Atholl

Currently ruled by an Adam Mac Duib, Duke Constantine had seen fit to envelop the bastard House Atholl into his own sub realm. Inviting the brother of the Lord Atholl of the time, Paul of Atholl, Constantine married a female Mac Duib matrilineally to Paul, conquered the County, then granted Paul the County. Current Mac Duib's of Atholl claimed descendant from Strong Paul, who had died in service to House Mac Duib in their campaigns against House Crovan of the Isles. If only more vassals were like Strong Paul... Effie began ...but how can I say that? She smiled, and took a sip of red wine. We betrayed the King of Scotland.


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House Mac Duib of Strathearn

House Mac Duib of Strathearn claims descendant from the third of the sons of Constantine, and has remained since then. Thankfully they have forsaken any claim to Albany. Though no one forgot how many times Strathearn had declared for the Mac Duib in Clydesdale instead of the Mac Duib in Fife. Mayhaps a replacement is in order. She took another sip of the sweet, red Cluny wine.


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House Mac Duib of Clydesdale

The current House Mac Duib of Clydesdale was a recently created House, replacing the previous House Mac Duib of Clydesdale, who claimed descendant from the second son of Constantine, and who's claim had troubled many Lord's Fife, until their land was revoked and replaced with a lesser branch of House Mac Duib. So far this man with no claim has done nought but serve his superior in Fife. Mayhaps this shall serve as an example to future Lord's Fife of whom they make a Lord. She made a mental note to pass the knowledge on to future heirs.


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House Mac Duib of Carrick

One of the more recent conquests of the Lord in Fife, the Carrick branch of House Mac Duib claimed descendant from a lesser son, and still held their claim to Albany and to Fife, yet had not deigned to press the claim in revolt. A good branch, a mix of pride and humility. Another sip of the wine, and the glass was drained. There was a small pounding in Effie's head, and she began to reach for the bottle. No, I must focus. These next plans are the plans of a Queen, not a drunkard.


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House Mac Duib of Man

When the Lord of Man had inherited a County in Ireland through marriage and assassination, it gained the attention of the Lord in Fife - a strong vassal is a dangerous vassal. Through fabricated documents and rumours, the Lord in Fife had stripped the Lord of Man of the title of Lord Man, leaving him with only Ossory, and exiling House Ivaring to Ossory. What was found on the island was horrific. Under Castle Douglas were found torture chambers to the cruelest extent, many containing still live prisoners lacking several parts of their bodies, seemingly being subject to this misery to satisfy the old Lord Ivaring in some form of perverse pleasure. When Effie's father died, the Island passed to her sister, who Effie did not trust. The Island was powerful, that was the truth of it - containing a strong fortress only accessible by sea, inspiring fear in the hearts of enemies to never go near, or they would find themselves in it's inner chambers. When the slightest inkling of rebellion was raised, armies were sent to crush whatever Lady Alice could muster, and she was imprisoned by Effie. I must make sure the Isle remains in the hand of the most senior Mac Duib, must like Gowrie. A strong and fearsome demesne is only fitting of a ruler.


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Future House Mac Duib of Argyll

Though the Lady in Argyll also claimed the title Duchess of Man, she did not actually hold the Isle. Once I rule Scotland, I will strip the title of them, leaving them only Argyll. Despite her title, the Lady Argyll had married patrilineally, to a Mac Duib no less, and he heirs were of House Mac Duib, though they would be sworn to Scotland.

Now I must focus on family problems.

It was a rumour that Effie's little brother had been murdered by their grandfather Donald. When her brother was born, Effie was nearly a woman grown, and had been the future heir after her father for many years, till her brother was born. 'You have great potential, Effie, and I swear by the almighty god I will do something sinful to keep you as heir.' The brother had died later that year, said to be sickly, but Effie knew what had truly happened. She closed her eyes, tearing up. If only he had lived long enough to see my kids, his great grandchildren. She blinked once, drying her few tears, and steadying herself. Donald had died fighting in the Moray province, supporting the King of Scotland against northern rebels and Norwegian raiders. How did we go from dying for the King of Scotland to dying to be the King of Scotland?

Effie's father had sent away her first son, to join the Knights Hospitaller, and disqualifying him from succession, leading to Effie's second son becoming the heir. Now the trouble of his children bothered the Lady of Albany. Her first grandson, Gregor, had taken his features from his Hungarian mother who had died birthing him, looking far more Magyar than Celtic. The child's only personality feature seemed to be his cruelty, as he would often skip tutoring and be found torturing small animals, slowly and methodically. I should send him to the Isle. Her second grandson, Constantine, had the red hair and freckled face of the Celtic peoples, and seemed to be a strong and healthy baby at birth. And he's named after the Grand old Duke. My own grandfather killed my brother, my father exiled my son, can I live up to them? Can I ever be as good as the old masters? She sighed, refilling her glass with the wine of Cluny, and draining it all. It must be Constantine. How could it not be?

Despite being alone, she didn't want to think the question, so she whispered it aloud, to her empty, empty chamber.

'Then how must I get rid of Gregor?'


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She clasped her hands together, biting the knuckle of her left index finger. Will I ever be as good as the old masters? As Constantine, who took us from Earls to Dukes? Like my grandfather Donald, who died an honourable death in the north? This is the work of a Queen.....

.....but will I always be the Lady in Albany?
 
Last edited:

coz1

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Crikey, an excellent start! Good to see another Scotland AAR and with all of the elements in place - familial back stabbing, issues with England and strength of each House opposed to each other intact. :)

Good luck with this one!
 

stnylan

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What a lovely happy family and a cheery realm.
 

volksmarschall

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Much looking forward to this! As the other venerable and esteemed readers have said, great beginning. Definitely looking forward to what you have in store for us!

Cheers!
 

kaydesmith

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coz1 - Thank you for your support! I'll endeavour to make it fun.

stnylan - Oh, it will be much more cheery when Effie holds Gowrie.....

volksmarschall - I'll try my best not to disappoint, and actually get this one done!

Also to all readers - apologies for using a font which didn't feature Italics, I have changed it to Arial so now you can easily tell when a character is thinking. Thanks for all the support so far!
 

kaydesmith

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The Lady of Albany
Chapter 2

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First task, of course, remove my grandson. It was no easy task to assemble, killing a future heir, but Effie knew of a few people who would join her plot. First, Maldred. A lowborn man, wishing to rise high, Maldred had committed to the demise of Gregor Mac Duib in exchange for an estate, a noble wife, and the title Lord. It was granted, and Lord Maldred became the new owner Lady Sholto Ivaring and a manse outside of Cupar, with 6 household knights and a handful of farmsteads swearing fealty. The other was a niece of Effie's, paranoid that a cruel and young King would remove his relatives who could pose a threat to his stability on the throne. Both plotters commanded several servants within Castle Cupar, and provided them temporarily to Effie's service.

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A quick rap at the door awoke Effie from her plotting.
'Lady Mother. May I enter?'
'Aye.'
The door opened, and Sir Duncan, Effie's heir and steward, ever the gallant knight, entered the room. Now in his mid 30's, the signs of aging were starting to show. A few select wrinkles were visible on his forehead, and his beard and hair did not shine as it once did. He may be a greybeard by the time he even rules. This poor boy, no doubt waiting for me to die, to implement his own schemes, his own works. Alas, he will always be my little Dunk.

'May I have a word, Mother?'
'Of course, Dunk,' Effie smiled wanly, 'what can I help you with.'
'Mother, must I remind you I am a man of age? Please, do not call my Dunk. I am no longer the innocent child I once was.'
'Apologies, Sir Duncan. You must allow an old lady her motherly love, though.' Sir Duncan was definitely not an innocent child. Being Effie's second son, Duncan would never inherit Albany and Fife, mayhaps a choice Earldom freshly conquered. That was until Effie's father, King Donald II, had sent away her first son to the Knights of Calatrava, finding glory and piety campaigning against the dwindling Muslims in Iberia, alongside soldiers from the Roman Emperor and the Jimena Family. But no wife to lay with, no children to love. No Kingdom to rule.
'Mother, it is no secret we will be unable to fight back against the combined forces of England and the King in Gowrie if they so wish to subdue us once more. Your nephew Donald, my cousin, has recently reached the age of majority. Emperor Jurgen has two daughters, both unmarried, and I do believe an alliance with the Empire shall ward off any who wish to make an incursion into Albany. Mother, I urge you marry Donald to one of these daughters.'

Effie was pleased, but did not let her emotion show. This is the King I've been training for so long. Still, some more training could not
'Why would the Roman Empire help us?' She inquired. 'Mother, for many years now the Empire has invested itself in Iberia, showing the Roman Emperor in the East that the Western Empire can fight against heathens. The Knights of Calatrava have been active in these campaigns, one knight especially. My brother.'
He paused, clearly attempting to evoke some emotion from Effie over the man who had been gone 25 years. She showed none outwardly, but inside she still felt guilty. What is best for the realm and what is best for a mother are two different things, she told herself, as she once had 25 years past. 'Go on.'
Sir Duncan grimaced, not satisfied with the answer he had received. 'Mother, even if you do not talk to him, I still do. He sends me letters of his life and his works, and I do the same. I hope to one day grant the Knights a Castle within our realm, in the hopes he can see his nephews and nieces. Anyway, he may not be the Grandmaster, but he is close. He personally leads a large quantity of men, and the Grandmaster sent him west during the wars in Portugal, and he was the leader of the Calatravan assistance in Portugal. He has personally met Emperor Jurgen. The Emperor may have no reason to love Albany, but it has reason to love House Mac Duib.'
'Of course. You shall have your marriage, and we shall have our defence.'

The proposal was sent, and Donald was married to the second daughter of the Emperor.

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A few days later, a knight bearing an empty shield asked to see her in private. The knight wore a light suit of armour - an open faced nasal helmet, a suit of boiled leather covered with mail, and steel gauntlets and greaves. 'Your Grace, I fear we must speak quickly and quietly. My name is Sir Alister. I serve Lord Maldred.'

If that bastard...
'Tell me what you know, Sir Alister.'
'Lord Maldred has been informing on you to Lord Marcas of Strathearn. I know not of what the subject is, and I do not want to know, Your Grace, but he speaks to himself occasionally in his drunker slurs, and he says he has uncovered something which will be used to dethrone you.'

Outside the private chambers, a muffled shout could be heard, much further into the castle.

The threat of dethronement was always present as a noble, but this worried Effie. 'Are you certain this is true?'

'Your Grace, I do believe the Lord of Strathearn is plotting to remove you from power. Lord Maldred has spoken this treason on much more than one occasion. I am certain Lord Marcas is spying on you, trying to raise the realm in revo-'. The door burst open, and a knight armoured much the same way as Sir Alister entered the room, and closed this door. His shield.... Effie could feel her heart beating, her breath coming much quicker and much lighter. His shield bore a black unicorn with a white horn, upon a purple background. The personal arms of Lord Maldred. Both Ser Alister and this new knight drew their swords. 'Get behind me, Your Grace!' Effie jumped behind him, and yelled for help. The new knights sword swung down in an overhead cut, which Sir Alister deflected with his own sword, bracing against the impact. Sir Alister used his shield and pushed into the other knight, and Maldred's knight went stumbling back into the door. The door flung open once more, whacking the knight in the back, pushing him forward. Sir Alister seized the opportunity, bringing his sword up, beheading the knight, throwing his head into the air and spraying his blood all over the room. Cupar's Captain of the Guard, Sir Clyde, entered the room, dragging a read faced and sweating man behind him. 'Your Grace, we found this miscreant....' he stopped when he laid eyes upon the room, seeing Sir Alister's bloodied greatsword, and behind him, Queen Effie. He drew his sword. 'Step away from the Queen, sir!'

'Halt!' Effie yelled. 'This man saved my life, and the man you see on the floor tried to kill me and Sir Alister. Tell me, who is the man you drag with you?'

'Water....' the man croaked, 'please, some water.'

'I found this man attempting to enter the walls through a small hole! Judging by the state of him, he has already been in there quite a while. Must've been hot.' Sir Clyde announced.

He was listening to our conversation, Effie realised suddenly, which means.... 'Find and arrest Lord Marcas immediately!'

Sir Clyde ran out the room. Effie turned to Sir Alister. 'Good Sir, you saved my life and uncovered a plot to end me. As my token of gratitude, I hereby strip Lord Maldred of his estates and titles, and grant them to you. I only ask you do not pursue whatever it was he was attempting to find out about me.' If people know I am to kill Gregor, the realm will revolt. The kinslayer is an accursed ruler.

The door opened once more, and Sir Clyde returned. 'The man on the gates says that Lord Marcas left over an hour ago, Your Grace. I'm sorry.'

She turned once more to the newly made Lord Alister. 'Lord Alister, he must have fled when he knew you had arrived.' She sighed. 'Whatever the case is, we are now dealing with a rebellion. Gather the levies.'

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Effie had known 3 husbands during her lifetime. The first she had loved. A German, the grandson of a minor Lord, he was the only one who gave her children. His life was cruelly taken from him by illness, when he entered his 50s. Two more had come after, not for love or children, but for duties. Both French. The first was taken by pneumonia a few months after marriage, the second assassinated by his own cousin. Since then, Effie had known no husband. However she was off to march to war with her son, and someone needed to hold the castle whilst she warred in Strathearn. She married Erich von Schwarzburg, a bastard, and not too good of a man, but he was the only man who would marry and old woman.

hvG6IGs.jpg


'Sir Duncan, what do you notice about our armies?' The Lady of Albany asked her son, as she waved her arm across the scene set before them : the siege of Crieffe, the war tents erected safely behind a set of hills, fortified from a surprise cavalry charge with wooden stakes pointing outwards; the catapults throwing stones and dead animals at Crieffe's walls, killing and demoralising it's defenders, and a top it all, the walls of Castle Crieffe, with Lord Marcas safely inside.

'Well, Lady Mother, we seem prepared.' He responded.

'Precisely. We are ready to defend ourselves against any surprise attacks, but just as easy are we ready to retreat and regroup. And where are our enemies, pray tell?'

'Mother, Lord Marcas' forces have been seen in the south, in Carrick and Galloway. They haven't laid any province to siege.'

'Yes. Notice how they can't actually pose a threat to us? They are unorganised, and so I need not wasting time chasing them down and routing them. Yet we sit here, sieging Lord Marcas' seat, yet ready to reorganise somewhere else incredibly fast. It always serves to be prepared, Sir.'

Qpo8tNR.jpg


A bird arrived to Castle Crieffe, shortly after it's fall had been reported to the Lords of Albany. Effie cracked the seal, stamped with the Lion of Mac Duib, and began to read :

Queen Effie Mac Duib,

It is with regret I inform you of your Lordly Husband's death. He took an illness, and it took it's toll on his frail and old body. The healers at Castle Cupar did what they could, but your Lordly Husband passed on the 23rd of October.

Signed,

Sir Clyde, Captain of the Guard of Castle Cupar

Effie lay the letter aside, threw her head in her hands, and sighed. I must be cursed. Four husbands, all dead. I barely even knew this one. Nevermind. From now on, I shall take no husband. I will not need his help.

IMsoVmp.jpg


Yet another bird arrived to Castle Crieffe. The letter was from Queen Effie's brother in law, Rodulf de Bethune. He outlined a plan in which Gregor would be victim to a tragic accident, where he will fall from the walls of Castle Cupar. Excellent.

FaR6zq2.jpg


With the fall of whatever towns and churches remaining loyal to Lord Marcas, he saw no reason to continue, and attempted to flee the country. He was found hiding out in the Bishopric of Dunblaine, and was intercepted by a patrol and brought to the Isle of Man, where Effie and her questions awaited him.

She had tied Marcas to an x-shaped wooden structure, naked and spread eagle, and left him for three hours. By the time she entered, he was shivering, and looked thirsty and hungry, and most importantly, worried.

'Did you use the time I gave you wisely? Looking at all the tools and devices, to be used on you?' She smiled wickedly.

'Please. Tell me what you want to know, and I will tell you all and more.' He begged.

'Lord Marcas. I am not going to revoke your title, and destroy your branch of the House. I will let you keep your life and title, and will take your son as a ward of mine-'

'Oh thanky-'

'-IF, you answer my question.' She paused for a second, then reached behind her and grabbed a small knife, clean and sharp. 'Where is Maldred?'

'He ran, he ran, he ran. I swear it, by God, I swear it true.'

She lowered the knife, till it just touched the skin on his waste. 'To where?'

'To Ireland. Ireland! The southern tip of Ireland, where some priest or knight will find him useful. If he was smarted, he would flee to the mainland, or somewhere even further.'

Then he is out of my hands. Damn it. Well, along as he lives his life on the run, in constant fear, that is enough for now.

'And what about you, Marcas?'

'What about me? Uh, what about me, Your Grace?'

'They name you the Spider of Strathearn. Why?'

'I-I-I-I weave webs, like a spider. Webs of intrigue. I uncover plots and secrets, and then people ask me questions.'

'Such as?'

'Well, they say, what could you tell me about this person that would get them imprisoned, or that I could blackmail them with. Often times I blackmail people myself, taking their money, and.... other things.'

'What other things?'

'Please, I don't want to say...'

She swiped the knife across his thigh, leaving a line of red, and a scream from Marcas.

'What other things?'

'Sometimes I... ask to sleep with their daughters or wives for the night. Just one night, I swear!'

He sure swears a lot.

'And what were you spying on me for?'

'Gold and women and pride, what else?! I'm sorry, Your Grace, but it's tempting. King Dermid asked me to do it!'

The King of Scotland has his fingers deep inside my realm then. A worry.

'Outline the plan to me.'

'I know you are planning to kill Gregor. I was going to expose you for the kinslayer, and raise the realm in revolt. We would capture Cupar, with you and your family inside it. I would distribute your wealth and your girls to the men I think deserve it, take some of your young boys and sell them to the Arabs.'

That earned him another slash on the thigh, lower down than the previous one. 'Then what?'

'I would invite the King of Scotland to feast in Cupar, where I would present and humiliate you and your family. I would have you all stripped naked and forced to act as servants for the feast, then when Dermid had had too much of the drink and laughter, I would slay or capture him and his household. I was going to give myself Scotland....'

So he's not in service to King Dermid. Effie felt relieved. The King does not hold sway over my vassals. Still, this traitor must be punished.

'Tell me, you have two children, yes?'

'Yes, Your Grace. A son and a daughter.'

She dropped the knife, till it rested just above his manhood. 'Do you know what you deserve? You were going to torture and humiliate me, and I am going to do the same to you.'

'NOOOOOOOO!'

She brought the knife up, and swung down towards his manhood..... and stopped, just before she cut. She laughed. 'You shall stay in the dungeon till I deem fit. But if I find any reason to have you executed, it will be slow and painful. Still, you must be punished. Torturer, please enter.'

A man stepped into the shadows, wearing a black cowl.

'Torturer, torture this man whenever you please, whipping and cutting, or whatever you desire, but do not cause any permanent damage. Have fun.'

oSl7KVc.jpg


Meet me at the stables at midnight if you want a kiss, Gregor.

Young Gregor was excited, to say the least. A kiss. Maybe I should take more. Grab whichever peasant girl who seeks to flirt with her liege lord, throw her in the dungeon, and kiss her whenever I want. And a whole lot more. After all, I will be the King after my father. Nevertheless, I will go meet this girl.

Gregor received the message when he returned to his chambers for lunch. A letter had been sitting on his table, and Gregor knew who it was from. A young serving girl had been clearly looking at him when she thought he wouldn't notice, and he noticed she always seemed to be around him. And now she makes her move.

Gregor looked out his window. The moon was high in the sky, yet shrouded by clouds. It is surely midnight. I will go now.

Opening his door, the boy crept out of the internal castle, and on to the battlements. That was the quickest and least noticeable way to the stable. It was incredibly dark, and so he took each step slowly. I need to use my feet to find where the stairs descend into the castle. After about 20 steps, he stopped suddenly. Is someone breathing. It's her! 'Kiss me, girl, or I shall have you whipped.'

All he got in return, was a single gruff 'ha.'

One of the guardsmen.

Then the hands were on him, and he flew over the top of the battlements. He screamed the whole way down, and the last thing he heard was the sounds of footsteps on stone.

dXClveb.jpg


Effie's mother was the daughter of the Lord of Urmhumhain, known as Ormond in the Scottish tongue. With the current Lady of the Earldom imprisoned, Effie knew it was time to press her claim; a quick power play into Ireland would hopefully ward of the English for a time.

h9JCIG9.jpg


What came to Effie's attention next was the Lord of Carrick. Lord Kenneth had three daughters, and upon inspection, it was revealed that the eldest daughter was married to the heir to Teviotdale, a vassal of Dunbar and in turn, Scotland. If the Lord died with no son, eventually the province would pass back into the Scottish realm. This will not stand. 'Spymaster Iain.'

'Yes, Your Grace?'

'Find out whatever you can about Lord Kenneth of Carrick, preferably treasonous things. If the Lord does not produce a male heir within the time it takes you to uncover his treasons, we must remove him from power.

cYbsAQE.jpg


'Lady Mother, a letter has arrived. From the Pope, no less.' Sir Duncan announced.

'Pass it here.'

She cracked the seal, and read.

'Tell me Duncan, can horses swim?'

'No they can not. Apologies.'

'No need to be sorry. The Pope rights to us that a large horde of horsemen have appeared on the edge of the world, intent on conquering whatever is in their path. Supposedly they have already subdued the Cathay.'

Duncan raised both is eyebrows in surprise. 'Then I suppose we are lucky the sea is in the way.'

'Indeed.'

x4lXDZJ.jpg


A peace was made shortly after, and Ormond province was given directly to Queen Effie.

Bocp8eW.jpg

BJfU4kP.jpg


'Your Grace, I have something to report.'

'What is it, Spymaster Iain?'

'Lord Kenneth is a traitor. He slanders you and openly mocks you, talking about overthrowing you and taking your titles for himself.'

'Then you know what we must do. Gather the levies.'

l8mSFVl.jpg


The war was going fine. Carrick's levies had been smashed, and a siege was underway of Turnberry Castle. That was, until King Dermid of Scotland announced his intentions to retake the province by force, immediately. His soldiers hunted down and destroyed whatever remained of the Carrick levies, and captured Lord Kenneth himself. To avoid losing Carrick to Scotland, Effie was forced to sign a white peace with Lord Kenneth, in the fear he would surrender to King Dermid instead. He quickly resumed his position as vassal to Effie, and King Dermid withdrew his forces, not wanting to break the treaty that still bound Scotland and Albany.

Effie immediately went to war with Lord Kenneth again.

xhxutid.jpg

NpK86Wh.jpg


Effie's soldiers were already laying siege to Turnberry, and so the siege continued. King Dermid once more rallied his levies.

ebhgQsd.jpg


However, by the time it took him to finish mobilising his levies, the war was already over. Lord Kenneth had submitted to Effie.

7rshw7l.jpg


During the ride back to Cupar, Effie ordered Lord Kenneth ride alongside her.

He appeared after a while, his hands chained together, and his horse chained to another, ridden by one of her guards.

'Lord Kenneth. It is regret I inform you that you are stripped of all your titles. Your daughters will not be taken to prison; they will be able to live their lives uninterrupted. You are to be granted a tower cell of the highest quality, to live the rest of your days in, or until it is deemed fit you are released.'

Kenneth sighed. What Effie saw was no longer a lord, but a man clearly too stressed and fed up with his lot in life.

He raised his chained hands, and spread them as far as he could.

'Do what you will, Your Grace. Do what you will.'












 

stnylan

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She is quite a cruel woman, in her way, but only it seems when provoked.
 

volksmarschall

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She is quite a cruel woman, in her way, but only it seems when provoked.

No but. Don't make excuses for her! :p

Well written and engaging. Nice insight to the lady too. She needs no maidenly virtues. :p
 

kaydesmith

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THE LADY OF ALBANY
CHAPTER 3




OqJfIdk.jpg


'I have here a letter bearing the seal of the King in Gowrie, Your Grace.' Douglas, the Master of Ravens in Cupar, bowed and presented her the letter with all the grace a man with a maimed right arm could muster.

'Thankyou, Douglas. Please leave us.' She said, gingerly taking the letter from his hand. She broke the seal, and read the contents of the letter. When she was finished, she turned to her son, Sir Duncan. 'Dermid has died. His son, however, keeps the tributary status with England ongoing. We are not free to attack just yet. It seems for the Isles to be free once more, the King in the South must die.'

'Aye, Mother, but how will that happen. Will you end it with knives, swords, or nature?'

'We will have to think on that.'

D1Mi5zE.jpg


Douglas entered the room in which Constantine's tutoring took place. The Lady of Albany sat at on a chair, pointing to a handful of shields bearing various families coats-of-arms.

'Ah, a letter from the King in Gowrie, Your Grace.' He presented Effie the letter, then left the room.

After reading the letter, Effie turned to young Constantine. 'Constantine, the King in Gowrie still believes we fall under his jurisdiction. For instance, take this law - a law to increase the powers of the crown over the powers of the vassal. Do you think I should sign this law?'

The boy thought for a moment, then a frown creased his face. 'Grandmother, I think it's a very good law, one you should sign yes on. I was always scared that some powerful vassal would use me in a civil war, trying to use me to gain their power and defeat my brother Gregor, using my claim and putting me on the throne as some sort of.... puppet. Only...well...Gregor...fell from that tower...and...'

'Indeed. A stronger crown does dis-empower the vassal, preventing strong vassals from growing to powerful.' Which we once did, she thought.

'Yes, Grandmother. This law is good for the whole realm!'

'Except the scheming vassal, of course.' Which we once were. 'I'm glad you see what I see, Constantine. I will write back to Gowrie, with full support for this new law.'

3TaXfUr.jpg


The alliance which would protect Albany was finally set in cement. Berta von Nordheim had finally come of age, and had arrived in Cupar to wed Donald Mac Duib, the nephew of Effie. No Roman Emperor had ever set foot in Scotland since 476, and a daughter of the Emperor was a great honour.

Apb9p0C.jpg


'Sir Duff, I have arranged you a marriage, one which I'm sure you will be pleased with.' Effie's voice bounced off the hollow walls of the Cupar courtroom, empty bar for Effie, Sir Clyde and her nephew, Sir Duff.
'Aye, Your Grace, I am truly thankful for any marriage one with the wisdom such as you have could arrange me.'
'Indeed? Well, Sir Duff, you are to travel south. Far south. Alcacer do Sal, in Portugal, no less. You are to marry the newly of age Lady Wulfhilde. If you do your duty as a husband, House Mac Duib will continue to rule there for time immemorial. The children will be of your dynasty.'
Sir Duff looked up. 'Alcacer do Sal? I've heard they're in revolt. If they, if they lose, they will surely lose their land, no? If you don't mind me asking, Your Grace, why are you sending me to a doomed province?'
'Relax, nephew. The province is not in revolt by it's own will. It swears fealty to a Duke, and that Duke will be held accountable, not your new lady wife. I have arranged for passage to take you south tomorrow afternoon. I urge you to say your last goodbyes before you leave.'


arOFatt.jpg

'Donald, my good nephew, I am afraid this is the only place we can speak without being heard. Not even a private chamber in Cupar is safe.' They stood outside of Cupar, in a field far from the castle walls, where Donald Mac Duib sat on a horse, and Effie stood beside him. 'I am sending you to Gowrie.'
'Gowrie? Your Grace, I am no...no diplomat. I can not treat with King Edwin in the way you would want, I urge you, send someone better.'
'You are not going as Donald Mac Duib. Think of a new name. You are going to Gowrie, to find out things. Do not simply enter Scone saying who you are. No, find out from the populace. What do the people think of their King? How is the economy doing? What do they think of England? Where is all their money going? Use whatever you can and whatever you want to our advantage.'
He smiled slyly. 'Oh, Your Grace, I am truly thankful for this. To be frank, I'm quite excited.'

KvgjHe6.jpg


'Douglas, what are the reports from Sweden?'
'Well, Your Grace, they are not good. The Swedish host has not engaged the Norwegian host at all, because they are outnumbered by a thousand. House Hagaling sits strong in Jernbaeraland, while Sweden attempts to occupy the province. They will need assistance if they are to win.'
'Prepare a message. Albany does not forget those who help them. We are going to Sweden.'

qXsyLay.jpg

Albany arrived at the perfect time. Sweden and Norway had finally found each other, and Albanite forces joined the battle just before Sweden's war effort was crushed. The tide was turned, and the Norwegian army was routed, and chased back along the southern coast of Norway.

f5t96Fz.jpg

Albany needed all the alliances it could get. Edith, the daughter of Sir Duncan, was betrothed to Prince Aubry, the heir to France. A strong southern ally ready to cross the channel meant that England would need to put troops in the North and South if they were to war against Albany or Scotland.

78YPhoh.jpg

Constantine had reached the age of majority. Physically and mentally strong, Constantine was skilled in the arts of Stewardship and the arts of Combat and War, and was quick to gain himself a knighthood, taking on the title Sir Constantine.

Cla4OQA.jpg

He was married to Layla bint Abdul-Hakam, the daughter of the Duke of Cordoba. House Dhunnunid were originally Muslims, but when the Empire came into Iberia, they were quick to convert, and assisted the Empire in it's wars in Iberia against the Saracen.

4ImgPgJ.jpg

The Albanite war host cut a bloody path along the southern coast of Norway, capturing three Bishops, three Mayors, and a Count, all of whom were ransomed, restoring Albany's treasury to a respectable amount. When the host reached Agder, the Lord of Agder had personally led his men in a heroic and brave defense of his land, but met his end beneath Albanite swords and spears. His daughter, the new Lady of Agder, was forcibly married to Somerled Mac Duib, a grandson of Effie. The future Lord's Agder would all be Mac Duib.

AtYbxhR.jpg

After the Albanite host embarked from Agder and returned to Albany, Sweden's war effort was in great shape. With few Norwegians to fight against, they enforced their rule over Jernbaeraland, and ended the war with Norway successfully.

mKwRApv.jpg

Effie had fabricated a claim to the last province in the Kingdom of Mumu, yet her truce with the King prevented her pressing the claim for a time. With the King dead, however, the truce would be broken and war could resume. A quick powerplay into Ireland would perhaps warn the English not to act within Ireland. Plenty within the court of King Fairchellach were wanting to see him dead, and poison was arranged to be put into his wine, when he would host a few group of guild masters and merchants dissatisfied with the laws of Mumu.

6pJE0of.jpg

A few days later, Effie received the news of the results of her plotting.
She read the letter alone in her chamber, yet despite the King's livelihood, she still smiled.
He had the Guild Masters executed. He was convinced it was them. Surely the Irish would accept a liberator from a corrupt King, one who knows the importance of trade and business? Ah, it seems it all works out. She smiled, and took a sip from her wine. Not poisoned, of course. Can the King say the same?

YKCJQph.jpg

Regardless, the truce reached it's expiry date, and Effie gathered the levies, and sent Albany to war. The war would be a pushover - Fairchellach had no allies, and only one province to draw any form of levy from. Despite this, Effie would go with the war host, alongside her son Sir Duncan, his job as steward being given to his son Constantine. Sir Duncan would be the logistician for the war host, organising supplies, routes, stock taking, and ensuring the war host remained organised.

1XtOgzR.jpg

A weary rider sauntered up to the war camp, laying siege to the last holdings of the King of Mumu.
'Your Grace, this, this letter came to Cupar by raven. Douglas sent me to find you and deliver it. Here.'
Effie took the letter, and her stomach dropped instantly. The seal was of the Knights of Calatrava. I have a son....
She cracked the seal, and read the letter. Her fears were confirmed. 'Bring me Sir Duncan.' My son is dead.
When Duncan entered, Effie handed him the letter. He was silent for a time, then dropped the letter, dead eyed. He looked at his mother. '34 years,' he said, '34 years since Muir went to Iberia. I remember when he left. He was scared of dying, afraid of being made to storm Saracen castles and kill or be killed. He was sent away, mother. Yet he survived, because they gave him command, not obedience. And now he's dead. Strange. I wonder if he ever, truly, felt safe in the south. After all, he didn't have his mother.'
'Of course. You think I don't remember, Duncan? It was not my choice to send him away. It was my fathers. He knew you were better than Muir, and-'
'Stop it!'
The silence was deafening. Mother and son in a tent, both unbelieving of the situation. The walls rustled slightly with the wind, and the candle flame bent with it.
'You killed him, didn't you.' Duncan said, in a low and accusing voice.
'I did not kill Muir. Why would I ki-'
'Not Muir! My...' he took a deep breath, and lowered his voice once more, 'my son. Gregor. You killed him, because Constantine was... was better. You killed him.'
Effie was silent, grasping for words. I killed him. What do I say?
'Your silence is all I need, mother. He may not have been a good child, but he was still my son. Your grandson! He did not fall, he was pushed. Pushed for... for not growing in the way you wanted.' He turned on his heel, and left the room.
Effie closed her eyes. I did what was right. Can he not see that? Yet something still nagged inside of her.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few days later, Duncan found himself standing over the map the Isles, surveying possible routes, anything to get supplies in quicker. His train of thought was disturbed, when Sir Clyde entered the room.

He knelt immediately.
Why is he kneeling?
Sir Clyde began to speak. 'Your Grace....'

m7cSYCk.jpg


 

kaydesmith

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Everybody, I started writing this on Wednesday, but when I started to finish writing last night, the draft was gone. I was pretty bummed out due to that, and so it's a miracle I actually wrote this chapter. If the writing is not as good as the previous two, I hope you can understand why, and I apologise.
 

stnylan

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The penultimate scene, between the Lady and her son, is quite effective. Of the Lady perhaps realising too late the cost of certain things...

Now that the lady is dead we will need to see what her son can achieve.
 

volksmarschall

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The passing of the torch is both a sad but equally optimistic moment all the same.

Onward. Ever higher now! ;)
 

Rufy_King

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And so the Queen dies and a new King rises. We will see if he will have to rule the same way his motger had to.
 

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THE LADY OF ALBANY
CHAPTER 4

My mother is dead. She killed my son.

I am the King.

The news had hit Duncan hard. Sir Clyde had come in, and told him of how the Lady of Albany had simply gone to sleep one night, and not woken up the next morn. Then, of course, he had named Duncan the King of Albany. To some he was known as the King in Cupar, one of two kings beyond Hadrian's Wall.

Yet I am a man who has lost a son, a brother, and lastly, a mother. It should have been in the reverse order.

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'Sir Clyde, I have made my decision as to who shall assume command here. My brother-in-law, Harold of Norfolk. I am to return to Cupar, for coronation.'

'A good choice, Your Grace. I will see to it that he receives the news, and I shall prepare to accompany you on the travel back to Cupar. Do you wish for a letter to be sent to the Pope?'

'Of course. Ask him to grant the authority of my Court Chaplain to crown me.'

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Bronmael placed the crown atop his head, a simple iron circlet studded with gold. 'Arise, Duncan Mac Duib, arise as King Duncan the first of his name, Rex of Albany.'

He rose, to the polite clapping of those assembled within the court - his children, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, siblings, the council, and his household knights and servants.

Once the ceremony was over, King Duncan set to appointing a new council, creating the legendary Duncan Council, a council unparalleled in skill to any ruler in the world. Bar the Court Chaplain, every position was held by a Mac Duib, and Duncan's heir, Constantine, held the title of Steward. The council did not last long, however, with Hector returning to the Isle of Man, and Malmure passing of old age.

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After a long siege, the war which his mother had started was finally over. With his surrender, King Fairchellach was forced into exile, a bitter claimant hoping to reclaim his lost lands with honeyed words, or emotion-inducing begs. Duncan's cousin, Donald, was made the new lord of Thomond, moving in with his Roman wife, Berta von Nordheim.

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Duncan had already received word that a set of adventurers and merchants would be arriving in port, yet their appearance surprised him. Duncan was expecting a group of hard and lithe men, and a group of handsome and silvertongued merchants, eager to swindle anyone, be they peasant or Roman Emperor, out of their gold. What he got was a cacophony of colours and languages, and the man who came to greet Duncan was so fat that he jiggled with every step, and when his arms rested he looked like he was grabbing at his stomach. Atop it all, he had a large forked beard to cover his many chins. Nevertheless, the company was allowed to stay within Cupar for a time.

Their leader ate a lot, and spoke a lot. Named Giovanni, he hailed from Corsica, yet his crew and companions came from half a hundred other places, all around the world.

'Ah, my good friend Duncan! You see, we are adventurers, of both strength, mind, and charisma. Some in our great company seek to delve into ancient ruins, in search of treasure and mythical artifacts, some seek to compile all the history and culture of an area they can, and others, such as myself, wish to sell what is normal in one place as legendary in another.'

'Giovanni, a question has been nagging at me. If you are to travel to the Indus and distant Cathay, why have you come to Cupar?' Duncan inquired.

'Good King, you wound me. We first come to Iceland, to see the corners of the world. Scotland is on are way back. The question on everyone's tongues was whether we would port in Gowrie or Fife. Of course, we chose you. King Edwin is young and weak, relying on England to survive. Albany? No, you are old, wise, and independent, stronger than that King Edwin, yet only stopped by England. Truly, your land is one of many tales to be written down.'

Once the feast was done, Duncan was presented with Dawud, a man from the deep centre of Africa, taught the language of the Scots and religion of Rome, and a top it all, a great administrator. He was placed as steward for the realm, and Constantine was made Marshal.

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Lord Marcas was a ragged thing, dirt and insane, only a few years younger than Duncan, yet he looked a hundred years old. His back was covered with whip scars, his legs and arms bore the many scars of the knife, and his entire body small and stunted from the lack of food.

'Lord Marcas. You've spent eighteen years within my dungeon to repent for sins my mother accused you of. Now I decree it is time you are released.'

The creature did not seem to hear him. 'Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god.' He said, grabbing the rich and moist soil on which they stood, letting it run between his bony fingers.


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Just a few days after his release, the stress of the living overcame Lord Marcas, and he returned to the dead, those he had been part of for eighteen years.

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'Your Grace, we've received word from the Hochmeister. Queen Anna has granted them a region in eastern Poland.' Douglas announced.

Court Chaplain Bronmael nodded approvingly, and said : 'To fight the Lithuanians and Lettigalians, no?'

'Indeed, Bronmael,' King Duncan began, 'the infidels should tremble!'

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The sun shone through a stained glass window, made in the likeness of Jesus Christ, and kneeling before him, eyes closed, was King Duncan. The rays shone on his old and wrinkly face, in a multitude of colours. My son was murdered. His mother had died years ago now, yet the thought still plagued him. I will never kill my own family.

Yet my mother was a true ruler. She warred where warring was required, and ruled where ruling was required. Can I live up to her? I am an old man, prepared for 48 years to become King, yet I feel it all thrown away now that I am.

Yet in that moment, bathed in the light of the Sun and Jesus Christ alike, someone else was in his mind.

You are King Duncan. The only one who will ever be you. You are a unique man, and you are a unique king. Do not act for the written history, act for the glory of God, for all men must perish, yet their souls go on.

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And his chance came. The Shiite had been within Anatolia for many years, yet with the many civil wars within the Eastern Roman Empire, they had crossed the sea, seizing the City of the World's desire, seizing the ancient land where philosophers debated, all men voted, and all men died.

King Duncan was quick to announce his intentions. 'Send ravens out to all our Lords. Gather the levies. Send one to the Pope. We are coming, by God, we are coming.'

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Lords and knights came with Duncan, alongside his small yet fierce army of four thousand. They landed on the old peninsula, ready to liberate great cities now being defiled by the Saracen, such as Olympia and Corinth.

'Listen here, all of you!' Duncan yelled to his gathered force, beneath the walls of Achaia. 'Worry not if you die. Worry not if we do not win. Worry not if our armies are shattered, our ships sunk, and our gold lost. No. We are the pilgrims! The pilgrims who have come to liberate our fellow Christians, to liberate them from the heathen menace! We are the pilgrims, and God will grant the pilgrims remission of their sins in Heaven!'

A cheer went up from the crowd, yet Constantine the heir did not cheer as loud as the rest, no longer the zealot he once was. Clearly one who does care if he dies. Whatever the case, we are all Crusaders in the eyes of the Pope and God.

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The Crusade was won. For a time, the King of Hungary was the favourite to gain the lands after the war. Yet where other countries had fought Saracen armies, where Albany had liberated the Peloponnese, England had sailed to Constantinople, taking the city, throwing out the Muslim invaders. For that, King Eadweald was named the new King in Greece.

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Yet this would not last. English law split the Kingdom's upon the death of the King. Eadweald's first son would inherit England, and his third, Greece. Albany had forever been wary of Eadweald and the men he commanded, but no doubt his successors would tear each other apart. Albany would rise once more upon the death of King Eadweald, no doubt.

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Yet Duncan the Blessed would not live to see the day. Not a remembered man, his reign between the old and cunning Lady Effie, and young and skillful Constantine II, his reign was not an eventful one, so few remember him.

Except, of course, a certain Italian man, spreading tales of wonder and glory in the distant East.



 

Rufy_King

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Duncan had not much time to shine, and yet I find him quite the distinct figure. Maybe he did not conquer like his predecessor, but neither he resolved to the cape and the dagger.

Let us hope now that Costantine can live up to his grandmother's expectation.
 

kaydesmith

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THE LADY OF ALBANY
CHAPTER 5

Finally free of that old coot, Constantine thought, when he received news of his fathers death. The man was my father, to be sure, though he was blinded by his piety. Constantine had been raised just as zealous as his father, yet he had set aside the armour of God for the armour of steel when he and his father landed on the Peloponnese. Worry not if you die, he said, yet I wonder if he thought that just before he died. Constantine was a man who still valued his worldly life and his worldly possessions - his wife, his sons, his gold, his family's name and honour, and the thrill of a success. I mean to do great things, by my own hand. I lost my piety years ago.

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One of the first worldly events of Constantine's reign was the Fatimid invasion of Greece, attempting to retake several provinces, including Constantinople, from the English King. Most of King Eadweald's tributaries joined in, notably King Edwin of Scotland. This presented one of the greatest opportunities Albany had seen in years - the Anglo-Scottish armies leagues away, on the other side of Europe.

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'I mean to do great things, my Lords.' Constantine had assembled the various Lords of Albany within Cupar. 'Starting today. My Lords, gather your levies, for we are going to war with Scotland. We are going to march on Gowrie.'
'Truly?'
'Impos-'
'Engla-'
'A true Ki-'
'NEVER!'

Constantine had expected the Lords to bicker, some to praise and some to scorn, but he had not expected for one to silence all the others as soon as they began. Worse yet, he was talking to King Constantine.

The aged man, who unfortunately bore the name Constantine, Lord of Ossory, stood tall and strong, an imposing figure in the centre of the war room. 'You faithless traitor. These men are defending the faith, far away, and you have the AUDACITY to stab them in the back, when they can not defend? To take their lands, rape their wives and salt their fields?'

'I will be gentle with Gowrie. We are all Scotsmen here.'

'Aye, and some more than others! Some true Scotsmen fight down in Greece, while some -'

'They are fighting under an English banner, for an English King!' King Constantine was getting angry now. 'I am liberating them! Saving them from the yoke of the south! To not be be dragged to a war they do not want to be in!'

'Your father... your father was a much better King than you. He only went to war when God willed it. He did not attack pious men for glory or honour, like you. Your father would've gone to a church, and prayed for guidance. You have no faith. Do your war, I will participate, but remember the truth.' The Lord of Ossory returned to his seat, and fell silent.

'As I've said, my Lords, gather your levy, and send them to Gowrie. The war begins.'

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The war was a pushover. Swedish and Danish armies supported 8000 Albanites, and they stormed the walls of Scone, and true to their word, accepted the surrender of whichever man would take it.

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King Edwin's mother was the Queen of Gwynedd, and on her death, he would inherit her lands. She had sent her army north, to protect her son, yet the Welsh war effort met it's end near the Church of County Fife, 1700 men being cut down.
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Unexpectedly, the Scottish host returned from Greece, the Duke of Moray at it's head, yet King Edwin had remained in Greece, alongside King Eadweald. Much like the reign of Queen Effie, two hosts of Scotsmen fought over who was the Lord of Gowrie, but this time, House Mac Duib had the allies.

The bravery of his countrymen did not escape King Constantine. They fought bravely, they truly did, but 5000 cannot stand against 16000. No miracles happened today, rather, the battle was won by the deeds of men, not God.

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The final battle with the Scottish host had been enough. The Duke of Moray was regent of Scotland at the time, and he surrendered Gowrie to Constantine, and sent word to Greece of his decision to surrender.

Do you see me now, Grandma, Constantine thought angrily, do you see me? I did what you could not, through my own ideas, skills, and the bravery of the men behind me! Not faith, like you, Father. I've done more than you ever could. You betrayed us in Greece, betrayed us to England once more. No, not me, for I have no Gods, and I have no masters.

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The celebrations for the victory did not last long. Merely a day into the feast, Lord Constantine challenged the King to a duel. 'No armour, so we can see who God will protect.'

The pair met, plain clothed, each with a steel sword and shield. Constantine barged into the old man, swinging his sword overhead, and bringing it down with force, over and over. Yet the old man had his shield raised, blocking every hit, and after just a few swings, rammed his shoulder into the King. King Constantine stumbled back, and the old man lunged, sweeping his sword across his legs. Constantine fell, a new red line on each leg, and suddenly a sharp pain in his cheek, then cold steel at his throat.

'Armour yourself well, my King.' Then he walked away. The King raised his hand to his cheek, and it came back bloody. I must make sure to kill that fool.

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The English had successfully beaten back the Egyptian tide, holding onto Greece for the time, leaving the Muslims bitter and preparing in Anatolia. King Eadweald was greeted a hero back home in England, the legendary King nearing his sixtieth year of rule, the defender of the Christian's in Greece, and subjugator of Britannia.

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Since the beginning of his reign, Constantine had set his Chancellor to fabricate claims throughout Ireland, and he pressed his claim on Connacht. I am going to do great things. I want to be the man historians point to, and they will say, he paved the way to the rise of House Mac Duib. Without him, they wouldn't be great. And they will say I did it with my own hands. No Gods.

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The land was easily conquered, and King Constantine retained the land for himself. His first son would inherit Fife and Gowrie, and his second son would inherit Connacht.

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The Irish campaign continued, as Constantine turned his armies east, into Kildare. The war was just as easy as the previous one, yet it was another step on the path to Mac Duib dominance in Ireland.

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During the war, Constantine sought to restore his ancestor Donald's old laboratory where, he supposedly wrote down knowledge so black the Pope declared it sin and heresy. I seek to continue his research, unhindered by any foreign interference. The Church lied to us, it is time I find the truth for all to read.

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The war in Kildare was quick to end, just after the start of Constantine's research. I must give this land to another distant Mac Duib. My sons can not bicker amongst another over who shall be the King. No, we must all come together, to realise our true potential as men, not burdened by the teachings of blindly pious priests.

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Another opportunity for Constantine's grand schemes came soon enough. King Edwin was the King who lost Gowrie, yet now his son took over. King Edwin had once bore the title King in Gowrie, one of the two rival contenders to the Throne of Scotland, yet now both capitals of Scotland were in Mac Duib hands, Gowrie and Fife held by King Constantine. We sit on a knife's edge. Eight counties to me, nine to my rival. We are both new Kings, yet we will be the last. With two new King's vying for dominance in the cold north of Britannia, the question everyone was asking would soon be answered:

Who will be the King of Scotland?

 

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So continued opportunities regarding Scotland, but Constantine is having his fair share of challenges.
 

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The Lady of Albany
Chapter 6

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'The King is dead, Your Grace,' the boy began, 'King Eadweald, that is. Of England, that is.' The boy's name was Donald, and he was the grandson of Douglas, the ageing and ailing Master of Ravens of Cupar, and thus he had sent his kind yet dimwitted grandson to deliver the letters he received up in his rookery. The letter detailed the splitting of the Kingdoms of England and Greece. While the new King of England was not as powerful as his father, he still held considerable power and influence even in Greece, with House Berkeley holding Constantinople, swearing allegiance to England, not Greece. A few Lords in England had done the same, declaring for Greece, not England.

King Constantine II Mac Duib looked up from the letter, tossing it aside and gazing at the roof of the courtroom of Castle Cupar. 'One of the great tragedies of the past was when this King Eadweald sent his host north, subduing King Dermid of Scotland, forcing him to become a tributary of his. With Eadweald's death, the treaty is undone, and new opportunities are given. Both me and King Hugh are the new set of the Kings of Scotland, yet we will be the last. The god that is man's diligence will see it so.' He leaned forward, clasping his hands together, looking down at the young boy who knelt before him. 'I will be King of Scotland. The only one.'

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King Constantine sat on his chair, staring through the telescope from atop the balcony of his forebear's restored observatory - King Donald had found out something considered so vile and false by the Pope that after his death, the only copy of his work had been burned. I do not fear the Pope. I will not bow, I will make sure what I find here is written down many times, for all the world to learn.


He heard footsteps coming up the stairs, soft and quiet, yet still there. A woman's steps. He quickly centred the telescope on a bright star, sighing with frustration. Then the door opened. It was his wife, Queen Layla. He swallowed hard, then met her gaze. 'Layla.'

'Constantine,' she said, striding over to him gracefully, before planting herself in his lap, laying her hand on his cheek. She cocked her head, smiling at him sadly. 'What are you doing in this building, Constantine? What are you hoping to find?'

Her hand was cool on his cheek, yet he grabbed her wrist, removing it from his face. 'The truth of the universe, not the one given to me by Rome.'

She sighed. 'My brother is in danger. The Shia Caliphate has called for Jihad against him. Through our marriage, he's your brother as well. Besides, he's your brother as a Catholic. Why aren't you helping him?'

'Too...too risky. What if England comes North? We will have no one to fight them off, because we'll be in Andalusia. The Empire can protect him, they champion the faith, yes? No, your brother does not need my help. Europe does.'

She stood quickly, hopping out of his lap, onto her feet. 'He is your brother! The Pope will hear of this, you know! That instead of doing your duty as a Christian, your duty as a brother, you are up here -'

'FINDING THE TRUTH! IT IS NOT MY PLACE TO DEFEND WHAT HAPPENS IN.... in the south. The Empire can protect him.'

She looked at him, aghast. Then she stormed out the door. She's clearly not satisfied with that answer. Well, I have enough children.


He turned back to his telescope, looking through. I want a closer look at this star.

The star had moved.

Tilting the telescope a short distance horizontally revealed the same star, albeit in a different position. Do they move?


9yl8QV1.jpg


The winter had slowed down Constantine's works considerably, as heavy cloud cover masked any sight of the stars, and the lens of the scope frosted up quickly when stuck outside on a clear night. I can not stop. I must persevere. The world needs to know what is above their heads everyday. House Mac Duib will deliver them this knowledge.

j9AdDtU.jpg


The decision to persevere through the conditions was made ever more bearable when a small kitten, lost and without an owner, seemingly sneaking into the observatory to escape the cold, arrived before Constantine. The sudden jumping of the kitten onto his window sill while he was writing notes had made him jump, yet the cat did not want to leave him.

After playing with small kitten, acting the child on the floor of the observatory, Constantine finally sat back and laughed. Laughed long and hard, something he had not done in a long time. He gazed out the window. The sky has cleared! Quickly, he grabbed the cat, and held it out before him . 'Ha ha ha haaaaa! The sky has cleared, oh it has! Yeeeeeessssss!' He screamed, while spinning around the room, hugging the frightened cat to his chest.

A new friend.

n6Bfrqo.jpg


With the newly and appropriately dubbed Sky sitting on his windowsill, while Constantine looked through the tube, unravelling the secrets of the world, Constantine finally felt happy and elated once again, given something important to do, something profound and world changing. That was, until his wife entered the chamber once more.

'Why must you spend so much time up here with that cat? Do you not realise that the black cat is truly the soul of the devil, spying on you and manipulating you?'

'Ha! Are you jealous that I spend so much time with this new cat, instead of your cat? No, we have enough children already!' He roared, the cat meowed, and Queen Layla gave that shocked look. 'I have a letter from the Pope.'

The laughing stopped.

'He knows what you are up to here, and demands you cease it.'

'Write back to him. He doesn't control me! I'm not afraid of no supposed god given leader! Tell him he should stay out of my business!'

'NO! Please! I know how.... wary.... you are of foreign invasion, and you can not allow yourself to be excommunicated. If you do, England will have reason to declare war on us. I beg you, give him what he wants, or if you truly must continue up here, don't answer at all.'

He licked his dried and cracked lips. 'Yes. Do not write back anything, and burn the letter. The best answer to this is silence. Now begone, I've work to do.'

Sq7D2Fd.jpg


'Sky, if the stars must move, does the Earth move as well? Or does only one of us move? Earth moves and the stars remain still, or the stars move and Earth remains still?'

Sky did not answer. Instead, she licked her paw, cleaning and grooming herself.

'You know what I believe? The Sun is a star, and we go round it. It must be, yes? I do believe all big objects have smaller objects go round them, and that must be why the Moon goes round us? And how do I know that? Because we always see the same side!'

Sky hopped of the sill, and in front of the fireplace, curled up in a ball, taking in the heat.

'My forebear Donald must have found these same conclusions, but he only made one copy for he feared the Pope. I will make sure what I found here is wrote a million times, so when I die, everybody will know what I have discovered!'

hsMhd9x.jpg

WHnd2uc.jpg


With the conclusion of his studies, Constantine returned to court. Not long after resuming, a terrible message came.

TDbJ8BH.jpg


'Father, it seems England seeks to restore the old treaty.' Edwin was Constantine's son and heir, and a brilliant diplomatic mind. 'Perhaps this is a show of force against you, Father. If England can secure Scotland once more, perhaps they think you will be cowed into being subsumed into Scotland. Do you have any instruction as to our next move?'

'Of course I do! Edwin, I have told you and all the Lords before - we create through the deeds of men. No miracles will deliver us Scotland, but only our own decisions. It is time we show who is the more powerful family in Scotland! MAC DUIB!'

Edwin widened his eyes, his jaw dropping slightly. 'You can not seriously be thinking of - '

'Invading Scotland? Oh yes, send a message. We are going to march, march on Argyll I say.'

8JNVDSq.jpg


The war was simple enough. With the Scottish and English armies dicing eachother, little was left to defend Argyll. The war was won easily.

OBrUT4U.jpg


With Argyll under Mac Duib control, House Mac Duib now commanded 9 out of 17 of the Counties - enough to declare themselves the True Kings of Scotland.

'Edwin, my son. Do you notice the difference between me and my father? My father prayed for victory, and got it in Greece - for the faith, no less, but not for Albany. We gained nought in the Crusade. Rather, we let England take it all! If I was my father, you would be heir to Albany.'

Edwin looked confused. 'But I am, Father.'

'Of course, but I am not my father. I am me. And because of the deeds of men, you will not just be the heir to Albany...


... you will be the heir to Scotland.'




 

stnylan

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No one can fault Constantine for the scope of his ambitions.

The wisdom of his actions, however...