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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Werson

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Steathclude is doing well.

In time, Britons will rule all of Britain - and perhaps Brittany?
Well... they would certainly love that, but that's a long ways from now.
King Run is having quite the run of successes. Some of the pictures aren't showing up
What pictures aren't showing? How many show up for you?
King Run has hit the the ground running (oh ho!). Let's hope he can keep up this rate of expansion.
:p
 
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JSB217118

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For a while the pictures of his vassals wouldn't show up. That's fixed now.
 
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Chapter 5

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CHAPTER V

HOW KING RUN INSOLENTLY IMPUGNED THE GRACE OF GOD, AND THE CURSE THROUGH WHICH HE PAID FOR HIS MISDEEDS

The conquest of the Inner Hebrides by King Run brought much joy to British Christendom, for within that territory laid the Bishopric of Iona. Once the powerhouse and leader of Celtic Christianity, Iona had suffered much under the reign of the Norse, who pillaged its riches and savaged its people. With great joy they embraced their liberator Run, but soon found their newfound freedom to be but a ruse, the heathens that had once pillaged the wealthy bishopric remained in power following their conversion to Christianity. This was an affront to the clergy of the Isles, and of Strathclyde as a whole, which now had to serve these former heathens as if they were true brothers in faith.

The-path-to-The-Iona-Abbey.jpg

The Abbey of Iona, center of Celtic Christianity, founded by Saint Columba

While King Run had taken a more pragmatic approach to the situation, letting the Northmen remain so long as they converted, the clergy of Iona was having none of it, demanding an outrageous amount of food rent from the converted populace, while decreasing the food rent of the few Christians who remained in the Isles before the Norse desecrated its shores. These injustices were harshly felt by the Norse, who had reluctantly been forced to baptize, and who secretly still held to their false idols dearly.

These grievances were taken to the court of King Run, who used this opportunity as leverage to increase his authority over the kingdom, claiming that by doing so, he would be able to “persuade” the clergy of the Isles to enact more just taxation laws. And so the power of the King was substantially increased at the behest of his vassals, but the king failed to alleviate the situation, instead using his increased power to keep the unruly Norse populace in check, much to the dismay of his converted vassals.

more unity.png


This further enraged the Norse converts, who would rise up on July of 871 in rebellion. This rebellion was no mere peasant uprising, for the rebels seemed suspiciously organized, as well as well outfitted and armed. Historians suspect that the Norse vassals of King Run aided the rebels, funding their upheaval. Lack of damage to the Norse nobles' properties seem to indicate that there may be some truth to this belief. The monks of Iona had seen the writing on the wall, and managed to flee toward the Abbey of Kells in Ireland (which had also been founded by Saint Columba), where they awaited until King Run restored peace to the region.

Rebel norse.png

The rebel leader Coitir, most likely a puppet leader, as is speculated that the Norse nobles in the regions were the true leaders of the revolt.

Despite their efforts and extreme resilience, the rebel forces were not able to muster enough men to defeat King Run's warbands, eventually scattering to the nearby kingdoms of York and Lothian, where they would hope to one day enact their revenge upon Strathclyde, led by the sons of the legendary Ragnar.

Battles.png

The Battles of the Norse Revolt

Despite his victory over the heathens, the clergy of Iona was not satisfied with King Run's rule, blaming the entire affair on his poor rule, claiming his soft hand over the converts had allowed them to gather strength to challenge their rule. They demanded the Norse vassals to be ousted from their lands, and in turn for those lands to be granted to the clergy as tithes, to prove Run's allegiance to the church. While the clergy wrestled with King Run to increase their power over the region, the Norse nobles most likely chose to follow a new path to overthrow King Run, choosing secrecy and intrigue over the sword. It would come to no surprise then, that the King's own son, Oucydd, would actively work with them to plot King Run's death. Some scholars try to argue that prince Oucydd was working with the clergy of Iona instead, rather than the Norse, but his poor treatment of the clergy of Cumberland (the prince's personal fief), would suggest his relationship with the clergy to be rather poor, and thus it is widely agreed that it was the Norse that Oucydd had been working with, for he was an ambitious man.

With both clergy and his vassals, as well as the prince himself all conspiring against his rule, King Run would become quite ill with stress and paranoia, frequently getting into scuffles with Queen Ermentrude, who Run suspected of infidelity, claiming the child she was carrying to not be his, despite the Frankish woman's pleas for respite. Eventually she would retire to the Abbey of Iona, where she would find shelter among the monks and nuns there. The Bishop of Iona would use her refuge there as leverage over the King, demanding once more for land tithes, as well as the funds to construct new monasteries in the region, to further cement their rule over the former pagans. King Run would refuse their demands repeatedly, and soon rumors spread of his lack of faith, and even of heresy. King Run had no use for religion unless it served his political goals, as it had when it served as justification to attack the Kingdom of the Isles just a couple of years prior. Records indicate that after a particularly heated debate between King Run and his court Bishop, the holy man cursed the King for his heresy, claiming him to be "accursed of God, and of his Church, from the sole of his foot, to the crown in his head." While contemporary scholars would claim this to be the reason of King Run's poor health throughout the rest of his life, some historians believe it to originate from a particularly nasty wound during his raids in Ireland.

lack of piety, cursed.png

The "heretic" King Run, and the curse placed upon him for such heresy

King Run would lose much function in his legs, leaving him badly crippled for the remainder of his life. This maladie had not discouraged the plotting of Prince Oucydd or the Norse nobles, but rather gave them the last push they needed to finally enact the assassination of the King. While their plot not only would ultimately fail due to the acute awareness of the King, but the Prince himself was outed as the mastermind behind the plan. This would shake King Run to the core, for now he realized the precarious position he found himself in. Crippled and cursed by God, separated from his newborn daughter and wife who stayed in Iona, where the clergy openly denounced him a heretic, his nobles conspiring behind his back, and even his son plotting for his murder, King Run was completely alone. What once seemed like the monarch to take the Cumbri to heights never seen before, was quickly becoming one of their most despised rulers in history.

murder attempt.png

The attempted murder of King Run, November of 874

This state of affairs could not have come at a worst time either, for the Viking Kingdoms neighboring Strathclyde were embroiled in chaos, which would have been the perfect time to strike Strathclyde not been in turmoil as well. Ubba of East Anglia had passed away, and his brother Ivar "the Boneless" had assumed control of the Kingdom despite their brother Halfdan being the rightful heir. This succession crisis would lead to the fracturing of their armies, as brother fought against brother. Halfdan would eventually recognize Ivar's rule in East Anglia, but Ivar would give up the Kingdom of Lothian, which Halfdan would annex into the much larger Kingdom of York. This war between brothers would cause Ivar to lose control over much of his domains in Ireland and Wales, falling prey to local Viking chiefs as well as the Swedes.

britain in chaos.png

The Norse Kingdoms of Britain in September of 875: Halfdan's Kingdom of Northumbria (blue), Ivar's Kingdom of East Anglia (green), the Swedish fiefdom of Dublin (yellow), and the myriad of independent petty Norse chiefdoms (red)

Despite the fragile state of his Kingdom, King Run decided to march on the independent chiefdom of Streathearn, which laid at the crossroads of Scotland, Strathclyde, and Northumbria. It was crucial that the Cumbri annexed this land rapidly, for the other two kingdoms already had their eyes set on this vulnerable realm. While his frail health would not have allowed the King to personally lead the armies, record indicates that he was present during the battles, which leaves many to question who was ruling in his stead. This is further emphasized as the record for the next five years is marked by his absence in court, leaving the Kingdom in a state of anarchy as the petty nobles, the clergy, and Prince Oucydd vied for power in the vacuum left by King Run. Not much is known of the King's whereabouts during those years, but Prince Oucydd would soon perish to disease, leaving the intrigue of court solely to those not of the ruling dynasty.

son died.png

The death of Prince Oucydd


The following year, Oucydd's son Dyfnwal would be imprisoned under the charge of treason, claiming him to be raising warbands to forcefully oust the clergymen and nobles who had virtually seized the throne from his grandfather. With Oucydd dead and Dyfnwal imprisoned, the last remaining members of King Run's dynasty were Prince Meirchon, the second child of Kin Run and product of his marriage with the Pictish princess Morag, as well as his daughter Ceindrech, product of his marriage with the Frankish princess Ermentrude. The Queen and princess Ceindrech were safe in Iona, where the Bishop had hid them from the King following his paranoid outbursts, and who he believed could be placed on the throne despite her older brother's claim to the throne. Meanwhile Prince Meirchon had been snatched out of Strathclyde by his Pictish side of the family amidst the turmoil of King Run's absence, who sought to place him in the throne as a puppet ruler upon King Run's death.

The King would return to court nearly five years after his departure, being brought back by a group of Irish monks, who claimed he had lived with for the past five years. This was not the King Run who conquered the Isles and Cumberland, nor the Run who sacked the northern Irish chiefdoms. The King was in a state of coma, unable to move, speak, or even think for himself. This brought about an increased chaos within the Kingdom, with petty thieves and marauders moving into the countryside with impunity. It would be just 5 months after his unceremonious return that King Run would perish under the afflictions of his poor state. With his death, the court entered into a state of anarchy, as the nobility refused to acknowledge princess Ceindrech's claim to the throne for she was a mere child, and a woman at that, claiming that only Meirchion could seize the throne, while fully aware of his unknown whereabouts. The Kingdom of Strathclyde was deeply fractured, and their ascendancy had not been ignored. The Scottish were on the move to secure Meirchion's throne, but across the Irish Sea, the High King of Tara had other plans for the young Meirchion.


King Run.png

The death of King Run, February of 881

 
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Oh dear, that was an untimely death for the Prince. I hate to say it but in a lot of ways it would have been better for the country if he had managed to assassinate his father...
 
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Thankfully the Britons internal problems just so happen to coincide with everyone else's internal problems.
 
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Tara, Pictland, and the nobility struggle for the throne...

King Run sounds like a terrible ruler here. It’s somewhat good that he is now dead. Hopefully the new ruler recognizes the clergy’s rights to keep the peace.
 
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stnylan

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Northumbria looks quite substantial.
 
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It seems the Britons are hamstrung, as ever, by their internal struggles.
This has been awesome so far. I've always had a fondness for Strathclyde.
Thank you! Yes I have always loved Strathclyde, and its obscurity is what originally led me to play as them.
Oh dear, that was an untimely death for the Prince. I hate to say it but in a lot of ways it would have been better for the country if he had managed to assassinate his father...
It might have certainly been better for the immediate wellness of the Kingdom, but now the throne is to be seized by his younger brother Meirchion, who would later get the epithet of "the Lionheart," so perhaps things turned out just fine...
Thankfully the Britons internal problems just so happen to coincide with everyone else's internal problems.
Yes, the entirety of the British Isles is in turmoil, as we shall see in the upcoming chapters. No one is safe, not even the Norse with their hegemonic reign over Britain.
Tara, Pictland, and the nobility struggle for the throne...
King Run sounds like a terrible ruler here. It’s somewhat good that he is now dead. Hopefully the new ruler recognizes the clergy’s rights to keep the peace.
Whether the new ruler recognizes the church's role in the Kingdom might be useful to the clergy, but they're more than willing to get their hands dirty. They certainly love their intrigue, those drunk monks.
Northumbria looks quite substantial.
Northumbria is quite an unit, but the old King Halfdan grows old, and even if capable, his sons will be no Ragnarssons.

Do y'all think the rate of updates right now is good? I used to do almost daily updates on previous AARs, but I decided to instead space them out for a bit longer in this one, posting them every 5~7 days or so. Anyways, thanks for reading y'all.
 
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I like the current pace, but do it however is best for you, whatever allows you to enjoy the writing process is most important. Quality comes from doing things at your pace, not from being rushed.
 
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Chapter 6

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CHAPTER VI

HOW THE BARBARIC IRISH BROUGHT ABOUT DESTRUCTION, KINSLAYING, AND MUCH PAIN TO THE PEOPLES OF NORTHERN BRITAIN

While the isle of Ireland had suffered under the Viking yoke, the Uí Néill clan of Northern Ireland had grown powerful amidst the chaos, opportunistically seizing lands of those defeated by the Norsemen, and subjugating those too weak to oppose them. This clan commanded the largest warbands in the island, as well as the last remaining Irish fleet, for the storied pirate past of the Irish had been but erased by the Vikings, who had either seized or torched the fleets of the Irish Kings. Looking across the Irish Sea, High King Áed saw a defeated people in the Scots, ravaged by pagan raiders, and dissatisfied with their current King, and just South of them laid yet another Kingdom in turmoil, as the house of Strathclyde had lost control of their realm, while the nobles and clergy struggled for power in the vacuum left by the late King Run.

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The High King of Ireland

The High King had two options, to continue weathering the storm of sea raiders, and unite the island under his rule, a much safer, if less prestigious and rewarding choice, or sail across the Irish Sea, and try to exert his influence over the tumultuous Scots and Cumbri, a far more dangerous gamble, but one to pay handsomely if he succeeded.

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The Irish Warbands reaching the coasts of Argyll.

With that one decision, High King Áed set the courses of Scotland, Strathclyde, and Ireland into a collision course, landing in the coasts of Argyll in June of 881, where his warbands clashed against those of King Constantine II of Scotland. The Scots were well dug into the hills, and the field advantage was proving troublesome for the Irish, who after losing their ships to an impromptu storm, were now stuck in Britain. If they attacked uphill, they would certainly lose, but if they retained their position, it would not be long before they starved. As the two camps stared at each other across the hill, three months passed, and the Irish warbands started deserting the camp in light numbers, all but ready to surrender and admit defeat. Their ambitious adventure had failed. Or so it seemed, but perhaps the pious prayers of the Irish warriors had been answered, as the treacherous brother of King Constantine, Prince Áed, betrayed his brother, turning half of his forces against him, slaying him in single combat. The infighting proved to be just what the Irish needed to scale the hill, putting an end to the reign of Constantine II.

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The Battle of Argyll, September of 881

It is unknown whether the Irish King and the Scottish Prince were in cahoots, but the following month, they would be found feasting together in the halls of the Scottish capital, celebrating the marriage of the newly crowned King Áed of Scotland, and one of High King Áed’s daughters. It is said that during this feast, the young King Meirchion of Strathclyde (who had been a hostage by the Scottish court for the past 3 years) and the Irish High King also set about uniting their lines, as the young Cumbric king was forced to bethrote his sister Ceindrech to the Irish High King’s oldest son, hoping they could later arrange another one between Meirchion himself and another one of his daughters. The Uí Néill now held much influence over Northern Britain, with Scotland becoming a sub-kingdom of the Irish crown.

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The late King Constantine II and the treacherous King Áed of Scotland

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The arranged marriage of Princess Ceindrech and Prince Fingen

It would take nearly two years to pacify the Scottish Highlands, but by October of 883, the combined forces of Scotland and Ireland marched unto Strathclyde uncontested. The nobles swiftly surrendered, and the clergy returned to their monastic centers and abbeys, for neither would be able to stand such a large army after the many years of infighting. And so, peace once more returned to Strathclyde, with King Meirchion rightfully taking the throne, swearing allegiance to the Irish High King. Despite the ease in which the Kingdom was secured, the Irish warbands were not pleased by the result, for they had been expecting conflict to arise, from which they could fatten their pockets with the Briton's plunder. Thus, as they marched North toward their newly constructed fleet in Argyll, the Irish barbarians savaged much of the Cumbric countryside, razing every town on their way. What could have been a blood-less affair, with a compliant and grateful puppet monarch, had turned into an unholy massacre, and King Meirchion grew resentful, for these Irishmen were no better than the Godless pagans that had been oppressing the peoples of Britain for the past century. Still, Strathclyde had the pagans at their doorstep, and the West Saxons farther to the South had grown in power as the other English kingdoms fell to the Nordic yoke, the Irish would have to wait, King Meirchion had more pressing matters to attend.

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King Meirchion of Strathclyde, October of 883
 
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Sometimes one has to fold.
 
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A audacious move by the Irish, in time God will smite all usupers.
 
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The Irish are fools, and their greed shall be their downfall.
 
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CHAPTER VII

THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE NORSE KINGDOMS OF BRITAIN

The sack of the Cumbric countryside by Irish marauders of King Áed had left a sour taste on the mouths of the Strathclyde nobles, who demanded retribution for their misdeeds, urging Meirchion to sail across the Sea and punish the insolent barbarians. Untested, the King knew advancing on the Kingdom of Tara would be unwise, as their warbands were fierce and hardy, however, the same could not be said of the neighboring Irish kingdoms, which while nominally under the reign of the High King in Tara, were virtually independent.

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The monarch of the petty Kingdom of Ulster, King Cathalan.

The petty Kingdom of Ulster was an ideal target for the Cumbri warbands, weak enough to defeat in outright battle, but strong enough compared to the other Irish kingdoms to send a message to King Áed. Ulster was also quite close to Strathclyde, being the nearest of all the Irish kingdoms, and their battle hardened King would be a good first challenge for Meirchion to test himself. His father, the late King Run, had also raided in Ulster in the past, and thus there was ample knowledge for the Cumbri warbands to ensure their success in Ireland.

Through unknown means, the men of Ulster knew of King Meirchion's attack in advance, and thus were able to evacuate most of the populace within their capital. While this had spared the peasantry of much suffering, it had left the city defenseless against the onslaught of the Cumbri, who joined by their King, mercilessly slaughtered what few remained in the city, taking much of the plunder for themselves. One year of reigning, and King Meirchion already was acquiring a reputation of cruelty and ruthlessness in the eyes of his enemies, although the men of Strathclyde rejoiced as they filled their pockets with the riches acquired in Antrim.

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The aggressive and ruthless King Meirchion razing the Ulsterian capital.

While the Kingdom of Ulster was all but conquered, its armies remained at large, and thus the conquest of Ulster could not be final, for as long as the Irish warbands remained, Meirchion's hold on the Kingdom would never be secure. While it was the royal warbands that had initially seized and pillaged Ulster, the men of his nobles soon arrived to aid in the search of the Irish warbands. It would not be long before such a large invasion force spotted them, imparting a great slaughter on the cowardly Irish in the Swedish lands of Oriel. There would be no prisoners, no mercy. The King of Tara and the remaining Irish Kingdoms had received the message: Stay clear of Strathclyde. Meirchion's punitive expedition into Ireland had not just rewarded him with a petty Kingdom, but also valuable noble hostages, among them a daughter of the ousted King Cathalan, which Meirchion intended to marry to solidify his claim over Ulster.

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The great slaughter at Oriel, and the first display of great leadership by King Meirchion.

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King Meirchion's conquests, May of 884

Down to the South of Strathclyde, the Kingdom of Mercia remained in their struggle against the Viking onslaught, as the Norsemen of Northumbria sacked town after town, leading to the death of King Beorhtwald, who left no heir on who to pass on the throne. After a few months of deliberation, the Mercian "Witan" or Great Council, decided to cede the throne to the young noble Beorhtfrith, who had a dubious (if any) claim to the throne. To solidify his right to rule, the new Mercian King organized a grand ceremony, hoping to appease his nobles through feasts and gifts, as English culture of the time was a gift-giving one, as well as seeking support from neighboring Christian kings who would hopefully aid him in the battles to come. It was this grand coronation that led King Meirchion of Strathclyde to leave for Mercia in October of 884, where he would remain until the new year came, carousing with his fellow kings. It was here that King Meirchion first met his future rival, King Ælfred of Wessex, and later, of England. Neither King agreed to an alliance with the Mercians, but both promised to aid the Kingdom indirectly, planning to attack the Northumbrians simultaneously, giving the Mercians much needed space to breathe and recuperate.

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The last English Kings of Britain, the newly crowned Mercian King Beorhtfrith, and the West Saxon King Ælfred, Meirchion's rival for hegemony over the isle.

As the new year came and the festivities in Mercia finalized, the Nordic world had begun to shake in the British Isles. The Vikings of Ireland had been intermingling with the native population, forging a new "Norse-Gaelic" culture, not quite Irish nor Norse. As these cultures merged, Christianity became the dominant faith among them, which would ultimately lead to widespread revolts against their pagan aristocracy.

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The Norse-Gaelic peasant King of Tyrone, leader of the rebellion against their Swedish overlords.

Things in the larger island did not fare much better for the Norsemen, for their great King Halfdan, son of Ragnar, had passed away. The new King Guðfríð was not half the man his father had been, and his hold on the Kingdom was tenuous at best, barely preventing his rebellious vassals from destroying the kingdom with their infighting. The West Saxons and the Cumbri warbands marched at once, ready to enlarge their Kingdoms at the expense of the weakening Norsemen. Soon, the Welsh Kingdoms would join as well, leading to the rapid collapse of the once great Kingdom of Northumbria.


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King Guðfríð of Northumbria, son of Halfdan Ragnarsson.

As the West Saxons took the initiative, the Northumbrian warbands were preoccupied in the South to adequately deal with the forces of King Meirchion, leaving the lands of Lothian, or "Gododdin" (as they had once been known by the Britons who lived there), largely defenseless. King Meirchion garrisoned his men in the newly occupied castles dotting the land, securing his conquest of the neighboring region. The bloodlust of his men however was not sated by such an uneventful campaign however, and Meirchion sought to bring Northumbria to its knees, marching to the capital of Bamburgh, where the Norse King had fled to after being defeated in the South.

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The sieges of Lothian, November of 885

The demoralized forces of King Guðfríðr failed to properly defend the walls of Bamburgh, which were fiercely breached by the men of Strathclyde. The King and the royal family were seized and put in chains, along with other nobles and members of the Northumbrian court. Still in chains, bound together, Meirchion would have the royal family march all the way to his capital in Alt Clud, where he would have Guðfríð renounce his claim over the lands of Lothian to King Meirchion, as well as a cessation of all raids by his men into Strathclyde. Yearning for his freedom, the Norse king had no choice but to accept, and although he regained his freedom upon the signing of the charter, his family would not be so lucky. It is often the innocent and meek that suffer the most in matters of war, and the royal family of Northumbria was no exception.

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The capture of the Norse monarch and his family.

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The execution of the royal family and their ardent followers, including the heir apparent of Northumbria, Prince Haldan.

As the Northumbrians lost heads en masse following the decimation of the royal family and the inhabitants of Bamburgh, the people of Strathclyde had been blessed, as the holy remains of Saint Cyndeyrn (also known as Saint Mungo) had been recovered following the acquisition of the hoards in Bamburgh. Saint Mungo had been active in Strathclyde during the 6th century, bringing about the conversion of many peoples during a time when the Cumbri had grown resentful of the church and wished to return to their pagan ways. Just as Saint Patrick and Saint Columba had brought Christ to the people of Ireland and Scotland, Saint Mungo had enlightened the people of Strathclyde during a particularly dark time. Unlike his late father, King Meirchion was more than willing to support the clergy, requesting masons from Frankia to be brought to Strathclyde, in order to construct a new monastic center worthy of holding the Head of Saint Mungo. It was a good time to be Christian in the British North.

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The discovery of the head of Saint Mungo.

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The Kingdom of Strathclyde, June of 886
 
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The Irish are humbled, and that is very good. Perhaps some revenge against the traitorous Scots is in order?

More power will allow Strathclyde to become an effective counter to the English - especially when they’re united by Wessex.
 
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A first step across the sea. I would be very nervous if I governed the isle of Mann right now.
 
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Meirchion is a cruel bastard. It makes you feel for the frigging Vikings. No doubt the Saxon chroniclers will tell all sorts of tales of his "barbarity." I do not envy his future bride. Still, the Britons are back on there feet.
 
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