Blood Of The Lion

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October, 1291 Pallis Castle

Domnall Ruad McCarthy

The sun was beginning to disappear behind the clouds of winter, summer had gone, and in its wake had come an autumn that Domnall knew was going to be a harsh one, at least it was not raining, that was always a good thing, for it gave them time to collect in the harvest before the snows came. In many ways, he supposed that the seasons could reflect the status of his Kingdom, constant, always present, and never lacking. It was a heavy thought knowing that his was the last truly united kingdom in this emerald isle. The O’Neills were ravaged by infighting, and as for Connaught, well he didn’t want to think about that place. But now they had a chance, one that they would have to be fools to ignore, and so he had summoned his lords to him, all those who held true to the old ways, and now they were here, and the time to discuss the truth had come.

Domnall was an old man, and he could remember well the last time such a gathering had occurred, when he had been just a bairn, as they had debated choosing a new High King. That was the last time, all of his lords had come to Pallis, and now they had come again, and he knew, he just knew things would never be the same again. He takes a breath, determined to savour as much air as he can, that done, he begins speaking. “My lords, thanks to you all for coming. I know that with winter approaching, the harvest is foremost on your mind, but this is something I feel could not go undiscussed, for what is to happen within our beautiful land, will affect all of us.” He pauses for a moment then continues. “I speak of course, of the English and their dogs who rest within what is ours.” There is a murmur at that, the anger plain on the lords before him, he continues. “The English have lost their King, that old warrior who was the reason we remained on our knees, but now he has gone and a boy sits in his place. I would say now is the time for us to regain what was taken.”

Murmurs of agreement sound out, and Domnall of Muskerry, one of his more powerful lords speaks then, his voice commanding. “I agree with you Sire. I think the time has come for us to reap out a blessed fire on the English, but the question is where do we begin? Do we start with our own infestation, or do we move outwards?”

Domnall looks at his cousin and says. “I think sense dictates we move towards dealing with the infestation within our own lands before looking elsewhere. The English Barons here, know more about us than I would like, and I would want to see them dealt a heavy blow.” Once more there are murmurs of agreement at this and Domnall feels a slight reassurance at this.

Muskerry though seems uncertain. “The English Barons within our lands have been more complicity in doing as is asked of them, indeed there is talk that perhaps they might well foreswear their old ways for ours.”

Domnall looks at Muskerry, trying to see if the man is being serious or not, when he sees that he is, he takes a deep breath, steeling himself for whatever protest comes. “The English must be dealt with. Whatever you have heard about them considering changing their ways are lies. They are vipers, who came here on the bent to take what is not theirs. Greed fills them, nothing more. We must remove them completely.”

Dermond Prince of Carbery, a quarrelsome man speaks then. “And how might we break them Sire? Heavy horse and lances have done much damage to us in the past. We do not have the strength we once did, and winter is approaching.”

Domnall looks at the man and responds. “We do it the way our ancestors of old would have done it. Before we tried to fight the English at their own game, but this time we shall not play their game. No, we shall make them play by our rules. We hunt, we stalk, and before they know what has happened, we shall smash them to bits.”

“And what of the others? The other kingdoms, will they not flock to the English banner at the chance to remove us from our seats? You know what the others are like Sire, they are treacherous, they did not stand behind the old King when last there was one.” Fergus of Donovan queries.

Domnall looks at the man and says. “We shall need to send out missives of course, discreetly. The moment we hit the English here, they will ask for aid, but we must make sure that we have them cut off before the aid can come. Furthermore, we must make sure that the others are on our side. To make them see how it would benefit all of us, if the English were gone, we need only look across the water, to the Scots, and their Lion King.”

“Do you recommend we send someone there to ask for their aid?” Carbery asks, something akin to resentment in his voice, Domnall knows the man resents the Scots, for some reason or the other.

“Indeed, I think we would be fools not to. They managed to beat the English, we can learn from how they did it, and make their methods our own.” Domnall responds.

“Will they not want something in return?” Muskerry rightly asks.

“Aye they will.” Domnall responds. “But they will not ask for it unless we make it clear that we are the ones leading this.”

“How might we do that?” Carbery asks.

“By starting it now. Go to your lands, raise your men, and meet me before the year ends, we shall have our time in the sun. And it will be glorious.” Domnall says, hearing the songs that will be sung of this moment already.

November, 1291 Carrickfergus Castle

Richard Óg de Burgh, Earl of Ulster

Winter was coming, he could feel it in the air, in the chill that seemed to be a constant companion nowadays. It was a strange thought, how constant the changing of the seasons was, it was somewhat reassuring, but also somewhat worrying, for it meant that there was something on the horizon, something he had learned as a boy was that change was always approaching. Whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, well that depended on the person. Personally, Richard was not sure whether he approved of the things that were happening around him, change had come quick since word had come of King Edward’s death, an event that Richard was still trying to come to terms with, and well, it was all happening rather quickly. He had summoned his most important advisors for a meeting here at Carrickfergus, the place the King had given to him as a reward for his service many years ago.

He takes a deep breath then speaks. “We are approaching what I am sure will be a harsh winter, as such we must take the necessary precautions. William, how are our stores and provisions?”

William Óg Fergus was an old man someone who had been here since Richard had been a boy and someone he trusted immensely. The man took a moment to speak, and when he did, his words were clear and concise. “We have enough provisions to see us through for the duration of winter my liege, but I would hesitate to say we have enough wine for that time. We might need to look at doing something with beer or ale.”

Richard grimaces slightly, it’s not that he doesn’t appreciate beer or ale, but they get tiresome the more one drinks them, whilst wine, wine always tastes nice. Water, the water supply had always been a bit off, ever since one of those Gaelic fools had been let loose near it. He clears his throat and says. “Very well, find the finest beers and ales and stock them appropriately. And make sure that the men know not to mention anything of this to their whores, we all know what will happen if they do.”

“Of course my lord.” William responds, smiling grimly, no doubt thinking of what had happened the last time something like this had happened.

Richard allows silence to fall then, considering how best to approach the next subject on his list, he knows that some of his policies have not been met with approval by some of the men within this room, and yet they have earned him and his family more wealth than was initially possible, and so he has few regrets in that regard. He takes a breath, then another, eventually he finds the right way to approach the matter. “Tell me Domnall, how are things looking amongst the lands?”

Domnall Mac Aodh, a fierce giant of a man who Richard had taken into his service some fifteen years ago now, is someone from the lands, fiercely proud of his heritage, but also fiercely loyal, he is the best man Richard knows for the task at hand. The man’s words are measured and thoughtful when he responds. “The lands are stable and peaceful my liege. There are no signs of the troubles that were there last year, it seems the fools who tried to create them have fled to other parts, having learned their lessons.” The man hesitates for a moment before continuing. “It seems there are other issues further afield though my liege.”

Richard does not like where this is going, and so hesitantly asks. “And what issues are those?”

He sees Domnall swallow nervously, and feels the tension rise inside of him. “It seems there are issues stirring within the south, what those issues are I am not sure. But I do know that the war within the O’Neill family is growing larger and large, and there is a chance it might well spill into your lands my liege.”

Richard’s eyes narrow at that. “How large of a chance? I do not want to have to send men to fight in a war that is none of our business.”

Domnall seems to consider this for a long moment before eventually responding. “I think the chances of it actually spilling over are small, though knowing the O’Neills they will try to draw men from your lands out.”

Richard sighs, cursing the fools and their damned squabbles, he takes a moment to consider his options before responding. “This King, Brian, what have you heard of him?”

Domnall looks surprised at his question, but truth be told he should not be, Richard knows that the man before him knows him as an ambitious man, if he can take advantage of this situation he will. “From what I have heard my liege, King Brian is a proud man, a good warrior, he has support from many of the lords within his kingdom. But he lacks the sufficient man power to truly remove the threat from his reign.”

Richard hums then, intrigued. “And what of this other man, this other King?” the system here has always baffled him, but it has its advantages.

Domnall is silent for a moment, thoughtful, before replying. “The other man, the pretender Domhnall is a fool all accounts agree. A man who likes his women and wine more than ruling.”

“How very interesting.” Richard muses. He thinks through it, trying to decide whether he would rather have the gratitude of one King, or have another dancing on his strings. Both are interesting thoughts, though the latter thought is very appealing, however, he knows that having a puppet would not end well, and so he looks at Domnall and says. “Send word to King Brian, send your best men, tell him that I wish to agree to alliance with him.”

Domnall smiles. “Of course my liege. Is there anything else you wish to send to him?”

Richard thinks for a moment then nods. “Yes, send him the head of that fool in the cells below. That should show him just how serious I am.”

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