Thorgest : The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
The High King Of Ireland
As Naille Caille gazed around his court he was pleased to see so many happy faces enjoying his gracious hospitality. It was not always this way, however. A decade of war, and much bloodshed, marked his rise to the royal title of High King Of Ireland. He had no title to speak of until his cousin Murchad mac Maele Duin was deposed, and he was chosen as the King of Ailech.
Two years later he found himself embroiled in a religious conflict in which he, and his followers, faced annihilation by the armies of Cummasech of Airgialla, and the King of Ulster, Mairedach mac Eochada. Nialle, by the grace of God, had been able to raise an army from among the Cenel Eoggin and the Cenel Conaill, which he then marched to Armagh. There the two sides fought a bloody battle that lasted three full days. When all was said and done Niall had won a complete victory over the kings of Airgialla and Ulster. Among the dead were counted Cummasech, and his brother Congalach.
When Gormflaith's brother Conchobar died, Nialle was named High King of Ireland. On the day he was crowned he had promised the people of the north peace and prosperity. The northern raiders, known as the Heathen Vikings however, had other plans for the first years of his reign when they attacked Derry in the year 834 A.C.E.
After vanquishing these Norsemen from his lands the High King of Ireland felt emboldened by his new found power and attacked both Southern Ui Neill the next year, and Laigin in 836, gaining new territories for his growing kingdom. Realizing that he could not possibly rule over such a large realm alone he began to install minor kings and Lords to rule under him.
In 838 Nialle was again drawn into a religious conflict. This time with King Feidlimid mac Crimthainn of Munster. The two kings, to avoid a costly and bloody war, held a conference at Clonfert. Here the two kings agreed to a peace treaty, and Nialle returned to his kingdom believing that he had been most fair to the King of Munster. King Feidlimid, however, came away from their meeting thinking that he had received the blessing of King Nialle to become the new High King of Ireland. Nialle, of course had agreed to no such thing, and the two were soon at each other's throats once again.
To make a show that he was the one and only High King of Ireland Feidlimid brought his army to Tarm Hill, where the high kings were crowned, and encamped his warriors around the hill. Unimpressed with this show of force Nialle marched his army south and raided Offalay in Munster, to force Feidlimid to oppose him.
If they wanted a final showdown, or not, they were destined to do battle for the crown of Ireland in 841 at Mag n Ochtair. Here, in a battle which was most vicious, Nialle defeated the King of Munster soundly, but unfortunately he was not able to completely destroy his army. The remnants of Feidlimid's force limped back to Munster, where despite his best efforts, the King of Munster would never again move north against Nialle Caille.
The king shook his head slowly from side to side as if he could somehow shake away all of these bad memories. He wanted only to live here in the moment with his pregnant wife, his child, and the loyal people who were celebrating the Summer Solstice at his court. Finally Nialle took a deep breath before standing up to make a toast. As he raised his chalice high into the air the doors of the hall were suddenly thrown open by two of his guards who escorted a stranger towards his throne. The hall became quiet as the guards marched the messenger up to the king. For they knew that his guards would not disturb this joyous celebration unless it was a matter of life or death,...., or worse, war !
The two guards, each of whom carried halberds, knelt down on one knee before their king, and waited for their visitor to kneel as well before the larger of the two, a man named Conaing, spoke.
" My Lord ! A messenger has come from Westmeath with most disturbing news ! " he stated.
King Nialle motioned for them to stand.
" And what has happened in Westmeath that requires my attention ? " the king asked.
The visitor bowed his head respectfully before beginning.
" I am Aodghan, my king ! Lord Melaghlin sends you his regards, and wishes you to know that he has held off an attack on the Cluain Mhic Nois monastery by a Viking raiding army. He has requested me to come here to ask for your assistance in vanquishing these Heathens from Westmeath. " he informed the king.
King Nialle Caille looked over at his wife, before returning his stare to the courier.
" And why may I ask is the Lord of Westmeath requesting my help when he should be seeking assistance from the King of Mide ? " he inquired suspiciously.
Aodghan bobbed his head from side to side as if he were searching for a safe way to answer the king's question.
" The Viking Chieftain who has attacked the monastery, and many other towns and villages across Mide, has set himself up as the King of Dyvlinarskire. His forces not only threaten the midlands, and the coast, but also the lands to the north, ....,your lands my Lord. " he replied somewhat timidly.
Queen Gormflaith interrupted the messenger.
" My brother, Mael Ruanaid Mac Donnchada Mid, is the King of Mide. It is your duty to inform my brother of the events that have transpired,...., and it is the responsibility of the King of Mide to rid his lands of these despicable Norsemen ! " she told the messenger in a scolding tone.
Aodghan nodded humbly.
" Yes, my queen ! " he replied as he stared down at the floor.
King Nialle could see that the messenger felt belittled, and wished to ease his embarrassment with a few kind words.
" The queen and I very much appreciate the arduous journey that you have undertaken to reach my court. And we offer you food and drink,...., and a place to rest before you leave. You will next ride to Mide to tell my wife's brother of these raiders, and then you may return to Cluain Mhic Nois to tell the Lord of Westmeath that I very much appreciate his warning, and also what he has done to stem the tide of these Norsemen. " he told the messenger in a kindly voice.
Aodghan nodded respectfuly before being escorted by the guards to a table near the thrones to partake of some food and drink. As he sat eating a chicken leg he remembered how Melaghlin had told him that the High King would probably not venture all the way out to Athlone in Westmeath when there were so many petty kings in that region to take care of what the king would consider to be a local issue. Aodghan smiled a little, however, when he recalled how the Lord of Westmeath had said that " If you tell the king that these Vikings have laid claim to a kingdom near his realm he will surely have to act upon that information. And as he drank his ale he watched as a large warrior, obviously one of the commanders of the king's army, came over and knelt before King Nialle. As the messenger strained his ears to listen, above the din of the celebration, he could barely make out what was said.
" Cormac ! Take a small detachment of men to Dubh Linn, what these Heathens call Dyvlinarskire. See if what the Lord of Westmeath says is true ! If so we will have to move against these Vikings ! " the king ordered.
Aodghan's grin grew in size as he watched the large warrior strut out of the court as if he had been given a grand task.
" Is Melaghlin always right ? " he whispered to himself.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : Across The Irish Sea
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.