Thorgest : The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
The Plain Of Moynith
Thorgest's reason for moving his army north was a simple one. If the Danes defeated the Irish forces under Nialle, he would move against them. If the Irish were victorious, however, they would then have to move northwest to face the Norwegian army at Lough Swilly. Thorgest could then either broker a peace with his kinsmen, or if they were defeated, attack an Irish army that after two major battles should be greatly diminished in strength. Either way Ulaid, Airgialla, and Northern Ui Neill should then be opened up to further conquest.
Albrikt's main concern, however, was the timing. If they arrived too late the Norsemen could possibly by then be too entrenched to be interested in entering into an agreement, or if the Irish were victorious they might have recovered from their losses, and be more than ready for another fight. And if they should come too early, of course, they might be attacked first by one of the three forces and be weakened to the point where they could not withstand another battle.
While Albrikt argued the merits of several different plans Raðbarðr noticed that Laeg seemed as though he had something important to add to the conversation. Knowing that the Irishman would never dare interrupt the King of Dyvlinarskire on his own, especially when he seemed extremely irritated by Albrikt's rejection of his plans, Raðbarðr asked the Irishman for his opinion. This caught the king and Albrikt by surprise, and both men stopped bickering in mid-sentence.
To Raðbarðr's astonishment the Irish navigator brashly walked over to the map on the table and pointed to a river well to the south of the Lough Swilly.
" We could sail south around the Irish land of Munster, head north past Connacht, and put in here at Donegal in Northern Ui Neill. You could camp your warriors in the woods around this small river the locals call the Finn. " Laeg explained to the Norsemen.
The king, instead of dismissing the suggestion outright, thought for a moment and then pointed to a place just north of the river.
" What is this place here ? " he asked.
Laeg bent over and looked more closely at where the king was pointing to on the map. He smiled when he noticed where the king was pointing.
" That King Thorgest is a great plain called Moynith. " he replied.
Thorgest scratched his bearded chin several times before continuing.
" Would these woods on the edge of the plain hide my army from the invaders and the Irish army ? " he asked.
Laeg's smile turned into a broad grin.
" It is rather remote in this area. You may have to kill a few local farmers to keep your presence a secret, but you should be safe enough there. " he informed the king.
King Thorgest glared at Albrikt.
" Get the ships loaded and ready to sail as soon as possible. We are going to the River Finn,... , and Laeg here will guide us there. " he told his commander in the form of an order.
Albrikt, with Raðbarðr's help, had the ships fully provisioned and ready to sail in less than a week. The king, who never missed a chance to promote his greatness, turned their leaving into a huge spectacle. He had nine oxen slaughtered and their blood offered to both Njordr and Thor. Then after they feasted on the oxen, and drank their fill of mead and ale, the bow of each ship was blessed with a thick coating of the oxen blood, while women danced and sang songs to praise his brave exploits.
The next morning, despite being slightly hung over, the warriors kissed their loved ones goodbye, boarded their ships, pulled up the anchors, and rowed out of the extremely calm harbor. When they reached the mouth of the bay a strong wind blew up, and the crews unfurled the sails. Thorgest's dragon ship led the way, with the king himself standing on the bow of his ship like a statue, to show his warriors how brave he was.
Laeg, as he had done before, did a masterful bit of navigating with the king's fleet along the often treacherous Irish coast. To the Norsemen he seemed to know where every shoal, outcropping of underwater rocks, and dangerous currents lay, and avoided them all. The king was constantly amazed at how close Laeg's estimates for ocean depths matched the soundings taken by his crew. The Irishman, despite not being a warrior in the normal sense, was fearless when it came to understanding, and the taming of the sea.
To the joy and relief of the Norsemen the voyage was rather uneventful, with the king himself commenting several times that he was bored. This all changed, however, when they reached Ui Fiachrach Muaide and rounded its northern coast. Here Thorgest doubled the amount of lookouts, and ordered Laeg to set a course far enough away from the shore so they could not be seen. With every nautical mile they were blown east the tension grew as they quickly approached the territory of their enemy.
When it became evident that they were entering a bay Thorgest left his post on the bow, and made his way back to Laeg, who held the rudder steady in the stern.
" What place is this ? " he asked the Irishman once he was close enough for him to hear.
Laeg wiped the sea spray from his brow before answering.
" This bay will lead us to the River Gweebara. We will sail that waterway to its end, and then disembark from our ships and head south to Lough Finn,..., which is approximately seven or eight miles further south. From there we will follow the River Finn to the forest near the open plain I told you of. " he explained.
Thorgest nodded, but said nothing. He suddenly felt a great uneasiness as the bay narrowed into a wide river, where they were forced to row up against the current. And when the river narrowed to a point where the ships could not run side by side his anxiety grew yet further. The king did not show his feelings, but he was beginning to second guess his decision to come here. Why didn't he take Albrikt's advice, and why did he listen to his gold hungry wife and risk his army, and his kingdom on this risky venture, were two questions he kept asking himself over and over. He had, within just a few short years, built a fair sized kingdom, and now his wife's greed was jeopardizing everything.
As always the Norsemen left a small contingent of men to guard their ships before journeying inland. The march to Lough Finn was actually slightly shorter than Laeg had described, and the distance to the forest a little further, but the Irishman's memory for landmarks was absolutely unbelievable. He even remembered the location of the Meermore Bog which he led them safely south of without incident. Despite a lack of unfortunate incidents the king still did not feel at ease when they finally reached the forest.
" Raðbarðr ! " the king yelled to his third in command.
The commander, despite being weary from the long march, ran over and bowed obediently.
Thorgest pointed through the forest.
" Take your third of the army and scout north of here. See if you can locate this plain,....., " the king stopped there and looked over at Laeg.
" What was that plain called again? " he asked.
" The local people call it Moynith, my king. " he replied immediately.
Thorgest turned back to Raðbarðr.
" Find this Plain of Moynith. Scout the area and return with an assessment of its use as a battlefield. If it seems to our advantage I will go and see it tomorrow. " he told his commander.
" Yes, King Thorgest ! " he quickly replied.
The king then looked around for Albrikt. When he caught sight of his other commander Thorgest shouted over to him.
" Albrikt ! We will make our encampment here ! Set the men to building a temporary fortification ! " the king commanded.
" Yes, my Lord ! " Albrikt replied before setting about to the task at hand.
Nialle Caille had come south from the Lough Swilley to enlist the local people into his army to replace those he had lost in defeating both the Dane and Norwegian armies that had invaded his lands. To his great surprise and satisfaction many of these folk, who were farmers, traders, and craftsmen, were more than happy to join the king's army, swelling its ranks to an even greater number than when he had left Ailech. The High King of Ireland was once again ready for war if some other foreign, or domestic invader, wished to challenge his authority over Ireland.
The Irish king was planning to march his force all the way to Fir Manach to recruit even more men for his army when a rider suddenly came galloping up at full speed across the Plain of Moynith.
" King Nialle Mac Aeda ! King Nialle Mac Aeda !! " he shouted as he used both the reins and his heels to urge the horse forward.
Two of the king's guards quickly placed their horses in front of their lord's mount to block the rider from getting too close to the High King of Ireland.
" Stop ! " one of the guards shouted at the rider.
The rider pulled his horse up short, and bowed slightly before addressing the king.
" My Lord ! I am Finnigan. I have a farm on the north side of the River Finn. There is a horde of Vikings coming this way from the south ! " he shouted the moment his horse came to a halt.
King Nialle pushed his horse through those of his guards, and in an incredulous tone asked.
" From the south ! Are you sure man !!? " the king demanded to know.
Finnigan bowed his head again.
" Yes, my Lord ! They captured and killed my friend, his wife, and all of his children, who lived on the farm next to mine ! " he explained in a huff.
King Nialle could tell by the extreme distress in the man's voice that he was telling the truth, and immediately sprang into action.
" Bran Mac Faelain ! " he shouted.
The minor king of Ui Dunlainge rode over to the High King of Ireland and bowed.
Yes, my Lord ! " he replied instinctively.
King Nialle pointed to his left.
Place your army on my left. I will cover our right. If anyone,....., or anything for that matter comes out of that forest we will kill them right here on the Plain of Moynith. " he ordered.
Albrikt's men were hammering in the first wooden posts for the gate that would secure their defensive position when suddenly, and without warning, the unmistakable sounds of battle began to ring out just to their north. Albrikt looked over at King Thorgest for only a short moment before beginning to shout out orders.
" Grab your weapons and form up into marching order ! We must head towards the sounds of battle at once !! " he shouted without waiting for his king's permission.
- End Chapter 11
- Next : Chapter 12 : Unprepared For Battle
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.