Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Clann a' Ched ........ (Children of the Mist)

“We became one when the Clann a’ Romaidh beat on our doors to look for our gold and wealth. We stopped our raiding. We knew our code of enough was a feast was not the way of the Clann a’ Romaidh who took, plundered all and left only emptiness behind them where as we took only that what was needed and in times of harshness for others expected the same when we had plenty.  A way which has been ours since the time of the giants and the defeat of their darkness by Lug which brought us to light and life; a darkness we still defeat every Yule at the darkest point of the year with fire and cleansing. I, Griogair, son of Dungal, Ceann Mhor by acclaim of my fellow Caenn a’ Clann  now speak of something that maybe hard to bear for all who call Alba home, it is why I asked you to come to my hall, take venison and fra’och with me and hear our history told by our bards, word for word, for many generations since the many became one, we the people the Clann a’ Romaidh  called Pictii after they had seen our painted story stones that only our bards can read and the same stories tattooed on our dead before they burnt them and cleansed their souls so they would go with Lug to Eillann Glas and not to the giants where they would be crushed amongst  crag an mhor  for eternity.

We are at a point where we must decide as our ancestors decided all those moons ago do we stay alone separate while the Norse eat our lands as they have already in Caithness and Sutherland and already nibble at Eillann Dubh and onto Moray. We lost many against the Norse at Dornoch, fine warriors, great men though they were and now I say we must choose do we make peace with the Norse, make settlement with gold and silver and let them hold our lands in their name or do we look to the Scottis in Dal Ratia for kinship and joining as they to suffer from the Norse curse. This is what troubles me and why I need your council as Ceann Mhor for it is a decision that will see unification into one land, this is what the bards tell and the seers predict form the passing of the moon and stars across the stone circle of the ancients.  What are your words? Come forward to the fire and say what you will Chatt’an, Macbeth, Mac ‘eirk, Grant and all here  ... the hearth is yours.”

“I speak for Clann a’ Chatt’an. We know the story and lore that makes Alba and we feel for our friends in Sutherland and Caithness but we must look to ourselves and make tight our borders against the Norse. Yet our borders are long and our men and horse are few after Dornoch. The Norse raid Moray and take the kine, quines and bairns leaving only dead behind. If we make peace, will they not see this as weakness and simply keep up their plunder of our kine and people? We drove the Clann a’ Romaidh from our lands down the Straths, Carses and below the Forth, are we still those men or are we but mewling babes in arms?

I say if we stay our hand for peace, we will die at the Norse hand, anyway, once we are empty of gold and silver.”

There was much banging of knife handles on the tables and cries of ‘Aye, this is so!’. Griogair let them cheer and rumble and as the mood died he called forward Macbeth, styled Righ of Pittencrief and Auchterarder, Righ Mhor of the Clanns of Fife.

“We know the stories of how we bested the Clann a’ Romaidh. We defeated them by stealth; we did not face such an armed, strong and worthy foe in direct battle for to do so was doom, as those in the Carse of Gowry and Strath Don found. Their tribal warriors set in piles and their women and children taken for slaves when they would not join us, as cooperation with other Clanns was ‘not their way’ and ‘against their code’. It was only the wisdom of us in the fastness of our hills and mountains who saw what was needed was a joining; not a splitting, for we would be destroyed if we held to our old ways.  Together we became Clann a Ched, the Children of the Mist, we learnt to find the weak spots and attack those, not face the Legions – the disaster near Aber Dee taught us that, once and for all, for those with eyes to see. We would not take the gold and silver, as did some, to keep and ape the Romaidh peace.

We thought and worked together and raided short and fast from out of Straths, making lots of little cuts in that great serpent, all which joined together to make one great wound which even the Romaidh could not staunch and so they left us much the poorer in gold, people and kine yet much the richer for having found a peace amongst us, in common cause. I say paying gold and silver to the Norse to enslave us, is not our way in Alba: it is the way of the Romaidh we have long since cursed and despised. Yet the Norse are not the Romaidh, they are not a serpent with one head which our ancestors could torment and defeat, these Norse are many headed and are like the midge we so curse in late summer, they swarm no matter how many you slap down. To the South West the Scottis of Dal Riata now have the same plague upon them. I say we take an embassy to Dal Riata and seek togetherness with the Scottis, as did our ancestors with each other, all those moons before. We have kinship of tongue and our ways are not that different and maybe we will gain strength from their ‘one god’ and friendship to defeat these Norse.”

Grigoir looked round his hall, in the flicker light of the fire and the tapers and lamps around the walls he sensed the calculations going on, MacBeth had not met the same acclaim as Chatt’an but neither of the four had expected this to be the case. MacBeth was proposing peace with the Scottis who had long been their enemy, encroaching as they had on the lands of Alba. It was clear they would not surrender to the Norse but how best to survive, there was a communal intake of breath, an intake which almost sucked the life from the fire as Domhnail of the MacReath, one of the eldest of the clann heads, though of the smallest Clann, yet respected by all, for his wise council and long years stood and took his place by the fire. This was unexpected as the plan had been for Mac’eirk to speak next to lead them to the answer the four had already decided but Brehon Law said Domhnail must be heard without interruption.

“I am not of the silver tongue like Chatt’an or McBeth, I am not a bard of flower and river words, I say what needs to be said. I say this Grigoir, Ceann Mhor of Alba’s clanns. You ask us to give up our gods of river, mountain, stream and wood from time immemorial. You ask us to turn our backs on our lands the Scottis have taken by sword and fire and join with Dal Riata: all so we may have peace on one border.

You ask us to give up too much for your plan but what will you give in blood debt to us all, what will you sacrifice for this bargain, what will you pledge to this assembly in Lug’s name, Lug who has kept us safe in Alba since he vanquished the giants of Gog and Magog to the bitter darkness under the world?”

To this there was once again much cheering and banging on tables. Grigoir waited until the hubbub died away and there was silence, he stepped forward to the hearth and sensed all those around the hall leaning towards him, wanting to hear how he would stay the truth in Domhnail's words, how would overturn the path of his ancestors yet it make it right with them. Grigoir took his time and slowly and calmly looked around his hall stopping at each well known face, giving each a nod of recognition and a smile. He could feel the growing sense of expectation, the hall knew he would have a reply to Domhnail and it would be sharp, like a nail driving home into wood. Grigoir completed his circle and said quietly but with a tenor so all would hear, “I am offering my daughter to Kenneth McAlpin’s eldest son in sacrifice, it is what we must do for Alba to survive and our clan society with it. If it means swearing to the one God of the Scottis on Alba’s behalf, I will do it but I will not make one man or woman in Alba follow this one God if it is not in their heart to do so. To give up the belief of my ancestors is my own sacrifice, to give up the daughter of my blood, is my blood sacrifice, as is our way, to do what is best for Alba. What say you?  Is this sacrifice enough to sway you Domhnail? What of the rest, what sacrifice will you make to keep Alba safe or do you only offer words and silence?”

Grigoir looked around once more at the Clann heads looking each one in the eye. Most held his stare, Domhnail nodded his head, Grigoir knew he had won even before a vote had been cast. Grigoir offered his challenge, “What say you?” and sat back down. It had been planned that Grant would come forward to call for and tally the vote but as Domhnail rose, Grigoir stayed Grant.

“I have heard what Grigoir of Dun Staibhnis has to say. I am persuaded he does indeed have the best interests of Alba at his heart, a heart big enough to sacrifice himself and his daughter for Alba, to send both their souls on death, under the world to be tortured by Gog and Magog by crushing between mountains of the black land for all time, to destroy his and his daughter's chance to join with Lug and his ancestors on Eillan Glas, that is a big enough sacrifice for any man to endure for a country he loves. I will say ‘Yes’ and take tally of those who agree.”

Domhnail carefully marked each nod in agreement on the tally stick, then took up a new tally to ask who was against, there was not a mark. Grigoir saw there were two who had not voted on either hand, both held lands on the Moray Firth, they would need watching as he felt they would try and do their own deal with the Norse. He looked across at Grant who nodded he had seen who the two non voters were.

Domhnail held up his hand for silence, “The yes has it, Grigoir as our representative by election I ask for the hall by acclamation to call you ‘Righ an Alba’ so your talk will be King to King as MacAlpin already styles himself ‘Righ an Dal Riata’. To this end I wish the bards to hear and tell to all in Alba:

Sliochd nan righrean dùthchasach
Bha thuineadh an Dùn-Staibhnis,
Aig an robh crùn na h-Alb' o thus
'S aig a' bheil dùthchas fathast ris.

(Descendants of the hereditary kings
Whom dwell in Dunstaffnage,
Who possessed the crown of Scotland originally
And who still have hereditary claim to it.)

Neither did Domhnail nor all present understand the curse these words would put on the generations of Grigoiracht yet unborn and through future times. That fate was for others but only if Grigoir acted now and allied with the Scottis against the Norse maggots eating at their land, their Alba.

Gog and Magog would crush and grind the Grigioracht to ever smaller pieces, but over many centuries yet to be, for their betrayal of Lug, no matter how just the cause.

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