The story so far…
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Find out what’s been going on so far…
(If you’ve already read last week’s recap, jump to Week 2.)
Brian Boru is camped near Dublin with his Dal Cais army and Connacht allies, commanded by his sons Donnchad and Murchad.
Brian and Murchad encircle Dublin town itself, trying to provoke Sitric’s men out for a confrontation. They mean to punish Sitric, the Norse King of Dublin, for his refusal to accept Brian’s High Kingship.
Sitric’s mother Gormlaith, who had famously been married to three kings – including Brian Boru himself – reflects on her situation, from Sitric’s house in Dublin. She has close ties with many of the main players in this 1014 game of thrones, as wife, queen, mother, or sister. She has a unique perspective on the impending events.
King Sitric himself is on his way back from an important mission overseas with good news – he has persuaded Earl Sigurd of Orkney, and the fearsome Viking leader Brodir from the Isle of Man to fight on his side against Brian. Their fleets should be following closely behind him.
Somewhat disingenuously Sitric has offered Sigurd and Brodir the same deal – the spoils of war and the hand of his mother Gormlaith in marriage – on the basis that it’s unlikely they will both survive the coming conflict.
Inside Dublin’s walls, Gormlaith and her brother Mael Morda keep things ticking over, the matriarch ensuring Sitric’s interests are protected in his absence.
Slaine, Brian’s daughter – wed in a strategic alliance to Sitric – languishes in Dublin. Caught between both sides, she is increasingly worried about coming events. She knows a showdown is inevitable and is concerned for both her families.
Meanwhile Donnchad, Brian’s son, raids and skirmishes around North Dublin and Leinster, the territory of Sitric’s uncle Mael Morda, wreaking havoc and oppressing the locals in the villages and farms.
Former High King Mael Sechnaill, once Brian’s rival, now his reluctant ally, sits in his palace in Tara. His Norse wife Mael Muire, a half-sister to Sitric, tries to persuade him to drop his allegiance to Brian and secretly switch sides. She even offers to broker a deal with Sitric.
Mael Sechnaill bides his time. As an elder statesman of the O’Neill dynasty, he is not one to rush in to act rashly; better to wait and see how things play out.
Brian and his kin continue to ravage the Dublin hinterland. Viking shrines sacred to Thor are desecrated and trade disrupted. In Dublin the populace goes about it’s business under a cloud of fear. Norse and Irish pick fights with one another in the marketplace. It’s tense.
Sitric arrives back in Dublin with his good news and celebrates in advance with Mael Morda. The Leinster/Dublin/Norse side is confident, their expectation of success seems well-founded. There is talk of reaching out to Svein in England, becoming part of the general Viking expansion.
Brian reflects on his situation, and wonders which of his sons will succeed him. He regrets that the marriage of his daughter to Sitric has not resulted in better relations between them and that he is now being forced to destroy him.
UPDATED to include story up to 20th April.
As we open the second week MaelMorda is feeling elated and confident at the prospect of settling old scores with the Dal Cais. He’s delighted at Sitric’s success in bringing in overseas aid and looks forward to personally dealing with Murchad Mac Bhriain – who famously once humiliated him at the Battle of Glen Mama.
Murchad meanwhile continues his offensive around Dublin, desecrating shrines sacred to Thor in an attempt to tempt the Dublin Norse out for a proper fight, rather than besieging the city as they had done before.
Brodir, the fearsome Viking leader from the Isle of Man is furious to learn that his brother Ospak has resolved to fight on Brian Boru’s side, as a good Christian. As a lapsed Christian himself, Brodir is more concerned with the reward Sitric will give him for helping him defeat Brian Boru.
Gormlaith, in Dublin with Sitric and MaelMorda, is concerned that Mael Morda may in fact be over confident. She knows the Dal Cais leader well, having once been married to him, and understands that his motivation runs deep – deeper than that of the mercenaries recruited by her son.
Sitric himself is considering the bigger picture. News has reached him of the death of Svein Forkbeard in England, and he wonders if the whole Viking expansion is losing steam. He compares himself to Forkbeard and looks to the future of Dublin, where his son Olaf will grow up, as something more than Irish or Norse alone, a new hybrid combining elements of both.
His wife Slaine is also concerned about their son Olaf, but her concern centres more on his immediate safety. As the daughter of Brian Boru she knows that no matter how the coming confrontation plays out, the cost to her families will be great.
Brian himself is having odd dreams and visions, centered on the meadow of the bulls that will come to be known as Clontarf. Murchad, the commander of the Dal Cais forces, settles down to wait for battle.
Mael Muire, wife of Mael Sechnaill, wonders if her husband has chosen the right side to support in the coming war. As the daughter of Olaf Cuaran, a great Viking king, and the sister of Sitric Silkbeard, her sympathies are clearly compromised.
Sigurd, Jarl of Orkney, is setting sail for Dublin, packing his trusty Raven banner. Woven by his mother Eithne, it possesses magical powers, granting victory to the side that bears it into battle, though costing the individual bearer his life.
Mael Sechnaill considers his options – whether or not it would be in his interests to throw in his lot fully with Brian, make peace with Sitric, or wait and see what will happen on the day.
Sitric and Brian are both in philosophical form, considering the Irish sea. Sitric loves it, for all the benefits it brings to Dublin, in terms of trade and ideas. Brian, on the other hand, compares it very unfavourably to the Atlantic of the West Coast, seeing it only in terms of a tactical weak spot that must be controlled.
At the end of this week, Sigurd lands in Dublin and is greeted with great feasting in Sitric’s home. Maelmorda is very taken with him and his warriors, and his confidence grows that they will bring victory. He does notice, however that Sigurd has eyes for Gormlaith.
Gormlaith is having none of it. She acknowledges Sigurd’s prowess and his usefulness to her son Sitric, but is very clear that on a personal level the idea of a match with Sigurd does not at all appeal.
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