Our event taking place this weekend happens in the Proud Realm of Baol, and there is a recent event that has had a huge effect not only on Baolach politics, but the recent history of the whole of Tirneach.
The Battle of Traitor’s Tears
Probably the most seismic battle in Tirneach’s recent history took place in Baol. It was the culmination of a plot that had gone on from the reign of the previous Réig and erupted in the early years of Maeláine Uí Chonchobhair’s accession to the crown. What had been an internecine affair of skirmishes, assassinations and raids became full-scale warfare, with gallóglaigh bands taking one side or the other, not for coin but for promises of wealth and power.
The Iarla of Baol, Gearóidín Nic Ardal, had joined the other Iarlas in a sense of growing discontent during the reign of Airt Ua Chonchobhair. Her towns were under constant harassment by the highlander Clanns, the Réig’s courtiers imposed higher and higher tariffs on trade through her Realm, and Kriegerish privateers flying the flag of Bruid were constantly harrying ships along her coast. Out of desperation she even challenged the Réig to a duel, using a technicality of her oaths that even the hoariest scholars had to scratch their heads about, but no answer was forthcoming. In the end she took the law into her own hands.
The Baolach trade guilds have always maintained armed guards for their caravans and chapter houses, but now the Iarla issued a charter demanding that each supply a standing militia for the use of the Realm, to restore order and peace during a period of emergency. Some were only to happy to oblige, and they were intrigued by the demand for secrecy. No word of this mobilisation was to leave Baol.
Of course it did, and rapidly. The Réig’s courtiers were alarmed, but in the declining years of Airt’s reign little could be done, with so many crises around the Five Realms shouldn’t they be grateful one Iarla was taking control? The trade guild militias held back the Clanns for a raiding season and normalcy was restored. Réig Airt died, and Réig Maeláine rose to the throne. Gearóidín Nic Ardal travelled to Corroch and spoke the oaths with the other Iarlas, and the problem seemed to have gone.
Still operating as an open secret, Iarla Gearóidín was expanding her trade guild militias and looking beyond her borders to the north and south. She was encouraged in this by the Happy Harvest Trade Guild, friends of her family for many decades, and the Guild with the largest and most widespread militias. The Iarla and the Happy Harvest hatched a plan together: declare Baol to be a sovereign Realm, leave the other four Realms to their benighted Ua Chonchobhair dynasty, seize whatever territory they could in the ensuing chaos, and reap the rewards.
It was an ambitious plan, and one that very nearly worked. Iarla Gearóidín had fought as a gallóglach herself, and was widely known and respected. Her agents approached several thanes and whispered in their ears. Those thanes who refused to break their oaths were dealt with, leaving their bands in disarray. The bands that turned traitor swiftly mobilised and made their way to Baol, joining the trade guild militias in the Green Marches and Lakelands to stand against the rest of the Realms.
To the surprise of the whole of Tirneach, when the news came of Baol’s rebellion, it was the Réig who stood up and took action. She rallied those bands that were still loyal, and rode to the borderlands with Baol herself at the head of a column of mounted Drakeblooded, loyal guards of House Roaring Thunder. She was met there by six bands of loyal gallóglaigh, and they faced the numerically superior traitor army on the high ground above Loch Cleamh, with a steep drop to the north.
Many hundreds lost their lives in what was swiftly afterwards called the Battle of Traitors’ Tears, as the skies opened and the rain tore the foothills into a muddy and treacherous marsh. Things looked grim for a time for the Réig’s army, until two things turned the tide. First, a surprise assault came from a band led by the human highlander thane Gríosla Mac Niamha, who scaled the cliffs by the side of Loch Cleamh and attacked the rebel army from behind, allowing the Réig’s forces to regroup from the first assault. Second, the Réig herself called in a voice like thunder, using the power of the Shaper to overpower the storm itself, to condemn the traitors and proclaim they had broken their oaths.
The traitor gallóglaigh had already been fighting below their full strength, the First Oath broken as soon as they took the field against the Réig herself. Now they were completely undone, the power that the Five Oaths granted had abandoned them. They were now no match for the loyal gallóglaigh bands, who had already outclassed the trade guild militias and now rounded on their former comrades-in-arms. The Creidhe thane Tríona Nic Eibhlín fought fiercest of all, standing alongside the Réig, and slayed the traitor thane of the Red Wolf band.
The loyal army won the day and forced the rebels to surrender. The traitor gallóglaigh bands were disbanded, their oaths already broken. The Happy Harvest Trade Guild had their charter revoked and their assets sold to their rivals. Iarla Gearóidín Nic Ardal was stripped of her title and sent into exile, while in her place for the first time in living memory a highlander was sworn in as Iarla, one Dalles of Clann Niamha, the famous Drakeblooded warrior. The thanes of the loyal gallóglaigh bands were richly rewarded with Ridings and political power, and Réig Maeláine Uí Chonchobhair had struck the first blow in dispelling the legacy of her uncle.