The Great Time Skip: News from Tirneach

The Season of Uncertainty

The two years following the death of Maeláine Uí Chonchobhair were a time of great fear and uncertainty. In the absence of a Réig, the Gwyllt ran rampant across Tirneach, terrorising the people and forcing them to dedicate themselves to little besides the defence of their communities. The first summer without a Réig was a trial, the second proved to be a harrowing of the Relams. Many, among the learned and the superstitious alike, proclaimed this an ill omen and a clear sign that a new Réig, any Réig, was needed immediately to bring peace and restore order. Others counselled patience, warning that no one should want a return to the chaos of three Réigs in fewer than six years (or, perhaps more importantly, the six years of draconian order under Duarcan the Grim that followed it). In any case, Tiergan was unmoved by calls for expedience as he judged the would-be Réigs and weighed their support and aptitudes.

 

“It’s bad luck not to have a Réig. First Réig took down the Gwyllt, what do you think they’ll do when there’s none?” – Mothó, shepherd of Bruid

 

The Realms’ capitals received reinforcement from the Gallóglaigh, though not all of them as much as they would have liked or needed. Favouritism came into play as many Thanes sought to protect their own home Realms while others simply marched to whatever capital was nearest when the call came. Some bands, which were between campaigns or taking rest when they received the order, ended up scattered across several Realms as their members took it upon themselves to decide where their help was needed most. A few bands even experienced serious schisms over the issue of which capital deserved their aid. Many Gallóglaigh took the time to have themselves formally transferred to another band so that they could serve in the capital closest to their families and loved ones, but a handful simply took their own leave and joined up with bands known to not ask too many questions.

 

“I’ll never forget it. My kids and I were running from some awful things that wanted to eat us, and out of the woods come two warriors, howling a battle cry. They saved our lives. Must have been Golden Knives, they had these tarnished brooches on in the shape of daggers.” – Ualainn, farmer of Baol

 

Some folk who lived in isolated and rural parts of Tirneach fled their homes to seek shelter in the better defended cities but for those who remained there was one unusual source of support. Shortly after the call to defend the capitals, the Regent announced that it had been discovered that the late Réig’s Gallóglaigh band, the Golden Knives, had never formally been decommissioned after she took the crown, and that he recognised Aster Ua Larkspur as the standing Thane of that band. It seemed a strange thing for the Regent to bother with amid all the turmoil but shortly afterwards open letters were received in many of the towns and villages around Tirneach. They claimed that Aster had been given authority over all Gallóglaigh who had been separated from their bands and ordered them to join them to receive further orders. The letters also specified that any Gallóglach travelling to meet Aster was to do all they could to ensure the safety of the roads and outlying settlements as they travelled. The orders did not specify Aster’s location.

 

“I’ll never forget it. I was on the road, surveying my own fields if you don’t mind, when these two ruffians show up out of the woods. They blocked my way and demanded that I pay the Regent’s Tax, or they couldn’t guarantee my safety. Must have been those Golden Knives, they had these shining brooches in the shape of daggers.” – Cillian, farmer of Baol

 

Many initially took the orders to be a hoax or perhaps some kind of trap but the Regent did nothing to disavow Aster’s claim to authority and as the months went on “members” of the Golden Knives began to be seen wandering the roads of Tirneach. Always on their way to meet their Thane and always watchful for threats overlooked by the capitals, both supernatural and mundane.

The Fate of Corroch

Regent Tiergan put out the call for Gallóglaigh to reinforce the capital city of Corroch, and enough heeded his summons to hold the Gwyllt at bay. Bands of Gallóglaigh co-ordinated the defence of Uasa’s roads and waterways and for the most part held the Gwyllt away from the city. Those who were tasked with keeping peace in the city witnessed something disturbing however as many of the fishers who supplied Corroch with a good portion of its sustenance began to act strangely. Fights would break out between friends who’d worked together amiably for decades, often turning violent. Others claimed they were being watched or followed, often accusing those closest to them of spying on them and trying to reveal their secrets (whether they had any secrets of not). Investigation revealed that all those afflicted had caught one of the strange, one-eyed fish that had recently been sighted in the waters. The creatures were immediately revealed to be Gwyllt and their paranoia-inducing effects seemed to be temporary so long as further contact with them was avoided. The presence of the Gwyllt fish made the vital work of the fishers a tense and unpleasant affair.

 

“I’ve fished in these waters since I was a child, never had to watch my haul so closely before.” – Borgach, fisher of Uasa

 

However, the schemes of the Gwyllt soon turned out to be the least of the Uasaigh’s problems. While surviving members of the Riverborn and the Breaker Heresy continued to make a nuisance of themselves, a new group soon eclipsed them. Calling themselves “Lobhan’s Legacy”, they claimed to be champions of Siabhal and called on the Regent to immediately anoint Iarla Ni Órfhaiche as Réig, appoint “any backwater fishtickler” as Iarla of Uasa, and move the Crown Realm to Siabhal. Naturally, the Regent disregarded their demands as irritating bluster. That was until the very next night, when the group arranged the murders of several Uasaigh Riders. A gold crown splattered with red dots was left painted on the walls at each of the murder scenes. Iarla Ni Órfhaiche fervently disavowed this group and their actions and began a rigorous hunt for the perpetrators.

While investigations into these killings were underway, Corroch suffered its most concerted attack from the Gwyllt For several days beforehand it had been reported that more and more of the unsettling one-eyed Gwyllt fish were turning up in the waterways around Corroch. The Gallóglaigh who had been posted throughout the area around the city were quickly alerted when the creatures began to gather in turbulent shoals and merged their bodies together, forming larger and larger monstrosities with more and more glassy, staring eyes. Some of the amalgam fish creatures were destroyed by quick reacting Gallóglagh but most of them were able to swim towards the city as the warriors out on patrol rushed to keep up with them.

On the outskirts of the Corroch the creatures began once again to merge and soon a hulking, amorphous horror, covered in thousands of accusing eyes dragged itself out of the waters of Uasa and began slouching towards the Citadel of the Shaper. Several Gallóglaigh and fishers were crushed under its slimy bulk as it slid inexorably towards the Citadel, destroying boats, bridges, nets, and traps as it went. Word soon reached the defenders that Regent Tiergan was attending a meeting with the full Prelate Council in the Citadel, not that they needed any additional incentive to protect the Shaper’s Citadel from the awful Gwyllt. At first it seemed that nothing could deter the monster from its course. Under a hail of blows from the warriors assembled, it never slowed or changed its course but lashed out all round it with fins and tails that emerged and dissolved from its disgusting form. Gallóglaigh whose skin came into contact with the ichor of the beast were immediately affected by an intense and violent paranoia, turning upon their allies.

Eventually, with the creature coming within an arrow-shot of the Citadel, several mages began casting Fear over it. While the great beast initially resisted, eventually the effect took hold, causing the monster to erupt in ichor as every individual Gwyllt fish making it up tried to flee a different way. So armed, the Gallóglaigh were able to drive the creature away from the Citadel before it could reform into its full size. Badly wounded, and kept from its prey, dozens of the smaller horrors dissolved back into the waters from whence they came. Despite the investigations, the true identities of the Legacy remain unknown. Sightings of the Gwyllt fish have become rare but they have not disappeared entirely. For the Uasaigh of Corroch, this was a time of anxiety for coming threats and longing for a new Réig deserving of their loyalty.

The Fate of Barr

Traditionally safe and secure Barr attracted the concern of few Gallóglaigh and the Riders and Ruby Families of Siabhal concerned themselves primarily with the defence of historic Iomra over the actual capital. Though Siabhal has typically suffered less from the Gwyllt threat than the other Realms, this drastically changed in the absence of the Réig. Ridings such as Sciatrian were cut off for months. Massive Gwyllt formed from crumbling marble and hosts of smaller creatures reported to look like ghoulish scarecrows accompanied common Gwyllt monstrosities as they prowled the Ridings of Siabhal. The Gallóglaigh in Barr found themselves spending most of the long season co-ordinating the meagre forces present to stretch as far as they could. Patrols through the farmlands worked desperately to keep the fields safe enough to be worked as they were meanced not just by Gwyllt but by mortal bandits and looters as well as vermin, grown bold in the chaos. As the second summer began, the already severe Gwyllt attacks spiked sharply, and the harried Gallóglaigh were finally overwhelmed.

A terrible Gwyllt mockery of a massive tower burst without warning through Barr’s city square as the sun reached its midday peak, and immediately began to crumble and collapse. Dozens of bystanders, including Iarla Ní Órfhaiche and several Riders were caught in the torrent of debris. Fortunately there were just enough Gallóglaigh to manage the crowd and to fight off the smaller Gwyllt that poured out of the broken tower. Drina of House Roaring Thunder was able to drag the Iarla to safety, where she could be stabilised before she bled out. As the dust settled,the Gallóglaigh heard a terrible sound in the distance and saw on the horizon that Iomra itself had fared even worse. They looked on in horror as one of the three storied towers of Iomra, built by Leasiar during the old Kingdom of Siabhal, was smashed to pieces and fell from view.

 

“How bold these creatures have grown, if they can strike at the very Heart of the Realms. They will never stop.”Búbha Ní Shiúin, courtier of Iomra

 

The assembled Gallóglaigh managed to save who they could among the Ruby Families, though fires scorched many of the fields, and barrithe and other pests devoured others. The local Riders and Gallóglaigh on hand were able to organise logistics and guard enough to avoid the threat of famine in Siabhal. However, many merchants cancelled shipments to other Realms or sharply raised their prices, citing shortages and increased demand, which led to their neighbours contemplating taking by force what they couldn’t buy with coin. For the Siabhlaigh of Barr, this was a time of loss and fear for what will come next, even as some saw opportunity in the crisis.

The Fate of Uaircinn

Although the Treachery of Mairi the Brute was put to an end, many were still concerned about Baol’s stability, and enough Gallóglaigh mustered on Uaircinn to relieve the city’s militia from the Gwyllt onslaught. As the city became ever more crowded by those seeking shelter, Gallóglaigh in Uaircinn found themselves struggling to keep the peace within the city as much as they fought to keep safe its walls. Disputes between clanns, between guilds, between Highlanders and Lowlanders, and between those who had fought for Iarla Dalles and those who were suspected of still harbouring loyalty to Mairí threatened to tear the city apart from within.

 

“I have seen the Amber Hall, shining in the night. It calls to me, and I must answer. You counsel patience, but would you counsel forgiveness if I lost such a chance?” – A note left by Ian Mac Donnchadha, before his disappearance

“It’s clear to me now that only some terrible Gwyllt creature would set such a ruinous rate, and I have the word of two Torchbearers who agree. I am sorry for your loss, but you must now see that the agreement between your guildmate and me is null and void.” – A fragment of a letter sent to the Friendly Hand guild

Particularly vigilant Gallóglaigh who were securing a major meeting between the Trade Guilds and representatives from a number of Highland clanns unmasked “Casey”, head of the Friendly Hand guild and a hero of the battle of Scarlet Heather, as a Gwyllt imposter.The Gwyllt was cut down before it could escape but not before it drew a twisted horn and blew a blast of sound that caused fear and nausea in all around it. This was the opening salvo in a terrible battle as more Gwyllt impostors revealed themselves and opened the gates to the city. Gwyllt poured through the streets and the ensuing battle was long and bloody, claiming many lives, including that of the real Casey and Etain, head of the Polished Smile Trade Guild. Tiernan Mac Aongusa was almost counted among the dead, were he not spotted by Gallóglaigh, lying face down in a side-street, a poisoned blade stuck in his back. In the aftermath of the battle the city was searched thoroughly for any more Gwyllt impostors but none were found. Still, suspicion remained, as did a sense of uncertainty over how long some people have been replaced for and some embarrassment over how the leaders of the city had been manipulated. Mistrust and a paralysing caution slowed down the appointment of new Guild Heads, which in turn hampered trade and the supply of vital goods across the Lowlands and other Realms.

The Highlands had their own tragedy to contend with, as the heirs of every courtly Clann (except for the wandering heir of Clann Mac Tire) received signs and visions of a translucent amber castle in a rocky field, ringing with the sounds of laughter, song and battle. They became certain that these visions would lead them to the site of the Amber Hall, where they would find long lost power that could defend Baol from the Gwyllt. Even the scions of long rival clanns worked together to decipher the visions and reveal the location hidden within.

Their elders counselled patience, to allow their scholars and those visiting from among the Gallóglaigh to study their accounts and for Gallóglaigh to be sent in arms to scout the area first. Full of headstrong ideas of destiny, many of the heirs ignored this advice and snuck away together to follow their visions and bring the salvation of Baol. When Gallóglaigh scouts were sent after them they found only undead waiting to greet them. The grim abominations were all that was left of the heirs of the Courtly Clanns. For the Baolaigh of Uaircinn this was a time of loss and suspicion.

The Fate of Crag Oscionn

With the recent incursion of the Blazing Host near Ardbealach still fresh in the public memory, many Gallóglaigh answered Iarla Marblespine’s call to reinforce Crag Oscionn, capital of Draíod, against potential threats. Gallóglaigh patrolled any tunnels that led to the surface, guarding the Arcane College and the Shrine, or kept peace between spirited scholars. Though some few Gwyllt managed to find their way down below, they were soon caught by patrols and subdued easily enough for the most part. The real trouble in Crag Oscionn came from a mortal threat. Excess water in a few tunnels surrounding the Arcane College immediately caused alarm among the Draíodaigh but before anything could be done about it the trickles became torrents and tunnels began to flood. Experienced Draíodaigh tunnel dwellers had begun their calm and orderly evacuation when the halls began to ring with screams.

Tunnels once blocked off by collapse or by intention had been opened by the rushing waters and the undead thought safely contained within them, including a number of the Sluagh from the recent siege, were set loose in Crag Oscionn. The Gallóglaigh lept into action, guarding the evacuees and pinning down the abominations. The Gallóglaigh guarded the engineers who pumped the water from the tunnels and once the area was traversable once more, they were the first to enter and clear any remaining dangers. In the aftermath, evidence of sabotage was discovered and blame was laid at the foot of a gang of Broken Chains attempting to destroy the Arcane College as revenge for rejecting them.

 

“At first I thought it was shining cave moss. Then I saw it move. And kill.”Slinn, Fathach of Draíod

 

The Arcane College was relocated to several smaller off site facilities for the months it took to clean and repair the affected areas. Some particularly observant Gallóglaigh noticed the flood had weakened supports of tunnels above, and raised concerns of sinkholes opening that could allow the Gwylt to swarm en masse from the surface directly to the Shrine of the Shaper. Many Gallóglaigh were dispatched to the surface to rid the area of the remnants of the Blazing Host as well as several roaming gangs of Knochenbriseadh, Maca Rí and a strange type of blindingly shining Gwyllt. Others helped with the repair of the tunnels below and kept ever more careful guard to prevent further acts of sabotage. For the Draíodaigh of Crag Oscionn, this was a time of vigilance and suspicion.

The Fate of Caorioc

Caorioc is an important trade hub, and the most northerly town in Bruid. Nowhere in Bruid is far enough away from the Great Forest to be entirely safe however, particularly at this time. Enough Gallóglaigh heeded Iarla Sionnach’s call for aid to prevent the Gwyllt and the Great Forest overtaking the settlement. They had their work cut out for them though, as more Knochenbriseadh than had ever seen before lumbered out of the forest with tree trunk clubs and battering rams to smash down the city walls. Meanwhile, mobs of Wenigadaí crept through the streets, looking to feast on unguarded supplies.

It wasn’t just Gwyllt besetting the settlement though, as the unsettled dead and fierce beasts forced out of the forest by the disturbances also had to be repelled. The nights inside the city were not much more peaceful, as Gallóglaigh had to mediate disputes between the comfortable wool merchants of Caorioc and the more rugged Bruidigh of the forest who had come to seek shelter within the city walls. With great effort and the assistance of new arrivals from Schlachtfeld (on a pilgrimage to find mighty challenges to prove their worth), they managed to keep too many people from either killing each other or dying to one of the many threats that surrounded the city.

“As I cowered in the main square of Caorioc, with laughing Krieger dispatching foul beasts all around me, I became certain that the Long Peace was finally over.”Tarlann, scribe of Bruid

“No-one has ever seen it happen, but there are those who swear they’ve heard the trees move. I reckon the Gwyllt can herd them, like we herd sheep.”Mothó, shepherd of Bruid

 

One misty moonless night, a horde of undead crawled out of the river and laid siege to the infirmary tents which had become a necessity in the city. Iarla Sionnach himself was the first to notice the approach of the awful creatures and raised the alarm. For several minutes the Iarla, his personal guard Abaigh of House Roaring Thunder, and a few of the wounded strong enough to hold spears were all that stood between the abominations and a slaughter in the infirmary camp. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the Gallóglaigh, strengthened by the Moonlit Vigil, to arrive and lay waste to the foe and prevent the massacre. It was hard and constant work to keep Caoiroc safe and while they took solace in the faces of those they’d kept safe within the city, the Gallóglaigh looked out beyond the city’s walls at a much more dispiriting sight. The strange, inexorable trees of the Great Forest spread out northwards week by week until soon the border of the forest was scarcely south of the city itself. Many settlements were completely cut off within the sprawl of the forest, their fate entirely unknown and those who were able to reach Caoiroc brought word of a terrible creature. A new and powerful Gwyllt, with a wide and grinning maw that consumed all that it destroyed and left no remains behind it For the Bruidigh of Caoiroc this was a time of courage in the face of fear.

A New Réig at Last

Uncertainty cannot go on forever though, and this time eventually came to an end. The people of Tirneach began to lose their patience for Regent Tiergan’s caution. As the third summer without a Réig approached, the devastating attacks of the previous year loomed large in people’s memories and demands for Tiergan to recognise a candidate reached a fraught peak. Many folks began to claim that the tradition of House Roaring Thunder anointing the Réig was ceremonial only, and pressure built on the would-be Réigs to simply seize the throne and end the turmoil. Tiergan was seemingly unmoved by the threat of civil unrest, much to the alarm of his advisors.

Pretenders to the Throne were weighed and winnowed, many disregarded without serious thought, some carefully given reason to leave the capital, a few others receiving persuasive visits from warriors loyal to the Regent. The Weeping Fathach Amhlaoibh failed to gain many supporters outside of the Saoi. Finally Tiergan’s bodyguards were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the Regent announced he would recognise the winner of a duel between Iarla Éalthna Ni Órfhaiche and Rider Tiernan Mac Aongusa as Réig of Tirneach.

There was great excitement as preparations for the duel took place and many risked the dangerous journeys from outlying Ridings to come and bear witness to it. The morning of the duel was rife with rumour and suspicion. It was whispered there had been dramatic events the night before and that the Prelates of the Counsellors and the Teachers had been summoned to Iarla Ni Órfhaiche’s quarters in the dead of the night. As the appointed time for the duel arrived the Iarla was nowhere to be seen and the assembled crowd began to argue whether or not victory by default would be enough to win Tiernan the throne.

A few long minutes passed before Éalthna Ni Órfhaiche strode onto the field, resplendent in brightly polished gold armour, a worn and well cared for sword by her side. Seeming not even to notice the crowd, the Iarla walked straight to Tiernan Mac Aongusa and knelt before him. Uproar seized those gathered and even Tiernan was visibly startled by the gesture. Éalthna revealed that she had received a vision from the Shaper the night before and that she believed it was the Shaper’s will that Tiernan serve as Réig and return Tirneach to safety and prosperity. Tiernan Mac Aonghusa was crowned as Réig that very day.

As the new Réig was confirmed, Thane Ó Ceallaigh formally announced his retirement from the Gallóglaigh, to take a well earned rest running a small farm east of Urcheol. He was not alone, as more than a few Gallóglaigh were exhausted from the two years of constant vigilance and chose to leave service. Others, having been in one place for such a long time, decided to put the travelling life of a Gallóglach behind them and settle down. The promise of adventure, glory, and wealth was enough to keep many more still serving, and to tempt new recruits who had seen and benefitted from the Gallóglaigh’s presence during the Season of Uncertainty.

Réig Tiernan took early action to mobilise the Gallóglaigh bands to provide aid across the Realms where it was sorely needed. As part of this effort, he decreed that the band Cumhacht na Réig was to reunite under Thane Ualgarg Corcra, a Drakeblooded Torchbearer who had been the Cinnire-at-Arms of White Eye’s Band. The decree went out that any members of the band that still upheld the Oaths were to begin travelling to Siabhal and muster under their Thane at Barr. This was a golden opportunity for new recruits eager to prove themselves to join the band as well.

Stories of the Season of Uncertainty

Bards and filí across Tirneach, always keen to capture public interest, began telling stories and singing songs of these events and those who were present. It was soon well known which Gallóglaigh had gone where and what deeds they did there during this Season of Uncertainty (NPCs and NPC led bands are italicised):

Baol:

The Bluehand Band (Majority, under Thane Gustav O’Reilly)
The Pingin’s Worth
The Vanguard
The Green Marchers (Minority, under Thane’s Lieutenant Eachann)

Thea of house Tintreach
Alejandro Montalban O’Reilly
Cruach
Leocadia
Smeagol Buttonwood
Lachlan
Niall “The Glas” O’Faolin
Faoiltighearna “Fail”
Malartu

Bruid:

Crógacht agus Wachsamkeit
The Pride of Zahnhafen
The Bluehand Band (Minority, under Cinnire-at-Arms, Seamair Fischer)
The Green Marchers (Minority under Thane Eike Ó Muireadhaigh)

Mick Schultz
Cathasaigh (Catha) MacTire
Esperanza Miranda Montez
Ualach
Vangar Na Tir
Deasmunach
Aed
Moley
Fiven

Draíod:

The Final Silence (Majority, under Thane’s Lieutenant Líadan Snowforged)
The Stalworth Courage Band
The Band of the Sundered Sword
The Sky Splitters (Majority, under Thane Ádamh Ó Strabheithe)
The Green Marchers (Minority, Under Deputy Lt. Rúibín)

Rígan Diavall
Alelia
Briste
Ultan Twinspears
Tristan
Sean Seo
Ciaróg Eile
Firéan MacAoire-Seodmeisce
Octhó-Sé Blackthorn
Deirbhile Nic an Bhaird
Cael Ó Siodhacháin
Safiya
Bas Dubh
Butcher
Tornac

Siabhal:

Siún’s Heirs
The Final Silence (Minority, under Thane Béibhinn Ni Fiona)

Ambrosio de Costana
Navaras
Duarcan MacUltan
Scála
Rumann MacUltan

Uasa:

White Eye’s Band
The Red Boughs
Glóir na hIolar
The Sky Splitters (Minority, under Itziar Ó Láimhiarainn)
Cumhacht Na Réig (Under Thane Declan O’Ceallaigh)

Brigid Gobhann
Muirchú
Nera Ó’Conáill
Aodhán Ó’Cuinn
Fionnvarr Tiarnacogaidh
Valeria Llamerada
Sorrel Airiúgladh
Nocent
Brocc
Fiadh Ó Daimhín
Pablo Desjardin
Gunther Cliste De Brun

Other Gallóglaigh wandered the realms, mostly associated with the Gold Knives Band, and though few bards sing of their deeds many a household passes down to their children who aided them in their time of need:
Aster Ua Larkspur
Abheal
Dílis
Doran
Cethern mac Fintain
Rüdiger Olafson
Eberwin Olafson
Nad Crantail
Pól O’Fhrídrach
Callum
Fedelm Noíchrothach
Neb
Caoltan