Chapter One: The Fall of Bernice
O're Hills and Valleys Reign
An abridged History of the Kingdom of Cumbry
An abridged History of the Kingdom of Cumbry
Britain in the late 6th Century was in the midst of a struggle for the cultural heart of the island. On the one hand were the post-roman native Britons, on the other were the many germanic tribes that have come to be called the Anglo Saxons.
The Anglo-Saxons may have originally come to the isle as mercenaries in the mid fifth century but quickly rebelled when they realized their clients were weak and unable to pay them, as mercenaries are wont to. It didn't take long for their continental cousins to join them and soon much of the south east had fallen, though their expansion in the south was kept in check for a time by Ambrosius Aurelianus and his heirs.
later in the fifth century the Angles also came to settle north of the aber Cumber. First in the lands east of avon Derwent, and so was named Dere, and the second Bernice, named after the British kingdom it had almost entirely conquered by the year 578.
At that time the northern britons presence was composed of a handful of kingdoms: Alt Clout in the north west, named after the impressive hilltop fortification near the mouth of the avon Clout which served as its nominal capital; Gododhin in the north east, named after the descendants of the votadini tribe the romans had settled around Din Eidyn; Reget along the western coast from the Rinns to at least as far south as the Avon Repool and whose chief capital was at Penn Rinnedh; Elvet at the southern end of the Pennine mountains, centered in Loidis; and Bryneich, now reduced to the small inland area around Din Gevron.
At that time Morgant vap Cuncar was king of Bryneich, and seeing his realm shrunk to almost nothing within his lifetime, called upon his neighbors to help him drive out these invaders. His call was answered by Redherch king of Alt Clout, Gwallok king of Elvet, and Urien king of Reget, men experienced from fighting the Picts and Angels. We have some details of the campaign, much of it from poetry and from the Chonica Brittones, a work purporting to have been commissioned only two generations afterwards though only copies from the 9th century are known to us, while later histories tend to build on these sources and others unavailable to us.
It seems that king Đeodric of Bernice caught wind of the Briton's plans and attacked Urien at one of his strongholds with a large force, hoping to remove his biggest opponent from the board before his enemies could join together into an insurmountable force. According to the Gweith Argoed Luwyven, Đeodric surrounded the stronghold of Urien and demanded hostages (a common practice to ensure obedience). Ewen son of Urien refused and Urien sallied out. The two forces fought for much of the day in a shield wall with the occasional trade of javelins, as was typical for warfare in the period. At some point in the battle king Đeodric was killed, according to legend from a javelin from Urien's cousin Leuwarch, and the bernician forces broke with Urien and Ewen pursuing them to their borders.
In the following season the campaign began in earnest with Redherch and Morgant clashing with one Frithuwald at the Avon Teil, while Urien and Gwallok came up from the Avon Tein, raiding and burning towns as they made their way north, only facing resistance at the Bernician town of Alunwic where a small band of Bernicians lead by one Hussa ambushed them in the midst of their pillaging. Urien was quick to rally the men but Gwallok was caught in the ambush, leaving command to his son Cerdik.
There is some debate as to whom became king in the wake of Đeodric's death, be it his brother Frithuwald or his cousin Hussa. Ancient sources conflict leading some to conclude that the Bernicians were in the middle of a succession crisis, while others have posited them being co-kings.
Redherch and Morgant prevailed and drove Frithuwald to his capital at Idasburh, or Din Gwardys according to the Britons, where Urien and his men joined them. At some point the Bernician leaders withdrew to the tidal island of Enis Medhgot, and the Britons settled in for a siege.
At around this time Morgant came to fear Urien and the fame he had gathered, or perhaps doubted that the man would turn over control of the land he had ravaged with seemingly no opposition. Thus he paid a man to kill Urien, thinking that with their king dead that he would take command. According to later legends the would be assassin turned out to be more treacherous, or more cowardly than his client. For no sooner did he enter Urien's tent, and, finding the king awake and more sober than his men, confessed what his lord had commanded of him. The narrative is somewhat fanciful, as more than likely the intruder was caught out by the guards. Whichever is the case, the assassin was kept hidden until after Hussa surrendered six days later. It was then that Urien revealed the plot and Morgant's men, already dissatisfied at his poor leadership and now repulsed by his dishonorable conduct, abandoned him and swore fealty Urien alongside the Bernicians. Morgant is reported to have fled to ground, apparently literally as local legends have him sheltering in a nearby cave system.
Frithuwald is known from both Cumbrian and anglo-saxon sources to have escaped south, first to kingdom of Dere and later to Lindsege across the Cumber with his family where they would grow in prominence.
The true reactions of Urien's other allies are unknown at that time, though it is supposed that Cerdik appreciated having a strong neighbor to keep the Derens in check while Redherch was more concerned with returning home to deal with the Picts.
In one fell swoop Urien had doubled the size of his realm, beginning the hegemony of his realm over the north.
- Aber Cumber = the Humber estuary; Avon Clout = River Clyde; Avon Repool = River Ribble; Avon Teil = River Till; Avon Tein = River Tyne.
- OTL Bebbanburh. Seeing as this is before the time of aethelfrith and the wife he supposedly renamed it after, and i'm unaware of what they might have called it before.