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Anonymous writes...

In "Avalon" the king of Scotland was overthrown. Was the new king Duncons father? If no, how did Duncon become king? On that note, I f I remember right "mac" is used in Surnames as son. In your rambiling there was a Duff.
is he the fat her of MacDuff (the general of Duncuns son)?

Greg responds...

Constantine III overthrew Kenneth II. The tyrant Constantine was later overthrown by Kenneth III (the sun of Duff) with help from his cousin Maol Chalvim (the son of Kenneth II). Maol Chalvim later betrays Kenneth III and becomes High King. Maol has three daughters, all of whom he marries off strategically. Each daughter has a son, thus Maol has three grandsons (Duncan, Macbeth and Thorfinn) and three potential heirs. In "City of Stone", I had originally planned to include Thorfinn, but I just didn't have the extra screentime to fit in his part of the story.

MacDuff was not the son of King Duff but I'm sure he was related. He might have been a grandson, or a cousin or grandnephew or something.

This seems like as good a time as any to continue the story:

"Once upon a time there were three brothers..." PART THREE

Five years have passed since Duff was crowned High King of Scotland at Scone.
The year is 967 and the kingdom is at peace. But for how long? Duff is 55 years old. He has many, many daughters, but no sons. Word comes from Ireland: Indulf is dead. But Culen is not. Culen seems to get along well with the Irish. It is -- well -- an uncomfortable situation.

An heir must be chosen. And in Scotland in 967, a daughter will not suffice. Duff turns to his thirty-five year old brother Kenneth. Kenneth is strong, faithful. Kenneth also has a five year old son, Maol Chalvim, so succession will be secured into the next generation. Little Prince Maol is told that someday he will be king. Little Prince Maol is quite pleased.

And what of the third brother? Prince Malcolm is thirteen years old. And life for him has improved immeasurably since that frightening day when he was buried alive in Edinburgh Castle. He's been to every corner of Scotland with his brothers. He's seen sorcerers and gargoyles and maybe even a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster. Katharine, his mother, is honored throughout the land for her intelligence and bravery; in many ways, she is the de facto Queen of the realm. His two royal half-brothers welcome him at every council meeting and even take the time to personally coach him on his swordsmanship.
Frankly, in the Dark Ages, it just doesn't get any better than this.

Which of course means, that it can't last.

Malcolm is riding along the western shores admiring the sunset. By his side, as usual, is his best friend Robbie. Corporal Robert is 21 years old, and has grown into a true bull of a man, complete with a new bushy mustache and a commission in the King's Guard. Malcolm is looking out to sea at the falling sun, but Robbie directs his attention to a cliff a few hundred yards distant. As the sun sinks into the water, the rocks on the cliff seem to move, to flex, to grow. A great collective roar echoes down the coastline. Malcolm's eyes go wide; Robbie laughs. It's a gargoyle rookery, he explains. They're waking from stone.

"Have you been there?" Malcolm asks.

"Aye," Robbie responds. "Even talked with the head of the monsters' clan. I liked him. He's a warrior. You should meet him."

"What's his name?"

"Hasn't got one. None of them do. They're not like the Gargoyles in Scone or Loch Ness. They're rougher. Harder."

"Good peasant stock like you."


"Then lead the way."

They ride on. The moon rises over the hills: a small crescent, a pitiful thing. Nevertheless, its light catches something out in the water. Many somethings. Ships. A fleet.

Both boys see them in the same moment. And in that moment, both boys truly become men. They don't have to talk. They turn their horses in unison and ride off at a full gallop. They'll exchange horses at camp and keep riding.
The King must be told. Invasion.

At the court, there is celebration. Duff's wife has just given birth to her ninth child. But this one is different. This one has a penis. This one will someday be a King. Little Prince Maol is confused by this. He's going to be the King, he knows. But everyone else couldn't be happier, including Duff's brother Kenneth. Kenneth immediately relinquishes his role as heir to the throne. And swears to serve the infant prince until his dying day. Duff is deeply moved and names the boy Kenneth, after his brother and best friend.

Then the shouting starts. Malcolm and Robert burst into the room. Within the hour, the King and his brothers are riding west at the head of an army.
A small army. There has been no warning. There is little time to gather their forces.

Culen, now forty-five years old, leads the Irish troops. He has come, he says, to regain his rightful throne. His armies have swept inland with surprising speed, like a dagger plunged into Scotland's back.

At Gaine, they meet the King's Men.

The first battle is brief and bloody. One would think that God would be on the side of the Scots, but Culen's Irish get the better of it. Duff is wounded in the leg. Nothing serious, but he's carried from the field.
Kenneth fights like a true Thane. Malcolm gets his first taste of combat.
He kills one man. Stands over that man. Wonders if the man's wife has red hair. Corporal Robert uses his shield to block the cudgel aimed at Malcolm's contemplative skull. Robert shoves Malcolm to the ground and kills the attacker. Malcolm stares at his friend. Then nods. Now he understands.
Retreat is sounded. Malcolm picks himself up. He and Robbie fight there way back behind the Scotish lines.

That night, in council, Duff once again names his brother Kenneth as his heir. Kenneth protests: there is a new heir, a new Kenneth. Duff shakes his head. If anything happens to him, the kingdom will need a king, not a wee babe. Kenneth protests: the kingdom will NOT need a new king.

"It might," Duff states. "We're fighting tomorrow."

"You can't walk, Duff!"

"We've ordered a litter. The men need to see their King."

Kenneth, exasperated: "Duff!"

"We've ordered a litter. The men need to see their King." The final word on the subject.

There's fog in the morning. Four huge Guardsmen carry the king on his litter. The battle is joined. Kenneth pushes forward in a berserker rage.
Malcolm flanks him, keeping pace. He kills his second man. His third. His fourth. His.... He realizes consciously that it is time to lose count.
Robert is never far from his friend. NEVER. It's going well. The Scots have rallied. They are going to win.

Suddenly, in the midst of the fighting, one of the King's Guardsmen, the one on the left at the rear, simply steps back and lets go of his burden. Caught off guard, the other three drop the King onto his back. Left-and-Rear draws a dagger, and before anyone can move, before anyone can think to move, he plunges it into Duff's heart.

Left-and-Rear. Nameless. Soon to be quite faceless. What was this man thinking? What was he promised? How did he think he'd survive? We'll never know. He's set upon immediately. Killed. Shredded, practically. But the damage is done. Word spreads like wildfire. The King is dead, betrayed by one of his own. The Scotish line breaks, folds in. Shatters, like a mirror bringing seven years bad luck. (Well, four at least.)

Kenneth, Malcolm, Robert and a handful -- a handful only damnit -- barely escape with their lives. Culen has won. Won the battle. Won the war. Won the kingdom. Allies defect faster than rats off the proverbial sinking ship. Kenneth flees with his extended family down into Northern England. They are not welcomed there, but they are tolerated. Enroute, Malcolm's mother Katharine takes a chill. The chill becomes a fever. The fever, a delirium. And then... she's gone. Malcolm is an orphan.

Frankly, in the Dark Ages, it just doesn't get any worse than this.