Galloglach

The Galloglach

Some outsiders make the mistake of considering the Galloglach a single clan within the Einher culture. This is an error, though an understandable one.

“Galloglach”, meaning “foreign warrior” in the tongue of the Fae, is actually a catch-all term for near two dozen minor clans that chiefly reside on the Talamhrán (tahl-ow-ron) islands, with only a handful of settlements left on the mainland. Once a separate and proud people, their constant internecine warfare left them vulnerable to the southward progress of the northern clans (Einher) – a culture equally given to war and similarly gifted in physical prowess, but lacking the wild passions that seemed to drive the Galloglach clans to self-destruction. Some have attributed this to the reputed Galloglach connection to the Fae; indeed, their first language was the Fae tongue, though it’s now almost entirely lost among their population. All speak the common tongue, now, and most do so with varying degrees of accent, depending on which town they come from: a couple coastal villages have lost the accent entirely, most still speak with a lilt, and the Galloglach of the highlands have a thicker, almost guttural sound. To this day the people of the islands are reputed to maintain a connection with the Fae; the smaller, heavily wooded Talamhrán island is said to have a settlement of wood fae and druid-folk in the centre of it.

Outside of a handful of distinguishing characteristics, the Galloglach are indistinguishable from the Einher. It’s been over three centuries since the two groups first came into conflict over territory, and the Galloglach have – through warfare, inter-marriage, and alliances – become entirely Einher. They are ruled by the laws of Mjoll, and swear fealty to that king. For all intents and purposes, they think of themselves as Einher… just perhaps a little better than their northern cousins, in the way siblings find a rivalry with one another.

Territory

There are a few small villages left on the south shore of Mjoll’s mainland, but the vast bulk of the Galloglach clans now live on the two islands they collectively refer to as Talamhrán (trans: the Land of Song). The smaller island is heavily wooded, with several fishing villages ringing the edges. During low tide it’s almost possible to walk to the larger island, which rises up sharply so that the centre is like a spine of difficult to navigate hills (some may call them small mountains). The shore is dotted with fishing villages, though the two largest (with over 2,000 people each) have a significant mercantile presence.

The chief export of the islands is high-quality wool from the highlands; though some joke (and not without reason) that mercenary battalions are their most valuable export. Production of beef, pork, grains, and alcohol are chiefly utilized locally.

Military Tradition

The southern clans were, to put it bluntly, exceptionally troublesome. In resisting the northern clans, what they lacked in organization and cohesion, they made up for with reckless courage on the battlefield, ferocity, and a remarkable rage. As they became acclimated to Einher culture, they began to use Einher arms, and make them their own.

The island produces minimal iron, and so it’s an expensive commodity in Talamhrán. As a result, only the wealthy, the seasoned, and the warband leaders have shirts of scale or chain. Plate is almost unheard of on a Galloglach warrior. They prefer to fight in numbers, almost always marching forth with at least one battalion (this prevents clansmen ending up on opposite sides of the same battle). Young men act as support, with spears and bows, while the seasoned warriors hold a front line with large shields, cast javelins at incoming foes, and then resort to two-handed axes and swords when closing with the enemy. They have no cavalry to speak of, but excel at cutting down horsemen and infantry alike with their heavy weapons. They march forth wearing a somewhat uniform tartan of dark blue and dark green, making them immediately recognizable to one another on the field of battle. This tradition is likely the root of non-Einher mistakenly believing them to be of a single clan.

For the last hundred years, kings and nobles have paid for Galloglach bands to leave their home and serve in foreign lands. They serve faithfully, with courage, and never shirk their duty; they fight until they fall, and refuse to give ground unless ordered by a superior. Every clansman knows that he bears the weight of his people’s reputation on his shoulders. A battalion of mercenaries served a Viscount of Tifanue with distinction in the winter of 2251, but were ultimately decimated after their first major encounters with the massed undead. The impact this has had on their culture remains to be seen.

Differences

The Galloglach clans are, despite their claims to the contrary, virtually indistinguishable from the northern clans. There are a few quirks and oddities that stand out, however.
• Along with wearing a uniform tartan when marching out to war, many Galloglach wear their plaid in a more traditional fashion: the ‘great kilt’ is still popular among the men, while shawls and sashes are favoured among the women.
• Fog: The Galloglach fear it. Not only may it contain the souls of the dead (whom they may be terrified of and/or extremely maudlin about), but they also retain a superstitious awe of the Fae, and some connect them with this phenomenon. Crippling sorrow, paranoia, or outright fear are all possible reactions.
• Grey Wolves: There are no wolves on the islands. If one shows up, it’s either a supernatural abomination, or an exceptionally determined wolf. Either way, it pays to be wary.
• Fae: These beings are to be shown respect. All clansmen know to avoid making deals with the Fae unless absolutely necessary, and to never offer insult. They were once regarded with an awe now reserved for gods, and much of that mystique remains.
• Whiskey! Uisce beatha, (trans: the water of life). Mead isn’t quite as popular among the Galloglach, but their love of the potent drink of whiskey is infamous. They believe it to have many health-restoring properties, to battle or stave off illness, fortify the spirit, and above all remind the imbiber (through the burning line down their gullet) that they are alive. Some claim it was a gift of the Fae, others say it’s how they gained possession of the islands from the Fae.
• Bias: Generally speaking, Galloglach view war and politics as “men’s work”, while women are relegated to ruling the home. However, women rule the home with an iron fist, and it’s a fool of a man who trespasses on his wife’s right to do so. This has lead to an oddly egalitarian society, perhaps even leaning slightly toward matriarchal in practical application. While men may make use of magic, to undertake the devoted study of it is seen as the domain of women. The exceptions to this are druids and bards or skalds, which the Galloglach hold in high esteem. A quiet superiority complex (regarding the Einher as a whole) is common.
• Emotional: Whereas the northern clans are more stoic and restrained, the Einher are a remarkably passionate lot. It’s common that grudges be held for years (if not generations), arguments often turn heated, young lovers are dazedly smitten with one another, they will waste away in pining for a lost loved one, go mad from grief, friends are treasured, hospitality should be as grand as one can afford, etc. When travelling, they’ll almost invariably end up pining for the frigid, wind-blasted, sea-washed rock that they call home – though they describe it in a more poetic light.

History

Pre-1900

• Original Galloglach clans were given to infighting, as interested in battling each other as repelling invaders. Perhaps moreso.
• Around this time, the original northern clans (Einher) are pushed south due to repeated conflicts with early Vandals and Ice Elves. They come into conflict with the various clans that now make up the Galloglach. In some cases trade is opened and alliances made, in other cases raids are conducted, or disputes over territory boil over into clan skirmishes. Brief, bloody wars erupt every couple of years. Over the following century and a half, the Galloglach clans, who once held the lands that are now southern Mjoll, are reduced to no more than a handful of settlements on the mainland, and the two islands they refer to as “the Land of Song” in their poems and songs.
• Attempts by outsiders to take the islands prove disastrous, as the remaining clans fight ferociously for what’s now considered their ‘homeland’.
• The following hundred years serve to finish the process of interbreeding the southern and northern clans to the point of being nigh indistinguishable from one another. What was once enmity is now more of a sibling rivalry, with the Galloglach fully a part of the politics of the Einher. They’ve adopted Einher religion and laws, while the Einher ended up adopting some Galloglach traditions of song, art, and the wearing of the kilt – most have even adopted the custom of tartan patterns.

2239

• Shiva sends the ice elves into a war with the Einher. The War of Frost and Fire begins.

2241

• On the verge of defeat, Thorson sounds an ancient battle-horn relic that summons the dead from Valhalla. Ice elves are defeated, driven back to the frigid north, and Thorson declares himself king.

2242

• The Conclave congratulates Thorson on victory, and claims he’s proved that necromancy is not evil, but merely a tool. Tifanue, however, refuses to recognize Thorson’s crown and charges him with necromancy. The Church of Light puts a 1,000 gold piece bounty on his head and condemns all who follow him. The Galloglach pride is gravely offended at this. The local missionary representative of the Church of Light is taken to the shore by Bran of the Battle-scar and dipped in the ocean until he apologizes on behalf of his church. He’s then sent back to Tifanue unharmed and in peace.
• Styphon is discovered.

2244

• Duvain scholars prove that necromancy is a corruptive influence

2249

• Church of Light puts out a call for would-be heroes to gather at Leighton, in hopes of dealing with the threat of the Cursed Forest (abandoned grey elf forest)

2250

• April: Large mithral vein discovered on Shadow Isle
• May: Powerful Lich occupies a castle northeast of Duvain. Duvain asks for the aid of the Conclave, but are denied.
• August: Jormunger forces attack Tubingen, an Einher city, and are routed by Zsiera the white dragon.
• October: The undead are made living in Jericho, and the living undead – the effects fade at sunrise.
• November: Leighton, a town in Tifanue, is attacked by Styphon’s army. Betrayed by Baron Edward Von Teeterson, formerly of Tifanue, the population are rounded up, flayed alive, and raised as undead
NOVEMBER: A Viscount of Tifanue, fearing for his own demesne, sends a messenger to hire a battalion of Galloglach mercenaries as soon as he hears of the fate of Leighton. Over 300 warriors mobilize and set out for the southern kingdom.
• December: Killing storm strikes Mjoll, slaying thousands. The north shore of Talamhrán is hit hard, with over two hundred deaths, but the rest of the islands are sheltered due to their high hills and the southern location.
• December: Jericho aids Suvant (elves) in attempting to cleanse the undead from Tse Magrindof and free the beneficent dragon, Suulazultsur from her captivity. As they succeed, the necromancer Inviticus appears, slays her, and raises her as one of the undead.

2251 (2009)

• January: Berphaunt and Suvant form an alliance against Inviticus. Jericho is invited to join in creating a magic curtain that keeps undead from passing from the south.
• January: Tifanue officially declares war on Styphon.
FEBRUARY: Tifanue loses the towns of Atlitaia, Bolosur, Catherana, Estatrene, and Sumantis to the Army of Styphon. The Galloglach lose over 100 men at the Battle of Bolosur, in their first major encounter with the undead. Better prepared, they put up stiffer resistance at the Battle of Catherana. Even though prepared, they suffer heavy losses – but their sacrifice allows for many civilians to escape.
• March: Tifanue has lost 1/3 of its land. They retreat to their old borders, and fortify Pembroke.
MARCH: With the most of the Viscount’s lands lost and his fortunes shattered, the 93 surviving Galloglach are dismissed and head home.
• April: Inviticus’ undead forces swarm out from the cursed forest and threaten to overrun the lands surrounding it – including Jericho. During the great battle, the Conclave of magi manages to raise the magical curtain that prevents the undead from passing. Most of the attacking undead are destroyed.
APRIL: The Galloglach mercenaries travel home only to find that an infestation of lesser undead began shortly before their return. Spreading like a disease, several villages were entirely depopulated. After two weeks of brief but horrific skirmishes and hunting, the threat is ended. The emotional impact is devastating, as the outbreak seemed to be worst in the villages that the mercenaries called home.
• August: Angels of all gods combined attack the Conclave. Jericho’s mage guild destroyed.
• September: The Black Tower of magi is destroyed by angelic host.
• September: The Curtain is sabotaged, and Ishmael, necromantic servant of Inviticus, attacks Jericho and is defeated after 2 days of fighting.
• October: Undead children show up in Jericho?

2252

(Current Underworld Season/2010)

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