Where is Albion?

Albion is the Celtic name for mainland Britain (not the islands around it). At the time when many of the characters are first born many of the people would know Britain as Albion. Britain is a romanised name used for the whole of the British Isles that were called the Britainae which was then used as the name of the province by the Romans. Albion is a land of myth and magic with gateways to the land of the Fae (Avalon) still in existance during this time. As Albion slowly transforms into Britain the myth and the magic fades from the land. The druidic tradition fades and the gateways to the land of the Fae become harder to traverse.

Who are you?

"The principal point of their doctrine, is that the soul does not die and that after death it passes from one body into another. With regard to their actual course of studies, the main object of all education is, in their opinion, to imbue their scholars with a firm belief in the indestructability of the human soul, which, according to their belief, merely passes at death from one tenement to another; for by such doctrine alone, they say, which robs death of all its terrors, can the highest form of human courage be developed."

- Julius Caeser on the Druids

Your characters (with some exception) are heroes from the period 497-577 who have been given magically increased lifespans by the druids through woad tattooes that were put on you during now lost rituals. Your tattoo is unique to you and contains the source of your power. Those in the know and who can look on another level can see your tattoo even today where ordinary people cannot. Before your character awakens the tattoo will look like a rather blotchy birthmark probably on the chest or back. Once the character is awakened the tattoo will become the clearer woad symbol that was originally tattooed on the character.

Your character was a key driver of events during this time. You lived through the battles and betrayals in the fight to keep Albion the way it was. In all probability you knew a number of the other players and NPCs from that time.

However when you died your spirit did not leave the land. It travelled to the nearest suitable host and infused the body of that person with the potential to save or damn the land, just as you had. Many of these people never awoke to their true selves, but over the course of time many did. When they awoke they remembered their past, their comrades and those that had betrayed them in the past. Now much of what was has gone and the fight over such things is over.

When you awake you will remeber them, but for now you are living in the reign of our good and gracious Queen Victoria, marvelling at the wonders of the Age of Aether. When you have been awakened through the centuries you have met and become aware of many of the other Celtic heroes, though your familiarity with each will vary. I am expecting players to come up with links into the past with other players and non players once they have awakened.

The Dark Ages

The withdraw of the occupying Roman forces who had been in Britain for some 350 years was a gradual process and help from Rome was still arriving (though sporadic) until around 450 AD. The remaining Romanised British forces tried to repel the Saxon armies but were largely doomed in their attempts. The survivors from the early invasions either fled West to the stronger Celtic tribes where many were granted sanctuary or became the slaves of the Saxons. The granting of Sanctuary for so many people who had grown used to the Roman way of life was a turbulent period for the Britains of the time. The Romano British brought with them a mix of worship of the traditional Roman Gods as well as the new one Christian God. The mixing of this with the traditional Celtic dieties caused many tensions within the tribes that were not fully eased for many centuries to come.

By the end of the fifth centuary AD the Saxons owned the eastern half of the country in a diagonal line that could be drawn across the country. The Angles and the Saxon tribes sought to conquer all of Britain and made a push to move further westwards. Minor skirmishes continued throughout the latter part of the 5th Centuary AD until the Saxon Bretwalda decided on a full scale invasion. The Celtic tribes fought the Saxons on and off for much of this time, although there appear to be internal tensions between tribes. Some tribes became Christian whilst many tried to retain their Celtic religion. This may well have been one such tension, although battles over territory and tribal disagreements were also possible. It is likely that when the tribes were united they were successful in beating back the Angles and the Saxons, but when divided the Saxons were more successful.

The Tribes of Albion in 6th Centuary AD

Albion is bisected almost in half by a diagonal line that divides the Saxon tribes in the east from the Celtic / Romano-British tribes in the west. There is not alot of information about all the tribes and their leaders during this time as the sources are quite sketchy at best. The following map and table shows what is known of the rise and fall of the tribes in Albion during this time.

Tribe Location People Leader in 525 Leader in 550 Leader in 575
Dumnonia Devon Celtic / Romano-British Cador Custennin ap Cado Gerren rac Denau
Cerniw Cornwall Celtic Gorlois Part of Dumnonia Part of Dumnonia
Durotrigia Dorset Romano-British cell-content cell-content cell-content
Ceredigion West Wales Celtic cell-content cell-content cell-content
Dyfed South West Wales Celtic / Romano-British cell-content cell-content cell-content
Powys East Wales Celtic Cyngen Glodrydd Pasgen ap Cyngen Morgan ap Pasgen Brochwel Ysgithrog
Gwynedd North West Wales Celtic Cadwallon Maelgwn Gwynedd Rhun ap Maegwn
Gwent East Wales Celtic / Romano-British Arthur Constantine Aurelius Conanus
Glywysing South Wales Celtic cell-content cell-content cell-content
Glouvia Gloucestershire Romano-British Unknown Unknown Coinmail
Wessex Hampshire West Saxons cell-content cell-content cell-content
Essex South Essex East Saxons cell-content cell-content cell-content
Anglia East Anglia Angles cell-content cell-content cell-content
Luitcoyt Cheshire / Warwickshire Romano-British / Celtic cell-content cell-content cell-content
Atrebatia Wiltshire / Hampshire Romano-British cell-content cell-content cell-content
South Saxons Sussex South Saxons Cissa cell-content cell-content
Kent Kent Saxon cell-content cell-content cell-content
Gewissae West Berks Romano-British cell-content cell-content cell-content
Ludien Berks / London Romano-British cell-content cell-content cell-content
Mercia Lincolnshire Angles Icel Cnebba Cynewald
Regia Sussex South Saxons cell-content cell-content cell-content
Lindsey Lincolnshire Angles Cretta Cuelgils Caedbaed
Elmet West Yorkshire Celtic Llaennog ap Masgwid Arthuis ap Masgwid Gwallog ap Llaennog
Rheged Cumbria Romano-British Meirchion Gul Cynfarch Oer Urien
Brycheinog Central Wales Celtic / Irish cell-content cell-content cell-content
Buellt Central Wales Celtic cell-content cell-content cell-content
Ergyng West Wales ????? Part of Gwent Part of Gwent King Peibio Clafrog

The Rise of Vortigern

After a number of failed attempts by various powerful Romans to become the "Emporer of Britain" after the Romans left Britain to defend Rome and thereby to govern itself, the council invited Vortigern to become the War leader of Britain. Vortigern literally translated means "Overking". Vortigern was from the wealthiest landed aristocracy and he lived around the town of Glouvia (Gloucester). The situation in Britain after the Romans departed was grave, having to fend off raids by the both the Picts from the north and the Irish from the sea.

The civitaes were less willing to spend money on a standing army and take men away from the crops so Vortigern sought another solution. He decided to utilise German mercenaries (the Saxons and the Angles) to assist in defending against the Picts whilst the British moved forces down from Northumberland to North Wales to defend against the Irish. In 428 he made an agreement with Hengist who brought over 3 "Keels" to fight the northern invaders. The civitaes were more prepared to pay for temporary foreign troops than use their own men and the Germans were given Thanet as recompense for their efforts. The force in Thanet was soon found to be too small and another 40 "Keels" were brought over from Germany. They were posted from York to Stamford all along the east coast to repel the invaders. The Germans were better seamen and the invasion by the Picts did not succeed. A counter attack by the Saxons saw Hengist's son Octa loot and terrify the Picts all the way to Orkney.

The Irish were dealt with by the remaining Romano-British forces. In 432 the Papal emissary Patrick went to Ireland and shortly after the Saxon attack on Ireland Vortigern signed a treaty with them quelling the Irish attacks and marrying his daughter to the Irish King's son. A number of the Irish began around the time of Patrick to convert to Christianity and it was eventually these converts that would come back to spread Christianity back into Saxon Britain. A number of Irish colonits in West Wales and Britain were driven out by Cunedda and the Votadini who had previously been based in the north east of Britain. They massacred the Irish colonists and settled in Powys which they claimed as their own. In a similar way the Dumnonia was cleaned of Irish by the Cornovii who moved back to their homeland from Newcastle on Tyne.

Ambrosious was a rival to Vortigern's power in and once the Irish and the Picts were dealt with he made war on Vortigern. Ambrosious had the backing of many of the Civitaes who did not want to continue to pay for troops now that the war was won. The will for a fight was not strong however and Ambrosious was defeated and exiled to Gaul. There he gathered the Augustine bishops to his side who wanted his help to remove the Pelagonist heresy from the British Church and also contacts with the British Council who wanted to get rid of the Saxons from Britain. They were tired of paying for the foreign mercenaries now that it was peaceful. As there numbers had grown exponentially since they were originally invited there demands for payment had gone up. Ambrosious re-invaded in 437 and he fought Vortigern and the Saxons at Wallop in Hampshire. Vortigern won and Hnegist persuaded him to allow him to bring more Keels across and to cement the deal Vortigern married Hengists daughter. Vortigern gave the Saxons Kent as part of the deal, which further enraged the Civitaes in the area who were not consulted. Ambrosious was killed and the Gaulist army retreated back whence it came.

Saxon Betrayals

The Saxon complaints that the monthly delivery of food agreed as part of the original deal had started to be less and less were increasingly falling on deaf ears. In 442 they made good on their threats and advanced, raiding into Western Britain, smashing and looting as they went. The British rallied and fought back , defeating Hengist when he tried to take London, pushing him back to Kent. Vortigern fought the Angles in East Anglia whilst his son Vortimer fought the Saxons . The Saxons called back to Germany for more Keels and they returned. Hengists son Horsa and Vortimer's brother Castegenin were both killed at the battle of Aylesford. In 452 the Brotish won a third battle at Ridborough, but were then defeated at Crayford where Vortimer was forced to retreat back to London. Shortly afterwards Vortimer was killed and supplies to the British resistance started to dry up.

The Council decided to sue for peace rather than continue to pay for the army. Hengist set up a peace agreement whereby his men carried daggers and slew 300 men of the Council of the Diocese. With the British leaders killed the Saxons went on the rampage, looting and pillaging everything in their sight.

Ambosius Aurelius

During the 450's many Saxons started to settle rather than pillage. Ambrosious Aurelius started a Romano-British resistance movement as Aelle and his three sons arrived in Sussex to settle the lands there that had been ceeded to the Saxons. With the support of the British Kings Ambrosious Aurelius started to make a fightback for the Romano-British. It was a time of turmoil though with allegiances switching rapidly with some Saxons fighting with the British and a few British Kings fighting with the Saxons. The British tactics started to change to be using cavalry around this time to some great success. At some point however Ambrosius died and was replaced by Artorius (Arthur) the ruler of Gwent as the new British Overking.

King Arthur

Arthur continued the resistance against the Saxons making some gains initially but after the Battle of Portsmouth in 480 where Geriant of Dumnonia was killed the British retreat to form a strategic line. The British Cavalry were increasingly able to hold this line as more men were trained again in the arts of war. Inner strife within the Romano-British and Celtic kingdoms though prevented Arthur from pushing back the Saxons further.

The Battle of Mount Badon - 497

In the year 497 King Aelle and his sons led a combined Saxon force in an attack on the western lands of Britain. The two mighty forces joined battle at Mount Baden near to the modern day Bath. The Arthurs cavalry was holed up in the town which was beseiged for 3 days. At the end of the 3rd day the charged out and broke the Saxon ranks. Many great heroes fought on either side that day, though it was the Romano-British who emerged triumphant on the day, though the loss on either side was heavy.

The Saxon Bretwalda was forced to sign a peace treaty which precluded the Saxon tribes from occupying land on the border near to the British tribes and they had to cede an annual tribute to the British tribes. By 514 as he aged, the position of Bretwalda for King Aelle became increasingly uncertain, and he was assasinated in that year. What followed was 46 years of political manoeuvrings and in-fighting before the Saxons settled on a new Bretwalda in 560 - Caewlin of Wessex. Arthur's Peace reigned some some 50 years with the Saxons, however that only applied to the Saxon-British conflict.

The Aftermath of Victory

All was not well though after the battle in the lands of the Romano-British and the Celts. Many tribes lost more than others in the battle and the Kings and tribal heads took it upon themselves to grab land from their weaker neighbours. In addition the tribute from the Saxons was largely kept by the Gwent tribe, which fostered suspicion and anger from the other tribes. King Arthur tried to mediate in the disputes and formed his round table to promote honour and a sense of fealty between the British tribes, but the keeping of the tribute still rankled with the other tribes. In addition Arthur was a Christian from the Romano British tradition. Many of the old Celtic tribes worshipping the Celtic Gods did not fully trust him. Whilst Irish missionaries from the Catholic Church had been converting some of the very western coasts of Wales, the majority of Wales was still Celtic at this point.

The formation of the round table was an experiement that shone briefly as a bright star, but was ultimately doomed. The Knights that the table attracted were from Christian West Wales (Gawain). The high Christian ideals did not sit well with the Celtic leaders who took the Knights to be meddlers in their affairs. Increasingly the Knights became less accepted in the other non Christian Tribes and trouble started to brew. In addition the Celtic open tradition of sexual congress was in direct contradiction to the Christian ideals of marriage.

The Battle of Camlann

This battle in 537 was caused as a result of the long standing emnity between Arthur's wife Gwenhwyfawr (Guinevere) and her sister Gwenhwyfach (Gwendolyn) errupting. Gwendolyn brought Mordred (who was the Son of King Lot of Orkney and Arthur's half sister Anna who'd been fostered with Arthur at Camelot) onto her side as Mordred had grown to hate Arthur, rebelling against his stern Christian doctrine. Mordred had slapped Guinevere when she had insulted Gwendolyn's honour and Arthur had reacted violently against this, expelling Mordred from Camelot. This fued came to a head many years later with Mordred championing Gwendolyn's cause.

The battle was started prematurely by a member of Arthur's army unleashing their blade as talks between the leaders were ongoing. This led Mordred's army to mistakenly believe that there was treachery going on and they attacked in force. The leaders in close quarters naturally started to fight and Arthur and Mordred began to fight. Arthur killed Mordred but he himself was mortally wounded. Merlin took Arthur's body away from the battle and Arthur has not been seen since so it was assumed that he had died.

Arthur had three sons Constantine, Amhar and Llacheu and after his dissappearance he was suceeded by Constantine III.

The Golden Age and the Reality

After the defeat of the Saxons at Badon the peace agreement held for nearly 80 years. This however lead to the leaders of the Celtic and Christian kingdoms to focus on their own petty squabbles rather than the external threat. The so called Golden Age was in fact in reality the Age of Betrayals.

There were two reasons for the turmoil in this period. The first of which was that the various Kings retained their armies after the Battle of Camlann so as to ensure that they retained the biggest parts of the spoils for themselves. These Tyranni (Kings) were little more than localised warlords in places and with no tradition for Kingly rule (due to the Roman occupation). They continued the Irish tradition of dividing a Kingdom between sons instead of having a single successor. This lead to a number of disgruntled sons having a small ineffectual Kingdom to rule warring on brothers and uncles to re-unite their former Kingdoms.

One such famous example of this was Maelgwyn. Cunnedda's great Kingdom in Wales had been partitioned between two sons (Ceritic and Einiaun) and a grandson (Marianus). On Einiaun's death his Kingdom was further divided between Catwullan Longhand and Ewein Whitetooth. When Maelgwyn inherited his father Catwullan's Kingdom he decided to start to re-unite parts of it by making war and killing Ewein's heir Cuneglass. Between marriage and making war on his neighbour Maelgwyn was able to carve out the sizable Kingdom of Gwynedd in Wales and ruled the area with an iron fist.

Where a Tyranni couldn't get what he wanted through war, they did it by marriage and they were often not afraid of the relationships in the marriage. Vortipor of Dyfed, the Tyranni of Demetia, married his step daughter after her mother died so that he could retain control of the lands that his former wife had control of. He was criticised by the church for doing so, but ignored them.

The second reason was that in the 550's the bubonic plague came to Britain and decimated many of the noble houses. The plague, the great equaliser in status, saw many nobles see an oppotunity to further their status at the expense of dying of weakend Kings. Assassinations (often inter familly) were rife to gain the Kingship. It was no wonder that once the Saxons had re-grouped the Celtic and Romano-British kings were not in a fit state to fend them off once again.

The Battles of Deoham and Fethan Leag

By 577 the Saxons had regrouped under their new leader Caewlin of Wessex and he determined that they would not be contained by a treaty some 50 years out of date. They attacked west and defeated the local british Baden, Glouvia and Cerin tribes at Deoham, killing their Kings there. By now relations between the other tribes had deteriorated to the extent that no other tribes came to their aid. The Saxons crushed the British forces and they soon took over the wealthy towns of Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath. However their occupation of much of the area was reversed by 584 with the Angles helping the local tribes against the West Saxons at Battle of Fethan Leag. The area became occupied by a mixture of Angles and the existing tribes and became known as Hwicce with the British Church taking a leading role there.

Celtic Life in the Dark Ages

The Dark Ages is a time of great transition in Britain, encompassing both a time of transition from Roman to Anglo-Saxon rule and also a transition from Pagan worship to Christian worship. Towards the end of the Fourth centuary Roman worship was starting to become Christianised following the example of the Emporer Constantine. This had started to spread to the provinces but had not fully been taken up. Many of the local tribes still clung to their original forms of worship with the Druids still holding power over the worship of the Celtic Gods. When the Romans withdrew, they left in charge four Governers who were Romano-British to oversee the province in a typical Roman way. Therefore many of the early leaders of Dark Age Britain were Romanised British who were Battle Leaders and their descendants came to rule many tribes. These leaders heightened the spread of Christianity amongst the British population and that seems to have grown in the period up to the 8th centuary. Indeed the pagan Saxon and Angle invaders were also gradually converted to Christianity during this time.

As a result the traditional tribal life was slowly eroded through the introduction of the Christian church. The Druids still held power in the early part of the Dark Ages, but gradually their influence would have faded. During the period 497-577 the Druids would still have held great sway over parts of the population and were still respected as great negotiators.

Between 410 and 480 many Roman forts were abandoned and newer fortifications were built by the local tribal populations. These newer fortifications were the seats of the tribal power of the various Battle Leaders (such as Vortigern) and Kings of the time. It was this shift in emphasis as well as tribal "nationalism" that broke the power of the four Roman provinces down into the smaller tribal units. This made politics much more hazy, and where there was a stong link between the tribes they would be victorious against the invading Saxons. Where there was discord they would be less successful.

Celtic society was split into the Warrior tradition led by the King or Battle Leader, the intellectual and social leadership lead by the Druids and the remainder of the population who were the workers and the artisans. Leadership would normally be drawn from the Warrior tradition, though there were times when the tribes were heavily guided by the Druids. Succession varied between tribes with some favouring genetic inheritance and others a more Tanist approach with a talented heir appointed by the cheif as the incoming successor based on their suitability for the role.

The traditions amongst the Celtic tribes was for a more freeform sexual congress than Christian ideology allowed. Strong women amongst the tribe could have their pick of the strongest and most desireable men when they wanted. Same sex and multi-partner liaisons were not frowned on in Celtic society and it was quite probable that there were male bonded pairs of warriors in the Greek tradition existing in Celtic society.

The Celts went into battle with their torsos bared with large long swords that they would wield ferociosly in a semi beserk fashion often bringing fear to their opponents. They still used Charriots in warfare that the Romans had long since abandoned as ceremonial. Apart from early defeats by Boudicca, the Romans superior military tactics told over the Celts in the end. The Romanisation of much of Britain brought about a more measured approach to battle that mixed with the Celtic wildness in the Dark Ages.

Celtic Festivals

31st October - Samhain - This marks the end of the harvest.
1st November - Calan Caeef - First day of winter.
2nd February - Imbolc (Gwyl Fair) - First day of Spring
1st May - Beltane (Calan Mai) - First day of Summer
1st August - Lughnasadh (Calan Awst) - First day of Harvest

Celtic Mythic Stories

There are a number of mythic Welsh oral traditions that have survived and are collectively known as the Mabinogion. There are 11 tales that link into myths of Celtic Gods as well as the Arthurian legend. These tales show the magic and the mystery that was around in that time and can be used as the basis for ideas for characters and background.

The Irish Missionaries

Increasingly during the Dark Ages the Catholic church gained popularity not from the Romano Christian rump that remained in the country, but from an invasion of missionaries from Ireland on the West coast, particularly in Wales. The message of the missionaries and their willingness to demonstrate their beliefs impressed the tribes in the West of Wales and worship of the Christian God gradually increased alongside the builing of many churches. The Irish missionaries unselfish acts became stories that spread and these later formed the basis of many of them becoming Saints in the Christian church.

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