Lord of the Isles (Coronet Books)

BOOK: Lord of the Isles (Coronet Books)
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Table of Contents

Also by Nigel Tranter

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright

Map

Principal Characters

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Part Two

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Part Three

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Historical Note

Also by Nigel Tranter
:

The Bruce Trilogy

Children of the Mist

Crusader

Druid Sacrifice

Flowers of Chivalry

The House of Stewart Trilogy:

Lords of Misrule

A Folly of Princes

The Captive Crown

Kenneth

Lion Let Loose

MacBeth the King

The MacGregor Trilogy:

MacGregor’s Gathering

The Clansman

Gold for Prince Charlie

Mail Royal

Margaret the Queen

The Master of Gray Trilogy:

Past Master

Montrose, The Captain General

The Patriot

Rough Wooing

Tapestry of the Boar

True Thomas

The Wallace

The Wisest Fool

The Young Montrose

About the Author

Nigel Tranter, who wrote over ninety novels on Scottish history, was one of Scotland’s best-loved writers. He died on 9th January 2000 at the age of ninety.

LORD OF THE ISLES
Nigel Tranter

www.hodder.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 1983 by Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

Copyright © 1983 by Nigel Tranter

The right of Nigel Tranter to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

Ebook ISBN 9781444766981

Paperback ISBN 9780340368367

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

www.hodder.co.uk

Principal Characters
In Order of Appearance

S
OMERLED MAC
G
ILLEBRIDE
M
AC
F
ERGUS
: Son of the exiled Thane of Argyll.

C
ONN
I
RONHAND
M
AC
M
AHON
: Irish gallowglass captain and shipmaster.

S
AOR
M
ACNEIL
: Foster-brother of Somerled.

D
ERMOT
F
LATNOSE
M
AGUIRE
: Irish gallowglass captain and shipmaster.

C
ATHULA
M
AC
I
AN
: Young Morvem woman of spirit.

M
AC
I
AN OF
U
LADAIL
: Morvern chieftain, half-brother of Cathula.

G
ILLEBRIDE
M
AC
F
ERGUS
: Thane of Argyll.

M
ALCOLM
M
AC
E
TH
, E
ARL OF
R
OSS
: Brother-in-law to Somerled.

T
HORKELL
F
ORKBEARD
S
VENSSON
: Viking leader.

E
WAN
M
ACSWEEN
: Titular King of Argyll and the Isles.

S
IR
M
ALCOLM
M
AC
G
REGOR OF
G
LENORCHY
: Chief of that clan.

F
ARQUHAR
M
AC
F
ERDOCH
: Hereditary Abbot of Glendochart.

H
ERVEY DE
W
ARENNE OF
K
EITH
: KnightMarischal of Scotland.

D
AVID THE
F
IRST
: King of Scots, son of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret.

H
UGO DE
M
ORVILLE
: High Constable of Scotland.

W
ALTER FITZ
A
LAN
: High Steward of Scotland.

R
AGNHILDE
O
LAFSDOTTER
: Princess, daughter of the King of Man.

A
FFRICA
, Q
UEEN OF
M
AN
: Daughter of Fergus of Galloway.

O
LAF
G
ODFREYSSON, THE
M
ORSEL
: King of Man.

M
ALACHY
O’M
OORE
: Bishop of Armagh and Papal Legate.

W
IMUND
: Bishop of Man.

F
ERGUS
, E
ARL OF
G
ALLOWAY
: Great noble.

E
LIZABETH
, C
OUNTESS OF
R
OSS
: Somerled’s sister.

G
ILLECOLM MAC
S
OMERLED
M
AC
F
ERGUS
: Son of Somerled.

D
ONALD
M
AC
E
TH
: Nephew of Somerled, later Earl of Moray.

A
RCHBISHOP
T
HURSTAN OF
Y
ORK
: English prelate.

R
AOUL
D’A
VRANCHES
: Bishop of Durham.

T
HORFINN
O
TTARSSON
: Manx chieftain.

D
OUGAL MAC
S
OMERLED
M
AC
F
ERGUS
: Somerled’s second son. Ancestor of Clan MacDougall.

A
UGUSTINE
: Abbot of lona.

PART ONE
CHAPTER 1

It made a peaceful scene in the warm May afternoon. The sea, in the wide loch-mouth, was almost mirror-calm so that the slap-slap of the wavelets against the longship’s timbers was so gentle that it did not drown out the sleepy crooning of the eiders from the skerries. Even the haunting calling of the cuckoos drifted across the quarter-mile of blue-green water which separated them from the nearest island. Only the rhythmic snoring of one of the oarsmen, sprawled over his sweep, disturbed—that and the stench of sweat from near one-hundred male torsoes after long and strenuous exertion.

The young man who sat alone on the high prow-platform beneath the fierce dragon-head, chin on fist, elbow on bent bare knee, may have appeared to be in somnolent tune with it all, but was not. His mind was busy assessing, calculating, seeking to judge chances and distances, times and numbers, and probable odds; and every now and again his keen glance lifted to scan the long fretted coastline of Ardnamurchan to north and west, its features and contours, and then to swing still further westwards across the glittering waters of the Hebridean Sea, empty of sail if not of isle and skerry—and pray it to continue empty meantime. If all the beauty of that colourful seascape was scarcely in the front of his mind, it was not wholly lost on him, despite presently being impervious to the peace of it all.

For that matter there was little enough that spoke of peace about that ship, from the rearing red-painted dragon-prow and shield-hung sides, to the stacked arms at the high stern-platform, with swords, throwing-spears and battle-axes at the ready. Nor were the men pacific in appearance, any of them, most naked to the waist, in ragged saffron kilts, with shaggy hair and thin down-turning, long moustaches, Irish gallowglasses almost to a man. Few would look for peace and quiet from that crew.

The young man in the bows, so thoughtful, was distinct in almost every respect. He was fair-haired, for one thing, where the others were dark, hint of the Norse in his ancestry. He was clean-shaven, and though strong enough as to feature, it was a sculptured strength which spoke of a very different breeding. He wore the saffron kilt also but of finer quality, with a silken shirt reasonably clean and a long calf-skin waistcoat on which were sewn small metal scales to form a protective half-armour, pliable and light but effective. His great bulls’-horned helmet, silver-chased, the curling horns tipped with gold, lay on the deck at his side and the shoulder sword-belt gleamed golden also. Somerled MacGillebride MacGilladamnan MacFergus looked what he was, a Celtic princeling of part-Norse extraction. It was perhaps aptly amusing that his father, the exiled Thane Gillebride, should have given him, at his Norse mother’s behest, the Christian name of Somerled, which in her tongue meant the peaceful-sounding Summer Voyager

He turned his speculative attention to the two smallish islands so close together on the south, off which they lay, in the very jaws of the long and fair sea-loch of Sunart. The islands, a bare half-mile apart, were extraordinarily dissimilar to be so close, the seaward one, Oronsay, jagged, rocky, strangely M-shaped, cleft into many small headlands yet nowhere much higher than one-hundred feet above the waves; whilst its neighbour, Carna, was smooth and green and lofty, no more than a mile-long grassy whaleback rising to a peaked central ridge five times as high as Oronsay. It was the former which held the man’s attention.

A shout from the stern turned all waking heads towards where the helmsman, Big Conn of the Ironhand, pointed away north-westwards towards the far Ardnamurchan shore beyond the point of Ardslignish. At first it was difficult to distinguish anything in the hazy sunlight other than the frowning cliffs, ironbound shore and shadow-slashed corries of Beinn Hiant. But after a moment or two the keen-eyed were able to discern what appeared to be a small low white cloud, down at sea-level, a moving cloud which seemed to roll over the face of the water towards them. Presently to even the untutored eye it became apparent that most of the cloud was in fact spray, but rising out of it was a single square sail.

Until it was within half-a-mile or so, the hull of the oncoming craft could only be glimpsed occasionally amidst the spume set up by the double banks of long oars on each side, forty-eight all told, which lashed the sea in a disciplined frenzy, each pulled by two men, and with the sail’s aid drove the slender, low-set galley at a scarcely believable speed in calm conditions. Evolved out of the Viking longship and the Celtic birlinn, the Hebridean galley represented by far the fastest craft on any water, greyhound of the seas indeed—although some would call them wolves, rather. They held their own grace, even beauty, but few saw them as beautiful.

BOOK: Lord of the Isles (Coronet Books)
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