KING ACHAIUS married the daughter of the King of
the Picts, and long after his death his grandson, Kenneth Macalpine, claimed
time Pictish crown, as well as that of the Scots, because his grandmother
had been a Pictish Princess. The Picts, however, did not want a Scottish
king, so there was war between the two nations.
But the Scottish lords at this time did not desire to
fight against the Picts, so for some years, although the war went on, there
was no great battle, but only little fights every now and again.
Kenneth Macalpine, however, did not give up his
determination to win the crown of the Picts, and at last he called all his
lords together to a council, and tried to persuade them to gather for a
great battle. Tie talked to them very earnestly, but, say what he might, he
could not move them. They did not want to fight, and they would not fight.
Seeing he could not persuade them to do as he wished,
the King brought the meeting to an end, but commanded them all to come
together again next day to talk once more about the matter.
Now King Kenneth Macalpine had made up his mind that,
as he could not persuade the lords by talking to them, he must try some
That night he made a very grand
supper, and invited all the lords to come to it. They came, and it was such
a grand supper, with so many courses, that it lasted far into the night At
length it was over, and all the lords went to bed. They were so tired with
the long day that they fell asleep at once.
But while the lords feasted, the King's servants had been busy. No sooner
were the lords asleep, than there appeared at each bedside a man dressed in
fish-skins, covered with shining scales. In one hand he held a torch and in
the other an ox-horn. The night was very dark, and the light from the
torches shone on the fish-scales, making a soft and silvery light. When each
man was in his place, they all raised their horns, and speaking through them
as through a trumpet they cried, 'Awake.'
the sound of that great shout each lord started wide awake, and seeing the
strange being at his bedside, lay trembling and wondering what it might
Then speaking through their horns,
which made their voices sound terrible and unearthly, and quite unlike the
voice of any human being, the dressed-up men said, 'We are the messengers of
Almighty God to the Scottish nobles. We are sent to command you to obey your
King, for his request is just. The Pictish kingdom is due to him as his
rightful heritage. Therefore, you must fight for him and win it. That is the
will of the Lord of All.'
Having so spoken,
these pretended messengers from heaven put out their torches. The glimmer of
the silver scales vanished, and in the darkness the men stole quietly away.
In fear and trembling each lord lay in his bed, and
could sleep no more that night. Was it a dream? each asked himself. Was it a
vision? Had any other seen or heard it?
the grey morning light streamed in through the windows, and the darkness was
no longer terrible around them, the lords arose. Quickly they gathered to
the great Council Chamber. With pale faces and questioning eyes they looked
at each other. 'You too have heard? You too have seen? Then it was no dream.
A message has indeed been sent from heaven; a message which we must obey.'
So they spoke to each other, and after some hurried
consultation, they went quickly to the King.
'Great King,' they said, 'this night we have seen strange signs and visions.
The Lord of Heaven himself bath sent a message to us, and we are ready to
fight as you command us.'
Then they told the
King of the vision which each one had seen in the night.
'I too have seen a vision,' said the King, 'but I said
naught of it, fearing lest you should think I boasted. But now I tell you as
you have all seen the like.'
This of course
was not true, and the King knew very well that what the lords had seen was
no vision, but only his own servants dressed up.
So in this manner the King had his own way, and his
lords gathered all their soldiers together, till there was such a great army
as had never before been seen in the land of Scots.
When the King of Picts heard of the great preparations
which the Scots were making, he too gathered all his soldiers together. But
finding that his army was not large enough to withstand so great a host, lie
sent to England and asked the Saxons to help him. And the Saxons, because he
promised them great gain and plunder, came.
Very early one morning, when it was just beginning to grow light, the battle
began.. Without a shout or sound of a trumpet, the Scots rushed upon the
Picts, and when the Saxons saw this silent host moving through the dim
morning light like ghosts, they were dreadfully afraid. So afraid were they,
that they took to their heels, and fled away to the mountains near. The
noise and clattering made by these fleeing Saxons startled the Picts, and
threw them into great confusion. Their King tried in vain to encourage them,
and bring order again into the ranks. It was of no use. The Scots fought so
fiercely, that in a very short time the Picts were utterly defeated, and
following the example of the Saxons, they too fled away. Their King himself,
seeing that all was lost, turned his horse, and rode fast from the field, he
and all his army pursued by the victorious Scots.
After this battle the King of Picts sent messengers to
Kenneth Macalpine desiring peace. 'Tell your master,' replied Kenneth, 'that
he shall have peace when he gives the crown of Picts to me. it is mine by
just right and title.'
When the messengers
went back to the King of Picts with this answer, he was very angry. 'I will
never give up the crown,' he said, so the war continued.
Battle after battle was fought, sometimes one side,
sometimes the other, winning. But at last in a great and terrible battle the
King of Picts and nearly all his nobles were slain.
Then Kenneth marched through Pictland, killing men,
women, and children in the most cruel manner, till those who were left fled
away to England to escape from his cruelty.
Thus the kingdom of Scots and the kingdom of Picts were united, and Kenneth
Macalpine ruled over both. He took all the land belonging to the Pictish
nobles and gave it to the Scottish nobles who had fought for him and helped
him to conquer the Picts. He changed the names of all those lands and gave
them Scottish names, so that the memory of the Picts might utterly perish.
Some people say that the story of the great slaughter
of the Picts is a fairy tale. Perhaps it is. But this is true, that about
this time the Picts did vanish away out of the story of Albion, and we hear
no more of them, but only of Scots.
vanished away so completely that even very wise people cannot find out what
kind of language they spoke. And so these wise people cannot agree as to
what race the Picts belonged to.
Macalpine was a wise king and made good laws, and after the battles with the
Picts were over he ruled his people in peace. He reigned for twenty-.three
years, seven years over the Scots alone, and sixteen years over the whole
land. He died in 859 A.D., and was buried in the island of Iona, which, ever
since St. Columba had built his church and monastery there, had been used as
a burying-place for the Scottish kings. If you ever go there, you may still
see the graves of some of these ancient rulers of Scotland.