The Lordship of the Isles is a martial culture, and has inherited the warlike and maritime traditions of the Gael
and the Norse. Both races are renowned for their prowess - the Gael for their fanatical loyalty and the Norse for their brutality. This
is a state where every man from sixteen to seventy is a fanatical warrior, bound by birth to fight when called, in possession
of his own weaponry, often of fine quality.
The military is indeed a fascinating subject, and I will try to teach you about the armies and weapons of the Lordship
of the Isles as best I can.
Despite what you may have heard, and despite tales of Gaelic heroes, however true they may be, the greatest
asset of the Lordship of the Isles as far as defence is concerned is the navy. There are thousands of birlinns in the navy
of Clan Donald, and other types of ship, including the curach and the long-fada. If all of our fleets were assembled in one location, they would outnumber those of Scotland and England combined.
It is the fact that we have such a skilled and well-equipped navy that keeps us safe from foreign invasion -
on the mainland, we may be defeated, and even if an army manages to fight through our allies and vassals on the mainland they
will not be able to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The navy also gives us the freedom to change our tactics between guerrilla warfare,
campaigns, and defence, by adjusting its role from transportation of troops, to transportation of supplies, to evacuation.
It also gives our soldiers easy access to the most remote parts of the Highlands, as most of our ships are designed so that
they can sail in shallow water, perhaps just a river, and can be taken across land if the necessity arises.
The Lordship of the Isles does not have a professional army. Instead, it has tens of thousands of fanatical
clansmen who possess their own equipment, and who are often seasoned by hunting. I suppose that an army like this is militia,
but it is an experienced militia, and, as said before, the loyalty and bravery of the Gael in combat is famous (this
isn't just a proud boast by me - clansmen were known to be willing to cut off their own limbs for something as trivial as
victory in a boat race from island to island, and as this is told in the equivalent of official documents then it must be
more than an exaggeration).
In times of war, these clansmen are easily mustered by the use of the fiery cross. This is a cross, made of
two sticks of wood, that is draped in cloth soaked in blood and set alight. It is then taken by hereditary runners across
the island or region (yes, this is the fiery cross that features in the Ku Klax Klan symbol, as some of the
founders of the Ku Klux Klan are said to be of Highland descent). There may be more than one used at the same time,
if clansmen need to be gathered from more than one area. When this symbol is lit, all clansmen are required to arm themselves
and to meet at a rallying point which is usually set by their local tacksman.
Also, our armies include specialist axe-wielding mercenaries called gallowglasses, our brothers (the original gallowglasses were a descendant of Somerled and his six sons) who have
been denied the privilege of ruling the Lordship and instead have became some of the best warriors in the British Isles. Thirty
thousand of them arrive in Islay each year, as they wait for the next war, and they are all too happy to offer their services,
often for something as simple and as abundant as beef.
There are a few professional soldiers in the army, however, who are often tacksmen and their sons. They often
take an interest in a particular weapon, and train in it. They play the most important role in the army - patrolling clan
lands, raiding, and looking after the clan's strongholds. They were given the best armour and equipment, often wielded a
claymore or battleaxe, and clad in chainmail (the modern Highland games, possibly the last part of modern
Highland culture to be in any way historical, come from the tournaments that kept these elite warriors occupied during the
There was also the chief's bodyguard, who were the finest men in the Lordship of the Isles, handpicked after
performing some task first achieved in ancient Irish mythology by the champions of great kings, who were given the task of
defending nothing but the chief and his family. Even his property was not their responsibility. In possession of one of the
few places in the retinue of a Lord of the Isles that was not hereditary (although more often than not
sons and cousins of a former bodyguard would become bodyguards themselves), the bodyguards had to show great strength
and determination. Their martial prowess is so feared that they are often entitled to the same privileges as the thanes
and armins of the Council of the Isles, and dine at the table of the Lord of the Isles.