Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: Central Valley, California, USA
Iain Calum Cowan drove south on the A83 motorway toward Loch Gilphead. While he drove, he pondered the recent days he'd spent near the shores of Loch Lomond, learning his family's history.
When Iain came to Scotland a week ago, he hadn't known what he was looking for. He'd felt the pull to Scotland for many years, and while he knew his family had come from the shores of Loch Lomond, he really felt no tie to his forefathers. He didn't know if it was his own unique and painful family situation, but for as long as he could remember, he felt cut adrift. He felt unconnected from his family, his friends, and seemingly everyone he'd ever met. He felt as though he didn't belong, and had no idea why. His Scotland trip, he felt, was a cry for that feeling of connection that he knew others shared. Still, he'd come alone; he did everything alone these days.
When Iain appeared at the ancestral lands of the Cowan family, he'd arrived armed with a surname, but quickly learned there was more to his family than he'd thought. To begin, he'd learned that his family was but one of many in the Clan Colquhoun, a name he'd never heard before. He'd learned all of this too late to really spend some time learning about the clan, as he had reservations at a hotel in Kilmartin for this evening. However, he planned to come back though the Trossachs on his way back to Glasgow, and resolved to learn more. Today, however, the plan was to drive toward Kilmartin Glen with a stop at Dunadd fort, whatever that was.
As Iain pulled up to the parking lot for Dunadd fort, all he noticed that was interesting about the place was a rocky hill. There certainly wasn't any fort anywhere to be seen. Still, he locked up the Vauxhall he was driving and started toward the hill, which was where the signs were pointing.
Even though he came here in the middle of summer, he realized that "dry" was never a word that can be used to describe Scotland; not when you're used to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Central California. Today, for example, was the most sunshine he'd seen since he'd arrived. However, while he walked the trail through the vibrant green meadows, the sky darkened, and a good Scottish rain began pattering the grass, and a gusting wind began to blow. He knew his time in Kilmartin was short, and didn't think he'd get another day to visit Dunadd, so he shrugged his shoulders inside what the lady at the clothing shop had called a "windcheater" and trudged on.
When he reached the bottom of the hill, he saw the path crisscrossing the hillside, and realized that the fort was not behind the hill, but rather apparently on top of it. He sighed, and wondered if the climb was worth it. He decided every experience was worth it, though he wondered if he'd feel the same at the end of it. He passed through what looked like a miniature valley, though Iain realized at this point that the hill might actually be the fort. He could see men with bows defending this structure with little more than stone walls added to the natural defenses. It was a forbidding climb, and this was without enemies hurling death on him from above.
After what seemed like a long climb, he reached the summit, and was treated to a spectacular view of the land around him. He was summarily dazzled enough to forget the rain, and merely stood there, transfixed, while other tourists hastily made their way down the climb to get to the shelter of their cars. Iain figured he had nothing better to do, and a little rain never hurt anyone. As he got over the splendor of the view, he began looking around the hilltop, and noticed a strange, flat stone with some indentations in it. He wandered over to investigate this interesting rock.
He first noticed a bowl-shaped indentation, which didn't hold his information for long. He soon noticed an oblong indentation in the rock, and began recalling what his Bed and Breakfast hostess had said about this fort. He recalled that the kings of DŠl Riata were supposed to have been crowned at this fort, and that there was a footprint here, which figured prominently in the kingmaking ceremony. He wished he'd paid closer attention, but he knew there was a Kenneth involved, and something about the Picture People or something of that nature.
The rain was really coming down now, and he saw lightning in the distance. Iain, however was completely engrossed in remembering what he'd heard about the kings and the footprint, and absently placed his foot in the footprint. Oddly enough, his foot seemed to fit perfectly into the groove. His astonishment at the fit was quickly surpassed, however, when a bolt of lightning struck nearby, and momentarily blinded him. He stepped back a couple steps, but quickly checked his movement. He wasn't entirely sure what lay behind him, and didn't want to fall off this hillfort. As his eyes adjusted, the landscape seemed a great deal brighter than it was...and he heard voices.
"Och, Malcolm. Watch your step, lad. CinŠed doesn't want any stragglers wrecking his ceremony. And we definitely don't want to give those Cruithne any reason to think us weak, eh?" Raucous laughter followed, as Iain began to make out people in the bright sunlight around him. He knew he must look confused for the men around him began joking about someone named Malcolm drinking too much Ale. He followed along in a daze, only partially listening to the conversation around him, but very keenly observing the people around him. They were dressed in earthen-colored hues of wool, and with a shock, he realized that he had on the same fabrics. He quickly found he was better protected against the wind than he was with his nylon windcheater. Suddenly he was jolted out of his silent contemplation of his new fashion with a sentence spoken by his new companions.
"Well, when those painted people bend over to kiss our CinŠed's arse, we shall have our allies against those cused Danes. Unification will be good for DŠl Riata, you'll see!"
Iain bent over double, certain he must be dead, or otherwise dreaming. CinŠed, or Kenneth? DŠl Riata, though...that was certainly familiar. His new comrades appeared concerned about their friend.
"Malcolm, are you alright? Seamas! Young Colquhoun, here, appears to have drunk too much ale last night. Help me lift him."
Colquhoun? Iain had been searching for somewhere to belong, but this was definitely not what he'd had in mind...
to be continued
A Scotsman Abroad