Through hard-falling rain a bird, black from beak to tail-tip, swoops and glides, buffeted by wind that swirls around the surrounding mountains.

From the elevated height, black beady eyes see across the flat, windswept moor of the valley. In amongst the heather and wild grass the eyes see something unfamiliar.

Wings angled to ride on the air current, the bird drops through the misty clouds to join the other black-feathered dots already gathered.

Similar black, beady eyes, belonging to the Duke of Cumberland survey the battlefield. Over in less than an hour. A fine mornings work. The rain batters against his cape, large drops drip from his sodden hat.

Over the noise of pattering rain the cries of the wounded hauntingly fleet across the moor. Gratifyingly, they are the cries of the Jacobite rebels, only a handful of his army have fallen.

He shouts an order to those that can hear him: ‘This is not the time to gloat and crow in victory. This is only the beginning. You have your orders.’

Cumberland turns his mount and leaves the field, banners raised high in glory. The Kingdom and the House of Hanover saved, the Stuarts and the Catholics crushed. Faintly, he thinks he can hear the cry amongst the charge: ‘No quarter to be given.’

Cumberland allows himself a smile of satisfaction. This is the beginning of the end for the rebellion.

As he trots away, a black bird settles on the body of a fallen Highlander. After a curious look with a beady black eye, the pure black beak strikes savagely at the exposed innards, sprawling from a bayonet slash across the abdomen.

Copyright Sue Vincent

This is a response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Crow curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

The Battle of Culloden in 1745 was the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil. The defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Army by government forces was followed by the Highland Clearances and a brutal clamping down on Scots culture and way of life, an attempt to ensure no uprising could happen again. If interested, you can read more here: Wikipedia

50 responses to “CULLODEN”

  1. Wow. Well done, Iain. I loved the crow’s perspective on this scene, but there’s so much more layering in here than that – the similarity of the black beady eyes, the contrast of the crow’s impersonality to Cumberland’s satisfied smile, and similarities between crow and human as they stabbed at the flesh. Powerful.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great writing in this piece Iain. The opening paragraph combines beauty with bleakness in a way that shows there’s nothing unusual about setting the two alongside each other. I’ve visited Culloden and your story reminded me of the feelings of horror and disbelief that the site conjures up. This story also complements another recent one of yours which showed tribalism and a readiness to express fear of ‘foreigners’ through violence are with us today. This was a powerful and creative take on the prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So atmospheric, almost romantic, which is a weird word to use considering the slaughter that’s occurred, but the opening scene painting is beautiful. Clever repeat of black beady eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sarah Ann, we probably do look back at history with romanticized eyes – at the time I’m sure this was a horrific experience for those soldiers involved.


  4. Intense and extremely well written. In some horrible way, I felt I was there… Perhaps as a crow. My wish is that we can learn through history. And that humans could learn to not be so cruel.

    Liked by 1 person

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