19th March, 1286 Edinburgh Castle
King Alexander III of Scotland
He was married once more. It was still something of a novel feeling this marriage business. He had been married to Margaret for some twenty four years before she had died, and he had been deeply grieved at her passing, and yet the time had come for him to marry once more. Alexander was nothing if not pragmatic, he knew that there was a scarcity of heirs to his family and that had been a problem a serious problem for as long as he could remember. It was a curse he supposed, a deep curse, and one that his marriage to Yolande was supposed to rectify. She was pregnant and he hoped she would give birth to a boy, he desperately hoped so. A boy to help solidify David’s position as crown prince. There was much and more he had to teach his son and yet he also had a feeling that there might come a time relatively soon where he might not be able to fulfil his role.
That was somewhat why he had asked his son to come to his rooms. David was a tall lad even for his age, he had seen thirteen summers, and was to be fourteen on the morrow. They were to celebrate that tomorrow, Alexander was certain of that. His son was a tall lad, with auburn hair, and a strong disposition. David was a true prince, he was good with weapons and he was good with his words. Alexander was proud of his son, and he was confident he would be a good king. He looked at the lad as he sat opposite him and then after some thought asked. “What do you make of Edinburgh lad?”
His son as always took a moment to consider before replying. “It is a grand place father. The people are fair and noble. And yet it is no Stirling. It lacks a certain homeliness that our home has. Perhaps with time that will change.”
“Would you ever consider making it your home?” Alexander asks curious.
His son shakes his head. “No, Stirling is where the true ancestral influence lies. Stirling has served us well for many years as well. There is no need to change a good thing. No need at all.”
Alexander nods. “That is good, very good. Now pray tell me son, what did you observe of our men at tonight’s feast?”
His son seems to be pondering this question before he says. “I believe that they are good men. But they all harbour some ambition or the other. Comyn hungers for more land, whilst Bruce wants the power and prestige that Comyn has. I think Douglas has eyes in the south and that Wallace is the only true lord that we can truly rely on.”
“And what has led you to these observations?” Alexander asks intrigued.
“From what I saw at the feast tonight, it seems as if Comyn truly believes himself to be the man behind the crown. His lands are vast and expansive. It would make sense for him to want more. A man such as John Comyn believes more power is his due. He hungers for it, but does not wish to openly seek it beyond what he believes proper.” David replies.
“And what of Lord Robert? The man has a claim to the throne. Do you think he will look to use that?” Alexander asks testing his son’s knowledge.
His son’s face narrows slightly at mention of Robert Bruce, the fifth Lord of Annandale. “He is a man with more untampered ambition. From what I know, or could observe it seems he wishes to get closer to the throne. As do his son and grandson. Perhaps that is a good thing for it means that they will serve us loyally?”
Noting the hesitation in his son’s voice Alexander speaks. “Yes, I believe you are correct. Robert is a man who has seen much and more during his life. And as such believes that this warrants him getting some more respect than those others of the court. It is of course a false notion. For he is one and the same as the others. His great rival the Comyn, is a man who shares similar ambitions, but Comyn has the sense to keep his mouth shut on them. Bruce on the other hand I do not think has ever gotten over losing his place as senior heir to myself. That is something that will be precarious as time goes on. I mean to rectify that.”
His son looks at him intrigued then. “How do you plan on doing that?” his son asks.
“With a marriage my son. Bruce has a claim to the throne, and as such so do his children. One sure way to make sure a potential rival does not come up into trouble is by ensuring one of his own is married to one of us. I am married but you are currently not committed.” Alexander replies.
His son looks at him a moment as if assessing what he has said. “You mean to tie the Bruces to us through marriage? Do you not think that presents more risks?”
“There are always risks David that is the thing with being king. The crown comes with risks and whether or not you are able to deal with them is the true sign of whether you are fit to wear the crown. Bruce might be a potential rival but by tying him to us through marriage we ensure he has a vested interest in ensuring that our family remains on the throne.” Alexander replies.
His son adopts a thoughtful expression then. “Whom would I be married to father? I know Lord Robert’s son has some two or three children one of whom is no more than a babe.”
Alexander smiles at his son impressed by how quickly he has picked up on what Alexander was getting at. “You shall be marrying his eldest granddaughter, Isabel. She is of an age with you, and is said to be a fair maid.”
His son seems to take this in stride. “Will I meet her tomorrow? Or is that too soon for her to come?”
Alexander laughs, for all his son acts the man grown he is still a boy at heart. “She is with her family back at Annandale. The engagement shall be announced at the feast tomorrow to celebrate your birthday. And in time there will be plenty of opportunities for you both to come to know one another.”
His son nods. “Very well then father. Where will the feast be held tomorrow? And will you be here?”
Alexander hesitates at this. “I intend to go to Kinghorn to meet Yolande tonight. She has been spending some time there, and as such I intend to accompany her back home to Stirling.”
His son’s face remains expressionless, though Alexander wonders if there is some tension there. “Are you sure that is wise? The weather is said to be worsen before night’s end. Surely it would be better to leave on the morrow when there is sufficient light to guide you safely there?”
Alexander can feel some of the old stubbornness coming to the fore once more. “The storm will not abate on the morrow. And regardless, Yolande is heavy with my child, I do not want her to be alone in Kinghorn. She deserves to have her husband there with her. I will leave tonight and get to her by the morrow.”
His son looks concerned and Alexander feels some irritation begin to grow. “You are taking men with you at least? Guides who know these passageways better than you?”
“Of course I am.” Alexander says. “I am no fool.”
His son holds his hands up placatingly. “I was merely making sure father. After all I am sure my mother would not wish to learn she is a widow because of some ill-fated fall. That is all I meant. I wish for you be protected as best you can.”
Alexander feels some of his irritation lessen then. “Very well. Well you may rest assured that I will be sufficiently protected and there will be more men to guide me and my party to Kinghorn through the darkness.”
His son nods, and then asks. “What about Lord Stewart?”
“What of him?” Alexander asks.
“Will be going with you to Kinghorn, or will he remain here?” David asks.
Alexander considers this a moment and then replies. “He shall remain here. Lord James has been tasked with teaching you some of the more detailed matters of the realm. You are my heir David, and it is time you came to know what exactly goes into the kingdom.”
Alexander knows that when he was his son’s age he would have vigorously complained about having to attend such things and yet his son merely nods. “Very well father. If you think it necessary I shall endeavour to do my best to learn all I can.”
Alexander merely nods and then says. “It is getting late, and I must make my way soon enough. I shall see you in a few days’ time.” They both stand and say goodnight and once his son has left, Alexander begins preparing himself for the night’s ride. He has made the journey to Kinghorn perhaps some two times before, and both times have been during the day when the sun was at its highest peak. Edward though has said that he knows the way through and his men seem to feel comfortable doing as he has asked and so he puts whatever doubts he has in his mind aside and continues preparing.
Once he feels ready enough to leave, he heads out, dressed in his riding clothes, he nods at Edgar his man servant, who follows him at a leisurely pace. He has known Edgar since they were both children, and as such Edgar knows exactly why he is going for this ride now. There is a restlessness about Alexander that only a ride, no matter how dangerous can cure, and it is that cure he seeks now. As they arrive to where the horses are, his own mount saddled and ready for riding, he looks at Edgar and says. “We must reach there before the sun comes up. I intend for it to be a surprise.”
“Of course Your Majesty.” Edgar replies.
With that they mount their horses and set off at a reasonable gallop. It is pitch black tonight, and the winds are strong, very strong. More than once Alexander has to dig his spurs into his horse to keep it from straying too far. He keeps up with the men and the guides for a long stretch of the way. His thoughts mainly on Yolande and the child she could be carrying. His wife is a beautiful woman, with her fair complexion and her raven hair. He could not wait to see her again, and to hold their child in his arms. He so desperately wanted another son, a son to secure the dynasty, the family. To keep away those that might seek to use David to their own gain.
His horse continued to gallop forward, and as he looked up expecting to see Edgar and the guides, he realised he saw no one. Somehow he had gotten separated from the group, how he was not entirely sure, but he had. That worried him somewhat, and so he began thinking of ways to meet the group. He briefly remembered that there was a pathway that intersected with the main path toward Kinghorn and so he spurred his horse toward that direction desperately looking for it. His heart is hammering in his chest as the winds begin to quicken past their past speed. His horse is swaying from the strength of the winds. His heart hammers quickly in his chest, and suddenly the edge of the embankment comes nearer and nearer, and though he tries to lead his horse away from it, something seems to be pulling them toward the edge, his horse gives way and Alexander feels his stomach lurch as his grip on the reins loosens, his horse tilts and Alexander is falling, falling. He continues falling until blackness engulfs him.