Drums Of War
March, 1289 Bannockburn Camp
Sir William Wallace
It was a bright spring morning, something that was an unusual thing to think of during these anxious times. William, Sir William for some two years now thought that the day was bright and bold. It still felt strange knowing he was a Sir, he, who had been for many years the son of a minor landowner from Elderslie, had grown up in the court of Kings. He was the friend of King Dabíd Mac Alaxandair, and had grown up with the king, they were like brothers knowing one another very well. William had always done as his friend had done and as such that had gotten them into a lot of trouble when they had boys, and they had mellowed somewhat after becoming men with the King’s ascension. With the king’s plans for war, William had been knighted by Lord Robert de Brus, an honour and something William was not sure he truly deserved, he had also been put in command of training men for the war that was to come, and that was in itself something William had been surprised about. He knew there were many at court and elsewhere in the kingdom, who balked at the fact that someone such as he was being given such a high responsibility, but he knew the king gave it to him, because he was trusted, and he was determined not to fail the King.
William was determined to do the king proud, he would ensure that the men under his tutelage were fine fighters, fit and ready for the struggles of the upcoming war. So far things seemed to be going well, the planned skirmishes and melle that they had organised had shown who was ready for fighting and who needed more practice. William himself had been blooded during a small campaign to subdue raiders in the isles, riding with the king and shedding blood. It was an experience that had taught him much, and made him see for himself that the songs that were sung of war, were not always true. As he looked out across the field and saw men and boys practicing their craft he spoke to Aonghas Mór Lord of Islay. “It seems we are in good season today my lord. God is shining brightly on his men.”
The old and hardened Lord of Islay grunted in response. “Aye it would seem so Sir William, and yet there are those who would question whether or not we are truly ready. These skirmishes are all well and good but unless the lads have true experience such as the campaign against those damned gallowglass fighters we would not have the chance to see what we shall be like against the English.”
“What you say is true my lord, and yet we cannot go on campaign until the king gives his approval. For now we must train and prepare as best we can, until such time as the King commands us to move forward.” William replies.
“And when shall that be Sir William?” Mór questions. “You are friends with his majesty, surely you must know what it is he speaks of and thinks of all day in Stirling. The time for fighting is ripe, there is discontent in northern England, for King Edward it seems is playing some game in France. We must strike now or wait for the winter, and then we shall face the harshness that comes from the snow.”
William shifts uneasily, knowing as he does what the King’s plans truly are, and yet he dare not say as such to this man, no matter how well he is trusted by the king. “I understand your concern my lord, but the King knows there are things that must been seen to here before we march south. King Edward is a fierce man with many experienced generals, it would not do to run head long into the storm without first knowing the enemy.”
Before the Lord of Islay can speak, another opinion is voiced. “There is being patient and then there is being stuck not knowing where to turn.” William turns around and feels anger coil inside him at the sight of Malise, sixth Earl of Strathearn standing there. The man is old and contemptuous.
“Be careful of what you say Malise,” cautious the Lord of Islay. “We know not what exactly the King plans. For all we know the call could come today.”
Strathearn snorts. “I highly doubt it. The King is far too cautious for such a thing. We should be moving into the south now, not waiting here for God alone knows what. Had this been King Alexander we would have moved out and fought our way down to Durham at least.”
William clenches his hands then. “We are not completely ready. The men need some more work, and there needs to be a new constable chosen after the death of Sir Leonard Leslie. We cannot move into action without such things being seen to. The king knows this and so he is planning accordingly.”
A look of contempt fills the Earl of Strathearn’s face as he looks at William but he says nothing to that instead saying. “Then we must ensure that all is progressing well. There are many young bloods here who are untested in facing the force of cavalry that must be changed.”
That takes William by surprise. “I had thought Lord William had already seen to that? Was that not what the bloody charge was?”
Malise laughs then, a booming sound that causes some of the young bloods to look up, and their faces taut with fear. “You think the bloody charge was Keith planning for the English cavalry? God know. That was him testing out his own horses. No, Keith has been doing things for his own benefit for some time now. Though I know that he wishes to begin an actual slight campaign and I quite agree with him.”
William wants to groan at how often Strathearn goes on about this, but instead he merely says. “Perhaps you might get your wish. After all the early scouting missions will be heading out before the main force.”
Before Strathearn can reply, the sound of horns reach them, and William his senses alert immediately goes for his sword, as do the other men he is with, but before any of them can draw them, they see the standard of the king, the red lion rampant on a field of yellow. William’s hand drops to his side, and they all get to one knee as the royal party stops near them. The king dismounts, and William feel his heart begin to quicken as nerves fill him. The king walks toward him and then stops, before saying softly. “Rise.” William and the men around him rise then, and William sees that the king is looking at him intently. There is a long silence where they are both looking at one another, the king having to crane his neck upward to look into William’s eyes, and then the king grins and says. “Sir William walk with me, there is much we have to speak of.” With that the king turns and walks away, his squire and the grooms seeing to his horse as well those of his companions. It takes him a moment but then William walks his stride making him almost level with the king. They walk in silence for a moment more, before the king speaks. “You are well.” He hears the question behind the statement.
“I am Your Majesty, thank you for your concern.” William replies, he pauses a moment and then goes on. “How are the queen and Prince Kenneth and Prince Alexander?”
The king gives a rare smile at their names. “They are well, Isabel is with child once more and so she has remained in Stirling, though her brother Robert has accompanied my on this ride.”
William nods and then replies. “Congratulations my King that is good news.”
The king nods and then says. “Training is going well then I see. The men seem to be getting into fighting shape. That is good very good. Though I noticed that these were mainly infantry, foot soldiers. Keith had told me that the horsemen were being trained today.”
William feels a flutter of nervousness then, before crushing it. “The foot soldiers have been doing the best out of all the men being trained Your Majesty, the competitions that have been organised have been of great success for us. As for the horse, well, Keith has often trained his own horses for this purpose or that, the overall purpose it seems is for the foot to be well trained.”
He sees the king nod at this. “That is an interesting though. Though the horse will be more useful for the open plain, the foot will be more of use for the quick hit that will be necessary to enter the border lands. Of course there is the issue of Carlisle that shall be needing dealt with.”
William looks at the king and says. “My King, if I may?” the king nods and William continues. “Edgar returned some two nights ago from the southern reaches. It seems that things are stirring in the northern most lands of England. It seems some of the lords there are growing discontent with King Edward and his rule.”
“I know this already William. My uncle is spending far too much time worrying over his French possessions instead of thinking about what his obsession is costing his lords.” The king interrupts.
“It is not just that my King,” William continues. “Edgar brought word from Carlisle. It seems some of the men there are arming themselves, not for your cause as we hoped, but rather for King Edward’s.”
The king stops then, the anger flittering across his face briefly. “Edgar was certain of this?”
William nods. “Very Your Majesty. It seems that men within Carlisle are gathering their forces to muster under someone from within the kingdom itself.”
Anger becomes much more visible on the king’s face. “Balliol that is who it must be. The man does have power there, though this is far too bold to be him.”
“It would seem not Your Majesty,” William says. The king looks at him askance. Struggling to think of how to form the words he must speak without making it seem like an accusation, he proceeds. “It seems that the queen’s father is working with men within his own circle of friends and allies to make sure that there is a hand working for the Bruce family with King Edward.”
William sees something akin to a storm erupting within the king’s face then. “My own father in law? That cannot be, no son of the Lord of Annandale would be so foolish as to do something such as this. Edgar must be wrong.”
William begins feeling doubt creep into what he was once himself certain of. “I am sure Edgar believed he was right Your Majesty, he heard it from men within an inn less than a mile from the castle itself. There were men there who claimed they were doing the work of their lord, who they named as the Earl of Carrick.”
The king’s face is livid when William looks at it. “Edgar and the others brought more news I trust. Better news than what we have just spoken of.”
William nods. “Yes Your Majesty. It would seem that there are possible openings within Durham and Newcastle. There is discontent over the iron fist of Bishop Bek. There is murmuring that the man is working without God’s own will and is doing so to fill his own pocket.”
The king’s face brightens at this news. “That is good very good. Bek is a powerful man, and that will mean his enemies are just as powerful. If this discontent can be grown then that is the course that must be taken. What word is there from Newcastle?”
“It would seem that the keeper of Newcastle grows more tired of Edwards’s reluctance to secure the ground and its hold. There are shortages of food due to men not being there to bring the harvest in. King Edward’s preoccupation with France is driving many within the north to grow tired of him.” William replies.
“That is good. The more men who are discontent with my uncle, means that there will be fewer whom we have to fight completely. The fewer battles there are out in the open plain, the better. The English might know how to ride on the field, but in the forest and in the darkness they are as blind as a new born babe. That is something I mean to take advantage of.” The king replies. “Though with men such as De Warenne and De Valence sure to be sent northward to settle any overreaching problems, it is likely many shall remain quiet for the time being.”
William nods and then says. “Those we have put close to those two men, could come to be useful Your Majesty, after all, it would not hurt to have either Surrey or Pembroke broken down and out of the way.”
“Aye of course, though there is always the risk that they will be too well guarded for any of our men to act. But that does not mean we cannot try, for if one does not try, one will never know whether the path to success is there or not.” The king says sagely. There is a long moment of silence then as they continue walking, past grooms and pages who bow their heads at the king, and past squires, knights and young bloods who do the same. There is something on his king’s mind, but William knows not to ask. Should the king wish to speak of it he will. The silence continues for a long moment and then the king speaks. “My council has been on at me to choose a new constable as well as a new Justiciar. Ever since Alexander Comyn died earlier this year, there seems to have been a growing sense that the power with which the Comyns held one another in, is fading. The Black Comyn wants that role, whilst his cousin Alexander’s son wants the position as well, then there are the Balliols they simper and whisper of what they could do to benefit the position, little knowing that I know full well they want to pass secrets of court to Edward. I would not trust either family with that position, not now. Tell me William, what is Andrew Moray made of? Is he firm and strong, or is he weak and malleable?”
William is slightly taken aback by the question, and takes his time to consider a response. Eventually he says. “From what I have seen of him, Andrew Moray is a strong man, who knows how to fight and how to command. He would make a good man and advisor.”
The king nods. “His father it seems wishes for the position that Sir Alexander left vacant, and his brother in law Comyn is pushing for him as well, though not as suitably as he thinks.”
“Andrew is young, Your Majesty,” William begins unsure of whether or not to continue, when the king nods, he does so. “He is not under the influence of his uncle or of anyone but himself. He knows what he wishes to do, and he knows the law. He would make a fine Justiciar.”
The king nods. “Aye, I thought as much. Though there is of course the others to consider. For too long, the men of the lowlands have dominated the court, the clans to the north and the men of the isles must be brought in, and who better to represent them then Lord Aonghas, a man of firm resolution and stature.”
The thought takes William aback somewhat. “Are you certain that is a wise move Your Majesty? Lord Aonghas is a formidable man, of that there can be no question, but he is ageing and is in the twilight of his years. The Justiciar must be a man of firm disposition, and must know the court and its intrigues. Lord Aonghas does not seem to fit that for me.”
The king is silent a moment and then he says. “Aonghas is a man who knows more about this game that we all play better than anyone but my wife’s grandfather, and to give the Lord of Annandale more power would not be useful for me. Aonghas shall sit the council, and Moray shall become your chief lieutenant.”
“Your Majesty?” William asks confused.
The king stops and looks at him smiling. “You are my oldest and most trusted friend William. There is no one I would rather trust leading my armies as we progress than you. Leslie is dead and gone, and Keith is a man whom I do not fully know. I know you, and I know you are a fierce fighter who is a good leader of men. When this war is done, you shall be named Constable.”
William is completely taken aback by this. “I do not know what to say Your Majesty.” He stammers.
The king looks at him a smile on his face. “You can accept.”
William still in shock, gets down on one knee, pulling his towering frame into a bent position before his king. “Then I, Sir William Wallace of Elderslie, your most humble servant, do accept this honour and will help lead Your Majesty’s armies in battle.”
“Good, now rise Sir William.” The king says his tone formidable. “We have trained our men for a long time, when the summer comes we shall march.”
William looks at his friend and sees the determined expression on the King’s face, feeling his own determination rise, William replies. “It shall be done Your Majesty. The armies of Scotland shall be ready when the call comes. We shall succeed where others have failed. Northumbria shall be ours once more.”
The king smiles. “Of course it will be.”
April, 1289, Stirling Castle
Queen Isabel Dunkeld
Summer was fast approaching, one could see it in the way the sun stayed fixed in one position, and in the way the heat came in waves. It was nice, a nice change to the coldness of winter, and harshness of the early year. Isabel had had time to watch her son Kenneth play with his uncle Alexander and had smiled as the two boys had laughed and played, free from the cares of the world. Her husband’s stepmother was a nice lady, full of poise and dignity, she reminded Isabel somewhat of her own mother, who was in Carrick with Isabel’s other siblings and her father. That was a sad thought, her father who had made himself a stranger at court through his actions and words said whilst angry or drunk or some such. She did not know what had been said, but she knew her husband and grandfather had not taken kindly to it.
Other things had taken her thoughts away from her father though, her ladies had grown. There was Lady Euphemia Comyn, daughter of the Lord of Badenoch, a shrewd girl who knew how to play this game of intrigue and jibes that was common at court. Then there was her cousins, the Ladies Agnes and Margaret who were both rather quiet, though both were sweet. And of course, as a nod to her husband’s rather pro Gaelic policies, ladies from the clans had been taken up for her as well. Lady Margaret Sinclair was a brash lady who said what she thought and was not afraid of the consequences. Bethoc Mór who was her father’s daughter smart and cunning, it was her that Isabel liked the most and had developed a close friendship with. And then finally there was Christiana of Garmoran, a fierce lady and one whom Isabel was uncertain what to make of.
With her husband and his leading companions having returned from their journey, there was all kinds of talk around the castle and here in her own solar things were no different. Despite being pregnant with her second child, Isabel still wanted to know what the gossip of the court was and so she says. “Tell me my ladies, what news is there of the men of the court. There are many and varied things that reach my ears, but being the Queen, one is never sure of their validity. Tell me whom is being seen as the most desirable of the court?”
There is a string of giggles then and Euphemia Comyn says. “Why my Queen, there is much talk of Sir William Wallace. As friend to his Majesty the king, he is a fine match for any young lady to make. He has grown only stronger and more handsome with each passing month wherever it is the king has sent him off to.”
A sense of discomfort fills Isabel then at the mention of her husband. She does not know what has gotten into him recently, but he has become more withdrawn and she is hurt by it. Pushing that thought away, Isabel smiles and says. “And I trust you have tried to introduce yourself to Sir William my lady Euphemia?” when the girl is silent, Isabel feigns surprise. “My lady, you surprise me. I would have thought with your bold proclamations you would not have hesitated to introduce yourself to Sir William.”
There is another string of giggling at this and then Euphemia replies. “I would my queen, but I can never seem to find him. He is either with the King, or is out somewhere else. Truth be told I think he has a lover.”
This is news to Isabel. “A lover? Whatever makes you think that?”
Euphemia looks at Isabel surprised. “Truly my queen? If a man is spending so much time away from the king and is not with sparring, he must have a lover. A man such as Sir William? I would not be surprised. There is not a woman in the kingdom who would not want to be with him.”
There is even more giggling at this and Isabel hides her blush behind her hand. “So what is stopping you from going to find him Euphemia? I am sure that Sir William would love to meet you?”
“Oh no. He wouldn’t like Euphemia. No, no, no.” Margaret Balliol says. “She would scare him away I think. No, Sir William would want someone like me.”
Her cousin snorts. “Someone like you? Please cousin, you are far too timid. Sir William would want someone who has the guts to speak without squeaking like a mouse.”
Margaret blushes then, and Isabel feels sorry for her, but before she can speak up in her defence, Bethoc speaks. “Come now my ladies, we all know that whilst Sir William might be interesting it is Fergus Mac Tomás who is truly the best of all those young men available.”
There is a laugh at that. “Fergus?” Isabel asks curiously. “Why him?”
Bethoc grins. “Why he is confident and charming. There is nothing better in a man. He knows his way around the battle field and no doubt knows his way around the bedroom.”
There is more giggling at that, and Isabel finds herself joining in. “So it is Fergus for you then is it my lady Bethoc?” she enquires.
The lady grins and a wishful look crosses her face. “Most definitely my queen. A man who truly knows his worth is something that is most attractive.”
Lady Sinclair speaks then. “There is Fergus, and then there is Sir Robert. Such a fine young man I have never seen before with my own eyes. He truly is something to behold.”
Isabel looks at Margaret Sinclair strangely. “Robert? As in my brother Robert?”
Lady Margaret Sinclair smiles. “Yes my queen. Sir Robert is a very handsome young man, and someone I would most definitely like to know more of.”
Isabel thinks of this, and thinks of what her brother had said to her last she had spoken to him, of Isabella of Mar and a romance there, and then she looks at Lady Margaret and says. “If you wish I can speak to my brother, and perhaps introduce the two of you my lady?”
She sees a look of longing and ill-disguised hope on the lady’s face. “That would be an honour my queen truly it would be.”
Isabel nods and says. “Of course, it is no problem.” The time passes then as they discuss other matters, all the while, Isabel thinks of her own husband and the secrets he is no doubt keeping and something nags at her. Eventually when she cannot stand it anymore she calls her little gathering to an end and says goodbye to her ladies for the time being before standing up and taking her guards with her she walks to find her husband.
She finds him as she expected, in his solar looking over heaven knows what. He looks up as she enters. “Is everything alright Isabel?” he asks.
She considers saying that yes, everything is alright, but decides to speak the truth. “No, my lord, everything is not alright.”
At this her husband’s eyes narrow and he says. “What is the matter? Has someone been troubling you? Has the baby been giving you bother?”
Isabel shakes her head. “Well someone has been bothering me.”
“Who?” Her husband asks.
“You.” She replies calmly.
Her husband sighs then. “Isabel, we have spoken about this before.”
“Have we?” she asks, anger giving her strength. “As far as I can recall you only talk about duty, but you never say what it is you are doing.”
“I cannot, it would not make sense to do so Isabel. I would only be putting you and our family in danger by doing so.” Her husband replies.
“Danger?” she exclaims. “What sort of danger could you be putting us into? Are you planning to go to war? Is that what it is? Is that why you cannot tell me anything? My lord, I am your wife, if you are doing something that brings danger to our family, I deserve to know.”
Her husband goes to say something but stops then, and then he says. “It is better if you do not know Isabel. There are some things a king must keep to himself, even from his wife.”
Isabel feels anger rise inside her then. “And what are these things then my lord? Even your own uncle tells his wife about his plans, everything, he tells her everything. Am I no deserving of the same respect? Is it because of something my father said? Is that why you do not trust me?”
Something akin to anger flashes in her husband’s eyes at mention of her father. “It is not that Isabel, my dear, it is just that there are some things that you are safer off not knowing.”
“Truly? And yet half the court speaks of these things, and yet I do not know what is happening. Where have you been all this time? Where are my grandfather and brother disappearing off to with you?” Isabel asks,
Her husband is silent for a long moment before replying. “I cannot say Isabel, truly I cannot. I wish I could be I cannot.”
“Why not?” she asks anger giving her strength to keep going, though fear is making her think other things now. “What is that is so bad or so important that you cannot even tell your own wife?”
“I am a king, Isabel.” Her husband says patiently. “I have to do things that are not always pleasant business. I would spare you hearing of them if I can.”
Isabel snorts then. “Truly my king, you know how to speak flatteries, but I am not some innocent little girl. I am your queen, and I wish to know what it is you are doing. Why are you being so secretive?”
Her husband’s eyes harden then. “I have told you before Isabel, I cannot tell you. And it is for your own good that I do not. I will not risk you or our children.”
Wrapping her arms around herself protectively, Isabel feels her fears coming to the surface, the rumours, the whispers, all of it is playing in her mind, and she wonders, she wonders, if her husband has found someone else. Is she not enough? Her husband stands up then and she realises she said that last part aloud. “Am I not enough?” she asks again.
Her husband’s face hardens and then softens as he comes toward her. He stands before her, their foreheads touching and he says. “You are more than enough Isabel. You are my wife, you are my queen, you are the mother of my, our children. I would never need anyone else.”
“Then why will you not tell me what you are doing?” she asks softly, her voice tense.
Her husband sighs then. “Because, this is a burden I must bear alone my lady. As a King I am father of my people, and I must ensure that none get hurt. That is why I must keep this to myself. I promise in time you will know, and then we can discuss it. But until that time comes I must keep this to myself.”
Isabel feels too tired to keep arguing with her husband and so she merely asks. “Do you promise?”
“I do.” David replies, and in his eyes she can see that he means it.
Sighing Isabel moves her head from her husband’s and places it against his chest, allowing him to embrace her, she feels safe in his arms, so very safe, and though a part of her hurts that he will not tell her, she hopes with time that will change. They stay like this for a long time, simply enjoying one another’s company once more, and Isabel does not truly wish to leave it, when she feels the baby kick and hears her husband’s little exclamation at the act, she smiles. Before either one of them can say anything though there is a knock on the door and the voice of her husband’s man servant Edmund rings out.
May, 1289, Buittle Castle
Lord John De Balliol
Things were moving far quicker than anticipated. The King of Scotland, young though he was had smart men amongst him, advising him every step of the way, and with this occurring, it was no surprise that men had been sighted marching toward Stirling flying the banner of the King of Scotland. All of this made John very nervous, he was not sure whether what he was doing was the right thing to do. There was so much he was uncertain about and it was eating away at him. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he thought through his reasons for doing this. King David’s highly Gaelic stance had become very favourable in Galloway, and there was a lot of protestation going on with his presence here. John was not a fool, he knew that sooner or later he would either be forced out face a rebellion that might lead to him being forced out anyway. The king did not look favourably on him regardless, Alexander had seen to that, and that angered him. Gods there was so much that needed to be done.
King Edward had promised to respond with assurances of backing, should John go through with his plans, and yet with the King preoccupied with the French in Gascony, John has been left out to figure things out himself. It is this that has left him floundering, desperate for some way to focus his attention, and so he has called a meeting of his advisors. Looking at them all he wonders whether they think him mad or foolish. Deciding he does not truly care, he speaks. “We all know why we are here. Sooner or later, a time will come where a decision shall need to be made. Do we allow ourselves to be pushed out from here or do we stand and fight. I do not want to leave these lands, they have long been part of my family, and are my home. Should it come to it, I would rather fight to hold them than to flee like a coward. Dougal tell me what reports you have managed to gather.”
Dougal MacDougal his steward looks at his notes for a moment before replying. “Well my lord, it would appear that opposition to the tariffs imposed on the people continues to grow stronger with each and every day. Those who have not already sent their protestations to King David are doing so. It even seems as if Fergus Mac Tomás will be coming to assess the reason behind these troubles.”
“No doubt to assess the lands himself.” John’s brother in Law William Lindsay says. “The man is a vulture my lord, who preens himself looking for favour and for war.”
John looks at his brother in law before responding. “I am sure that there is no right reason for the man to come scouring for lands now, before the king has even said so. Now go on Dougal what more have you learnt?”
The steward looks down at his notes and continues. “There is a growing sense from within the populace of Galloway that they want to remove the Norman presence within the lands. It seems that the King’s singers and his poets have done their job here my lord. There is a strong sentiment to return to the traditions that saw Galloway become great, and there is a strong sense that you my lord, cannot do that.”
John feels something akin to anger and resentment boil inside of him. “And whatever makes these fools believe that, that is the case?”
His steward is silent a moment and then says. “It seems there is a feeling amongst some of the nobility within Galloway that the recentness of the Balliol family’s acquisition of territory within the region has left you unprepared for the harshness of the region. Then one of the factors that my men often found was that many found you to be too English. Far too English for their taste.”
That brings a sour taste into John’s mouth. “Too English?” he asks angered. “Most of the damned nobility have some land in England, only those too backward to do anything other than eat out of the King’s hands do not. There is nothing wrong with being friendly with England, my own cousin, the King’s father ensured good relations. Where was the complaint then?”
His steward raises his hand apologetically. “It seems that there was some underlying feeling of resentment amongst those who were strong supporters of the old way when King Alexander was alive. Now that King David has begun making his own moves to reclaim some of Scotland’s lost heritage, it seems that they are changing their opinion, that one of their own has gained strong favour with the king, is something that is only furthering their support of the king.”
John runs a hand through his hair. Whilst his brother in law speaks. “Fools, the lot of them. I am telling you my lord, you should not stand for this. Make a stand now and take action, before they come crawling through the cracks demanding this or the other.”
John looks at his brother in law and says. “Such action is not a possible course. I do not have the right nor the proof to justify such a thing, without making myself look a fool. I will not give the king right to do this to me. We all know what he did to those sailors who were pillaging off the coast of the isles. I do not want such a fate to fall on me and my family.”
“Then what will you my lord?” his cousin David asks. “Will you sit here and wait for word to come from England? King Edward is facing his own difficulties, there is no guarantee that he will even do anything that he promised. He has no reason to.”
John sighs, his cousin is a man of short patience and one who does not truly agree with what he plans, and yet he has a point, and still, the course has been set. “King Edward must follow through on his word, for without that, he is no king at all. That is something he knows well, and I must trust, we must trust that he does so.”
“But what if he does not? The man has many other things to consider, there is nothing to say that he will do as he has promised. He is an Englishman after all, and they are notorious for keeping their word bound to some feeble thing.” David says.
John feels himself growing tired then. “Enough, we know for now that King Edward will do as needs be done. I shall ride out soon enough to deal with those who would question my right to rule in Galloway, until then, I want you all to keep an eye out. Sooner or later we shall need to make our move and show our colours, I want to be as prepared as possible for that moment.” The men gathered all voice their agreement before moving out of the room, leaving John alone with his thoughts. His mind is a whir with all that he has learned, and his doubts come creeping back. He wonders what his father would do, and laughs at the thought, his father would be charging boldly through this all without a care in the world. There is some part of him that envies his father that, and envies his brothers, they never faced such a thing. No doubt Hugh would have known what to do, he always did. And yet Hugh is dead and he is not, he is left to shoulder the burden.
He does not know how long he spends sat within the room, staring into nothingness, but he is taken from his thoughts by a knock on the door. The door opens and he sees his brother in law the Lord of Badenoch stride in. John Comyn is a confident man, someone who knows the way of the court, and the king’s mind, John feels something akin to confidence begin to bloom inside him. He stands and greets the Lord of Badenoch. “Ah brother, it is good to see you again after such a while. Tell me, your journey was safe?” John asks.
His brother in law sits down and says. “It was brother, thank you for asking. There was not much trouble travelling through the lands of Galloway. Reports have been misleading truth be told. I was expecting a far worse fare than what I was greeted with.”
That surprises John. “What have you been told of Galloway brother?” he asks.
“Only what reports have come through my own men and course the court. I thought there would be blood on the streets with the way some things have been described, and yet there was nothing amiss apart from a few fools preaching some nonsense or the other.” the Lord of Badenoch replies.
This surprises John, and worries him also. “What fools? What were they preaching?” he asks, wondering why the steward did not bring this up.
A strange look passes across his brother in law’s face then, one he cannot place. “There was nothing serious brother. Something about you not being fit for something or the other. Truth be told I did not pay attention, nor did I hear what was said, for the fools scattered when they saw my men.”
John is somewhat reassured by this, but there is still something nagging at the back of his mind, pushing it down he asks. “Have you decided what your course of action will be then, should the king go through with his plans?”
His brother in law is silent, thoughtful and then. “I will do as I must to ensure the security of my family brother. There is much and more that is happening that I do not know of. Aonghas Mór has been named as Justiciar, a position that should have been ours and yet my son has become one of the King’s companions, it is an interesting time we are living in.”
John feels something tense within him at his brother in law’s words. “Aonghas Mór as Justiciar? A brave move, is that something the king is determined to do then? To make bold moves such as that for important positions?”
The Lord of Badenoch merely shrugs. “I do not know the king’s mind brother, I only know what he deigns to tell me.”
John feels frustration begin to grow within. “That is a change for you brother. I would have thought you would wish to know all that goes on within the king’s mind? Tell me what you wish to do. It is no secret that the king means to move southward, but will he look to make a move on my own lands?”
The Lord of Badenoch looks at him a long moment and then says. “I do not know that the king wishes to move southward brother. I know he is preparing for all that might come. As for your own lands, has there been word from King Edward?”
John feels the anger grow within him, there is something odd about his brother in law today, something he is not telling him, and yet John knows there is no point trying to figure out what it is. Instead, he sighs and says. “Apart from the initial letters, there has been nothing since. It seems the King is more concerned with France than anything else right now.”
The Lord of Badenoch nods. “That would make sense, considering the struggles that the man’s father and grandfather had to go through. King Philippe is not a man to be trifled with, that much he has shown.”
John looks at his brother in law and says. “Things are moving quickly, I might well be forced to act sooner than planned. Will you stand with me or won’t you?”
The lord of Badenoch looks at him and gives him a sly smile. “I shall do whatever is necessary to ensure my family continues to prosper.”