August, 1289 Siege of Alnwick
King David II Dunkeld
Finally after all these years of planning it had finally happened, his dream was beginning to be put into action. Northumbria would be his, he was determined to ensure that this happened. The lands his grandfather and father had had to give away to the damned English would be brought back under his control. Carlisle had fallen easily enough, there was little resistance there, the discontent amongst the truest northern nobles of his uncle’s realm finally bearing fruit. Next had been Newcastle, a place that David knew was important symbolically and when it had fallen he had felt a thrill go through him. Still the job was not done yet, he had split his army off into two factions, one commanded by the Earl of Dunbar was laying siege to Durham, and the main body was with him laying siege to this castle that had stood in his family’s way for so many years. Alnwick castle a gateway into England proper, it stood defiant and he would see it fall.
A council had been called to discuss the state of affairs, and even from where he was sat David could hear the clank of the rams as they prepared for the long day ahead of them. In the command tent with him were his trusted councillors, his wife’s grandfather Lord of Annandale, who after his son’s disappearance was nervous, John Comyn the Lord of Badenoch, Aonghas Mór the Lord of Islay, Lord Walter Douglas, and of course his old friend William. David looked these men and then spoke his tone firm. “Alnwick will fall before the moon ends that much I am determined to accomplish. If we take Alnwick the rest of Northumbria is open to us. Bek will not be able to withstand the fall from grace he will suffer should the castle fall.”
There are murmurs of agreement at this, and then the Lord of Annandale speaks. “The man who holds this castle, Sir Ranulf Blenkinsopp is a reasonable man Your Majesty. Should terms be offered to him, I am sure he will accept them.”
David looks at his wife’s grandfather, the man has been trying to get back into his good graces after his son the Earl of Carrick did not answer the call to arms. “Should the man want terms, then he can come and offer them himself. I will not bend to accommodate such a thing now. Not when we are so close to ending this siege ourselves.”
Another murmur of approval, and then Comyn speaks. “Your Majesty speaks truly. Offering terms now, would be nothing more than a sign of surrender to the English. That is not something you can afford, not now, not with things going smoothly.”
There is a moment’s silence then, and then Bruce speaks. “Your Majesty, already this siege has gone for nearly two weeks. There are other castles along the north that need to be taken. Is it truly worth your while to continue with this one?”
David looks at the man and feels his anger begin to rise. “Alnwick is the gateway to the north Sir Robert. If we do not take it, we shall have it and its forces at our back. I will not allow such a thing to happen, nor will I allow others to claim that I did not have the stomach to last through the siege. Carlisle and Newcastle fell quickly that is true, and yet, we must be ready for the long road ahead. Should any terms be offered let them come from Sir Ranulf, there is nothing more for this matter.”
There is a moment’s more silence then as they all take this into consideration, and then David continues. “Lord Alexander did himself proud during the taking of Newcastle. We must ensure that his hard work is not lost. Durham must fall before we can progress. Now tell me Lord John, how long will it take before the equipment might be moved onward.” He knows that this is something that might well irk Bruce, but truth be told he finds right now he does not care.
Comyn is silent a moment before replying. “Should all go according to plan, the castle should surrender by the end of this month Your Majesty. If we get the equipment from Fife we shall be ready to force their surrender even earlier.”
David nods. “Good, very good. I do not want Alnwick completely destroyed, it is an old castle, and it is my rightful seat, it shall remain as intact as possible.”
Comyn nods. “Of course Your Majesty, that is why we need the equipment from Fife, so that Sir Ranulf realises just how serious a predicament he is in.”
“Send word to the Earl of Fife, he shall send the equipment as quickly as needs be.” David responds, he pauses a moment as they hear another groan as the castle begins to quirk in the wind. Taking a sip of water he continues. “Now, there is other news that is beginning to creep in. Word from the south no doubt. Aonghas, tell me what your men have gathered.”
The lord of Islay takes a moment to look through his notes before he begins speaking. “King Edward is marshalling men, it seems they are gathering at York at the King’s behest. The High Constable Sir Humphrey De Bohun and Sir William De Valence are leading the call to arms. It seems De Valence has begun rendering accusations at Your Majesty for the murder of his son Aymer.” There is a pause then as they all take a moment to consider this, and then Lord Aonghas goes on. “It seems most from the south are keen to fight for their king in this war. Their grievances over his preoccupation with France has been forgotten in light of our actions here Your Majesty. The Earl of Lancaster is said to be leading men directly from York toward Durham.”
This surprises David. “Lancaster has managed to arm men as quickly as that! Truly my uncle must be desperate enough to send men within the reaches so quickly.”
The Lord of Islay nods. “It would appear so Your Majesty. The lords of King Edward’s court are calling for blood, some want to get revenge for those they lost during the struggles of London and York.”
David nods. “No doubt they wish to try and get ahead of us before we gain too much momentum to be stopped. Carlisle and Newcastle have fallen, and Alnwick shall soon fall. Lord John, once Alnwick has fallen, you shall take your men and march toward Bamburgh, take that castle as quickly and as efficiently as you can and it shall be yours.”
The man bows his head. “I am honoured Your Majesty.”
David nods, then turns to look at William. “Tell me Sir, what reports you have received from our men at Bannock Burn.”
His friend looks somewhat uncomfortable sat here amongst these lords, and David knows that many of these men do not feel comfortable with his friend here, but for the sake of their king they will abide one another. “I know more and more men are being readied for the war Your Majesty. Word has come from the Earl of Strathearn, the men have begun perfecting the schiltrons that you asked of them, and furthermore it seems that the mounted charges are now to the standard expected by the Earl Marischal.”
“Good, very good. The more men that come from our lands, the more threat we shall pose toward my uncle and his men.” David says pleased. He pauses for a moment, stuck in thought, and then he says. “With Lancaster heading toward Durham, and my uncle mustering men at York, that will take time, a lot of time. This is time we could use to further advance our position here. Carlisle and Newcastle will need to be strengthened of course.” He pauses once more, as another crash is heard, then he turns to look at William. “When we left the Gallowglass were preparing to gather their men. Their decision would have been decided by now. I would know what it was.”
His friend is silent a moment looking through the letter that has come from Stirling, from the steward, eventually after a moment he responds. “It seems they are coming in by ship Your Majesty. A great fleet of them that will be landing on the Western coast, to give Lancaster something to worry about. They have also chosen a man to represent them, Amlaíb of Dublin it seems will be coming to sit on your councils, with your permission of course Your Majesty.”
At the mention of the man’s name, David feels something akin to nervousness fill him. Amlaíb’s reputation precedes him. A fierce fighter with little to no reservations about doing anything, the man is a skilled killer, and his band of gallowglass most certainly will be useful. Looking around the command tent, he sees similar looks of anticipation on his lords’ faces, and something akin to fear on Bruce’s. Smiling he replies. “That is most welcome news. A man of Amlaíb’s prowess shall be most welcome here as we move further south, and with the gallowglass hurting the west coast we shall have more than enough power to challenge and confuse my uncle and his men.”
There is a murmur of great approval at this, and Lord John says. “The English will not know what has hit them Your Majesty. Especially considering those who are not present here, and are rumoured to be fighting for the enemy.”
Tension fills the tent then, and David knows that the man is referring to the Lord of Annandale’s son the Earl of Carrick who never showed when the call to arms came, and has not been seen for some time. Anger begins to boil inside of David at the thought of this, at the thought of the betrayal, and then he looks at the Lord of Badenoch, and sees the look of smugness on the man’s face and he remembers something. “We do not know for sure. And I will not pay attention to rumours. Until there is solid evidence before me, I shall not listen to the mongering of the English, let them try and fail to do such things and from there they can learn to see their failures.”
The tension is still evident in the tent, but the Lord of Badenoch bows his head. “Of course Your Majesty I was not suggesting as such. I was merely saying that there are some of our fellow lords who have forgotten where their true allegiance lies.”
The snide remark begins to irk at David, and seeing the look on his wife’s grandfather’s face he know it irks the man as well, but instead of saying anything, David turns his attention to the man. “Lord Robert, your daughter in law has lands in Ireland, tell me the lords that are there, they have begun to put in place the plans you sent to them, have they not.”
The man is silent a moment and then says. “They have begun to cause trouble for those English lords who came to the kingdom of Ireland under the English Your Majesty. The Earl of Ulster is one who is coming under a lot of pressure especially, if also seems that the other lords and chieftains have begun raiding and taking their prisoners.”
David nods, glad at these tidings. “Very good, the more pressure there is on the English in Ireland, the more pressure my uncle shall be under. The more we spread him, the fewer resources he shall have.” Another groan comes from outside, and David turns to his squire and says. “Find out what happened outside Walter.” His squire from Blenkinsopp Manor bows obediently and runs outside.
In the silence David and his commanders sit and take stock of the day and the night and month to come. David knows that this siege right now will make or break his campaign, should this castle fall then things will be easier to deal with further on down the line. The silence is broken, when his squire reappears and says hurriedly. “Sir Ranulf has raised the flag of surrender Your Majesty. He wishes to discuss terms.”
David looks at his lords and smiles. “And so the north continues to give.” He says, standing he says. “Let us see what the man has to offer. Lord John, Lord Robert, Lord Aonghas come with me. The rest of you prepare your men.”
September, 1289 Durham Castle
Bishop Antony Bek
It was raining outside, he could hear the rain drops pattering on the castle roof, it was a sign from God, he was sure of it. The Almighty come to express his displeasure at the Scots laying siege to the castle and the home of a man of God. For a whole month the Scots had been camped outside feasting and drinking, and ensuring little in the way of supplies came into the town. The people on the streets were going hungry, and Antony knew he should feel something akin to sorrow, but truth be told he could not bring himself to care. This castle was what needed to be held, the people outside could remain there and rot, should the castle fall they would all be damned to hell regardless. The rain continued to fall and Antony felt something within him stir, he wanted to fight, not stay inside and hide like a coward.
The war was going from one mistake to another. Carlisle had fallen far too easily, Bruce should have had men there, and yet the man had disappeared from sight, only to reappear in Essex after the fact. The Scots held the place with an iron fist now, putting good Englishmen to toil for their atrocities. Newcastle, the fall of that castle was a blow to Antony, the Scots had had some difficulty holding that castle, much to his relief, the people of Newcastle were a strong folk, and would not bend easily. But there was one place that stung the must, and angered him the most. Alnwick had fallen, the damned knave who he had put in charge as castellan, had surrendered. Sir Ranulf Blenkinsopp had surrendered after only two weeks of a siege, the man was a coward and Antony was determined that should they ever meet he would have the man flogged for his treachery.
Of course it did not help that the damned man’s brother was pushing for them to surrender. Antony listened as Sir Henry his steward pleaded with him. “Please Your Grace, you must realise what holding out through this siege will do to morale. The people of Durham are already struggling through this as it is. The Scots burned most of the land before they came here, we have nothing to feed ourselves on once the supplies we have finish. Raise the flag, and begin talks Your Grace, you know it is the right course to take.”
Antony fixes his cool gaze on his steward and says. “I will not surrender now. To do so now, would be to spit in the face of all those men, women and children who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow countrymen and for their king. King Edward we know is coming north with an army, if we capitulate now we shall be no better than your own brother. And I will not allow that to happen.”
The steward sighs. “Please Your Grace, at least consider what I am asking of you. There is an army some one thousand strong outside our walls, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. The more time they spend out there, the less time we have for negotiation. Right now it is autumn there are things that can be worked out now, should things progress forward with this siege still happening, and we both known the Earl of Dunbar will not be willing to talk about peace.”
Antony glares at his steward. “Dunbar can sit out there and rot. We shall not allow him or this false king to push us into surrendering no matter the cost. We are loyal subjects to King Edward, and we both know that the more time they spend time outside, the less food they themselves shall have. We can, and we will hold out.”
There is another long moment of silence, and then his treasurer Edward speaks. “Your Holiness is right to be wary of Dunbar. If he and his king are willing to attack the seat of a Bishop, what is there to say they will spare any of us should we surrender? The man and his commanders clearly have no qualms when it comes to such things. They are savages who need to be dealt with in a simple and efficient manner.”
“Their savageness will only continue to grow the longer we remain inside here. More and more castles are falling to this king and his men, they will grow more confident, and the more confident they get, the less likely they are to even consider speaking first before demanding our surrender.” Sir Henry argues
Antony feels anger begin to grow inside of him at the man’s argument, he knows there is some sense in what he is saying, and yet there is a larger part of him, the warrior inside of him that refuses to bend, that refuses to accept bending to a Scot. Looking at Sir Henry he says. “I will not allow my castle and my people to become the slaves of a Scot. We shall hold until we break, and we shall not break before these fools outside our walls break.”
His steward looks at him then and pleads. “Your Grace, please, think about this logically. We are running out of food and other supplies. The people are growing more and more discontented, and there was already trouble before the Scots began their campaign. If we continue to resist, they will help themselves to whatever aid the Scots might offer them.”
Antony feels anger begin to come forth. “We shall not bend to the Scots. They are not our overlords, we are their overlords, and we shall teach them that lesson. King Edward shall remind them when he brings the greatest army that the west has ever seen. We shall not bend nor will we break, if there are any traitors in our midst, we shall find them and God will strike them down.”
His steward looks at him and sighs. “If your Grace wishes to play with fire then so be it. I am not one to question the word of one of God’s servants.”
Antony feels something akin to smugness fills him at the man’s words, and yet there is something in the back of his mind that is beginning to nag him. Keeping his voice calm he says. “You say Dunbar has one thousand men outside our walls, how is that possible if he only came south with some five hundred that the false king gave him?”
At this Sir Henry shifts around slightly and then says. “Men have been joining the Scots, their growing dissatisfaction with the continuation of the siege has forced them into this course of action Your Grace.”
Antony feels anger grow inside of him then at this. “Then damn them all to the fiery pits of hell. Any Englishman who would fight alongside a Scot is no true Englishman. They shall know the King and God’s wrath when King Edward comes.”
His steward looks at him then. “What if the King does not come Your Grace? He has issues in France to deal with, and there is word that trouble is mounting on the west coast. Durham might not be the first of his concerns.”
Bek snorts. “The King will come, we both know he will come Steward. Durham is first and foremost of the town’s in the north, there is nothing preventing the king from coming here first from York. Regardless, should we surrender now, that will only give credence to those who claim that the false king has men here planning to open the gates.”
At this his master of secrets Sir John De Ros speaks. “The men I have questioned refuse to speak of anything regarding this subject matter, though there are others who claim they were sought out by men within the town. Though such men have of course gone from the town.”
“Those men we saw running before we could get to them, do indicate that there is most definitely something going on. It is possible that King David might well have been planning something.” His steward says.
Bek considers this a moment, and then he says. “It is possible, but should such a thing be true, then this is only further proof at what a false king this King of Scots truly is. Planning such a thing to break the peace, that is against the good faith our own king has shown him, and the good will his father and our king have developed over the years.”
There is some murmuring at this, and Antony feels his own nerves begin to grow. “Why would King David plan something such as this? Why would he risk everything for this plan of his?” Sir Henry asks.
Antony looks at his steward. “Because the man wishes for those things that are not his to have. He is like his grandfather in that. When the king went to Stirling, he saw the warriors of the court there, and saw their plans and their plots. The false king of Scotland stands and barks his commands, and the fools in the north follow him.”
Ros looks at him a question in his eyes, and when Antony nods the man speaks. “If this is so Your Holiness, would it not perhaps be reasonable to think that the man might well have men within the town waiting to open the gates at his word. We know that things have been oddly quiet for some time. This might be why.”
Just as he goes to dismiss such a thing he pauses, thinking on the reports he has been getting. Nerves begin to fill him then. “What makes you believe that Sir John?”
“The men who were once formally complaining have stopped coming to the castle Your Holiness. And yet I have seen men of their ilk hovering near the gates, it is as if they are trying to either communicate with someone outside the gates or are leaning toward ensuring there is an opening for their escape. We already know that there are men from outside the town with the army outside our walls, it is possible they are communicating.” Ros replies.
A feeling of fear begins to engulf him then. Standing he says. “I want twice as many men patrolling the walls, and I want a curfew put in place, anyone found outside without permission is to be brought for questioning. And I want these damned men found and brought before me.”
There is a long moment’s silence then and then Sir Henry speaks. “That will take a long time to do Your Holiness. There are many places where these people could find refuge, and there are many within these walls who do not agree with what you have done these past few months.”
Antony fixes his steward with a keen gaze then. “Your sons are in the false king’s custody are they not Sir Henry?”
The man lowers his head. “They are Your Holiness. Unfortunately they could not get out of our home in time.”
“Could not? Or would not?” Antony asks, something forming in his head.
“Your Holiness?” his steward asks uncertainly.
“Your sons are with the false king, they could not escape in time and yet we all knew something was coming. The attempts on Valence and Warwick were enough proof of that. What have you been planning?” Bek asks.
The man stands then as well. “I would never do anything against you Your Holiness, surely you know this! I am and always have been your man!”
Antony goes to respond, but before he can a pelt of thunder sounds and he looks to the roof which quakes and shakes with the impact of the sound. Then turning his attention back to his steward, he sighs. “No of course not, forgive me I was wrong to think so of you. But we must find those traitors before they cause us anymore trouble, already we are running out of time. I would not have this castle be our pyre.”