Blood Of The Lion

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Run, Run For Cover, In The Shade Of The Night

October, 1289, Alnwick Castle

Amlaíb of Dublin

It was strange for him, to be living such a fine life inside this castle. For many years as a child he had heard of Alnwick Castle, the gateway to England, his father had called it. Growing up he had heard nothing but the stories of how his grandfather and great grandfather had fought for the Kings of Scotland in their quests for Northumbria their rights, their true born right. And here he was, sleeping in a bed that had at one point belonged to an Englishman. The thought made him smile with a savage satisfaction, this would be his time to get revenge for the wrongs the English had done him, for the lives they had stolen from him. The life of a gallowglass was hard one, fighting one war and then another, never knowing when one might die, and yet always the enemy was the same. The English were the only enemy he had ever known and that had bred in him a lifelong hatred, a hatred he did not think would go away.

The hatred had been strong inside him when he had landed on the western coast, the English army under the command of the Earl of Lancaster had been mustering, and Amlaíb and his men had pounced on them. Catching them unawares, they had destroyed them. Amlaíb had taken a deep and primal pleasure in destroying the men of Lancaster himself, using his axe to carve their skulls in and in breaking them down to size. Lancaster himself had come face to face with Amlaíb and whilst the man might have been a skilled knight, he was no match for Amlaíb in the heat of battle. It had taken only three bouts before Lancaster was his prisoner. They had taken the castle and then installing someone to serve as castellan, Amlaíb and his men had ridden for Alnwick where King David was based. And it was here that he found himself, preparing to speak at a council.

It was a strange thing, he was fine in battle, barking orders and fighting, but away from battle he preferred silence and peace, and yet here he was, about to speak. The king of Scotland, was a youth some two decades younger than Amlaíb himself was, and yet he had an aura about him that made even Amlaíb nervous. The king was speaking. “I thank you all for coming. This war is progressing far better than anyone could have thought. Soon enough we shall have forced my uncle’s hand, and when that time comes we shall be ready to crush him. For now, though I shall let Amlaíb, the leader of the men who took Lancaster give his report.”

Amlaíb clears his throat, looking around the room noting the faces looking at him, and then he speaks. “Thank you, Your Majesty. We arrived on the western coast, some two miles from Lancaster Castle, where the Earl of Lancaster had been gathering his men and training them. They were a band of some five hundred men, and it was obvious that they had been raised in quick haste. It was a savage battle, but Lancaster and his men fought bravely and with honour. Lancaster himself fought with a savageness that belies his years. It was a deep honour to fight and best him.” He pauses then and then continues. “The taking of the castle itself, was a steeper challenge. Lancaster had left some of his sterner soldiers at the castle to hold it and so a very fierce battle took place outside its walls as well as within it. whilst the fighting occurred there, myself and the main contingent of my men were fighting Lancaster. Once it became apparent that they would not win, the men inside the castle surrendered.”

There are murmurs of approval then, and Amlaíb risks a quick glance at the Lord of Annandale, and is happy to see the man’s own look of forced approval. He knows Bruce is terrified of him, and with good reason. The king speaks then. “You have done well Sir. Tell me, who did you leave as your own castellan in Lancaster. A man of good repute and solid worth.”

It is a statement not a question, and as such Amlaíb makes his tone more deferential when he replies. “I left Ruaidrí a commander under me. He is a man I deeply trust, and I know he will do all in his power to ensure that nothing awry happens whilst I am away Your Majesty.”

The king fixes his gaze on him, and Amlaíb feels as if his very soul is being examined. The king is silent a long time before eventually replying. “Very well, if you are certain the man is trustworthy then that is good enough for me. Your payment shall come from the coffers of Lancaster’s castles. When this meeting is done, you shall head back west and continue with the securing of those lands with which my uncle once ruled.”

Amlaíb nods. “Of course Your Majesty.”

“Tell me sir, the rest of your force, they shall be coming soon. I have sent word and emissaries out to many of their known locations. I would expect for word to have come back by now. They are not known for their tardiness when it comes to response for silver.” The king says.

Amlaíb hears the question in the king’s voice, and takes his time to respond, when he does is tone is even. “You must forgive them for their lateness in response Your Majesty. Many of the companies are fighting in Ireland against the English who have dared settle in those lands. There is much wealth and plunder to be had there. I know many wish to come back and fight here in Alba. And as such, I know they will come when they are done with their fill.”

The king looks at him with those hard eyes, and Amlaíb feels a shiver run through him. “The war will be over by the time they come round to having had their fill. This man Findláech, he has the biggest of companies, and has promised his fill with sword and word.”

Amlaíb thinks he knows what the king is referring to, and so keeping his voice even, despite the hatred he feels for Findláech he says. “Aye Your Majesty the man does. He will come when he has said he would. His word is as good as his bond, and so if he says he will come by the end of the year, he will come, you need not have any fear on that count.”

The king nods before turning his attention to other matters. “Sir William, reports have come from Durham have they not? I would hear them.”

Sir William Wallace, the King’s right hand man, and a giant of a man, Amlaíb looks at him and wonders what prowess he hides. The man’s voice is soft when he says. “Earl Patrick writes that Durham remains immune to the siege, and the weather. Despite the vast number of men who continue to leave from the neighbouring lands, Bishop Bek remains impervious, and so he and his men remain in their castle. Shut away from the world and from danger.”

There is some murmuring at that and Amlaíb hears someone he thinks it is Bruce say. “The man is a fool, a deep seated fool.”

The king nods. “No doubt Bek believes he is standing in the face of the inevitable and hopes to change the tide. He will remain like this unless given an incentive to change his mind.”

“Your Majesty, if I may?” Lord Aonghas Mór the Lord of Islay asks. The king nods and the man goes on. “What more incentive could one offer the bishop of Durham to surrender than what has already been given? He is losing men to our cause, he is losing the strength of support that carried him through the early weeks of the siege. Sooner or later he must either bend or break. If he does not bend then he is a fool. Surely remaining out with for a little while longer would do some good?”

The king shakes his head. “Durham will fall, sooner or later it will fall, that much is true. And yet, just with Alnwick, allowing it to go on like this is not only a waste of time, it is a waste of resources. Earl Patrick could be used elsewhere and for more efficient purposes than laying siege to a place that will fall once the winter comes. No, this siege must end, and it must end with the man’s full surrender.”

Amlaíb looks at the king then, and sees that the man has a plan, what it is he does not know, but he suspects that he and his men might well be getting involved in it soon enough. The king’s attention returns to Sir William, who nods and continues. “Word has also come from Carlisle Your Majesty, it would appear some of the townsfolk have begun growing restless and are protesting the new measures that have been enforced on them.”

The king’s face grows taut then, as if he is struggling to stop himself from cursing aloud. Eventually the man speaks. “And what do they say are the issues with these measures? Measures that are by far fairer that anything that was in place before hand?”

There is a long moment’s silence, and then Wallace replies tentatively. “That they come from a Scot Your Majesty.” There is an outcry at this, but Wallace’s voice is still audible above the din. “It seems despite their reservations about King Edward, they were far more willing to deal with him and his collectors than the men Your Majesty has left behind to rule in his stead. It seems the old hatreds run strong.”

“This is an outrage Your Majesty. They do not realise the blessing that your rule is to them. They should be shown as such.” A big bear of a man says. More voices rise up to join this man’s voice in agreement, and it seems as if the tide of conversation will stop.

Eventually the king stops the arguing. “Enough!” all fall quiet at his words. “Enough I say. I shall not use force to teach these people a lesson. Let them learn it on their own. If they want the old measures back, let them have them, when they see the difference, then they shall realise the sense in what I have done.”

“But Your Majesty, what guarantee is there that they will see the sense? These are men from the border, sense is not something they know too well here.” Alexander Macdonald asks, the laughter of the other men fills the tent, and even Amlaíb smiles then.

The king grinning replies. “Sense, aye if they had any sense they would have not put up a struggle to begin with. But alas they did, and now they must learn to face the consequences of that.” The king grows sombre then, and Amlaíb wonders at its cause. The king’s next words give it away. “Tell me, has there been any sighting of the Earl of Carrick. It has been sometime since his disappearance, my wife I know is very concerned for her father.”

A heavy tension fills the air then, and Amlaíb develops an understanding of it then. The Earl of Carrick he had learned, had disappeared from Scotland before the summons to war had come, and has not been in the months since. Being the king’s own father in law, Amlaíb can understand why the king is angry about this. The voice that gives the response is the Earl’s own father. “There has been no confirmed word on the Earl of Carrick Your Majesty. But my men in Writtle and Essex have reported that summons have come from the king of England, and that they will be represented by a man of my family.”

Tension fills the air then, and the king’s voice is soft as a whisper. “Who?”

Bruce looks nervous then, very nervous, but his voice is sure when he replies. “From what my men have told me, it is to be one of my own sons.”

There is a long moment of silence and then the king says. “Leave, all of you apart from Amlaíb.” The men all stand and leave though Amlaíb knows Bruce will be waiting. Once the last of the men has gone, the king turns to him and says. “You are willing to get revenge for the action Bruce made against you on behalf of my uncle.”

Amlaíb nods. “Yes Your Majesty.”

“Good. You shall set off on the morrow. Take your best men and quickest horses. I want Bruce’s son found and brought before me before we march for York.”

Amlaíb bows his head and says. “It shall be done Your Majesty.” With that the king dismisses him from the room and as he walks out he sees Bruce standing there as he thought, waiting and listening. Amlaíb looks at him and merely says. “Justice, sweet justice my lord.” Before walking on.

November, 1289, York

Sir William De Valence, Earl of Pembroke

His wounds hurt, they ached in the morning and they stung in the evening. They were constant reminders of how he had failed. Failed to protect his son, Aymer’s lifeless eyes looking up at him would haunt him forever he was certain of it. Rage filled him every time he thought of it, the fact that his son was dead and he was alive still made him fill with sorrow and rage, he did not know which emotion was stronger. His son had been a tall lad, a promising youth, someone who would have done their family proud, and now he was gone. His life taken by a boy who was too ambitious by half. The king might be in denial, but William knew, he just knew that the king of Scotland was responsible for those attempts on his and everyone else’s lives. He would have the boy’s head if it was the last thing he did.

It seemed this was a prevailing feeling within the war councils as of late. As William looks around the room he sees the tension and the anger in the faces of men he has fought and bled alongside, and he knows they hunger for blood as much as he does. The king it seems is finally beginning to come round to their way of thinking, his tone is severe when he speaks. “It would seem that my nephew has advance further from where we first thought he would. Sir John if you would take this further.”

The Earl of Surrey, who was also affected by the assassination attempt grimaces slightly and then speaks. “Thank you Your Majesty. From the reports our sources have gathered, it would seem the King of Scotland has begun advancing toward York with increasing rapidity. The man and his army are growing stronger as the disaffected peasants from the northern counties join him. It seems the dispute that the man faced in Carlisle has been resolved with bloodshed, and Newcastle looks to be going the same way. The fall of Lancaster and its lands is another blow to our cause, furthermore, it seems those from the lands surrounding the fallen castles are flocking to the man’s banner. It seems the man has developed quite the reputation.”

“A reputation built on treachery and greed.” William snarls, there are several murmurs of appreciation at this, but they all fall silent when the king fixes his gaze onto William.

“The castles that have fallen prey to my nephew’s advances, the only ones of significant note, are Alnwick, Auckland, Bamburgh as well as Newcastle correct.” The king asks.

“That is correct Your Majesty.” Sir John replies.

The king nods. “Then it is clear what my nephew is trying to do. By sending his most prominent men to attack and take these castles, he is hoping to ensure their continued loyalty despite the treachery lurking within his own camp. Tell me, what has become of the Balliols as well as the Earl of Carrick.”

At this William speaks. “The Balliols remain trapped within their own lands, struggling to break free like the knaves they are. As for the Earl of Carrick he continues to raise his men, but word has come that the king of Scots, has learned of this, and is seeking retribution.”

His nephew looks at him then, his cool gaze intent. “Pray tell, where the man would have come by such knowledge. Knowledge that was to remain hidden until the perfect moment.”

William meets his nephew’s gaze and says, simply. “Men go missing or speak loosely to one another at taverns Your Majesty. It would be no surprise should such a thing have occurred. After all we know that William Wallace frequents such places looking to scour for information for his king.” That last word comes out a bitter sound.

His nephew looks at him, his gaze searching, before he finally sighs and says. “Very well. No doubt the boy will be looking to gain revenge for the betrayal. Despite his prowess and skill, he is still a boy, and when we were young, we all made such hot blooded mistakes.”

William resists the urge to snort at this, his nephew’s youth was spent flittering between his father the king and his godfather Simon De Montfort. Looking at his nephew for a moment, William senses there is something else playing on his mind, but just as quickly as such a though comes, it is gone when his nephew turns to him again and says. “Durham remains under siege, it seems Bishop Bek has remembered where his loyalties lie, my nephew will want to expend more strength on taking the town, Bek might hold, he might not. We do not want to test just how stubborn the man can be. With my brother in chains in Alnwick, we are lacking one of our most trained commanders. The majority of our forces cannot be expanded beyond York for now, let my nephew think he is winning this war, he will make mistakes and when he does, we shall be there to deal the hammer blow to his ambitions. Of course we cannot be seen to be doing nothing, the people must remember that they have a king, and so we must send our most trusted advisor to deal with the threats they face.”

There are murmurs of approval then, and William knows many of the men in the solar are beginning to prepare themselves for the king granting them this task. He can see the High Constable preparing himself for the honour, he knows De Warenne expects it, as do many others. But he knows deep down that just as he did in France, his nephew will entrust this task to him, and so he is not surprised when his nephew turns to him and says. “Sir William, you are our most trusted and capable commander, we would see you lead the vanguard from York to where our nephew sits. See him brought down and we shall ensure justice is served.”

The mere thought of clashing blades with his son’s killer, makes him accept the honour without a second thought. “It would be my honour Your Majesty. I shall teach the boy a sharp lesson in dealing with men.”

The king nods, and then turns his attention to another matter at hand. “We have received word from our men in Gascony that our cousin King Philippe has begun mustering men to strike hard whilst we are otherwise occupied. This is most concerning for us, and we would hear our councillors’ thoughts on the matter.”

William speaks then. “Your Majesty, I believe that as before, King Philippe is merely doing this to try and cause you to act. He wishes to gain Papal approval for a full removal of Gascony from your possession, and as such this is just another ploy in a long game. Pay no heed to it I say.”

There is some murmuring at this and Hereford speaks then. “I disagree Your Majesty. King Philippe has never mustered men in such great a number. The reports we have received suggest that he fully intends to go about this business as if it were a war. I would be deeply troubled.”

William looks at the man and says. “I do not think the King of France is as such a fool as to do something such as this. The last we heard, the man had not even gotten Papal Approval for this ridiculous venture of his. He is merely doing this to bait the King, and should you fall for it Your Majesty, you can rest assured, this will not be the end of it. France will run with blood.”

The Earl of Hereford looks at him a long moment before replying. “This is the interest of the kingdom we are speaking of Sir. We cannot allow our own personal grievances interfere with that. King Philippe is not a man to do things lightly, should he look to attack, you can be sure that he will.”

William feels anger grow inside of him at this. “I am speaking with the interests of the kingdom in min constable. To do anything, to even consider that King Philippe might be serious is to invite danger into our homes. And that is something we can ill afford now.”

Before Hereford can respond, the king speaks his voice imposing. “Enough. We respect both of your opinions, and for the time being, until our cousin makes a decision, we shall do nothing apart from ask our commanders in Gascony to continue with their training. Now if there is nothing more, all apart from William may leave.”

As the men leave, William feels a sense of dread fill him, the same feeling he had as a boy when he had done wrong. When the last of the lords have left, he and his nephew look at one another in silence, as the silence stretches on, William begins to wonder if his nephew will ever speak. Eventually he does. “Sending that man and giving him leave to speak of Carrick was not wise uncle.”

William bristles at that. “It is necessary Your Majesty. The man would never come forth unless pushed to do so. King David is a young man, he is bold and rash, he will come searching for the man who has betrayed him, and he will suffer for it.”

“And he might well remain aloof from all that comes to him. Our nephew knows just what sort of games to play, the attempts on our lives are proof of that. You risk everything by doing this. Our plans do not need the boy to come charging through just yet. We need more time for them to come to fruition.” The king replies.

William snorts. “With all due respect Your Majesty, I do not think your plans will work. The lady is far too protected, and her brothers would not do as their father did. Their father has always been too loyal to the south.”

The king looks at him a moment. “The plan does not need them to be like their father, the plan requires them to think that perhaps their father had the right of it. But now you have put that into jeopardy. Perhaps it is time you made peace with the fact that Aymer is gone.”

Anger shoots through him then. “You dare?!” he snarls.

“I do. I am your king, and I will not have my most trusted commander trailing around lost, because he is still grieving. There is a time to do that, and it has past. This is war now uncle. We must all be ready to fight and to suffer losses, but we must also know when to accept and move on. I do not think you have done that.” His nephew replies.

William feels his anger grow before it simmers down. “I know Your Majesty, and yet the sight of him there, staring at me as if I had failed him. It fills me with rage, rage that something like this could happen. That God would allow this to happen. My son is gone, and yet that heathen continues to live and he has two children of his own.”

His nephew grasps his shoulder. “I can understand that uncle I can. But you must put that rage aside, or use it effectively. You must also decide on a successor. This war will be a long one, and we cannot have uncertainty, not with France becoming more and more of a threat.”

William is silent a long moment, this is something he has thought about for a long time, something that has kept him up at night, and something that does not rest easily on him. Eventually after a long moment he says. “By rights my lands and titles should pass to William, my grandson by my daughter Isabel and her husband John. Though the boy is young yet, and gods alone knows what might become of him under John’s influence, and then there are my grandchildren by Joan and her husband Comyn, but of course that is not something I wish to explore.” He is silent a moment then, and then sighing he says. “William, should anything happen to me, William is my heir Your Majesty.”

His nephew nods and says. “I shall ensure he is well protected uncle. You have my word.”

December, 1289, Brittany

John II Duke of Brittany

It was coming close to the end of the year, the day of the Saviour’s birth was fast approaching and John knew, he just knew something would occur. It was a feeling he had deep within his bones, something always occurred during this month. Ever since he had been a boy, some event had occurred, and this year would be no different. The lords of Brittany were beginning to grow uneasy with how things were progressing in the rest of France, the advances of King Philippe were causing many to grow on edge, and wonder just what it was that the king of France was planning on doing. It was enough to even make John nervous, and that was not something he was used to feeling.

Sighing he cleared his throat and spoke. “The timing of this meeting is inconvenient I know. We would all rather be with our families, saying grace and thanking the all mighty for giving us another peaceful year. And yet there are signs that such a thing might well be changing. You have all heard of the changing currents in the rest of France this past year. It seems King Philippe has finally moved from his stupor into a plan of action. Robert you have more information.”

His steward nods and says. “I do my lord, thank you. It would seem from the reports being gathered that King Philippe is arming his men for some action no doubt on Gascony, though reports would have you believe that Aragon is his target. Aragon is most definitely not on the man’s plan or hope, it is for all intents and purposes a lost cause to him, though his brother will never believe that. Gascony is where the man looks to extend his power to.”

John nods. “It would seem as such, and yet we all know what these kings are like. They wear the crowns and thinks that gives them all the power. They would interfere with our affairs should we give them the chance to. They do not yet realise just how foolish such a thing would be. What is Philippe using to explain this sudden change in tact?”

His steward is silent a moment and then replies. “It appears that King Edward has been increasing the amount of men being trained for defensive purposes. King Philippe believes rightly or wrongly that this is a sign the King of England is looking to expand his borders or resume hostilities.”

John snorts, the very thought of his brother in law doing something such as that is amusing. “No doubt the king of France believes his other nobles would swallow such nonsense without any question.” He pauses a moment and then goes on. “But such lies are not fit for my ears, and I would know the true reason behind any summons this king would send me.”

His steward nods in agreement. “Naturally my lord. Though one must wonder at the increased frequency of the trainings that are being done within Gascony. If King Edward is not preparing for an attack, or an invasion what is he doing?”

John looks at his steward a moment and then says. “He might well be doing the prudent thing and preparing for the future. With all that is going on right now, that does seem to be the most prudent course. Who knows what might happen with Philippe’s ambitions and King Edward’s ambitions, should they clash then we shall all suffer for it.” John pauses a moment and then goes on. “But that is for another time. For now we know they are in an uneasy truce. There are other more pressing concerns for me. The claim that came from those group of farmers, have you looked into it Sir Louis?”

Sir Louis, a cousin, and also his chancellor looks at his notes for a long moment before saying. “I believe my lord, that their claim is one that must take great consideration on your part. They do have the rightful possession of that land, though they do not have the right to divide it into six as they were proposing. Only one has the right to fully decide what to do with it.”

John looks at his chancellor thoughtfully for a moment before replying. “So they were attempting to swindle their way out of the rightful system then. An interesting ploy, trying to divide the land into six different sections, though one would wonder whether they had thought through the squabbles this would bring. Tell me Louis, have others taken note of this and seen what will happen should they do similar?”

The chancellor nods. “They have my lord. Reassurances have come in from all of those who are held in great esteem. And all of them say they shall not use this tactic, and would never think of doing so. They have the sense these men are lacking my lord.”

“Good,” John replies. “I would not like to have an issue with all those men on the substance of my land. For it is my land whether or not they lay claim to it, and as such I would have you bring those men who wrongly tried to claim what they did was within the law. I would hand them their punishment, and see to it that they are dealt with justly.”

His chancellor nods. “Of course my lord. I shall send the missives and the riders out today itself.”

“The sooner this is done, the better.” John states. “I do not want this hanging over us the closer we get to Our Saviour’s birth date. Once these vagabonds are brought in for justice, the rest of the people can sleep easily.” He sees his chancellor take note of this, and then turning to his steward he says. “Robert, what word has there been from England itself? Since the quietness of my brother in law’s court since I sent my reasons for not fighting in this war, there has been nothing from him.”

His steward’s response is not immediate, but when he does reply, John wonders at it. “It appears that King Edward has been too preoccupied trying to stem the flow of blood that has come from his nephew King David’s invasion into northern England. It seems the young king caught the King of England completely off guard, and as such the man has been struggling to stem the flow of this.”

This news surprises John. “You are certain that this is not some elaborate lie? That our sources have not been misled?”

His steward nods. “Very certain my lord. King David is causing all sorts of problems for King Edward, and it does not seem as though this will go away any time soon.”

A series of thoughts go running through John’s head at this. “It would seem then, that this is why King Philippe is looking toward Gascony. Something is going on between him and King David, some alliance no doubt, and when the time comes we shall be looking at whether or not we fight for family or for the man we do fealty to.” The thought of bending to the French King repulses him, and he wonders. “The ambassador from Scotland is still here is he not?”

His steward nods. “Yes, I believe so my lord. He has been spending his time waiting for an audience just like this one I believe.”

With the beginnings of a plan forming in John’s mind he replies. “Good. Send someone to get him, I would speak with him.” There is a moment’s silence and then a guard is sent to get the emissary. A few moments pass and then the emissary arrives, John looks at the man and sees that it is indeed who he thought it was. The Earl of Lennox is strong and intimidating man, though John can see a hint of cunning there. “My lord,” John begins. “You must forgive me for my lateness in this meeting, but there has been much that needed sorting.”

“It is of no worry my lord, I understand.” The Earl responds.

John nods and then goes on. “I am sure you have heard by now that your king has successfully launched his campaign into northern England.”

Something that looks like relief passes over the man’s face. “I had not my lord, but I thank you for informing me of this. How might I be of service?”

John looks at the man a long moment then before finally responding. “Your King is invading the north and destroying those who stand in his way. All those who held the lordships and earldoms of the north of old have been removed and replaced. What I want to know is will I be under threat? I have not raised arms for King Edward, though by rights I should have done. What will your king to do me and mine?”

Silence falls then, and John can see the Earl considering his words very carefully, a wise man this one. Eventually, after a long time has passed, the man speaks. “I believe that His Majesty King David, hopes for this war to be a short one. It is only being waged so that my king can ensure his rights are truly recognised. He wishes to remain in peaceful friendship with yourself and your people, and wishes no harm on any of you.”

So long as I remain out of his business, he truly is a king, this young man. John thinks to himself, before nodding and saying aloud. “Very well, and I do believe that, that is something I am more than willing to do. There are issues here that I have to contend with. And now I find myself wondering, what will happen once your king has had his rights recognised?”

“Then things shall pass as they always have, and life will continue my lord. There is no need for anything to change because of this.” the earl replies.

John looks at the man, trying to find the word of a lie there, but finding none he merely nods. “Very well.” He takes a sip of wine and then asks. “How are you finding your stay here, are your lodgings to your liking?”

“Very much so my lord. I could not have asked for a better host. I have much to do whilst here, and have spent time visiting these glorious lands. Truly I have never seen such beauty before.” The earl replies.

John smiles. “Oh come now, I am sure that in Scotland there are lands just as beautiful as mine own, in fact I am certain of it.”

“Never quite as this.” the earl replies.

“Then I am deeply honoured to hear you say as such and shall ensure that my people know your thoughts. I know it must be hard to be away from home and your family during this season of joviality. Tell me, if there is anything you need or require, then you can have it. You are a most honoured guest, and I would not want you to feel afraid of asking for what you want.” John replies.

Silence follows this, and it stretches, as the Earl of Lennox considers John’s suggestion. As time passes, John begins to grow impatient, and he wonders if this is some deliberate ploy by the man in front of him. He does not think so, but one can never be too sure with men not from Brittany. Eventually the man speaks. “There is one thing I can think of my lord that would suit me well for this season.”

“Name it and it shall be yours.” John replies.

“Your daughter Marie is of an age to marry, I have a son Maol Choluim who is also of an age to marry. Let us unite our two houses together in the most sacred of bonds and ensure peace between our two lands.” The earl says.

John is caught off guard by this and does not know how to respond, eventually he says. “I shall consider your proposal my lord, and once I have reached a decision I shall let you know.”

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