Blood Of The Lion

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March, 1290, Yoredale.

Lord Robert De Brus, Fifth Lord of Annandale

The war was going surprisingly well, if Robert were being honest he had not thought such a thing possible. The king had made the plans and such, but it was one thing to make plans to deal with the finest army and commander within Western Christendom, it was another to actually implement them and have them be successful. That was what King David had managed, from the fall of Carlisle and Newcastle and their successful holding, to the fall of Lancaster and the capture of Edmund Crouchback, onto the capture of Alnwick and the gateway to the north. Durham remained out of the king’s possession for now, though the surrender of the town was more than likely considering the winter they had just had. It seemed the king was content to allow such a thing to happen, for Bishop Bek had lost all credibility within the eyes of the north and would soon meet a bloody fate.

King Edward had been slow to respond, and that had surprised and worried Robert, the king of England it seemed was planning something, what he was planning though, Robert did not know and it was that, that worried him. York had been the king’s camp throughout the winter, and with spring thawing the snow on the ground, the greatest army in Christendom would be coming their way very soon. This was something he was determined to bring up during the war council, and as such when presented with the opportunity he did so. “Sire,” he begins. “Though we have achieved a great many victories during the past year, we have not faced an English host in open combat where the field is there for all to see. King Edward will soon be coming to fight us, and with him he will bring his might. I am not sure whether we have the strength to stand against that.”

There is silence in the command tend after this, and then the king responds. “We will not be engaging the English host with anything less than a solid defence there for us to fall back on. I am not fool enough to think we could face them on the open ground and win. We took the castles the way we did by surprise and by siege, we shall ensure that my uncle does not have the chance to force out on to the field.”

For one so young, the king does speak much sense, and yet there is something within his words that worries Robert. “Sire, if I might be so bold as to speak?” the king merely looks at him, a gaze so reminiscent of his grandfather it chills Robert to the bone. “We know from our scouts that King Edward has sent Sir William De Valence north from York with the King’s vanguard. A man such as Valence will look to bring forth his might and force us onto the field of battle. It is what the man does, he will send a probing attack and force us to respond in kind or be shattered against the river.”

“Valence is also grieving for the loss of his son. If he is still able to think clearly, then I will be very impressed. I do not know about Your Majesty, but I believe King Edward has erred in sending such a man forward to fight.” Sir William de Keith the Ear Marischal says.

Robert looks at the man and says sharply. “Valence’s grief is the reason why I urge caution Sire. We cannot truly expect rational thought from a man whose grief it is said has caused him to butcher any man, woman or child who bent the knee to you north of York. He will do something and if we fall into it we shall be ended.”

“What would you have us do?” Keith asks. “Sit here and wait for Valence to come so we may look and see if he is as mad as you claim him to be? Or would you rather we packed up our things and went from here back into Scotland?”

A roar of protest follows Keith’s words, and Robert stands there, fighting to keep his temper in check, his grandson Robert is there sat by his side, and he can feel the anger radiating off of his grandson. He cannot allow things to get heated, not now. “No, I am not suggesting anything of the sort. I am merely doing my duty, and warning my king of the potential risks that come with staying here to fight Sir William and his men.”

Silence falls then as all eyes turn to the king. King David is just a boy really at seventeen, the softness of his cheeks have been replaced by the hardness of war, and the coldness that Robert has always seen has only been strengthened this past year. And for all that he is still a boy, he still has a look of innocence about him, and Robert will mourn when that passes. “We shall not be defenceless when Valence comes as I know he will. The man is, as Lord Robert says, running low on sense and high on grief. That will cause him to make rash decisions and it is that which I intend to exploit. Sir William, the digging of the traps is complete is it not?”

The king’s closest advisor nods. “The traps have been dug Your Majesty and the fields have been torn from here to the south. Valence will not have a clear route to get to us.”

“Excellent.” The king says. “That will only increase his frustration and make him more prone to these rash attacks. My lords, have of course done as asked and have trained their foot soldiers in the usefulness of spears and pikes. I would not want our horse to be overly used during this battle for when it comes it will be a bloody one.”

Robert looks around the command tent, and he can see that some of the Lords and Earls look distinctly uncomfortable with this particular part of what the king has asked of them. They would follow him to hell and back if asked, but there are still principles that they wish to adhere to. “Of course Your Majesty. We would not want to see needless waste of life and valued resources.” Robert says, speaking for the group, but knowing there are those who would wish to see him gone from here, for what his son has done.

The king looks at him a moment and then says. “Very well. I want all of the men ready by the time the sun is at its highest point. We shall not be caught unawares by Valence or his men. Furthermore, to fully provoke Valence’s wrath, we shall need bait. Something that will truly infuriate him, and I have just the solution.” The king pauses then and turns to look at him once more, Robert gets a fleeting sense of nerves flowing through him. “Lord Robert shall command the vanguard today, and shall lead the bait. Valence will be incensed at seeing your standard flying high considering the lands we are in. His son’s death will weigh on him all the more heavily for it.”

Robert looks at the king and he knows that the king is thinking of Robert’s man John who did the deed that removed Aymer de Valence from this mortal world. John was caught and gave enough information that the king tasked him with giving before being killed. He runs a hand through his hair and then says. “We shall not fail you Your Majesty.” The king nods and then dismisses them all from the tent, Robert stands and is about to walk from the tent when the king stops him.

“Lord Robert, a word.” The man says. Robert turns and walks back to the king. King David fixes him with a cool gaze, and then says. “What is on your mind Lord Robert? I could sense that you wanted to say something to me throughout the course of this meeting. Speak now, or hold your tongue.”

There are many things Robert wants to say, but he knows saying anything about his son is likely to only aggravate the king, and that is not something he wishes to do, instead he focuses on the next pressing issue on his mind. “The emissary from the Vatican sire. I do not understand how you can be so nonchalant of such a man and the heavy word he has brought.”

The king snorts. “Heavy word? He brings word from the Pope in Rome, of my excommunication, that is not a heavy word. It is merely some man in Rome, playing at being something he is not. He says what he says because my uncle is pressurizing him into saying such a thing. Our right to this invasion has been there since the days my ancestor took these lands from the English. I will not see it go to waste because of some man who has never set foot here.”

Robert is shocked by this. “But Sire, such a declaration has very damning implications for you, it could well lead to your subjects here being unwilling to abide by your rule. Especially if King Edward should use it personally against you.”

He is surprised when King David laughs. “You think the people of Northumbria will care what some man in Rome claims, when their own king could not prevent this from happening? My uncle is facing discontent from many within his kingdom, I think he will need something more than a mere Papal declaration to use against me.”

Robert recognises the dismissal for what it is and bows low before walking out of the tent. His grandson is there waiting for him. Robert, named Lord Protector of Carrick after his father’s desertion is a tall man, handsome and energetic. Determined to prove himself, the Lord Protector eagerly asks. “What did the king want from you grandfather?”

Robert looks at his grandson for a moment, and sees in him, all that he once was, young, eager, determined and fierce, and he wonders where the years have gone. Taking a deep breath he says. “The king merely wished to speak with me about some concerns I had. That is all Robert.”

His grandson nods and then says. “This is good for our family though is it not? That the king has entrusted you with command of the vanguard? Surely it means that we are gaining in favour once more?”

He can hear the uncertainty in his grandson’s voice, and says. “We are improving in standing yes. But we have not regained that which we had before your father’s betrayal. I doubt we ever will. But enough of this talk, let us proceed onward for battle comes.” With that he and his grandson part ways, as they prepare for the oncoming battle, Robert finds that his heart has begun the dance that always precipitates the coming of battle. It beats quickly within his chest, making him wonder if he is to die today. As his squires place his armour on him and give him his helm and sword, he knows that today will be a day when their legacy is decided, either the Bruce family will be remembered for his son’s treachery, or they will be remembered for destroying the beginning of King Edward’s army.

Once he is fully armoured he leaves his tent and takes his horse from his squire, mounting his horse he sees his grandson riding toward him as well as several of the men from Annandale and Carrick. He nods at them and then says. “What word is there from the scouts?”

“It seems Valence and his men have been sighted coming toward the river, they march quickly, and might well be on our camp before noon.” Sir Edward says.

Robert nods. “Then we know what to do. Allow them to cross, and then we shall attack, or rather, as they march across the river we shall attack. Keep them between us and the river and they shall be stuck.”

The knight nods and his grandson asks. “What of the traps?”

“Those shall be our first line of defence, the spears the second line. The mounted horse the final line. Robert you have command of the spears. I do not want them to break, do you understand?” Robert says.

“Yes my lord.” His grandson says.

“Then let us begin this and see to it that the king has a victory to speak of for years to come.” with that Robert spurs his horse on as his men follow him. As they ride toward the river, Robert feels his heart begin to beat more and more quickly, he knows that today is an important day, a very important day. It would not do to fall today, Robert knows his grandson is a good man, but he is young and inexperienced, Robert must remain to see their family secure once more. As the river comes closer into view, he raises his sword and draws the march to a halt.

As he watches his grandson and the commanders from Annandale and Carrick begin forming their men into rank, and as he watches the spears begin their formations, he cannot help but wonder if this is going to go the way he wants it to. God, has always had a strange relationship with his family, there is the curse that some argue has doomed his family, and then there is the good fortune that Isabel’s marriage has brought them. He does not know truly whether or not this will be the day that all is decided. He hopes it is, he is getting too old now to deal with the growing complexities of life. His sword weighs against his side as his lance weighs against him. He waits and watches and listens, as the sound of the English army grows nearer, his heart thumps in his chest. The sound of drums fills the air, the English are coming, he can see Valence’s banner from here, flapping proudly, the banners of the King of England are present as well, and Robert wonders whether the king himself will come before the month is out.

The bridge comes into view and Robert stares at it, watching as the English begin crossing. He knows to do nothing now would look strange, and so he barks. “Let the first rank go.” As the command is passed down, he sees Sir Edward a man he has known since childhood leading the first wave of attackers down the slope toward the bridge. He sees as they begin filing down toward the bridge cutting down those Englishmen who have crossed whilst they push on toward those are still on the bridge. The sound of steel on steel fills the air, the sounds of men screaming and crying rings in his ears, Robert closes his eyes briefly and when he opens them again, he sees the English army beginning to spread out over the field. “Archers.” He barks. And the command is given, his men let loose their arrows, some sail harmlessly down to the ground, others find their mark. The English are getting nearer, the ground in front of them makes it hard for them to truly navigate, and he watches with some satisfaction as some of the foot fall to the ground only to be trampled by the horse that are spilling onto the ground from the bridge.

“Spears.” He barks. And his grandson takes up the command eagerly, barking commands, and shouting orders. Robert watches as his son marches down the hill with the spearmen. He keeps his eyes pinned on Robert, defined by the red chevron that is flying next to him. Robert watches as his grandson and his men begin wreaking havoc on the English. The horse charging down and being cut to pieces by the shields, Sir Edward, and Robert’s other grandson Sir John having run them to ground on the bridge. Men are falling down to the water to their deaths, their armour dragging them down. Robert watches with a sense of growing pride as he sees the ease with which his grandson commands. His men doing as he bids for him and for no other reason. The English are being crushed between the press, the spearmen are cutting them down, whilst the traps have taken more than a few knights and foot soldiers, who have been thrown by the dug up ground.

Robert watches all of this with a keen eye looking out for any man who might be close to Valence. It seems the old knight himself is not within this fray, but Robert knows, he just knows that the man will be there somewhere. Lurking within the shadows, waiting to strike just when they think all is going well. As Robert hears a cry, he sees him. A Barry of argent and azure. The man’s posture shows that he means business, he avoids the traps and the faults of his men who have gone before, and he is riding hard. Robert looks at the man and then he lowers his own helm and barks. “Men of Annandale, with me! We ride for our king!” the cry is taken up and then they ride down the slope toward Valence and his men. It is absolute chaos, men are fighting one another with their bare hands, but Robert’s lance is true, it swings and lurches and strikes down a foe or two. Many more fall before he discards his lance and draws his sword. He swings and slashes, aware of the press all around him. Cutting, slashing, ducking and weaving. His sword sings as it cuts through one foe then another. The battle rages around him, doing all it can to press him away from the fray. A shout and he looks up to see Valence come charging toward him, and his heart hammers. He rides to meet the challenge of the Earl of Pembroke.

April, 1290, Monkton

King Edward I Plantagenet

“Say it again.” Edward demands, anger making it hard for him to keep his voice even.

The messenger looks nervous but says it all the same. “Sir William’s army met the army of King David, or rather the vanguard of King David at the River Ure, and they were well and truly beaten Sire. Sir William was slain during the course of battle and his army routed.”

Edward feels the anger that had already been present within him swell. He knew he should not have given command to his uncle. Still, had he known that grief would have made his uncle fall for such a trap? “And you managed to flee did you? You were part of the survivors.”

“Yes Sire. I was sent by my lord Arundel sent me. He told me to give a report of what happened and to warn you Sire.” The messenger says.

“And what warning was this?” Edward asks, his anger making his voice hoarse.

“King David is marching on York Sire. It seems that his victory at Ure has made him more bold and willing to test the defences of Your Majesty. He wants to make his victory complete, and it seems there will be nothing stopping him from achieving such a thing.” The messenger says.

Edward feels his anger begin to turn into something completely unpleasant then. “Return to Arundel and tell him that he is to hold the line. Under no circumstance is he allowed to allow my nephew to have an easy time of it as he marches toward York.”

The messenger bows. “Yes Sire.” Edward hands him a bag of coins for his travels and then dismisses him.

Once the man has left, Edward lets go of a breath he was not even aware he had been holding in. he looks around the tent and sees his lords looking at him with worry. This war has not been going well for them. Ever since the attempted assassination attempts, he has been on the back foot. His nephew has shown time and time again, that he is not a little boy playing at war, but a ruthless man waging it. In some ways Edward does have to respect his nephew for that. It is certainly something he would have done, and yet, by God it is frustrating, so very frustrating. His lords are aching to engage in full combat, and yet with York vulnerable, he is not sure whether he wishes to even head north to fight. Of course not doing so would only look cowardly, and that is not something he can afford. He takes a deep breath and then says. “We have suffered a grave loss, and the slaying of our uncle Sir William is a deep loss. But we must learn from this and see where we can improve from there. Clearly giving command to Sir William was not a smart move, his grief made him err, though the plan was a clever one. We must now see to it that Arundel does not give into the weakness that he is prone to.”

“Sire, I beg you, send men under my command north. We shall get the victories that are needed, we shall hinder this foul king on his march and prevent him from achieving anything else. Give me the men and I shall let the rivers run red with his blood.” Sir Humphrey de Bohun the Earl of Hereford pleads.

Edward looks at his constable and says. “Whilst we would very much like to do such a thing, right now that is not a feasible option. We must gather numbers and resources from our lords and ensure that none are wavering in their commitment. We must also gather a full report of what has been happening in the north. We know of our uncle’s death and the routing of his army, but we do not know how many men he has left. With Arundel still alive, there is hope for a reformation of the vanguard and the development of an offensive.”

The constable does not look pleased with this. “Arundel is but a boy, surely you cannot expect him to know the truth of how things lie. That he sent a messenger is all well and good, but true and precise action relies on men of experience leading the campaign. Arundel would do nothing that would not hinder Your Majesty’s campaign. We must have action in an appropriate measure.”

Edward looks at the man and then says. “We had sent Sir Ralph and his men with our uncle. Should the young Earl Need assistance he has it there. No we must keep our key tools here with us. We cannot give our nephew anything more than what he has already taken.”

“Then do we not run the risk of losing more battles. Arundel and Neville are young and inexperienced Sire,” Hereford says. “They do not know the taste of fear that comes from such feats of battle. Surely it is better for one of the men here to fight and lead then it is for someone else to. We can play on the young king’s over confidence, they cannot.”

“The High Constable speaks sense Sire.” The Earl of Surrey says. “We cannot hope to outmatch the young king with only Arundel and Neville leading what remains of the vanguard. We must take severe action and we must take it immediately, otherwise the risk of being broken is far too high. Surely you can see that?”

Edward looks at the man and says. “We see it all too well. We would not risk bringing more men to fight without first knowing just what might happen should we do so. Reports must come in before we move to begin anything. Sir Guy, you shall lead the scouting mission. Do not come back until you have a firm understanding of what happened.”

The Earl of Warwick nods. “I shall do so Sire.”

Edward nods his thanks and then turns his attention to another matter at hand. “What word has there been from Brittany, has our brother in law remembered his oaths of fealty as Earl of Richmond?”

“Unfortunately, it would seem that Richmond has forgotten that oath Your Majesty.” Adam of Gascony says. “It seems that he is far more comfortable spending time speaking with both French and Scottish emissaries then he is in coming forth to do his duty. There has been talk that the man is even meaning to see his daughter wed to a Scottish noble.”

Edward feels surprise run through him then, his brother in law consider marrying into a Scottish family? Surely not. “And who pray tell is this noble he considers wedding his daughter to? That this daughter is more important than his oath of fealty is surprising.” Edward replies.

“Malcolm, heir to the Earl of Lennox. The Earl himself is the emissary to Brittany, and it would seem that he and the Duke have struck up quite the friendship. This could well be why the man has not come to do his duty as Earl of Richmond, family ties within Scotland would mean the man feels obliged to remain out of this war.” Adam replies.

“Then he is a fool, who shall be dealt with once my nephew is. Until then, send word to his son and tell him that if he serves where his father should have served he shall receive Richmond and many other titles and rewards as well. It is time we took a more active role in dealing with this.” Edward fumes.

“A wise decision Sire. The Duke and his heir might well not get on all that well, exploiting such a thing could be to our benefit, especially with King David looking to further strengthen his alliance there.” Adam replies.

Edward feels his anger begin to boil inside of him, threatening to escape, it takes a lot of effort on his part to stop from lashing out, taking a deep breath he says. “We have also received word from London that our cousin means to begin making his moves into Gascony soon, and yet the way in which he is going about it suggests that he will wait until we have fully committed to an attack on our nephew. Philippe is being very clever about all of this, and yet he knows that until he gets Papal approval he cannot do anything to engage us.”

The High Constable speaks then. “Sire, I believe we must engage the Scots properly now. They have shown that they are not something to treat lightly, and yet your presence is not required on the field of battle. Send a heavy force under my command and we shall rout them just as easily. They are no match for us on an open field, they must resort to coward’s tactics to bring battle and victory.”

Edward looks at the constable and says. “You are very eager to lead the host Sir Humphrey, one might think you were planning something, if one was of that mind. And yet we would hear why you believe what you believe.”

The High Constable is silent a moment and then he says. “In only one battle, King David has shown just how treacherous he is. He cannot fight like a true king on the open field and so he resorts to trickery and evil to win his battles. We do not give him that chance, if we were to march forward and attack, we can catch him off guard. Bring a big enough host and we shall rout him just as soundly as he routed Sir William’s host.”

“One battle, and yet King David has shown a cunning surprising for a man his age.” Sir John argues. “Would it not be more reasonable to suggest he might expect such a thing? He would lead us around on the tail so that we might be lulled into frustration.”

“He knows his lords will look to fight on the field sooner rather than later. They will want to win properly without the risk of the line of unchivalrous accusations being made of them. If he has any sense in his head he will not risk their wrath.” Bohun argues.

“Yet his lords are, according to our sources, growing more and more fanatically loyal to him by the day. This victory is just one more example of that. They would not gainsay him in this now more than ever. What is there but mere suspicion about something that might no longer be the case?” Surrey asks.

“Many know what it would mean to their own knights and men if they continued to skulk around the countryside like vagabonds. They have their pride, we can play on that. We can play on the overconfidence this boy might well have and use it to our advantage.” Bohun argues, he turns an eye toward Edward and says. “I can take full advantage of that, just as I did in Wales Sire. I can do this better than anyone else, better than Arundel and Neville. Please you must believe me.”

Edward looks at the man, keeping his face expressionless, he can understand the man’s reasoning, yet a part of him is urging him to toe the line of caution. He is no longer a young man, and yet, he wants to be the one to break his nephew. To end the boy’s relentless charge toward York. If he can stem the tide, and give his men the blood they are so craving, then perhaps he has done a good duty to his people. And yet, and yet, he does not know whether he has the stomach for such a thing anymore. Something is changing within him, and this war might well be his last. His lords are all looking at him and he knows they expect an answer, yet he does not know what to give them. And then the answer comes to him, the shouts of the knights on the fields of Gascony, a name, a dream, one kingdom united under his control. He looks at his lords and says. “Sir Humphrey is correct. We must force our nephew to meet on the open field. Yet as King it is our duty to lead our men into battle. We shall do this task, and we shall march in two days’ time. We shall make for Ripon.”

May, 1290, Writtle

Sir Robert De Brus, Earl of Carrick

It was hot, far hotter here then it would be in Annandale, and Robert wondered at that. He wondered not for the first time whether he had made the right decision. At first it had seemed the only thing to do, there was not a chance that King David could succeed in that mad mission of his, and King Edward would defeat him within relatively short order. Yet King David had done a far better job than Robert had thought possible. Most if not all of Northumbria was now his, and Robert wondered if perhaps he should rescind and return, and yet he knew now that he could not. He had come too far down this path to change from its course, besides, King Edward would destroy David should they meet in open battle.

It was this that his advisors were telling him now. “Your Grace must know that King Edward would hold firmly onto the position once he has taken in. King David cannot hold to him in open battle, and as such even if they were to meet, should King David prepare beforehand he would still be not match for the king.” Sir Walter says, Sir Walter is a man he has known almost all his life, and as such is a man whose council he trusts.

“Indeed. I know that Walter, and yet there is a part of me that wonders if King Edward might in his rush to best his nephew, do something rash. He is a person after all, not God. He has all the faults that you and I have. His lords are pushing him into one direction, and surely that might be the wrong one?” Robert counters.

“It makes no sense for him to commit to something he is not comfortable with Your Grace.” Sir Edmund says, another man Robert has known from his time at Writtle. “King Edward is one of if not the best commanders in Western Christendom, King David might well have gotten some success, but one battle does not win him a war. He will not succeed, especially now that King Edward has marched out himself. Durham might have fallen, but you can be certain the slaughter within its walls will leave a bitter taste in many Englishman’s mouths. The chance for glory and spoils is coming Your Grace, you need only wait for it.”

Robert considers this a moment and then says. “I should have gone when the summons was sent. Of course should the fighting reach York, I will aid the king against David. It cannot be right for a man to fight his own kin, and yet should it come to that then it will come to it.” he pauses a moment, thinking of what word came from Ure, his son Robert earned his spurs that day, a fleeting sense of pride comes and then it disappears just as quickly. “How goes the training of men?”

“Well Your Grace. We have men who are ready to fight now. They are some of the best recruits I have ever had the privilege of teaching, and training. When the call comes we shall be ready, and the Scots will tremble in the knowledge of it all.” Sir Walter says.

“Good, that is very good.” Robert says. “The better trained our men are, the less chances there are of them falling to impress and do their duty. When King Edward sees them fighting, he should know that they are coming from his most loyal servant. I would have them be the best they can, and better than the rest.”

“And they will be Your Grace, truly they will be.” Sir Walter says. “The best that they can be.”

Robert nods, a thought creeps into his head then, from his sources, and he had word about Carrick and his wife and children. He misses them, truly he does, and yet what he is doing he is doing for them. Still it weighs on him and he asks. “Has there been any more word from Carrick?”

“Other than King David naming your son Lord Protector of Carrick no Your Grace. There have been no responses from Lady Marjorie or your other children.” Sir Edmund says.

“No doubt my damned father’s doing.” Robert growls.

The other two men are silent then, and Robert can feel their sympathy even if they do not say anything, and he resents it. He takes a deep sip of wine and then says. “You both may go. Return to your families, for tomorrow we shall make our own moves.”

Both men bow and leave, and Robert is left to his thoughts. He is uncertain if the path he is treading is the right one. He misses Marjorie, her fierceness and her surety would be good in such times, but he doubts he will ever see her again, she might as well hate his guts for what he is doing, despite wanting to do it for their good. His heir, Robert, the boy has always been something special, a man’s firstborn always is, and yet their relationship has always been uneasy. He resents his son, as pitiful as that is to admit, resenting him for having Robert’s own father’s approval, where he never had it. Sighing he takes another sip of wine and then at the knock on the door calls whoever it is to come in.

The person who enters makes him freeze with fear. The man smiles then. “You were not expecting me I take it. At least your father did not give that away.”

“What are you doing here? How did you get in?” Robert asks.

“Your men were most amenable when I paid them off. Englishmen, they are worse than gallowglass.” Amlaíb says.

“Why are you here?” Robert asks.

“The King, the true king has sent me here. To deal with you of course. Whether he wants you dead or not I do not know. I believe that him keeping you alive is more for your daughter’s sake you know. If he had his way, you’d be dead, dead as can be. And I would get to kill you.” Amlaíb says.

“Then why don’t you?” Robert snarls.

“Because I keep my word, unlike you. You who breaks his word whenever it suits him. You know my sister never did get over you, she died crying out your name.” Amlaíb says.

Robert feels a chill go down his spine at the man’s words. “She knew what she was getting herself into. It was only a minor thing. Never anything serious.”

“You owe her your life Bruce.” The man growls. “Without her you would have died in Antrim a long time ago. You promised her everything and then broke her heart. Then your father came to clean your mess. You two are no different to one another.”

“I am a better man than my father. I had the decency to tell the truth. And what of you? You lied to her just as much as I did.” Robert fumes.

Robert regrets saying that when the man’s fist connects with his cheek, the speed of the man even at this age surprises him. “I told her not to get involved with you. Yet she did it because you tricked her. And then you killed everything we held dear. I will see you broken before long Bruce.”

“If you hate me so much, why do you not just kill me now?” Robert asks.

“Because I want you to know just how much your own family hates you.” The man says grinning. “Your father has disinherited you and named your eldest son his direct heir. Your sons want you dead, and your daughter? Oh she wants you brought before her so she can kill you herself. You have failed to do anything different and you will die alone and broken.”

Robert stands then and growls. “Not if I take you with me bastard.” He moves toward the man but before he knows what is happening, the man has him pinned to the wall, his dagger pressed to Robert’s throat.

“I do not think so. You will not leave here and if you do, I shall find you once more. I will always find you Bruce, know that. And know that my family will be avenged.” Amlaíb says, before Robert feels the prick of the dagger against his skin and the wetness of blood. The man let’s go of him then and Robert slumps to the floor where the man kicks him once, twice, a third time, leaving him winded. As Robert tries to gather his breath he sees the man turn and walk out of the room.

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