Blood Of The Lion

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Bright Eyes

June, 1290 Leyburn

Sir Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick

The war, it was caused by a boy’s greed that much Guy knew. The king’s nephew, King David of Scotland was a boy who wanted something that was not his to take and he had taken it through the most dishonest of means. Guy still remembers seeing his father’s face as the dagger was plunged into him, he remembers the horror, the grief, and the blinding rage. He knows all too well what William De Valence would have felt as he charged at Ure, he knows all too well what it is like to wake up hating the very day that comes before you. He wants King David dead, he wants him killed, and he wants to be the one to kill him. The king of Scotland has created many enemies for himself here in England, and Guy intends to end him.

It is hard of course to think that this dream will come to reality, not with half of the north under the damned man’s control. And as such a meeting between himself, the Earl of Arundel and Neville is necessary. He takes a sip of wine and speaks. “We cannot tarry here for much longer. Already the villagers grow discontent with how much our men are taking from their stores. We cannot afford to alienate them from the king.”

Arundel, a young man, slightly older than Guy voices his agreement. “You are right of course my Earl of Warwick. The longer we tarry here, the longer we give the whoreson a chance to regroup and form a new plan. We must move and quickly, otherwise we shall be lacking in surprise, and that is the only way to truly catch the man by surprise.”

“You are certain of that?” Guy asks. “The man is only young, it is very possible that he could make mistakes. He is only a man after all, he is not God Almighty.”

“The way some of these damned northerners speak you would think he was. They claim he is doing things that are the result of our fellow countrymen’s foolishness. Valence was a fool to go blindly charging into that assault at Ure.” Arundel says.

“Valence did what any man in grief would do.” Guy says. “He saw a man responsible for the death of his son and he tried to take the man down with him. Can you fault him for that? Would you differently in his place?”

Arundel is silent a moment and then concedes. “I admit, that perhaps I am too harsh on the man. He was a father, I suppose it is just that, he was one of the most experienced of the King’s commanders and now he is gone, and the dregs of the vanguard trail us, wanting nothing more than to go home.”

“They are not so foolish as to want to continue this assault.” Ralph Neville says, speaking for the first time. “They know what we also know but are too foolish to acknowledge. The King wants his pride back, and yet David of Scotland is no fool. He will not openly engage in warfare, not when he can hide in the shadows and allow his men to pick us off one by one. We still have not discovered where our sentries went after we left Ripon.”

“We know damned well what happened. The whoreson took them out with his own little bastards. It is not such a crime, is it my lord of Neville? To want to gain revenge for something that has weakened us, and humiliated us. David of Scotland took advantage of the king’s good will and spat on it. He must be taught a sharp lesson.” Guy says heatedly.

Neville looks at him, fixes him with a cool stare. “You would lead our men into a endless chase. We do not know where the man and his army is. We only know what he allows us to know. How do you think we shall find him with this? We shall not. We will only know him when he allows us to know him. Until then we shall being like a blind man, chasing shadows without light.”

Guy knows the man speaks sense, and yet he does not truly wish to acknowledge it. Instead he asks. “What would you do then Neville? Would you have us turn around and when the king asks us why we did so, shall we tell him that we do not want to be blind?” he takes a sip of wine and then goes on. “How do you think the great King Edward will take that?” he nods to the railings of the village. “Our heads will adorn those spikes and our families will be left bereft. Is that what you want?”

Neville looks thoroughly uncomfortable at that. “I do not know, truth be told. But I do not believe that His Grace, the King, would see it fit for us to die for something he himself knows to be true.”

“What do you mean?” Guy asks intrigued.

Neville hesitates for a moment and then says. “The king knows that we are being led blind around the country. He must know that there is only one way that the man his nephew will come forward to fight, and that is if he himself comes. We are merely meant to distract, nothing more.”

“The king would not do something so stupid.” Guy says, “He has the biggest army in Christendom, he has some of the most experienced commanders surely he knows he need not risk himself for this… this boy?”

“He does not have a choice.” Arundel says then. “He is the king, and he cannot afford to look weak, no matter what other thing he might wish to do, he must lead the army now. David has made him look a fool, if he allows this to go on for much longer, all will be lost.”

Guy looks at Arundel, but before he can reply, a messenger comes before them, bows and then says. “My lords, we have had sightings of a foraging party toward the north of here.”

“Do they fly banners?” Arundel asks.

“No my lord, only they look to bear the arms of Scots.” The man replies.

Guy looks at his fellow lords and says. “We must move. This could get us some valuable information.”

“It could well be a trap.” Cautions Neville.

“Or it could be the light we have so desperately been waiting for.” Guy counters.

There is a moment’s silence as they both wait for Arundel to speak, eventually the man says. “Very well, let us move forward and see what these Scots want.”

Soon enough, Guy finds himself armoured and mounted atop his horse. His heart is hammering, if this is truly going to be combat, then it will be his first true taste of it. He does not know exactly what to expect, but he does know that he will not dishonour his father’s memory. He will do as he must to secure the end of the whoreson’s strength. Given command of the left wing of their host, he rides at the front, calling his men to a halt when he sees Arundel doing the same. He hears Arundel call out. “Who goes there in the name of King Edward, present yourself?”

There is naught but silence, and then an arrow comes flying out of the trees landing but a few feet away from Arundel. Guy cannot see the man, but he can hear the anger in his voice when he roars. “Kill them, kill them all!” Guy watches as Arundel’s men go charging into the woods before them, he hears the scraping of steel on steel, hears the sounds of men screaming for their lives, feels his gut tighten.

One of his men comes and asks. “What shall we do Your Grace?”

Guy hesitates for a moment, as the sounds of battle come filtering through, his mind is tense, racked with uncertainty, and then he snaps and barks. “Forward, we go forward.” His squire hands him his lance and soon enough he is charging forward after Arundel and his men. He soon finds that the lance is not necessary, sees it spear a man then another, before it breaks against a tree, and then his sword is drawn and it goes on. His sword swings in the arch it was taught as a child, swinging and cleaving through a man and then another. Their blood staining the steel red, he pushes through, his heart hammering, it is chaos, complete chaos. He does not know where to turn, but he keeps going. Guy only knows that survival is the key, he feels weapons hit him and move off his armour, doing nothing more than dent into him, a mere nuisance not a true pain. He pushes onward, swinging his sword, slashing, hacking, digging deep within reserves of strength he did not know he had.

The Scots are using the chaos to their advantage, Guy can see through the slit of his helm, men being pulled off of horses, being mauled to their deaths by more than one man. He feels his own heart begin to beat quicker as he sees more than one man he knows fall down to their deaths, trampled by horse, or clubbed to death. His sword is wet with blood, but he can feel his own reserves faltering. He swings at one man, and uses his shield to block the attack of another. Guy can feel his strength faltering, but when he sees a man with a shield with three strips of wheat on a field of red coming toward him he feels something move within him. A spur of energy that brings them together in the clash of steel, swinging their swords against one another, battering into one another.

A primal dance that leads itself to song, not of this world. Guy uses every single bit of his energy to try and hinder the progress of this giant of a man, swings his sword, cuts through armour and dents it. But the man gives as good as he gets, swings his sword just as hard. Guy can feel his own strength beginning to fade away, disappearing into the ether. He pushes though, pushes against his natural limits, feels something crack within him, sees his father’s face, remembers his mother’s cries, and then he is on again. Lashing out with a fierce strength, he can tell his opponent is surprised, startled even, and when Guy feels his sword bury deep within the man’s throat he roars with pleasure. He pulls his sword out and moves on, the energy running through him.

As he rides on, Guy wonders briefly what has become of Arundel and Neville, he wonders whether they are doing as well as he is. His own men are fighting the Scots and matching them man for man, bettering them in most circumstances, in others, well he prefers not to think of those circumstances. He sighs slightly, his chest is aching, a deep thronging pain, and he wants to rest, to sit down awhile, but he decides against it. Instead he moves on, his armour chafing against the ache in his sides and chest. Soon enough battle finds him once more, another giant of a man this time with a shield of black and wheat on him comes barrelling toward him. This man is quicker than the last, more of a bear than a man, he winds Guy quickly, puts him on the back foot and with the ground wet with blood, when Guy’s horse slips and falls, Guy wonders whether he can be bothered to rise once more.

He manages to stumble forth from the chaos, his horse is whining into oblivion, but Guy staggers up, his legs aching beyond the crush, and then he falls down once more. The man comes before him, and presses his sword against his throat, the sword is thrust through his throat, and Guy De Beauchamp, knows nothing apart from blissful oblivion.

July, 1290 Richmond Castle

King David II Dunkeld

The war was going rather well, David did have to acknowledge that. Ure had been a most convincing victory. Valence was dead and his army sent to the winds, Bruce had shown that whatever his son’s follies he was still loyal, and for that David was glad, he would not have wanted to have put Isabel’s grandfather to death for her father’s treacheries. Isabel, his wife had given birth to their second child named Alexander after David’s father, and David could not wait to meet him, their eldest son Kenneth was three summers old, and truly David missed them, he missed them all. Soon enough this war would be over and he could return home, he looked forward to that day. But now, now he had a council meeting to attend.

He looked around the castle’s solar, and revelled once more in the use of this castle, Richmond, seat of the Earl of Richmond, oh but this was too good, the man had not even voiced a protest when word had been sent. It was too good, looking around the room, he looks at John Comyn, and says. “You have word from Leyburn I trust my lord?”

The man not as big as father, but more pronounced. “I do sire. The force sent out under my father and cousin were successful in routing the scouting force of the Earls of Arundel and Warwick. Warwick it seems was killed in the fighting whilst Arundel has been taken prisoner, and Neville, it seems fled the field when it became apparent they were losing the fight.”

“What of your father and the Earl of Buchan what word have they sent?” David enquires.

Here Comyn looks somewhat grieved. “My cousin the Earl of Buchan was injured during the fighting, and as such has not been able to make the return journey just yet. As for my father, he was slain during the fighting, slain by Warwick it seems.”

There is a moment of silence, and as David looks at Comyn, the new Lord of Badenoch he sees some accusation there. David regards the man with cool eyes and then says. “My condolences for your loss my lord. Your father was a good and honest man, a true servant of Scotland. His loss will be mourned and shall be avenged in time. Now we must make plans to move further south. We have won victories at Ure and now Leyburn, but I must know whether Valence’s host has been completely destroyed.”

Comyn is silent a moment and then says. “It would appear so Your Majesty. From what our sources say, Valence’s men either died at Leyburn, Ure or fled with Neville to God alone knows where. King Edward himself has made move from York and it seems is settling base at Ripon.”

David perks up at this. “You have solid evidence that my uncle is moving toward Ripon and away from York?”

“Yes Sire,” Comyn replies. “It seems that the fighting at Ure convinced the man that he must need moves from York or he will face the wrath of his men. It seems he means to make a stand at Ripon and tempt you toward him.”

David laughs at this. “Ah my uncle still has not learned has he? His desperation to do something about the tide is making him lose his sense. Ripon, why would I go there, when I can force him to come towards me? No we shall not move for Ripon, though of course when the time is right, I shall send Bruce and your cousin to command the men toward Ripon, we must make him think we are taking the bait, otherwise he will never move.”

There is some laughter at this, and then Aonghas Mór Lord of the Isles and Earl of Cumbria speaks. “Would it not be wiser to perhaps wait here and see Your Majesty? After al King Edward has far superior numbers than we do, even with the losses suffered at Ure and Leyburn. And regardless, he will know of the divisions in the army, that we do not have all our might with us. It could be far too risky to do something such as this.”

David fixes the man with a cool gaze and then replies. “We have done enough waiting, we hold most if not all of the north, I would see my uncle defeated and brought to his knees, so as to ensure that his men do not think to raise against me. Wait here and we risk losing all we have gained, Carlisle and Newcastle already begin to look unruly, I must move forward now.”

“Surely, uniting the forces once more and marching would be a better and wiser choice Your Majesty?” Mór asks. “After all that way there is security in numbers, and less chance of some ill befalling your royal person. It is easier to get caught in the fighting when there are fewer, and risks are higher, and when there are more, the risks lower and the chances of success are higher.”

There is some murmuring of approval at this, and Henry Sinclair speaks. “I agree with Lord Aonghas, Your Majesty. There is far greater risk in doing what you propose on doing with the two separate forces than if the forces were combined. Would King Edward not expect such a thing to happen regardless? He knows of your preferences by now, surely he would look to bring about more destruction this way, would even plan for it.”

David looks at the man a moment and then says. “My uncle might expect such a thing but he needs to take action, he must need move forward otherwise his lords will begin to question him. When they begin asking questions, with what has been happening here, it will not be long before he suffers desertion. No, he will respond just how I want him to and we shall succeed.” God willing, otherwise we are all doomed.

“How can you be so sure Sire?” Comyn asks. “Even though we succeeded at Ure and Leyburn there as still a lot of our own men who were part of the dead when all was said and done. King Edward will be bringing his full force with him that is more men than we can hope to match, how do you expect us to succeed?”

Comyn asks a valid question, and yet David cannot help but feel somewhat annoyed by the question. He takes his time to consider an answer, and eventually says. “My uncle is a man who is used to winning, he will expect to win this fight, and rightfully so. And yet it is that overconfidence, that need to be certain of his victory that will hinder him, and make him weak where he would normally be strong. It is that that I intend to use.”

“How Sire?” Comyn asks.

There are murmurs at that, and David can sense some disapproval coming from the older lords. He looks at the man and merely says. “You will have to trust me, my lord. I know what I am doing, and I have yet to lead you down the wrong path.”

There is a long moment’s silence then, and the Comyn nods his head, and changes the topic. “There is one other thing of import that I wish to discuss with you Sire, John Balliol has been found.”

There is a murmur of interest at this, and David looks up. “Where?”

“He was found fleeing from Barnard Castle. Men loyal to Earl Patrick captured him and are bringing him in chains to Alnwick.” Comyn responds.

David merely nods. “That is good, very good, what of the man’s son?”

Here Comyn looks somewhat uncomfortable, and yet he speaks straight off. “He was found slain in Barnard my king. It seems someone had more use of him dead than alive. There are rumours circulating that you ordered him killed.”

Again David catches the accusatory look in Comyn’s eyes, and feels anger begin to boil inside. Taking a deep breath he merely responds. “Such rumours are of course nonsense. It is a shame the lad died, he would have been useful to our plans. But now we must move on from there.” he takes a sip of wine and then says. “Has there been word from Alnwick with regards to Crouchback? Has the Earl of Lancaster spoken yet?”

It is now that William speaks. “There has been word Your Majesty. Lancaster refuses to speak without seeing you first. He insists that there is nothing more he would rather do than speak to his nephew, but unless you see him he shall remain mute.”

David laughs then. “Ah so my uncle’s stubbornness is true then. Very well, let him remain in silence for now. We have more pressing issues to deal with. I would know how the western coast looks.”

Here William speaks once more. “It is secure Your Majesty. The Gallowglass are doing as they promised they would. Ensuring that the western nobles remember what will happen should they refuse to co-operate, unlike those in Carlisle and Newcastle.”

David merely nods and then says. “Very well, we shall move for the south on the morrow, until then I suggest you all prepare your things, for the time will come when we must move out. I intend to start early tomorrow.” The lords say their praises and then move out, leaving David and William alone, he offers his friend a cup of wine and when his friend takes it he says. “Did you see how Comyn looked at me?”

“With that accusatory look in his eyes? As if his father’s death in battle was your fault? Yes I did see it.” William responds.

“To some extent he was not wrong, it was my fault, in that I ordered the man to ride out and fight. It was necessary of course, I could not allow Beauchamp and his men to come any further north. Not without them discovering things better left undiscovered. And yet Comyn will resent me that, there are things he thinks needed to be done differently. Then there is the fact his cousin is dead.” David says wearily.

“You do not seriously believe the man blames you for that, do you?” William asks incredulously. “That was more because his father was a fool to leave rather than stand tall and fight like any loyal lord would.”

David laughs. “Oh that is true enough, and yet Comyn is a man who knows things are falling apart for him. His uncle was not well loved, but his cousin, well I believe his cousin was most definitely well loved. There are some things that he must blame me for, otherwise what would he do but walk with a weight on his shoulders.”

“You do not think that is dangerous? After all Comyn is a powerful man now, as is his cousin the Black Comyn. How would you prevent him from using this power to cause danger for the gains that you have now taken from the English?” William asks.

David runs a hand over his cheeks and feels the stubble that is beginning to form. He takes a deep breath and says. “I do not know, but I can only hope giving Comyn the chance to fight and earn glory for himself, would give the man a better sense of self and loyalty than his father had.”

“And if he does not develop that? What then?” William asks.

“Then I shall have to find another way to do this, or I will need to turn to his cousin and work on that man. For Buchan has always wanted what Badenoch has, now is the right time for such a thing to come to be. Otherwise we shall be left without a solid ground to work on. And with the Comyns, that is not something I can afford. My father learned that to his peril.” David responds.

August, 1290, Ripon

King Edward I Plantagenet

The war was dragging on, and Edward was worried. He was worried for his family, for Eleanor and their children in London. There was deep discontent he knew, his lords were not happy with the lack of action that had been taking, and yet Edward was not willing to risk all on a whim. He knew that his nephew was waiting for him to make such a move, and yet, he could not afford to. His men’s morale was weak after Ure and Leyburn, who could fault them for that. Yet his lords, his lords wanted retribution, and Edward was desperately tempted to give it to them, if this council decreed war, he would allow it. There was not much he could say otherwise, not without becoming his father, and he did not want that.

“Tell us, my lord Neville, what exactly happened at Leyburn? How was it that you managed to survive whilst Warwick and Arundel were either slain or captured?” Edward asks.

The man before him looks very nervous, very nervous indeed, and rightfully so, his actions were questionable. “I was tasked with commanding the reserve flank Your Majesty. Arundel led the first wave into the battle and suffered for it, for the Scots were waiting deep within for such a thing. Warwick, well Warwick gave way to his impulses and fell flat just as the Earl of Pembroke did.”

Edward feels anger bloom then, fighting to keep his voice calm he asks. “Did you not see fit to provide reinforcement for either of them? Would it not have been sensible to do such a thing, seeing as you would have had more men than the Scots had you entered the fray instead of hanging on the outskirts like a coward?”

Neville looks deeply insulted by the accusation as he rightly should. “I did what I thought was the prudent thing Sire. There was no sense in sending all of our men to the slaughter. The Scots won the day through their use of treachery, I thought it better to come southward and to warn your royal person of what had happened.”

“And that you have done, yet we find ourselves wondering, what might have been had you decided to stand and fight. The Scots could have had no more than a few thousand men at most, your forces combined would have numbered far more, and these are conditions you should know well, what then, would have prevented you from doing so, if it were not fear or something else?” Edward asks.

“Sire?” Neville asks uncertainty. “I do not understand.”

“No? Then let us make it clearer. You fled, fled when there was a chance you could have made a difference, and now one lord is dead and the other is a prisoner to our enemy. You fled, and the army broke because of it. We lost another battle because of this, and now we find ourselves wondering why that might have been. What reason could a man such as yourself who proved himself in Wales, have found for fleeing. You do not lack for courage, that was shown, in Wales and in Gascony, but there is something else.” Edward says menacingly. “What was your price Neville?”

“My price?” Neville asks disbelievingly. “My price?”

“Yes your price Neville. We can think of no other reason for you doing such a thing other than from being bought. And who can blame you? After all, our nephew has access to some wealthy estates now. So tell us what your price was?” Edward responds.

“I had no price Sire!” Neville protests. “I am not bought, I did what I thought was the right thing to do! I did what I thought would spare you the most losses. Why fight a battle that was already lost, when we were blind, than to retreat and live to fight another day?”

Edward looks at the man, contempt and anger filling him. “You sold your fellow lords out Neville. When you fled from the scene you abandoned them to a death, you dishonoured them and you dishonoured yourself. You dishonoured us, and the kingdom of England. You brought dishonour upon us all when you fled, and for that there is no reprieve.”

“Sire, please. I only did what I thought was for the best! I am not bought or sold!” Neville pleads, on his knees.

Edward looks at the man disgust clear on his face. “Get out of my sight. Sir Humphrey see this man removed from the hall and thrown in a cell. He shall be dealt with later.”

“Of course Sire.” Bohun says, with great relish, leading the man from the hall.

Once the man is gone, Edward turns to the Earl of Surrey and enquires. “What word from the north?”

“Your nephew continues to occupy Richmond castle whilst the residents there do not complain, seemingly on orders of their Earl. Whilst in Carlisle and Newcastle, the unrest is growing, but whether it is directed toward your nephew or to something else is not clear. Furthermore, it seems that John Comyn the new Lord of Badenoch is growing more and more agitated with the king, it seems that the man holds a grudge with your nephew over the deaths of his father and cousin.” Warenne replies.

“Ah yes, Balliol, a most unfortunate thing that. Tell us, how much of a wound is that between them?” Edward asks.

“A growing one Sire,” Warenne says. “Our sources report that Comyn has been seen protesting much of what the King of Scotland is proposing and trying to undermine him. He is of course not very successful, but the fact that the king is allowing him to continue, suggests that he might well be working to cause dissent amongst some of the younger lords.”

Edward looks at the man thoughtfully. “Interesting, very interesting. We are very happy to hear this, though of course, we must tread lightly here. Comyn has always been volatile his father was much the same as was the man’s father before him. Keep an ear open for such talk, and should there be an opening seize on it.”

“Of course Sire.” De Warenne says.

Turning his attention to another important matter at hand, Edward turns to his useful spy Adam and asks. “What word do you have from France?”

The man is silent a moment and then says. “It seems, Sire that King Philippe has finally begun to make the move we all know he has been planning for some time. His men are forming into order, and his brother returned from Rome with Papal approval. War will be coming soon enough.”

There is a ripple throughout the hall then, and Edward ponders this. His cousin has finally done what his father only thought of, a war on two fronts, a difficult task especially with the losses they have taken here. Edward knows he cannot convince his men to fight in France unless they do something about his nephew. Taking a deep breath, he turns to De Warenne and asks. “What word have you about where our nephew’s men are?”

The Earl of Surrey nods. “There are some under command of Bruce marching southward as we speak, whilst those under command of John Comyn remain near Leyburn. They are weakened by this and as such, should be easily dealt with.”

Edward nods and then making the decision there and then says. “It is time we took the field against our nephew. We shall ride out before the week is over. We want all brought with us. Is that clear?” there is a general roar of approval at that, and as Edward stands he sees the hunger he feels reflected in the eyes of his men. He turns and walks out of the room, and knows that the next few days will be tense.

As it turns out, he is not wrong, there are a lot of nerves and arguments do break out frequently during the course of the week, but by week’s end, as they march out of Ripon, he knows, deep down that they are prepared, as ready as they ever will be. His nephew has brought this force upon himself, there will be a day of judgement for his nephew, but for now, it is time for Bruce to face the hammer. The men sing songs, and often pass the time by making jolly, but Edward is focused purely on the mission at hand, ending Bruce, breaking his nephew. He knows it seems a hard task but it can be done, and when they fall upon Bruce’s host, some three days after setting out from Ripon, he says a prayer of thanks.

Edward commanding from the front, as he should have from the beginning falls upon the Scots with a savagery, he himself did not know he possessed. His lance pierces through men a plenty, their blood runs red through onto the ground, he canters around the grounds, piercing men and destroying the Scots. When he drops his lance, there are remains of men on it, from some time ago. He draws forth his sword and begins to slash away at the foe that would take from him. His sword cuts through men, turning them to dust, blood falls to the ground, and a sense of heady excitement fills him. The bloodlust grows and grows until he cannot stop it, he gives it free reign and soon enough Edward finds himself fighting like a man possessed.

The Scots begin fleeing, some are breaking, and others hold their ground, rallied to the shouts of a young man, the very image of his father. Edward decides to find that man and slay him, himself. His charge sees dozens of Scots slain as he and his guards carve a bloody path through them. His horse it seems has taken a liking to blood as well, for it gets into the action. The Scots look as if they will break soon enough, but the young man barking orders, is fading from sight, Edward knows his own body is beginning to weaken, he is not a young man anymore, but he will not falter now, not when victory is so close.

As he gets nearer and nearer to the young man, he swears his heart begins beating louder in his ears. He knows this might well be what determines the outcome of the fighting, if he can get to this young man, the Scots will break and flee. He is so close, so very close. His sword is nearly done, red with blood, he cannot see the glint beneath. He edges closer to the man, and then a horn sounds, somewhere in the distance. It seems to Edward, as if time stops in that moment, it takes time for him to process the sight of the young man, and then the throng of men charging towards them from somewhere. He hears the shouts of his men, but they seem distant, as if they have disappeared from view. Edward raises his sword up, determined to kill them all, all these damned savages who would harm his land, and his people.

It seems the Scots are swarming all around them, he does not know where to look, where to fight. All he knows is that he must fight, his sword must continue to rise and swing. He cannot falter, not now. His body aches, truly it aches, and he does not know whether he can continue. Edward has never felt as old as he does now. His muscles are creaking under protest, his mind is faltering, and his reflexes are slowing down. There is a sharp pain in his arms and his legs, the Scots are no longer swarming around him, he cannot see them. He does not know where they are, but God is he relieved now, his horse is turning around, and he is riding away from the battle, riding and yet, something stops him from moving. Tired, he begins looking for those he knows, and all he sees is darkness, and the staring faces of the damned.

September, 1290, Paris

King Philippe IV Capet

Autumn was dawning, summer was ending, and yet Philippe had never felt happier. His wife had born him a son a year past, and his son was growing to be strong and whole. Paris was secure, there was no trouble within the city, and it seemed all was to be going well. there was some regret though, that he had to stop his alliance with King David in order to get Papal approval for the seizure of Gascony, that angered him somewhat, but he was willing to allow that to pass for now. Peace, a fleeting thing, but a welcome one for now, he would be able to hear how his cousin had been humbled.

“Say it again. Tell me what befell my cousin.” Philippe says.

“He and his men were outmatched and broken outside of the town of Ripon Sire. The English were slaughtered until they were led into a retreat by two of the King’s commanders.” the messenger says.

“And Edward himself? What of him?” Philippe asks.

“Missing Sire, none know where he ended up after the battle, though both are looking for him with most haste.” the messenger replies.

“It would seem God is looking favourably upon us. My cousin is gone missing, his son is only a child. We do have the time to make our own arrangements now.” Philippe says.

“There is more Sire.” The messenger says softly.

“More? What more is there?” he asks.

“It seems there are calls within the English court for them to abandon Scotland and its troubles and to fight forth here. There are others arguing for continued war with King David. It seems there is much tension within the court, and with King Edward missing…” the messenger trails off.

Philippe grins then. “Yes, quite. Thank you for bringing good tidings.” Phillippe gives the messenger a hefty sum for his travels and sends him on his way. That done, he looks at his council and his grin only widens. “Our cousin the king of England is missing. I think it is safe to say the man is dead. We have our advantage right there.”

His brother smiles as well. “Of course Sire, His Holiness did say we would see our just rewards for doing as he asked. And now we have our proof of it. The English will eat themselves alive fighting over what to do now.”

Philippe nods. “Ah, yes the English, if there ever was a more argumentative people, I have yet to meet them. They will bicker and bicker, and whilst that is going on they shall lose all their prestige. C’est bon.”

There is a ripple of laughter at that. Then the mood sobers when the Archbishop of Paris Simon Matifort speaks. “Sire, one would not wish to count all the eggs now surely? There will still be resistance when the time comes.”

Philippe looks at the man and asks. “What do you mean Your Grace?”

“Just as God gave you this advantage he can also give the English something to help them against you.” the man says.

Philippe feels something within him begin to boil at that. “Whatever troubles there are within my realm, they are not going to spread to the Englishmen’s attention Your Grace. That much I can assure you.”

“Can you though Sire? Brittany remains outside of royal control, and Flanders looks to be growing more troublesome. How do you know the English will not seek to use that to their advantage?” the bishop asks.

Philippe grits his teeth, but before he can speak, his uncle Robert, Count of Artois speaks. “Come now Your Grace. Do not be such a ruin of good times. The English are foundering, by the time they realise these things it will be too late.” his uncle turns to him then and says most persuasively. “If ever there was a time to strike, now is it Your Majesty. Gascony is there for the taking.”

Philippe looks at his uncle and says. “I know.” turning the Marshal of France asks. “How ready are the men for the march that is to come? They know what to expect when the fighting begins?”

The man nods. “They are as ready as they shall ever be Sire. The men are waiting and eager to head out and fight. Now that the English King is lacking in presence, they will be even more willing to head out and fight.”

Philippe nods and then says. “Very well then, Charles.” his brother looks up then. “You shall rally the men of Valois and bring them to our side before we march out. Marshal you shall command the second wing before the ride begins. Uncle, the men of Artois, they shall be used for the formation of the spears. It is time we took back what the English stole from us.”

“And what of Flanders Sire?” the Archbishop asks. “What should happen if they begin to act?”

“Then we shall crush them. But they will not act now, for they know just what is in store should they. It is in all of our interests to ensure Gascony falls, and that it falls quickly. For there will not be long time, for Edward to remain in hiding if he is indeed not dead.” Philippe says.

“And what of the regency sire? Who will command the capital in your absence?” his brother asks.

Philippe notes a certain sense of hunger in his brother’s eyes but merely says. “My wife shall handle the day to day affairs, but His Grace the Bishop of Paris shall run the important matters.” the man bows his head in acceptance. Philippe then looks at his brother once more and says. “Should I fall in battle, you will be my son’s regent brother. I trust you know what to do.”

“I am honoured brother.” Charles says humbly.

“Good. Now let us prepare for the war that is to come. Let us see the English from our homes and from our minds. Let us finish what the Scots have started.” Philippe says.

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