Fighting For The War
December, 1291, Bordeaux
Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Leicester
There had been success at Garona, the Duke of Burgundy one of the premier peers in France had been captured, his army broken. Edmund had been most cheered by that thought when word had come, the men had done well to bring in a whoreson like Burgundy and the French King was much weaker for the loss of such a commander. Still, there was much that needed to be done, Philippe had not learned his lesson, nor had he retreated from Gascony, the man was still out there somewhere, plotting and planning, whilst winter began to settle in. Edmund was not overtly worried by that, men had come under the command of Robert de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, some two thousand extra men, trained and ready to fight the French whoresons threatening their homes in Gascony. It was a reassuring thought, but Edmund knew they needed to be ready for anything, absolutely anything, Philippe had shown he was not averse to using any sort of tactic to try and take Bordeaux. That was why Edmund had called for a meeting of his commanders, and though he could tell some of them resented him doing so, it was a necessary thing to do, they needed to be prepared.
He takes a deep breath then begins speaking. “We have done well my lords. Burgundy is our prisoner, and his army is broken. King Philippe has lost one of his best commanders, and is now left floundering, his own lords will no doubt be questioning whether or not the man is worth his stones. The more we can exploit that concern, the better we will be for it. Lord Robert, tell me, how prepared are your men?”
Robert De Vere is an old man, he and Edmund are both old men, but he is a proud one, a fierce fighter as well, and his words are confident when he replies. “My men have been trained in the snows of London my lord. They have been drilled and drilled until they were able to pick up their weapon of choice and fight in the dead of night, with little more than an hour of sleep. They are as prepared as can be.”
Edmund nods, but before he can reply, Mortimer speaks. “That is quite the assumption my lord.”
Edmund sighs then, ever since the move against Burgundy had been successful, Mortimer had become ever more confident and arrogant. Oxford bristles slightly at being addressed so by a man of lesser rank. “I think that as a man who was fought in more campaigns than you have seen years Mortimer, that I would know what I am talking about.”
Before Mortimer can respond and worsen the situation, Edmund steps in. “Gentlemen, there is no need for heated words to be exchanged between us. We are not each other’s enemies; we are fighting a common enemy. The French King who would dare to take what is not his to take. Lord Hugh, tell me, what word have you gotten from your scouts?”
Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Warwick by right of marriage, a confident man, it somewhat shallow, takes a moment to reply, but when he does, his words are confident. “Philippe is stuck in Libourne my lords. He was pushed back there by word of Burgundy’s defeat, as well as by the weather. It seems the snows that fall are hindering him just as much as they are benefitting us. I do not think he will make his move before the year ends.”
“That does not mean much.” Oxford states. “Even if he does not move before the year is out, he will likely try to move out at the beginning of the new year. We cannot afford to allow that to happen. We have more men now, but soon enough these men will want paid and they will want food, where will we get such a thing from?”
Edmund looks at Maurice de Craon, the King’s Lieutenant in Gascony and the man, a slithering worm of a man, speaks. “There is enough food and other such provisions within the major cities of the land for around four months my lords. We have taken into account the growing presence of the armies and their men and as such have assumed to levy more for them. The common man knows what is expected of them, as do the lords who fight for the King.”
“And these barons, they can be trusted?” Edmund asks, thinking back to something Edward had told him once long ago about the trustworthiness of the snakes of Gascony.
Craon looks mortally offended by the question. “Of course my lord. They do not want the King of France coming in to impose his will on them. They have heard about the barbaric measures he has tried to impose over his own lands, and as such are far more willing to fight for King Edward.”
“How convenient.” Oxford quips, and Edmund could groan from frustration, of course, how could he forget the grudge Oxford bears the people of Gascony, though the reasons for that grudge have become obscure over time.
Deciding to ignore Oxford’s little remark, Edmund looks around the room and says. “Winter is here; we all know that. And even if we did not, God has seen fit to remind us with the fall of snow. The towns of Gascony must hold for themselves for now, when winter passes and it becomes fit to travel once more, then we shall consider sending troops out to garrison the lesser towns. For now, we must focus on defending Bordeaux, and ensuring that Philippe and his men do not get the chance to come here.”
There are murmurs of agreement at this, and Mortimer speaks then his tone questioning. “What of Philippe and his army itself? They are camped at Libourne, the longer they spend there, the greater the chance that they will try to take it permanently. We all know what that oaf De Le Merde is like, he will try something or be wooed by something. We cannot allow that to happen.”
Though it pains him to admit it, Mortimer is right, after some time considering the various options, time in which he knows the other commanders are observing him and judging him, eventually he replies. “We shall hold Bordeaux, but if per chance someone were to remind De Le Merde that we hold something most dear to him then I would not be opposed to that.” A smile spreads over Mortimer’s face, and though it makes Edmund sick to admit it, there is something good about having that man here. He allows the thought of that to settle, before turning to look at Sir Ranulph and asking. “Has Burgundy said anything more since last time we met?”
He feels a sense of sharp disappointment when Sir Ranulph shakes his head. “He has not my lord, I am sorry. It seems as though there are two reasons for this. One is that he knows something, but will not tell us for fear of the French King. The other is that he truly knows nothing and we are holding him here for nothing.”
Edmund sighs. “Letting him go would only serve to further strengthen the French King’s hand against us and would make us look weak. Burgundy does more good to us if he sits in a cell here than anywhere else.”
“And yet, what does he add? We need money my lord, we need the ransom that he could fetch.” Despenser points out.
“We have more than enough money and gold to last us through the winter my lord of Warwick, you need not worry on that account. No I say that Burgundy remain here in a cell, where we can keep an eye on him. The longer we hold him, the more time there will be for Philippe and his commanders to panic, let them think we are learning things about them, and they will panic and make hasty decisions.” Edmund responds confidently.
He can tell that some of his fellow commanders do not really agree with him, but they nod and murmur their agreement all the same. And so it is with that in mind that smiling he raises a cup and says. “A toast then my lords, to the winter and to the ending of King Philippe the Braggart.” Their toast echoes through the halls.
January, 1292 The Pass
Richard Óg De Burgh, Earl of Ulster
Snow covered the ground, painting everything in white, it was cold, Richard wore heavy furs to try and keep the cold at bay and to prevent himself from shivering. He did not want to appear weak before the man he was going to be meeting. After much bartering and back and forth, he was finally going to be meeting the King of Tír Eoghan, Brian mac Aodha Buidhe. From the reports he had gotten from Domnall, this King was a big giant of a man, with a fierce temper and little patience for words. If he were being honest with himself, Richard would admit to feeling a bit nervous about meeting such a man. He knew some of the more local rulers were not the most patient of rulers, nor were they the smartest of men, but he had been able to charm them into allying with him before. If this man was anything like what Richard thought he would be like, then this negotiation might well go sour very quickly. He glances at the men with him, thirty good men, with swords and spears all ready and present, heavily armoured, should do.
The appearance of men wearing barely anything but the shirts on their backs, draws his attention then. He marvels at how they can ride through the snow and the cold with nothing but the shirts on their backs, at their head is a giant of a man, thick with muscle, long auburn hair braided, a giant sword on his back. The man stops before Richard, and sizes him up, when the man speaks, he speaks in the guttural Gaelic that Richard had heard his nurse speak when he was a babe. “You are Ulster?” the giant before him asks.
“I am.” Richard responds, firmly. “Who are you?” Richard asks the question, though he already knows who the man is, or at least he thinks he does.
A tense moment passes as Richard and the giant before him look at one another, before the giant speaks in the same guttural Gaelic from before. “I am Brian Mac Aodha Buidhe, King of Tír Eoghan. I am the man who you have come to meet Ulster.”
Richard extends his hand and breathes an internal sigh of relief when the giant shakes it. “Welcome to the Pass, King Brian. Now shall we begin this talk like men?”
The man grunts his ascent, and though they remain mounted, the conversation becomes more normal. “You have come to offer an alliance have you not Ulster?” the man asks.
“I have. Against your foe Domhnall. I think it would be beneficial to the both of us, if that man was not allowed to reclaim his throne.” Richard says.
King Brian looks at him, fixing him with a cold gaze, his eyes are hard, the eyes of a warrior, eventually, the man speaks, and his tone is harsh. “What do you have against that whoreson?”
Richard is surprised by the question, but has a response ready. “I knew him when I was a lad, and when my father ruled, he was not a good partner, not a good man to have on the border. He was crude and rough, and he broke promises. I do not like such men.”
King Brian looks at him curiously then. “So then, is that why you have been expanding like the plague, to try and remove him from power? Or is it to remove me from power?”
Richard holds up a gauntleted hand and replies softly. “I am doing that to protect my own interests. As I am sure you would do so as well, if you were not fighting him.”
King Brian smiles at that. “So what terms would you propose for this alliance of ours then Ulster?” the word Ulster is said somewhat bitterly, though Richard pretends not to notice.
Keeping the smile plastered on his face, Richard speaks the words he spent a long time practicing. “We want the same thing you and I, King Brian. We want Domhnall gone, and want to restore peace and prosperity to the lands we rule. I propose we agree to a military and trade alliance, when one of us is threatened the other shall take up arms to aid the other. And we shall both have prime rights for trade between our people, none shall come first in the line of preference.”
The look on the giant King’s face is one that Richard has trouble reading, something that is surprising to him, usually he can tell what these fools are thinking quite easily, but not this time. King Brian it seems has perfected the art of making his face expressionless. Eventually, the man speaks, breaking the silence. “Fair terms Ulster. Though I have one thing to add.” Richard cocks an eyebrow at that, but remains silent. “Our people have been fighting for years, we must make bonds, we must tie ourselves to one another in marriage more so than anything else. Therefore, I propose a marriage, between one of my daughters and one of your sons. Which one is your decision.”
The offer surprises Richard, as truthfully, he had not thought about going down that option, but as he considers the offer, and thinks through it properly, he does have to admit that it makes sense. For so long the Irish lords who were named here by London have clashed with the Irish who have been here since time immemorial, and as such there is much and more that could be gained for this. More legitimacy for one thing, and potential claims as well. He thinks over it and then eventually replies. “Very well, I believe we have an agreement my King. I would say, that a marriage between my son and heir Walter, and your daughter would do just nicely.”
A pause follows this, then King Brian takes his extended hand and shakes it firmly. “I quite agree Ulster. A marriage to celebrate this alliance and the crushing of a common foe.”