October, 1293, Llanwrst
Madog ap Llewelyn
The crown was a heavy burden to bear, especially Arthur’s crown. It was a solid gold band, nothing fancy, not like what those English curs wore, but it was a heavy weight nonetheless. Madog had considered his options completely before making the decision to crown himself, he’d done away with opposition and gathered supporters, and for a time it seemed as if all was going well. But then the battle of Denbigh had happened and his forces had been routed, destroyed, his sons had died. He had no heirs now, only a hope of revenge. It was a burden he bore all by himself, his wife, was long dead, no whore, no woman could sate this hole he felt, and so he threw himself into planning and preparing. Llanwrst was south west of Denbigh, a village, nothing more, it was where he had gone, like a cur, after the battle, with what remained of his army, the winter snows had stopped the English from coming after him, but he knew they would be after him soon enough. Winter was not here, it was only autumn, but soon enough they would come, and he knew they were not ready.
He looks around the room where they have gathered, seeing hardened men, old and young, all looking to him, for a chance of freedom from English oppression, they are all scarred in some way. Madog takes a deep sip of ale, and then speaks. “The snows are fading into memory, soon enough the English will be here. They will want to strike a victory before the campaign season ends. I would know where we stand regarding troops and supplies.”
His chief ally and commander, Gareth speaks then his voice hard and grating. “We have some five hundred men left my Prince. Amongst them we have thirty archers, with skill in the Longbow. As for supplies, we are stripping all we can from the larder of this place, as well as from surrounding areas, but we shall not have enough to last through a winter.”
Madog considers pointing out the fact that raiding the larder of the village, likely won’t win them any friends, but he decides against it. He suddenly feels too tired to really care anymore. Sooner or later the English will come and then it will all be decided, and he will either win, and God will be at his side, or he will die, and it will not be his problem anymore. Turning the tide toward that line of thinking he asks. “And what of our foe? Where are they and how many do they have?”
Gareth answers that in the same grating, slightly annoying tone. “They have three thousand men; some have been recalled back to England to face off against Rhodri ap Gruffudd. They are positioned east of here, with more supplies and storage then we could ever hope to have my Prince.”
“And is Henry De Lacy with them?” Madog asks, a slight growl to his voice then. The whoreson took his boys.
“Yes, he commands alongside De Bohun my liege.” Gareth responds.
Madog does not much care about De Bohun, or anyone else but De Lacy, and so he replies. “Good, that is very good. We must prepare accordingly. I want raiding parties sent out to harry their baggage, and I want Cloris recalled from Caernarfon, I want him ready to add his force to ours.”
“My liege,” Owain ap Llewelyn says then. “Are you sure that is a good idea? Caernarfon has finally fallen to our forces, but the English are growing more determined to regain it with the aid of traitors. Are you sure we need Cloris’s forces?”
Madog stares at his cousin. “Cloris has our best riders and archers. We need him here, not off cavorting through the English castle. We have him and his men, we have more of a fighting chance.”
“Then surely it would be wise to wait for him, instead of sending of raiding parties Sire?” Gareth questions.
Deep down Madog knows they are speaking truly, but he does not have the time or the patience to admit to that, so instead he merely replies with. “We are discussing a force that is far superior to our own. We must needs do something to wither their forces down before they overwhelm us with sheer numbers. The raids go ahead.”
He can tell neither man is truly happy with this, but they nod all the same, with Owain asking. “Who will you have lead the raids, my Prince?”
Madog considers this query for a moment, Owain is a good soldier, but he is ambitious, no doubt he would try to sell them all out to the English for the right price, and Gareth, Gareth is a soldier not a commander. Instead, he settles his eyes on a man who has not spoken for some time. “Llewelyn, you shall lead the raids.”
Llewelyn ap Raglan, a bastard sworn to him, a man he has grown up with, looks completely surprised by this, but nods all the same. “Very well Sire. When would you have me depart?”
Madog considers this question, then replies. “Tomorrow morning. Hit them hard and fast, take the best riders with you. And ensure that when you hit their baggage, you leave nothing behind. If we are to starve, they too must starve.”
There are murmurs of assent at this, and Madog breathes slightly easier upon hearing it, at least he has not yet lost these men, though he fears such a thing might soon be coming if he does not win or at least do something to ease the burden upon them all. He takes a moment to consider everything then he says. “Get some rest my lords, tomorrow we shall prepare for fighting, and we shall need all of our strength.” His men nod and noting the dismissal, turn and walk from the room, no doubt to the brothels and taverns of the village, he remains where he is though, staring into emptiness.
November, 1293 Afon Conwy
Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln
Winter was fast approaching, snow was descending from the heavens, he could almost taste the turkey and the pheasant, but for now, they were contenting themselves with hunting the Welsh. They had engaged in raids and scuffles with Madog’s band of rebels for a moon before finally dragging the man out onto the field of battle. Henry had the feeling that this fight would be the last one for one of them. He had taken a slight knocking during one of the raids, and had seen Madog looking at him, his mad eyes glimmering in the sunlight, but then the moment had passed and Madog had disappeared. Henry knew the man wanted him for the death of his two sons, and Henry welcomed the challenge, welcomed the relief that would come from ending that bastard’s life. There were other challenges out there, Rhodri ap Gruffudd was moving out of the shadows, with Scottish backing, the time was coming for this war to end and another to begin.
The river where they were to engage the rebel host was not too deep or wide, there was a village near it, where the whoresons had been hiding, waiting for winter to do their work for them. Winter had not been obliging, and so they had come out and met them north of the village of Llanwrst, he would make sure to tell the regent of this. The rebels were positioned with their scant force, no more than a thousand, on two sides of the river, whilst he had his men on the one, looking to encourage Madog to try flanking him, they would get shot down or cut down in the river. He looked forward to it all, to the engaging with such brute force. It would be a nice thing, this fight, he could feel it within him. He looks around, De Bohun commands the van, De Ros the right and Mortimer the left, he the centre once more, De Bohun would move out first, then he would move out second, determined to ring around and hit Madog from the back, if it came to that.
The drums of war begin to sound, Henry feels his blood begin to shoot up, there is nothing, nothing at all like the feeling of a blood rush before battle begins. He counts the beats, one, two, three, four, they drum out in his head, and around him in the air, beating like the sound of the judgement day, the good book talks about. He feels it all in his chest, echoing around like a song, their song, the drums pick up speed as horns sound on both sides, then he watches as the van moves out, armoured knights on horses and foot soldiers wielding pikes and any weapon they could get their hands on roaring and charging through the waters, and the mud. He watches as the van hits the enemy host, he watches as the slaughter begins, as mounted men cut down Welsh barbarians, he smiles at that, then as the time comes, he puts his own men to action.
Henry feels his horse spring into action underneath him, feels his armour move in time with the way the horse moves, and he smiles underneath his helm, the final nails in Madog’s rebellion are churning. They pick up speed at his signal, mounted men and foot soldiers with swords, and pikes and spears, they charge down the barriers through mud and water, as water splashes around them, Henry draws his sword cutting men down, feeling blood spatter onto his sword, and onto his armour. He laughs as he fights, swinging and cutting men down as if they weigh nothing, as if they are nothing. He gets knocked a few times, but it is nothing serious, he keeps going, seeing as men are torn from their horses, as they are stabbed through the gaps in their armour, he sees Welsh men butchered before their comrades, watches as Welshmen try to flee the scene and are cut down for their attempts. They ride through, and onwards, swinging their swords, cutting and slashing. Men are dying, his men are dying, but more Welshmen are dying, he can hear the sounds of more battle further ahead, he can see De Bohun and his men fighting through the Welsh foot, then he hears a cry. “De Lacy!”
Henry turns in his helm, straining to see who it is calling for him, as his vision clears, he sees a brute of man, wielding an axe coming toward him. Madog, the cur himself, Henry smiles and roars back. “Madog, to your funereal. You’ll join your sons soon enough.” The man roars at that and comes charging at him, his axe raised. Henry dodges his first swing, then blocks his second, before forcing his sword onto Madog, denting his armour, Madog grunts from the blow, but continues fighting regardless, swinging his weapon like a man possessed. He swings, Henry blocks, Henry swings and Madog blocks. The fighting goes through the motions, neither man willing to give way. They keep fighting, blocking, swinging, cutting, defending, doing all they can to protect themselves from the pain of the steel the other bears. They are not always successful, Madog screams when Henry’s sword pierces through his eye, whilst Henry feels his legs go limp from the blows they take, still they keep fighting.
Henry can feel himself beginning to tire, he is amazed that Madog can keep fighting, even with so much blood pouring out of him, still they keep going, but then Madog begins to slow down, to slump where he stands in the water, the thickness of the river growing ever stronger. Henry fights to keep his own horse upright, he about manages to, before he sees Madog slump down, he bellows a roar of triumph, but then the body begins to disappear under the water, and his own horse begins to slump tiring from the strain of fighting. Henry tries to move from his horse, but he finds that he cannot, slowly, his horse moves down, and so does he. Water engulfs him, as his armour stops him from surviving.
March, 1294, Stoke
William Wallace, Earl of York
They had won a victory before taking rest at Crewe for the winter, where the Earl Marischal had been found and the last rites said and done. They’d lost the Earl of March and Durham during the fight in the midland moors, and by the time they’d found his body, it had become food for carrion. His boy was only aged some nine summers old, nowhere near enough to settle the affairs of such a vast estate, no doubt the King would handle that issue, but for now William had to worry about other things. A proper English army under the command of Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Leicester and Regent to the Young King had emerged from London with the arrival of spring, bringing with them some twelve thousand men, more men then William had under his command, but the aim was to meet with Rhodri’s host during the course of the battle. William just hoped that that would go as planned.
Rhodri had amassed quite the following, some three thousand Welshmen had emerged from somewhere, probably the depths of the shadows after hearing of Madog’s failed rebellion, and his death. The Barrys, Gareths and other prominent clans stood with Rhodri, which was good, very good. The would be Prince of Wales had Arthur’s crown, and the sword as well, he was stationed to the west, where the plan was for them to meet before Leicester’s host cut them off. So far, they were making good time, the lands were disappearing quickly before them, Comyn was keeping their rear protected, something William knew he had grouched about, especially with Bruce commanding the right, but it made no matter to William, so long as they made it to meeting with Rhodri that was all that mattered. He tried to keep his heart steady, and his breathing even, but neither of them wished to comply, instead his heart was hammering in his chest, and his breathing was coming out in short sharp gasps, he wondered if his men could hear, and if they could what they thought.
His thoughts turned to his wife and children, they were in York right now, having celebrated Christmas without him, he wondered how they were doing and if he would see them again. He did not know why his thoughts were turning so dark, they just were. David would have been around three now, he was growing strong with each passing day, and William knew he would be a good man, and a good Earl. Somewhere a horn sounded, and William stops short, his men stopping with him. That cannot be right, Comyn and Bruce were too far from their positions to be sounding horns right now. The horn sounds again, and William turns around, looking for the potential source of the horn. He sees banners flapping in the air, and he feels his heart sink. “Get ready to move.” He bellows to his men, seeing the three lions of England, they had caught them, he did not want to think of what might have befallen the others. All he needs to think of now is preserving his own men. He watches as the English get closer, and then he barks. “Move.”
William does not have to give order twice, his men move into action at once, stirring their horses and their tired feet into action as quickly as possible. The sound of hooves against the ground is all he hears, he moves as quickly as possible, regretting not putting on a helm, but at the same time being slightly grateful for that slight moment of pride. They keep riding, hard, determined to reach the outpost before the English gain ground on them. He finds himself wondering yet again how it is the English were able to find them so quickly, he wonders if Bruce or Comyn failed them, if Bruce did as his father once did. He tries pushing that thought from his mind, Bruce is brother in law to the King, he has no need to betray them, none at all. They keep riding, fast, quickening their pace, trying desperately to move. The English are gaining though, always gaining. When the banners of Rhodri come into sight, the griffin and falcon entwined, he bellows out a warning, then gives the commands and his men turn around to face the coming English host.
Thunder whistles in his ears, something comes before him, and then they are in the thick of it. His longsword is out, and he swings it as if it weighs nothing, truly it does not. He keeps swinging, men are piling in around him, guards and others, foes trying to get to the Earl of York. He cuts them down, swatting them from side to side, beating their faces in where his sword fails to. He brawls, and he uses that to his advantage, more and more men fall that way. But more keep coming, his guards fall to their swords, and arrows and spears, he takes more than his fair share of wounds also. His armour dents in several places, his blood begins to pour out in loads. His mind grows heavy. Still he keeps fighting.
The English have sent men for the slaughter, he cuts them down and bellows for more to come and die. More come willingly, or unwillingly, he does not much care, he cuts them down, swinging his sword, and swinging for his life. He roars commands, challenges, his men move around him, fighting, breaking, dying, all around more and more are dying and breaking themselves. He hears them screaming out for mothers, for wives, who will never see them, his own body begins to sink into itself. The blows come, more men are there surrounding him, jabbing, prodding, his defences are slowly weakening as tiredness and blood loss, creep up on him. He takes out one man, only to have to fight another young man, he brings himself up again and again, fighting, always fighting, but then, the fight is knocked out of him, spears, swords, ploughs, all are used to on him, he falls to his knees, bringing more with him, and then he is knocked once more, and he cannot get up. He feels death before he sees it, his last thoughts are of his wife and children.