Blood Of The Lion

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An Anger Inside

October, 1286 Stirling Castle

High Steward Lord James Stewart

Stirling castle was abuzz with tension. Since the attempted assassination of both the king and his queen, everyone had been walking a fine line, afraid to talk too harsh a tone and too surprised a tone with the king for fear of losing their head or their body parts to the king’s rage. That both king and queen were fine was of course a good thing, and yet the king was deeply angered that such a man had tried to make an attempt on their royal persons in the first place, something James could well understand. That Sir Donald of Argyll had saved the queen by slicing through the assassin’s chest, had been rewarded was something James was happy about, for it meant that the king had taken a moment to quell his rage and do something with his queen. The knight in question, being a member of that most holy of orders the Knights Templar, had been rewarded and lavished with gifts by the king and his wife, as well as the Bruces. The Templars themselves were well recognised and praised as well, and Sir Donald now had a place at court as an advisor to the king it seemed.

The king’s court was an interesting thing for James to observe, for in the time of his father, King Alexander, there had been many musicians and scholars present, King Alexander was a man who enjoyed the finer things in life, or as fine as one could get here in Scotia. His son, King David, however, preferred a more rugged composure, there were warriors who attended the various melees that the king watched and competed in himself, and then there was the singer, the singer whose name James could never remember but whom had the voice of an angel and looked like one as well. She was truly beautiful and that she had the king’s favour was in itself a sign that James had done a job well done. The court was becoming more and more olden in style, there was a simplicity to it that James felt oddly comforting, and though there was a part of him that did worry over it. And this was something he meant to raise with the king today.

Before he could even raise the issue though the king spoke. “What progress has been made on finding out who the fool was that sent someone after my queen?”

James looked at his fellow councillors and saw there was some fear in giving a response. As the silence dragged on, James eventually spoke. “So far Your Majesty, our leads have not shown anything conclusive. There are some that point in one direction, and others that point in another. It is hard to discern truth from lie.”

The king seemed more annoyed at this. “Tell me where these leads go so that I might find out who it is I must needs threaten or destroy for committing such an atrocious act.”

James hesitates and then speaks. “One lead points to the Mackays and the Macleods Your Majesty. The reasoning for this is simple. It has been noted that there has been some murmuring of discontent amongst those two clans for the decision to give that land to the Sinclairs. And it seems that your decision to meet within the MacDougalls lands has been taken by them as further insult.”

The king’s hands have curled into fists now. His voice is tense when he replies. “And do you truly believe they would be foolish enough to try something such as this? Over land? I understand the rivalries well enough, but this? This is nonsense.”

James breathes a small sigh of relief at hearing the king’s words and continues. “Truthfully sire, I do not see how they could afford such a man as that went after your royal person and the queen. Neither clan has the wealth nor the means to pay for such a person. This assassin, though he might have been caught off guard, was from one of the higher ranking guilds that exist and as such far beyond whatever means the Mackays or the Macleods could afford.”

The new Lord Chamberlain of the realm, Sir Alexander de Balliol speaks. “Pardon me Sire, but I do think that the Lord Steward is missing a very valuable piece of information here.”

“And what pray tell is that?” Steward asks trying to keep his voice level, he does not like Balliol, and the man is most aggravating.

“You say that neither the Mackays nor the Macleods could afford a man such as that who came after the king and his queen, and yet you forget to think or mention that perhaps they could have combined money together to try for such an attempt. If they were aggravated enough to try something like this they would go for a combined effort, just as they did for the supposed land issue.” Balliol says reasonably.

Despite his annoyance, James does have to admit that Balliol does have a point and so he looks at the king, who seems deep in thought. “You have reason for suggesting such a thing no doubt Sir Alexander. Otherwise such a claim is baseless and with be dismissed.”

James sees Balliol bow his head. “Of course Your Majesty. I would not dream of making such a claim otherwise. For the past few months I have looked at the accounts of both clans and seen whether or not they have been paying their tithe to date. And as such they have been but there is not enough extra coming in, as per the agreement with Your Majesty’s father, His Royal Highness King Alexander. To my knowledge no reason has ever been given for this lapse in payment, and none has been sought. This to me suggests that they have been using this extra money to save for the man whom was sent after Your Majesty and the Queen.”

Something akin to anger shows on the king’s face then and James feels something akin to worry bloom inside him. He wonders if the king will be quick for war, if this is proved true and yet a voice of reason comes from the Lord Chancellor who says. “I do not think that this is the right way to go about thinks Your Majesty. The clans have no reason to provoke such anger from your royal person. Even if they were angry with the decision reached, they have accepted it and did the required service. They cannot break the law to which they submitted themselves to. No there must be someone else responsible.”

James sees the king’s anger grow then. “Then who in the name of Saint Malachy sent the damned assassin? If it was not those two insolent clans who was it?”

There is silence then for a long time as they consider the king’s question, and then James says. “It is possible that the reforms Your Majesty is trying to implement might well have brought about some resentment amongst the more southern inclined lords.”

The king looks at him his eyes filled with rage. “Are you implying that my attempt to reduce English involvement has brought about this attack on the queen? Who would dare to do such an insolent thing?”

James swallows nervously and then says. “I am not sure Your Majesty. But there are lords who have most definitely embraced the more Norman way of life, who might well see these changes as somewhat barbarous, and a threat to their way of life. I do not whom specifically, but there are definitely those who would wish to make a point.”

James looks at the old Alexander Comyn, the Justiciar of Scotland, and sees what the man is thinking, he prays that the man does not bring it up, for he is not sure what the king might well do. It seems though, that the king has already thought of it. “It was not someone from the Bruce family. Lord Robert would never try something as stupid as this, he has gotten his wish and is a loyal lord. His son, however English is leanings, would not try such a thing. No this must have come from elsewhere.”

James broods this over, before saying. “It is possible that the attack might well have come from somewhere else, outside of the kingdom Your Majesty. There are those who might well have been offended that you chose to marry within Scotland and not without.”

The king looks at him a moment and then says. “Denmark. The man, the man might have come to know of the alliance. And yet how would that have come to be, if not for someone within our own court speaking of it to someone they should not have done. Who would dare break their king’s trust for a bag of tainted gold? The Norse have been gone since Largs and it must remain that way. What have your spies been saying?”

James looks at his reports for a moment and then says. “It appears all has been quiet on the islands as of late Your Majesty. There is nothing untoward, feeling toward the Norse is deeply divided amongst those who remember Largs and those who have grown up under the crown’s rule. That the Danish king might have considered using this feeling to his advantage is not something we can rule out. But I would advise caution when broaching this subject.”

The king waves a dismissive hand. “Caution? Of course I will be cautious, I will not risk my wife’s safety on some half formed lead. I want solid facts before I find the man who did this, and have his skull crushed. I want to know who and why someone would dare attempt an attack on my wife and I. I want to know where they got the funds for such a thing, and I want to know just how soon they can be brought down and plunged into the depths of hell. This is not something I will allow to stand.”

There is silence for a moment as James notes this down, determined to do what he can to ensure that the king’s course is steered clear of war for the time being. Once he has finished writing, the king speaks once more and though he seems to have calmed down some, his speech is still tense. “Earl Alexander, you have been looking into the claims and legality of reviving Northumbria. Your findings would be a great help in this time.”

The old Justiciar and Earl of Buchan takes a moment to look over all of his notes, and then when he speaks his tone is ponderous. “Thank you Your Majesty, for entrusting me with this honour. My findings have come out with several directions Your Majesty could go with regards to the pursuit of the claims for Northumbria.” The man takes a sip of wine and then continues. “The first and perhaps most peaceful is to send a formal protestation to Rome, declaring that the Treaty of York to which the claims to Northumbria were acquiesced was forced upon your royal ancestor, in order to avoid war, with a man shown to be a tyrant and a man without qualms. A treaty that truly should not lay in place anymore due to the fact it has not been formalised since its initial inception.” The man takes another sip of wine and then goes on. “The second course is of course to acquiesce those lands given to Your royal grandsire and father by the Kings of England in return for a lump sum and then petition for the purchase of Northumbria. This might well require other magnates to give up some of their lands or to raise taxes, something that might not be looked on favourably. Finally, the more aggressive option and in light of King Edward’s more stringent demands, Your Majesty could claim the territory of Northumbria through force. This might be the more secure manner in which to do so, though there is no cause for provocation.”

There is silence and James mulls over this options in his head, he worries over what the king might do, and why he would want to go toward to Northumbria, a set of problems that might well be better of closed. The king though seems determined to bring about old glories to show that he is a man apart from his father, and perhaps even his grandsire. He is not sure whether or not he approves. The king though speaks without looking at him. “I thank you for looking into this. Of course, right now King Edward holds a strong army, and I would be a fool to try and force this issue using our own men right now. We are not on terms to try and force the hand of the Pope, for His Holiness is known as being a man who likes to remain firm to the process of the law and claims. After all, one need only look at how he is treating the English and the French over Gascony, and the issue of Sicily, to see that the man will not bend on certain issues. It is time we began processing whether or not this is something we are needing to do, or something that is a mere desire.” The king pauses a moment and then says. “Northumbria is mine, just as sure as Huntingdon belongs to my family. My family has always had the claim onto Northumbria since the days of old and I intend to ensure that it does not fall again. Lord Steward, you have sent word to Ireland.”

“I have Your Majesty,” James says. “But I must warn you, that this influx of Gaelic peoples might not be well received by some of the more southern inclined nobles.”

“And what would they have to protest. These nobles have become lax, there is something in Northumbria for them to unite behind and fight for. They will do as is said, for they know that their fortunes hang on the balance for this venture. Ireland is our spiritual kin, and it is time we worked together to try and ensure that the English do not have the hold over this island that my uncle so desperately wants.” The king says.

James nods. “Of course Your Majesty, and no one is saying that an alliance cannot go through and work. But there is the issue that some might take with the purported reforms. Fears are, according to my sources on the rise in southern parts of the kingdom that Your Majesty means to bring all the old ways. Some of which brought nothing but devastation and chaos to our great kingdom.”

The king gives an audible sigh then. “These concerns whilst understandable do not have a leg to stand on. I do not mean to bring about all of the old ways, for that would be most foolish, and that is something I hope not to be. I merely mean to bring about the ways that most suit this beautiful kingdom of mine. The music, the language that is what I mean to bring back. Not those other out dated things to which we can no longer adhere to. I am no fool.” The king pauses then and says. “There is of course the issue of Carrick himself, as was mentioned previously, the man does have an affinity for the English, and as such stands to gain much when his father passes. There must be some way to counteract this man’s power.”

There is some silence then, for James knows, or at least he thinks he knows what the king is suggesting, and it makes him uneasy. There is only one place that could truly counter balance Carrick, and at present the Lord High Constable’s kinsman owns vast swathes of land in Galloway. And as such the man speaks. “It might be well done to note that Lord Balliol does own a significant part of Galloway Sire, perhaps one might look to him to ensure Carrick is kept in check.”

Old Comyn, who had been looking as if he was going to fall asleep perks at this point. “Yes such a move would be very wise Your Majesty. For then it would ensure there is a clear counter to Carrick. None can forget the will with which Carrick and Balliol envy one another, making it so that Balliol alone holds Galloway would send a clear message.”

A clear message yes, James thinks, a message that might well look to turn things wrongly on the king should war erupt. James knows the ties the Comyns have to Balliol, and what they hope to gain from such a thing, he is not sure whether he approves of this suggestion. The king’s face is in itself an unreadable mask, and his voice is calm when he says. “An interesting suggestion, and one I shall consider. Lord John has shown himself to be an interesting person and as of late, a fairly quite lord. If that is what the need dictates he shall get it. Otherwise there will be other candidates.”

There is some muted agreement then from the other members of the council, and then the king continues. “Now there is one other matter that needs to be discussed. My step mother, Queen Dowager Yolande is due to give birth soon, once she has given birth, I shall look for another husband for her. Her son shall remain here of course, I do not want my brother raised away from home, but that is not why I raise the issue. There are many able and strong lords with whom alliances can be sought, I would look to find out who these are and whether they sit in line with Scotland’s own interests.”

The king is looking at him, and James knows the words he has to say. “I shall look into it most ardently sire.”

“Good,” the king says giving a nod of satisfaction. “I intend to be done with this business by year’s end.”

The Tower

King Edward I Plantagenet

It seemed that God was determined to continue the curse, the curse that had so dogged him through his life. He was a successful commander, a brilliant warrior, and he would like to think an excellent king, and yet he had only one heir. One male heir to show for all his hard work. His firstborn son, John, his pride and joy had died of some malady at the age of five, gone before he could know the world. Henry, often sickly, had died whilst he and Eleanor had been away on crusade, the loss of this son had stung him the most, for he had not been there to see his son in his final few moments. And then there was Alphonso, sweet Alphonso who he had been told would be his chosen one, the one to continue his hard work, dead whilst he was in Wales, a hammer blow. And now there was just Edward, his namesake and two year old son, his ambitions and hopes rested on the boy’s little shoulders and Edward worried there was not enough that could be done to ease the burden. It was beginning to worry him.

There were other things that needed discussing though. First and foremost of course was Gascony. “Tell me Sir Hugh, what word your spies bring from France. What does our most noble cousin conspire to do?”

Cressingham, a fat man, looked rather nervous as he spoke. “It seems Your Majesty, that King Philippe has begun exacting all his efforts into securing enough money to pay off the debts his father King Philippe the third of that name incurred during his ill-fated Aragonese Crusade. It seems the man’s advisors have recommended against him raising too much the price of taxation, whilst also slowly they increase the price of their exported goods. It also seems the man has begun seeking to take on more loans to pay off existing ones.”

Edward looks at the man a moment as if uncertain as to what he has heard. “You mean to say our cousin is taking on more debt to free himself of old debt? What foolishness is this?”

Cressingham stumbles a little over his next words. “Not foolishness Sire, at least not to how King Philippe sees it. It seems that His Royal highness is looking for a means with which to pay off his debts, without incurring the wrath of the barons who so reluctantly fought in Aragon alongside his father. The man’s position is not as strong as he might like it to be. And it does seem, from what my own sources have told me, that some of his councillors are doing this so as to encourage him into more debt, so that when the time comes he will be reliant on them. And though he might try to put the blame onto them, they can say that they merely advised, he took the decision himself.”

A strange feeling engulfs Edward then, a mixture of horror that such a thing could happen and sadness that his cousin has been tricked into doing such a thing. Testing the waters he asks. “To whom has our cousin gone to for these new loans?”

Cressingham has a glint in his eye then. “It seems he has gone to both the Lombards and the Jews. Two snakes to which he has sold his soul, for a hefty price at that.”

Edward mulls this over. “The Lombards and the Jews you say? Very well, let our royal cousin come to regret that mistake. We have other pressing concerns. We shall have Gascony fortified even more, for we do not wish to be caught off guard, for our cousin will become desperate, and desperate men do desperate things when it appears hope is slipping through their fingers.” Cressingham nods, Edward takes a sip of wine, looks at his wife a moment and then says. “Now tell us of how our nephew’s wedding went and to what event did occur, for we have heard much and more.”

Cressingham speaks once more. “The wedding of His Royal Highness King David of Scotland, and Lady Isabel De Brus, was one of much festivity and pomp as one can get in Scotland. It was held at the King’s royal residence within Stirling, and saw much merriment and feasting. It seems the royal couple were most happy with their wedding and with one another, for they shared most if not all the dances together.” The man pauses, Edward considers this, a strong relation is clearly already forming then, if they danced most if not all the dances, an interesting point. Cressingham continues. “It should also be noted that there was a man from the kingdom of the Norse in attendance at the wedding. His name was Thorfin Thorfinson, and he ranks within the second of King Eric of Norway’s most listened advisors. The course of his journey to Scotland is not known but it does not do to linger too long on it.”

Edward looks at his wife out of the corner of his eye, and can see that she is having the same thought as he, the ambassador from Norway, no doubt there for some reason or the other. Perhaps a time will come sooner than expected for this alliance with Norway to be made. “That is all well and good.” He says. “But what of this supposed event that followed the wedding? What happened there?”

Cressingham takes a deep sip of wine before continuing. “There was an attempt made on the King and Queen’s lives Your Majesty. An assassin came from within the forest and into the castle unseen and unannounced and made a play for them both. Whilst the king dealt a blow to the assassin, the final killing blow was dealt by one Sir Donald of Argyll, a man in service to that most holy of orders the Knights Templar. The man has since been rewarded heavily and awarded a place as a King’s man.”

Edward is taken aback by this, someone tried to kill his nephew? That is most outrageous and preposterous, and yet once he thinks on it, considering the setting his nephew finds himself in, it is not something that can be deemed out of the extreme. Still he finds himself asking. “And they are well? The king and queen? What did become of this man who saved them?”

Cressingham takes a moment to reply. “It seems that they are both well and safe, the king, from what I have gathered has begun a deep search into finding out who was responsible for this crime, though he has of late been unsuccessful in finding out. As for the man who save them, he has become the main correspondent between the crown of Scotland and the Knights Templar. It seems the king feels most indebted to them.”

“As he rightly should,” Edward says. “We think it is past time for a visit to be paid to our royal nephew in Scotland. We could not make it for his wedding, but now that this has occurred, we would be remiss if we did not see to it that all was good for him and his new bride.”

Before Cressingham can protest, Burnell his chancellor speaks up. “A wise move Your Majesty, and one that is sure to help to bring about smoother relations with His Majesty King David. For there has been word that perhaps the spirit of peace that was cultivated between Your Majesty, and His Majesty’s father, King Alexander might well go sour.”

His uncle William nods. “The chancellor is right. This is something that must needs be done. The two realms have had peace for many years now, it would be a shame to lose that to the young king’s ambitious lords and their plays for power. We have all met Bruce and Comyn, we know what they are like. It is time for us to completely solidify the two crown’s relations. As I am sure Your Majesty agrees.”

“Most definitely,” Edward replies nodding. “There is nothing more important to us right now, than ensuring our nephew and his queen are in good health and feel well protected and secure within their realm. We would not wish for them to feel unsafe, for we know only too well what that brings. Sir Hugh you will look into this matter, and find out just who it was that sent the assassin.”

The man nods and says. “Of course sire. Though one must ask when you shall be leaving for Scotland.”

Edward considers this a moment and then says. “We shall send word first of our coming, so that our royal nephew and his queen have time enough to prepare for our coming. And then once that is done, we shall leave within the end of the month. There is no time to dally here, things are within order, and there is strength enough in Gascony that Philippe will think twice under his current situation before he tries to invade.”

At this moment, the Earl of Lincoln the troubled Henry de Lacy, newly appointed to the council but someone Edward knows well, speaks. “Your Majesty, whilst I can understand the need to go and ensure family is safe, would it not be better for you to look within your own realm and ensure that all is secure here.”

Edward feels his eyes narrow. “Speak clearly as to your meaning Sir Henry.”

“I do not mean offense Sire, to you or the queen, but surely you must realise the precariousness of the royal line. You have only one heir, and many daughters, who will soon be or are already married off to other noble families. The succession is not completely secure.” Lincoln says.

Edward feels himself tighten then, anger boiling within him, Eleanor grasps his hand then and squeezes. She speaks for he feels unable to, due to the rage flowing within him. “We appreciate your concern Sir Henry, and yet we do not find it completely validated. Our son is young yet, and though we ourselves are old, there is chance that we might have one last child, if not then that is God’s will. There is nothing more we can do about that, apart from hope and pray that our son remains healthy, and if you are a good true subject you will do the same also.”

Edward smiles at the look of shock on Lacy’s face. “I did not mean offense my queen, I was merely voicing concerns that I know many of your most esteemed subjects have.”

“And I know that, and appreciate it. And yet there is no point discussing what cannot be changed. There are other things that must needs be discussed right now are there not. Such as whether this should become a royal progress or a mere visit to our royal nephew.” His wife says.

Edward has never felt as much love for his wife as he does in that moment and he squeezes her hand to let her know, she squeezes back and he smiles a soft smile. Meanwhile, John De Warenne, one of his closest advisors speaks. “I believe Sire, that it should be a simple visit north. A progress would be too costly, and would be at too short notice for it to produce anything worthwhile.”

“The realm is secure Your Majesty,” Burnell says, “The Grace of God has seen to it that Your Majesty’s subjects are doing well and are hale and hearty. There is no need to see to them now. Go north, on God’s will and see to it that your royal nephew is well as is his wife.”

Edward listens to Burnell speaking and then he decides. “We shall take some time to prepare for this journey, for it shall be a long one no doubt. We shall spend time there and will appoint a regent in due course. A letter must be sent toward Stirling so that our royal nephew is aware of our intentions. We would not have him caught unawares.”

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