Echoes From The Past – Episode 27

It was as the afternoon turned into a long golden Scottish evening that Robert turned the conversation to the upcoming confrontation.

“The English are on their way,” he said. “We have been travelling the country hereabouts to make sure everyone knows it and is ready for the coming trial. The English are a fine army, make no mistake about that.”

“Are not the Scottish troops just as good, sire?”

The King nodded.

“Of course they are. But it never does to underestimate the opposition. Know your enemy. And although there is no exact figure, there are plenty of Englishmen ready to fight. What I need to know, Dunskillen, is how many men can you send me from your estate?”

Landowners were expected to send men to fight for the King whenever they were asked. Most of them were trained to some extent, though some were farmers and ploughmen.

Dunskillen considered at some length. The King raised his brows, as though trying to make up his mind whether to be amused or annoyed.

“I can raise fifty men and boys, sire. They are good men, good workers, but they’re not true soldiers. I do not want them killed
for nothing.”

One of the King’s right-hand men rushed to his feet, his hand on his sword.

“No-one will be killed for nothing! Your men will be fighting for Scotland, and for their King! If they have to face death, it will be a glorious one. Take back what you said –”

Robert held out his hand to restrain him.

“Enough, Walter. The Laird is concerned for his men, which is right and proper. Fifty, you say, Dunskillen? Very well. Now, it is wearing late, and even on these long days, one has to sleep. My men and I will be comfortable here.”

“There is a room for you aloft, Your Majesty, and I’ll get some extra rushes for your men.”

“I thank you.”

The King’s politeness and courteousness carried on right through the following morning, when Marjorie provided them with a breakfast hearty enough to carry them through many more journeys to outlying castles and estates. Instructions were given by the King’s men for the mustering of Dunskillen’s workers, where they were to go, and how they were to be armed. Then Robert held out his hand to Dunskillen, who knelt and kissed his ring. Robert watched him steadily, not entirely trusting his obeisance, but prepared to take the risk. Fifty men were fifty men, after all.

It was after they had gone that Dunskillen stood looking after them, considering his options. What kind of king was this, who drank only one goblet of wine and showed his hosts nothing but sobriety and politeness? Where was the authority in such a man? Where the strength? How would Scotland fare with such a king?

He was reminded then of the Earl of Angus, a distant acquaintance. Angus had become disaffected with the Bruce, and had offered his allegiance to Edward. Dunskillen would have to think long and hard about what he was committing himself and his men to. The English army was bigger and better than Bruce’s. A Scottish victory was by no means a certain outcome. Quite the reverse. Whatever Robert’s men had ordered, Dunskillen would take his time to decide where and to whom to send his men.


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!