Echoes From The Past – Episode 36

A handful of barons hovered at the side of the King as the two men kneeled before Edward, William handing over Sir Philip’s letter.

“Sire, we bring greetings from Sir Philip, and information of where exactly Robert Bruce is hiding. You see here the Scots army’s last position.”

The King looked at the message in a desultory fashion, and handed it over to the baron standing next to him, Sir John de Segrave.

“Give this to Gloucester. Tell him to consult with Hereford.”

Since even William knew that the two barons Gloucester and Hereford were permanently at odds with each other, consultation would be out of the question. Argument would certainly ensue.

Sir William de Vere carried on.

“Sir Philip also wishes me to assure you, Your Majesty, that there is still time to avoid outright conflict. Your own royal personage and your entourage still have time to pass by the Scots and make your way to the castle, where you will be safe and able to keep the castle in English hands.”

Gloucester and Hereford for once were in mutual agreement. Both tall and burly men, they rounded on the messengers, and almost on the King. It was Gloucester who spoke.

“There is no question of avoiding a fight, boy. The King is not to be scared by a Scottish rabble who don’t know what’s good for them.”

William was incensed by the insult, but kept his tongue under control. He and Thomas got to their feet, on a level with the barons.

“I only bring the message, sir.”

They were interrupted by a younger man in military gear, whom William recognised as Sir Henry de Bohun, nephew of Hereford, and a known hothead.

“Are you sure you only bring the message?” he sneered. “You look like someone who fears the enemy, whoever you are. We are ready to fight if you are not. The real army will stay here and hound the peasant soldiers.”

Thomas was affronted, but could say nothing. He looked involuntarily to the King, expecting him to mete out some sort of discipline, however mild, but he was disappointed. The King took a drink from his silver tankard and then said, “Do you wish to return to the castle, or do you intend to stay and fight?”

Sir William was quick to reply, without any sort of consultation with Thomas.

“We stay, sire. If mounts can be found for us, we will fight with the knights. If we have to go on foot, we will prove ourselves worthy of  Your Majesty’s trust.”

William and Thomas found themselves excused, and went to look for the officer in charge of the horses.

“We will give as good an account of ourselves as these men, Thomas,” William said between gritted teeth. “Show me the enemy, and I’ll be there ahead of them.”

“Let the barons do as they will, Sir William. We are professional soldiers, are we not? We’ll not let them goad us into undisciplined behaviour.”

William gave a savage laugh.

“You’re right, of course. Let’s go and find us some decent mounts.”

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!