Echoes From The Past – Episode 42

While the battle raged only miles away, Stirling town was busier than anyone had ever seen it. For all the Provost’s officers had control of who came and went through the gates, eventually they had to let the gates stand open. Not only were there fugitives from the countryside around, anxious not to get in the path of armed men, but also there began to be a trickle of casualties from the battlefield, which was bound to turn into a flood before long.

Mirin and Hector had prepared as well as they could for all eventualities, with Mirin’s brother Murdo ready to run errands, read instructions, and keep their kitchen maid Etta’s mind on her work. She was almost hysterical with worry, imagining all sorts of possible outcomes.

“Just clean the kale, Etta,” Murdo said, doing his best to keep exasperation out of his voice. “No-one is interested in a kitchen maid – not unless you have a sword tucked into your apron.”

“I have not,” she screeched. “I’ve no sword, Murdo. I’ve only got my wee knife – Oh, Holy Mary, I’ve got a knife!”

“You’re cutting kale, Etta,” Murdo reminded her, annoyed with himself for not thinking far enough ahead. “Of course you’ve got a knife. You canna eat without a knife. Everyone’s got one. Stop imagining the worst all the time.”

“But if something bad happens, if you and Mirin and Hector all get killed, they’ll come for me then, won’t they? And I’ll die unshriven!”

“For heaven’s sake, Etta, stop making that noise, will you? No-one’s going to die.” He didn’t like to dwell on the fact that death was eminently possible if the English won the battle and stormed the town. He preferred to concentrate on how he could help his father and Mirin feed the hosts of refugees who would be looking for sustenance. So he pointed Etta towards her tasks again, and set off to find the sack of last year’s flour that his father had been saving.

Mirin, trying to clean the floor of the alehouse before hordes of dirty feet could mess it up again, looked up as figures blotted the light from the doorway. Two men stood there, large and impressive, though not dressed in their military gear.

“Do you know, Mistress Mirin, that the battle has started?”

It was the good-natured English soldier, Humphrey, with hair like thatch, purchaser of many a tankard of beer in his off duty hours. He and another soldier, Giles, had come down from the castle, at some risk to themselves, to make sure that the household knew the latest turn of events.

“Aye, sir,” Mirin replied calmly. “We have heard from onlookers, and from some of the injured. I’m sure there will be many more of them.”

It was the quieter Giles who spoke next.

“Did you know that Thomas is no longer in the castle? He went with his master, Sir William de Vere, to be with Edward’s men at the Bannock burn.”

In spite of herself, the colour drained from Mirin’s face. She felt the shock running through her entire body. She had assumed Thomas was reasonably safe in the confines of the castle, but it seemed she was wrong. She leaned against the table behind her, and stared at them.

“I’m sure it is nothing to you,” Giles said, “but he will by now be in the thick of it. We pray for him, and William. And when the English army come, you must seek shelter.”

Mirin straightened her shoulders.

“I hide from no-one,” she declared.

“You haven’t seen an army bent on revenge, Mirin.” Giles’s expression was grim. “Seek sanctuary. Get yourself into the church the moment they appear.”

Mirin looked from one to the other.

“Why are you telling me this? Are you not the enemy yourselves?”

Humphrey looked at her squarely.

“We’ve been treated well here, mistress. We wish you no ill. Do as Giles says.” He backed off out of the door, and Giles with him. “God be with you.”

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!