Echoes From The Past – Episode 45

By the time Captain Hepburn and his men reached the battlefield, the land at the rear of the troops was filled with camp followers, some of them anxious that if the Scots retreated, they would be trampled underfoot. Others, however, seemed to sense that although the Scots were hugely outnumbered, the tide was beginning to turn in their favour.

The Dunskillen men followed Hepburn into the mêlée, pushing their way through the hordes to get nearer to the front of the action. Men were falling to the right and left of them, so covered in mud and blood that it became difficult to tell whether they were English or Scots.

Hepburn yelled encouragement, and the men stormed in soon after him, spears at the ready. Inevitably, some fell by the wayside, and others got separated from the main body, but ahead of
them always was Hepburn, wielding his sword in the expert fashion of the professional soldier.

It was as he pushed ever further forward that Hepburn came up behind a young Scottish baron, in the process of being hauled off his horse. The horse reared and whinnied, adding its distress to the cacophony all round them.

The youngster did his utmost to hang on to his horse, wielding his sword at the English soldier who had hold of his reins, but the struggle went against him and he fell to the ground. The Englishman struck quickly, knocking the young lad unconscious, but before the boy could be finally dispatched, Captain Hepburn intervened, finding a gap under the soldier’s chain mail, and running him through.

As the Englishman fell, yelling in agony, Hepburn swooped to rescue the youth, lifting him clear of the ensuing action. He dragged him towards a place where the fighting was much more sporadic, and eventually on to the bare field, where he would be picked up and carted off to the women behind the lines.

As the stretcher bearers raced towards them, and as Hepburn took a second to draw breath before returning to the action, the young man came to, looked up at his rescuer, and spoke in a hoarse whisper.

“Who are you? What’s your name?”

Hepburn knelt down beside him, anxious to hear what might well be the lad’s last words.

“Hepburn. Lewis Hepburn. I am a Borders man. And you, sir?”

“Walter. Walter the Steward.” His breath rasped in his throat as he struggled to speak. “I am indebted to you.”

“You’re safe now, lad. God go with you.”

The youth reached for Hepburn’s arm with a surprisingly tight grip.

“And you, sir.”

At that point, there arose a great shout from the Scots army.

“Lay on! Lay on! They fail!”

Hepburn swung back towards the action, as the Scottish forces renewed their energies. Inspired by the scent of victory, the camp followers behind them took up whatever arms they could find and thrust themselves forward to swell the ranks.

The sight of those extra hundreds, waving spears and banners, convinced the English that Scottish reinforcements had arrived. The huge unwieldy army took fright and started to scatter.

*  *  *  *

In the depth of the English ranks, Sir William de Vere, ignoring his countrymen who were retreating all around him, pushed ever further towards the action, but it was a foolish and self-defeating move. His squire, Thomas, whose horse had already been killed from under him, looked on in horror as William was hauled from his mount. There was no hesitation and no mercy. William de Vere was gone in seconds.

Thomas and his comrades formed a tight group, ready for the Scots who by now breathed the heady air of victory. Thomas fought bravely, not giving an inch, but in the end he fell.

The last thing he saw, before unconsciousness overtook him, was a long Scottish spear, aimed directly at his chest.

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!