Dragonblade Trilogy - 03 - The Savage Curtain

BOOK: Dragonblade Trilogy - 03 - The Savage Curtain
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The
Savage Curtain

 

By
Kathryn Le Veque

 

 

Copyright 2010 by Kathryn Le Veque
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Printed by Dragonblade Publishing in the United States of America

Text copyright 2010 by Kathryn Le Veque
Cover copyright 2010 by Kathryn Le Veque

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

The battle of Halidon Hill was
fought during the second Scottish war of independence near Berwick-Upon-Tweed,
Northumbria, England. It is an interesting and particularly brutal chapter of
history when the entire city of Berwick, held by the Scots, was under siege by
the forces of Edward III.  The city’s defenses were placed under the command of
Sir Alexander Seton, a Scotsman loyal to the underage King David II, son of
Robert the Bruce.

 

Although Seton led a strong
defense, it was a long and bloodied conflict that finally forced the Scots to
ask for a temporary truce.  King Edward agreed to this providing that Seton
supplied hostages.  Seton did, one being his own son, Thomas. There are
conflicting reports that he actually supplied two sons. There was a deadline on
this truce, however, and when the Scots refused to surrender the city at the
deadline, Edward began hanging the hostages in full view of the city walls. 
The first one hanged was young Thomas Seton, said to have been somewhere around
fourteen years of age.  His father and family watched him die.

 

This event, and many others,
culminated in the battle of Halidon Hill, which was a decisive English
victory.  Berwick surrendered the following day on July 20, 1333.  

 

This is a tale of a love story
set within the chaos of a city fallen.  In every hour of darkness, there is
still hope.

 

 

CHAPTER
ONE

 

 

July
20, 1333 A.D.

Berwick-Upon-Tweed,
Northumberland, England

 

Against the black of the moonless
sky, the fires lingering from the siege could be seen.  The last dying embers
of the battle blended into the smoky haze that hung heavy in the air. All was
oddly still as the inhabitants of the city returned to what was left of their
homes; some were ravaged while others were untouched.  The citizens had been
out in force for most of the day, helping each other, as the city of Berwick
tried to resume a sense of normalcy.  But that sense was a long way off.

The city walls were in shambles,
mostly to the west and southwest where the English had been able to gain ground
for launching their massive siege engines. They had also come by way of the
sea, battering the city from the east.  Day and night, the bombardments from
King Edward’s forces came strong and steady. There was a seemingly endless
supply of Englishmen with which to harass the increasingly weary city.  For an
entire month, the siege had raged.  Now, it was finished.

The aftermath of the siege and
surrender was beyond horrific. There were bodies in the streets and the stench
of blood mingled with smoke from the dying fires.  The Scots holding the city
had long since surrendered, fled or died, and the English now filled the city
like a great Anglo tide.  They crashed upon Berwick’s threshold on their mighty
warhorses, pouring through gaps in the walls or through the burned gates that
had stood strong and proud throughout the siege.  Like the mighty hand of God,
the English had swept back the savage curtain to reveal the battered and dying
city beneath.

At midnight, the smoke from the
crushed city was still fresh and pungent. Dogs could be heard barking on
occasion or a child crying in the distance but, for the most part, it was
eerily still. Edward’s advanced forces had already moved into the city to
secure the strategic points, one being Berwick Castle on the banks of the River
Tweed.  The castle had become the central command post as groups of English
combed the city to secure it for the arrival of the king.

And arrive he did, like a
conquering Caesar. Edward was not a pampered king; he had been fighting most of
his life and was a warrior before he had been a monarch. Astride his massive
Belgian charger, he thundered into the city with a retinue of advisors and
senior knights, all of them battle born and bred. Carrying torches through the
battered streets, they made their way to Berwick Castle.

Banners flapped in the brisk wind
and torches blazed as they thundered down the dark avenues. The castle was well
fortified with hundreds of English troops as the king and his entourage arrived
and the group made its way into the great hall. Fighting men were everywhere,
some sporting impressive battle wounds, as Edward sought the one man in
particular that he knew to be heading the room. The Earl of Carlisle, his most
faithful subject, had secured not only half the city personally, but the castle
as well. Edward’s pale eyes sought out Sir Tate de Lara, the commander of his
forces.

He was not difficult to locate;
Tate had seen the king arrive in the hall and was making his way towards him. 
De Lara was a big man with the dark coloring of his Welsh mother, the
illegitimate son of Edward I and uncle to the current king. He met his nephew
in the middle of the smoky, dim hall.

“Sire,” he greeted amiably. “You
will be pleased to know that the entire city has been secured. Patrols are
reporting in from all corners of the city and I am told all things are well in
hand. Berwick is finally ours.”

Edward seemed older than his
twenty-one years; this siege had seen more than its share of hardship and he
was already missing some friends in death. He was greatly relieved to see a
healthy and sound de Lara, the man he depended on more than any of his other
generals. He shook the man’s hand thankfully.

“Praise God,” Edward muttered,
feeling his fatigue but unwilling to show it. “I could have not have done this
without you.”

De Lara smiled wearily. “I had a
good deal of help.”

Edward shook his head at the
man’s modesty. “You, as always, are the catalyst for men to show their true
strength.” He eyed the group of unfamiliar faces lingering near the hearth;
there were women in the mix and he knew them to be hostages. He nodded his head
in their direction. “Seton, I presume?”

De Lara’s storm-cloud colored
eyes drifted to the group huddled near the blazing fire. “Indeed,” he replied.
“The man and his family. Would you interrogate them tonight or wait until
morning? It has been a long day and I am sure you would like to rest. ”

Edward waved him off. “I have
waited a long time for this moment and I shall not be put off by something as
mundane as my exhaustion,” he began to walk towards the group. “Where is
Pembury?”

De Lara followed. “He went out to
secure the posts for the night personally. He should be back momentarily.”

Edward focused on the hostage
group. “Does he know what you and I have discussed?”

De Lara shook his head, with some
dissatisfaction. “He knows that he will be made commander of Berwick once the
city is secured,” he made sure to speak pointedly to the king. “Beyond that, I
thought it best that you tell him his destiny.”

“I told you to do it.”

“He will take it better coming
from you.”

Edward glared at de Lara as they
came upon the hostages. But it was a brief scowl, unnoticed by the group before
him. Edward was quickly composed into the emotionless, somewhat haughty,
monarch as his gaze moved amongst the unfamiliar faces. An odd hush fell upon
the room as the king finally confronted his opposition face to face.

“Who is Alexander Seton?” he
demanded.

The man standing in front of the
group bobbed his head slightly. “I am he.”

Edward’s gaze fixed on the man;
he was older, as he knew he would be, nearly bald but with a powerful body
beneath the tartan and mail. Sir Alexander Seton had led the defenses against
the English, holding the city of Berwick for several months before finally
being forced by the decisive English victory at Halidon Hill to surrender.  

The king planted himself in front
of Seton, continuing his scrutiny; there was a good deal of confusion in his
expression as if trying to figure out a great many things.  Without warning,
Edward balled a fist and struck Seton firmly on the jaw.  The older man went
reeling as the women in his group shrieked.

“That was for forcing my hand,”
Edward growled, daring the man to come back at him. “You made an agreement,
Seton. The city was to surrender at the appointed date and you would still have
your son. What possessed you to trade your son’s life for your stubborn pride?”

Seton rubbed his jaw, eyeing the
passionate young king. “You would not understand, my lord.”

Edward was growing increasingly
livid. “He was a child yet he behaved with more honor than those who call
themselves adults,” he pointed a finger at Seton. “God damn you for forcing my
hand against your brave son. God damn you for sending to death a young man who
held out hope until the very end that his father would save him.”

De Lara was standing next to the
king, his jaw ticking faintly as he watched the exchange; young Edward had
spent most of his young life running from Roger Mortimer and his mother, so the
man well understood a child’s fear and confusion when a parent refused to
protect him. It was a painful subject made more painful by the death of Seton’s
fourteen year old son, a lad that Edward had come to know during his
captivity. 

Seton had pledged his son as a
hostage to ensure that the Scots would surrender Berwick should reinforcements not
arrive in time, but the deadline came and went, no reinforcements came, yet
Seton did not surrender. Edward was forced to execute hostages as punishment.
Thomas Seton had died with a rope around his neck and hope in his heart.

“It did not give my father
pleasure to watch my brother die.” A young woman standing behind Seton made
herself known. “My father’s hands were tied; his commanders refused to
surrender.  Even if he wanted to submit to your deadline, he could not have.
His men would not have obeyed.”

Edward’s focus moved from Seton
to the woman behind him; she was short of stature with lush dark hair and eyes
of the palest blue he had ever seen. She was a strikingly lovely woman even
dirty and disheveled as she was. Edward’s attention fixed on the girl.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

Seton turned to look at the girl,
his expression bursting with disapproval, but the young woman ignored him and
stepped forward.

“I am the Lady Joselyn de Velt
Seton,” she said with courage. “Alexander Seton is my father.”

“Then Thomas was your brother.”

She nodded, losing some of her
confidence. “Aye,” she nearly whispered. “He was my younger brother.”

Edward cocked his head slightly.
“I was not aware that Seton had two daughters.”

Joselyn nodded. “Maggie is my
younger sister.  I am the eldest of the Seton children.”

The king’s eyebrows lifted. Then
he turned to de Lara with a knowing glance. “Joselyn,” he murmured, pronouncing
it the way she had;
Joe-zalyn
.  He looked back at the young woman. “How
old are you, lady?”

“I have seen twenty-two years, my
lord.”

“Who is your husband?”

“I am not married, my lord.”

Edward was shocked. “No husband?”
he repeated, incredulous. “Why not?”

“She has been at Jedburgh Abbey,”
Seton answered for her. “She has been living by the Augustinian code since she
was eleven years of age.”

BOOK: Dragonblade Trilogy - 03 - The Savage Curtain
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