An Excerpt from the second book of The Douglas Trilogy... IN THE SHADOW OF MY TRUTH
24 June 1314 The Battle at the Bannock Burn
Now James and his cousin Walter the Steward moved their spearmen, many armed with Jethart staves, forward to the left of the Earl of Moray. The door was shut on the English cavalry for further advance. It was then Edward moved in his archers with a deadly turn against the success of the Scots. Archie’s line within the schiltron was the hardest hit; nearly two hundred of the Douglas followers, good Scots all, would lose their life that day. James was agonized as the sound of Welsh arrows careened over his head. Many armed foot in his retinue were hit, injured by multiple assaults of arrows flying with deadly accuracy. His schiltron would fail without support of cavalry or archers, he was sure of it! The knight banneret spurred his Hobini forward shouting encouragement to his men at arms, “Press on, press on,” he commanded.
Then he saw his younger brother take a second arrow in the same shoulder; soon Archie will have to drop his spear he realized. The field commander’s heart was pounding fast, his heavy breathing betrayed his anxious concern for his brother, but the young squire stood his ground. What agony he must be feeling James reflected; then from behind him came the comforting sound of Keith’s armed horse. The Marischal was leading the Scottish cavalry of light horse to annihilate the left flank of Edward’s archers. The fast destruction of the bowman sent the others in their ranks running from the field. The Scots quickly recovered their forward momentumpermitting James time to remove his brother from formation and tend to his wounds. “Squire, that you must seek our healer at the kirk in St. Ninian’s parish,” he commanded. Archie wanted to stay and began to protest; remaining in formation.
Just then a horrifying exchange of blows took place right near the lines held by the Douglas schiltron. Alan de Clephane of Carslogie for the Scots was returning from the successful cavalry assault on the Welsh archers when a larger war-horse approached him; the destrier carried more armor than that Scottish laird wore as a knight. Clearly disadvantaged, the laird from Fife fought hard against the English chevalier and would have prevailed but his light horse struck the surface of a fallen enemy and stumbled to break his leg. The gruesome sight of the snapped legged as it bent forward was followed as if in slow motion by the nearly fatal unhorsing of Alan. His right arm was crushed beneath the animal and then quickly severed by the swift cut of an English war-sword thrust mercilessly by one of Edward’s charging armed horse. James rushed to meet the foe; unsheathed his father’s own war-sword before the knight could return for another assault on the defenseless Carslogie laird. With a left to left upper cut le Hardi’s sword laid the Englishman to his final rest. “That fallen enemy is yours dear father,” James declared proudly. He had not planned on his individual fight in battle this day; but how satisfying it felt and using his father’s sword, the recent gift from Eleanora, made the deed the sweeter he reflected.
As the laird of Douglas wielded his Hobini around he saw the squire of Alan of Carslogie rush to his knight’s side and pull him to safety; the right arm was now gone from him. Another squire retrieved the limb to remove the prized gauntlet and the laird’s signet ring. Then strangely the young lad stood there a moment contemplating what to do with the arm; unable to just throw it back into the fray he put it down, under the wooly saddle cover as if to provide some strange privacy for his laird’s now severed limb.
“Archibald; so assist our fallen friend to take yourself with his squires to the kirk, to ride with him to Cambuskenneth when you can!” he ordered. Archie was just leaving the schiltron formation and came quickly; holding the arrows yet embedded in his shoulder, he joined James. The two Douglas brothers led the Carslogie squires with their laird in tow to move above the fray where James had them stop. The knight banneret had left his cousin Walter the Steward in command of their division; instructed the young knight to bid their schiltron forward. As the Douglas laird watched from his new vantage point he could see Walter leading his men in perfect formation; steadily, mercilessly they cut their way through the cluttered mass of English knights. The enemy’s onhorse were a baffled and constricted mass of angry warriors, throwing their weapons helplessly to the center of the schiltron in their overwhelming frustration. With the deadly assault of archers no longer upon them the Scots were turning the momentum to their own.
Then in a brilliant move, King Robert saw his advantage. He gave orders for the onset of a Highland charge. The king’s men who waited most impatiently now moved with bold enthusiasm and energy into battle under the command of Angus Og Macdonald of Islay. James watched with satisfaction; knowing now that the forward progress of the left flank would continue he could turn his attention to the wounded squire and knight.“Dear brother that you must allow this laird to look over your injuries,” he said quietly. Archie was in a lot of pain; the arrows pierced his father’s mail; one was resting near the bone he told James. The knight ripped off the bottom of his surcote and tied it hard around Archie’s shoulder above the wounds. Carefully he assessed his brother’s injury as one of Alan Clephane’s squires was wrapping the stub of arm left hanging from his laird’s right shoulder in silk as James instructed.
Behind them, coming from the left flank was an ebullient young Steward spurring on his destrier while leading a liberated English war-horse he brought for them to ride. “To make good speed with this fine animal,” he chuckled; then vanished back into the frenzy of battle as quickly as he had appeared. The Carslogie knight was groggy from the pain and injury but managed a grateful smile to his rescuers. He watched with bemusement as his squires ripped the rich caparison of embroidered silks from the charger that said the great animal once belonged to a fallen Comyn.James was concerned for Archie’s injuries. He pulled out le Hardi’s dagger and grabbed some herbs from the pouch strung on his belt. He gave some to Sir Alan’s squire and instructed him on how to apply the salve that would deaden some of the pain; then turned back to Archie to administer the herb concoction to his shoulder.
“Stand without motion,” he commanded his brother sternly. The herbs did their best to deaden the area where James made an incision to remove the arrow heads. The armor had impeded their assault; the missiles were not entwined with cartilage or bone; only imbedded straight-in they withdrew cleanly from the shoulder. “Dear Beatrice will most forgive me?” the Douglas knight inquired sheepishly. Archie nodded in frustration. “To be most hit by English arrows, one then two, a sorry fate; at least the archers missed the face of this squire,” he said sarcastically. “They were Welsh bowman; better than the English, they hit their target. Recognizing your fair beauty they aimed only to keep you from your duty to hold a spear,” James teased him as he continued to pry the solid metal head of the arrow from the muscle and flesh of the shoulder. “This one is from a crossbow,” he said quietly. “That it could pierce most any armor with this square faced head of four small points; this lad has not seen many of this design before,” he explained. “The other arrow was from an archer’s bow; a sharper head would find it difficult to penetrate our father’s mail hauberk; it was fired to hit you most after the crossbowman’s arrow is my fear.” Archie told him that the second shaft hit him right on top of the first. “A lucky shot,” he scoffed. “Is it not time that you return to you command?” the squire asked his older brother in mocked disdain.