Authors: Robyn Young
Also by Robyn Young
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Robyn Young 2014
The right of Robyn Young to be identified as the Author of the Work
has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that
in which it is published and without a similar condition being
imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious or are historical figures
whose words and actions are fictitious. Any resemblance to real
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978 1 444 71514 9
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
Writing a novel always seems like a solitary endeavour, until you get to this part and realise what a great number of people aided you along the way.
I would first like to thank the experts I turned to, from the authors of the many books I plundered for knowledge to the guides and curators at scores of historical sites I visited during my months of research, whose enthusiasm helped bring these places to life.
A special thank you goes to historian Marc Morris for reading the manuscript – his red pen once again helping spare me from too red a face. I’m also indebted to Edward J. Cowan for the memorable walk in Glen Trool, to Fiona Watson for granting me invaluable access to her report on the Battle of Bannockburn, to Scott McMaster at the Bannockburn Heritage Centre for the incredible tour of the battle site, to Duncan Thomson, Sarah Crome and all at the Robert the Bruce Heritage Centre for the warm welcome, and to Robert Low for the information on Viking boat burnings.
In this dawning digital age I feel it’s especially important to thank the host of people who contributed to this novel behind the scenes – for their passion, their skill and their support.
A huge thank you first of all goes to my assistant, Becky Smith, for keeping everything running so smoothly. My gratitude goes to my agent, Rupert Heath, to Camilla Ferrier and everyone at the Marsh Agency, to Dan Conaway at Writers’ House, Meg Davis at Ki Agency and Roberta Oliva. A heartfelt thank you also to all my editors, translators and publishing teams overseas, whose hard work is very much appreciated.
I am hugely grateful, as always, to the fantastic team at Hodder & Stoughton, with special thanks to my editor, Nick Sayers, for his patience and insight, to Laura Macdougall, Kerry Hood, Lucy Hale, Catherine Worsley, Ben Gutcher, Lucy Upton, Auriol Bishop, Alexandra Percy, Laura del Vescovo and Jamie Hodder-Williams, as well as to everyone in publicity, sales, marketing, foreign rights and art and production, with a huge round of applause to Lee Wilson for the fabulous cover!
Thank you to my copy-editor Morag Lyall, proofreader Barbara Westmore and to the reps, especially Jack and Gillian for looking after me in Scotland. My sincere appreciation as well to all the booksellers, without whom this book wouldn’t reach you, with a special thank you to David, Daniel and the staff at Goldsboro Books for helping me to launch the trilogy in style.
Finally, my thanks and love to all my friends for their support and their friendship, with an extra special shout out to my fellow witches for the light in dark places. And, lastly, to Lee, for everything – thank you, my love.
For we fight not for glory nor riches nor honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life.
The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320 AD
After this shall succeed two dragons, whereof one shall be killed with the sting of envy, but the other shall return under the shadow of a name.
The History of the Kings of Britain
Geoffrey of Monmouth
They were leaving, while dusk stole the last of the light. In the November gloom the men’s faces were pale patches in the shadows of their hoods. Few spoke as they worked, porters hefting chests on to the wagons, squires checking harnesses on the carthorses and moving between those knights already mounted on their palfreys, tugging at girths and adjusting stirrups, their frozen fingers struggling with buckles. The air was misty with rain, which darkened the thatch on the timber buildings that crowded the bailey and turned the courtyard to a slick of horse dung, earth and mouldering leaves.
Robert watched the preparations, Uathach’s leash looped around his fist. A week ago the place had been teeming with lords and their retinues arriving for the feast, the bailey echoing with voices and laughter, music and firelight spilling from his grandfather’s hall. A week ago he had crossed this yard with Eva, her skirts rustling as she moved at his side, the flush of wine leached from his face by the frosty dark. But then the tidings had come, heralded by the iron ring of hooves and borne in the mouths of the messengers; five words that had changed everything.
John Balliol will be king.
Only a week? It seemed much longer.
Robert looked round as two servants struggled out of the building behind him, bearing a wicker basket from which items of clothing trailed, packed in haste. Uathach sprang towards them barking, but fell back at a rough jerk of the leash. Settling against his boot, the pup looked questioningly up at his unsmiling face. As the servants headed for the wagons, Robert saw a scrap of material had fallen from the basket, a white wrinkle on the dark ground. Crossing to it, he picked it up. It was one of his mother’s veils, now stained with mud. Hearing a soft voice behind him, barely audible over the thud and scrape of the chests being loaded, he turned.
Countess Marjorie smiled as she reached him, placing a cool hand over his, which held the soiled veil. ‘Agnes will deal with that.’
Over the past year, Robert had grown tall, the sudden surge raising him above his once formidable mother, who in the same time had seemed to shrink. Looking down on her now, swamped by her fur-trimmed travel cloak, he felt like a giant; his hands, calloused from his sword, dwarfing hers, his arms, corded with muscle, capable of crushing her thin frame. He thought of the watery bloodstains on the sheets he had seen Agnes, her laundress, carrying from the chamber earlier that afternoon. ‘This is madness,’ he murmured. ‘Stay. At least for the night.’
Marjorie’s smile faded. Her brow furrowed as she looked away. ‘Your father has arranged to lodge with one of your grandfather’s vassals tonight. His hall is on our road home.’
‘Then you stay. Grandfather can have you escorted safe to Turnberry when you are well.’
‘He has made his decision.’ Marjorie’s eyes flicked back to him, harder now and set, something of her old strength within them. ‘My place is with him.’
Robert wondered if he heard accusation in his mother’s tone. Did she too blame him for his grandfather’s decision?
She seemed to sense his question, for she squeezed his hand. ‘Your father has accepted the lord’s judgement. Carrick is yours, by his seal. Now he must return home to set his affairs in order. Give him time, Robert. He will come to accept it in his heart.’
He wanted to tell her they both knew this wasn’t true, but then his sisters emerged from their lodgings, Isabel calling to the countess.
‘Our chambers are empty, Mother. We are ready to leave.’ She glanced at Robert as she spoke.
Marjorie nodded to her eldest daughter. ‘Get your sisters settled.’
Dutifully, Isabel Bruce led her three younger siblings across the mud-slick courtyard, pulling her hood up against the rain. It was falling harder now, drumming on the waxed canvas covering the wagons. Christian walked at Isabel’s side, looking over at Robert as she passed. He gave his fair-haired sister a reassuring smile, which she returned only briefly, worry plain in her face. Their governess followed, holding the hand of Matilda, who traipsed along reluctantly, eyes red from crying. Seven-year-old Mary came last, arms folded tightly across her chest, refusing to be led. They were all subdued, the younger two ignorant of the circumstances, but sensing the tension in the adults, the older girls aware that this flight from Lochmaben signified more than just the bitter end of a long battle for the Bruce family; that it was perhaps the ending of their family itself.