Here is another awesome historical piece by Abigail! Check out the Writers Page for more of her stories
By Abigail Leskey
(Based off the song “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran”)
I had never dared hope that King Edward of England would assail the Red Hall. My living was ever too dull for that. My stay at the Red Hall would be nothing but making songs and listening to my brother trying to make me act as a merchant. Truly, he could do our entire family’s business by himself better than he could with my help; ask my father if you believe me not.
To return to my point, though I knew that the King of England wished to be the ruler of Scotland, and that Berwick, where our hall stood, was on the rim of England, I still had not been sanguine enough to expect that I should have the pleasure of being in a siege. I had made five songs by then involving sieges.
Edward assailed Berwick.
My brother, Jacobus, reacted as expected, complaining about wars wounding our trade, and about warfare being foolish.
“What does Edward of England want?” he asked nobody, standing like a mountain in the Red Hall, as fired merchants strode around with swords. “If ‘tis something that can be bought, he should buy it. If ‘tis not something that can be bought, ruling Scotland will not put it in his hands or heart. War is foolish.”
“But noble!” I cried. “And you hold an axe as you say that.”
He held it up. “Business. We agree to pay for a hall, we pay for it. We agree to war for a hall, we war for it. Foolish agreement.”
“Is everything business, Jacobus?”
“Everything indubitably is not a song, Wilhelm!”
¨ ¨ ¨
There was nothing I could do in the siege, because I was not an archer. And the English could not get into the town, so even the archers could do nothing in the siege at the moment.
But all twenty-nine of the others were ill at ease, other than Jacobus. He was not an archer either, and he simply slowly thumped—he walked as though his legs were made of soft metal—around the hall, putting in order our goods. They had been scattered and pushed around, when we were getting ready for the siege, but soothfastly, was it the time for ordering things?
“Jacobus, we are in a battle!” I said.
“I thought you knew about these things. This, little brother, is a siege.”
“Sit down, or be quiet, if you please,” he said, gently. He looked so calm that he looked like an idiot.
“Jacobus! This is war—siege—we’re in a siege and you’re arranging merchandise!”
Jacobus sighed. “If we survive, it will be useful for it to be in order. There is nothing else I can do at this time.”
I shook my head, and ran up to look out of an arrow slot at which nobody was. Nobody really was besieging our hall; just the town. And the English were too far away for me to shoot. I began making a song about an incarcerated knight.
¨ ¨ ¨
A while later Jacobus thumped up to the loft and sat beside me. “I would you were at home,” he said.
“I’m just sitting here making songs.” I stood up. “But of course, you take after Father, and he always wishes I were somewhere else!”
“Wil, I wish you were somewhere else because this is a siege.”
“I’ve always wanted to see a siege! Do you realize how dull mercantile deeds are?”
“Dull enough to suit me, so fairly dull.”
“They’re in the town!” Hans shouted. “The English are in the town!”
I yelled, rather squeakily.
¨ ¨ ¨
But they did not attack our hall until later. I watched out of my arrow slot, and as I watched, a girl with hair the color of copper and gold ran towards the hall, and an English man grabbed her by the throat and stabbed her, low in her chest. I—war was not killing maidens. War was not killing maidens—it was courage—it was, I had viewed, killing maidens. I vomited.
Jacobus very calmly thumped up to me, moved me, and cleaned up. “Do not look out the windows, little brother. Make one of your songs.”
¨ ¨ ¨
They were besieging us, and the sun was setting. Our archers shot, and their axes hammered on the red wooden doors. I stood quiet, with a knife in my hand, making no songs. My knees were hitting each other, copying how the axes hit the doors.
Jacobus stood beside me, looking dull and a bit miserable. He put his arm around my shoulders. “I only wished you were home because of the siege,” he said.
“Only because you are pleased to be. And you make mercantile deeds less dull.”
And then somebody shouted, “They’re coming!” and one door cracked open, and men in leather beat in. Hans fell, becoming a fountain of blood.
And Jacobus thundered at the English, a big axe above his big yellow-haired head, and beheaded someone with a single smite. I ran at the English too, with my knife, to my shame crying.
Jacobus was almost flaming, yelling and chopping with his axe and running over Englishmen by virtue of weighing as much as a wagon. He was the one who, when two Englishmen were left in our hall, chopped down one and chopped the other out the door, and held it shut until it had tables and crates piled behind it and braced across the hall.
He looked just like someone in one of my songs, with blood on his clothes and his hair like the tip of a candle flame and his eyes like the base of one. When he came towards me I was thinking of how to put that into a song.
“All’s well,” he said softly, acting like he thought I was going to fall over. I looked down at myself. My knife was bloody; my clothes were bloody; but I felt well.
“I’m not hurt,” I said. “I’m going to put you in a song.” None of this felt real now, not even that people were starting to shout “Fire!” and “We have not enough water!”
The English set fire to our hall, since they could not break in. We could not shoot them enough, and we could not put out the fire.
This all seemed like a song, since I had seen the fighting. It was as real as my songs, not more real than my songs. Jacobus seemed to think it was real, though. He put his arm around my shoulders as sparks fell and the other Flemings prayed or shouted.
“At least you will not have to listen to me sing about this,” I jested.
He smiled a little. “And you will not have to hear me groan of the burnt merchandise.”
The Red Hall burned red.
Author’s note: This story is inspired by Ed Sheeran’s song “I See Fire.”
I used the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_(name) to find a Dutch form of Jacob, and also looked at the article on Dutch names, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_name.
My historical source was Annals of Scotland: From the Accession of Malcolm III. in the Year M.LVII. to the Accession of the House of Stewart in the Year M.CCC.LXXI. To which are Added, Tracts Relative to the History & Antiquities of Scotland, Volume 1 by Sir David Dalrymple, 1819, found here on Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=5DJkAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA287&dq=red+hall+berwick+flemings&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjM5vvswP7NAhXL4yYKHaDiB3QQ6AEIKTAC#v=onepage&q=red%20hall%20berwick%20flemings&f=false