Hi there, y'all. My first story on this site, all about the reign of Henry II of England (1154-1189) and I hope to update fairly soon. Please R&R! Enjoy!
It is October 1154. The Civil War between King Stephen and Empress Matilda has fractured the land of England as powerful barons began to gain more control over the weak king. Despite her death, the war continued in the form of Henry, Count of Anjou. Stephen has been forced to accept Henry as his heir after the death of his own son Eustace due to illness. Henry has since then spent most of his time exploring England to familiarise himself with his soon-to-be new kingdom.
Little doe he realise that the kingship is closer than he does anyone else realise that the young Count will became one of England's best kings.
A small band of horsemen rode quickly across the field, each man bent over the reins to coax more speed from the horses. It was a bright sunny day, but there was a chill in the wind bringing the threat of an early winter. The men however were warm under layers of clothing and their adventures throughout the day. Finally the man at the head stopped his horse and the others followed his lead waiting as their horses panted. The young man looked around eagerly and yet warily. Finally he turned to his companions,
'Let's stop here for a while, then carry on. The horses need a rest even if we don't.' He grinned and patted his horse on the flank. Then he dismounted with the others, keeping a hold on the reins. One of the men approached the man who smiled at him and clapped him on the shoulder in a friendly gesture.
'My Lord Gilbert. What's the trouble?'
'Sire...should we not wait for the rest of the men? We are far from the main party.'
'Come now, Gilbert. Where's the fun in that? I only suggested a detour.'
Gilbert smiled nervously as he recalled the incident. He would have preferred it if the prince had told everyone else before he rode away, not after. 'Sir, we should consider the dangers out here. The country is still not safe for you.'
The man took a flask from his saddle bag and took a long swig as Gilbert spoke, wiping the mouth with the back of his sleeve. The Duke was a tall man who had more energy than any man in the Kingdom. His long, reddish-brown hair, his grey eyes and his tall stature marked him out as a man of importance despite his plain clothes. He was certainly an intelligent man, known to read and speak both Latin and French, the main language of the English court while understanding Anglo-Saxon English. His tour of the Kingdom during the past year had certainly showed the men around him his knowledge and he had big plans.
Or so Gilbert had heard.
The Duke nodded a little before turning to look out to the scene before them. From where they stood, they could see the whole of the plain stretched out before them, dotted with hills and trees as mountain peaks hovered in the distance. Near the horizon, they could just see a small village and the smoke from the houses there. The prince sighed contentedly and held out his hand, as if he intended to sweep the scene away with a powerful wave of his hand.
'Look at that, Gilbert. This is a part of the glory of God. A symbol of peace. When I am King, we will ride through the land and see this wherever we go. They will speak of our actions for centuries to come. That, my friend, is the future in our hands.'
Gilbert looked out with the Duke and was about to speak when one of the horsemen called out, 'Who goes there?'
Both men turned to see a man in dull grey and white clothes approached slowly. He raised a hand to the men and called out, 'I am a messenger from King Stephen'
Henry looked at Gilbert in a mixture of confusion and excitement, then walked to the messenger who dismounted quickly. The messenger knelt before the count and then raised his head up to the count. 'I bring an urgent message for you. During hs talk with the mercenaries that he hired last year, King Stephen felt gravely ill. Despite the best treatment of his doctors, he grew worse.' The messenger paused for emphasis. 'He died only a few hours ago. In accordance to the Treaty of Winchester signed by his Majesty last year, he has passed over his sons as heirs as promised. You are now His Royal Highness King Henry of England, Count of Anjou, Normandy and Aquitaine.'
The messenger bowed his head again and said in a solemn voice, 'God save the King.'
There was complete silence amongst the men as they watched Henry's reaction. Henry stood there, stunned as though he had been struck by lighting. King! He was King! Could it really be...after all these time? Gilbert slowly knelt down on the ground and bowed his head, followed slowly by the others. Henry turned as the last man bowed his head, then turned back to the messenger. He stood still until a smile gathered on his face and he clapped his hands,
'Everyone, to horse.' he cried out suddenly. 'We'll find the rest of the men and re-group at the castle.' He gestured to the messenger. 'Come with us. We have much to do.'
Gilbert swiftly mounted his horse with the others and steered to follow Henry who had galloped off quickly back the way they had come. Gilbert felt a growing excitement inside him. Some voice inside him told that great changes were at hand. This is only the start, he told himself. We will have peace. And it shall come in the form of Duke...no...King Henry.