Edward drank lightly from the cup, there was no rush, everything was fine. The sun was about to rise, and the birds were chirping, spring had come back at last. He smiled, it had been a long winter. Forty years after he had put down a rebellion by Ceardach and Máel Muire, Edward thought things were good. After that rebellion, had been put down, there had been little to no opposition to his reforms. The roads had been built, they now spanned the entire kingdom, the taxation system had brought an increased revenue of some eighty percent for the crown over the past forty years. There had been good harvests and Scotland had expanded in borders slightly, through negotiation Edward had acquired parts of Southern Argyll, and had also expanded the borders toward Caithness. Ensuring stability and the reduction of threats of raiding.
His family had grown, alongside his son Edward and daughter Margaret born when the rebellion of his uncle had been raging, he and Bethoc had had a further four children. Donald, Kenneth, Maud and Mary were their names and they had made quite the names for themselves. Edward, his heir, the Mormaer of Strathclyde was a smart man, with a wife and children of his own, he had proven himself in battle and in peace, and Edward was confident he would make a great King. Donald was a man who would prove to be a good advisor, to his brother, smart and careful. Kenneth a man of the cloth, he would become Pope if he continued the path he was on. Margaret, had married into France and that alliance had brought plenty of happiness for them all. Maud and Mary had married well into Scottish and English blood ensuring the continuation of good relations there.
Edmund had passed on a year ago, his brother had proven a resilient leader, and a great right hand. Always there with good advice and something more to say. His son Malcolm was a smart man and would continue things as they were. Edgar had died ten years after the rebellion, tired and worn, muttering something about falsehoods, Edward tried not to think of his brother like that. Alexander had relished being Mormaer of Moray and had spent most of his time putting down insurrection and fighting border disputes. He had settled down before dying fifteen years ago, from something or the other. He had had two sons, both of whom were warriors. David, David was Lord of Galloway now, having married into that family and having brought it properly into the Scottish orbit. His brother was smart.
Edward felt the rattle rise in his throat then. He pushed it down, as the door opened and his son and heir walked in. Edward did not turn from the window, instead he waited for his son to sit down then he spoke. "Everything has been sorted?" He asked.
"Yes, just as you asked. Everything is prepared and waiting." His son replied.
"Good. And you know what to do, once it is over?" Edward asked.
"I do." His son replied.
"Good. The English King will try and make some sort of claim over the border when everything is done. Make sure to remind him of the agreement he signed earlier this month. He is young and foolish, and he might not remember everything, in his desire for glory." Edward said. His sister Maud had married Robert of England, and they'd had three children, a son and two daughters, one of the daughters had married the Holy Roman Emperor, and had children, the other daughter was a nun. The son had married some woman from Flanders and had children.
"You are sure you don't want to involve the French King? He did say that he would be more than happy to get involved." His son asked.
Edward chuckled. "As much as it might amuse me to see the English and the French fight one another, no, I do not think that they are needed here. The English King is young and as such he will need to prove himself. However, directing his attention elsewhere will be more to our benefit. Therefore, you must remind him exactly of the terms of the agreement and ensure he remains true to them. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I understand." His son replied.
The rattle started to rise in Edward's throat, he pushed it down again and asked. "Where are your children? Are they playing?"
His son chuckled. "It's early yet, father, the children are still asleep. Do you want me to wake them up for you?"
Edward shook his head. "No, let them sleep, they will have plenty of time to play and do other things later. They must sleep now." His son said nothing then, and they fell into a comfortable silence for a time, the rattle grew heavier though, and before it would appear, Edward said. "You may go, I need a few moments." His son got up, bowed and moved away. The door opened and closed almost at once. Edward turned back to the window, the cup in his hand. He felt the breeze and smiled. "I knew you'd come, my love."
He heard his wife chuckle. "Are you ready?" She asked.
The rattle grew stronger, and he opened his mouth, instead of coughing though he said. "Yes, I am ready."
"Then come with me, and let us be gone from here." His wife replied.
Edward extended a hand, he saw how wrinkled and scarred it had become, how weak it was, how it shook as he held it there. He felt Bethoc take it in hers and they linked their fingers together, as they had so many times before. "Does it hurt?" He asked.
"It's as easy and quick as falling asleep." Bethoc promised.
"Very well then." Edward said.
His wife's fingers linked with his, Edward exhaled and felt the rattle consume him, he allowed it to. He coughed and spluttered and heaved, after some time he closed his eyes, and the coughing died down, he smiled. "Take me home." He whispered.
"Of course." His wife replied.
His eyes closed, his breathing slowed, and he saw her standing there, as beautiful as ever. Her hand extended, he took it and smiled. He was free, finally.