Part 1- The Siege
Orleans, October, 1428
Dusk to night. The evening sun was no longer visible along the horizon, and what remained of its rays was feeble and scattered, fading fast against the stirring clouds. But it was not a dark, quiet night. No, in fact, it there was light. Fire shattered the darkness in the distance but quickly dulled, only to be replaced by another explosive burst of sparks. With each burst came a thundering boom that shook the ground, underscored by an un-orchestrated chorus of cheers and cries. The violently dancing flames from burning torches lit up the sky, illuminating a long drawbridge stretched across the dark river and the fiery silhouettes of men reflected in the black water. Their faces, torn with excitement, bloodlust, and thrill. Those vague outlines, accompanied by the bloodied weapons they held in their bloodied hands and the bloodied apparatus they operated, was enough to secure victory. Because thunder and fire were the children of bloodlust.
On one side of the bridge, far enough but not too far, a pair of eyes observed the scene of battle. They watched as all the guns were concentrated on the gates of the fortified holding guarding the entrance to the walled fort on the other side of the river.
Emerald eyes. Swift. Sharp. Piercing. Even the fire and flames seemed to cool in the green. They belonged to a young man neither tall nor short. His trim figure was clad in hard metal, concealed halfway by a scarlet cape. Shadows were playing games as darkness engulfed his body, leaving only a meager portion for the pale moonlight.
"Lord Kirkland…" A small man with a bloody arm, extremely out of breath, collapsed before him.
Green eyes were trained on the injured figure cowering at his feet. They flickered quickly to his bloodied arm and tightened. "What is it?"
"A-a message from the Earl, mi' Lord," the injured man stammered.
"I see. What is the situation?"
"The Earl wishes me to inform Your Lordship that the French defense should not hold for much longer. The French have abandoned the Tourelles* and retreated into the city. He kindly reminds Your Lordship to prepare to proceed into the fort." The man dared not look up, but kept his eyes level at the Lord's ankles.
" Good. Now what is the situation?" The Lord repeated with a hint of impatience.
"I-I do not understand, mi' Lord." The cowering man's eyes darted towards green ones for a split second, but were quickly redirected to the ground.
"How are our men? How many have fallen? What is the damage done to both sides?" The armor clinked as Lord Kirkland bent down only to carefully seize the messenger by his good arm and lift him onto his feet.
The messenger paused, lost for words. He was now face to face with the Lord, but to his surprise, the man in front of him was only a youth, barely a man. His blonde hair was short, a bit messy, and two thick golden brows framed the green eyes, which were no longer cold but rather concerned. In fact, he could be considered boyish if not for a certain unfitting shrewdness that hung about his person. But he was not threatening. No, he was even a little sympathetic.
The messenger's answer tumbled out in an enthusiastic frenzy. "The men are doing well, but many have been injured. We've lost some men, but the French retreat as soon as we start mining*. We've got the Tourelles for sure by morning."
Lord Kirkland nodded satisfactorily and gestured to a cluster of flickering fires seeping out from the nearby woods. "The rest of the troops are in there. They will tend to your injury."
"God bless Your Lordship! God bless Your Lordship!" he kept repeating as he retreated towards the warm flickering fire.
It was not long afterwards that another man, also clad in armor albeit with more attention to details of decoration, approached England's unmoving figure.
"The French are retreating quite fast," he began with confidence. "Their defenses are wavering. Victory is surely ours."
England gave the man by him a sideways glance. "Don't be stupid, William. The French have retreated perhaps a little too quickly. It's as if they're waiting…for something." His grasp on the hilt of the sword tightened instinctively.
William remained silent, though he was still not fully convinced.
If Orleans falls…then you're going to have to become my henchman after all. A smirk twisted onto England's face as he imagined France's face, aghast at devastating loss and exhausted from a well-deserved beating. I never got payback for that Norman bastard invading and conquering my land in such a barbaric manner. I'll show you who's getting the last laugh. Just you wait.
"William, notify the troops. We move into the Tourelles at dawn." And with a sweep of his cape, Lord Kirkland, England, both man and nation, disappeared into the dark embrace of the woods.
Noon. The sun high, but no warmth. The stone fort casted a cold shadow upon the ground, its walls and towers looming over English troops.
"Ah, Lord Kirkland!" A man clad in brown under-armor gambeson*, greeted the two men with open arms. He was a man around fifty, deep lines already visible on his face. A scraggly brown beard framed his square jaw. Strength lit up dark brown eyes hidden underneath prominent brow bones. There was an unexplainable spirit emanating from him, spirit like a lion's.
"Thomas de Montacute, Earl of Salisbury.*" A ready smile emerged on England's face as he spoke these words, each syllable crafted carefully on the tip of his tongue. "You have aged."
"And you haven't," the Earl said with a booming laugh as he shook the Lord's hand with hearty vigor.
The two chatted lightheartedly as the three men spiraled up towards the top of the tower, though the nonchalance of their conversation was accompanied by frequent cannon fire ringing threateningly close. William silently trailed behind the two men, who took no notice of him. They emerged at the top to rays of light streaming in from two small windows carved into the thick grey walls.
England walked over to the nearest window and peered out. Each nook and cranny of French defense in the city, down to each individual Orleanais cottage, was clearly visible.
"Great view from up here. You could literally see each individual face of the French soldiers on the frontline. Unfortunately, they all have the same expression of complete obliviousness," he laughed a bit too complacently as he observed the strategic location of the French soldiers. "Just look their ridicu-"
Crash! Shatter. Tremble.
Blown back by the impact, England hit the ground on his side, skidding a few feet before he struggled to his feet.
"Earl!" He hurried over and knelt down beside the fallen figure.
The Earl clutched his side, blood leaking through his fingers. He raised his head, the right side of his face streaked with red. As he opened his mouth to speak, a bout of violent coughs wracked his great frame. The coughs subsided, but as he removed the hand covering his mouth, England caught a gleam of crimson on his palm.
"I knew…I should've worn my armor…" Another bout of coughs.
"Dammit, William, get over here!" England yelled as he began to help the Earl to his feet.
William had hit the wall on the other side of the room and had passed out briefly before waking up to Lord Kirkland's panicked shout. He immediately picked himself up and rushed over to support the collapsed Earl. He and the Lord cautiously descended the spiraling staircase, the injured Earl limp upon the shoulders of the two armored men.
When they reached the bottom, England called for assistance without a second's delay. "I expect the best care for the Earl," he ordered the two foot soldiers.
"Lord Kirkland…" The Earl's voice was remnants of its usual booming strength. "I'm sorry." Then, a forced smile of encouragement, still somehow containing the same relentless vigor.
England watched the figures of the soldiers retreat into dark along the high fort walls. Then, he turned on his heels and began to proceed back to the tower. "Come, William."
William followed without a word, and they soon reached the top. Just moments ago, there was such havoc. Now, a deadly silence weighed down the atmosphere. Two long shadows were imprinted into the broken stone wall, the light playing tricks as if their figures could be sucked into the dramatic cracks that spread along the curved surface. Miniscule fragments of glass crunched under their feet as the black silhouettes flitted back and forth.
England's eyes swept the room swiftly, then calmly walked to the nearest window. Green eyes immediately landed on a cluster of soldiers across from the tower on the opposite shore. The ragged forms were gathered around a small fire, burdened by heavy armor plates as they hung on to the ripped and worn banners displaying an elaborate coat-of-arms.
Beside the huddle of French soldiers was a massive black tube supported by a crude wooden frame. A canon. England's emerald eyes burned with rage, hands tightening into trembling fists. Then, the emeralds became cold and hard. "Tch. Pathetic." His voice was dangerously low, an attempt to conceal his frustration.
William, meanwhile, was indignant. "How dare they violate the code of chivalry!"
"Chivalry? Don't make me laugh, William. Those medieval ideals are no longer anything of value. I expected more from the one who will lead the siege."
"Lord Kirkland, I-"
England suddenly turned to face the shocked man behind him. "William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk*, do you serve our holy King of England faithfully and loyally?"
The Earl of Suffolk bowed respectfully at the mention of the King*. "Yes, mi' Lord."
"Then you will not disappointment me. All the troops are now under your command."
"But the Earl of Salisbury…"
England shook his head and sighed. "He was a brave man. But he's gone now." Then he trained his piercing emerald eyes on the Earl of Suffolk once again. "But the battle must continue. "
"Understood, Lord Kirkland." The Earl bowed his head once again. Without a word, the Lord and nation turned to descend the stone steps. This has been a long war, he thought with every purposeful step, but I'll win for sure…
Two weeks later, after a long struggle, the Earl of Salisbury passed away. The Earl of Suffolk continued to lead the English in the Siege of Orleans. The regent of the English Crown the Duke of Bedford sent further reinforcements lead by lords Talbot and Scales. English troops continued to batter the Orleanais through the entire winter and well into spring, establishing several strongpoints around the city, including three "bastilles" the English dubbed London, Rouen, and Paris to the northwest of Orleans. The disastrous outcome of The Battle of the Herrings left the French trapped and desperate for reinforcements. Although the English lacked the resources to fully surround the city, Orleans was wearing thin…
Orleans, March, 1429
"Lord Kirkland!" The Earl of Suffolk's harried footsteps resounded through the stone tower of the bastille as he rushed up the staircase towards the surveillance post. "Lord Kirkland!"
He reached the top, out of breath and agitated, with a ragged yellow parchment clutched tightly in his hand. "A letter…" Huff, huff.
"A letter?" The Lord swept around with eyebrows raised mockingly. "Is that why you're in such a panic?"
"It is a letter from the French, Your Lordship. From a French girl," the Earl explained with troubling frown upon his forehead as he handed over the parchment.
"Is that so…" England muttered as his eyes quickly swept over the paper.
+ Jesus, Maria +
King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the kingdom France; you William de la Pole, Count of Suffolk; John, Lord Talbot; and you Thomas, Lord Scales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the said Duke of Bedford, do justly by the King of Heaven; render to the Maid who is sent here of God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good cities that you have taken and violated in France. She has come here from God to restore the royal blood. She is all ready to make peace, if you will deal rightly by her, acknowledge the wrong done France, and pay for what you have taken. And all of you, archers, companions of war, nobles and others who are before you; and if this is not done, expect news of the Maid, who will go to see your shortly, to your very great damage …I am sent here by God, the King of Heaven, each and all, to put you out of all France. And if they will obey I will be merciful. … And you may well believe that the King of Heaven will send more strength to the Maid than you will be able to lead in all your assaults against her and her good soldiers. And when the blows fall we shall see who will have the better right from God of Heaven…And reply to this, if you wish to make peace at the city of Orleans; and if thus you do not do, you will shortly remember it to your great sorrow. *
Hands tightened as he read, each word feeding the flames of anger that ignited in the pit of his stomach. It grew and grew, infesting every bone in his body like the plague. Tightly clenched fists shredded the parchment and flung the bits off the bastille wall with a forceful sweep of the arm.
"I will not tolerate such insolence!" he screamed into the dead silence of dreary midday. "Laughable! A girl who calls herself the Maid sent by God! That bloody bastard must be desperate!"
William stood silently at his side, hands behind his back and head respectfully bowed. But the Earl was secretly surprised. Over the past year, they've fought innumerable battles, encountered countless problems, and endured so many long hours of arduous training and strategizing, and this was the first time he's seen the Lord so tremendously aggravated. He stole a glance at his commander. Heaving with anger, face marred by rage. Even though he had queer habits and seemed always irritated about some specific detail, William thought as he observed the man in front of him in a new light, he was never truly enraged… And for the first time, it occurred to the Earl that the Lord was…so young. So very young, in fact, that it was difficult to distinguish between boyhood and manhood. A boy, commanding the entire English army... I wonder which he hates more.
After a long pause, England finally recomposed himself and, turning away from his inferior, proceeded towards the nearest tower. William followed closely behind, syncing his footsteps to his Lord's. However, the Earl noticed, there was something stiff and unnatural in Lord Kirkland's gait, unlike his usual long, smooth strides.
"William, tell Talbot and Scales I want them at the training ground with their best men at the crack of dawn." There was an unusual hint of annoyance in his voice, as if bothered and anxious at the same time.
" For what purpose, mi' Lord?" The Earl inquired modestly.
"We must prepare for the relief forces." And with that, England swept down the staircase without so much as a glance backwards, leaving the Earl alone on the bastille wall.
The Earl of Suffolk watched his lord emerge from the tower down below then retreat into the distant cluster of tents. He let out a long, exhausted sigh. I wonder which he hates more. The French or this bloody war.
Orleans, April, 1429
"There's been a rumor, Lord Kirkland, from soldiers stationed at the northeast. That tomorrow will be the time of her arrival."
Shrewd, emerald eyes tightened. "Her?"
"Yes, mi' Lord, the Maiden who will be the savior of the French and the destruction of the English."
"Don't be idiotic, Talbots. There is no Maiden, and there is no savior. There is only a girl who is foolish enough to call herself these names, while knowing full well that every arrow, sword, and spear will be pointed at her on the battlefield," he said as he sharpened the heavy sword on the whetstone, sparks jumping out from between blade and stone. Shing. Shing. Sharper. Sharper.
"But the French all believe in her, mi'Lord," Scales sighed, shaking his head, "The Burgundians* have withdrawn their aid and our numbers are also dwindling. Only 5000 men left, and they too are exhausted. I'm afraid the arrival of this…Maiden, myth or not, will affect them negatively, mi'Lord."
England did not respond, but continued to grind the sword back and forth on the whetstone. Shing. Sharper. Shing. Faster this time. Exhaustion… Shing! Even faster. More forceful. I can't pretend I'm not exhausted. Shing! Earsplitting. Then, sudden stillness.
"Very well, then," he muttered, clearly annoyed. He re-sheathed the sword and stalked out of the room huffily without another word, leaving the two confused men alone in the empty weapons storage. They looked at each other with worried faces, then shrugged and shook their heads. It was no use. Lord Kirkland never told them anything. In fact, he never told anybody anything, not even the Duke*. And no one ever dared asked (It was common knowledge that the Lord was easily agitated). It was a wonder, really, whether or not he really had a plan.
A firm grip on the rein. A swift, light step on the stirrup. With an agile leap, England landed on the black stallion's back with ease. The steed was tall, noble, powerful. A black sheen that almost reflected sunlight. He was a fine destrier, the strongest of warhorses.
England considered his steed, and agitation immediately began to gnaw at his determination. The thirty-seventh warhorse since the beginning of this war. He's served me faithfully so far through the entire siege. But why do I have a feeling…that today, he will fall? England shook his head, trying to rid himself of doubt. Bloody hell…curse this weakness.
He turned his attention towards the soldiers' tents. All preparation for the siege was underway. It was a full cacophony of clinking metal and sharpening blades. But there was something amiss. The usual chatter, words of encouragement, spirited laughter. Now, only nervous prayers. They are intimidated, after all. That's why… this feeling…
Urging the horse forward, the Lord approached his army and dismounted. All noise and movement immediately ceased as full attention was directed towards their commander. Not a single sound.
When they look at me, England thought, there's always that fear in their eyes. Why is it that they fear their own country?
The soldiers glanced at each other with confused looks, unsure of what the Lord expected from them. He simply stood there, staring thoughtfully with a frown on his face. Slowly, one following the other, the soldiers got down on their knees and bowed their heads low.
"We are servants of Your Holy Lordship. Your wish is our command," they chanted in perfect unison.
That's right…when they see me, they see royal authority. But…
England motioned for them to rise. The soldiers hesitantly rose to their feet, glancing at each other with unsure faces, then stared to their commander expectantly.
England considered the puzzled faces staring back at him, troubled by their uncertainty.
"I'm here to ask you a question." A slight pause. "Why do you fight?"
Silence ensued. Frowns and lost faces as each man looked to the next. Finally, one soldier mustered up the courage to answer the Lord. He was young, perhaps only about fifteen with sand-colored hair and a lanky build.
"T-to serve the Royal Crown, mi'Lord. We fight for the King," he stammered, afraid to meet his superior's gaze.
"No!" The loud syllable tore open the silence like a sharp blade.
All the soldiers jumped.
England sucked in a deep breath. "No," he repeated. Another pause. Then he began, his voice steady and controlled. "I know there have been rumors. A holy Maid who will be our demise. This rumor is both true and false. It is true that the French reinforcements have arrived, led by a girl whom they call the Maid. However, it is absolute nonsense that she is in any way holy or destined to defeat us."
"I ask you men why you fight, and you answer 'for the Crown.' True, that would be any soldier's natural answer when asked this, but stop to think. Who or what do you really fight for?" Slight wavering in the eyes of the soldiers. "You are soldiers of England. You are the power of England! Who is that Maid the French so glorify, you ask? She is a soldier, nothing more, nothing less." Every pair of eyes was attentive, slowly coming to understand. "We are here to reclaim what is rightly ours, and we shall prevail, because the spirit of the English will win over the cowardly French! Maid or no Maid, we will be victorious, because on this day, we fight for the glory of our nation! We fight for England!"
A deafening roar arose from the army, a battle cry five thousand men strong, purely born from the spirit of the English nation. A surge of fiery lava seemed to flow through England's body and soul as he mounted the mighty steed. He pulled back on the reigns and the stallion rose high on its hind legs, a shrill neigh piercing the cheers that thundered at his core.
"For England!" he shouted, fist in the air, green eyes aflame.
"For England!" they echoed, burning with renewed vigor. Green eyes aflame with the spirit of the English.
Tourelles- Formally referred to as Les Tourelles, a French fort built in the the Loire River to protect the walled city of Orleans. The geography is rather confusing, so if you want a picture, here it is. .com/image/recent/uriah_heep/great%2520battles/great%2520battles%2520of%2520the%2520world%2520%
Mining- a technique in siege warfare. Basically, they dig under whatever they're sieging, weakening the foundation.
Gambeson- basically, it's padding clothing that they wore under the armor. This could consist of cloth-based material and chainmail, and other complicated pieces.
Earl of Salisbury (1388-1428)- He served under King Henry V of England and King Henry VI during the Hundred Years War (in case you haven't figured this out yet) and participated in many important battles, including the Battle at Agincourt and the Siege at Orleans.
Canon- at this point in Western history, canons only just beginning to be used in warfare, mostly in sieges. They weren't really that useful due to low mobility and being prone to...issues. The Hundred Years' War was a turning point for the canon, where it was actually effectively used.
Code of chivalry- Ok, so basically all the knights and upperclass medieval community had this code of chivalry, which were rules for fair war (ikr?) that were eventually romanticized by authors, etc. The Hundred Years' War is commonly accepted as the "death" of chivalry, because the English totally went against it by super-outnumbering the French during several key battles xDDD Oh, England, you bastard.
Earl of Suffolk (1396-1250)- Replaced Earl of Salisbury as the commander of the English troops during the Siege of Orleans. Apparently, he was eventually charged for murder (like way late,r after the war) and beheaded. Just an interesting fact?
The Letter- First of all, all credit goes to .com/joanofarc_letter_ (follow the link for the full letter). Joan of Arc (yes, that's the Maid) sent 2 letters to the King, Duke of Bedford, and the commanders of the English forces at Orleans. This is the first one. The legitimacy of these letters are under great debate (including other letters that she's written) since they're all very prim and proper in a journal-like format, as if on display.
Destrier- the mostly widely-known medieval warhorse, but actually very rare. It was considered the biggest and best warhorse of the time.
Note from the Author: Ok, this took me an insanely long time even though I know it's still rough around the corners. But I just wanna clarify a few things. One, yes my writing is very historically based and factual because I'm a born history buff and obsess over accuracy, but on the other hand, I'm also an artist so I like dramatizing and romanticizing. Just know that the personalities of the earls and lords in this story are FICTIONAL because there really isn't much record about them except for what wars they fought in. This is only my interpretation. Also, England's personality may be a bit off his usual adorable tsundereness, but most of my Hetalia fics are on the serious side. Plus, Iggy's at his teenager-to-adult phase at this time, so...who knows. Lastly, I'd like to point out that English nationalism was probably not a powerful or widespread idea at this point in history. I just added that in there because I felt like Arthur had a speech comin'. xP Lastly, I'd like to thank my friends at Wikipedia and say that I don't care what others say, I trust you (most of the time. Research shows that most of the info on Wikipedia is accurate. It's like dedicating to a community!) Phew! A lotta work went into this, so I hope you like! :D