Chapter XIX The Convent of St. Kenneth
Bruce, as the result of his successes, was now able to leave his fastnesses and establish himself in the districts of Carrick, Kyle, and Cunningham. Pembroke had established himself at Bothwell Castle, and sent a challenge to Bruce to meet him with his force at Loudon Hill. Although his previous experience of such challenges was unfortunate, Bruce accepted the offer. He had learned much since the battle of Methven, and was not likely again to be caught asleep; on the 9th of May he assembled his forces at Loudon Hill.
It was but a small following. Douglas had brought 100 men from Douglasdale, and Archie Forbes had as many under his banner. Bruce’s own vassals had gathered 200 strong, and as many more of the country people had joined; but in all, the Scotch force did not exceed 600 men, almost entirely on foot and armed with spears. Bruce at once reconnoitred the ground to discover a spot where his little force might best withstand the shock of Pembroke’s chivalry. He found that at one place near the hill the road crossed a level meadow with deep morasses on either side. He strengthened the position with trenches, and calmly awaited the approach of his enemy. Upon the following day Pembroke’s army was seen approaching, numbering 3000 knights and mounted men-at-arms, all in complete armour. They were formed in two divisions. The battle was almost a repetition of that which had been fought by Wallace near the same spot. The English chivalry levelled their spears and charged with proud confidence of their ability to sweep away the rabble of spearmen in front of them. Their flanks became entangled in the morasses; their centre tried in vain to break through the hedge of Scottish spears, and when they were in confusion, the king, his brother Edward, Douglas, Archie Forbes, and some twenty other mounted men dashed through a gap in the spearmen and fell upon them. The second division, seeing the first broken and in confusion, turned and took to flight at once, and Pembroke and his attendants rode, without drawing rein, to Bothwell Castle.
A few days later Bruce encountered and defeated Ralph de Monthermer, Earl of Gloucester, and compelled him to shut himself up in the Castle of Ayr.
Archie Forbes was not present at the second battle, for upon the morning after the fight at Loudon Hill he was aroused by his servant entering his tent.
“A messenger has just brought this,” he said, handing him a small packet. “He bids me tell you that the sender is a prisoner in the convent of St. Kenneth, on Loch Leven, and prays your aid.”
Archie opened the packet and found within it the ring he had given to Marjory at Dunstaffnage. Without a moment’s delay he hurried to the king and begged permission to leave him for a short time on urgent business, taking with him twenty of his retainers.