Remember, Gaylord's name was changed for the novel to Gadfrid.
“Beg pardon, sire,” the man, whom Gaylorde now saw was his closest ally and confidante, Urm, murmured, backing away.
“Stop. Don’t go away. What tidings do you bring?” Gaylorde said as he straightened in his chair.
Urm paused, then came slowly within the chamber. He was a fairly tall man with flaxen hair that hung straight to his shoulders and further. He was indeed the man the scout had seen arguing with the town guards.
“For pity’s sake,” Gaylorde grumbled. “I’m not going to bite you. Just tell me the worst and get it said.”
Urm did not relax, but he did speak. “The town men wanted into the fortress, your grace. They wanted to gain its protection.”
Gaylorde stood, furiously waving his arms about. “My God, they are supposed to be our first defense. How are they going to do that in here?!”
“Lord, they finally did turn and go down to the town. But..” He hesitated.
Gaylorde turned to glare at the man. “They ran away,” he said in a mocking singsong voice. “The ungrateful bastards ran away/”
Urm’s lack of a response confirmed the usurper’s statement.
Gaylorde went back to his chair and dropped into it, dispirited. “Is that all?”
Urm squirmed. “No, my liege.” Gaylorde raised one baleful eye to him. “A large delegation from the enemy camp made a triumphal entry into the town.
“Well that is not surprising. I should have done just the same,” his master said dully.
“Aye, my lord,” Urm said quietly.
“If we had not lost Elerde, we could deal with this. He and his soldiers would not have balked at meeting these leftovers from the dead king’s army. And they certainly would not have deserted. At least the men we have in the fortress cannot desert.”
Urm nodded. “Aye, my lord, since the Irishman revealed the fault in the wall when he took the duke out, the gap has been closed. There is no way out.”
Gaylorde propped his elbows on the heavy oak table in front of him and put his face in his hands. “No way out,” he repeated miserably. He added only moments later, “And no way in. How long can we withstand a siege?” keeping his face covered.
Urm’s eyebrows went up and he sighed, thinking. “A good long time, sire. But I do have one question.”
Gaylorde spread the fingers on one hand and looked at his ally through the gap that made. He did not speak but simply waited to hear what Urm was thinking.
“What use is it to wait them out? They are not going anywhere. They can wait us out. Until the Day of Judgment if they want. Oh, sorry, my lord.” Gaylorde looked at him balefully when he mentioned "judgment".
Gaylorde made a guttural, growling sound, stood again. He slammed his fist on the table making even the heavy table shudder with the force. “If I had the god-damned queen and her miserable brats I could get away! I don’t think Horsa or whoever leads this army would make many demands or threats seeing her lily white throat starting to leak red from the knife I held to close to it. Or if I was about to gut their precious ætheling.”
“But she is gone as well, with her children.” He flinched when he saw the rage boiling in his master’s face.
“Urm, I commend you on your ability to state the obvious,” the red-faced man hissed.
Urm kept quiet, biding his time. Finally he thought it was safe enough to ask, “With your leave, sir? I should go to see if the commander of this army wants to make his demands known.”
Gaylorde dismissed him. “Aye, go. Get out of here. I suppose if I had any wits I would get myself shriven.” He started to pace about the chamber muttering and swearing. Urm beat a hasty retreat.
Ricca, who had been so quiet in a corner that Gaylorde had forgotten she was there, slipped out. She stripped herself of all the queen's jewels and gold and went to find a place to hide them. She stood in the middle of the courtyard surveying the possibilities and wondering just how she could slip out of the stronghold. She fingered the bruise on her cheek. "If I get out of here alive, Gaylorde, you fucking whoreson I will come back and personally gut you," she muttered. "After I get the jewels." She went to the smaller well and dropped her little parcel into it. It made a satisfying clunk. She knew she had dropped it to the side where there was no water. She would figure out later how to get in and retrieve them.
When the time did come to parley, the leafy branchwas raised over the outer gate of the stronghold and was carried by the soldier who rode beside Horsa at the head of a small party of the king’s delegation. This delegation rode up the winding road to the top of the bluff, stopping a short distance from the gate. The outer gate slowly opened and a similar size party came out with Gaylorde at their fore. The two parties remained a bowshot apart for some time, then at an order, armed men from each side came forward and took up each other’s position, the usurper’s men between Horsa’s men and escape down the road, and Horsa’s men between Gaylorde’s and the open gate of the fortress. Everyone was in danger, and it was worth it to every man to keep his sword sheathed or his war axe or bow at rest.
When the exchange was accomplished, the representative for each side came forward to meet precisely in the middle. Urm walked forward for Gaylorde. To his and his master’s surprise, Horsa himself came forward.
“My lord, I am Urm of Bridlingham. I speak for his grace, king Gaylorde of Críslicland.”
Horsa could not resist a wry twist of his lips. “king Gaylorde, is it?” he sneered.
Urm looked annoyed. “You speak on your own behalf, I take it?”
Horsa gave the man a derisive grin. “Nay, nay, I have a king I speak for as well. Only mine is a real one.”
Urm looked puzzled, then caught movement behind Horsa at the corner of his eye. He looked up and froze. A very tall man came out of the throng of the soldiers who had accompanied Horsa up the road.
Behind Urm Gaylorde stood frozen as well. “I don’t believe it. The man has as many lives as a cat.”
King Lawrence was moving forward at a steady pace, his brow dark and his eyes boring into his cousin. The storm clouds in his expression looked about to fire thunderbolts.
Urm, turned to look at his lord. Their eyes met and Gaylorde shook his head dazedly. Then he turned slowly and with slumped shoulders walked back into the fortress. A gatekeeper spoke to him, receiving a shrill “Just fucking shut them. Let the others sort out what they will do.” The higher level men in his delegation shot around the king’s men by the gate, the mere soldiers quickly unbuckled and dropped their belts and weapons and kneeled before the king in a posture of complete submission.
Lawrence looked sideways at Horsa. “Methinks he thought I was dead.”
Next: The Plan to Take the Fortress
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com