New Stories: The King Gets Back to the War (Happened with Chages)
s soon as the news spread that the king was alive and leading his army to Lawrencium men from small estates, farms and villages and even monasteries began to come forth to join the ranks. Lawrence rode at the fore on War-Brother with Lord Horsa on his left and Earl Botopher at his right. The king’s entire body emanated his determination, a sight that brought cheer and resolve to the hearts of all who saw it. He was on his way home. He would destroy the men who had taken his crown. Earl Botopher recognized that to take back his own fortress in Skirbeck the security of the entire kingdom must return to first priority. When Lawrencium was regained, the ruffians who now held Skirbeck would simply grab what they could and melt away. He could only pray that his young wife would not be one of those precious items stolen, but her greatest value to the usurper’s allies was as a hostage for ransom, and king Lawrence had assured Botopher whatever gold and armed support he needed to get her back. Now the goal was not only the fortress at Lawrencium and the crown but the king’s own wife and their children. He knew that the queen’s brother, duke Lorin, was safe, having been freed by the Lord Elerde and Shannon O’Neill, the bard who now contented himself in the rear guard, preferring to walk than ride. Lawrence was keenly aware that the queen was at as great a risk as ever if not greater, for she and their children would make excellent shields for his cousin, the usurper, once he learned that the king was at his gates. The council of commanders urged the king to let people believe he was dead, using this subterfuge to trick that cousin, Duke Gaylorde. He mulled it over, considering all the possible outcomes, and in fine he decided that his presence at the vanguard of the returning army might cause the enemy to waver in their arrogant confidence. Therefore he was there, in full armor and all the rich trappings the aides could put together. He was the Great king come to reclaim what was rightfully his. Lord Jehan, Earl of Grantham, and his own household fighters and fyrd were with the army in Affynshire from onset to victory, then at the bridge, Lincoln and the reconquest of his own stronghold. So much the stranger then that when he heard that the king was killed in an encounter with brigands on a patrol of the Mercian border, he chose to court the usurper. His choice most certainly returned to haunt him as he now lay in his own prison hut guarded by the same bandits who blamed him as much as his lieutenant for the destruction of their village. The king pointedly admonished them to keep a better guard on their new prisoner than they on him. Aelthryth nodded seriously, but then he laughed. “We will keep Godgifu under guard as well.” Lawrence laughed also and replied, “I would like to believe she rescued me because I was worth rescuing.. methinks she would not find the earl as deserving.” As for the lady of Grantham.. it appeared she had fled and was living on the charity of some of her cousins now. One great concern Lawrence had was that they would somehow miss duke Lorin should he be heading west to look for the king. He knew his wife’s brother trusted no one else’s judgment in matters of import, particularly in matters of investigation and analysis. Lawrence worried that the man, once he was healed enough to travel, would do so on a circuitous route to avoid recapture. He sent scouts riding fast to all the possible routes save those hidden ones that he could not spare men for. All he could do now was to wait and pray his High Reeve and friend would be found.