Child Christopher - Chapter 33
XXXIII. A COUNCIL OF CAPTAINS: THE HOST COMES TO BROADLEES, AND MAKES FOR WOODWALL
That night, though there was some little coming and going between the Tofters and the Brimsiders, yet either flock slept on their own side of the river. Moreover, before the midst of the night, cometh David to the wood-side, and had with him all men defensible of the Tofts and the houses thereabout, and most of the women also many of whom bore spear or bow, so that now by the wood-side, what with them of the Tofts and the folk who joined them thereto from the country-side about Hazeldale, there were well-nigh ten hundreds of folk under weapons; and yet more came in the night through; for the tidings of the allegiance of Brimside was spreading full fast.
Betimes on the morrow was King Christopher afoot, and he and Jack and David and Gilbert, and they twelve in company, went down to the banner by the water-side; and to them presently came Oliver Marson and ten other of the captains of Brimside, and did them to wit that the Baron were fain if they would come to his pavilion and hold counsel therein, for that he was not so sick but he might well speak his mind from where he lay. So thither they went all, with good will, and the Baron greeted them friendly, and made what reverence he might to Christopher, and bade him say what was his mind and his will. But Christopher bade them who were his elders in battle to speak; and the Baron laughed outright and said: "Meseemeth, Lord King, thou didst grow old yesterday at my costs; but since thou wilt have me to speak, I will even do so. And to make matters the shorter, I will say that I wot well what ye have to do; and that is, to fall upon the Earl Marshal's folk ere they fall upon us. Now some folk deem we should fare to Brimside and have a hosting there; but I say nay; whereas it lieth out of the road to Oakenham, and thereby is our road, meseemeth; and it is but some six days' riding hence, save, as is most like, two of those days be days of battle But if we go straight forward with banners displayed, each day's faring shall be a day of hosting and gathering; for I tell thee, Lord King, the fame of thee has by now gone far in this country-side. Wherefore I say no more, since I wax weary, than this: to the road this morning, and get we so far as Broadlees ere night-fall, for there we shall get both victual and folk."
There was good cheer made at his word, so Christopher spake: "Baron of Brimside, thou hast spoken my very mind and will; and but if these lords and captains gainsay it, let us tarry no longer, but array all our folk in good order and take tale of them, and so for Broadlees. What say ye, lords?"
None nay-said it, so there was no more talk save as to the ordering of this or the other company. And it was so areded that the Brimside men should fare first at the head of the host with the banner of Brimside, and that then should go the mingled folk of the country-side, and lastly the folk of the Tofts with the banner of Oakenrealm; so that if the host came upon foemen, they might be for a cloud to hide the intent of their battles awhile till they might take their advantage.
So went the captains to their companies, and the Tofters and their mates crossed the river to the men of Brimside, who gave them good cheer when they came amongst them; and it was hard to order the host for a while, so did the upland folk throng about the King and the Queen; and happy were they who had a full look on Goldilind; and yet were some so lucky and so bold that they kissed a hand of her; and one there was, a very tall young man, and a goodly, who stood there and craved to kiss her cheek, and she did not gainsay him, and thereafter nought was good to him save an occasion to die for her.
As for Christopher, he spake to many, and said to them that wheresoever his banner was, he at least should be at the forefront whenso they came upon unpeace; and so soon as they gat to the road, he went from company to company, speaking to many, and that so sweetly and friendly that all praised him, and said that here forsooth was a king who was all good and nothing bad, whereas hitherto men had deemed them lucky indeed if their king were half good and half bad.
Merry then was the road to Broadlees, and they came there before night-fall; and it was a little cheaping town and unwalled, and if the folk had had any will to ward them, they lacked might. But when they found they were not to be robbed, and that it was but the proclaiming of King Christopher in the market-place, and finding victual and house-room for the host, and the Mayor taking a paper in payment thereof, none stirred against them, and a many joined the host to fight for the fair young King. Now nought as yet had they heard at Broadlees of any force stirring against them.
But in the morning when they went on their ways again, and were bound for Cheaping Woodwall, which was a fenced town, they sent out well-horsed riders to espy the road, who came back on the spur two hours after noon, and did them to wit that there was a host abiding them beneath the walls of Woodwall under the banner of Walter the White, an old warrior and fell fighter; but what comfort he might have from them of Woodwall they wotted not; but they said that the tidings of their coming had gone abroad, and many folk were abiding the issue of this battle ere they joined them to either host. Now on these tidings the captains were of one mind, to wit, to fare on softly till they came to a defensible place not far from the foemen, since they could scarce come to Woodwall in good order before nightfall, and if they were unfoughten before, to push forward to battle in the morning.
Even so did they, and made a halt at sunset on a pleasant hill above a river some three miles from Woodwall, and there they passed the night unmeddled with.