CHAPTER XII ~ THE KNIGHTS AND THEIR FELLOWS BETAKE THEM TO THE ASSAULTING OF THE RED HOLD
On the morrow, when the day was yet young, the knights were ready for departure, and in the very gate they bade farewell to the ladies, who kissed them kindly one and all, and Viridis wept sore; and Atra constrained herself to do even as the others did; but pale she was and quaking when she kissed Arthur and watched him get a-horseback.
But the knights bade their ladies be of good cheer, for that they would send them tidings of how they sped every seven days at least, whereas it was no long way thence to the Red Hold, save there were battle on the road, and they deemed their host which should beset the Hold would be enough to clear all the ways behind it. For that same cause withal they had Sir Aymeris with them, nor left a many men behind them, and they under the rule of three squires, whereof two were but young, and the third, who was made the captain of the castle, was an old and wise man of war, who had to name Geoffrey of Lea. There, withal, was the priest Sir Leonard, who went about now much hushed and abashed, and seemed to fear to give a word to Birdalone; albeit she deemed of him that his thoughts of her were the same as erst they had been.
So now when the knights were departed, and all the host was gone out of sight, it was heavy time indeed in the Castle of the Quest till they should hear tidings of them again. Both Aurea and Atra kept much to themselves, and did I know not what to wear away the time; for now it was not to be looked for that they should venture out-a-gates. But as for Viridis, she waxed of better cheer after a while, but whatever betid she would not sunder herself from Birdalone; nay, not for an hour; and Birdalone took all her kindness kindly, though forsooth it was somewhat of a pain unto her; it shall be told wherefore ere long.
Withal, as if to wear the time, Birdalone betook her diligently to her needlework, and fell to the cunningest of broidery; so that Viridis and the others wondered at her, for when they were done it seemed indeed that the flowers and creatures and knots had grown of themselves upon the cloth, such wondrous work it was.
Moreover, to his great joy, the very first day of the departure of the host she called Sir Leonard unto her, and prayed to go on again with the learning her fair scribe-craft; and therein also was she diligent hours of every day; and Viridis would sit beside her wondering at the deftness of her fingers, and crying out for joy as the page grew fair and well-learned under them.
Thus wore a week, and at the end thereof came a messenger from the host and told how they had come before the Red Hold and had summoned them thereof to yield, which they had utterly denied to do, but defied the host; wherefore the host had now beset the Hold, and more folk were daily flocking unto them; but that the said Hold would be hard to win by plain assault, whereas it was both strong and well-manned; but few of the host had been slain or hurt as yet, and of the chieftains not one.
Right glad were they of the castle because of these tidings; though, forsooth, the men-at-arms knew well enough that the time would soon come when some fierce assault would be made, and then, forsooth, would be sore peril of life and limb unto the chieftains.