Chapter Fourteen The Cataract.
Echoing out of the castle was the Agnus Dei being sung by the monks and nuns bringing a curious peace to the proceedings. Defender and attacker alike made the sign of the living ankh over their hearts and prayed to the same God for salvation.
The castle doors opened and the knights and the students rode out caparisoned for battle. Favours flapping on their lance’s shafts.
Alexander drew them up to a stop.
“If I am to die this day let it be with honour and for the grace of our God and our Lady of Prey.” Alexander called. “I wish you no harm those of you who are ranged before us, but kill you I will if I must.”
“Hark and hear this, your champion DeGussen is safe and healed of the worst of his wound.” Tomas called. “Know also that the Holy Brothers and Sisters will treat all who are brought to them without favour.”
The troopers sighed as DeGussen rode out on a borrowed mare to join the ranks of Knights.
“You know me my friends as a man of few words, but know this. I was treated with all courtesy within. The Lady Sophia spoke to me and eased my pains.” He move uncomfortably in the saddle. “I believe she speaks for Our Lady. I can not fight because of my injury but you can choose not to fight because you know it is wrong. Question the reason and those who command you.”
He turned his horse and rode back to the gate calling.
“Think long and choose wisely my comrades for all our sakes.”
Silence fell over the meadow for a moment before being broken by the Bishops manic voice.
“Defilers of the Holy Words, Idolatries and sinners. You will not dilute our resolve by your vile words. This day there shall be no quarter given for you are the spawn of hell.” He stood up in his saddle and screamed at the top of his voice. “Attack!!!”
Arrow’s whipped through the air from attackers and defenders alike to rattle against wall and rocks alike.
“Forward Knights, for valour and Our Lady. Charge!!” Alexander called and in moments they were thundering down the hill.
Samantha stood off and fired arrow after arrow into the press of men and horses. Several fell but soon she had to abandon her bow and with Aziz at her side fell on the attackers with a will.
Tomas drove forward, his mace and sword causing the attackers to pull back, such were the ferocity of his blows. He cleaved a mans head off his shoulders while the mace stunned another.
Alexander was like a machine creating havoc wherever he went.
Sir Justin was pulled from his horse by two villagers who then tried to pry open the mans armour with billhooks to allow their knives to land a fatal blow.
One man had managed to prise open Sir Justin’s visor and was about to deal the killing blow when one of Samantha’s javelins smashed through his body.
Sir Justin rolled to his feet in time to counter the other mans blow and grabbing his horses bridle managed to regain the saddle.
Two of the Knights were not so lucky and lay in growing pools of blood.
Bonnyface smashed through the troopers by main force to leave several dieing on the ground.
He intended to take on the Bishop but instead found himself isolated franticly trying to defend himself before Gregory and Viktor managed to create a path back out.
“To the castle! To the castle!” Alexander yelled a stream of blood going down his face from another victim.
The Blacksmith and some of the more able villagers covered the Knights retreat back to the castle with a salvo of arrows before following the riders in.
Alexander turn in his saddle.
“Where is Sir Anthony and Sir Robert?” He yelled in despair.
“Fallen my Lord.” Sir Justin yelled back.
“What in the name of God were you hoping to achieve from all this folly?” Brother Patrik asked as his monks and nuns tended to the injured.
“Shock and Awe!” Alexander said angrily. “I hoped that they would run away. What’s the tally Justin?”
“Heavy my Lord besides the deaths of Anthony and Robert, Bedavier and Mathew are injured, the later seriously. The youngster’s all carry light wounds.”
“Thank you my friend I will go around the injured shortly. The enemies tally if at all possible?”
“A rough reckoning would be fifteen dead and seriously injured.” Justin reported. “If what I saw was correct?”
“Sir Alexander someone is approaching the gates under a flag of parley.” A voice called down to those waiting below.
“It seems that the injured must wait. Tell them I am coming!”
Alexander took the stairs rapidly with Tomas following in his wake.
“Ah there you are my Lord. What was the point of that stupid charge?” The Bishops voice was sarcastic. “Perhaps you need reminding of the folly of opposing me.”
He clicked his fingers and two villagers came forward with long pikes that they drove into the ground on each side of him. On their tops like bizarre trophies were the heads of the two fallen Knights.
“Why don’t you come down and complete the set.” The man actually sneered.
“You have done nothing more than stiffen our resolve to oppose you!” Alexander was furious at the defilement of the bodies of the two men.
He turned away and with heavy heart descended to the floor below.
“We must get Sophia and Tomas away from here.” He told Patrik. “Search for another way out of here. Tomas, children, Lady Sophia’s fate lay in your hands find the way out and prepare to leave. When the time comes we will provide a diversion. Quickly now!”
Tomas issued orders before trotting away with Samantha at his side.
“What are you going to do, my Lord?” Patrik asked.
“What we can Brother, what we can?” Alexander replied as a cannon ball struck the walls. “It seems that their powder is now dry.”
Julian came across with the remaining Knights.
“What will you have of us?” He asked.
“Go to the top of the gatehouse and defend the walls as best you can.” Alexander turned to the monk. “Brother we cannot be seen by the villages to panic. Nor must they see Sophia and the youngsters leave. How is the Abbott?”
“He is leading the people in prayer and making sure they are fed.”
“Good it will keep them occupied. Now if you will excuse me I must join the others.”
With that he disappeared up the turrets stairs to the walls above leaving a worried Patrik behind.
Twice the Bishop sent troops to attack the gate only to have them repulsed by arrow fire but the cannons were starting to break the thick stone walls.
Patrik went around the sick beds talking to those who had been brought from the Abbey, reassuring them before moving on to the newly injured. Sir Matthew was pale and breathing raggedly.
Beside him holding his hand was Sophia weeping silently. She looked up at Patrick and tearfully shook her head.
Patrick bent and checked on the man with his extended senses. He could feel the patches Sophia had put in to ease the mans pain but equally he could see there has nothing to do to save him.
“Enough now my Lady. You have no need to reproach yourself child you have done all you could. Sometimes you have to choose those that will die and those that will live and believe me it never gets any easier.
Look to those your God given gifts can aid rather than those God has already claimed. Go to good Sir Bedivier and attend to his wounds.
Sadly she stood up saying.
“Goodnight good Knight go to your eternal rest with a clear heart and head. You did your duty well.” She made the sign of the living Ankh over him. She turned and lifted up her head and shoulders as if settling a burden more comfortably on her shoulders before walking away.
For the next hour Patrik and Sophia tended the sick and tried to reassure the villagers.
“Brother Patrik is Sir Alexander still up on the walls?” Tomas asked a little out of breath.
“Yes my boy why do you ask?”
“I think we have found a way out through the catacombs to the old village church. We made be able to get everyone out through it.” He said earnestly.
“And where would everyone go?” Patrik smiled and patted the boys shoulder. “No this escape route will be for you and Sophia alone. Go and get yourselves prepared.”
“Brother I can not go our people need to see me and take heart.” Sophia said horrified at the thought.
“You are going young Lady. Our people must know that you are safe.” His callused hand stroked the girls cheek. “May our God bless you my Lady. I will go and tell Sir Alexander.”
“Tell me what Brother?” Alexander said as he exited from the turret.
“Tomas has a possible escape route from the castle.” Patrik said.
Tomas explained what they had found.
“Have you explored it Tomas? Why do you think it leads to the old church?” Alexander asked after Tomas had finished.
“A couple of the old villagers remember the stories of how the two buildings were linked but they did warn of the restless spirits down there. We haven’t done much more than clear the site so we can get the women and children through.” Tomas replied honestly.
“I explained to Tomas that it will be impossible to take the villagers out as they would have nowhere to go.”
“Tomas I want you and the others to go through the tunnels. Take Lady Sophia with you. No arguments my Lady I need to know that you are safe. Brother go with them.”
Patrik opened his mouth to complain but thought better of it when he saw Alexander’s eyes. “If it is safe we will send the women and children through. We will be able to defend the walls for at least another two hours after then is anyone’s guess. We will need to leave the sick and injured here under Bedeviers command and prey that they show mercy.”
“What of you my Lord?” Sophia asked genuinely concerned.
“We will try and follow, closing the way behind us.”
Sophia saw through the lie.
“Endeavour to stay alive my Lord as I’m sure our Lady will be annoyed if you don’t.”
“I will try my best my Lady be assured of that.” He turned to his friend Patrik. “Go and may God give your feet wings.”
They clasped arms quickly and then dashed away to their tasks.
Patrik feared what they would find in the dark and how much of what they had heard was true. Fear brought bile to his mouth and made his distorted heart race such that he feared a seizure for all of the Angel’s promise.
In moments he was following the youngsters into a black spiral staircase that wound down into the darkness.
Not that far away a demon stroked her bloated form and threw back her head with unwholesome joy, revelling in the chaos she had wrought. Her fang like teeth glinting in the sun light.
“Prepare yourself my Lord. Your troops will enter the battle when they are at their weakest, at the moment they start fighting.” She looked up at the Duke De Anjou knowing that he only saw her as a ravishing beauty. The Succubus laughed a cruel laugh and stroked his chin her snake like tongue tasting the air. “Then you will swoop down and destroy them all.”
The man nodded as if hypnotised.
“Sergeant at Arms saddle up the troops!”
“Yes my Lord.” The Sergeant replied. “Right lads to horse, to horse.”
Battle was coming. A place of valour and bloodshed where in truth no one is the victor.