Glistening streams of pungent sweat rolled down his rough-hewn cheekbones. His long black hair swept incessantly in front of his battle-scarred eyes.
He crouched down carefully beside an old oak tree, wistfully admiring the enveloping songs of birds. The brisk morning breeze was also lovely for a change, as the weather in England was not typically known for its charm.
Robert FitzWalter, Marshall of the Army of God and Holy Church, patiently awaited the moment to seize the city. Along with his baronial army, they would see London set free from tyranny.
Glancing around, he noticed that two of the knights were not so restful.
‘Why can’t we take the horses in?’
‘Think about it, you idiot. We are attempting to achieve surprise.'
'What do you think the sleeping people of London will hear first, the galloping of hooves, or our almost silent footsteps.’
‘Please, you’re about as silent as an injured boar!’
Robert held his palm up and put a halt to the conversation.
‘The horses will come in with the reserves. Period.’ he said.
His fellow barons would have the same challenge of keeping their men in line. They would relish it though.
One of his allies was a northern lord, Robert De Ros. He was thought of by many as being untrustworthy, especially since the man had been fiercely loyal to King John up until ten years ago.
Then again, having your son taken hostage by the King, and your lands forfeit would be enough to shake the loyalties of any man. Still, Robert trusted him enough to invite him to join their cause.
Another ally and brother in arms was his beloved cousin Saer De Quincy. He and Robert had served in France together for a time.
Dozens of other notable Barons stood intermingled with almost two thousand knights. Each of them held a great dislike for King John.
These were lords from all corners of England. They too patiently awaited the word from their chosen commander to unleash hell upon the city.
King John had always been too swift to act upon his grudges, the thought that he could alienate even his most trusted advisors had never entered his mind.
1215AD was to be an excellent year for those suffering relentlessly at the hands of King John. Everything was happening just as they had planned.
The Aldgate entrance into the city of London appeared to be eerily silent as they made to charge through.
‘Why couldn’t we have taken Bishop’s Gate instead?’ a drunken voice bellowed.
They did not expect Robert to hear this time.
‘The Aldgate will bring us closer to where our allies are within the city, which will also draw less suspicion. You have been told all about this!’ Robert scolded.
‘Didn’t tell me.’ the insolent knight cursed.
‘Enough! The defences to the east of the city are also lesser, at least where this gate is concerned. Now focus, almost thirty thousand people are living here. Try not to wake all of them up will you.’ Robert berated.
‘This cannot be it. Hardell had better not betray us now.’ Robert muttered.
William Hardell was the Mayor of London, and Robert had been in contact with him for some months regarding the status of the city. It was perhaps Robert’s previous role as Lord of Baynard castle within the town that had eventually swayed him to their cause. Or maybe not, this could always be wishful thinking on his part.
Robert was a romantic dreamer. There was always the chance that they would soon meet an untimely end at the hands of their would-be friends.
Robert steeled himself. Now was the perfect time to deliver a rousing speech.
‘I once promised King John that I would deliver two thousand knights to his doorstep. We are doing that. My brothers, we are making history.'
Robert paced back and forth. 'This time, I intend to dispatch the bastard to hell myself for what he has done. Let us not make me a liar now!’ he roared.
Robert would argue outwardly that his reasons for hating John were financial, and that they were for the good of the realm. They were that, and more.
His reasons for wanting to fight were far more personal. King John had threatened the life of his brother-in-law, following the murder of a serving-man in a dispute over lodgings at court.
Whatever his reasons were, Robert was never one to let go of a grudge. He was almost like King John in this regard, although the similarities would end there.
The men would follow him anywhere. He had helped breathe life into a noble cause, one which people will tell tales of throughout the ages.