Vialians attack Mossley again.
Elfwine loaded his bow as Guy's white horse galloped along the track towards the fleeing peasants.
“That's a very fast-moving horse," Baldwin said. "And the rider is a much smaller target than a cart full of barrels. Good luck with that shot, Elfwine.”
“It's Guy that needs the luck,” Elfwine said. “I can allow for the horse’s speed and the horse also makes for a bigger target. If I do miss the rider, I will surely hit the horse.”
Elfwine let the arrow fly. At the speed that the horse was galloping Elfwine knew he would only get one shot. He didn't want to risk a miss so aimed for the horse. The horse stumbled and fell forward as the arrow struck home, sending Guy down and tumbling across the ground. The horse lay still, if not killed by the arrow, killed by the fall. Guy also lay still for a few seconds before struggling to his feet and limping towards his men.
Further along, the Vialians had reached the fence with two ladders and two three-pronged grappling hooks. The Mossley archers had some success but the Vialians still managed to drop the ladders into the trench, throw the ladders across, jump on the ladders and start climbing.
The grappling hooks were thrown and lodged between the fence posts. More men dropped into the trench and began climbing the ropes. Morgan noticed the problem and began running along towards the area being attacked by the use of hooks and ladders. His own men were only thinly spaced and would soon be overwhelmed if the attack were successful.
As Guy continued to try to limp to safety, Elfwine let an arrow loose and it hit Guy in the ribs causing him to fall again. One of the other horsemen was going to Guy’s aid but as the rider dismounted another of Elfwine’s arrows struck the rider and he fell dead. A Vialian leader seeing the plight of Guy sent archers to take down Elfwine. Elfwine sent another arrow into Guy’s body before turning his attention to the threat from the archers. Although he was a stationary target only his head and shoulders were showing above the fence and he had a steady aim. The archers were moving and had to stop to take a shaky aim but when they stopped they became vulnerable.
Baldwin also had a bow with him. His earlier hunting with Elfwine had been useful archery training for him and between them, they soon dispatched the six archers that were sent across. Elfwine turned his attention back to Guy's body and sent two more arrows into him.
“I think he’s dead,” Baldwin said sarcastically.
“I know. I'm just sending a message.”
A warrior and an archer managed to push the ladders out and turn them into the trench but further along the raiders with the grappling hooks had reached the top of the ropes. The archer leaned out to fire an arrow at the top raider but took an arrow in his head and fell off the ledge. One of the raiders jumped onto the ledge and was soon followed by another and they drew their swords as the lone warrior charged towards them.
Morgan got to the second rope as a raider reached the top but with only rope in his hands and no way to draw his sword he made an easy target for Morgan and he ran him through with his sword then cut the rope sending the following climbers into the ditch. The Mossley swordsman was skilfully keeping two raiders at bay on the narrow walkway and Morgan ran to assist him stopping to chop the other rope so no more raiders could follow. Morgan came behind and ran his sword through the rearmost raider’s back, pushed him off the ledge then swung his blade slicing off the other raider's sword hand.
“All yours,” he said. The swordsman struck the raider's neck and he fell. "Well done," Morgan said.
"Thank you, sir."
"There's no need for you to thank me, you have done extremely well. It is I that thank you."
Elfwine watched as three raiders lifted Guy and laid him on the black horse. “You can take him to his father now,” Elfwine said under his breath.
A recall was sounded from the forest as the horse was led away and the raiders began to fall back.
Morgan looked out at the dead white horse. "Looks like the town will eat well on horse meat tonight."
Baldwin and Elfwine decided to wait a while before leaving in case the Vialians should return.
"What do you think Baldwin?" Morgan said. "Were they testing to find the best method of assault?"
"I think you're right. I don't think you'll see the ladders again but they did have some success with the grappling hooks. If they return with twenty of them and attack over a wide area, it could become difficult."
I don't think we will see them again today. They will be mourning the loss of their leader. You and Elfwine should get home to your family."
"I'll stay if you like," Elfwine said.
"You two have done enough and your family will be worried."
"I have a job to do anyway," Elfwine said. "But you can expect me back soon."
The two men set off towards The Flashes. Morgan went to see the mayor who called a meeting in the guard’s office with Morgan and some of the guards.
“How many casualties have we? The mayor asked.
One of the guard leaders answered. “We have four guards dead or wounded and one civilian.”
“And about how many enemy raiders were killed?”
“At least twenty killed, wounded I don’t know.”
“So,” The mayor said. “We are winning.”
“It is not about winning yet,” Morgan said. “We can’t afford to lose four men. The guards are spread out too thinly as it is. We have seen raiders breach the defences today. If they carry on looking for weak spots in these hit and run raids, they will eventually make another breach and if there are not enough men to stop them right away, then the raiders will swarm in over the fence, and all will be lost once they are established within our defences. We need more men now; we need to train more civilians to man the ledges.”
“I will see to that,” the mayor said. "I'll make sure that all males of working age are armed and they will be given defensive training."
“And we need to know when the re-enforcements are due to arrive,” Morgan said.
“Morgan, that is secret information.”
“The guards need to know. If not, some of them may think we are lost and they will start to disappear from the town.”
The mayor looked around at the men and thought for a moment. “All right, perhaps you are right. The news is that the hired warriors should be here within a few days,” he said.
* * * * *Elfwine and Baldwin set off from the main track towards the left peak. “Have you ever been up here before, Elfwine?”
“Many years ago when I first started seeing Arabella, only we came up from the other direction. It is a lovely view from the peak.”
“There were no spies up there then?”
“No, but there were no Vialians about in the area either.”
It was a long drag up the hillside with brush and brambles often partially blocking the way. “Not used much this path,” Baldwin said.
“Seems not,” Elfwine replied. “Look over there. Cherry Trees; I’d forgotten about those. You should bring Erica up here in quieter times, the cherries are juicy and sweet and you can take a basket back for the others. But those trees mean we are near the top.”
“We’d best keep quiet so as not to alert him,” Baldwin said.
“He has probably seen us a long way back.”
They got to the bushes and noticed his hide straight away by the giveaway worn path. “Not too bright then, is he?” Baldwin said.
The anti-wolf door was open and Elfwine pulled out his dagger and looked inside. “Not too clean either, it stinks terrible and there's rubbish everywhere.”
“We’ve missed him then; maybe he is reporting in.”
“Nothing for him to report. I think he must have seen us and bolted but he can’t be far away. We didn’t pass him so he must be going the other way but it is quite a slope so he can’t move that fast.”
Baldwin looked over the ridge and saw the man making his way down the bank. “Oy, stop where you are,” he shouted. The man looked back but carried on down. “I’ll go after him,” Baldwin said and as he set off after the man he heard an arrow whizz past him and the spy dropped and tumbled a part of the way down the hill.
“Why on earth did you do that?” Baldwin called back. “He’s an old man, I could have easily caught him.”
“Well, I caught him instead.”
“He might have given us some information.”
“He’s a low life, he wouldn’t be able to tell us anything.”
“He certainly won’t now,” Baldwin said. “I didn’t come up here to kill an old man.”
“I didn’t ask you to. He was a spy, probably spying on us as well. Now he’s a dead spy. Come on let’s get back to the cave it’ll be getting dark soon. Be careful though, it was easier coming up than it will be going down.”
“We can’t just leave him there to rot away,” Baldwin said.
“Don’t worry about him. The wolves will take care of him. He won’t be there tomorrow.”
They got back to the cave and Matilda gave them some of the day’s broth and some slices of venison.
“The Vialians attacked Mossley again,” Elfwine said. “The town is getting short of men.”
“It’s looking desperate,” Dunstan said.
“Morgan told me that the mayor has sent for some warriors,” Baldwin said.
“But they may be too late. I think I’ll head back and make the numbers up,” Elfwine said.
“I’ll go with you then,” Baldwin said.
“No, Baldwin. You are needed here," Elfwine said. "We can’t keep leaving our family at risk without a professional warrior.”
“We can manage,” Dunstan said.
Baldwin looked at Erica then back to Elfwine. “I'll stay here tonight but I will join you in Mossley tomorrow, Elfwine.”
"As you wish but I think you would be better off here."
“Why not go with Baldwin tomorrow,” Matilda said. “It's already starting to get dark and it seems silly to set off now.”
“No, I must go and I must go now. The tide is coming in fast and I don’t want to get wet.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon then,” Baldwin said. “Don’t get too drunk tonight.”
Elfwine gave a laugh. “That depends on your friend Morgan.”
They said their goodbyes and Elfwine set off for Mossley.
"He's still struggling over the loss of Arabella and I wonder if he will ever get over it," Erica said.
"Yes he's grieving badly but he is also very angry and I am concerned about him," Baldwin said. "Well, it has been a hard day today. I think I’ll get to my bed.”
Erica joined him on the bed and they cuddled up together. “If you must go to Mossley tomorrow, Baldwin, please take care. I think I am with child now.” Baldwin was overjoyed with the news and the two of them fell asleep in each other's arms.
The following morning Baldwin woke to the sound of Erica singing in the living area. He got dressed and walked over to her placing a kiss on her cheek. “I’m so happy,” she said.
“Me too. Have you told them?”
“Told us what?” Matilda said. Baldwin had not seen her sitting by the fire.
“Baldwin forgot to arrange a wedding blessing with the vicar.”
“Oh well, no rush I suppose,” Matilda said.
"You can have a hearty breakfast today, Baldwin," Erica said. "Eggs, venison and fresh bread."
"Osbert," Matilda shouted. "Get out of bed and fetch some water."
Osbert got dressed and took a jug out to the spring but came running back in. “Baldwin, come quickly. There’s a pirate ship in the bay.”