The Duke arrives at Mossley.
Baldwin rushed outside and looked over at the anchored ship. “That’s not a pirate ship, Osbert. See the flag at the back. That is the Duke of Lovat’s flag. I thought he was dead.”
“They’re lowering a boat,” Osbert said. “What would a duke want of us? Will he want to take our food?”
“I think not. I think these must be the warriors the mayor of Mossley is waiting for. I hope he has more than the half a dozen or so men that’s in that longboat.”
The rest of the family walked out. “Are you sure they are friendly?" Dunstan said. “Should we start taking precautions?”
“I’ll walk to the shoreline and watch them as they come in. If I hurry back then they may not be friendly.”
“Be careful, Baldwin,” Erica said. Baldwin nodded and walked off to meet the boat.
Baldwin stood his ground at the shoreline after noticing the duke was on board. The boat landed and the Duke was the first off the boat. He hurried over to Baldwin and they shook hands, much to the relief of the family watching from the cave.
“Good to see you, Baldwin. I wondered what happened to you and Morgan.”
“I thought you were dead,” Baldwin said.
“No, close thing though. I was a bit further back with some of the men so we managed to get clear when it was all going wrong. There was a lot more than the two hundred men that you and Morgan said were camped there.”
“Yes, there was. And if you had waited for me and Morgan to return, as agreed, then you would have known that and not sent all those men to their deaths.”
“War, Baldwin. Things can go wrong but the men were soldiers and knew the risks.” He looked across to the cave. “So, what are you up to now?”
“I’m settled and I’ve got a wife.”
“Oh, I’d have thought you would rather be helping out at Mossley than being settled here.”
“I help Morgan out when I can.”
“Morgan is here as well. That’s a bonus.” He looked back at his men. “One of you go back and tell them to launch all the boats and bring the men to shore.”
“There is the little matter of a month’s pay, Duke.”
The Duke laughed. “Money, money. That’s all you mercenaries think of.” He pulled out a purse and gave Baldwin four gold coins. “That should cover it,” he said. I suppose you know why I am here.”
“And will you be joining my ranks?”
“Like I said, I help Morgan when I can. So how many men have you brought?”
“Forty. Twenty who escaped from Pavillion and some new faces. All good men and with the guards at Mossley plus you and Morgan, we are guaranteed success.”
“There is no ‘we’ anymore. I am happy here now.”
“Yes, whatever you say, Baldwin, but I know better. Come, show me some of your hospitality while my men land. I could do with some better wine than that stuff on the ship.”
Baldwin walked off with the Duke towards the cave. “I take it you will guide us to Mossley, Baldwin.”
“Yes, I was going there today anyway.”
The Duke met with Baldwin’s new family and he behaved the perfect gentleman, as expected of a duke.
"So, is it just the six of you that live here?" the Duke asked.
"Not at all," Dunstan replied. "Elfwine, lives here but is in Mossley at the moment."
"Elfwine, an unusual name, and one I seem to recall. Was his father the expert archer named Balfor?"
"Yes," Matilda said. "Balfor was his father."
" I will be pleased to meet him again. The last time I saw him, he was no more than ten years old and his father, my friend, had been tragically killed."
"Murdered. Elfwine says his father was murdered."
"Yes, that is true. Apologies if I have offended you, but I did not want to say he was murdered if you were not aware."
"No apology needed." Matilda said. "And I am sure Elfwine will be pleased to see you if he remembers you."
When all the men were assembled on shore, Baldwin and the Duke led them off through the marsh towards Mossley.
“Do you think these Vialian folk will have a spy in those woods so as to alert them of our presence?”
“Funny you should say that,” Baldwin said. “There was one up there on the hill. But he was found and killed by one of the local men yesterday.”
“That was well-timed then,” the Duke said.
“We should be near the town by four o’clock,” Baldwin said. “But I think your men should stay hidden in the woods until after dark when they may not be seen going into the town.
"What does it matter if we are seen now?" the Duke said.
"We will want to maintain an element of surprise. That would give us an advantage in an attack and could save the lives of some of your men."
"A good point Baldwin. I think we should come in under darkness."
"That's right," Baldwin said and nodded his head. "When your men are settled I’ll take you to see the mayor and then we can come back for your men later.”
“Sounds good to me.”
* * * * *
Elfwine woke early and left his bed at The Bull Inn and went across to have breakfast with Morgan and Flora.
“The guard master had a lot to drink last night,” Elfwine said. “He was in quite a state.”
"Thanks to you Elfwine. You kept urging him to have 'just one more drink' like you two were old friends." Morgan laughed. “He’s lucky the mayor didn’t see him like that. It wouldn’t go down well with the town on alert. He won’t turn up at the guard master’s office today unless the warning is sounded.”
"That's what I thought. So who will be in the office?"
“Thomas. I’ve already told Thomas to take over from the night guard. You know Thomas, he was with me...”
“Yes, I know Thomas.”
“Well, time's getting on, I’d better get down to my post at the back gate,” Morgan said.
“I’ll walk down with you,” Elfwine said. “Then I think I’ll take a stroll around the fence ledge. After that, I’ll go to The Bull Inn and let Flora entertain me.”
Flora gave a smile. “Just like old times then,” she said.
After Elfwine left Morgan he walked around the ledge and called in at the guard master’s office. “Thomas, how are you?”
“I’m okay, Elfwine. It’s good to see you again.”
“Morgan sent me. He wants me to exercise the prisoner around the town.”
“I’m impressed he remembered that. I usually walk the prisoner if the guard master turns up that is.”
Thomas went into the cell with a cord. Weasel stood up and put his hands behind his back. “We have to tie his hands. Orders. You need to fetch him back within half an hour or we will have to start a hunt.”
“I know,” Elfwine said. “Orders”
Elfwine left the office and headed into town but turned into an alley. He turned Weasel to face the wall and undid his hands.
“What’s going on,” Weasel said.
“You are in danger. Oliver knows you have been talking to us. He has taken two peasants hostage and he wants you in exchange for the hostages.”
“Please, don’t let him take me. He will torture me. He will kill me.”
“You can escape. You know Oliver, once he has you he will kill the hostages anyway. The cattle and goats will be taken out to graze soon. Herders and some peasant farmers will go out with them. You just have to mix amongst them, get outside and then head left for Advent.”
“I don't understand. Why are you doing this for me?”
“It is wrong for them to hand you over to that monster of a man. And these people are nothing to me. All I have done for them and I have received not a groat in return. But as you know, I have a score to settle with Fenglast, and the information you gave us will be a great help in tracking him down. I am grateful to you for that."
Elfwine looked out from the alley. “They are starting to gather. Get ready to walk over. Look confident. Look as if you usually go to the fields.”
Another five minutes passed and the guards began to lower the bridge. “Off you go,” Elfwine said and Weasel walked across to join the group. The gate was opened and the crowd went off. Elfwine went to the fence ledge and looked out. The crowd dispersed their separate ways though not straying too far from the gate.
Weasel happily set off on the path towards his new life in Advent. He had gone no more than thirty yards when Elfwine’s arrow struck him in the back and he fell to the ground where he cavorted in agony before dying. A guard ran along from his place above the gate. “What’s happening,” he shouted to Elfwine.
“The prisoner, Weasel, was escaping but I managed to stop him.”
The guard looked out at the body. “Good work,” he said. “I would have been in trouble if he got away on my watch. I’ll get a labourer and go out with a cart to collect the body.”
Elfwine got off the ledge and went to The Bull Inn. It was an hour later when Morgan looked in through the doorway. “Elfwine. Can we have a word outside?”
Flora looked over as Morgan left the inn again. “Oh, hello then, Flora,” she said with a noticeable sarcasm in her voice.
Elfwine looked at Flora and gave her a smile. “I said hello when I came in,” he said and he followed Morgan out.
“What’s going on?” Morgan said.
“I take it you mean Weasel. He escaped, so I stopped him.”
“Thomas told me you took him out for exercise, something you didn’t have to do.”
“I wanted something to pass the time and I wanted to help the guards.”
“I don’t believe he managed to get away from a man like you and with his hands tied.”
“Well he did, then he escaped from the town and I dropped him. Are you coming in for a drink now, or will we meet up later?”
Morgan shook his head. “I see you later. I’d better go and square this with the mayor. Hopefully, he won't make too much of a fuss about this.”
"If he does, tell him to come and see me."
"I gave Weasel my word, Elfwine."
"But I didn't." Morgan walked off and Elfwine returned to the Inn. “Well, hello, Flora,” he said as he walked in and they both laughed.
Morgan called in to see the mayor. “There has been a bit of an incident. While on daily exercise the prisoner, Weasel, escaped and was killed by an archer as he tried to escape across the meadow.”
“I’ll leave it to you and the guard master to improve the security of prisoners; I have other things to think of. Give my thanks to the archer. Had Weasel got clear he would have gone back to the Vialians and told them of our weaknesses here.”
“Talking of weaknesses, has training started of the town folk?” Morgan asked.
“We have drawn up a plan and some of the guards will teach combat skills in the square on non-market days. We have some names to start but we will extend combat training to all able males and self defence to all females.”
“That’s good,” Morgan said. “But not good enough. Is there any news of the men you have sent for?”
“I’ve already told you, they are due here anytime.”
“I suggest you get your family off to Advent because we will not be able to stop a disaster if the Vialians attack in force with grappling hooks.”
"Thank you for the advice, Morgan. I was thinking the same myself. I need to discuss it with my wife but hopefully, it might not come to that."
"It's your choice."
"I know you might be getting fed up at the small gate but it is important to have someone of your calibre in control there. Hopefully, the reinforcements will get here in time and we will destroy the raiders once and for all. Then I would like you to take over as guard master at the main gate."
"But you already have a guard master."
"He's old and often drunk. It's probably because he was drunk that the prisoner escaped. I'll promote him to Quartermaster. That will suit him better."
"Not exactly promotion, you're gonna make him a storeman."
"He'll be happy with that."
"I'm not so sure, but like you say, let's get the Vialians out of the way first."
Morgan called into The Bull Inn on his way back to the small gate. He walked over to Elfwine. “Things are looking serious. Can you take Flora to safety at The Flashes in the morning?”
“If that’s what you want, Morgan, I'll be happy to escort her. But then I will be back. I have business here.”
Morgan arrived back at his post. He looked out through the gate and was surprised to see the Duke approaching with Baldwin.
He opened the gate and let them in greeting Baldwin but not the Duke.
“It’s good to see you, Morgan, glad to have you on my side again,” the Duke said.
“I thought you were dead,” Morgan said.
“So did Baldwin, but as you can see...”
“Have you got my money?”
The duke laughed. “You and Baldwin are like twins. The same thoughts. Money, money, money.”
The duke took out his purse and gave Morgan four coins the same amount as Baldwin.
“Morgan grinned. “Welcome to Mossley,” he said. “And I’m glad you are not dead.”
“So am I, my friend, so am I.”
“We are going to see the mayor,” Baldwin said. “The Duke has forty men, out of sight, in the woods at the moment. After dark, we need to go out and bring them through this gate, and hopefully they might not be seen. I will clear it with the mayor to open the gate after dark if you will let the night guard know.”
“No need, I will wait here with the guard myself and see you all in. But like you said, let the mayor know what is going on.”
When Baldwin introduced the Duke to the mayor the relief showed clearly on the mayor's face. After his talk with Morgan earlier, he discussed it with his wife and they started packing for his wife and daughter to be escorted to Advent. He was worried the trip to Advent might be nearly as hazardous as stopping at Mossley. With the arrival of the Duke and his men that worry had passed.
"So you have forty warriors hidden in the woods?" the mayor said.
"Yes," the Duke said, "But they will be weary from the rough sea crossing and the heavily laden walk from the beach. Do you have any facilities or will we have to effect tents on the market square?"
"There is room for most of your men in the guard's compound and the remainder can bed down in the town hall. You, Duke, are welcome to stay as a guest at my house."
When Morgan and the Duke left, the mayor instructed his men to discreetly take the town's gold from the town hall and lock it in a cellar at the mayor's house before the Duke's men moved in.
The Duke’s men entered the town as planned and were fed and comfortably settled for the night.
* * * * *
Oliver Fenglast addressed his men after the burial of his son Guy.
“Today has been a day of sorrow and mourning. Yesterday, my son Guy courageously led a raid which was almost successful and with only two grappling hooks. Is that right?”
“Yes,” they all shouted.
“He was brought down by cowards who could only fight him from a distance. Is that right?”
“Yes,” they shouted again.”
“Tomorrow we will assault the stockade of Mossley with twenty grappling hooks. Tomorrow we will enter Mossley and the people of Mossley will pay for the murder of my son. Tomorrow every man woman and child in that town will be punished. Kill every man and boy. Rape every woman. Loot every dwelling. Then the town of Mossley will become the fortress of Fenglast, the greatest bandit town in the country. Are you with me?”
“Yes, yes, yes,” they all shouted.