(An excerpt from a work in progress. -- ed.)
The men at arms had halted at an inn, while archers and footmen, mounted and dismounted, milled in the yard and filled their cups and horns from barrels of rich red wine.
“Larkin. What’s happening?”
“The ford is blocked.”
“Oh. What ford is that?”
Larkin laughed. It really was like that sometimes, men standing around with no idea of what was happening.
“There’s a river up ahead. Vaughn and Sands were in the van and they say there are hundreds of noble pennants on the far side.”
He spat, noisily, as Thomas stood, clinging to Chestnut’s bridle and wondering where he was going to find water, fodder, and something for his own belly.
This day, the army had gotten up well before dawn. Alternately walking and cantering, the army had covered a good ten miles before the sun broke the horizon.
That was all Thomas knew.
In Old Bill’s stories, it seemed that his father was right there in the innermost circles at every council, and had a bird’s eye view of every battlefield, and had always known every little thing that was going on.
He saw now that that was not necessarily so.
Men milled in confusion in front of the doorway, and Thomas wondered if they were going in, or more likely the inn was full to capacity.
At that time, the door crashed open, men began shouting questions and several of Sir John’s captains forced their way out against a reluctant crowd of men.
“Back! Back! Make way, make way.”
The huddle of men backing up were treading on their toes, and Larkin grabbed Thomas’s arm and pulled him off to one side. There were two kinds of men in that yard, men who were talking, rather shouting, and those who would listen if only they could hear.
Sir John stepped out of the inn’s front door and the quiet descended as he stepped up on a box and spoke, in quite a normal voice.
“Right. I need a hundred mounted archers, all volunteers.”
Larkin grabbed his right arm and lofted it in his strong and callused grip.
“Here we are, my Lord.”
Sir John turned and grinned.
“Ah, yes, the Cheshire cat, Larkin my boy, how the Hades are you, sir?”
“I am well, Sir John. The last time I saw you, sir, one of us had a head like a half-chewed pudding.” He turned aside. “Some of you may recall that particular incident.”
A ripple of laughter went through the fascinated mob, ears all a-quiver and straining to catch every syllable.
“…and one of us had a pretty good dose of the clap, as you may recall…”
The men roared, thousands of them, all jamming into the yard, streaming in on foot from all sides now that there was news.
“Ah, yes, be that as it may. I need a hundred of you good fellows. I’m offering a gold salut, for any man that crosses the ford…and lives to collect.”
There was a hubbub as men struggled, pushing their neighbours aside and thrusting themselves forward.
Sir John’s captain, William Vaughn, was there with his quill and his book of doom as some called it, all ready to take their names as Larkin dragged him forward.
“Come along lad, you’ll find this a little more to your taste.”
(End of excerpt. -- ed.)
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Thank you for reading my excerpt.