Luckless and his dwarfs started milling around the courtyard, waiting impatiently for someone to break in. Grimly and his gnomes were still moving livestock back into the makeshift pens in the collapsed barn. Goldenrod went down there. The dogs got free when the kennels busted and the fence got knocked down, and now Goldenrod rode on Puppy’s back trying to corral the chickens that were still running wild all over the yard. Margueritte almost laughed. Then she caught sight of the boys. Somehow, they escaped the underground and the clutches of Lolly and the dwarf wives.
Margueritte jumped up. Her mind raced. In seconds, every little one in the area had Pepin, Cotton, Weldig Junior and Martin corralled. Somehow, the boys talked them into letting them climb the back wall, to watch the battle. Margueritte thought extra hard, though she hoped it did not come across as yelling.
“Heurst. If you let them watch, you better make sure they don’t escape and try to join the fight. If your men are needed, you better send sufficient men to escort them back underground, safely.” Then she had a headache and imagined if she did much more of that she would get a migraine.
Margueritte refused to watch the battle. She heard enough commentary from Elsbeth and Margo. She heard nothing from Calista and Melanie, but inside she understood they were both disappointed at not being allowed to be down in it. Still, they did not mind guarding the women. They understood the women, and children needed to be kept safe.
At the same time, Margueritte wondered what made certain elf maidens so bloodthirsty. She hoped there was not some subtle influence she gave off or had given off through the centuries. She had to admit, it was probably her fault. Even without looking, she understood what happened down on the battlefield better than Margo or Elsbeth, who watched and explained. Both Gerraint and Festuscato said it was not their fault. The Princess and Diogenes both begged off responsibility. Both Greta and Doctor Mishka said they were in the business of trying to save lives, and the storyteller said, peace baby, though no one laughed. Margueritte answered them all. It is all of my fault, and something terrible about the human race. Sin, as Patrick or Boniface would say, and there will be no avoiding it until the Lord returns.
Margueritte finally looked when the big charge was due to come. Ragenfrid tried several smaller attacks, individually, and several at once, but they got beaten back. He tried sneaking men closer by using the cover Michael and David so conveniently put out, but that just got his men picked off by the elf archers on the wall. Now it became time for the all-out attack. Margueritte looked, hoping David and Michael had the good sense to pull back into the castle. she squinted, but she could not send mental messages to Michael and David as she could to her little ones. Just as well. She was not down there and maybe they had an idea she did not think of.
“Hey,” Elsbeth shouted. “Whose men are those?”
“What?” Margo asked and tried to see where Elsbeth pointed.
Margueritte saw and sighed a great sigh of relief. “Hunald,” she said. “From Aquitaine. Probably advanced units on the point. I hope Michael and David can hold the fort. It would be terrible to have the enemy break in at the last second.”
“The charge came, but David and Michael apparently got the word, and so did Peppin and duBois. Their men came out of the gates and struck the charge on each side. Ragenfrid got boxed in, and did not advance, though the fighting got bloody. As Hunald’s men moved more and more into the town on Ragenfrid’s rear, he finally gave up and squirted past duBois and back down the Paris Road. He left his wounded where they lay, and now he had to think hard on how he would possibly break into the castle. He still was not ready to concede defeat, even if Amager got ready to go home to Tours and Bouchart stayed frozen with indecision.
Hunald moved his five thousand men up into the half-burned town before dark. David, Michael, duBois, and Peppin brought their men inside the castle. There were lots of wounded to tend and Doctor Mishka took the first shift. The elves, kobold, brownies, fairies, local dwarfs, and gnomes all went back into the woods. Luckless and his smiths stayed, as did Grimly and his horse breeders, but they stayed to their place and tasks and otherwise made themselves scarce.
At sundown, having treated the worst that she reasonably felt she could save, Doctor Mishka checked with Doctor Pincher who treated the wounded among the little ones. Doctor Pincher did not hide the fact that there were casualties, though being confined to bowshot distance, outside of a few hardheaded dwarfs, the casualties were slight. Even so, Doctor Mishka cried for each one, and when Margueritte returned, she cried some more.
Margueritte went out to meet Hunald, followed by the ever-present Calista and Melanie, and a dozen men assigned by Childemund and Peppin. King David, Michael of Nantes and Childemund himself went with her. Walaric had the young men guarding the stables, the forges, and the horses they had to care for. Peppin walked with Elsbeth and Margo and had one of the castle clerics write down everything they could find that needed repair. He was still compiling the list at sundown when Margueritte went out.
Hunald waited for her, and spoke up right away, even waving to her from a distance, and smiled in a most pleasant way. Margueritte came up to him and right in front of his captains, her hand flew up to his cheek, and stopped short. Hunald squinted but did nothing to stop her. His captains gasped, but then she touched his cheek gently, while he spoke.
“Sorry it took us so long.”
“Your timing was our salvation,” she said, and got on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek and then hugged him. The captains relaxed when she said, “Your father is one of my best friends in the world. Thank you for coming,” and she turned to those captains. “And make sure you let Odo know how grateful I am.” The captains smiled and nodded and assured her they would.
“I was glad to do it,” Hunald said as she let go of him. “After that business in Tours, I need the penance.”
“Amager is here,” Margueritte said. “On the other side, but he has not attacked us and is packing to leave. I don’t think Ragenfrid was honest about the situation here and got him to come under false pretenses.”
“Well, I’m glad,” Hunald said. “I thought he was a nice man.”
“As did I,” Margueritte said and turned Hunald by taking his arm. “Now let me introduce you to some more nice men.” Michael, Childemund, and David all looked like they had been through the wars, which they had.
“We have met,” Hunald said as he shook Michael’s hand, and Michael confirmed as much.
“Childemund came here escorting Charles’ wife, Rotrude. He has represented Charles in our talks with Ragenfrid.”
“Pleased to meet you. You talked with Ragenfrid?” Hunald looked surprised.
“For three days,” Margueritte admitted. “We were hoping to stall him until you got here, and once you arrived, we hoped he would think twice about attacking us.”
“But please, let me introduce David, King of Amorica, what you might call Little Britain.
“David?” Hunald looked confused. “Bogart?”
“His mother calls him David, and so do I. He is my cousin, you know.”
“Either name will do,” David said, and in such a friendly manner, Hunald swallowed the words, “Your majesty.”
“And this, is Prince Hunald, son of Duke Odo the Great of Aquitaine.”
Hunald also swallowed his guffaw. “Odo the Great?”
Margueritte shrugged. “But we must get back to the great hall, and you must come to supper. The dwarf wives are cooking something special in the way of pork, and applesauce. Bring any men you want. Your captains are welcome. I am sure there will be enough for all. Please ignore the hole in the ceiling, and the courtyard where so many men are resting. And there are wounded, so if you have a physician with you, it would be greatly appreciated.
“Of course,” one of the older captains said.
“Oh, my apologies. I should have thought of that right away.”
They returned to the castle, and Hunald and his captains got a good look at the damage, but the pork supper turned out as great as promised. There were no complaints there.
One of the captains said the courtyard looked like a small scale of what they had after the battle of Toulouse when they drove the Saracens from their land.
“Hold that thought,” Margueritte said. “I am sure Charles will want to hear all about it.”
“Charles?” Hunald asked.
“By my best estimate, he should be here with the Frankish army about the same time tomorrow that you came today.”
“That will end the rebellion,” Childemund stated flatly.
“Yes, but that does not mean Ragenfrid will not try something foolish in the morning.”
“Sadly, you may be right,” King David said.
“Sadly, I did not make this pie,” Margueritte said.
“Did your lovely sister make it?” he asked, looking at Elsbeth.
Margueritte, Margo, and Jennifer started to laugh, loud. Elsbeth showed her tongue and gave them all her best raspberries.
Margueritte feels pulled back to Roland’s home, but she has to settle things on the Breton March first. Until next time, Happy Reading