Margueritte and Roland took Charles outside to the big oak tree that had been cracked down the middle, where the weathered bench offered a place for shade on a hot summer day. Margueritte had a table set up there, and papers on the table held down by rocks. She had three things to discuss and wanted privacy, so Charles did not feel put on the spot.
“I heard about your use of cavalry,” Charles started right in. “Using the horsemen to drive your enemy into the waiting arms of your infantry was near genius. Besides, I have seen enough with Wulfram and his hundred to begin to think there may be some merit in such a cavalry unit.”
Margueritte looked at Roland. He smiled as he spoke. “A year ago, the battle went back and forth. We would have taken the field eventually, but it was a struggle. Wulfram got his hundred to pull out their lances and they led two hundred more horsemen right into the right side of the enemy. Three hundred men on horse drove three thousand infantry soldiers right back into the river, and the enemy fell apart. It was pretty amazing.”
Charles nodded and did not object to the story. “I have been thinking of ways to use horsemen and have been seriously surprising our enemies with old tactics such as the Huns used in Roman days. We got away from that, and most have forgotten, so they are like new again.”
“He is drooling at the prospect of a thousand of what you call heavy cavalry,” Roland teased.
“I would not say drooling,” Charles objected before he softened. “But near enough.”
“Ten years,” Margueritte said.
“You said five, unless I dreamed it,” Charles protested.
“Revised,” Margueritte explained. “Ask Walaric and Peppin. They have been working with the men and horses, and they will tell you ten years. It came to us that old men have old thoughts and are not the best candidates for this new thing. I can get you several hundred older men, seasoned men, but it won’t be the same. In ten years, I can get you your thousand, and maybe several thousand in their prime. You see, it isn’t just the horses we have to train when they are young, it is the men. Right now, Peppin and Walaric have five hundred boys, sixteen to eighteen, and some as young as fourteen. We are training them in reading, writing, math, military tactics, history—including what the Huns did, and more. They are learning to fight on horseback, but also on foot. They will be all you ask for, but right now we only have them for two or three months in the summer. Ten years. By the time they are twenty-four, twenty-five and twenty-six, you can have them, and they can train the young squires that come after them.”
Margueritte smiled. “Once Pouance is rebuilt, in a year, two at the most, I will be taking horses and men to Roland’s home, where I am sure Horegard and his old friend Adelard of Aldeneik will be fully supportive. I will duplicate the work and training in Austrasia.”
Charles rubbed his hands in anticipation. “I like the way your wife thinks,” he said to Roland. “Did I ever mention that?”
“Ten years,” Margueritte repeated. “We have to get them when they are young.”
“734,” Charles said. “Not a year longer.”
“Pouance?” Roland interrupted, and Margueritte directed them to the papers on the table. She let them look but talked at the same time.
“Talliso of Angers took an arrow in the belly and did not last the night. He has a wife and daughter who might be given a nice home and a small stipend. Maybe we could find a good husband for the daughter, a man loyal to Charles. That leaves the whole of Anjou open, with Pouance here in the top western corner by the Breton border. Pouance is the door to Anjou County. I was thinking Sir Owien and Elsbeth could be elevated to Count and make their home in Angers. They would be subject to Tomberlain as the marquis of the Breton Mark, but it would put the whole county in loyal hands, and give you access to more certain taxes as well as men at arms.”
“But what about Ragenfrid? His property is in Anjou,” Roland asked.
“In a minute,” Charles put him off. He studied the map. “What is this other county?”
“Maine,” Margueritte said. “Tomberlain gives up his corner of Anjou, and in return gets the properties of LeMans.”
“LeMans has sons,” Charles said. One of his talents was remembering details like that, and Margueritte nodded.
“Two sons. And the younger is interested in the church, and the elder does not share his father’s greedy nature. LeMans may live a while, but he is crippled and probably won’t live long, especially if his wound turns. Let the elder be made a baron for Tomberlain. Let him keep his home and some small property to support him, and he may become the king’s good and loyal subject in time. I have suggested as much to him, and he is agreeable.”
“Tomberlain’s headache,” Roland said.
Charles turned his eyes as if the matter was already decided. “Now, Ragenfrid.”
“I own his sons,” Margueritte said sweetly. “Do you recall the rental agreement we drew up and sent a copy to Paris?”
“Three cows or three sons,” Charles got a big grin on his face. “I really like the way your wife thinks.”
“Boys,” Margueritte called. They were standing off to the side waiting to be called, and they came, Bernard out front, Adalbert and Fredegar a step behind. They had their hats off and looked very humble. “They belong to me, and I give them to you. Put them in your army and teach them how to be men. Maybe they could be the first of your permanent standing army.”
“No,” Charles said decisively. “Teaching is not my job. It is your job. You take them. I give them to Roland.”
“Charles,” Roland protested.
“But Charles,” Margueritte interjected. “I am teaching men how to be knights, not just soldiers.”
“Agreed,” Charles said. “But the sons of Ragenfrid should be subject to potential knighthood.”
“Grr,” Margueritte said, borrowing the term from some past life. She was not sure which one. She stepped over and walked around each of the boys like she might have examined a horse. “Bernard is a bit old, and Adalbert is already twenty-one. Fredegar is eighteen.”
“Nearly nineteen,” Fredegar said.
Margueritte stared at her charges. “Knighthood is a privilege, not a right. It requires two things. First, you must exhibit extraordinary loyalty and bravery in battle to win your spurs. You must live honorably and be faithful to king and country. Second, you must show evidence of true Christian character and live up to the Christian ideals, to defend and respect women and children, not try to grab them to use as hostages, to be charitable to the poor and help the needy and so on. Satisfy Charles or Count Owien on these conditions, and he may grant you knighthood. Then you might receive some property of your own. I said might, do you understand?”
Fredegar nodded. Adalbert looked down at the ground. Bernard spoke like a young man being scolded, “Yes mum.”
“Dismissed,” Margueritte said. “Go see Walaric and tell him I sent you to be enrolled and be good.” She turned her back on them and after a few seconds, they shuffled off.
“I could use you in the camp to yell at my soldiers,” Charles remarked.
“She does a great reprimand,” Roland admitted.
“So, knighthood has requirements,” Charles continued. “I knew the gist of it, but I did not know the act of Christian charity part.”
Charles shrugged. “Gerraint should know.”
Margueritte looked at Roland with questions in her eyes. “We heard,” he said. “Everyone heard, though I am sure most people don’t believe it.”
“So, Count Owien and Count Tomberlain,” Charles brought them back to the topic. “Pretty good for your family.”
“They have both proved themselves well on the battlefield,” Roland interjected
“Not for my family,” Margueritte said. “I will be living on the other side of the world.”
“And their loyalty is without question,” Roland added.
“I’m not against the idea,” Charles said, his hands held up in surrender. “I can think of many worse options. I expect Margueritte to draw up the papers, and I will sign them, only you don’t get my sons.”
“I’ll get Pepin at least,” Margueritte said. “Carloman may put the time in, but he is honestly a reader.”
Charles let out a little laugh. “Yes, come to think of it, you probably will get them.”
“So, two counties, and men who can support each other in war and peace, and watch each other, even as they watch the Breton. Is that it?”
“No, we have to talk about Ragenfrid,” Margueritte said.
“What is there to talk about?” Charles responded. “There are only so many ways to cut a man’s head off.”