Avalon 9.1 Johanne, part 5 of 6

De Metz and Bertrand carried Quentin, arms around his shoulders and waist.  He hopped on one leg and then the other.  Both hurt, though he did not imagine either was broken.  They brought him into the barn where a cow bellowed at them.  They ignored the cow and found a place where Quentin could lie down, making a kind of cot out of a bin, using plenty of straw for bedding.

Joan came in followed by three of her personal guard—men who hovered over her to protect her and would not leave her alone no matter how much they were threatened.  The cow bellowed again, and Joan responded.  “Which of you knows how to milk a cow or must I do it myself?” she asked.  One of the men volunteered, so she said “Good,” followed rapidly by, “You stupid idiot,” as she turned on Quentin.  “Now you have finally given yourself away.  Some of my men know, including Bertrand and de Metz, but now the whole English army knows.  You will never be able to go back to England, to your wife and family.  What possessed you to do something so foolish?”

“It was a lovely young girl I once found standing in a meadow.  Angel said I had to watch over her and take care of her until her time arrived.”  Joan’s face contorted and she rushed forward to kneel by his makeshift cot.  She threw her face down to cry on his chest.  “There.  There,” Quentin said, patting her gently on her back.  “I’m an old man, the grandfather you never had, I think.  And you are the most courageous young woman in the history of ever.”

Joan lifted her head.  “You are not allowed to die before me,” she ordered in a tone of voice as strong as she could muster.

“Not dying,” he said and lifted both hands like he surrendered.  “Just banged up here, and here, and there.”  He ended by pointing at his chest and Joan quicky lifted her arms and looked at him.  The two smiled for each other.

“I love you so much,” Joan said.

“And I love you, more than you can know.  But you have no business worrying about one old soldier.  You have ordered the withdrawl, and there are many soldiers that need to see you.  Show them you are not afraid, even if you are.”

“Fear is a foolish master.  Trust God instead and leave your life in his hands, as he will.”  Joan and Quentin said the phrase together as Joan stood up.  She turned her face away as she heard from the cow.  “Gentle.  Obviously, the cow has not been milked in a couple of days.  You must be gentle.”

“Yes Johanne,” the man said, and Joan nodded to the man, to De Metz and Bertrand, and last of all to Quentin, and she told him, “I will hold my banner high.  The men falling back will see me, that I am not afraid of sixty-thousand Burgundians.  They will see me and take courage.”  She took her banner from the man who held it and stepped outside to where another man held her horse.  She mounted and walked her horse to the road, followed by a dozen men.  Every soldier who made it to the road would see her as they passed by.

Quentin mumbled.  “Six thousand, not sixty thousand.”  He spoke up to Bertrand.  “I have to teach that girl her numbers.”  He shouted.  “De Metz stay here.  Now, that is an order.”


“She is in no danger,” Quentin said.  “She is just showing herself to the troops, that is all.  When it starts to get dark, she will be back and we will leave this place before the Burgundians get here,” and he thought, I hope.  “Meanwhile, leave her alone.  Bertrand, why don’t you fetch the horses.  They can join Henrietta, our cow in enjoying the hay left scattered about.”

“Yes.  What do you think happened to the family?” de Metz asked as Bertrand went out to bring in their three horses.

“I think they got scared off when the English set up their outpost.  They probably count the farm as lost, but I can see the English never came here.”

“How so?”

Quentin smiled at the obviousness of the answer.  “The cow.  What army group would leave a prime bit of beef walking around untouched?”

“Oh, of course,” de Metz nodded and also smiled at the obvious answer.

“Lord,” the soldier with a bucket of milk looked at de Metz, Bertrand in the doorway, and finally at Quentin.  “What should I do with the milk?”

“Take it to the cook,” Quentin said without hesitation.  “He can boil the beef in it, or if he wants to get fancy, he can make a cream gravy, whatever he thinks best.  Just make sure Joan and the soldiers with her get some supper.”

The soldier looked at Bertrand, but Bertrand simply underlined Quentin’s place in the grand scheme of things.  “You hear what the lord said.  Just don’t spill it.”

De Metz shook his head.  “We could use a commander like you.”

“Bah,” Quentin said as he laid his head down and decided a good rest might be for the best.  “I’ve been ordering soldiers around since Agincourt.  Even Bedford jumps when I get riled, and my red hair gets the better of me.”

“You consider yourself like her grandfather?” Bertrand had to ask about the word Quentin used.

“Near enough,” he said.  “I’m fifty-six years old, a stonecutter by trade.  I cut my teeth building Westminster Cathedral.  Both Henry V and Charles VI said I was made of stone, unmovable.  As far as I know, that was the only thing those two sovereigns ever agreed on.”

“I bet you could tell some great stories,” de Metz said with a look at Bertrand who seemed to nod.

“You bet.  And I might even tell you one if you let me rest my eyes for a bit.  Bertrand, send a couple of men down the road to see if there is anything coming that we should know about.  Then come back here.  I need you both to be here when I wake up.”  He did not explain why he needed them, but at that point, they did not question the order.


Jules and his men took the front.  In fact, he brought thirty men to the front.  After the German roadblock, they were not inclined to take chances with their Liege Lord.  Lionel and the travelers still led the procession, and talked liberally, but hurried as best as they could.  Their little army skipped lunch.  Katie warned Lionel that tired and hungry soldiers did not fight as well, but Decker pointed out that the enemy was withdrawing from a battle and would likely be tired and hungry as well.

“And even if it is an orderly withdraw and not the result of a defeat, the common soldiers will feel like they have been defeated,” he said.  “Any pull back from an engagement can feel that way even if it is not true.  It is not good for their morale.”

About an hour before sundown, Elder Stow’s alarm went off.  He set the alarm on his scanner to give warning before they stumbled into another roadblock.  Jules stopped his men on hearing the sound, and he came back to the group.  Jobarie and his troop of foot soldiers and archers walked on the heels of the travelers since the roadblock.  He came jogging up to hear what was being planned.

Elder Stow had his holograph pulled up to show the area.  Decker said, “Here.  There is a dirt path the locals probably call a road.  It goes right to the farm and the big barn I saw from above.  The enemy appear to be concentrated on the Paris Road to block any army like ours from interfering with the withdraw.  They don’t imagine an approaching army would be interested in a farm set back from the road, but that appears to be the funnel all the escaping troops are going through.”

“So, the troops holding the road are about a thousand feet from the funnel,” Lockhart said.

“About eight hundred feet,” Katie said.  “And here?”

“Another farm road,” Elder Stow named it.

“It is just where we stopped,” Jules said.  “I was just looking at it when the alarm went off.”

Katie nodded.  “I recommend Jules take his horse soldiers down the farm road.  They can hurry and get back to the Paris Road behind the enemy.  By then, the foot soldiers should be here and ready to charge the front.  The enemy appears to have horses, but they are dismounted and in the trees.  The horses are probably there for a quick getaway, which they will not be able to do if our horsemen are coming up behind them.”

Lionel grinned.  “We will catch them napping.”

“Colonel?”  Katie turned to her superior officer.

“Basically good, Major,” Decker said.  “But I think we need to ride down the first road, here, and take the farm that is acting like a funnel.  That will keep any stragglers pulling back from the battle from stumbling into our position, or the horsemen we send around to the rear.”

“Decker?” Nanette asked whose side he was on to be helping the Burgundians so much.  But Decker shook his head and seemed to understand her concern.

“I am not on anybody’s side.  I’m just trying to minimize casualties if I can.  I’m not saying we ambush the retreating soldiers.  Just maybe encourage them to take a wide loop around to avoid running into the action and turn a skirmish into a real battle.”

“I’ll send the point men with you,” Jules said.

“No,” Lionel insisted.  “You need all your men for the encircling move.  I’ll take Jobarie and his archers.  They are the right ones to turn any retreating Armagnacs and keep them from interfering in your battle.”

“Are you going with us?” Katie asked.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Lionel said with a genuine smile.

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