In the fields outside the city a mass of men were gathered, a mixture of regular soldiers, foreign mercenaries and green recruits. The city conscripted anyone who was fit enough to hold a spear, mostly impressionable young men from outlying villages who were in town to see the celebrations and had been foolish enough not to go home as soon as they were over. The inns and alehouses were full to overflowing with visitors, so the recruiters had no shortage of unwilling candidates. Yesterday’s farm boys, apprentices and porters woke today as soldiers, ready to be marched off with the army.
Anyone who owed allegiance to the Duke, including the guilds, was honour-bound to contribute to the war effort. Dribs and drabs of men of all shapes and sizes reported for duty. Peasants and servants were forced by feudal laws to fight for their landlords and masters. They wore ancient helmets, odd bits of armour and chain mail, carried rusty pikes and axes, but most only had old farm tools, forks and scythes. It would take a lot of imagination to describe them as soldiers.
The area outside the Southern Gate became choked with men and horses, wagons, mules, ox carts piled high with food and equipment intended to keep them going for a few days. Everything else they needed would be taken from the land along the route of their march. A city of tents sprang up and it hugged the road for over half a mile out of town. Fires smoked under bubbling pots, dogs hunted for scraps and scratched their fleas. Women and children, determined to follow their husbands and fathers on the march, washed, cooked and squabbled, as the men gambled, bragged and scratched their own fleas or stared into the distance, wondering what lay in store.
Thumbs: Chapter Fifteen: Book And His Donkey
There were a few torches, but the light was dim. Patches of black mould stained the grey stone slabs and there was a bitter smell in her nose. It made her wince, the mixture of damp and something far more animal. There was also a low hum which she could not place. She sensed something moving behind all of the doors.
Keeping in mind what had happened to her under the Abbey she stayed at the very edge of the walkway even though there was no handrail. She drew level with the first door. The stench wafted out from between the bars, forcing her to press a hand over her mouth. The smell clung to her, followed her as she walked towards the steps at the far end of the walkway. She dreaded to think what poor souls lurked in those dark holes, she just knew that she didn’t want to meet them.
She could hear the odd groan, the sounds of muttering, part of a prayer. A high pitch scream tore through the hall and she froze. Then there was crazy laughter. Her nerves were jangled and she had to force herself to keep moving, there had to be another way out on one of these levels or lower down, maybe even another way to the river. She could see inside the cells. The occupants could also see her.
She could not hide. Men came to the bars to look and pushed each other aside to get a better view. They called to her. Give them water. Food. Could she take a message? Couldn’t she come just a little closer? Arms stretched out, dirty hands waved and grabbed for her.
In the city there’s a thousand things I want to say to you
But whenever I approach you, you make me look a fool
I wanna say, I wanna tell you
About the young ideas
But you turn them into fears
In the city there’s a thousand faces all shining bright
And those golden faces are under twenty five
They wanna say, they gonna tell ya
About the young idea
You better listen now you’ve said your bit-a
And I know what you’re thinking
You still think I am crap
But you’d better listen man
Because the kids know where it’s at
In the city there’s a thousand men in uniforms
And I’ve heard they now have the right to kill a man
We wanna say, we gonna tell ya
About the young idea
And if it don’t work, at least we said we’ve tried