A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

The villagers have time to make further preparations as news of disarray in the King's camp reaches them


Friends, I have heard good news,” announced Gymboy to a gathering of the villagers. They tended to have a weekly meeting since the visit by the one-armed hooligan, as they saw Jackiss, and Gymboy had decided it was his task in life to not only lead them but keep them as well informed as possible. And he had tendrils of news-gatherers that stretched almost to the distant castle itself. He himself often disappeared for hours and occasionally days on end, and returned weary but exceptionally well informed.

“Tell us,” demanded a young man, eager to see the end of fear and trepidation within the village and a return to the good days. He was Orglin, and his woman was expecting their first child, and like expectant parents in every time and place, he wanted the best for his offspring.

“I have heard that the King isn’t having everything his own way, Orglin,” replied Gymboy, addressing the youth but informing the whole gathering. “I have heard that the thousand he set out with was reduced by maybe two hundred and possibly more after the first night’s rest, and they were as yet not far from being in the shadow of the Castle! And there have also been signs of disagreement, the most comforting being the discovery of his sergeant’s dead body, minus its head. That, I believe, is how Jasper keeps control of men, filling them with fear that they, too, may join the gods in the Afterlife, minus their heads!”

“But what does this mean to us?” asked an older member of the people.

“I am glad you asked, Withwort,” nodded Gymboy, again addressing his questioner yet at the same time making his speech audible to all. “It means we have additional time to prepare to save our village.”

“By what right?” asked Withwort, “I mean, if this land belongs to the King and we live on it by permission from the Throne, what right have we to attack the holder of that Throne?”

Gymboy scowled. “That is a thought that has been planted in our heads,” he said, “and we must weed it out. By what right does that King on his Throne own our land? Who gave it to him? Or did he just take it? Has he ever been here? Has he ever taken an old and wretched villager by her dying hand, and blessed her? Has he ever smiled at the face of a new born infant, and laughed along with its giggles? No. He has done none of these things, and neither did his ancestors. What they did in the beginning was take a plan of this land, a rough sketch if you need to know, on which there were few details, and they decided it was theirs. As simple as that. And, it being theirs by their own claim, they and future generations of royals can give it to those they believe have earned a reward, like the soldier who possessed but one arm, the fiend who raped a widow during the hours he was here! It is my belief that the king didn’t have much fondness for the Jackiss bully, and therefore rewarded him with lands that were many days march away from the castle in which he sits on his Throne, just to keep him at bay. But he returned to the king, and that was his doom.”

“So why is the King coming with a warlike army to wage war on us and our homesif the land was given to a toady?” asked Orglin.

“The story is one of dark deeds,” replied Gymboy, “for it seems that the bully took one of the King’s wives one night and used excessive force on a woman who was still a virgin, and in his dark passion he stilled her heart and silenced her mouth. That would have been an evil deed, but the King, as punishment, sent the same Jackiss to fight in a war where he lost his arm. On his return he was rewarded with our lands for his valour because of victory and the loss of an arm, but something must have occurred between them. What I understand is the one-armed villain is returning here to lick his wounds, not with the force he would have wanted but with a strange selection of non-military men and a queen disguised as a widow!”

“So there are two forces against us?” quailed Withwort. “Pray, Gymboy, what chances do we have?”

The young leader smiled grimly. “We have ever chance if we prepare well,” he said, “We still have our bows and flighted arrows, many of them, more by each passing day. Now I want us to build places of concealment. I have requested planks of fine timber from the sawyer, and he has assured me has has stacks in his barn, more than enough for our urgent needs. We must go into the forest, yet not far from our homes, and construct hides wherein we can conceal ourselves and our weapons, and ther hides must be concealed from easy view. Some of them, maybe, if we can manage it, erected high up in sturdy trees. Men who are struggling along on foot do not readily turn their eyes to the heavens as they fight the undergrowth, and we may gain the element of surprise that way.”

“I can readily build such hides,” said Orglin, “for I have one or two scattered about that I use when I’m hunting meat for the table!”

There was a clamour as other tribesmen volunteered their services, and Gymboy smiled at them. These were his people, his heart told him, and they were good people.

They deserved to live in joy and safety and with families that loved.



Kevvy was shaking.

Was it a vision he’d seen, or had he been visited by a true angel come from the gods to guide him? And if that was the case, what of his escape from danger? Was it true, that the king, rather than offer him wealth and lands to be his own, would smite his head from his shoulders just in case he was a possible challenger to his throne? He wasn’t any such thing, was he? Not a challenger to anything, least of all a throne. All he wanted was for his own skin to be saved and the youth Gymboy, the one who had needlessly roused the villagers when they could have fled elsewhere, would certainly lead them, and, if he were still there, himself, to certain death.

An army of a thousand was coming his way, and they would level the land and destroy everything on it. No man, woman or child would be left alive.

But what should he do?

Maybe he could convince the king of his faithfulness. Yes, that was probably it. He was an old man and there would be no great triumph if a King were known to decapitate old men, would there? No glory to his name, nothing but contempt for a powerful man murdering one who had lived through many years and who had become exceedingly loyal.

No. Surely he’d be safe.

It would be all right to ignore what was probably no more than a vision in a dream, and continue on his way to find the king in his castle and the all=powerful throne, and prostrate himself before such majesty. He might even get to see the famous Throne itself.

If only he knew the way.

© Peter Rogerson 01.12.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on December 1, 2018
Last Updated on December 1, 2018
Tags: preparations, hides, timber, coward, escape


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..