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HOME > Classical Novels > Love Among the Ruins > PART IV CHAPTER 37
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 Fortune had not blessed the cause of the people with that torrential triumph for by their captains. The flood of war had risen, had overwhelmed tall castles and goodly cities, yet there were heights that had baulked its frothy , mountains that had it back upon the valleys. Victory was like a sphere of glass tossed amid the of two contending .  
In the west, Sir Simon of Imbrecour, that old wise in war, had raised the royal banner at his castle of Avray. The nobles of the western marches had joined him to a spear; many a lusty company had ridden in, to toss sword and shield in faith to the King. From his castle of Avray Sir Simon had marched south with the flower of the western knighthood at his heels. He had caught Malgo on the march from Conan, even as his columns were from the mountains. Sir Simon had leapt upon the wild hillsmen and rebel like the fierce and shaggy veteran that he was. A splendid had given the day as by honour to the royal arms. Malgo's troops had been to the winds, and he himself taken and beheaded on the field under the black banner of the house of Imbrecour.
In the east, Godamar the free-lance lay with his troops in Thorney , closed in and leaguered by the warlike Abbot of Rocroy. The churchman had seized the dyke-ways of the , and had the rebels behind the wild . As for the eastern folk, they were poor gizardless creatures; having faced about, they had declared for the King, and left Godamar to rot within the fens. The free-lance had enough ado to keep the abbot out. His marching to join Fulviac was an idle and strategetical dream.
Last of all, the of the north--fierce, , had gathered their half-barbarous retainers, and were marching on Lauretia to uphold the King. They were grim folk, flint and iron, amid the mountains and the wild woods of the north. They marched south like Winter, black and pitiless, prophetic of storm-winds, , and snow. Some forty thousand men had gathered round the banner of Sir Morolt of Gorm and Regis, and, like the Goths pouring into Italy, they rolled down upon the provinces of the south.
Fortune had decreed that about Lauretia, the city of the King, the vultures of war should wet their . It was a rich region, thick with set in deep emerald woods. Lauretia, like a golden courtesan, lay with her white limbs cushioned amid gorgeous flowers. Her was full of odours and of music; her lap littered with the herbs of love. No , save those of moonlit passion, had ever threatened her. Thus it befell that when the storm-clouds gathered, she trembling on her ivory couch, the purple wine of pleasure soaking her sinful feet.
In a broad valley, five leagues south of the city, Fulviac's rebels fought their first great fight with Richard of the Iron Hand. A warrior's battle, rank to rank and sword to sword, the fight had burnt to the embers before the cressets were red in the west. Fulviac had headed the last charge that had broken the royal line, and rolled the shattered host northwards under the cloak of night. Dawn had found Fulviac marching upon Lauretia, eager to let loose the of war upon that rich city of sin. He was within three leagues of the place, when a rider overtook him, to tell of Malgo's death and of the battle in the west. Yet another league towards the city his outriders came back with the news that the northern barons had marched in and joined the King. Outnumbered, and threatened on the flank, Fulviac turned tail and held south again, trusting to meet Godamar marching from the fens.
He needed the shoulders of an those September days, for burdened him with tidings that were and heavy. Godamar lay impotent, hedged in the morasses; Malgo was dead, his mountaineers scattered. Sir Simon of Imbrecour was leading in the western lords to the following of the King. gathered hotly on the rebel rear, as Fulviac retreated by forced marches towards the south.
It was at St. , a red-roofed town packed on a hill, amid tall, dreaming woods, that Colgran, with the ten thousand who had leaguered Gambrevault, drew to the main host again. Fulviac had quartered a portion of his troops in the town, and had camped the rest in the meadows without the , lichen-grown walls. He had halted but for a night on the retreat from Lauretia, and had taken a brief breath in the moil and sweat of the march. His banner had been set up in the market-square before a rickety of antique tone and temper. His guards lounged on the benches under the vines; his captains drank in the low-ceilinged rooms, swore and argued over the rough tables.
It was evening when Colgran's vanguard entered the town by the western gate. His men had tramped all day in the sun, and were and weary. None the less, they their loins, and footed it through the streets with a veteran swagger to show their . Fulviac came out and stood in the wooden gallery of the inn, watching them into the market-square. They tossed their pikes to him as they poured by, and called on him by name--
"Fulviac, Fulviac!"
He was glad enough of their coming, for he needed men, and the rough forest levies were in Colgran's ranks. Ten thousand pikes and brown bills to up against the King's squadrons! There was strength in the glitter and the rolling dust of the columns. Yet before all, the man's eyes watched for a red banner, and a woman in upon a white horse, Yeoland, wife of Flavian of Gambrevault.
In due season he saw her, a pale, spiritless woman, and haggard, thin of neck and dark of eye. The bloom seemed to have fallen from her as from the crushed of a rose. The red banner, borne by a man upon a black horse, danced listlessly upon its staff. She rode with slack , looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, but into the vague distance as into the night of the past.
Around her tramped Colgran's pikemen in jerkins of leather and caps of steel. The woman moved with them as though they were so many substanceless ghosts, stalking like shadows down the highway of death. Her face was bloodless, by grievous and chill pride. The bronzed faces round her were dim and unreal, a mob of masks, void of life and meaning. Sorrow had robed her in silent snow. The present was no more to her than a winter forest howling under the moon.
Before the hostelry the column came to a halt with grounded pikes. The woman on the white horse stirred from her , looked up, and saw Fulviac. He was with slouched shoulders in the gallery above her, his hands gripping the wooden rail. Their eyes met in a sudden mesmeric stare that brought badges of red to the girl's white cheeks. There was the look upon his face that she had known of old, when care weighed heavy upon his stubborn shoulders. His eyes bewildered her. They had a light in them that neither of anger nor reproach, yet a look such as Arthur might have cast upon fallen Guinivere.
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