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HOME > Classical Novels > Love Among the Ruins > CHAPTER 41
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 The prophecies of the King proved the power of their before fourteen suns had passed over the Black Wild's heart. Richard of Lauretia had plotted to starve Fulviac into giving him battle, or into a retreat from the forest upon Gilderoy. The royal prognostications were pitiless and unflinching as candescent steel. It was no battle-ground that he sought, but rather an amphitheatre where he might the rebel host like a mob of revolted slaves.  
Whatever tidings may have muttered on the breeze, riders came in hotly to the royal pavilion towards the noon of the fourteenth day. There was soon much stir on the hills hard by Geraint. and nobles the royal tent, captains clanged shoulders, gallopers rode south and west with despatches to Morolt and Sir Simon of Imbrecour. Battle breathed in the wind. Before night came, the King's pavilion had vanished from the hills; his columns were round the northern of the forest, to strike the road that ran from Geraint to Gilderoy.
The royal and had not played their master false. A river of steel was curling through the black depths of the wild, threading the valleys towards the east. The King's scouts had caught the of through the trees. They had slunk about the rebel host for days while they lay camped in their thousands about the cliff. Colgran and his small company had passed through unheeded, but they were up like when the whole host moved.
That midnight Fulviac's columns rolled from the outstanding of the wild, and held in masses for the road to Gilderoy. The King's had launched them on this last desperate venture. They would have starved in the forest as Fulviac had foreseen; their hopes lay in reaching Gilderoy, which was well victualled, throwing themselves therein, making what terms they could, or die fighting behind its walls. Thus under cover of night they slipped from the forest, trusting to leave the King's men guarding an empty .
The brisk forethought of Richard of Lauretia had out-gamed the rebels, however, in the moves of war. They were answering to his opening like wild duck paddling towards a decoy. Ten miles west of Gilderoy there stretched a valley, walled southwards by tall heights, banded through the centre by the river Tamar. At its eastern a line of hills rolled down to touch the river. The road from Geraint ran through the valley, hugging the southern bank of the river after crossing it westwards by a bridge. Fulviac and his host would follow that road, marching betwixt the river and the hills. It was in this valley that Richard of Lauretia had conceived the hurtling of the war.
Forewarned in season, Sir Simon of Imbrecour and his squadrons were riding through the night on Gilderoy, shaping a crescent course towards the east. Morolt and the giants of the north were striding in his track, skirting the southern of the forest, to press level with the rebel march, screened by the hills. The King and his Lauretians came down from Geraint. They were to seize the bridge across the Tamar, pour over, and close the rebels on the rear.
It was near dawn when Fulviac's columns struck the highroad from Geraint, and entered the valley where the Tamar towards Gilderoy. Mist covered the world, shot through with the gold threads of the dawn. The river gleamed and murmured fitfully in the meadows; the southern heights glittered in the growing day; the purple slopes of the Black Wild had melted dimly into the west.
The mist stood in the flats where the Geraint road bridged the river. The northern slopes seemed steeped in vapoury desolation, the road winding into a waste of green. Fulviac and his men marched on, as they thought of the royal troops watching the empty of the forest. Fulviac took no care to secure the bridge across the Tamar. With the line of hills before them breasted, they would see the spires of Gilderoy, glittering athwart the dawn.
The columns were well in the lap of the valley before two light horsemen came in from the far van, calling on Fulviac, who rode under the red banner, that the road to Gilderoy had been seized. Fulviac and Sforza rode forward with a squadron of horse to reconnoitre. As they advanced at a canter, the mists cleared from the skirts of the encircling hills. Far to the east, on the green slopes that rolled towards the Tamar, they saw the sun upon a thousand points of steel. Pennons danced in the atmosphere, shields , armour shone. A of seemed poured from the dawn's lap upon the emerald of the hills. They were the glittering horsemen of Sir Simon of Imbrecour, who had ridden out of the night and seized on the road to Gilderoy.
Fulviac halted his company, and in the stirrups, scanned the hillside under his hand. He frowned, thrust his chin, turned on Sforza who rode at his side.
"Trapped," he said with a twist of the lip; "Dick of the Iron Hand has fooled us. 'Twas done cunningly, though it brings us to a passage. They hold the road."
The Gonfaloniere at his beard, and looked white under the arch of his open salade.
"Better advance on them," he said; "I would give good gold to be safe in the streets of Gilderoy."
Fulviac , and shook his head.
"There are ten thousand spears on yonder slopes, the lustiest blood in the land. Count their banners and their pennons, the stuff tells an honest tale. Pah............
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