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HOME > Classical Novels > Love Among the Ruins > CHAPTER 43
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 Under the of night, the last cry of the of tragedy sounded over wood and meadow. Gilderoy, proud city of the south, had closed her gates against the royal host, wise at the eleventh hour as to the measure of the King's mercy. The from the battle in the valley had washed on Tamar's past the walls, jostling each other in the stream of death. Vultures had in the sky. There was no for Gilderoy save the doom of the sword.  
The moon rose red amid a whorl of dusky clouds, veiled as with for the last orgies of war. Gilderoy had been carried by assault. Morolt's were pouring through the streets; the gates yawned towards the night; bells boomed and clashed. The townsfolk were like rats for the great square where the remnant of the had the entries, for a death-struggle under the of the cathedral towers.
Richard the King had ridden into Gilderoy by the northern gate with Sir Simon of Imbrecour and a strong guard of and men-at-arms. Fulviac's head danced on a spear beside the Golden Banner of Lauretia. The had opened its gates to Sire Julian of Layonne. In the square before the ruined abbey of the Benedictines the King and his nobles gathered to await the of the hour.
A great bell boomed through the night, a deep panting sound in the warm gloom. of steel clashed through the narrow streets, gleaming under the torch , bubbling towards the last rampart of revolt. From the cathedral square arose a wild, whimpering outcry, the of women with the clamour of the last assault.
Word was brought to the King by one of Morolt's esquires, that the townsfolk were holding the great square behind their , and pouring a hot fire from the houses upon his troops. Morolt desired the King's ring and his commands before taking to the resource of the sword. Richard of the Iron Hand was in no mood for mercy. His decree went from before the gate of the ruined abbey.
"Consider no church as a . Fire the houses about the square. Gilderoy shall burn."
The city's doom was sealed by those iron words. The torch took up the handiwork of the sword. A gradual glow began to rise above the house-tops; smoke billowed up, black and voluminous, dusted with a ruddy stars. Flames rose from and from gable, from chimney, spirelet, roof, and tower. The houses were faced with wood, dry as tinder, crisp for the torch as a summer-bleached prairie. The flames ran like a red flood from roof to roof, with a roar as from huge battling in a burning pit. The great square, with the glittering of its cathedral, was girded in with fire and sword.
Men were stabbing and upon the barricades where Morolt's feudatories had stormed up from the gloom of the streets. Beneath the light of the burning houses, swords were tossed, the dead forgotten and trodden under foot. It was not long before the barriers were carried by assault and the avengers of Forêt poured pitiless into the great square.
The citizens of Gilderoy had packed their women and children into the sanctuary of the cathedral . They were penned there amid the gorgeous gildings of the place, a shivering flock in the , beneath the painted figures of the saints. The glow of the burning city beat in through the jewelled glass, building the huge in a glittering windowed with living . Darkness and dawn struggled and fought under the thundering . From without came the wild babel, the hoarse death-moan of a people.
In the great square the fight went on, a ruthless mêlée, strong and terrible. Gilderoy had her noblesse. She made for the deed that night with the heart's blood of her children.
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