“Archers!” he cried, “archers, ye hear the dogs bay yonder—fling back their challenge!
“Ho, archers! shout and rend the
Bold archers shout amain
Belsaye, Belsaye—arise, arise!
Then from tower and turret, from wall and keep and market-square a great and joyous shout was raised—a cry fierce and loud and very purposeful, that rolled afar:
“Arise, arise!—ha, Beltane—Pentavalon!”
“Beltane,” quoth Sir Benedict, smiling his wry smile as he turned to descend the tower, “methinks yon roguish archer’s wit hath served us better than all our wisdom. Belsaye hath frighted away fear with laughter, and her men, methinks, will fight marvellous well!”
TELLETH OF ROSES
A fair and strong city was Belsaye, for (as hath been said) to north and east of it the river flowed, a broad stream and deep, while south and west it was fortified by a goodly moat; wherefore it was to south and west that the besiegers mustered their chief force and set up their mightiest engines and towers. Day in, day out, mangonel, trebuchet and balista whirred and crashed from keep and tower and curtain-wall, while from every loophole and crenelle long-bows twanged and arrows flew; yet with each succeeding dawn the besiegers’ fence-works crept nearer, closing in upon the city until, within close bowshot of the walls, they set up earthworks and stockades and from these strong barriers plied the defenders with cloth-yard shaft and cross-bow bolt what time their mighty engines advanced, perriers and rams wherewith to batter and breach the city’s massy walls.
So day in, day out, Eric’s chosen men plied trebuchet and balista, and Beltane, beholding the dire havoc wrought by heavy stone and whizzing javelin among the dense ranks of the besiegers despite their mantlets and stout palisades, grew sick at times and was fain to look otherwhere. But the besiegers were many and Duke Ivo had sworn swift destruction on Belsaye; thus, heedless of all else, he pushed on the attack until, despite their heavy losses, his men were firmly established close beyond the moat; wherefore my Beltane waxed full anxious and was for sallying out to destroy their works: at the which, gloomy Sir Hacon, limping in his many bandages, grew suddenly jovial and fain was to call for horse and lance forthwith.
Quoth Sir Benedict placidly:
“Nay, let them come, messires; they are a sea, but Belsaye is a rock. Duke Ivo is cunning in war, but is, mark me! a passionate man, and he who fighteth in blind anger, fighteth ill. So let them come, I say the time for us to beware is when Ivo’s hot temper shall have cooled. Ha, look yonder!” and Sir Benedict pointed where a great wooden tower, urged forward by rope and pulley and winch, was creeping near and nearer the walls, now stopping jerkily, now advancing, its massy timbers protected from fire by raw hides, its summit bristling with archers and cross-bow men, who from their lofty post began to sweep wall and turret with their whizzing shafts.