The lord’s pavilion was alive with the sound of pipe and drum, the smells of roasting boar and stag, the orange glow of fire and candle spreading warmth and good cheer throughout. Men-at-arms in their elaborate surcoats jostled on long benches beside stout bowmen in boiled leather jerkins. All stood to applaud their commander and host as he took his high seat.
“We have defeated the Saxon king!” He cried out over the merry hubbub, firelight shining golden on his steel mail. “We have conquered this land and now, after much suffering and privation, we may enjoy the fruits of our victory!”
It seemed as though he would say more. His aristocratic chin lifted slightly and the perfectly manicured beard bobbed in a prelude to speech. But before another rousing cry could wash over the revellers, the heavy tent flap behind him was lifted, showing a brief glimpse of gathering darkness beyond.
“Fruits, did ye say?” A grating voice asked.
The scowling housecarl’s arrival was met with a rasp of steel as a hundred blades were drawn. Armoured figures dashed to their lord’s side, shining armour and flashes of orange candlelight on polished swords.
Before cold, sharpened steel could meet Anglo-Saxon flesh, a harsh sound ripped through the air. It was a sputtering, trumpet-like sigh of wind escaping the housecarl’s backside. He folded scarred hands across his mouth, gasped and began to caper about as though trying to waft the smell away.
“It seems I’ve had too much fruit already.” He said in a tone of mock embarrassment. “They’re making cider in me belly.”
In a moment, as the joke sank in, the pavilion erupted into a clamouring din of laughter. Fists hammered table tops and the lord waved his hand over his wrinkled nose, smiling wryly at his closest companions.
At the back of the feasting tent, Breya wriggled on her belly beneath the low awning. She looked up to see the housecarl scampering about the floor like a mongrel, begging scraps from the lord’s table. The Normans cheered at his antics and stamped their feet.
She dashed forwards to a pile of baggage, keeping her body hunched, and began rifling through the saddlebags in search of treasure.
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