Charles headed back to his headquarters located in the two story half timber house beside the St. Martin Gate on the north side of town. The building sat close to the city wall and was the last house on the street before one came to the old stone arched gate.
The lower floor had been turned into a sort of campaign-central gathering place, the upper floor were quarters for himself and a few others. The exchange of fire between the Parliamentarians on Perry Hill and the Royalists in Fort Hill could still be heard in the streets he rode through as dull echoes.
Even the townspeople were preparing for something to happen, gathering in their children and goods and shuttering up the windows.
On the opposite side of the gate he could see a sea of men that filled the street in the last stages of putting on armor and silver helmets. Colorful battle standards waved on tall poles amidst the forest of upright held pikes. The very faint acrid scent of the cannon fire from the hill already drifted over the city walls. He jumped off his mount and handed the reins to a youth who was holding several other horses. The boy gave a short bow and grinned at him, obviously intent on the soldiers massing across the way.
“I’m old enough to fight sir! I’ll be twelve soon!” he told Charles hopefully.
“I shall keep you in mind lad, although I hope I don’t need you to.” The King said with a grin and the boy’s eyes shone. Charles crossed the street, pulling off his leather gloves and easily jumped up onto a large ammo crate so he could be seen.
He spoke to them briefly, just long enough to get them energized and eager to go, shouting and chanting and banging pike ends on the cobblestones. He leapt down from the crate to their resounding cheers and hurried across the street and into the house.
The few men who were talking in clusters in chairs before the window leapt to their feet as he strode into the room. He nodded at them and headed directly for those gathered around the long table that had been moved towards the hearth and away from any prying eyes that might make use of the windows.
It was cluttered with stubs of candles, empty tankards, maps, and letters, various hastily sketched out plans, and different diagrams of the fortifications they’d added to the city since their arrival 12 days before. The room was stuffy and warm from the press of many bodies. There was only a faint breeze coming in the back door where men were moving crates in and out the door.
“The men have mustered at the gates sir. I suggest we move before Cromwell brings back his other regiments,” the Duke of Hamilton said as he looked up from the spread out map that had the hills and rivers sketched in. Charles nodded. Someone touched his elbow and handed him a tankard of ale and a biscuit that he took automatically. He drank deeply from the tankard, not really tasting the liquid. It was cool and that was good.
“Cromwell will most likely return when he sees what we’re up to anyway, so the initial push has to be as hard and fast as we can. Just don’t let him get between you and the city walls. You’ll be at the north eastern end of the line Hamilton. Try to sweep them towards Red Hill if you can. I’d rather keep them away from the city as much as possible, and they’ll be in better range for the ‘Old Meg’ up atop the Fort. That will make short work of the morning for us.” He said and the man smiled and nodded.
Charles wolfed down the biscuit in three bites, making it his breakfast. He was much too excited to eat this morning. He smiled as he considered the map. “Old Meg’ stationed high atop Fort Royal was a ____ pound cannon that hurled out ____ pound shot at the rate of ___ rounds per minute, if her expertly trained __________’s were in a good mood. Charles pitied any man caught under its fire.
The drums beat loudly as Charles led the first of the unit out the narrow Sidbury gate, Wilmot at his side. He rounded the city wall heading east and saw Buckingham at the head of the cavalry unit to his left, and Hamilton’s men beyond him. The lines formed up into battle squares, a forest of pikes aimed up at the air above the foot soldiers, the musketeers hidden in the center of their formations
The cannons on the hill beyond were silent, as if considering the sight of calling forth an army, and then quickly matching ranks of red formed on the hillside, bristling with pikes and glinting silver. Charles dismounted and joined the men who gravitated towards him. No one was laughing with more than their number lined up against them on the opposite hillside.
He mentally counted three hedgerows that crisscrossed the fields between them. Hamilton and Buckingham had a small stream to contend with as well as hedgerows, but before his men the hill began almost immediately, they would be going uphill, all the way. Then the red ranks were coming slowly towards them, singing their psalms. ....
WIP Title: ‘OF CROWNS & QUILLS’–Copyright 2009 by S. M. Vickoren -All rights reserved
Category: Historical Fiction