Even though dawn approached, Taillebourg remained in bed, snoring loudly as he slept off the effects of the evening’s alcohol. The loud crash of stone hitting stone made him bolt upright. The sound resonated throughout the citadel, and the walls shook from the impact. Throwing on a dressing robe, Taillebourg ran from his bedroom.
His castellan met Taillebourg in the hallway. “What is it? What has happened?”
“My Lord, we are under attack.” The castellan strapped on his sword.
“Is it Duke Richard?” Taillebourg’s face turned pale.
His castellan could only nod.
Taillebourg turned and ran through the castle with the castellan in hot pursuit.
They rushed to the battlements and looked over the edge to see Richard’s siege machine lined up ready to attack. All about them, men scurried to prepare defenses for the castle.
Raymond joined them on the battlements, his face twisted into an eerie smile. “Now it comes!” Taillebourg made a gesture toward Richard’s forces.
“He is a fool to attack.” Raymond laughed. “This citadel can never be taken.”
Taillebourg turned on him. “Perhaps someone forgot to inform the duke of that little fact. Did he not try to make contact first?”
Raymond’s eyes flashed with excitement. “Oh, yes. He sent an emissary late last night after you retired to bed. I refused to receive him.”
“You fool, you damn fool! I knew you were thick, but I had no idea it was this bad.” Taillebourg screeched.
“Sir, the villagers are already pouring into the citadel!” The castellan distracted
“Well, if they’re not in by now, they are at the mercy of the Duke.” Taillebourg shouted orders. “Fortify the main gate and prepare for a siege. In the meantime, Castile, you will send word to him that you mean to meet with him. Perhaps we can still end this with my castle intact.”
“No! I refuse to meet with him!” Raymond stamped his foot. “Let him come; he does not stand a chance against you and your fortifications.”
“That is precisely it, Castile! This is my castle!” Taillebourg pinned Raymond with his stare, veins bulging in his neck. “You will send an emissary, or I will throw you from these walls and send your head as a gift to Duke Richard. You have waged war with my men and my castle. You have used me and played me for a fool. It ends now!”
As Richard paced back and forth like a caged animal, Andrew, and Baldwin stood under a grove of trees a distance from Taillebourg castle, preparing to parlay with Taillebourg and Castile. “Now, Richard, I know you want to kill him, and I do not blame you; however, you mustn’t do anything rash.” Andrew rested his hand on the pommel of his sword.
Richard continued to pace. “I think we have Taillebourg’s attention. Let us use that to our advantage.”
“There. I see them in the distance.” Baldwin pointed to three figures on horseback.
“Remember, they must meet every demand in order to avoid more aggression. Do not negotiate!” Richard grumbled.
Within a few moments, Taillebourg, Raymond and the castellan dismounted and entered the grove of trees. Taillebourg nodded toward Richard. “Duke Richard, we have come to discuss a peaceful outcome to this aggression.”
Andrew took the lead. “My Lord appreciates your coming, Baron Taillebourg. He asked you here to make his demands formally known.”
Taillebourg made a slight bow, narrowing his eyes at Richard’s arrogant expression. Andrew continued, “The duke demands that Lady Anne be released into his custody with the understanding that the Prince of Castile will not make any attempt to recover her. Taillebourg is to renew his oath of fidelity to the duke. In return, the duke is prepared to halt his attack on the castle. Also, he will graciously payoff Castile’s debts and pay for his safe passage home.”
Taillebourg snorted. “We all know that Prince Raymond has no intention of returning home to Castile to wait in line behind his six brothers. He has more important matters to attend to in Marseilles. Perhaps I must remind you that the Lady Anne and Prince Raymond are now man and wife.” He paused to watch his words hit their target. “Oh, oh, maybe you had not heard.”
“Take care, Taillebourg!” Richard growled. “Either you release Lady Anne and benefit, or I will take possession of your properties.” He pointed to Raymond. “This craven lout is not worth the risk.”
“And might I remind you, Sir, that as of yet you have failed to capture the citadel.
Try as you like, but your efforts will be for naught.” Raymond gave Richard a contemptuous smile.
Richard scoffed at Raymond. “By the by, Castile, what unfortunate event did your face meet? Perhaps Queen Boudica herself? Now, that is the handiwork of my Anne. Who needs a woman skilled at making tapestries when you have one who can do this?”
“By heaven and hell, she is no longer yours!” Raymond stepped closer to Richard and taunted. “For all your titles and your swaggering boasts, I have had the one thing you could not, and I have had it over, and over, and over again.”
Richard lunged at Raymond but Baldwin and Andrew grapped him. “Then we will take that as your answer.” Baldwin snarled at Taillebourg and Raymond.
“I swear by all that is holy, if that is what it takes, I will see you in hell!” Richard roared.
Taillebourg stuck his nose in the air, turned and left. Raymond and the castellan followed.
Once they were out of hearing, Richard turned to his companions. “The small village located at the foot of the fortress, destroy it. Also, have the boutefeux raze the vineyards and fields. Make sure those in the fortress must watch their property destroyed. I want to anger those inside, drawing the men out. Then, we will rush the castle walls.”
Richard’s men destroyed everything in their path, the houses, the livestock, and crops. Due to the plentiful fires, a thick haze clung around the ruins of the little village. They spared one small part of the village that would only take a mere afternoon to destroy. Richard meant to draw out the besieged villagers, the peasants who abandoned their village for the safety of the castle walls, who now watched helplessly from the battlements.
Inside the castle walls, a grey doom settled on the inhabitants, many praying for a peaceful surrender. Taillebourg shut himself up in the keep and would not listen to the pleas of anyone. To him, surrender now was not an option. He didn’t wish to spend the rest of his days a prisoner of the duke.
Taillebourg sat alone at the head of his table as Raymond sheepishly approached him. “When Richard destroyed the crops, he took a great risk. While he did destroy the livelihood of the peasants and a great deal of revenue for you, he also put his own troops in danger. If the siege lasts a long time, he has no means to feed his army. Baron, the duke is just trying to lure the men outside the gates.”
“Yes, well, I know a good many who are ready to go,” Taillebourg snapped.
“We…” Raymond swallowed hard. “You mustn’t let them.”
The baron inhaled deeply to launch a fresh verbal assault on Raymond, but his castellan rushed into the room. “I beg your pardon, My Lord, but the sentinels have spotted something.”
Turning his anger, Taillebourg barked, “Well, what is it?”
“Duke Richard moved his camp. In his conceit, he placed it near to the walls.” The castellan licked his lips as if the news aroused some kind of hunger in him.
“What is his purpose?” Taillebourg grumbled.
“It’s obvious!” Raymond’s expression lightened. “He plans to be close in order to facilitate a rush on the castle when the men come out to defend their property.” Taillebourg responded with a disgusted grunt. Raymond continued, “At last a stroke of luck. By moving his camp so close, he has made himself vulnerable to attack.”
“If I might, Sir, I have noted that the duke concentrates his efforts on destruction. He does this during the day forcing those inside the citadel to watch their property razed. At night his troops withdraw to their camp and all is quiet. Destruction is a taxing business,” the castellan offered.
Taillebourg sat up straight as if lifted from a magical haze. “I see! We should attack his camp at night while they sleep. He wouldn’t expect us to come out from behind the safety of our walls.”
Raymond turned on the castellan. “Have your men spotted the exact location of the Duke’s personal tent?”
He nodded. “Yes, I believe so, Sir.”
“If we enter the camp, we could capture the duke, and you could take a rebellious son to an appreciative father. With that cockered clodpole captured, I can be on my way to Marseilles, and you could have in your debt a very grateful king.” Raymond clapped his hands together.
In the thick of the night, Taillebourg’s troops crept through Richard’s camp killing the first sentry who slept through his duty. If they looked more closely, they would have seen they slit the throat of a fresh corpse.
As Taillebourg’s men penetrated deeper into the camp, through the rows of tents large and small, toward the center where Richard’s banner flew, they did not see Richard’s men lying in wait. When Taillebourg’s men penetrated far enough into the camp, one of Richard’s archers shot a flaming arrow into the air, the silent signal to attack. The crash of arms and men, screams and cries shattered the still night air.
Amongst Taillebourg’s men, a ragtag group of knights and peasants, chaos ensued. Instinct called them back to the safety of the fortress. They rushed to its main gate, flanked by the curtain wall like a mother arms open ready to engulf her children in a protective embrace.
Richard perched himself atop some rubble to get a better view. His men rushed to prevent Taillebourg’s from entering the gates and closing the portcullis. As he watchd, his army suddenly rolled back toward him like a wave. Without hesitation, he leapt from his vantage point and rushed forward, his sword aloft, issuing a cry of Mont Joie.
At this, the wave of Richard’s men rolled back towards the castle and crashed through Taillebourg’s men like the ocean rushing into a ruptured sea wall.
As Taillebourg and Raymond waited in the keep for news from the battle, the castellan rushed in, “My Lord, they breached the main gate! The men are surrendering. Duke Richard is giving no quarter!”
Raymond turned on Taillebourg. “I thought you said this castle’s defenses would never break!”
“You stupid, simple fool! You have ruined me!” Taillebourg screeched. “I am going to flee before it is too late!”
Without further explanation, Taillebourg grabbed a flambeau from the wall and headed to the dungeon below. He shouted for Raymond and the castellan to follow him. “You will pay all you have promised me plus my losses here!”
The dungeon, so Taillebourg called it, was actually little more than a large cavernous wine cellar. One small section was blocked off into a cell area, but Taillebourg rarely had occasion to use it. Anne was still locked behind the old rusty bars enbeded in a stone wall laced with trails of rusty water dripping to the floor behind a straw matress. Taillebourg headed straight for her, unlocked the cell, and bound her hands together. “We’ll take her with us. We can use her as leverage if need be.” Taillebourg pushed her at Raymond.
Castile tried to pull Anne along but she fought him. He struck her, and they grappled. Smashing Raymond’s wounded face with both her hands, Anne used her weight to pull away from him, and she slipped from his grasp, lost her balance, and slammed her head on the stone wall of the cell.
Unconscious, she crumpled to the floor.
Raymond screamed in pain and gasped, “I think I’ve killed her!”
Taillebourg shook his head. “I’m leaving!”
Raymond panicked. “But how? Richard has us surrounded!”
“I have a secret passageway leading to the postern gate just beyond those wine barrels there. It goes to a cave that is well outside the walls. We can slip away unnoticed, but only if we hurry.”
A large rope hung coiled on the wall, and Taillebourg slung it over his shoulder. As he turned and headed for the wine barrels, Raymond took one last look at Anne’s crumpled body on the floor and followed him.
In the courtyard above, Richard’s men now easily overcame the opposition. At the breach of the castle walls, most of Taillebourg’s contingent surrendered as fast as they could. Richard let his knights take them hostage. Looking around desperately trying to see something that would give him a clue as to the whereabouts of Anne, Raymond, or Taillebourg, Richard could only see the chaos of the battle before him. As he sprinted for the keep, he shouted above the noise to his men. “Find Lady Anne and bring me Castile!”
When they entered the main hall, Taillebourg’s servants fled before them like frightened deer. Baldwin disappeared to interrogate some of the captured servants, and Andrew left to search the bedchambers and tower rooms. Richard investigated the kitchen. There he found an old servant man cowering in the corner. Richard yanked the man to his feet. “Where is Lady Anne de Marseilles?”
The old man bowed his head in supplication. “I don’t know, M’lord.”
Richard pointed his sword straight at the man’s heart. “Listen very carefully. I have killed for less offense than this, so think really hard because when you take your last breath depends entirely on your answer. Now, I ask you again, where is Lady Anne?”
“Honest, M’lord, none of us has seen her since before the castle was attacked.”
The old servant shook his head in desperation.
“Where is your master keeping her?” Richard demanded.
The servant dropped to his knees and pleaded, “Mercy! I don’t know! I don’t know!”
As both Andrew and Baldwin rushed into the kitchen, Baldwin shouted, “Taillebourg has a secret tunnel, a posturn gate that leads beyond the walls to a cave. The entrance to the tunnel is located in the dungeons, and Anne is probably with them.”
“It’s true. It’s true. I used to serve the Barron’s father as groomsman.” The old man cupped his hands together as if in prayer.
Richard turned back to the servant. “Do you know where the tunnel is?”
The wide-eyed man nodded. “It has been a long time, but I think I could find it.”
Andrew cut in, “Richard, we haven’t much time. They set fire to the keep.”
“Follow me, M’lords.” The servant motioned.
They entered the dungeons and ran past the cell where Anne lay unconscious.
The servant stopped. “You must go behind the largest barrel of wine.”
As they all began looking around for the large barrel of wine, Baldwin spotted Anne lying on the ground. “Richard!”
Richard rushed to her, and knelt beside her leaning his ear close to her mouth. The smoke from the fire above began to wind its way through the dungeon.
“She is still breathing,” Richard cried out. “Anne! Anne! Can you hear me?”
“The fire is spreading; we must get her out!” Andrew warned.
“If I remember right, the other end of the passageway is locked by a heavy door or gate. Surely my master would have locked it behind him. Even if it is unlocked, we would need a rope. If we go that way, we could be trapped.”
“Then we shall go back the way we came.” Richard scooped up Anne.
They entered the kitchen again, this time Baldwin leading the way. The fire spread rapidly as tapestries, rugs, and dry wooden floors layered with rushes ignited in flames. The old servant aided them as they dodged falling timbers and groped their way through the smoke to the courtyard.
With Taillebourg’s men being captured or killed and frightened villagers running to and fro, the courtyard was in chaos. Richard and the others finally made their way through the melee, and they continued their flight until they were outside the fortress walls where they were a safe distance away. Gently, Richard placed Anne on the ground.
“Fetch me some water or something!” Richard panicked.
They all looked around, and Andrew noticed a large horse nearby lazily grazing, oblivious to the destruction around it. Various accoutrements hung from its saddle. Running to the horse, he found a flask. Quickly, he brought it back to Richard. Richard removed his gloves and tilted Anne’s head back. As he pressed the flask to her lips, her eyes flickered, and she moaned.