For a while the ever-gathering crowd of their assailants remained still staring at them. Then the leaders began to whisper to each other, for they scarcely seemed to dare to talk aloud.
“What shall we do?” asked one. “These are not men. No men could have fought as they have fought for seven days and at last have slain us like sparrows in a net and themselves remained unhurt.”
“No,” answered another, “and no mortal archer could send his shaft through the bodies of three. Still it is finished now unless they find wings and fly away. So let us take them.”
“Yes, yes,” broke in Grey Dick with his hissing laugh, “come and take us, you curs of Avignon. Having our breath again, we are ready to be taken,” and he lifted his axe and shook it.
“Seize them,” shouted the leader of the French. “Seize them!” echoed those who poured up the stairs behind.
But there the matter ended, since none could find stomach to face that axe and sword. So at length they took another counsel.
“Bring bows and shoot them through the legs.
Thus we shall still bring them living to their trial,” commanded the captain of the men of Avignon. He was their fourth captain on that one day, for the other three lay upon the stairs or in the hall.
Now Hugh and Dick spoke together, few words and swift, as to whether they should charge or leap from the wall and have done with it. While they spoke a little cloud floated over the face of the moon, so that until it had gone the French could not see to shoot.
“It’s too risky,” said Hugh. “If they capture us we must die a death to which I have no mind. Let us hurl our weapons at them, then leap.”
“So be it,” whispered Dick. “Do you aim at the captain on the left and I will take the other. Ready now! I think one creeps near to us.”
“I think so, too,” Hugh whispered back, “I felt the touch of his garments. Only he seemed to pass us from behind, which cannot be.”
The cloud passed, and once again they were bathed in silver light. It showed the men of Avignon already bending their bows; it showed Hugh and Grey Dick lifting axe and sword to hurl them. But between them and their mark it showed also a figure that they knew well, a stern and terrible figure, wearing a strange cap of red and yellow and a cape of rich, black fur.
“O God of Heaven! ’tis Murgh the Helper,” gasped Hugh.
“Ay, Murgh the Fire, Murgh the Sword,” said Dick, adding quietly, “it is true I was wondering whether he would prove as good as his word. Look now, look! they see him also!”
See him they did, indeed, and for a moment there was silence on that crowded tower top where stood at least a score of men, while their fellows packed the hall and stair below by hundreds. All stared at Murgh, and Murgh stared back at them with his cold eyes. Then a voice screamed:
“Satan! Satan come from hell to guard his own! Death himself is with you! Fly, men of Avignon, fly!”
Small need was there for this command. Already, casting down their bows, those on the tower top were rushing to the mouth of the stair, and, since it was blocked with men, using their swords upon them to hew a road. Now those below, thinking that it was the English wizards who slew them, struck back.
Presently all that stair and the crowded hall below, black as the mouth of the pit, for such lights as still burned soon were swept away, rang with the screams and curses and stifled groans of the trodden down or dying. In the pitchy darkness brother smote brother, friend trampled out the life of friend, till the steep steps were piled high and the doorways blocked with dead. So hideous were the sounds indeed, that Hugh and Grey Dick crossed themselves, thinking that hell had come to Avignon, or Avignon sunk down to hell. But Murgh only folded his white-gloved hands upon his breast and smiled.
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133