Richard came down some time later to discover that Robert had in fact been moved off the table as he had requested, and that James was waiting for him in the hall.
James did not even give Richard time to inquire what his purpose there was before he began to speak. “Had a fine rest, have we? While our poor brother was working himself to sleep taking charge of a thousand prisoners, and tending to them too. In the rain, which hasn’t yet let up, no less.”
Moving across the room to stand nearer to Robert, Richard replied, his voice heavy with restrained anger and grief mixed. “You were not given the authority to dispense with the men as you wished. Do you truly mean to set yourself up as a rival to me, as you did in our house when you did not know who the king was?”
Now James, who had been leaning on the wall on the right side of the doors, moved down the hall to and up the dais, upon which Robert was lying upon sheepskins, sleeping soundly. He stepped within an arm’s-length of his brother and said “Who would you have had do that which I have done? The king is gone, and his man with him, and here the lord Trondale is unable to rise, and even you was out of reach. I know when to let a man have his solitude; else I would have roused you earlier.”
“But you also know that I, and not you, spent all my strength in fighting alongside those men.”
James smiled in the self-satisfied manner of a card player who has successfully decoyed his opposing players and won the game. Gesturing toward the sleeping man a foot from Richard, he said “So too has this man, and he lies here by the grace of the One. Will you not allow him some measure of peace?”
Richard knew he had been outmaneuvered. “You did well, my brother. But what more could the lord Trondale want than that he has not been roused by our speech here?” James then indicated to the two watchmen at the doors that they were to open the hall.
Richard now guessed what James intended. “No one gave you leave to order the comings and goings of the Trondales.”
“Who said I intended to? There are men out there who want to pay their last respects to their captain now, in case he does not live much longer. If his family decides to come in, I was not stopping them.”
It was then that the people who had been waiting outside began to make their way into the building, as quietly as they were able to. Five thousand guardsmen had stood with Robert against the invasion force; only sixty-five of these still survived. The remaining men were those who had marched to Carribeasa and back with Richard. As eager as these men were to pay their respects to a fallen captain, they still stood aside to allow the passage of a lady trailed by several children.
Lady Evelyn, followed by her two daughters and two young sons, passed through the ranks of somber men without so much as glancing to either side. When she reached the dais where Robert lay, now flanked by Richard and James, who were holding position as if they were sentries, she hurried up the steps and knelt down before Robert. The Longfurrows respectfully stepped away.
“Robert, my son, rise and take your place. Your men are here. Shall they celebrate your rising or mourn your death?”
Robert had remained asleep throughout the whole scene. At the sound of his mother’s voice, however, he awoke and his powerful voice, weakened as it was, could be heard through most of the hall, in which deathlike silence reigned to better catch whatever he had the strength to say.
“Mother… Tell them to celebrate my rising! Not often has a man been given leave to survive what I have done. I still require healers and bandages, but it is enough that I live. Let my men come forward.”
Lady Evelyn stepped aside so that Robert was again fully visible in the sheets that covered him, turned back to the men, and called out “Who among you was among the company of Robert, Captain of the Guards?”
Hearing themselves summoned, the sixty-five survivors of Robert’s company made their way from their various positions in the ranks toward the front of the room. Forming a line near their captain’s feet, each of them in turn marched three steps to his head to receive his commendation. To the first man he gave a message: “It was folly, was it not, to throw myself from the wall?”
From his heart, the man replied “If you had died, sir, men who had not been there might call it folly, but I think I speak for my fellows if I say that giant would have crushed any of us. If even you could not, then you did what you had to do.”
“Thank you, man, for forgiving me.” Calling out the man’s name, and that of his father, which each guardsman had recited to him at enlistment, he sent him on his way. He acted likewise with the sixty-four men who followed after, so that all men should remember the names of those who had stood with him on the walls. Then, in a move which surprised all the auditors, he motioned a scribe forward. “We can not forget the dead. It is their right that they should be remembered.” Taking the scroll, he began to read the names of the rest of the guardsmen. Those listening, respecting the reason, thought, and action, remained silent throughout the reading.
The reading over, the scribe took the list to lock it away in the archives, while two other men moved forward to help Robert upright. Though both men were solidly built, they struggled to lift the captain’s weight until Richard stepped in to support them, for they were being careful to avoid jostling Robert in any way until they got him onto his feet. When this was finally done, Robert saluted the soldiers again and then moved off under the guidance of the two healers.
The departure of Robert seemed to release a general tension which no one had acknowledged as actually being present but everyone had felt. Richard now reassumed control over the general order of the people.
“The time has come to put our misery aside and work to rebuild the city. There are few of us left for the task, though, so I do not think the king would refuse to offer Corridane citizenship to those men who laid down their arms. Treat them as you would a countryman, for some, at least, I am sure, did not slay men of their own will.”
Richard moved toward the door, and the soldiers accepted this as a dismissal, falling into step behind him. Throwing the doors open without waiting for the wardens, Richard strode out onto the dais that was before the doors of the palace. Turning to face the throng within the building, he proclaimed, for the benefit of those who had not yet heard: “By command of the king I was made commander of all the men he did not lead himself. By the power of that order, I take it upon myself to say that we shall waste no time in restoring our city. There must still be some store of tools within the city. Go out into the countryside. Gather all the people and beasts of burden that you find. Cut what wood you can, and bring it back here, where the others shall be working at the building; you all had tasks before the battle! Return to them!” Thrusting his fist upward in a sign of victory, he concluded “For, by all that is good, Corrrandion shall rise again!”
It was early on the day following the battle, for Richard had slept through the night, as had all the others. The work of rebuilding the city began then and did not stop but for darkness for two full days after.
On the third day, ten men came riding into the midst of the work and asked to see Richard himself. Richard, who was nearby, paused in his work and came forward to hear their news.
“We followed the man’s direction to the banks of the river, but we were too late. There were signs that his party has crossed over.”
“King Valun will be told of this when he returns. You have done what you were able. Now find yourselves food and shelter and join us later.”
Leaving the work, Richard then went up to the palace and proceeded up to the room in which Robert had been secluded. Respecting Robert’s right to peace in recovery, Richard did not mince his words.
“My scouts have returned, and they report that your prisoner escaped.”
Robert slowly moved himself back so that he was sitting upright. “Do you think I can do anything? Or are you here to lay the failure of my brave men as wardens on my head?”
“I came to do no such thing. I only wished you to know where I am going.”
“Now you are leaving again? Why?”
“I believe the king would want the man brought back, so I will follow him. As for the life of Corridane, you need only tell them to continue as they are. Send your commands by James. I hope to return in a month. May the One be with you.” With that, Richard left the room. He encountered James in the hall and said “Do as the Trondale bids you. I am going after the man called John.”
From there Richard made his way to the stable, where he saddled his own horse and made other preparations necessary to the journey he saw before him. As he was leading the horse out of the stable, a man approached; he saw that it was one of those who had returned that day.
“Sir, are you not aware that the man crossed the river? Surely you can not be expecting your horse to swim the distance.”
“I knew that, else he would not have escaped from you. But you are not aware that Carribeasa is now at peace with the king. In that city they have boats, for they are the principal traders of the country. Continue your good work. If the king returns before I do myself, it is your charge to ensure that he knows what I have done.”
Without waiting for a reply, Richard spurred his horse forward, galloping out over the northwestern boundary of the city toward his ancestral land, and from thence to Carribeasa. The journey was long, arduous, and not without note in the archives of the kingdom.