Galahad did not lay idle in his Uncle’s house but soon annoyed his guards enough and played so much on his aunt’s maternal instincts that he was given free reign of the house. Then he worked tirelessly to frustrate and sabotage his Uncle’s plans. He had been excellent at this even before he’d met Lilly and so it seemed that his spoiled mean streak had simply continued rather than come out with purpose. Even Galahad’s meddling, though, could not stop the force of nature that was his Uncle.
Count Riverton had decided that the kingdom needed a king and that he was the right man for the job. So Galahad’s best tactic was to delay his Uncle as much as possible. He did such a good job that Count Riverton took nearly a week to mobilize his forces and very nearly locked his nephew in the tower, whatever his wife might say. He also forbade Galahad from coming with him despite Galahad’s humble, incessant pleading. So it was that three hours after the Count set out, Galahad did too (over the Countesses objections of course). But he did not ride toward his Uncle’s army.
Meanwhile Lilly and her nobles prepared for a coronation and a war. Despite Lord Trapsfield’s best efforts he could no longer call them *his* nobles. Lilly had flowered into a queen in all but name and the power Trapsfield had wielded was leaking out of his grasp. Trapsfield would have quite hoped for the reverse, but as that seemed unlikely without treason and treachery, crimes that would be pinned on him immediately whatever his involvement may have been, he settled in to his advisory role under a cloud of melancholy.
Though Lilly and her subjects made haste back to her father’s castle where the coronation would be held, it is difficult to mobilize a nation quickly when horseback is your fastest means of communication, plus the logistics of moving men and cargo across the country is difficult when you are inexperienced and your most able advisor on the subject is too sullen to bother to help. As they approached the castle on their road weary horses, the welcoming party was not, as they had hoped: welcoming, but rather an advance guard of Count Riverton’s soldiers. It was not large enough to defeat them in battle, but was more than enough to defend the well fortified castle itself, though not the bustling town that surrounded it.
Lilly gathered her advisors. Sir Trapsfield and six other nobles convened in her tent and at Lilly’s insistence, Sir Doyle and Roddie were also included. The nobles spent the first few hours arguing among themselves about the merits of a siege and how long it might take. Eventually, Lilly weary of this back and forth asked if there were other ideas. Sir Doyle spoke up, “Why not hold the coronation here in the field?”
“And how will it look if the queen cannot enter her castle?” Lord Trapsfield asked.
“How will it look if Riverton’s soldiers hold the castle against their queen?” Sir Doyle asked.
“That is a razor’s edge of advantage,” said one of the nobles, “If anything goes wrong she will look the fool and all will be lost.”
“You’re right, my Lord,” Roddie said. “It’s not enough.” Sir Doyle gave him a dour look, but Roddie pressed on, “we throw a party and invite the whole town.”
“And what will that do?” One of the nobles asked. “A bunch of peasants getting drunk and rabble rousing.”
“Begging your pardon, Sir, but if you were a peasant, who would you be more loyal to, soldiers you don’t know or a queen who just gave you a good meal? We’re simple folk, just trying to make a living, feed us well and we’ll fight for you till the end.”
Lord Trapsfield shook his head and blew out his breath in disgust. “And what good, pray tell, would a bunch of untrained peasants be on the battlefield?”
“Sacrificial lambs,” one of the nobles said with a laugh.
Roddie swallowed his indignation and said in a calm voice, “Not much, I’ll grant you, but no one knows the ins and outs of the castle more than they who support it. No one knows the weak points better than the merchants and servants who keep it running. Their trust is something you cannot win with the sword.”
Lord Trapsfield not to be outdone asked, “And where would we get the food for this feast?”
“I think I can help with that, Lord Trapsfield,” said a voice from the entrance. The tent flap swept open and Galahad entered. He stepped toward the princess and bowed low.
The princess motioned him to stand up. She was happier to see him than she would have guessed.
“I bring terrible news and worse news,” Galahad said.
“Well aren’t we glad you arrived,” one of the nobles retorted.
“Let him speak,” the princess said.
“First the bad news,” Galahad said. “Count Riverton has arrived with only half of his men and they already outnumber us two to one.”
“What’s the terrible news?” One of the nobles asked.
“I know their cooks and servants quite well,” Galahad said.
“This is the terrible news?” Another noble asked.
Galahad smiled. “I never said it was terrible news for us.”
To Be Continued…