The Sundering Flood, by William Morris

Chapter xlix. Of the City King and the Outland King

Now then was great feast and glee in the City of the Sundering Flood. The gates were thrown open, the bridges made free, the country-folk flocked in, and the markets were thronged and gay; neighbour held merry converse with neighbour, and there was marrying and giving in marriage. Of the Outland foes none thought, save it were the King and one or two of his councillors; for all men trusted in Sir Godrick that he would look to the safe-guarding of the city. But as for Sir Godrick, like a wise man of war he set to work looking to all points of defence, both the castles of the town and especially the ships in the haven, that they were as defensible as might be.

And after all the Outland king came not at all that year, whereas he had fallen sick when he was just at point to take ship with his host; so that all was put off till the next spring, and there was time and to spare for Sir Godrick to do all he would strengthening the defences of the city. But none the more for that was he sluggish, but did so much that he made the City of the Sundering Flood exceeding strong, so that it might scarce be stronger; and all things flourished there: old foes became new friends, and all men were well content, save it were the King and his faitours, who rued it now that they had sold themselves so cheap.

Amidst all this, Osberne was somewhat more at Longshaw and the borders of the Wood Masterless than in the city. Of numberless folk did he ask his old questions, and gat ever the same answer, that they knew nought of it; and indeed now it was less and less like that they should know aught as time wore. So that at last he began to get ungleeful at whiles, and few-spoken with men.

Came the spring, and therewith the mighty Outland conqueror; but the shortest tale to tell of him is, that there he conquered nothing, but was held aloof at all points, save here and there he was suffered to break through to his great scathe. But his host was so big, that he hung about till the autumn. He gat but one gain, such as it was, that ere he brake up his host the King of the City fled to him and became his friend. And they two took rede together as to what they should do the next year to fall upon the land which was his, as he said.

Meantime, his back being turned upon his once subjects, many men began to think belike they might do without him once and for all, when they cast up the use he had been to them in times past. And this imagination grew, until at last a great Mote was called, and there it was put forward, that since the City had a Porte and a Great Council, and a Burgreve under these, the office of King was little needed there. So first with one accord they escheated their runaway, who they well knew would henceforth be their foe, and gave out that all they who had held of him should now hold of the Porte; and next, with little gainsaying, they did away with the office of King altogether, and most men felt the lighter-hearted therefor. And the City throve as well as ever it had done. So wore that year to an ending.

The next year the two Kings did in very sooth bring a great host against that folk; but fell not on the city itself, but gat a-land some twenty miles to the east thereof; and this they did easily, because Sir Godrick, with the rede of the Great Council, let them do so much, whereas he deemed it were well if he might be done with them once and for all. So he gat the very pick of his folk together, of whom was the Red Lad in high place, much dreaded of all his foemen.

Then Sir Godrick by his wisdom chose time and place for the battle, whereas the others must fight when and where he would. Such an overthrow they gat, that they might not draw to a head again. The old City King, fighting desperately, was slain by the Red Lad in the beginning of the rout; but the other King escaped by sharp spurring and the care and valour of his best knights, who rode about him in a plump. He stayed not till he came to his ships, where he gat aboard and sailed away to his own land, whence he came back again never to trouble the City of the Sundering Flood.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07