Roberr leaned against the crenelations and watched the wagons depart. It was nearly noon; his plan to have the wagons moving at dawn had failed miserably. The wagons, at least, had been ready. They were loaded with a few items of value and such supplies as the keep could spare. Mainly, though, they had been readied for the ones who couldn't travel any other way: the very young, the very old, and two of the worst-injured soldiers
No, what had kept them from leaving was the people. They had created the steady stream of delays, milling around or standing uncomfortably; none of them wanted to be the first to leave. Then there had been the ones who needed to go back for one more thing, or the ones who had to stop and rearrange their possessions - usually because they were carrying too much. There were children who got bored and wandered off, and then had to be found; there were elderly servants who had lived in the keep all their lives, and had to be coaxed into leaving.
It was only when his mother mounted her horse and started for the gate, with the guards and scouts scrambling onto their mounts in order to follow her, that the crowd finally began to move. It began as a slow ripple around the edges, and continued until everyone was flowing out the gate. Well, almost: there was still a pair lingering near the walls, with the woman standing patiently while the man sorted items from his knapsack. Whatever he decided not to take would probably be left there in a pile; the courtyard was littered with discarded items already. The guards were going to complain about being made to pick them all up, but it would have to be done.
"Are they going to make it? I've never seen people move so slowly. They're strung out for half a mile already."
Roberr turned his head, and found Miledha standing next to him. "They'll make it," he said. "It'll be an unholy mess, but they'll make it."
"It's already an unholy mess," said the witch.
"It could be worse. Most of our bandits came from across the border, and there's nobody left over there." He paused at that; it hadn't sounded as reassuring spoken aloud as it had in his head. "The Shadir haven't crossed yet, except for maybe a few scouts. If there are any problems, they'll come from other refugees... but my mother knows what she's doing, and the troops that went with her are experienced."
Miledha turned her head, looking out over ramparts again, and Roberr took the opportunity to look as well. Already the group was growing. They'd sent fifty or so people in the company of two wagons, but smaller groups of peasants were already moving to join them. Some had carts or wagons, while others were leading animals; it looked as if one fellow was pushing a wheelbarrow, though it was hard to be sure at this distance.
"So," said Roberr at last, "you said you had some sort of offer for me?"