"Conquerors are those who least expect an attack," murmured Skirwoillo. Here Macko interrupted and began to support Zbyszko's plans, because he understood that the young man had more hope to hear something near Ragnety than near Old Kowno, and that there were more chances to take important hostages at Ragnety who might serve for exchange.
The latter was not at all improbable, since the inhabitants of that locality who were descendants of the Lithuanians abhorred the Order and all those who came in contact with it. Some of the male population had joined Skirwoillo, others had risen in arms and slaughtered the Germans here and there; they, their families and their cattle hid themselves in the inaccessible fastnesses of the forest.
The din of war was already heard in the forests, fields and villages, and during the night the woods were seen on fire along the dark sea. Witold finally received Zmudz under his overt protection. He sent his governors, and wagons with armed people he placed under the most famous warrior Skirwoillo. He broke into Prussia, burned, destroyed and devastated.
In the woods, about a mile to the east of Kowno, which Witold had destroyed, were stationed the principal forces of Skirwoillo, extending in time of need from point to point in the neighborhood.
Skirwoillo shook his head and Zbyszko replied: "The castle is strong, therefore it can only be taken by storm. But we shall devastate the country, burn the towns and villages, destroy provisions, and above all take prisoners, among whom we may find important personages, for whom the Knights of the Cross will eagerly give ransom or exchange...."
For Prince Skirwoillo they had hastily constructed a Lithuanian numy, constructed of earth and logs, and for the most important personages scores of booths of twisted branches. But the common soldiers were squatting in the open around the camp-fires, and for shelter against bad weather they only had goatskin coats, and skins upon their naked bodies.
When he informed himself of the matter he opposed it vehemently and rudely. He had his private reasons for it. First, he was conquered by Skirwoillo, then in single combat, by the Polish knight.
Skirwoillo raised his brows now and then as an affirmative sign; at times he murmured: "Well spoken." Finally he moved his big head between his broad shoulders so that he looked like a hunchback, and was absorbed in thought. Then he rose, said nothing, and began to take leave. "How then will it be, prince?" inquired Macko. "Whither shall we move?" But he replied briefly: "To Nowe Kowno."
Then he turned toward Skirwoillo and said: "You yourself, prince, acknowledged that I am right, but now consider that Nowe Kowno is upon an island, there we shall neither stir up the people in the villages, drive off the herds of cattle, nor take prisoners, the more so because they have repulsed us here. Ay! Let us rather go where they do not expect us."
"But they cannot conquer castles with naked bodies, especially those of the Knights of the Cross." Further conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Zbyszko and Skirwoillo, who was the leader of the Zmudzians.