“So, we hurry up and wait,” Festuscato said, and they made camp. Festuscato spent the time writing letters and finding ways to send them across the channel. He spoke to a number of little ones from the island so he knew who needed to receive the letters. He had no idea what kind of response he might get, but at least he learned something of the lay of the land.
It got closer to a month before riders were seen coming from the Kernow province. Some were counted from Damnonea, but many were of Cornish descent rather than native Amorican. Festuscato remembered how the usurper Magnus Maximus brought a whole army out of Britain, decades before he had been born, and he tried to take the western empire for himself. When he failed, his troops were reported to have settled in Amorica. More recently, Constantine III, originally a common soldier in Britain, tried the same stunt, and he just about depopulated the Roman presence on the island. Amorica became the last resting place for two great Romano-British armies. There were whole cities full of Cornish, Welsh and British people, and the language slowly changed because of it.
In this case, it looked like quite a number of men. They were led by Aldrien’s younger brother, another Constantine, a man well enough into his forties. His son Constans who came with him was in his twenties, but probably still older than Festuscato. “I have five thousand men,” Constantine happily reported.
Festuscato looked at Father Lavius. He had discussed this with the priests. “There is one important piece of this puzzle that maybe was not explained to you.” Constantine listened because he saw an opportunity here. Being the younger, he had little future in his own land. “Amorica is well known for holding to the old ways, the wisdom of the druids and the festivals of the gods. But for our part, in Britannia, our task includes defending the churches. We will land in Cornwall and make our way to Londinium to meet with Archbishop Guithelm. There will be no burning of churches, no killing of Priests. Those will be crucifixion offenses. I do not know how many of your men may be Christians and how many may decide not to join us on this journey, but you need to make this clear.”
Constantine rubbed his beard. He looked at the ground before he spoke. “I have struggled with this, myself. I know many minds are closed. But I figure it is not my place to say what may or may not be taught to the people, and I believe if a man keeps an open mind, truth will out in the end. I will go with you. I cannot say how many of the men will join us.”
“We will wait,” Festuscato assured the man.
After a week, more than half of the men rode away before Constantine returned to the camp. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I see what you mean about Amorica holding to the old ways. Still, we have two thousand men who may not be Christians, but who have pledged to hold to the conditions. Mostly, like me I suppose, they are second sons who want a chance to make something of themselves. That is the gist of it. Now, all you have to do is pay them. One solidus per day”
“Three per week,” Mirowen bargained like a true elf, but it eventually became five per week because she did not push too hard. “We can manage that for the next year,” she said. The Romans were getting seven per week, which was one per day, the sergeants ten per week, and Julius two Miliarense plus four per week, which was the equivalent of twenty-eight Solidus or four per day. “The real expense is going to be for the boats to cross the channel, but I have friends working on that,” Mirowen said.
“I know two thousand men isn’t much,” Constantine continued, still on his original track. “Twenty years ago or more, I was a teenager, Gracianus Municeps crossed with two whole legions. Dionotus was the Dux Britannia at the time and trying to hold things together, but he needed help. Municeps helped, but then he got greedy. There was civil war. Dionotus disappeared and Municeps took over. He was a bad one, though, and the people removed him, if you know what I mean.”
“He was a greedy ass, as you say.” Festuscato had read what little he had to read about it.
“Yes, but now the whole island is still in a kind of civil war footing since, and that has been for nearly twenty years.”
“That was when the Lords and Bishops began to appeal to Rome for help,” Festuscato said. “I have a couple of letters that were held and ignored by Honorius before Valentinian even came to the office.” He brightened. “But here we are, and now we go.” He smiled for Constantine, but he frowned in private. The Amoricans had two hundred and fifty horsemen, which was only one out of eight men on horseback. By contrast, the Huns under Megla were reported to be tearing up the countryside with three thousand men, all on horses.
The army crossed the channel on about June sixth, at Festuscato’s insistence, and they arrived in Bournemouth, the main port on the edge of Dumonii territory. Cador, Chief of the Cornovii, and self-appointed Dux of Cornwall, met him there with enough troops to double their numbers. He brought five hundred men on horse, an improvement, but that still left over three thousand men slogging along on foot.
“Cadbury to begin with,” Festuscato said. “I expect to stay there about six months to gather our troops and supplies for the following spring. Come October or so, Megla will have to hold up somewhere to winter. This summer I only want to keep him running. We are nowhere near ready to confront him.”
Festuscato repeated himself when they got to the Great Hall in Cadbury fort. That spawned a response.
“What?” Gildas served as Cador’s right arm, no doubt ferocious in battle, but he was not the swiftest in the bunch. “We gather our men and we go fight the bastards.” It would be a tug-of-war to counter the man’s ignorance and keep everyone else on track.
“Gildas. You have three thousand men on foot. What do you think they will do when they have three thousand Huns on horseback charge them with great, long spears aimed at their gut?”
“Kill the bastards,” Gildas said. He did not think about it at all.
“Die,” Cador got it.
“Run away, most likely,” Constantine understood even better.
“And the people of Britain have been running away from Megla since he arrived here last fall. And many of them had swords in their hands. No. We need to train horsemen to counter the Huns on more even ground, or we might as well give them the country and be done with it. Now, there are ways we can use infantry to our advantage, but we will need the horses to entice the Huns into making the mistake.
“I have fifty men. I need fifty from each of you, only your best horsemen, and only volunteers. Right now, my men are setting up targets to test the men’s skill. The assignment will be hard and require every ounce of skill and brains your people have.” He looked briefly at Gildas and the others understood, even if Gildas did not get it. “I will not send men out who have no chance for survival.”
One of the Four Horsemen came in and whispered to Festuscato, which made him grin. “Gentlemen, we have guests.” He followed the Horseman out while Cador turned to Constantine.
“Was that one Death or Plague?”
Constantine shook his head. “Pestilence, I think. They all look alike to me.”
Cador nodded. “All I know is any reasonable, intelligent man would be afraid to face one of them.”
“Then your Gildas must truly be the man without fear,” Julius said, and the men laughed.