Down on the plains of Cadbury, beneath the hill of the fort, two streams of men came warily forward. Both had about a thousand soldiers with one in five or one in four on horseback. Festuscato sighed, but it was what the Romans taught. Their legions fought on foot in phalanx formation, and they only had a small number of horsemen in reserve. The world had changed since then, as Rome herself found out in the west. Festuscato knew the Western Empire was gone. It became only a matter of time.
Festuscato went straight to the gate and bounded happily down the hill with Julius and the Four Horsemen, Cador and Constantine following. Constantine’s son, Constans and his friend Vortigen trailed behind with Gildas who was probably judging the best way to kill the bastards.
Festuscato made the introductions. “King Ban of Benwick in Britain, and I see you were able to convince some of your neighbors to join the party.” Some of the men introduced themselves. “And on this side, we have Lord Hywel of Caerleon and Lord Anwyn of Caerdyf, both in Wales.”
“My father was a centurion,” Anwyn said to Julius.
“My father was a plain farmer, and a hard-working man,” Julius returned the compliment.
“Come in, Gentlemen. Set your camp on the plain. Cornwall is over there and Amorica is over there. Rome, what there is of it, is in the Cadbury fort. We were just planning the destruction of the Huns.” Festuscato rubbed his hands together and walked swiftly, like a child ready for Christmas morning. But once inside, there were questions which almost ruined everything.
Cador held his hand up. “Constantine, I understand. Amorica has been a good friend and trading partner since before the Romans. He and his people have an interest in bringing peace to our land. Obviously Kernou, Wales and Britain need to be represented here. But what I don’t understand is why you? I don’t understand why, after thirty years, Rome should suddenly be interested in a province it abandoned.”
“Rome is not as callous as you may suppose.” He got loud. “The emperor probably feels guilty hearing how stupid you have become, to kill and attack one another on the least excuse. The church wants protection as well, and in case I need to say it again, burning churches and killing priests is a crucifixion offense.” He made an effort to calm his voice. “But why me? Because my father, Lucius Agitus grieved when he was forced to leave this place. I have come for him. Because I have friends from here who wanted to come home and see their families before they died. I have come for them.” He raised his voice again. “Because the western empire is falling apart and chaos is spreading, and I believe we can stop that from happening here. Because I made a pledge to myself to see if the human race is hopelessly moronic, or if reasonable men can come together and behave like intelligent, reasonable men. so that, if I cannot get you to stop fighting, just maybe I can get you to fight together.” He stopped to breathe.
“Quite an oration,” Gaius said as he stepped into the room. Dibs came with him to report the practice field was set up.
“Gentlemen.” Festuscato took another breath. “You have common foes who will eat you alive unless you join together. Cador, you have to deal with Irish pirates and slave traders, especially down in Lyoness. Well, guess what? Hywel and Anwyn are facing the same Irish pirates in Wales. Hywel and Anwyn also have Pictish raiders coming down from the north in their coastal watch ships. Well, guess what? Ban and the British are facing the same Picts. Ban, you are dealing with German immigrants coming to the southern shore of Britain and taking more and more land. Well, guess what? Cador is facing the same thing in the lands of the Dumnonii. Don’t you get it? Don’t you see? Who cares if Teppo took your cow? Teppo hits Zeppo, Zeppo hits Deppo. You can’t get anything done. You need a syndicate. You need to pledge to work together. By yourselves, you don’t stand a chance, but together, you can beat back the tide of chaos that is sweeping across the continent. You can kick the Hun right off this island, but only if you work together.” Festuscato took one more deep breath. “I need some fresh air,” he said, and walked out.
The following morning, Julius had several hundred horsemen down at the practice field. They made an obstacle course full of straw men. Marcellus showed them how to run it, riding and weaving between the figures, stabbing with his spear, fending off the enemy spears with his shield, or ducking under them. On the third to last straw man, his spear stuck fast in the straw. He let it go as he had been taught and whipped out his bow. The last two targets got arrows. It was not the plan, but it looked impressive. No one claimed they could do that, but one by one they tried their best. Father Felix got the name, where they were from and kept the tally. With luck, by the end of the week they would have three hundred men ready to ride.
Gaius found Festuscato on the wall of the fort, watching. “You know, they are arguing about everything,” he said, as he turned to take in the action.
“Stubborn, pig-headed mules and morons. What did you expect?”
“I expected my Senator not to just yell at them, but maybe show them a better way.”
Festuscato frowned and sniffed. “I suppose.” He sniffed again. He started to walk toward the Great Hall. “Where is Mirowen? And Pinewood? Conspicuously absent.”
“Checking on local resources, they said.” Festuscato nodded.
Festuscato took one more deep breath before he entered the room. “Gentlemen. I hope you have gotten all the arguing out of your system, and maybe made yourselves hoarse so you can’t talk and have to just listen.” He looked around. A few smiled, but most looked embarrassed, like they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. “You need to all get your horsemen over to the practice field by tomorrow to see who will qualify for the special assignment. We shall see who has the best men on horseback, the Cornish, the Welsh or the Britons. Meanwhile, first things first. When I am not here, Constantine is in charge.”
“What? Why him?”
“He stayed out of the arguments so far,” Cador said.
“Exactly. He is Amorican. He is not invested in your petty squabbles. He has no idea who stole the cow, or the land, or who insulted who, and if he is smart, he won’t care. Now, I am going to invest him. Constantine, you get Cadbury, the fort, and enough land around it to grow your daily bread. That’s it. I talked to the town elders and they like the idea. And listen, Cadbury is henceforth a sanctuary city. You know what a sanctuary is? Good. If any of you, or any of the Welsh or Britons or Cornish who are not presently here have a case of wrongdoing to present, you can bring it here and present it to your peers. Constantine, you need to look at hard evidence, not just he said-he said. And let the jury of peers decide things. End of story.
“But—” Constantine wanted to say something.
“You have a month to bring your family here and as many horses as your father and brother are willing to send.”
“Cadbury was claimed by Cornwall.” Cador said flatly.
“And by Somerset, and by Bath and Badon, and several others places. Now it is settled. Otherwise, you all would squabble over it until the fort fell down. Then it wouldn’t be worth anything to anyone.” Festuscato stepped over and kicked a pillar. It cracked. “It is going to cost Constantine a bit of money to get this place back in shape as it is.”
Cador made no further argument. “Sanctuary city,” Festuscato repeated. “Open to any British, Cornish or Welsh Lord at any time, day or night.” He shook a finger at Constantine but Constantine started looking around and seemed to be figuring the cost. “Maybe the chiefs of Britannia can contribute some small annual contribution to fix up and maintain the sanctuary, and to arm and maintain a small force to act as a front line defense force when the Irish, Picts or Saxons get out of hand. Something to try and minimize the damage while the call goes out to arms. And the call to arms means you all need to come to arms.” He shook his finger at the rest of the men in the room. “But I am getting ahead of myself. We have Huns.” He paused and looked around again. “So, what did you come up with while I was gone all yesterday afternoon and all this morning?”
Festuscato went over to the cracked post and banged his head once against it. “We got a lion in the house and you want to argue about whose pigeon pooped in the soup.” He came back. “All right. Here is how we are going to start this, anyway. We’ll know more when we figure out what force we can train and put together by next spring.”
Monday: Festuscato, Nudging the Future
Julius keeps the Huns busy, while Festuscato prepares the first pendragon… Happy Reading