Someone shouted for Constantine, and many picked up on the thought. Festuscato said, “Constantine,” but Dumfries spoke into his mind for a third time and said he was all set. Constantine stepped up and looked around at all the anxious faces.
“I hope this works,” he confessed quietly to Festuscato, and put his hand to the sword. It came out easily. People hushed. Then the Germans said he should put it back. Festuscato stalled. He called over the Archbishop, Meryddin, and a Saxon Holy Man. He talked about priests, temples, churches and sacred ground, and Constantine pledged to punish any man who harmed a priest or holy man going about their sacred duties and any man who desecrated the sacred places. Archbishop Guithelm said he accepted Constantine as high chief and war chief of Britannia, and he stepped forward to anoint the man. Meryddin, aware of the political implications, also laid hands on Constantine. The German looked at his people and said nothing. Then Dumfries gave the go ahead, and Festuscato urged Contantine to put the sword back, carefully. Constantine clearly felt it when the stone sucked the sword out of his hand.
“And there it will stay until the next time it is needed,” Festuscato said quickly.
“Wait.” Gregor stepped up and put his hands to the hilt. He pulled and let out a roar. He pulled hard enough to move the boulder a smidgen, but the sword held fast. “Just testing,” he said with a big grin.
“Who will pledge to Constantine?” The Celts were all in. Hellgard was right there with them, and Hrugen the Dane and a man named Cadal, a Pict, joined the Celts as well, though Cadal and Hrugen were more symbolic being able to speak only for themselves. The Germans and Gorund the Jute were not interested. Festuscato stopped them before they walked out.
“You understand what having a war chief mean?” Several men nodded. “Then listen close. This is my island. The Hun overstepped his place and got thrown off my island to never come back. But I want peace, so here is the word. Londinium will remain in British hands, but outside the walls will be neutral ground where men of good faith can trade and live in harmony. Britain also claims five miles on either side of the Thames from Oxford to the sea. Be careful not to settle along the river. Other than that, you can negotiate a fair boundary for your land. Once that is settled, stay behind your boundary and live in peace. Do you understand this?” The men said they did. “Do you accept this?” All but Gorund agreed. “The Hun will not be forgotten.” He stared at Gorund. “Do you accept this?”
“Yes,” the man said angrily as he walked out, and the Germans followed him.
“I see trouble in time,” Constantine said, as he stood beside Festuscato’s elbow.
“Don’t worry about the future,” Festuscato smiled. “Today’s troubles are enough.” He raised his voice. “Where are the boys?”
The men got their boys and gathered around, and Festuscato explained what a squire was. To learn about the world, to hunt and fish and camp, and cook something on a campfire worth eating. To learn about weapons, and about the care and feeding of horses, “Because the lords of Britannia should be mounted for battle.” To learn how to read and write in Latin. “Because the next generation of young lords ought to be able to communicate with each other no matter where they are from.” He explained many things, and was surprised to find both Meryddin and the Archbishop thought it a wonderful idea. Then Festuscato gave sons into the keeping of their neighbors and other Lords. Meryddin tried hard to suggest certain Christian boys be given into the charge of men who were strong believers in the old ways, but Festuscato would not have it. He had his list written on paper. When he had done, he reminded the men to visit home at least twice a year so the boys could visit their mom. He did not worry about the Latin because there were still enough people of Roman decent around who conversed in the tongue.
When all got done, Festuscato hardly ate a thing. It had been a long day, and he felt exhausted. He hardly talked, even to Constantine, though he encouraged Constans who had Anwyn’s son from Caerdyf as squire. The boy was fifteen, and Festuscato told Constans how terrible he was at that age. He walked off, and Mirowen who just found him said, “Fifteen is a wonderful age. Why don’t you take him to visit King Ban of Benwick? He can learn how to respond properly to other lords and ladies.” Of course, she knew Constans would really want an excuse to visit Ivy, but having spent time with the girl, she knew the girl felt the same way.
Father Gaius came up to Festuscato when things started winding down for the night. He came with Bishop Lavius, newly ordained Bishop of Caerleon in Wales. He also had a man in his thirties beside him who appeared to be a priest, but dressed more like a monk, like a priest ready to travel. Gaius introduced him.
“This is Patrick. We were wondering if you might be tempted to go anywhere near Ireland.”