Two days later, Gerraint, the boys Damon and Bowen and twenty-five men hand selected by Sergeant Brian gathered outside the next village at the top of the road. It was dark, well before the dawn. The Little King and twenty-five of his hand selected highway robbers joined them
Earlier in the evening, just after sunset, Gerraint sent dark elves into the town to map the town and the location of the Saxons billeted in town. Gerraint naturally and rightly assumed those were the Saxon Chiefs, as the other six hundred or so camped on the fallow fields outside of the town itself. With dawn, Lancelot and Lionel were prepared to rain fire arrows down on the Saxon tents. When the Saxons roused and came out to escape the flames, the men were to ride through the camp and decimate the Saxon numbers. They were assured the Saxons would not get to their horses, or find them useable if they did. They had to trust. Lionel looked skeptical, but Lancelot trusted implicitly.
One day earlier, their third day on the hill, Gerraint spent spelunking. The Little King thought his caves in the cliff were just caves, and one abandoned tin mine. Gerraint hardly took a moment to realize the caves were, in fact, an old abandoned dwarf mine. The shafts went far deeper than the Little King knew. What is more, as is often the case, down in the depths there sat a colony of dark elves, and that colony was still present. He found some volunteers among the goblins and a band of pixies that lived in the caverns below. The result turned out that now his makeshift spies had the village mapped and all of the Saxons pinpointed
When the men gathered, Gerraint thought to give some special instructions. “Do not hurt the goblins, or the pixies.”
“I knew it,’ the Little King immediately interrupted. “I have seen the pixies twice in the night, as have others. Some say we are imagining things. The village has been roughly divided over the issue for years.” He smiled to think he was on the right side.
“As I was saying. If you see a goblin or a pixie in the night, do not stare at them. Go about your business and let them go about theirs. They have agreed to ferret out any Saxons in the town. Let them do their job and leave them alone.”
“Are they on our side?” Bowen asked what sat on many minds.
“Let me say, they are against the Saxons coming here. But we need to think of them like bumblebees. If you leave them alone, they will not bother you. Do you understand?”
Most of the men agreed, and the Little King nudged the big man next to him. “I said he had an in with the spooky-bits.” The man merely nodded and touched the scar on his shoulder where an arrow once knocked him off his horse.
“If any of you have a problem with that, there is no shame, but we need to find someone to take your place. Listen, if you panic and harm one of the goblins, I will not be able to protect you from their terrible revenge.” The men all said they were fine with it, but Gerraint suspected there might be incidents. He hoped not many. “All right. Now, here is what we are going to do,” and he got down to the details.
An hour later, still before dawn, fifty men moved into the village. They stuck to the shadows and said nothing. Groups of five men at a time broke off to go here and there to different houses. Gerraint, Bowen, Damon, Brian and a man named Nodd went with the Little King and four of his cutthroats to the village inn. Gerraint found the innkeeper’s daughter out back by the cooking fires. She took one look and ran to Gerraint. She hugged him and cried. “I knew you would come,” she whispered. The woman looked bruised and beaten. No doubt she had been raped, likely over and over.
Gerraint pointed the Little King’s men to the upper windows. Brian took Nodd around to cover the front door. Gerraint and the boys planned to sneak in the back, but first they had to get the woman quiet. She explained how the elders surrendered the village without a struggle. The Saxons moved in and hanged the elders along with some thirty men who looked like they might put up a struggle. Then it became a hellish madhouse when the Saxons rampaged through the night. “Drunks with swords,” she called them. The Church got burned to the ground. Some men and a few women and children were killed outright and others were grievously wounded. In the morning, the Saxon chiefs finally restored order, but it was too late for some. People were driven from their homes to make room for the Saxons. I hid my husband Marcus in the barn, but he is wounded and has a fever. I fear he is not getting better.”
“Hush.” Gerraint finally succeeded when he put his hand over the woman’s mouth. “One thing at a time.” The Little King signaled and Gerraint threw open the back door. They went in, swords drawn, and killed the half-dozen sleeping in the big room downstairs. Only one got out his sword and Gerraint broke the sword with one swipe of Wyrd. Brian then stabbed the man in the back and killed him, and Brian did not feel the least bit guilty about that.
One man escaped his bedroom and stumbled down the stairs, but Bowen and Damon were right there to stop him. Then the little King called down that all was clear. They dragged the bodies of the Saxons to the yard, while the little King and his men tossed the upstairs bodies out the front windows. Gerraint whistled, and the yard filled with pixies. They were only two feet tall or so, but magically strong. They picked up the bodies with their back claws and lifted them to where they disappeared in the night sky. Dawn neared, but the pixies were not harmed by the light the way the goblins were. They planned to bombard the Saxon camp at dawn with the bodies of their own chiefs before they flew back to their comfortable caverns.
Nodd stood on the front step and pointed. They saw a Saxon across the way who screamed as a goblin grabbed him. The goblin, a big one, ripped the man’s hand off so the hand and sword it carried clattered to the ground. Then the goblin bit the man’s head off at the neck. Everyone turned away, and Brian said, “Now I understand the bit about if you see a goblin, don’t stare at it.”
“Check on the men,” Gerraint said to both Brian and the Little King. “I’ll be here a while. Boys.” Damon and Bowen came right up, smiling. Now Bowen had a kill too, so he felt he could be the big brother again. Gerraint looked at the woman repeatedly raped and the boys who in any other age would be called bloodthirsty and he felt disgusted with the times. Yet, it was the times he lived in. Not exactly chivalry and the Medieval ideal, he thought.
When they got out back to the barn, Gerraint took a hand from Damon and Bowen. The woman waited as patiently as she could, and watched. “Your job,” Gerraint said, “is to not let go.” Gerraint did not ask for a promise. He got used to giving commands by then. He went away and Greta came into his place, dressed in her long dress and covered by her signature red cloak with the red hood. She had a doctor’s bag, which she knew as technically the property of Doctor Mishka, but she felt grateful for the illegal drugs it contained. Bowen let go and the woman shrieked, but that seemed fine since she had Damon’s hand to squeeze as she let out her smile.
“Now your job is to protect my person at all times.” She stared at the boys until she got non-verbal confirmation, then she took the woman’s hand. “Come Clara,” she remembered the woman’s name even if Gerraint had forgotten it. “Let us see what we can do for your husband.”
That day became a bonus day before they were expected to rejoin Arthur at the bottom of the hill. Gerraint spoke to whatever leaders the Saxons could produce from the rounded-up prisoners. Between the two villages, there were five hundred weaponless men who sat in the fields and tried to be good. They would stay in that field, receive one meal a day for probably no more than a week. They would be good, since they were made to understand exactly who, or what would be guarding them, particularly in the night. Any misbehavior or attempted escapes and they could always be moved to an underground cavern where the goblins could watch them day and night. “And I cannot guarantee that the goblins will not be tempted to play with their food,” Gerraint said.
At daybreak, the troop set out on the winding road back down the mountain. Gerraint had lost a hundred men on the mountaintop, but he made up for it with a hundred new volunteers. True, they were not lancers, and hardly the best horsemen, though they had plenty of Saxon horses to choose from, but they were men, and having now experienced what it meant to have the Saxons in charge, they would certainly fight.
Lancelot got happy. He got to charge the enemy. Lionel felt more worried about what might be happening down below. Gerraint had gotten word from Pinewood that Percival had pulled his fifteen hundred footmen and fifteen hundred horsemen back to a strong position at the bottom of the hill where the roads met. They waited there for the arrival of Arthur. The Saxons across the way, eight thousand footmen and two thousand horse also seemed content to wait. They waited for their riders on the mountain and the ones sent to circle around Bath to get in position to attack Arthur from the rear. Of course, the Saxons waited for an attack that would never come.
R6 Gerraint: The battle for Britain in Shaking the Earth. Don’t miss it.