Festuscato got up on the half-finished wall of the fort of Caerdyf, sat in an oversized chair, dressed only in his shorts, and sunned himself in the afternoon. “I’m going for a golden tan,” he said, and thought this felt much better than riding like a mad woman down a dusty road in the dark.
Mirowen, his house elf who appeared much too beautiful to be human, who raised Festuscato and his friends, Gaius, Dibs and Felix since they were eight and nine-years-old, sat on the wall in the shade and trotted out her motherly voice to scold him. “You are a red head with very pale skin. The only thing you will do is make freckles.”
“You should get a chair and turn your fairy weave clothing into a bikini and join me.” Festuscato spoke like he made a reasonable suggestion. He tried not to smile as he imagined what the sight of Mirowen in a bikini would do to the poor guardsmen who watched them. Festuscato sighed as he saw Father Gaius approach. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” Festuscato said, as he closed his eyes to soak up some more sun.
“So, what else is new?” Gaius asked as he approached.
“I am thinking of changing your name to Father-forgive-me-for-I-have-sinned.”
“For you, that would make sense,” Gaius began, but Festuscato interrupted.
“How are the bishops getting along?”
Gaius shook his head. “Patrick is the only one with any common sense, but they don’t much listen to him. Lavius keeps trying to mediate the arguments, but it is hopeless.” Lavius just became the newly ordained Bishop of Wales. “Palladius and Germanus disagree about everything. Palladius keep saying they can’t do anything about the Palagian scourge, so they ought to be about converting the heathen.”
“Hey! Palladius is not a Dominican and this is not Mexico.”
“As you say,” Gaius responded. Festuscato’s friends learned to ignore him when he said things like that, things where they had no idea what he was talking about. “Germanus reminds me of that Cornish fellow, Gildas.”
Festuscato nodded and applied Gildas’ famous line, “Kill the bastards. It must irk him that I have made the killing of priests, christian or druid off limits. A crucifixion offense.”
“He says it will be hard to kill all the Pelagian heretics by himself.”
“You might tell him I will crucify him as easily as any other murderer.”
“A bishop of the church? Festuscato, I sometimes don’t know when you are joking.”
Festuscato opened his eyes and showed by their glare that he was not joking. “Tell him until I hear from Pope Xystus or the Emperor Valentinian, I speak for both the pope and the emperor in this place. Tell him a sword condemns a heretic to Hell but gentle persuasion can save a soul for Heaven. Tell him whatever you like.” Festuscato stood to walk off. “Now I am overheated.” Mirowen rolled her eyes and got up to follow him, so he told her, “And my hair is amber, not red.” He walked off to the stairs down from the wall, and Gaius followed a few steps behind.
Festuscato walked to a pool of water just outside the courtyard. The land fell away after a short distance, but a fairly large area had been dug out during the construction of the fort. There were some grasses growing in the shallow end, but there was also a deep end where Festuscato stopped and thought out loud. “I wonder if the water is cold.” Mirowen stepped up beside him and shrugged, so he shoved her in. “Is it cold?”
“Oh!” She did not sound happy, but Festuscato noticed she changed her fairy weave dress into something more suitable for a swim. Festuscato shrugged and jumped in after her. Gaius came up, thinking hard, but did not hesitate to take off his robe. He laid it out carefully on the stones by the court and followed.
After a while, Sergeant Dibs came looking for them. Gaius and Mirowen shouted together, “Dibs!” Dibs ignored them. He came on a mission.
“Festuscato. The bishops have a question that apparently only you can answer. Lord Anwyn said he dare not answer in your place.”
Festuscato sighed and reached up a hand for Dibs to help him out. As soon as they clasped hands, Festuscato shouted, “Now,” and Mirowen leapt up to grab the other hand. They pulled him in. He came up sputtering. Then he shrugged, stepped into the shallows to remove his armor and weapons before he promptly splashed Mirowen, a good one right in the face.
Sometime later, the bishops arrived, wondering what happened to their messenger. Patrick did not hesitate to peel off his robe and yell. Festuscato knew a cannon ball when he saw one, though gunpowder and cannons were not invented yet. He even called it a cannon ball, out loud, but did not explain.
Palladius, Germanus and Lavius looked more hesitant. Lavius at least laid his robe gently beside Father Gaius’ robe and waded in the shallows, complaining how cold it was the whole way. Palladius finally disrobed and slipped into the deep end with a comment that it was not so bad if a person got over the shock of the cold all at once. Germanus refused, though everyone encouraged him. He had that look that said it was undignified. In the end, it took Patrick and Gaius getting out and dragging the poor old man in, and to be sure, once he got in, he even laughed for the first time that anyone knew.
Finally, the four elf warriors Festuscato called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse showed up with towels. No one asked where the towels came from, or where they went after they served their purpose. The Four Horsemen were covered with strong glamours to appear human, but no one really imagined that they were.
“All we need now is a good warm supper and a soft bed,” Festuscato said after the swim, and the bishops agreed. They seemed to be getting along perfectly well after the cooling down in the hot afternoon. Festuscato himself started yawning half-way through the evening meal, and he remarked that he did not even need a fine looking young woman to help him relax and sleep. Naturally, at that moment, a messenger showed up at the gate yelling about Irish ships in the dock and wild Irishmen running through the town, making for the fort.
Anwyn, Lord of Caerdyf, Centurion Julius and Sergeant Marcellus jumped to their feet. They missed the swim and still acted hot and bothered. Julius started shouting orders, but the Four Horsemen backed into the shadows, sensing that it might already be too late. Julius stopped in mid-order as twelve men crashed into the great hall. Festuscato put his hand out to keep Mirowen seated for the moment as he admired the Irish sense of style. They even looked like pirates.