Festuscato ran. He became dressed in his armor with hardly a thought and pulled Wyrd, his sword. He was not going to see another innkeeper’s daughter raped and left for dead. Sure enough, there were three men in a clearing out back. Keela’s dress had been torn, but she held it up as she backed up to a tree. The men grinned wickedly, and two had knives ready to finish disrobing the girl or kill her if she resisted.
“Stop!” Festuscato shouted. He sounded like a third-rate Hollywood actor in his own ears, but the men stopped and turned on him. One pulled a sword of his own. Festuscato jumped to the side when they rushed him. He let defender fly and it sliced right through one man’s jerkin and deep into the man’s ribs. He brought his sword down, not even a trick move, and sliced the knife out of the second man’s hand, taking most of the man’s fingers with it. He turned to face the third man when an arrow came out of the bushes. That man dropped his sword and fell dead from the perfect shot. The man without fingers also fell with an arrow in his chest. Festuscato called to his long knife, and defender pulled itself from the man’s ribs and flew back to Festuscato’s hand. That man moaned horribly and would not live long.
Mirowen stepped from the bushes while Festuscato cleaned his blades. “Bad news,” she said, as she stepped toward the young woman.
Mousden flew ahead to the young woman. “Are you all right?” he asked. Keela took one look at the pixie in his natural form and threw a fist to her mouth to stifle the scream. Her eyes got big and Mirowen had to grab her attention and ask the question three more times before it penetrated.
“Are you all right?” Keela finally nodded when Mirowen helped the girl to her feet.
Keela never stopped staring at Mousden as Mousden spoke. “Mother Elowen taught me how to sew. I could help you fix your dress. Mother Elowen said I was a natural.”
“Yes, Mousden. But now we are back with people. You need to get big again,” Mirowen spoke in a very comforting, motherly tone, as much for Keela as for Mousden. Mousden looked once at Festuscato, but Festuscato simply nodded and returned the stare. Mousden acquiesced and looked again like an ordinary nine-year-old boy.
Dibs and Bran chose that moment to show up. “Bran thought he heard something,” Dibs said. “But we were inside so it wasn’t clear. We finally agreed to check it out.” Bran knelt by the three bodies to make sure they were dead. Dibs also looked, but he recognized who he was looking at. “These are Sean Fen’s men, the Irish pirate.” Festuscato nodded. He thought that might be the case.
“That means we are in double trouble,” he said.
“But you saved me.” Keela came to herself as they escorted her back to the tavern.
“What do you mean?” Mirowen asked.
Festuscato frowned. “I have no doubt when Sean Fen finishes telling his story, I will be the rapist and a murderer besides.”
“But that’s not true,” Mousden said.
“Truth is in the eye of the beholder,” Festuscato said. “A beautiful young elf once explained that to me. Patrick is here telling the truth, but most people can’t hear him.”
“Oh, but it is worse than you think,” Mirowen got his attention. “The King of Leinster has ordered us to get out of his land, and if we won’t leave, he said to kill us and be done with it.” Festuscato just nodded that he heard, but he could not respond right away because when they entered the tavern, Keela got all the attention of the locals, and Captain Breok stood there, waiting patiently.
“Captain. You could not have timed that better if you were an elf.” Festuscato patted the Captain on the shoulder.
“We came in on the tide, four hours after midday. But I must warn you, we followed an Irish pirate into the dock. His name’s Sean Fen.”
“Yes, I know,” Festuscato interrupted. “Mirowen. You and Mousden need to get us packed, and you better pack for Gaius and Patrick, and I guess everyone. Dibs and Bran, you need to fetch Gaius and Patrick. Carry Patrick here if you have to. Captain, we will be sleeping on board tonight. How soon can we put out to sea?”
“Not before dawn. Maybe a couple of hours before if we set the course while it’s daylight.”
“Get on that. We will be there soon.” Festuscato went to see about Keela and got tackled by Aideen, who jumped up into his arms.
“But you will be going away, and I will miss you terribly.”
“And I will miss you, lovely spitfire that you are.”
Aideen held him tight and managed to hold back the words, “Don’t go,” as Keela’s father stepped up.
“I want to thank you for the sake of my daughter.”
Festuscato hushed him. “The men belonged to Sean Fen. I expect you will not insist on the truth, but I would appreciate it if you held back and kept this quiet until we have a chance to leave in the morning.”
The man looked astounded with the way Festuscato spoke in such a straight forward manner, and he nodded. “I think I can do that.”
Aideen whispered in his ear. She wanted to say good-bye. “Find a good man for your daughter to marry, and be quick,” Festuscato added. “And one for Aideen who can handle being burnt, though I know Aideen is not yours.”
The man grinned slightly, but nodded again as Festuscato paid him for their time at the tavern and a little extra, he said, for a dowry. That done, Festuscato kissed Aideen and stepped out to fetch his purchase. He found a good woodworker when he first arrived in town and paid to have a proper staff built for the Bishop. Patrick was honestly older than the rest of them, except Mirowen of course. He had it in hand, hardly seasoned though it was, and got back to the tavern when the others arrived.
Bran and Dibs showed up with Gaius and a protesting Patrick. Dibs had to sit the Bishop in the corner and stand over him to keep him still. Bran went to carry the luggage even as Treeve, the first mate showed up with Colan and Gerens to help. Together, they managed the trunks and made straight for the ship. Dibs and Gaius followed, Patrick between them so he could not run away.
“Lord Agitus, you have no right kidnapping me,” Patrick said. “You promised you would not interfere with my work.”
“I’m not interfering with your work,” Festuscato said. “I’m interfering with your life. By the way, here.” He handed Patrick the staff. “A shepherd’s crook.”
“I know what it is.”
“A gift,” Festuscato said. “I thought it would be appropriate considering your occupation when you were last on these shores.”
“The Lord is our shepherd,” Gaius added.
“We shall not want,” Patrick understood.
“I think one of my sons wrote that one, or no, that one was David’s.” Festuscato smiled and asked to see the shepherd’s crook one last time, pretending he saw a nick in the wood he wanted to examine. Patrick obliged, but then they reached the dock and the planking to the deck of the ship. Two members of the crew were there to help Patrick aboard and Dibs and Gaius would not let him back away. Patrick suddenly realized he had been tricked and he flailed his hands and stared at Festuscato.
“I would not have hit them with it, you know.”
Festuscato held up the crook. “Sometimes temptation is best removed.”
They were not aboard more than a half-hour before the captain of Leinster and his dozen soldiers arrived on the dock. They were joined by a druid who appeared unhappy the Christian holy men were slipping from his grasp. “Come down,” he shouted from the dock. “I have an ax waiting for your head.”
Patrick stood at the railing, shepherd’s crook in hand, squeezed between Bran and Festuscato so he would not go anywhere. “When Hell freezes over,” Patrick whispered, and Festuscato chuckled. He was not aware Patrick heard that one.
“Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin,” Festuscato added out loud before he raised his hand and waved to everyone ashore. “I can’t come back. I don’t know how it works. Good-bye folks.” Several men and women working on the docks and a couple of soldiers returned the wave. The druid spat and stomped up and down the planking. He yelled at the captain of the soldiers and, getting nowhere, he started to yell at the soldiers directly. Finally, he turned to insult Patrick.
“Crooked man with your crooked staff. Your head is crazed. Even the head of your staff is crooked. How dare you come into my house and stand at my table and speak impieties to my people.”
Festuscato put his hand over Patrick’s mouth and spoke for him. “The king has ordered us to leave, and we are leaving. The king said we are only to be harmed if we refuse to leave, but we are leaving. If you defy the king’s orders and harm any of these men, I think your head will not sit long on your shoulders. Captain, we are obeying the king’s orders and will leave as soon as the tide turns. Will you and your men also obey the king’s commands and see we are not harmed until our leaving can be accomplished?”
The captain paused before he set his men on the dock to guard the ship. “By the king’s command, you will not be harmed this night,” he said, and the druid pitched an absolute fit before he stomped off, yelling at the sky.
“That Roman is a wicked sorcerer. I have heard the truth. You are all under a spell, and I will not rest until the Christian scourge is driven from our land, once and for all.”
Patrick pushed Festuscato’s hand away and spoke in a deadpan voice. “Emotional fellow.” Bran said nothing. He just showed that hint of a grin for which he was becoming famous. Mirowen, Gaius ad Dibs walked up and Mirowen spoke first in the same deadpan tone.
“A long hot bath would do his nerves a lot of good.”
“He does not appear to be one that does that very often,” Patrick added.
Gaius joined the emotionless expressions. “Probably took a vow of dirtiness.”
Dib’s voice was not quite so deadpan. “Hey, Festuscato. They are all sounding like you.”
Everyone looked at him while Festuscato nodded, and in a deadpan voice, added, “That’s because I am a wicked sorcerer and have them all under a spell, don’t you know?”
The meeting at the railing broke up, and they decided to try again further north, beyond the lands of Leinster.
R6 Festuscato: Clugh. North there are Picts, Pirates, and a big fire-breathing beast… Until then, Happy Reading