The port at Branwen’s Cove seemed a bustling Welsh port in the northwest corner of the Welsh coast, at least as far as any port could bustle between visits by Irish pirates and Pictish and Saxon raiders. Captain Breok’s ship sailed in on the morning tide and his passengers were set to have a day ashore while he dropped off the sheep and picked up a load of stone for the fort and city wall building at Caerdyf. While Mirowen, Mousden and Bran walked toward the town, the Priests said they wanted to visit the only church. It had been attached to a monastery where a dozen monks of an unapproved order scratched out a living on a nearby hillside, growing stubborn grain and raising horses. Festuscato and Dibs opted for the nearest pub and they all agreed to meet there after their errands. They were still on the dock laughing when the Saxons came out of the town and three Saxon warships came around the bend in the cove.
“Captain Breok. Treeve.” Everyone shouted, but the crew had already abandoned ship and headed for them as their only safe bet. Festuscato, Bran and Dibs drew their swords, and Mirowen pulled out her bow to take the point. Mousden screamed a lot and hid himself between the Gaius and Seamus. With the crew following, they ran into the dozen Saxons sent to take and guard the docks for the oncoming ships.
The fight became brutal. Seven Saxons went down, and three crew members. Dibs took a cut in his hand, though not a bad one and he called it a stupid mistake; but the other three Saxons ran back into the town, which had started to burn.
“This way.” A man in a plain brown robe looked around the corner, even as Captain Breok looked back. The Saxon warships would be at the dock in a minute. They really had no choice. “Fathers. This way.” The man pleaded, and they followed him down into a gully along the back side of some houses. They were headed toward the monastery. Many of the townspeople were just ahead of them, and the Saxons came a step behind.
Festuscato pulled out his bow as the crew ran past. Mirowen joined him, and they shot and mostly wounded some fifteen Saxons that came three or four at a time. By the time they turned, the people were at the monastery, behind a four-foot stone wall, dragging whatever they could find to reinforce the barricade and fill the gap at the entrance. Festuscato traded places with Gerraint, since he remembered the gift of elf speed, and Gerraint and Mirowen both ran at top speed, right over the barricade and into the courtyard. Festuscato came right back, but he felt the exhilaration of that speed, and his adrenaline pumped wildly.
“Lord Agitus,” Gaius called. “Send the wounded in to the common room with the women and children.”
Festuscato waved and jumped up on the nearest wagon. “Listen up. Everybody pay attention. Listen.” Dibs, Bran and Treeve shouted the same, and the crowd quieted for a moment. “Men grab whatever weapon you can and get to the wall. Children and women inside with the wounded, unless you women know how to shoot a bow or want to fight beside your men. Get to the wall and look mean.” He jumped down and added for Dibs and Bran, “The only way to keep the Saxons out is to make it look too costly to attack.” He added one more shout. “Seamus, put down that book and help.” He walked the wall where the men and some women stood on buckets, barrels, and behind upside-down wagons or whatever they could find to put their face above the wall. One of the monks came out with two dozen bows and dozens of arrows.
“A hobby,” the monk said. “I make these because even we have to hunt now and then.”
Quiet followed, for several hours, while the people watched their homes burn, their town turn to ashes, and Captain Breok lamented the loss of his ship. Festuscato sent Colan and Mousden to the roof to keep an eye on the enemy while he looked around. Bran and two young monks, Cedrych and Madog secured the back door and set a watch to be sure the Saxons did not try to sneak around the monastery building to come at them from the rear. Seamus, two older monks and several women also went out back to check the barn, the stables, and inventory their food supplies in case they were stuck for a while. Dibs and Treeve, the nearest Festuscato had to officers, organized the men and women on the wall and made sure the bows got into the right hands, and the rest had weapons of one sort or another.
“It is about all we can do for now until we see what the Saxons have in mind,” Festuscato told Gareth, the Abbot. He claimed to be the third Abbot since Saint Dylan founded the monastery by the sea some eighty years earlier.
“We hold the saint’s bones and relics in the church,” Gareth explained. “It is said when fishermen from the village are long at sea, the women come here to ask the saint to send them home, and he sends them home safe.”
Festuscato nodded and stepped into the church where Mirowen caught up. “Lord,” she said. “I have the young people, and by that, I mean those under thirteen, pledged to defend the mothers and babies and those too old to fight, though there are not many who admit they are too old. Gaius has the wounded to tend. One man and one woman are in danger, but most have minor cuts, and one has a broken arm.”
“I should let Greta look at the arm,” Festuscato said.
“Yes, Lord. Gaius says he will be needed to hear confessions.”
“We rarely have a true Priest among us,” Gareth admitted. “We are such a poor and small community.”
“You have no riches. You only have rocks,” Festuscato agreed. “Which is why I want to see what might bring the Saxons here. At the risk of sounding like a late medieval cliché, I need to look at your altar.”
“It is true,” Gareth said. “The only thing we have in abundance is stone in our fields. It does not help us grow our grain.”
The cross on the altar was wood, but inlaid with gold, silver and several precious stones. The chalice appeared pure silver, and the candlesticks, pure gold. “The candlesticks,” Festuscato said while he grabbed the cross and chalice. Mirowen took the candlesticks.
“Wait. What are you doing?” Gareth did not protest so much as he simply did not understand. “These are holy. They belong to the church. They are not to be taken.” Gareth got in their way. “Where do you think you are going?”
Festuscato paused. “Abbot. What do you think God cares more about, the lives of all those innocent men, women and children, or this gold and silver? Trinkets can be remade. You think about that.” He brushed passed the Abbot and Mirowen stayed with him.