They arrived in the woods and held the men back so the chiefs and lords could get a good look. Saxons covered the grass below the fort, looking as numerous as the blades of grass themselves. Festuscato wondered how Pinewood came up with the number of five thousand, unless he counted everyone. It mostly looked like a lot, and several men whistled softly at the sight. It looked for the moment that the Saxons were stymied by Cadbury Hill. They had to overcome the three or four terraces that ran all the way around the hill before they could get to the fort itself. Presently they had no easy way up, but the Saxons had catapults and slings so it would only be a matter of time before the wall came tumbling down.
Festuscato grabbed a handful of grass and let it fall. He felt the wind in his face, and it felt strong, but he knew in Somerset it could be changeable. He looked at the grass which felt dry, perhaps dangerously dry, and tall where it still stood despite the Saxon footprint. As far as Festuscato knew, it had not rained in the three weeks since he had been back on the island. He called to his little ones. Yes, they could keep the wind at ground level blowing in the right direction and could easily set fire to the grass. He explained what he wanted them to do, and then divided his men.
He had five hundred horse and added five hundred foot men to the count. He sent them through the trees to the head of the open fields. Their job would be to prevent any Saxons from escaping, especially horsemen. The other fifteen hundred men had bows, or prepared themselves with long spears to protect the bowmen. When things started, they would happen fast.
“Not a very good siege to leave these woods unprotected,” Mirowen commented.
“It isn’t a siege,” Festuscato said. “They figure the Welsh are busy fighting the Irish, and York and North Britain are too far away to bother, and even if York sends some men, they still have the advantage in numbers. Obviously, they have their men concentrated in these fields because they have brought the necessary equipment to smash down the walls. Once that onager, that primitive trebuchet makes a big enough hole in the wall, a concentrated charge with massive numbers of men will get the Saxons inside well enough.”
“And now?” Dibs asked. He knew what an onager was.
“Now I want the siege engines burned along with as many Saxons as possible. I expect the Saxons to try and escape out from the line of fire. So we have a thousand men, half on horseback to hunt them down. I expect most to make for these woods, and we might not survive such an attack, but we should take most of them with us, and the ones who break through will find Dumdiddle and his dwarfs waiting. I expect some will try to jump the line of fire, but they won’t live long.” He did not repeat the part about their not surviving, and no one asked, so he gave the signal to begin.
A long line of fire rose up on the other side of the fields and started to move across the field like disciplined soldiers on parade. The Saxons fought the flames, but fire sprites kept it burning and the wind stayed relentless, blowing smoke in the Saxon faces. When the fighting got fierce on the edge of the woods with all those Saxons that slowly decided to try to escape, Festuscato got word that Constantine and Cador of Cornwall were ready to come out of the fort and attack the Saxons head-on if Festuscato could stop the moving fire. He did, and sent word to his foot soldiers on the end of the fields to hit the Saxons from behind when those Saxons turned to fight off the men from the fort. The elves stayed behind the fire line, so any Saxons who tried to jump the fire would be picked off. Festuscato brought up his dwarfs to hold the trees while he organized a charge of his own.
When the men with the dragon tunics and the men with the lion of Cornwall tunics poured from the fort, the Saxons turned to meet the threat, as expected The fire hemmed them in, but there remained plenty of room to fight. When the five hundred fell on the Saxon rear, the Saxons were shaken. When Festuscato lead a thousand men from the woods to hit the Saxon flank and push the enemy into the fire, the Saxon resistance fell apart. Some tried to force past the five hundred and escape south, back to Sussex, but the Welsh and British horsemen tracked them and caught many. Others still found the woods their best bet, if they could make it past the dwarfs. Not many escaped, but some did. When the Saxons found enemies pressing in on every side, one great line of Saxons jumped the fire at once with the plan to make for the far woods and turn south under cover. Some got passed the elfish archers, but only by sheer numbers, and they got tracked by Pinewood and his fairies in the late afternoon, and the goblins and trolls after dark.
Only dribs and drabs of Saxons returned to Saxon lands tell the tales, and they were tales to frighten the children, tales of the Roman and his sorcery, of elfin magic and demon terrors in the night. One tale that made it back to Saxony on the continent, and from there up into Danish lands and across the water to the Swedes and Geats was the tale of miraculous dwarfish armor, magical, made with such skill and cunning no sword or ax could break it. In truth, six dwarfs caught sixty Saxons trying to escape through a gully near the fort. Six Saxons survived and four made it home alive. Of course, the tale got stretched, in a literal sense, and expanded until the chain of armor came with a whole trove of cursed treasure, but that came later. In the near term, the chain of Weland showed up again, but that is a different story.
In truth, Luckless found his Uncle Weland in a pool of blood. The unbroken chain did not protect everything. Weland was missing a hand and a foot and leaking from innumerable cuts around his face and neck. “The jinx of the family,” he breathed out his recognition of his nephew. “Make your way well in the world. I never believed in that unlucky stuff. Here, take the chain. It may protect you and bring you luck.” That was all he said when he died, and Luckless cried in the night and said his Uncle was the only one who ever believed in him, and what was he going to do now?
R6 Festuscato: 10 Londugnum: After the battle is cleaned up, and the people of Britain, Wales, and Cornwall are convinced that this Pendragon idea might work after all, Festuscato and his crew escape to London…and then, from London. Until Monday, Happy Reading