The Vandals strung out, moving through the woods. After a half hour, Velleius Fulvia, contrary to what everyone knew about the man, got his forty mercenaries to sneak up on the rear of the column of barbarians. Someone did point out later that the man, being a miser, hired and paid the mercenaries to protect his own house during this emergency. Since his own house was not threatened, he probably wanted to get his money’s worth.
In any case, the hired mercenaries stealthily attacked the rear of the column, even as the front of the column came out into the open before the tenant houses. From there, Hawdic planned to turn on the back of the house, but he had to wait for all of his men to catch up. They bunched up to hear their commander’s orders, and thirty, and then thirty more arrows came out from the tenant houses. Bunched up as they were, it seemed impossible that any of those arrows would miss. Nevertheless, half of those arrows missed, but half struck someone and put some thirty Vandals out of the fight.
The dwarfs could not hold back. They charged, and the men reluctantly followed. The dwarfs gave no quarter, and the Vandals tried to run back into the woods, only to run into Velleius Fulvia’s mercenaries. The Vandals got slaughtered. Hawdic survived because he fell to the ground and played dead. Festuscato lost one farmer who was mourned greatly by the community. Velleius Fulvia lost a half-dozen mercenaries, and did not mourn for any of them, though their families may have mourned their loss if they had families.
The man up the orange tree reported everything he could see. It was enough to know that Hawdic was finished. Godamer cursed everything and yelled for his men to charge. They charged like berserkers screaming for blood. They got surprised by the rain of arrows that poured from the house. Godamer realized he seriously underestimated the number of defenders. Some men crouched behind the wall, to use the defenders own wall against them. They shot toward the open door and windows, but no one could tell if they hit anything. With all that, the Vandals almost made it, but a family of ogres chose that moment to arrive.
One of the clerics in the pantry nearly had a heart attack as the ogres tore through the house. Before anyone could say stop, or wait, or no, the ogres rushed out the front door and immediately began to pound Vandals into the dirt. The surviving Vandals screamed and ran, as any man would. Godamer saved his skin by fainting. Some Vandals ran down the road. Some ran back toward Rome. But neither got far.
Down the road, Felix, his son, and their four men all had their bows ready. Kate and Decker had their rifles. The others had handguns, all except Alexis who stayed out of it, and Elder Stow, who went back to work on his screen device. Only a few of the Vandals survived, when they dropped their weapons, fell to their knees, put their hand on their heads, and cried from the terror of it all.
In the other direction, the Vandals ran into Festuscato and his troop. Most of those quickly surrendered since the ogres chose to chase them. Besides, the Four Horsemen were as deadly as any rifle. Festuscato had to intercede with the ogres.
“Stop. Sit. Stay,” he yelled, though the ogres would have heard him no matter the volume. As expected, he had to say everything twice before the commands got into their ogre brains. The ogres sat and stayed but continued to roar for some time. They tore up the cobblestones in that place, but at least they stopped killing people.
When Festuscato arrived in front of the house, he saw the travelers already arrived with some prisoners of their own. Felix went up to the house and called for Fetus. The travelers saw a woman come to the door, a pregnant woman by the look of it, not put off in the least by all the dead men in her front yard.
“Felix. Gaius is here. Dibs and Festuscato went to Rome to bargain with the Vandal King,” she said.
“I have friends of the Kairos,” Felix said, pointing back at his group. “They are very powerful people come to us from the future. Come and meet them.”
But then, Festuscato came into view and Morgan ran from the door to him. The elves and fairies had already vanished from the house. The dwarfs marched off, looking forward to a real meal. They said they had to go back to the hills to protect the women and little ones, though they did not specify if they were talking about the farmer’s wives and children or their own wives and children.
“Husband,” Morgan said. Festuscato got down, grabbed Morgan, and picked right up where he left off with his kiss. Boston rushed up, but she had to wait.
Sibelius turned to Boston and offered a curtsey. “Princess,” she said. Lord Roan and Lord Atias walked up, nodding, while Gaius and Felix came from the house. Lockhart and Katie walked up from down the road. Dibs got down to join his friends, as Felix spoke.
“The Fearsome Foursome back together.”
“I’m not a princess yet,” Boston responded to Sibelius. “My husband is still missing.”
“Yeah,” Dibs responded to Felix. “A Centurion, a Cardinal, A seller of fine silk, and we are still not sure what Festuscato is.”
“I don’t have a husband,” Sibelius said, and lowered her eyes.
“Not fair,” Boston protested, and turned to Lord Atias, the only other elf present. “You have to get her a husband.” Atias smiled and nodded but Sibelius looked up at that thought.
“No, please. No,” she said.
Festuscato took a break from loving his wife to give Boston her hug. Then they all spent the next few hours preparing wagons to carry the dead to a field out back where they dug a mass grave. In the morning, they would carry the armor, weapons, and shields of the near two hundred dead, along with the hundred and fifty survivors back to Geiseric, some fifty of whom would have to ride, being too severely wounded to walk. Godamer and Hawdic were tied up, of course. They would be sent back to Geiseric with a message.
The homes of the people outside the city are not part of the deal. Stick to your agreement. You have two hundred dead and some who are near dead. Godamer and Hawdic are your headache. Meanwhile, the dragon is not pleased that he lost one farmer in the struggle. The man will be sorely missed.
Finally, everyone met everyone, and the clerics in the kitchen had to work overtime to get everyone fed. Alexis, Lincoln, Nanette, and Sukki all helped, along with the household staff, but they had to feed a lot of people.
Katie talked with the empress, Licinia Eudoxia, and her daughter Eudocia. Lockhart sat and said pleasant things, rarely. Katie was learning not to say too much, but she had so many questions, and felt the least she could do was encourage Eudocia who might well be headed into a bad situation.
“She will have children and raise them right,” the empress said. “Things will get better.”
Morgan took Placidia under her wing right away. Festuscato called her his ward, so Morgan hugged the girl, mightily. Placidia was not sure about the arrangement—about leaving her mother and sister, but her attitude improved when she discovered Sibelius was really a house elf. She became convinced, though, when she met Violet, a young fairy who agreed to be her friend.
Violet was roughly seventy-five years old, which is very young and not even full grown for a fairy. In her big size, she appeared to be about fifteen, maybe sixteen. Placidia liked the idea of Violet being older, especially, since she would be losing her older sister. She did not yet realize that when she turned eighteen or twenty, Violet would still look sixteen. When she turned thirty, Violet might pass for seventeen, probably not eighteen. In fact, Violet would not be considered full grown until Placidia turned forty. That could be very annoying if you were not prepared for it. Still, for the present, both Placidia and her mother were happy with the arrangement. The empress thought the older girl would keep Placidia’s feet on the ground. Clearly, she did not know fairies at all.
Tony spent most of the night, and most of the six days the travelers stayed talking with Festuscato, almost monopolizing the man. The travelers stayed to perform some basic maintenance, on the wagon, and particularly on the horseshoes. When they got ready to go, Clyde the Celt promised to guide them through the hills to the other side of Rome, where they could pick up the main road to the north. They thanked him and waved when they left him behind.
Tony spoke to Decker before the colonel moved a small way from the road to watch their flank. “So, World War One, here we come. I can’t imagine it, much less World War Two, or Three if there is one.”
“Two by my time,” Decker said. “And did you happen to mention to the Kairos that the Wraith evaded us again?”
“I think everyone mentioned it,” Alexis said.
Decker looked at her sharply, before he nodded and moved out.
Up front, Boston, Sukki, and Nanette rode on the point, a little bit out from the rest. They let their horses walk side by side and talked. Nanette suggested Supergirl.
“Taken,” Boston said. “And so is Wonder Woman. I thought of those right away.”
“You mean, in the future…” Nanette did not know what to ask.
“No. Just in fiction, but Sukki might get in trouble with the copyright people and all that.” Nanette nodded as Boston spoke again. “How about Astoundo Lady?” Both Nanette and Sukki turned up their noses. “Well, something astounding, or astonishing.”
“How about Mega Girl,” Nanette suggested.
Boston shook her head. “Sounds too much like Lego blocks, or maybe diapers. It sounds like an anime character. It sounds fat.”
“What’s wrong with fat?” both Nanette and Sukki asked at the same time.
“Where I come from, I don’t know. I think it has become a swear word, as stupid as that sounds.”
“That is just because you are such a skinny bean,” Nanette said, and Sukki nodded.
They rode in silence for a minute until Boston exploded. “I know. Why don’t we name Sukki some take-off on Neanderthal, or Gott-Druk, or whatever?”
Sukki, who rode in the middle, finally had enough and spurred her horse to move out front.
“Where are you going?” Nanette asked.
Sukki shouted back. “Someone has to keep an eye on where we are going.”
Another person known to regular readers. The travelers arrive in Britain looking for Gerraint the son of Erbin in the days of Arthur, Pendragon. They find the wraith got there ahead of them. Don’t miss it, The Guns of Camelot, Monday. Happy Reading