Morgan still had her hand covering her mouth. “This is you in another lifetime, isn’t it?” Gerraint nodded. He had already breached the subject. “When did you live?”
“Oh, it’s worse than you know,” Gerraint said with a sly smile. “I haven’t even been born yet.”
Morgan laughed and put her hand on his arm. “I love it.”
“Move on,” Gerraint said, and Clover got the oxen moving again. Mercedes crawled up into the wagon and kept shaking her head. Ironwood stayed big and talked quietly with Macy. And she talked with him, more conversation than Festuscato got from the girl. He looked again at Morgan who kept staring at him like she was waiting for the next chapter in the saga.
“Festuscato is thirty-five.”
“Just right. Well matured, and I assume I won’t have to teach him manners.”
“True, but I’ve lived some lives as women.”
“I expected as much.”
“But I am the only one. No one else has other lives like that.”
“I have no other lives, but I like what I have seen of him so far. I like red hair. It is exciting.”
“You have no idea,” Gerraint said. “My life is usually like a tornado, like a hurricane. Sometimes I can stand in the eye of the storm, but those around me often get caught up in the madness and danger. I have been ninety-five people before Festuscato, though I don’t remember them all, or close to it. Right now, all I know are the Princess and Diogenes before Christ, Greta, Festuscato, myself and Margueritte in these several hundred years, Doctor Mishka and the Storyteller in the future, oh and Alice who is the creator and caretaker of Avalon in the second heavens. Worse than that, I have been a god, four gods, four different times in the deep past, and when I have to reach out to one of them it is because something so horrible is happening, the whole word is in danger. Enid, my wife, keeps begging me to stay home, but I have to do my duty, and she is a real help and a real trooper.” Gerraint paused and took a breath. “Still interested?”
“More than ever.”
Gerraint glanced back to be sure the Visigoths were well out of sight before Festuscato returned. He came back and immediately caught Morgan in his arms and kissed her, passionately. He couldn’t speak for her, but he felt the fireworks go off in his head. When they stopped, and turned, they saw they had some catching up to do. They held hands as they ran, then let go when they walked.
“Yes,” she said.
“I’m just practicing for when you ask me to marry you.”
“You realize, no one knows all this, and maybe I didn’t explain the worst part. I never get to go to heaven. I try not to dwell on that fact, but sometimes I get depressed about it and then I am not fun to be around. I just keep getting to start all over again from scratch, as a baby.”
“And a very cute baby, I am sure.” Morgan took Festuscato’s arm, and Festuscato knew that this was one woman he could not just slip into bed. With Morgan, it would be all or nothing, but as he thought about it, he didn’t mind. “So, tell me about the fairies,” she said.
Once they got to Arles, they had some negotiating to do with the merchant and his son. The boy and Mercedes looked happy with the arrangement, but the dowry did not seem right. Festuscato felt afraid the man might try to back out of the deal, but then the chief Roman military man in the province, the Dux of Provence found out Lord Agitus, alias the dragon was in town, and the whole city turned out to guide him to the palace, like it was the return of Constantine himself.
Morgan walked beside him and asked softly. “Is it always like this?” She was not used to being a public spectacle.
“No,” Festuscato said through his grin as he waved at the people like a conquering hero. “Sometimes they just arrest me and throw me in prison.”
When they got back to the merchant, three days later, he seemed more than happy to accommodate them. The bishop of Arles himself offered to perform the wedding, and the merchant’s wife kept fainting. It became a lovely time, but in the end, Festuscato had to dig out the last of his gold coins from the secret pocket in his armor and pay for passage for four to Rome. Clover and Heather decided to stay in Provence and promised to look in on Mercedes now and then. They found May’s family and the fairy troop that roamed the fields and forests of the region and fit right in, as fairies do. Ironwood decided to go with Macy, and he stayed big as much as possible, and maybe more than he should, but sometimes he got small, sat on her shoulder and hid in her hair, which made her very happy.
Festuscato spent a lot of time on deck, fretting and bored. Someone said the Huns had crossed the Alps into Italy and that did not sound good to him. Morgan comforted him as well as she could, and they hugged and kissed plenty, but then Festuscato would just berate himself for stupidity. Why did he ever imagine he should wait for Gaius to marry them. His only consolation was by the end of the voyage, she seemed as frustrated as him.
When they sailed in on the morning tide, they found everyone there, waiting for his arrival. The elf Lord Atias stood with the four horsemen decked out in their dragon tunics. Dibs and all ten of his men were present with Marcellus and a well-worn woman who had to be Marcellus’ wife. She stood next to Emma, and Felix and the children were with them. Gaius, it appeared, had been elevated to cardinal, the Abbot of Marmoutier, the name given to Saint Martins looked happy, and Pope Leo himself stood with them. Festuscato kissed the Pope’s ring and the Pope hugged Morgan and whispered, “Thank you, thank you.”
At the pope’s insistence, they were married that day in Saint Peters Basilica, the one commissioned by Constantine, the Pope himself presiding, and all Leo could say to Morgan was “Thank you, thank you.”
Gaius explained to the bewildered woman. “Festuscato’s indiscretions are legendary. Three popes, Celestine, Xystus, and now Leo, could only look at me and shake their head,” he spoke brightly. “We started to fear no woman would ever get him to marry and settle down, so congratulations.”
“He is all I want,” she confessed quietly. “But I know he has work to do that the rest of us can hardly comprehend.”
“A little advice,” Gaius confided. “Sometimes it is better not to ask.”
Festuscato bundled Morgan up on a carriage and they headed for his home. Morgan finally got to ask something when she caught her breath. “Are you rich or something?”
“Very,” he said. “Want to spend it all?”
She just grinned.
Everyone went elsewhere so the couple could reach the Agitus house on the Appian Way and have the night to themselves. They all had plans to call within the next week, but for the present, they left the couple alone. It turned March, the spring started blooming, and though the couple had only known each other for six months, both felt it more than enough time and they were beyond ready. As they entered the house, they found men with knives waiting for them. Huns, Festuscato thought. Morgan looked to be in shock.
Romance is nice, but Attila is not finished with Rome. Monday, The Last Gasp.