An hour later, Festuscato found his rescue party. Dibs and six of his men were escorting Morgan and Macy, who were riding on horseback and showing that they knew how to ride well. They were headed and followed by twenty light elves, also on horse, including the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Festuscato said nothing, but he understood there was a very large party of gnomes, dwarfs, and others all around, hidden, including one determined ogre who was going to be disappointed at not having the chance to smash some Hun heads.
Morgan spurred her horse to ride up to meet him, but the horse balked when Clugh and Rhiannon appeared at Festuscato’s back. Festuscato had gotten down to wait for the group to catch up, and his Hun horse bolted. Fortunately, an elf was not far and able to catch it.
Morgan kept her seat when her horse bucked, but she could not get her horse to go closer, so she got down, then wisely decided not to get closer herself until invited. That dragon looked full grown.
“I thought you might like to say good-bye,” Rhiannon said.
“Have you decided to go over to the other side? You are only four hundred and fifty years late.” Festuscato smiled while Rhiannon frowned.
“I meant to Clugh.”
“Clugh. Brother. No fire. No harm,” Festuscato shouted in dragon-speak. He could not be sure the dragon heard him as its eyes were trained on the troop of horsemen, but it leaned down and sniffed, and then it got excited. “Aha! You remember me,” Festuscato shouted, and when Clugh’s head stopped bobbing up and down, Festuscato petted the beast and scratched behind the ear, which made Clugh purr, now a deep bass rumble.
“Ank!” Clugh said in something like a roar and raised his head. Morgan started inching up, but she stopped at the sound.
“Tell your wife I am proud of her and happy for her,” Rhiannon said with a broad smile. “She succeeded where all of the rest of the women in the world failed.”
“I didn’t sleep with every woman in the world,” Festuscato protested.
“Just about,” Rhiannon said through her grin.
“We will meet again,” Festuscato said quickly, as he sensed his audience with the goddess was finished. “But maybe not in this life.”
“I know,” Rhiannon said. “I wish you hadn’t said that. And I lost Greta already.” Rhiannon showed a tear in her eye and gave him a hug before she and Clugh vanished, and Morgan ran. She tackled Festuscato and landed on top of him in the grass. She started kissing his face all over while the words tumbled out.
“You are the best husband. You have given me the best wedding present, ever. All the fairies and elves and dwarfs and even the big ugly one, and the spooky ones all listen to me. And the sprites in the sky and the rivers and the fire all pay attention.” She took a breath. “Of course, they don’t do what I tell them, oh but they are wonderful, and I love them, and they love me, and I know it. I really know it.” She took another breath and her eyes went to tears. “And I was so afraid I was going to lose you before I ever had you. Sibelius, your house elf maid pulled me through the wall at the house, so I escaped the Huns, but then I kept crying, and they kept telling me that you were still alive, and here you are.” Her smile came back. “And I love you so much.” She hugged him and grinned an elf worthy grin as she laid her head on his chest.
Festuscato knew she was suffering from what he called elf overload. He remembered Greta’s husband, Darius suffered from it when they were engaged, but he soon settled down, and so would Morgan. Meanwhile, she excited him, terribly, and she seemed to know it, so he thought to say something.
“Wouldn’t you rather enjoy telling me all this without so many clothes getting in the way?”
Morgan pulled up her head, her eyes got big, and her cheeks turned red. “Oh, I hope so,” she whispered, and kissed his ear.
Late in August, Gaius came to fetch Festuscato. Morgan, three months pregnant, became happy all the time. Festuscato stayed happy as well, but he also felt exhausted. The only thing he could not figure out was if he or she was responsible for not letting the other get any rest. He decided they were both responsible, and he could not prevent the smile that came to his lips, thinking about it.
“Father forgive me for I have sinned,” Festuscato said, as soon as he saw Gaius. “I can’t think of a good one to tell you right now, but I must have done something.”
“I guessed from the smile on your face,” Gaius nodded.
“This? Oh, this has nothing to do with sin for once. I am a happily married man, you know.” He looked up as Morgan came in, patting her belly.
“I’m happy too,” she said. Festuscato looked at her with love in his eyes, and she finished her thought. “Sibelius has finally mastered unburned toast, and she makes such great ham sandwiches.”
Festuscato stood and got in her face. “I see. You’re happy about ham sandwiches.”
“I am eating for two.”
He put his hand on her tummy. “Your mama likes to play. She can’t fool me.”
“I don’t play. I take it serious,” Morgan protested. “You are the teacher. I am the student.”
“And an excellent student you are.” He pulled up close and ran his fingers up her back which made a soft sigh come out of her lips.
“Got any more lessons?” she asked.
“Ahem.” Gaius interrupted. “And for once I don’t want to hear about it. I just came to fetch you. Are you ready to go?”
“Am I ready to go?” Festuscato asked his wife.
“Yes, you are ready,” Morgan said, but she moved in to hug him and squeeze him. Then they kissed, and Gaius spoke again.
“I’ll wait outside.”
Pope Leo waited by the gate. Dibs stood there, and the four horsemen came for a reunion trip, so at least six of them would wear the dragon tunic. Aetius arrived, but only to try to talk them out of it. The Pope did not listen, so Aetius turned to at least seeing them off safely. He had brought his little army into Rome to man the walls when Attila turned and appeared to be headed for the city. Aetius offered Festuscato good luck and went back to work.
“Hillarius will stand in my place while we are out of the city,” Leo explained to Felix, who had found his place at last, supplying all of the ecclesiastical robes for the priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Pope himself. He had what Festuscato called his sweatshop down by the docks to be close when his imported silk came in. “He will pay the agreed upon price or hear about it when I get back.”
“Very good,” Felix said, and bowed. He really was a first-class salesman.
“Felix, Dibs, Gaius,” Festuscato got their attention. “Who would have thought four grubby kids would go from stealing oranges to this?”
“We didn’t steal the oranges,” Gaius said, in a moment of selective memory.
“You were the grubby one,” Felix insisted.
“Too bad Mirowen couldn’t be here,” Dibs said, and they all agreed with that.
“She is happy where she is,” Festuscato said, though he had no way of knowing for sure. “Queen of the Geats. Of course, about now they ought to be fighting their own dragon. Seamus knows some dragon-speak, and he should get the story down on paper. We will all be able to read about it in about a hundred years.” He mounted up, so they all mounted. The Pope, naturally, had a hundred men under the centurion Abelard, going to protect him in the wilderness. They kept their distance from the dragon and his men, having heard stories, and they gave Pope Leo plenty of room, and tried not to crowd him as well. It became an easy thing for Festuscato to push through the dozen priests and scribes and ride beside Leo.
“So, your number two man is named Hillarius?” The pope nodded and Festuscato said, “That’s hilarious.” He laughed hard, and Gaius had to interject.
“Just ignore him when he says things like that.”
It took more than a week to get to the Po river. Everyone kept thinking that Attila would cross over, and they would meet him on the way, but he seemed to be stuck on the far bank. No one, except Festuscato, and maybe Dengizic, had any idea why he got stuck.
When they came to the river, they found it wide and deep. That should not have mattered to the Huns. If they had no bridge or boats, they were adept at making things like simple rafts, and their horses could swim well enough.
“Why is he just standing there?”
Festuscato explained. “Attila is a very superstitious man. He is a pagan believer in the old ways, even though he is educated in the new ways. He lives by the omens. He had his shaman sacrifice before the battle of Chalons, and the man read the entrails and told Attila that a great leader would die in the battle. Attila hesitated, but when he came out to fight, I believe he hoped Aetius would die, or maybe me, though I wasn’t the leader.”
The Pope waited before he said, “And?”
“Theodoric, King of the Visigoths died, but when you think about it, it would have been strange in a battle like that for every leader to come through unscathed.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Leo said, and Gaius helped him down into the boat where Father Falius waited.