R5 Festuscato: The British North, part 3 of 3

The following morning at dawn, four thousand foot soldiers came up on the eastern wall of the city.  Macreedy cheated.  He brought his elves in close, covered with glamours to look like men, and he kept a withering fire of arrows up on the city wall.  The Picts dared not stick their heads up, which would have left them staring into the sun in any case.  Festuscato noticed when Constantine’s men made it over the wall with so much ease, and he yelled and made Macreedy’s elves back off.  But by then, the east gate swung wide open, and the defenders of the city started fleeing to the fort, hoping only to get out of the city alive.

Hellgard and his Jutes were ferocious and cut off a large number of Picts.  They slaughtered the Picts, and as reported, it ended when an old British woman came running from her burned home and threw her arms around the Jute in gratitude.  Festuscato only felt sorry that photo journalism had not yet been invented.

Emet of York and his men tried to take the gate to the fort where the Picts were streaming in, fleeing the city.  He lost his life, his men got beaten back, and Festuscato yelled at the whole council as soon as he had them together.

“I understand Emet’s concern for his wife and children, but you agree to a plan and you stick to the plan.  Emet was a moron, and if the Picts had not killed him, I would consider doing it myself.” Everyone got stunned and silent. “No, that is not true.  There must always be room for initiative, but common sense and reason have to be considered as well.  Sometimes, if some of you show some initiative, it might not work out.  Sometimes it will.  In this case, Emet should have pulled back when the enemy turned on him in the gate, but he let his heart overrule his mind, and he paid the full price.” He fell silent, having put a pall on the celebration.

The men took a time to congratulate one another.  For all Festuscato told Hellgard about peace, he knew the quickest and best way to build camaraderie among the peers, and among the men for that matter, was to fight side by side.  If Rome had learned one thing while depending on so many different Germanic tribes to defend the border, it was that.  When things quieted a bit, Festuscato knew one more thing was important to say.

“Constantine, you did an excellent job.  Every man here had an opinion and got a fair chance to express it.  You followed the best ideas, found the weak point in the wall, and put the sun in their eyes.  You used your knowledge of the city to cover the various sections of the city and root out the enemy, and overall at the least cost to your men. Very good.  Now Wainus can have another chance to surrender, and while he thinks it over, you have two things to decide.  First, you can plan for what to do if he does not surrender.  The fort will be a tough nut to crack.  Second, you can plan for what to do if and when he does surrender.  Keep in mind there must be consequences, not only for the Picts to remember, but for your own men to get some satisfaction for their losses.  Not too little, but not too much.  You need to decide just what consequences will cause peace to happen, hopefully for a long time to come.  Good luck.”  Festuscato walked out and left it in the hands of twelve men.

Noon the following day, the body of Wainus got thrown from the top of the fort wall above the front gate.  The Picts laid down their weapons and came out.  Constantine took one in ten, and made an effort to get one in ten of the chiefs. Three hundred and seventy-six men lost their heads.  The rest got escorted back to Hadrian’s wall.

Constantine went first to Edinburgh, above the wall.  It had been the cornerstone fort designed by the Romans at the end of the Antonine wall.  It got staffed in Roman times by auxiliary troops, which meant British troops with a British Lord, and even when the Romans left Britannia, it never got deserted. The British auxiliaries were supposed to keep an eye on the Scottish settlements in the lowlands, build a buffer state against the Caledonians, and give warning of any Pictish incursions. They had mixed success.  For one, the fort was only accessible at present over Scottish lands, and in troubled times, it could only be reached by sea. Manned by a thousand soldiers, it was supposed to control the Eastern Lowlands down to the River Tweed, but since the start of the Fifth Century, it did well to control a twenty-five-mile safe zone around the fort.  In some ways, it became an example of Roman overreach.  It sat too far north, and since the Antonine wall got abandoned two and a half centuries earlier, many wondered why the Scots had not already taken it.

Lord Luthanel ran a tight ship, as Hrugen the Dane said, but Luthanel did not have the manpower to do much.  Constantine assigned four hundred Amoricans, effectively doubling Luthanel’s forces. They were to restore control to the southern boundary at the Tweed and force out any enterprising Scots who refused to acknowledge the Lordship of Edinburgh or refused to pay the taxes. Luthanel pledged to be vigilant, to watch the Picts, control the flow of incoming Ulsterites, and keep an eye on the Danes who were pushing up toward the River Tyne.  It felt like a lot to expect, but time would tell.

Hadrian’s Wall had some thirty forts and mini-forts along those eighty miles of stone. Most of the forts had been abandoned over the last forty years, but the few on the main north-south roads were still in operation.  All of the north-south trade and immigration happened there, and the men who manned the forts were able to collect tariffs, fees, and taxes from the people passing through.  It became a lucrative business.  Constantine put an end to that business, twice by spilling blood, and he found volunteers among is own Amorican soldiers to man the forts properly and use the funds to upkeep the wall.

“You have given away half of your own troops,” Festuscato pointed out, but Constantine merely rubbed his chin.

“With their families, they will form the foundation for a strong defense of the north. And a thousand men at Cadbury is more than I need to pay for,” he said.

When they arrived at the western end of the Wall and the great fort Guinnon, they found it occupied by Scots.  Nothing indicated of what happened to the former occupants.  In this case, the Scots were no fools.  Seeing an army of some four thousand men approaching encouraged them to abandon the fort and run back north of the wall.  Then, even as the local British subjects cheered and celebrated, Constantine felt like he got in a bit of a fix.  He did not have the men left to man the fort with his own troops.

“Counsel,” Festuscato said.  “Counsel.”

In counsel, Aidan from the British Highlands volunteered to bring ten thousand men women and children out of the highlands and to this dragon free land.  He promised to man the fort and oversee the manning of the wall, and Constantine did not hesitate to invest him right there as Lord of Fort Guinnon and Defender of Britain.

“Counsel,” Constantine said later.  “No. I’ll never get the job right.”

“You will,” Festuscato encouraged him once more.

After the delivery of the Picts north of the wall and the grand tour of north Britain was complete, they came back to York to find the men left behind had made a good start on restoring and rebuilding both the fort and the city.  Everyone pitched in for a month, and Constantine invested Hellgard the Jute to take the Lordship of York.  He spoke to the Danes and offered a generous settlement, but one with a definite boundary, and he charged Hellgard to keep a good watch.  Then the main part of the army retraced its steps to Oxford, where Constans got charged with building a strong fort to guard the ford and the road to Londinium.

Constantine got tired of moving by then, so the army went home.  Men were satisfied with what they accomplished and felt good about working together for once rather than fighting each other.  But Festuscato strictly charged every lord and chief to come to Londinium on July fourth.  He said they had to bring their sons, thirteen or near thirteen and older, and in some cases their grandsons. He would not explain why, but he said it would be a good thing, and he found a tavern by the docks and enjoyed himself, and looked forward to a warm fall and winter.  That was where Mirowen found him, in bed with a sweet young girl.

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Monday: The Sword in the Stone.  I am sure you guessed.  It was inevitable, but there remain a few twists in the road, so don’t miss is.

Happy Reading

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R5 Festuscato: Nudging the Future, part 3 of 3

Hywel made most of the introductions and the Welsh were cordial, but one man from the north of Wales had something to say.  “I don’t know exactly why I am here.  The Irish have been quiet these last few years.”

“But they won’t always stay quiet,” Festuscato said.  “And won’t it be good to have the British and Cornish to back you up?”

“We can handle a few Irish pirates,” he said gruffly, though one man quietly differed.

“Speak for yourself.”

“And the Picts?” Festuscato smiled for the man.  “I understand they are getting to be a regular nuisance.”

“Well.”

“The thing is, Eudof,” he called the man by name having caught it in the conversation earlier. “We band together and take on one thing at a time.  Megla made an incursion into Wales last summer to test the waters.  You can be sure he will be back if he isn’t stopped. But after we take care of the Hun, we can then deal with Wanius and his Picts.  Make sense?”

Eudof slowly nodded, and then stepped aside to reveal his druid.  There came a moment of tension in the room among those who knew Festuscato’s rule, but Festuscato surprised them all.  “A druid.  Welcome.” He reached for the man’s hand. “You have a name?”

“Cadwalder.” The druid shook hands, but looked like he expected treachery.

“Cadwalder,” Festuscato repeated the name.  “Now listen, everyone.  Your attention please.”  The room quieted.  “No killing the priests includes druid priests.  Listen up.  Constantine, you explain.”

Constantine got startled, but then rubbed his beard.  “Well.  It is as I told you.  It is not my place to decide what can and cannot be taught to the people.  A man has to make up his own mind what he believes.” He looked straight at Eudof. “Hardly can be called a man if he doesn’t.”  Eudof nodded agreement.  King Ban laughed and placed a hand on Constantine’s shoulder.

“You have been spending too much time with the Roman.”

Festuscato underlined his words with a look to the Fathers Gaius, Felix, and Lavius.  “You understand.  No militant bishops.”

“Well understood,” Gaius said, and made a point of stepping over and shaking the druid’s hand. The poor druid did not know what to say.

“All right.” Festuscato moved on.  “Cador, the Lion of Cornwall.  I love it.”  All of the men of Cornwall had lions on their tunics.

“The dragon was already taken,” Cador said, and shook hands before he introduced his men. Weldig was High Chief of Lyoness. Baldwin was the Lord Mayor of Exeter, but he looked ready for war.  Dynod was from Glastonbury and building a fort on the Tor.  “And you remember Gildas, my cousin from Tintangle.”

“Of course. Gildas.  You ready to kill the bastards?”  Gildas grinned in a way that said he was ready.

“Constans,” Constantine called his son.  Constans was over with the women, speaking to a very animated young woman.  “Constans.”

“Father?”

“Come here, son. You will be in Cadbury after I am gone. You better figure out how it all works right from the beginning.”  The high chiefs sat around one long table where they had wine decanted, and glasses. There were three other tables in the Great Hall, and Festuscato made men move and mingle, because otherwise there would be a Cornish table, a Welsh table and a British table.  Julius, who came in two nights earlier, sat beside Festuscato.  Marcellus took one table, Tiberius took the second, and Dibs took the third, just to watch and keep things cordial.  When everyone got seated, Festuscato waited for Constantine to sit at the head of the table before he sat beside him, across from Constans and King Ban.  Cador asked why he didn’t take the top spot.

“You are the Imperial Governor, and Comes Britannarium.”

“I am an observer, mostly, and one who looks forward to one day going home.” Festuscato stood again to talk. “You are the people of Great Britain, and I am giving you a high chief for the whole island to help you sort out your differences.  Call him the head dragon.  In Welsh that would be Pendragon.  I have given you a place of Sanctuary where you can come and argue your case, and be heard by your peers who are seated all around this room.  And the lords of Greater Britain can decide, case by case, what must be.   The fact that Constantine is native Amorican is important.  He is not invested in your many troubles.  He is invested in peace.  But remember, he is not a king.  Every man here is equal, and can sit face to face, I hope in friendship.”  Festuscato saw Mirowen appear at the door and she nodded. “Constantine is a man invested in peace, but when it comes to war, I am appointing him Dux Bellorum, the leader in battles.  When he sends out the call to arms, you will bring your men here, or wherever they are needed.  And the Irish, the Picts, the Saxons and the Huns better beware.”  Festuscato picked up his glass of wine that Julius just poured, and he saluted Constantine before he downed it.  Then he made a face.  “We got any ale?”

Mirowen rolled her eyes, but nodded, and many of the men laughed, and a few cheered. “Before we get down to business on this fine day.  Let us feast as good neighbors should.”  He sat down. Servants started to bring in great trays of all sorts of food.  It was not fairy food, but the cooks had been practicing the art of cooking for several hundred years and were pretty good at it.

“Lord Constantine,” Ban said after a while.  “If I had your cooks I would weigh a hundred stone.”  That sentiment seemed fairly universal.

“Hey!  None of that!”  Dibs shouted.  Two men at his table were about to go at each other.  Constantine stood, urged by Festuscato.

“What is the trouble?”

“They both want the last Pig’s ear,” Dibs said and several men laughed.  “And they are about to cut each other.”

Mirowen, in the room, frowned and snorted the word, “Boys,” which got all of their attention. She stepped to the back table where she cut off a pig’s ear.  She came back to Dib’s table where she cut the other ear, every eye following her the whole way.  She handed one to each of the men and said, “Sit.”  It was a command, and they sat.  “Children,” she said, and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe one’s mouth like a mother might wipe her four-year-old.  “Now behave or next time it will be worse for you.”  She stomped out of the room and many of the men tried not to laugh.  Constantine raised his voice.

“All you had to do was ask.”  People stopped to listen.  “The answer might be no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.”  He sat and sipped his drink before he spoke more softly.  “Remarkable woman, that Mirowen.”

Festuscato nodded, and King Ban spoke up.

“Speaking of which, that was a fine looking young woman you were speaking to earlier,” he said to Constans.  “She seemed taken with you.”

Constans gulped. “Do you think?  She is beautiful.  Ivy.  That’s her name.  Father, don’t you think that is a beautiful name?”  Constantine looked at his son who appeared lost in his own thoughts.

Ban leaned over the young man.  “My daughter,” he said.  “So do we plan for a summer wedding or wait until fall?”

Constantine appeared to think a minute while Constans’ face grew redder and redder. “If we have both the Hun and the Picts to deal with, I think fall will be best.  What do you think?”  He turned to Festuscato.

“I think when I was nine, Mirowen used to wipe my face like that.  It can hurt.”

“No,” Ban said, and turned his head briefly to look for her.  “She is much too young.”  No one responded to what he said.

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Next Monday: R5 Festuscato: The Hun in the House.  Don’t miss it. Until then…

Happy Reading

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R5 Festuscato: Nudging the Future, part 1 of 3

By late March in the year 440, men began to return to Cadbury, most after the spring planting. They came from Wales, Britain and Cornwall.  Many had gone home for the winter, but Festuscato had them and trained them until near the end of October when they had to go and help bring in the harvest. This time they did not appear the same straggling, uncertain gaggle of men that came in last July.  Some Welsh, Cornish and Britons seemed to have developed a camaraderie during the training and looked for each other upon return.

“This is good,” Festuscato told Constantine.  “This needs to be encouraged.”  Constantine was above all his number one target for training, and he spent every day pointing things out to the man, all the minute details of how to rule, while his men fetched their wives and families, built a town with a wall around it, and rebuilt the fort, almost from scratch.

Julius had done a fine job keeping the Hun off balance all summer, and not being caught. When Megla settled on the land of the Raven in Leogria for the winter, many of the scouts and patrols the Hun sent out never returned.  Julius and his riders did the grunt work, but this worked mostly thanks to Pinewood and a whole troop of fairies who were much better than the Huns at keeping track of the enemy’s location.

There came a point in Late February where things might have gone badly.  One of Megla’s lieutenants, a man named Gurt, snuck three hundred men out of the Hun camp in the night.  They had figured out where Julius and his men had to be quartered, and the Huns were very good at that kind of figuring.  They were also used to military operations in the winter, and even in deep snow.  That seemed a necessity in the Hun Empire, which covered the steppes from the future Moscow to the future Budapest.  Plenty of snow and long winters there.

The Huns wore white against snow and rode swiftly, with the idea of catching the Romans unprepared.  Their tactics were sound, but Julius did not get fooled.  For one, this being his first real chance at command, he got a bit over zealous and had men out checking the approaches to the village day and night. Even without his fairy spies, he probably would not have been taken unaware.  As it was, he became able to set a trap.

The village sat north of Leogria, on the lands that Festuscato figured would one day be divided between Pelenor’s and Peredur’s families.  They had open fields on the rolling landscape, but not far to the forest.  Gurt did not worry so much about the trees, as he wanted to get his men in position to charge the village at dawn.  He imagined it would be a surprise attack and put an end to the Romans.  But being warned, the village put every wagon, box and barrel they could find to block the road, and set up other obstacles and men to block every other entrance to the town.

Julius took his men to the edge of the trees.  When the Huns got in position, Julius was prepared to come up behind them, and he got excited to think the surprise would be turned on its head.  Thus far, Julius felt proud of his men, all of them, he admitted, but he felt especially proud of his troop of misfits and throw-aways. The Huns were the terror of the western world, challenging and often destroying whole armies of Romans.  They had reduced whole tribes of Germans to subservient status, and it started to look like they might take over the Roman Empire itself, at least in the west.  In the east, the emperor decided to build bigger walls around Constantinople. But here, the men with Julius, who were deemed useless as far as the regular Roman army was concerned, had come head to head with the dreaded Huns, and came out victorious.

Julius wondered about Festuscato.  He seemed such a rich man’s son, and came across with the worst sort of gluttonous, could not care less attitude about life.  But Julius knew appearances could be deceiving.  Maybe it was all a game to him, but Festuscato took it as a game he intended to win.  Where he learned about the military, and how he came up with the idea of training the men on horseback in that way remained a mystery.  But not too much of a mystery, he thought, as Pinewood chose that moment to fly down and land in his horse’s mane, between his horse’s ears. Julius’ horse barely flinched.

“They are in position, as we figured, just below the last dip in the land before the village. They are marvelously trained soldiers. Even their horses are quiet, waiting for the signal.”

“Are the men in the village ready?”  Julius asked.

“Yes, but.” Pinewood looked all around at the humans ready to hit the Huns from the rear.  “Your wife didn’t evacuate.”

“What?” Julius struggled to keep his voice down.

“Lady Drucilla contacted a distant cousin, an elf Lord named Deerunner, and he has brought a hundred bows to stand with the villagers.”  Pinwood rose into the air.  “I better go see that my men are ready,” he said and zoomed off before Julius could react.

“I like your wife,” Marcellus said, as he nudged his horse up beside Julius.

“Stupid and stubborn.”  Jullius shook his head.

“She has a mind of her own, and doesn’t nag you to do everything for her, like she’s a helpless child.”

“You sound like you are speaking from experience,” Julius smiled.

Marcellus changed the direction of the conversation.  “What do you think Lord Agitus will say when he finds out you are married to an elf?”

“You think he doesn’t already know?” Julius asked, and Marcellus shrugged.

“They are mounting for the attack,” a voice came up from around Julius’ feet.  Julius looked down and imagined it was a barrel-chested boy, but for the long beard.

“Thank you,” Julius said, and he raised his spear and shook it in the air.  The men who were not ready, got ready.  The dwarf disappeared.  “Quite a world Lord Agitus has brought us into,” he said calmly.

Marcellus grinned. “Kind of makes living worthwhile.”

R5 Festuscato: Cadbury, part 3 of 3

Down on the plains of Cadbury, beneath the hill of the fort, two streams of men came warily forward.  Both had about a thousand soldiers with one in five or one in four on horseback. Festuscato sighed, but it was what the Romans taught.  Their legions fought on foot in phalanx formation, and they only had a small number of horsemen in reserve.  The world had changed since then, as Rome herself found out in the west. Festuscato knew the Western Empire was gone.  It became only a matter of time.

Festuscato went straight to the gate and bounded happily down the hill with Julius and the Four Horsemen, Cador and Constantine following.  Constantine’s son, Constans and his friend Vortigen trailed behind with Gildas who was probably judging the best way to kill the bastards.

Festuscato made the introductions.  “King Ban of Benwick in Britain, and I see you were able to convince some of your neighbors to join the party.”  Some of the men introduced themselves.  “And on this side, we have Lord Hywel of Caerleon and Lord Anwyn of Caerdyf, both in Wales.”

“My father was a centurion,” Anwyn said to Julius.

“My father was a plain farmer, and a hard-working man,” Julius returned the compliment.

“Come in, Gentlemen.  Set your camp on the plain.  Cornwall is over there and Amorica is over there.  Rome, what there is of it, is in the Cadbury fort.  We were just planning the destruction of the Huns.”  Festuscato rubbed his hands together and walked swiftly, like a child ready for Christmas morning.  But once inside, there were questions which almost ruined everything.

Cador held his hand up.  “Constantine, I understand.  Amorica has been a good friend and trading partner since before the Romans.  He and his people have an interest in bringing peace to our land.  Obviously Kernou, Wales and Britain need to be represented here.  But what I don’t understand is why you?  I don’t understand why, after thirty years, Rome should suddenly be interested in a province it abandoned.”

“Rome is not as callous as you may suppose.”  He got loud. “The emperor probably feels guilty hearing how stupid you have become, to kill and attack one another on the least excuse.  The church wants protection as well, and in case I need to say it again, burning churches and killing priests is a crucifixion offense.”  He made an effort to calm his voice.  “But why me?  Because my father, Lucius Agitus grieved when he was forced to leave this place.  I have come for him.  Because I have friends from here who wanted to come home and see their families before they died.  I have come for them.”  He raised his voice again.  “Because the western empire is falling apart and chaos is spreading, and I believe we can stop that from happening here.  Because I made a pledge to myself to see if the human race is hopelessly moronic, or if reasonable men can come together and behave like intelligent, reasonable men. so that, if I cannot get you to stop fighting, just maybe I can get you to fight together.”  He stopped to breathe.

“Quite an oration,” Gaius said as he stepped into the room.  Dibs came with him to report the practice field was set up.

“Gentlemen.” Festuscato took another breath. “You have common foes who will eat you alive unless you join together.  Cador, you have to deal with Irish pirates and slave traders, especially down in Lyoness.  Well, guess what?  Hywel and Anwyn are facing the same Irish pirates in Wales.  Hywel and Anwyn also have Pictish raiders coming down from the north in their coastal watch ships.  Well, guess what?  Ban and the British are facing the same Picts.  Ban, you are dealing with German immigrants coming to the southern shore of Britain and taking more and more land.  Well, guess what?  Cador is facing the same thing in the lands of the Dumnonii.  Don’t you get it?  Don’t you see?  Who cares if Teppo took your cow?  Teppo hits Zeppo, Zeppo hits Deppo.  You can’t get anything done.  You need a syndicate.  You need to pledge to work together.  By yourselves, you don’t stand a chance, but together, you can beat back the tide of chaos that is sweeping across the continent.  You can kick the Hun right off this island, but only if you work together.”  Festuscato took one more deep breath.  “I need some fresh air,” he said, and walked out.

The following morning, Julius had several hundred horsemen down at the practice field. They made an obstacle course full of straw men.  Marcellus showed them how to run it, riding and weaving between the figures, stabbing with his spear, fending off the enemy spears with his shield, or ducking under them. On the third to last straw man, his spear stuck fast in the straw.  He let it go as he had been taught and whipped out his bow.  The last two targets got arrows.  It was not the plan, but it looked impressive.  No one claimed they could do that, but one by one they tried their best.  Father Felix got the name, where they were from and kept the tally.  With luck, by the end of the week they would have three hundred men ready to ride.

Gaius found Festuscato on the wall of the fort, watching.  “You know, they are arguing about everything,” he said, as he turned to take in the action.

“Stubborn, pig-headed mules and morons.  What did you expect?”

“I expected my Senator not to just yell at them, but maybe show them a better way.”

Festuscato frowned and sniffed.  “I suppose.” He sniffed again.  He started to walk toward the Great Hall.  “Where is Mirowen?  And Pinewood?  Conspicuously absent.”

“Checking on local resources, they said.”  Festuscato nodded.

Festuscato took one more deep breath before he entered the room.  “Gentlemen.  I hope you have gotten all the arguing out of your system, and maybe made yourselves hoarse so you can’t talk and have to just listen.”  He looked around.  A few smiled, but most looked embarrassed, like they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  “You need to all get your horsemen over to the practice field by tomorrow to see who will qualify for the special assignment.  We shall see who has the best men on horseback, the Cornish, the Welsh or the Britons.  Meanwhile, first things first.  When I am not here, Constantine is in charge.”

“What?  Why him?”

“He stayed out of the arguments so far,” Cador said.

“Exactly. He is Amorican.  He is not invested in your petty squabbles.  He has no idea who stole the cow, or the land, or who insulted who, and if he is smart, he won’t care.  Now, I am going to invest him.  Constantine, you get Cadbury, the fort, and enough land around it to grow your daily bread.  That’s it. I talked to the town elders and they like the idea.  And listen, Cadbury is henceforth a sanctuary city.  You know what a sanctuary is?  Good. If any of you, or any of the Welsh or Britons or Cornish who are not presently here have a case of wrongdoing to present, you can bring it here and present it to your peers.  Constantine, you need to look at hard evidence, not just he said-he said.  And let the jury of peers decide things.  End of story.

“But—” Constantine wanted to say something.

“You have a month to bring your family here and as many horses as your father and brother are willing to send.”

“Cadbury was claimed by Cornwall.”  Cador said flatly.

“And by Somerset, and by Bath and Badon, and several others places.  Now it is settled.  Otherwise, you all would squabble over it until the fort fell down. Then it wouldn’t be worth anything to anyone.”  Festuscato stepped over and kicked a pillar.  It cracked.  “It is going to cost Constantine a bit of money to get this place back in shape as it is.”

Cador made no further argument.  “Sanctuary city,” Festuscato repeated.  “Open to any British, Cornish or Welsh Lord at any time, day or night.”  He shook a finger at Constantine but Constantine started looking around and seemed to be figuring the cost.  “Maybe the chiefs of Britannia can contribute some small annual contribution to fix up and maintain the sanctuary, and to arm and maintain a small force to act as a front line defense force when the Irish, Picts or Saxons get out of hand.  Something to try and minimize the damage while the call goes out to arms.  And the call to arms means you all need to come to arms.” He shook his finger at the rest of the men in the room.  “But I am getting ahead of myself.  We have Huns.”  He paused and looked around again.  “So, what did you come up with while I was gone all yesterday afternoon and all this morning?”

The men looked at each other until King Ban finally spoke.  “The Hun never came up.”

Festuscato went over to the cracked post and banged his head once against it.  “We got a lion in the house and you want to argue about whose pigeon pooped in the soup.”  He came back.  “All right. Here is how we are going to start this, anyway.  We’ll know more when we figure out what force we can train and put together by next spring.”

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Monday: Festuscato, Nudging the Future

Julius keeps the Huns busy, while Festuscato prepares the first pendragon…  Happy Reading

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R5 Festuscato: Cadbury, part 2 of 3

“So, we hurry up and wait,” Festuscato said, and they made camp.  Festuscato spent the time writing letters and finding ways to send them across the channel.  He spoke to a number of little ones from the island so he knew who needed to receive the letters.  He had no idea what kind of response he might get, but at least he learned something of the lay of the land.

It got closer to a month before riders were seen coming from the Kernow province.  Some were counted from Damnonea, but many were of Cornish descent rather than native Amorican.  Festuscato remembered how the usurper Magnus Maximus brought a whole army out of Britain, decades before he had been born, and he tried to take the western empire for himself.  When he failed, his troops were reported to have settled in Amorica.  More recently, Constantine III, originally a common soldier in Britain, tried the same stunt, and he just about depopulated the Roman presence on the island.  Amorica became the last resting place for two great Romano-British armies.  There were whole cities full of Cornish, Welsh and British people, and the language slowly changed because of it.

In this case, it looked like quite a number of men.  They were led by Aldrien’s younger brother, another Constantine, a man well enough into his forties.  His son Constans who came with him was in his twenties, but probably still older than Festuscato.  “I have five thousand men,” Constantine happily reported.

Festuscato looked at Father Lavius.  He had discussed this with the priests.  “There is one important piece of this puzzle that maybe was not explained to you.” Constantine listened because he saw an opportunity here.  Being the younger, he had little future in his own land.  “Amorica is well known for holding to the old ways, the wisdom of the druids and the festivals of the gods.  But for our part, in Britannia, our task includes defending the churches. We will land in Cornwall and make our way to Londinium to meet with Archbishop Guithelm.  There will be no burning of churches, no killing of Priests. Those will be crucifixion offenses. I do not know how many of your men may be Christians and how many may decide not to join us on this journey, but you need to make this clear.”

Constantine rubbed his beard.  He looked at the ground before he spoke.  “I have struggled with this, myself.  I know many minds are closed.  But I figure it is not my place to say what may or may not be taught to the people, and I believe if a man keeps an open mind, truth will out in the end.  I will go with you.  I cannot say how many of the men will join us.”

“We will wait,” Festuscato assured the man.

After a week, more than half of the men rode away before Constantine returned to the camp. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I see what you mean about Amorica holding to the old ways.  Still, we have two thousand men who may not be Christians, but who have pledged to hold to the conditions.  Mostly, like me I suppose, they are second sons who want a chance to make something of themselves.  That is the gist of it.  Now, all you have to do is pay them.  One solidus per day”

“Three per week,” Mirowen bargained like a true elf, but it eventually became five per week because she did not push too hard.  “We can manage that for the next year,” she said.  The Romans were getting seven per week, which was one per day, the sergeants ten per week, and Julius two Miliarense plus four per week, which was the equivalent of twenty-eight Solidus or four per day.  “The real expense is going to be for the boats to cross the channel, but I have friends working on that,” Mirowen said.

“I know two thousand men isn’t much,” Constantine continued, still on his original track. “Twenty years ago or more, I was a teenager, Gracianus Municeps crossed with two whole legions.  Dionotus was the Dux Britannia at the time and trying to hold things together, but he needed help.  Municeps helped, but then he got greedy.  There was civil war.  Dionotus disappeared and Municeps took over.  He was a bad one, though, and the people removed him, if you know what I mean.”

“He was a greedy ass, as you say.”  Festuscato had read what little he had to read about it.

“Yes, but now the whole island is still in a kind of civil war footing since, and that has been for nearly twenty years.”

“That was when the Lords and Bishops began to appeal to Rome for help,” Festuscato said. “I have a couple of letters that were held and ignored by Honorius before Valentinian even came to the office.” He brightened.  “But here we are, and now we go.”  He smiled for Constantine, but he frowned in private. The Amoricans had two hundred and fifty horsemen, which was only one out of eight men on horseback.  By contrast, the Huns under Megla were reported to be tearing up the countryside with three thousand men, all on horses.

The army crossed the channel on about June sixth, at Festuscato’s insistence, and they arrived in Bournemouth, the main port on the edge of Dumonii territory.  Cador, Chief of the Cornovii, and self-appointed Dux of Cornwall, met him there with enough troops to double their numbers.  He brought five hundred men on horse, an improvement, but that still left over three thousand men slogging along on foot.

“Cadbury to begin with,” Festuscato said.  “I expect to stay there about six months to gather our troops and supplies for the following spring.  Come October or so, Megla will have to hold up somewhere to winter.  This summer I only want to keep him running.  We are nowhere near ready to confront him.”

Festuscato repeated himself when they got to the Great Hall in Cadbury fort.  That spawned a response.

“What?” Gildas served as Cador’s right arm, no doubt ferocious in battle, but he was not the swiftest in the bunch.  “We gather our men and we go fight the bastards.” It would be a tug-of-war to counter the man’s ignorance and keep everyone else on track.

“Gildas. You have three thousand men on foot. What do you think they will do when they have three thousand Huns on horseback charge them with great, long spears aimed at their gut?”

“Kill the bastards,” Gildas said.  He did not think about it at all.

“Die,” Cador got it.

“Run away, most likely,” Constantine understood even better.

“And the people of Britain have been running away from Megla since he arrived here last fall. And many of them had swords in their hands.  No.  We need to train horsemen to counter the Huns on more even ground, or we might as well give them the country and be done with it. Now, there are ways we can use infantry to our advantage, but we will need the horses to entice the Huns into making the mistake.

“I have fifty men. I need fifty from each of you, only your best horsemen, and only volunteers.  Right now, my men are setting up targets to test the men’s skill. The assignment will be hard and require every ounce of skill and brains your people have.”  He looked briefly at Gildas and the others understood, even if Gildas did not get it.  “I will not send men out who have no chance for survival.”

One of the Four Horsemen came in and whispered to Festuscato, which made him grin. “Gentlemen, we have guests.”  He followed the Horseman out while Cador turned to Constantine.

“Was that one Death or Plague?”

Constantine shook his head.  “Pestilence, I think. They all look alike to me.”

Cador nodded. “All I know is any reasonable, intelligent man would be afraid to face one of them.”

“Then your Gildas must truly be the man without fear,” Julius said, and the men laughed.