M4 Gerraint: Cadbury, part 1 of 3

When they arrived at Cadbury, late in the afternoon, they found an opposing force, some six thousand strong spread across the plains, about half of which were Scots and Saxons.  The other half, Percival had no hesitation calling traitors.  Beyond that, the fort at Cadbury sat in Medrawt’s hands, and that meant Gwynyvar was his prisoner.  Arthur held his tongue as they made camp.

“Suggestions?” Uwaine asked.

“We talk,” Gerraint responded.

“About what?” Percival asked.  He got mad.

“About Gwynyvar,” Arthur said flatly and added, “Damn that boy.”

Bedivere went on patrol and found his cousin, Gerraint’s middle son, James, in the woods with a host of men.  It got near sundown when they talked.  Peter, the eldest brother, sent James up with three hundred horsemen culled from the outlying places.  With him were another three hundred out from Wales.  It was still only a handful of what Wales could send, but Arthur was not in a position to quibble.  There were also a hundred men who made it out of the fort at Cadbury when Medrawt moved in.  When he brought them to Arthur’s camp, Uwaine summed things up nicely.

“Now they only outnumber us two to one.”

Gerraint got serious about talking, more than he had ever been before.  He convinced Percival that they had just talked peace between the Franks and Amorica, “So how hard could it be to make peace between Arthur and Medrawt?”  The problem being Arthur, who was not convinced peace was possible.  Gerraint had to wrack his brain to figure out how to delay things another two days.

He confided to Uwaine first thing in the morning while he dressed.  “I talked to Lancelot before we left.  He said he talked to Bohort and got permission to follow us with a full two thousand men.  They contracted with the same ships we took.  As soon as we unloaded, those ships headed right back to pick up the Amoricans.  The thing is, he said don’t tell Arthur, because they have no intention of staying in Britain.  He said they would help calm the situation and if necessary, fight Medrawt, but then they would go home.”

“So, Arthur doesn’t know,” Uwaine said.

“And I can’t tell him.  And you can’t tell him either.  I’m not sure if I broke trust even telling you.”

“But why keep it a secret?”

Gerraint shook his head and felt very old.  “I think Lancelot did not want to get in an argument with the one man he truly respects.  That, and I think he wants to remain an independent, autonomous army and not see his men integrated back into Arthur’s army.  And I think Bohort and Lionel may have added some reasons of their own.  All I know is Lancelot is roughly three days behind us and if we can just hold off Arthur, he will catch up.”

Uwaine stepped to the tent door.  “For the first time in my life I am going to say, I wish you didn’t tell me that.”

“Come along.”  Gerraint stepped up beside Uwaine and patted him on the shoulder.  “I need your younger, vibrant brain to think of something.  Let’s get to the meeting.”  He started to walk out but Uwaine shook his head before he followed.

“Even my brain is too old for this.”

They walked slowly to the tent and Gerraint calmed his spirit and prayed before his son James interrupted him.  “Father, I told them it was not a good idea.”

“You’re not going to like this,” Bedivere pointed at the tent before he got in front of Uwaine.  Uwaine paused before he went ahead anyway.  He heard Gerraint’s first words.

“What is this?”  The words were rather loud.

Uwaine saw Arthur seated and Percival beside him.  He expected to see some of the other older ones, like maybe Agravain or maybe Nanters out of Wales, but what he saw startled him.  Pinewood, the King of the Fairies of Britain stood there along with the two elf Lords, the brothers Deerrunner and Dayrunner, the dwarf King Bogus, two fellows he could not name but who were no doubt representatives of their kind, and an actual goblin out in daylight, though he stayed protected by the tent and stayed well under his cloak and hood so he was hard to see.

Uwaine spoke before Gerraint moved.  “I thought dark elves could not go out in the daytime.”  He had learned the term dark elf was polite in mixed company, better than the word goblin.

“I saw him come right up out of the ground,” Arthur said.  “It was the most remarkable thing.”

“No hole.  I checked,” Percival added.

“What is this?” Gerraint repeated himself, though he knew exactly what it was.  “I admit you all have been a great help to us in the past, and I am grateful, but it has always been on the fringes and in the background.  Pinewood, you followed me all my life, and saved me more than once when I was young and vulnerable.  I am grateful.  And you all have spied out enemy locations, harassed and spooked them, contained some fields like Badon, where you forced the Saxons to face us rather than escape to the woods.  For all of that I am grateful.  You even guarded prisoners for us, but I never asked you to be in the direct line of fire, and I am not asking now.  The answer is no.  Old Bishop Dubricius once charged two young boys to fight their own battles and apart from some help around the fringes, Arthur and I have done that.  The answer is no.”  Gerraint stopped suddenly, like he ran out of steam.

“I had forgotten that.”  Arthur looked thoughtful as he remembered a long time ago.

“Lord.”  The little ones acknowledged Gerraint and knew better than to argue.  They left, each in his own way.  The fairy, Pinewood got small and flew off faster than the eye could follow.  The elves walked off disguised like men. Others disguised themselves like animals, like a cat, or simply went invisible to human eyes.  Dumfries, the goblin, sank back down into the earth, and that was the end of it.  No human present questioned Gerraint’s decision either, or argued with him, least of all Arthur, though they had no doubt the little ones proposed to double the number of swords on Arthur’s side.

“Now we talk.” Gerraint changed the subject.  “Any word from the fort?”  He felt reluctant to mention Medrawt by name.

“Yes.”  Arthur and Percival spoke at the same time.  Percival deferred to Arthur.

“Medrawt sent a messenger in the night.  He will be outside the main gate of the fort at noon to present his conditions for peace.  He said I can bring two people with me, but that is all.

“So, we go with a dozen,” Gerraint said, like a given.  “I doubt he will be presenting things to negotiate, though.  More likely a list of demands we are to accept, like it or not.”

Arthur nodded, but pointed at Percival.  “But you have something?”

Percival stood and stepped to the door.  He waved, and an old man shuffled his way into the tent.  “My Lords,” the old man nodded his head in a way that had been common among the RDF.  Quick and to the point.  “My name is Dyfyr, son of Peryf the Bowman.  I turned sixteen, and the first man from all of Dyfed to sign up for the RDF.  It has been a long and exciting life, and to this day I can’t seem to keep still, as my wife, my children and grandchildren will tell you.”  The old men in that room smiled for the old man.  They understood well enough.  “I was with Captain Gweir, son of Gwestel when he came to Cadbury to rebuild and strengthen the fort.  My wife is from the little village here beneath the hill.  We have a small home in the town and are comfortable enough.”

Arthur smiled, but interrupted.  “This is good, and I thank you for your years of service and loyalty, but I assume there is a point in all this.”

Gerraint jumped in.  “He is concerned about the Lady Gwynyvar.”

“Your wife.  Of course,” Dyfyr said.  “The point.”  He paused.  “The point is I know the fort from the inside to the outside, and there are ways, ways the workmen used, now boarded up.  Ways to get into the fort from the town that maybe I am the only person left alive who knows.”

“Ways soldiers can go?”

“Yes, certainly.  I was thinking if we came out from the stables and beneath the barn and at the back of the Great Hall all at once, we might secure the lady’s safety and capture the rebel without having to fight a battle.”

Arthur grinned.  Percival nodded.  Gerraint stood, because his expected delivery arrived.  “Gentlemen,” he said.  “I also have something to offer.”  Pinewood and Deerrunner had returned, and they had a cart outside the tent filled with boxes.  “Pinewood.  Please explain.”  Two men brought in one of the boxes and set it on the ground.

“As we saw events turning in the human world, it came to us that brother might well be fighting brother.  Men on both sides might end up killing their own men by accident, not knowing which is which.  That would be a needless waste.  I understand that even human eyes can tell the difference between the British, Scots and Saxons, but who can say which Welshman is fighting on which side?  We offer this solution.”  Pinewood opened a box and pulled out a pure white pullover poncho.  It had been sewn only at the waist so it would restrict neither the arms nor the legs, but it would be easy to identify.  “In our history, we have used similar devices to tell the good guys from the bad guys.”  Pinewood grinned at Gerraint.

“Like the Princess used outside of Athens,” Gerraint said.

“Something like that,” Deerrunner agreed with an elfish grin to more than match the fairy.

Percival felt the material.  “What is this made out of?”

“Fairy weave,” Gerraint said.  “That just means one size fits all.”

“But do you have enough?” Arthur asked.

“Three thousand for your men and more for those who attack the fort.”

“Wait a minute,” Arthur looked at Gerraint, who shrugged.  “We just heard about the fort.  We haven’t decided what to do about that yet.”

Dyfyr interrupted with Lancelot’s favorite expression stolen from Gerraint.  “Ours in not to reason why.  Ours is but to do or die.”

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.