The head man stopped half-way into the room when he saw the dragon symbol on Julius’ tunic. The other men stopped with him and most looked to the head man to speak first. “You are the Dragon? I have heard of you.”
“Only good, I hope,” Julius said, with a quick glance at Festuscato. That word sounded like something Festuscato would say.
“Who are you?” Anwyn spoke up. “How dare you come into my home uninvited and disturb my friends.”
“Quiet.” the Pirate chief spat, and two men stepped toward Anwyn, threatening. Anwyn quieted, but he also glanced at Festuscato who appeared to be yawning. The chief noticed and gave Festuscato a nod while he looked Mirowen up and down, more than once. “Your pardon for keeping you up passed your bedtime, though I suppose if I had a woman like that I might be tempted to spend more time in bed myself.” Mirowen turned red, but it was from anger, and not the least because Festuscato kept her from striking out at these men.
“Oh, great Irish chief who will not give his name,” Festuscato intoned. “Do tell us what you came for and maybe then I can go to bed.”
The Irish chief grinned. “I am Sean Fen, Master of the Irish Sea,” the Irishman said. “Perhaps you have heard of me as well.” Most of the men shook their heads, no. “I have come with a hundred men to burn this fort to the ground. No offense, but we have decided that the coast of Wales would be much better off if it remained unencumbered by forts and soldiers and watchmen and such things.”
“I see,” Festuscato said. “Allow me to offer a counter proposal.”
“You are in no position to make an offer,” Sean Fen smiled at having the upper hand. “But for the sake of the holy men present, I am offering you a chance to get out with your women and children, though we may borrow a few of your women.” He looked again at Mirowen and she stood and pulled a knife from somewhere, Festuscato’s hand or no hand.
Festuscato also stood and spoke loud enough to echo in the big room. “If you leave and sail out of the port in the next hour, I will let you leave with your heads still attached.”
Sean Fen raised his eyebrows a little when Julius turned to Festuscato and said, “Lord Agitus?” Most of the people there had no idea what the centurion might be asking.
“I have twelve men against your three little soldiers.” The Irishman looked at his men and they grinned and began to spread out in the room. “You don’t do the telling.”
“You are right. Horsemen, please reduce the enemy to a third.” Nine arrows came from the shadows and nine Irishmen fell to the floor, dead or near enough. Sean Fen blinked and almost missed it, but Festuscato counted. “Hey! I said to a third. Who fired the extra arrow? Pestilence?”
The Four Horsemen stepped from the shadows and one of them looked at the others and spoke from beneath his helmet. “Death is not very good with math. Sorry.”
A second horseman spoke. “Sorry.”
Julius already got in the chief Irishman’s face. “Lord Agitus suggested you leave while you can.”
“Actually,” Festuscato said as he came around the table. “Now that you don’t have so much dead weight hanging around, I think you should leave in a half-hour.” He raised his voice as if talking to a whole battalion of men. “Irish heads are free game after a half-hour.”
“Yes, well. Do your best. That is all I ask.” Festuscato looked up at the Irishmen, but the three still standing were already backing away. When they got to the door, they turned and ran. Festuscato, Julius, Anwyn and the two sergeants stepped out after them and watched. There were two dozen guardsmen around the courtyard backed up by almost fifty Romans who proudly displayed their dragon tunics. The Irishmen were all in the center of the court, surrounded. Mirowen, with her good elf ears, reported what was said.
“I didn’t know the Dragon’s men would be here.”
“I didn’t sign on for this.”
“Where’s the others?”
“Dead. they’re all dead.”
“Generally yelling. Words I don’t say. Wow! I would never say that word,” Mirowen finished.
Sean Fen lead the Irish back out the gate, through the town and to their ships which immediately put out to sea. Anwyn went to fetch some guardsmen to remove the dead bodies while Festuscato looked at the clerics who stood with their mouths open. He spoke first to Palladius, a man who in the far future would make a great uber-liberal progressive.
“Maybe someday we can designate this place a sword-free zone, post big signs and everything, though I suppose the Irish would have ignored that.”
“Probably can’t read,” Mirowen suggested.
“These men are dead,” Palladius spouted as they turned to go back inside.
“This is the sad world we live in,” Bishop Lavius lamented. “As Lord Agitus explained it all to me often on our journey from Rome.”
Festuscato put his arm around the old man Germanus. Germanus had been a bit of a soldier, a true militant Bishop who even lead men in battle. He sat on the conservative side and did not seem distressed by the dead bodies. “But I figure,” Festuscato spoke softly. “There will always be some Pelagians under the surface of the church, like a bad case of the flu. You should see the cults that spring up in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries after Christ.” He rattled off several, ending with, “Never trust a religion that comes out of Asbury Park, New Jersey. But the point is, everyone knows they are not actual, traditional, historical Christians. The thing is, we can’t kill them all. All we can do is pray for them and tell them about the true faith and let God straighten it all out in the end.”
“I do not know any of these heresies you speak of,” Germanus said. “But I understand the gist of it and begin to see a pattern in your madness. Mercy does hold some merit.” He got to his seat and stopped. “I think I may visit our Celtic cousins in Amorica. They have strongly resisted the faith and need prayer and the word.”
“A field ripe for harvest, eh?”
Patrick stood up from where he and Father Gaius administered the last rites to the Irish. “We need to talk,” he said, and Festuscato nodded.
“As soon as we get back to Cadbury,” he agreed.