R6 Greta: The Sun Runner, part 2 of 3

As the light grew in the valley, the slow, sneaky movement of the Wolv became evident.  Alesander pointed out the closest four out of six, and when they were ready, he said, “Fire.”  The Wolv were caught unprepared, and it took a moment before they crouched down and returned fire.  The return fire did not get through the screen of the goddess, though there were some good shots.  Sadly, the fire from the people had little impact on the shielded Wolv, except as a distraction.

The elves and fee were able to get close, and when the shuttle had a small explosion and began to smoke and send sparks on to the field, every Wolv eye turned to see.  The elves struck with five or six spears on each Wolv.  The wooden spear handles did not conduct the electricity of the shield, but the metal spear points strained the shield generator until it burned out.  The unprotected Wolv then died from multiple wounds.

When the two Wolv abandoned the shuttle, being without wrist shields, they got easily cut down by the fairies.  Two fairies, being the size of men in order to draw their blades, were sliced by Wolv claws in the exchange, one in the arm, and one right through his chest protector; but the wounds were not deep.  Eight elves were shot in the attack on the six Wolv in the field, three fatally, and the other five seriously, but the five would heal in the next hundred years.

The smidgens, elves and fairies pulled back right away once the work was done, and good thing because the moment the sun broke the horizon, people had to shield their eyes.  A magnificent, dazzling white horse came racing over the far ridge. It glowed with a light as bright as the sun, and Junior had to look to make sure Ulladon did not turn to stone.

“They are all fine,” Rhiannon assured him as Junior turned his eyes again toward the horse.  It left the ground and flew, which reminded him of the twin horses of Apollo that drew the chariot of the sun.  It landed at a spot beside the Wolv shuttle, and stomped the ground several times before it opened its mouth and began to roar.  As it roared, it changed shape.  The horse stood on its hind legs, which thickened to ogre-like legs, and its front legs became arms.  Its body grew to a titanic size as the light it gave out faded and blended into the appearance of the body being on fire, especially in the eyes.  The horse nose diminished as the head ballooned.  The pointed ears remained, but softened, as the eyes moved to the front and the teeth became long and sharp.  What had been the horse became the titan from the cave, and it quickly grabbed the whip it carried on its belt.

The whip cracked three times, and the ground spit fire. Ten thousand Sarmatians in their armor, on their armored horses, carrying their deadly lances lined up far behind the titan, ready to charge.  Five thousand Scythians prepared to back them up.  The other combined tribes on the left and the right prepared seven thousand men each to attack the flanks.  It was close to double the number of defenders, and the enemy still had men in reserve.

The Sun-runner, Heliodrom, the titan stepped a few steps forward and cracked the whip, which somehow reached all the way to the line of defenders.  One Roman burned to a crisp.  One Celt burned next.  The third crack turned a Goth to ash, to blow away on the wind.  The fourth crack killed a Slav.  The fifth crack had been meant for Junior.  Junior saw it in the titan’s eyes, but a man in a long cloak with his hood up and a staff in his hand stepped up and raised his arm.  The whip curled around the arm and the man yanked the whip free of the titan’s grasp.  The titan roared, and the Sarmatians began to move forward at a slow walk.

A second man showed up on the other side of Junior before Junior could say anything to the man in the hood.  This second man looked tall and lean, a swimmer’s build. His skin appeared gray-green and moist, covered only in seaweed.  He held something in his hand and held it out to Junior as he spoke from behind steel-gray eyes filled with death for Junior’s enemies.

“The Lance of Lugh,” the man said.  “And the apples taken by Apollo have been found and returned to the island of Avalon of the Apples where they can be guarded against misuse.”

Junior took the lance, said thank you to Manannan, Celtic god of the sea, and turned to the man in the cloak.  “You thought to make ambrosia with the apples of youth and healing.  You thought to make new gods for yourself.  Now, that will be impossible.”

“So I gather,” the cloaked man said in a familiar voice, because of course it was the Pater, Mithras himself.

Junior called for his own shield to go with the lance, and he caused the likeness of a dragon to appear on the shield.  Then he called for a plain white fairy weave tunic to wear over his armor, and he caused a dragon emblem to appear on the tunic as well.  “In honor of Fae and Berry’s father who sacrificed himself to bring down the Raven of Mithras.  All of the elves, dark and light, the dwarfs and the fee should have dragon tunics. It will help the Goths, Slavs, Romans and Celts remember who is on their side.”  Junior smiled toward the ladies before he turned to the task.

“Stinky.”  Junior called and whistled, and the mule trotted up, a true saddle with stirrups on its back over a blanket of white with red crosses on it, much like the knights of the lance. That was the thought that ran through Junior’s mind, though he honesty imagined more of a warhorse.  Stinky ignored the gods that stood to Junior’s left and right.  It butted right up to Junior, and Junior stroked the mule’s nose and instructed it before he traded paces with Gerraint. Gerraint mounted.  Junior had called to his armor to replace Greta’s dress when he first came, so all Gerraint had to fetch was his helmet.  He got ready, but he thought to add one thing out loud to whomever might be listening.  “Go for the face and eyes.  Maybe you can distract the titan this time so I can get close enough.”

Gerraint and the mule walked down the front of the man-made ridge and carefully went out beyond the trenches and spikes.  He paused there and saw the Sarmatians were still a long way off, coming from the hill on the other side of the valley. The horses still walked, though the line already looked a bit ragged.  It would be a couple more minutes before they started to trot, and they would trot for a little way before they galloped and charged.  The ragged line reminded Gerraint that these were semi-nomadic men, and mostly farmers.  Arthur’s men were also mostly farmers, but these men and their horses did not have the rigorous training of the RDF.  All the same, they were formidable warriors when they went into battle. The Sarmatians invented heavy cavalry several centuries before the Middle Ages.

Gerraint paused long enough to be distracted.  He saw the look on the titan’s face, when the laughter stopped and got replaced with surprise.  Stretching out to Gerraint’s left and right, only a Titan size away, were what looked like thousands of knights of the lance. Stinky started to walk as Gerraint yelled in his mind.  “Yin Mo!” Then he saw something, or several somethings appear around the titan’s head.  They were giant images of the faces of all the ancient sun gods, and they swirled slowly around the titan’s head and looked down on the Helios with disapproval.  Gerraint made out the faces of Apollo from Olympus, Utu from Samaria, Ameratsu from far away Nippon, and Lugh as well, and he saw the titan raise his hands against the accusing faces.  Stinky started to trot when the knights trotted, and Gerraint thought real loud “Sunstone!”  He imagined having words with the elf wizard, but then he had to focus on what he was doing.

Gerraint told the lance to slay the titan, and no one else.  The lance had the reputation of an older dragon, slow to obey once it started to feed. He tucked the lance up under his arm. He knew the work well.  He also knew Stinky would never reach a thundering gallop, like a real war horse, but the mule’s size, weight and strength would make up for much of that when they rammed the lance home.

Grassly and his gnomes were out in force, all but invisible in the winter grass under the cloud filed sky.  The knights of the lance were spaced around Gerraint to give the titan a wide berth, but at the last second, the titan noticed one of the oncoming knights headed right at him.  He reacted too late, got one of Grassly’s arrows in his left eye and got the Lance of Lugh shoved up under his ribs.

The lance was hungry after being on the wall for centuries.  Gerraint tried to hold on, but the lance twisted in his hands.  It felt like a ravenous beast let loose to devour the very fires of the sun.  It drank the titan’s blood of fire and far from being burned by the sun, it remembered when the fire of the sun carried it to victory after victory.

Despite the special saddle, stirrups and all, Gerraint got knocked completely off Stinky’s back.  He landed hard on the field.  He got shaken, but not hurt, and he rose quickly and pulled his sword, Wyrd, in case he needed to finish the job.  He watched as the faces of the old gods faded from sight, and the arrows of Grassly’s gnomes, that had no affect or bounced off at first, were now turning the titan into a true pincushion.  Gerraint smiled at the name for one second before he looked for Stinky. The mule skirted the titan and galloped with the knights of the lance for several hundred yards without Gerraint, before it stopped and started trotting back.  Gerraint only then looked up at his opponent.

The titan had been completely blinded by then, but the eyes were glazed over, and Gerraint watched as the titan fell to his knees.  The Lance of Lugh pushed out the back as the spearhead pulled the butt of the lance all the way into the titan’s body.  When the lance head became exposed, he heard a great moaning sound that echoed across the fields.  It came either from the titan’s lips, though the lips did not move, or from the titan’s body, like the slow leak of air escaping, or it was the lance itself roaring.

R6 Gerraint: Claudus, part 2 of 3

Gerraint found he could see better than he used to in the dark.  He imagined it like the dwarf nose and the elf ears.  He tried not to let the thought bother him, and turned to Manskin who stood beside him in the dark.  He had come up from Bringloren with the complaint that he did not know Gerraint planned to have so much fun toying with the humans.  His goblins and the few trolls they brought with them wanted in on the action.  Gerraint allowed it on the condition that they be gone by dawn.  He let them haunt the Roman line and keep them awake, especially at the end of the lines where the attacks would come.  He knew the Romans would be half broken by the time the attack came, and Manskin just kept grinning like the cat who caught the mouse.

Numbknuckles, the dwarf chief, Ringwald and Heurst came up to report that the elves and dwarfs were ready.  Gerraint already knew that Lord Birch and young Larchmont had the fee in the trees on the edge of the Vivane, ready to fly to whatever point on the line they might be needed.  More effective than reserve cavalry, he thought, and suddenly doubled over from guilt. He despised putting his little ones at risk, even if they were happy to do it.  Percival came over when Gerraint moaned.  The little ones vanished as Percival expressed his concern.

I’m all right,” Gerraint responded.  “I just don’t like the killing part.”  He tried to smile.  “Twelve thousand years, past and future, and I pray I never get used to it. Now I have a special task to discuss with my two-fifty.”  He mounted his horse and rode to his men.

When the sun began to rise, the horsemen came out from behind the line of archers and bunched up a little on the edge of the plains. Clearly, the Romans expected an infantry charge and set themselves to defend the field.  Also, clearly, they expected the Celts to be tired after charging across that long field, thus adding to their advantage.  A cavalry charge appeared unexpected and the Romans did not know what to make of it.

The knights of the lance came last to the field and formed a perfect arrow head shape.  They appeared an incredibly imposing sight, reflecting back the sunrise into the eyes of the Romans.  Each Knight sported a symbol on the small flag at the top of their lance, on their shield and on their tunic.  Every knight sported a different symbol—no two alike, and Gerraint surmised it would be the only way to tell one from another.  The Knights did not wait for the horsemen to fill the space.  Gerraint and Percival barely got to shout. “For Arthur!” and hear it echoed by Arthur’s men before they started at a brisk walk.

A third of the way across the field, and the knights stepped it up to a brisk trot.  Two thirds of the way across, they began the charge and every lance came down in unison.  The Romans did not like it one bit, disciplined or not, and the whole center of the Roman lines on both sides broke and ran.  The knights and their fifteen hundred followers did not make nearly the noise at impact Gerraint expected.  He looked for a thunderclap, but the sound did not overwhelm the sound of running, screaming Romans.

When the horsemen broke through, they divided well enough.  The RDF set ahead of time which men would go which way, and they divided fairly evenly, taking their lances as close to the front as they could.  Arthur’s men went left to support Arthur.  Hoel’s men went right for Hoel.  Both Arthur’s and Hoel’s foot men charged the flanks.  It came late according to the plan, but Gerraint imagined they were in awe of the cavalry charge and probably did not think to move sooner.  It hardly mattered.  The flanks quickly fell apart, especially when the horsemen charged from their rear, and that left only one way for the Romans to run, across the field and up the rise toward the waiting bowmen.

Some of those Romans did make it to the line of archers, but they were so beaten and tired, they put up little fight, all except one man and his followers.  The man had to be seven feet tall and looked broad in the shoulders besides.  He swept Arthur’s and Hoel’s men aside with a sword altogether too big.  It looked like he and his followers might make it to the shelter of the forest and escape, but an eight-foot ogre came bounding out of the trees.  He tore the man’s sword out of his hand, along with his hand, and hit the big man on the head with his fist, crumpling the man’s helmet and the top of his skull as well.  Then he knocked the man down and stomped on him until he became mush.  A number of Arthur’s and Hoel’s men ran on sight of the beast, but some had the good sense to cheer and renew their efforts.  At that same time, young Larchmont and his fairy troop arrived, assumed their big forms, and shot every Roman in the area, so in the end, none escaped.

Gerraint knew none of this.  He held his two-fifty back from the fray and watched the knights of the lance.  The Roman cavalry had not moved, like men stunned to stillness, and the knights of the lance took advantage of the moment to form four long lines.  They charged the Romans, and Gerraint caught a whiff of divine wrath in their charge.  The Romans fled with all speed, and did not stop at the Frankish border.  Gerraint noticed the Franks brought up a small army, no doubt to watch and critique the battle, and he knew the Roman cavalry would not last long.

Gerraint turned his eyes to the camp and auxiliaries. Claudus was there in his chariot, a fine Roman affectation, but useless on the modern battlefield.  He looked busy arming and rallying his auxiliaries to charge the back of Hoel’s horsemen.  All those cooks and teamsters were slow to get organized, but Claudus had some Visigoths in his auxiliaries, and it began to look like Claudus might bring a credible force to bear.  Claudus watched his army be destroyed.  For him, it seemed an unparalleled disaster.

Gerraint turned and got his two hundred and fifty lancers ready to charge, but the knights of the lance got there first. They slammed into the auxiliaries, cracked shields, knocked men down made men run in absolute panic.  They tore up tents, knocked over wagons and threw everything into such disarray and confusion it would be impossible for Claudus to mount a charge.  Gerraint watched the knights pop out the other side of the camp and disappear, going back to Avalon from whence they came.  Gerraint also noticed that the knights killed no one.  They had not killed the Roman cavalry.  They just drove the enemy into waiting Frankish hands. In fact, Gerraint doubted they killed anyone in the initial charge.  They likely went through them like ghosts, the way they stood on men and tents that the men never noticed the afternoon before.

Gerraint turned to his men and said, “We must fight our own battles.”  Then he turned toward the Roman camp and yelled, “For Arthur!”  They charged on the echo from the men.

Two hundred and fifty men against roughly three thousand auxiliaries did not make good odds, even if the auxiliaries were not the best soldiers.  Fortunately, Lancelot saw and pulled a great horn from his belt.  He let out a blast which got Bohort’s attention, and he charged, Bohort and roughly three hundred men and half of the RDF on his heels.

They fought, faced plenty of resistance, but soon enough the auxiliaries surrendered in droves.  It may be because many of them saw Claudus’ chariot dancing around the battlefield with Claudus shot full of arrows.  Surrender was accepted.  And in fact, by then, Romans were surrendering and pleading for mercy all over the field.

R6 Gerraint: Claudus, part 1 of 3

Gerraint got an arrow and set it down on the table that held the chess pieces they were using to represent the enemy formation. He set the point right at the space between the two legions.  “Greta says we need a flying wedge.  Look at the shape of the arrowhead.  The knights of the lance can hold that shape.  All we have to do is stay between the lines.  We will break through and divide and circle back to hit the Romans from the rear.  Even the vaunted Roman phalanx cannot stand up to heavy cavalry, especially when attacked from the rear.

“Claudus has kindly left us this rise and these woods. He expects a dawn attack, but we should have no trouble rearranging our men under cover of darkness.  Hoel’s footmen will move here, to strike the Roman left flank.  Arthur’s footmen will move here, by the lake to strike the Roman’s right flank.  With attacks on their sides and rear, the Romans will crumble, but they will have only one place to run.”

“Yes,” Hoel said with a slight touch of worry.  “Right up this rise to where we are presently standing.”

“That is why we leave a thousand of our men, all our best archers, hunters here between the two groups of foot soldiers.  I have a thousand more, excellent archers, with axe men and men good with a blade to back them up.  Do not ask where they come from.  Do not ask about the knights of the lance.  Just trust they are on our side.”  Gerraint took a breath.  “I want this over.  I miss my family and I want to go home.”

“Where are these men of yours?” Grummon immediately asked.

“Trust me.  I have wings to fly that you know nothing of.  Eyes that see further, ears that hear better,” Arthur and Percival joined him at the last.  “And a reach longer than ordinary men.”

“Aha,” Feswich imagined the flaw.  “But you have forgotten the Roman cavalry.  As we fall on the backs of the Roman foot soldiers, they will fall on our backs to great harm.”

“You let the knights of the lance take care of the Roman cavalry.  When we divide to attack the Romans from behind, the knights will continue straight at the Roman horses.  I expect that struggle will not take long.”

“I have seen three of your knights,” Hoel said.  “Show me what you are talking about.”

Gerraint nodded toward the tent door and Arthur said, “Come.”  They stepped out and found two hundred horses standing in perfect rows and so perfectly still and quiet, everyone gasped, audibly, except Gerraint, and maybe Arthur. The Knights dipped their lances to the ground as the one knight had to Gerraint, Arthur and Lancelot in the forest. Then, without a word, they dismounted and fell in unison to one knee, holding tight to their shields, and their huge horses did not budge one inch.

“They will hold the formation,” Gerraint said. “All we need to do is ride between the lines.”  Gerraint smiled before he jumped.  Feswich started to reach for a Knight’s visor to see what lived inside all that metal. “No!  Don’t do that.  You don’t ever want to do that.  It is a great sin, and certain death to look upon a knight.”

Feswich paused.  The church presently only had a foothold in Amorica so the concept of sin was not widely understood, but the words certain death sounded plain enough. He wanted to say something, but Gerraint spoke over him.

“Please go prepare for the dawn attack, and ask Yin Mo to meet us in Arthur’s tent.  We will be there as soon as we can, and thank you.”

“Yes, thank you,” Arthur echoed.

The knights said nothing.  They mounted again in unison, peeled off row by row and headed back into the woods.  Only Gerraint seemed to notice, but it appeared that the knights had been standing on top of some other soldiers and tents with no affect and without those soldiers seeming to have noticed.  But by then Arthur began to lead the others back into Hoel’s tent to finish the conversation and finalize their plans.  Gerraint said nothing.

Two hours later, Gerraint, Percival and Arthur returned to Arthur’s tent and Arthur said it was a good thing they had the fort as a fallback position, if needed.  Percival started on an entirely different track.

“You know, now having seen real knights, every young man in Britain, Wales and Cornwall will aspire to be knighted. Probably everyone in Amorica, too.”

“I assume that was where the word knight came from,” Arthur picked up the thought and directed his non-question to Gerraint.”

“Yes,” he said.  “And history.  Soon enough every young man in Europe will want to be knighted.”  And he entered the tent and yelled.  “I said a hundred, like in Greta’s day.”

Yin Mo, now an elderly elf with a long white beard and hair reminiscent of Meryddin, looked unfazed.  “You said no more than Greta’s day, and there will be no more.”

Gerraint frowned.  He remembered Greta in the Temple when the battle took place, so she was not in a position to complain about there being more than a hundred. Gerraint wanted to yell again, but he figured he got committed, and Yin Mo was the expert on the Knights and their capabilities.  Gerraint decided not to pry.  He said simply, “Thank you,” and the elderly elf gave a small bow and faded slowly from sight until he disappeared.  Percival spent the rest of the evening squinting.  He did not mean anything bad by it.  He just tried to understand, but Gerraint had forgotten Yin Mo had such oriental features, and that was a very strange sight in Arthur’s part of the world.

Arthur’s men and Hoel’s men moved like union garbage men at four in the morning.  Bing, bang, crash.  Surely, they were telegraphing their plans, Gerraint thought. The archers had all been selected and they took up their position.  The horsemen saddled up and stood around, Hoel’s men in particular talking in uncertainty.  Many said this would not work.