R6 Festuscato: 8 Branwen’s Cove, part 2 of 3

“Lord,” Mousden met them at the door, flapping away furiously with his wings, fear and excitement etched across his face.  “The Saxons are gathering on the edge of town. What are we going to do?”

“Talk first, I hope,” Festuscato said.  “You go back up on the roof with Colan where you can be safe.”

“Safe until they burn the building down,” Mousden screeched, but he went, and Festuscato called to Dibs and Bran.  He handed Bran the cross and Dibs the chalice and he stepped out, through the barricade at the wall.  Gareth and the others followed.  “Look mean,” he said, “And Abbot, keep your mouth shut about Saint Dylan, if you want to keep your relics and live.”

They stopped half-way to the Saxon line and did not have to wait long before a delegation of Saxons came to meet them. One of the Saxons, a big man recognized the dragon tunic Festuscato, Bran and Dibs wore.  He shouted.  “Dragon. I should have known it was you.”

The man had to get closer before Festuscato recognized him.  “Coleslaw!”

“Herslaw,” the man roared and pulled his sword. Festuscato reciprocated and the two crossed swords in a fight to the death.  Herslaw got a couple of good punches into Festuscato’s side, but he probably hurt his hand worse than he bruised Festuscato.  He struck, almost berserker-style with his big sword, but Wyrd moved too swift and subtle, and Festuscato proved far too skilled to let the big man land a blow.  At last, Festuscato pulled Defender, and while he parried with his sword, he ran Defender across the man’s throat.

Two of the Saxons stood and stared at the outcome. The third one stepped over and kicked Herslaw after he fell to the dirt.  “We still have the men and numbers to overwhelm you.” he said, and stared down one of the other chiefs with him.

“But why?  I am offering you the riches of Branwen’s Cove; the jeweled cross, the silver chalice and the golden candlesticks.  There is no more.  True, you can attack and watch, what, half or more of your men die only to find out it was all for nothing?  Or you can take the gold and silver and leave in one piece.  The choice is yours.  Pinewood!” Festuscato gave the Saxons no time to think before he called for the fairy.  Pinewood appeared out of thin air and flew once around the group to get his bearings before he got big and fell to one knee.


“I need to ask about the army, but hold on one second.” Festuscato took the gold and silver and the cross and handed them to the Saxons with a word.  “Be sure and tell everyone that you have everything of value so do not come here.  The only other thing these poor people have is rocks in the ground, isn’t that right Gareth?”

“True enough,” the Abbot said.  “And all those stones make it hard to grow grain.”

“And I would hate to have my friends track you down for going against my good advice; though I suppose you would hate that worse.” He turned his back on them and brought Pinewood to his feet, and asked as he walked away, “So tell me about the disposition of the army.”

“Which army would that be?  The Irish army under Sean Fen that is headed for Caerdyf or the Saxon army under Gorund said to be preparing to attack Cadbury?”

“Fudge.”  Festuscato did not want to say anything worse with the Abbot close behind.

That evening, Festuscato sent Pinewood back home with a word for Constantine in Cadbury.  The Pendragon needed to defend the place of sanctuary.  He would raise what troops he could in Wales and be along as soon as he dealt with the Irish around Caerdyf.  Then he asked Pinewood to send word to all the little ones in Wales and ask for volunteers against the Irish.

“And in Britain and Cornwall to defend Cadbury?” Pinewood asked.

“No.  I am sure Julius and Drucilla have already seen to that.”

“I am sure they have,” Pinewood said with a grin, and left.

“Fudge.”  Festuscato tried the word again.


Captain Breok and his crew opted to stay in Branwen’s Cove and help the people rebuild while they waited for the next merchant ship to pull into the cove.  Hopefully, they could hitch a ride back to Lyoness, or close enough.  Festuscato offered enough funds to cover some of the loss after the cost of passage.  Festuscato, however, knew he could not sit around, so he bargained with the monks to secure six horses, expecting Mousden to ride behind Mirowen, and as near to saddles as they could find.  The monks and the people of Branwen’s Cove offered what supplies they had for free, figuring they would have all been killed without Festuscato’s help.  The group said thanks and waited long enough for Gaius to say a mass of thanksgiving in the church before they headed off into the Welsh interior.

The centerpiece in North Wales was the town around the fort of Ogryvan.  They hoped for a pleasant visit, but Ogryvan got angry to hear about the Saxons in Branwen’s Cove.  “Haven’t we enough trouble with the Picts and Ulsterites without adding murdering Saxons to the mix?” he raved.  “At least you Romans scared them well enough, but then you left and we have had to fend for ourselves.  The whole of the Welsh shore has become a hunting ground for thieves.”

“Right enough,” Festuscato responded.  “But as your druid friend Meryddin here will tell you, at Caerdyf we have an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to the Irish pirates, and then in Cadbury we can beat back the Saxons and make them think twice before they come up again on our land.”

Festuscato did not stay long.  Meryddin made him uncomfortable, but Ogryvan agreed to send what men he could raise in the north.  Festuscato did not expect much.  He hoped central Wales might be more conducive to the idea, being closer to the action and a possible target after Caerdyf.

Chief Bryn ap Trefor sat at the table grinning like the chimpanzee who found a ripe banana.  They waited for Bryn’s friend, Chief Dyrnwch of the Mabon Hills.  Bryn told them all about Chief Dyrnwch, such tales of daring and such feats of wonder, Seamus and Mousden became convinced Dyrnwch must be a giant.  Dibs thought Bran was big enough.  He could not imagine one bigger, until Gaius mentioned Goliath.  “The problem is,” Festuscato whispered to Mirowen.  “I knew a Dyrnwch once, and he was a real giant.” They heard something.

R6 Festuscato: 8 Branwen’s Cove, part 1 of 3

The port at Branwen’s Cove seemed a bustling Welsh port in the northwest corner of the Welsh coast, at least as far as any port could bustle between visits by Irish pirates and Pictish and Saxon raiders. Captain Breok’s ship sailed in on the morning tide and his passengers were set to have a day ashore while he dropped off the sheep and picked up a load of stone for the fort and city wall building at Caerdyf.  While Mirowen, Mousden and Bran walked toward the town, the Priests said they wanted to visit the only church.  It had been attached to a monastery where a dozen monks of an unapproved order scratched out a living on a nearby hillside, growing stubborn grain and raising horses. Festuscato and Dibs opted for the nearest pub and they all agreed to meet there after their errands.  They were still on the dock laughing when the Saxons came out of the town and three Saxon warships came around the bend in the cove.

“Captain Breok.  Treeve.”  Everyone shouted, but the crew had already abandoned ship and headed for them as their only safe bet.  Festuscato, Bran and Dibs drew their swords, and Mirowen pulled out her bow to take the point.  Mousden screamed a lot and hid himself between the Gaius and Seamus.  With the crew following, they ran into the dozen Saxons sent to take and guard the docks for the oncoming ships.

The fight became brutal.  Seven Saxons went down, and three crew members.  Dibs took a cut in his hand, though not a bad one and he called it a stupid mistake; but the other three Saxons ran back into the town, which had started to burn.

“This way.”  A man in a plain brown robe looked around the corner, even as Captain Breok looked back.  The Saxon warships would be at the dock in a minute.  They really had no choice.  “Fathers. This way.”  The man pleaded, and they followed him down into a gully along the back side of some houses.  They were headed toward the monastery.  Many of the townspeople were just ahead of them, and the Saxons came a step behind.

Festuscato pulled out his bow as the crew ran past. Mirowen joined him, and they shot and mostly wounded some fifteen Saxons that came three or four at a time.  By the time they turned, the people were at the monastery, behind a four-foot stone wall, dragging whatever they could find to reinforce the barricade and fill the gap at the entrance.  Festuscato traded places with Gerraint, since he remembered the gift of elf speed, and Gerraint and Mirowen both ran at top speed, right over the barricade and into the courtyard.  Festuscato came right back, but he felt the exhilaration of that speed, and his adrenaline pumped wildly.

“Lord Agitus,” Gaius called.  “Send the wounded in to the common room with the women and children.”

Festuscato waved and jumped up on the nearest wagon. “Listen up.  Everybody pay attention.  Listen.”  Dibs, Bran and Treeve shouted the same, and the crowd quieted for a moment.  “Men grab whatever weapon you can and get to the wall.  Children and women inside with the wounded, unless you women know how to shoot a bow or want to fight beside your men.  Get to the wall and look mean.”  He jumped down and added for Dibs and Bran, “The only way to keep the Saxons out is to make it look too costly to attack.”  He added one more shout.  “Seamus, put down that book and help.”  He walked the wall where the men and some women stood on buckets, barrels, and behind upside-down wagons or whatever they could find to put their face above the wall. One of the monks came out with two dozen bows and dozens of arrows.

“A hobby,” the monk said.  “I make these because even we have to hunt now and then.”

Quiet followed, for several hours, while the people watched their homes burn, their town turn to ashes, and Captain Breok lamented the loss of his ship.  Festuscato sent Colan and Mousden to the roof to keep an eye on the enemy while he looked around.  Bran and two young monks, Cedrych and Madog secured the back door and set a watch to be sure the Saxons did not try to sneak around the monastery building to come at them from the rear.  Seamus, two older monks and several women also went out back to check the barn, the stables, and inventory their food supplies in case they were stuck for a while. Dibs and Treeve, the nearest Festuscato had to officers, organized the men and women on the wall and made sure the bows got into the right hands, and the rest had weapons of one sort or another.

“It is about all we can do for now until we see what the Saxons have in mind,” Festuscato told Gareth, the Abbot.  He claimed to be the third Abbot since Saint Dylan founded the monastery by the sea some eighty years earlier.

“We hold the saint’s bones and relics in the church,” Gareth explained.  “It is said when fishermen from the village are long at sea, the women come here to ask the saint to send them home, and he sends them home safe.”

Festuscato nodded and stepped into the church where Mirowen caught up.  “Lord,” she said.  “I have the young people, and by that, I mean those under thirteen, pledged to defend the mothers and babies and those too old to fight, though there are not many who admit they are too old.  Gaius has the wounded to tend.  One man and one woman are in danger, but most have minor cuts, and one has a broken arm.”

“I should let Greta look at the arm,” Festuscato said.

“Yes, Lord.  Gaius says he will be needed to hear confessions.”

“We rarely have a true Priest among us,” Gareth admitted.  “We are such a poor and small community.”

“You have no riches.  You only have rocks,” Festuscato agreed.  “Which is why I want to see what might bring the Saxons here. At the risk of sounding like a late medieval cliché, I need to look at your altar.”

“It is true,” Gareth said.  “The only thing we have in abundance is stone in our fields. It does not help us grow our grain.”

The cross on the altar was wood, but inlaid with gold, silver and several precious stones.  The chalice appeared pure silver, and the candlesticks, pure gold.  “The candlesticks,” Festuscato said while he grabbed the cross and chalice.  Mirowen took the candlesticks.

“Wait.  What are you doing?” Gareth did not protest so much as he simply did not understand. “These are holy.  They belong to the church.  They are not to be taken.” Gareth got in their way.  “Where do you think you are going?”

Festuscato paused.  “Abbot.  What do you think God cares more about, the lives of all those innocent men, women and children, or this gold and silver?  Trinkets can be remade.  You think about that.”  He brushed passed the Abbot and Mirowen stayed with him.

R5 Festuscato: The Sword in the Stone, part 1 of 2

It got closer to July fifteenth before everyone gathered.  The monks hoped to keep everyone housed and fed, but after the generous donation Lord Agitus gave for the building of Saint Paul’s Church, the Archbishop said it was the least they could do.

Festuscato spent that last month going over his list and checking it twice.  Pinewood gave him the list of young men and Lords that were expected.  After the success against the Huns and at York, quite a few were expected. Festuscato felt a little concerned about the Saxons, Angles and Hellgard’s older brother, the self-proclaimed King of the Jutes, but he tried to think positive.

All the men gathered around the courtyard that would be laid between the Church and the Monastery.  Right at the moment, it was just a big open space with a big stone in the middle.  A loadstone Bogus found and Dumfries provided proved a strong enough magnet to hold the sword.  The slot had been prepared, and Caliburn properly fixed so it would stick fast.

“But what if they want Contantine or his son to pull the sword?”  Festuscato got concerned.

Bogus the dwarf and Dumfries the Dark elf went off for a while to work on that problem. What they came up with was a spell to temporarily remove the spell that allowed Caliburn to be caught by the magnet. “But I don’t know if it will work more than once,” Bogus admitted.  It was not the way Festuscato remembered it in Gerraint’s time, but he dared not interfere with history.  It would have to do.

The first order of business became the sword.  Festuscato stood at the center of a circle of men and raised his hands.  Caliburn appeared in his hands, even as he glanced to the side and saw Meryddin eyeing him closely.  Gorund the Jute, Hellgard’s brother, scoffed and said he had a magician who could do better tricks than that.

“This is the sword of Britannia,” Festuscato ignored the Jute and went on with the program. “The one who wields this sword in the rightful high chief and dux bellorum of all Britannia.”  He spun and slipped the sword into the cut so it looked like he actually shoved the sword into the solid rock.  He felt it grab when it got about half-way in, and he got the message from Dunfries that it was all set.  No one would to pull it out if he had to reach up and hold on to it himself.

“Gentlemen. By all means, be my guest.”  He invited men to try it.

Cador and Ban could not pull it out, but someone said that was a set-up. and they were just pretending.  Gildas said, “I won’t pretend.”  He spit on his hands and hurt himself trying to tug on it.  Eudof, the Welshman also tried, and then Meryddin stepped up, and people paid attention.

“Trickery,” Meryddin announced.  He sprinkled some kind of dust on the stone and chanted.  Festuscato worried for a second, but he heard from Dumfries again, speaking right into his head, that he tried the wrong sort of spell and would not overcome the magnet.  Meryddin tugged, but the sword stayed stuck fast.

One of the Saxons stepped up.  “Can’t expect a Celt to do a man’s work.”  He laughed, but he couldn’t budge the sword.

“Weakling.” Gorund the Jute stepped up and got mad when he could not pull out the sword.  He pulled his own sword to hack at the sword in the stone, but a blue light hit him in the chest, knocked him back ten feet, and knocked him senseless.