“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.