R6 Festuscato: 10 Londugnum, part 1 of 2

Festuscato, Bran, Julius, King Ban, Cador of Cornwall, and the Welshmen, Hywel and Ogryvan, walked the battlefield, remembering and honoring the dead.  Constans walked with them and tried to pay attention, but Vortigen sounded like a fly in his ear and kept distracting him.  Gaius and Seamus, along with two local priests, and a host of monks and nuns from the nearest monastery, also walked the battlefield, but they were giving the last rites and directing the soldiers to cart off those who had a chance of survival.

Festuscato kept one eye out for Gorund, but the Saxon was not to be found.  All the same, he imagined Gorund would not be a problem after this slaughter.  In fact, the Saxons overall should be quiet for a number of years.  There would be peace for a time, and Festuscato felt the need to point that out over supper.  He stood to speak.

“Take the time of peace to strengthen the ties between you.  Do not go back to your isolation and personal problems.  Visit one another, now that you have gotten to know each other, and support each other as you support the Pendragon and this place of sanctuary. The Irish, the Saxons, the Picts and the rest want to keep you weak and divided, but united you can beat back the tide of chaos that is overwhelming Rome.  With apologies to Constantine, I say use the Pendragon.  He is not there for any one of you, but for all of you together.  It is in his own best interests to judge fairly and not show favoritism.  The judgment might not go in your favor, but it is not his desire to piss you off.”

The chiefs and lords around the table understood well enough, so Festuscato added a last note.  “And do not fail to send your men out when the call comes.  Do not think they keep fighting far away from home, for other lords in other lands, because they will be fighting to keep the border secure, and that will keep your land secure even if you do not live on the border. Also, if the day comes when the call goes out because your lands are in danger, there will be plenty of fighters loyal to other lords and from other lands who will come and fight for you.” Point made, Festuscato sat down, and in the morning at dawn, he and his friends left town.

###

“I won’t see you again,” Constantine surmised.

“To be honest, the longer I stay in Greater Britain at this point, the more I risk screwing up history.”  Festuscato spoke straight forward, but only Mirowen understood because of years of long conversations when Festuscato was young. “But I tell you what.  Give Ivy a kiss when she has another son.”

“Ivy is pregnant?  Why would Constans not tell me?”

“Oh, I don’t know if she is pregnant, but given those two being so much in love, I figure it is only a matter of time.” Constantine smiled, and as Festuscato pulled away to ride off, Mirowen at his side, he whispered to her.  “I like to leave them smiling.”

R6 Festuscato: 2 Cornwall, part 1 of 3

“So, what do you think of our new tag-along?” Festuscato spoke softly to Mirowen before he turned his head to eye the stranger.  Bran had yet to say two words over two days.  He just fingered his sword now and then as he rode.

“Big,” Mirowen said, without looking. Festuscato figured he, himself stood about five foot, nine inches tall, and that seemed big enough for fifth century Britain.  Bran had to be over six feet tall.

“Gerraint size,” Festuscato mused.

“As you say,” Mirowen responded before she added a thought.  “Not really a substitute for the four horsemen.”

“Constantine insisted,” Festuscato said.  “He was not going to let me go off to the wilds of Ireland without protection.”

“Dibs seems to be enjoying himself,” Mirowen pointed out.  Dibs rode beside the man and babbled away in his gregarious nature.

“But I bet he would be twice as interesting if he had someone to talk to.”  Festuscato turned his eyes to the front and spoke with a straight face.  “I’ve known husbands who have given more response than that.”  Mirowen almost smiled.

A soldier from the front of the column came rushing back calling out, “Lord Agitus.”  The man’s horse pulled up short.  “Tintangle is under siege.  Three or four hundred Saxons are charging the walls.”

“Fudge.  Well, there goes the surprise of riding above them and dropping down on their flank.”

“What’s up?”  Dibs pushed forward.

“Dibs.  Keep your men here and guard the priests.  Mirowen, stay.”  He pointed his finger between her eyes, but she just returned a pouting face.  “Bran, do you take orders?”

“Sometimes,” Bran admitted, noting Mirowen’s face.

“Well, you should come anyway.  You might as well learn now how all this works, assuming it works.”  Festuscato kicked his horse to get to the front of the column.  Julius and Hywel of Caerleon had dismounted, and hidden by the trees, eyed the enemy.

“A cavalry charge in their rear?” Julius asked as soon as Festuscato arrived.  Festuscato shook his head.  He noticed the Saxons had some ladders to put up on the wall, but they were not ready to make a serious charge.

“Set your scouts by the open break in the forest and keep them hidden.  With luck, the Saxons will retreat in that direction and your scouts can follow them to the main body of the enemy.  Take two hundred men around to the distant hill, there.  When the Saxons get serious about using their ladders, I’ll take fifty men and sweep them off the wall.  We won’t be stopping to engage, but hopefully we will make them mad enough to mount up and chase us.  We will sweep and run to the hill where the bulk of your men will be ready to counterattack.  Then again, if they don’t chase us, we will be in a position to come crashing down on their flank.”

“What about the third hundred?”  Julius had his three hundred, the best horsemen in Britain, Wales, Cornwall and Amorica, along with his fifty Romans, all of whom wore the dragon tunic.

“The third hundred need to have horses at hand, but be dismounted, bows ready, here to the rocks at the edge of the trees.  If we have to charge down on their flank, or if there are any Saxons who are too slow to mount and follow us, or if there are any who might be tempted to escape under the shelter of the trees, they need to be turned back, and preferably dropped.”  Festuscato turned to Bran.  “Meet with your approval?”

Bran grinned slightly.  “Thorough,” he said.

All the same, things never work the way they are imagined.  It proved very difficult to get fifty horsemen, without being seen, to a place where they could ride along the castle wall and sweep away the Saxon ladders. When they executed the move, though they were determined to ride through without stopping, many got stuck in traffic, so to speak, and had to fight their way to the open field.  Then, while a majority of Saxons grabbed their horses and gave chase, when the men from the wall got to the hill, the two hundred were not yet on the hill.  The two hundred did top the hill before the Saxons caught the fifty, but it seemed close. To their credit, most of the Saxons recognized the trap and turned around to flee as quickly as they could. The Saxons left by the wall also abandoned the siege and many made for the woods, which made the archers happy. In the end, the majority of the Saxons imagined they no longer had the advantage and made it out by way of the gap in the woods where the scouts were waiting to follow them.

Festuscato, Bran and Julius met Hywel and Mirowen just out from the castle gate.  Mirowen led her horse and had her bow in her hand.  “Good target practice,” she said, as she mounted.  Gildas, Lord of Tintangle, came riding out from the castle all smiles.

“Gildas, my friend.  How about a nice supper?”

“I knew it was you,” Gildas said, when he got close enough.  “Even before I saw the dragon emblem.  I knew it when I saw how you killed the bastards.”

Festuscato sighed.  It was Gildas’ favorite expression.  Some things never changed.

“Now we will see how those scouts of yours do in locating the main body of Saxons.”  Hywel spoke to Julius and looked around at the dead and dying.

“Hopefully when we find the main body, they will realize they are surrounded and surrender without further bloodshed,” Julius responded. He did not object to the bloodshed. He was a soldier, but one that knew peace was always better.

Constantine brought fifteen hundred British and Welsh men from the east.  Exeter sent out a thousand from the west.  Cador, Dux of Cornwall brought another five hundred up from Portsmouth, and Julius with his three hundred and Gildas with another hundred came down on the enemy from Tintangle in the north.  The Saxons resisted briefly.  There were casualties, but the end became inevitable.  In fact, it felt a bit like overkill for a little over a thousand Saxon raiders; but the point was made, and would be told throughout the Saxon claimed lands.

Greta came in the afternoon, and Dibs and Mirowen followed her, to protect her, while she tended to the wounded.  Cador took a bad cut in his shoulder, but Greta told him if he kept it clean and left it alone, he should make a full recovery. Constantine took one Saxon head in ten of the survivors, and stressed the message that next time he would not be so merciful.  Festuscato spared the Saxon Chief Gorund, so he could underline, “There better not be a next time.”

After that, Festuscato and the others said good-bye to their friends and followed Cador to the south coast where they planned a short visit.

“So, what is with the Priests?” Cador asked, casually on the first evening while they relaxed and sampled the Cornish ale.

“I promised to make a delivery,” Festuscato confessed.  “It’s my own fault.”

“True,” Mirowen said.  “The gods don’t make promises.”

Festuscato could not be sure what Cador heard, or how he took that statement, so he quickly covered the thought.  “The Archbishop of Londugnum, Guithelm asked so nicely, how could I refuse?”

“Yes, I am finding that the church can be very persuasive,” Cador seemed to understand.  “So where is this final destination for this delivery of yours?”

“I’m taking Patrick to Ireland,” Festuscato said, and Cador jumped.

“What are you mad?”  Then Cador realized that he was talking to Festuscato and had a second thought.  “Strike that. That is a daft question to ask you.”

“Of course he is mad.  Has been for years.”  Mirowen could not resist clarifying the matter.  Festuscato just looked back and forth between the two before he spoke.

“I need a new shtick.”

R6 Festuscato: Caerdyf, part 3 of 3

Constantine, the Amorican native Festuscato dragged to Britannia and appointed to be the Dux Bellorum, leader in battles, and the first Pendragon of Greater Britain moaned on seeing Festuscato return from his travels. “Small annual contributions are coming in from all over the island, and it adds up well enough, but I am damned no matter how I spend it.  If I build up and strengthen the fort here, I am being selfish.  If I improve the roads in Britain, then Wales and Cornwall complain. If I start a coastal watch around Wales as you insist, Britain and Cornwall feel undefended, like I am playing favorites.  King Ban here says we should strengthen and rebuild Hadrian’s wall where it has fallen down. Damned, no matter what I do, and the money just won’t spread to cover everything.”

“Doesn’t need to,” Festuscato insisted.  “Ten percent of the cost will tell the Welsh they have friends, they are not forgotten, and in time of need you will come to their aid.  No reason you should pay for it all.  The Welsh should be quite willing to pay for the bulk of the coastal watch since it will be their homes and families directly affected by Irish pirates or Pictish coastal ships or Saxon raiders.  Same with the roads and Hadrian’s wall and the rest.  You are here to promote peace among the many Lords of Britain, Wales, and Cornwall, and to call out the troops when needed.  You are not a king.  Roads and such will help the army move faster and better when needed. They will also promote trade and help bring prosperity.  But if a local Lord doesn’t keep his road in repair, it will be his neck when the army gets bogged down trying to come to his rescue.

“That’s right,” Constantine brightened.  “I am not a king, thank God.”

“That is right.  And Ban, if he starts acting like a king you have my permission to sit on him until the swelling in his head goes down.”  Ban laughed, but Constantine just moaned.

“But how can I possible keep all the accounts and contributions straight.  I can’t hardly prepare to defend the land if I am bogged down in paperwork.”

“Find some honest men to keep the accounts. Rome depends on a whole class of accountants.”

“Use clerics,” Patrick suggested.  “They can read and write, most of them anyway.”

“Exactly,” Festuscato supported that idea.  “And most of them are honest as well, as much as any man can be honest.”

“Entice them with paper and ink,” Patrick continued with his thought.  “Let them make copies of the scriptures in their spare time.”  Festuscato just grinned and thought, one small step for man, one giant leap for Medieval kind.

“That could work,” Ban said before he got interrupted by the word, “Father.”

Ban’s daughter, Princess Ivy came in with the baby in her arms.  Constans, Constantine’s son followed not far behind.  Mirowen got up to see the baby, and Festuscato imagined Ivy and Constans were never more than a minute out of each other’s sight since they married.

“Little Ambrose wants to see his grandfathers,” Ivy said sweetly as she stepped up and slipped the baby into Ban’s arms.  The gruff old king began to talk baby talk before he had a thought.

“He doesn’t need to be changed, does he?”

“Father!”  Ivy protested and turned to hold Constans.  He looked happy to oblige.  Then Constans’ friend, Vortigen came in and Festuscato lost his smile. Vortigen irked him for some reason, and he thought to take Patrick outside for the promised talk.

“We go to Ireland by way of Lyoness,” Festuscato said up front.  “Cornwall is the only land I have not yet visited and I don’t want Cador to feel left out.”

Patrick nodded, but he had something else on his mind. “Your Four Horsemen are not welcome in Ireland.  My job is to convert the heathen, as Palladius said, not to chop them into little pieces.”

Festuscato nodded.  “I have already talked to Julius and the men of the Dragon.  They are assigned to Constantine and will not be joining us.”

“Dibs,” Mirowen said.  She had followed them outside and sat on the steps of the great hall. “You told him about Hermes and Greta, and he thought he could do that.”

“Eh?”  Patrick had not heard the story.

“A troop got assigned to protect Greta and ordered to stay with her at all costs.  Hermes was the sergeant in charge, and when Greta went off on her quest, he went with her. He let his troop return to their commander with the word that he kept following orders and stayed with Greta at all costs.”

“Did that work out for him?  I mean, military types can be thick headed when it comes to the rules.” Patrick got curious.

“I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know when I find out.”

“So Dibs,” Mirowen repeated.

“Only in plain clothes.  No Roman uniform and no Dragon.”  Festuscato shook his finger and Mirowen nodded.  She would see to it, only now Patrick stared at her.

“Don’t even think it,” she spoke before anything got said out loud.  “I go where he goes and that is final.”

Patrick shrugged as Festuscato took up the conversation.  “I will speak to the Four Horsemen.  They can be stubborn and will be disappointed, but they will follow orders. At the same time, you want to get to Ireland safely and in one piece so you can begin your work, and I intend to see that you do.  That was Archbishop Guithelm’s charge to me.  At some point, I may have to overrule your stipulations and limitations. My judgment.  And don’t think I am going to drop you on the Irish shore and go away, either.  I will be staying long enough to see you make a good start.  You want to succeed at this enterprise and I want to see you succeed, so there is no need to argue about that.”

Patrick slowly nodded.  As Gaius reported, Patrick was the only Bishop who seemed to have some common sense.  This work might eventually kill him, but he was practical enough to know he needed to make a good start, and for all his sins and foolish affectations, Festuscato seemed to be the best man on the island, or in the whole world as he might say, who might be able to insure that.  No doubt that was why the pope anointed Festuscato to come to Britannia in the first place.

It took a week to get ready to move.  Festuscato felt nothing near the same hurry Patrick felt, but the wait turned out to be fortuitous.  Lord Pinewood, the fairy Lord that came with Festuscato all the way from Rome, flew into Cadbury with a message.  A thousand Saxons had come out of Saxon lands.  They were burning and slashing their way across the countryside, headed for the old tin mines of Cornwall.  Someone told them that where there were mines, there had to be gold, and the Saxon chiefs wanted it.  Refugees were already pouring into Exeter to hide behind the strong city walls, but in abandoning their villages, the Saxons found easy pickings and that encouraged them to loot and pillage their way across Devon.

Julius blanched at the news.  He had hoped since the planting of the sword in the stone in Londugnum, there might be peace in the land.  No such luck.  Constantine looked equally unhappy with the news as he sent out messengers to bring in the troops.  This whole enterprise of having a Pendragon, a war chief still felt like a new and fragile arrangement.  Only Festuscato grinned at the turn of events.  He knew that every success in driving the enemies out of the land strengthened the ties and resolve of all the British, Welsh and Cornish Lords.  He went to bed happy, and only felt sorry he had another engagement.

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MONDAY

R6 Festuscato: Cornwall.  Tintangle is under siege.  The Saxons are out of their place.  The army gathers under the Pendragon to set things right before Festuscato, Patrick, and their companions trail into Cornwall and pick up a pixie passenger along the way.  Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday).  Until then, Happy Reading

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R5 Gerraint: Rebellion, part 1 of 3

Arthur spent a year at Caerleon, fixing up the fort which proved as large, though not in as good a shape as the Bishop reported. Most of the men there were stationed under Uther, and now were well into their age.  With Peredur to guide him, Arthur let the eldest go for a small tract of land and a smaller pension.  Meryddin did not worry about the old men.  He set about recruiting young, untrained men yearning for adventure.  Gerraint took credit for putting that idea into the Druid’s head, and barely avoided offering the phrase “Be all that you can be.”  To be sure, it fit with Meryddin’s thinking, which as far as Gerraint could tell looked like a strong central government with high taxes.  But a strong central government was not the world they lived in.

They brought the administration up from Cadbury where the clerks had been dutifully collecting and recording the receipt of tax money for the past twelve years.  Of course, many of the Lords stopped paying at some point, not seeing any reason to continue to support a Pendragon who did not exist.  Precious little money got collected over all those years, but then the accounts did not exactly match, so Arthur let a large number of those men go as well.

Arthur came into the great hall one afternoon wearing a brand-new tunic, white with a bold dragon on the front.  Everyone ignored him.

Meryddin stood in the corner arguing with Ederyn about the training of the recruits.  Meryddin wanted them on horseback as much as possible.  Ederyn kept saying the foot soldier remained the basic element of any army.  To his surprise, Gerraint agreed with Meryddin.  Cavalry swept across the old Roman borders at an alarming rate and crushed everything in its way.  Just as well that Ederyn had as much chance of winning an argument with Meryddin as a ship had sailing directly into the wind.  Gerraint then considered lateen sails, but dismissed them.  He was not there to mess up history.  Besides, Gerraint stayed too busy arguing with his Master, Pelenor.

“You will get more money with low taxes than with high taxes,” Gerraint insisted.

“Now son, that doesn’t make any sense,” Pelenor responded, and threw his hands in the air in frustration.

“Think about it,” Gerraint came back.  “A man will pay a reasonably low tax, but most of a high tax will end up in the barn, hidden under the hay.”

“Then we will check under all the haystacks in Britain,” Pelenor said with a sigh.

Gerraint let out his own sigh of frustration. Pelenor just didn’t get it.  He dared not get into the notion that lower taxes spurred economic growth.  Meryddin would have squashed that idea as soon as it escaped his mouth.  Meryddin did not want economic growth.  He wanted subservience and a population dependent on his whims.  The man had some Brunhild in him, and because of that, Gerraint smiled when he found something he disagreed with Meryddin about.

Meanwhile, Peredur and his son Percival looked at the dais and debated the relative merits of raising it another foot or so in height so Arthur could be sure to look down on all of his guests, and Arthur shouted.

“Hey!  I like cavalry.  Set the taxes half way between.  I don’t want to look down on anyone.  That would be offensive.  I’m just a kid.  Give me a big table on the floor where me and all the Lords can see each other face to face, like maybe a big, round table.”  Arthur grinned.  “Now, what do you think?”  He modeled his new tunic.

“Nice.  Okay. Cute.  Good.”  No one showed any enthusiasm, and they went right back to what they were arguing about.

So, after a year of that, having found an honest accountant, and one good man to Captain the fort and train the new men, Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn wanted to go home.  Naturally, their squires accompanied them.

All three Lords lived in the British Midlands, not far from Caerleon.  Peredur and Pelenor had been good neighbors and good friends their whole lives.  Not many neighbors in Britain could say that. Ederyn lived just down the way from Peredur, technically in the province of Leogria.  He would be taking Percival there, but Percival would not be far from home.

“Why don’t we stop in my place first for a while?” Peredur suggested.  “It would give Percival’s mother a chance to see her son, and Pelenor, you always said you liked my wife’s dumplings.”

“There is that.”  Pelenor looked briefly like his mouth started watering.

Ederyn did not mind.  His wife died a few years ago from the flu, so he moved in no particular hurry.  He had servants, who were in fact slaves, who kept the place, and did so honestly no matter how long he stayed away.  Gerraint knew Ederyn was lucky in that respect, but that thought made him fear for the future.  He understood that Meryddin would eventually have his way all across Europe.  The Lords would be granted or buy or simply take more and more land and the free people in the big towns and cities would become peasants, and the people on the land would have no choice but to contract with the landowner for their service and become serfs.  Actual slavery would all but disappear as an unnecessary expense, but it would be small compensation.

Shortly after a long and filling lunch, the group came to a forest.  Gerraint only once wondered if this might be a haunted forest.  No such luck, he decided.  A mere half-mile in, and they came to a small clearing where Peredur suggested they spend the night.  It only turned three in the afternoon, but once the squires got the tents up and the fire blazing, they had the horses to rub.  Gerraint started in again on the idea of a rapid deployment force.

“We need a whole troop of men that can be called out on little or no notice.  They should be good at moving quickly and quietly to wherever the trouble may be. They should be trained to scout out the enemy without giving themselves away.  And most important, they should know when to engage the enemy and when to harass a large foe while regular troops are called up.”

Arthur put down his brush for a minute.  “You realize that would be a big expense.”

‘No,” Percival interjected.  “Let the squires do it.  We will all be young Lords eventually.”

“We would still need a small force at Caerleon to go out with whatever young Lord might be there at any given time.” Arthur mused.  “That expense might be manageable.  But the question is, how will we convince the Lords to do it, and at their own expense?”

“That’s easy,” Gerraint said.  “When they come of age and have proved themselves in some worthy deed, invite them to be members of the special club.  We won’t have to ask people to join.  No one will dare accept the shame of being left out.”

“I suppose the young Lords won’t have anything better to do than stay home and work as servants to their fathers for who knows how long.”  Arthur started thinking.

“And think how many second and third sons there are,” Gerraint added.

“Hey, I know!”  Percival got excited.  “You could use that round table idea of yours where all the young lords can see eye to eye.”

“Face to face,” Arthur corrected.  “But I think they will need more than an invitation, like when they join they should get a title of some sort.”

“Sir,” Gerraint said, but then he held his tongue because he realized he was in danger of interfering with history.

“Boys,” Pelenor came up from the fire.  “Give it a rest.”

The squires went back to rubbing down the horses before supper.

In the morning, the boys got up early and again they cared for the horses first and got them ready to travel before they started cooking for themselves.  That smell woke the men, and they stumbled out of their tents which the squires immediately took down and packed.  It looked like it would be a good morning.

While Pelenor contemplated thirds for breakfast, they heard the horses.  Everyone grabbed their weapons and hid as well as they could.  There came a moment of trepidation before they breathed relief. Bedwyr appeared with four soldiers from the Oxford fort, which sat right beside Bedwyr’s lands.

“Arthur!  Master Pelenor!”  Bedwyr shouted, even if they were all right there.  “We must ride.  There are rebels hard behind us.”

“Rebels?”  Peredur did not believe it.

“Some dozen Lords have secretly agreed they would have no Pendragon rather than a boy,” one of the soldiers said, while Bedwyr dismounted and tried to hurry the others.

“No time for that,” Pelenor said as they heard more horses coming on.  He sent Bedwyr and his soldiers down the road while his group got bows.  “Get those horses under cover,” Peredur helped. “Find good cover, but don’t fire until I fire.”

Ederyn bent down to Percival and said, “Just like we practiced.”

R5 Gerraint: The Sword in the Stone, part 1 of 3

The company trooped into Londugnum just after noon on the third day.  That seemed about as fast as they could hurry things up.  There were signs of decay everywhere, with plenty of buildings that had been abandoned.  Trade with the continent was not what it used to be.  Outside the city walls, there sat a large Saxon settlement that Pelenor called Londugwic.

“This is one of the only places where Britons and Saxons can trade peacefully,” Pelenor explained.  “As long as they keep the wall between them, and as long as one side or the other does not feel cheated, which always happens.”  He laughed, but Gerraint imagined not many British goods were coming into town in his day, and most of what came got floated down the Thames, outside the wall, the road being as unsafe as it was.

They made for the church and monastery that had been dedicated to Saint Paul, where they found a great number of men, Lords and squires, who all but displaced the monks for the time being.  People slept on the floor, everywhere, but then many more took rooms in neighboring houses for the season so it was not as bad as it might have been.  Gerraint found Tristam early on.  Tristam turned thirteen last winter, and being from Tintangle in Cornwall, he helped Gerraint feel closer to home.  Sadly, Tristam started hanging out with Urien, a twelve-year-old from the British Midlands, who had a big raven emblazoned across his tunic and who seemed to share the same attitude and manners of the carrion eater.  The eldest squire among the monastery dwellers was Mesalwig, a stuck-up sixteen-year-old from Glastonbury who fortunately, wanted to hang out with the young lords.  Kai and Bedwyr ignored the fellow, so he attached himself to Loth.  Thomas of Dorset was the next eldest at sixteen, and he stayed with the squires and kids, and seemed the nicest fellow.  He was so nice, in fact, he had no martial instincts at all, unlike his younger brother Gwillim, who made a chubby ten, and a handful.

There were many Lords, young and old in attendance. Melwas, who just turned twenty-one, came all the way from Lyoness.  Badgemagus, near fifty, hailed from Northern Wales.  Kai and Loth were from way up north where the Scots and Picts were always a worry, and now where they faced a new intrusion of Danes, though they were more often called Jutes, a name the people knew, or Norwegians, which meant nothing but sounded foreign and strange.  There were also Lords who brought their sons, even if the sons were too young to become squires.  Along with ten-year-old Gwillim, there was Gwyr from the Midlands at eleven, Arawn at nine, attached to the Raven’s elbow, and there were three Welsh troublemakers of Menw at ten, Kvendelig at nine and Gwarhyr at seven.  Gerraint made a point of getting to know them all, and as many others as he could, and so Arthur and tag-along Percival did the same.

“These will be the men we will have to deal with on a regular basis, ten and twenty years from now,” Gerraint said.  Arthur saw the wisdom in making their acquaintance, and from the start showed great insight on the kind of men they might become.

“So, why are we all meeting in Londugnum?” Urien asked one afternoon.  He disguised none of his contempt.  He thought this a poor excuse for a town.  Percival and Tristam both thought the Raven had no business complaining, but they were wondering the same thing.

“Good question,” Thomas of Dorset, the eldest spoke, but then he looked away because he had no answer.  Gwillim’s young friend Gwyr, who at all of eleven spoke up.

“Because this is the place the Roman punched his sword into the stone and said the true war chief for the people will be the one who can pull it out.  I think the Lords are just going to choose someone and ignore the stone, because they have all tried it and none of them could pull it out.”

“That is almost right.”  They heard a voice and all looked up at the Bishop, who smiled for them.  He came into the room, pulled up a chair, and invited the squires to sit at his feet while he explained.

“It was ninety or nearly a hundred years ago when the Romans left the land.”  Some looked surprised because the way that Rome and the Romans were spoken of, they thought the leaving was much more recent.  “In those days, the people were all left to fend for themselves.  Soon enough, all the petty Lords and chiefs began to squabble and fight.  It became like the days of chaos before the Romans ever came.  The Germans the Romans had contracted to guard the shore from invasion, became the invaders.  The Scots they invited to fill the land between the walls as a human wall against the wild Picts, began to join the Picts in raiding the lush southlands. Everything started falling apart, rapidly.

“Then what happened?”  Thomas of Dorset asked, like he was the youngest instead of the eldest.

“After about thirty years, now some sixty years ago, a Roman Senator came to see how the free province was doing.  He saw the chaos, so he called all of the chiefs of the Britons, Welsh, Cornish, Saxons and Angles to Lundinium, which is what the city was called in those days.  He selected and anointed the first Pendragon, a man named Owen who went by the Roman name of Constantine.  The Germans did not acknowledge his overlord status, but understood what a war chief would be and pledged peace.  With that, Owen became able to satisfy the Scots with land and drive the Picts back to the Celidon forest.  Then, when the Germans broke the promised peace, he also became able to drive them back to their shores.  A good time of peace followed, and though Owen got old, he had a good son whom he called Constans.”  The Bishop paused for a moment to think things through, and the boys waited, as patiently as they could.

“Owen died, and Constans became Pendragon, but then he died by poison and his friend and counselor, Vortigen took over.  The sons of Constans, Ambrosius the elder and Uther the younger, fled to Amorica and the court of King Budic who granted them sanctuary where Vortigen could not reach them.  Vortigen contented himself with rule, but it came in the most terrible way.  His rule caused trouble rather than resolving things.  Vortigen hurt rather than helped, and no one liked the man.  After five years, Ambrosius and Uther returned, and all the Britons, Welsh and Cornish flocked to them.  Vortigen looked finished, but he had secretly made a pact with the Saxons and he brought them into a great battle by Badon Hill. Ambrosius won that battle, Vortigen got overcome, the Saxons decimated, but Ambrosius Pendragon got mortally wounded. He lingered for almost three years, and in that time, Uther became the one who led the people against the Picts, the Angles, and the new threat of the Danes.

R5 Gerraint, son of Erbin: born in the days of Arthur Pendragon.

Kairos and Rome 5: Rome Too Far

R5) Gerraint, son of Erbin: born 479, in the days of Arthur, Pendragon.
10 weeks of posts

Gerraint, son of Erbin, with Percival and Arthur, romp through the early days of Arthur, Pendragon.  They fight off a rebellion and beat back the Saxons, Irish, Jutes and Picts, and rescue Gwynyvar.  Sadly, as the boys become men, the fighting never seems to stop.  And Meryddin, a fly in the ointment, appears to be on his own agenda.

Following the end of the Kairos and Rome 5: Rome Too Far, the story of Gerraint and Arthur will continue in the last book in the series:

Kairos and Rome 6: The Power of Persuasion

R6) Gerraint: Love and War   12 weeks of posts

Gerraint, son of Erbin wins Enid, his love before he is called to the continent to help Brittany (Amorica) stay free.  After a time of torment, Gerraint and Arthur continue to fight off Picts, Scots, Danes, and Angles, before the final battle of Mount Badon.  And still, Meryddin has his own agenda working, subversive in the background.

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If you read with us the story of Festuscato, Senator of Rome (The story before Greta), you saw the sword being put in the stone.  Festuscato installed Constantine of Amorica as the first Pendragon, (war chief) of Britain, Wales, and Cornwall.  Now Gerraint, Prince of Cornwall, walks beside Constantine’s great-grandson Arthur, the last Pendragon.

Don’t miss it.

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Meanwhile

Avalon Season 6 is in the works.

As of now, R6 Festuscato, The Dragon in Ireland will follow Gerraint.  Festuscato is charged to escort Patrick to Ireland and see that he begins his work safely. (Good luck with that).  R6 Greta, To Grandfather’s House We Go  will complete the posting of the book The Kairos and Rome 6.

Then, according to plan, I hope  to post Avalon season 6 before beginning the Kairos Medieval book 3: Light in the Dark Ages.  As if things ever go according to plan…

Hopefully, by then, I will have three good book covers and be able to put Avalon seasons 4, 5, and 6 up on Amazon and wherever E-books are sold.

For the present, the prequel: Invasion of Memories, Avalon The Pilot Episode (which is free) and Avalon Seasons 1, 2, and 3 are available for purchase and your reading pleasure.

The new adventure, the story of Gerraint begins MONDAY, and as I say:

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R5 Festuscato: The Hun in the House, part 3 of 3

“Moran,” Festuscato spoke to the elf and the elf stood.  “Where is Macreedy?”  He and his Four Horsemen stepped aside to talk behind one of the makeshift barriers in the road.

“He has a thousand elves from the Long Meadow surrounding York.  Bogus the Dwarf has as many covering the roads.  King Wormwood has as many again from Dark-elf-home to cover the night.  And King Larch of the Fee has the Danish shore under observation.

“Trouble?” Constantine stepped up, followed by Hellgard and Ban.  Festuscato took a breath before he nodded and spoke.

“York has fallen to Wanius the Pict.  He has pulled up his four thousand men behind the walls of the town and the fort.  Much of the town and fort have been burned, but it is going to be hard to dig him out of there.  Emet’s family?”  Festuscato asked.  He had a good memory for names.  Moran shook his head.

“But what was this I heard about thousands surrounding the city?” Hellgard had good ears.

“They will hold Wanius in York and keep him from doing further damage to the countryside, this one time.  But when you all arrive, they will disappear.  You will have to face Wanius yourselves.”  Festuscato quieted them.  The Huns reached the ford.  The British across the way had backed up to hide in the trees.  The Jutes, British, Amoricans and Londoners on this side were hidden and quiet.  Then the Saxons all stood up as one and began shouting insults and screaming and waving their swords and spears as if daring the Huns to cross the water.  The Hun commander wisely got his men down and promptly surrendered as Julius rode up.  The Saxons looked disappointed.  Gregor stepped up and shared a thought.

“A quick surrender is better than spilling more blood, but many of my men don’t think so.”

“Wisdom from a one-eyed Saxon.  Who would have thought to hear it?” Hellgard said.

“Odin has but one eye.  That is good enough for me,” Gregor laughed.

“What is the Danish shore?”  Constantine heard something else.

“The Norwegian shore.  The settlement of yet another new people blown in by the winds of the North Sea. Let us be honest.  Britain north of York had been thinly populated since Roman times.  Too much struggle between Romans and Picts, and now the Scots have not helped. Instead, they have complicated things. They have overrun Guinnon, the fort on the western end of Hadrian’s wall, and they did nothing to stop Wanius from passing over.  You have a good family in Edinburgh on the eastern end, but they cannot hold things alone, and they have been unable to stop the Danes from grabbing chunks of the coast.  You need to drive the Ulsterites out and put someone you can trust in Guinnon to hold the wall.  And I think you need someone in York who can keep out the Picts, Danes and Saxons, no offense Gregor.”

“None taken,” Gregor said.  “I want to keep out the Saxons myself, and I am one of them.”  Even Moran the elf smiled at that one, though for what reason, no one knew.

“We know the Danes well, and find them no friends.  But they can be reasoned with.” Hellgard spoke up.  Festuscato heard, but did not go there.  Julius rode up and Cador and Gildas were with him.

“Gildas. Did you get the chance to kill the bastards?”  Festuscato asked, and immediately regretted it as Gildas quietly nodded.  “Everyone suffers first time,” he added more softly. “It proves you are human.”

“It wasn’t pretty,” Cador said.

Festuscato nodded. “We need horses,” he said.  “We will take some of the Hun’s horses and try to hold on, I guess.”

“Some escaped?” Jullius asked.

“About five hundred according to one eye here.”

“Just a guess,” Gregor said with a grin.

“Moran. Please ask Deerrunner if he will accompany Aidan and his Britons in escorting the prisoners to Londinium.” He paused to think.  “We are about sixty miles out which is a good two-day march, or so.”

“Constans,” Constantine called his son.  “Take your men and clean up these grounds.  Give the monks something to do, to perform the burial rites.”

“Julius. You better assign half of your men to help escort the prisoners.  Hopefully, that will be enough to discourage the Huns from attempting anything foolish.”  Festuscato said.

“Dibs and Tiberius can cover that duty.  We will take the better horsemen, about nine hundred.”

“Good.  With us that will make twice the reported Huns.”

“Double that,” Hellgard said, and he sent some men to gather up the horses of the Huns. “And some of my men will take care of their own.”  He sent others to tend the wounded and gather the dead.  Festuscato looked at Gregor.

“My men will gather their own and take them back across the river, but I wouldn’t miss it.” He whistled and took two men aside to instruct.

“I think you and Lord Constantine and King Ban and his men can take some of the horses from Dibs and Tiberius.  That should not change things much and you will have regular saddles to ride.” Festuscato nodded, but it became after lunch before they were ready to ride out.

They covered a good distance before they stopped for the night, but they saw no sign that the Huns slowed their pace.  Festuscato felt a bit afraid that Megla, on finding the gates of Londinium closed to him, might just ride straight on to the next port downriver.  He was sure the Hun had every intention of commandeering whatever ships might be in the dock and escape, and if he escaped unscathed, he might return with ten times the number of men.

The following afternoon, they found the wardens at one of the city gates had opened the gate for the Hun.  Fortunately, Megla did not get far.  The Amoricans that Constans left in the city and the Londoners who knew better had Megla and his men trapped in some buildings down by the river.

“Megla.” Festuscato called out.  He and Constantine stood just beyond bowshot, the Four Horsemen looking over their shoulders.  “Megla.  Come out and talk.  I have a message for Attila.”  That got him.

“What do you know about Attila.”

“He is getting too much gray in his hair and beard, and making alliances with the Vandals isn’t going to save him.  Come out and talk.”

“You are the dragon?”

“All of Britannia is becoming the dragon.  Come out and talk if you are not afraid.”

“That should rattle him,” Constantine said.

Six men came out of the main building.  They got about half way across the plaza before they pulled out bows and arrows. The bow remaied the basic Hun weapon that they could pull swiftly, even on horseback.  But the Four Horsemen reacted and responded with bows of their own and with enough speed so only one Hun got off an arrow, and it happened only because the Horsemen were busy killing the others.  It was a good shot to Festuscato’s chest, and it would have certainly penetrated any normal armor, but the armor of the Kairos was made by Hephaestos and the dark elves deep under Mount Etna.  The arrow bounced off.

“Megla.  You know it takes more than one stupid arrow to penetrate a dragon’s hide.  Come out and talk, and I will let you live.”

“What good is the promise of a great worm?”

“What choice have you got?  We already stopped your men who were sneaking out to grab a boat.  You are trapped inside, with your horses outside, and soon it will be dark.  The goblins and trolls come out after dark and they tell me Hun is a tasty snack.”

A man appeared at the doorway.  He made a show of putting down his bow and sword as he stepped out on to the plaza. Five more followed him and put down their weapons, while their eyes scanned the surrounding buildings and the roofs around them,

“I am Megla,” an older man said and eyed Festuscato.

Festuscato smiled. “Megla of the Huns, allow me to present Constantine, High Chief and War Chief of Britannia.”

“Attila told me about you, Roman.”

“Then you should know I am willing to be fair.  Tell your men to throw down their weapons and come out.  You will be kept here, in the open until the rest of your surviving men arrive.  Then you will be bound and sent out on the morning tide and returned to Belgium. Your horses and weapons will stay here, but you will have your lives.”

“If we refuse?”

“Thunderfist. Portents.”  An ogre and a hobgoblin appeared.  The hobgoblin bowed.  “Lord.”  The ogre wondered where he was.  “I can let my friends have you after dark,” Festuscato said, knowing that Megla likely saw a goblin and a troll, since he would have no way of knowing the difference. “There are plenty more where they came from.  Go home.” Festusato waved his hand and the two disappeared just as Thunderfist got ready to poke a Hun to see if he was real. “So, what will it be, a small indignity or a hundred years digesting in an ogre’s belly?”

Megla was no fool. He surrendered, and when the rest of his surviving troops showed up a day and a half later, they were all bound and shipped out on the morning tide, at no small cost.  Megla only said one more thing to Festuscato.  It was a question.

“You have a message for Attila?”

Festuscato nodded.  “What goes between him and the Empire is his business, but Britannia is off the menu.  I have been twice kind to the Huns.  Don’t count on a third time.”

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Next Monday: R5 Festuscato: The British North.  York is filled with wild Picts.  The town is burned.  The fort is taken.  But the Picts are soon surrounded with an unexpected army of British, Cornish, Welsh, Jutes, and Saxons, all miraculously working together under the dragon, and the first Pendragon…

Happy Reading

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