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.”

************************

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

.

*

Avalon 4.10 part 2 of 4, Half a World Away

Instead of heading to the southeast, toward the next time gate, the travelers headed south along the edge of the frozen lake.  They skipped the leisurely breakfast and the morning learning about the time zone they entered, as was their habit when coming through a new gate, and instead headed away from the previous time gate as rapidly as they could.  They wanted to get out of the way for whatever ghouls might be traipsing through the woods.

Alexis imagined heading south would benefit everyone, psychologically, though they never went south enough to get out of the snow storm.  Lincoln juggled the database most of the way, but he did not get to read any of it to the others until they stopped for lunch.ice buffalo

Decker shot a buffalo in a small herd that seemed to be interested in the lake.  The herd moved out of the way, but they did not panic at the death of their comrade.  Decker had to tie the rope around the beast and to his saddle so his horse could drag it away from the herd.  They paused there and spent a couple of hours cutting up as much of the beast as they could use, but then they moved on for a couple more hours in the early afternoon.

“No worry about the meat spoiling in this weather,” Mingus suggested.

“Ugh,” Elder Stow answered him, and grabbed the portion he had been given to carry before it slid off his horse and on to the ground.  There was plenty of red snow behind them when they moved off, and Boston turned her head back to listen.

“I hear wolves,” she said.

“They are welcome to what we left behind,” Decker responded.

Around two o’clock, the wind picked up and it began to get seriously cold.  Shortly, they found an area against a cliff side, sheltered by trees and one big overhanging rock.  Elder Stow immediately put up his screen to keep the snow from falling on their heads.  He said he could not cut the wind without cutting off their air supply, but the trees mostly took care of the worst of it.

“Leave the fairy weave tents on the horses so they don’t freeze in the night,” Lockhart decided.

“We have to make do with our blankets,” Katie said, though to be sure, the fairy weave blankets could be thickened against the cold, waterproofed, and used as something akin to sleeping bags so as long as the snow was not falling directly on them, they would be fine.

snow alpine forestMingus and Boston immediately set about clearing an area and building a big fire.

“No,” Katie said and Decker agreed.  “I don’t expect the light from the fire will travel far out of this sheltered area.  Certainly not if it keeps snowing.”

Lockhart accepted their word.  “I would just hate to come this far off the direct route only to have the ghouls attracted to the light of our fire in the night.”

“Everyone, gather around,” Alexis spoke up.  She had buffalo steaks cooking.  She was also boiling water for some yams and she had a few plantains to fry if Elder Stow proclaimed them good.

“The thing is,” he said.  “They may be fifty years old, technically, but they were only picked a day ago and haven’t sat around for all those years to get infested with bugs and mold.”

Alexis was not going to argue if she had a chance for something in the way of fruit and vegetables.  When she got out the yams, however, she found that they were oily and leaking.  She did not dare serve them since some yams went toxic when they respired.  The plantains were worse.  She dared not open the coconut.

“Well,” Alexis concluded.  “Yams and plantains don’t belong in New England anyway, at least not for another four thousand years.”

ice campfire 4“Listen up,” Katie said, and everyone settled in while Lincoln shared from the database.

“Taregan, another male.  He is a member of the Piscatet tribe that lives along the New Hampshire coast.  Apparently, they predate the Abenaki who were present when the Europeans came.  The Piscatet are closely related to the Algonquin in language and so on.  They have something of a confederation of tribes east of the lakes, Champlain and George in the Vermont area and east of the Hudson River and south of roughly the modern Canadian border, cutting off northern Maine.  That takes up most of New England.  It says they are many tribes but a peaceful people, given to trade.  That is not so the people in the north or the people in the west, the ones that stretch all the way to the Great Lakes, through New York and Pennsylvania.”

“So, if we run into people, we can expect they won’t be head hunters this time,” Decker said.

“Yes,” Lincoln said, only half listening.  “But listen to this.  It says a plague develops in the Great Lakes area, and Taregan gets his people to build as many big fishing boats as they can.  As the plague spreads and threatens his people, Taregan takes them out into the Atlantic where they catch the Gulf Stream.”

ice celt“Where?”  The word escaped Katie’s lips.

“The Piscatet end up in Scotland, blue painted faces and all.  The Picts.”

“No way,” Alexis said.

“Yes way,” Lincoln went to show her, but Katie grabbed the database out of his hand to see for herself.

Lockhart looked at her and smiled.  He did not understand the full ramifications, but he did get one thing.  “So the Native Americans discovered Europe first.”  He grinned at the thought.

“This also mentions the Calendoc, another tribe that went with the Piscatet,” Katie said.  She handed back the database and looked up like she was looking into outer space.

“I don’t get it,” Elder Stow admitted, and Katie came back to earth and opened up.

“Scholars say the Picts were Celts of some sort.  P-Celts, even if they don’t know where they came Katie 5from or anything about them.  Scholars just decided.  But that information comes from the dark ages, information from the Bede and so on.  Before that, the Romans did not like them, but we really don’t know much about them.  In the BC or BCE as they say, what they were like is anybody’s guess.  People assume typical iron age culture, but there are some strange and clearly not Celtic things even in what little we know.  Like matrilineal succession and stuff.  I assume the Picts had no written language and were illiterate before the Scotch-Irish began to come over from Ulster.  Of course place names and people names were written in the Scottish equivalent, and eventually took the Scottish name, certainly by 800 AD.”

“You’re rambling,” Lockhart said to her.  Katie just looked at him and tried to explain.

“Look.  Before the Romans; before the Scotch-Irish, from the seven hundreds BC back, there is only a big question mark. We know there were big, stone, megalithic structures, but we saw the Shemsu who went over with Danna; when was that?  Thirty-three hundred BC?”

“They turned Woodhenge into Stonehenge,” Lincoln interrupted, and nodded, but Katie was on a roll.

boston archer“We know there were no real Celts in the British Isles before eight or nine hundred BC, but there were Picts in Scotland since at least sixteen hundred BC.  The Picts have all these non-Indo-European things in their culture.  We have no idea what actual language they spoke.  We don’t even know what they called themselves.  Scholars have spilled blood over the word “Pict.”  This makes so much sense, I cannot tell you, and no modern scholar would believe it in a million years.”

“Hold up a minute,” Boston got their attention.

“We have company,” Mingus said and pointed.

People reached for their weapons.