R6 Festuscato: 2 Cornwall, part 2 of 3

Denzel, an old Cornish miner who had seen better days, walked the group to the cap of the hill.  “The shaft goes down a good long way,” he said.  “No one comes here anymore but me and my missus, ‘least not since the mine flooded out.  It was a good producer, too.  But you see the camp is all abandoned now and the men moved on.”

“I don’t know what the Saxons thought they would find in these mines,” Gaius said.

“A lot of fuss over money.”  Patrick’s voice underlined the foolishness of that choice.

“There was never any gold,” Festuscato added.

“But all these abandoned houses, all up the hillside. Makes it look like the Saxons came here,” Gaius said.

“Slash and burn,” Patrick agreed, and Festuscato nodded.

“I don’t understand.”  Dibs got on a different track.  “Why was the mine abandoned?”

Festuscato tried to explain.  “It has to do with the way the land formed in Cornwall, and Lyoness more so.  When the land cooled, it formed cracks all around, and the hot, molten mineral rich rock pushed up from below.”  Festuscato imagined one day all those cracks would give way and there would be a massive earthquake, but he said nothing about it out loud.

“The fires of Hell tried to escape,” Gaius teased and watched Dibs, who thought about it and got frightened by the idea of Hell escaping.

“Yes, well, you could say when the flood waters came everything cooled in place, so what you have is tall shafts of tin deposits, sometimes copper or arsenic, which means a little silver, but no gold. Not even a hint of gold.”

“But I still don’t understand,” Dibs said. “I’ve seen mines, and they dig underground to get to a layer of dirt that has the iron or coal or whatever, but then they dig sideways to extract the ore.”

“Not here.  It is all just up and down.”   Festuscato tried to show with his hands.  “Ordinary mines spread out, but tin mines here go up and down.  Anyway, when they dig deep enough to reach the ground water, however deep that might be, the mine floods out at the bottom and they can’t dig any deeper.  I suppose if they had a pump or some way to keep the water out, they might dig a little deeper.”

“You seem well informed for a stranger,” Denzel said.  “I thought you said you were a Roman?”

“I read,” Festuscato responded, with a smile for the old man.

“Yes, well that about explains it.”  Denzel missed the smile.  “Sometimes when they dig the vein they break through to some underground cavern, water made mostly, but that does not happen often.”

“That’s where the knockers live,” Festuscato said, casually to Dibs.

“Yes, they do,” Denzel nodded.

“What are knockers?” Patrick asked, always ready to learn something new.

“Pigsies, Piskies, Spriggans when they are bad,” Denzel used the words he knew.

“Think little goblins with wings,” Festuscato suggested, though they were more like gnomes and did not always have wings.

“Back when I was a boy we had a cave-in.” Denzel told the story as they climbed. “It was a bad one and men were trapped down there.  We dug for all we could but we were certain the men would run out of air before we got there.  You know, we found them alive, but they told the strangest tales about hearing knockers on the walls.  They said the knockers guided them to a place where they could punch a hole in the wall. There was a cavern beyond, and all the fresh air they needed until they could be rescued.  One man swore he saw a little green man running around just out of reach.  Many swore they heard sprightly music in the distance.  Of course, once the mine was open again, we all went to find this cavern, but no one ever found it.  It was like the pigsies sealed up the wall again once the crisis was over.  Old man Trevor said the pigsies moved the cavern itself so no one would ever find it.”  Denzel shook his head like he did not believe that tall a tale.

“Think anti-fairies, pixies dancing in the night,” Festuscato suggested.  “Think gnomes.  Most are nice fellows, you know.”  And many had wings, but like Greta’s friend, Bogus the Skin, the wings did not always work.

“I think when a man is in crisis, he will imagine all sorts of things.”  Patrick tried to sound reasonable.  Mirowen, Dibs and Gaius just looked at Festuscato and waited for a response. Bran caught the looks.  “What?” Patrick became aware that there might be something they were not telling him.  Simple logic would say a single man might imagine all sorts of things, but a whole bunch of men all imagining the same thing might mean something more than just imagination.

“Elowen.”  Denzel called for his wife.  The couple had a small cottage beside the great brick house that was the entrance to the mine.

“What a lovely home,” Mirowen praised the cottage, and the flowers planted all around.

“It is,” Gaius said, happy to change the subject. “I could not get my eyes off all the abandoned and burnt out homes on the way up.  I must say, I am not a fan of slash and burn diplomacy.”

An old woman came to the door.  “Denzel, have you seen Mousden?”

“No, dear.”  Denzel turned and explained to the others.  “He is a young lad we found two weeks ago.  We did not know what to do with him.  He won’t tell us where his parents might be, but he has a dreadful fear of the mine.  He screams when we go near it.  He doesn’t say much, but he screams a lot, and often screams in the night.”

“Mousden.”  Elowen called.  “He must have been through something terrible.”

“Mousden.  Boy.” Denzel joined his voice to the call.

Festuscato got an impression of who they were calling and saw a picture in his mind.  He looked at Patrick and Gaius understood something because he reached out, prepared to grab Patrick if necessary.

R6 Gerraint: Mount Badon, part 3 of 3

Two days later, Gerraint, the boys Damon and Bowen and twenty-five men hand selected by Sergeant Brian gathered outside the next village at the top of the road.  It was dark, well before the dawn.  The Little King and twenty-five of his hand selected highway robbers joined them

Earlier in the evening, just after sunset, Gerraint sent dark elves into the town to map the town and the location of the Saxons billeted in town.  Gerraint naturally and rightly assumed those were the Saxon Chiefs, as the other six hundred or so camped on the fallow fields outside of the town itself.  With dawn, Lancelot and Lionel were prepared to rain fire arrows down on the Saxon tents.  When the Saxons roused and came out to escape the flames, the men were to ride through the camp and decimate the Saxon numbers.  They were assured the Saxons would not get to their horses, or find them useable if they did.  They had to trust.  Lionel looked skeptical, but Lancelot trusted implicitly.

One day earlier, their third day on the hill, Gerraint spent spelunking.  The Little King thought his caves in the cliff were just caves, and one abandoned tin mine.  Gerraint hardly took a moment to realize the caves were, in fact, an old abandoned dwarf mine.  The shafts went far deeper than the Little King knew.  What is more, as is often the case, down in the depths there sat a colony of dark elves, and that colony was still present.  He found some volunteers among the goblins and a band of pixies that lived in the caverns below.  The result turned out that now his makeshift spies had the village mapped and all of the Saxons pinpointed

When the men gathered, Gerraint thought to give some special instructions.  “Do not hurt the goblins, or the pixies.”

“I knew it,’ the Little King immediately interrupted. “I have seen the pixies twice in the night, as have others.  Some say we are imagining things.  The village has been roughly divided over the issue for years.”  He smiled to think he was on the right side.

“As I was saying.  If you see a goblin or a pixie in the night, do not stare at them. Go about your business and let them go about theirs.  They have agreed to ferret out any Saxons in the town.  Let them do their job and leave them alone.”

“Are they on our side?” Bowen asked what sat on many minds.

“Let me say, they are against the Saxons coming here. But we need to think of them like bumblebees.  If you leave them alone, they will not bother you.  Do you understand?”

Most of the men agreed, and the Little King nudged the big man next to him.  “I said he had an in with the spooky-bits.”  The man merely nodded and touched the scar on his shoulder where an arrow once knocked him off his horse.

“If any of you have a problem with that, there is no shame, but we need to find someone to take your place.  Listen, if you panic and harm one of the goblins, I will not be able to protect you from their terrible revenge.”  The men all said they were fine with it, but Gerraint suspected there might be incidents.  He hoped not many.  “All right. Now, here is what we are going to do,” and he got down to the details.

An hour later, still before dawn, fifty men moved into the village.  They stuck to the shadows and said nothing.  Groups of five men at a time broke off to go here and there to different houses.  Gerraint, Bowen, Damon, Brian and a man named Nodd went with the Little King and four of his cutthroats to the village inn.  Gerraint found the innkeeper’s daughter out back by the cooking fires. She took one look and ran to Gerraint. She hugged him and cried.  “I knew you would come,” she whispered.  The woman looked bruised and beaten.  No doubt she had been raped, likely over and over.

Gerraint pointed the Little King’s men to the upper windows.  Brian took Nodd around to cover the front door.  Gerraint and the boys planned to sneak in the back, but first they had to get the woman quiet.  She explained how the elders surrendered the village without a struggle.  The Saxons moved in and hanged the elders along with some thirty men who looked like they might put up a struggle. Then it became a hellish madhouse when the Saxons rampaged through the night.  “Drunks with swords,” she called them.  The Church got burned to the ground.  Some men and a few women and children were killed outright and others were grievously wounded.  In the morning, the Saxon chiefs finally restored order, but it was too late for some.  People were driven from their homes to make room for the Saxons.  I hid my husband Marcus in the barn, but he is wounded and has a fever.  I fear he is not getting better.”

“Hush.”  Gerraint finally succeeded when he put his hand over the woman’s mouth.  “One thing at a time.”  The Little King signaled and Gerraint threw open the back door.  They went in, swords drawn, and killed the half-dozen sleeping in the big room downstairs.  Only one got out his sword and Gerraint broke the sword with one swipe of Wyrd.  Brian then stabbed the man in the back and killed him, and Brian did not feel the least bit guilty about that.

One man escaped his bedroom and stumbled down the stairs, but Bowen and Damon were right there to stop him.  Then the little King called down that all was clear. They dragged the bodies of the Saxons to the yard, while the little King and his men tossed the upstairs bodies out the front windows.  Gerraint whistled, and the yard filled with pixies.  They were only two feet tall or so, but magically strong.  They picked up the bodies with their back claws and lifted them to where they disappeared in the night sky.  Dawn neared, but the pixies were not harmed by the light the way the goblins were.  They planned to bombard the Saxon camp at dawn with the bodies of their own chiefs before they flew back to their comfortable caverns.

Nodd stood on the front step and pointed. They saw a Saxon across the way who screamed as a goblin grabbed him.  The goblin, a big one, ripped the man’s hand off so the hand and sword it carried clattered to the ground.  Then the goblin bit the man’s head off at the neck.  Everyone turned away, and Brian said, “Now I understand the bit about if you see a goblin, don’t stare at it.”

“Check on the men,” Gerraint said to both Brian and the Little King.  “I’ll be here a while.  Boys.” Damon and Bowen came right up, smiling.  Now Bowen had a kill too, so he felt he could be the big brother again.  Gerraint looked at the woman repeatedly raped and the boys who in any other age would be called bloodthirsty and he felt disgusted with the times.  Yet, it was the times he lived in.  Not exactly chivalry and the Medieval ideal, he thought.

When they got out back to the barn, Gerraint took a hand from Damon and Bowen.  The woman waited as patiently as she could, and watched.  “Your job,” Gerraint said, “is to not let go.”  Gerraint did not ask for a promise.  He got used to giving commands by then.  He went away and Greta came into his place, dressed in her long dress and covered by her signature red cloak with the red hood.  She had a doctor’s bag, which she knew as technically the property of Doctor Mishka, but she felt grateful for the illegal drugs it contained.  Bowen let go and the woman shrieked, but that seemed fine since she had Damon’s hand to squeeze as she let out her smile.

“Now your job is to protect my person at all times.” She stared at the boys until she got non-verbal confirmation, then she took the woman’s hand. “Come Clara,” she remembered the woman’s name even if Gerraint had forgotten it.  “Let us see what we can do for your husband.”

That day became a bonus day before they were expected to rejoin Arthur at the bottom of the hill.  Gerraint spoke to whatever leaders the Saxons could produce from the rounded-up prisoners.  Between the two villages, there were five hundred weaponless men who sat in the fields and tried to be good.  They would stay in that field, receive one meal a day for probably no more than a week. They would be good, since they were made to understand exactly who, or what would be guarding them, particularly in the night.  Any misbehavior or attempted escapes and they could always be moved to an underground cavern where the goblins could watch them day and night.  “And I cannot guarantee that the goblins will not be tempted to play with their food,” Gerraint said.

At daybreak, the troop set out on the winding road back down the mountain.  Gerraint had lost a hundred men on the mountaintop, but he made up for it with a hundred new volunteers.   True, they were not lancers, and hardly the best horsemen, though they had plenty of Saxon horses to choose from, but they were men, and having now experienced what it meant to have the Saxons in charge, they would certainly fight.

Lancelot got happy.  He got to charge the enemy.  Lionel felt more worried about what might be happening down below. Gerraint had gotten word from Pinewood that Percival had pulled his fifteen hundred footmen and fifteen hundred horsemen back to a strong position at the bottom of the hill where the roads met.  They waited there for the arrival of Arthur.  The Saxons across the way, eight thousand footmen and two thousand horse also seemed content to wait.  They waited for their riders on the mountain and the ones sent to circle around Bath to get in position to attack Arthur from the rear.  Of course, the Saxons waited for an attack that would never come.

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MONDAY

R6 Gerraint: The battle for Britain in Shaking the Earth.  Don’t miss it.

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Charmed: Part 6 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 6

Greely Putterwig hushed Elizabeth. Elizabeth hushed but looked up in the old man’s face and wondered what she was hushing for. They were once again among the trees, but this was more of a mixed forest of deciduous trees, firs and pines. The trees were more spaced over the land than in the old growth forest, and the ground cover remained minimal. It was like the old forest was thinning out. It became a pleasant walk up and down little hills, rises in the ground, where the golden moonlight and innumerable stars were able to keep the world bright. Elizabeth thought that even the shadows were not too bad, as long as the shadows did not move.hween cottage 4

When they came to the top of a little rise, they looked down into the next dip in the land and saw a quaint cottage nestled among the trees. with roses out front and a vegetable garden in the back. Elizabeth saw pumpkins growing, and squash, and she was not sure what else. The cottage looked lit, and smoke billowed from the chimney which gave the whole picture a very warm and inviting glow. Elizabeth very much wanted to go there, and tugged on Mister Putterwig’s hand, but the old man said no.

“That home belongs to a terrible, wicked witch,” Mister Putterwig whispered. “Mary Procter has lived here for about three hundred and fifty years. Her father, John Procter and his third wife, Elizabeth were condemned in old Salem Town for witchery, though there was no witchery in them. It was Mary, daughter of Proctor’s second wife that was the witch. She escaped to the wilds of New Hampshire when she was twenty three, but the people were after her, and would have caught her if she had not come here.” Mister Putterwig stopped babbling and wondered why Mary Procter should even matter to him.

Elizabeth tugged again to go toward the cottage, but Mister Putterwig was adamant. “We can’t go there If we do, she will take you away,” and he took her up the next rise in the land.

It was not much further befohween greely 2re it became evident that the thinning forest was because the ground was becoming too rocky for the trees. They were generally and gradually going uphill by then, like they were coming to high ground, and after a short way, Elizabeth saw the big, dark mountain loom up before her and block all of the stars behind those heights.

“Where are we going?” Elizabeth yawned.

Mister Putterwig stopped at the top of a little hill. He waved his hand at the distance. “The eternal mountain. There is a great and craggy cliff, full of all sorts of interesting caves and tunnels. The dwarfs mine there and shape the iron into useful things. The goblins live deep in the recesses of the mountain where they work in metals, gold and jewels. The elves of the grove live not far up the way where they spin and weave the cloth that is shared all over Avalon. There are others who live in and around the mountain, but…” Mister Putterwig became quiet and they stopped walking. “Stay here,” he said.

“Wait. Don’t leave me, alone in the dark.” Elizabeth clutched at Mister Putterwig’s hand. She tried not to cry at the prospect of being left in the dark woods.

Mister Putterwig got down on one knee, then looked once around to be sure no one was watching. He reached out and gave Elizabeth a big hug and said, “Don’t worry, child. There is a light up ahead, and I want to be sure it isn’t dangerous. You are safe here. Can you count the stars? No? Well, why don’t you try. See how many you can count before I come right back. Okay?” He stood and walked backwards for several yards before he turned and scooted up a well worn path.Teti Bast 3

Elizabeth fretted, but turned her eyes to the infinite stars in the dark sky. She turned her back on the bright moon, which was full and seemed determined to stay big and low in the sky, a bright golden-orange globe with a smiling face. But she fretted, because overhead there were too many stars to count. She tried Jake’s counting method. “One, two, skip a few. Ninety-nine, a hundred.” It did not help. All it did was make her sad. She missed her brother. She missed her mom and dad. She had never been out so late in her life, or so far away from home. She felt afraid and imagined she would be in big trouble when she finally got home.

Elizabeth jumped. Something rustled in the leaves. Her eyes got big and focused on that one place, but she held her tongue and dared not move. She heard a soft “meow,” and a pitch black cat came out from the trees to sit out of reach in the moonlight. Elizabeth caught her breath and bent down with a smile. “Kitty, kitty,” she said and held out her hand. The cat came when invited. She got to pet the cat, and the cat purred and rubbed up against her leg. “You are a nice kitty. Do you live around here? My name is Elizabeth. I live a long way from here, and I don’t know the way home.”

The cat jumped back at the sound of a twig. It ran off when Mister Putterwig came into view. “It’s all right.” Mister Putterwig called before he arrived. “It was just Nuggets the dwarf going up to the upper clearing. He says they are having a Halloween party. I said we might come, but it is kind of late for little girls to be out at night.” He reached for Elizabeth’s hand, and she gave it, but not without a word.

hween elizabeth 4“I should be home. I miss my mom and dad. I miss my brother Jacob. I am getting sleepy.” She punctuated her words with a big yawn.

“Child,” Mister Putterwig said in his kindest voice. “I am taking you home. Soon, you will forget all about that other place, and you will stay with me and care for me in my old age, and I won’t have to be alone.”

“Home?” Elizabeth asked through another yawn. She said no more. She simply walked and began to climb the hill until Mister Putterwig stopped and looked up. Elizabeth heard it too, a high pitch squeak. Mister Putterwig made Elizabeth crouch down and he threw his body over hers. Elizabeth heard the squeaking and then the sharp flap of leathery wings. Mister Putterwig muttered something she did not want to hear.

“Vampire bats,” and the bats headed straight toward them. Putterwig, the hobgoblin, was able to put up a magical shield of force around himself and his little charge. The bats could not reach them, but Putterwig knew he could not hold out for long. The bats, and they were big, made leathery snapping sounds with their wings, and clicking sounds with their teeth and claws as they tried to get at the tasty morsels, full of fresh blood. They rammed into Putterwig’s shield over and over. Every time they struck, Putterwig let out a groan, like a man being punched in the stomach, and Elizabeth cried out, giving voice to her fear.hween bats 3

The bats circled round and round, looking for a way in until suddenly they flew off. Elizabeth heard a different sound, more like a deep screech than a high squeak. Mister Putterwig slowly looked around as he lifted his head. Elizabeth heard leathery wings that were much bigger than bat wings, and she hid her face once again in Mister Putterwig’s belly, afraid it might be a dragon.

One set of great wings landed nearby, and Elizabeth ventured a peek. The creature stood about three feet tall, with legs, and arms as well as wings, and the arms and legs ended in claws. It had two little horns on its head, and sharp, pointed ears to match its sharp pointed teeth, and it was all greenish-gray looking in the moonlight, and it talked.

hween pixieGreely, is this the tike? Don’t you know what the penalty is for stealing children? I pity you when Lady Alice finds out.”

“I don’t care. I don’t care.” Mister Putterwig shouted back and held tight to Elizabeth, like she was his protector rather than the other way around. “We used to always take the discarded little girls to raise in their own community until they were old enough.”

“Yeah, six thousand years ago, and only babies.”

“I don’t care. I am keeping Elizabeth. She is my friend.”

The creature shrugged, but said nothing more as it took to wing. Mister Putterwig started them walking again and muttered some more while they went. “What do pixies know? They live in caves and hunt bats to eat raw. I would not expect them to understand.” Elizabeth tugged on Mister Putterwig’s arm. “What?” He faced her and said it too loud and in much too rough a manner, which he immediately regretted. Elizabeth temporarily shrank back, but at last pulled up the courage to ask.

“Are we friends?”hween greely 8

Old Putterwig’s face almost broke. “Yes,” he said, without a doubt, and they walked, his face held high so the little girl could not see the tear that formed in the old man’s eye.

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Charmed is either a very, very small book or a long story offered in eleven parts over this October, 2015, leading up to Halloween. The posts will be put up on the blog on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, October 5, 6 and 7; 12, 13, and 14; 19, 20, and 21; 26, 27, and an extra note on the 28th. If you miss a post, or want to go back to the beginning, they are easy enough to find. Just click on the archives and select October 2015. Charmed is the only posting for the month … So after the 28th, I say to you all, Happy Halloween, you know, black cats and all that.

Teti Bast 4