R6 Festuscato: 2 Cornwall, part 3 of 3

Festuscato called, “Mousden,” and he put enough compulsion in his voice so Mousden appeared as if out of nowhere.  He looked no more than a foot and a half tall, covered in mottled green-gray skin, and sported two bat-like wings which were pumping to keep him aloft.  His hands had nails which made them appear claw-like and his naked feet were certainly claws with a prehensile big toe that could cling to the nearest tree branch, or stalactite.

“Harpy-like,” Festuscato mused.  “I don’t know why I didn’t think of that earlier.”

Mousden spun around several times before he focused on all the new human faces and screamed over and over.  Denzel muttered, “Well I’ll be,” while Elowen stared and shook her head like she did not believe what she saw.  Festuscato did not even glance at Dibs and Gaius, but he worried about Bran and Patrick.  Bran appeared stoic and stood as still as a statue.  Perhaps he was in shock.  Patrick got more animated

“Father in Heaven, Hail Mary, In Jesus’ name.” Patrick started to say a dozen things while Gaius held him, but eventually curiosity overcame the fear on his face and he felt his heart go out to the young thing that seemed so obviously in distress.  Mirowen already got within a foot of the hovering, howling pixie.

“There, there.  No one is going to hurt you.  Calm down. Stop screaming.  You will be all right.”  Nothing helped until Mirowen yelled, “Shut-up!”  Mirowen threw her hands out and some magic forced Mousden’s lips to close.  Mousden’s eyes got bigger than human eyes and they still heard the “Mmmph, mmph,” sounds, but they otherwise had quiet.

“Stay,” Festuscato spoke quickly, sensing that the pixie was about to fly off.  Mousden stayed, but against his will, and that made his eyes get really extra big until he turned them on Mirowen who kept saying soothing words.  “Please get big,” Festuscato added.

Mousden shook his head, but Festuscato just stared at the pixie until he floated to the ground and changed.  He got big, which in his case doubled his size to all of three feet. He appeared as an eight or nine-year-old boy, with pale skin and a few freckles.  His brown hair had a slight touch of green when seen in a certain light, but otherwise he looked human enough.

“There you are,” Elowen said suddenly, as a big smile sprang to her lips.  It seemed as if seeing Mousden in his natural pixie state did not penetrate her brain. She stepped up to hold and maybe pick up the boy, but Denzel stopped her.  He took Elowen’s hand and shook his head.

“I think these people may know where Mousden’s parents may be.  It is best to let the boy go.”

“Oh?”  Elowen sounded disappointed

“Yes, about your parents,” Festuscato started to speak, but Mousden broke down and began to weep.  Mirowen got to her knees and held and comforted him while Festuscato caught the vision from the little one’s mind.  Mousden’s tribe got decimated in the Fairy War and he got separated from his family.  His parents died, and in fact his whole family got killed in battle, and Mousden just found them a few hours ago, miles away, buried deep in the land.  Pixies are very family oriented people.  They take a spouse and are faithful as opposed to many humans who only give lip service to the notion of fidelity.  But with his family gone, Mousden had no one to look after him.  The tribe would not turn him out, but he would remain very much on his own until he came of age.

“He needs to come with us,” Festuscato said, and Mirowen looked up at him with a look that said she thought much the same thing. “So now you have another young boy to raise.”

Mirowen lost her smile as she got out her handkerchief to dry the boy’s tears.  “Let’s hope this time I get it right.”

“I don’t understand,” Patrick admitted.  “But that Mirowen is certainly a brave woman.”

Festuscato explained a bit of what happened to Mousden’s parents after Mirowen and Elowen took the boy into the house for a tall glass of milk.  Then he explained how the fairies like the untarnished woods and soft grasses that go to grain and the flowers.  “Fairies generally live in the woods, in the green under the sun.  Pixies prefer the fens and ferns, the briars and brambles and thistle grasses that grow in the meadows.  They live underground, in the dark, but in the night, they come out and build so-called fairy circles in those meadows, where they make music and dance under the stars and the moon.  They are all good people and usually work things out in time, over the centuries, but sometimes they fight.  Think weeds in the garden.”

“Still,” Patrick said.  “That Mirowen is a remarkable woman.”

“She’s an elf,” Gaius said.  “A house elf as I understand it.”

“She was my governess when I was eight, and raised me and Gaius and Dibs and another friend, Felix.”  Festuscato rubbed his chin.  “She claims now she is my housekeeper, but she still treats me like an eight-year-old now and then.”

Mirowen came out the door to fetch the water bucket and could not resist the response.  “Only when you act like and eight-year-old.”  she went back inside.

“She has good ears too.  Excellent hearing.  Did I mention that?”

Patrick patted Festuscato on the shoulder.  “I can see I will have to pray for you.”

“What?”  Festuscato glanced at Gaius.  “I assumed you already were.”

“As needed,” Gaius responded.  “Like every day.”

“Oh, you mean because now you know I consort with devils and demons.”

“Not a chance,” Patrick said.  “I saw no devil in that poor innocent boy’s tears.  And as for your governess, I have thought several times how fortunate you are to have found a woman so pure and true.”

“No demon would dare,” Dibs said, and looked up at Bran.

They all looked at Bran, but all he said was, “That was very interesting,” and he turned and began to gather the things to set their camp beside the cottage for the night, and the others helped.

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MONDAY

R6 Festuscato: Leinster.  Festuscato takes Patrick to the heart of Ireland.  He stays at the inn and leaves Patrick alone to get on with his work, but there is a fly in the ointment, a certain unhappy pirate.  Until Monday, Happy Reading

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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 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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R6 Festuscato: Caerdyf, part 2 of 3

The head man stopped half-way into the room when he saw the dragon symbol on Julius’ tunic.  The other men stopped with him and most looked to the head man to speak first. “You are the Dragon?  I have heard of you.”

“Only good, I hope,” Julius said, with a quick glance at Festuscato.  That word sounded like something Festuscato would say.

“Who are you?” Anwyn spoke up.  “How dare you come into my home uninvited and disturb my friends.”

“Quiet.” the Pirate chief spat, and two men stepped toward Anwyn, threatening.  Anwyn quieted, but he also glanced at Festuscato who appeared to be yawning. The chief noticed and gave Festuscato a nod while he looked Mirowen up and down, more than once.  “Your pardon for keeping you up passed your bedtime, though I suppose if I had a woman like that I might be tempted to spend more time in bed myself.”  Mirowen turned red, but it was from anger, and not the least because Festuscato kept her from striking out at these men.

“Oh, great Irish chief who will not give his name,” Festuscato intoned.  “Do tell us what you came for and maybe then I can go to bed.”

The Irish chief grinned.  “I am Sean Fen, Master of the Irish Sea,” the Irishman said. “Perhaps you have heard of me as well.” Most of the men shook their heads, no. “I have come with a hundred men to burn this fort to the ground.  No offense, but we have decided that the coast of Wales would be much better off if it remained unencumbered by forts and soldiers and watchmen and such things.”

“I see,” Festuscato said.  “Allow me to offer a counter proposal.”

“You are in no position to make an offer,” Sean Fen smiled at having the upper hand.  “But for the sake of the holy men present, I am offering you a chance to get out with your women and children, though we may borrow a few of your women.” He looked again at Mirowen and she stood and pulled a knife from somewhere, Festuscato’s hand or no hand.

Festuscato also stood and spoke loud enough to echo in the big room.  “If you leave and sail out of the port in the next hour, I will let you leave with your heads still attached.”

Sean Fen raised his eyebrows a little when Julius turned to Festuscato and said, “Lord Agitus?”  Most of the people there had no idea what the centurion might be asking.

“I have twelve men against your three little soldiers.” The Irishman looked at his men and they grinned and began to spread out in the room.  “You don’t do the telling.”

“You are right.  Horsemen, please reduce the enemy to a third.”  Nine arrows came from the shadows and nine Irishmen fell to the floor, dead or near enough.  Sean Fen blinked and almost missed it, but Festuscato counted.  “Hey!  I said to a third.  Who fired the extra arrow?  Pestilence?”

The Four Horsemen stepped from the shadows and one of them looked at the others and spoke from beneath his helmet.  “Death is not very good with math.  Sorry.”

A second horseman spoke.  “Sorry.”

Julius already got in the chief Irishman’s face.  “Lord Agitus suggested you leave while you can.”

“Actually,” Festuscato said as he came around the table. “Now that you don’t have so much dead weight hanging around, I think you should leave in a half-hour.”  He raised his voice as if talking to a whole battalion of men.  “Irish heads are free game after a half-hour.”

“Lord,” Pestilence spoke again.  “Famine and Plague over there are not very good at telling time.”

“Yes, well.  Do your best.  That is all I ask.”  Festuscato looked up at the Irishmen, but the three still standing were already backing away. When they got to the door, they turned and ran.  Festuscato, Julius, Anwyn and the two sergeants stepped out after them and watched. There were two dozen guardsmen around the courtyard backed up by almost fifty Romans who proudly displayed their dragon tunics.  The Irishmen were all in the center of the court, surrounded.  Mirowen, with her good elf ears, reported what was said.

“I didn’t know the Dragon’s men would be here.”

“I didn’t sign on for this.”

“Where’s the others?”

“Dead.  they’re all dead.”

“Generally yelling. Words I don’t say.  Wow!  I would never say that word,” Mirowen finished.

Sean Fen lead the Irish back out the gate, through the town and to their ships which immediately put out to sea.  Anwyn went to fetch some guardsmen to remove the dead bodies while Festuscato looked at the clerics who stood with their mouths open. He spoke first to Palladius, a man who in the far future would make a great uber-liberal progressive.

“Maybe someday we can designate this place a sword-free zone, post big signs and everything, though I suppose the Irish would have ignored that.”

“Probably can’t read,” Mirowen suggested.

“These men are dead,” Palladius spouted as they turned to go back inside.

“This is the sad world we live in,” Bishop Lavius lamented.  “As Lord Agitus explained it all to me often on our journey from Rome.”

Festuscato put his arm around the old man Germanus. Germanus had been a bit of a soldier, a true militant Bishop who even lead men in battle.  He sat on the conservative side and did not seem distressed by the dead bodies.  “But I figure,” Festuscato spoke softly.  “There will always be some Pelagians under the surface of the church, like a bad case of the flu.  You should see the cults that spring up in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries after Christ.”  He rattled off several, ending with, “Never trust a religion that comes out of Asbury Park, New Jersey.  But the point is, everyone knows they are not actual, traditional, historical Christians. The thing is, we can’t kill them all. All we can do is pray for them and tell them about the true faith and let God straighten it all out in the end.”

“I do not know any of these heresies you speak of,” Germanus said.  “But I understand the gist of it and begin to see a pattern in your madness.  Mercy does hold some merit.”  He got to his seat and stopped.  “I think I may visit our Celtic cousins in Amorica.  They have strongly resisted the faith and need prayer and the word.”

“A field ripe for harvest, eh?”

Patrick stood up from where he and Father Gaius administered the last rites to the Irish.  “We need to talk,” he said, and Festuscato nodded.

“As soon as we get back to Cadbury,” he agreed.

R6 Festuscato: Caerdyf, part 1 of 3

Festuscato got up on the half-finished wall of the fort of Caerdyf, sat in an oversized chair, dressed only in his shorts, and sunned himself in the afternoon.  “I’m going for a golden tan,” he said, and thought this felt much better than riding like a mad woman down a dusty road in the dark.

Mirowen, his house elf who appeared much too beautiful to be human, who raised Festuscato and his friends, Gaius, Dibs and Felix since they were eight and nine-years-old, sat on the wall in the shade and trotted out her motherly voice to scold him.  “You are a red head with very pale skin.  The only thing you will do is make freckles.”

“You should get a chair and turn your fairy weave clothing into a bikini and join me.”  Festuscato spoke like he made a reasonable suggestion.  He tried not to smile as he imagined what the sight of Mirowen in a bikini would do to the poor guardsmen who watched them.  Festuscato sighed as he saw Father Gaius approach. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” Festuscato said, as he closed his eyes to soak up some more sun.

“So, what else is new?” Gaius asked as he approached.

“I am thinking of changing your name to Father-forgive-me-for-I-have-sinned.”

“For you, that would make sense,” Gaius began, but Festuscato interrupted.

“How are the bishops getting along?”

Gaius shook his head.  “Patrick is the only one with any common sense, but they don’t much listen to him.  Lavius keeps trying to mediate the arguments, but it is hopeless.”  Lavius just became the newly ordained Bishop of Wales. “Palladius and Germanus disagree about everything.  Palladius keep saying they can’t do anything about the Palagian scourge, so they ought to be about converting the heathen.”

“Hey!  Palladius is not a Dominican and this is not Mexico.”

“As you say,” Gaius responded.  Festuscato’s friends learned to ignore him when he said things like that, things where they had no idea what he was talking about. “Germanus reminds me of that Cornish fellow, Gildas.”

Festuscato nodded and applied Gildas’ famous line, “Kill the bastards.  It must irk him that I have made the killing of priests, christian or druid off limits. A crucifixion offense.”

“He says it will be hard to kill all the Pelagian heretics by himself.”

“You might tell him I will crucify him as easily as any other murderer.”

“A bishop of the church?  Festuscato, I sometimes don’t know when you are joking.”

Festuscato opened his eyes and showed by their glare that he was not joking.  “Tell him until I hear from Pope Xystus or the Emperor Valentinian, I speak for both the pope and the emperor in this place.  Tell him a sword condemns a heretic to Hell but gentle persuasion can save a soul for Heaven.  Tell him whatever you like.”  Festuscato stood to walk off.  “Now I am overheated.”  Mirowen rolled her eyes and got up to follow him, so he told her, “And my hair is amber, not red.”  He walked off to the stairs down from the wall, and Gaius followed a few steps behind.

Festuscato walked to a pool of water just outside the courtyard.  The land fell away after a short distance, but a fairly large area had been dug out during the construction of the fort.  There were some grasses growing in the shallow end, but there was also a deep end where Festuscato stopped and thought out loud.  “I wonder if the water is cold.”  Mirowen stepped up beside him and shrugged, so he shoved her in.  “Is it cold?”

“Oh!”  She did not sound happy, but Festuscato noticed she changed her fairy weave dress into something more suitable for a swim.  Festuscato shrugged and jumped in after her.  Gaius came up, thinking hard, but did not hesitate to take off his robe. He laid it out carefully on the stones by the court and followed.

After a while, Sergeant Dibs came looking for them. Gaius and Mirowen shouted together, “Dibs!”  Dibs ignored them.  He came on a mission.

“Festuscato.  The bishops have a question that apparently only you can answer.  Lord Anwyn said he dare not answer in your place.”

Festuscato sighed and reached up a hand for Dibs to help him out.  As soon as they clasped hands, Festuscato shouted, “Now,” and Mirowen leapt up to grab the other hand.  They pulled him in.  He came up sputtering.  Then he shrugged, stepped into the shallows to remove his armor and weapons before he promptly splashed Mirowen, a good one right in the face.

Sometime later, the bishops arrived, wondering what happened to their messenger.  Patrick did not hesitate to peel off his robe and yell.  Festuscato knew a cannon ball when he saw one, though gunpowder and cannons were not invented yet.  He even called it a cannon ball, out loud, but did not explain.

Palladius, Germanus and Lavius looked more hesitant. Lavius at least laid his robe gently beside Father Gaius’ robe and waded in the shallows, complaining how cold it was the whole way.  Palladius finally disrobed and slipped into the deep end with a comment that it was not so bad if a person got over the shock of the cold all at once.  Germanus refused, though everyone encouraged him. He had that look that said it was undignified.  In the end, it took Patrick and Gaius getting out and dragging the poor old man in, and to be sure, once he got in, he even laughed for the first time that anyone knew.

Finally, the four elf warriors Festuscato called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse showed up with towels.  No one asked where the towels came from, or where they went after they served their purpose.  The Four Horsemen were covered with strong glamours to appear human, but no one really imagined that they were.

“All we need now is a good warm supper and a soft bed,” Festuscato said after the swim, and the bishops agreed.  They seemed to be getting along perfectly well after the cooling down in the hot afternoon.  Festuscato himself started yawning half-way through the evening meal, and he remarked that he did not even need a fine looking young woman to help him relax and sleep.  Naturally, at that moment, a messenger showed up at the gate yelling about Irish ships in the dock and wild Irishmen running through the town, making for the fort.

Anwyn, Lord of Caerdyf, Centurion Julius and Sergeant Marcellus jumped to their feet.  They missed the swim and still acted hot and bothered.  Julius started shouting orders, but the Four Horsemen backed into the shadows, sensing that it might already be too late.  Julius stopped in mid-order as twelve men crashed into the great hall.  Festuscato put his hand out to keep Mirowen seated for the moment as he admired the Irish sense of style.  They even looked like pirates.

Preview of Coming Attractions: April 10, 2019

The story of Gerraint, son of Erbin, in the days of King Arthur, will continue in the next book:

Kairos Medieval Book 3: Light in the Dark Ages

M3) Gerraint: The Holy Graal   13 weeks of posts

Gerraint feels his days of struggle should be behind him.  All he wants is to retire to Cornwall with Enid, his love.  But when ghostly hands carry a cauldron across the round table, he knows he has to act.  Arthur deftly turns all talk to the Holy Graal, but Gerraint knows he has to stop the older men from recovering the ancient treasures of the Celts and dredging up the past.  Christendom is only a thin veneer, and if Abraxas is allowed to strip that away, history might be irrevocably changed.

Gerraint’s story will begin again one year from now right after the posting of Avalon, Season Six, which will post over 22 weeks and  serve as an interlude between the end of the Kairos and Rome series and the beginning of the Kairos Medieval series.  Of course, the Avalon stories: the prequel, the pilot episode, and seasons 1, 2, and 3 are available as E-books, with the pilot episode free in most places.  Look under the author M G Kizzia.  Avalon, seasons 4, 5, and 6 will also go up as E-books as soon as I can work out some details… But I promised myself I would not turn this into a sales pitch…

First, we have two stories of the Kairos and Rome saga to complete:

Kairos and Rome Book 6: The Power of Persuasion

For those who enjoyed the Kairos and Rome book 5, Greta’s story (R5 Greta), which began on June 4, 2018, and which you can look up in the archives and read for yourself, you maybe realized the story is not finished.  Picking up the story several years later…

R6) Greta: To Grandfather’s House We Go   20 weeks of posts

Greta’s ward, Berry, and her sister Fae, along with Greta’s brother and Fae’s husband go north, looking for Berry and Fae’s father to bless their marriages.  They get trapped in the land of the lost, and the shattered pieces of the old god Mithras stand against Greta when she sets herself for a rescue mission.  Soon enough, the Iranian (Mithraic) tribes in the wilderness come to knock on Dacia’s door, which doesn’t have enough strength to stand against them.  And the Roman ranks are full of Mithraites.

Before that, as we did on April 2, 2018, roughly one year ago, we have the further adventures of Festuscato, Senator of Rome and all around cad, who is good at getting into trouble, but even better at wriggling out of the consequences.  That may be why the Emperor Valentinian and the Pope both tapped him to go to Britain and bring order out of the chaos that had taken over that former Roman province.  That may also be why the Bishop in London got him to take on a special assignment:

R6) Festuscato: The Dragon in Ireland   10 weeks of posts

Festuscato gets roped into providing safe passage for Patrick to get to Ireland.  Festuscato, knowing something of what to him is the history of these events, wants to see Patrick get started on a good foot.  That isn’t going to be easy when the so-called King of the Irish is against you, not to mention the reluctant druids, the Irish pirates, and the Saxon intruders.  The boy and his pet dragon don’t help, either.

 

 

MONDAY

R6 Festuscato:  Festuscato and the bishops relax in Caerdyf.  Before setting out, they are interrupted by a boatload of Irish pirates; an indication of things to look forward to…

Until then, Happy Reading

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