Avalon 7.11 The Sack of Rome, part 6 of 6

The Vandals strung out, moving through the woods.  After a half hour, Velleius Fulvia, contrary to what everyone knew about the man, got his forty mercenaries to sneak up on the rear of the column of barbarians.  Someone did point out later that the man, being a miser, hired and paid the mercenaries to protect his own house during this emergency.  Since his own house was not threatened, he probably wanted to get his money’s worth.

In any case, the hired mercenaries stealthily attacked the rear of the column, even as the front of the column came out into the open before the tenant houses.  From there, Hawdic planned to turn on the back of the house, but he had to wait for all of his men to catch up.  They bunched up to hear their commander’s orders, and thirty, and then thirty more arrows came out from the tenant houses.  Bunched up as they were, it seemed impossible that any of those arrows would miss.  Nevertheless, half of those arrows missed, but half struck someone and put some thirty Vandals out of the fight.

The dwarfs could not hold back.  They charged, and the men reluctantly followed.  The dwarfs gave no quarter, and the Vandals tried to run back into the woods, only to run into Velleius Fulvia’s mercenaries.  The Vandals got slaughtered.  Hawdic survived because he fell to the ground and played dead.  Festuscato lost one farmer who was mourned greatly by the community.  Velleius Fulvia lost a half-dozen mercenaries, and did not mourn for any of them, though their families may have mourned their loss if they had families.

The man up the orange tree reported everything he could see.  It was enough to know that Hawdic was finished.  Godamer cursed everything and yelled for his men to charge.  They charged like berserkers screaming for blood.  They got surprised by the rain of arrows that poured from the house.  Godamer realized he seriously underestimated the number of defenders.  Some men crouched behind the wall, to use the defenders own wall against them.  They shot toward the open door and windows, but no one could tell if they hit anything.  With all that, the Vandals almost made it, but a family of ogres chose that moment to arrive.

One of the clerics in the pantry nearly had a heart attack as the ogres tore through the house.  Before anyone could say stop, or wait, or no, the ogres rushed out the front door and immediately began to pound Vandals into the dirt.  The surviving Vandals screamed and ran, as any man would.  Godamer saved his skin by fainting.  Some Vandals ran down the road.  Some ran back toward Rome.  But neither got far.

Down the road, Felix, his son, and their four men all had their bows ready.  Kate and Decker had their rifles.  The others had handguns, all except Alexis who stayed out of it, and Elder Stow, who went back to work on his screen device.  Only a few of the Vandals survived, when they dropped their weapons, fell to their knees, put their hand on their heads, and cried from the terror of it all.

In the other direction, the Vandals ran into Festuscato and his troop.  Most of those quickly surrendered since the ogres chose to chase them.  Besides, the Four Horsemen were as deadly as any rifle.  Festuscato had to intercede with the ogres.

“Stop.  Sit.  Stay,” he yelled, though the ogres would have heard him no matter the volume.  As expected, he had to say everything twice before the commands got into their ogre brains.  The ogres sat and stayed but continued to roar for some time.  They tore up the cobblestones in that place, but at least they stopped killing people.

When Festuscato arrived in front of the house, he saw the travelers already arrived with some prisoners of their own.  Felix went up to the house and called for Fetus.  The travelers saw a woman come to the door, a pregnant woman by the look of it, not put off in the least by all the dead men in her front yard.

“Felix.  Gaius is here.  Dibs and Festuscato went to Rome to bargain with the Vandal King,” she said.

“I have friends of the Kairos,” Felix said, pointing back at his group.  “They are very powerful people come to us from the future.  Come and meet them.”

But then, Festuscato came into view and Morgan ran from the door to him.  The elves and fairies had already vanished from the house.  The dwarfs marched off, looking forward to a real meal.  They said they had to go back to the hills to protect the women and little ones, though they did not specify if they were talking about the farmer’s wives and children or their own wives and children.

“Husband,” Morgan said.  Festuscato got down, grabbed Morgan, and picked right up where he left off with his kiss.  Boston rushed up, but she had to wait.

Sibelius turned to Boston and offered a curtsey.  “Princess,” she said.  Lord Roan and Lord Atias walked up, nodding, while Gaius and Felix came from the house.  Lockhart and Katie walked up from down the road.  Dibs got down to join his friends, as Felix spoke.

“The Fearsome Foursome back together.”

“I’m not a princess yet,” Boston responded to Sibelius.  “My husband is still missing.”

“Yeah,” Dibs responded to Felix.  “A Centurion, a Cardinal, A seller of fine silk, and we are still not sure what Festuscato is.”

“I don’t have a husband,” Sibelius said, and lowered her eyes.

“Not fair,” Boston protested, and turned to Lord Atias, the only other elf present.  “You have to get her a husband.”  Atias smiled and nodded but Sibelius looked up at that thought.

“No, please.  No,” she said.

Festuscato took a break from loving his wife to give Boston her hug.  Then they all spent the next few hours preparing wagons to carry the dead to a field out back where they dug a mass grave.  In the morning, they would carry the armor, weapons, and shields of the near two hundred dead, along with the hundred and fifty survivors back to Geiseric, some fifty of whom would have to ride, being too severely wounded to walk.  Godamer and Hawdic were tied up, of course.  They would be sent back to Geiseric with a message.

The homes of the people outside the city are not part of the deal.  Stick to your agreement.  You have two hundred dead and some who are near dead.  Godamer and Hawdic are your headache.  Meanwhile, the dragon is not pleased that he lost one farmer in the struggle.  The man will be sorely missed.

Finally, everyone met everyone, and the clerics in the kitchen had to work overtime to get everyone fed.  Alexis, Lincoln, Nanette, and Sukki all helped, along with the household staff, but they had to feed a lot of people.

Katie talked with the empress, Licinia Eudoxia, and her daughter Eudocia.  Lockhart sat and said pleasant things, rarely.  Katie was learning not to say too much, but she had so many questions, and felt the least she could do was encourage Eudocia who might well be headed into a bad situation.  

“She will have children and raise them right,” the empress said.  “Things will get better.”

Morgan took Placidia under her wing right away.  Festuscato called her his ward, so Morgan hugged the girl, mightily.  Placidia was not sure about the arrangement—about leaving her mother and sister, but her attitude improved when she discovered Sibelius was really a house elf.  She became convinced, though, when she met Violet, a young fairy who agreed to be her friend.

Violet was roughly seventy-five years old, which is very young and not even full grown for a fairy.  In her big size, she appeared to be about fifteen, maybe sixteen.  Placidia liked the idea of Violet being older, especially, since she would be losing her older sister.  She did not yet realize that when she turned eighteen or twenty, Violet would still look sixteen.  When she turned thirty, Violet might pass for seventeen, probably not eighteen.  In fact, Violet would not be considered full grown until Placidia turned forty.  That could be very annoying if you were not prepared for it.  Still, for the present, both Placidia and her mother were happy with the arrangement.  The empress thought the older girl would keep Placidia’s feet on the ground.  Clearly, she did not know fairies at all.

Tony spent most of the night, and most of the six days the travelers stayed talking with Festuscato, almost monopolizing the man.  The travelers stayed to perform some basic maintenance, on the wagon, and particularly on the horseshoes.  When they got ready to go, Clyde the Celt promised to guide them through the hills to the other side of Rome, where they could pick up the main road to the north.  They thanked him and waved when they left him behind.

Tony spoke to Decker before the colonel moved a small way from the road to watch their flank.  “So, World War One, here we come.  I can’t imagine it, much less World War Two, or Three if there is one.”

“Two by my time,” Decker said.  “And did you happen to mention to the Kairos that the Wraith evaded us again?”

“I think everyone mentioned it,” Alexis said.

Decker looked at her sharply, before he nodded and moved out.

Up front, Boston, Sukki, and Nanette rode on the point, a little bit out from the rest.  They let their horses walk side by side and talked.  Nanette suggested Supergirl.

“Taken,” Boston said.  “And so is Wonder Woman.  I thought of those right away.”

“You mean, in the future…” Nanette did not know what to ask.

“No.  Just in fiction, but Sukki might get in trouble with the copyright people and all that.”  Nanette nodded as Boston spoke again.  “How about Astoundo Lady?”  Both Nanette and Sukki turned up their noses. “Well, something astounding, or astonishing.”

“How about Mega Girl,” Nanette suggested.

Boston shook her head.  “Sounds too much like Lego blocks, or maybe diapers.  It sounds like an anime character.  It sounds fat.”

“What’s wrong with fat?” both Nanette and Sukki asked at the same time.

“Where I come from, I don’t know.  I think it has become a swear word, as stupid as that sounds.”

“That is just because you are such a skinny bean,” Nanette said, and Sukki nodded.

They rode in silence for a minute until Boston exploded.  “I know.  Why don’t we name Sukki some take-off on Neanderthal, or Gott-Druk, or whatever?”

Sukki, who rode in the middle, finally had enough and spurred her horse to move out front.

“Where are you going?” Nanette asked.

Sukki shouted back.  “Someone has to keep an eye on where we are going.”



Another person known to regular readers. The travelers arrive in Britain looking for Gerraint the son of Erbin in the days of Arthur, Pendragon. They find the wraith got there ahead of them. Don’t miss it, The Guns of Camelot, Monday. Happy Reading


Avalon 7.11 The Sack of Rome, part 5 of 6

Katie remarked to Lockhart and Felix for the third time in three days that there did not seem to be very much traffic on the road.  Last time they came through, during the time of Julius Caesar, the road actually got crowded.

“Often, the crowd included soldiers,” Lockhart added.

Felix glanced back at his son, his four men and two wagons full of linen and a good bit of silk brought up from Egypt.  He agreed again and spoke again from his knowledge and experience.  “Italy has suffered from drought and bad harvests for almost ten years now.  Famine has reared its head in several places.  There isn’t much business going on.  As for soldiers, the nearest legion is south, facing Sicily, or north, facing the Huns.  I am not sure either is fully manned, and it would take them a month to get here in any case.  The one in the north is mostly comprised of Goths.  The one in the south is full of barbarians as well.  They might all fight for the Vandals.  Most Romans don’t fight these days.”

Lockhart copied Felix and glanced back.  Decker and Nanette followed the three out front.  Lincoln and Alexis presently drove the wagon.  Elder Stow sat in the wagon and worked on his equipment when Tony, who followed, did not interrupt him with conversation.  He turned his head to look out front.  Boston and Sukki were somewhere ahead, making sure the road was clear.  He had a serious question and turned again to Katie and Felix.

“Who is defending Rome, the city?”

Felix opened his mouth but did not get to say anything as Boston and Sukki came racing back with news.

“Barbarians.  Maybe thieves on the road, but I think barbarians.  They have long swords and shields with funny pictures, and they don’t look very Roman.  About fifty of them.”

The column stopped.

“They are getting off the road to hide in the trees, like a trap,” Sukki said.

“Ambush,” Boston told her, and Sukki nodded.


Lockhart looked at Katie, who looked at Felix, and Felix spoke.  “We are close enough to the city, so this road is the primary way from here.  We might cut down to the coastal road to Ostia, but that would put us into the hands of the Vandals, and the nearest cutoff is a couple of miles back.  We want to get to Festuscato’s manor house.  I am sure he has some clever way of keeping out the Vandals, but that is off this road.”

“Do you think they are attacking all merchants on this road, headed for Rome?” Lockhart asked.

“Not enough traffic to warrant that,” Katie answered.  She thought about it while Decker and Nanette squeezed up from behind.

“I smell a wraith,” Decker said.  “Or something like her.”

“Me, too,” Boston blurted out.  Sukki scanned the treetops and sky, expecting the wraith to appear at any moment.

“I agree,” Katie finally said.  “The Vandals want gold, and there isn’t much to be had on this road.  The wraith wants us dead, for some reason, and would know we are coming.  She would be the one to set a trap.”

“Ambush,” Boston and Sukki spoke together, and grinned at each other.

Lockhart nodded.  “Nanette and Felix.  Stay here and explain it to the others.  Decker, Boston, and Sukki, come with us.  We will scout ahead…”

“No!”  Meg, the wraith, appeared in front of them, fifty yards down the road.  She looked especially pale, hovering in the sunlight.  “How can you know?  How can you figure it out?  I hate you.  Die.  You must die.”

Boston shot a fireball at the wraith, but the wraith vanished.  As she did, they saw the fifty barbarians not more than a hundred yards off, running at them, screaming murder, holding their shields and swords.  Boston’s fireball struck two of them, but the others did not appear to even notice.

Decker and Katie pulled their rifles, and a half-dozen in the front row went down.  The rest just went around or leapt over their fallen men.  Lockhart and Boston pulled their handguns, as did Tony who rode up front to see what was happening.  Nanette did not have time to reach Decker’s handgun.  Sukki froze, not sure what to do.  The barbarians would surely reach them.

Elder Stow recognized the danger and stopped walking toward the front about half-way there.  He held his screen device.  He had it pre-set, to test it.  He shut his eyes and turned it on.  It sputtered and let out a spark.

“No, no, no,” he complained, and banged it against the palm of his hand.  It turned on, and Elder Stow grabbed the edge of the silk wagon with his free hand to steady himself against the impact.

Three Vandals made it inside the screen.  They stopped when they saw the rest of their men crash against the screen and fall back onto the road.  Everyone stayed too busy shooting the barbarians to notice, but Nanette saw and yelled for Sukki.  Sukki raised her hands, and the three got bathed in a bright light.  They collapsed straight to the ground. and Sukki got down from her horse, tears threatening to break out of her eyes at any moment.

“Please don’t be dead,” she said.  She met Nanette on the ground, and Alexis was not far, having walked up beside the wagons on the other side from Elder Stow.  “Please don’t be dead,” Sukki whispered.

The gunfire stopped when the surviving Vandals, about fifteen, turned and ran off, screaming.  Some thirty lay in the road, dead, or near enough.

Sukki felt relieved when the three proved to be knocked out, but other than terrible headaches, seemed undamaged.  “I tried to just stun them,” Sukki said.

“And you did,” Alexis responded, while Sukki’s sisters, Nanette and Boston both hugged Sukki and told her how proud they were of her.  Sukki was the youngest sister, after all.

The three got tied up and tossed into the back of one of Felix’s ox-drawn wagons.  Then, Lincoln would not let Alexis try to heal any of the others.  They spent an hour dragging the dead men off the road and forced the disarmed ones that were only wounded to sit with them.  Then they moved on.  Felix, and for the most part, all of the others felt certain if the wraith attacked them, she must be attacking Festuscato’s home at the same time.  They hurried to get there.


“What do you mean you can’t find Clorismund?” Godamer shouted.

Hawdic ducked.  “He must have taken his troop further down the road, or maybe he stopped at one of the other homes we passed.”

Godamer gave Hawdic a mean look but hit the man next to Hawdic in the chest, hard.  That man made a face, took two steps back and rubbed his chest, but he knew better than to fight back.  Godamer already turned and started yelling.

“Get your hundred,” he said to Hawdic.  Godamer took a breath and calmed a little.  “At the side of the house, there, you see a long, gentle slope of grass that ends in some trees at the bottom of the hill.  There, in the direction of the Tenant houses that can just be seen out back.  Take your hundred through the woods to the huts in the distance and circle around to come up on the back of the house.  You can attack the rear of the house where they might not be prepared.  Besides, now that they know we are here, we don’t want them running away with all their gold.”

Hawdic nodded but said nothing as he turned to get his men ready.  Godamer had it all figured.  Once Hawdic attacked the rear of the house and drew away the defenders, or some of them, anyway, he would charge his two-fifty… his two hundred… his one seventy.  But anyway, it would be enough to break in and kill the defenders.  He did not count more than thirty or forty archers behind the wall and in the house.  Then he added a thought.  “Curse Clorismund.”

Inside the house, Morgan got the defenders ready.  She had ten members of the household staff, led by Sibelius, all elves good with a bow and arrows.  Lord Atias had twenty more elves, all experts with the bow.  Lord Roan only had fifteen fairies.  Most of his and Lord Atias’ people were in Rome, keeping a watchful eye on the Vandals there.  But Porculus showed up with thirty dwarfs, and while they preferred the axe, they could shoot well enough.  Then, Clyde, the Celt arrived with another thirty men, tenant farmers who returned from the hills to defend their homes and the manor house.

“Lord Agitus has kept us fed in these hard times,” Clyde said.  “He provides good homes, and we have good lives and a fair wage, besides.  We don’t want to lose that.  Vercinex has thirty more at the houses to defend our homes.”  He tipped his hat to Morgan who leaned forward and kissed the old man’s cheek.

Porculus hooted for Morgan’s attention.  “I left Hawgtic and his band at the houses with the other defenders.  They are no good with a bow, but magic with the axe, in case the enemy is stupid enough to get close.”  He leaned forward in expectation of a kiss, but Morgan just tussled his hair like one might acknowledge an obedient child.  She smiled for him, which was almost like a kiss.  The only thing that would have been better would be if she had a plate overflowing with food.  

Porculus sighed, and Morgan thought.  She had over a hundred defenders stuffed into her house, since the elves and fairies abandoned the wall.  They remained outnumbered about three to one, but that had to be far more than the Vandals counted on.  Every window and door would send arrows by the handful, if the Vandals were foolish enough to press the attack.  And, if it got to where they had to withdraw, they had fifty more people to strengthen them when they reached the tenant houses.  She felt they had more than a fair chance to save her home, until Sibelius came running up.

“Lady, Mistress.  The vandals are moving through the woods that border the land of Velleius Fulvia, next door.  About a hundred.”

“Lord Roan?” Morgan called.

“They are obviously getting around behind us, to cut off any escape, and to attack us from the rear.  The Lady could escape now and be safe.”

Morgan shook her head.  “No.  My husband would not be happy with me if I gave up now and ran away.  We fight.”

Porculus offered a suggestion.  “We could tie her up and force her to leave.”

“You will not touch my Lady,” Sibelius shrieked, stepped in front of Morgan, and pulled her knife.  Morgan’s sister, Macy, heard from the window and stepped over to support her sister.  Ironwood, of course, supported his wife Macy, though Ironwood gave his fairy king a shrug and Lord Roan hid his grin.

“I’m not sure we could,” Lord Atias admitted to the dwarf.

Gaius, flanked by two clerics, came out of the back room.  “I know it is not over.  I should be in prayer, but my knees can only take so much,” he said.  “What?” he asked

Porculus merely shrugged and went to his window to wait.  “Could use something to eat while we are waiting,” he mumbled.

The others broke the tableau and went to their assigned places.  Macy gave Ironwood a kiss.  Sibelius curtsied for her mistress and returned to the side window to keep an eye on the Vandals in the woods.

“What did I miss?” Gaius asked.  Morgan merely smiled for him, stepped over to give Porculus a kiss on the cheek and then returned to her place.

Gaius shrugged, took the two clerics to the pantry and watched them get to work.  It occurred to him the defenders were probably hungry.

Avalon 7.11 The Sack of Rome, part 4 of 6

After the days of waiting, when both Vandals and Romans had been instructed about the terms of the agreement, the gates of Rome opened, and the invading army entered the city.  It took all day to bring the Vandals inside and set their living accommodations for the next two weeks.  Some tents were set up in various squares and open spaces around the city.  Many more families were displaced so the soldiers could stay in people’s homes.  Most of those families sought shelter in the churches of Saint Peter, Saint Johns, Saint Paul, and others.

When the army came in, Festuscato prepared to slip his small troop out of the gate to the Appian Way.  He took Empress Licinia Eudoxia, and her daughters, Eudocia and Placidia, and disguised them as soldiers, complete with dragon tunics.  They could ride well enough, so that was not a problem.

“We will know in two weeks if Geiseric keeps the agreement or not,” Festuscato said.  The empress agreed, but looked away, a sad expression on her face.

“I know Valentinian set this up,” she said.  “Eudocia is willing, even if it means marrying a barbarian.  It was her father’s wish.  Besides, she will be queen one day, and I have tried to raise her to do right.”

“Why are you fretting?

“It’s just, Africa is so far away.  I hear they have wild men there, and barbarians rule the city.  I fear for our safety in such a barbaric and strange place.”

“Hush,” Festuscato said.  “When your father sent you to Rome to marry Valentinian, a stranger to you, in a strange land, you found the courage, and held your face up high, even in front of Valentinian’s mother.”

“Not very high in front of her,” the empress admitted.  “That would not have been wise.” 

“Mother-in-law.”  Festuscato grinned.  “But Carthage is not that different from Rome.  Geiseric did not burn the city when he took it.  He wanted to rule there, not ruin the city.  It is full of Romans and a very Roman city.  Why, it is one of the five greatest cities in all of Roman lands.”

“Five?” the empress asked.

“Rome and Constantinople are obvious,” Festuscato responded.  “But Carthage and Alexandria in Egypt are close seconds.”  He handed the Empress his handkerchief.  She wept softly and wiped her eyes.

“And the fifth?”

“Jerusalem,” Festuscato admitted.  “Though when I visited there, it was hardly a village.  But the history…”

The empress nodded.  She blew her nose and put on her smile.  She kept a brave front for Eudocia and Placidia.  Eudocia turned seventeen and well understood her part in the play.  Placidia just turned thirteen and found it all exciting because everything was exciting at thirteen.  “We should join the others.”

“Wait.”  Festuscato said and had to frame his thoughts.  He chided himself.  His glib and loose tongue used to rattle things off without having to think first.  “You and Eudocia are facing a secure future.  Placidia is only facing uncertainty.  Eudocia’s charm and beauty will serve her well.  I have no doubt you will find a good place in Carthage and Geiseric’s court.  But Placidia, though bright, is a bit of a tomboy, neither graceful nor beautiful.  Her future in that environment will be risky and questionable.”

“What are you suggesting?”

Festuscato took a deep breath.  “I could keep her here.  She would be safe, and when she is of age, I can marry her to a good family.  I know a few where she will be both safe and happy.”

The empress stood and changed the subject.  “Would you consider taking the throne in the west?”

“Not me.  Not ever.  I hate politics.”

The empress nodded.  “You are as wise as I always imagined you to be.”  She went to join her daughters and Festuscato noticed she did not say no.


Godamer, Hawdic, and their three-fifty arrived outside the manor house and paused.  The house appeared to have been fortified, though they saw no men manning the fortifications.  All the same, Godamer thought to be careful even as he said, “This is the house.”

“We passed several wealthy houses to get here,” Hawdic said.  “Why this house?”

“While you spent the last two days, fretting, I checked with some of the locals,” Godamer answered, and sent several men up in the orange trees that lined the road to see what they could see.  “This is the house of Senator Agitus, reported to be one of the richest, if not the richest man in Rome.  The man owns land all over Italy, and all that wealth comes here.”  Hawdic did not respond, but he grinned and nodded.

“I see movement,” one man shouted down.

“I don’t see any people manning the walls,” another added, so the first man shouted down a suggestion.

“Maybe it is just chickens, or farm animals let loose.  The people may have headed to the hills.”

Godamer growled.  Maybe they took all their gold and silver into the hills with them.  He had not thought of that.

“Maybe they escaped with their treasure,” Hawdic said it out loud.  Godamer hit him.  Hawdic thinking was not something to be encouraged.

“Let’s see,” Godamer said.  He waved for the nearest group.  Fifty men began to move slowly up the slight rise toward the house, wary of the newly constructed walls, even if they could not see any men at those walls.  They got about half-way there.  Suddenly men popped up from behind those walls and let loose dozens of arrows.  The archers were amazingly accurate.  Godamer’s men turned and ran back to the road, but only about half made it.  The front yard of the house became littered with bodies, few of which lived long enough to moan and cry out.

Godamer would need to plan this out.  “At least we know the people are still there,” he said.

“That means maybe the gold is still there,” Hawdic said, hopefully.

“Damn,” Meg said.  She did not plan on the house being protected by the little spirits of the earth.  They could be a problem.  She dared not fully manifest.

Upstairs, Morgan gave her half-sister a hug.  Macy was a half elf, married to the fairy, Ironwood.  She was an excellent archer, but she did not like killing.  She shot one arrow from their second-story window and probably killed the man.  Now, she wanted to cry.  Ironwood flew up, got big and took over the comforting role.  Megan turned immediately to her elf handmaid.

“Sibelius, your thoughts?”

Sibelius lowered her own bow.  “We may have to consider plan B.  We should probably go downstairs, collect our parcels, and get ready to run the planned route to the tenant houses.  From there, we can get lost in the woods and make for the hills to join the others already there.”

“I don’t like giving up my home so easily,” Morgan said.

“I count roughly three hundred Barbarians in the road.  If their commander doesn’t care about his losses, a concerted charge could overrun the house in no time.”

“Compromise,” Morgan decided.  “We will go downstairs and get our things but stay by the front windows to watch.  We won’t run, unless we have to.”

“Lady,” Sibelius wanted to protest.  “In your condition, you should get a head start on the running.”

Morgan did not answer her.

Avalon 7.11 The Sack of Rome, part 3 of 6

Geiseric had all his captains with him, including Godamer, when the gate called the Porta Appia opened.  He would talk to this Pope who followed orthodox nonsense.  Clearly, the Arian way made sense of his world.  God the Father, they called Odin in the old days.  God the son, whether Jesus or Thor, served under his father, not being equal to the King of the Gods.  Still, Geiseric would listen to what the old man said.  He took Carthage by trickery.  He might take Rome in the same way.  The only one to watch was this dragon.

Geiseric heard in great detail about the dragon from Attila and about Attila’s destruction at the hands of the dragon.  He heard in the old days, how the servants of the dragon drove Castinus to utter madness.  They said Attila himself was mad and seeing things when he died, and his empire fell apart among his squabbling sons.  Geiseric was not one to be afraid of any man, but maybe he would listen to what this dragon had to offer, and maybe he would be willing to make a deal.

The Pope walked out of the gate, followed by a long string of clerics and monks.  Geiseric ignored them.  Twelve men rode out, like an honor guard for the Pope.  Six, he knew, were guards, such as manned the walls of Rome.  With such formidable walls, Geiseric knew it would cost him greatly, and possibly months to break into the city.  Perhaps another way could be found.  He shifted his sight, because the other six riders wore the dragon tunic.  He looked for the red hair.  He knew that one was the dragon, himself.

“What have you to say, old man,” Geiseric turned to the Pope and shot straight to the point.

“Know you that this great and ancient city has become the city of God, and those who walk her streets do so in reverence and peace.  And I, unworthy servant that I am, follow in the footsteps of Peter as he followed the Lord of Heaven and Earth.  I am honored to speak for the people, the city, and in the name of God.  Here, then, is the word.  That you do not abuse the people, either by rape or slaughter, and that you do not burn the homes of the City of God.  Agree to this, and you may take what you wish of gold and silver, brass and bronze.  We care not for earthly treasures, for the power in the earth that once made Rome ruler of the whole world has been overthrown by a greater, and almighty power.  So, take what you will, but tread lightly.  What is done in darkness will be shown in the light.  God Almighty will watch, and he will neither slumber nor sleep.  This you know.”

Geiseric rubbed his chin and got thoughtful, but at last, his curiosity got the best of him.  “What says the dragon?”

“It is a fair offer,” Festuscato began.  “You see the walls.  You see the guard, men enough to make your entrance into the city long and costly.  You have no siege engines.  They will take more time to build.  But Italy in these last few years has suffered from poor crops.  There is not much food out in the countryside.  You will have a hard time feeding all your men all that time.  And you know, hungry men do not fight well.  No, I say it is a fair offer.  If you will pledge not to harm the people or burn the city, the Pope will open the gates to you and give you one week to collect all the gold and silver you can carry.”

‘One month,” Geiseric bargained.

“Ten days,” Festuscato countered.

“Two weeks,” Geiseric countered again, and after a moment’s thought, Festuscato held out his hand to shake.

“Deal,” he said, and Geiseric grinned, having gotten the last word in the bargain.  Festuscato figured he would not realize until later that he got tricked into agreeing to something he had not intended.  Festuscato also figured he needed to distract the man lest Geiseric figure it out right then and there.  “A word in private,” he said, and escorted the King of the Vandals away from all the others.

“The King of the Jutes once called Rome a fat cow, ready to be slaughtered,” Festuscato spoke, softly.  Geiseric liked that image.  “The truth is, the cow has become very lean, her meat stringy and full of gristle, and her milk all but dry.  Her strength and money are spent.  Give us tomorrow, and one more day after that to tell the people not to resist, but to give you all they have.  We will open the gates on the third day, and you may have your two weeks.  Listen, I understand some Romans will be stupid and stubborn.  There will be some bloodshed, but you must keep it to a minimum.  Do you know what I mean when I say how stupid and stubborn some men can be?  Any of your own people like that?”

Geiseric thought.  He nodded slowly, then he looked at a couple of his captains and rolled his eyes.

“I say, keep the bloodshed to a minimum, because that is what the lady requires.”

“Eh?  What lady?”

“For your ears only,” Festuscato said, and stepped closer, and spoke secretly, which garnered Geiseric’s full attention.  “The usurper Petronius Maximus and his son are dead, killed by the Romans themselves.  But I managed to spirit away Licinia Eudoxia and her two daughters, one being Eudocia who I believe my good friend Valentinian betrothed to your son.  Is that not so?”

Geiseric did not answer, but Festuscato saw the Vandal’s jaw fall.  The so-called rescue of the Empress and her daughter, his son’s betrothed, was one pretext he used to justify his attack on Rome.

“The lady and her daughter have agreed to go with you and fulfill the pledge of peace between Rome and Carthage, but only if you limit the blood spilled, and do not burn the people’s homes.  The women are presently under my protection, so if you commit atrocities in the city, they will not go.  As the Pope has said, God will be watching you.  I have no doubt God will see everything, but so you know, I will be watching too.”

Geiseric rankled at the thought that this dragon could keep anything from him.  He reacted.  “How will you watch to know what so many men do?” he asked.

“Ironwood,” Festuscato called in the right way and the fairy appeared.  After a moment to get his bearings, Ironwood became full sized, looking like a true warrior, and went to one knee.


“Informal.  Geiseric is a friend.  You may sit on my shoulder if you don’t mind.”

“It is an honor,” Ironwood said, and he got small again and fluttered up to take a seat on Festuscato’s shoulder with a minimum of hair pulling to get comfortable.

Festuscato let out a small “Ouch.”  It was mostly an act.

Geiseric pulled in his breath before he laughed.  “All right, dragon.  We will keep the blood to a minimum, but you understand, I do not have little things to watch all my men.”

“Understood,” Festuscato said, and decided to save the last for another time.  When Geiseric prepared to sail, he would tell him never to come back to Rome.  To do so would be his death and there would be nowhere on this earth he could run to hide.

“So, these?” Geiseric pointed at the others that wore the dragon tunic.  His curiosity continued, or perhaps he sought something to distract himself from being backed into a corner of a bargain he did not want to make.

“My centurion, Dibs.  A friend from childhood,” Festuscato said, pleasantly, and with equal pleasantry, he added, “These others are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death.  Perhaps you read about them.”  Ironwood snickered, softly.  Geiseric’s eyes got big, and he thought it best to turn to the Pope.

“I accept your terms.  You may have tomorrow and the next day to prepare the people.  Then you will open the gate and we will help ourselves to your earthly treasures.  We will endeavor not to harm the people or the homes, but we will also look for newly dug holes in the yard.  My men know all the tricks to evade the tax collectors.  Two weeks, and then we will leave.”

“The bargain is made,” Festuscato said.

The Pope nodded, turned to walk back to the city, and whispered, “Pray everyone keeps it.”

Festuscato walked beside him.  Dibs walked the horses.  “No,” Festuscato said.  “I believe you put the fear of God in him.”

The Pope looked up.  “And you put the fear of other things into him.”

“Not really.  But it is hot out here at high noon.  I was afraid he would dither all day.  I just showed him the advantages of the bargain.  He was not hard to convince.”

“Prosper of Aquitaine said he should have recorded your conversation with the King, but he could not hear it well.”

“No, no.”  Festuscato turned to the man who walked only two steps behind.  “We are just the military escort.  That should be assumed and probably does not even need to be mentioned.”

“And the fairy?”

“Definitely not mentioned,” Festuscato said.  “Ironwood, go home to your wife.”

“Lord,” Ironwood said before he vanished, as Festuscato sent him to his wife.

“But listen.  This is important.”  Festuscato framed his thoughts.  Sometimes, keeping history on track and moving it in the right direction required a gentle touch.

“I am listening,” the Pope said.

“You understand the empire in the west is dead, overrun with barbarians, maybe having a few last gasps.  All that remains is the church, and many of the bishops listen to you.  You need to make something like an underground empire to keep civilization alive.”

“The church is not made for war and conquest.”

“No.  But you are made to read and write, to educate the people, to uphold a strong moral foundation in the world.  Love your neighbor, not to mention love your enemy will be a hard sell with the barbarians.  But the future is in your hands.”

“So I have often thought, and prayed about.”

“You are the only light to keep the whole world from falling into the pit of darkness.”

They waited a moment while the gate opened, and they walked in.  Then the Pope spoke again.  “Let us get through these next two weeks of darkness, first.

“Two days and two weeks,” Festuscato responded.  “Quite right.”  He veered off to return to the inn and let the Pope go his way.

Outside, Godamer spoke quietly as he and Hawdic rejoined their men.  “We will wait the days.  When the gates open and the king and the army go into the city, we will slip off down the road to the rich villas that will be minimally guarded, if they are guarded at all.”

“Can’t we go sooner?” Hawdic asked, looking anxious.  “The king will not miss our company,” 

“Patience,” Godamer said.  “We don’t want others to see and maybe figure out our plan.”

Meg, the Wraith clenched her fists.  “Fools,” she said to herself.  “They will barely have time to get there, destroy the loved ones of the Kairos, and turn to set the trap for the travelers.”  She had to wait.  She understood.  She went into the city and thought while she waited, she could at least give some Romans nightmares.



Rome opens the gates, but down the road, perhaps things will not go the way the Wraith would like. Until Monday, Happy Reading


Avalon 7.11 The Sack of Rome, part 1 of 6

After 416 A.D. Rome

Kairos 96: Senator Festuscato Cassius Agitus

Recording …

The travelers stopped in the afternoon in Capua, three- or four-days shy of Rome.  Though they had several hours before sundown, they opted to spend the night there.  The inn seemed nice, and they only had one other customer, a merchant bringing goods from Brundisium.

“On the heel of the Italian boot,” Lincoln explained.  “At the beginning or the end of the Appian Way.  One end, anyway.”

“We got that,” Lockhart said.  “We have been this way a few times.”

“Tell us about Festuscato,” Katie said.  She looked at the other table where Decker, Nanette, Boston, Tony, Sukki and Elder Stow all sat quietly waiting for their supper.  She looked the other way and saw only the merchant and his two mates.  She figured they were safe to talk more or less openly.

Lincoln pulled out the database and reported.  “Festuscato Cassius Agitus.  A Roman Senator, first class.  I figure we arrived in the first twenty years of his life or in the last twenty years or so.  The middle twenty he spent in Gaul, Britain, the Hun Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire.  He even visited the Holy Land before he went back to Gaul, kicked Attila the Hun’s butt, and retired with his new wife, some fourteen years younger, to his villa on the Appian Way.”

“That is a pretty good summary,” the merchant spoke up from the other table.

Lockhart, Lincoln, Alexis, and Katie all looked, and Katie spoke.  “You know Festuscato?”

The man nodded.  “Since childhood.  It was me, Festus, Gaius, and Dibs.  That is short for Diboronicuous.  Festus shortened it to Dibs because he said otherwise, the boy sounded like a dinosaur.  He never did explain what a dinosaur was; but anyway, he became Dibs.  My name is Felix.”

“You grew up together?” Alexis asked.  She scooted Lincoln down to make room.  Katie did the same on the other side.  Felix stood and instructed one young man to check on the merchandise and their wagon, then he and the other young man came to the table

“My son, Rupert,” Felix said, and explained.  “His mother is a Frank.”  Lockhart poured two cups of beer, and Felix turned to his son.  “You see, Rupert.  It is like I have been trying to teach you.  If you have something the customer wants, in this case, I assume information, they will take care of you.”

“Father,” Rupert said.  He seemed a young man of few words.

Felix turned to the travelers.  “So, may I ask.  Where did you meet Lord Agitus?”

“I suppose it would not do to call him an old friend,” Lockhart said, and Felix shook his head.

“We haven’t actually met Festuscato, exactly,” Alexis said.  “But we met some of the others, if you know what I mean.”

“All of the others,” Lincoln said.

“Our journey is through time,” Katie admitted.

“We are trying to get back to our own time period,” Alexis admitted.

Felix’s eyes grew big, and he spoke to his son.  “Rupert.  Go check on the merchandise and stay in the barn with the others.”


“You know the silk need to be kept dry and clean.  Now, go on.  Some things are not for your ears.”

The young man groused but got up and walked out.

“We don’t mind if he stays,” Katie said, with a glance at the others to see if they had objections.

“No, but Festuscato might,” Felix said.  “He is very secretive about the other lives he has lived.  Gaius, Dibs and I, and his wife, Morgan know, but that is about it.  Mirowen knows, but she is living with the Geats, and anyway, she is a house-elf.  General Aetius might have known, but he got killed, they say on Emperor Valentinian’s order.  I don’t believe the emperor knew, but he got killed, too.  People blame the current emperor, Petronius Maximus for that.  Personally, I try to avoid politics.  Too much backstabbing.”

“A good phrase,” Katie said.

“I think he means literal backstabbing,” Lincoln said, as Boston came over and took the spare seat.

“Who is your new friend?” She asked.

“Felix,” Alexis answered.  “He is a silk merchant.”

“Ecclesiastical vestments,” Felix explained.  “Fathers, friars, bishops, cardinals.  Mostly wool and linen.  The silk in this shipment will be used in the Pope’s new robe.”

“455,” Katie partially whispered to Lockhart., though everyone heard.  “Petronius Maximus doesn’t last very long, if I recall.”

“So, what happens?” Lockhart asked at normal volume.

Katie shrugged and looked at Lincoln.  They all looked at Lincoln, who got out the database and read before he said, “Killed by a mob, when the Vandals sack Rome.”

“They are going to Vandalize Rome?” Boston said with a giggle, and in the timing of the little ones, the door to the inn swung open and a man tromped in.

Clearly, the man had ridden hard, and he said, “The Vandals landed their whole army at Ostia, unopposed.  They are headed for Rome.  Every able-bodied man is called to defend Rome.  Beer.”  He finished, pounding his fist on the bar.

People looked at Felix.  He looked worried.  He spoke softly.  “My wife, and daughters, and young son are in Rome.  I need to get them out.”

Decker stepped over to their table.  “I see the Kairos has Vandals to deal with.  I wonder what other monsters are involved.”

“Maybe he will pull a monster out of his hat,” Boston suggested.

Felix smiled.  “I see you do know Festuscato, as you said.”


Festuscato brushed his wife’s plain brown hair back so he could gaze into her eyes—eyes that could not decide if they wanted to be light brown or green.  Morgan’s eyes always looked mysterious to him, though full of promise.  Right now, they were full of tears, but Festuscato chalked that up to her being pregnant.  She was not the type to show fear in the face of an enemy.

“Why must you go?” she asked.  She bit her tongue.  She knew it was not only his duty as a Roman Senator, but also his job in the universe.  Something of great historical significance would happen with these Vandals.  He had to be there.  Besides, Pope Leo himself asked.

Festuscato did not answer.  He kept thinking about Morgan’s lovely eyes.  His own eyes were lighter than most, but still a very dull and plain brown.  He figured, if it was not for his red hair, his face would have no character at all.  He kissed her, and she kissed him back like it was good-bye forever.

The two sergeants, Marcellus and Tiberius stood by their horses, talking quietly.  They both had ten men to watch, but Marcellus, being senior, oversaw all the men.  The Centurion Dibs led another ten, men that mostly worked with him in Gaul, and he commanded the full thirty—hardly a century, but Rome had fallen on hard times.

Tiberius pointed toward the tenant houses where the farm families lived, out behind the two-story Appian Way manor house where Lord Agitus and his lovely wife, Morgan lived.  The last of those farm families headed into the hills.  Tiberius repeated what Lord Agitus said.  “Better safe than sorry,” and Lord Agitus was usually right about such things.

Marcellus looked at the four horsemen, the elves that Lord Agitus called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  They were already mounted and waiting patiently.  Even their horses waited patiently.  Marcellus spent years working with the four, both in Gaul and Britannia, but they still seemed creepy sometimes.  They painted little symbols on their helmets that covered their faces completely.  Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death.  It was the only way to tell them apart, though somehow, they found horses to match the description in the Holy Book.  Pestilence sat on a white horse.  War’s horse was chestnut red.  Famine sat on a black horse and Death on a pale gray.  Marcellus shivered, and heard a noise.  He gladly turned his head to see Centurion Dibs and Father Gaius come out the front door of the manor.

“You need to go,” Gaius said.  “The Vandals have already started busting the aqueducts to cut off Rome’s water supply.  The Pope intends to confront them the way he confronted Attila, the Hun.”

Dibs shook his head.  “Gaiseric is in his right mind.  He is not sick and seeing things the way Attila was.  Besides, Gaiseric is reported to be an Arian and thinks little of the orthodox faith.  No reason he should listen.  He might cut the Pope to pieces.”

“Faith,” Gaius said.  “We must trust in the Lord, whatever happens.”

Dibs huffed.  “I think your being made a cardinal has addled your brains.”

“Not entirely,” Gaius responded.  “We do what we can, and trust God to do the rest.  God will work everything out for good no matter what.  You have to believe that.”

“I believe we need to do what we can.”  Dibs stopped walking and turned to wait for Festuscato to finish kissing his wife.  “I believe Festuscato may be able to do something, if anyone can.”

“God has used him before,” Gaius nodded.  “That is why I convinced Pope Leo to send for him.”

Dibs nodded and turned to his horse.  “Ready,” he said, while Gaius gave some last-minute instructions to the dozen priests and monks that would accompany the troop back to Rome.  Marcellus and Tiberius mounted and got the men up and mounted.  Festuscato looked at the sky.

“It might rain,” he said.

“It might,” Morgan agreed, and the two turned away from each other without another word.  Festuscato slipped into his white tunic with a dragon painted on the front.  All the soldiers wore dragon tunics, so they looked more medieval than Roman.  Festuscato mounted and started down the Appian way to Rome.  The troop fell in behind.

Morgan acknowledged Gaius when he came to walk with her.  She called for Sibelius, her house-elf handmaid, but she was right there.  Sibelius was never far, especially since Morgan was five months pregnant, and showing.

“Let us see what preparations Lord Atias and Lord Roan have made to fortify the house,” Morgan said.  Atias was the elf king and Roan, the local fairy king.

“You must trust in the Lord,” Gaius said.

“I trust in God,” Morgan said, gruffly.  “It is the Vandals I don’t trust.”