In Britannia Salutem

452 AD
An Alternate Night of the Long Knives

No, not that one! This is the one that has gone down in infamy in British (NOT English) folklore. I wondered what would happen if Vortigern was not a complete idiot (just one most of the time) and showed a touch of the Vitali (sorry Cymraeg:eek:) Also apologies to H.E.Marshall whose account of this event I have modified slightly.

But Hengist was as cunning as ever. He sent a message to Vortigern saying that he did not know that Vortimer was dead. “I came to fight for you, to help you to regain your throne,” he said. “But now that you are King again there is no need to fight. Let us be friends. Let us all, Britons and Saxons, meet together at a great feast. Let us forget our quarrels and make peace. Then I will go home again with my soldiers.”

Vortigern told the British nobles that Hengist wanted to make friends, but he and his closest nobles made plans. They replied that the Britons really did not wish to fight any more, so agreed to meet Hengist in a friendly way near the Great Henge, and feast together.

A day was fixed. It was in May. The grass was green and the sky blue, and the birds sang on this bright spring day. From all sides came the British nobles in their gayest holiday clothes, apparently wearing no armour and carrying no weapons.

The Saxons, too, came gaudily clad and seemingly unarmed.

There was laughter, and talk and friendly greeting, and the feast began. After an hour, Vortigern stood up and toasted Hengist “I salute you, may there be everlasting peace between our peoples.” That was the prearranged signal .Suddenly, every British noble drew his dagger, which he had hidden in his stocking, and stabbed the Saxon next to him. The Saxons fought and struggled bravely, but they were taken by surprise even though they had also planned such a treachery.

Only two of all the Saxons were saved. One was Hengist, the king, because Vortigern had ordered his soldiers not to kill him; the other was Rowena his daughter, wife to Vortigern. Hengist was badly wounded and looked at Vortigern aghast “It was a peace meeting!” Vortigern leaned over him and whispered “You planned similarly. If it had been with Ambrosius this meeting then we would have been unarmed. However you have already proved yourself oathbreaker. There can only be one peace between your folk and mine that of death.” With that Vortigern stabbed Hengist through the heart.

What happens next?
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Well, assuming the OTL version is historical and not anti-saxon propaganda, then perhaps an initial fiercer settlement by Hengist's relatives?
In all I don't see much changing apart from the addition of an expiation scene in the Historia Brittonum - ie the Saxons were slaughtered due to an earlier betrayal
452 AD

Sorry, this idea won't get out of my head. So with heartfelt apologies to Rosemary Sutcliff, Mary Stewart et alia here goes!:eek:

Ambrosius Aurelianus sat in his tent sipping a very watered wine and thinking. Before him were the ruins of Calleva Atrebatum. It had never recovered from the chaos which had ensued at the end of Carausius’ rebellion over a hundred years before and it had been finally abandoned in the last few years with the onset of the current madness.

The last forty years had been one missed opportunity after another to stabilise Britannia. From Honorius washing his hands of the province to Aetius ignoring their last plea for help. Mind you he could understand that with Aetius having to deal with Atilla and his Huns. He could even understand why Vortigern had invited Hengist and Horsa with their warriors into the country. God knows that last Pictish invasion had been hard enough to stop even with their help. However granting them Tanatus and turning a blind eye to them settling in Cantii territory!

His hopes had risen when Vortimer had rebelled and made common cause with the remaining Romans. Vortigern had been driven back to his tribal lands and a peace of some sort was beginning. However Vortimer had been poisoned and it had all fallen to pieces yet again. Vortigern had swept back out of his strongholds and was even now meeting Hengist at the Great Henge. How he expected to be able to trust that Saxon to keep to any bargain after his previous history was beyond Ambrosius’ belief. However whatever else Vortigern had proved himself to be a survivor.

There was a commotion outside his tent and Ambrosius pulled himself out of his reverie. A mud stained messenger was hurried into his tent. Ambrosius’ aide Marcus spoke to him, shook his head in obvious disbelief and ushered the messenger towards Ambrosius.

“Sir, a message from your cousin Utha”

Ambrosius shook his head in disbelief. He and Utha had not been in contact for decade or more. Not since Utha had declared for Vortigern. He looked at the messenger and waved him forward.

“What is the message?”

The messenger looked frightened and then spoke

“Sir, my Lord Utha sends word that there has been a great slaughter at the Henge. Vortigern broke the truce and slaughtered the Saxons present to a man including Hengist, Octa and all his advisors. My Lord also says that it is obvious that the Saxons had also intended to break the truce as they were also all armed. He adds that he knew nothing of this plan and would have had nothing to do with it even if he had.”

A frosty smile broke on Ambrosius’ face.

“Na, he wouldn’t have. Utha has many faults but treachery such as this? Na, he would have had nothing to do with it. What does he want?”

“My Lord implores you to ride to Tanatus and seize it before more Saxons arrive. Once word of this slaughter reaches them they will declare blood feud and what has gone before will be as nothing in comparison. He already has received word that Aelle is marching south rather than towards Caer Ebrauc. Although he has been at odds with Hengist he will not let this matter rest once he hears of it!”

Ambrosius sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. What had that idiot Vortigern got them into now?
452 AD

Utha stood glowering at the burial pits that had been dug for the Saxons. He was Lord of Deva but had been reduced to Carnifax man because he had dared to disagree with Vortigern before this outrage. God knew what was going to happen now! He knew what would happen if it had been Britons who had suffered this outrage and the Saxons were not that different. There would be blood from coast to coast before this was settled. At least he had been able to bury the Saxon dead, some of Vortigern’s cronies had wanted to leave them to the crows but he had still had enough influence to get Vortigern to agree to bury them. But here? They should have been moved and buried nearer Tanatus. This place would become a magnet for any subsequent Saxon War Host and if they were successful would split the Britons in two.

Utha looked up and saw four men approaching him. They were Cunoval of the Brigantes, Lucius of Elmet and Urien of Rheged, no surprise there, they maintained an unofficial alliance in the North and had managed to keep the raiding parties from both the Angles and the Hibernians to a minimum. The fourth man caused him to raise an eyebrow, it was Cador of the Dumnoni. He was a tribal loyalist but usually kept himself and his tribe away from any involvement apart from dealing with Hibernians. None of them had been involved in this latest disaster from Vortigern, they were too honourable and too prone to letting Vortigern have the truth rather than the flattery that his favourites ladled upon him.

They met a little way from the grave diggers. Who knew where Vortigern had ears. Utha inclined his head at Cador. Urien chuckled “Hard to believe I know, but Cador’s opinion of Vortigern is even lower than ours! Especially now. Also he has been keeping eyes and ears on that stiff necked cousin of yours as they have a common border and is impressed with the way that he has maintained trade with Gaul despite all that has happened.” “Indeed, even I have to give him that” Utha replied “If not for Ambrosius we would have lost nearly all contact with the rest of the world. For example apparently Atilla has descended into Italy this time and Aetius can do nothing about it.” “Well at least if he has gone that way he won’t be pushing everybody out of his way in Germania and Gaul which means the pressure might lessen on us” commented Lucius ”but then again Sisyphus might manage to get his stone all the way up the hill!”

“Any way, what is our beloved and glorious leader doing?” asked Utha. It was Cador who answered “He is drunk with his Cambrian sycophants and they are outdoing each other with their boasting of how they are now going to drive the Saxons back into the sea!”

“Some hope” Cunoval snorted “Anyway it’s Aelle we need to be worried about. This is a most atypical war party that he’s leading.” “How so?” asked Utha. Lucius replied “Well according to Quintus (leader of Caer Ebrauc), he stopped marching towards Eboracum (as Quintus still insists on calling it!) turned and is now marching down the Fosseway, but is not plundering or burning. Quintus thinks that he is just trying to get our attention as he ignores Quintus’ scouts and lets them move freely. Whatever Quintus’ faults as a ruler, he’s rarely wrong on military matters.”

Utha thought for a moment “True, Lucius go and meet him and find out what he wants, you’re the one who has had most dealings with him and unlike Hengist he seems to keep his word! We’ll follow with our troops. I doubt whether Vortigern will notice or care that we’ve gone.” “Are we going to let Ambrosius know what’s going on?” asked Cunoval “He may be a stiff necked Roman but he does care about this island.”

“I already have” Utha answered “I have also asked him to try and take Tanatus before more Saxons arrive. God knows what their reaction to this debacle will be! Or Aelle’s for that matter, even though he hated him as much as us!”
452 AD

Aelle smiled wryly to himself as he rode with his host along the Fosseway. He had received multiple reports of British scouts keeping an eye on him. He had alarmed his chiefs by letting them be unmolested. He wasn’t interested in plunder or land this time, instead he wanted to meet the leaders of the Britons in this area. He had an interesting proposition for them which he felt sure that they would accept (well at least Lucius, Cunoval and Quintus, possibly also Utha and Urien).

He was going to propose that they accepted the fact that not only did the Angles now control the old tribal lands of the Coritani and the Parisii as Lindsey and Deira respectively but also that they had no further plans for expansion. They had no need, they already controlled a far larger area than even his Great Grandfather had done in the old country and it was more than he needed for the resettling of his people.

The Britons had been lucky the wholesale failure of crops had not affected them as much as in Europe. Even so the lands that they had occupied had been virtually deserted only a few diehards had remained farming their ancestral lands and he had ordered that they be left alone as long as they followed his rules. In the main they had done so or had left for lands still held by the Britons. He was even considering that the title of King of the Angles, which had last had any meaning when his grandfather had held it, was now actually more than an empty honour.

If it hadn’t been for those Loki spawned thugs Hengist and Horsa and their power crazed dreams the whole movement of his people to these new lands might just have been carried off peacefully. Well his own ancestor’s actions when the Romans were still here hadn’t helped, Aelle admitted to himself and the Britons did have long memories when it came to grudges and grievances.

Eardberht his sister-son caught his attention and Aelle beckoned him forward.
“Sire, there is a troop of Britons on the road ahead of us. They bear the symbols for a parley and are led by Lucius of Elmet. However our scouts have reported a much larger contingent of British warriors a day or so behind with the banners of the Brigantes, Rheged and Deva to the fore.”

Interesting, thought Aelle, what of Vortigern and Hengist? He spoke “Let us meet them, only my household are to come with me.”
“What if it is a trap?” queried Eadberht. “Na” replied Aelle “If it was, Lucius would not be there, he at least has proved himself a man of his word. If he is displaying the symbols for a parley then he will at least listen to us.”

So Aelle and his household spurred on to meet the Britons. A meeting that could well change the fate of this island.
452 AD

Lucius nudged his horse and rode about just over a bowshot from his troop. He sat waiting for Aelle. He had dealt with Aelle two or three times over various matters and found that he actually kept his side of a bargain. As Lucius also did there was as much trust between them as was possible between an invader and the invaded. Aelle rode into view with his household and kept coming whilst his troops stopped.

Lucius tugged slightly at his breastplate, it never felt like it fitted properly, whilst wishing he was more his father’s height than his mothers. He had forgotten how tall Aelle was, not that it really mattered when you were on horseback. Suddenly there was a shout from the Angles, Aelle stopped, turned round and waited. A horseman trotted to him and there was an urgent conversation. Aelle shook his head and came back to meet Lucius.

“Are you going to promise everlasting peace, Lucius?” growled Aelle in his slightly archaic Latin. Lucius bit back the need to swear. Aelle knew, this could make life difficult.
“Na, but I’m not inviting you to a feast either!”

Then Aelle did something that Lucius really did not expect. He put back his head and roared with laughter.
“I wish that I had been there to see Hengist’s face when he realised that he had been beaten to the treachery by dreamer Vortigern!” Aelle chuckled. “It’s a pity that they both didn’t end up dead! It would have made life here a lot simpler!”

Lucius must have looked stunned because Aelle continued “Na, I never would expect that you, Cunoval, Utha nor Urien would take part in such a deed. Na, only twisted snakes like Hengist and Vortigern would consider such treachery. Although I have to admit surprise that Vortigern connected with the real world enough to think of it!”

Lucius then asked “What do you want, Aelle? You haven’t come down the Fosseway just for the sake of it.” Aelle then told Lucius what he planned. Lucius sat there in stunned silence. This could bring much needed peace and stability to the North. It would just leave the Hibernians and those Angles and Jutes who had settled north of the wall. Well the Angles and Jutes were Lot’s problem. The Chief of the Votadini was nearly as much of a snake as Vortigern so Lucius did not spend a lot of time worrying about him. It would free resources to deal with the Hibernians and to rebuild.

“I cannot promise anything Aelle, although your plan has my conditional support. I cannot see either Cunoval or Utha objecting. It won’t impact much on Urien, however it does depend on where you think your border with Quintus will be.”

Aelle nodded, “Ja, what you say makes sense. Well Cunoval, Utha and Urien are less than a day away behind you and Quintus is half a day behind me. Send messages and let’s meet here in a day’s time.”
452 AD

Cador strode into Vortigern’s tent. Vortigern was sprawled on the seat acting as his throne and was nursing a cup of wine. Obviously trying to lesson his hangover, Cador thought dismissively. Vortigern was a dreamer and as a good tribesman Cador respected dreamers. However he was also enough of a realist to know that they were either very successful or totally dangerous to their own. Vortigern was both!

Vortigern stared blearily at him and spoke

“Ah Cador, have you finally come to sing my praises?”

Cador swallowed his initial response and replied

“I have always recognised you as my High King, Sire and your stratagem was a success.”

Vortigern looked sharply at him. Cador realised that he wasn’t as drunk as he had first appeared.

“But not as honourable as you would have wished, eh?”

“Honour is a moveable feast, Sire.”

“At least you are a realist Cador, unlike those four northern fools! Speaking of whom, where are they?”

“They have left with their forces, Sire. To attempt to deal with an incursion by Aelle of the Angles in the lands of Elmet and Ebrauc.”

That was honest, thought Cador, if not entirely truthful.

“Without asking my leave?” Vortigern sounded angry “How dare they insult me so?”

“They did not wish to disturb you, Sire, over a matter of less importance than driving the Saxons back into the sea.”

“Oh well, no matter. I will deal with them later.”

Vortigern looked gloomily into his cup and a servant hastily refilled it.

“Of what do you wish to speak?”

“I have received information, Sire, that sails have been sighted near Isca. I wish to leave to deal with them.”

That was also honest if not truthful. They should be an embassy from the Britons who had settled in Armorica, but Vortigern did not need to know that.

“Of course, you have my leave. Raiders should always be dealt with promptly. However meet me at Caer Lond in two weeks. We shall assemble there to prepare to drive the Saxons out of our lands.”

Guitalinus, Vortigern’s soothsayer appeared and spoke something into Vortigern’s ear. Vortigern perked up and then looked at Cador and said rather more lucidly.

“Make sure you and your forces are there, Cador. We would hate to have to deal with you as we are with Ambrosius!”

“Yes, Sire” replied Cador and he withdrew.

Cador frowned once he had left the tent. What was that idiot planning now?
452 AD

Quintus rode to where the meeting with Aelle was to be held with his deputy Flavius Aquila. He knew what the others thought of him, and they had some justification. He found it really hard to understand how to rule Eboracum and its hinterland, however put him in a battle and he just instinctively knew what to do and how best to achieve it.

At least Lucius and Cunoval treated him as an equal (and so had Urien and Utha on the few occasions that they had dealings) unlike Vortigern and the Cambrians who just thought of him as an imbecile. He had succeeded to the post of ruler of Eboracum (he could never bring himself to call it Caer Ebrauc) because of his father and grandfather who had ruled Eboracum since the disaster with Constantine IV not because of any ability to rule. However in the last years he had leaned more and more on Flavius who seemed to know how to speak to Merchants and the civilian administrators and get them to do what was needed even if they were not really willing. As a result Eboracum had started to prosper again even with the continual disputes with Aelle.

Just after Quintus and Flavius arrived, so did Aelle and his nephew Eadberht. Lucius then started the meeting and asked Aelle to state his proposal. Aelle did so. Quintus listened with rising alarm. It wasn’t that Aelle asked to be recognised as ruler of the old Parisii and Coritani lands, that was already a reality. It was that he was basically asking to be treated as their equal as a ruler in the North. This went against Quintus’ beliefs that the Angles were interlopers, thieves and brigands albeit ones who kept their word. However it was blatantly obvious that the others thought that this was a proposition worth exploring so for once he kept his thoughts to himself. It was Flavius who asked where the boundary should be between Deira and Eboracum. Quintus thought he knew what Aelle would suggest as they were the most obvious defensible boundaries near the edges of the land he currently controlled. He was about to explode with indignation when Aelle spoke. However Aelle suggested a boundary which was well within the lands that he controlled, was advantageous to Eboracum in terms of extra farmland but still gave them both a defensible boundary.

Quintus then looked at Aelle and asked “Are you sure about that boundary? This one would be far better for you” and drew out what he had expected Aelle to suggest.

“Ja” replied Aelle “It would. However then you and I would always be at each other’s’ throats and there would be virtually continuous war.”

Quintus looked at Flavius who gave an almost imperceptible nod.

“I will accept that boundary without reservations. However I doubt that Vortigern will be so sanguine about it. He will come up here to deal with you once he has finally settled with the Saxons!”

Aelle smiled, but it wasn’t a pleasant sight. “It will be Lindsey he will fight for first as that sycophant Vortix still claims those lands because of his wife’s grandparents. Let him try! I don’t expect you to support me if fighting for Lindsey, just not to join with Vortigern.”

“I can live with that” replied Quintus. He looked at the others who were looking at him in surprise. ”Don’t be so shocked my Lords, this is a military decision that makes sense. I’ll leave it to Flavius to hammer out the diplomatic side of things!”

“Are we all agreed then?” asked Lucius. There was a general sound of agreement.

“Aelle, you have got a treaty with us all.”

With that an amphora of wine was brought in and Cunoval made a toast

“To peace in the North!”
Very interesting stuff. At first I was worried it'd be an out-and-out Briton-wank/Saxon-screw, which has been done before. However the intrigues of late are really fun to read, and almost seems like it's setting up a Celtic *Mercia/Wessex/lower England, and the possibility of an Anglo-Jute *Scotland/Northumbria...honestly, a split I've always wondered about seeing. Keep up the good work!
452 AD

Ambrosius sat in his hastily erected tent and yawned. It had been a wild ride from Calleva to get to the shores opposite Tanatus. Luckily they had met little resistance. Most of the time they had been opposed by young boys and old greybeards who had usually had the sense to get out of the way. When they hadn’t they had just been hacked down where they stood.

Two days after receiving Utha’s message Ambrosius had reached Tanatus. Somebody on the island had had some sense because there were no serviceable boats left on the Cantii shore. However earlier that day a boat had ventured across from Tanatus carrying a greybeard and two warriors. Ambrosius had had them brought to him.

The three had seemed very relieved that they were being shown into his presence and not that of Vortigern! The greybeard who was called Dagobert, which Ambrosius found interesting because it was a Frankish not a Saxon name, had come straight to the point.

“My Lord, why are you here? Our Lord is meeting with your High King even as we speak to form a treaty of everlasting friendship. We have few warriors, most of whom have seen either too many summers or too few, however we will fight if we have to do so. You have no boats and by the time you have them Lord Hengist will be back. Neither he nor Vortigern will take kindly to your laying siege to this island.”

He knows what happened, thought Ambrosius, but he hopes that I don’t.

“Old Man” Ambrosius replied” You know what happened at the Henge so don’t try to bluff me.”

Dagobert visibly sagged

“No. I won’t My Lord Ambrosius. At least it is you that are here and not that faithless cur Vortigern.”

So he wasn’t high enough in Hengist’s council to know that Hengist also planned treachery realised Ambrosius.

Ambrosius told Dagobert what had transpired at the Henge. Dagobert listened with incredulity.

“My Lord. If it had been anyone else who had told me this, I would have dismissed it as a tissue of lies. However you have a reputation for straight dealing even amongst our folk so I believe you. What are your terms?”

“Simple” replied Ambrosius “all your folk are to stay on Tanatus and not cross the straits”

“My Lord that is impossible, there are too many mouths even now to feed.”

“In which case load up your boats and go elsewhere. You will not be allowed on the mainland.”

“And if we don’t?”

“I, I will do nothing. However I would think that Vortigern will soon be here with his army and he will not even give you the chance to leave.”

Dagobert looked as if he had a really bad taste in his mouth. However he realised that Ambrosius spoke the truth.

“What of those of us who do not leave, My Lord? Those with young children or like me are too old to go back and seek new lands.”

“You can stay on Tanatus and live in peace. Although there will be garrisons stationed at Rutupiae and Regulbium to make sure that you keep the peace.”

Dagobert smiled sadly

“We have no option but to accept these terms. However those who remain will not swear fealty to Vortigern.”

“You won’t have to!” replied Ambrosius “I am claiming the lands of the Atrebatae and Cantii as mine. I have a just claim through family to both which even Vortigern will have to accept. Also my forces are here and his are not!”

“Be wary, My Lord. If Vortigern has found the courage to betray Hengist then he will have no problems in betraying you!”

With that Dagobert and his escort had left. Ambrosius was considering his words when a servant brought in his evening meal. Ambrosius had waved absently at the servant to put the food on a table. Then he noticed that it wasn’t his usual servant.

“Who are you? Where is Castor?”

“I am Belerix, My Lord. Castor was feeling unwell so I brought your food.”

Ambrosius waved him away and turned to eat the food and drink the wine. A short while later there were loud groans from his tent and Marcus, Ambrosius’ aide rushed in. Ambrosius was lying on the floor clutching his stomach and obviously in great pain and near to death.
452 AD

Vortigern rode slowly down Watling Street heading towards the agreed rendezvous at Caer Lond. He had sent the bulk of his army ahead of him although there was no hurry. Ambrosius had scoured through the Saxon lands after hearing about his success at the Great Henge and had forced the Saxons back onto Tanatus. Then he had met an unfortunate end having apparently being poisoned.

Vortigern didn’t know how it had happened but Guitolinus had promised him that Ambrosius would not be a problem and it now appeared that he wouldn’t be. Good, Vortigern had always been a little in awe of and frightened of Ambrosius. In his way he had a dream as powerful as Vortigern’s, a restoration of Roman laws throughout Britannia whereas Vortigern wanted a restoration of the old Tribal ways. Now Vortigern would have little effective opposition. He daydreamed how the minstrels would sing of him in future years, Vortigern the Great, Vortigern the Restorer, Vortigern the Saxon Slayer. He already had an heir to replace that treacherous cur Vortimer. Rowena had given birth to Cerdic the previous year and was pregnant again. Guitolinus had promised him that it would be another son.

Suddenly Vortigern was brought out of his daydream. He and his bodyguard were passing through woods to the south of what remained of the old Roman settlement of Lactodorum. There were screams and sounds of battle! Who would dare to attack him?

He soon had his answer as a force of Saxons appeared a little way down the road. Vortigern was stunned. He and Ambrosius between them had surely destroyed the Saxons? He wheeled his horse around to ride the other way when to his dismay he saw another body of Saxons on the road behind him. To add to his confusion there were also Saxons both sides of the road in the woods. Although he preferred to let others fight his battles Vortigern was no coward.

“To me, Men. We will cut our way through this rabble and win our freedom!”

His men cheered and formed up in close order albeit not as disciplined as Romans. They hacked and slayed their way through the Saxons. However their numbers were decreasing rapidly and there seemed to be ever more Saxons. Finally it was just Vortigern and a couple of men left. They had slaughtered many Saxons but there were still more! A large warrior approached and slew the final two men. He then approached Vortigen and removed his helmet. To Vortigern’s horror it was Hengist’s other son Ebissa.

“For my father whom you killed by treachery”

With that Ebissa thrust his sword into Vortigern’s stomach and slew him.
452 AD
Ambrosius' Camp near Tanatus

Marius Gratianus, Ambrosius’ longtime colleague and deputy sat in what had been Ambrosius’ chair with his head in his hands. This was a disaster. Ambrosius had led the Romans in Britain for nigh on thirty years and change after such a long period of stable leadership always had its own dangers.

Marius himself had no designs on the leadership he was well aware of his own deficiencies in that regard. He was an able second in command and an excellent quartermaster but lacked the decisiveness and charisma to lead. That similar qualms would be in Decidivatus’ mind was no help. Decidivatus came from a long line of civilian administrators and had no experience of military command. Also he was not here but in Venta Belgarum but messages had sped between the two. They were of one mind as to whom should lead it was a question of whether he would!

Marcus, Ambrosius’ aide, whom Marius had managed to stop falling on his sword at the disgrace of letting Ambrosius be killed but whom would never forgive himself, came into the tent.

“He is here, Sir”

“You had better show him in, Marcus”

The young Commander of the Cavalry, who also happened to be Ambrosius’ son came into the tent.

“You sent for me?”

“Yes I did, young man. Now your father is dead you must lead this army. They would have followed your father to the gates of Hades. They would follow you right through them.”

“I am not ready, nor worthy of this. You should lead, Marius, you are the ranking officer.”

“You are right! I am the ranking officer and as such I am ordering you to take command!”

“But I have no experience of leading Infantry only Cavalry!”

“I will help, as will Decidivatus in civilian matters. However there has to be a clear leader and like it or not you are that leader!”

Marcus came back into the tent.

“Sirs, the men are gathering outside!”

Marius smiled

“My Lord, you had better address your men”

The young man smiled wryly in return, stood up and straightened his shoulders.

“I had, hadn’t I!”

With that he left the tent with Marius and Marcus following.

The men stood outside an expectant whisper carried around the crowd. Ambrosius’ son stood before them and raised his arms. Immediately there was silence.

“Men, you all know of me. Many of you have served with me. I did not wish this position so soon but circumstances dictate otherwise. I will lead you to the best of my ability.”

There was a huge cheer from the men. After a few minutes, Ambrosius’ son raised his arms and again there was silence.

“However, although I could lead as Ambrosius the Younger and would be proud to do so, I will not.”

At this there was a frantic whispering and then a hush

“I will lead you under the name by which you all call me”

There was complete silence then a name was chanted, first by a few cavalry men and then by all the assembled troops. The volume grew louder and louder and echoed around the camp.

452 AD

Guitolinus shivered and hugged his knees as he sheltered in the hut that he had found by the river, 10 or so stadia south of Lactodorum. He assumed that it was used by a local shepherd as there were some sheep grazing by the river but it was unoccupied when he found it. He still didn’t know how he had escaped the carnage of the Saxon attack. One minute he had been riding just behind Vortigern on the way south along Watling Street, the next all hell had broken loose. Somehow in the confusion he had slipped through the net that the Saxons had cast and had found his way to this hut.

He was worried by the fact that there was still a Saxon War Host. After a little thought, he put it down to the fact that Hengest had not put all his eggs in one basket and had prepared a fall-back position in case matters had got out of hand at the Great Henge. Unfortunately for Hengest, matters had got more out of hand than he could ever have imagined!

However he was terribly confused by the poisoning of Ambrosius. It served no purpose that he could see. Certainly he hadn’t ordered it to be done. Vortigern still needed Ambrosius’ Army to drive out the Saxons (and later the Angles and Jutes) and it would not have followed Vortigern under any circumstances so Ambrosius would have been needed to lead it. Certainly none of Ambrosius’ officers would have ordered it, Marius was a natural second in command and knew it and Ambrosius the Younger was still learning his trade as a leader of cavalry (albeit very successfully!).

Guitolinus thought long and hard about this conundrum whilst keeping an ear open for wandering Saxons. He could discount the Northern Lords this was too subtle and dishonourable. Quintus would never have thought of it and it was really of no use to him. Aelle of the Angles was cut from the same cloth as the Northern Lords. No there was another player in the game of Britannia. The question was who was it and what was their aim. He was going to have to find out and nullify them if at all possible.

He was going to have to go north. Well he couldn’t go as Guitolinus he would be killed on sight by any of the Northern Lords. Luckily he had another alias that he could use. This one was well known to the Northern Lords as well as Ambrosius and was trusted as a wise man who gave sage advice. It was lucky that both his aliases were known for disappearing for months at a time and that no one had put two and two together about them never being around at the same time nor that they actually looked very similar. Guitolinus never ceased to be amazed that people never saw what was right under their noses and what a trim and change of clothes could do!

It had stopped raining and there had been no sign of any Saxons for several hours. It was time to leave. Gutolinus rummaged in his bag and found a mirror and a knife and trimmed his beard and hair. Guitolinus had entered the hut but Myrddin would leave it.
Both the Arthur and the Merlin entrances are great!

I'm finding all this tl fascinating. The characters fit their world so well.