The seventh battle was in the Caledonian Forest, that is, Cat Coit Celidon…
Riding hard to catch up with Aulus Hectorius and the main army, Caius Hectorius, Lugh Striking-Hand, and Peredur fall into and then escape a Pictish ambush. Meanwhile, angry with himself for his failure, Quintus Badiovirus maneuvers around Kaw’s Pictish guerrillas. During one of their ambushes, the Picts wound Aulus, forcing the army to move into the ruins of an ancient Roman fort to hold out until their commander can recover.
When Baviovirus makes it back to camp, he’s looking forward to some time with Aedan ap Cynfelyn, but Aedan wants to penetrate Badiovirus this time. In explaining why he doesn’t want to do that, Badiovirus explains that a Roman man cannot be used like a woman in such a fashion. Aedan, for the first time, that their relationship isn’t about love, but domination.
Myrddin sends Caius, Lugh, Peredur, Badiovirus, Owain Rheged and Titus Drustanus to a nearby well said to have healing powers, to bring some of its water back for Aulus. There, Caius drinks from the water, giving him a vision in which the Virgin Mary leads him to a battle against his darkest self. The monk guarding the well accuses Titus of murdering his wife in Ireland. Owain’s gwyllt overcomes him, sending him naked into the woods, where he encounters the god Bran and can only regain his humanity by mastering the language of the trees and guessing the god’s name. Lugh notices the syncretism of the shrine, uniting the imagery of the older goddess Brigit and the Virgin Mary. The monk admits that he used to be a druid, and has composed a poem encoding ancient druidic secrets, called the Cad Goddeu (“Battle of the Trees”). Owain learns the poem, and notices that it seems to relate to his encounter with Bran.
After they bring the water back, Aulus drinks from it and recovers. He tells Caius that he had a vision of the Virgin Mary as well, in which she appeared as a fierce mother bear, cast him into a fire to burn away his sins, called him “Arthur,” promised that if he painted her image on his shield his campaign would succeed, but said that he would only save the Britons if he could learn the lesson she had already taught his brother.
Aulus sends Titus to infiltrate the Picts. When the Picts send him to kill Badiovirus to prove himself, he takes Badiovirus’s bear pelt, and murders and beheads one of his men, to convince them. Badiovirus, angered by the apparent death of one of his men at the Picts’ hands, pursues them and finds their hidden camp. He returns to alert Aulus. Lugh promises that whoever of his men kills the most Picts will win a prize. The army attacks the camp, killing Kaw in the process. Only after the battle is over does Owain realize that the events of the battle seem to already be encoded in the poem.
Aedan killed the most Picts of any in Lugh’s warband, and Lugh reveals the prize as the pick of the Pictish loot. Aedan asks for the head of Badiovirus’s man, displayed in the middle of the camp. Badiovirus is furious. Aedan offers to give it to him — if he will submit to Aedan penetrating him right there, in front of the entire army. As he finishes, he whispers in Badiovirus’s ear, “If you want to make this about power, then I can oblige.”