Restitutor Orbis

Francia

Before the triumph, Myrddin seeks out Peredur to ask him to ask Arthur to spare the life of his father, Vorcunos. He tells Peredur that since Arthur destroyed the head of Bran the Blessed, the island is now unprotected. Myrddin believes he can change that — if he can gather the Thirteen Treasures of Britain. He knows the location of seven of them, but one is known only by Vorcunos. If he’s executed, all hope of gathering the treasures dies with him, and Britain will fall to the Saxons. Peredur agrees, and asks Arthur to spare his life.

After the triumph, Arthur prepares his army for war with Icel. Lugh Striking-Hand must travel to Dommoc to begin organizing his forces along the Saxon Shore. Arthur entrusts his brother Caius with handling Camulod’s first diplomatic mission to the continent, and to get back his family. As king of Ceint, Bedwyr comes along to see to his country’s own interests. Though of common birth, Arthur sends Peredur with Caius and Bedwyr on this mission, so he can learn (and, hopefully, keep Caius from causing too much damage).

Caius seeks information about the Franks and their leader, Clovis, from merchants in Londinium. He hears that last Christmas Clovis was baptized, though the merchants disagree on whether he became a Nicene Christian or an Arian. They tell him that Clovis’s pagan army has deserted him because of it. Caius goes to Myrddin to see if he knows anything. He admits he focuses mostly on Britain, and can only jokingly advise Caius not to give away the entire island.

The three knights plan to depart from Dubris, a Saxon Shore fort on the coast of Ceint. But Bedwyr’s talk back in Londinium has gotten back to his Frankish soldiers. Convinced that their king plots to kill them all, the Frankish crew of their ship attacks the knights before they even get on board. Caius, Bedwyr, and Peredur kill the mutinous crewmen, but are left without anyone to man the ship. They try to recruit Jutish fishermen from along the coast, but Frankish soldiers intimidate them. Caius goes into the fort and tells Alaric that if the Frankish soldiers hurt their families, he will call his entire warband to Dubris. Alaric seems cowed.

They finally depart for Francia with a crew of Jutish fishermen. The diplomatic mission is welcomed to the court of Clovis. He has strong ties to Britain: Ambrosius Aurelianus fought against the Visigoths alongside Clovis’s father, Childeric. Aurelianus’s son, Quintus Ambrosius Aurelianus, now serves Clovis as legate. And the rumors are true: Clovis just converted to Christianity a few months ago, not as an Arian but as a Nicene. He’s lost a few men because of his conversion, but nothing close to the total abandonment the merchants in Londinium talked about.

Clovis immediately reunites Caius with his family. They tell him they were treated well. But Quintus Ambrosius Aurelianus accuses Arthur and all his men of disloyalty, because of their rebellion against his brother, Ambrosius Aurelianus Brittanicus. He and Caius exchange harsh words before Clovis puts a stop to it. To smooth things over, Bedwyr offers as a gift a chest of Cantiaci iron. Clovis then calls for a feast, to entertain the mission as his guests.

At the feast, Lucius Tiberius Fortunatus, a wealthy Gallo-Roman merchant, approaches Bedwyr to ask about trade with Ceint, but Bedwyr is depressed from the mutiny earlier and tells him he does not have the country under control. Meanwhile, Caius continues his earlier argument with Aurelianus, which escalates into a duel. Caius wins the duel, hitting Aurelianus on the head with the butt of his sword instead of killing him. Caius congratulates Aurelianus on fighting for his brother’s honor and offers him a drink. They bond over wine and talk about the trouble their brothers get them into. Bishop Remigius, Clovis’s confidante, speaks with Peredur and makes it clear that he thinks Palagianism is a revolting heresy primarily because it challenges class distinctions. A little later, Bedwyr approaches Clovis to ask his advice, king to king, on how best to lead Frankish subjects. Clovis tells him to “keep only your own nobility.” He also gives the impression of caring little about Christianity, having been pressured into it by his wife, Clothilde, and the bishop Remigius.

The next day, talks begin in earnest. Clovis declares that he wants to take Armorica from Marcus Cunomorus. The knights are stunned by this, and can’t possibly accept. Cunomorus is a major supporter of Arthur, and Dumnonia is the source of most of Britain’s wealth and trade. Caius asks a lot of questions to stall for time. When the day’s talks end, he, Bedwyr, and Peredur try to figure out a counter-offer before tomorrow. They put together that Clovis’s main concern is the Visigoths to the south, and his interest in Armorica is preparatory for that fight. If they can offer a trade relationship with Clovis, perhaps they can provide material support for his war in the south without giving up any territory.

However, when they arrive for the next day’s talks, Clovis and Clothilde are gone, and their representatives are dressed in black. They are informed that Clovis’s sister, Alboflæd, has died. Peredur goes with Fortunatus to buy mourning clothes for the diplomats. Caius suspects that, mere months after Clovis’s conversion, his sister’s death is no coincidence. He brings these suspicions up with Aurelianus, who instantly agrees and adds that he suspects Lienhard, the king’s warden. Caius and Bedwyr speak to Lienhard at the funeral, trying to suss out his real feelings about Christianity and Clovis’s family, but Lienhard seems to have genuinely loved Alboflæd, and Peredur sees no evidence of foul play on her body. Aurelianus is still paranoid, but Caius manages to talk him down.

After the funeral, when talks resume, Caius suggests that conquering Armorica would cause resentment among the Britons living there, which would just create a new front for Clovis to worry about. He suggests material support for Clovis’s army instead, and though Remigius complains, Clovis agrees. Caius asks for Clovis’s vocal support for Arthur, explaining that it would help Arthur’s standing with the church. Clovis is confused: is Arthur not a Christian? Caius and Bedwyr try to dance around Arthur’s Palagianism, but Remigius immediately recognizes what’s going on and is outraged. Clovis, however, cares little for doctrinal disputes. He sees Britain and Francia in similar positions, trying to find a new way that balances Roman and other traditions, and declares that he stands by his brother Arthur.

Peredur convinces Fortunatus that Bedwyr was just pessimistic when he said he didn’t have his country under control. Fortunatus insists on returning to Britain with the knights to see the situation for himself, but also reveals his ugly feelings about “Goths, baucaudae, and other barbarians.” They arrive back in Dubris to find things under control and the Jutish peasants unharmed. Bedwyr holds a feast for Fortunatus and issues a proclamation declaring friendship between the Britons and the Franks, denouncing the recent, slanderous rumors, and underscoring his commitment to the well-being of all his people — Franks, Jutes, and Cantiaci alike. That smooths things over with the Franks, and Fortunatus is impressed enough to set up the trade route. Peredur takes revenge on Fortunatus subtly, by slandering the wares he intends to ship to Britain, and hopefully ruining his business.

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Jason

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