The great hall had smartly dressed military men standing about everywhere. Spitemorta was ushered past the grand dining table, steaming with roasted hogs and geese, to a chair beside Demonica on the balcony, overlooking a broad jousting field below. Drummers and bagpipers marched around the outside of the field. In the middle of the field stood a full suit of armor, stuffed with sacks of flour on a block of wood. Two rods in front of it stood twenty-one pairs of soldiers. Each pair were readying some sort of iron staff. At a command, the bagpipers stopped, and one from each pair of soldiers pointed his staff at the armor. At the command: “Loose!” the other one from each pair applied a smoldering match to the staff. Each of the twenty-one staves went off with a rolling boom, sending the armor tumbling off the block as thick clouds of blue-white smoke curled into the air.
Spitemorta leant forward, enthralled. Directly, four soldiers tramped through the dining hall to the balcony bearing the armor and one of the iron staves. “What is this thing?” she said.
“This, Your Majesty, is a hand gonne,” said Vortergern, beaming. “It casts these gonne stones, lead balls, six to the pound, faster than the eye can see. Please look at this breastplate, gorget, hauberk and back plate.” The soldiers turned the riddled armor all about so that she could clearly see that the balls had all gone clean through both sides.
“I assume by your demonstration, King Vortigern, that you will be supplying hand gonnes to the troops you are sending me?”
“Your Majesty, all twenty-one hand gonnes are amongst the thirty-six going with your troops.”
Spitemorta gave a nonchalant nod and turned away to look out over the jousting field again. She was dancing inside. She loved this Gwaelic magic.
Ch 28, The Burgeoning.
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps