R5 Gerraint: The Road to Londugnum, part 1 of 3

Gerraint kept close to his master, Pelenor.  His bright blue eyes peeked out from beneath long, curly dark brown locks with the attention of an eagle on its prey, while his right hand gently stroked his charger’s neck.  His horse wanted to run at the sound of approaching horses.  He held tight to the reins and waited, and good thing because Lord Pelenor’s horse jolted when the approaching men came into view. Dubricius, the Right Honorable Bishop of Caerleon nearly got dumped in the mud by his startled horse.

“Peredur!”  Pelenor shouted and waved.  “And Ederyn.”    Pelenor trotted out to meet them.  Gerraint and the Bishop stayed where they were.  The Bishop looked at the water that still dripped from the trees after the early morning rain.  Gerraint looked at the Bishop who Lord Pelenor charged him to guard at all costs. At fourteen, Gerraint the squire had learned to pay strict attention to what his master told him.

“Boy,” Pelenor called as he rejoined them with five riders in tow.  He presented the Bishop, and all of the others, except the old one with the long white beard, nodded their heads in a kind of bow.  “And this is my squire, Gerraint, son of Erbin, High Prince of Cornwall.  Gerraint puffed out his chest a little to show off the lion emblazoned on his tunic. To be sure, Gerraint did not know how long he would remain high prince since his father died.  His mother remarried a Roman named Marcus Adronicus.  She said she wanted a husband to raise Gerraint’s little sister, Cordella, but who knew if Gerraint might have more brothers and sisters and he might be cut off from his inheritance.

“My son, Percival,” one of the Lords said. “He is only twelve, but Ederyn here has agreed to take him on.”  Gerraint guessed the speaker was Peredur.  Percival removed the cooking pot from his head.  He had plenty of other pots and bags tied to his saddle and appeared more like a traveling merchant’s son than a proper squire. Peredur continued.  “My squire is Arthur, son of we don’t know who, because Meryddin here who brought the boy to me as a baby still won’t tell.”  He pointed last to the one with the long white beard.  The Bishop gave the man a hard stare.  Gerraint’s head shouted, “Merlin!  Gandalf! Dumbledore!”  Fortunately, Gerraint kept his mouth shut.

“Good running into you.”  Ederyn seemed a pleasant fellow.  “The closer we get to Londugnum, the more nervous I get, I don’t mind telling you.”

“Saxons to the west?  Angles to the east?”  Pelenor laughed.

“I think he sees Germans behind every rock and tree,” Peredur confessed.

Arthur came up to Gerraint and interrupted his concentration on the small talk.  “Hi, I’m Arthur, the dragon.”  He pointed behind to Percival who trailed, clinking and clanking.  “This is my younger step-brother, Percival the lemming.” Percival looked like he did not appreciate the nickname.

“He only chose the dragon because he has bad breath,” Percival said, but in a very quiet voice.  Arthur showed a fist and Percival quieted altogether.

“Goreu, the lion,” Gerraint said.  “That’s my name back home.”

“In Cornwall,” Arthur said.  “Goreu the Cornie”

“Cornish,” Gerraint corrected.  “You’re not a Brittie”

Arthur nodded.  “But Percival might be.”  He pointed.

“I’m a Christian, like our mother,” Percival spoke up again.  Gerraint noticed the Bishop listened in, and he looked like he might say something, but Arthur interrupted.

“Go on.  I’m fifteen, and that is plenty old enough to make up my own mind about that junk. I don’t know what I am.”

“I’m fourteen and a good squire, I hope.  My master, Pelenor is pretty strict.”

“Ha!”  Arthur spouted.  “I’m the eldest.  That means you have to do what I tell you.”

“Not a chance of that happening,” Gerraint said, with a sly grin.  Arthur studied that grin for a bit before he returned the same.

“I think I like you,” he said, but then Pelenor called them all to attention and they started again down the so-called road to Londugnum.  Percival put the pot back on his head.  It served as his makeshift helmet.  Gerraint kept his eyes and ears as open as he could.

Pelenor and Meryddin took the front, followed by Peredur and Ederyn.  They kept up a spirited conversation about who might be called on to fill the shoes of the Pendragon.  Uther had died some twelve years earlier and the Germans, the Irish, and the Picts in the north were all becoming bold in looking to extend their territory at British and Welsh expense.  Even the Scots, first invited by the Romans to live between the Antonine and Hadrian walls as a hedge against the Picts appeared dissatisfied with their lot and greedy for more, the ever-independent Ulster also feeling the pressure of the Irish and being overpopulated as it was.  Bishop Dubricius appeared willing to listen in from behind.  Gerraint thought that a sign of wisdom.  The three Lords thought it wise to keep Meryddin, the High Druid of the Britons and the Archbishop of Wales well separated.

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