R5 Gerraint: The River Glen, part 1 of 3

Gerraint got no satisfaction at home.  His mother loved him and his sister missed him, but his stepfather Marcus, who styled himself the High Chief of Cornwall, though the title was not his to take, tolerated Gerraint at best.  He showed grace to the older men, Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn, and he acknowledged Arthur and pledged to send help the next time the call came; but even Percival noticed the man said nothing about what kind of help or how much.

About the only interesting thing during the visit became the arrival of Melwas the younger.  Melwas, the elder, high chief of Lyoness, was an old man and unable to travel.  He designated his eldest son, fully grown at twenty-one, to represent him at every opportunity.  Melwas the younger seemed eager to send troops to the call.

“I wanted to,” he said.  “But Father and Lord Marcus said we needed to wait and see what happened.  I am sorry I missed it all.”

“Don’t worry son,” Peredur spoke kindly.  “Given the turn of things, with enemies on all sides, I cannot imagine the next call will be very far away.”

Melwas said he heard about the Round Table and asked what he needed to do to become a member.  No one asked him how he knew about the club, but they understood he must have had some source at the battle who told him about Sir Kai and Sir Bedwyr.

“It is a Christian table,” Gerraint explained, and Arthur listened.  “As long as you confess your faith, you want only two things to prove you are worthy. One is an act of valor or courage which may occur in battle, but does not need to.  The other is evidence of keeping the ideals of Christ through an act of charity or piety or in defending the poor, the weak and defenseless. These two things may be shown in a single act, but usually are not.”  Gerraint paused and looked at Arthur, but Arthur nodded, so he continued.  “These two things show that a man is worthy of the Round Table, because they show the strength of a man’s arm, but more importantly, they show the strength of a man’s character.”

Melwas frowned a bit and rubbed the stubble on his chin.  “What you ask is hard.”

“It is,” Gerraint agreed.  “But the table will seat only the best, and I don’t think you would want it any other way.”

Melwas made a decision.  “I accept the challenge.”  Then he smiled and so did Peredur and Ederyn who listened in.

“Tell me true,” Peredur said to Gerraint and Arthur. “How did you two become so wise?”

“Almighty God,” Percival suggested.

“Him.”  Arthur pointed at Gerraint.

“Reading the backs of cereal boxes,” Gerraint said, and Arthur and Percival glanced at each other before they spoke in perfect unison.

“You’re weird.”

They traveled from Plymouth to Exeter, a nicely walled town, about as far as Rome ever penetrated into Cornwall.  Rome referred to the area as Devon, but it stayed under the Cornish King.  In Exeter, the city fathers, and especially the city mothers, gushed over the three young boys.  Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn conferred for a long time in that place, but whatever it was, it seemed something they hoped they would not have to worry about for a couple of years yet.

Percival and Arthur, though mostly Arthur, spent their time teasing Gerraint about how much his sister, Cordella, seemed taken with young Melwas.

“Good grief.  She’s only twelve.  He has to be twice her age,” Gerraint complained.

“Nine years,” Arthur counted, but still the boys had no idea what the Lords were on about.

From Exeter, the group made for Tintangle where Arthur got to meet his distant cousins, Tristam’s mom and dad.  “This is good,” Pelenor announced.  “We should travel the whole land this way.  He can meet the Lords of the land, and they can all meet Arthur.  That should make the ties stronger should a need arise.”  Peredur and Ederyn agreed, but they prevailed on Pelenor to wait until Arthur put some age on and made a better appearance.

“More man-like and less boy-like” Ederyn put it.

With that in mind. the group crossed the channel to Caerleon, where Arthur became terribly bored for the next three years. Gerraint and Percival were taken out all the time by Pelenor and Ederyn for some reason or another, or even for no particular reason at all.  Peredur took his squire out twice, once to show Arthur the homes of Pelenor and Ederyn, which Arthur already knew.  Arthur felt glad to see his adopted mother.  Meryddin forced them to take a dozen guards from the fort for that trip.  The other time was a quick trip to his older, half-sister’s house.  She lived in southern Wales, a day’s journey, which Peredur turned into three.

Poor Arthur felt like he was in prison, and to some extent, he was.  Gerraint called it protective custody.  Meryddin did not want Arthur out of his sight, and maybe more important, he did not want him out of his influence.  Peredur at least insisted on taking the young Pendragon to church every Sunday, and Arthur felt grateful for the chance to breathe.

Morgana came to visit Arthur at Caerleon several times. She spent most of the time arguing with Meryddin, and sometimes in rather rude and crude ways.  It was not until that one time when Meryddin got called away on Druid business up to Iona for a month, that Arthur became able to take a quick trip to visit Morgana in her own home.  He realized then that she had fully accepted that they were brother and sister, and she imagined, as his only true family, that she was going to defend him from the corrupting influence of that half man, which is what she called Meryddin.

“Too late for that,” Gerraint said later, and he wondered what the other half of Meryddin might be.  He did suspect that it was more like a quarter something, but he had no idea what that quarter might be.

One thing Arthur accomplished in those days was the selection and training of his RDF.  He brought in the best hunters, and taught the young men about the land, and how to move swiftly and unseen.  He brought in masters of various weapons, including a few Germans, and taught them how to fight and defend themselves regardless of what might be arrayed against them.  He taught them how to read, write and count, at least well enough to pass messages and estimate an enemy’s strength.  He also taught them to look for an enemy’s weaknesses.  Gerraint kept his mouth closed.  He dared not tell Arthur that normally teenagers and school did not mix.

Meryddin let Arthur play at soldier, since after all, that would be his purpose.  He claimed Arthur was to defend the land and bring peace and prosperity, but it seemed a thin disguise.  Clearly, Meryddin expected Arthur to reduce the people around the Gaelic lands to servitude and slavery.  Then, within the Celtic lands, Meryddin worked hard to restore the preeminence of the old ways.  He had some success among the Welsh, and in the North where the Scots had contact with the locals.  He proved less successful in Cornwall and Britain, especially the Midlands, Leogria and Somerset where the church remained strong.  He despised Arthur’s Christian Round Table, and in the years to come, he regularly attended the meetings to make his views known, though he certainly never confessed faith in the Christ.  Arthur allowed Meryddin as the one exception, he said, and the Lords understood it as a gracious act toward the old man, whom they respected, but often ignored.

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