Gerraint explained things minimally to Arthur who promptly moved the RDF to close off the southern area of the woods. They still had to wait, but the Picts and Scots finally straggled in just after lunch on the third day. They looked pretty ragged.
Arthur was not for waiting lest their camp be discovered. He gave the order, and the enemy became covered in a virtual rain of arrows. Some tried to head south, but found the way blocked, and by a force they quickly realized would not break. Some headed back the way they came, but Pinewood timed his charges the way the little ones often do. Kai and Loth arrived perfectly on time to cut off that escape route. In all, the battle might have been more of an even match, but Arthur’s men had time to get well dug in and had the advantage of some height. Some small groups of Picts and Scots made the attempt to attack uphill, but those attempts never amounted to much.
Arthur’s men took casualties, but by far the damage came on the other side. At the last, though the river ran swift and deep, those who escaped, and there were quite a few, did so by swimming the river. Gerraint saw some of them climb the far riverbank only to be shot down by unseen archers. Gerraint felt like cursing, but the only thing he said was, “As long as they go back north.”
Arthur’s men took nearly a thousand prisoners, and that took as many of Arthur’s three thousand men to guard them. The Picts and Scots sat and faced the river. Gerraint rather hoped they would try to escape by swimming across. He knew his little ones would finish the job, or drive them back north to where they came from.
“So how did it go?” Arthur asked when Gerraint got to the command tent.
“I spent the whole time trying to teach Uwaine how to properly aim and fire his arrow,” Gerraint said, since the boy was outside tending to Gerraint’s weapons. “He finally got off a good shot and hit a horse in the neck, and then I had to hug him and tell him it would be all right.” Even Meryddin softened a bit on hearing that. “I shot the Pictish rider when the horse fell out from under him, but otherwise, I don’t think I fired another arrow the whole time.”
Gwillim came up to the tent in a short while. “Look what I found.”
“Leave it to the little merchant to go through the enemy’s things,” Gerraint said.
“No! That is my uncle and my brother Thomas’ job.”
“What?” Arthur asked. Gwillim smiled broadly and held out several tins of blue goop and several more tins of clear stuff which they realized was the stuff to remove the blue. “Brilliant!” Arthur said, but he did not explain whatever his brilliant idea was until Meryddin left to see about supper for the prisoners.
Mid-afternoon on the next day, Arthur, Gerraint, Captain Croyden, Percival and three other prime members of the RDF showed up at the gate of York with Blue faces and beards, dressed in Pictish garb and carrying Pictish weapons. They heard the call to stop and an eighth man appeared in their midst.
“You need an interpreter,” the man said. “You would be in trouble if they started to speak to you in Pictish and you did not understand what they were saying.” Arthur and several of the men turned white beneath the blue. They had not considered that. Gerraint leaned forward and whispered in Pinewood’s ear. Pinewood shouted the words.
“The youngest son of Caw here with a message for Colgrin.” They had to wait at the gate for a long time before someone came to fetch them and bring them inside.
Meryddin, meanwhile, drove the army with every whip he could think of, and all but cursing Arthur for his stupidity. Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn, and Kai and Loth once they got let in on it, kept slowing things down. Their orders were to arrive under the cover of darkness and wait for the signal.
Colgrin sat in his version of a great hall preparing for an early supper. He spoke in Saxon to the men around him, all Germans of some sort. “The youngest son of Caw, the Pict. The man apparently has a bunch of sons. He must be part rabbit.” the Saxons laughed as Colgrin switched to British. He assumed none of the Picts spoke Saxon, but the fairy Lord understood it perfectly, and because he stood near the fairy or because of some magic the fairy affected on the men, they all understood it as well.
“What news?” Colgrin came right out with it.
Gerraint whispered in Pinewood’s ear and Pinewood repeated it. “The men of Arthur tried to trap us by the river, but they took one look at our strength and numbers and withdrew. The Son of Caw says the men of Arthur are puny things.” Colgrin and the Saxons laughed, but not too much. Gerraint appeared an imposing sight, half naked as he was. “The Son of Caw says his father will be here in the morning with three thousand men of Celidon. He wants to know if everything is ready.”
“Ready? What do you mean ready?” Colgrin asked sharply.
“What? Yes, of course.” He said to his Saxons, “Are we ready?”
“Ya!” Two said, while the others just shouted and growled.
Gerraint looked thoughtful and nodded his head. Then he said in British, in his deepest voice, with a strange fake accent, “We wait.”
“Of course,” Colgrin said. “You must be tired and hungry after your long journey. Hegel! Several men came in from a small side door. “Show our guests to the long room in the beach barracks and get them something to eat.” Hegel bowed. They were dismissed and escorted to a big common room on the second floor of a building where the only windows were arrow slits on the outside wall of the fort. They were locked in, and Gerraint could not help his mouth.
“And I bet they won’t even feed us.”
In light of the holiday, there will be no posts on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. Instead, the weekly chapter will be posted on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. So…………
R5 Gerraint. Arthur and a few select men have a plan to deal with the traitor in York. Don’t miss it.