“But wait,” Gerraint frowned once again before he shouted, “Arthur!” Then he leaned down, took Lancelot’s arm, and lifted him from his knees. “Come along, Lancelot,” he said. Lancelot stood, but looked like a man in a daze.
“But Sir, you know my name, but who are you that I may address you properly.”
“My name is Goreu, but Arthur and the others all call me by the British version, Gerraint.” He lifted his voice again. “Arthur.” Then he paused and sniffed, and he knew exactly which direction Arthur would be found. Like a dwarf’s nose, he thought, good for finding your way underground amidst all those mines and tunnels, and he wondered what else he had been gifted with.
“Who is this Arthur?” Lancelot asked. “I have heard of an Arthur called the Pendragon, a war chief across the sea who is unequalled in battle…”
“That’s him,” Gerraint interrupted. “Hush. Come on.” Gerraint led Lancelot through the trees until they came to a place where they could watch. Rhiannon, in all her splendor, stood on top of the waters of the lake and held out a sword. She walked across the water and Arthur looked too stunned to move. When she arrived, Arthur went to his knees. He handed her Caliburn. She handed him Excalibur. “The big brother sword,” Gerraint whispered to himself. Lancelot nudged him to say he should be quiet and more respectful.
When the exchange got made, a few words also got exchanged before Rhiannon stepped back. Gerraint heard, though he tried to not listen since it seemed private. He thought, elf ears to go with the dwarf nose. He only hoped his actual facial features were not changed.
Rhiannon slowly became translucent, then transparent, until she vanished altogether. “And she took my sword with her,” Gerraint mumbled before he waved. “Arthur!” Lancelot looked oddly at Gerraint, like he felt confused about how he should take this strange man. Arthur did not help when he waved back and waved Excalibur.
“Big brother sword,” he shouted. “Who is your friend?”
”Hey. I know a couple of cousins of yours that will be happy to see you.”
“I’m sorry?” Lancelot shook his head against the confusion.
“Bohort and Lionel,” Arthur said, and Lancelot jumped, and for the first time he smiled.
“They’re alive? I thought everyone got killed on that day. How can they still be alive?” He stopped walking so the others stopped.
“That happened almost five years ago,” Gerraint said. “You were much younger. Do you remember that day?”
“I remember the battle,” Lancelot said firmly. “I remember the Romans in their phalanxes stretched across the plains from horizon to horizon, and our more ragged line of foot soldiers stretching out to be able to face the Romans one to one. I sat on horse beside my father, and Bohort and Lionel beside theirs, and all the Lords of Amorica sat on horse, the sons beside their fathers
“The foot soldiers charged the phalanxes, but they held firm. We charged the Roman cavalry and great blood was spilled that day. It all felt so confusing. I didn’t know what was happening, when my father took an arrow and fell from his horse. I raced to him and got him up on a stray. I pulled him back to the edge of the forest where he collapsed and lay dying in my arms. Then three Romans rode up, and I ran into these woods by the lake. They dismounted and followed me in, but I had my knife and my father’s old sword. I caught them, one by one. I—I—I am not sure what happened after that.
“I awoke in the Lady’s castle. Lady Nimue is the bravest soul I know. She healed my wounds and tended my heart, and taught me how to fight. Every Sunday at dawn we rode to a nearby village where the parish priest schooled me in my letters and in the faith. I learned as well as my mind and arms could learn. The Great Lady told me I had to prepare for the last battle, the Armageddon for Arthur. For a long time, I did not know what she meant.”
“Armageddon,” Arthur looked up at Gerraint. “I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Rhiannon, the one he calls Lady Nimue. All Celtic goddesses are a bit prophetic. It comes from having a mother who is plugged into the future the way she is.”
Arthur pointed at Gerraint with a question written across his face. Gerraint merely nodded an affirmative answer.
“But her name is Nimue, the Lady of Lake Vivane,” Lancelot insisted. “She would never lie about such a thing.”
“How about we call her the Lady of the Lake?” Gerraint suggested.
“The Lady of the Lake.” Both Arthur and Lancelot agreed.
“But Bohort and Lionel survived the battle? And what of Howel?” Lancelot became eager for news.
“Alive and well,” Gerraint said.
“Let me see,” Arthur said. He had spent the time they were standing attaching Excalibur to his belt. He wanted to ask Gerraint if it had any magical properties, and looked a bit disappointed later when Gerraint told him that it was only as magical as the arm that wielded it, but for the moment he had to catch up Lancelot with five years of history, the first and main thing being the last time the people of Amorica faced the Romans. He started them walking again as he spoke.
“As Hoel tells it, in the end, the Roman cavalry did not have the fight in them nor the numbers to sustain the battle. They splintered and began to run, and many of the Amorican nobles and their retinue of horsemen were well suited to hunt them down. I assume the three that found Lancelot were like the others, trying to get away from the battle. Anyway, it was Howel, Bohort and Lionel that rallied a large portion of the men to stick to the original plan. They struck the flank and the back of the nearest Phalanx and slowly but inevitably, the Roman line crumbled. The Romans who ran caused the other formations to come into disarray, and Hoel’s people were able to take the day.”
“Magnificent. I am so glad, and my people are free.”
“It’s not that simple,” Gerraint said. “Claudus waged a guerilla campaign these last four or five years, and just about overran the country. Hoel appealed to Arthur, and here we are. But Claudus is bringing up two full legions from Aquitaine, and I suspect these will be veterans of the Frankish and Visigoth campaigns. These will not be so easy to turn.”
“The great battle,” Lancelot said with a faraway look in his eyes.
“I beg your pardon,” Arthur said. “I am not ready for Armageddon just yet, if you don’t mind.”
They stopped at the sound of a horse.