They had serious casualties on both sides, but by far the Romans took the worst of it. Among the footmen, the Roman short sword, while good in phalanx formation, proved no match for the Celtic early broadsword in one on one combat. The Celts took a toll of almost three to one. The horsemen did even better, likely topping four to one, and the archers better still. Barely one in ten made it to the top of the rise, thanks in no small part to the elves. At the top, the Romans either surrendered or quickly fell prey to a dwarf ax or some other hobgoblin sword.
Uwaine, who got lost in the confusion of battle, found Gerraint again even as Lord Birch gave the score.
Gerraint lost a few little ones and he wept. He lost some brave men from Cornwall, and he doubly wept. But it was not long, and he looked at Lord Birch, he realized he saw things on the battlefield he had no business seeing—things that were much too far away for normal eyes, like seeing Claudus in his chariot. He got angry before he put Fairy eyes on the list with his dwarf nose and elf ears, and eyes that could probably see even if he had no light at all. He sighed and sniffed, and quickly took Uwaine to find Arthur among the troops.
“No, but sometimes it works well enough,” Gerraint agreed. He dismounted to walk and Uwaine held the reigns of all three horses.
“Your knights gone?”
“Yes, and most of the little ones back to the Lady of the Lake’s castle or the Bringloren forest.”
Arthur merely nodded. After a minute he said, “Excalibur is an excellent sword. It sliced a Roman sword in two. A bit heavier than Caliburn though.”
“Diogenes always liked it.” Gerraint paused to picture one of those short swords cut in two. Couldn’t have been much left.
Arthur and Gerraint halted when Percival and Hoel rode up. Hoel smiled, and while not unaware of the serious nature of the moment, he just could not help himself. “Remind me to stay on your good side,” Hoel said, as he got down from his horse to join them. Arthur did something unexpected. He hugged the man, and suddenly there were a few tears in the old man’s eyes.
Lionel came up next, and he came in a hurry. “Howel is wounded,” he shouted, and they made him calm down enough to tell what happened. A Roman planted his spear in the dirt and struck Howel in his shield. He knocked him back, right off his horse. The spear nicked his shoulder, no big deal, but he fell on a sharp rock and bruised and cut his bum. He is lying on his stomach on a stretcher and the only thing he keeps saying is “I am so embarrassed,” and, “How embarrassing.”
“He said nothing else?” Percival asked.
“Ouch?” Gerraint suggested.
Lionel grinned sheepishly and whispered. “He said don’t tell anyone.” He raised his voice. “But I said I would tell his father.” He returned to a whisper. “But I can’t help it if other people overheard.” He tried not to laugh. Hoel tried to look stern, but he couldn’t.
“Better go comfort the boy,” he said. They heard the laugh as he rode off.
“Before I go,” Gerraint took Arthur’s attention. “When my small troop went after the auxiliaries, Lancelot saw and sounded the horn. Bohort saw and lead some five hundred to join us. Two-fifty on three thousand would have been rough. They are good men here in this country.”
Arthur agreed but asked, “Where are you going?”
“Greta can help a small number of those good men,” he said. “I’m sorry there is only one of me. Percival and Uwaine.” They were ready to protect her with their lives.
Greta sewed up Howel’s butt and kept telling him to shut-up. She imagined he never got a good look at her, being on his stomach and all. Urien, the Raven, had a cut in his arm, but not a bad one. Gwillim took an arrow in his shoulder, and that proved a bit tricky. Both of them were drunk when she found them, so she felt certain their eyes could not have been in focus. “Old Celtic cure,” Uwaine called it. Greta felt the fewer of Arthur’s men who got a good look at her, the better. Not that they would ever put her together with Gerraint, but on principle it felt better not to give such big hints.
By far, the wounded she treated were cut in their legs, the only place a foot soldier could reach a man on horseback. Some might lose their legs, some might never walk well again, or run or ride well, but some would heal. There was only so much she could do, and at last she got worn to a frazzle. “I am done,” she said. She pushed the hair and sweat from her eyes, splashed cold water on her face, took off her red cloak and opened the top button of her dress to fan herself. Her breasts became only slightly exposed, but Percival stared and Uwaine turned away. She thought they were being silly, but when she came to the tent door, she said, wait here a minute, sweetly. She went in and hardly a second later, Gerraint came out. “She only said wait a minute,” he said and walked off. They caught up.
There were five thousand not only beaten, but broken Romans who walked back to Provence. Arthur buried his dead by the fort, and stayed to finish the building. Hoel sent most of his dead home for burial and then took Arthur on a tour of the land. Hoel still felt concerned about the Franks, even if Claudus was history. Hoel found excuses.
Meryddin showed up shortly after the battle, and he seemed his old affable, nasty, and overprotective of Arthur self. He may have been part of the reason Arthur got delayed. Amorica still overflowed with believers in the old ways. The church made few inroads in the land, and it seemed to Gerraint that Meryddin kept looking for ways to drive the church out altogether. Gerraint thought that Meryddin worked on Arthur to show him the value of keeping to the old traditions, but he felt confident Meryddin would not get far with that. It never occurred to Gerraint that Meryddin might be working on him as well.
Arthur stayed all spring, even after most of his men went home. Bohort, Lionel and Howel stayed busy taking Lancelot to the port to see the British off. They delighted in getting Lancelot drunk and introducing him to what they called a nice young woman. Lancelot accepted the challenge, as he accepted all challenges, but then he stayed with that nice young woman for several months and did not play the field, and he respected the young woman who did not know how to take that. When that young woman became pregnant, she refused to burden Lancelot with that knowledge.
Arthur stayed all summer, but come the fall he convinced Hoel to let him take some of the young men including Bohort, Howel, Lionel and Lancelot and train them to the lance and in the way of Rapid Deployment. Hoel agreed, and they set sail on a blustery day for Caerleon and home.
Gerraint returns home after months away. He loves Enid, but he wonders how she managed to keep those months. He begins to doubt. Don’t miss next week’s chapter, Over the Mountain. Until then, Happy Reading