Arthur called for the immediate surrender of the Saxons and declared himself unwilling to shed blood unless necessary. He promised safe escort back to Wessex for whomever might wish it. His words must have had an effect, because those Saxons who fought on the next day in an effort to break out of their predicament did not seem fully committed. Many abandoned their leaders and ran back to their camps.
One thing, Arthur took note that the Saxons started making lances of their own and training horsemen how to use them. But then, Arthur’s men had been training in lance against lance combat since the Irish invasion got repelled. The Saxon lancers still had a lot to learn.
Heingest got killed in one of the small battles or skirmishes that took place on that day. With his voice silenced, the Saxons accepted Arthur’s offer and went home. The remaining Saxon warships already headed out of the channel and toward home, not pursued, but followed by Thomas’ merchant fleet.
When it was all settled, Gerraint found Arthur and they hugged and Gerraint said, “You know, if this was a thousand years from now I would call it a good time to go in for a cup of tea.” They had to settle for Ale.
There were two years of peace after the siege of Caerleon, barely a breather. Gerraint’s mother died at the ripe old age of sixty-six. Gerraint figured she lived so long because she had servants and never took responsibility for anything, and thus had low stress. Most of the common people did not live that long. Fifty-something might have been average for those not taken by accident, war, or disease. Seventy would have been venerable.
Gerraint settled down in those two years to raise his sons. Sadly, Arthur began to get letters, and he called together some of the Round Table to discuss matters.
Loth wrote from the north that the Scots started making noises again, and what was more, they appeared to be building a relationship with the Danes along the Norwegian shore. This sounded bad, and Loth could not exert enough influence to stop it. In fact, he moved his family to York for their safety.
Bedwyr wrote from Oxford that the Saxons in Essex and Mercia and the Angles in East Anglia seemed altogether too quiet, but Octa, son of Heingest, son of Hueil the pirate, who also happened to be the son of an Angle Princess, began to style himself as a king of the angles in Kent, and those long quiet Germans were making far too much noise. He feared the worst if Octa, or his angle princess mother, should succeed in their ambitions.
Gwillim wrote from Dorset with confirmation from his brother Thomas that the Saxons in Sussex and Wessex were gathering together on a much too regular basis. He said the word “coward” seemed to be the main word tossed around. It got aimed at the men who surrendered with such relative ease at Caerleon. And as you know, he said, the word coward for a Saxon is a fighting word.
“We can’t go chasing after every rumor and innuendo,” Arthur said.
“On the other hand,” Gerraint responded. “None of these men is inclined to be a letter writer. If they put it in writing, they must think the threat credible.”
“Pelenor,” Gerraint said without hesitation.
Percival grinned. “That would be a sign of the end times, do you think?”
Arthur laughed, but Meryddin interrupted with his thoughts. “Saxons and Angles we know, and they cannot seem to do anything without casting their seed everywhere. If the Saxons or Angles begin to gather an army from among their many petty chieftains, we will know it and have time to gather ours. As long as they continue to talk, they pose no threat. You know they can’t talk and fight at the same time.”
“Walk and chew bubblegum,” Gerraint mumbled to no one’s understanding.
Meryddin ignored the interruption. “I believe the greater threat is the alliance between the Scots and the Norwegians. Our knowledge of events in the north is no better than it has ever been. Loth does his best, but his spies are not that good. The Norwegians keep to their own, and the Scots are a constantly changing mess. One thing we do know is both peoples have increased their numbers from immigration in the last few years. The Ulsterites have flocked to the north in numbers greater than ever before. Their home is still overcrowded and the Irish are stubborn and relentless in trying to take the land right out from beneath them.”
“Like that will ever change,” Gerraint mumbled again. Meryddin stopped this time and stared. Gerraint sat up straight. “Illegal aliens. Go on,” he said.
Meryddin continued. “We know from recent experience most of the Scots, lured by the promise of land, are inclined to head north and further reduce the Pictish population. But we also know the still relatively depopulated north of Britain is tempting. The newly arrived Danes must certainly be eyeing that fertile land, and the Scots no less. That they should make an alliance smells of trouble to come.”
“What do you recommend?” Gawain asked.
“A word from the young?” Gerraint seemed to be in a mood.
“Only because Uwaine would never say it,” Gawain whispered, and they turned to see Meryddin staring at them both. Meryddin gave Gerraint another mean look before he continued.
“We must focus our attention on finding a way to break the Scottish-Norwegian alliance. No good for us can come from such a partnership. I recommend riding to the north and meeting with the Scottish leaders. Three years ago, we found Scots on our land and allowed them to stay if they met certain conditions. Perhaps if we liberalize the requirements, we might entice the Scots to our side to hold the line against the Danes.”
“Why don’t we invite the Danes to our side with an offer of land?” Tristam asked.
“Bah!” Meryddin would not hear it. “The Scots are good Celtic people who think like us and act like us and believe about life the way we do. Even their tongue shares some words with ours. The Norwegians are foreign and strange. They worship strange Gods and practice strange rituals and have nothing in common with our own people.”
“Foreign devils,” Gerraint mumbled, but he had to admit it was a good argument for picking one side over the other.