It sometimes felt hard to realize the days of peace far outnumbered the days of war. The Calendar turned to 518 and marked twenty-five years since Arthur pulled the sword from the stone. Gerraint turned thirty-nine, becoming one of the elder statesmen, but one who felt like he spent the last twenty-five years at war. To be sure, not counting the rebellion at the very beginning, Gerraint counted ten major battles and campaigns in those twenty-five years. And he had all the scars and aches of age to prove it.
“What are you thinking?” Enid took Gerraint’s arm and nestled her head in his shoulder. They were walking in the garden. He thought only of her. She turned thirty-four and looked more beautiful than ever. He only had one serious thought, but that was not what he talked about.
“Peter,” He pointed at the sound of his eldest playing in the courtyard beyond the garden gate. “He is nearly eleven. It won’t be long before he will be a squire.”
“Have you found one to take him?”
“No,” Gerraint admitted. “I haven’t started looking.”
“Typical,” Enid said, as she stood up straight but did not let go of his arm. “You can’t wait until the last minute if you expect to get someone good.”
“He is a bit of a loner.”
Gerraint nodded. “He needs a good wife.”
They stopped in the gate and watched as Cordella’s eldest, thirteen-year-old Bedivere, went roaring by with a stick in his hand in place of a sword. “Cordella’s son is old enough to squire,” Enid said, before she raised her voice. “Careful. You can poke an eye out with a stick.”
“Lucky man,” Gerraint said, without explanation.
“How does it work?” Enid seemed to be searching for something, and maybe thinking about losing her sons at what seemed to her a very young age.
“Well,” Gerraint took a breath. “The first four years, say fourteen to seventeen are spent in school. A good squire need to learn reading and writing and arithmetic. Many men contract that part out to a local Priest who will give the young men a grip on Latin and maybe even a smattering of Greek. Then they need good time in the wilderness where they learn to hunt and fish, cook and clean, and build a fire that won’t burn down the forest. They learn to appreciate the natural world, what the priest would call, God’s creation. They learn what the plants are good for, the many uses, and which they can eat and which they must not eat. And about rocks and metals, how to build traps, and many such things.
“Like the proper use of a rock for taking dents out of helmets,” Enid grinned.
“Exactly,” Gerraint said, and started her toward the porch, walking in the shade along the edge of the courtyard to keep out of the play area. “And horses,” he continued with his thoughts. “A man’s best companion is his horse. A squire must learn how to care for and keep his horse in good shape, and then about his equipment too, how to care for all of it.”
“Weapons,” Enid said gruffly.
“Yes.” Gerraint did not back down from the subject. “He learns how to care for and use weapons properly.” He stopped walking, so she stopped.
“It sounds like a lot,” Enid said.
“It is,” Gerraint admitted. “but then he gets another four years, like eighteen to twenty-one to practice it all. That is when he will learn larger things, as Percival calls them, like how to relate to people as an adult, and relate to all the many lords and chiefs in the land. He will learn something about history and what you might call geopolitics. He will learn how and when to negotiate, and when to take up that sword. And he will learn tactics and strategy, though hopefully not on the battlefield. And, by God’s grace, he will find a wife by the time he is fully grown at twenty-one.”
“I was waiting for you.”
Enid pulled in to give him a hug. He said the right thing, but she had another thought. “But what about Uwaine?”
“Being my squire, I am afraid I made things too strange and difficult for him. He should be married.” Gerraint looked up to the porch where Melwas, Uwaine, Percival and Gawain sat quietly in the shade while Percival and Gawain’s wives had a running conversation with Cordella, Cordella leading the pack, of course.
“Morgana has two daughters, you know.” Enid spoke from his embrace and did not want to let him go.
“Morgaine and Morgause,” Gerraint knew them.
“Morgana and Uwaine’s mother both think one of them would make him a good wife.”
Gerraint thought, and have a real witch for a mother-in-law, but he did not say that. “Morgana,” he said, and he did not say it in an unkind tone of voice. “She is the only one I know who has the courage to stand up to Meryddin’s face on behalf of her brother, Arthur.”
“Other than you,” Enid said.
Gerraint backed her up a bit to see her smile. “Are you kidding? Merlin scares my socks off.” Enid scoffed and pulled herself back into his arms for more hugging. “But what I really want to know is who decided sisters have to have such similar names, like Morgaine and Morgause?”
“It’s a Welsh thing, like Gwynyvar and Gwenhwyfach,” Enid said and sighed. “Mother had the name Edna picked out if I ever had a sister.”
Gerraint recognized the sigh. He knew Enid would love a baby girl, but that was one place he would not go, not that he had much to say about it. “We should join the others.”
Enid sighed again and they began to climb the steps. “Anyway,” she said. “Mab says Uwaine is a perfect gentleman and deserves a good wife.”
“Mab. You are hanging out with that fairy Princess too much lately. But see? I have ruined you, too.” Enid touched his shoulder like a pretend slap before she retook his arm.