“Listen,” Gerraint said. “All of the little ones who haunt your home and fields, do so out of love for you, not just out of love for your grandfather. Now, your good sons need wives. There are many strong women, some widows in the village of the little man and they would love a good husband. I will think on who may be good wives. And you need to prepare many cures, for the battle to come may be the final gasp of the last Pendragon. Who can say? I do not know the future.”
The woman reached over and hugged Gerraint, and cried on him for a while. He comforted her as well as he could and said someday, her grandfather might visit her again. He was not far. But then he needed to lie down before the sun came up
Gerraint tossed and turned for four hours. He dreamed about fighting everyone that crossed his path. When he found Enid, he locked her away in a prison and allowed her no visitors. Then he drove Enid in front of him, mercilessly, and would not hear her pleading that she was innocent, and she loved him. It killed Gerraint every step of the way, but he could not help himself. There was something drove him. He had something on his back.
Gerraint awoke, trembling, wide awake. He felt the wound and scars in his shoulder more than usual. He looked at the woman, at Flora, and her sons Bowen and Damen, who stared at him with frightened eyes. Flora had a bowl of water and a cloth to wipe the sweat from his eyes. Gerraint said nothing. He called for the armor of the Kairos, and dressed in nothing else.
“There was something on your back,” Flora said. “You had something on your back.”
Gerraint made no answer as he found his horse saddled and waiting outside the door. He mounted and raced off to the main road. Arthur needed to know and Merlin needed to be stopped.
Gerraint barely noticed the three graves beside the road. They had three crosses, but only the middle one had any writing. All it said was “Thieves.” Gerraint did not stop at the inn in the night, but rode on, even through the darkness of the woods. He found the leading edge of Arthur’s army as he came to the Roman road at the foot of the hill. He raced passed Bedwyn and Urien who were near the front. He ignored the calls of Pelenor when he rode on. He saw the Welshmen, Kvendelig the hunter, Menw the fake wizard, and Gwarhyr the poet, but they were some distance away. Ogryvan, Gwynyvar’s brother, rode beside Nanters deep in conversation, but all Gerraint thought was all present and accounted for except for the far north. He did not stop until he came to Arthur’s tent, which was about to be packed up.
Gerraint’s poor horse looked finished, but Gerraint jumped off and went into the tent before the horse stopped running. Arthur sat there, with Bohort and Meryddin. Morgana also stood there, which came as a bit of a surprise, but she seemed to be in Meryddin’s face, accusing him of treason, though she had no proof.
“Gerraint.” Arthur spoke right up. “Didn’t you get my message?”
“I did. Percival’s in charge. I have a most urgent message in return, for your eyes only.”
“Give it here,” Meryddin said when he saw the parchment.
“Definitely not for your eyes.” Gerraint snatched the paper back so Meryddin could not grab it. Arthur came out from behind his small travel desk and took the message to the tent door for the light. Gerraint occupied Meryddin’s attention. “So, sucker punch any more innocent people lately?”
Meryddin’s gray eyebrows went straight up, but he understood as soon as he translated the gist of what Gerraint said.
“Only you, whoever or whatever you are. I must say, I don’t know how you managed to escape the incubus, but even if you did, I assumed destroying your happy marriage was worth it.”
“Sorry to disappoint. Enid and my relationship is stronger than ever. In fact, she is pregnant.” Gerraint practically spat the words. Bohort stood back and tried to follow the conversation. Morgana merely got quiet and her expression became unreadable. Arthur, who finished reading the note to Meryddin from the Saxons, stayed in the doorway and understood too well.
“Danna willing, she may miscarry at her age.”
Gerraint reached for Defender, but stayed his hand. He had something else in mind. “So, three-quarters human, do you want to know how I escaped from the incubus? I’ll give you a hint. When I was young, and Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, I heard you ask what the Roman knew that you did not know.” Gerraint let Meryddin remember the moment. “Here is your hint. I was the Roman.” Gerraint went away and Festuscato stood in his place. Bohort sat down. Morgana drew in a sharp breath. Meryddin’s eyes got big, evil djin big, like that part of his blood was stepping to the front and taking over. Arthur simply nodded, like he already figured it out. After all, Caliburn was Gerraint’s sword, as was Excalibur, for that matter.
“Kairos.” Meryddin at least knew the name, but he probably did not know the most of it.
“But for you, it gets worse,” Festuscato said, and he went away and let Danna stand in his place. She kept the weapons and armor of the Kairos which adjusted instantly to her shape and size. Her appearance caused Arthur to gasp at the memory of her. Bohort covered his eyes for her beauty. Morgana sank to her knees, not the least confused about who she was seeing. Meryddin, while not unaffected by the vision of her, he took it all wrong.
“A woman?” In Meryddin’s mouth, that sounded like a great insult. “Danna curse you.”
Danna ignored the man. She raised her voice and called. “Rhiannon.” The ground trembled and the tent flapped, like in a great wind. The whole army of Arthur paused in what they were saying and doing and looked up. The oncoming army of the Saxons looked to the sky and wondered if maybe the signs were against them after all. The waves in the English Channel picked up in size and speed, and inside a castle on an island in a lake on the border of Amorica, the very walls shook and trembled from the call. Rhiannon had to come.
She appeared and Meryddin went to one knee
“Goddess,” he said.
“The Lady of the Lake,” Arthur breathed.
Bohort kept his tongue, but Meryddin had not finished digging himself deeper.
“Great goddess. This woman is standing between your humble servant and his duty for Arthur, Pendragon. I would be most grateful if you would remove this woman so that the men of Arthur may continue with the great work, even as we have discussed.”
Rhiannon looked at Meryddin before she turned to Danna and asked a question that was everything contained in one word. “Mother?”
“Time to pay, sweetheart.” Danna stepped forward and gave Rhiannon a kiss on the cheek. Rhiannon, who had been expecting this and waiting with trembling anticipation, scrunched up her face.
Meryddin’s jaw dropped as it slowly dawned on him just who this woman was.
“Here is your charge,” Danna said. “You are to take this three-quarters man to your castle and lock him in your deepest dungeon cell. Neither you, nor anyone else is allowed to talk to him. Neither you, nor anyone else is allowed to listen to him. So if you feed him, and that will be your choice, you better choose someone who is deaf and dumb, and with enough strength to not be overpowered by the one-quarter djin. Then you will keep him there, in that cell, alone for the rest of his days. When he has passed over to the other side, you have my permission to bury him. Is that clear?”
“Yes mother, and it is much harder than I thought it would be.”
“Consequences are never easy,” Danna said. She waved her hand and Rhiannon and Meryddin vanished. She turned to Morgana and brought her to tears with a question. “And how are your daughters?” Danna did not wait for her to answer. “I know two boys who should be married. Bowen and Damon by name. They live on the mountain, next to the woods, in a farm hidden by the trees. It is rocky, hard, unyielding mountain land, but the farm is good having been worked for many years. Their mother is a seer and healer, so the girls can learn from her, and if your girls will work hard and be loving and faithful wives, I know the boys will be faithful husbands.” She knew Morgana’s heart, but let the woman speak.
“Yes, please. You are so kind.”
“Okay, one free trip, but that is it.” Danna waved her hand and Morgana and all of her things vanished and reappeared by her home. Danna took a second to tweak the ideal in two boys and two girls in their various minds and then she went away with a sigh so Gerraint could come back.
“Got any food. I’m starving. I would be asleep but the hunger would just wake me up.”
Arthur shared the letter with Bohort while he got Gwyr to fetch some food. Arthur was back by the time Bohort finished reading. Bohort only had one thing to say. “You should have cut the old man’s head off.”
Mount Badon. Gerraint goes back over the mountain, this time with a company of RDF. Percival is fighting a delaying action, but that doesn’t mean Saxons can’t find their way up the mountain road. Until Monday, Happy Reading