The wind swept Gerraint’s long dark brown hair around his face and made him blink involuntarily to protect his deep blue eyes. The ship coming into the dock promised news from across the channel. He already heard from Rhiannon, the Lady of the Lake, that something was afoot, but the lady gave no more information than that. Still, he would hear soon enough, and it had to be important since normally ships avoided crossing the channel in winter. Enid touched his arm and turned his attention momentarily from the wind and the waves.
“You look troubled,” she said. After thirty years of war and suddenly three years of utter peace, the idea that “something was afoot” could do that to a man.
“Now, why would I be troubled?” Gerraint asked and smiled. He kissed Enid sweetly and squeezed three-year-old Guimier in the process. She was in her mother’s arms where she could look over the railing and wave at the sailors and fishermen.
Enid lowered her eyes. “Because you look like you did in the weeks before Badon.” She blushed a little. The battle of Badon, the day the earth shook and Lyoness sank into the sea, had turned Gerraint into a bundle of stress. Three years of peace came of it, but so did Guimier.
“Oh.” Enid let out a little moan and set down the squiggling girl. “I’m forty-one, you know. I am getting much too old for this.”
“Never.” Gerraint smiled genuinely and took the absence of the child to slip his arm lovingly around his wife. She sighed and rested in his shoulder and they watched the ship together while Gerraint turned again to his thoughts.
They had whipped the Saxons badly enough at Badon that Gerraint hoped the peace would last the rest of his lifetime. Bedwyr would watch the Saxon Shore well enough to remind them that Britain was not to be trifled with. Kai, Warden of the North Watch had the Scotts and remaining Picts merrily fighting each other. Loth had the Norwegian Shore completely under his thumb, and those pesky Irish had been quiet since Tristam killed Marat, or really, since Arthur beat back the invasion of old king Rience, now gone to meet Saint Patrick’s maker. Peace had come, and quiet, and though the young men complained that there were no adventures left in the world, Gerraint did his best to convince them that they were better off. His own sons, Peter, James and John, all of nineteen, seventeen and fourteen, and all off as squires in various places, had nothing to complain about except their mother having a baby. They were pleased to have a little sister at last.
Enid broke free to catch Guimier before she toddled right over the side. Gerraint thought how he named his sons and insisted on those Christian names, but Enid named their daughter, Guimier, and the little girl already had her father wrapped around her little finger. He caught her up from Enid’s arms and she giggled.
“Look,” Guimier said, and pointed as the ship came to a stop and men began to shove out the plank.
“Wave to cousin Gawain,” Gerraint said, and Guimier and Gerraint waved together like a couple of three year olds.
“My Lord! Majesty! Uncle!” Gawain shouted and hardly waited for the gang plank as he sprang to the dock and began to run toward them. Guimier went back to her mother who put her down and took her little hand.
“Gawain!” Gerraint shouted back, and when they got close enough, they hugged. “And how is the family?” he asked, knowing that Gawain had been in Amorica since Hoel’s funeral and out of touch with his own kin.
“Um, well, I guess,” he said. “But I have the most remarkable news.”
“Well, come up to the house and you can tell me all about it.”
“But sir.” Gawain started, but Enid interrupted.
“Good to have you home.”
“Oh!” Gawain realized he had been rude. “My lady.” He gave her a hug. “And, say! This is Guimier? You were just a baby last time I saw you. You’re all grown up now, little cousin.” He knelt down and kissed Guimier on the head. Guimier did not know what to make of him. Like all little children, she looked up to her mother for guidance. Fortunately, Gerraint had already moved toward the horses and Gawain did not dawdle. He stepped on Gerraint’s heals even as Enid lifted Guimier to set her in the wagon with her nurse.
Luckily, by plan, Uwaine was there with the horses. He and Gawain were the same age, just about thirty-three, and they hugged and had a good deal of catching up to do. Gerraint mounted. His squire, Bedivere, his sister Cordella’s son from Lyoness mounted beside him, and they lead the procession home.
“But aren’t you curious as to Sir Gawain’s news?” Bedivere asked.
“Yes, but not impatient. There is nothing that cannot wait until I am comfortable, sitting in front of the fire, with a glass of ale in my hands,” Gerraint responded.
When the time came, Uwaine was the one who spilled the news. “He heard from Meryddin.” Uwaine said. “It’s been three years and no one has seen or heard from the old man until now. Can you imagine?”
Gerraint rubbed his chin. He could imagine it all too well. Rhiannon had promised to keep the old man away from this world until his days were done. He remained a potential time bomb, and Gerraint could not imagine what set his voice free from the grasp of the goddess. Whatever he said, it could not be for the best.
“We are to find the Cauldron of Life.” Gawain explained his brief conversation with Meryddin.
“You are sure it was him?” Enid asked the obvious question while Gerraint thought as hard and as fast as he could.
“Absolutely,” Gawain said. “Without question. He knew who I was and reminded me of things only he would know. Plus, I recognized his voice and that bit of a stutter. No question it was Meryddin.”
“The Graal,” Gerraint said at last and took everyone’s attention. “That must be it. After all these years, the Graal is to be found.”
“No, I don’t think so.” Gawain looked uncertain as to what a Graal was. “It was a cauldron of some kind.”
“A cauldron. A cup.” Gerraint spoke fast. “Let me tell you the story of Joseph of Arimathea. I am sure you have heard the story, only you have forgotten.” Gerraint counted on the fact that Gawain, like most of the Round Table, was a fervent believer in the Christ. Indeed, Arthur’s rule was that no one was admitted to the table or even to the room unless they first confessed their faith. Most did so willingly, though Gerraint knew there were some who confessed only in order to not be left out in the cold. Where their faith really lay was perhaps a question.
Gerraint told his audience about the last supper, and it was a story that resonated in the young hearts in the room. Then, after the supper, Joseph retrieved the cup, and through a long, arduous journey, came at last to Britain where he hid the cup from the pagans who would have destroyed it and the curiosity seekers who would have treated it badly and without due respect. “Evidently, now that we have become a Christian nation, God, in his wisdom, has chosen these days for this great task, to unveil the secret place of the Graal and make it known to all the people.”
“The cup of the Lord,” Bedivere whispered, reluctant to speak of such a thing too loud.
“Yes.” Gawain nodded slightly. “That must be what he meant.”
“You can imagine the healing in that great cup, the cup of the Great Physician himself, whose body and blood we partake of every Lord’s day for both our healing and our salvation.”
“That must be it.” Uwaine sounded more convinced.
“Yes, Uncle. I believe you know.” Gawain finally spoke with some confidence. “I know that after Meryddin, you know more things about what is and what must be than any other man alive. This is why I came first to you, and now you have made clear what was uncertain and confusing in my mind.”
“It was a very short conversation you had with Meryddin, was it not?” Gerraint asked.
“Yes,” Gawain nodded slowly again. “Yes, it was.”
“Well!” Gerraint sounded as if that answered all objections. “Obviously, he did not have time to explain it all. But maybe he picked you because he knew you would come first to me. I’ll say, the minute you started talking I knew exactly what it was you were talking about. At long last, the journey of Joseph will have its conclusion. The Graal, what a wonderful quest that will be, and God bless the man who finds it!”
“Yes.” Gawain nodded vigorously with his friend, Uwaine. “With your permission, I will leave on the evening tide for Caerleon. Arthur must be told right away.”
“You are welcome to stay and rest and refresh yourself,” Gerraint said, and he saw the reluctance in Gawain’s eyes, and laughed. “Oh, impetuous youth,” he said, though well aware that he was talking to a thirty-year-old and hardly a youth. Still, at forty-six he was nearly old enough to be Gawain’s father, so youth was a relative term. “By all means you may go. Arthur must be told, only eat something now before you leave. Enid has been cooking cakes all day in anticipation of your arrival.”
Gawain stopped and swallowed. It was the first he thought of it. “Yes, actually,” he said. “How did you know I was even coming?”
Gerraint winked at him. “Don’t worry about minor mysteries. You have a Graal to find. Believe me, there is mystery enough, and I would say adventure enough for a lifetime.” He laid a hand on Gawain’s shoulder and led him to the table. He felt rather hungry.
Gerraint explains his suspicions to Enid before he travels to Arthur’s court where, with Arthur’s help, he has to keep people focused on the Graal and off the ancient treasures of the Celts. Until then, Happy Reading.