M3 Gerraint: Around the Table, part 1 of 2

It was May before everyone gathered at Caerleon to discuss the quest for the Graal.  Enid and Gwynyvar went off to do whatever it was the Ladies did, while Gerraint fell in with some old friends, some of whom he had not seen since Badon, three years earlier.  Kvendelig the hunter stood in the corner with his Welsh cohorts, Menw and Gwarhyr.  Old man Kai came alone, but Bedwyr brought his wife, Constance, who at fifty, made a stable older influence for the ladies.  The really old men, Pelenor and Peredur, both of whom had to be pushing their mid-sixties, sat most of the time, with their slightly younger hang about, Ederyn right there with them.

“Goreu!”  Urien came up and called Gerraint by his Cornish name which was seldom heard and which few even knew.

“Urien.”  Gerraint shook the man’s hand and stared briefly at the raven symbol blazoned on the front of his tunic. Gerraint imagined if one had to select a totem, the raven was as good as a dragon, or a Cornish lion for that matter.

“And how is the lovely Enid?”  Urien asked.

“Lovely.”  Gerraint answered, and Arawn, who stood right behind Urien, guffawed as only he could do so well.  Gerraint went on.  “With Gwynyvar, and Modron, I suspect, assuming your wife is with you.”

“Couldn’t keep her away, er, much as I might have liked.”  He laughed at his own joke.  “It was a chance to see her boys, you know.”

“That’s right,” Gerraint said.  “Your eldest, Mabon is squire to Percival and, I’m sorry, I forget your youngest and who he is with.”

“Owain, just turned fourteen and Agravain has agreed to take him on.”  Gerraint nodded, but then fell silent.  He and Urien had never been exceptionally close.

“Ask him.”  Arawn urged Urien from behind as Urien had also felt a little awkward in the silence.

“Yes?”  Gerraint showed he was paying attention.

“Well.”  Urien looked as if he did not know how to phrase it, though he had probably long since planned it all out in his mind.  “It’s about this Graal,” he said.  “Well, rumor has it that is not exactly what Meryddin said, if you’ve heard.  I was wondering.”  He paused to collect himself.  “Rumor has it Gawain came first to you on his return from Amorica.  Do you recall by chance the conversations you had with him?”

Gerraint squinted.  For all of his stumbling, Urien was a brave man and reported to be a decisive little tyrant on his home stomping ground.  Certainly, he was no fool.  “I don’t imagine there is anything I can add to what you have already heard,” Gerraint said. “Was there something specific you were wondering about?”

“Well.”  Urien rubbed his beard.  “I heard rumors that Meryddin used the word cauldron, not cup.  You don’t suppose he could have meant the Cauldron of Inspiration, do you?”

Gerraint took it as lightly as he could and showed nothing in his attitude.  “Don’t be absurd.  Why would Meryddin send men after some old pagan artifact?  Probably no more efficacious than Stonehenge, though undoubtedly less big.”  He laughed as if the whole notion was absurd.  Urien laughed with him while he excused himself, and Arawn went with him.  Gerraint watched him walk to the Welsh corner to talk to the hunter and his friends, but then Gerraint moved on so he would not be noticed, watching.

He went to the window and looked out on the young men, that is to say, the younger men outside, showing how stupid they could be, as Margueritte would say.  He recognized most of them including Percival, who was closer to his own age and older than most, Lancelot, Tristam, who was near enough his age along with Bohort, Lionel.  Then there was Gawain, Gawain’s three cousins, Gwalchemi, and, of course, his own Uwaine who were all in their thirties.  The squires, all teenagers, were further away in the outer court.

Gerraint briefly wondered if Medrawt at twenty-one was with the squires, corrupting the youth.  At least incorruptible Bedivere was there, with Mabon and what’s-his-name, oh yeah, Owain.  Gerraint’s own three sons, Peter, James and John were most certainly there, and that newly arrived and rather embarrassing son of Lancelot’s youthful tryst in the days before he crossed the channel and became joined to Arthur’s court and to Gwynyvar.  Curious how she forgave him for something that happened before her time.  What was the boy’s name?  Yes, Galahad.  About eighteen, maybe twenty, Gerraint guessed.  Couldn’t be much more since Lancelot, one of the old men of the young lot, was only perhaps forty.

Gerraint turned away.  He knew no more of the squires.  They were a generation apart, and he could not keep up with them all.  He looked again around the room he was in and he felt suddenly struck by the gray hair, missing teeth, and for that matter, the missing gray hair.  He bumped into Gwyr, Arthur’s court judge.

“Gerraint.”  Gwyr looked up.  He fumbled the papers in his hands.  Gerraint stood roughly six feet tall.  Most men had to look up to him.

“Can I help?”  Gerraint asked.

“No,” Gwyr said.  “I’ve got it.  And I have a message for you.”  Gerraint listened. “The queen and Lady Enid have arranged for you and Arthur to have a sit-down supper after the meeting.  Don’t stray.”  He underlined that and Gerraint understood there was to be a meeting after the meeting.  Then Arthur came in.

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