“The lake?” Bedivere barely got it out when they were there, in the courtyard of a great castle such as would not be seen in that part of the world for another three to five hundred years or more. The horses were all there too, and looked to have been just groomed. And their own clothes were also fresh, as if they had not just ridden for several days, and sweated as prisoners or been in a fight.
“Nice trick Goreu,” Uwaine said.
“Thank the Lady,” Gerraint said, and then everyone came out of the palace to greet them. Many looked like great men and women apart from the fact that they were nearly all young and beautiful. These were the fairy lords and ladies and certain kings and queens among the elves. Some looked less and less like men and women, such as the dwarf lords and gnomes, hobgoblins and the like. These were the subjects of Gerraint in his guise as the Kairos, but there were also many present who were not his. Many were sprites, of the water, the air, the earth and from under the earth. Some were little spirits and lesser spirits and even a couple of lesser Gods. The Naiad of the lake herself was there, but she looked old and said she was ready to go over to the other side.
Bedivere kept passing back and forth between utter delight and abject fear. He nearly ran at the sight of the ogre, but Uwaine, who had some experience, steadied him. Uwaine got frightened, himself, by some of the people, and for that matter, Gerraint did not exactly feel comfortable even though he knew that all present were subject to Rhiannon.
Shortly, they were escorted inside where, like it or not, a great feast had been prepared for them. Gerraint quietly made sure the fairy food would not have an ill effect on his friends. When a normal mortal eats fairy food, they become subject to the fairies, like men and women who no longer have a will of their own.
Bedivere fell to the feast like a starving man. His every favorite dish sat in front of his place and that did away with his fears once and for all.
“But where are the Welshmen?” Uwaine whispered to Bedivere after a few minutes.
“A fair question,” Rhiannon said from half the distance of the enormous hall away. Through all the talk and noise in the hall, Rhiannon knew everything, every word and virtually every thought that passed by.
“Ears like Math,” Gerraint quipped while a holograph-like image appeared in the center of the hall. Somehow, everyone could see.
The first picture was Kvendelig the hunter. He appeared to be tracking something around a rock. It looked like a big rock and the anticipation grew as he came all the way around and stopped. He looked up and around and then knelt down to examine the dirt. “Good Lord!” Kvendelig expostulated. “Now there are two of them.” He started out again to uproarious laughter.
“Round and round,” Gerraint said. “I saw that one in Winnie the Pooh.”
Rhiannon smirked and changed the picture. This time they saw Gwarhyr, the linguist. He sat beside a different boulder where a branch, beyond his sight, periodically scraped up against the rock and another tree every time the wind blew. “Say that again?” Gwarhyr was saying. “I did not quite catch it.” The wind blew. The branch scraped, and Gwarhyr tried to imitate the sounds. “I’m going to learn the language of the little people if it takes all night.” He looked determined.
“How long has all night been so far?” Gerraint asked.
“Boring!” The noise from the crowd rose. Rhiannon waved again and the room filled with the lively sound of music.
This was true fairy music, highly contagious to anything mortal, and Rhiannon had to immunize Uwaine and Bedivere, quickly, before they started dancing, uncontrollably. Once they were safe, Gerraint looked and saw Menw, trapped in a stone circle, dancing up a storm. He kept smiling, but it was clear to see he danced utterly under the spell of the music. Suddenly, he went invisible and all they could see was the footprints and dust being kicked up.
“He has the power of invisibility, you know,” Rhiannon said.
“Ah, yes. Quite an accomplishment for a normal mortal,” Gerraint agreed.
“Yes, he thought to sneak up on us without our knowing it,” Rhiannon said seriously, and then she laughed, deeply.
Various groups in the room began to join in the dance as Menw once again became visible. Some placed bets on the side, and Gerraint could hardly imagine what they were betting on. Then Menw’s head went invisible and some of the gold got picked up. Once, Menw was visible, except in the middle, like head and shoulders hovering over a set of legs. The dwarfs in the room especially liked when he got down to nothing showing but feet.
“Shoes! Shoes!” The dwarfs shouted, and a great deal of gold exchanged hands.
“Good enough.” Rhiannon stood and clapped her hands and all the noise, the pictures, the whole crowd and the banquet disappeared altogether. Bedivere, Uwaine, Gerraint and Rhiannon seemed the only persons in a big, empty hall.
“When can we have them back?” Gerraint asked.
“Surely not before morning,” Rhiannon said and took Gerraint by the arm and lead the three men out through a door at the back of the hall. There were stairs, and fairy lights spaced every third step or so. At the top, they found rooms with big featherbeds, clean sheets and plenty of blankets to crawl under.
“Is it safe?” Bedivere wondered out loud.
“It is not safe to question the hospitality of the lady,” Uwaine responded, wisely. “Any lady.” He added for good measure.
“See you in the morning.” Gerraint noticed the fairies fluttering about, beginning to dim the lights. Rhiannon kissed his cheek with a word of love for dear Enid, and he slept well that night.
The Welshmen may have been stopped, but that does not mean Gerraint, Uwaine, and Bedivere are home free Until Monday, Happy Reading