Gerraint led them through a door and they came to a Grotto carved out from beneath the rocks with only a cave that led out into a gentle bay. There were several ships tied to a dock there, but none of them looked big enough to carry them all.
“Gobinu’s work,” Macreedy said.
“And we helped,” Luckless interjected.
“One will do,” Macreedy finished.
“For this great company?” Arthur began, but then decided not to doubt.
“Will you be joining us?” Gerraint asked the elf.
“Aye,” Macreedy said. “But not the ladies. They have decided to keep Tara for a time, with their Lord’s permission.” Gerraint nodded slightly, but said nothing.
“Oh.” Peredur sounded sad. He had yet to let go of his elf maiden’s hand. The other maidens backed to the door, but Peredur’s maid paused to kiss him as a lovely granddaughter might kiss her kindly grandfather. Then she seemed to think about it, and planted one right on his lips.
“Another kiss like that could kill this old man.” Peredur mumbled and Macreedy grinned.
“So here we are,” Bedivere spoke at last. “One Lady. One elf, two dwarfs and nine men to invade Avalon.”
“Not much of a force at arms,” Lancelot said. Like Bedivere, he was thinking in military terms.
“D-day, certainly,” Gerraint quipped, and invited them all aboard the first ship. It had appeared no bigger than a lifeboat from the dock, but once aboard it was found to be spacious, with a central mast as big as an oak, and even a below deck to store their things. They shoved off, and under Macreedy’s direction, the sailors, Trevor and Gwillim set the sail, with the help of Luckless who had sailed in the days of Festuscato. The men said there was no purpose in raising the sail inside the cave. All the same, the wind came and nudged them out into the bay.
“Well I’ll be,” Trevor said. Only the sailors were surprised. The others either knew what to expect or did not really understand that a normal sail would have been useless until they got out in the open where it could catch the wind.
“I feel sick.” Bedivere complained almost immediately. Gwynyvar looked green and Arthur and Lancelot appeared about to join her. Uwaine laughed, because for once he did not feel the least bit sick.
“We have passed out of the world altogether. Welcome to the endless sea in the second heavens.” Gerraint held up his hand to forestall questions. “It is that divide between the first heaven that covers the Earth like a blanket and the Third Heaven wherein is the throne of God.” He pointed behind and all heads turned. The hills, perhaps cliffs if not the cave that they expected to see were nowhere in evidence. All they could see was the dark waters of the sea, stretching off to the horizon in every direction.
“Hardly,” Macreedy said as he checked the sail. “But we may die if we lose the current. This sea is boundless. It has no shoreline, though there are shorelines everywhere.” Macreedy went to stand with Trevor at the rudder.
“But say, that doesn’t make any sense. Either there is a shoreline or not.” Gwillim objected and tried to come out of the feeling of having died.
“There is and is not,” Gerraint said. “Normal rules don’t apply here. The place folds in and back on itself and even turns inside-out. It is utterly unstable.”
“Apart from Lady Alice,” Macreedy spoke up from the helm.
Gerraint nodded. “She tries to keep Avalon and the seven isles and the innumerable isles beyond in a more stable condition, but it is like living in the eye of a hurricane.”
“Olympus?” Arthur said the word, but made it a question.
Gerraint nodded again. “Aesgard, Vanheim, the Mountain Fastness and all. All once found in the Second Heavens. All gone now,” he said.
“All but Avalon,” Mesalwig said. Gerraint looked at the man. Mesalwig had been silent almost since arriving in Tara. It was impossible to tell what the man might be thinking.
“Avalon of the Apples,” Bedivere corrected Mesalwig. He started feeling better.
“Give it up.” Uwaine teased Peredur who still stared at nothing in particular and touched his lips. “She is undoubtedly too old for you. May be five hundred years too old.”
Gerraint shook his head for a change. “Only three hundred,” he said, and Gwynyvar giggled.
Gerraint went to stand at the bow. It was not that his eyes could see any better than the others, though they could, but he was really getting anxious and trying hard not to show it. He did not know if Rhiannon’s aura of protection around Enid and Guimier would hold up in the Second Heavens. He did not know what Urien and Pelenor might have found on the island, nor where that Abraxas might be, nor where that most disobedient of all of his children, Talesin might be. He tried not to think of these things, but he could not help it. His stomach churned from worry.
“They will be all right,” Gwynyvar said. She had come up alongside him and offered him a cup of water and a bit of bread and cheese. Gerraint thanked her for the water, but turned down the solid food. He did not think his stomach could handle it. He turned and they looked together. Arthur paced the deck. Lancelot sat with his back to the mast and watched Arthur pace. Peredur leaned on the railing to look out over the water, and Bedivere stood beside him. Their conversation was quiet.
Gwynyvar nudged him. Uwaine finally leaned over the opposite rail, responding to the sea in his accustomed manner. Gwillim appeared to be supervising and offering his supposed cures. Mesalwig sat apart. Gerraint wondered about the man again, but again Gwynyvar nudged him and pointed to the stern. Trevor appeared to be having a hard time keeping the rudder in the current and not touch the elf at the same time. Macreedy enjoyed teasing the man.
“How long is the journey?” Gwynyvar asked.
“Long as a wolf takes to finish howling at the moon.” Luckless said as he came up alongside them. They spied Lolly trying to get some flavor out of the bread and cheese. Gwynyvar thought for a moment.
“But how does a wolf know when it is finished?” She asked.
“When it stops howling,” Luckless said.
Gwynyvar turned a very confused face toward Gerraint.
“An instant, a week, a month?” Gerraint shrugged and turned his eyes ahead.
“Then again,” Luckless said. “We might have arrived ten minutes ago, only we haven’t realized it yet.”
It got dark. They had no sundown, no dusk, and no chance for their eyes to adjust. One minute it was light and the next it was dark apart from the infinite stars and a perfect full moon that appeared fully risen in the sky, directly ahead. The moon seemed exceptionally large, like it rose a bit close to the earth.
“How lovely,” Gwynyvar said, once she got over the sudden change in the time of day. She looked confused again when Gerraint pointed to the stern where a half moon followed them. She shook her head and went back to Lancelot and Arthur. Arthur needed to stop pacing.
“Better go see to bedding down,” Luckless said. “It has been a tiring day today, or yesterday, or tomorrow, whichever it was or is.” He wandered off and began to turn people toward sleep.
Gerraint could not sleep. He knew it was foolish. He would need to be well rested and more than likely he would need all of his strength and wits to deal with whatever they might find, but he could not sleep, no matter what.
Soon enough the others were dozing. Luckless took a turn at the rudder and promised to wake Macreedy before long. Gerraint was the only other one awake when an image appeared beside him.
“The woman is fine. And the child,” the image said.
Gerraint paused before he spoke. “Thank you.”
“I imagined you might want to rest after the Tor,” the image spoke again.
“I don’t think I can,” Gerraint answered honestly. “I was thinking about having to kill Urien. Such thoughts always twist my insides.”
“’Twas,” Gerraint insisted. “Even if the words came from your Mother’s lips.”
Manannan nodded, slowly, and then the two just stood there for hours feeling the wind and the spray and watching the waves. Gerraint could not be sure, but he suspected that under the hypnotic swells in the water, he may have slept for a while standing up.