After 479 A.D. Britain
Kairos 97: Gerraint in the Time of King Arthur
The travelers barely came through the time gate before they got surrounded by rough looking men on horseback, spears at the ready. The men looked hardened by battle, but a bit afraid of something. They did not move on their captives.
“Hold your fire,” Lockhart spoke generally to the air. “No reason to start out on the wrong foot. Which of you is in charge?”
One man moved forward, and the young man beside him came with him. “I am Heinrich of the Sea, and this is my son, Heingurt.”
“Not much sea around here,” Lockhart said, and tried to smile. “Lincoln,” he called.
“British highlands would be my guess.” Lincoln compared his notes in the database with Boston’s amulet. They sought the right map.
“You are Saxon?” Katie asked and stepped up beside Lockhart.
“Fair enough,” Lockhart said. “We are just passing though. We will respect your land and be on our way.”
“Saxons,” Katie interrupted. “This has to be when Britain slowly became England. I bet this has not been Saxon land for very long.”
Before others could speak, the young man had questions he could not contain. “Are you from the Lake of the Moon? Do you know the Lady of the Lake? I hear she is very beautiful. Why did she not drive you mad?”
“Looking,” Lincoln said, while Katie and Lockhart turned to the older man to explain.
“We saw you appear out of nowhere, like a hole in the air. Are you spirit people?”
“Only me,” Boston shouted, and leapt up on her horse, Strawberry. She fluffed out her red hair and gave the Saxons a good elf-grin.
“We have one,” Lockhart admitted. “We also travel with one of the elder races of the earth. The rest of us are human, more or less, mostly.”
“What does that mean?” the young man spouted. The older man quieted his son and spoke.
“Follow us. We will take you to our village and our chief, Hans Bad-Hand. He will decide.”
“Decide what?” Alexis asked Lincoln, softly. Decker overheard and agreed.
The wraith appeared in the dungeon room beneath the great hall in Cadbury Castle. The castle guard got locked up in the cells beneath the new tower, but the special prisoners were all kept in the original dungeon. The wraith laughed, a wicked, evil sound that garnered everyone’s attention. Seven-year-old Guimier barely kept herself from screaming. She buried her face in her mother’s skirts. Enid put one hand down to comfort her daughter. Her other hand held on to Gwynyvar’s hand. Arthur and Bedivere stepped in front of the women, to protect them, but they had no weapons, and they had no idea what they could do about a wraith.
“You are all here, but one, and he is on the way.” The wraith spoke to them in a chilling voice that made Gwynyvar cover her own mouth against any untoward sound. “Fear what is to come. The wagons are nearly here with plenty of black powder. When they arrive, you will become target practice. Do you know what I mean, target practice?”
“Where is Odacer… and Harwic the blade?” Arthur found the strength to protest in the face of that floating horror. The wraith looked like a corpse in mid-air. “I invited them to talk peace, not to make war.”
The wraith laughed again, and both Guimier and Gwynyvar softly shrieked, but refused to give in to the full-fledged scream. The wraith vanished as the cell door opened. Gerraint, dragged by two big Saxons, got tossed into the room. He collapsed to the straw covered stone floor, a bloody mess.
“Quick. Help me get him to the cot,” Enid said. Arthur and Bedivere got him lying down. Gerraint moaned but did not show that he was conscious. He had obviously been tortured.
“Daddy,” Guimier started to cry, and would have run to fling herself on him, but Gwynyvar caught her. She hugged the girl and let her cry into her dress.
Bedivere stood and returned to the wall, where he tapped with the loose stone he found earlier. “No secret passages in this dungeon,” he said, and turned to look at Arthur.
Arthur looked angry, in fact, he looked as angry as Bedivere had ever seen him. He sounded angry. “I am not the fool, but the lies these men told were masterful. I honestly thought peace was possible with the Saxon shore. It has been seven years since Badon. I believed the Saxons had finally come to terms with their beating and were ready to make a more permanent peace.” He sat heavily and Gwynyvar put Guimier in Enid’s arms so she could sit beside Arthur.
“Every right person wants peace,” Gwynyvar said, and she held him. “Peace is one thing worth believing in.” Arthur dropped his face into his hands as Gerraint moaned again.
Hans Bad-Hand looked over his guests. They appeared to be three couples. He did not like the look of the dark ones, Africans of some sort, he assumed. The others looked normal enough, except the blonde’s husband had to duck to enter the house, as did the African. Well, the third couple looked normal enough, until the black-haired woman mentioned that her husband only calls her a witch on her bad days. Witchery from the woman would not surprise him. He shifted his gaze to the window.
The old man outside had looked normal enough, and the young one that stayed outside with him might be his son. The two girls that also stayed outside, though, made him thank the gods they did not come inside his home. He could believe the red head was a spirit creature. Just looking at her made is skin squirm. He felt it all the way down in his bad hand. The other one looked normal enough but appeared strong as an ox. Even if she did not qualify as a spirit creature, he wondered if she might have some troll blood in her. He turned to the group leader.
“I think you are not people to trifle with,” he said. “Heinrich, you were right to bring them here. You say you are just passing through. May I ask where you came from?” It was a loaded question. He had been told they appeared out of thin air.
“The lake of the moon,” young Heingurt blurted out before his father hushed him.
“We don’t know what that is,” Katie said, kindly to the boy.
Lincoln cleared his throat as he got out the database to check. “The Lake of the Moon is the place Rhiannon and her court went after Meryddin, that is, Merlin died. She left her pet dragon in Brittany and escaped to the British highlands, so hers is not the dragon in these hills.’
“Rhiannon. The Lady of the Lake,” Alexis said.
“The goddess?” Nanette asked, to be sure.
“I remember her from Greta’s day,” Katie said. “She was very nice.”
“Ahem,” Hans Bad-Hand interrupted. “If not the lake of the moon, where did you come from, if I may ask?”
People paused and looked at one another, but Lockhart did not see any harm in telling. “An hour ago, we were in Italy, about two hundred miles north of Rome.”
“Worse than that,” Katie said. “We were there when the Vandals sacked Rome.”
Heinrich gawked. “That was a hundred years ago.”
“More like sixty years ago, I would guess,” Lincoln said. “But right now, more importantly, we are looking for a man named Gerraint, the Lion of Cornwall.” People looked at Lincoln and he realized he should not have said that.
“Ahh!” Hans shouted. He took a deep breath before he calmly said, “I hope you intend to kill him.”
“Why is that?” Lockhart asked, and noticed Katie wanted him to be quiet, and Alexis tried to keep her husband quiet as well.”
“The Lion of Cornwall killed my brother at the mountain called Badon.”
Both Lincoln and Lockhart kept their mouths closed, so Decker spoke up. “I am sure it was a fair fight.”
Hans Bad-Hand growled, but Heinrich spoke. “It was in battle. It was a fair fight. What do you think, Brennan?” He turned to the local man in the house who had thus far said nothing. The man looked at the chief, but Hans Bad-Hand looked away, and looked like he was going to stew for a while, so Brennan spoke, and with a slightly different accent.
“I am from the village over the hill. My people have been in these mountains for centuries. About your sixty years ago, maybe more, there were reports of dragons in these hills. At that time, many people moved from here down to man the forts in the old Roman wall. These people are newcomers.” He indicated Heinrich and his chief. “They settled in this abandoned village about three years ago, now. We were all afraid at first. There has been too much war between my people and the German people. But we made peace. We trade. It is good to have neighbors again.”
Heinrich smiled. “Enough, Brennan. The man will start in on the whole ancestry of his family if I let him. Stick with the question.”
“Fair fight?” Brennan said, with another glance at Hans Bad-Hand. “Yes. I am sure it was a fair fight. My uncle was there, fighting on the other side, of course. But, like I said, there has been too much fighting and killing over the years. Peace is better.”
Hans Bad-Hand sighed. “Peace is better,” he agreed, and asked no more questions.
After that, and a slim lunch, the travelers got ready to leave. When Brennan found out they were headed in his direction, he offered to guide them down, out of the mountains. “The dragon is still around here, somewhere, you know.”
“At what price?” Lincoln asked before they went any further.
“Maybe, one gold piece, if you got one.” Brennan grinned and held out his hand.
“When we are free of dragon lands,” Lincoln said, and Brennan shrugged. He expected that.