M4 Gerraint: Old Men, part 3 of 4

Gerraint thought about Uwaine’s wife.  Uwaine brought her home not long after that business with the Graal cleared up.  She was a Saxon, a buxom blond with just the right amount of freckles, as like to Greta as one might find.  Neither Gerraint nor Uwaine ever said anything about that.  Uwaine’s mother never got used to her as long as she lived, but their neighbor, Morgana was good to her, and she and Morgause became friends.  Odd how things sometimes worked out.  The girl, fifteen years younger than Uwaine, but in the last thirteen years or so she gave him two sons and two daughters so Gerraint supposed there were no complaints.

“George.”  Gerraint said suddenly, as he brought up the rear, leading his charger with the wrapped hoof.  “Seems to me I recall a George in British history.  Can’t remember any details, though.  I suppose that chapter is not yet written.”  He got silent for a moment before he shouted.  “For England, Saint Michael and Saint George!”  He quieted.  “No idea what that means.”

They arrived at the village of Swindon the following evening.  Constance made them as welcome as she could.  She turned the servants toward a flurry of activity which Gerraint called unnecessary.

“Majesty,” Constance said.  “I had no word you were coming.”

George looked up at the word “Majesty,” but he said nothing.

“I wasn’t,” Gerraint admitted.  “You know at my age I would rather be home with Enid, or out fishing, but Arthur called, and I thought to take the long way around to visit my old friend.”

Constance looked pained.  She looked away and nearly let go of some tears.  “My Lord passed away last winter,” she said.  “It was a mercy.  He stayed helpless in bed for too many years.  He begged me not to tell anyone or send word.”

Gerraint reached out and held the old woman, and she did let out a few tears.

“I’m very sorry,” Bedivere said.

Shortly, Constance led them to the graveside to pay their respects.  “The swiftest of men.  Steadfast as a rock.”  Gerraint named him, while George got the little cross his mother had worn around her neck out of his pouch and spent a few moments in silent prayer.  After, as they returned to the house, George turned to Bedivere.

“The famous Bedwyr of Arthur.”  He was just checking.  Bedivere affirmed.  “And Gerraint, King of Cornwall, the terror of Badon and the Lion of Cornwall,” he finished.

“Exactly,” Bedivere said.

“Praise God’s good hand for placing me in your company,” George said.  “I could not have asked for more.”

Gerraint overheard, but he chose silence.  He did not act as such a terror anymore, and he never was as much as the tales said.  He wondered, looking around the village of Swindon, seeing mostly old men and women, what would become of Britain after his days?  Loth had gone, and now Bedwyr.  What would come when Arthur died?  He wondered if that might have been why Arthur sent for him.  Perhaps Arthur was dying.  He tried not to think too hard on that.

After two days of good food and two nights of soft beds, with Bedivere no longer in danger of opening his wound, provided he behaved himself, the three travelers continued toward Bath and Badon where they would ride around the point of the channel and head for Caerleon.  George rode most of the way in silence and only asked once why Gerraint insisted on stopping every couple of hours to walk around.

“Because if I don’t,” he explained.  “I’ll stiffen up and you will have to carry me on a stretcher.”

They spent the evening in the wild some distance from Bath as they found no convenient village inn.  Gerraint wanted at least one night under the stars, and besides, Constance, or someone, had ridden out in advance and told people that he moved on the road.  He all too constantly got stopped and awed.  It was not like the old days when people would ask, Gerraint who?  Heck, in those days they asked, Arthur who?

That evening, they had a visitor.  He came right after sundown, glowing in elfish armor, and standing tall as a man, though Gerraint knew it was not his natural look.  His helm looked plume encrusted in the Roman style, and his weapons appeared all gold and jewel encrusted as well.

Bedivere and George had their swords out, hearing the intruder before seeing him.  On first sight, however, Bedivere put up his sword and instructed George to do the same.  He did, but he could not resist staring.  Meanwhile, Gerraint snored.  It took a bit to get him awake.

“Great Lord.”  The warrior bowed, deeply.

“What news, Lord Beechworth, and what brings you to Britain on this side of the Channel?”  Gerraint asked as he rubbed his eyes.  This time he was talking about the English Channel.

“The Lady Viviane has seen this young one in her heart and she knows there is greatness in his days to come, though she cannot say what that work may be for the clouds that cover those days,” Beechworth said.

“Yes.”  Gerraint started coming awake.  “I felt the same when we picked him up some days ago.  But what does Rhiannon want?”

“Lord, you know she has left the lake across the sea and moved court to the British Highlands since Meryddin passed over.”

“Er, yes.”  Gerraint nodded but he sounded hesitant.  He had not really thought about it since Macreedy informed him all those years ago.

“The lady has sent me to ask if she may train the youngster as she once trained Lancelot and Galahad.”

“Young man.”  Gerraint turned to George.  “This concerns you.  What have you to say?”

“I, I.”  George did not exactly know what to say.

“Spit it out,” Gerraint insisted.

George swallowed.  “I stopped believing in elves and fairies when I came to faith in the Lord.  How?”  He stumbled on what to ask.

“God works though all that he has made to affect all that he will.”  Gerraint said.  “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than you or I can dream or imagine, and don’t underestimate the creativity of the Almighty, or anything else concerning the Almighty for that matter.”  He shook his finger at the boy.  “But the question is, will you learn the way of the chiefs of this world, what soon enough they will call Knighthood?  Here are teachers offering to teach you.”

“Yes.”  George yelped lest the offer vanish.  “Only I promised my mother that I would first seek Arthur’s court.”

“There you have it,” Gerraint said to Beechworth, who did not understand exactly what he had.  He looked at Bedivere, but Bedivere merely shrugged.  “George will go with us to Arthur,” Gerraint explained.  “Then I will bring him to the highlands myself.”

“Very good, my Lord.”  Beechworth offered another bow, but he did not otherwise move.

“My best to your Lady and tell Brimmer the Dwarf to get cracking.  The boy needs armor that will fit him,” Gerraint said.

“Very good.”  Beechworth repeated himself again, but still did not move.

“Good to see you again,” Gerraint added.  “Go on, now.  Get small.”

“Lord.”  With that permission, Beechworth did get small, fairy that he was, and flew off at such speed, for all practical purposes he vanished.

George looked full of wonder, but before he could begin to ask questions in earnest, Gerraint already started snoring.

They arrived at Caerleon in due order.  Gerraint and his party were hustled into the Pendragon who sat at the Round Table looking morosely at all of the empty seats.  He got up when Gerraint came in and they embraced and passed pleasantries.  Then Gerraint introduced his party.

“Bedivere, you know,” Gerraint said.  “And this is young George, a Saxon we picked up under some rather unusual circumstances.”

“God’s providence.”  George announced and he fell to one knee.  Such formalities were rarely seen in the room of the Round Table, but George felt acutely aware that he was a stranger in a strange land.

Arthur’s face turned.  “You know no pagan has ever been allowed in this room.”  He shot at Gerraint, though the accusation was not strictly true.

“And still hasn’t,” Gerraint returned in kind.  “George is a confessing Christian.”

Arthur looked up.  He stepped forward, helped George to his feet and looked long and hard into the boy’s eyes.

“Great majesty.”  George mumbled and attempted to turn away, but the eyes of a great man are hard to turn from once they are fastened on you; and especially those of Arthur.

“I believe you are right,” Arthur announced at last and let go of the boy.  “This means something, I am sure.  But what?”

“It means, if nothing else, the Saxons are beginning to receive the word of hope for all men.”  Gerraint spoke plainly.  “This is another great victory for Arthur, I would say.  These years of peace have not been fruitless.”

“Perhaps,” Arthur said, returned to his morose attitude, and retook his seat at the table.  “My knees, you know.  Sitting is more comfortable these days.”

“Though the younger man,” Gerraint teased, and grinned broadly.  “Still, I seem to know what you mean, if I don’t sit too long.”

“Yes,” Arthur started, but Bedivere interrupted.

“Lords.”  He spoke up.  “Perhaps George and I could see to our rooms and leave you two to talk over old times.”

“Yes, yes,” Gerraint verbalized while Arthur waved them off.  Then Arthur had a thought.

“Big feast tonight,” he said.  “Seats of honor and all of that.  Don’t disappoint the lady.”  Bedivere bowed slightly in acknowledgement, and they left.

************************

MONDAY

Arthur is set on fetching Lancelot, but first Gerraint has to keep his promise and take George into the British Highlands which are not exactly the British lands they expect. Until then, Happy Reading

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