When they arrived at Cadbury, late in the afternoon, they found an opposing force, some six thousand strong spread across the plains, about half of which were Scots and Saxons. The other half, Percival had no hesitation calling traitors. Beyond that, the fort at Cadbury sat in Medrawt’s hands, and that meant Gwynyvar was his prisoner. Arthur held his tongue as they made camp.
“Suggestions?” Uwaine asked.
“We talk,” Gerraint responded.
“About what?” Percival asked. He got mad.
“About Gwynyvar,” Arthur said flatly and added, “Damn that boy.”
Bedivere went on patrol and found his cousin, Gerraint’s middle son, James, in the woods with a host of men. It got near sundown when they talked. Peter, the eldest brother, sent James up with three hundred horsemen culled from the outlying places. With him were another three hundred out from Wales. It was still only a handful of what Wales could send, but Arthur was not in a position to quibble. There were also a hundred men who made it out of the fort at Cadbury when Medrawt moved in. When he brought them to Arthur’s camp, Uwaine summed things up nicely.
“Now they only outnumber us two to one.”
Gerraint got serious about talking, more than he had ever been before. He convinced Percival that they had just talked peace between the Franks and Amorica, “So how hard could it be to make peace between Arthur and Medrawt?” The problem being Arthur, who was not convinced peace was possible. Gerraint had to wrack his brain to figure out how to delay things another two days.
He confided to Uwaine first thing in the morning while he dressed. “I talked to Lancelot before we left. He said he talked to Bohort and got permission to follow us with a full two thousand men. They contracted with the same ships we took. As soon as we unloaded, those ships headed right back to pick up the Amoricans. The thing is, he said don’t tell Arthur, because they have no intention of staying in Britain. He said they would help calm the situation and if necessary, fight Medrawt, but then they would go home.”
“So, Arthur doesn’t know,” Uwaine said.
“But why keep it a secret?”
Gerraint shook his head and felt very old. “I think Lancelot did not want to get in an argument with the one man he truly respects. That, and I think he wants to remain an independent, autonomous army and not see his men integrated back into Arthur’s army. And I think Bohort and Lionel may have added some reasons of their own. All I know is Lancelot is roughly three days behind us and if we can just hold off Arthur, he will catch up.”
Uwaine stepped to the tent door. “For the first time in my life I am going to say, I wish you didn’t tell me that.”
“Come along.” Gerraint stepped up beside Uwaine and patted him on the shoulder. “I need your younger, vibrant brain to think of something. Let’s get to the meeting.” He started to walk out but Uwaine shook his head before he followed.
“Even my brain is too old for this.”
They walked slowly to the tent and Gerraint calmed his spirit and prayed before his son James interrupted him. “Father, I told them it was not a good idea.”
“You’re not going to like this,” Bedivere pointed at the tent before he got in front of Uwaine. Uwaine paused before he went ahead anyway. He heard Gerraint’s first words.
“What is this?” The words were rather loud.
Uwaine saw Arthur seated and Percival beside him. He expected to see some of the other older ones, like maybe Agravain or maybe Nanters out of Wales, but what he saw startled him. Pinewood, the King of the Fairies of Britain stood there along with the two elf Lords, the brothers Deerrunner and Dayrunner, the dwarf King Bogus, two fellows he could not name but who were no doubt representatives of their kind, and an actual goblin out in daylight, though he stayed protected by the tent and stayed well under his cloak and hood so he was hard to see.
“I saw him come right up out of the ground,” Arthur said. “It was the most remarkable thing.”
“No hole. I checked,” Percival added.
“What is this?” Gerraint repeated himself, though he knew exactly what it was. “I admit you all have been a great help to us in the past, and I am grateful, but it has always been on the fringes and in the background. Pinewood, you followed me all my life, and saved me more than once when I was young and vulnerable. I am grateful. And you all have spied out enemy locations, harassed and spooked them, contained some fields like Badon, where you forced the Saxons to face us rather than escape to the woods. For all of that I am grateful. You even guarded prisoners for us, but I never asked you to be in the direct line of fire, and I am not asking now. The answer is no. Old Bishop Dubricius once charged two young boys to fight their own battles and apart from some help around the fringes, Arthur and I have done that. The answer is no.” Gerraint stopped suddenly, like he ran out of steam.
“I had forgotten that.” Arthur looked thoughtful as he remembered a long time ago.
“Lord.” The little ones acknowledged Gerraint and knew better than to argue. They left, each in his own way. The fairy, Pinewood got small and flew off faster than the eye could follow. The elves walked off disguised like men. Others disguised themselves like animals, like a cat, or simply went invisible to human eyes. Dumfries, the goblin, sank back down into the earth, and that was the end of it. No human present questioned Gerraint’s decision either, or argued with him, least of all Arthur, though they had no doubt the little ones proposed to double the number of swords on Arthur’s side.
“Now we talk.” Gerraint changed the subject. “Any word from the fort?” He felt reluctant to mention Medrawt by name.
“Yes.” Arthur and Percival spoke at the same time. Percival deferred to Arthur.
“Medrawt sent a messenger in the night. He will be outside the main gate of the fort at noon to present his conditions for peace. He said I can bring two people with me, but that is all.
“So, we go with a dozen,” Gerraint said, like a given. “I doubt he will be presenting things to negotiate, though. More likely a list of demands we are to accept, like it or not.”
Arthur nodded, but pointed at Percival. “But you have something?”
Percival stood and stepped to the door. He waved, and an old man shuffled his way into the tent. “My Lords,” the old man nodded his head in a way that had been common among the RDF. Quick and to the point. “My name is Dyfyr, son of Peryf the Bowman. I turned sixteen, and the first man from all of Dyfed to sign up for the RDF. It has been a long and exciting life, and to this day I can’t seem to keep still, as my wife, my children and grandchildren will tell you.” The old men in that room smiled for the old man. They understood well enough. “I was with Captain Gweir, son of Gwestel when he came to Cadbury to rebuild and strengthen the fort. My wife is from the little village here beneath the hill. We have a small home in the town and are comfortable enough.”
Arthur smiled, but interrupted. “This is good, and I thank you for your years of service and loyalty, but I assume there is a point in all this.”
Gerraint jumped in. “He is concerned about the Lady Gwynyvar.”
“Your wife. Of course,” Dyfyr said. “The point.” He paused. “The point is I know the fort from the inside to the outside, and there are ways, ways the workmen used, now boarded up. Ways to get into the fort from the town that maybe I am the only person left alive who knows.”
“Ways soldiers can go?”
“Yes, certainly. I was thinking if we came out from the stables and beneath the barn and at the back of the Great Hall all at once, we might secure the lady’s safety and capture the rebel without having to fight a battle.”
Arthur grinned. Percival nodded. Gerraint stood, because his expected delivery arrived. “Gentlemen,” he said. “I also have something to offer.” Pinewood and Deerrunner had returned, and they had a cart outside the tent filled with boxes. “Pinewood. Please explain.” Two men brought in one of the boxes and set it on the ground.
“As we saw events turning in the human world, it came to us that brother might well be fighting brother. Men on both sides might end up killing their own men by accident, not knowing which is which. That would be a needless waste. I understand that even human eyes can tell the difference between the British, Scots and Saxons, but who can say which Welshman is fighting on which side? We offer this solution.” Pinewood opened a box and pulled out a pure white pullover poncho. It had been sewn only at the waist so it would restrict neither the arms nor the legs, but it would be easy to identify. “In our history, we have used similar devices to tell the good guys from the bad guys.” Pinewood grinned at Gerraint.
“Like the Princess used outside of Athens,” Gerraint said.
“Something like that,” Deerrunner agreed with an elfish grin to more than match the fairy.
Percival felt the material. “What is this made out of?”
“Fairy weave,” Gerraint said. “That just means one size fits all.”
“But do you have enough?” Arthur asked.
“Three thousand for your men and more for those who attack the fort.”
“Wait a minute,” Arthur looked at Gerraint, who shrugged. “We just heard about the fort. We haven’t decided what to do about that yet.”
Dyfyr interrupted with Lancelot’s favorite expression stolen from Gerraint. “Ours in not to reason why. Ours is but to do or die.”