M4 Gerraint: The Final Battle, part 3 of 3

Coppertone changed.  She became two feet tall, with great leathery wings, two little horns, pointed teeth and claws in place of her hands and feet.  But when she lifted from the ground to fly over the top of the house, she sounded like a fairy.  “Children, he said okay.  He said okay,” she repeated, and they heard Dyfyr’s daughters congratulate her like she just won the first prize in a contest.

“The other?”  Dyfyr nodded toward Belle.

“I’m a house elf.  An elf maiden just three hundred years old.  I don’t know why my Lady should want someone so young.”

“It keeps me young,” Enid said, as Gwynyvar stepped up beside Enid and took her arm.

“I was wondering what your secret was,” Gwynyvar made her first conversational statement of the day.  They watched as Gwynyvar’s handmaids got wide eyed took a step back from Belle.  But then one stepped up and gave Belle a hug and a word.

“I thought you were much too beautiful to be an ordinary woman.”  Then the other followed suit.

“Ready?” Gerraint asked Dyfyr.  On that word, Enid dropped Gwynyvar’s arm and leapt up on the horses’ back, which caused the horse to jump and need calming down.

“I am not giving you a chance to ride off and join the fighting without me,” Enid said.

“Darn,” Gerraint responded with a slight smile.  “She saw through my clever plan.”

Enid stuck her tongue out at him while Dyfyr helped Gwynyvar up on Uwaine’s horse.  Gerraint and Dyfyr walked the horses.  The handmaids followed behind.  They went out the back road, the farm road that Dyfyr’s boys had ridden in such a hurry.  It swung around to link up with the great north-south road that came up from the coast and continued to Bath and parts north.  They were well away from the battle, but they were able to get to a small rise and see some.  Gerraint, with his fairy enhanced eyes saw the most.

They saw very little movement on the battlefield, apart from some stray, rider-less horses.  Gerraint assumed there had to be survivors, but he saw none.  With his elf enhanced ears, he heard the moans and groans of the men who would not live long.  With his dwarf nose he sniffed and looked where his son James lay face down in the dirt.  He located Uwaine, missing an arm where his life bled away, surrounded by several Saxons who did not escape his steel.  He found Percival propped up by several spikes set to fortify the camp, a long spear in his chest.  He found Arthur, back against a tree, gone.  But Bedivere lived, still with a sword in his hand, searching among the bodies near Arthur.

Gerraint fell to his knees and began to weep.  Dyfyr heard horses, hard ridden, and thought to lead the women off the road and into the woods.  The riders came to where Gerraint knelt in the road, and Gerraint did not even look up.  He kept weeping, but he could not help hearing.

“I said it was the Lion,” Lancelot spoke.

“Looks like we are too late.” That was Lionel.

“Lancelot!” Gwynyvar called from the woods and kicked Uwaine’s stubborn horse to get back up to the road.

“Gwynyvar!” Lancelot saw her and got down from his horse.  Gwynyvar also dismounted and ran to the man, as much as her old legs could run, and she hugged him and cried into his chest, even as Gerraint wiped his eyes.

Enid also got down and came to hug Gerraint which almost started him crying again, but he heard another horse approaching and he needed to stand.

Bedivere rode up with the sword in his hand.  He got down and walked straight to Gerraint.  Poor Bedivere looked covered in blood, his white cloak turned red, soaked in blood, and no telling how much of it was his own. 

“Excalibur,” he said.  “Arthur made me promise to return it to the Lady of the Lake.  I had to extract it from Medrawt’s chest.  I’m sorry, I can’t find the sheath.”

“Arthur said that?” Lionel dared to hope.

“They were his last words.”  Bedivere killed that hope.

“Rhiannon!”  Gerraint simply raised his head and called.

“No need to shout,” Rhiannon said, as she appeared on a great white steed.  She got down and gave both Gerraint and Enid a kiss on the cheek, like a daughter might kiss her beloved parents.  She stepped up to Lancelot and he put Gwynyvar in Lionel’s hands and got to one knee.

“Lady Nimue.”

Rhiannon raised her hand and Lancelot stood, whether he meant to or not.  “We have a long road to travel, I think.  It would be best to dispense with the formalities for the trip.”  Rhiannon stepped up to kiss Gwynyvar on the cheek.  “I am so sorry for your loss.”  Gwynyvar started to cry again, but quietly.

“Mother?”  Rhiannon turned.

“Just me,” Gerraint said.  He held up Excalibur and it disappeared, and a long, empty box appeared in its place. “Now, Caliburn if you please.”  Rhiannon held out her hands and the sword in its sheath appeared and fit exactly in the box.  Gerraint handed her the box.

“Take this to St. Catherine-de-Fierbois church, somewhere down in the Loire direction.”

“Church?”  Rhiannon did not like that idea.

“Must I remind you that you don’t belong here?  Have you spoken to Bridged lately?”

“Why must I do penance?  You are picking on the girls.  What about Manannan or Gwyr?”

“All in good time.”  Gerraint waited until Rhiannon dropped her head and spoke again.

“Yes mother.”

“St. Catherine de Fierbois church, behind the altar.  Bury the sword beneath the stone and carve five crosses on the stone.  There is a Frank who must carry it before it ends up in the hands of another woman.”

“Once again, the sword in the stone,” Rhiannon sounded grumpy.

“Under the stone.  Five crosses.  Talk to the nuns when you get there.  They will help you and guide you to the right place.”

“There is a nunnery there?” Gwynyvar interrupted.

“Nearby,” Gerraint said.  “A monastery with a branch for women.”

Gwynyvar took a deep breath against her tears.  She looked at Lancelot and her friend, Enid.  “I may stay there.”

“Gwynyvar!”  Enid caught her words.  She was not going to talk her friend out of it.  She looked at Gerraint who looked very old and tired and imagined she might join her friend in a few years. 

“St. Catherine’s.  Five crosses on the stone behind the altar.  Take Arthur.”  People looked up at that last word, and Gerraint explained.  “It is better if people do not know where he is buried,” he told Gwynyvar.  “Maybe you and Rhiannon will sail with him beyond the sea.  Maybe to Avalon.  You remember Avalon.”  Gwynyvar and Lancelot both nodded, and Enid took Gerraint’s arm.  “Now, all that remains is, who will bury the dead?”  He turned Enid, and Bedivere stepped up beside him.  He intended to collect what special things he could to take home, to Percival’s family, to Uwaine’s wife, to Cornwall in memory of James.  Enid began to cry.

END

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MONDAY

The second Story of the adventures of Margueritte in France during the dark ages (after 697 AD) begins. Margueritte and Roland are married and hoping for a peaceful life together, but Roland is needed by Charles, not yet called Charles Martel. The Frankish kingdom is falling into a civil war, the German nations around the edges are taking advantage of that, and there is a new threat brewing in the south where the Muslims have overrun the Visigoth kingdoms in Iberia. Peace and togetherness may be hard to come by. Starting Monday. Until then, as always, Happy Reading.

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