M3 Gerraint: To the Lake, part 2 of 3

The fight did not last long.  Both Bedivere and Uwaine killed their man, and the third Roman fled, wanting no part of it.  Gerraint’s encounter with Ondyaw was even shorter as Fate cracked the Roman’s sword on first contact and broke it in two.  Gerraint’s well aimed back swing sliced through the Roman’s jaw like it was putty, and the man’s jaw fell to the ground, his own eyes fastened on it.  “Tooth for a tooth.”  Gerraint muttered.  Then Ondyaw collapsed as Fate had also cut through most of the man’s neck.  Gerraint stirred himself, then.  He was not unaware of what happened elsewhere.

The words came from somewhere in time.  “No fire!”  He yelled in the Agdaline tongue, the command language to which all dragons were bred to obey.  “Do no harm!”  Gerraint was aware that when dragons went wild, when they generally shed their feathers and got big, the Agdaline commands did not always register.

“No fire!  Do no harm!”  Gerraint shouted again while the dragon cocked its’ head as if in confusion.  Gerraint decided it would not be worth the risk of his own skin.  Besides, there was something he needed to check out.  He found Amphitrite once more, but this time Danna pushed her way in front.  He traded places with Danna, exchanging one life in time for another.  The Don floated right up to the dragon’s face, repeated the commands for the sake of those below, but concentrated on looking for that fingerprint.  It showed there, but looked covered by another.

The dragon breathed as it faced the goddess.  Fire came, but Danna merely felt warmed by it.  She was the Mother goddess who touched the fires of the sun itself as well as the fires that ran like blood through the earth.  She was also, as Amonette, the serpent of Egypt and inclined to commiserate with this worm.  And again, she was the cold north wind and the frost that hardened the metal beaten on the anvil.

“Rhiannon.”  Danna commanded immediately as she floated back to the ground.  The goddess showed up instantly and kissed Danna on the cheek.

“Mother.”  Rhiannon said, lovingly.

“Rhiannon, dear.  What is with the dragon?”

Rhiannon looked pained for a minute.  “It was his suggestion.”

“His who?”  Danna spoke with some sternness in her voice.  “Don’t tell me this is the worm’s fault.  Eve already tried that one.”  The dragon moaned, softly and the women turned.

“Go home and take a nap.”  Danna commanded.

“Sleep?”  The dragon barely mouthed in Agdaline.

“You heard me.  No arguments.”  Danna insisted and the dragon shot flame straight up into the sky with a moan loud enough to make the few men who were still near cover their ears against the sound.  The dragon took to the sky and was soon lost in the clouds.

“He, who?”  Danna returned to the former conversation, not having forgotten.  Rhiannon had that pained look again.

“Young Abraxas,” she said, and then she struck a pose.  “Master of light and dark.  God of good and evil.  He has such an ego.”

“Sounds it,” Danna said.  “And you listened to him?”

“Well,” Rhiannon hedged.  “You were hurt and seemed in such trouble.  He suggested the dragon might help you escape.”

“Help?  It went straight for the tent where we were held prisoner.  If we had not escaped already, we would have been toast!”

“I did not know,” Rhiannon admitted.  “He is a very slick character.”

Danna stopped walking and Rhiannon stopped with her.  “Daughters don’t usually take a mother’s advice on such things.  And I don’t honestly remember if you are a granddaughter or great-great, whatever.  Not that it matters.  But he does not sound like the sort of young man a mother, any mother, would like.  Please avoid him in the future.”

“Oh, yes I will,” she said.  “Most assuredly.”

Danna leaned over and returned Rhiannon’s kiss and barely kept her tongue from saying, “You lie like an elf.”  She traded places then with Gerraint and came straight to the point.

“The Welshmen,” Gerraint said.

“I have them,” Rhiannon admitted.  “They wanted me to open a door to Avalon, Gwynwas as they call it.  Abraxas seemed keen on the idea as well.”

“You didn’t.”  Gerraint needed to hear it.

Rhiannon pretended offense.  “No,” she said.  “You have told us a million times how the Island is private, even if we are your children.  That is your place, shared with Mannanan in the old time.  Mine was in Tara, before it was deserted.”

“Yes, about that,” Gerraint said.  “I thought after Lancelot you were going over to the other side with the others?  The time of the gods is over.  What are you still doing here?”

“Galahad,” she said.  “And you did ask me to keep Meryddin under wraps for the rest of his life.

“Oh, yes.  And how is the geezer?”

“Gone.”  Rhiannon said, sadly.  “And I’ve been thinking of moving the court elsewhere.  I don’t want to stay and be reminded.”

“What is it with you and the wrong sort of men?”  Gerraint asked with some tenderness in his voice.  He wiped the tear that formed in the corner of her eye.  “But seriously, if Meryddin is now gone and Galahad is grown, why are you still here?”

“Apparently, there is one more young man.  But I do not know who it is yet.”

“Yes, well you must not dawdle.  Nearly all of the gods have already passed over centuries ago, you know.”  Gerraint still spoke with some tenderness.  Dying was hard enough when it was involuntary, not that her spirit would cease to function in the world, only she would no longer have flesh to touch the world, or eyes to see, or ears to hear.  She would be more like a force in this world, deaf, dumb and blind, and subject only to the directions of the Spirit of the Most-High God.

Rhiannon looked at Gerraint and smiled.  “Don’t worry,” she said.  “Festuscato has already scolded me enough.  “Keep away from Patrick!  You should not be here!” OH!”  Rhiannon read the look on Gerraint’s face and stopped.  “He was a past life of yours, don’t you remember?”

He remembered, but he wanted to have a bit of fun.  “Past would be the only ones you would know,” Gerraint said.  “But that doesn’t mean I know.  You know the rule.  Never tell the Kairos about any life he has not yet experienced.”

“Oh, yes, but then you trade places sometimes with the future lives,” she responded.

“Festuscato?”  Gerraint grinned, and she knew he was teasing.

“Stop it.  You’re embarrassing me.”  They came to Uwaine and Bedivere.  She named them, looked gently into their minds, and welcomed them to the lake.

M3 Gerraint: To the Lake, part 1 of 3

They slept in the wilderness, and in the morning, headed straight for the North road.  “The main way down the center is just as quick and probably easier traveling,” Gerraint explained.  “But this way will take us by the old Cairns, the burial places of the kings.”

“You think the Welshmen came this way?” Bedivere asked.

“No.”  Gerraint spoke plainly.  “I think they must already be at the Lake, or near enough.  But we are less likely to be pursued in this direction.  I doubt any trouble would guess we even know about this road.”

“Trouble?”  Bedivere asked.  “I thought last night you said that was all cleared up.”

“Odyar,” Uwaine said.  Gerraint liked his old squire.  He had a gift in the judgment of character.

They stayed at a coastal inn that next night, and again, on the night after that.  The following evening, they had hopes of reaching the lake, but they were surprised around midday by the last thing Gerraint expected.  Instead of swords from behind, they ran smack into swords ahead.  Even as they turned to the Southeast and toward the actual lake, they were surrounded by about thirty swords of the Romans coming up from the south.  Gerraint knew the lake area was like a kind of no man’s land that separated the Romanish lands from Amorica.  He felt distressed to see the revived Romans making incursions across the border and again, he did not doubt Howel’s concerns about a possible war in the near future.

Gerraint would not let Uwaine draw his sword against such odds.  They surrendered quietly.

Ondyaw was the Captain of the Romans, despite his obvious Gallic name.  Gerraint looked at him closely and immediately saw the family resemblance.  “Odyar’s brother?”  He asked.  Ondyaw confirmed as much with a slap across Gerraint’s face.  Bedivere struggled against the ropes, but Uwaine knew better and kept still.  Bedivere only hurt his own wrists.

“And where are you headed?” he asked.  “My brother’s message was rather vague on the details and said only that I should stop you.”

“To the Lake of the Vivane,” Gerraint said.  He saw no reason to hide it.

“That accursed place.  I should take you there and dump you.  I doubt you would last the night.”

“Fluff and mirrors,” Gerraint said.  “Rhiannon just likes her privacy is all.”

Ondyaw slapped him again.  “That great Lady’s name should never touch your lips.”  Gerraint felt it in his jaw, and for a moment, he was sorry his hands were tied so he could not put his hand up to help wiggle his jaw back into place.

“Sorry,” he said.  “But I thought you were Roman.  Shouldn’t you be defending Diana and Venus instead?

Ondyaw struck him one more time just for that, or perhaps just for fun, because he could.  Gerraint decided silence was called for.  He had to pause in any case until the dizziness passed.

“Tell my brother all is well.”  Ondyaw spoke to the man who was waiting.  “The men are still watching the lake and I will send more when I know more.”  The man left and Ondyaw turned as if he had something else to say, but then decided against it.  He left and the three were alone in the tent.

“Are you all right?”  Bedivere asked while Uwaine spoke at the same time.

“Now what?”  Uwaine asked.

“Now we leave.”  Gerraint showed anger.  They had freely surrendered and honorably submitted to being captive.  They did not need to be tied.  They certainly did not deserve to be beaten, not by any standard of civilized behavior. “More like barbarians than Romans,” Gerraint said and spat out a tooth.  “Damn.  Now I’m really mad.”  He had to calm down and think for a minute.

Margueritte came immediately to mind and when he traded places with her once more, her feminine, eleven-year-old hands and feet slipped right out of the ropes.  She had on her red dress, of course, and would from then on until she changed it.

“Let me see your wrists,” she said to Bedivere.  They were chaffed raw from his attempts to tug himself free.  “Now you were so smart with the horses,” Margueritte scolded him.  “How could you be so stupid now?  How are you going to hold your sword with your wrists hurting so?”  She shook her finger at him and frowned.  Bedivere melted.

“But she’s so cute,” he said to Uwaine.

“Yes, and dangerous I’ll warrant.”  Uwaine responded.

“Not.”  Margueritte insisted, but she was getting nowhere with her young hands and fingers against the knots.  She felt obliged to trade once again with Ali.  He still wore the Armor, and though his nimble thief’s fingers would soon have them free, he pulled his long knife, not wanting to take forever.

Once Bedivere and Uwaine were up, and Ali had to say hush three or four times, they got their weapons back as they had simply been dumped in a corner of the tent. Ali then cut a small slit in the back of the tent which grew bigger as he looked and saw no one back there.  “Allow me to steal our horses,” he said.  “Must keep in practice, you know.  Be right back.”

Ali slipped from the tent and, quiet as a snake in the grass, he wound his way around the camp to where their horses were tied but unguarded.  He considered the problem, and then went back for his companions, believing the men might move more quietly than the beasts.  Perhaps they did, but they were still too loud.  The Romans would have got them but for the noise from above and the shadow that crossed over their heads.  As soon as the beast landed, the tent they had just vacated went up in flames and a roar and fire shot up into the sky.

Uwaine stared.  Bedivere screamed, though not nearly as loud as some of the Romans.  The camp turned into chaos while the dragon nosed through the burning tent.  On finding nothing edible, the dragon set its’ sights on the scattering men.

“You!”  Ondyaw saw them and pointed.  “Cursed.”  He shouted and he and three other Romans attacked.  Gerraint came back, of course, Ali having returned to his own place in time at the first sign of trouble; and none too soon as far as Ali was concerned.  Gerraint drew his sword and the long knife he had sheathed and he and his friends went at the Romans, even as the dragon contentedly swallowed a piece of charcoal which only vaguely retained the shape of a man.

M3 Gerraint: Amorica and the Suckers, part 3 of 3

Gerraint had an idea where Howel might be, but he imagined it was late enough that Howel would likely be alone, unless the taking of Gerraint and his company prisoners had him all up and worried.  Margueritte walked the halls like a child with purpose, and almost arrived at the king’s chambers before she was stopped.  A guard wanted to know her reason for being there.  She stared at him, dumbly.

Gerraint had chosen her because she was a child and less likely to be noticed, but also because she spoke Amorican like a native.  Oddly, Margueritte came to understand that last was a mistake.  The Amorican she spoke was more like Welsh than true Amorican of the older days.  Something must have happened between Gerraint’s day and her day, two hundred years later that dramatically changed the language of the people.  It was like Amorica went away and Brittany, or Little Britain took its’ place.

Margueritte curtsied again.  She did not know what else to do.  Fortunately, king Bodanagus, of whom she had just been thinking, filled her mind with the words she needed.  Even so, Margueritte spoke haltingly to get the pronunciation just right.

“A message for his majesty from the men locked in the room below.”  She whipped up as many frightened tears as she could.  It was not hard.  This was a frightening moment.  “Please.”  She reached out to touch the guard’s wrist.  “I must tell the king personally or my father will be very angry.”

“Aw, there, little one.”  The guard grinned, few teeth as he had.  “We’ll see the king all right, and then I won’t let anyone hurt you.”  He took her hand and she did not refuse.  “Got a little girl myself, much like you, but only eight.  You twelve?  Thirteen?”

“Eleven,” Margueritte said sweetly.

“Young as that?  You look about all grown up to me.  A real lady.”  The Guard said as they came to the door.  Margueritte blushed a little and smiled.  She was actually most pleased to hear that.  It was what eleventeen-year-old girls wanted most of all, to be seen as all grown up.

The guard knocked on the king’s door, and “Come,” was the immediate response.  The door creaked open, and Lionel sat there with another man.  This was not good, but then, Howel looked worried and the curtains were drawn to block off the evening sky.

Margueritte did a quick inventory.  Arthur, Gwynyvar, Percival, Enid of course, and Uwaine, his former squire, oh, and Morgana and Bohort knew something about Gerraint and his access to other lives and times.  They called him Goreu, sometimes, as a distinction from just plain old Gerraint.  Pelenor, his old Master knew, and Meryddin figured something out quickly enough, but as far as Gerraint was aware, that was about it, unless someone talked.  Bedwyr, Kai and some of the other older ones knew something and others might have guessed something, but they hardly knew the whole truth.

Margueritte curtsied one last time while she made sure her fairy clothes would change when she did.  “A message for the king,” she said, and went home, two hundred years into the future.  She got replaced by Bodanagus, king of Amorica long ago, and he glowed, like a ghost or a Spirit of the night.

Howel jumped up and knocked over the table in front of him.  Lionel gasped, and the third man reached for a weapon, but for some reason, he did not draw it.  The guard that had been holding Margueritte’s hand jumped back and let out a brief yell.

“I am Bodanagus,” he introduced himself.  “King of Amorica and your father.”  He looked at both Howel and Lionel because the chances were reasonably good that they were his descendants.  The guard by the door wiped his hands.  He had been holding the hand of a ghost without knowing it.

“Kvendelig, Gwarhyr and Menw are meddling in something which is beyond their understanding.  Would you have them open the wrong door?  Would you have them open the door to Hell?” he asked.

“I knew it!”  Howel shouted.

“The treasures of the Celts have been shut away on Avalon and are not to be returned to this world,” Bodanagus said.  “Even in my day, I had to face Caesar on my own two feet.  I fought the Great Julius Caesar to a standstill.  Shall my descendants fight the Sons of Claudus and their shallow Romanism with dependence on magic and trickery?  For shame!”

Lionel dropped his head.  He honestly felt that shame.  He was a good Knight of the Round Table and a veteran of battles under Arthur.  Howel felt the shame, also.  The third man, however, looked angry.

“Times are different, now,” he shouted.  “We haven’t the strength of old.  We need.”

“You need nothing!”  Bodanagus cut him off.  “You have Arthur for a friend and through the Son of God, you have access to the Almighty, the Source of all things.  You need faith and a strong right arm.  You need to set free the one prisoner you have who can stop the Welsh in their madness before they bring the whole world to ruin.”  Bodanagus raised the wind in the room to blow on the fire and the torches, to whip the flames and scatter the light in every direction.  He, himself, glowed brighter and brighter in place until the men had to cover their eyes.  He raised the sound of thunder in the room, and he vanished.  He knew how to be invisible.

Curiously, Gerraint did not remember, exactly, that Bodanagus could do all of those things until he actually became Bodanagus.  His Spirit knew, though, and guided his changes from life to life.  It happened like that, sometimes.

Bodanagus opened the door of the prison room and Uwaine and Bedivere stepped back and stared, seeing no one present.  Bodanagus traded places once more with Gerraint and instantly becoming visible as he did.  Gerraint had no ability to stay invisible.

“Ready to Go?”  Gerraint asked as he returned the fairy clothes to the other world and retrieved his armor.  He called to his weapons, and they vanished from wherever they were being held and reattached themselves to his armor where they belonged.  Then the men stepped out into the other room, Bedivere’s legs being a little shaky, even as Howel and Lionel burst in, with the third man lagging behind.

“Gerraint.  Majesty.”  Howel was all apologetic.

Gerraint waved off their concerns.  “Think nothing of it,” he said.  “But I assume they have headed for the Lake?”

Howel nodded.  Lionel spoke.  “But I cannot imagine the Lady will give them what they want.”   He, with his brother Bohort knew something about Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, and his cousin, Lancelot, had been under the tutelage of the Lady and her Court when he was young.

“Of course,” Gerraint said.  “She doesn’t have what they want.”

“The ghost of King Bodanagus said the treasures were hidden on Avalon.”  Howel pointed out.  There was a practical thinking man.  Gerraint smiled.

“But she might be persuaded to open a door to Avalon,” Gerraint said.  “Rhiannon has always had a mind of her own.”

“We must go,” Uwaine said wisely.  “Too much time has passed already.”  Howel moved.  Gerraint stepped forward and looked the third man in the eye.

“Odyar.”  The man gave his name.  Gerraint nodded and they left.  They all walked together to the inn where Lionel slapped his forehead when he saw their horses, ready to travel.

“Who would have thought,” he said.  “I searched every inch of the woods.”

Gerraint laughed and slapped Bedivere on the back, but not too hard, and then Gerraint, Uwaine and Bedivere rode off while there was still some light from the moon.

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

MONDAY

To the Lake.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading

*

M3 Gerraint: Amorica and the Suckers, part 2 of 3

Amphitrite flashed back to shore and watched as they unloaded the ship.  She found the same fingerprint all over the vessel, but again, she had no idea whose fingerprint that might be.  Finally, she let it go for the present, and well under the cover of the trees where no one was watching, she changed back to Gerraint, and he thought hard about what just happened.  The fairy clothes Amphitrite had called for herself, adjusted to a look similar to the clothes Gerraint had been wearing.  In fact, he did not bother calling his own clothes back to him, he just stepped out from the trees.

Bedivere was frantic, looking for him.  Uwaine knew better, though even he looked a little worried.  “Here I am.”  Gerraint waved to get their attention.  Bedivere immediately dropped what he was carrying and came running up, breathless to make his report.

“We’ve got all of the horses out.”  He announced.

“Probably couldn’t keep them in.”  Gerraint responded as the last of the sailors came to shore.  The minute all were safely out, they heard a terrible, final cracking sound in the hull, and the ship sank quickly, and with barely a gurgle. Uwaine came up before Bedivere had finished staring.

“Welcome to the world of Goreu,” Uwaine said to the young man and patted him once or twice on the shoulder to be sure he had Bedivere’s attention.  “You might as well understand at the beginning of this journey, you will see and hear things in the next year or two that will haunt your dreams for the rest of your life.”

###

Howel seemed gracious and Lionel, with him at court.  Two things bothered Gerraint, however.  The first was that Howel said the three Welsh Lords had indeed visited, but after a few days, they sailed again for Wales, and Gerraint knew that was not true.  Gerraint and his party were not more than a week behind the Welshmen, and he felt certain they had not come to Amorica on a whim.  Whatever their business, it would undoubtedly take more than a few days.  He concluded that they were around, only where?  Either Howel had been duped, or Howel was lying to him.

The second thing that bothered Gerraint was the way Howel and Lionel kept coming up with reasons to delay Gerraint’s progress.  Bedivere pointed that out.

“I didn’t get to finish my thought aboard ship,” Bedivere said.

“Your thought?” Gerraint asked.

“Yes, the squid interrupted,” Bedivere reminded him.

“Yes, yes.  But what was your thought?”

“Oh, you said there were thirteen treasures of the ancients.  I assume they are reported to be magical in some fashion or another.  I was guessing if Howel thought Lord Kvendelig and his companions had a lead on the Cauldron, they might know where some of the other treasures are.”

“Promises are cheap,” Uwaine said.

“So, you think they may have promised Howel one of the other treasures?” Gerraint asked.

“Almost certain,” Bedivere said.

“He is facing a resurgence of Romanism under the sons of Claudus, and the Franks are barbaric, and crowding in from the East,” Uwaine pointed out.  “The Sword, or the Lance of Lugh would be a nice prize to have handy, don’t you think?”

“Unridden horses don’t take stones in the hoof unless there are stones in the barn,” Bedivere added.

Gerraint nodded.  He thought much the same thing.  “I will talk to Howel,” he said.  “Uwaine, you must convince your friend Lionel at least to stay out of it.  Bedivere, you make sure we are ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

“What about the horse?” he asked.

“See if the hoof is really stone damaged.  If it is, saddle one of Howel’s horses.  We’ll call it a fair trade.”  Gerraint stood.  No time like the present.

The conversation with Howel did not go as expected.  Gerraint’s weapons were taken from him and he found himself tossed into a room and the door locked.  Uwaine did not take long to join him.  Bedivere got sneakier, but by evening, he landed in the room as well and they only had supper for two.

“Magic is never the answer,” Gerraint said.  “Arthur has the treasure sword, or at least its descendant.  Excalibur is an excellent sword, too, but not especially magical.”

“The treasure sword?”  Bedivere asked.

“Of course,” Gerraint answered.  Rhiannon handed it to him, personally.  “Of course, Caliburn was also made by the same crew, and in some ways, it is a better sword, but it was made for a woman, a Greek Princess, actually.”

“Arthur’s first sword.  The one from his youth.”  Uwaine both explained for Bedivere and asked Gerraint for confirmation.  Gerraint nodded.

“The one from the stone,” he said.  He then thought of his own sword, Fate.  It was the last one Hephaestus made and the best of the lot, but it was not exactly magical.  Even it would only prove as good as the one who carried it.  “But, now that we are all here,” he changed the subject.  “Bedivere, report.”

“Yes.”  Bedivere understood.  “The horse had no stone, and it was a simple thing to saddle our horses and load our things for travel.  Then I had a notion that things might not be going well.  I began to hear some commotion.  I thought it best to lead the horses into the woods, you know, to hide them until we were ready to go, but as I walked and came into the town, I decided it would be better to stable them at the inn on the other side of town.  They might have found horses in the woods, you know.  But unless the innkeeper says something, and no reason he should but by accident, I imagine they will still be munching away in the morning.”

Uwaine smiled.  “I do believe you are growing a brain after all.”

Gerraint had something else on his mind.  “I have an errand first, before we go.”

“Go?”  Bedivere questioned.  “We’re locked in.  I don’t suppose we will be going anywhere fast.”  Uwaine just held Bedivere to his chair and quieted him.  Gerraint stood and thought through all of the other lives to which he currently had access.  His first and most natural choice for the job was Ali, the thief.  He traded places through the time stream.

“Hush,” Ali said to his friends before Bedivere could so much as squeak.  A quick look around the room put a pin and a comb in Ali’s hands.  He began to speak as he picked the lock, though his words were heavily accented.

“I once picked the lock in Trajan’s dungeon.  ‘Course, I had forty friends with me at the time.  We got out just fine with a little trick or two.”  The lock clicked.  “There.  You did not think Howel’s bedroom lock would prove a problem, did you?”

“But who are you?”  Bedivere could not contain himself.  “And what happened to my Master, my Uncle?”

“Hush,” Ali said again.  He needed another change to walk the halls unnoticed.  He thought long and hard, but finally decided there was no other good choice.  Ali went back to his own time and place, and Margueritte came there out of the future.  She was only eleven years old, just as Gerraint remembered her, and the armor adjusted to fit her exactly.  She knew, though, because Gerraint knew that there were other options of fairy clothing in the home of the Kairos.  She called to a plain smock dress and sent the armor home for the present.  She adjusted the color of the dress to a plain red and the shape to one more suitable to the day, all of which she could do easily, working on the fairy weave with her thoughts and simple words.  That was one of the properties of fairy clothing.  It could be shaped and colored at will.  She even added tatting around the edges to something near the dresses Gerraint had seen, but she did not add much because Gerraint was not sure.

“Boys don’t notice anything,” she complained with a little stomp of her foot.  Then she was as ready as ever.  “Stay here until I get back.”  The eleven-year-old girl spoke to Uwaine and Bedivere like she was their king.  “And close your mouth,” she added for Bedivere’s sake.  Uwaine admired her.

“You’re a new one,” he said.

“Margueritte.”  She introduced herself.   She felt she ought to curtsey.  She needed the practice, so she did.  “My Lords,” she added.  “Now, hush.”  She commanded like Gerraint.  She could not help it.  This was Gerraint’s life and so his perceptions and attitudes ruled the day. She stepped into the other room, then, and closed the door behind her as quietly as she could.

M3 Gerraint: Amorica and the Suckers, part 1 of 3

Within the week, letters had been sent by the swiftest couriers to all concerned in the four corners of the realm, to keep a sharp watch out for certain men.  Once that was done, there was a waiting game until word came back.

It did not take long before word came from land’s end, and what remained of Lyoness, that the Welshmen, Kvendelig, Gwarhyr and Menw, had taken ship for Amorica, accompanied by Lionel.  They were ostensibly going to visit Howel, now king of Amorica since his father Hoel had passed away, but Gerraint knew better.

With that, Gerraint was able to take Enid home.  They crossed on the ferry early in June and delighted in the weather.

“I will be so glad to see Guimier,” Enid admitted.

“You are going to spoil that poor child,” Gerraint said.

“Me?”  Enid looked up.  “You’re are the worst doting father I know.”

Gerraint nodded.  “Should have given me a daughter sooner.  Or we could have another and spread the wealth.”

Enid laughed and smacked his arm.  “Bite your tongue,” she said.  “If three is four as you say, that makes my forty-two years fifty-six in your Storyteller’s day, and not inclined to go through that again.  Guimier nearly killed me.”

“Just a thought.”  Gerraint never stopped smiling.  He took her up in his arms and she eagerly loved him.

“God, I will miss you.”  She laid her head on his chest and let a few quiet tears fall.

When they reached home and little Guimier, Gerraint had a hard time keeping his mind on the task.  The month was lovely for picnics and quiet times at the beach.  Peace was a wonderful thing, and Gerraint felt more certain than ever that at his age, his adventures ought to be over.  All the same, he tore himself away, and as a result, he found his time at home seemed all too short.  It did not take long to gather what they needed and prepare to sail across the channel.  The horses gave them a little trouble, but then horses generally did.  Once loaded and ready, however, all that remained were the good-byes and last hugs.

“Come home to me,” Enid said.

“As long as there is breath in me,” Gerraint responded.

“Get up there.”  Uwaine shouted at the last horse while Bedivere tugged from the other end.  Gerraint looked up and laughed.  He admitted that Bedivere was more Uwaine’s squire than his own, but for appearance sake, his sister Cordella was too much of a snob to have her son squire to less than a king.

“I’m Pulling,” Bedivere shouted as well.

“Try coaxing!”  Gerraint shouted the loudest to be heard.  The men stopped and he had to repeat himself.  “Try the carrot instead of the stick.”  Uwaine frowned and Bedivere went back to his pulling.  They ignored Gerraint’s suggestion completely.  “So much for being king.”  Gerraint shrugged.

Enid smiled at that as well.  “Go on,” she said, before Guimier starts crying again.  Gerraint hugged his girls and went, reluctant adventurer that he was.  Guimier waved the whole time until they were out of sight and Geraint imagined she was still waving as the afternoon wore on.

The channel seemed calm enough for June.  There were no clouds on the horizon, but then, Gerraint thought, this is not exactly D-Day, is it?

“Where do you think they will be?”  Bedivere asked as he leaned on the railing.  Uwaine stayed busy throwing up.

Gerraint shrugged.  “We go see Howel first.  You must always pay respects to the king of the country first before anything else.”

“But I was thinking,” Bedivere said.  “What if Howel is in on it all?  What if Lionel is in too?”

“Why?”  Gerraint asked to get his squire to think it through.  “Why should Amorica turn against Britain just because Hoel is dead and Howel is king?  They have been our good friends since Arthur gained the crown, and Howel rode with us many times into battle.  Besides, he has the sons of Claudus on his border and their revived Roman ideas, plus the Franks pushing in hard from the East.  It looks to me like Howel may need our help soon enough.  Why would he support the idea of bringing us to civil war?  It would seem to me that would be cutting off his nose, so to speak.”

“Yes,” Bedivere said.  “I see all that.  But…”  Something bumped the boat from beneath.  Gerraint had to grab Uwaine to keep him from falling overboard.

“Get that sail up.”  The Captain shouted.  Sailors began to scurry around the deck and some of them looked frightened.

“Beg pardon, Majesty, but keep out of the way!”  The mate was not polite about it.

“Bring her about,” the Captain commanded.  “Straight for the shallows.”  They were driving the ship with every scrap of sail they could hoist.  The bump came again.  One sailor screamed.

“Buckle up,” Gerraint said.  He stepped aside when no one was looking.  He called his armor out of its’ resting place in the Second Heavens.  His comfortable clothes vanished and the armor replaced them in the same instant.  Immediately, he drew his sword which was sometimes called the sword of the gods and which he called “Wyrd,” which means, fate.  It was the last gift of Hephaestus to King Bodanagus of the Nervi before the dissolution in the time of the gods.

The bump came a third time, and it felt as if something was trying to hold the ship in the deep.  The wood boards creaked and tried to pull apart.  Several nails popped and Uwaine could only imagine it was leaking down below.  The sailor screamed again, only this time for good reason.  A tentacle came crashing down on the foredeck and by chance, grabbed the man by the leg.

The mate was a good shot with the long fish hook.  He pinned the tentacle to the deck and the man became able to pull free, but he did a lot of screaming and a lot of struggle in the process.

“Not a good idea.”  Gerraint shouted and after stumbling across the deck, he cut the tentacle off where it was pinned so it could slip back into the water.  Bedivere and Uwaine had their swords out by then and they backed away toward the center of the ship.  Bedivere’s eyes in particular were big.

‘Look out!”  Someone shouted as the ship jerked and the center mast snapped at the rigging.  Something started trying to pull the ship apart.  The ship stretched, or bulged out at the sides, but thus far held together.  The ropes whipped in the wind for a couple of frightening seconds, nearly knocked one sailor overboard and thumped another in the chest, knocking him unconscious.  Then the horrific cracking started again as, in slow motion, the mast broke at the deck and fell over across the front of the boat.  They were dead in the water, and whatever it was, it had them in its’ terrible grasp.

“Another!”  Someone shouted, as a tentacle came up over the railing on the far side of the boat.  It slapped against the deck and began to slither like a snake, looking for something soft to grab.  Gerraint counted suction cups as Uwaine and Bedivere slashed at the tentacle from opposite sides.  It reacted by whipping worse than the ropes for a second and just missed slapping Bedivere in the face before it pulled slowly back into the water.

“Good Lord!”  The Captain swore.  “Damn thing’s twice the size of the ship!”    He, too, had been counting the cups and judging their size according to what little could be seen.  “At least.”

“What’s it doing in the channel?”  The mate shouted, but all the Captain could do was shrug as he and a few others struggled to get up some kind of sail.  They heard a crunching sound and the sound of horses going wild from below.  To Gerraint, this all seemed like more than just an accident.  Something felt very wrong here, and that feeling echoed through time, confirmed over and over.

It seemed to Amphitrite, as well, that something was very wrong in the sea.  She was a life Gerraint lived nearly two thousand years earlier and while it was not his habit to trade places through time, having learned long ago that it was important to fight his own battles, when something outside of the normal course of events became determined to interfere, he saw no reason why he should not fight fire with fire.

That crunching sound came from below again, and all Gerraint could imagine was that the squid was breaking through the hull like a squirrel breaking open a nut.  The horses were utterly panicked.  One minute, he wiped his sword clean and sheathed it.  The next, he was not there at all.  Amphitrite, goddess of the sea, stood in Gerraint’s place, and the armor, which had adjusted to her height and shape, she sent home, back under the Second Heaven, and replaced it with something more suitable.

Immediately, Amphitrite calmed the squid with a thought.  As the great goddess of the sea, making the squid let go was not difficult.  All the same, she realized the ship was not at all well, having suffered a great deal of damage.  She could have repaired the ship with another thought, but that was not the way of the gods.  People needed to suffer the fate that came upon them, but in this case, perhaps a partial exception was in order.  As far as it went, the mate had been right.  A squid that big had no business being in the channel.  So she picked the ship, crew and all, into the air and deposited it eighty miles away at the dock.  That took a second.  Then she made sure it would hold together long enough to unload.  At last she rushed back to her poor squid.

“You’re more than welcome,” she thought to the captain, but her senses were entirely trained on the beast.  She wanted to know who sent it.  It had to have been sent.  It could not have come on its’ own.  Sure enough, she saw the imprint on the squid’s mind.  It had been instructed to attack their specific ship.  Oddly, she was balked from discovering the reason for it or who was behind it.  All she got from the squid was a sense of evil which felt something like a fingerprint.  She had to content herself with the fact that she would recognize that fingerprint in the mind when she found it again, and she took the animal safely back to the depths of the Atlantic where it belonged.

M3 Gerraint: Around the Table, part 2 of 2

Most everything was fairly straight forward.  The younger men came in from the courtyard.  The squires stayed outside.  The Graal got discussed at length and every Chief, in typical Round Table style, had a chance to speak and add any information or suggestions they might have.  It turned out they had quite a lot of information about the Graal and its’ supposed whereabouts.  Clearly, the Bishops and the Churches were excited beyond words about all of this, and a great deal of money was already forthcoming to finance the various expeditions.

Gerraint looked at the younger men and thought of the squires.  The squires had not lived through thirty years of war as he and the older men had.  The squires had hardly known any adventure at all.  Surely these were exciting times for them, but somehow Gerraint just could not get up for the whole idea.  All he really wanted was Enid and some seclusion, like semi-retirement.

“I have nothing to add.”  That was his great statement, and he did his best to stay awake the whole time.  Then something happened which disturbed him greatly, and perhaps more than the others because he guessed who was behind it all.

All the light in the room went suddenly dim and ghostly hands appeared to carry a glowing object across the room and across the faces of all the men present.  The object might have passed for an oversized cup, but clearly, in Gerraint’s eyes, it was the Cauldron Gerraint felt concerned about.  One man stepped up and put his hand right through the apparition.  This seemed no magic trick, but a true vision of some kind.  Gerraint cursed, quietly, but he felt reluctant to curse his own son too severely.  That is to say, Danna’s son.  Then the hands and object vanished as quickly as they came and light once again returned to the room

People were up and shouting for a long time.  When order got restored, Arthur deftly turned all thoughts toward the Graal.  He let no word of Cauldron escape the lips around him, and then the meeting was over.  Men were excited and ready to set out that very evening.

When it was over, though, Gerraint felt like mounting the nearest horse and riding off alone for a while, despite Gwyr’s warning not to stray.  Lucky for Enid, she caught him by the door and corralled him toward the waiting supper.

Bedwyr of the South was there.  He had settled in Oxford where he could keep an eye on the Angles above him, the Saxons below him, and Lundugnum on the Thames. Kai came from Caerlisle in the North, that great fort that sat aside the ruin of Hadrian’s wall.  Loth came from York where he kept a watchful eye on the Norwegian shore.  At times, he traveled up the coast all the way to Edinburgh, to get a better look.  They were all already there with Constance, Enid, and Gwynyvar.  Gwenhwyfach, mother to Gawain and of Medrawt stayed home in York, and Kai made some comment to Loth that he was glad not to be the only bachelor at the party.

They ate, and it was pleasant enough.  There were certainly enough stories to remember that went around.  No one wanted to speak of the vision and Gerraint felt glad about that.  It was time for the sweets when Gwyr poked his head in and old Peredur, father of Percival came in.  He declined to stay and eat, but he had news for the men present.

“He came to me early this morning with a tale worth hearing,” Arthur said.  “Please tell.”  Then Arthur sat back to judge the various reactions on the various listening faces.

“It was March, last, when I was visiting my good friend Pelenor.  You know, at my age it is good to have a friend still living and it does make the winter seem not quite as harsh, when one has company.”  Arthur coughed.  “It was there that Urien of the Raven came to visit, and Gwarhyr, the Welsh poet was with him.  They spoke of this quest in terms I had not heard before.  It seems that young Gawain, on returning home, let slip word that Meryddin first spoke of the search for a cauldron, not a Graal or a cup.  Well, these men seized on this notion and have every intention of searching for the lost Cauldron of Dagda.  I spoke strongly against it.  I believe that would open wounds all over this land best left to heal.  The old gods have gone.  The true faith has come and we need to embrace the light, and not return to the darkness from whence we came.”

“You know as well as I that Meryddin was a man who clung to the old ways,” Arthur interrupted.

“Yes.”  Peredur retook the floor.  “And I believe no good will come of it.  The Samhain and Beltain are still strongly followed in the country as it is, sometimes right under the nose of the church.  I fear if there is a resurgence of the old ways, the whole country may end in civil war.”

“Surely not!”  Bedwyr coughed.

“Surely so.”  Kai countered in his old way of tit for tat.

“I would swear that was a Cauldron I saw in the vision today, only I did not say so earlier because of the king,” Loth admitted.  Silence followed, and all looked at Gerraint.

Kai and Bedwyr knew well enough that Gerraint was the right man for the job, whatever that job might be.  Arthur knew he was likely the only man for the job.  And as for Loth, what he might not have known directly, he knew indirectly.  That did not leave Gerraint much choice.

“Damn it!”  He shouted, stood and turned from the table.  “Civil war is hardly a matter of importance.  If Britain falls back into its’ pagan ways, all of history, all of the future may change.  Damn Meryddin.”  He did not explain what he meant, but then he did not look at anyone’s face.  He did not have to.  He spat the name.  “Merlin.”  He spun around at last, and Arthur knew better than to interrupt.

“Arthur, you cover Wales and your own people here.  Kai, you have the North covered.  Loth, you have the East and the Norwegian shore. Bedwyr, you have the Southeast and Lundugnum.  Peredur has Legoria and the midlands, and if I recall, Gwillim is in Southampton.  We need Gwynyvar’s brother, Ogyrvan, to cover North Wales, and perhaps Morgana with Nanters to cover the Welsh midlands.  Tristam has Devon.  I have Cornwall and Lyoness.  Nothing can be sought in all of this realm without our knowing it.  Is this not so?”

“Yes, quite.”  The men agreed.  Arthur smiled.  He had only seen his cousin this upset on rare occasions.

“Then I will track the men beyond our shores. They must be stopped.  They must be prevented from digging up things that should stay buried.  What say you, Peredur?”  Gerraint finished.

“Indubitably,” Peredur said.

“Why you?”  Loth asked.

“Alone?”  Bedwyr added.

“I’ll take Uwaine and my squire, Bedivere, but essentially alone,” Gerraint said.  “I have wings to fly…”

“That you know nothing of.”  Kai interrupted and the rest joined in the ending phrase.  “Eyes that see farther, ears that hear better, and a reach longer than ordinary men.”

“Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  Enid laughed.

“What say you?”  Arthur turned to Enid with some sympathy in his voice.

“I say I will miss him while he is away, and love him all the harder when he comes home.”  Her eyes teared a little and Gwynyvar teared up with her and hugged her while Constance patted her hand.

“That is the sweetest thing I have heard in a long time,” Constance said.  “Would that more women were as true.”

“Stop it, now,” Gerraint said, softly.  “Or I won’t be able to go at all.”

“Er.”  Loth clearly hated to interrupt.  “Has anyone bothered to look for Urien and Gwarhyr and ask them what their intentions are?”

“They have left Caerleon.”  Gwyr said plainly.  “They were waiting only for the meeting to pass and had horses ready.”

“And Urien came up to me just before the meeting started and all but admitted his intention.  He told me all about the Cauldron and wondered if Gawain said anything more when he first came from Amorica.  When I gave him no answer, he went immediately to whisper to Kvendelig the Hunter, Gwarhyr and Menw attending, of course,” Gerraint added.

“So, the adventure begins.”  Arthur smiled.

“I’d rather a hot bath and good night’s sleep,” Gerraint protested.  Peredur laughed, alone at first, before the others joined in the conversation about the aches and pains of age.  Peredur did join them, then, in sweets and a conversation on which he was expert.

“I think I will follow along with young Bohort and that new squire of his, the boy Galahad,” Peredur said later.  “That boy seems graced, somehow.”

“Indeed,” Gerraint said.  “Exactly right for the father of Percival.  People will remember these days.  But tell me, how is my old master, Pelenor?  You said nothing of his reaction to Urien’s visit.”

“It has been a long time since you were Pelenor’s arrogant fourteen-year-old brat.” Peredur said with a smile.  Then his smile faded.  “Pelenor concerns me.  His hanger on, Ederyn was there, too, but neither said much of anything.  They made no objections to what I said, but they hardly objected to what Urien proposed, and believe me, I am not saying civil war lightly.”

“Pelenor is rather older, now,” Gerraint suggested, noting that most of the others were listening in.

“Yes, that may be it,” Peredur said.  “His hands shake a little these days, almost like a man who has lost control of his senses.  Perhaps he was just not feeling well enough that day to get too excited about Urien’s suggestions.  At least I have told myself that.”

Gerraint patted the old man on the shoulder to reassure him, but this was yet one more thing to think about.  And who else might be in on the conspiracy to reassert the old ways, by war if necessary?

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

MONDAY

Gerraint, Uwaine, and squire Bedivere chase the welshmen to the continent in Amorica and the Suckers.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading

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M3 Gerraint: Around the Table, part 1 of 2

It was May before everyone gathered at Caerleon to discuss the quest for the Graal.  Enid and Gwynyvar went off to do whatever it was the Ladies did, while Gerraint fell in with some old friends, some of whom he had not seen since Badon, three years earlier.  Kvendelig the hunter stood in the corner with his Welsh cohorts, Menw and Gwarhyr.  Old man Kai came alone, but Bedwyr brought his wife, Constance, who at fifty, made a stable older influence for the ladies.  The really old men, Pelenor and Peredur, both of whom had to be pushing their mid-sixties, sat most of the time, with their slightly younger hang about, Ederyn right there with them.

“Goreu!”  Urien came up and called Gerraint by his Cornish name which was seldom heard and which few even knew.

“Urien.”  Gerraint shook the man’s hand and stared briefly at the raven symbol blazoned on the front of his tunic. Gerraint imagined if one had to select a totem, the raven was as good as a dragon, or a Cornish lion for that matter.

“And how is the lovely Enid?”  Urien asked.

“Lovely.”  Gerraint answered, and Arawn, who stood right behind Urien, guffawed as only he could do so well.  Gerraint went on.  “With Gwynyvar, and Modron, I suspect, assuming your wife is with you.”

“Couldn’t keep her away, er, much as I might have liked.”  He laughed at his own joke.  “It was a chance to see her boys, you know.”

“That’s right,” Gerraint said.  “Your eldest, Mabon is squire to Percival and, I’m sorry, I forget your youngest and who he is with.”

“Owain, just turned fourteen and Agravain has agreed to take him on.”  Gerraint nodded, but then fell silent.  He and Urien had never been exceptionally close.

“Ask him.”  Arawn urged Urien from behind as Urien had also felt a little awkward in the silence.

“Yes?”  Gerraint showed he was paying attention.

“Well.”  Urien looked as if he did not know how to phrase it, though he had probably long since planned it all out in his mind.  “It’s about this Graal,” he said.  “Well, rumor has it that is not exactly what Meryddin said, if you’ve heard.  I was wondering.”  He paused to collect himself.  “Rumor has it Gawain came first to you on his return from Amorica.  Do you recall by chance the conversations you had with him?”

Gerraint squinted.  For all of his stumbling, Urien was a brave man and reported to be a decisive little tyrant on his home stomping ground.  Certainly, he was no fool.  “I don’t imagine there is anything I can add to what you have already heard,” Gerraint said. “Was there something specific you were wondering about?”

“Well.”  Urien rubbed his beard.  “I heard rumors that Meryddin used the word cauldron, not cup.  You don’t suppose he could have meant the Cauldron of Inspiration, do you?”

Gerraint took it as lightly as he could and showed nothing in his attitude.  “Don’t be absurd.  Why would Meryddin send men after some old pagan artifact?  Probably no more efficacious than Stonehenge, though undoubtedly less big.”  He laughed as if the whole notion was absurd.  Urien laughed with him while he excused himself, and Arawn went with him.  Gerraint watched him walk to the Welsh corner to talk to the hunter and his friends, but then Gerraint moved on so he would not be noticed, watching.

He went to the window and looked out on the young men, that is to say, the younger men outside, showing how stupid they could be, as Margueritte would say.  He recognized most of them including Percival, who was closer to his own age and older than most, Lancelot, Tristam, who was near enough his age along with Bohort, Lionel.  Then there was Gawain, Gawain’s three cousins, Gwalchemi, and, of course, his own Uwaine who were all in their thirties.  The squires, all teenagers, were further away in the outer court.

Gerraint briefly wondered if Medrawt at twenty-one was with the squires, corrupting the youth.  At least incorruptible Bedivere was there, with Mabon and what’s-his-name, oh yeah, Owain.  Gerraint’s own three sons, Peter, James and John were most certainly there, and that newly arrived and rather embarrassing son of Lancelot’s youthful tryst in the days before he crossed the channel and became joined to Arthur’s court and to Gwynyvar.  Curious how she forgave him for something that happened before her time.  What was the boy’s name?  Yes, Galahad.  About eighteen, maybe twenty, Gerraint guessed.  Couldn’t be much more since Lancelot, one of the old men of the young lot, was only perhaps forty.

Gerraint turned away.  He knew no more of the squires.  They were a generation apart, and he could not keep up with them all.  He looked again around the room he was in and he felt suddenly struck by the gray hair, missing teeth, and for that matter, the missing gray hair.  He bumped into Gwyr, Arthur’s court judge.

“Gerraint.”  Gwyr looked up.  He fumbled the papers in his hands.  Gerraint stood roughly six feet tall.  Most men had to look up to him.

“Can I help?”  Gerraint asked.

“No,” Gwyr said.  “I’ve got it.  And I have a message for you.”  Gerraint listened. “The queen and Lady Enid have arranged for you and Arthur to have a sit-down supper after the meeting.  Don’t stray.”  He underlined that and Gerraint understood there was to be a meeting after the meeting.  Then Arthur came in.

M3 Gerraint: Trouble in the Dock, part 2 of 2

That evening, after Gawain had left, Bedivere saw to the horses and then went to sleep in the next room where Uwaine also slept, and Uwaine snored away.  A man just thirty-three should not snore like that, Gerraint thought, as he snuggled under the covers and turned on the side that had never been cut.  He just got comfortable when Enid spoke in his ear.

“Now, tell me the real story.”

Oh, that was mean!  Gerraint grumbled, turned to his back and sat up a little in the dim light of the dying fire.  “What do you want to know?”

“Everything.”  She took the opportunity to snuggle up against him.  He did not mind that so much, but he hardly thought he would get everything out before he began to get other ideas.

“Merlin,” he said.  “As always, his agenda is hidden.”

“Why do you call him Merlin?”  Enid asked for the hundredth time.

“That is too long a story,” Gerraint said.  “Let us just say it is another name, like my other name, Goreu.”

“And how did you know all of that about the Lord’s Supper?” she wondered.  “You have not ever been an especially pious man.”

“Yes, well.  The storyteller helped a lot.  He did his masters at Princeton, you know.”

“Whatever that is.”  Enid shrugged with a smile.  “But what about Meryddin and hidden agendas?”  Enid loved a good mystery.

“Let’s see.”  Gerraint had to pause and think a minute.  “In ancient times, long before the Romans, before the Celts themselves came and took possession of the islands, back in the days of the gods, Danna and her children brought certain treasures to the islands.  They were eventually listed as thirteen treasures, though not everyone’s list included exactly the same ones.  On nearly every list, though, was a cauldron.  It was Dagda’s cauldron, sometimes Ogyrvan’s, that is the Giant, not Gwynyvar’s brother, sometimes Pwyll’s.”

“Pwyll?”  Enid asked.

“Lord of the underworld.  A god of the dead,” Gerraint said and Enid shivered and drew herself up closer to him.

“Anyway, it was said to have miraculous powers of one sort or another.  For one,” Gerraint chuckled.  “It would not cook the meat of a coward, though I suppose some Christian cleric will turn that into the meat of a sinner.”

“Yes, I know.  You don’t like the idea of the church rewriting history.”

“I don’t like anyone rewriting history,” Gerraint said rather gruffly.  “It is what it is and was what it was, and people can learn from it, be inspired by it, be enchanted, or whatever as they choose, but they ought to be about the business of making history, not rewriting what is already said and done.”

“Meryddin.”  Enid reminded him and gently laid her hand on his chest and tapped softly.

“Hmmm.”  Gerraint looked down into her lovely, sparkling brown eyes, but he finished his telling first.  “Merlin, Meryddin if you insist, never disguised the fact that he was no great lover of the Lord.  He preferred the old ways and the old gods, but people, even Arthur understood that and respected that out of deference for his age and wisdom of earthly things.”

“Not to mention that he was related to the old gods,” Enid interjected.  Gerraint nodded.

“I think this was his last salvo in that war.  There is nothing he would like more than to see a return to the old ways, a falling away of Christianity, and a collapse of the system back into warring tribes and petty Chieftains.”

“You don’t mean that, literally.”  Enid got in his face.  She was asking for it, and he gave it to her; but he did mean that.  He always felt that Meryddin was connected to the Masters in some mysterious way and he knew the Masters were determined to skew reality and history to make it come out the way they wanted.  If this bulwark of early Christendom could be torn down, history might be significantly changed, and this was just the right time to do it.  The old ways were barely a scratch and a generation beneath the surface.

Later, Enid sighed.  “I was thinking how odd that Gwynyvar’s sister gave birth to such different sons.  Gawain is the good son and Medrawt is a lot like Pwyll, I think.”

“Is that what you were thinking while we…”  Gerraint did not finish his sentence.

“No,” she said assuredly.  “Only I know Gwenhwyfach had nine years between sons.  I hope Guimier will not be so different from her brothers, being so much younger.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Gerraint said.  “Gawain is from Lot’s first wife and Gwenhwyfach’s boy had a different father as well.  She had an unhappy affair some twenty years ago.  You can thank Meryddin for that one, too.”

“Not long before you and I had some misunderstandings,” Enid said.  “By the way, did I tell you I am glad that is all cleared up?”

“A thousand million times, and me, too.”  Gerraint gave her another small, soft kiss.  “And, no.  I won’t say who Medrawt’s father was.”

“I’m not asking.”  She got deep down in the covers.  “Just hold me.”  Gerraint was obliged to turn on his side where the scar was, but he did not mind so much.

 

Gerraint: The Holy Graal M3 Gerraint: Trouble in the Dock, part 1 of 2

The wind swept Gerraint’s long dark brown hair around his face and made him blink involuntarily to protect his deep blue eyes.  The ship coming into the dock promised news from across the channel.  He already heard from Rhiannon, the Lady of the Lake, that something was afoot, but the lady gave no more information than that.  Still, he would hear soon enough, and it had to be important since normally ships avoided crossing the channel in winter.  Enid touched his arm and turned his attention momentarily from the wind and the waves.

“You look troubled,” she said.  After thirty years of war and suddenly three years of utter peace, the idea that “something was afoot” could do that to a man.

“Now, why would I be troubled?” Gerraint asked and smiled.  He kissed Enid sweetly and squeezed three-year-old Guimier in the process.  She was in her mother’s arms where she could look over the railing and wave at the sailors and fishermen.

Enid lowered her eyes.  “Because you look like you did in the weeks before Badon.”  She blushed a little.  The battle of Badon, the day the earth shook and Lyoness sank into the sea, had turned Gerraint into a bundle of stress.  Three years of peace came of it, but so did Guimier.

“Oh.”  Enid let out a little moan and set down the squiggling girl.  “I’m forty-one, you know.  I am getting much too old for this.”

“Never.”  Gerraint smiled genuinely and took the absence of the child to slip his arm lovingly around his wife.  She sighed and rested in his shoulder and they watched the ship together while Gerraint turned again to his thoughts.

They had whipped the Saxons badly enough at Badon that Gerraint hoped the peace would last the rest of his lifetime.  Bedwyr would watch the Saxon Shore well enough to remind them that Britain was not to be trifled with.  Kai, Warden of the North Watch had the Scotts and remaining Picts merrily fighting each other.  Loth had the Norwegian Shore completely under his thumb, and those pesky Irish had been quiet since Tristam killed Marat, or really, since Arthur beat back the invasion of old king Rience, now gone to meet Saint Patrick’s maker.  Peace had come, and quiet, and though the young men complained that there were no adventures left in the world, Gerraint did his best to convince them that they were better off.  His own sons, Peter, James and John, all of nineteen, seventeen and fourteen, and all off as squires in various places, had nothing to complain about except their mother having a baby.  They were pleased to have a little sister at last.

Enid broke free to catch Guimier before she toddled right over the side.  Gerraint thought how he named his sons and insisted on those Christian names, but Enid named their daughter, Guimier, and the little girl already had her father wrapped around her little finger.  He caught her up from Enid’s arms and she giggled.

“Look,” Guimier said, and pointed as the ship came to a stop and men began to shove out the plank.

“Wave to cousin Gawain,” Gerraint said, and Guimier and Gerraint waved together like a couple of three year olds.

“My Lord!  Majesty!  Uncle!”  Gawain shouted and hardly waited for the gang plank as he sprang to the dock and began to run toward them.  Guimier went back to her mother who put her down and took her little hand.

“Gawain!”  Gerraint shouted back, and when they got close enough, they hugged.  “And how is the family?”  he asked, knowing that Gawain had been in Amorica since Hoel’s funeral and out of touch with his own kin.

“Um, well, I guess,” he said.  “But I have the most remarkable news.”

“Well, come up to the house and you can tell me all about it.”

“But sir.”  Gawain started, but Enid interrupted.

“Good to have you home.”

“Oh!”  Gawain realized he had been rude.  “My lady.”  He gave her a hug.  “And, say!  This is Guimier?  You were just a baby last time I saw you.  You’re all grown up now, little cousin.”  He knelt down and kissed Guimier on the head.  Guimier did not know what to make of him.  Like all little children, she looked up to her mother for guidance. Fortunately, Gerraint had already moved toward the horses and Gawain did not dawdle.  He stepped on Gerraint’s heals even as Enid lifted Guimier to set her in the wagon with her nurse.

Luckily, by plan, Uwaine was there with the horses.  He and Gawain were the same age, just about thirty-three, and they hugged and had a good deal of catching up to do.  Gerraint mounted.  His squire, Bedivere, his sister Cordella’s son from Lyoness mounted beside him, and they lead the procession home.

“But aren’t you curious as to Sir Gawain’s news?”  Bedivere asked.

“Yes, but not impatient.  There is nothing that cannot wait until I am comfortable, sitting in front of the fire, with a glass of ale in my hands,” Gerraint responded.

When the time came, Uwaine was the one who spilled the news.  “He heard from Meryddin.”  Uwaine said.  “It’s been three years and no one has seen or heard from the old man until now.  Can you imagine?”

Gerraint rubbed his chin.  He could imagine it all too well.  Rhiannon had promised to keep the old man away from this world until his days were done.  He remained a potential time bomb, and Gerraint could not imagine what set his voice free from the grasp of the goddess.  Whatever he said, it could not be for the best.

“We are to find the Cauldron of Life.”  Gawain explained his brief conversation with Meryddin.

“You are sure it was him?”  Enid asked the obvious question while Gerraint thought as hard and as fast as he could.

“Absolutely,” Gawain said.  “Without question.  He knew who I was and reminded me of things only he would know.  Plus, I recognized his voice and that bit of a stutter.  No question it was Meryddin.”

“The Graal,” Gerraint said at last and took everyone’s attention.  “That must be it.  After all these years, the Graal is to be found.”

“No, I don’t think so.”  Gawain looked uncertain as to what a Graal was.  “It was a cauldron of some kind.”

“A cauldron.  A cup.”  Gerraint spoke fast.  “Let me tell you the story of Joseph of Arimathea.  I am sure you have heard the story, only you have forgotten.”  Gerraint counted on the fact that Gawain, like most of the Round Table, was a fervent believer in the Christ.  Indeed, Arthur’s rule was that no one was admitted to the table or even to the room unless they first confessed their faith.  Most did so willingly, though Gerraint knew there were some who confessed only in order to not be left out in the cold. Where their faith really lay was perhaps a question.

Gerraint told his audience about the last supper, and it was a story that resonated in the young hearts in the room.  Then, after the supper, Joseph retrieved the cup, and through a long, arduous journey, came at last to Britain where he hid the cup from the pagans who would have destroyed it and the curiosity seekers who would have treated it badly and without due respect.  “Evidently, now that we have become a Christian nation, God, in his wisdom, has chosen these days for this great task, to unveil the secret place of the Graal and make it known to all the people.”

“The cup of the Lord,” Bedivere whispered, reluctant to speak of such a thing too loud.

“Yes.”  Gawain nodded slightly.  “That must be what he meant.”

“You can imagine the healing in that great cup, the cup of the Great Physician himself, whose body and blood we partake of every Lord’s day for both our healing and our salvation.”

“That must be it.”  Uwaine sounded more convinced.

“Yes, Uncle.  I believe you know.”  Gawain finally spoke with some confidence.  “I know that after Meryddin, you know more things about what is and what must be than any other man alive.  This is why I came first to you, and now you have made clear what was uncertain and confusing in my mind.”

“It was a very short conversation you had with Meryddin, was it not?”  Gerraint asked.

“Yes,” Gawain nodded slowly again.  “Yes, it was.”

“Well!”  Gerraint sounded as if that answered all objections.  “Obviously, he did not have time to explain it all.  But maybe he picked you because he knew you would come first to me.  I’ll say, the minute you started talking I knew exactly what it was you were talking about.  At long last, the journey of Joseph will have its conclusion.  The Graal, what a wonderful quest that will be, and God bless the man who finds it!”

“Yes.”  Gawain nodded vigorously with his friend, Uwaine.  “With your permission, I will leave on the evening tide for Caerleon.  Arthur must be told right away.”

“You are welcome to stay and rest and refresh yourself,” Gerraint said, and he saw the reluctance in Gawain’s eyes, and laughed.  “Oh, impetuous youth,” he said, though well aware that he was talking to a thirty-year-old and hardly a youth.  Still, at forty-six he was nearly old enough to be Gawain’s father, so youth was a relative term.  “By all means you may go.  Arthur must be told, only eat something now before you leave.  Enid has been cooking cakes all day in anticipation of your arrival.”

Gawain stopped and swallowed.  It was the first he thought of it.  “Yes, actually,” he said.  “How did you know I was even coming?”

Gerraint winked at him.  “Don’t worry about minor mysteries.  You have a Graal to find.  Believe me, there is mystery enough, and I would say adventure enough for a lifetime.”  He laid a hand on Gawain’s shoulder and led him to the table.  He felt rather hungry.

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MONDAY

Gerraint explains his suspicions to Enid before he travels to Arthur’s court where, with Arthur’s help, he has to keep people focused on the Graal and off the ancient treasures of the Celts.  Until then, Happy Reading.

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M3 Festuscato: Epilogue

When the time came, Festuscato borrowed Marguerite’s words.  He laid his hands on Mirowen’s head and said, “You have my permission and my blessing.”  In Mirowen’s case, she did not change, drastically.  She still looked elfish.  She still had the eldritch fire at her fingertips, and she could still draw her bow and arrows from nowhere and shoot with the best of them.  They both knew, however, from that day on she would age, not like her nature, but like a normal, mortal woman.

“I’m glad,” Beowulf said as he pushed her long black locks behind her little pointed ear.  “I think I like you this way best.

“I’m glad, too,” she said with only love in her eyes.  “I should hate to look in the mirror and not recognize myself.”

“Funny.”  Gregor said the word.

“I only hope your brother will understand,” Festuscato said.

“Macreedy will have trouble, but he will get over it,” Mirowen smiled.

In the morning, Festuscato, Bran, Gregor and Luckless the dwarf mounted up for the ride into Germany.  Wulfgar would guide them safely to the border.

“I’ll miss her,” Festuscato admitted.  “Especially first thing in the morning.  Every man should wake up to a vision like her.”

“Aye,” Gregor agreed.  “And I’ll miss that little scamp of a Mousden.”

“He did say going with her seemed the less dangerous course,” Luckless pointed out.

“Moi?”  Festuscato pointed to himself.  “I am a man of peace and comfort.”

“Yes,” Gregor agreed again.  “But then, danger does tend to swirl around you like a whirlwind.  Just because you like the calm at the center doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t get caught up.”

“I’ll miss the cleric,” Bran said.

“He will get the story straight, even to the end of Beowulf’s days, or his disciple will, and the story will work its’ way back to England, you know.”  Festuscato promised.  “Maybe your grandchildren will read it someday.”

“We need to go,” Wulfgar said.

“He said we need to go,” Luckless translated.

“Aye.”  Festuscato said in imitation of Gregor’s word, and they went.

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Tomorrow

The tale of Gerraint, son of Erbin,  in the days of Arthur, Pendragon, begins.

When ghostly hands carry a cauldron across the round table, Gerraint has to act.  Arthur deftly turns all talk to the Holy Graal, but Gerraint knows he has to stop the older men from recovering the ancient treasures of the Celts and dredging up the past.  Christendom is only a thin veneer and if Abraxas is allowed to strip that away, history might be irrevocably changed.

Enjoy.

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