R6 Gerraint: Amorica, part 1 of 3

Gerraint came into the great hall at Caerleon wondering what was up.  Enid stayed in the nice home they bought in town, feeding one-year-old Peter and having all the fun.  Worse. She started making sweet little noises in the night and getting very touchy-feely, which suggested she might be pregnant again.  Gerraint did not want to miss that.  He hoped whatever this was, it would not be something that would send him far away from home.

“Gerraint!”  Several men hollered as he came in and he mumbled something about “Norm!”  He glanced at the door that lead to the back rooms and the now greatly enlarged room that held the Round Table.  Gerraint guessed this would not be Round Table business, which meant an appeal from someone not part of the club.  He could not imagine.  The world had been at relative peace for the last five years.

“What’s up?”  Gerraint got to ask his question.

“Sit.  Sit.” Arthur said.  “Hush.”

“Gwyr is about to read the letter,” Tristam said.

Gerraint looked at the table.  His old master Pelenor looked ready to nod off.  Peredur and Ederyn looked sprightly enough. Percival, seated beside them looked so serious.  Kai looked pensive.  Bedwyr grinned.  Gerraint sat next to Gwillim and Gwillim’s brother, Thomas the Sailor, but as he thought about it, he would have guessed Kai would be the grinning one.  Kai came all the way down to Caerleon from the north to show off his new, young bride, Lisel.  She was much younger than Kai and blonde in the worst cliché sort of way. Enid and Gwynyvar said spending time with the girl felt like going into battle.  Constance, Bedwyr’s wife, and a proper woman of grace who had eight years on Enid, said Lisel did not have enough brains to be stupid.  Gwynyvar and Enid professed they were shocked to hear their thoughts expressed aloud.

Gerraint looked again at Kai.  He definitely looked pensive, but then Gwyr started reading.

“You may not yet be aware of Claudus, a cruel and wicked man who is the latest to dream of reviving the glory of Rome. This one, unlike the host of others, may have both the military skill and cleverness to succeed.  Beginning in Provence, he has taken Septimania and Vasconia, carved out a chunk of Aquitaine including Bordeaux, and taken all of the Atlantique coast for his kingdom.  He has halted the Franks in their inevitable advance, and beat the Visigoths back over the mountains.  Now he has trained his eye on Amorica.  I believe it is his plan to swallow up our pleasant land before turning against the Franks in Paris.

“It was some years back when my father Budic gave sanctuary and comfort to your father Uther in the days of Vortigen the Usurper. What is more, he gave Uther the means and support to raise an army to return to Britain and remove the plague from your land.  Now, we are the ones in need, and I have sent my son Howel to you in the hope that you will remember the kindness my father showed to your father.  Furthermore, I request that you may seek out those men who fought for your father and stayed in your good land, and that you may tell them of our need and ask if they may be willing to come home to aid us in our fight. We are hard pressed, and I appreciate whatever help you may deem right and proper.”  Gwyr looked up from the paper before he finished.  “He signed it, your faithful friend and ally, Hoel.”

“Is Howel outside?”  Kai asked straight out.

“He is,” Arthur said.  “But I would hear your opinion first.”  Arthur looked around the table and no one especially had an opinion. His eyes ended on Gerraint, and the other eyes at the table looked as well.  Gerraint stood and threw his gloves to the tabletop.  He paced for a moment and made noises like a man in pain. Everyone stared at him when he yelled.

“All right!”  He lowered his voice and leaned on the table.  “Okay.”  He calmed himself.  “So, when do we sail for Amorica.”  All the men present tried talking at once, but Arthur just grinned like maybe he became the man with a trophy wife.  Kai looked distraught.

Things did not take long to straighten out.  But Kai mentioned that the Scots were getting above themselves, like maybe they defeated the Picts.  And worse, Loth in some ways appeared to be encouraging them. He thought he better stay at Guinnon. Bedwyr got prevailed upon to stay at Oxford as well.  Arthur told Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn that they would have to keep vigilant while he was away.  Then Arthur decided to take only volunteers with Gerraint being the first lest he decide to stay home with that lovely wife of his.  Finally, Arthur instructed Gwyr to put something in the letter encouraging those who came from Amorica and fought for Uther, or their descendants, to consider returning to Amorica to fight for Hoel.

Once that got settled, Arthur called in their visitors.  There were many details to work out, not the least procuring the ships and supplies they would need, but the basics were done and he was able to greet the men as honored guests.

Howel, at eighteen or nineteen, got escorted by a mere six soldiers, one of whom at least appeared to be a well-seasoned sergeant named Grist.  Howel came accompanied by two brothers, both Chiefs in Amorica, called Bohort and Lionel. Lionel was Howel’s age, or maybe twenty.  Bohort, the elder at twenty-three or four, did most of the talking.  Gerraint felt suddenly old at twenty-seven.  Then he thought of being home with Enid and the baby. Then he thought of Enid being all touchy-feely.  And then he thought he better pay attention.

“It is worse than you may have heard,” Bohort said. “The Romans of Claudus are playing with us like a cat with a mouse.  They strike here, but by the time we arrive they have vanished to strike there.  They will not give pitched battle, but once. They are softening us up and wearing us out.  They have overrun two thirds of the land this way, by nibbling us to death.

“One battle?”  Percival asked.

“On the plains near the mysterious Lake Vivane, he tested our strength in battle.  That happened four years ago.  We won the battle and won the test, but I figure he just sent some expendable troops and did not really care who won, though I am sure he would have been happier with a victory.  I lost my father and his brother in that battle.  My young cousin, just sixteen got lost in the woods around the lake.” Bohort took a moment to shake his head before he continued.  “That was when Claudus hit on the strategy of eating us alive, piece by piece.  I don’t know how much longer Hoel may hold out.”

“It is settled,” Arthur announced, and that was that.

Gerraint stepped outside and Uwaine met him on the steps.  “About time,” Uwaine said.  “I was really going mad this time.  When do we go?”

“Preparations.”  Gerraint shrugged.  “Then I go, but where you go will be up to you.”  Uwaine raised an eyebrow, so Gerraint answered his question.  “I have prevailed on Arthur to knight you and Gawain before we sail.”

“So?  That changes nothing.  If you have taught me one thing, it is the safest place in battle is right next to you.” Gerraint made no answer.

###

Six months later, Thomas of Dorset contracted a hundred ships for a minimal fee to deliver a cargo of two thousand men and horses to Amorica.  Roughly a quarter of those ships would continue in the months ahead to supply the troops.

“We don’t want to beggar our hosts,” Gwillim said.

Gerraint stayed in Cornwall where he moved his wife so she could be around his mother, her own mother having died a year earlier. Marcus Adronicus started making noises like he had become an old man and Gerraint needed to be prepared to take over. Gerraint could not worry about that. All he wanted was a safe delivery of his second son, James, and the knowledge that Enid was in good hands. With that assured, he took three hundred of Cornwall’s finest, a good Festuscato number.  They were men all trained to the horse and the lance, and he sailed them out of Plymouth to catch up with Arthur.

Arthur was in the field, in a big tent with Hoel, and discussed things.  Percival sat out front, and his take was, “Don’t go in there.”  Uwaine also sat up front, but he only shook his head.

Gerraint took a deep breath.  “Wish me uck-lay.”  He explained before anyone asked.  “I’m practicing my Pig Latin for use on the revived Romans,” not that anyone understood what he was talking about.  He went in.

There were greetings and pleasantries before Arthur explained the situation.  “We are having limited success in driving the forces of Claudus back.  We have almost doubled Hoel’s numbers, and with the RDF, trained to move quickly and quietly, we have routed out a number of pockets of the enemy.  They have come up and overrun village after village, but then remain hidden in the wilderness.  They require the poor, decimated villagers to supply them with food, sending men from their hidden camp to collect it.  We have had some success in following those men back to their base and then we have gone in and finished the job.  But the men of Claudus, like Saxon raiders, are in many small groups and scattered all over the countryside.  Mostly, they simply hide whenever we come near with a large force and reappear after we have gone.”

“But we are succeeding, slowly, but succeeding,” Hoel said.

“Yes, but at this rate we may be bogged down here for two or three years.  Now, my plan is to take a third of our force and invade the Atlantique.  In that way, Claudus will be forced to call out his army, and we can finish this much more quickly.”

“But if you take so many, our efforts here will be badly hampered and we may soon be back to stabbing at ghosts,” Hoel objected.

Arthur looked at Gerraint and knew to wait while Gerraint thought.  Hoel fidgeted.  At last, Gerraint spoke as plainly as he could.

“So, I have come up with three hundred fresh troops, the veterans being mostly RDF trained and able to bring along the young ones. My men, one way or the other, will not be significant here, but I see no reason why Cornwall cannot turn the tactics of Claudus against him in the Atlantique.  I have people who know something of the province, and while it would not be an invasion, it may be enough to force Claudus’ hand.”

“How can you know the province?” Hoel asked. Gerraint saw that Arthur understood, but he had to give Hoel his best, human answer.

“Cornish sailors have been trading all along the coast for generations.  Amorica has been our chief trading partner after Wales and Britain, but many have also traded down the Atlantique and learned the area.”

“Not much portage there,” Hoel said.

“But some,” Gerraint answered and quickly changed the subject before Hoel thought too long about it.  “I said turn the tactics of Claudus against him, but I don’t plan to leave small groups hidden in the woods to keep the people oppressed. More like true Saxon raiders, I plan to burn the villages and their crops and food supplies and drive the people south as refugees.  Hundreds, hopefully thousands of refugees fleeing south out of the Atlantique province should force the hand of Claudus well enough.”

“A good plan,” Arthur agreed.  Hoel looked like he might object.  Gerraint could read the man’s mind, thinking that the addition of Gerraint’s men could speed up the success they were having in Amorica, but Gerraint got up to leave before Hoel could fully frame his thoughts.  Gerraint knew his three hundred would not hold the pass for long, but they might wreak havoc in Persia.

R6 Gerraint: Caerdyf, part 3 of 3

Enid started crying, so the priest got his question out before Enid threw herself into Gerraint’s arms.  Gerraint shuffled for a piece of velum in a secret pocket in his armor.  He started to hand it to the priest who looked at it curiously when Gerraint snatched it back with the word, “Can you read?”

“Of course,” Father Vespian said and stuck out his hand for the note.  It was a note that hinted at the great and heavy burden God placed on Gerraint in this life and it pleaded with whatever priest or person read the note to not hinder, but help in whatever way they could with whatever task with which Gerraint currently struggled.  It got signed and sealed by Dubricius, Archbishop of Wales, shortly before his death. The Priest looked to return the note, but Gerraint and Enid were currently too busy kissing.

Uwaine set himself to work with the city men, to keep an eye on the defeated Irish.  He also started asking around to see what sort of boat they might procure with the little bit of gold and coins Gerraint carried.  Uwaine would drive a good bargain, though he said more than once how Goreu had all sorts of wild ideas but was not the best on the details and follow-thru.

Gerraint took Enid by the hand and raced her to where her parents and Megalis were waiting.  The good Father had to catch up to return Gerraint’s note, but he waited because Gerraint started speaking again.  “Megalis,” He got in the trembling young man’s face.  “I intend to marry Enid.  Any objections?”  Megalis shook his head, rapidly.  Fenn scared Megalis.  Gerraint terrified him.  “Good.” Gerraint turned to Enid’s parents. “With your permission, I would like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”  Ynywl and Guinevak both nodded and smiled like doting parents should always smile, and Gerraint turned to Enid, thought a second, and dropped to one knee.  “Lady Enid of Caerdyf, good daughter of Lord Ynywl and Lady Guinevak, will you marry me?”

Enid still held his hand, but put her other hand to her hip and frowned.  “You could have asked me first.” she scolded softly.

“A pox on me for being a clumsy lout,” he said with volume.  After a moment of silence he added more softly, “Will you?”  Apparently, she thought he had suffered enough.

“Yes, please,” she said, and they had a time out while he kissed her again.  When he took a short step back, she held tight to his arm.

“You may yet change your mind.”  He patted her hand gently on his arm and turned to Megalis and Ynywl.  “Now, here is my judgment and also some of my reasoning.  Megalis, you claim the whole of the land because your father was the eldest. But, in my mind, your grandfather was older still and by virtue of his age and position, he outranks your father. Whether you like it or not, he divided the land between his two sons, and you have no right to deny that decision. Caerdyf and the surrounding land as your grandfather decreed belongs to Ynywl and his heirs, forever, and you have no right to claim another man’s land.  To that end, I gave the Irish two hours to get out, I graciously give you two weeks.  Go back to your own land and to the great house you have, and be content.”

A large number of city people still watched everything, and they took a moment to cheer.  No man is a great lord, and not many are good, but the people recognize and suffer under the bad apples, and soon enough will be happy with almost anyone else.  To be fair, Gerraint figured most of Megalis’ bad decisions were made by the Irish, but then he imagined Ynywl might have been one of the good ones, so putting him back in his place seemed an easy choice.

“Now, as for compensation,” Gerraint continued. “You stole seven years of taxes from these people.  You must pay it back out of your own pocket.  You may take seven years to do it, one year at a time, but Ynywl will need the funding to build roads, for new construction, to maintain the fort with men at arms, and build ships to defend the coast from things like Irish pirates. It will be like Pharaoh’s dream of the fat cows and the skinny cows.  Ynywl will have seven fat years and you will have seven lean years, but after that the debt will be paid and you can become good neighbors.  You are family, after all.”  And Gerraint thought, hereditary chieftains who are like vassals of the Pendragon.  All they need are titles like Duke and Earl.

“Forgive me, Lord Goreu,” Ynywl spoke kindly. “But who are you to be making judgments?”

Gerraint forcibly set Enid aside.  She had to hear this, unattached, to make up her own mind about things.  He cleared his throat.  “I am Gerraint, son of Erbin, High Prince of Cornwall, Knight of the Round Table and sometimes called the Lion of Cornwall.  Of course, you can always appeal any decision I make to Arthur.” He glanced at Enid.  To his delight she retook his arm and spoke softly.

“I guessed, you know.”

“Sir Gerraint,” Ynywl looked pleased, not the least for his daughter.  Megalis looked mortified.

“Lord.”  The parish priest finally got his attention and returned the velum note.  “How may I be of assistance?”

“Oh yes.”  Gerraint almost forgot.  “You heard Erin’s confession that she had already married Fenn when she took her vows to Megalis.  Why don’t you see if you can work out an annulment.  Megalis might want to legitimately marry someone someday.”

“A fair suggestion.  I will start at once.”  The priest also looked pleased.

Gerraint and Enid walked side by side.  “You know Goreu is my real name, I mean the one my mother gave me.  Gerraint is just the British version of the name.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me. Our marriage won’t mean much if I can’t trust you.”

Gerraint let out his best smile.  “I think I love you.”

“That is a good start,” Enid encouraged him.

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

MONDAY

Arthur and Gerraint are invited to the continent for the first time.  Their Celtic cousins are backed to the wall and need help.  Until then

*

R6 Gerraint: Caerdyf, part 2 of 3

Fenn roared and rode to face the man, but he had no more success the second time than he had the first.  His spear got easily knocked aside, the way Gerraint had done a thousand times in practice, while Gerraint’s lance struck true.  He put a hole in the crack in the bottom of the Irishman’s shield and stuck the man in the gut.  It did not penetrate far, but only because Fenn lost control of his horse and went shooting off the backside to be deposited hard on his rump

Suddenly, the people watching began to cheer, and the cluster of Irishmen on the far side of the court could not stop them no matter how mean their stares.  Lady Erin, who stood on the steps of the great hall, watching, cried out when Fenn fell, and would have run to him, but the little man stopped her.  The fat thing beside the Lady had to be Megalis, but all the man could do was stare with his mouth open, and maybe drool a little.

Gerraint dismounted as Fenn grimaced and rubbed his gut. Gerraint gave him no time to heal as Gerraint spoke.  He called out to Avalon and the rusty chain, breastplate and helmet he wore became instantly replaced by his own armor, the chain mail of the Kairos.  His helmet looked more Greek than Roman, but who would know?  His blades looked sharp enough.  Defender stayed nestled across the small of his back, and slanted across his whole back, the older, big brother sword of Salvation, a sword called Wyrd.  Gerraint held out his hand and called to the sword, and it flew to his hand, like magic.  Everyone hushed.

“This is the sword called fate,” Gerraint said, as Fenn got back to his feet and pulled his own sword.  Fenn looked shaken and groggy.  “Now yours will be determined.”  Gerraint shouted and brought Wyrd down on Fenn’s shield with all his strength.  It finished the work of the spear and lance and shattered the shield and likely Fenn’s wrist besides.  Fenn looked afraid for all of a second before the rage came into his face and put some strength in his arm.

Fenn attacked with wild swings of his sword, but they were swings that Gerraint easily parried or avoided.  Gerraint slowly stepped back and to the side, eventually causing Fenn to make a complete circle.  Then Fenn appeared to tire and his sword dropped, but Gerraint was too much of a veteran to be taken in.  He knew better than to let his guard down in the face of his enemy.  He feigned a step forward and found Fenn’s sword rise up in his face.  Gerraint simply continued the sword’s direction until it flew out of Fenn’s hand altogether. Fenn never saw that move before, and looked stunned.  Gerraint sliced down Fenn’s armor with surgical precision and then he spun Fenn around before the man could react.  Wyrd sheathed itself while Gerraint reached from behind the Irishman and yanked open the man’s armor.  He continued to pull on it until it pinned the man’s arms behind his own back.

“Let’s see what you look like naked,” Gerraint said. Defender came to hand and he sliced through the rope Fenn used for a belt, even as Fenn wriggled free of his armor, going carefully around his broken wrist.  Fenn’s armor fell to the ground the same time as his pants fell to his ankles and he stood in a diaper and turned red enough to show through his harry chest.  He would not have minded being beaten, though he hardly expected to be beaten, but the humiliation felt like more than he could stand.  He tried to walk, but since he had his pants around his ankles, he fell face first to the dirt and looked like he never wanted to get up.

Lady Erin could stand it no longer.  She broke free of the little man and rushed to Fenn, wailing like the man was dead.  The little man followed.  Gerraint stepped back and found Enid at his elbow.  Ynywl and Guinevak headed toward the steps to the great hall, encouraged by the people from the city.  Megalis appeared frozen in time.

“Well, trollop,” Gerraint said, and he nudged the woman Erin with his boot.  The little man screamed and came at him with a knife.  Gerraint figured the knife had been dipped in poison and let defender fly. He pinned the little man’s leg to the cobblestones where the man cried out and repeated over and over, “My leg, my leg.”  He also complained mightily about the big man picking on the poor little man, but Gerraint ignored him.

“Whore.  Tart.” Gerraint nudged the woman again with his boot and she turned on him like a viper, but Gerraint was prepared.  He knew never to drop his guard on the enemy. He caught the woman by the throat and lifted her right off the ground, his arm extended.  She began to choke and could not breathe, but Gerraint only said, “Yes, I am talking to you,” before he threw her back down on Fenn’s prostrate, naked body.  “It seems you have a decision to make.  You are married to Megalis and can stay and be a good wife, if possible, or you can go with Fenn.  Choose.”

“I would never stay with that brainless oaf,” she spouted.  “I was married to Fenn long before I married that fat little weasel.”

“Then it is settled,” and Gerraint raised his voice. “You Irish, hear me.  You have two hours to collect Fenn, the tart, her stinky little man-dog and your things.  You leave your horses here, and you will be given a boat that you can row back to Ireland.  If you are still here after two hours I will introduce you to the headsman’s axe. Consider your lives forfeit, so I better not find you somewhere else on this island.”  The Irish did not argue.  There were fifty men from the city ready to tear them apart if they did.

Gerraint turned and found not only Enid, but the old parish priest there, holding up a cross like maybe Gerraint was some sort of vampire.  “Father Vespian,” the priest introduced himself.  “Your name?”

R6 Gerraint: Caerdyf, part 1 of 3

Enid glanced at the fire before she spoke in a whisper like one afraid she might be overheard.  “It is that Sir Gerraint, the one they call the Lion of Cornwall.  They say he traffics with spirits, fairies, goblins and devils and makes them do his bidding.  They say he can change his appearance, even to appear as a woman, and thus he can learn a man’s deepest secrets, to what purpose I cannot say. They say he is a giant that is best not angered.  And they say he is faithful to Arthur, the Pendragon, but I think he must be like a guard dog in need of a strong chain.”

Her words finally caught up to Gerraint’s brain and he sighed and responded.  “You must not believe everything they say.  The truth is often stranger, but better than you suppose.  Gerraint is a kind and loving man whose heart is as big as the rest of him.  If the little spirits of the earth sometimes are kind to him, it is only because he loves all the world as God made it and he loves all people, even the littlest spirits. And as for him changing his appearance, that is in fact a long and rather sad story that I may tell you one day.” Gerraint sighed and looked again in Enid’s eyes.  Her eyes said she believed him, or at least they said she desperately wanted to believe him.  Then he saw a flash behind those eyes, and she spoke.

“Do they make all men in Cornwall as big as you?” She did not sound bothered by that, just curious.

“Some,” Gerraint hedged.  “A few.  Not all, but some.”  Then he lifted his head and took a whiff of the air.  “It is getting stuffy in here,” he decided

Enid also sniffed.  “And smoky.”

“The Flue,” both shouted.  Both jumped for the handle and they banged their heads and fell to laughing.  Gerraint rubbed his head and thought Enid had the harder skull.  For some reason, he felt he should remember that for the future.

###

In the morning, Gerraint put on the rusty chain that fell loose to his knees.  He cinched it tighter to his body when he fitted the breastplate.  It proved a bit small, and the back plate would not fit at all, but he really did this for show more than anything else.  He kept his own boots, gloves and gauntlets which were fitted to him, but he took the helmet which fit with a little extra brick banging around the neck.  Last of all, he took the long spear in the corner of the room and made his way downstairs.

When Enid saw him, she put her hands to her mouth and began to cry.  Enid’s mother also cried, and Ynywl took a deep breath.  “May it serve you well,” he said.

“One condition,” Gerraint responded.  “You must come with us to Caerdyf.”  Enid had gotten up early with Uwaine and had all the horses saddled and waiting.  When Ynywl agreed, Gerraint removed his helmet and sat awkwardly at the table. He was never much for eating before a battle.  He was more the kind that ended up starving when the battle was over.

The ride to Caerdyf seemed uneventful.  People stared in disbelief, but no one moved to stop them.  When they came to the city, and Gerraint insisted they approach the fort from the city side, people came out from their homes and work to stare all the harder. Some cheered.  Many followed, so by the time they arrived at the fort, they had a great train of gawkers, watchers and more than one man who fingered a blade or another sharp instrument and stared where the Irish should be.

“What is this?”  A big, gruff looking man came out from the barracks building where he was no doubt ready to enjoy a good lunch.  He indeed looked as big as Gerraint, but a bit older and with a bit of a stomach, no doubt from the lazy life and too much lunch.  The men in the fort had certainly heard the commotion in town and knew what was coming, but the big man, in fact Fenn, played coy.

Gerraint spoke from horseback in clear and calm tones. “Your bitch yesterday suggested you might want to cut my heart out.”  Gerraint understood the score.  Erin had technically married Megalis, but she still slept with Fenn.

Fenn roared with laughter.  “You look like a chicken in that old armor, a right plucked rooster I would say.”

“This is the armor of the great centurion who built this fort to keep out you Irish scum.”  Gerraint raised his voice.  “Every true man of Caerdyf should rise up and throw you and your Irish dogs back into the sea.  You should swim home with your tails between your legs.”  Gerraint pointed his spear at the man’s chest and waited.

“Roman ass.”  Fenn got angry.  “The Romans are all dead.  You look like a dead man wearing that.”  Fenn slammed his fist into the innocent man beside him, the one with his mouth hanging open, and he knocked him to the ground, while he shouted, “My horse.  My spear and shield.  We have a guest who needs a lesson in manners.”

Gerraint inched over to one side of the open court while Uwaine, knowing how this worked, inched over to the other side. Fenn mounted and did not give Uwaine a second glance.  He started toward Gerraint without warning, and Gerraint started, expecting no warning. They crashed in the middle. Gerraint used his shield effectively to knock Fenn’s spear aside without letting him get a good hit.  Gerraint’s spear struck solidly on Fenn’s shield and everyone heard the explosion.  Fenn got shaken and his shield cracked, but Gerraint’s spear splintered and fell to pieces.

Fenn slowed, but then laughed, thinking he had his opponent.  He turned in time to see Gerraint take his lance from Uwaine and turn for a second run.

R6 Gerraint: Enid, part 3 of 3

Gerraint said no more.  It was not just the unfair treatment of Ynywl, Guinevak and Enid that bothered him.  Caerdyf should be free of Irish pirates; especially ex-slavers.  “Is there a place I can lie down?” he asked.

Ynywl pointed to his daughter.  “Enid will show you,” he said, and let out a deep breath like a man who got stuck in a tight place with nowhere to turn.

Enid got candles and escorted Gerraint and Uwaine to a fine room with a big double bed.  They had a chair beside the fireplace, and she went about lighting the fire and fluffing the chair cushions as well as they could fluff.  She pulled an extra blanket out of a cedar chest at the foot of the bed and laid it next to the one already on the bed.

“You are going to fight Fenn, aren’t you?” she said, in a frank and forward way.  “You should not.” She turned to Gerraint who looked around at the high but well-worn quality of the room.  It looked much like the rest of the house.  There were no servants to keep things up and maintain the home, though it all appeared very clean and tidy.  He got especially taken with the bits of Roman armor on display over the fireplace.  The chain looked old and rusted, the helmet had a dent, but had been polished along with the breastplate.  A great spear sat in the corner of the room, though it looked more like a forgotten stage prop than a weapon.

Enid placed her hand gently on Gerraint’s chest to get his attention and looked up into his smiling eyes.  “He is a mean and evil fighter who shows no quarter.  You helped me in my time of need.  I would hate to see you get hurt in return.”

Gerraint covered her small hand with his big hand and smiled, deeply.  He wanted to keep her hand close to his heart.  “But tell me, whose armor is this?”  He let go and sat in the chair so as to not be such an imposing sight.

“My great-grandfather,” Enid said.  She had to take a second to remove the smile from her lips.

“The Roman?” Gerraint asked, though he knew the answer.  “Uwaine.” He made his squire get up from the bed where he already lay on his back.  “See if any of it is useable.”

Uwaine got up slowly and looked close while Enid stirred the fire.  “I would not touch the chain,” he said.  “Too much rust, but the breastplate looks in fair shape.  No cracks.  This helmet needs work.”  He took it down, found a loose piece of brick from the fireplace and went to work, hammering out the dent.

“Sir?”  Enid looked up at Gerraint.

“I thought I might wear a bit of it tomorrow, with your permission.  It might remind the people who they are.  They came here to defend this coast, not to hand it over to a bunch of Irish scoundrels. The people might be willing to throw the Irish out, even if Fenn cuts my heart out.”

“Sir,” Enid shifted to sit at his feet and reached up to put her hand gently on his knee.  “I wouldn’t like to see that happen.”  She meant it, and a good bit more.

“I appreciate the affection,” Gerraint said. “But shouldn’t you save that concern for your husband?”

Enid hesitated, but finally withdrew her hand and placed it in her lap.  She looked down while she spoke.  “We have been prisoners here for seven years.  I was a child of fourteen when Megalis decreed that I would never marry unless Father gave him the treasure.  I had suitors.”

“Many, I imagine.”  Gerraint honestly felt stunned by her beauty and imagined he might never tire of such a sight.

“One in particular, but Megalis found out and had him executed.  That happened three years ago.  I turned eighteen.  Now I will be twenty-one in a month and that is getting too old for marriage.  I expect to die an old maid because there is no treasure.”

“I think you are your father’s best treasure,” Gerraint said, and he reached down, took her hand and returned it to his knee. They simply looked eye to eye to judge the measure of what they might be seeing and feeling.  Uwaine stopped banging and stood up.  “Where are you going?” Gerraint asked.

“I have to go outside to work on this,” he said. “I’ll never get it done with you two on about it.  It’s getting too stuffy in here.”  And he left.

Gerraint laughed which caused Enid to laugh and that temporarily broke the serious mood.  “I have every confidence in that boy,” Gerraint said.  “Percival himself taught Uwaine the value of a stone for taking the dents out of helmets.”

Enid looked shocked.  “Sir.  Once again you speak of such a noble man with the ease of familiarity.  I have heard of Sir Percival.  They say he is a great man of faith and learning.”

Gerraint cocked one eyebrow.  He was not sure how much actual learning Percival had done, unless she meant life learning.  “They are great men at the Round Table, each in his own way, I suppose.  But it is hard not to be familiar with such men when you have fought side by side with greatness.”

“Oh, but there is one at Arthur’s Round Table that frightens me, terribly.  I believe he may be a devil sent to test the faith of those other sainted men.” Gerraint nodded and thought of Meryddin. It was not yet well known that Meryddin had disappeared, but Enid had not finished.  “I only hesitate to say because you are from Cornwall yourself, and I mean no offense.”

Gerraint cocked one eyebrow.  “Please tell.”

Enid pulled up close like one afraid to speak too loud.  She raised her other hand to have both on his knee and pressed her full and firm breasts up against his leg, which he imagined she did in pure innocence, but which set his mind racing so he could hardly comprehend her words.

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

MONDAY

It appears Gerraint is going to fight the Irish pirate in the morning.  In the present, however, things in the room are heating up nicely, and it is getting a bit stuffy.  MONDAY (Tuesday and Wednesday), the story turns to the fort of Caerdyf.

Until then, Happy Reading

*

R6 Gerraint: Enid, part 2 of 3

Gerraint growled.  “Take care.  I have no compunction against killing men and you are a man, little though you be.”

The little man quieted.  The woman on horseback waved and the soldiers went to their own waiting horses.  She had a final word.  “We shall see what makes you afraid.  Come to Caerdyf,  tomorrow, and my champion will cut your heart out.”  She turned her horse and started off at a brisk trot.  The little man and soldiers were obliged to follow.  Only then did Gerraint realize he still held the young woman’s hand.  She grinned up at him and did not seem to mind in the least.  Gerraint thought she was lovely and did not mind either…so he immediately let go.

“I thank you for your kindness,” the old man said.  “But it will do no good in the end.”

“How so?” Uwaine became the one who asked while he smiled at Gerraint’s unease next to the beauty.

“My nephew,” he said.  “But it is a bit of a story.  My name is Ynywl, my wife Guinevak and my daughter Enid.”

“I am Goreu, and my young friend is Uwaine”

“I detect Cornish in your words, and you wear the lion.”

Uwaine held his tongue.  In those days, they were calling Gerraint the Lion of Cornwall.

“Yes,” Gerraint said.  “But my friend is from here, in South Wales, and I promised to take him home before I crossed the channel.”

“From this area?” Ynywl looked hopeful.  “I may know your parents?”

“Yes,” Uwaine started, but Gerraint interrupted.

“Probably not.  Simple farmers.  But tell me about this nephew.”

“It is a story.  Come inside.  Enid is a fine cook and we can put you up for the night, as you wish.”

Uwaine came in after caring for the horses, and sat to hear the story while Enid served boiled beef and bread.  She sat by her mother and looked suddenly shy. Gerraint tried not to stare, but he felt smitten by her looks and surprised that she seemed to have a brain inside that head.  Instead, Gerraint stared around the house.  It looked sturdy, but filled with furniture and decorations which were probably very fine twenty or thirty years ago.  At this point, it all looked rundown and used.

“My great-grandfather,” Ynywl began.  “He was a Roman, a centurion who came here with a company of men to build a fort to watch the coast.  Caerdyf became the result, and the town grew around it.  My Grandfather began the city wall and my father finished it.  The plague of piracy that Wales has suffered in these last fifty years did not get far here. My forefathers kept a strong watch on the coast.

“My own father had two sons.  My brother Dyfuss, the eldest, lived as a weak and sickly child. He married and had a son, but he was never strong.  So, my father left him the main part of the land, but he left me Caerdyf and some land surrounding it to support it and much on the coast.  Dyfuss felt happy with that arrangement, but he died young, and in time his son Megalis got greedy.

“Megalis heard the rumor of pirates, that I had a fortune in gold, secreted away and buried somewhere.  He wanted it, and if I had such a fortune, I would have given it to him.  But he did not believe me when I said it did not exist.  He raised what men he had and depended heavily on Irish mercenaries and prates.  Megalis is not what one would call a smart man.  The Irish controlled him through the rumor and the woman you saw, and in this way finally succeeded where the pirates always failed before in Caerdyf.”

“But how did they take the fort?” Gerraint asked. “It looks strong from this distance and surely you had loyal men.”

“I did.  But I surrendered the fort rather than see my own people killing each other and brother fighting against brother.  Now Megalis has abandoned his fine home and moved into the fort.  He has dug up most of the fort and large portions of the town and countryside looking for the treasure which I am convinced the Irish know is fake.  But they keep the thought alive because it maintains their power.  The woman, Erin, has come to believe their own lie.”

“Always a problem when you begin to lie, that in time you may begin to believe it,” Gerraint said plainly to Uwaine, who simply nodded and enjoyed the food.

Megalis has given us this place and kept us alive up to this point because we supposedly know where the treasure is. But after seven long years his patience is wearing thin.  I fear he will eventually be done with us.”

“And leave the Irish in control of Caerdyf? Does Arthur know about this?”

Guinevak looked at the big soldier and spoke her mind. “You speak of the Pendragon with easy familiarity.”

“It is hard to keep formalities on the battlefield,” Gerraint gave the obvious answer.

“No,” Ynywl answered Gerraint’s question.  “Why should I appeal to Arthur and his fine men of the Round Table.  Caerdyf is my nephew’s, by rights as son of the eldest son.”

“Megalis maybe.”  Gerraint got serious.  “But the Irish have no rights here and have been warned.  And how many are there in Caerdyf?”

“Only about twenty under Fenn, but they make the rules and the people have suffered.”

“Fenn is the Lady’s champion?” Uwaine asked, his appetite temporarily satisfied.

“Yes,” Enid said, and looked only once at Gerraint before she looked down.

“Yes,” Ynywl said at the same time.  “He is as big as Goreu here, but mean and cruel.  I heard before he came to Caerdyf, he trafficked in slaves to Ireland.  He is an excellent fighter.  No one has beaten him, and that is why I recommend you leave first thing in the morning. You should not risk your own injury and death on our account.”

R6 Gerraint: Enid, part 1 of 3

After the campaign against the Picts, which the members of the Round Table called Cat Coit Celidon, Gerraint got bored.  It turned to spring, in the year 505, and Arthur brought Gwynyvar to Cadbury to frolic.  That was what Gerraint called it.  They were frolicking among the flowers and giggling.  Gerraint was not a fan of giggling.

Arthur seemed determined to please Gwynyvar in whatever way he could.  Guilt, Gerraint thought, especially when Gwenhwyfach produced a son she named Medrawt. The boy looked dark, nothing like his blond locked father, but Loth shrugged it off as some Welsh flaw and set about raising the boy in the ways of the north.

Gerraint, on horseback, watched a particularly annoying frolic.  Uwaine, now a young man near eighteen, sat faithfully silent beside him when Gwynyvar, astride a spritely bay, popped out of the nearby woods with several ladies, their horses prancing, or as Gerraint thought, making pirouettes around her. Gwynyvar laughed and smiled and looked very happy.

“Sir Gerraint,” she said.  “Why so dour a face on such a beautiful day?”

“Not dour,” he responded.  “Just concerned as always about the welfare of the people and the poor who have no such wildflowers of their own to dance with.”

Gwynyvar did not entirely succeed in putting on a more serious face.  “You sound like a man with a mission.”

“Yes.”  And Gerraint decided he definitely needed a mission, as Greta suggested.  “Tell your husband we will stop briefly at Caerleon before we proceed to the South Welsh shore.  Now that we have reduced the pirates and Hueil and Caw are no more, I am anxious to see how the people may be prospering.”

“With a good will, and I wish you Godspeed,” Gwynyvar said, and directed her ladies to where they could frolic in closer quarters with the men.  Gerraint turned up his nose as he turned his horse and Uwaine voiced a thought.

“About time.  I was going to go mad.”

“Getting verbal in your old age?” Gerraint said. “Just for that, we should visit your mother.”

“Morgana might be there,” Uwaine pointed out.

“Okay.  Maybe we won’t.”

The south Welsh coast, though so close to Caerleon, remained one of the places Arthur never visited.  In those early days, the people of the coast were constantly fighting off pirates of one sort or another, and Arthur kept saying he did not know what to do about pirates, and he had no ships.  Since gaining some very good ships and some quality sailors under Thomas of Dorset, Arthur never considered the coast.

The people of the coast were kind and appreciative of all they said Arthur had done for them, especially in destroying Hueil, the Saxon terror.  Gerraint assured them that he was only visiting the coast to see to their welfare and he had no interest in taxes.  After the third village, though, he decided to take a page from Meryddin’s book.

“Don’t tell them who I am.  My name is Goreu and don’t call me sir.  We are a couple of warriors returning from the wars, that’s all. And whatever you do, don’t mention the Round Table.”  Uwaine understood, not that he was likely to talk to anyone unless spoken to.

The pair traveled in this manner for a time, and spoke as little as possible about the wars.  People especially wanted to hear about the end of the Saxon and Pictish pirates who had plagued them for so many years.  Here, Gerraint first heard about Heingest, son of Hueil, and how he married an Angle Princess and they had a son named Octa.  They sounded as bad and dangerous as it could get, especially Octa being perhaps in a position to unite the Angles and Saxons.  That would be especially bad.  But that went in the back of Gerraint’s mind for later. Presently, he enjoyed the ale and the hospitality, and inevitably found some men who fought for Arthur, some of whom knew who he was, but were willing to keep his secret.

It got late one afternoon when Gerraint and Uwaine topped a rise and spotted a rundown manor house beside the crude road.  They found a half-dozen men there who looked like soldiers, rousting out an old man and an old woman.  They saw a young woman on horseback commanding the men, and a little person on a horse too large for him whose occupation seemed to be to echo the woman’s commands, with a few choice swear words added.

“Hardly fair,” Uwaine said.

“The couple looks rather fragile,” Gerraint agreed, but as he spoke, two of the men dragged a young woman out of the house and the woman on horseback began to threaten the old couple by vowing to harm the young woman.  Uwaine blinked and then had to catch up.  Gerraint did not even wait for his horse to stop before his feet hit the ground and Salvation jumped to his hand.  He disarmed two of the guards with one blow and then his foot found the hip of one of the men holding the young woman.  His sword went to the other’s throat and he said, “Back up before I get angry.”

The soldier instantly let go, raised his hands and took two steps away from the giant in his face.  The young woman fell to her knees and lowered her head and eyes. Uwaine, meanwhile had the rest of the soldiers cowed, so Gerraint leaned down to take the young woman’s hand.  “My Lady, please stand.  I am merely a simple soldier on the road.”  She took his hand and stood, but his eyes were already turned to the guards.  “And I have no tolerance for men who abuse women.”

“They were simply doing what they were told, as all good soldiers should.”  The woman on horseback spoke sharply.

“And may I ask the Lady’s name that she sees fit to order men around?”  Gerraint snapped right back as he sheathed Salvation.

The little man spoke up.  “Filth!  You are not worthy to address the Lady.”  He had a whip and let it fly, but Gerraint caught it with his arm and yanked it from the little person’s grasp.

R5 Gerraint: Cat Coit Celidon

Caledonia proved a different world, haunting, foreboding, demanding of respect and reverence.  The forest grew full of strange trees and the hills got covered in rocky places where nothing seemed to grow but that strange purple heather.  They found acres of wide open meadows covered in wildflowers, just waiting for a plow; but no sign of human life intruded, like a land forbidden to the human animal.  They found bogs that came up from nowhere and sucked at a man’s soul, and lakes, long and lean, that hinted of monsters in their icy depths. Gerraint felt glad that he was the only one to dream of being hunted by a T-Rex.

After two days, Pinewood brought word that a large force waited in the next valley.  The narrow valley had a stream running through it, and few trees, like it had been stripped of lumber some time back.  The forest took up on the hillside above.  The Picts were all up on the side of that hill, about two thousand men, and they waited for Arthur to arrive before springing the trap. Clearly, they wanted to pay Arthur back for the beating they took against the River Ure when Arthur had the trees and high ground above the river.

Arthur had six hundred horsemen, almost all trained lancers and veterans.  He had six hundred footmen, mostly men from the north hardened by generations of Pictish, Danish and Saxon raids.  These men would give no quarter now that the raiding was going in the other direction. Arthur knew he would have to watch them to keep the murder of women and children to a minimum.

They stopped shy of the valley, tempting as it was to have some open space with fresh water running through it, but he wanted the Picts to suffer a cold and quiet night with no campfires and no conversation.  He knew some men, left to their own thoughts, would worry and fill their minds with fear about the coming battle.  Others would have to be content with cold meat and bread in the morning, lest they give away their position and what they imagined was their surprise.  Arthur’s men, by contrast, lit great fires and sang songs into the night, like they were out on a lovely stroll through the woods in springtime.  He knew that would grate on the nerves of the enemy.

In the morning, before dawn, Arthur’s footmen climbed the rise in secret, by scouted paths, in order to get above and behind the enemy.  The horsemen made plenty of noise, both to distract the enemy and to make it appear like the full compliment was still in the camp, and packing slowly.  Arthur had three hundred mules, heavily burdened with all the supplies they thought to bring on the campaign.  He had no wagons because mules could go where wagons could not follow, and in the worst case, they could simply be abandoned, or served for lunch.  The mules meant a hundred-horse had to be kept back when the action started, but five hundred got ready to ride out into the valley just as soon as the Picts abandoned the heights.

Deerrunner brought two hundred elf bowmen, all deadly shots, who disguised themselves with powerful glamours so they appeared human. They wore the plain green and brown capes of hunters, and a few wore the lion and pretended to be from Cornwall. They blended in with the Brits who hardly knew every man there from every village in the north, and were glad to see men from as far away as Cornwall on their side.  Besides that, the forest to the left and right of the Picts got filled with traps set by Dumfries and his goblins, and filed with dwarfs, axes ready.  They knew the plan was to drive the Picts down into the valley where Arthur’s cavalry could get at them, and they were going to do their part to make sure none of the Picts escaped through the trees and back into the wilderness.

Gerraint knew all of this went on, and while he did not approve, he kept his mouth shut.  The only idea he flat turned down was the idea of the ogres.  They said more than a dozen ogres bearing down on the Picts from above would inspire the Picts to run as fast as their feet could run, but Gerraint knew that fear did not discriminate.  He did not want the Brits in a footrace with the Picts, trying to be the first to escape.

The action started at high noon, and it took less time than they thought for the Picts to abandon their position.  There were also considerably less Picts that poured out of the trees and on to the open valley than he expected. Fortunately, his men were ready, and the cavalry charge finished the job.  There were hardly more than five hundred blue painted Picts who made it out of the far end of the valley and headed toward the sea.  Arthur deliberately followed and at more leisurely pace.

The first village they came to on the coast had been abandoned.  Arthur burned it along with every boat in the bay.  They turned north at that point and headed toward the chief city of the Picts which sat near where Aberdeen would one day be located.  They burned every village they came to, finding them mostly deserted, and burned and sank every boat they captured.  They killed the men they found and drove the women and children into the wilderness.  There, the elves and dwarfs turned the women and children north until they joined the great march of refugees headed for the safety of the city walls.

Arthur kept slowing down his men.  Even after witnessing the horrors visited on the people in North Britain, he felt reluctant to make war directly on women and children, but he knew many of his men had no such reluctance.  He did not approve of the slaughter of the innocents, but like Gerraint with his little ones, Arthur said nothing about it. Slowing down became his concession that allowed the refugees to stay ahead of the army to swell the streets and lanes of the city, and put a strain on the city’s resources.  He said he wanted the Picts falling all over themselves by the time he arrived.

Pinewood kept Arthur from falling into whatever traps or ambushes the Picts set, and otherwise the journey seemed a pleasant one by the sea.  By the time they arrived at the city, the men were well rested and ready for action, though for Arthur, his anger had been somewhat sated.  Arthur knew what he had planned, and with a bit of help from Gerraint, he only hoped the men were not too disappointed.  He called for the twenty-six.

The twenty-six were the mules that carried, in two parts, the pieces for small catapults—the same that Arthur used to shoot hooks and ropes to the top of the wall of Fort Cambuslang—the same that he mounted on the fat merchant ships that got strung together to blockade the River Clyde.  They could hardly throw anything further than about twice bowshot, but they were just the thing for travel through the wilderness.

While they were being set up, Deerrunner and his two hundred inched closer to the wall.  From the back they wore the familiar green and brown hunter’s garb, but from the city walls the elves used an extra bit of magic that made them invisible. They crawled up to whatever bits of cover remained outside the walls in order to make the illusion more believable, but from there they could easily fire their arrows and pick off any Pict foolish enough to stick his head up.  With no return fire, the catapults could be brought up close.

The city wall had ten feet of thick stone at the bottom.  Another ten feet of lumber rose above that.  It looked formidable enough but the city behind it was all wood, and the houses, side by side, had the same dry thatched roofs that they found in the villages. It would burn dangerously fast, and Arthur had several thousand globes of pitch and tar that could be lit and heaved by the catapults.

The bombardment began roughly an hour before dawn. By the time the sun rose, half the city looked to be in flames and they heard the sounds of screaming and panic. About an hour after the sun rose, three hundred brave souls tried to ride out of a gate to attack the catapults. Lord Pinewood and thirty of his finest were able to fly there, fairy fast, and began firing their arrows before the first ten got all the way out.  Also, Arthur had his men concentrated around the six gates of the city, so the battle did not last long.  Maybe fifty men abandoned their dead and wounded and fled back into the city without coming near a catapult.

Another hour later and people tried to escape the horror on slow, terribly overcrowded ships.  But Arthur had stationed three of his thirteen catapults as near to the port as he could, and manned them with sailors who knew how to hit a moving ship. To be sure, most of the ships made it to deep water, though few without injury.  Some of the ships were set aflame and eventually sank, with people diving overboard, desperately trying to swim back to the docks.

By noon, the city became mostly a pile of smoking embers and Arthur packed up his catapults and his men and headed inland. Gerraint told Deerrunner and Bogus they were to continue to watch the gates and try to prevent anyone from leaving the city for three days.  He did not want to see any little ones hurt, but he imagined it might be possible there were enough men left who might be stupid enough to pursue Arthur.  In response, Gerraint caught the image of ogres in the daylight and trolls and goblins in the night, but he did not want to look any closer.

Arthur set a zigzag course through the inland. Like on the coast, most of the villages he came to were deserted, but a few resisted, briefly.  With Pinewood’s warning, the Picts were incapable of pulling off a trap or ambush, and this time Arthur allowed his northern Brits their way, as long as it was swift.

By the time they got back to the Antonine Wall, The British had slated their thirst for revenge and brought back plenty of loot besides.  Once again, the Scots stepped aside, most because Arthur returned with so few casualties, but some because they were beginning to get reports on what happened in the north.  Arthur imagined some of the Scottish “Lairds” might already be drawing up plans to move north into the Highlands and take over.  Arthur would not stop them.

Arthur and Gerraint stood side by side watching the army march, and watched Percival come up beside them, a hard look on the younger man’s face.  “This isn’t fun anymore,” he said.

“At least we should have peace for a time,” Arthur responded.

Gerraint answered Percival more directly.  “We aren’t children anymore.”

Percival nodded.  “In that case, I think I’ll find a wife.”  He looked at Gerraint and Arthur joined in that look.  Gerraint grinned, but said nothing.

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Thus ends the tale of Gerraint, Percival, and Arthur, Pendragon in the days of their youth.

MONDAY

The story of Gerraint, Percival, and Arthur continues through their middle ages (pun intended), with: The Kairos and Rome, Book 6 (R6) Gerraint’s story: How Gerraint finds a wife.  How Arthur is taken off to the continent.  How Gerraint is tormented for a time.  And how the Scots and Danes, the Jutes, and finally the Angles and Saxons just won’t keep still and silent.

You might call it Gerraint’s story, part 2.  I was asked if it is important to read part one first?  No.  Part 2, if you want to call it that, is a story, or more like a series of episodes unto themselves.  Most people already know many of the characters: King Arthur, Gwynyvar, Lancelot, Bedwyr and Bedivere, Uwaine and Gawaine, Bohort, Lionel, Howel, Pelenor and Percival.  So, please step right in and enjoy the story.  See you MONDAY.

*

R5 Gerraint: Meryddin, part 2 of 2

At once there came a flash of light and a tall woman, the most beautiful woman Arthur had ever seen, stepped up beside him and waved her arm once.  The fog cleared off in an instant, like waving her arm created a great wind, though Arthur felt no wind.  The clearing revealed six blue painted Picts, crouched like hunters, but utterly unmoving.

Meryddin got revealed, standing still as a statue on the edge of the forest.  The woman stepped up for a closer look. She saw the grandfather, a djin, a lesser spirit of evil that terrorized people to the point where they died of fright and then it sucked out their souls.  He had gone over to the other side, but before he went, he allowed a young woman to live.  She had a son who soon enough ate his mother.  His reign of terror came to the end at the hands of the people, a Frankenstein-type mob, but not before he impregnated a fifteen-year-old girl.  She had a son, Meryddin, one quarter djin.

Suddenly it made sense.  By the time Meryddin turned ten, his mother, then twenty-five, looked more like fifty.  She had no life left to tend the boy.  He went into the hands of the druids who worked their mightiest spells to bind the thing inside the boy.  They were partially successful, and Meryddin seemed normal after that.  But he never lost the ability to see and hear at great distances, though he could not exactly control it, and his power of illusion stayed great.

The woman turned when Arthur turned and saw, not Gwynyvar, but Gwenhwyfach.  The woman knew Gwenhwyfach participated in Meryddin’s scheme, and she took a deep breath before she acted.

“Go home, trollop,” the woman said, and Gwenhwyfach disappeared from that place.  Arthur stared at the woman until she gave her name.  “Danna.”

“Goddess,” he responded.

“No, Gerraint,” she smiled for him.  “And it would seem strange to be my own goddess, but he is a Christian now.”

“Yes.”  Arthur came more to himself and nodded.  “As am I, but…”  He quickly looked around.  He felt mortified by what he did and it showed on his face.

“No one saw,” Danna said.  She waved her hand again and Arthur became clothed.  “For you it will be like an unpleasant dream, but you must remember it because there will be consequences.”  Another wave and Arthur appeared back in his tent, on his bed, asleep.  Then the goddess turned to the others.  She started with Meryddin, and when she opened his eyes they almost popped from his head on sight of her.

“I see you,” she said.  “I see what is inside of you, driving you.  Will you see it?”

Meryddin’s tongue came loose.  “You cannot be here.  How can you be here?  My goddess, do not turn against your servant.”

“I will show you,” Danna said.  “This is in your heart.”

Meryddin got set free even as the vision formed. He saw himself as a child slowly draining the life of his own mother.  He saw his father eating his own mother and he screamed.  He saw his grandfather and ran, wild abandon in the dark, with no thought for his life, and indeed, no thought at all beyond his fear. How far he would run and whether or not his mind would ever be whole again, even Danna could not say.  His influence over Arthur ended, but his wickedness continued and she did not have the right to intervene.  There would be consequences, but in the meanwhile, she could do something about the six Pictish statues

Danna looked at the men and thought the compulsion should pass in a week.  One madman per night should be enough.  She waved her hand once more and all six men appeared, five in villages along the coast and the sixth in the city that would one day be called Aberdeen.  They attracted an immediate crowd, night or not. Danna made sure of that.  Then the men spoke, but the only thing they could say was, “We should not have gone beyond the wall.  Now we are all dead.”  And they said it whenever they opened their mouths.

Danna turned to the forest and said, “Hear me.” That voice echoed through the Highlands, rippled across the lakes and blew like the cold wind in the remotest islands of the north.  “The time has come.  The iniquity is complete.  The Picts will be no more.  Do not hinder the men from the south.  Arthur must have his way.”  Then Danna vanished instantly and Gerraint returned, Salvation in his hand as it had been when Danna filled his shoes.

Gerraint looked up at the stars and moon, now clearly visible since the fog pushed off.  He returned his sword to its place and climbed off wall.  Uwaine stood there, but the boy did not see.  Just as well, Gerraint thought, and he thought of those men saying the same thing over and over for seven days, if they should live. He spoke out loud.

“My name is Inigo Montoya.  You keelled my Father.  Prepare to die.”

Uwaine nodded.  “Weird,” he said.

Arthur found Gerraint at dawn, said he had the weirdest dream and since he could not find Meryddin and since Gerraint was king of weird he wanted to share it.

Gerraint interrupted.  “I did not see anything through that fog, and there is no power on earth that can make her tell anyone.”  He paused when he saw a tear come up into Arthurs eyes.  “Meryddin ran away,” he added.

Arthur grasped at that change of subject.  “What do you mean ran away?”

“He got scared.  He ran, off into the forest, into the wilds of the Celidon.  I don’t know if we will see him again.”

“Scared?”

 “He saw himself, what he really is.  He might not be in his right mind.”  Gerraint shook his head, sadly.

Arthur sniffed, dried his eyes and stepped to the tent door.  “We have a job to do.”  He stiffened, and Gerraint could not even guess what might be running through Arthur’s mind.  “We can’t run away,” Arthur said, and he lead twelve hundred men into the wilderness of Caledonia.

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TOMORROW: Cat Coit Celidon. Don’t miss it.

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R5 Gerraint: Meryddin, part 1 of 2

It almost took less time than Arthur thought before the sons of Caw came charging out of the north.  The Scots made no effort to stop them.  They dared not.  Loth and Kai were hard pressed to keep a safe zone for twenty miles around their forts and hundreds of people flocked there while thousands fled South, to York. Outside of those forts, the Picts had free reign, and they slaughtered whole villages and burned farms to the ground with the people inside the farmhouses.

Things balanced a little when the RDF arrived after the first month.  The RDF, particularly out of York, saved hundreds of people, and fought the Picts about even, with losses at first on both sides.  By the time Arthur got on the way, the RDF started gaining at Pict expense, particularly the men from York who had spent much of their time surveying the land to become familiar with the terrain.

With Arthur’s arrival, the Picts went back above the wall and took all the loot they collected up until then.  There were oxen, wagons, horses, sheep and cattle, and there were tons of farm implements, hoes and plows, and even some gold and silver. All Arthur had to see was the burned remains of one family, burned alive in their own home, and he became uncontrollable.  It took until the end of the day before he was able to talk.

“We are going to Caledonia,” he said softly. Everyone hushed to hear him.  “We are going above the Antonine wall.  If no one wants to go with me, I will go alone.” He walked off.

“Even the Romans never dared enter the Celidon Forest.  There are ghosts and terrible monsters up there.”  Bedwyr summed up what everyone thought.

“There are,” Gerraint agreed, his eyes fastened on Arthur’s receding back.  “But this time the ghosts and terrible monsters will be fighting on our side.”  People looked at him like he might be as mad as Arthur, but at least Percival and Uwaine smiled.

Twelve hundred men were brave enough to follow Arthur into the wild north.  Mostly, they were RDF and members of the Round Table, but some were men who lost homes and loved ones.  Arthur left the rest of the army at Edinburgh, Guinnon, and York in case some Picts circled around and tried to come back, “Or if the Scots get restless,” Loth said.

Then it became a simple matter to march north. The Scots stepped aside.  The Picts had been wild and angry, but these men showed something on their faces and in their silence that felt far more frightening.

In the afternoon, the army reached the northern wall. The men and squires set camp while Arthur, Gerraint and Percival climbed that portion of the Antonine wall where the stones still stood.  The forest that started some distance away looked shrouded in a strange mist, more like a cloud that had fallen to the ground than an ordinary fog.  The sky seemed otherwise cloudless.  The stars would be out in the night, and the moon that looked nearly full would shine down on the world and light the way for weary travelers.

“This has gotten serious,” Gerraint said. Arthur nodded and looked to the northeast so the sun set at his back.

“They are mostly in the east,” Arthur said. “The city of the high chief is on the east coast.  The islands and western wilds have begun to fill up with Ulsterites.”

“Where did you hear that?” Percival asked.

“They made a mistake attacking the Norwegians along with the Britons south of here,” Gerraint explained.  “If it was not for the coastal watch, the Danes would have swallowed up Caledonia long ago.”

“Now they are inspired,” Arthur said.

Gerraint took a good look all the way around. Meryddin, defender of the Scots and Picts went missing, and that bothered him.  His little ones were anxious to help, but he was not convinced he would let them beyond guiding lights and bumps in the Pictish night. He felt afraid to let them get too close.  He feared what Meryddin would do if he captured one.

Percival said nothing.  He simply looked around with Gerraint before he got down and went to his tent.  After a moment, Arthur and Gerraint got down and went their ways.  The morning sun would dawn on a different world.

Deep in the night, Arthur heard a cry.  He thought at first that it might be a sheep or goat trapped in a twist of briars. He heard it again and thought it might be a songbird disturbed in the night.  On the third call, he sprang out of bed.  It might have been Picts sneaking up on the camp, but this sounded like a woman in distress.  He snuck out to the wall where the mist had fallen over all the open ground and slowly crept over the wall.  Arthur hesitated, but then he heard the woman again and he understood the word, “Help.”

Once over the wall and covered in the thick fog, he had only his hearing and internal sense of direction to guide him. “Hello?”  He spoke softly in the hope of eliciting a response.  He shook his head several times.  The fog seemed to be penetrating his brain.  “Hello?”

“Arthur?”  The word struck him like a hammer and he lost all sense for a minute.  He knew the voice.  “Arthur?”

“Gwynyvar.”  He raised his voice, but in a moment, she fell into his arms and he held her tight. “How did you get here?  What are you doing here?”  He asked, but found his voice again in a whisper.  The fog seemed to require silence.

“Just hold me,” she said, and then she reached up and kissed him.  “The fog,” she tried to explain something, but he got busy kissing her and his mind was not right.  He couldn’t think straight.  Her nightgown fell away and she tore at his clothes until they were naked in the mist beneath the moon.  They made love in silence and not a thought between them until something clinked nearby.

Arthur sat straight up.  “What is it?  Who is there?’  He saw a blue hand and then a blue face in the mist and he jumped back, reached for his sword, which he had abandoned on the ground, and he pulled Gwynyvar behind him. The face grinned a grin of stark yellow teeth, and the eyes were wide to show plenty of bloodshot white, but the man did not move.  Gerraint called out into the dark.  “Arthur, stay where you are.”