M3 Gerraint: Revived Romans, part 2 of 3

Gerraint returned to his horse and mounted, unstrapped his lance at the same time, turned the point to the front and tucked it securely in place.

“What are you doing?”  Kvendelig asked, as if he did not know.

“For Arthur!”  Gerraint shouted and he shot out of the woods at full charge.  The men behind him were a little slower, but Uwaine and Bedivere were quick enough to almost catch up.  Menw and Gwarhyr were a little quicker than Kvendelig, who swore first before he added his voice to the charge.  “For Arthur!”

The Romans still had twice the men, but Howel now had six mounted warriors on his side.  They rode through the Romans first of all, evening the odds a little as they did.  As they turned, Gerraint saw Howel and Lionel arm themselves in the confusion.  The fight was on again, but several of the Romans had quickly mounted and found spears of their own.

This was no joust such as became almost a sport in the late Middle Ages.  This was ancient men with spears, lances, clubs, swords, whatever they could find with which to kill.  This was war, and Gerraint knew the business well.  He put down the first man he faced without the other’s spear even touching him.  The second, however, grabbed the shaft of Gerraint’s lance as he fell, effectively ripping it from Gerraint’s hands.  Indeed, Gerraint knew well enough to let it go and pull his sword.

Unfortunately, with Gerraint’s progress slowed, a Roman became able to grab him by the leg.  Gerraint let go of the reins, directed the horse with his knees alone, and pulled his long knife across the face of his attacker.  The man cried out and fell away, but Gerraint got poked from the other side by another Roman with a spear.  The spear head was not strong enough to penetrate Gerraint’s armor, but the strike landed hard enough to shove Gerraint right out of the saddle.  He hit the ground, hard, and nearly got caught in his exposed face by that same spear.  He ducked in time and swung up and out with Wyrd.  The Roman spear got cut in two at the shaft.

The Roman then arched his back and his eyes glazed.  They heard the sound of whizzing and buzzing all around, as the air filled with arrows.   After barely a minute, the sounds of battle ended.

Three men, dressed in hunter green and carrying bows stepped from the trees on the other side of the clearing.  Two were rather old and grubby looking.  The third, a youngster, looked about Bedivere’s age, but clearly not one to be overawed by the men of armor he faced.  They came up to Gerraint, and the eldest bowed slightly.

“My Lord,” he said.  Gerraint pointed at Howel.

“Not me.  There’s your king.”

The man looked at Gerraint briefly and whispered for his ears only.  “The lady thought we might be better help than the dragon.”  Then he turned to the king and bowed more regally, but very much like a real, old hunter in the woods might bow to his king.

“More of yours?”  Kvendelig distracted Gerraint with the question.

“You never know,” Gerraint said, but he knew the young one was young Larchmont.  One thing seemed certain.  No three pairs of human hands wiped out twelve or fifteen Romans in the span of sixty seconds; and nearly every arrow a perfect shot.

“Odyar?”  Gerraint asked Uwaine when he came up.  Uwaine pointed at the body.

“But Bedivere is hurt, and Lionel,” Uwaine said.

Gerraint looked at Kvendelig who stood at his shoulder and shook his head.  It would not be prudent to bring a more experienced healer into the present.  At least Gerraint needed to examine the patients first.

“Master.  I am so ashamed,” Bedivere said.

“No need.”  Gerraint smiled.  The wound was not bad. “You won’t have nearly the scar I have in my shoulder.”  The bleeding got staunched.  Uwaine could see to Bedivere.

Lionel’s problem looked a little more difficult.  His leg broke and Gerraint did not imagine he had the skill to set it.  So much of that sort of thing was by feel, and he was not sure what he was feeling for.

“Will I lose it?”  Lionel asked.  Howel looked worried as well.

“Afraid not,” Gerraint said.  “Rather, it is whether you will run or limp.”  He looked around.  The hunters were still there.  The eldest caught the gist of what was needed.

“My king,” he called, and Howel stepped over reluctantly to speak with the hunter, and his guards accompanied him.  Gerraint did not wait.  He let himself slip away and Greta came to take his place.  Gerraint knew he lived as a real surgeon in the early Twentieth Century and probably set more broken legs than could be counted, but the Good Doctor felt too distant in his mind at present.  Greta, the Woman of the Ways among the Dacians, felt much closer in time and in his memory.  She also served as a healer, and a good one.

While Lionel gasped and Greta told him quietly over and over to hold his tongue, she quickly made sure her golden hair got securely hidden by her helmet.  She fluffed out her cape with the hope that from the rear no one would suspect she was not Gerraint.  Then she took Lionel’s leg, carefully, and examined it.  “A clean break,” she said.  It should heal completely if you stay off of it for a while.”

“But.”  Lionel wanted to protest at her presence, but he did not have the strength.  He struggled too hard against the pain and against passing out.

“You can talk to Bohort about it when you are better, and Lancelot if you need to, but no one else.  Do I make myself clear?”  She shot a thought to the hunters.  They instantly reverted to fairy form and flew off even as she snapped Lionel’s leg in place.  Lionel stayed busy saying yes to her question about it being clear, so that delayed his scream.  By the time he let out the sound, and Howel and the others shook themselves free from the wonder of the fairies, and came running, Greta had gone and Gerraint was home.

“Keep still,” Gerraint ordered Lionel, though Lionel had passed out at that moment.  “Have to immobilize it.”  Gerraint stood and swung his fist into the image which Greta, with her own gifts of sight, had seen.  Gerraint’s fist landed square in Menw’s invisible face.  As the man fell to the ground, dazed, he lost his concentration and became visible.  Gerraint picked him up, right off his feet, and stepped him back a couple of steps.  The others laughed, not sure what they were laughing at, when Gerraint whispered straight into Menw’s ear.  “If I catch you trying to look down my dress again,” he said.  “I’ll make you a eunuch.”  He tossed Menw about five feet to where the man fell on his rear and yelped.

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.”

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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.

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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