M4 Gerraint: Cadbury, part 3 of 3

The three guards from the guardroom and two more from upstairs, one of whom looked badly wounded were brought in to join the four surviving guards and the Saxon in the Great Hall.  When the guards sat willingly on the floor, Gerraint sent half of the twenty-four men remaining to him back into the rooms to bring in the bodies of the dead.

“Lay the good men out here in honor,” he said.  “You can pile the traitors in the corner for all I care.”  He stepped up to the Saxon.  “Red Ulf.”  Gerraint once again practiced his Nameless given grasp of the Saxon language.    “Ethelgard has really overstepped his bounds this time.  Does he not know that fate will have its way with him?”

Red Ulf raised his brows on being spoken to by a man without a funny British accent.  He looked closely, and after a moment he appeared to remember their previous encounter.  Then he responded with treachery.  “Too bad you won’t be there to see it.”  He pulled out a knife that was hidden in his cloak, but he was the one who did not get a chance to use it as Defender got thrust right through the man’s chain and deep into his chest.  The women, and some of the men present gasped.

“George said you were not a believer.”  Gerraint spoke in a clam and steady voice.  “I recommend you pray now as fast as you can.”  Red Ulf collapsed and his blood spilled out on the floor.

“Murderer.”  The old woman who was there to serve Gwenhwyfach accused Gerraint with her mouth and eyes.  She went to her seated mistress who seemed to be shrieking, but all anyone heard was “Mmumph. Mmumph.”  Coppertone had magically sealed the woman’s mouth closed and looked pleased with her work.  Belle rolled her eyes and helped Enid to a chair a couple of seats away.  

“No, it’s called war, not murder,” Gerraint responded to the old woman.  “And it’s called self-defense.  Defender,” he called, and his long knife vacated Red Ulf’s chest, shook itself free of any blood, and flew back to Gerraint’s hand.  He was at an age where he did not care if people saw certain things.  Gerraint caught the old woman’s eye.  “If you pull a knife on me, you will receive the same.  Enid?”  Enid had her hand to her head, like this was something she knew, but tried not to think about, and certainly did not want to see.  Gwynyvar sat beside her and took her hand to comfort her.

“Do what you must do,” Enid said.  “I trust you, and I love you.”  Her voice did not exactly sound steady.

“You are my heart,” Gerraint said.  Belle looked up and smiled at that use of the fairy expression; an expression of total love and devotion that Enid knew, too.

Gerraint spoke again as the men from the back rooms returned with more bodies.  “I know some of you are anxious to join the battle for the fort, but we have prisoners to attend and women to get safely away first.  Where is the prison in this fort?”

Morwen, the sergeant of the little group of soldiers spoke.  “There is the old dungeon beneath us, and in this expanded fort, there is also a separate bailiff’s tower.”

“Very good.  There is too much fighting and uncertainty out there.  Please take these men to the lock-up beneath us and post several guards.  Hopefully they will be joined by other prisoners Uwaine brings in.  Something will be decided later, but I will remind you men, in a Christian world there remains a chance for mercy and forgiveness, so be good.”

Gerraint went again to the front door.  He did not see nearly as much fighting going on as before, and he saw white shirts still armed, so he assumed his men had not lost, but he caught no sign of Uwaine, or Dyfyr or Twech for that matter.  He closed the door.  He decided he needed to get the women out, and that would have to be by the tunnel.  He just wondered if the women might go quietly if he blindfolded them when Uwaine, Twech and a dozen men in white burst in the door behind him.  

“All good,” Uwaine reported.  “There are fifty barricaded in the barracks and we are negotiating.  There are some singles here and there, but the fort is ours.”

“Saxon singles?” Gerraint asked.

Uwaine nodded and shrugged at the same time.  “And maybe Scots, but there aren’t that many places to hide around here.”

“One man with a bow can still pick out targets.” Gerraint shook his head.  “Medrawt?”

Uwaine shrugged, but Twech stepped up and looked over to be sure Uwaine was not about to say something before he spoke.  “Just as the sun touched the horizon, I saw a dozen men escape out the front gate.  They were on foot, but the enemy army is not so far.  They may be there by now.”

“Damn.”  Gerraint swore.  “Pinewood,” he called, and he did not have to call twice, like the fairy waited up in the rafters or something.  “Go tell Arthur that Gwynyvar is safe and to prepare for an attack.  And tell James and Bedivere they are in trouble for not telling me their mother was here.”  Enid was Bedivere’s aunt, not his mother of course, but she was as close as he had to a mother since that fateful day when Lyoness sank.

Pinewood grinned, though it was hard to see on that little fairy face.  “Very good, Lord,” he said and scooted out the window.  Gerraint did not bother to look around at the astonished faces.  He just continued with the orders.

“Uwaine, collect as many soldiers as we have and men from the town who have some military experience.  Get to the stables and tell Dyfyr to take six men and make sure the tunnel from the stables is still secure and empty.  Then saddle as many horses as you can.  You will need to ride out and support Arthur with as strong a force as you can muster.  Use your judgment.  Leave the elderly and too young to watch the men in the barracks.  I have a feeling something will be decided today.”

“Twech.  If you wouldn’t mind, take six men or so and make sure the tunnel in the barn is still clear.  We don’t want to run into any men in hiding, especially Scots or Saxons who might have found their way into the tunnels.”

“Very good, Lord,” Twech imitated the fairy.

“Morwen.  Get the men you have here ready to escort the ladies.  You better put a few more on guard duty downstairs so they can fetch food and relieve the guards later on.  The rest need to be divided in two groups with the bulk out front, and a few bringing up the rear.  Belle, you need to lead the ladies with a fairy light, and Coppertone, you need to bring up the rear and keep your ears and dark eyes open for trouble.  And whatever you do, don’t tell the ladies about the rats and spiders.”  Of course, Gerraint told the ladies as he spoke, and he grinned at them.

“That was mean,” Enid said, but she looked at him and returned the grin.

“You three,” Gerraint pointed to three of the men, soldiers who came running in with Uwaine.  “I need to go to the wall to look at what is happening, if anything.  I’ll be right back.”

Uwaine nodded and left.  He had a big assignment and was not inclined to speak in any case.  Twech also nodded and left, but Gerraint could have sworn the man saluted.  “We’ll be ready,” Morwen said, and he began to shout orders while Gerraint went out.

From the top of the wall, Gerraint could look down on the two camps.    With his fairy enhanced eyes, he spied Medrawt right away.  Medrawt had gotten himself a horse and looked to be riding around doling out commands.  Clearly, Medrawt wanted an immediate attack, but armies did not work that way.  The attack would come when the army got ready.

Gerraint called once again to Pinewood. He asked the fairy to please send someone to Christchurch, “Where Lancelot’s ships will be coming in.  As soon as he arrives, tell him Gwynyvar had been held prisoner by Medrawt, but she is now safe.  Arthur’s troops, though, are badly outnumbered and he could use as much help as possible, as soon as possible.  Then it would be good if a couple of little ones could lead Lancelot here by the secret ways unknown to men so he can arrive as soon as possible.”

“It will be done,” Pinewood responded.  “Arthur will need the help, but I cannot say if it will be in time.”

“Nor can I,” Gerraint admitted.  “Just do your best to hurry him, please, and thank you.”  Pinewood flew off, and one of the men with Gerraint whispered.

“Second time.  Still unnerving.”

Gerraint ignored the man and looked at Arthur’s considerably smaller camp.  It appeared like they spent their time yesterday, and in the night, fortifying their position.  There were trees and sharpened spikes in front of their camp, and a shallow trench dug against a cavalry attack.  He could see the trench from above, but it might not be noticeable from ground level.  A horse could break a leg in such a trench.  A man might only fall down if he wasn’t watching, but enough falling down would certainly slow a charge.  Arthur’s men looked to be getting ready to defend themselves.  Being so badly outnumbered, for the first time in history, Arthur appeared in no position to attack.

Gerraint looked over the inside of the wall, down on the barracks.  “You there,” He got the attention of one of the men now manning the wall.  “Keep an eye on the roof of the barracks.  They might try to sneak out the back end of the roof, if they think of it.”

“Right,” the man said and went to fetch a few more men to help with that duty.

Gerraint went back down to the Great Hall.  Morwen reported that they were ready.  Gerraint complained about the crick in his neck.  He stood too tall for most of the tunnel and had to travel with his head bent.  First, though, he had something to say to Gwenhwyfach and her maid.  “One warning so you better listen,” he said.  “Any treachery, attempt to injure anyone or bring harm to anyone will be returned to you double.”  He reached out and undid the clamp on Gwenhwyfach’s mouth.  He knew he could undo the magic of the little ones, even if he had not been gifted by them.  “And any noise, and I will have the clamp returned to your mouth, permanently, and you can eat through your nose.”  They understood.

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MONDAY

The end of the saga of Gerraint in the days of Arthur, Pendragon. The Final Battle Don’t miss it. Until Monday, Happy Reading

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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.