M3 Gerraint: Around the Table, part 2 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Surely not!”  Bedwyr coughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Indubitably,” Peredur said.

“Why you?”  Loth asked.

“Alone?”  Bedwyr added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, the adventure begins.”  Arthur smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY

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

*

M3 Gerraint: Around the Table, part 1 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes?”  Gerraint showed he was paying attention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I help?”  Gerraint asked.

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