M3 Gerraint: Captives, part 1 of 3

“Weapons.”  The man spoke in an imitation of upland British.  He kicked the dirt in front of him.  All complied and set their sheathed weapons on the dirt while two more blue painted men came from the brush to collect them.

“Maybe if there are only a few,” Urien said in his own halting Welsh.  He made an open suggestion which everyone caught, but there were more than a few, being fifteen of them.

“Walk.”  The chief gave the order, but the trip seemed less like walking and more like climbing over to the other side of the ridge.  An elderly man met them at the very edge of town. His British sounded much better than the chief of the hunting party and he slid right up to Gerraint with a few questions.

“Dayclimber.”  The man introduced himself as they walked to a central building.  “Where are you from?”

“Britain.”  “Britain.”  Gwillim and Trevor spoke as one.

“Urien of Leodegan,” Urien groused.

“South Wales.”  Uwaine spoke.

“Cornwall.”  Gerraint spoke last.

“King in Cornwall,” Uwaine explained for some reason.

“You are Arthur’s men?  Learned men?”  Dayclimber asked.

They nodded before they entered the roundhouse.  They expected to be set in a kind of preliminary trial with the Elders of the Picts standing around them to pass judgment.  What they found surprised them.  There were tables in the roundhouse set out with a rich variety of food.  There were women to serve, but little evidence of men apart from the hunters who brought them in, and Dayclimber.

Gerraint and his crew stood respectfully and tried to keep from drooling while the hunting chief had their weapons piled in a corner.  Then he and his hunters fell to the food and Dayclimber led the captives to a separate table.

“Sit.  Eat,” Dayclimber said.  They could not believe their ears, but even while Trevor suggested that their food might be poisoned, Urien and Gwillim started eating with the comment, “Who cares if it is.”

Dayclimber sat beside Gerraint.  “You are learned men?” he asked again.  “You have skills in healing?”  Gerraint looked up.  Ever quiet and observant Uwaine spoke up.

“There were maybe a dozen fresh graves near the place where we entered in.”

“Plague?”  Trevor was quick to ask, and his voice did not sound too steady in asking.

Dayclimber nodded.  “We have no way to combat it.  Our healer was one of the first to die and no other village will send help for fear of catching the disease.  You were spotted some ten days ago coming from the north.  It was decided if you came near to us, we would seek your help.”

Gerraint looked at his companions.

“What you call out of the frying pan and into the fire,” Uwaine said.

“Yes,” Gerraint confirmed.  “And I hate clichés.”

The chief spoke from the other table and asked how it was that they came to be in the land of the Picts.  Gerraint told the whole story, honestly, Dayclimber translating, and only left out his trading places through the time stream with Margueritte, and especially his brief time as the Danna.  The men quickly became engrossed in the tale, and the women stopped serving to listen as well.  Curiously, they had no trouble believing that Manannan had made them prisoners and seemed only surprised that Manannan had relented and set them free.

The chief of the Picts told them that they were aware of the madman in the wilderness.  “Now I understand,” the chief said.  “The spirit of the seal boy has taken the man’s mind, but it is madness for the boy neither to be able to return to the sea nor to live with his seal people.”

“You’ve said we are what we eat,” Uwaine whispered in Gerraint’s ear.  It was not funny.

“But you were not the one who convinced Manannan to let us go,” Trevor interjected in all innocence.  “That was the lady.”

Dayclimber translated for his fellows and then asked with eyebrows raised.

“Danna,” Gerraint said.  The Picts stood at the mention of her and there was mention of having seen her in the land some seventy-five years ago.

“But how is it that she would appear to the likes of you?  And intercede for you?” The Chief demanded an answer.

Gerraint did not feel shaken by their hovering over him.  He took a long moment of thought before he answered.  “When you see her, you will have to ask her,” he said at last. “I am a chieftain and a soldier.  Mine is not the mind to know the way of the gods.”  Curiously, that seemed to satisfy the Picts who resumed their seats, but slowly and with great questions still burning in the air.

Dayclimber spoke into the silence because there was another part of the story which did not satisfy him.  “And how is it this young seal girl was willing to speak to you, a warrior, when one of your kind just killed her brother, besides?”  The Picts, on hearing this question, looked up at Gerraint who sighed.  There was no avoiding it, in any case.  Besides, he had determined that the gods he had been were inaccessible at the moment, but Greta the Dacian Woman of the Ways and healer would be willing to look into this plague.  Someone had to do something, or their welcome would soon enough turn sour.

“Will the goddess come?”  Uwaine asked having read the resignation on Gerraint’s face.

“Not one of them,” Gerraint answered.  “But Greta may help, if you don’t mind.”  He knew Uwaine did not mind.  Uwaine was long in love with Greta.

“Dayclimber.”  Gerraint got the man ready to translate, and he told the rest of the story, about Margueritte and speaking as a young girl to a young girl.  The Picts said nothing at first.  Gerraint’s own crew stayed equally silent as Gerraint stood.  “And now, let the healer from the east and from long ago see if perhaps there is something that can be done for your people.”  He took Uwaine’s hand and one hand of Dayclimber’s in an age-old tradition.  “Do not let go, no matter what,” he said, and the dark haired, blue eyed, six foot tall Gerraint was not there anymore.  In his place stood a five foot, four-inch blonde with light brown eyes that sparkled with life.

Dayclimber shrieked and yanked back his hand.  Both Picts and Gerraint’s crew stood and stepped from the table with the shuffling and scraping of chairs and not a few gasps.  One Pictish woman screamed and dropped the clay pot she held.  It shattered on the ground and spilled milk everywhere.  Uwaine, alone, stayed unmoved.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” Uwaine said to her in Latin.

“But you have matured well,” she responded in the same tongue.

“That was you in Amorica,” he confirmed.

She nodded.  “Briefly.  But I suspect I may be here a while longer.”

“As always, I am your devoted servant,” Uwaine confessed, knowing better than to say more.  But she was a wise woman of the Dacians and Romans.  She could read his heart and mind no matter how deeply he tried to hide his feelings.  She saw his love and could not help the smile in return for the depths of her own feelings.  The lives of the Kairos could sometimes be very complicated.

“Hush, lest you make my husband jealous.”  She turned to Dayclimber as she let go of Uwaine’s hand and spoke in Gerraint’s British tongue.  “We have the sick to attend to,” she said.  “Tell your chief I will do what I can but I make no promises.”  Dayclimber said nothing until Greta stomped on his foot.  Then he blurted it out all at once.  The chief of the Picts slowly nodded.  He understood.  The gods never made promises.

As they walked, Greta checked her clothes.  The fairy clothes that had come to her had shaped themselves in the Dacian style of her home.  That only made her three hundred and fifty years out of date.  Still, she had sent her armor away with Gerraint.  She came as a healer, not a woman warrior of the Dacians.  Of course, her weapons also disappeared from the pile of weapons at the same time, but she supposed no one would really notice that except perhaps Uwaine.  In their stead, she called from her own island in the heavenly sea, her bag with everything she was used to carrying on just such errands of mercy.  With that on her arm like a woman’s purse, she was well supplied with the drugs, herbs and medicines she might need, that is, if this disease was anything familiar.

Dayclimber said nothing the whole way.  He kept staring back at her as she followed one step behind.  He nearly tripped several times before they reached the door of the first hut.  “Is your nose filled?” she asked him.  He did not understand, so she set her hand against his chin.  “Close your mouth,” she said.  He did as he opened the door.

M3 Gerraint: The Mainland, part 3 of 3

The morning proved bright and warm and they even had a little breeze that blew straight on toward the mainland.  Gerraint had little hope that their bit of salvaged canvass would do much good.  He imagined they would have to paddle the canoe most of the way, which was one more reason for the design.  It felt good to see the craft did not sink on entry into the water, but their boots got wet almost immediately.

“No sign of Arawn.”  Urien said and took one last long look up and down the shore and back up the hillside.

“Can’t be helped,” Gwillim said.  “Sad to say.  Raise the sail, Trevor.”

“Sir.”  Trevor responded, and Gerraint felt pleased to see the sail did better than he imagined, that is, if they were not getting secret help.

The opposite shore proved full of big rocks.  They had to lower the sail and paddle for a mile along the coast before the found a pebble beach where they could safely pull up.  When they did so, their craft collapsed.

“Three stooges,” Gerraint announced.

“Who?”  Gwillim asked.

“Three Stoojus,” Uwaine said.  “It was perfectly clear to me.”

“Urien!”  The call came from some distance inland.  “Urien!  Please.  Help!”  It did not take long to find the source.  Arawn was tied with his wrists behind his back and a long end of the rope wrapped around a tree and around him, effectively tying him to the tree.

“Urien, my friend,” Arawn said when he saw the man.  They let him loose of the tree but kept his hands tied securely behind his back and held the long end of the rope that bound him.

“Manannan doesn’t want him,” Uwaine announced.

“We’ll have to take him along,” Gwillim said.

Arawn smiled at everyone and did not worry his hands at the moment, though his wrists were severely chaffed and burned.  He came to look at Gerraint and his eyes went wide.  He took a big step away and a touch of the insanity crossed his face, but he said nothing.  Gerraint also said nothing.  He preferred to turn and set off toward the inland in a roughly southerly direction.  If they had been wrecked in the Hebrides as all suspected, it might take them two months to walk home.  At least they could try to cross the highlands before they got snowed in.

Two days later, they untied Arawn.  It was a risk, but he seemed to be behaving and more his old self, as Urien said.  As a precaution, they gave him no weapon and he took no turn watching in the night, but it was becoming impossible to continue with him tied and continually watched.  That very night he ran off into the woods.  Urien shrugged.

“There is no more we can do for him,” Urien announced.

“It does feel a little like leaving a wounded man behind on the battlefield,” Gerraint said.

“It does,” Gwillim confirmed.  “But we cannot help him.  He will come to his senses someday, or not.  We have no power to heal a man’s mind.”

“The night watch will have to keep an eye out for him as well as Picts and Scotts,” Uwaine said.  They all understood.

There were miles of sparsely inhabited wilderness to pass through.  They hunted when they could and ate any number of plants and roots to keep up their strength.  Fortunately, the hunting was easy enough at first.  It was pristine wilderness where the animals were shy of men but not deathly afraid.  A well thrown stone could do wonders.

After a week, they came to a great inlet of the sea.  They had to turn west-southwest down the shore.  Though it slowed them, Gerraint insisted they travel just inside the tree lined edge, and move even further inland where there were open fields to cross.  He did not want to run into a Pictish or Scottish village by surprise, and they went around several small villages of fishermen.  He also did not want to be seen by the Pictish coastal watch whose ships were fast and well-armed with men.

Another week and they were nearly frozen and famished.  There was a town just over the ridge so they dared not light a fire without shelter.  They found little roughage with the fall well along, and less in the way of berries than they had been finding, at least less berries that were not poison.  They had a pheasant, however, already plucked by Trevor, but without a fire, they were helpless.

“My Lord.”  Gwillim had gone back to calling Gerraint by that title nearly from the beginning of their time on the mainland.

“Can’t be helped,” Gerraint said.  “Not unless we can find a good hollow on the ridge to hide the fire light.  A cave would be better.”

“Besides, you could still lose a few pounds,” Uwaine teased Gwillim.

“More than a few,” Urien insisted.

“But look at Trevor.”  Gwillim was not for giving up.  “He is nothing but skin and bones.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Gerraint said.  “He looked skin and bones the first time I met him.”

“Over here!”  Trevor shouted too loud for Gerraint’s nerves.  They went quickly so he would not shout again.  They saw a small cliff face in the ridge, with a rock overhang.  Hopefully, that would keep the firelight from reflecting off the clouds.  A fire could be as bad as a searchlight in the wild.

They started the fire quickly.  They were all starving.  Trevor insisted on rubbing the bird in some greens and such that he had collected along the way, but the others did not care about that.  When it was minimally done, they would eat too fast to taste it anyway.  It was not a very big bird, and each of the five men had only a couple of bites before it was gone.

After that, it was get as warm as they could to try and sleep before it was their turn to watch.  Trevor had the first watch that night, but unfortunately, he did not know exactly what that meant.  He was a cook, in truth, and hardly a sailor, much less a soldier. After all too little sleep, Gerraint awoke to see a blue painted face, and the man held a knife to Trevor’s unmoving throat.

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

MONDAY

Gerraint and company are taken captive by blue painted Picts, and to what end?  Come back Monday, and in the meanwhile,

*

M3 Gerraint: The Mainland, part 2 of 3

Gwillim whispered.  “I am so ashamed and embarrassed.”

“You should be,” Urien said.  “If you were in my brigade I would have you whipped.”

“Easy.” Uwaine said.

“No need to be so harsh,” Gerraint said.  “We are all exhausted and on edge.  There is nothing here that cannot be fixed.”

“It’s a nice day,” Trevor added.  “Maybe the weather is turning in our favor.”  Urien said no more.

The next morning, however, though the craft got repaired, the rain and wind returned just as before.  Gwillim, not especially a religious soul, nevertheless spent the day in prayer.  He said it couldn’t hurt.  Trevor, once again had his hands full with the fire and trying to keep them fed.  Urien walked off to sit beneath a tree and sulk. Gerraint nearly had enough, but Uwaine calmed him with his words.

“He can’t make it rain forever,” he said.  “I’m thirty-four, and God willing, I will live another thirty-four years.  At some point in those years, it will have to stop raining.”

Gerraint nodded.  “When it starts snowing,” he said, but he kept his seat.

The rain fell away again when it became too late to attempt the crossing.  That evening over supper only Urien spoke, and only one sentence.  “Obviously, the god has not accepted our pledge to give up seeking the cauldron.”

Gerraint did not respond, but he did think, that depends on how sincere the pledge was.  The gods read men deeper than men suppose.

Gerraint went on watch when he noticed the sea shifting.  It appeared a clear, cloudless night.  The stars shone bright since the moon set, but Gerraint had no illusions.  By morning, he knew the clouds could easily return with the rains and wind, and this might indeed go on until the snows came.

The sea began to billow then, like a cauldron beginning to boil.  The foam beat up even though the wind died down.  A figure rose slowly out of the deep.  It appeared to be the figure of a man, who glowed with moon glow and walked toward Gerraint, directly across the water.  The man looked to be a giant at first, but as he came to shore he slowly shrank until he stood no taller than Gerraint himself.  Gerraint stood, out of respect, but he had a thing or two to say.

“Why are you picking on these good men?” he asked.

“They would-be thieves,” the glowing man answered plainly.  He stared at Gerraint and Gerraint stared back at a man who had brown hair and green eyes and skin a bit too much on the pink side, like a half-cooked lobster.  The man appeared clothed in seaweed and there seemed an ominous sense about him.

“Thank you for guarding the Celtic Treasures, but all here have pledged not to pursue them any longer,” Gerraint said.  “With your leave, we will go now and not come back.”

The man from the sea squinted.  “Mother?”

“Of course, Manannan.  Didn’t you wonder?”

Manannan changed with that realization.  His frightening presence became tempered with the depths of love and hope.  “I knew I could not read your mind and heart like these others.”

“Guilty by association.”  Gerraint shook his head.  “All the same, we have pledged in the witness of each other not to pursue the treasures.”

“You never pledged.”  Gerraint heard Urien’s voice behind him.  They were all awake by then, watching.

“The treasures belong to her, or him, most of all,” Manannan said with a scowl returned to his lips.  “This quiet one I don’t mind.  He is loyal to you,” Manannan went on and talked to Gerraint as if the others were not even there.  “And these two fools I do not doubt.  The one is a soldier gone fat, thinking himself a ship’s captain as almost a joke.  The other is a cook who fancies a desire for the sea.  Let the first go back to soldiering and the second go to cooking or neither will ever be happy.  But as for this one.”  Manannan growled.  The men behind Gerraint trembled.  The growl of an angry god is the second most frightful thing in all creation.  “This Raven is a liar, simple.  He will try again.  His pledge is not worth the air with which it was spoken.  But the way to Avalon is denied to him and to seek it will be to seek his own death.”

“Then let me pledge to you, if Urien tries again to pursue the treasures, I will kill him myself.  Will this satisfy you?”  Gerraint spoke perfectly serious and Manannan gave it serious thought.

“Gerraint!”  Gwillim sounded shocked by the turn of events.

“Still the word of a mortal of uncertain future,” Manannan concluded.

Gerraint had no option, and Danna felt very anxious in his heart.  Gerraint sighed as he went away and Danna traveled over 3700 years to stand in his place.  She took two quick steps forward and laid her hand gently against Manannan’s cheek.  He lowered his head and eyes.

“I will make the pledge,” she said.  “Only let these men go.”  She stroked his cheek for a minute.  “I worry about you.  You and Rhiannon.  You should not be here.  Why have you not gone over to the other side?”

“I don’t know, Mother,” he said quietly.  “But I am not the only one.”

“I have already spoken to Rhiannon,” Danna said.  “But the time for us is past.”

She reached out and hugged the God.  “Iona will soon turn to the way and you will not receive the answer there you seek.  Only do not put your hopes against the words of one man.”  Danna backed up.  She felt a tear in her eye.  She left, and Gerraint came home.

“Well, son?”  Forty-seven-year-old Gerraint spoke as he might to Bedivere, his twenty-year-old squire.  “Can we have safe passage in the morning?”

Manannan no longer stood there.

Gerraint turned around.  “My watch,” Uwaine said as he got up to stand by the boat.  Gerraint stepped over to lie down and Urien and Trevor both made an effort to move away.

“We will see what tomorrow is like,” Gerraint said.

“Yes,” Gwillim said.  “We will see if a whole day in prayer has any effect.  What was that, anyway, some sort of mass vision?”  Gerraint did not hear what else Gwillim had to say as he went to sleep.

M3 Gerraint: The Mainland, part 1 of 3

It took five days to tear apart the hulk of the ship.  Everyone worked on that vital, primary task, except Trevor who greatly expanded Urien’s shelter and kept the cooking fire going.  There were precious few nails in the tool bag.  They were used for repairs at sea, but now they were needed to build and there were not enough.  Every board as well as every nail that could be salvaged became important to their survival.  Thus it took a long, slow five days, and always one eye stayed turned to the sky.  Another storm would have been a disaster, and in fact it did rain on the second and third days.  Fortunately, it only made a misty, annoying drizzle, and while it did not threaten their work, it did affect their mood.

On the fifth night, the skeleton of the ship finally broke apart and got carried out to sea on the tide.  Good riddance was about all anyone could say, but it appeared as if they had enough materials for their project.  Gwillim and Gerraint took the first turn lugging the lumber across the face of the island.  Uwaine insisted on partnering with Urien.  He said he wanted to keep an eye on the Raven, even if Urien’s survival depended on the raft.  They never left the lumber and nails unguarded, however, for fear of Arawn.  Madmen were known for perpetuating the hell in which they found themselves.  Any chance of escape might have been seen by Arawn as a threat to his penitent state.

It took four days, working in teams, to get everything over to the shore that faced the mainland, and then a fifth day got spent arguing about the design.  Gerraint won out in the end when Trevor switched his vote.  That made it three to one to one, because, of course, Urien and Gwillim were at opposite ends on everything.

The design itself was that of a simple outrigger canoe such as one might find in the south pacific, though only Gerraint knew that.  Certainly, canoes were known, though none in Gerraint’s world would dream of taking one to sea.  What was not known was the extension off one side of the canoe and the long pole attached in parallel with the canoe, all of which could be lashed with rope and needed none of their precious nails, both increased the surface tension of the craft against the water, which made it far more stable in swells than a plain flat-bottom raft, and it allowed them to make a larger craft for seafaring than any other design.  The wood already had some natural warp which they were able to use for the sides of the canoe, however uneven in the final look, and this also took advantage of what they had.  It did not require them to cut and shape any of the lumber.  Gerraint imagined it might help protect them from the frigid water, though that last seemed unlikely since they had no good pitch to fill the gaps.  They used the natural heather they found in the woods, but they did not expect much help from that.

This work actually took another four days, to get the craft as good as they could get it.  More importantly, it took four days before they were all willing to try sailing the contraption.  They needed courage to even try.

“I believe it is going to work,” Gwillim said.  He had become convinced of the design on the third day.

“It should get us across this straight, do you think?”  Trevor said.

“I would settle for getting us near enough to swim,” Urien said, grumpily.  He seemed always to be in a foul mood.

“Not a good idea,” Gerraint said.  “You would not live long enough to swim, even from close.”

“What?  Drown?”  Urien sounded offended as if they should not doubt that he knew perfectly well how to swim.

“Freeze,” Gerraint said, and Gwillim spoke at the same time.

“Freeze to death.”

Gerraint thought to explain, but Trevor spoke up.  “It is nearly October now, we’ve been at this building.”

“Is October,” Gwillim interrupted, referring to his own internal calendar.

“It doesn’t take long after summer in these northern climes for the water temperature to return to its’ natural, half frozen state.  I would be surprised if you lasted a whole minute.”

“If the sharks did not get you first,” Uwaine added in such a soft voice the others had to strain to hear him.

After that, everyone looked alternately at the sea, each other, and their supper without another word.  It got late, and Uwaine became the first to lie down.

Rain came in the morning.  It poured, a hard driving rain with a strong wind that blew straight at them from the mainland.  There would be no attempt that morning, and though the rain slackened by mid-afternoon, by then it felt too late to try the crossing.  The next morning the same conditions prevailed, and again, by mid-afternoon, the hard rain died down.  Everyone and everything got soaked and cold by then.  The men started lashing out rather than talking, and Trevor could barely keep the fire going.  On that evening, however, the rain stopped altogether, and then they felt some hope for the following day.

It got late when they went to bed in a little better cheer.  Still later, Uwaine awoke to the sound of knocking.  He got up.  Gerraint woke with Uwaine’s movement.  They rushed to the canoe and heard an insane giggle in the dark. Gwillim had fallen asleep on his watch.  Arawn had damaged their work.  Luckily, nothing irreparable, but it would take all that next day to fix things.

Gwillim could not have been more apologetic.  Everyone was inclined to forgive him, except Urien.  “I’ve been a soldier all my life,” Gwillim said.  “I never even went to sea until three years ago.  I never fell asleep on watch.”

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.”

###

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.

R6 Gerraint: Over the Mountain, part 3 of 3

Gerraint awoke in a tent, or maybe a pavilion, it seemed hard to tell, lying on his stomach the way he was.  He knew it was red, but he imagined some rather odd things for Britain in that age—namely silk.  He wondered very briefly if maybe he died and this was his next life, but he really only had one thought.  “Enid?” He could not speak loud.  “Enid?”

“I am here.”

Gerraint heard, but could not see her.  He tried to turn his head, but his shoulder felt immobilized.  His leg also seemed to be in some kind of traction.  And every part of his body hurt, except his little toe on his right foot, he decided.  “I’ve been having bad dreams, really nightmares.”  He tried to turn his head a little more, but she stood out of sight. “Really, I would be ashamed to tell you what I dreamed.  I was awful. I doubted you.  I’m sorry.” He began to cry softly.  “I love you, and I will never doubt you.  Not for real.”  He began to weep and found his head cradled by Enid who also wept.  She kissed his head and then very gently moved to an angle where she could touch her lips to his.

“And I will never doubt you,” she said, and they cried together until exhaustion took Gerraint back into a deep sleep.

“Mother.”  A woman stood in the doorway.  Enid stayed seated in a high-backed chair at the woman’s insistence.  Lord Pinewood stood beside the woman dressed in his hunter’s green.  “Mother.” the woman called again, and Gerraint woke up just enough to offer no objections.  Danna came, and the goddess slipped out of the braces that had Gerraint immobilized. She stood and acknowledged Rhiannon and commanded one thing.

“Explain.”

Rhiannon stood with something in her arms that looked like a giant, translucent caterpillar.  She petted the beast like one might pet a kitten, and she talked.  “It was Meryddin.  He told me about a good young couple he was very concerned about. He said the man was upright, but the wife had a wandering eye for the men.  He asked to borrow the incubus for only a short while and convinced me if the woman could only see herself and the harm she was doing she might be cured and become faithful and they might be a happy couple.  I knew the incubus was a danger.  Given time, it will drive a person to madness, insanity and death, but Meryddin was persuasive, and I thought if only for a short time it might do what he proposed.”

Danna interrupted.  “But he lied to you, and you believed him.  He meant it for Goreu all along.  Goreu came to believe Enid was the one who had the wandering eye and the wandering hands and that she was betraying her wedding vows and betraying him in the worst sort of way.  Yet he still loved her and would not give up on her though he was conflicted about what to do.  He considered locking her away, and at the same time he threw himself into combat, thinking if he was killed, Enid might be happy.”

“After months alone and then months keeping innocent Enid prisoner, with no one the wiser, Lord Pinewood found him on the first day of their journey.  He flew without rest to Lake Vivane to plead with me, saying Gerraint had something on his back.  I thought it nothing, but his pleading was so earnest, at last I thought to see for myself. Thus I found him, the incubus on his back.”

“Merlin.” Danna spat the word and turned to Enid.  “A djin is a creature that delights in torturing and tormenting humans.  They feed off the fear and pain and in the end consume the poor human soul. Meryddin is one quarter djin.  The chance to ruin Gerraint’s happiness in just this sort of demented way says to me that he has made peace with that quarter of himself.”

“I helped,” Rhiannon admitted in a moment of full confession.  “He came to me in agony, and I helped him see that he was not to blame for his birth and he need not give in to the evil.  He is gifted, and can use those gifts for good.”

“Oh, Rhiannon.  When will you stop falling prey to every sad face with big puppy-dog eyes?”

“But we got it in time,” Rhiannon said.  “Gerraint held out for a long time.  I am sure he had help through time, and he loves Enid so very much.”

“Not the point.  The point is what to do about Meryddin, and I think for now we do nothing. We watch him, but don’t let on that he is being watched.  If he learned and does good, we leave him alone.  Goreu may have been an isolated case.  He does not know who Goreu is, but he has an instinctive fear of him.  For now, we wait and see.”

“I made all that happened seem like a bad dream, a nightmare for him,” Rhiannon said.  “I had to do it while the incubus was still attached.  You know even a goddess cannot touch the mind of the Kairos in that way.  But hopefully the bad dream will fade in time.”

“I, on the other hand, will not be able to hide the truth of what happened forever.  He will remember sooner or later, and then I suspect there will be some decisions to make.  Rhiannon, you understand some of it will fall on your head.”

“I will accept my punishment, only don’t be mad at me.”

Danna stepped forward and gave Rhiannon a kiss on the cheek.  “Just stay away from the wrong sorts of men.”  She turned to Enid.  “Did you understand all this?”

Enid nodded.  “It was not Gerraint.  It was that incubus telling him stories that were not true and making him believe the stories.  But now I have him back to me and he thinks it was all just a bad dream.  Yes?”

“Yes, and Meryddin?”

“He has always scared me.”  Enid shivered.  “As long as I don’t have to watch him.”

Danna was glad to hear no desire for revenge.  “You need not watch him.  Pinewood?”

“Day and night,” Pinewood said, with a slight bow.

Danna nodded and got back into the harness and braces. She went away and Gerraint came back to mumble that he felt thirsty.  Enid gladly rushed to bring him some water.

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

MONDAY

Arthur, Percival, terrain and Uwaine are called to the north.  The Scots are acting like maybe they overcame the Picts and are now looking south.  They want control of Hadrian’s wall, and maybe a good slice of fertile, sparsely populated British soil as well.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading.

*

R6 Gerraint: Over the Mountain, part 2 of 3

They traveled through occasional woods that punctuated the meadow grass at this altitude.  Enid concluded this poor excuse for a road Gerraint had chosen led them high through the hills.  She imagined, in better days, this could have been a pleasant ride, out among the wildflowers.  But she did not let her imagination take her from reality.  The sky turned gray and overcast, and so did she.  She had long since given up wondering what she could have done.  She concluded that all she had done was love him, and that was all she was going to do.

At noon, she stopped because a tree crossed the road as an effective roadblock.  She felt uncertain what to do, to speak or not.  Gerraint came up and she held her tongue.  He got a bit of rope he carried with him, tied it to the small end of the tree and to his saddle and his horse pulled until the tree got moved enough to make a path at the side of the road.  He waved at Enid to go around and continue to ride out front while he retrieved his rope. but she did not go far before she called out.

“Gerraint.”

Gerraint hurried, and he got surprised when he saw a man in the middle of the road.  Enid stood on her feet and to the side of the road, worrying her horse’s nose.  He wondered why Enid did not just ride off with the man, but then he saw that this man appeared richly armored in fine chain mail, and sported a long spear such as the Romans used to carry.  Another attempt to see him killed?  He wondered.

“This is my road,” the man said from beneath his helmet. “You cannot pass unless you pay the toll.  I must see all that you have to determine how much you should pay, so please be good enough to empty your bags on the road.”

Gerraint said nothing.  He put on his own helmet, mounted and grabbed his lance.  Then he spoke.  “This is Arthur’s road.  Toll tax is forbidden.”  He charged. The man started a little behind, like this was not the usual response, but he did not start far behind.

They crashed.  Gerraint did not get the best hit on his opponent.  The man was much smaller than he first appeared in the saddle. The man did get a good hit on Gerraint, but his spear splintered on Gerraint’s shield and those two hits combined were enough to unseat the little man.  Gerraint’s shoulder got bruised from the blow, but he appeared to have the upper hand until he looked and saw his lance had cracked.  He threw it to the ground and pulled his sword as he leapt to his feet.

The little man got to his feet and began to bob and weave around the road, sometimes ducking under Gerraint’s sword hand. He got a couple of good blows into Gerraint’s side, not enough to break the chain, but sure enough to leave a mark. Then he ducked under Gerraint’s backswing, and Gerraint put out his gloved hand.  He hit the little men right in the face hard enough to knock him to the ground and bloody his nose.  He tried to rise, but Gerraint brought the pommel of his sword down on the man’s helmet. He left a big dent and left the little man on his knees.  Before Gerraint could do anything else, the little man pulled a knife and stabbed Gerraint in the thigh.  Gerraint howled but used that leg to kick the little man in the chest.  He flew several feet before he landed hard and he lost hold of his sword.  Gerraint stepped up to finish things when the little man cried out.

“Mercy Lord.  Mercy, please.”

Gerraint paused while he pulled the knife out of his own leg with a tremendous cry.  He turned the blade so the point would be in the little man’s face, but the man had his eyes closed like he might be praying.

“On condition,” Gerraint said.  “Henceforth the road is free.  No more travel tax, and you respect the travelers who come through here.”  He stepped over to take the little man’s sword.  “And don’t make me come back here to enforce the rules.”  When he looked up, he saw Enid crying again.  She looked overjoyed at his victory, but terribly worried about the wound in his leg.  She looked to be suffering from holding her tongue.  Gerraint thought she was play acting, and might have said something except he heard something else.  It sounded like twelve or fifteen horses riding hard across the fields, skirting the woods.

When the little man heard, he grinned ferociously. Gerraint figured the man’s gang rode to finish the job.  Enid heard and covered her eyes in her fear, but then Gerraint heard something else. It sounded like bowshot followed by men shrieking and screaming.  Then the sound of the horses stopped, and Gerraint had a comment.

“Probably Deerrunner and a pocket of elves, or maybe Pinewood and his fairies.  In either case, do I need to ask some of them to stick around and make sure you keep the conditions?”

“No, Lord.”  The little man looked horrified by the thought, and twice terrified by the fact that his men were likely all dead.

Gerraint said no more to the little man.  He turned to Enid with the word, “Ride.”

Enid rode, but looked back.  Gerraint strapped up his cracked lance and got on his horse, but it looked hard.  He felt pretty banged up from three would-be rapists and now the little man.  What was more, he did nothing for the wound in his thigh.  He did not even wash it, and that would be a sure risk for infection.

All afternoon they rode.  When the rain finally came mid-afternoon, their pace hardly slackened.  Enid felt sure they had traveled over the heights by then and were headed down toward some distant valley.  She desperately wanted to stop and be allowed to tend his wounds, but he would not stop. After sundown, they entered a village and procured a room.

This time, Gerraint made Enid stay with him while he tended the horses.  Then he took her upstairs and told her to stay in the room.  He would have locked her in if the door had a lock.  He went downstairs and had a very plain supper of bread and meat.  He tried not to drip too much blood on the furniture.  When he felt satisfied, he took a chunk of bread and a jug of water for Enid.  He found her already on the floor and the fire well lit.  They did not need it.  The weather had warmed, but they were still rather high in the hills.

“Here.”  Gerraint gave her the bread and water and went immediately to lie down on his back. His leg throbbed, but all the same, he did not stay awake long.  He awoke when she ripped his pants leg and began to wash his wound.  She had a strip of cloth from the bottom of her own dress to use as a bandage.  Maybe he lost too much blood so he did not have the energy, or maybe he just felt too tired, but he made no move to stop her.  He imagined she might be cleaning his wound with poison.  At the moment, he did not care and went back to sleep.

###

In the morning, they began their journey again, now clearly down the hill that Gerraint guessed was Mount Badon.  They were not far from Bath.  Gerraint ached for the first two hours before his muscles worked out the kinks.  He thought when they arrived in Cornwall in two or three weeks, he would kill the first man that talked to her.  It had been a long time since his childhood days of exploring the fort in every nook and cranny, but he remembered a dungeon cell that might be cleaned up and fixed up with furniture.  That seemed like the only place he could think to keep her where she would not have a chance to get her hands on another man.  He meant her no harm, but she should take her vows more seriously, instead of being such a harlot, which by then he felt convinced she was.

By mid-morning, Gerraint’s ears picked up a call for help. Though Enid rode up front, he galloped right passed her and she had to catch up.  No doubt the sound of horses scared off the robbers.  They found a young woman in the woods by a gentle stream, just off the road, and a young man on the ground, not moving.

“Three giants,” the woman said, and pointed in the direction they fled into the woods.  “They killed him.”  She appeared hysterical.  “They killed him.”

“Stay with her,” Gerraint told Enid, and he rode straight into the woods after what seemed an easy trail to follow.  Apparently, the so-called giants were not worried about being followed.

Gerraint unstrapped his lance and yelled, “For Arthur,” but it became the only warning he would give.  They were not giants, but they were as big as Gerraint, and one looked bigger.  They turned around at Gerraint’s shout, and good thing because he was not one to stab people in the back.  The lance stayed together well enough to run through the first, but then it became so many splinters.

The biggest man appeared lightly armored, and Gerraint thought that broad chest would be a good target for his long knife, Defender. The man yelled and fell off his horse when Defender penetrated several inches.  That left the third man alone, but that man had a spear, so Gerraint leapt out of his horse and tackled the man.  The spear fell out of reach.

They wrestled for a moment and shared their fists before swords came out.  The man knew his business with a sword, but it had been learned.  Gerraint had all the experience in the arena of kill or be killed and soon enough he crippled the man in the legs and followed through with a clean cut across the man’s middle.  Then his shoulder caught fire with pain as the big man brought his big sword down on Gerraint from behind.  He may have been aiming at Gerraint’s head, but he caught the shoulder with a powerful blow.  It broke through the chain mail, broke several bones and cut a big, gaping wound.

Gerraint called for Defender, and his knife, of its own volition, vacated the big man’s chest and flew to Gerraint’s hand.  The man howled and lost the grip on his sword. The sword fell out of Gerraint’s shoulder as he turned, and in one powerful backswing, sliced through most of the man’s neck so the head lolled back and dragged the rest of the body with it.

Gerraint managed to wipe and sheath his blades, though it felt like agony to do it.  He dragged his broken body up into the saddle, his arm hanging all but useless at his side.  The wound in his leg broke wide open again and he had a struggle holding on to his horse. But he became concerned about the women being left alone beside the road with only a dead body to protect them. When he found them well, he slipped off his saddle and fell to the ground.

R6 Gerraint: Over the Mountain, part 1 of 3

Gerraint felt reluctant to go home.  He kept thinking how beautiful Enid was, and how much he loved her, but he feared that maybe she turned from him when he went away. She certainly had the young men interested wherever she went, and Gerraint feared that one of those men might have turned her head during his long absence. It ate at him, and at times he became enraged, even at simple things.

Enid spent most of her lonely days at Caerleon in the company of Gwynyvar, but that summer she received word that Marcus Adronicus became ill.  He sent word searching for Gerraint, because Gerraint would need to be chieftain for Cornwall as Marcus became convinced he was dying.  Gerraint’s mother, who had grown close to Enid and her children, pleaded for her to return home, saying Cornwall would be her home as Queen for the people.  Enid came, but they still heard no word from Gerraint.

That fall, Gerraint returned to Caerleon and took his anger out on the practice fields.  By then, he felt sure Enid did not return his love and only coveted his position.  He felt certain she had a secret lover, and maybe more than one.  And as he knocked man after man from their horses in the practice field, he began to wonder if even his sons where his.

Enid found him in Caerleon, and she sent for him, but he did not come.  Word came from Gwynyvar that said Gerraint was fighting some kind of madness and neither Arthur, nor Percival, nor Uwaine, nor any of the others were able to reach him in is fevered state.  She suggested that maybe Enid could reach him and bring him back to sanity, not knowing Enid as the source of his madness.  Enid needed no other invitation.  She left her boys in their grandmother’s good hands and crossed the channel to Caerleon.

When she arrived, Gerraint took her to his home in town and locked her in.  He stayed in the home, often sitting alone in the front kitchen, and fretted and stewed in his anger.  She cried every day, not knowing how to reach him.  Every night they lay there, side by side, but he would not so much as touch her or let her touch him.

Gerraint hired an old woman to cook and clean.  At first, he let Gwynyvar and some of the ladies visit, but he soon got the notion that they were carrying messages from Enid’s secret lover, so he ended those days.  Arthur came once with Gwynyvar to try and reason with him, but he would not let them in the front door.  He almost said something about Arthur’s infidelity with Gwenhwyfach, but by some internal grace, he managed to close his mouth as he closed the door.

He sat for months, until he finally got the notion that even the old cook might be acting as a go between for Enid’s lover, and he let her go.

###

Word came in the late spring that his step-father was indeed dying and Gerraint would be expected to take on the responsibilities of Cornwall.  He said nothing.  He saddled two horses, made Enid ride on one while he followed behind.

“Ride out front, far enough away from me where I don’t have to hear your weeping.  Those tears aren’t going to work on me.  And don’t talk to me unless I talk to you first.”

Enid rode, but slowly, and all she could think was this was not her husband and she wanted her husband back.

From the beginning, Gerraint turned them off the main road and on to some back trails and farm paths that hardly qualified for roads. He did not want to be followed out of Caerleon, and in the back of his mind he thought he might run into some thieves who might kill him and then Enid would get what she wanted.

When he got to the top of a hill, he saw Enid talking to a hunter on horseback who had just come out from the woods ahead.  Enid made the hunter wait there while she rode back to tell Gerraint.

“The kind gentleman has invited us to sup with him,” Enid reported.

Gerraint’s anger flared and he lowered his lance and charged.  The hunter turned and rode quickly back into the woods where he would not be caught, and Gerraint stopped and turned back.  “I told you not to talk to me,” he yelled at her.  “Ride out front.”  Enid turned, did as asked, and wept some more.

They were still among the trees when it got dark. Gerraint pulled them off the road and told Enid to watch the horses.  He went to lie down, and slept.  At dawn, Enid still dutifully watched the horses.

Around noon, they came out of the woods and into some fields where people were working, tending the crops.  A fine-looking village lay nestled on the hillside far in the distance, and a young woman with a large basket came up the road.  Enid passed pleasantries until Gerraint caught up. She turned and told him this young woman was bringing supper to the men in the fields and would be glad to share what she had.

Gerraint acted gracious to the young woman and gladly received what she offered in the way of bread and meat.  He asked about the village, still some distance ahead, and learned that there was indeed an inn, though there were not many travelers on this road.  Gerraint said thank you, and as the young woman walked toward the field and the workers, he said to Enid, “You just can’t shut-up, can you?”

Enid wanted to say something more, but held her tongue when he said, “Ride.”  She continued out front but felt for the moment devoid of tears.

Gerraint got a room at the inn.  There were a few other guests despite the word to the contrary. He saw the horses taken care of, and entered the downstairs room in time to see Enid sitting quietly by the fire and a big, ugly man walk away from her to sit with two other men.  He almost hit her for entertaining the man, but instead they ate and went to the room where he knocked her to the floor.

“You sleep on the floor and tend the fire,” he growled and took himself to the bed to sleep.  Enid fretted for a time.  She dared not speak to him.  She felt afraid, but in the end, she became more afraid for him than of him.  If need be, she would die for him, but she was not prepared to watch him die.  She woke him and spoke.

“That man by the fire said if I would not go with him, he would come in the night and take me by force.”  Gerraint made no answer, but rose and dressed.  He dragged Enid down to the horses which he saddled. He gathered his equipment and told her only one thing

“Ride.”

She rode out front, far enough to not be able to speak to him.  She prayed as she rode, a bit faster than before, and she kept looking back to be sure he kept up.  Fortunately, the moon came up and the stars were bright, and they rode between the fields so there were no long shadows to interfere with her sight.

Gerraint heard the horses long before they became visible.  He knew it was his elf ears.  Then he saw the three riders long before they could see him.  That was his dark elf eyes.  He put on his helmet and pulled his lance to be ready before they were on him. He charged, and that took the riders by surprise.  He ran the big old man straight through the middle, and the man made a sound of death, but he grabbed the lance as he fell from the horse so Gerraint had to let it go and pull his sword, Wyrd.

The man who ended up beside Gerraint had his sword out as well, but looked confused.  He swung wildly in the dark and struck Gerraint’s side below his arm, but Gerraint’s chain armor stopped the weapon, making only a bruise. Gerraint’s swing was more accurate. He sliced above the man’s chain, easily slicing through the man’s neck.

The third man kept trying to get around the big man’s horse, and cursing, but when he saw his comrade fall, he looked ready to bolt.  Gerraint got his horse in the way.  They traded sword swipes several times before the seasoned soldier in Gerraint took over and he cut the man’s arm before he cut his neck as well.  This man fell to the ground.  The other still pranced around, a dead body on horseback.

Gerraint got down, cleaned his sword and returned it to his back.  He pulled out his lance, noted that it had not cracked or broken and strapped it again to his saddle.  Enid came running up.  She threw her arms around him and cried.

“Gerraint.  I was so worried about you.”

Gerraint stepped back.  “You are not to speak to me unless I speak to you first.  Your job is to ride.”  He shoved her toward her horse and got up on his own.  He had wondered why Enid did not offer herself to those men at the inn, since she could not keep her hands off other men. He decided it had been a ploy to entice the men to kill him.  Her life would be easier without a husband.

They left the dead where they lay and rode well into the night.  Enid began to weave in the saddle.  This had now been two nights when she had not slept, and Gerraint had not become completely heartless.  Indeed, that seemed the trouble.  He loved her, and he could not be a monster.  He would never hit her or harm her, or see her harmed no matter how much he might feel like it.  He caught up to her and took the reins of her horse.  He lifted her sleeping body out of the saddle and laid her in a field. He watched over her and the horses, and sat to contemplate just how cruelly his life had turned.

By dawn, he imagined she had slept four hours. The sky threatened a late spring rain, and he felt anxious to get going.  He woke her and made her get back in the saddle while he spoke one word to her.

“Ride.”

This time she said nothing.  She merely lifted her chin and rode out front, alone.

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.

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