Gerraint was the first to wake, just as the days turned and the snow began to melt. Macreedy and the elf maidens were all prepared for the awakening. Gerraint could even smell the bacon frying.
“The Lady Rhiannon moved up to the British highlands while you slept,” Macreedy reported. “She brought four horses as a gift, but she would not let us wake you early.”
Gerraint stretched. “And I thank the lady most heartily,” he said, and yawned. He felt wonderfully well rested, but not diminished by his sleep of several months. This was not like the more or less normal sleep Margueritte had slept under the enchantment of dragon song. Gerraint felt normally hungry, but not famished and weak. He paused to think. He imagined it worked more like the Agdaline in their suspension chambers aboard their sub-light sleepers. “No dragons around I suppose,” he said.
Macreedy raised a brow. “An odd question, but none near. The lady did say she is keeping an eye on a couple, though. Odd you should bring it up.”
Gerraint smiled and stood. “Ladies. I think you had better wake the others.” The elf maidens bowed, slightly, and giggled. One headed for Gwillim, one for Uwaine and four fought over being the one to wake Trevor. “Any idea how we might explain all this, the long sleep and all?” he asked.
“Already taken care of.” Macreedy grinned a true elfish grin. “Such dreams they had.”
“Ah.” Gerraint did not understand exactly, but he understood well enough. They probably dreamed of fox hunts and rabbit hunts, telling stories around the great fire and board games and contests and on, with such things as men entertain themselves through the dreary months of winter. He looked at Macreedy and paused as something came to mind. “And your sister. Are you angry with me?”
“Not you, Lord,” Macreedy said, quickly. “But with your former life, I was for a time. I came to this place in the wilderness for seclusion, to ponder. I think I understand better now. Apart from the child, I know you did all you could to give her what her heart desired. How could I stay angry at the one who made my sister so happy? I miss her, though.” Macreedy added.
“I miss her, too,” Gerraint nodded.
“I know,” Macreedy nodded as well. “And that also helped heal my heart at her loss.”
“Gerraint,” Gwillim called. “Is today the day?” He meant the day that they left.
“Not before breakfast,” Gerraint said.
“A man after my own heart,” Gwillim responded.
“I’ll never remember all of those recipes,” Trevor said, as he came into the room. “I hope I can at least remember the best.”
“Me, too,” Gwillim encouraged him.
“Two or three months,” Gerraint said quietly to Macreedy’s surprise.
“As I thought.” Uwaine nodded with one last yawn.
“He is rather hard to enchant.” Gerraint felt he needed to explain to the elf Lord.
“So I see.” Macreedy wrinkled his brow.
“Comes from hanging out with me so long, I suppose,” Gerraint said, and he added a last yawn of his own.
“They were some lovely dreams, though,” Uwaine said quickly, to praise his host.
The elf maidens came then and dragged them to their chairs. Macreedy let it go and proposed a toast. “To friends well met. Eat hearty, it is a long way to Caerlisle.”
Actually, they were not that far away from Hadrian’s wall, a meaningless boundary line since the Romans left, and really since the Ulsterite Gaels began the massive migration into Caledonia above the old Antonine Wall. The Picts, decimated by centuries of struggle against Romans, Danes, Irish, and finally after Arthur invaded the north, had no way to stop it. They fought back, encouraged now by the British, but they became so outnumbered, their only recourse was retreat to the highlands and the far Northern islands. Gerraint knew that in time they would be swallowed up altogether. Only a reminder of their underground culture would sneak into the future. The greatest being their system of tribes and nations, now clans, which would be sufficiently corrupted by the so-called Scots to where certain English kings—Plantagenets—would be able to take advantage of their divisions.
“Parallel, but not on,” he insisted. He knew the borderland on both sides of the wall for many miles currently made a no man’s land, and safe haven for all the brigands, thieves and petty chiefs and warlords the island had to offer. “And Robin Hood has not even been born yet,” Gerraint smiled as he pulled into the woods.
This made their journey a couple of days longer, but it did not take that long before the old town of Guinnon and the fort of Caerlisle were spotted. The walls of the fort were part stone and part wood, and well kept, since Kai had been on the Northern watch. Kai got surprised by their arrival, but made them most welcome and kept them there for nearly a week. He sent word south by the swiftest courier, but then he had to hear all about their adventures.