R6 Gerraint: Enid, part 1 of 3

After the campaign against the Picts, which the members of the Round Table called Cat Coit Celidon, Gerraint got bored.  It turned to spring, in the year 505, and Arthur brought Gwynyvar to Cadbury to frolic.  That was what Gerraint called it.  They were frolicking among the flowers and giggling.  Gerraint was not a fan of giggling.

Arthur seemed determined to please Gwynyvar in whatever way he could.  Guilt, Gerraint thought, especially when Gwenhwyfach produced a son she named Medrawt. The boy looked dark, nothing like his blond locked father, but Loth shrugged it off as some Welsh flaw and set about raising the boy in the ways of the north.

Gerraint, on horseback, watched a particularly annoying frolic.  Uwaine, now a young man near eighteen, sat faithfully silent beside him when Gwynyvar, astride a spritely bay, popped out of the nearby woods with several ladies, their horses prancing, or as Gerraint thought, making pirouettes around her. Gwynyvar laughed and smiled and looked very happy.

“Sir Gerraint,” she said.  “Why so dour a face on such a beautiful day?”

“Not dour,” he responded.  “Just concerned as always about the welfare of the people and the poor who have no such wildflowers of their own to dance with.”

Gwynyvar did not entirely succeed in putting on a more serious face.  “You sound like a man with a mission.”

“Yes.”  And Gerraint decided he definitely needed a mission, as Greta suggested.  “Tell your husband we will stop briefly at Caerleon before we proceed to the South Welsh shore.  Now that we have reduced the pirates and Hueil and Caw are no more, I am anxious to see how the people may be prospering.”

“With a good will, and I wish you Godspeed,” Gwynyvar said, and directed her ladies to where they could frolic in closer quarters with the men.  Gerraint turned up his nose as he turned his horse and Uwaine voiced a thought.

“About time.  I was going to go mad.”

“Getting verbal in your old age?” Gerraint said. “Just for that, we should visit your mother.”

“Morgana might be there,” Uwaine pointed out.

“Okay.  Maybe we won’t.”

The south Welsh coast, though so close to Caerleon, remained one of the places Arthur never visited.  In those early days, the people of the coast were constantly fighting off pirates of one sort or another, and Arthur kept saying he did not know what to do about pirates, and he had no ships.  Since gaining some very good ships and some quality sailors under Thomas of Dorset, Arthur never considered the coast.

The people of the coast were kind and appreciative of all they said Arthur had done for them, especially in destroying Hueil, the Saxon terror.  Gerraint assured them that he was only visiting the coast to see to their welfare and he had no interest in taxes.  After the third village, though, he decided to take a page from Meryddin’s book.

“Don’t tell them who I am.  My name is Goreu and don’t call me sir.  We are a couple of warriors returning from the wars, that’s all. And whatever you do, don’t mention the Round Table.”  Uwaine understood, not that he was likely to talk to anyone unless spoken to.

The pair traveled in this manner for a time, and spoke as little as possible about the wars.  People especially wanted to hear about the end of the Saxon and Pictish pirates who had plagued them for so many years.  Here, Gerraint first heard about Heingest, son of Hueil, and how he married an Angle Princess and they had a son named Octa.  They sounded as bad and dangerous as it could get, especially Octa being perhaps in a position to unite the Angles and Saxons.  That would be especially bad.  But that went in the back of Gerraint’s mind for later. Presently, he enjoyed the ale and the hospitality, and inevitably found some men who fought for Arthur, some of whom knew who he was, but were willing to keep his secret.

It got late one afternoon when Gerraint and Uwaine topped a rise and spotted a rundown manor house beside the crude road.  They found a half-dozen men there who looked like soldiers, rousting out an old man and an old woman.  They saw a young woman on horseback commanding the men, and a little person on a horse too large for him whose occupation seemed to be to echo the woman’s commands, with a few choice swear words added.

“Hardly fair,” Uwaine said.

“The couple looks rather fragile,” Gerraint agreed, but as he spoke, two of the men dragged a young woman out of the house and the woman on horseback began to threaten the old couple by vowing to harm the young woman.  Uwaine blinked and then had to catch up.  Gerraint did not even wait for his horse to stop before his feet hit the ground and Salvation jumped to his hand.  He disarmed two of the guards with one blow and then his foot found the hip of one of the men holding the young woman.  His sword went to the other’s throat and he said, “Back up before I get angry.”

The soldier instantly let go, raised his hands and took two steps away from the giant in his face.  The young woman fell to her knees and lowered her head and eyes. Uwaine, meanwhile had the rest of the soldiers cowed, so Gerraint leaned down to take the young woman’s hand.  “My Lady, please stand.  I am merely a simple soldier on the road.”  She took his hand and stood, but his eyes were already turned to the guards.  “And I have no tolerance for men who abuse women.”

“They were simply doing what they were told, as all good soldiers should.”  The woman on horseback spoke sharply.

“And may I ask the Lady’s name that she sees fit to order men around?”  Gerraint snapped right back as he sheathed Salvation.

The little man spoke up.  “Filth!  You are not worthy to address the Lady.”  He had a whip and let it fly, but Gerraint caught it with his arm and yanked it from the little person’s grasp.

R5 Gerraint: Picts and Pirates, part 1 of 3

The year 500 ended much better than it began. In fact, three years of relative peace followed the marriage of Arthur and Gwynyvar.  Percival and Tristam both went off to do penance for what they called their failure to keep the king of Ireland safe, and while no one else called it a failure, they were determined to make some kind of amends.

Arthur could not worry about that.  He got to thinking instead about the lesson the Irish taught him.  He knew horsemen with spears could be a danger, but they never had a real horse on horse confrontation before.  Arthur also suspected that it would only be a matter of time before others started making lances and training their people how to use them.  So, with that in mind, Arthur made some practice lances with hard, cushioned ends, the way they built training staffs for children.  Then he had the men face each other and learn how to effectively use their shields, direct their horses, and how to make the best hit on their enemy.  Gerraint felt pleased.  He thought the legend started shaping up very nicely, and more than once he said it would be the middle ages before they knew it.  Arthur reminded him that he was weird.

There were a few strained months in 501 when Badgemagus died and Mesalwig temporarily lost all sense.  He kidnapped Gwynyvar and kept her in his fort at Glastonbury for three months.  He told Arthur that Gwynyvar should have been his, and in the end, Goreu had to get involved in securing her release.  But by Gwynyvar’s own testimony, Mesalwig treated her well, always respected her, and never laid a finger on her.  He just cried himself to sleep every night, and because of that she pleaded with Arthur to forgive him.

“These last few years have been very hard for him. He lost his father to a Saxon sword and his mother to the flu.  He no more got over that when his sister died in that terrible accident on the farm. His whole family is gone.  He has no wife to comfort him, and he is convinced that you and the other members of the Round Table hate him and want nothing to do with him.  He is such a lost and poor lonely soul.  When his former master Badgemagus passed away, he lost all reason.  He knew right away that what he did was wrong, but he felt stuck.  He did not know what he could do to make it okay again.”

Arthur turned to Mesalwig who cried softly and tried so hard to hold back the tears.  “And if I forgive you as Gwynyvar wants, what will you do with yourself?”

Mesalwig slowly looked up.  “I think I will try some of that penance that Percival and Tristam talk about.  I was thinking of helping women in distress, or imprisoned against their will.  I only hope I can forgive and show mercy as I have been shown.”

“Defending the weak and helpless is one of the ideals of the Round Table,” Arthur said and Gwynyvar hit him in the arm, though not too hard.  “Of course, there are plenty of women who are not exactly helpless.”

“Indeed,” Mesalwig almost smiled.  Apparently in those months, he learned that lesson.

“Damsels in distress,” Gerraint called it, and he ducked and walked off whistling.

Gerraint took ever faithful Uwaine of few words out into the wilds.  Most squires moved in with their Lords, almost like being in boarding school. They got to visit their own home and parents once or twice a year, but mostly they lived away from home and learned about life from their teacher, one on one.  Gerraint, of course, had no home as far as he was concerned.  He visited Cordella twice and his mother once during those years, but his base of operations was Caerleon.  He felt he had nowhere else to go.

Even so, he saw little of Arthur when he took rooms in the village, which was becoming quite the little town, but then, he spent most of the time in the wilderness, dragging poor Uwaine all over the country.  He ran into Tristam and Percival now and then.  They reached the age to be knighted and soon found squires of their own. Gerraint and Uwaine also traveled with Bedwyr and young Gawain now and then.  Gawain and Uwaine became close friends in the process, and Gerraint realized that the “youngsters” were both roughly the age Arthur was when he pulled Caliburn from the stone.  They visited plenty of Lords and towns and slept in plenty of beds, but as often as not they stayed out in the wild.

Gerraint taught Uwaine how to hunt and fish and how to trap animals for the skins to trade or use against winter.  He taught what he had been taught, what plants were for eating and what plants were poisonous and to be avoided.  And of course, he taught Uwaine to defend himself. They had practice swords and knives, spears and lances, crossbows, maces and other instruments of combat; and Gerraint made sure the young man learned how to defend himself no matter what weapon got turned against him, even if he had no weapon in his hand.  Bogus the Dwarf insisted on teaching the boy the beauties of the Ax, and Uwaine picked it up pretty well for a human, Bogus said. Pinewood and Deerrunner got very frustrated trying to teach the lad how to shoot a straight arrow.  They concluded that no one was going to be good at everything.

Gerraint, or Goreu, as Uwaine learned to call him at times, made a real effort to limit Uwaine’s exposure to the bizarre world of the Kairos.  He never called to his armor, the armor of the Kairos, and never called to any special weapons apart from Salvation, his sword, and Defender, his long knife. Instead, he contented himself with the armor and weapons of the times and in that way tried to fit into the times for Uwaine’s sake.  Apart from Bogus, Pinewood and Deerrunner, Gumblittle the gnome taught them all about the care and feeding of horses, but that was it.  Goreu knew exposure to that sort of thing would be best limited.

Uwaine met Greta, twice in those years, once when the only child of a poor widow fell from an apple tree and broke his leg. Uwaine got surprised, but said nothing as had become his habit.  The other time occurred when Gawain took a Saxon knife in his shoulder and Uwaine pleaded with his master.  Greta made Gawain good as new, as she called it.  Bedwyr said he was amazed by the woman’s skill, but only Uwaine knew she was really Goreu in another life.  Uwaine felt happy to have his friend back, but he made a mistake in the process.  He fell in love with Greta, and when he came of age, he almost never married.  Greta was never clear about how she felt, but in the end, she came to trust Uwaine implicitly, like the best of brothers.  She could at least return his love that much.