R6 Gerraint: Fort Guinnon, part 1 of 3

Arthur caught up with Gerraint while he healed from his wounds.  Percival, Uwaine, and a whole troop from Caerleon came with him, and they escorted Gerraint to Cornwall where they saw him vested as high chief of the land. All of the lords of Cornwall declared their allegiance, along with the lords of the northern province of Devon; but then, like Tristam at Tintangle, they were mostly cousins of one sort or another. More telling were the towns, ports, and small cities like Exeter who did not hesitate to declare Gerraint their protector.

Gerraint moved things in a medieval direction by requiring men at arms from all the lords, towns and cities when the need arose to defend the land.  He levied a small tax, most of which got used to maintain the forts against pirates and keep the roads passable.  In this way, Cornwall became something of an independent kingdom, a condition that would remain for several centuries.

When Marat, the Irish prince, moved a force into the land and laid siege to Tintangle, Gerraint gladly accepted help from Arthur in a large contingent of the RDF, but he told Arthur not to mobilize. Gerraint raised the troops from his own people, a kind of test, and they broke the siege, and Tristam killed Marat, and that was it.  Arthur felt pleased that it did not cost him.  The people of Cornwall felt pleased and proud to accomplish the defense of the land, as Gerraint told them.  Everyone seemed winners, but from that day on, Cornwall began to move in its own direction.

Marcus died early in those days.  Cordella and Melwas came up from Lyoness and all but pledged their loyalty to Gerraint’s leadership.  Melwas was not the strongest leader.  In fact, Cordella ran their lands, as far as Gerraint could tell. And though this happened a good ten years before the disaster that hit Lyoness and sank most of the land into the ocean, from that point, Lyoness became like a third province in the Cornish kingdom.

Gerraint’s mother held on, but contented herself with her grandsons and avoided all the politics.  Gerraint found that despite his mixed feelings about his stepfather, the man had been an excellent and well organized high chief.  That made Gerraint’s job easy, and left him little to do. Those few years were good years overall. And Gerraint and Enid became like new, young lovers, and were very happy.  They had a third son giving them Peter, James and John, all named by Gerraint. Enid insisted she be allowed to name their daughter, if they had one.  But she did not feel disappointed with another boy.

Love, in those days was never so sweet, but of course, it did not last.

In the late spring of 512, word came that the Scots had broken the line of Hadrian’s wall.  Most of the Ulsterites moved into the north country, but those Picts that remained banded together to defend the eastern coast and the high country.  The north became a struggle, and while Gerraint wondered why any Scots would think British soil would be easier, he finally decided the rich land and warmer climate would be enough for some.

Loth sent no word.  His lands included the fort at Edinburgh, technically in Scottish territory.  Kai claimed Loth encouraged the Scots, but Arthur did not believe him.  What Arthur did believe was he would have to call in some men and head north.  He did not send out the general alarm because Croydon at York reported no army.  Some were raiders, after a fashion, but many came as migrants with women and children.

Gerraint called only the three hundred, which got back up to full strength.  Melwas sent a hundred and Tristam raised twice that in Devon.  Together, they rode for Cadbury, where Arthur called the men to gather.

In Cadbury, Gerraint first saw the attention Lancelot paid to Gwynyvar, and the affection she so evidently returned.  He never thought they had anything like a love affair.  Gwynyvar loved Arthur and was one who took that vow seriously, and Lancelot, the younger man, was all about honor and devotion to one’s duty; but they were very familiar with each other, or one might say, very close friends.  Arthur never said anything.  He let it slide, and once again Gerraint imagined guilt. Medrawt was a growing boy.

“The Welsh are an independent minded lot,” Arthur said in council.  There were hardly six hundred men to match Gerraint’s offering where they could have supplied two or three times the men.  There were a hundred from Caerdyf, another hundred from Morgana and her immediate neighbors, a third hundred from Ogryvan, Gwynyvar’s brother who was well aware that his other sister, Gwenhwyfach, lived in the north of Britain and thus presumably in danger.  That meant only three hundred men came from all the rest of Wales.

“Still tied too much to the old ways,” Percival suggested.

“Listening to Meryddin,” Gwillim translated.  “Not inclined to make war on the Scots and their druids whom they think of as cousins.  It would be a different response if we were after Angles or Saxons.”

“Maybe.”  Gerraint did not commit.  He knew that some were talking about Amorica where the old ways still held strong and the church was small.  The church started growing in Wales, like in Ireland, and that made some uncomfortable. Indeed, the church started making headway everywhere in Britain, Wales and Cornwall, but some were resistant.

“Well, good old Bedwyr sent a healthy group from Oxford even if only a handful from Londugnum,” Arthur said.

“I’m not sure there are more than a handful left in Londugnum,” Gerraint spoke up.  “Most of the trade between there and the continent is now run through Saxon and Angle hands, like it or not.”

“I can vouch for that,” Gwillim said.  “Brother Thomas says it is hardly worth running ships from the Thames the way the Angles tax everything.  He constantly reminds me that most of the Angle-Saxon people are just ordinary merchants and farmers, like us.”

“Anglo-Saxon,” Gerraint interrupted.

“Anglo-Saxon,” Gwillim tried the word.  “But he says their tax on the transportation of goods is too high.”

“I am inclined to agree with Bedwyr.  It isn’t the common people, it is the lords and warriors among the Germans who want to expand their lands,” Percival said.

“Anglo-Saxons,” Gwillim and Uwaine corrected him in unison.

“That makes sense to me, too.”  Someone spoke from the doorway.  Arthur’s old master Peredur came in, and Ederyn and Pelenor were with him. Peredur and Ederyn smiled and looked glad to see everyone.  Pelenor remained stoic.

“Seems to me, we have the Scots to worry about right now,” Pelenor said.

“Our men are gathering on the road to the north,” Peredur said.  “We should be able to pick them up on the way.”

“On the way,” Arthur mumbled, as Meryddin came in. Arthur called for Gwyr to give his report on the numbers.  There were eighteen hundred Britains gathered by the time they reached York, and with the twelve hundred from Cornwall and Wales, it was a pretty sizeable force for a limited call.  It was far more than a young and inexperienced Arthur could raise, but since then, Arthur had proved himself a winner.  People were more inclined to come out and support a winner.

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Arthur formed seven groups of roughly three hundred men each.  Gerraint took two hundred of his own and the hundred from Lyoness.  Tristam took his two hundred and a hundred from Cornwall. The other five groups were more mixed, but Arthur made sure each of the other groups had at least one hundred trained RDF men.  Routes were devised, and all summer and well into the fall, the Scottish immigrants got tracked down.  North Britain had become fairly depopulated after the sons of Caw ravaged the land. Many Scots were found rebuilding abandoned villages and sewing abandoned fields.

All that time, Meryddin stayed in York, to advise Arthur and keep contact with the groups in the field.  He wrote regular letters, and while later, many suspected he wrote to the Scots and passed along information, nothing could ever be proved.

All of the Scots found in northern Britain were given a choice.  First, the leadership had to confess Christ, build a church, and bring in a priest. Second, they needed to submit to the laws levied by whatever British lord in whose territory they lived, and become good British citizens.  Third, they had to acknowledge Arthur, son of Uther as their high chief and war chief and submit to his judgment on all matters pertaining to the common defense of the land.  If these three conditions were willing to be met, the Scots could stay and rebuild the land. Rejecting any one of these conditions meant safe escort back north of Hadrian’s Wall.

The Scots were not unfamiliar with Christianity even if they were not sure exactly what it was all about, but many were willing, and the church quickly found volunteers who would be glad to instruct them. In the north, Kai and Loth more or less split the land between them, but there were many lesser chiefs who answered to them and helped in the defense of the wall.  The Scots had to find out whose land they were actually on and make peace with their lord, but again, most were willing.  As for Arthur, most of the Scots were glad enough to have him on their side.  So most stayed, though some did take the escort back across the wall.