M3 Gerraint: Winter Bound, part 3 of 3

“Gerraint of Cornwall,” the druid named him, not questioning the weapons, but identifying him by the same.  He looked hard at the others.

“Uwaine, son of Llewyl.”  Gerraint introduced him

“Urien of Laodegan.”  Urien stepped up and identified himself.  “And a great supporter of Iona.”  In the last couple of centuries of Roman occupation, the druids became terribly persecuted.  They sought and found refuge on the island of Iona, and though Arthur had pledged peace with the druids, they still kept Iona as a primary base and center of the cult.

The druid smiled.  “The Raven, of course.”

“Gwillim, Captain of the Sea Moss and Trevor, my mate,” Gwillim said, proudly. “Partner in the trading firm of Gwillim and Barrows of Totnes in Southampton, and I would be pleased to speak with whoever is in charge.  Always looking for new markets, you know.”  It felt like a long shot, and judging from the faces around them, the Scots looked to have had their fill of trade with the British.

“A long way from the sea,” the druid said.

“Yes, well.”  Gwillim looked aside.  “Sudden storms at sea do remain a problem.”

“We were shipwrecked in the North.”  Trevor spoke up.

“Indeed,” the druid said.  “And are there any more in your party?”  They all looked at one another.  Gerraint was about to say not any longer, but Urien spoke first.

“No,” he said, flatly.

“Indeed?”  The druid repeated himself and parted the crowd.  Arawn knelt there, tied fast and held by two Scots.  It became Gerraint’s turn to be surprised.  “An interesting case,” the druid said.  “He was found eating a squirrel, raw, and talking to the squirrel as well.  I’ve been studying him for the past three days.”

Arawn looked haggard and much too thin.  He looked like a man half-dead except for the wild light in his eyes.

“A word, druid,” Urien spoke.  “In private if we may.”

The druid pointed down the opening in the crowd right past where Arawn got held.  “Sir Raven,” he said, and they started out, but when Arawn recognized his friend, he shouted.

“Urien.  You’ve come for me.  I did not do it.  I did not mean to hide it from you. Oh Urien, help me.”  Arawn reached out with his head, the only thing free, and licked at Urien’s hand like a faithful dog.  The Scots quieted the man and hauled him off, while Urien and the druid disappeared into the crowd.

The others were taken to a strong house and pushed inside.  Men there tied them to the back wall and one man stayed inside by the door, to watch them.

“What of a bite to eat?”  Gwillim asked out loud.  The man stirred the fire in the center of the room which let the smoke out by way of a hole in the roof.  It started getting chilly.  He looked up as Gwillim spoke, but said nothing.

“You can be sure he understands British,” Gerraint said in his Cornish tongue.  Uwaine understood, and Gwillim and Trevor got the gist of it.  Dorset and Cornwall were neighbors, after all.  “I would not expect to be fed, and would recommend appearing to sleep.  Let us see if we can convince our watcher to do the same.”

“Agreed, and God help us,” Gwillim said, reverting to the Latin.

“Margueritte?”  Uwaine asked.  The little girl had easily slipped out of the bonds in Amorica.

“We’ll see,” Gerraint said, and after that, they were quiet.

The watcher hardly batted an eye, until well past dark, and only got up now and then to tend the fire.  Finally, the door opened.  Urien came in with the druid and two other men.  Urien spoke for the lot.

“The whole thing seems a great misunderstanding.  Even the Chief here knows better, but the people blame Kai’s men for the death of a young boy and…” Urien shrugged.

“So what of us?”  Gwillim asked.

“I did my best for you,” Urien said.  “The talk at first was just for killing you outright and sending your bodies to Kai, but I was at least able to dissuade them from that.  Instead, you are to be flogged in a public spectacle and then driven naked from the village.”

“We’ll die in the cold.”  Trevor stated the obvious.

“Killing us outright would have been kinder,” Gwillim said.

Urien still shrugged when Gerraint asked.  “And what of you?”

“I will be accompanying the priest to Iona to winter.  Arawn will go with us.  The druid says he is a most interesting case for study.  But don’t worry.  When I return to Britain in the spring, I will convey my sympathies to your families.”

“As long as you don’t forget your pledge not to seek the treasures of the Celts,” Gerraint said.  “I would hate to have your blood on my hands.”

“Ah, yes.  Your promise to the sea god.  My druid friend does not doubt that some peace had to be made with the god in order for him to let us go, but then, it was not you who finally promised, was it?  What was her name, by the way?  It was not Greta, I am fairly sure.”

“Danna,” Gerraint said, calmly.

“Named for the Mother of the Gods?” the druid asked.

“No,” Gerraint responded.  “The one who calls Manannan son.”

Urien’s eyes widened a little, but the druid laughed, and did not believe a word of that end of the tale.  The chief gave Gerraint a second look as they exited the building, and they took their watcher with them.

“Elvis has left the building,” Gerraint said, and he pulled his hands free from what proved not a very good tying job.  He called his weapons back to his hands from his home in the second heavens.  With his long knife, he quickly had the others free, and then they took a moment to plan.

Uwaine and Gwillim nudged the fire to one side of the hearth while Trevor got up on Gerraint’s shoulders.  Gerraint stood six feet tall, and Trevor, though much lighter, stood nearly as tall.  With Uwaine and Gwillim to steady Gerraint, Trevor stretched and barely reached the hole in the ceiling.

“Come right back if there are too many of them,” Gerraint reminded him.  Trevor nodded, but he got too busy trying not to cough because of the smoke.

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MONDAY

Gerraint and his men need to escape, but then they have a long way to go though the snow, cold, and ice to get to a safe haven.  Monday.  Until then, Happy Reading.

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