R6 Gerraint: Caerdyf, part 2 of 3

Fenn roared and rode to face the man, but he had no more success the second time than he had the first.  His spear got easily knocked aside, the way Gerraint had done a thousand times in practice, while Gerraint’s lance struck true.  He put a hole in the crack in the bottom of the Irishman’s shield and stuck the man in the gut.  It did not penetrate far, but only because Fenn lost control of his horse and went shooting off the backside to be deposited hard on his rump

Suddenly, the people watching began to cheer, and the cluster of Irishmen on the far side of the court could not stop them no matter how mean their stares.  Lady Erin, who stood on the steps of the great hall, watching, cried out when Fenn fell, and would have run to him, but the little man stopped her.  The fat thing beside the Lady had to be Megalis, but all the man could do was stare with his mouth open, and maybe drool a little.

Gerraint dismounted as Fenn grimaced and rubbed his gut. Gerraint gave him no time to heal as Gerraint spoke.  He called out to Avalon and the rusty chain, breastplate and helmet he wore became instantly replaced by his own armor, the chain mail of the Kairos.  His helmet looked more Greek than Roman, but who would know?  His blades looked sharp enough.  Defender stayed nestled across the small of his back, and slanted across his whole back, the older, big brother sword of Salvation, a sword called Wyrd.  Gerraint held out his hand and called to the sword, and it flew to his hand, like magic.  Everyone hushed.

“This is the sword called fate,” Gerraint said, as Fenn got back to his feet and pulled his own sword.  Fenn looked shaken and groggy.  “Now yours will be determined.”  Gerraint shouted and brought Wyrd down on Fenn’s shield with all his strength.  It finished the work of the spear and lance and shattered the shield and likely Fenn’s wrist besides.  Fenn looked afraid for all of a second before the rage came into his face and put some strength in his arm.

Fenn attacked with wild swings of his sword, but they were swings that Gerraint easily parried or avoided.  Gerraint slowly stepped back and to the side, eventually causing Fenn to make a complete circle.  Then Fenn appeared to tire and his sword dropped, but Gerraint was too much of a veteran to be taken in.  He knew better than to let his guard down in the face of his enemy.  He feigned a step forward and found Fenn’s sword rise up in his face.  Gerraint simply continued the sword’s direction until it flew out of Fenn’s hand altogether. Fenn never saw that move before, and looked stunned.  Gerraint sliced down Fenn’s armor with surgical precision and then he spun Fenn around before the man could react.  Wyrd sheathed itself while Gerraint reached from behind the Irishman and yanked open the man’s armor.  He continued to pull on it until it pinned the man’s arms behind his own back.

“Let’s see what you look like naked,” Gerraint said. Defender came to hand and he sliced through the rope Fenn used for a belt, even as Fenn wriggled free of his armor, going carefully around his broken wrist.  Fenn’s armor fell to the ground the same time as his pants fell to his ankles and he stood in a diaper and turned red enough to show through his harry chest.  He would not have minded being beaten, though he hardly expected to be beaten, but the humiliation felt like more than he could stand.  He tried to walk, but since he had his pants around his ankles, he fell face first to the dirt and looked like he never wanted to get up.

Lady Erin could stand it no longer.  She broke free of the little man and rushed to Fenn, wailing like the man was dead.  The little man followed.  Gerraint stepped back and found Enid at his elbow.  Ynywl and Guinevak headed toward the steps to the great hall, encouraged by the people from the city.  Megalis appeared frozen in time.

“Well, trollop,” Gerraint said, and he nudged the woman Erin with his boot.  The little man screamed and came at him with a knife.  Gerraint figured the knife had been dipped in poison and let defender fly. He pinned the little man’s leg to the cobblestones where the man cried out and repeated over and over, “My leg, my leg.”  He also complained mightily about the big man picking on the poor little man, but Gerraint ignored him.

“Whore.  Tart.” Gerraint nudged the woman again with his boot and she turned on him like a viper, but Gerraint was prepared.  He knew never to drop his guard on the enemy. He caught the woman by the throat and lifted her right off the ground, his arm extended.  She began to choke and could not breathe, but Gerraint only said, “Yes, I am talking to you,” before he threw her back down on Fenn’s prostrate, naked body.  “It seems you have a decision to make.  You are married to Megalis and can stay and be a good wife, if possible, or you can go with Fenn.  Choose.”

“I would never stay with that brainless oaf,” she spouted.  “I was married to Fenn long before I married that fat little weasel.”

“Then it is settled,” and Gerraint raised his voice. “You Irish, hear me.  You have two hours to collect Fenn, the tart, her stinky little man-dog and your things.  You leave your horses here, and you will be given a boat that you can row back to Ireland.  If you are still here after two hours I will introduce you to the headsman’s axe. Consider your lives forfeit, so I better not find you somewhere else on this island.”  The Irish did not argue.  There were fifty men from the city ready to tear them apart if they did.

Gerraint turned and found not only Enid, but the old parish priest there, holding up a cross like maybe Gerraint was some sort of vampire.  “Father Vespian,” the priest introduced himself.  “Your name?”

R6 Gerraint: Caerdyf, part 1 of 3

Enid glanced at the fire before she spoke in a whisper like one afraid she might be overheard.  “It is that Sir Gerraint, the one they call the Lion of Cornwall.  They say he traffics with spirits, fairies, goblins and devils and makes them do his bidding.  They say he can change his appearance, even to appear as a woman, and thus he can learn a man’s deepest secrets, to what purpose I cannot say. They say he is a giant that is best not angered.  And they say he is faithful to Arthur, the Pendragon, but I think he must be like a guard dog in need of a strong chain.”

Her words finally caught up to Gerraint’s brain and he sighed and responded.  “You must not believe everything they say.  The truth is often stranger, but better than you suppose.  Gerraint is a kind and loving man whose heart is as big as the rest of him.  If the little spirits of the earth sometimes are kind to him, it is only because he loves all the world as God made it and he loves all people, even the littlest spirits. And as for him changing his appearance, that is in fact a long and rather sad story that I may tell you one day.” Gerraint sighed and looked again in Enid’s eyes.  Her eyes said she believed him, or at least they said she desperately wanted to believe him.  Then he saw a flash behind those eyes, and she spoke.

“Do they make all men in Cornwall as big as you?” She did not sound bothered by that, just curious.

“Some,” Gerraint hedged.  “A few.  Not all, but some.”  Then he lifted his head and took a whiff of the air.  “It is getting stuffy in here,” he decided

Enid also sniffed.  “And smoky.”

“The Flue,” both shouted.  Both jumped for the handle and they banged their heads and fell to laughing.  Gerraint rubbed his head and thought Enid had the harder skull.  For some reason, he felt he should remember that for the future.

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In the morning, Gerraint put on the rusty chain that fell loose to his knees.  He cinched it tighter to his body when he fitted the breastplate.  It proved a bit small, and the back plate would not fit at all, but he really did this for show more than anything else.  He kept his own boots, gloves and gauntlets which were fitted to him, but he took the helmet which fit with a little extra brick banging around the neck.  Last of all, he took the long spear in the corner of the room and made his way downstairs.

When Enid saw him, she put her hands to her mouth and began to cry.  Enid’s mother also cried, and Ynywl took a deep breath.  “May it serve you well,” he said.

“One condition,” Gerraint responded.  “You must come with us to Caerdyf.”  Enid had gotten up early with Uwaine and had all the horses saddled and waiting.  When Ynywl agreed, Gerraint removed his helmet and sat awkwardly at the table. He was never much for eating before a battle.  He was more the kind that ended up starving when the battle was over.

The ride to Caerdyf seemed uneventful.  People stared in disbelief, but no one moved to stop them.  When they came to the city, and Gerraint insisted they approach the fort from the city side, people came out from their homes and work to stare all the harder. Some cheered.  Many followed, so by the time they arrived at the fort, they had a great train of gawkers, watchers and more than one man who fingered a blade or another sharp instrument and stared where the Irish should be.

“What is this?”  A big, gruff looking man came out from the barracks building where he was no doubt ready to enjoy a good lunch.  He indeed looked as big as Gerraint, but a bit older and with a bit of a stomach, no doubt from the lazy life and too much lunch.  The men in the fort had certainly heard the commotion in town and knew what was coming, but the big man, in fact Fenn, played coy.

Gerraint spoke from horseback in clear and calm tones. “Your bitch yesterday suggested you might want to cut my heart out.”  Gerraint understood the score.  Erin had technically married Megalis, but she still slept with Fenn.

Fenn roared with laughter.  “You look like a chicken in that old armor, a right plucked rooster I would say.”

“This is the armor of the great centurion who built this fort to keep out you Irish scum.”  Gerraint raised his voice.  “Every true man of Caerdyf should rise up and throw you and your Irish dogs back into the sea.  You should swim home with your tails between your legs.”  Gerraint pointed his spear at the man’s chest and waited.

“Roman ass.”  Fenn got angry.  “The Romans are all dead.  You look like a dead man wearing that.”  Fenn slammed his fist into the innocent man beside him, the one with his mouth hanging open, and he knocked him to the ground, while he shouted, “My horse.  My spear and shield.  We have a guest who needs a lesson in manners.”

Gerraint inched over to one side of the open court while Uwaine, knowing how this worked, inched over to the other side. Fenn mounted and did not give Uwaine a second glance.  He started toward Gerraint without warning, and Gerraint started, expecting no warning. They crashed in the middle. Gerraint used his shield effectively to knock Fenn’s spear aside without letting him get a good hit.  Gerraint’s spear struck solidly on Fenn’s shield and everyone heard the explosion.  Fenn got shaken and his shield cracked, but Gerraint’s spear splintered and fell to pieces.

Fenn slowed, but then laughed, thinking he had his opponent.  He turned in time to see Gerraint take his lance from Uwaine and turn for a second run.

R6 Gerraint: Enid, part 3 of 3

Gerraint said no more.  It was not just the unfair treatment of Ynywl, Guinevak and Enid that bothered him.  Caerdyf should be free of Irish pirates; especially ex-slavers.  “Is there a place I can lie down?” he asked.

Ynywl pointed to his daughter.  “Enid will show you,” he said, and let out a deep breath like a man who got stuck in a tight place with nowhere to turn.

Enid got candles and escorted Gerraint and Uwaine to a fine room with a big double bed.  They had a chair beside the fireplace, and she went about lighting the fire and fluffing the chair cushions as well as they could fluff.  She pulled an extra blanket out of a cedar chest at the foot of the bed and laid it next to the one already on the bed.

“You are going to fight Fenn, aren’t you?” she said, in a frank and forward way.  “You should not.” She turned to Gerraint who looked around at the high but well-worn quality of the room.  It looked much like the rest of the house.  There were no servants to keep things up and maintain the home, though it all appeared very clean and tidy.  He got especially taken with the bits of Roman armor on display over the fireplace.  The chain looked old and rusted, the helmet had a dent, but had been polished along with the breastplate.  A great spear sat in the corner of the room, though it looked more like a forgotten stage prop than a weapon.

Enid placed her hand gently on Gerraint’s chest to get his attention and looked up into his smiling eyes.  “He is a mean and evil fighter who shows no quarter.  You helped me in my time of need.  I would hate to see you get hurt in return.”

Gerraint covered her small hand with his big hand and smiled, deeply.  He wanted to keep her hand close to his heart.  “But tell me, whose armor is this?”  He let go and sat in the chair so as to not be such an imposing sight.

“My great-grandfather,” Enid said.  She had to take a second to remove the smile from her lips.

“The Roman?” Gerraint asked, though he knew the answer.  “Uwaine.” He made his squire get up from the bed where he already lay on his back.  “See if any of it is useable.”

Uwaine got up slowly and looked close while Enid stirred the fire.  “I would not touch the chain,” he said.  “Too much rust, but the breastplate looks in fair shape.  No cracks.  This helmet needs work.”  He took it down, found a loose piece of brick from the fireplace and went to work, hammering out the dent.

“Sir?”  Enid looked up at Gerraint.

“I thought I might wear a bit of it tomorrow, with your permission.  It might remind the people who they are.  They came here to defend this coast, not to hand it over to a bunch of Irish scoundrels. The people might be willing to throw the Irish out, even if Fenn cuts my heart out.”

“Sir,” Enid shifted to sit at his feet and reached up to put her hand gently on his knee.  “I wouldn’t like to see that happen.”  She meant it, and a good bit more.

“I appreciate the affection,” Gerraint said. “But shouldn’t you save that concern for your husband?”

Enid hesitated, but finally withdrew her hand and placed it in her lap.  She looked down while she spoke.  “We have been prisoners here for seven years.  I was a child of fourteen when Megalis decreed that I would never marry unless Father gave him the treasure.  I had suitors.”

“Many, I imagine.”  Gerraint honestly felt stunned by her beauty and imagined he might never tire of such a sight.

“One in particular, but Megalis found out and had him executed.  That happened three years ago.  I turned eighteen.  Now I will be twenty-one in a month and that is getting too old for marriage.  I expect to die an old maid because there is no treasure.”

“I think you are your father’s best treasure,” Gerraint said, and he reached down, took her hand and returned it to his knee. They simply looked eye to eye to judge the measure of what they might be seeing and feeling.  Uwaine stopped banging and stood up.  “Where are you going?” Gerraint asked.

“I have to go outside to work on this,” he said. “I’ll never get it done with you two on about it.  It’s getting too stuffy in here.”  And he left.

Gerraint laughed which caused Enid to laugh and that temporarily broke the serious mood.  “I have every confidence in that boy,” Gerraint said.  “Percival himself taught Uwaine the value of a stone for taking the dents out of helmets.”

Enid looked shocked.  “Sir.  Once again you speak of such a noble man with the ease of familiarity.  I have heard of Sir Percival.  They say he is a great man of faith and learning.”

Gerraint cocked one eyebrow.  He was not sure how much actual learning Percival had done, unless she meant life learning.  “They are great men at the Round Table, each in his own way, I suppose.  But it is hard not to be familiar with such men when you have fought side by side with greatness.”

“Oh, but there is one at Arthur’s Round Table that frightens me, terribly.  I believe he may be a devil sent to test the faith of those other sainted men.” Gerraint nodded and thought of Meryddin. It was not yet well known that Meryddin had disappeared, but Enid had not finished.  “I only hesitate to say because you are from Cornwall yourself, and I mean no offense.”

Gerraint cocked one eyebrow.  “Please tell.”

Enid pulled up close like one afraid to speak too loud.  She raised her other hand to have both on his knee and pressed her full and firm breasts up against his leg, which he imagined she did in pure innocence, but which set his mind racing so he could hardly comprehend her words.

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MONDAY

It appears Gerraint is going to fight the Irish pirate in the morning.  In the present, however, things in the room are heating up nicely, and it is getting a bit stuffy.  MONDAY (Tuesday and Wednesday), the story turns to the fort of Caerdyf.

Until then, Happy Reading

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