M4 Gerraint: The Final Battle, part 3 of 3

Coppertone changed.  She became two feet tall, with great leathery wings, two little horns, pointed teeth and claws in place of her hands and feet.  But when she lifted from the ground to fly over the top of the house, she sounded like a fairy.  “Children, he said okay.  He said okay,” she repeated, and they heard Dyfyr’s daughters congratulate her like she just won the first prize in a contest.

“The other?”  Dyfyr nodded toward Belle.

“I’m a house elf.  An elf maiden just three hundred years old.  I don’t know why my Lady should want someone so young.”

“It keeps me young,” Enid said, as Gwynyvar stepped up beside Enid and took her arm.

“I was wondering what your secret was,” Gwynyvar made her first conversational statement of the day.  They watched as Gwynyvar’s handmaids got wide eyed took a step back from Belle.  But then one stepped up and gave Belle a hug and a word.

“I thought you were much too beautiful to be an ordinary woman.”  Then the other followed suit.

“Ready?” Gerraint asked Dyfyr.  On that word, Enid dropped Gwynyvar’s arm and leapt up on the horses’ back, which caused the horse to jump and need calming down.

“I am not giving you a chance to ride off and join the fighting without me,” Enid said.

“Darn,” Gerraint responded with a slight smile.  “She saw through my clever plan.”

Enid stuck her tongue out at him while Dyfyr helped Gwynyvar up on Uwaine’s horse.  Gerraint and Dyfyr walked the horses.  The handmaids followed behind.  They went out the back road, the farm road that Dyfyr’s boys had ridden in such a hurry.  It swung around to link up with the great north-south road that came up from the coast and continued to Bath and parts north.  They were well away from the battle, but they were able to get to a small rise and see some.  Gerraint, with his fairy enhanced eyes saw the most.

They saw very little movement on the battlefield, apart from some stray, rider-less horses.  Gerraint assumed there had to be survivors, but he saw none.  With his elf enhanced ears, he heard the moans and groans of the men who would not live long.  With his dwarf nose he sniffed and looked where his son James lay face down in the dirt.  He located Uwaine, missing an arm where his life bled away, surrounded by several Saxons who did not escape his steel.  He found Percival propped up by several spikes set to fortify the camp, a long spear in his chest.  He found Arthur, back against a tree, gone.  But Bedivere lived, still with a sword in his hand, searching among the bodies near Arthur.

Gerraint fell to his knees and began to weep.  Dyfyr heard horses, hard ridden, and thought to lead the women off the road and into the woods.  The riders came to where Gerraint knelt in the road, and Gerraint did not even look up.  He kept weeping, but he could not help hearing.

“I said it was the Lion,” Lancelot spoke.

“Looks like we are too late.” That was Lionel.

“Lancelot!” Gwynyvar called from the woods and kicked Uwaine’s stubborn horse to get back up to the road.

“Gwynyvar!” Lancelot saw her and got down from his horse.  Gwynyvar also dismounted and ran to the man, as much as her old legs could run, and she hugged him and cried into his chest, even as Gerraint wiped his eyes.

Enid also got down and came to hug Gerraint which almost started him crying again, but he heard another horse approaching and he needed to stand.

Bedivere rode up with the sword in his hand.  He got down and walked straight to Gerraint.  Poor Bedivere looked covered in blood, his white cloak turned red, soaked in blood, and no telling how much of it was his own. 

“Excalibur,” he said.  “Arthur made me promise to return it to the Lady of the Lake.  I had to extract it from Medrawt’s chest.  I’m sorry, I can’t find the sheath.”

“Arthur said that?” Lionel dared to hope.

“They were his last words.”  Bedivere killed that hope.

“Rhiannon!”  Gerraint simply raised his head and called.

“No need to shout,” Rhiannon said, as she appeared on a great white steed.  She got down and gave both Gerraint and Enid a kiss on the cheek, like a daughter might kiss her beloved parents.  She stepped up to Lancelot and he put Gwynyvar in Lionel’s hands and got to one knee.

“Lady Nimue.”

Rhiannon raised her hand and Lancelot stood, whether he meant to or not.  “We have a long road to travel, I think.  It would be best to dispense with the formalities for the trip.”  Rhiannon stepped up to kiss Gwynyvar on the cheek.  “I am so sorry for your loss.”  Gwynyvar started to cry again, but quietly.

“Mother?”  Rhiannon turned.

“Just me,” Gerraint said.  He held up Excalibur and it disappeared, and a long, empty box appeared in its place. “Now, Caliburn if you please.”  Rhiannon held out her hands and the sword in its sheath appeared and fit exactly in the box.  Gerraint handed her the box.

“Take this to St. Catherine-de-Fierbois church, somewhere down in the Loire direction.”

“Church?”  Rhiannon did not like that idea.

“Must I remind you that you don’t belong here?  Have you spoken to Bridged lately?”

“Why must I do penance?  You are picking on the girls.  What about Manannan or Gwyr?”

“All in good time.”  Gerraint waited until Rhiannon dropped her head and spoke again.

“Yes mother.”

“St. Catherine de Fierbois church, behind the altar.  Bury the sword beneath the stone and carve five crosses on the stone.  There is a Frank who must carry it before it ends up in the hands of another woman.”

“Once again, the sword in the stone,” Rhiannon sounded grumpy.

“Under the stone.  Five crosses.  Talk to the nuns when you get there.  They will help you and guide you to the right place.”

“There is a nunnery there?” Gwynyvar interrupted.

“Nearby,” Gerraint said.  “A monastery with a branch for women.”

Gwynyvar took a deep breath against her tears.  She looked at Lancelot and her friend, Enid.  “I may stay there.”

“Gwynyvar!”  Enid caught her words.  She was not going to talk her friend out of it.  She looked at Gerraint who looked very old and tired and imagined she might join her friend in a few years. 

“St. Catherine’s.  Five crosses on the stone behind the altar.  Take Arthur.”  People looked up at that last word, and Gerraint explained.  “It is better if people do not know where he is buried,” he told Gwynyvar.  “Maybe you and Rhiannon will sail with him beyond the sea.  Maybe to Avalon.  You remember Avalon.”  Gwynyvar and Lancelot both nodded, and Enid took Gerraint’s arm.  “Now, all that remains is, who will bury the dead?”  He turned Enid, and Bedivere stepped up beside him.  He intended to collect what special things he could to take home, to Percival’s family, to Uwaine’s wife, to Cornwall in memory of James.  Enid began to cry.

END

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MONDAY

The second Story of the adventures of Margueritte in France during the dark ages (after 697 AD) begins. Margueritte and Roland are married and hoping for a peaceful life together, but Roland is needed by Charles, not yet called Charles Martel. The Frankish kingdom is falling into a civil war, the German nations around the edges are taking advantage of that, and there is a new threat brewing in the south where the Muslims have overrun the Visigoth kingdoms in Iberia. Peace and togetherness may be hard to come by. Starting Monday. Until then, as always, Happy Reading.

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M4 Gerraint: The Final Battle, part 2 of 3

Gwynyvar got lost in her own thoughts and took a moment to realize Gerraint spoke to her and then figure out what he said.  She handed him her scarf, and he examined it.  He saw nothing to identify it as Gwynyvar’s, but Gerraint pretended there was.  He gave it to the eldest.  “Tell Lancelot this is Gwynyvar’s scarf, and please hurry.”

“All of us?”  One of the boys asked.

Gerraint nodded.  “There may be enemies on the road.  Your father will have to stay here with me.  A couple of old men will be the only ones left to protect the ladies until you get back.  So, hurry.”

“Right,” the eldest said and stuffed the scarf beneath his belt.  They gathered their horses and rode out with all speed.  Dyfyr watched them go before he spoke.

“I was going to be angry that you denied my sons a chance to fight, but my heart only says thank you.”

Morwen saw what happened and came up to ask if he could help.  “No,” Gerraint said.  “You and your few soldiers will have to lead the men from the town.  Get them all white cloaks if there are enough.  A couple of old men will be all that is left to guard the ladies.”  He repeated himself, and like an old man with a heavy heart, turned and stepped back into the house.

“You could have sent a fairy, you know.  Lancelot would believe that,” Enid whispered.

“I already did,” Gerraint returned her whisper, and Enid kissed his cheek.

Back inside, he saw four of Dyfyr’s daughters or daughters-in-law with their hands on Gwenhwyfach and her elderly handmaid.  “They tried to escape out the back,” one of the daughters spoke.

“Coppertone and I were distracted with the cooking,” Belle excused herself.

Gerraint extracted his arm from his wife’s grasp.  He stepped up and punched the elderly handmaid with the fist and adrenaline of a heavyweight boxer.  He felt frustrated, and wanted to be out there fighting beside Arthur, where he belonged.  The old woman went down, unconscious.  She was lucky that punch did not break her neck.

Gerraint turned to Gwenhwyfach.  “I remember this.  Your son will go down in history as the evil murderer who killed Arthur, the greatest King ever to grace this land.”

Gwenhwyfach drew up her haughty self.  “The battle is not over.  When my son rides in victorious, I will decide what history remembers.  I will not be forgotten.”

“Sorry,” Gerraint said.  “History will get some things muddled.  Most will never know that Gwynyvar had a sister.  Morgana, the witch will get the credit and the blame.  Usually, she will be Loth’s wife, and mostly Mordred’s mother.”

“Medrawt,” Enid corrected.  “But that would be wrong.  That would be incest.”

Gerraint shrugged and took Enid to sit at the table.  “A teaching tool for the church, all about the evils of incest and witchery.”

“You don’t like the church rewriting history, do you?”

“I despise it, and anyone who rewrites history,” Gerraint said, and he finally looked over at Gwynyvar.  She started crying softly, and her two ladies comforted her and said things like, the battle isn’t over yet.  He looked at Gwenhwyfach.  She said “Mmmph,” and looked like she could not get her feet off the ground.  Coppertone had restored the muzzle to the mouth and glued Gwenhwyfach’s feet to the floor.  Gerraint smiled.  Gwenhwyfach would go nowhere, and she would not even be able to complain about it.

Belle came to cry with Gwynyvar for a while, and she cried so sweetly, Gwynyvar hugged her and did not let go, like Belle became both her child and her rock.  Enid also went over to comfort her friend, and Dyfyr and Gerraint simply sat and worried.  They had food.  The women kept the table loaded with plenty of food and drink.  The children played mostly outside, since it was not raining, but sometimes they came in to pick from the table.  Enid tried to get Gwynyvar to eat, but she said she was not hungry.  She stopped crying after a while and kept fingering the small cross she wore around her neck and stayed silent.  

The people in the house could not hear what happened in the distance.  Gerraint strained and heard the general movement.  He guessed.  Medrawt attacked with his footmen, at least some of them, but he moved too soon, and they were not really ready.  They were driven back, likely when Uwaine charged from the fort, and the two sides took time to breathe.  Medrawt then attacked with his horsemen and followed them with his Welshmen or Scots or Saxons, but not his whole army.  They were driven off, maybe by the attack from the town, but Gerraint imagined Arthur’s horsemen, so many from Cornwall, were likely victorious, but devastated.  They probably abandoned the horses at that point to join the fight on foot behind the meager fortifications.  Again, the armies took time to breathe.  Finally, now in the early afternoon, Gerraint knew it would be the last attack.  No one would be spared.  Now was the time, if Lancelot was ever going to show up.

“I can’t do it.”  Gerraint stood and rushed outside to his horse.  Enid caught him.

“Not without me.”

Dyfyr followed and set about quietly saddling Uwaine’s horse.

Gwynyvar followed with her handmaids and Belle and Coppertone in her wake.

“No,” Gerraint said, and everyone paused not knowing who he was talking to.  “Coppertone,” he clarified.  “You must stay here to set Gwenhwyfach free in case we don’t return.”

“Can I get little?” she asked.

“Don’t scare the children,” he said, then he paused.  He knew she had already shown the children.  She showed Dyfyr’s wife and daughters.  In fact, Gwenhwyfach and her maid and Dyfyr himself were the only ones she had not shown.  “Well, don’t scare Gwenhwyfach and her maid too badly.”

Coppertone’s face darkened.  She knew that he knew.

“Another fairy?”  Dyfyr asked.

“Pixie,” Gerraint said.  He knew Pixies were not viewed favorably in some circles.  They were seen as akin to goblins since they lived in caves and deep underground tunnels, but Dyfyr merely shrugged.  He had not seen anything himself up to that point, other than a glimpse of Dumfries hidden beneath his cloak, but obviously, he heard all about it.

M4 Gerraint: The Final Battle, part 1 of 3

Gerraint lead the group back to the very back room where the hole was located.  He went through first, and the others followed him into the dark.  Day or night did not matter in what Enid later described as something like a grave. Fortunately, the so-called natural lighting of the dark elves helped.  When they arrived at the turnoff for the barn, they found two soldiers who gave the all clear.  When they arrived at the stables, Dyfyr stood there with two others.

“Dyfyr, old man.”  Gerraint grabbed the man.  “You need to come with us.  We are going to visit your wife.”

“She will be pleased, totally nervous, but pleased.”  Gerraint understood, but he knew Dyfyr’s house and table were big enough.  They had to be to fit all those children and grandchildren.  “I need to go now.  I have to help with the horses.”

“No.”  Gerraint did not let Dyfyr go.  “You, and maybe your sons need to help set the town defense.”

Dyfyr looked up into Gerraint’s eyes.  “Is it as bad as that?”  Medrawt had ignored the town because it seemed big enough to be a pain to take, but not big enough to pose a threat.

Gerraint nodded.  “It will be, and there is no telling who will come out on top, but if Medrawt succeeds, you need to set a defense against rampaging Saxons and Scots.”

Dyfyr joined in the nod and turned to the man next to him.  “Tell my sons they can help their father or follow the Knight into battle, their choice.  When the horses are all taken, tell any leftover able-bodied men who are not needed at the barracks to come and see me.”   He turned to Gerraint.  “Lead on.”

By the time Gerraint got the women settled in Dyfyr’s house, he could hear the sounds of battle beginning.  He got up to get to his horse, but Enid blocked his way.  “It is your Christian duty to stay and keep us safe.”

“Dyfyr and his sons are more than capable.”

“No,” Gwynyvar got up to join Enid in a sign of support.

“But I can’t protect Arthur if I stay here.”

Gwynyvar hesitated before she said, “No.  If we need to flee, you are the only one who can get us to safety.”

“You are the only one who can call on Pinewood and Deerrunner and whoever else might be needed to get us out safely,” Enid added.  “Besides, you have the Danna, and Nameless in you.”

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” Gerraint protested, but he did not explain if he protested about the use of the little ones, or the use of Danna, or simply the idea that Danna was somehow in him—she lived in the past, in her own time and place, not in him like next to his liver.  The women would not move, and Gwynyvar’s handmaids brought two chairs so Enid and Gwynyvar could sit in the doorway.  Then the handmaids went to stand in front of the two windows in case Gerraint decided to get clever.

Gerraint looked at Coppertone, who cut things up to go on the cooking fire.  Her eyes got big, too big for human eyes despite the glamour of humanity, but she said nothing.  Belle caught his eye and spoke.  “You are the only one.”

Gerraint threw his gloves to the table and grumbled.  “There can be more than one.”  They heard a flurry of activity out in the yard, and Gerraint thought of Lancelot, still a day away as far as he knew.  “Damn bitches,” he called them, hoping to shock them, but Enid and Gwynyvar just shook their heads and refused to move.  “At least let me help see to the defense of the town.”  He got frustrated.

Enid and Gwynyvar looked at each other, and without a word they stood and pushed their chairs back from the door.  They still blocked the door and Enid spoke.  “Only if you take us with you.  You decide how much danger you want to put us in.”

Gerraint did not argue.  He stepped to the door and Enid grabbed his arm.  Gwynyvar walked on his other side to box him in.  “Dyfyr,” Gerraint called.  There were men bringing in weapons and saddling horses all up and down the street.  Dyfyr was not far, and he came up with information.

“We decided the only way to defend the town is to help Arthur win the battle.”

Gerraint saw Morwen down the way, barking orders to several soldiers from the fort.  He saw a man bringing up two mules.  They would be hard to ride into battle.  He saw another man with an armful of spears, and what was likely his son behind him carrying farm implements, hoes and the like.  Probably the blacksmith. He turned to Dyfyr

“Your sons.  How many are here.  Where are they?”

“Five sons and sons-in-law,” Dyfyr said, and turned to call.  “Brenden.  Fetch the boys and bring them here.”  The young man ran off while Gerraint looked to the side of Dyfyr’s home.  His and Uwaine’s horses stood quietly grazing on the little grass that grew there and ignored the mad activity going on around them.  They were soldier’s horses, used to the clank of weapons and men running wildly and shouting at each other.  It would not disturb their breakfast.  Gerraint saw his and Uwaine’s equipment also untouched, under the small awning where it would be protected from the rain.

“Forget it,” Enid said and tugged on his arm.  Gerraint looked once at Gwynyvar and wondered what she would think when he told her about Lancelot.

“Here we are,” Dyfyr said.

“Two things,” Gerraint got right to it, as was his way.  “I need you five for a special assignment.”  He looked again at Gwynyvar but spoke to the boys.  “I need you to ride to Christchurch, the port next to Bournmouth.  Lancelot and two thousand men from Amorica are coming to Arthur’s aid, but I don’t know when they may arrive.”  Gwynyvar put her hands to her lips in surprise.  This became hope and help, if Lancelot could get here in time.  “Your scarf,” Gerraint asked Gwynyvar and held out his hand.

 

 

M4 Gerraint: Cadbury, part 3 of 3

The three guards from the guardroom and two more from upstairs, one of whom looked badly wounded were brought in to join the four surviving guards and the Saxon in the Great Hall.  When the guards sat willingly on the floor, Gerraint sent half of the twenty-four men remaining to him back into the rooms to bring in the bodies of the dead.

“Lay the good men out here in honor,” he said.  “You can pile the traitors in the corner for all I care.”  He stepped up to the Saxon.  “Red Ulf.”  Gerraint once again practiced his Nameless given grasp of the Saxon language.    “Ethelgard has really overstepped his bounds this time.  Does he not know that fate will have its way with him?”

Red Ulf raised his brows on being spoken to by a man without a funny British accent.  He looked closely, and after a moment he appeared to remember their previous encounter.  Then he responded with treachery.  “Too bad you won’t be there to see it.”  He pulled out a knife that was hidden in his cloak, but he was the one who did not get a chance to use it as Defender got thrust right through the man’s chain and deep into his chest.  The women, and some of the men present gasped.

“George said you were not a believer.”  Gerraint spoke in a clam and steady voice.  “I recommend you pray now as fast as you can.”  Red Ulf collapsed and his blood spilled out on the floor.

“Murderer.”  The old woman who was there to serve Gwenhwyfach accused Gerraint with her mouth and eyes.  She went to her seated mistress who seemed to be shrieking, but all anyone heard was “Mmumph. Mmumph.”  Coppertone had magically sealed the woman’s mouth closed and looked pleased with her work.  Belle rolled her eyes and helped Enid to a chair a couple of seats away.  

“No, it’s called war, not murder,” Gerraint responded to the old woman.  “And it’s called self-defense.  Defender,” he called, and his long knife vacated Red Ulf’s chest, shook itself free of any blood, and flew back to Gerraint’s hand.  He was at an age where he did not care if people saw certain things.  Gerraint caught the old woman’s eye.  “If you pull a knife on me, you will receive the same.  Enid?”  Enid had her hand to her head, like this was something she knew, but tried not to think about, and certainly did not want to see.  Gwynyvar sat beside her and took her hand to comfort her.

“Do what you must do,” Enid said.  “I trust you, and I love you.”  Her voice did not exactly sound steady.

“You are my heart,” Gerraint said.  Belle looked up and smiled at that use of the fairy expression; an expression of total love and devotion that Enid knew, too.

Gerraint spoke again as the men from the back rooms returned with more bodies.  “I know some of you are anxious to join the battle for the fort, but we have prisoners to attend and women to get safely away first.  Where is the prison in this fort?”

Morwen, the sergeant of the little group of soldiers spoke.  “There is the old dungeon beneath us, and in this expanded fort, there is also a separate bailiff’s tower.”

“Very good.  There is too much fighting and uncertainty out there.  Please take these men to the lock-up beneath us and post several guards.  Hopefully they will be joined by other prisoners Uwaine brings in.  Something will be decided later, but I will remind you men, in a Christian world there remains a chance for mercy and forgiveness, so be good.”

Gerraint went again to the front door.  He did not see nearly as much fighting going on as before, and he saw white shirts still armed, so he assumed his men had not lost, but he caught no sign of Uwaine, or Dyfyr or Twech for that matter.  He closed the door.  He decided he needed to get the women out, and that would have to be by the tunnel.  He just wondered if the women might go quietly if he blindfolded them when Uwaine, Twech and a dozen men in white burst in the door behind him.  

“All good,” Uwaine reported.  “There are fifty barricaded in the barracks and we are negotiating.  There are some singles here and there, but the fort is ours.”

“Saxon singles?” Gerraint asked.

Uwaine nodded and shrugged at the same time.  “And maybe Scots, but there aren’t that many places to hide around here.”

“One man with a bow can still pick out targets.” Gerraint shook his head.  “Medrawt?”

Uwaine shrugged, but Twech stepped up and looked over to be sure Uwaine was not about to say something before he spoke.  “Just as the sun touched the horizon, I saw a dozen men escape out the front gate.  They were on foot, but the enemy army is not so far.  They may be there by now.”

“Damn.”  Gerraint swore.  “Pinewood,” he called, and he did not have to call twice, like the fairy waited up in the rafters or something.  “Go tell Arthur that Gwynyvar is safe and to prepare for an attack.  And tell James and Bedivere they are in trouble for not telling me their mother was here.”  Enid was Bedivere’s aunt, not his mother of course, but she was as close as he had to a mother since that fateful day when Lyoness sank.

Pinewood grinned, though it was hard to see on that little fairy face.  “Very good, Lord,” he said and scooted out the window.  Gerraint did not bother to look around at the astonished faces.  He just continued with the orders.

“Uwaine, collect as many soldiers as we have and men from the town who have some military experience.  Get to the stables and tell Dyfyr to take six men and make sure the tunnel from the stables is still secure and empty.  Then saddle as many horses as you can.  You will need to ride out and support Arthur with as strong a force as you can muster.  Use your judgment.  Leave the elderly and too young to watch the men in the barracks.  I have a feeling something will be decided today.”

“Twech.  If you wouldn’t mind, take six men or so and make sure the tunnel in the barn is still clear.  We don’t want to run into any men in hiding, especially Scots or Saxons who might have found their way into the tunnels.”

“Very good, Lord,” Twech imitated the fairy.

“Morwen.  Get the men you have here ready to escort the ladies.  You better put a few more on guard duty downstairs so they can fetch food and relieve the guards later on.  The rest need to be divided in two groups with the bulk out front, and a few bringing up the rear.  Belle, you need to lead the ladies with a fairy light, and Coppertone, you need to bring up the rear and keep your ears and dark eyes open for trouble.  And whatever you do, don’t tell the ladies about the rats and spiders.”  Of course, Gerraint told the ladies as he spoke, and he grinned at them.

“That was mean,” Enid said, but she looked at him and returned the grin.

“You three,” Gerraint pointed to three of the men, soldiers who came running in with Uwaine.  “I need to go to the wall to look at what is happening, if anything.  I’ll be right back.”

Uwaine nodded and left.  He had a big assignment and was not inclined to speak in any case.  Twech also nodded and left, but Gerraint could have sworn the man saluted.  “We’ll be ready,” Morwen said, and he began to shout orders while Gerraint went out.

From the top of the wall, Gerraint could look down on the two camps.    With his fairy enhanced eyes, he spied Medrawt right away.  Medrawt had gotten himself a horse and looked to be riding around doling out commands.  Clearly, Medrawt wanted an immediate attack, but armies did not work that way.  The attack would come when the army got ready.

Gerraint called once again to Pinewood. He asked the fairy to please send someone to Christchurch, “Where Lancelot’s ships will be coming in.  As soon as he arrives, tell him Gwynyvar had been held prisoner by Medrawt, but she is now safe.  Arthur’s troops, though, are badly outnumbered and he could use as much help as possible, as soon as possible.  Then it would be good if a couple of little ones could lead Lancelot here by the secret ways unknown to men so he can arrive as soon as possible.”

“It will be done,” Pinewood responded.  “Arthur will need the help, but I cannot say if it will be in time.”

“Nor can I,” Gerraint admitted.  “Just do your best to hurry him, please, and thank you.”  Pinewood flew off, and one of the men with Gerraint whispered.

“Second time.  Still unnerving.”

Gerraint ignored the man and looked at Arthur’s considerably smaller camp.  It appeared like they spent their time yesterday, and in the night, fortifying their position.  There were trees and sharpened spikes in front of their camp, and a shallow trench dug against a cavalry attack.  He could see the trench from above, but it might not be noticeable from ground level.  A horse could break a leg in such a trench.  A man might only fall down if he wasn’t watching, but enough falling down would certainly slow a charge.  Arthur’s men looked to be getting ready to defend themselves.  Being so badly outnumbered, for the first time in history, Arthur appeared in no position to attack.

Gerraint looked over the inside of the wall, down on the barracks.  “You there,” He got the attention of one of the men now manning the wall.  “Keep an eye on the roof of the barracks.  They might try to sneak out the back end of the roof, if they think of it.”

“Right,” the man said and went to fetch a few more men to help with that duty.

Gerraint went back down to the Great Hall.  Morwen reported that they were ready.  Gerraint complained about the crick in his neck.  He stood too tall for most of the tunnel and had to travel with his head bent.  First, though, he had something to say to Gwenhwyfach and her maid.  “One warning so you better listen,” he said.  “Any treachery, attempt to injure anyone or bring harm to anyone will be returned to you double.”  He reached out and undid the clamp on Gwenhwyfach’s mouth.  He knew he could undo the magic of the little ones, even if he had not been gifted by them.  “And any noise, and I will have the clamp returned to your mouth, permanently, and you can eat through your nose.”  They understood.

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MONDAY

The end of the saga of Gerraint in the days of Arthur, Pendragon. The Final Battle Don’t miss it. Until Monday, Happy Reading

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M4 Gerraint: Cadbury, part 2 of 3

Arthur frowned at being reminded of Lancelot’s absence.  “Gerraint.  You and Uwaine go with this gentleman.  Take the hundred loyal men who escaped the fort when Medrawt came.  I can’t spare any more in case it comes to fighting.  Percival, you see to the distribution of the cloaks.”  He pointed.  He did not know what to call them because no one ever wore such things before, at least not since the days of the first Pendragon.  “I am going to sit here and stew about what to say to Medrawt.  I will tell him I need a day to think about it.”

“Two days would be better,” Gerraint said.

“One day,” Arthur insisted and then he showed that he had stopped listening

“Father?”  James and Bedivere were still outside the tent.  They were unloading the wagon, helping the elves who were disguised as men.

Gerraint looked carefully at his boys.  They were men in their early thirties and had grown into fine leaders.  Bedivere had an estate on the bit of land that remained to Lyoness.  James had his home on the Channel that separated Cornwall from Wales, where he could keep a sharp watch for pirates.  It was only Gerraint’s fatherly eyes that still saw them as boys.  That was what he called them.

“Boys.  You have many fine men from Cornwall that you need to lead into battle, if it should come to that.  Uwaine and I have another task to deal with, and don’t ask.  Meanwhile, get the hundred men from the fort ready to move out and fetch me Morgan and his pirates.  I have a job for him.”  And Gerraint sent Morgan and his dozen men back to Christchurch with a message for Lancelot as soon as he arrived.

Uwaine and Gerraint followed Dyfyr, son of Peryf the Bowman through a shallow ravine.  There were trees grown up there all the way to the edge of town.  Dyfyr talked.  “I told Captain Gweir all those years ago he needed to cut the trees here.  A whole army could sneak up to the edge of town without ever being seen from the fort.  He said the Lady Gwynyvar would prefer to see the green and was not concerned about armies.”  Dyfyr shrugged as they entered the town.

Most of the time got spent meeting Dyfyr’s wife and sons and their wives, and grandsons, but they found the shed soon enough.  It had been pushed up to the steep hillside beneath the fort wall.  The man who lived there had no idea the back of his shed could be torn out and reveal a hole in the hill.  Dyfyr assured them the man was on their side.  In fact, he said he had several hundred men, most of the men in the town, who were prepared to follow the soldiers and retake the fort.”

Gerraint looked into the dark hole and smelled the odor of mold.  “After you,” Gerraint said.

“By no means.  After you,” Uwaine responded.

“Please be my guest.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Dyfyr and the man Twech came back with two lit torches, and Dyfyr stepped right in.  “Careful, it may be wet in places.”

“Whisper,” Gerraint said.  “We don’t want to give ourselves away.”  He followed Dyfyr.  Twech and Uwaine brought up the rear.

They went up a ramp at first, one that looked like a shaft from an old mine.  They turned back and forth a couple of times before they came to the wall above.  There, they had to climb a dozen stairs, which were wood, but in surprisingly good shape after all the years.  The rest of the tunnel went through the wall itself, on ground level where the building stones were braced against collapse.  They found a couple of places where they had to bend under bowed braces or step over a fallen brace, but for the most part, the tunnel appeared in good shape.  Dyfyr pointed out the three small side tunnels that went to the stables, the barn and the Great Hall.  When they climbed back down and got back outside, Gerraint had to seriously stretch his back.  He had his head ducked most of the time; the tunnel through the wall not being as tall as his six feet.

“I’ll take the Great Hall with the objective of securing Gwynyvar, and after that, grabbing Medrawt if possible.  Uwaine, you take the Barn with the bulk of the men.  That tunnel seems to be in the best shape.  Dyfyr, if you are up for it, you might take the stables with a few men to prevent Medrawt or his men from escaping on horseback.”

“I can do that,” Dyfyr said.  “Good plan.”

“Fine.  Uwaine can go fetch the soldiers, and I’ll relax and see if Dyfyr’s wife is a good cook.”

“I can do that,” Uwaine said, and without too much sarcasm, added, “Good plan.”

At sundown, Gerraint asked Dumfries, the dark elf King, if his people could set some imitation of natural lights in the tunnels for the poor humans who couldn’t see past their noses in the dark.  Dumfries nodded and laughed and also checked the tunnel to make sure it would not collapse somewhere along the line.  Finally, he checked the ends of the tunnels and made sure they would collapse when struck with the hammer.

“A bit of cheating,” Dumfries said.

“I know, but around the edges.”  Gerraint thanked the dark elf. “Like these white cloaks, it should keep things straight, and help, but the men will still have to do their own fighting.”

Dumfries understood.  He waited quietly in his long dark cloak and oversized hood, which made it very hard to see what this presumed man looked like, especially in the dim light beside the thin wall that stood between the men and the Great Hall.

Beginning about two hours before sunup, white cloaked men in twos and threes made their way to the workman’s shed where they worked their way up the hill and down the tunnel to their station.  Gerraint gave strict instructions to ignore the rats and spiders, and above all go quietly because too much noise, like talking, or a sudden noise like a shout, might bring the roof down.  The men were exceptionally quiet and watched where they put their feet and hands.

  Gerraint had thirty men with him, including some soldiers from the fort, who knew the inside layout of the Great Hall.  They waited at the long end of the tunnel where it snaked around the east wall and into the north wall.  Dyfyr had about as many, mostly men who knew horses.  They got ready to break out into the stables.  The bulk of the men, including most of the soldiers went with Uwaine.  When they came out of the barn, he had some assigned to go straight up to the walls of the fort.  The rest of the men were to head for the barracks where they hoped the enemy would still be asleep.

“Now,” Dumfries said as he put his back to the wall to keep out of the way.  Goblins had an unerring sense of timing, which kept them from being caught out in the sun.  Gerraint knew they were about thirty minutes from sunup, and he tapped the two big fellows with the sledgehammers on the shoulders.  It took only three strikes for the wall to tumble down, but each hit echoed horrendously.

“At least the others will hear,” Gerraint mumbled, and just before he stepped through the hole, he heard the sound of hammers echo back to him.

They stepped out into a windowless dressing room at the back of the ground floor, where the building butted up to the wall.  Ten men were assigned to head for the stairs and the second floor where they were to clean out any guards and find Gwynyvar.  Ten men took the ground floor rooms, while ten followed Gerraint to the Great Hall itself.  Gerraint reasoned Medrawt and his commanders might be breaking their fast and preparing for a new day of jerkiness.

“Never underestimate the cleverness of a power-hungry jerk,” he told his men.  “Holding women hostage might just be the beginning.”  Several men growled.  That rankled against their every Christian nerve.  What kind of a Pendragon would Medrawt be when he showed himself willing to go against everything Arthur fought for—every ideal of the Round Table?

Gerraint moved quickly through the rooms deemed least likely to be occupied.  They picked up three prisoners in the guard room, soldiers from the fort known to the men who were with Gerraint.  They had just come off their shift and were groggy with sleep.  “Medrawt is a loser,” Gerraint told them.  “Think carefully which side you really want to be on.”  The men gave them no trouble.

They briefly heard a scuffle upstairs, and some shouts, as Gerraint and six men burst into the Great Hall.  Medrawt was there as expected, but he ran to the front door and did not pause to give any orders.  Three of Medrawt’s commanders followed the coward, but the other three drew their swords against the intruders, and there were six guards in the big room as well.  Nine on seven were not the worst odds when there were tables and chairs and other furniture to get in the way. In a moment, though, seven more of Gerraint’s men came from the downstairs door on the other side of the dais, and nine on fourteen made much better odds.  The guards and one surviving commander, a big, red-headed Saxon surrendered.

Gerraint wanted to follow Medrawt, but his first duty was to Gwynyvar.  Besides, when he looked out the front door of the Great Hall, he saw men running everywhere in a kind of mad dance and fighting in pockets here and there that threatened to overtake the whole courtyard.  He went back in and said only, “Gwynyvar?”

Eight women came into the Great Hall, escorted by a half-dozen of Gerraint’s men.  Gerraint got surprised when one of the women ran to him and threw her arms around him.  “I was hoping it was you,” she said.

Gerraint backed her up. “Enid, what are you doing here?”  He looked at the five ladies in waiting.  Two were with Gwynyvar, but two of them were Belle and Coppertone, disguised with glamours to appear human.  The other one was an old woman who was no doubt there for Gwenhwyfach.  Gerraint looked at Gwenhwyfach who had an angry, disappointed and somewhat defeated look in her face.  Enid talked.

“I came up to be with Gwynyvar and wait for your return.  You know how lovely Cadbury is in the Spring.  We were having a wonderful time until Gwenhwyfach showed up and ruined everything.  But Goreu, where is Arthur?”

“Busy,” Gerraint said, and turned her to his side after a peck on her lips.  He stepped to Gwenhwyfach.  “What did you think you were doing?  Don’t you know this will not end well?”

“For you, perhaps.”  Gwenhwyfach drew herself up and found some haughtiness to cover her face.  “Meryddin made everything clear to me.  Arthur’s son will be a great man, remembered by all of history.”

“He will,” Gerraint agreed.  “As a murdering, power hungry, kidnapping fool,” and he thought Merlin had one last card to play after all.

“What?” Gwenhwyfach arched her back.

“Sit down and shut up,” Gerraint said.

“What?” Gwenhwyfach wasn’t moving.

“SIT,” Gerraint commanded, and Enid and Gwynyvar stepped up and grabbed Gwenhwyfach’s arms.  They dragged her to a chair at the table and threw her into it.  

“You will suffer,” Gwenhwyfach threatened.

“Coppertone, please make her shut up,” Gerraint said, as he stepped up to the prisoners. 

M4 Gerraint: Cadbury, part 1 of 3

When they arrived at Cadbury, late in the afternoon, they found an opposing force, some six thousand strong spread across the plains, about half of which were Scots and Saxons.  The other half, Percival had no hesitation calling traitors.  Beyond that, the fort at Cadbury sat in Medrawt’s hands, and that meant Gwynyvar was his prisoner.  Arthur held his tongue as they made camp.

“Suggestions?” Uwaine asked.

“We talk,” Gerraint responded.

“About what?” Percival asked.  He got mad.

“About Gwynyvar,” Arthur said flatly and added, “Damn that boy.”

Bedivere went on patrol and found his cousin, Gerraint’s middle son, James, in the woods with a host of men.  It got near sundown when they talked.  Peter, the eldest brother, sent James up with three hundred horsemen culled from the outlying places.  With him were another three hundred out from Wales.  It was still only a handful of what Wales could send, but Arthur was not in a position to quibble.  There were also a hundred men who made it out of the fort at Cadbury when Medrawt moved in.  When he brought them to Arthur’s camp, Uwaine summed things up nicely.

“Now they only outnumber us two to one.”

Gerraint got serious about talking, more than he had ever been before.  He convinced Percival that they had just talked peace between the Franks and Amorica, “So how hard could it be to make peace between Arthur and Medrawt?”  The problem being Arthur, who was not convinced peace was possible.  Gerraint had to wrack his brain to figure out how to delay things another two days.

He confided to Uwaine first thing in the morning while he dressed.  “I talked to Lancelot before we left.  He said he talked to Bohort and got permission to follow us with a full two thousand men.  They contracted with the same ships we took.  As soon as we unloaded, those ships headed right back to pick up the Amoricans.  The thing is, he said don’t tell Arthur, because they have no intention of staying in Britain.  He said they would help calm the situation and if necessary, fight Medrawt, but then they would go home.”

“So, Arthur doesn’t know,” Uwaine said.

“And I can’t tell him.  And you can’t tell him either.  I’m not sure if I broke trust even telling you.”

“But why keep it a secret?”

Gerraint shook his head and felt very old.  “I think Lancelot did not want to get in an argument with the one man he truly respects.  That, and I think he wants to remain an independent, autonomous army and not see his men integrated back into Arthur’s army.  And I think Bohort and Lionel may have added some reasons of their own.  All I know is Lancelot is roughly three days behind us and if we can just hold off Arthur, he will catch up.”

Uwaine stepped to the tent door.  “For the first time in my life I am going to say, I wish you didn’t tell me that.”

“Come along.”  Gerraint stepped up beside Uwaine and patted him on the shoulder.  “I need your younger, vibrant brain to think of something.  Let’s get to the meeting.”  He started to walk out but Uwaine shook his head before he followed.

“Even my brain is too old for this.”

They walked slowly to the tent and Gerraint calmed his spirit and prayed before his son James interrupted him.  “Father, I told them it was not a good idea.”

“You’re not going to like this,” Bedivere pointed at the tent before he got in front of Uwaine.  Uwaine paused before he went ahead anyway.  He heard Gerraint’s first words.

“What is this?”  The words were rather loud.

Uwaine saw Arthur seated and Percival beside him.  He expected to see some of the other older ones, like maybe Agravain or maybe Nanters out of Wales, but what he saw startled him.  Pinewood, the King of the Fairies of Britain stood there along with the two elf Lords, the brothers Deerrunner and Dayrunner, the dwarf King Bogus, two fellows he could not name but who were no doubt representatives of their kind, and an actual goblin out in daylight, though he stayed protected by the tent and stayed well under his cloak and hood so he was hard to see.

Uwaine spoke before Gerraint moved.  “I thought dark elves could not go out in the daytime.”  He had learned the term dark elf was polite in mixed company, better than the word goblin.

“I saw him come right up out of the ground,” Arthur said.  “It was the most remarkable thing.”

“No hole.  I checked,” Percival added.

“What is this?” Gerraint repeated himself, though he knew exactly what it was.  “I admit you all have been a great help to us in the past, and I am grateful, but it has always been on the fringes and in the background.  Pinewood, you followed me all my life, and saved me more than once when I was young and vulnerable.  I am grateful.  And you all have spied out enemy locations, harassed and spooked them, contained some fields like Badon, where you forced the Saxons to face us rather than escape to the woods.  For all of that I am grateful.  You even guarded prisoners for us, but I never asked you to be in the direct line of fire, and I am not asking now.  The answer is no.  Old Bishop Dubricius once charged two young boys to fight their own battles and apart from some help around the fringes, Arthur and I have done that.  The answer is no.”  Gerraint stopped suddenly, like he ran out of steam.

“I had forgotten that.”  Arthur looked thoughtful as he remembered a long time ago.

“Lord.”  The little ones acknowledged Gerraint and knew better than to argue.  They left, each in his own way.  The fairy, Pinewood got small and flew off faster than the eye could follow.  The elves walked off disguised like men. Others disguised themselves like animals, like a cat, or simply went invisible to human eyes.  Dumfries, the goblin, sank back down into the earth, and that was the end of it.  No human present questioned Gerraint’s decision either, or argued with him, least of all Arthur, though they had no doubt the little ones proposed to double the number of swords on Arthur’s side.

“Now we talk.” Gerraint changed the subject.  “Any word from the fort?”  He felt reluctant to mention Medrawt by name.

“Yes.”  Arthur and Percival spoke at the same time.  Percival deferred to Arthur.

“Medrawt sent a messenger in the night.  He will be outside the main gate of the fort at noon to present his conditions for peace.  He said I can bring two people with me, but that is all.

“So, we go with a dozen,” Gerraint said, like a given.  “I doubt he will be presenting things to negotiate, though.  More likely a list of demands we are to accept, like it or not.”

Arthur nodded, but pointed at Percival.  “But you have something?”

Percival stood and stepped to the door.  He waved, and an old man shuffled his way into the tent.  “My Lords,” the old man nodded his head in a way that had been common among the RDF.  Quick and to the point.  “My name is Dyfyr, son of Peryf the Bowman.  I turned sixteen, and the first man from all of Dyfed to sign up for the RDF.  It has been a long and exciting life, and to this day I can’t seem to keep still, as my wife, my children and grandchildren will tell you.”  The old men in that room smiled for the old man.  They understood well enough.  “I was with Captain Gweir, son of Gwestel when he came to Cadbury to rebuild and strengthen the fort.  My wife is from the little village here beneath the hill.  We have a small home in the town and are comfortable enough.”

Arthur smiled, but interrupted.  “This is good, and I thank you for your years of service and loyalty, but I assume there is a point in all this.”

Gerraint jumped in.  “He is concerned about the Lady Gwynyvar.”

“Your wife.  Of course,” Dyfyr said.  “The point.”  He paused.  “The point is I know the fort from the inside to the outside, and there are ways, ways the workmen used, now boarded up.  Ways to get into the fort from the town that maybe I am the only person left alive who knows.”

“Ways soldiers can go?”

“Yes, certainly.  I was thinking if we came out from the stables and beneath the barn and at the back of the Great Hall all at once, we might secure the lady’s safety and capture the rebel without having to fight a battle.”

Arthur grinned.  Percival nodded.  Gerraint stood, because his expected delivery arrived.  “Gentlemen,” he said.  “I also have something to offer.”  Pinewood and Deerrunner had returned, and they had a cart outside the tent filled with boxes.  “Pinewood.  Please explain.”  Two men brought in one of the boxes and set it on the ground.

“As we saw events turning in the human world, it came to us that brother might well be fighting brother.  Men on both sides might end up killing their own men by accident, not knowing which is which.  That would be a needless waste.  I understand that even human eyes can tell the difference between the British, Scots and Saxons, but who can say which Welshman is fighting on which side?  We offer this solution.”  Pinewood opened a box and pulled out a pure white pullover poncho.  It had been sewn only at the waist so it would restrict neither the arms nor the legs, but it would be easy to identify.  “In our history, we have used similar devices to tell the good guys from the bad guys.”  Pinewood grinned at Gerraint.

“Like the Princess used outside of Athens,” Gerraint said.

“Something like that,” Deerrunner agreed with an elfish grin to more than match the fairy.

Percival felt the material.  “What is this made out of?”

“Fairy weave,” Gerraint said.  “That just means one size fits all.”

“But do you have enough?” Arthur asked.

“Three thousand for your men and more for those who attack the fort.”

“Wait a minute,” Arthur looked at Gerraint, who shrugged.  “We just heard about the fort.  We haven’t decided what to do about that yet.”

Dyfyr interrupted with Lancelot’s favorite expression stolen from Gerraint.  “Ours in not to reason why.  Ours is but to do or die.”

 M4 Gerraint: Little Britain, part 2 of 2

Gerraint tried to be more practical in his thinking.  “He will get men from the north, and maybe from the Scots, but I cannot imagine Gawain or Gwalchemi will support him.  They might not be able to aid us, but they might convince men to stay out of it.”

“York through the Midlands, and even through Leogria will not help him,” Percival added his perspective.  “So many places were all but deserted when Lancelot took men for Amorica, there is no longer much to draw on for either side.”  

“It was never my intention to strip Britain.”  Lancelot took a turn looking away from the others.

“But, all the same,” Gerraint said.  “Oxford is in the hands of Medrawt’s brother, Garth.  Plus, many Saxons have moved up into Britain to fill the empty spaces.  I hate to think he will appeal to them.”

“Medrawt with an army of Scots and Saxons.”  Arthur sounded morose. 

“But that is why he must be stopped,” Percival repeated.  “We need a war chief to keep the Saxons and Scots from taking over, not make the Roman mistake and invite them into our army.”

Arthur agreed.  “Medrawt will not be content with being a War Chief.  He will turn himself into a King, like Chlothar, and be just as ruthless and self-serving.  He doesn’t care about defending the land.  He will make wars of conquest, to subjugate people and make them serve his will.”  They became silent for a time until Gerraint spoke what sat heavily on their minds.  

“Maybe we were the ones who were too soft,” he said.  “Maybe the best defense is a good offence.”

“The Roman way was conquest,” Lancelot added.

Percival spoke.  “Maybe we should have followed up our victories on the battlefield, like we did with Kent, and forced terms on our enemies.”

“No.”  Arthur slammed his hand on the table.  “I refuse to believe that people cannot live side by side as good neighbors in peace.  We just now proved that is possible with Bohort.  We have been told to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies.  I don’t want to hear otherwise.”

People nodded, slowly, but Gerraint added a thought.  “Meryddin failed with you when you turned the nation to the church.  I believe Caledonia was more than just protecting his druids.  I believe he wanted you dead and planned to try again with Medrawt, your son.”

“Medrawt must be stopped,” Percival repeated. 

After that, people had six weeks to write letters and prepare themselves for crossing as soon as the weather broke.  Lancelot integrated the Alans with the Bretons as well as he could during that time.  There were indeed some incidents, but they were minor and could be dealt with.  He said nothing about any return to Britain, and in fact avoided Arthur after the time at the inn.

Gerraint wrote to Gwynyvar to explain things, and three days before they sailed, the Captain of one of the ships sent to retrieve Arthur’s army brought a new letter from Gwynyvar to Arthur.  It said she understood, that he was completely forgiven, that she missed him and please come home safe.  Arthur spent part of that day in tears.  He carried that burden a long time before the sins of his past caught up with him.

When they arrived in Britain, they landed at Bournmouth, the place Arthur christened Christchurch.  Southampton, always on the edge of Wessex, finally succumbed to Saxon control and would no longer be available to a British army.  Arthur felt more concerned about Wales than Southampton.  Medrawt spent years there, encouraging the Lords of Wales to enrich themselves by taking over the lands left behind by those who went to Amorica.  The Welsh spent the last ten years in a land grab.  The ones who came out on top were not slow to credit Medrawt with his foresight and ingenuity.  Arthur feared the payback would be supporting Medrawt’s rebellion.  He had no doubt that Medrawt told those Lords that if Arthur came out victorious, he would force them to give the land back.

Arthur’s contingent of Welshmen seemed meager compared to what it should have been.  He wrote to Ogryvan, Gwynyvar’s brother in the north and Morgana’s girls in the Welsh Midlands.  Gerraint wrote to Enid’s family in Caerdyf, and Uwaine wrote to his wife and his retainer, though he took forever to find enough of the right words to do it.  Still, Arthur expected too little response.  He decided his optimism died with his youth.

It took a week for all of the army to arrive at Christchurch.  They would march to Cadbury where Gwynyvar would be waiting, and from there, they planned out routes for what Gerraint called a show of force, provided enough additional men showed up to make the show worthwhile.  

Percival would take the British and march them to Oxford, north to York, and back through the Midlands and Leogria.  He had the longest route, but he hoped the show would encourage the British people and remind the Saxons who had moved in that this land was not New Saxony.  He would not be going into the north, but Arthur had received assurances from Gawain and Gwalchemi that the north remained secure.

Arthur would take his RDF and whatever Welsh he had and visit Ogryvan in the north of Wales.  Then he would visit any number of thieving Lords as he moved down the land, and assure them that if it ever came up, he would adjudicate the land situation fairly.  He hoped to undercut whatever promises Medrawt might have made to the various Welshmen.  He planned to end at Caerdyf and take the coastal road back to Caerleon.  

Gerraint would head down into the Summer country and weave around Somerset, Dorset and his own Devon, visiting friends and having a good time, he said.  When he sent his men back home, it would be with strict instructions to come on short notice if called.  They all figured that would be important because they had no idea when Medrawt might show up with whatever forces he might muster.

That was the plan, and given a chance, it might have staved off collapse, at least long enough for Arthur to die comfortably in his own bed.  But plans have a way of going awry, and some of the best plans never get off the ground.

************************

MONDAY

Things back home are not going well. Cadbury castle is already in enemy hands. Until next time, Happy Reading.

*

M4 Gerraint: Little Britain, part 1 of 2

They had a week of feasting, along with negotiating, before a final peace got concluded.  It took another week to return to the Amorican border where Lionel looked ready to pitch a fit.  Bohort brought along the three Frankish “leudes,” trusted older gentlemen who were willing to do their duty away from court.  He escorted them to their new homes, and he found local Bretons who were willing to help with the construction.  One settled just below the lake along the road to the port town.  One took the land by the main road at the edge of the Vivane forest.  The third built at the base of the Banner Bain where the old south coastal road headed toward the Atlantique province.  All the main ways in or out of Amorica were covered, and those men with their Frankish followers and soldier and the Breton locals began first to build the great towers, and then the manor homes, and then the great barns since the Frankish Lords all expected to take the Bretons as tenants to farm the land.

Bohort went home happy.  Arthur, not so happy, because the bulk of his army got trapped because of the winter storms.  It was not that a channel crossing became impossible.  Trade continued in the winter.  But the channel tended toward rough seas even in good weather.  There were more wrecks in winter than other times of the year, and it just did not seem smart to try to move a whole army across the channel in November.

Most of the men did not mind.  Percival summed things up when he said he expected all along that they would stay until spring.  They came over in September, after all, and he did not expect them to conclude their business before the weather.  Age taught him that things always take longer than you expect.  Arthur and Gerraint razzed him, because Percival was the youngest.

Arthur felt more than unhappy when the Alans showed up.  As part of the package, Chlothar convinced Bohort to take a few Alan horsemen who were making themselves a nuisance in the Burgundian province.  Those few turned out to be a whole tribe, a thousand men on horse with their wives and children.  Lancelot and Lionel did their best to break up the group and spread them around liberally though the countryside on the principle that no single place could sustain more than three thousand people.  They helped them build or rebuild certain villages.  They found Bretons among the older, Amorican population who claimed Alan blood from an earlier settlement—from the day when Attila the Hun got overthrown.  These men and women were glad to help their new kinsmen work the farms and generally made sure they understood they were citizens, not fedoratti.  For their part, Lancelot and Lionel were amazed at what the Alans could do with a simple spear from horseback.  They looked forward to training them to the lance.

Lionel feared there would be problems with the majority British population, not to mention the older Amorican population, the Alans not being able to speak the same language and all.  Gerraint wondered how many words and phrases from the old German would sneak into the vocabulary over time and subtly change the language into a primarily Celtic but subtly influenced tongue.  Lancelot feared they might insist on power sharing, or local autonomy.  Arthur feared they would make it impossible for his people and Lancelot to go home.

In mid-January, Arthur, Lancelot, Gerraint and Percival met together in a port town inn.  Arthur felt frustrated and itched to go.  He tried one last time to convince Lancelot to join them, but Lancelot explained his position.  He said his first duty was to his family, and Bohort and Lionel were as close to family as he got.  Even if he wanted to return to Britain, most of the men who came over with him twelve years earlier brought or fetched their families and were now settled and invested in this new land.  This was where family members died, fathers and brothers, in defense of the land.  He doubted many of them would want to go back.

“And I asked nicely and everything,” Gerraint complained.  Everyone ignored him.  Arthur had some communication in his hand and pondered over what it might mean and looked worried.  Percival finally asked.

“Is it bad news?”

Arthur let the velum roll up before he looked up at Gerraint.  “It is from Gwynyvar.  She says she heard from Gwenhwyfach.  She says Gwenhwyfach is claiming that Medrawt is my son.”  He looked at Percival.  “She doesn’t say, of course that is preposterous, or obviously it can’t be true.  She asks, is it true?”  He paused and looked back at Gerraint, and then at Lancelot.  “What can I tell her?”

“Of course, it can’t be true,” Percival said.

“Just tell her it isn’t true,” Lancelot agreed.

“But it is true,” Arthur admitted and looked again at Gerraint.  “You tell them.”

Gerraint did not mind.  Arthur turned his face away from the others.

“We were up by the wall, that night before we invaded Caledonia.  Arthur got up in the middle of the night.  I don’t remember why.  I don’t know if you ever told me why.”  He looked at Arthur, but Arthur added nothing and would not even look at them, so he continued.  

“Anyway, that doesn’t matter.  I heard the rustling in the wind.  Maybe it was a little one that woke me.  I don’t know.  But I woke up and found a great mist had covered the whole area, and it sounded like something was out there.  I needed to see, so Danna, the goddess herself volunteered to step into my shoes.  Maybe she sensed something I could not sense.  Of course, the mist was no deterrent to her eyes.  Arthur and Gwenhwyfach were on the ground, naked, having just made love, and they were both utterly blinded by enchantment.  I imagined neither one of them could help themselves and maybe did not even know what they were doing.”

“Who?”  Lancelot wanted to know who enchanted them.  He started getting angry, but he did not get angry at Arthur.  He got angry for Arthur.

“Meryddin.  Anyway, I sent Gwenhwyfach home, or rather Danna did, and she also sent home the half-dozen assassins Meryddin had hired for after the act.  I think he wanted to save his precious Scots and Picts from Arthur’s invasion.  It took almost two months before we heard Gwenhwyfach got pregnant.  There is no proof that he is Arthur’s son, but given Medrawt’s birthday and counting the months, it does coincide pretty well.

“Meryddin ran off the next day and disappeared for a long time,” Percival said.  “Maybe he knew he got caught and feared what might happen.”

“No.  He got to see himself in a mirror, to see what he really looked like and what was inside of him.  He was one quarter djin.  That is an evil creature that lives by torturing people in their minds and hearts and consuming their tormented souls.  Let us say he scared himself and probably went half-mad for a time.  It was the Lady of the Lake that healed him as much as he was healed.”

“So, Arthur and Gwenhwyfach were enchanted and not in control of what they were doing,” Lancelot said.

“Essentially,” Gerraint confirmed.  “Arthur.”

Arthur sighed.  “I can’t tell Gwynyvar I was not in control of myself and could not help what I did.”

“No need,” Gerraint told him.  “I will tell her, and also that Medrawt might be yours, but he might not.”  He paused while Arthur crunched the communication in his hand.  “But somehow I don’t think that is all you have to tell us.”

“It seems Gwenhwyfach is telling everyone that Medrawt is my son, and he is using that to raise an army to take over the realm.  Now we have a rebellion on our hands, and frankly, I am old.  I would just give it to him, but Medrawt only cares about Medrawt, and he would ruin everything.”

“He has to be stopped,” Percival said.  Lancelot said nothing. 

M4 Gerraint: The Frankish Peace, part 4 of 4

“Lord Birch.” Gerraint turned to the fairy.

Lord Birch made a short bow.  “I have people ready to move as soon as they get the word.  When Chlothar leaves Soissons, they will bring him and his select retinue here in a day.”

“That is five or six days before his army gets here,” Gerraint pointed out.

“Well, that should shake him up, anyway,” Percival said.

“And there is this,” Gerraint smiled.  “I hesitated to say this, because I don’t want him to get a swelled head, but I have talked to quite a few Franks in the past weeks, antrustiones and pueri, and I would not underestimate the name of Arthur.  Saxons talk, you know.  And here, the Franks thought they had you with a two to one advantage and an easy road to victory, but Arthur shows up and the Franks end up running for their lives.”

“Uh, Lord Birch.  Any chance you can get us back to Amorica in a day should that become necessary?” Bohort had to ask.

Gerraint looked at Percival and they shouted together, “For Arthur!”  All the men in that tent echoed the shout, and Arthur gave Lancelot and Bohort a strange look.  Lancelot answered the look.

“Old habits are hard to break.”

The Bretons arrived at the gates of Paris on the next day.  Childebert made a show of drawing his horsemen up in front of the gate, but then he waited.  He was not going to start anything, at least not until Chlothar came to back him up. He expected that would be a few days.

Chlothar himself arrived the next mid-afternoon at about three o’clock.  He just appeared suddenly in front of Gerraint’s tent with twenty men on horseback who looked very confused.  Gerraint sat, relaxing on a chair, waiting.  Gerraint’s men were all around, watchful, but he told them to make no hostile moves.  He hoped Chlothar’s men reciprocated.

“Chlothar,” Gerraint stood up and smiled.  “I’ll be with you in a minute.”  He practiced his Saxon as he imagined it was a language Chlothar would know.  He knew, the gifts his little one’s gave him so long ago included the gift to understand and be understood, no matter the language, but like the little ones themselves, he refused to depend on those gifts, though he was grateful at times when the little ones were willing to help.

Lord Birch’s seven fee came in their hunter’s outfits and knelt to Gerraint.  “Lord,” they called him.

Gerraint shook his head and said, “Please stand.  I want to thank you for this special work in bringing our guests here safely.  Now, I know it goes against etiquette, but please get small and return to Lord Birch for whatever other instructions he may have.

“Lord,” they repeated the phrase, and got small and fluttered off.  Some of Gerraint’s own men raised an eyebrow at that.  Chlothar’s men became more confused than ever, but Chlothar, and a few merely nodded.  Chlothar dismounted, so the rest followed.

“Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Gerraint, son of Erbin.”  He reached out and Chlothar reluctantly shook Gerraint’s hand as a man behind whispered in Chlothar’s ear.  Chlothar gripped a little harder before he let go and spoke.

“I have heard of you.”

“Only good, I hope.”  Gerraint smiled.  “But come, I have others I want you to meet.”  He began to walk while the man at Chlothar’s ear continued to whisper.  The Franks led their horses, as long as no one came to take them.  Gerraint hated himself for doing it, but he listened in to what the man was whispering.  The man was a Gallo-Roman and filling Chlothar in on his estimation of the disposition of Gerraint’s troops.

“We are your prisoners?”  Chlothar brushed the man from his ear.

“You are our guests.  Your brother Childebert is lounging around in front of the gate to Paris with about two thousand horsemen.  I imagine he is waiting for your army to show up.  He doesn’t have much initiative, I would guess.”

“No,” Chlothar admitted.  “But tell me, if we are your guests, what if we decide to ride out and visit my brother?”

Gerraint stopped and faced the man. “No one will stop you.  We can fight, if you want to waste your men and ours.  But at least come and listen first to what my friends have to say.  I think you will find it worth your while.”

“And what do you have to say?” Chlothar looked hard at Gerraint, no doubt a practiced look, but it did not faze Gerraint.

“Larchmont!” Gerraint called.  The fairy appeared, full sized, but Gerraint tapped his shoulder.  “Come and sit.  I have to ask you some questions.”

“Lord.”  Larchmont, a good looking, blond headed young man got small and took a seat on Gerraint’s shoulder.  Chlothar and the others looked surprised again, as if they had forgotten.

“Right now, I am just an observer,” Gerraint told Chlothar.  “The two you need to talk to are in here.”  He pointed to the tent as Uwaine and Bedivere stepped up and opened the tent doors.  “Only four, please.  The tent is not too big.”

Chlothar stopped and pointed to four men, one of which was the Gallo-Roman.  They entered and Gerraint introduced the others.  Bohort, King of Amorica and Lancelot, his right hand.  Arthur, Pendragon of Britain, Wales and Cornwall, and Percival, his brother.

The eyes of the Franks got as big on the word Arthur as they did on seeing the fairies.  Chlothar stuck out his hand.  “It is an honor.”  After that, the ideas were presented in short order, and as Gerraint had suggested, every advantage of a friendly neighbor got underlined while the disadvantages of conquest were plainly stated.

Gerraint stood up and went to the door and Chlothar stood as well.  “You must wait,” Chlothar said.  “My brother must hear this.  You talk to my men.”  He followed Gerraint outside and gave a command.  “Conrad.  Take three men and fetch Childebert, alone.  No, he can bring that dotty old priest with him, but no more.”  He paused.

A jousting pole had been set up not far away.  Chlothar’s men were fascinated.  The Cornish were using the lances with the cushioned ends, since they did not want men injured who might need to go into battle, but it made a rough sport all the same.

“Two coppers on Marcus,” Uwaine said.

“Taken,” Bedivere answered.  He pulled out two coins and groused when Marcus unseated his opponent.  A couple of Chlothar’s men saw and laughed.  Chlothar, being of a military mind, instinctively saw the benefit of such training.

“You have well trained men,” he commented.

“Yes,” Gerraint agreed.  “But I am more interested in the women.  I was just about to ask Larchmont what the women were like in Paris.”  Chlothar looked, like he had forgotten Gerraint had a fairy on his shoulder.

“Dull and mindless,” Larchmont said.  “They spend all of their time in fancy dress and parties, like the world is no bigger than their boudoir.  I think there is only one female brain in all of the city and the women take turns using it.”

Chlothar laughed.  “Exactly my thinking.”

Gerraint laughed as well, but then said, “I think you better go see what Birch is up to, and tell Galoren, Baran and Gemstone to stand down for now.  I hope these men will be able to work things out for everyone’s benefit.

“Very good, Lord.”  Larchmont sped off.

“These others?” Chlothar asked.

“Elf King, dwarf King and goblin King.”

“How is it that you…”

“They are friends.  Sometimes I have an opportunity to ask them for help, and they are good enough to oblige.  But I have a feeling you really want to ask me something else.”

Chlothar looked up.  “The Lion of Cornwall.  I should have guessed from your height, you know.”

“I am, but I have gotten old now.  It is something we all do, even kings.”

“Yes, but Arthur?”

“He brought just a few men to help a friend.  That is something you must also consider, but if you decide on peace and friendship, it is Bohort with whom you must speak.”

“I understand.  But I will say this.  Arthur is the only man on earth I would not like to fight.”

Gerraint smiled.  “I think you will find friendship with Great Britain and Little Britain is much better.”

Chlothar nodded and remained silent for a minute.  Then he turned and pointed at the joust.  “Tell me about this game your men are playing.”

 

 

M4 Gerraint: The Frankish Peace, part 3 of 4

Someone, not Charles because he died in the first strike, got to his horse and decided the battle had been lost.  He rode off, and near two thousand Franks followed him. Arthur and Bohort met in the center, and Arthur said something that raised Bohort’s eyebrows.

“Now we chase them.”

“What?  For how long?”

“All the way to Paris if necessary,” Arthur said.

“They will never stop unless they are forced to sit and make peace,” Gerraint added.  He and Arthur discussed it.  Arthur had been against it at first until Percival pointed out that if Amorica had a guarantee of peace, Lancelot might be willing to lead some of his men back to Britain.

“But who will hold the land and defend the border?” Bohort asked.  He felt trapped in the idea of defending the land and could not see alternatives.

“The best defense is a good offense,” Gerraint said.

“Can I quote you on that?”  Bedivere asked.  He and Uwaine had come up to join the conference.

“The Franks have two armies on the German border, north and south, in Swabia” Arthur said, having already talked to Lord Birch.  “They have more men in the Atlantique province and an army down in Aquataine, by the Burgundian border.  It made good sense for the Franks to let the sons of Claudus do the hard work against Amorica.”

Gerraint looked at Bohort, his friend.  “My scouts tell me the road to Paris is wide open and undefended.”

“Your scouts?” Bohort asked, and then remembered.  “Oh.”

“We go,” Arthur said, and he started out at a trot.  His men turned with him.  Only Gerraint, Uwaine and Bedivere waited on Bohort to make a decision.  They listened to the man swear, before he shouted.

“Bedwin.  You and your men bring the prisoners up to Lionel and then you can follow.  Tell Lionel to hold the line and kill any Franks who try to escape.  We will be a week.”  He saw Gerraint shake his head and hold up two fingers.  “Make that two weeks.”  He turned to Gerraint and could not help the sarcasm.  “After you, your majesty.”

“Thank you, your majesty.”  Gerraint returned the compliment, and the sarcasm, but with a smile.

Lancelot was not content with holding the line with the foot soldiers.  They had plenty of serviceable horses taken from Charles and deGuise.  He found seven hundred men who were reasonably good on horseback, and that gave him and Bedwin a thousand to follow Arthur.

Lionel spent the time grousing.  He did not want to have to guard three thousand Franks for the next two weeks. Arthur’s men had no interest in doing that, either.  Lionel spent a week carting all the Frankish leaders and chiefs to the nearest jails and prisons.  The rest of the Franks he kept there, on the fields, in the open.  He let them build fires, put up tents and gave them blankets.  He also gave them food to cook, once a day at noon.  But that was it.

The elves Ringwald and Heurst found Lionel early on and offered to hold the line at the trees in case any Franks got the idea that sneaking off into the woods as a way of escape.  Lionel was grateful, but he had to ask, “Does Gerraint know you are volunteering?”

“We don’t have to ask permission,” Lupen, the grumpy old fairy King said.  “We might get in trouble if we overstep our bounds, but I have met you, and you seem a reasonable man for one so very young.  I am sure you can keep this between you and me.  I mean, he can hardly complain.  He has Birch and young Larchmont flying all over the countryside.”

Lady LeFleur stepped up and spoke more to the point.  “Manskin, the King of the dark elves will watch the Frankish perimeter between sundown and sunrise.  Best you keep your men back in the night.  Ringwald and Heurst will stay in the trees during the day.  I understand your orders are to kill any who try to escape.”  Lionel nodded.  “I can assure you; none will escape by the forest or in the night.  Come along, Lupen.”

“Dear.”  The fairies left, and Lionel got down to planning.

Arthur’s foot soldiers pushed as far into Frankish lands as was reasonable, about half a day’s march.  They found a place where they could ambush the enemy on the road, and they waited in case Arthur reached a point where he had to make a hasty retreat.

Lionel kept the men in the center, to guard the prisoners, certainly, but also to guard the border.  He sent five hundred men to the lake, with orders to secure the road that lead to the port town, and also to patrol the coastal road.  DeGuise found a way down that coastal road with a thousand horsemen.  Lionel did not want any repeats.  Lionel also sent five hundred to the base of the Bringloren, the forest of the Banner Bain, to keep an eye on the Atlantique province and to hold the southern coastal road.  The Franks in the Atlantique were still an occupation force and that meant they pretty much had to stay where they were, but Lionel imagined they might try an end run in the south the way deGuise did in the north.  Then all of those men waited for Bohort, their King to return.

Gerraint lead the way down the Paris road, having done something similar back when they faced Claudus.  He drove the Franks ahead of him as refugees and burned the villages.  He only killed a few of the men who resisted.  Most of them he disarmed and drove off with a warning that they should be grateful being let go this one and only time.  The few he killed made the point.

There were two towns with walls on the route, but he bypassed them, not wanting to slow things down.   He gave warning that if they did not get satisfaction from the Frankish Kings, they would be back to burn the town and kill any who resisted.  He left them alone, but he set Larchmont as rear guard to watch for any enterprising young Lord or townspeople who might be tempted to come out and follow them.  At the same time, Gerraint hoped word that they wanted to talk with the king went ahead of him.

The two thousand Franks who escaped and rode away from the battle, and sometimes some locals with them, set numerous traps and ambushes along their route.  Lord Birch did not get fooled.  Those traps and ambushes were invariably turned on the Franks with dire consequences for the Franks.  Gerraint hoped that word went out front as well, and apparently, some information went ahead of them, because as they approached Paris, they found the villages deserted by the time they arrived.

While Gerraint watched over their progress, Bohort and Arthur argued until they hammered out an acceptable peace.  Arthur insisted they have some negotiable points where they could be seen giving the Franks some of what they wanted.

“The object here, as I see it,” Lancelot mused out loud.  “Is to get a peace agreement that both sides will keep, not to make a stone around the neck where one side has all the advantage over the other.”

“Border watch is sensible,” Arthur insisted.  “Representatives of the Franks that regularly renew the pledge of peace.  I would not suggest it, but I imagine they will insist on something.”

“I’m not sure I can be comfortable having Frankish Lords on my border, looking over my shoulder,” Bohort said.

“We have to be honest about this,” Lancelot continued.  “The Franks would leave their other borders at risk, but they could call up twice what the Saxons brought to Badon if they wanted.”

“There are ways to work things out, especially if there are men committed to peace on both sides of the border,” Arthur said.

“Marriage is a classic way to peace,” Uwaine said, and all eyes turned to him.  “Or so Gerraint tells me.”

“Saxon wife,” Percival pointed at Uwaine.

“Oh?” Bohort was interested.  “Does she?”

“Yes,” Uwaine said.

“Two sons and two daughters,” Percival added, and then Bohort had to think through some options.

“Gentlemen.”  Gerraint stuck his head into the big tent.  “We have news from Lord Birch.”  He got followed by a man dressed in plain hunter’s fare, but everyone knew he was not a plain hunter.

“Childebert, King in Paris has appealed to his brother Chlothar in Soissons for help.  The army in Austrasia is on the Frisian border, but Chlothar has some five thousand men at his call, mostly antrustiones with their pueri and they will be at Paris in about a week.”

“He has what?”  Bohort did not understand the terms

“Aristocrats, lords and rich men, often on horseback, with their peasant soldiers.” Percival explained.  He had taken the time to discuss thing with Gerraint who understood these things.

“The trustees are the king’s personal bodyguards.  They don’t have near the training, but you might think of them as Frankish RDF,” Uwaine added.  He listened when Gerraint talked.

“I don’t know,” Arthur said. “Childebert already has a reported four thousand men and another two thousand on the walls of the city.  That is already a match for our numbers.”

“By himself, Childebert might be able to turn us away from Paris,” Lancelot concurred.

“No.  You are missing the point,” Gerraint said.  “Chlothar is the brother you want to make peace with.  Theudebert, his son. rules Austrasia with Chlothar’s blessing.  Chlothar has already taken Orleans, since the death of his brother, Choldomer.  Childebert rules Paris and the immediate area, but he is surrounded by land ruled by Chlothar, and he knows it.”

“But with five thousand men added to what Childebert already has and we don’t stand much of a chance,” Bohort sounded calm about it.

“If we turn back now, the Franks will see that as weakness,” Lancelot countered.

“We have made our point, that we can hurt them,” Arthur said.

“You are still missing the point,” Gerraint interrupted.  “We talk to Chlothar.  Tell him we only want to make an acceptable peace.  As long as the Franks leave us alone, we will leave them alone.  Look at the advantages for him.  He will have one border he won’t have to waste men defending.  In fact, as a friend, Amorica can open up trade for the Franks with Cornwall, Wales, Britain, even Ireland.  That can bring riches to his lands.  Amorica still has a fine fleet.  It can help guard the Atlantique against Visigoths and Vandals, and the Channel against Saxons, Frisians, and Picts.  Look, with Amorica as a friend, he has everything to gain and nothing to lose.  You just need to explain that in a way he will understand.”

“But so many men,” Bohort did not sound convinced.

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MONDAY

First, they have to make peace with the Franks.  Then Arthur and his men are stuck in Little Britain for the winter, and find no help for the home-front.  Until then, Happy Reading

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