M3 Gerraint: Epilogue

Gerraint, and all of the people with him, took the last ship from Avalon of the Apples.  They made a turn toward a stable harbor on Avalon proper.  Water sprites danced on the sea as they approached.  Mermaids and mermen made fast the ship at the docks.  Elves helped them disembark and dwarfs gave the ship the once over, Luckless waving to one of them like an old friend.  An ogre stood guard at the door and in the shadows, a goblin waited to record the names of all the visitors.  But despite all of these wonders, every eye looked up the cliff face to the castle of the Kairos, the palace of limitless spires and towers where the great kings and queens of all the little ones lived and rested from their labors.

“Castle Perilous,” Lancelot called it.

“Castle Turning,” Arthur said.

“Lunch,” Luckless had a different name.

“That’s not what we’re here for,” Gerraint said.

“I’ve heard it said the castle turns to always present a different face to the enemy,” Bedivere said.

Gerraint shook his head.  “Alice realigns things now and then, but that is really like rearranging the furniture.”

“And why shouldn’t she?”  Enid came up with Guimier who was delightedly pointing out everyone, including the ogre.

Gwynyvar could not look at the ogre, or the dark elf behind the book.  “And why have we come?” she asked.

“I have to speak with Guimier’s brother of a sort,” Gerraint said, and he took them to a comfortable room where they could have some privacy.  Then he called, and he put plenty of emphasis in it to be sure he got obeyed.  “Talesin.” The fairy who had just enough blood of the goddess in him to be immortal and to not be uncomfortable being big for long periods of time, appeared in a corner.

“Were those your hands that carried the cauldron across the round table?”  Gerraint started right in and did not make nice first.

“Maybe,” Talesin said.

“Was this search for the cauldron your idea, or did some other put you up to it?” Gerraint asked.

“My idea, some, maybe.  Maybe not, no, not alone,” Talesin hedged.  He started sweating.  Gerraint turned toward the others in the room.

“Has the search for the Graal been a good thing for the kingdom, or not?” he asked the others.

“Mostly,” Gwynyvar said.

“It has given the young ones some taste of adventure and kept them off our backs for a time,” Lancelot spoke straight.

“It has given the headaches to the church for a change and left my meager bits of a treasury alone,” Arthur admitted.

“Overall,” Uwaine said.  “Though we’ve been through a bit to keep it from going the wrong way.”

“Very true,” Trevor said.  Gwillim stayed quiet, still trying to swallow all that he saw and had seen.

Gerraint nodded and turned again to Talesin.   “Come here.”  Talesin swallowed like Gwillim but came like one who had been through this often.  He even turned around and presented himself.  Gerraint gave him one whack on the rump, but it was a good one.  They could see it on Talesin’s face and several winced when they heard the slap.  “Get thee to a,” and Gerraint had to pause.  “Monastery,” he said, and added, “Now we go home.”

“That’s it?”  Talesin protested.  “Aren’t you going to do any more than that?  I sweated all this time and that’s it?”

“Anticipation son.  It is the worst.”  Arthur gave some hard-earned advice.

Talesin walked out, red with embarrassment.

“Monastery,” Gerraint shouted after him.  Then he made two archways appear in the room, or Alice did.  It felt hard to say, exactly.

“Two ways?”  Bedivere asked.

“Luckless and Lolly.”  Gerraint nodded and pointed to one.  “A way back to the Continent.  “You have things to do ahead that don’t involve lying about with Rhiannon and her court.”

“Lord?”  Lolly wondered, but Luckless took her hand.

“I’ll explain it to you when we get there.”  Luckless said, and they vanished with the door.

“This other door?”  Gwillim wondered.  He finally, honestly, questioned everything.

“Cadbury Castle,” Gerraint said.  “I think Arthur owes us one good meal before we go home.”

“And a hot bath,” Enid added.  Gerraint nodded, but Guimier turned up her nose.

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Tomorrow:  In anticipation, a sneak peak at The Kairos Medieval, book 3 (M3), A Light in the Dark Ages, the story of Margueritte: The Old Way has Gone.  It is the story of a young girl growing up in the middle ages, the dark ages, and… Well… Wait and see.  Happy Reading

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M3 Gerraint: Tara to Avalon, part 4 of 4

The door shut and the two sides drew swords and went at it, Gwillim kept himself and Trevor in reserve, to step in where they might be needed.  Certainly, Gwillim knew Trevor was no soldier.

Peredur and Bedivere together disarmed Pelenor and Ederyn soon enough.  The hearts of the old men were not in it.  Uwaine and Lancelot dispatched the two men at arms, wounding them, one grievously.  Arthur disarmed the druid. who clearly had little practice with his sword.  Gerraint noticed Mesalwig when Mesalwig looked ready to stab Arthur in the back, but he got too busy with Urien to do anything other than shout.  Fortunately, Macreedy caught Mesalwig first, before he could strike a blow and before Arthur knew what was happening.  Mesalwig would not get up again.  Arthur seemed surprised, but not surprised, and chided himself for not recognizing the traitorous signs ahead of time.

Gerraint stopped.  Urien stopped.  They were the last, and Gerraint apologized.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I swore.”  Gerraint went into the time stream and Danna took his place.  Urien did not even have time to scream before his flesh simply turned to dust.  Danna began to cry.  Uwaine stood right there to throw his arms around her and let her cry on his shoulder.  Manannan also appeared, and after a moment he took his mother to a seat.  She patted his hand.  He was a quiet boy, stoic and stubborn, but a good grandson.  Llyr and Pendaron’s son, she remembered.  Manannan nodded and vanished before Gwyn and Pwyll came back in with the others.  Gerraint returned, but he felt very heavy.  He stayed seated.

“That didn’t take long,” Gwyn almost complained.

“And I missed it all,” Luckless did complain.

“Lucky for them,” Lolly said as she took his arm.  They could almost see his head visibly swell.

Gwyn had Guimier and went back to trying to explain that her name was his in the feminine form.  Guimier didn’t care about that, but she liked his yellow beard.

“So you see.”  Pwyll explained to the ladies.  “I am bored beyond words.”

Enid spoke in response.  “When Gerraint first mentioned you, I was frightened, just a little, but now I see you are really a very nice man.”

“Indeed.”  Gwynyvar agreed and the ladies each took one arm.

“How about you, druid?”  Pwyll looked up.  Bedivere was currently tying up the man with the ropes that had once held Enid.  The druid looked over, but he looked scared almost to death, now knowing who he was looking at.  “Perhaps you should go with me.”  Pwyll lowered his gaze just a little and the druid let out a little whimper.

“But why?”  Peredur sat at the table with his old friend.

“I am old,” Pelenor said.  They were seated.  “How could I resist a chance at the Cauldron of Life?  I would give anything not to get old.”  Ederyn nodded slightly, but it was clear that he came mostly to support his friend.

“But it is not so bad to get old,” Arthur said.

“It is the way of things,” Trevor said.

“You don’t know.”  Pelenor’s voice rose.  He put out his hand and they watched it shake.  “But someday you will understand.  Someday.”

“Even dying is not so hard,” Gerraint said.

“How would you know?”  Pelenor shot at him.

“Because I have done it nearly a hundred times,” he said.  “Besides, it is the way of things, as Trevor said.”

“And for us all, apparently,” Pwyll said as he seated the ladies.  Everyone looked at him, so he continued.  “I have grown tired of beating Gwyn at chess.”

“What?  Never.”  Gwyn protested, but it was kindly spoken.

“I have decided it is time to make the journey over to the other side.  I would be honored if you would join me.”  He spoke this last to Pelenor.

Pelenor looked up.

“It would be a great adventure,” Macreedy said.  Some looked his way, as he clearly had something in mind.

“It might not be so bad,” Ederyn said.

“I could go with you,” Peredur suggested, and his hand went once more, unbidden to his lips.

Pelenor looked around the room, and at last nodded.  “Perhaps it is a cure,” he said.  “Even if not, I could use the much-needed rest.”  Then his whole countenance fell.  “I am tired.”  He spent his last word on Gerraint.  “God, son, how can you stand it more than once?”  He stood.

Peredur stood as well, and after a moment, Ederyn joined them.  “We’re ready,” Peredur said.

“And me,” Macreedy walked over to stand beside them.

“Macreedy, don’t be daft.”  Gwillim spoke loud and clear, and Trevor nodded, but the druid also spoke.

“They’re all mad,” he said.

Pwyll shook Gerraint’s hand for them all.  “It’s been great, but as I explained to the Ladies, I’ve been terribly bored since my livelihood was taken.”  Gerraint traded places with Danna once more and gave Pwyll a great hug.

“Gwyn?”  Danna looked at the other.

“Not just yet, mother,” Gwyn said.  “I think I’ll watch over Macreedy’s daughters for a time.”

“Bridgid has been sent on,” Danna said.  “And I have told her I will be closing the door.”

“Aye, but there are ways,” Gwyn said with a smile.  He turned to go.

“Ahem!”  Enid held her hands out.  Gwyn pretended embarrassment and handed her Guimier.  To be honest, he would have been happy to have the little girl accompany him back to Tara.  He paused at the door.

Pwyll put his arms around Pelenor and Peredur.  Ederyn and Macreedy followed behind as they turned their backs on the world and walked into the hall.  They began to fade.  None, except perhaps Lolly with her good ears could quite hear what Pwyll said as they faded from sight.  Everyone caught a glimpse of light and smelled something like Hyacinth.  Then they were gone, and Danna went to tears again.

Gwyn left quietly and headed toward the boat.

“Pardon.  His job?”  Bedivere had to ask.

Danna and the druid answered together.  “God of the dead.”

“And you are?”  The druid asked in a very surly voice.  Danna said nothing.  She just looked at the man.  She said nothing until all at once when his eyes got big as he realized who he was looking at.

“I am Gerraint, son of Erbin,” she said.  “And a Christian, though my wife claims I have never been especially devout.”  Danna looked at Enid, smiled and went home.  Gerraint returned without pause, but the smile never left his lips.

One of Urien’s men died.  The other, with the use of one arm, brought the druid.

“Time to go home,” Arthur said, and they all felt the same.

“One child, two ladies, two dwarfs, two prisoners, and seven men survivors.”  Bedivere counted again.

“Not bad, considering we stormed the gates of Heaven,” Lancelot said, and he put a friendly hand on the young man’s shoulder.

M3 Gerraint: Tara to Avalon, part 3 of 4

Gerraint came around when the sun returned, but this time it came as a more normal sunrise.  Granted, the sun reached near noon in only a couple of hours, but it appeared relatively normal all the same.

“Land!”  Lolly was the first to shout.

“Land!”  Trevor echoed from the helm.

“Make ready to come ashore,” Macreedy shouted.  “Lower the sail, and be quick.”  Everyone helped, and not especially quick, but from the way the land grew in their sight, it seemed as if they were in a speed boat.  Before then, no one knew how fast they were really going.

“We’re going to crash.”  Gwynyvar hid her face in her hands.

“Keep her dead on.”  Macreedy ordered.  Trevor did not argue, but he closed his eyes.  Gwillim already started praying.  Arthur and Lancelot had Gwynyvar between them in case they were needed to cushion her fall when they crashed.  Uwaine came up to stand in the bow beside Gerraint.  Bedivere and old Peredur followed.  Gerraint, however, turned and got Luckless’ attention.

“Keep watch over your charge,” he said and made sure that Lolly also heard.  Arthur and Lancelot were both hard in battle, but they were fish out of water themselves, and could hardly be counted on to protect the Lady.

“Lord,” Luckless acknowledged the reminder.

The dock came up fast.  Uwaine and Peredur involuntarily squinted, expecting a terrible crash.  Bedivere had to look to the side, but as it turned out, they missed the dock and it now looked as if they were going to crash right up on the shore.  Everyone held on to whatever they could grab, but the ship came to an instant and absolute stop, their momentum and inertia rose up in something like a bubble and rushed into the sky, while not one of them so much as leaned forward at the stop.

“You missed the dock.”  Gerraint pointed out that they landed nearly a foot away.

Macreedy and Gerraint went to throw ropes around the posts and heave the boat closer to the planks.  “Amateur at the rudder,” Macreedy said.  “And don’t rub it in.”

Gerraint laughed, while the others came up to help, and soon enough they were up on the dock and headed toward the shore.

“Keep together and watch your back.”  Arthur gave some general instructions as they began to walk down the dock.  They stopped a few feet before the end.  Two men waited there.  One looked blond, middle aged and dressed like a king.  The other looked dark, dressed in black, and as old as Peredur.  No one knew them until Gerraint squinted.

“Gwyn?”  He guessed at the younger one.

“And Pwyll.”  The older man gave his name.  Gerraint would have never guessed since he had aged so much.

“Enid?”  Gerraint asked

“At the house.”  Gwyn smiled.  “Safe enough.”  He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.

“The treasures?”  Arthur asked.

“Safe,” Pwyll answered.

“That Formor wanna-be, Abraxas left when he knew you were coming,” Gwyn said, and he added a word.  “Coward.”

“And Talesin has gone into hiding,” Pwyll said, but he smiled.

“The ghostly hands and cauldron.”  Uwaine put two and two together.  Arthur and Lancelot looked up, stern anger on their faces.  But Pwyll and Gwyn laughed.

“Fat lotta good it will do him,” Gerraint said.  He began to walk up toward the house and everyone followed.

“How many are there?”  Bedivere asked.  Lancelot looked.  He should have thought to ask that question.

“Well young squire,” Gwyn said, affably.  “I should say eight, but I suppose you mean six.  There is old Pelenor and his friend Ederyn, the Raven and his druid, and two men at arms who follow the Raven.”

“Nine on six is not bad,” Arthur said.

“Eleven,” Macreedy corrected him.

“Ten,” Luckless said without explanation, but he and Lolly were side by side with Gwynyvar, and Luckless fingered his ax.

The house appeared a simple thatched cottage from the outside.  It seemed an idyllic scene, like the home of a gentle fisherman and his wife, set out to overlook the sea.  There were even flowers in the garden.  Gerraint knew better.  He opened the door without knocking, and they stepped into a vast hall where they saw row after row of great oak tables and a vast, distant fire burning in a great stone fireplace in the center of the room.

Enid looked tied to a chair at a nearby table, and gagged.  Guimier was allowed to play at her mother’s feet.  Four men sat around the table on all four sides, like men arguing four different propositions, which they were.  The two men at arms held back, but kept an eye on the mother and child.

As the company entered, Pelenor looked up, but his eyes looked defeated already.  Ederyn smiled, briefly.  The druid stood suddenly, having been seated across from the lady. His chair fell back and clattered to the floor while the druid fingered his sword, but he did not draw it.  Urien quickly drew his knife and placed it at Enid’s throat.

“You’re supposed to be dead,” Urien said through his teeth.

Arthur and his men spread out.  Luckless and Lolly kept Gwynyvar by the door.  Her impulse had been to run to her friend, but of course, that would have been foolish.

Gwyn and Pwyll stepped up beside Gerraint.  “Cannot interfere, you know,” Gwyn whispered in Gerraint’s ear.

“I would like a visit with this lovely child, though,” Pwyll said.  Guimier began to rise from the floor.  The men at arms looked at each other, but did not know what to do.  Gummier giggled and floated into Pwyll’s arms.  Everyone stared, but Guimier shouted.

“Daddy!”  Gerraint touched his daughter and smiled.

“Thank you Pwyll,” Gerraint said, and Pwyll nodded, tickled Guimier in the stomach and looked on her like a grandfather might look on a favorite grandchild.

“Now tell me about this doll of yours,” Pwyll said, as the stepped back outside.

“Yes,” Gwyn said, eyeing his brother god.  “Now that he mentions it, I would like a little talk with this woman of yours.”  He winked at Gerraint.  “Maybe she can tell me how to blunt a mother’s anger.”

Urien grabbed Enid by the hair and pressed his knife close to the throat, but it did no good.  Enid simply vanished out of his hand and appeared beside the blonde God.  He whispered in Enid’s ear, and Enid giggled with a look at Gerraint.  Then they walked out, Enid and Gwynyvar hugging, and Luckless and Lolly following.  Luckless alone glanced back once.  He was going to miss it.

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MONDAY

Don’t you miss it.  The end of the story… Until Then, Happy Reading

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M3 Gerraint: Tara to Avalon, part 2 of 4

Gerraint led them through a door and they came to a Grotto carved out from beneath the rocks with only a cave that led out into a gentle bay.  There were several ships tied to a dock there, but none of them looked big enough to carry them all.

“Gobinu’s work,” Macreedy said.

“And we helped,” Luckless interjected.

“One will do,” Macreedy finished.

“For this great company?”  Arthur began, but then decided not to doubt.

“Will you be joining us?”  Gerraint asked the elf.

“Aye,” Macreedy said.  “But not the ladies.  They have decided to keep Tara for a time, with their Lord’s permission.”  Gerraint nodded slightly, but said nothing.

“Oh.”  Peredur sounded sad.  He had yet to let go of his elf maiden’s hand.  The other maidens backed to the door, but Peredur’s maid paused to kiss him as a lovely granddaughter might kiss her kindly grandfather.  Then she seemed to think about it, and planted one right on his lips.

Most smiled, and a couple of the men ooed and awed before the maiden finally let go and went to join the others.  Peredur could hardly shake himself free.

“Another kiss like that could kill this old man.”  Peredur mumbled and Macreedy grinned.

“So here we are,” Bedivere spoke at last.  “One Lady.  One elf, two dwarfs and nine men to invade Avalon.”

“Not much of a force at arms,” Lancelot said.  Like Bedivere, he was thinking in military terms.

“D-day, certainly,” Gerraint quipped, and invited them all aboard the first ship.  It had appeared no bigger than a lifeboat from the dock, but once aboard it was found to be spacious, with a central mast as big as an oak, and even a below deck to store their things.  They shoved off, and under Macreedy’s direction, the sailors, Trevor and Gwillim set the sail, with the help of Luckless who had sailed in the days of Festuscato.  The men said there was no purpose in raising the sail inside the cave.  All the same, the wind came and nudged them out into the bay.

“Well I’ll be,” Trevor said.  Only the sailors were surprised.  The others either knew what to expect or did not really understand that a normal sail would have been useless until they got out in the open where it could catch the wind.

“I feel sick.”  Bedivere complained almost immediately.  Gwynyvar looked green and Arthur and Lancelot appeared about to join her.  Uwaine laughed, because for once he did not feel the least bit sick.

“We have passed out of the world altogether.  Welcome to the endless sea in the second heavens.”  Gerraint held up his hand to forestall questions.  “It is that divide between the first heaven that covers the Earth like a blanket and the Third Heaven wherein is the throne of God.”  He pointed behind and all heads turned.  The hills, perhaps cliffs if not the cave that they expected to see were nowhere in evidence.  All they could see was the dark waters of the sea, stretching off to the horizon in every direction.

“Are we dead?”  Gwillim asked as the feeling caught up with him.

“Hardly,” Macreedy said as he checked the sail.  “But we may die if we lose the current.  This sea is boundless.  It has no shoreline, though there are shorelines everywhere.”  Macreedy went to stand with Trevor at the rudder.

“But say, that doesn’t make any sense.  Either there is a shoreline or not.”  Gwillim objected and tried to come out of the feeling of having died.

“There is and is not,” Gerraint said.  “Normal rules don’t apply here.  The place folds in and back on itself and even turns inside-out.  It is utterly unstable.”

“Apart from Lady Alice,” Macreedy spoke up from the helm.

Gerraint nodded.  “She tries to keep Avalon and the seven isles and the innumerable isles beyond in a more stable condition, but it is like living in the eye of a hurricane.”

“Olympus?”  Arthur said the word, but made it a question.

Gerraint nodded again.  “Aesgard, Vanheim, the Mountain Fastness and all.  All once found in the Second Heavens.  All gone now,” he said.

“All but Avalon,” Mesalwig said.  Gerraint looked at the man.  Mesalwig had been silent almost since arriving in Tara.  It was impossible to tell what the man might be thinking.

“Avalon of the Apples,” Bedivere corrected Mesalwig.  He started feeling better.

“Give it up.”  Uwaine teased Peredur who still stared at nothing in particular and touched his lips.  “She is undoubtedly too old for you.  May be five hundred years too old.”

Gerraint shook his head for a change.  “Only three hundred,” he said, and Gwynyvar giggled.

Gerraint went to stand at the bow.  It was not that his eyes could see any better than the others, though they could, but he was really getting anxious and trying hard not to show it.  He did not know if Rhiannon’s aura of protection around Enid and Guimier would hold up in the Second Heavens.  He did not know what Urien and Pelenor might have found on the island, nor where that Abraxas might be, nor where that most disobedient of all of his children, Talesin might be.  He tried not to think of these things, but he could not help it.  His stomach churned from worry.

“They will be all right,” Gwynyvar said.  She had come up alongside him and offered him a cup of water and a bit of bread and cheese.  Gerraint thanked her for the water, but turned down the solid food.  He did not think his stomach could handle it.  He turned and they looked together.  Arthur paced the deck.  Lancelot sat with his back to the mast and watched Arthur pace.  Peredur leaned on the railing to look out over the water, and Bedivere stood beside him.  Their conversation was quiet.

Gwynyvar nudged him.  Uwaine finally leaned over the opposite rail, responding to the sea in his accustomed manner.  Gwillim appeared to be supervising and offering his supposed cures.  Mesalwig sat apart.  Gerraint wondered about the man again, but again Gwynyvar nudged him and pointed to the stern.  Trevor appeared to be having a hard time keeping the rudder in the current and not touch the elf at the same time.  Macreedy enjoyed teasing the man.

“How long is the journey?”  Gwynyvar asked.

“Long as a wolf takes to finish howling at the moon.”  Luckless said as he came up alongside them.  They spied Lolly trying to get some flavor out of the bread and cheese.  Gwynyvar thought for a moment.

“But how does a wolf know when it is finished?”  She asked.

“When it stops howling,” Luckless said.

Gwynyvar turned a very confused face toward Gerraint.

“An instant, a week, a month?”  Gerraint shrugged and turned his eyes ahead.

“Then again,” Luckless said.  “We might have arrived ten minutes ago, only we haven’t realized it yet.”

It got dark.  They had no sundown, no dusk, and no chance for their eyes to adjust.  One minute it was light and the next it was dark apart from the infinite stars and a perfect full moon that appeared fully risen in the sky, directly ahead.  The moon seemed exceptionally large, like it rose a bit close to the earth.

“How lovely,” Gwynyvar said, once she got over the sudden change in the time of day.  She looked confused again when Gerraint pointed to the stern where a half moon followed them.  She shook her head and went back to Lancelot and Arthur.  Arthur needed to stop pacing.

“Better go see to bedding down,” Luckless said.  “It has been a tiring day today, or yesterday, or tomorrow, whichever it was or is.”  He wandered off and began to turn people toward sleep.

Gerraint could not sleep.  He knew it was foolish.  He would need to be well rested and more than likely he would need all of his strength and wits to deal with whatever they might find, but he could not sleep, no matter what.

Soon enough the others were dozing.  Luckless took a turn at the rudder and promised to wake Macreedy before long.  Gerraint was the only other one awake when an image appeared beside him.

“The woman is fine.  And the child,” the image said.

Gerraint paused before he spoke.  “Thank you.”

“I imagined you might want to rest after the Tor,” the image spoke again.

“I don’t think I can,” Gerraint answered honestly.  “I was thinking about having to kill Urien.  Such thoughts always twist my insides.”

The image manifested.  The god of the sea.  “Not your promise,” Manannan said.

“’Twas,” Gerraint insisted.  “Even if the words came from your Mother’s lips.”

Manannan nodded, slowly, and then the two just stood there for hours feeling the wind and the spray and watching the waves.  Gerraint could not be sure, but he suspected that under the hypnotic swells in the water, he may have slept for a while standing up.

M3 Gerraint: Tara to Avalon, part 1 of 4

“My word.”  Peredur spoke first.  The elf maiden had fallen on top of him and appeared content to lay her head on his chest and smile.

“Up, girl,” Macreedy said.  “He may be injured.”

“I don’t think so,” Peredur said quickly.

“Everyone present?”  Arthur asked.

“All present, sir,” Bedivere said.  He already made the count.

“I say, though.  I never knew there was a hole in the old Tor.  What is this place we have gotten to?”  Mesalwig asked.  He seemed to have ruled Ireland out as impossible.

“Tara,” Trevor said, not doubting in the slightest as his eyes got big.

“Tara,” Uwaine said with plain certainty.

“Tara,” Gwynyvar said, a bit breathless.

“Dusty,” Gerraint said and wiped his fingers across one column.

“What say you, Macreedy?”  Gwillim asked, and then wished he hadn’t.  The glamour that made Macreedy appear as a man had gone.  His true elf nature showed fully evident, creepily evident as Trevor’s shriek indicated.  The same was true of the elf maidens.  Bedivere looked startled, even though he knew better.  Arthur and Gwynyvar already knew, and Lancelot surmised as much.  He had long since ceased to question such things.  Uwaine did not bat an eye, but Peredur asked sweetly if he could touch his lady’s ears.  She blushed as he did.  Gwillim looked at least momentarily terrified.

“Are we all being transfigured?”  Gwillim wondered and touched his person over and over.  “What bewitchery is this?”

Mesalwig surprised Gerraint by finally accepting things at face value.  “So, this is Tara,” he admitted at last, and he poked his finger at Gerraint.  “I always suspected there was something about you.  Meryddin suggested as much more than once.”

Before Gerraint could respond, there came a flash of blinding light, and fires burst up all around, though no one got burnt.  They heard the woman’s voice.

“Who dares desecrate the halls of Tara with mortal flesh?”  The goddess appeared, and in such glory even the great men of Christ felt the need to humble themselves on their knees.  Only Gwynyvar remained standing, though that may have been because she became petrified.  Gerraint stood, but he simply looked cross.

“Bridgid.”  Gerraint named the goddess.  “Come here.”  His voice sounded stern and clearly the goddess looked taken aback by this unprecedented response to her glorious presence.  “Come here.”  Gerraint spoke with some force.  The goddess hesitated, and then walked slowly in Gerraint’s direction, a most curious expression on her face.

“Why are you still here?”  Gerraint asked the question, and then he got more direct.  “You should have crossed over long ago with the others.  The time of Dissolution is passed.”

“What do you know of such things?”  Bridgid wondered.

“Rebellious child,” Gerraint said.  He saw her back arch.

“Who are you?  I am the goddess.  I decide what will be.  My will be done.”  Her ire was rising and the others, including the little spirits cowered.  But by then she got in Gerraint’s face, and he did not hesitate.  He slapped her hard enough to knock her to the ground, and the shock of her feeling his slap only got tempered by the sting in her cheek.

“Get thee to a nunnery, Ophelia,” Gerraint said, even as he went away and the Danna came to stand in his place.

“Mother?”  Bridgid looked up.  “Manannan said.  But I didn’t believe him.  Mother?”  Danna opened her arms and Bridgid rushed into them and immediately began to cry on Danna’s chest.  “I’ve been so alone, but for the Formor of few words and no grace.  Mother, help me.  I am tired.  I cannot keep the way any longer.  I want to go home.  Please.”  And Danna remembered how Bridgid had been left to guard the way to Avalon, and she understood in that moment what Gerraint had not understood.

“You failed, child,” Danna said and stroked Bridged’s hair gently from her eyes.  “But all is not lost.  I will close the way,” she said, firmly.  “And you must have a child.  Yes.  Kildare, I believe.  Then you will understand the value of a child in the hands of evil men”

“But…”

“Hush.  Then you can go home.  I promise, only make sure your child is a true child of the church.”

“Mother?”  It felt hard to say if Bridgid objected or became offended.

“I mean it.”  Danna shook her finger at the girl.  “You failed.  It is the only way.”

Bridgid lowered her eyes.  Her mouth did not have to say, “Yes mother.”  The sentiment was there.  Danna, meanwhile, had blunted the awesome nature of the goddess so the others were beginning to stir.

“You lived as the Danu.”  Gwynyvar gasped as she understood what had been hidden from her.

“The Don.”  Lancelot gave the continental name for the goddess.

“That explains a bit,” Arthur said, though he knew this already.

“Yes, well I was hoping I would not have to make my presence known,” Danna said.  “This is Gerraint’s life after all, and you must remember, he is as ordinary and mortal as any of you.”

“Not quite, I think,” Gwillim said.  He really had a hard time swallowing all that was happening.

“Oh, but mother.  Oh dear!”  Bridgid interrupted and then got quiet.  Danna became Gerraint once more and he leaned over and tenderly kissed Bridgid’s hot cheek, the one he had slapped in his unthinking anger.  It had been his fear for Enid and Guimier that ruled him for a moment, and Bridgid accepted that, even if she did not entirely understand it.  Bridgid’s mouth opened.  “But mother.”  She still called Gerraint by that name.  “I have done the most terrible thing.  I see that now.  I did not understand.  But that Abraxas asked so kindly.  I let the others through ahead of you.”  Bridgid braced herself, half expecting to be slapped again.

Gerraint merely stroked her cheek, gently.  “I know,” he said.  Danna had figured it out.  “Enid?”  It became a question.

“Oh, the Lady and child are fine.  Lovely.  I am so happy for you.”  Bridgid felt genuine about that.

“Go on.”  Gerraint said and let her go.  “Only raise your child in the Lord as well.  Then you will understand.  Then you can pass over.”

Bridgid had to swallow hard before she said, “I will.”  It was as near to a promise as one ever got from a god.

“Go on.  Rhiannon and Manannan will follow after,” Gerraint said.

“And Gwyn?”  Bridgid started to speak, but quickly bit her tongue.

Gerraint almost slapped his hand to his face.  Another one?

“Pleased to meet all of you,” Bridgid said quickly, though they had not been introduced.  She gave everyone her best smile and decided the better part for her was to back away.  She vanished, but that did not prevent Gerraint from shouting.

“Kildare!”  Perhaps she was still listening.

“I didn’t follow all of that.”  Bedivere admitted what most felt.

Gerraint sighed before he explained what he could.  “She was to guard the way to Avalon of the Apples to be sure it stayed closed to all but the gods,” he said.  “She failed at the end, when it mattered the most and let the others through ahead of us.”

“Kildare is penance.”  Arthur grasped at understanding.

Gerraint nodded.  “It is the only way.”

“But say.”  Gwillim had a question.  “Why have you been calling it Avalon of the Apples?”

“Because the real Avalon is an island apart.  This Avalon, the island of the apples is the island given to the children of Danna when the Celts first came up into the land.”  Gerraint said.  He began to walk down the long columned hall and the others followed.  The evidence that this place had been virtually abandoned for centuries was everywhere in the dark and dank hall.  “The Irish call the island Tir na-nOg.”

“The island of the living, the promises, the young, courage and honor; the land over the sea, the land over the water.  It has many names.”  Luckless spoke up.

“Hy Brassail,” Macreedy added.

“The treasures the men seek are called Celtic treasures, but in reality, they are not.  They are ever so much older than the Celts.  In fact, they were first put away when the Celts came up into the land.   The Gods also backed away from daily life among the people.  Some went underground, but some came to the island in the second heavens which had been given to them.  Avalon of the Apples.”

“I thought it was given to Manannan,” Trevor interrupted.

“Well, it is surrounded by the sea,” Gerraint responded, but he explained no further.  Then he shrugged.  “This was common in the last five hundred years or so before the time of dissolution.  Olympus was not seen much after Troy.  The Egyptians were not much in evidence after the collapse of the New kingdom.  The Middle East withdrew after Babylon fell to the Persians.”

“Dissolution?”  Gwillim was the one to ask.

“When the gods of old gave up their flesh and blood,” Gerraint said.  “The spirits remain active, but now they are deaf, dumb and blind, and work only as directed by the Spirit of the Most-High God.”

“The Lord has come.”  Once again, Arthur grasped at understanding.

“And so have we,” Gerraint said.

M3 Gerraint: Glastonbury Tor, part 3 of 3

Macreedy led them along in a zigzag pattern, but always stayed within the bounds of the path.   They could see the lightning crashing across the sky and charging into the tree tops as if trying to get at them.  It became slow going for this short leg of the journey, but they could not go faster as the elements all seemed arrayed against them.  No one spoke, though they could hardly hear each other above the thunder.  Then again, by that point no one seemed in the mood to speak.

There were no mishaps.  After the mud, everyone felt perfectly willing to follow Macreedy’s path; but then just before the seventh and last turn, when the rain slackened to a drizzle, the bugs, dust and mud had become only nominally annoying, and the wind dropped to tolerable levels, Macreedy himself got surprised.

“You shall not pass.”

It looked like a man, armored, sword drawn; except that he stood a good seven feet tall and skinny as a pole.  He looked almost like bones to which a small bit of flesh barely clung.  Every man there got ready to draw sword against the enemy.  Gerraint had to yell fast.

“Hold to your charges!  Do not let go, no matter what!”

Everyone stopped.  They could hardly fight and still hold on to an elf maiden.  Macreedy, at the same time, kept Arthur’s sword arm pinned.

“Damn it, man,” Arthur swore, but Macreedy would not let go.

“What right have you to keep me from my home?”  Gerraint spoke boldly as he drew Wyrd, the sword of fate.

“Your home?”  The tall man laughed.  The swords rang once against each other and the men began to circle to gauge their opponent and look for a weak point to attack.  Clearly, both knew the craft, and well.

“Of course it is my home.  I took it.  I built it,” Gerraint said.  The swords rang again, and the circling continued. “I cleaned out the Formor vermin.”

The circling stopped.  The giant roared and advanced suddenly.  Gerraint got caught by surprise, but he was too much of a seasoned soldier to go down to a berserker.  Anger is generally not a good tactic.  Gerraint parried, side stepped and ran his sword along the man’s stomach and arm.  He did not make a deep wound, hardly life threatening, but it was first blood.

The giant stopped, hand on stomach.  It lifted its’ hand as if utterly surprised by the blood.  It looked at the drips with incomprehension in its eyes, and spoke at last.  “I’m bleeding,” the giant said.  “In twice times two thousand years I have never been bled.”  It spun to face Gerraint.  “Who are you?”

Gerraint now looked puzzled.  “Who are you?”

“I am Damien.  Last of the Formor.  But I’m bleeding.”  Damien could just not grasp the concept.

“But you should not be here,” Gerraint said, quickly.  “Why haven’t you passed over to the other side?  The time for dissolution is near five hundred years gone.  Why are you still here?”

Damien had to struggle a minute to answer.  “To protect the beauty of loveliness,” Damien said.

“What?”

“Who.”  Damien started coming to his senses.  “She who remains of Tara.”

“Rhiannon?”  Gerraint guessed, but the Formor shook his head.  “You mean there is another one?  God preserve me from all my disobedient children!”

“Your children?”  The Formor stared at him, and it was not a kindly look.  The stomach still dripped, but the arm already started crusting over.

“I am the Kairos,” Gerraint said, with a glimpse at his companions.  “That is all you need to know, but maybe you can figure out the rest for yourself.”

The Formor opened his mouth and shut it almost as quickly, finally lowered his eyes.  Gerraint wiped and sheathed his sword.  The Formor lunged, but found Gerraint’s long knife planted deep in the giant’s chest.

“She will not be far behind you,” Gerraint said, as the giant’s eyes rolled up and the Formor collapsed to the ground.  The flesh and blood and bone that had been, decayed rapidly and became dust to be carried off on the wind.  Gerraint retrieved his blade.

“Treachery of the highest order,” Macreedy said.

“Unknowing and innocent, perhaps,” Gerraint felt gracious.  “But now we must hurry.”

“Clearly,” Arthur agreed.  No one wanted to say outright that she who was left at Tara, whoever the beauty of loveliness was, might very well have helped the others find their way to Avalon.

They turned the seventh turn, and all went calm, but it became like the stillness before the tornado.  “Get down.” Several voices rang at once, but they were hardly heard above the din.  It sounded to Gerraint like the train had leapt from the tracks.

“Hold on!  Before and behind!”  People linked up like their own little train and inched forward.

“Damn, disobedient, teen-aged, doofuses, dipsticks.”  Gerraint moved forward with each word, dragged Macreedy along as Macreedy had hold of Gerraint’s ankle with his free hand.  His other hand was still clamped around Arthur’s arm while Arthur got preoccupied holding on to his boot where Mesalwig seemed to have a death grip.

“Dern, indifferent, indescribable, daughter!”

The wind began to whip Gwynyvar’s dress into her legs and cause sharp pain, and once it appeared to grab her and tried to lift her from the ground altogether.  Luckless and Lancelot both had to grab her to keep her grounded, and Lancelot’s elf maiden had to wrap her arms around Lancelot’s neck to ride on his back.

“There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home,” Gerraint shouted.

“You’re weird,” Arthur shouted back.

“Thank you,” Gerraint said, and he almost lost his grip on the dirt.  “Stop it!”  He began to shout.  “Stop it!”  The force of the wind arrayed against them became unbearable.  He yelled a third time, “Stop it!”  And the wind stopped, suddenly and absolutely, and everyone fell forward into a hole and landed in the dirt with a thump.

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

MONDAY

Everyone lands in Tara only to be confronted by the guardian goddess, and she is not happy with having intruders in her home.  Monday: Tara to Avalon.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

M3 Gerraint: Glastonbury Tor, part 2 of 3

“Mmm.”  Gerraint nodded before Luckless said too much about the Lady’s virtues to trigger a jealous spell in Lolly.  “We don’t know what we will find on the other side.  This whole thing smells of intrigue and powers at work.”

“Yes, I heard that Abraxas fellow has been poking around this area.”  Luckless pulled his beard.  “I hope we don’t have to tangle with him again.”

“I think Talesin may be tangled up here as well.”  Gerraint finally admitted what he felt way back in Arthur’s court when those ghostly hands carried the ghostly cauldron across the room.

“That breed child of the Danna-Fee has been no end of trouble.”  Luckless shook his head to give Gerraint all his sympathy.

“Yes, you would think after four thousand years he would grow out of that teenage rebellious stage,” Gerraint said.  “But the point is, I don’t know what we will find in Tara when we arrive, or on Avalon of the Apples if we must go there.  Your job is to stay with the Lady, no matter what, and be sure no harm comes to her.”

“Yes.”  Luckless thought about it.  “I see what you mean by hard duty.”

“You understand?”  Gerraint asked.

Luckless nodded and they were introduced and paired up, ready at last for the journey.

“Bear to the left,” Macreedy said at the stone of starting, and they began the seven-fold path to the top.

Gerraint had to concentrate a little to make the magic work.  It was magic given to him; not natural like for the others.  Then again, the others had to concentrate a little as well to bring their charges along with them.  The result was most of the conversation ran between the humans, and little else got said.

The morning began spring beautiful, but after the first turn, it felt like they walked into an oven.  Everyone began to sweat, except the elf maidens, and the people began to think that perhaps they should have packed less thoroughly.  They told a few jokes about what they did not need to bring, but no one complained, yet.

After the second turn, the wind picked up.  Not far along, the dust began to blow up in their faces.

“Can’t hardly see where we’re going,” Gwillim said.

“Yes, you would think after all the rain we had it would be too muddy to blow dust,” Mesalwig responded.

“I’ve a feeling things are just beginning,” Uwaine said, softly.

“Don’t look at me,” Bedivere said.  “I’m practicing keeping my mouth shut this time.”

“Ours is not to reason why,” Lancelot started again.

“Knock it off,” Gerraint interrupted.

“Ooo, the bugs!”  Gwynyvar objected for everyone.  As they made the third turn, the bugs came with the dust and heat.  They flew up in their faces, like the people were race cars and the bugs were trying to splatter against the windshields, though they had no windshields.

“What do you mean you have a recipe for spite bugs?”  Everyone heard Trevor’s objection, and it did sound rather awful.  Everyone tried to keep their mouths closed, and as far as possible, their eyes as well.  Some of the flies were rather large, and some were rather bloody when they splattered against the arms and legs.

“Now, it is a pleasant journey,” Peredur said, held tight to his elf maiden, and smiled as much as he could.  No one could tell if he was serious or not, so no one responded.

“I must say, this never happened when we were working on the fort,” Mesalwig added, but by then they reached the fourth turn.

They all heard a loud crack of thunder. No one saw the lightning, but at once the sky opened up in torrents of rain.  The sky had been virtually clear of clouds only moments earlier.  No one could see but a few feet ahead, and they had to shout to be heard above the crash of the water.

Macreedy tried to pick up the pace as much as possible, but they were slow going against the squall.

“At least it might lessen the damn heat,” Lancelot yelled.

“God willing.”  Gwillim puffed a little from the climb.

They began to feel the water at their feet.  It cascaded down the path, and the water started rising.  “It will only get worse if we don’t hurry,” Macreedy spoke at last.

It got ankle deep at the half-way point, and at their knees by the time they neared the turn.  No flash flood ever bore such strength as it seemed to want to push them from the path and keep them from completing the journey.

“Ah!”  Gwynyvar shrieked and would have been washed away if Luckless had not held tight to her hand.  Lancelot grabbed her other hand, and they pulled her ahead, and lifted her at the last and pushed through the water by sheer determination.  Neither the elf maidens nor Luckless let go that whole time.  They did not seem as effected by the flood as the others.  Then they rounded turn five, and the rain stopped as suddenly as it started.

“Beware the quick mud,” Macreedy warned.  “Once it grips you, it won’t let go as easily as quicksand.”

Everyone paused.  Without a word, they all felt it prudent to let Gerraint, Arthur and Macreedy pick out the safe way, and they followed in their steps.  Without the heat, the dust, the bugs and the rain, this leg did not seem so bad, provided they were careful.  The elf maidens guided their charges well, and only Trevor became temporarily stuck when his foot slipped on a wet rock and landed in the mud.

“Help.”  He yelled briefly before he thought to pull his foot from his boot.  They watched the boot get sucked under in only a few seconds and it made all sorts of disgusting gurgling sounds in the process.

They were nearing the top when they made turn six.  It looked from the turn like a pleasant walk.  They even found some trees at this level, and with the shade they felt that at last the heat might not be too oppressive; but then everything returned with a vengeance—the wind, the dust, the bugs and the rain, and this time the lightning came with it.

M3 Gerraint: Glastonbury Tor, part 1 of 3

They did not leave as early in the morning as Gerraint would have liked.  Despite Rhiannon’s claim of protection, he started getting very worried.  All the same, they arrived at Glastonbury before nightfall, and Mesalwig made them a great feast.  No telling exactly what the old man thought of Arthur and his companions at that point, or how he might respond to the presence of Gwynyvar, whom he once held captive for nearly a year, but there was no doubt of his interest in adventuring on the quest, once the details had been explained to him.

“The old fort at the top has been torn down,” Mesalwig explained.  “I must tell you, after a series of terrible dreams I took great pains not to ruin the spirals.  Apparently, it worked the same for my father when he built the fort after the Romans left.  I had no idea the paths went anywhere, though.  But say, how can we climb a hill in the marshes and end up in Ireland?  It makes no sense to me.”

“Me, either,” Gwillim admitted.

“Ours is not to reason why.”  Lancelot started, having heard Gerraint use the expression often enough; but this time Gerraint interrupted him.

“It is part of the old ways itself,” he said.  “I am still reluctant to travel that way, but there appears to be no other choice.”

“But will they be there?”  Arthur generally questioned everything.  It was one of his talents, to help men find the way for themselves and take their own ownership of the results.

Gerraint nodded slowly.  “We should arrive just before or just after them if I calculated correctly.”

“After?”  Arthur wondered.

“The way to Avalon from Tara is hidden and difficult.  Even after should be sufficient to catch them.  I can’t imagine they can get the kind of help that would move them along quickly from Tara,” Gerraint said.

“That would be a betrayal of the first order,” Macreedy agreed.  He looked at Gerraint.  Both knew it was possible, but neither was willing to speculate further on the matter.

“So, will you be building a new fort at the top?”  Lancelot got curious and always thought in military terms.

Mesalwig shook his head.  “Not with the Saxons cowed.  All I see is peace.  Maybe I’ll give it to the church.”

“Not a bad choice,” Peredur said.

“What a waste,” Macreedy mumbled at about the same time.

Mesalwig looked at his ale and then smiled.  “As for me, I would like to know about these maids you have taken for you hand.”  He turned the conversation in Gwynyvar’s direction.

“Not mine,” Gwynyvar said, though the maids sat around her and to some extent behind her, depending on the Lady’s protection in this strange land.  “These are Macreedy’s daughters, if the report is true.”  She did not doubt Macreedy, exactly, but like Arthur, she knew enough to know the little ones sometimes played loose with relationships and were not inclined to complete truthfulness in any case.

“True enough,” Macreedy said and looked at Gerraint again.  He wrinkled his face where Mesalwig could not see, took a deep breath and another swig of Mesalwig’s home brew.  Gerraint caught the thought from Macreedy who wondered how humans could survive on such bile.  Macreedy imagined it was one reason why humans lived such a short lifetime.  In this case, though, the rest of the crew had an equally hard time swallowing the stuff, except for Peredur, who seemed to have had his taste buds blunted with age, and Gwillim, who seemed a man who could wring pleasure out of almost anything he could get past his lips.  Finally, Gerraint’s answer to the problem was a simple one.

“If you don’t mind, I would like to bed down,” he said.  “I would appreciate an early start in the morning.”  He started off, but Gwynyvar reached for his hand.

“I am sure they are all right,” she said.  “I am believing and praying with all of my heart.”

“Here, here.”  Several agreed.

Gerraint just smiled and went to bed.

After a nearly sleepless night, Gerraint woke everyone at dawn.  They made him wait for a good breakfast, and then wait again while they packed such supplies as they imagined they might need.  The elf maidens packed nothing, of course, and looked as fresh as the springtime they inhabited.  Macreedy waited patiently and only Gerraint understood how difficult that was for him.  Bedivere got impatient for the both of them.  Uwaine learned to be more sensible about such matters.

At last they traveled the short way to the hill.  The marshes seemed especially soggy from all of the spring rains and winter melt, but they walked a wood plank path that led to the base of the oval hill.

“The stone of starting is just a little way up,” Macreedy said.  He held Arthur’s arm.  Arthur joked that he wasn’t that old yet, but he understood.  Besides, it seemed Macreedy had things he wanted to discuss with the Christian Lord, and Arthur knew any conversation would be better than none on a long, dreary climb.

The six elf maidens had others by the hand.  They were Uwaine, Bedivere, Peredur, Gwillim, Mesalwig and Lancelot.  Gerraint looked around for his other escorts, but did not have to look hard.

“Well met,” Macreedy called out as they climbed.  His sharp elf eyes saw the hidden couple well in advance of the others.  Luckless and Lolly waited by the stone of starting.  Gerraint immediately took them aside.

“Lolly, I apologize, but you will have to escort Trevor.  He is a would-be sailor, but in truth he is a cook, and a rather good one as far as humans go.”

Lolly’s eyes brightened.  She wondered how this man knew her so well, Kairos though he might be.  “Maybe we could share some recipes along the way,” she thought out loud.

“I knew I could count on you,” Gerraint said, with a smile, and he turned to Luckless.

“True to your name, you will have the hard duty,” he said.

“Wouldn’t expect less.”  Luckless sighed.  “It is my lot in life, you know.”

“Yes, well, you will have to escort the Lady Gwynyvar,” Gerraint said.

“I am honored,” Luckless said, and he looked genuinely pleased, almost too pleased for Lolly.  “But I thought you said hard duty.”  He knew the Kairos well enough to squint and wait for the other shoe to drop.

M3 Gerraint: Kidnapped, part 3 of 3

“Eh?”  Several people wondered what Gerraint had in mind.

“I say,” Gwillim spoke up.  “But I doubt the holy men, respected as they are, could write a safe passage for men across Ireland.  I mean, the Irish and British churches have not been on the best of terms since Arthur, er, we began courting Rome.”

“I meant the Tor,” Gerraint said.

“The mountain in the marshland?”  Trevor named the place, but it came out as a question, and Gerraint nodded.

“Might old Chief Mesalwig interfere?”  Lancelot asked.

“That’s right.”  Gwillim remembered.  “You have not exactly been on best of terms since the day he borrowed your Gwynyvar.”

“Impetuous, hot-headed youth,” Arthur responded.  “A simple misunderstanding at the time.”

Bedivere looked confused.  Uwaine explained.  “Every one of us was a hot-headed youth at one time or another.  Even Arthur, Gerraint and even Peredur, I assume.”  Bedivere looked like he hardly believed it.

Peredur nodded.  “Ambosius’ right arm against Vortigen and his Saxons.”  Peredur said and held up his right arm to bulge his muscle, but he had an old arm that looked rather frail.

“No, gentlemen,” Gerraint said.  “This is one journey I will have to take alone.”

“What?  No.”  The others objected.  Arthur was the only one to ask.

“Why?”

“And what is the point of the Tor, if the Glastonbury monks are not the answer?”  Gwillim wondered.

Gerraint paused, as he often did to think through his words before saying too much.  He finally shrugged.  He thought he might not survive this one; but he would rescue Enid, and Guimier would have a full life with at least her mother there to watch her grow.  He confessed to Arthur, first.  “Back in the day when you received Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, the little ones were prepared to join us in the war against Claudus.  I would not let them.”

Arthur looked surprised, and rubbed his chin.  He about said they could have used the help, but held his tongue.

Gerraint waved his hands. “They ignored me and helped anyway.”

“I know the feeling,” Arthur said quietly.

Gerraint continued.  “There were some, though, who were determined.  As I slept, they endowed me with such powers as the little ones have.  I got pretty mad when I first found out.  They said they just wanted to do all they could, and I could not stay mad at them.  It was a lovely gift.  I have not depended on such, but I have found some things useful now and then.”

They all listened patiently.  Most nodded.  Some were more than curious.  Gerraint turned to Gwillim.  “The Labyrinth of the Tor,” Gerraint explained.  “It is a road, like all labyrinths.  It is a way the little ones can use to get from here to there in a hurry.  The one on the Tor links to the home of the old gods at Tara.  Unfortunately, I haven’t the strength to take you with me.”

“But the little people have great magic,” Trevor objected.  “Why should they need roads?”

“They aren’t particularly little people,” Lancelot said.  “Most are human enough in size.”

“Some are bigger,” Arthur got to thinking.  “Much bigger than you want.”

“But they are not gods or greater spirits, or even lesser spirits to journey by magic just anywhere,” Gerraint said.  “I call them little ones, not because of their size, but because they are the little spirits of the Earth.”

Trevor still did not understand, and Bedivere looked confused again as well.  Uwaine took up the explanation as Gerraint turned back to the window.

“They generally need some physical point, some focal point to make the magic work.  They need pixie dust, wands, potions and the like.  They need something tangible.”

“Like a road,” Gwillim said, putting the thoughts together.

“I don’t like you going it alone,” Arthur said.  “You may well need us.”

“I don’t like going alone, either,” Gerraint admitted.

“Nor do I.”  The men stood.  Gwynyvar was in the doorway and a man stood beside her.

“Macreedy!”  Gwillim shouted and stepped up to shake the man’s hand.  Trevor smiled.  Uwaine looked at Gerraint, but Gerraint also smiled.  The little ones could generally be counted on for uncanny timing.

“I heard of the trouble,” Macreedy said.  “I hastened on with the ladies to be of assistance.”

“Come in.  Come in.”  Gwillim insisted

Macreedy hesitated.  “I heard only Christians were welcome at the table of Arthur.”  He looked at Gerraint.  Arthur also looked up at Gerraint.

“I can see in your heart to whom you belong,” Gerraint said.  “I knew it when you forgave me concerning your sister.  You may come with Arthur’s permission.”

“Can you take us by the labyrinth of the Tor?”  Arthur asked.

“I, and my six maidens,” Macreedy answered.

“Come and sit,” Arthur said.  “We have much to plan.”

Meanwhile, Uwaine started counting.  There was himself, Bedivere, Arthur, Peredur, Gwillim and Trevor, which took care of the six maidens.  Macreedy could take Lancelot.  He felt astounded, but not surprised at the way things worked out, until Gwynyvar spoke up.

“I’m coming,” she said.  “Enid needs a woman.  And the baby!  I never imagined Pelenor for a cruel man.”  Gwynyvar sat, so the men sat with Lancelot and Gwynyvar only stole a glance.

“Not cruel.  Just an old fool,” Peredur said.

“Not a fool,” Uwaine repeated himself.

The others were still staring at Gwynyvar, none daring to argue with her, when Gwillim spoke up.  “But, say.  How will Macreedy and his daughters be able to help?”

“I’ll bet Mesalwig will want to go as well, once the adventure is known,” Lancelot spoke at last.

“Luckless and Lolly.”  Gerraint spoke as he finally sat.  It became a message in his mind to the two to prepare themselves for the journey and meet them in Glastonbury.  They had to see to their own little ones, but he got the distinct impression that they would be there.  It almost seemed like a return message.

With that, they planned and ate, told stories and just talked, but Gerraint got anxious to leave in the morning.

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

MONDAY

The tale continues with a visit to Glastonbury Tor, and the road to Tara…Until then, Happy Reading

*

M3 Gerraint: Kidnapped, part 2 of 3

A few days later, Uwaine found Gerraint on the southern wall, watching the snow flurries.  Winter’s last gasp blustered before the spring, the mud, and the rains came that would keep things muddy for a long time.

“I am sure she is thinking of you, too,” Uwaine said.

“Eh?”  Gerraint did not really listen.

“Enid,” Uwaine said.  “I am sure she is missing you, too.”

“Eh?  Yes, yes.”  Gerraint looked up.  “But I was thinking, Urien is going to try again, only I can’t imagine when or how.”

“Oh,” Uwaine said no more and raised his gloved hand to catch a flake or two.  He understood.  Gerraint did not want to have to kill the man.

“But now, the Lady of the Lake has closed down that path.  And Manannan has made his position clear, where else has he to go?”  Gerraint wondered out loud.

“He went to Iona,” Uwaine reminded him.

“No real help there,” Gerraint told him.  “The druids have the reputation, but Avalon and the treasures are just as cut off from them as they are from any mortal men.”

“Surry?”  Uwaine tried again.

Gerraint shook his head.  “He doesn’t have the key, and no little one will ever help him.”

Uwaine nodded.  “I understand, but you said there are other forces at work here, far more powerful and dangerous than your little ones.”

“Yes.”  Gerraint spoke softly.  “And that is what has me worried.”

After that, Gerraint began to push until they left that place and headed south.  With every mile, he pushed them harder.  They spent the night with any number of Lords and Chiefs in the North, the Midlands and Leogria, though they found neither sign nor word of Urien in his home.  Pelenor also appeared mysteriously absent from his home, and Gerraint’s worry began to turn serious.  He pushed everyone after that so they rode like they were trying to catch Kai’s courier.

They turned, neither South to Gwillim’s brother Thomas, nor West to Arthur and Caerleon.  Something seemed dreadfully wrong and Gerraint could feel it in his gut.  They were still three days out, in the Summer Country, when Bedivere found them.  The Lady Rhiannon came with him.

“They’ve taken Enid and Guimier!”  Bedivere shouted, though he was right with them.  “I failed you.”  He dropped to his knees and put his face in his hands.

The Lady put a gentle hand on his head.  “Courage,” she said.  “The story is not ended.”  She looked at Gerraint.  “I failed also,” she said.  “I placed my protection around them which was not my place to do.  The old man and his companion would never hurt them, but the Raven is no gentleman.”  She paused before she finished.  “Do not make me fail twice by telling you where they have gone.”

“Tara,” Gerraint said.  He did not guess.  The Lady said nothing, but looked to the ground and faded from sight until she was no longer there.

“Where did she go?”  Gwillim asked and looked around the trees.

“Tara?”  Uwaine asked.

“Ireland,” Gerraint said.  “The old, now deserted home of the Gods.”

“I would not give us a sneeze of a chance of crossing that island,” Trevor said.

“No, but Urien has likely worked things out with the druids.  They will probably have no trouble.”

“But, hey,” Gwillim objected.  “What can the druids do?  The Irish may be pirates and scoundrels, but at least they are Christian scoundrels since Patrick.”

“Not entirely,” Gerraint said.  “Like here, the old ways are just a scratch beneath the surface.”  And he remembered the book about how Celtic Christianity and the Irish in particular saved civilization, and he became more determined than ever to make sure the old ways did not reassert themselves.  “Damn Merlin,” he added, under his breath.

“How long?”  Uwaine asked.

“They’ve been gone a week,” Bedivere said.  “I would have been after them, with troops, but they took to the water and would have been too hard to track at sea.  I thought it best to wait for your return since word came that you had survived your trials in the North.”

“Good choice,” Gerraint said.  He paced, thinking hard.  He was with Trevor as far as it went.  He could not imagine crossing all of those miles to the heart of Ireland in one piece.

“Surry?”  Uwaine tried once again like he read Gerraint’s mind; but that door led through Avalon to the continent.  He needed to catch them at Tara before they crossed over, if possible, and as soon as possible.

“Where’s Arthur?” he asked.

“Cadbury,” Bedivere answered.

“Lady Gwynyvar’s penchant is to visit that fort in the spring.”  Gwillim said off-handedly.

Gerraint merely nodded and mounted.  The others followed as he set the course for Cadbury, and rode at a terrific pace.

“No.”  Arthur was not being negative.  But he was the Pendragon and they had to respect his decision in such matters.  Arthur could not imagine any way to Tara other than fighting their way in, and that would have required a full-scale invasion of Ireland.  “The Irish have been quelled and relatively quiet for many years now.  The chiefs on the Welsh coast have taken their places there to maintain the shaky peace.  I’ll not ask them to break their oaths now by invading the island, even if we had hope of victory, which is hardly guaranteed.”

Gerraint stood by the window.  Lancelot argued for the fight.  He threw his glove to the table, but he had finished arguing.

“I cannot believe my old friend has become such a doddering fool,” Peredur said for about the tenth time.

“No fool,” Uwaine interjected.  He understood the treasures were real and that there was real power in those artifacts, and now he felt he understood some of Gerraint’s fanaticism about making sure they stayed buried.  Even if he did not understand all of the ramifications Gerraint spoke about, he could see that no good would come from bringing such things back into the world of men.

“Glastonbury,” Gerraint said at last.