Avalon 7.12 The Guns of Camelot, part 6 of 6

Diogenes caught a glimpse of who stood in the courtyard.  He changed to Gerraint as soon as he got through the window and finished helping Enid and Guimier down.  Gerraint gave Guimier a fatherly kiss, and kissed Enid like a faithful husband and went away again so Danna, the mother goddess of the Celtic gods, could come from the deep past and stand in his place.

The first thing Danna did was make Coppertone, the pixie stop fluttering around the courtyard and change into her big form.  She turned from a two-foot tall clawed and winged harpy-like creature into a four-foot-tall matronly lady, a bit round, and with gray hair sneaking into her brown.  Danna found Belle, an elf maiden short of three hundred years old, and made sure her glamour of humanity was secure.  She thought to have Belle and Coppertone tend to their mistress and the princess, by which she meant Enid and Guimier.  Belle curtsied, though Danna was not there to see, she knew Danna would see.  Then she hurried to Enid’s side.  Coppertone went skipping along the side of the great hall, despite appearing far too old to skip like a little girl.

“Can’t take the pixie out of the pixie,” Danna thought with a smile before she spoke to the beauty that stood in the courtyard.  “Rhiannon.”

“Mother,” Rhiannon answered as Danna joined her.  “Coppertone flew all the way to the Lake of the Moon to find me, and I am glad she did.  Arthur’s soldiers have the fort again, and twenty-three prisoners.  But these three are the ones from Sussex making the guns and powder.”

Danna nodded.  She raised one hand and made a fist.  Those three disappeared, and no one asked where they went.  Lockhart, Katie, Percival, Thomas, Peter, and Tristam walked up from one direction.  Arthur, Gwynyvar, Bedivere, Guimier, Enid and her two handmaids walked up from the other direction.  Piebucket and Bogus the dwarfs walked up from a third direction.  The dwarfs had in mind to complain, but Danna pinched her fingers so neither dwarf could open his mouth.

Rhiannon made Odacer and Harwic appear.  Harwic was dead.  Odacer had a minute of life left.  “Gunter and Sven,” Danna called them by different names.  “We will meet again.”  Odacer said nothing.  He closed his eyes and died.

Rhiannon raised her hand and the wraith appeared, badly broken by the explosion.  “Mother.  What do you want me to do with this one?”

Danna did something before she explained.  “I have removed the compulsion of Domnu.  Lockhart, she will bother you no more.  I believe I will send her to Alice.  Alice may send her through the Heart of Time, back to her proper days.  Then Alice will have to put a hedge around the time gates and all the land between against the wraith, so the wraith cannot interfere with herself as she travelers through time, chasing after the travelers.”  Danna quickly held up her hand for silence.  “I don’t know if she can do that just yet.  The Storyteller is still missing, and things are still very confused.  Alice may need to keep the wraith in a safe place until that can be accomplished, but at least she will not bother you anymore.”  She looked around at the fort and generally at the sky as the wraith disappeared.  “Time flies,” she said, as the last of the sun sank into the west.

“Yes mother. I will be going over to the other side, soon, but there is one more.” Rhiannon tried to smile.

Danna did smile.  She kissed the goddess on the cheek.  “I know but be sure it is soon.”

Rhiannon found a genuine smile then and waved to the travelers.  “Good to see you all again.  Sorry, must run.”  She disappeared and took nearly all the little spirits with her.

Danna turned specifically to Boston.  “Be gentle with me,” she said, and went away so Gerraint could return to his own time and place.  Boston raced up, paused, and hugged Gerraint most gently.  He still said, “Ouch.”  He added, “And tell Alexis her services will not be needed, either on myself or on the wounded, dead, or dying in the fort.  I am sorry, but that is how it must be.  We fight our own battles and take our lumps as they come.”

“So we are learning,” Tony said, and the other travelers agreed.

“You will stay a few days before you move on?” Gerraint asked, and people nodded.  “The place is a bit of a mess right now, but Gwynyvar and Enid love Cadbury in the spring.”

Katie looked at the older woman that Gerraint indicated was Gwynyvar, and she got that groupie look in her eyes.  They all did a little on meeting Arthur, and Lockhart had the good sense not to say, “I thought King Arthur was a myth.”

Sir Thomas said, “So what was that all about?  What just happened?”

Percival turned to the Admiral.  “As I am sure Bedivere will tell you from years of following Gerraint around, sometimes it is better not to ask.”

###

The travelers spent a week in Cadbury watching Gerraint heal.  Gerraint sent Scorch and Spark home with his thanks, and the thanks of Arthur and Gwynyvar.  “Don’t forget us if you need to blowed up some more things,” Spark said, as they vanished.

Most of the little ones that came with Rhiannon, went home to the British highlands and the lake.  The dwarfs got to escort the Saxons back to Sussex.  “To put the fear of God in them?” Nanette asked.

“No,” Gerraint said.  “But it might put the fear of dwarfs in them.”

Boston finally laughed.

Sukki sat quietly, thinking about what she did in taking down the wall.  Nanette moped.  Katie and Enid, who had become quite friendly, both came to ask what was wrong.  Nanette did not want to talk about it, so Boston told, snooty little sister that she was.  “She is upset that Sir Thomas is taking all of Decker’s attention.”

“I am not,” Nanette denied it, but the women could tell.

When they got to the south coast, Sir Thomas gave them free passage across the channel.  Boston and Lincoln had determined that the time gate had to be on the continent.  “If not in Brittany,” as they called it, though Sir Thomas mostly called it Amorica, “Then right next to it.”

“Bad area,” Sir Thomas warned them.  “Back when; a man named Claudus took the Roman military left in Provence and Septimania and tried to reestablish so-called Roman rule in the provinces.  Truth is, he ruled under the Visigoths, and sometimes played the Visigoths and Burgundians against each other.  Then the Franks came.  Then the Ostrogoths came out of old Rome and settled things.  Provence, at least, came nominally under the Eastern Roman Empire.  Claudus thought that was great.  He took his army and tried to expand his territory.  The Visigoths, Burgundians and Franks did not budge, but Claudus managed to capture the Atlantique province, alongside Amorica and south to about Bordeaux.  Then he tried to take Amorica, and Arthur brought the army over to help his cousins.  Claudus was defeated and killed in the battle.”

“Move forward.  The Atlantique province is now tributary to the Franks, but the Sons of Claudus have gained power and are again threatening Amorica.  And the Franks are sitting back, watching, to see how it goes, because they have spent their forces for the time being driving the Visigoths south of the mountains, not counting Septimania.”

“And we are heading right into that mess,” Lincoln said.

“Not so bad,” Boston countered.  “We will only be there about a day inland.”

“We might go before they know we have arrived,” Alexis agreed.

“I know a port that is safe,” Sir Thomas said.  “At least it was safe last I heard.”

“Great,” Lincoln let out his full sarcasm.

The port turned out to be safe enough, but the travelers had to wait in the port for three days until Lancelot showed up with three hundred men on foot.  They would be escorted to the time gate and left in the morning.  Around noon, Lancelot, who rode in front beside Lockhart and Katie pointed to the trees off to their left.

“The lake,” he said.  “What the Franks call Dulac.  It is where the Lady of the Lake had her residence and held court.  She trained me to the sword as she trained my son, Galahad.”

Katie nodded.  “She has moved to the British highlands and the Lake of the Moon.  She says she has one more to train.”

“How would you know this?” Lancelot asked.

“Sometimes, you just have to trust,” Lockhart said, and Lancelot accepted that.

Later that day, Lancelot admitted that things were not going well.  “Bohort and Lionel are backed up to the west coast.  The King’s city is besieged.  I will be going with Thomas back to Britain to try and raise an army.  The Sons of Claudus with their Frankish help have wasted the countryside, slaughtering whole villages.”

“I wish you well,” Katie said.  “Maybe Arthur will help.”

Lancelot shook his head.  “Arthur will not prevent me from raising men at arms, though I hope they bring their families to repopulate the land.  But Arthur says he is getting too old for foreign adventures.”

That ended the conversation.  Alexis kept talking about how lovely the spring was, but Sir Thomas and Lincoln were almost as morose as the three out front.

They camped that evening before the time gate, in an open field on the edge of a great forest.  They stayed quiet most of the evening and took advantage of letting Lancelot’s men take the watch in the night.  The following morning, Sukki asked a serious question.

“How much longer do we have to travel?”

“Are we there yet?” Boston said, with just enough whine in her voice to make Lockhart chuckle.

“As I count it,” Lincoln said.  “We have twenty-four more time zones to go.”  He waved to Lancelot and Sir Thomas and paced the mule as Tony drove and they disappeared in time.

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

MONDAY

Having read the travelers’ encounter with Arthur, the Pendragon, and before that, their encounter with Festuscato and the Vandals in Rome, it is only right to share the stories of the Kairos from those same days.  First, to see how Festuscato gains the trust of both the Pope and the Empress, not to mention how he gained a wife.  Then, Gerraint in the last days of Arthur leading to his final battle, when all is lost.  Beginning Monday.

*

Avalon 7.12 The Guns of Camelot, part 4 of 6

Percival handed back Katie’s binoculars and spoke softly. “I always thought the southwest corner of the fort-hill was the weakest part.  If we can get close enough on horseback, we might be able to breach the wall.”

“They will expect ladders,” Gwillim said.

“The southwest wall is shorter because the hill is steeper, but no one thought to compensate after they put the road in.  Men can sling ropes with hooks on that wall, and it should be no worse than a farmer clambering up to the roof of a barn to fix a leak.”

“Slim chance,” Decker said.  “But it might work if we can keep the defenders busy and make them keep their heads down.”

“We go with it,” Percival said.

After the dwarf supper, about two hours before dark, three hundred horsemen sounded like thunder along the road.  Every man had a rope with a makeshift metal hook attached to their saddles.  The road zig-zagged up the hill and watchers were surprised the arrows did not start on the last zig before the zag that ran along beside the wall.

“We have caught them napping,” Tristam said.  Percival knew better.  He kept his mouth closed and waited.  When the men were committed, the Saxon defenders rose up all along the wall and let off a volley of gunfire.  It was a ragged volley, but enough to be affective.  Some men and horses went down, throwing the charge into confusion.  The sound of thunder badly frightened the horses.  Many bucked or ran, bumped others or stumbled over the fallen ones.  Only one fell off the road down to the road below, but the attack faltered before the first rope got thrown to the top.

The defenders began to fire at will, picking out individual targets, though their muskets were not very accurate.  The horsemen still on horses picked up all of the fallen comrades they could, and leaving the dead behind, headed down the road back to the woods.  By then, the men on the wall pretty much stopped firing out of fear for their lives.

Decker and Katie fired three-shot bursts and slowly cleared the wall.  The others all fired their handguns a couple of times, though handguns at that distance were not much help.  Lockhart fired a few extra shots with his police special, but even he was not sure if he hit anything.  Most of the men made it back to safety, but they likely left a few wounded there on the hill.  No one said anything, but that was the way of it.  They felt terrible about that fact, but there was nothing they could do about it.

Up in the fort, Odacer yelled.  “What do you mean they got guns?  They aren’t supposed to have any guns.”

“Good ones, too.  Much better than our matchlocks,” Harwic said.

“They are the ones you must kill,” the wraith screamed as she appeared.  “Kill them.  Kill them.”

###

When the Saxons first took over, they grabbed some of the villagers, the ones who did not move fast enough.  They put the women to work cooking and cleaning.  They kept some men in the barn for heavy labor and fed them once a day.  The guards were too dangerous for such use.  They stayed locked up in the new dungeon rooms beneath the tower and were used for target practice.

Scorch and Spark fit themselves in, and nobody said anything about them being strangers.  Scorch helped keep the cattle penned and fed until they were ready to be slaughtered.  He tried hard not to set the hay on fire.  Spark kept the kitchen fires burning, and one older woman noticed and asked.

“You have come to free the Pendragon and his Lady?”

Spark nodded, but her eyes looked at the barracks where the powder got stored in a room separated from the Saxon sleeping quarters.  Gerraint told her and Scorch that they needed to set a fuse long enough to get away before the powder exploded.  Thus far, she did not know if either had been able to do such a thing.  She tried to go earlier with the women who cleaned the Saxon quarters, but got told to stay in the kitchen.  She felt frustrated, and imagine Scorch felt the same way.  Of course, she could not know, since the men and women were kept separated.

Spark and Scorch watched the men load those weapons and shoot at still targets, at first.  They practiced shooting altogether in what one of the head men called a volley.  Scorch felt fascinated by the fire and explosion that sent the projectile reeling into the distance, but he knew, somehow instinctively, that it was too early in history for these weapons.  He would blow up the powder if he could.  They could make more powder, but he felt one step at a time.

Scorch did feel the frustration, but he bided his time. When all the men rushed to the south and west walls, and the fort got generally in an uproar, Scorch took the chance.  He left the cattle and ran to the powder room.  He found a small piece of old, rotted rope that he knew would burn well, quickly, and easily.  He honestly did not make nearly a long enough fuse for a human, but Scorch was not human.  He could transform into flame and fly to the nearest campfire, where he could chew on some wood while the powder exploded.  He wanted to see that but decided to wait until dark.

Scorch backed out of the room, only to come face to face with the wraith and a dozen men down from the wall.  The wraith did something as the men grabbed him.  Somehow, he got stuck in human form and could not transform back into flame for a few minutes.  He could not even burn the hands of the men holding him.

“A fire sprite,” the wraith said.  “It seems we caught him before he could burn your powder.”

The head man swallowed at the prospect of a fire sprite touching the powder.  The wraith had no idea how dangerous that would be.  “Take him to the tower and lock him in one of the lower rooms.  I will want to question him.”

They dragged Scorch off, and Spark saw from the kitchen area and wondered what she could do now.”

###

Down in the dungeon under the great hall, Bedivere opened the door to look out to be sure no Saxons were presently guarding the door.  He closed it quietly again and gave the all clear.

“What did you do?” Gerraint asked, still sitting on the edge of his bed.

Arthur smiled.  “Bedivere and I picked the lock just after you went back to sleep, after Scorch and Spark squeezed through the crack under the door.”

“And nearly set the door on fire,” Bedivere added.

“I helped,” Gwynyvar said.

“She actually succeeded with her delicate touch,” Arthur admitted.

“You were right,” Bedivere said.  “These skeleton locks are too easy.”

“So, why are we still here?”

“You were unconscious,” Enid scolded him, whatever he was thinking.  “We couldn’t exactly carry you.”

“It would not have been right for us to all escape and leave you here,” Arthur said, plainly.

“I’m awake now,” Gerraint answered.  “I have wings to fly, and all that rot… Allow me to borrow Diogenes.”  Gerraint vanished and a different man appeared sitting in the exact same place.  This man was tall enough for Gerraint’s height, and still had blue eyes, but his hair appeared a light golden brown in place of Gerraint’s darker brown.  He appeared wearing the armor of the Kairos, with the sword called Salvation across his back, and the long knife called Defender across the small of his back.  He spoke right away.  “I used to sneak around forts all the time when I spied for Alexander the Great.”

“Alexander?” Arthur asked, unable to place the name.

“Greek fellow,” Diogenes answered as he walked to the door.  “Overthrew the Persian Empire.”

“Persian Empire?” Gwynyvar asked.

“Nothing like a classical education,” Diogenes said.  He pulled Salvation, handed Defender to Arthur, found the knife he used to cut meat at the table and handed it Bedivere, shrugged for the women, as if to say he was out of weapons, and stepped out into the hall, motioning the others to follow and keep quiet.

###

Outside the fort, Elder Stow stepped into the meeting of the minds.  Lockhart, Katie, Decker, Percival, Tristam, Gwillim, Thomas, and Gerraint’s son all sat and tried hard to think of what to do.  Decker finished his comment before they all stopped speaking.

“Now that we know they have guns we need to do something.  The Kairos was clear about that.  Only the Masters would be making guns before they are supposed to be made, and that makes them enemy combatants.”

People nodded, but then waited.  Elder Stow spoke when he got their full attention.  “I would not have suggested this, but in light of what Colonel Decker said, which is what I remember the Kairos said about guns, I may have a way. Sukki and I could fly up there, invisible, and working together, I believe we can take down a section of wall.”  He pulled out is scanner device and projected a three-dimensional view of the fort and environs, with the travelers as red dots, Arthur’s men as blue dots, and the men inside the fort as yellow dots because, he said, yellow was for danger.

“Remarkable,” Sir Thomas said.  The others kept quiet, not sure what he was suggesting.

“Here,” Elder Stow said.  “The east side of the hill appears less steep than the rest.  I’ve ridden enough to know you should be able to get up to the wall quickly.  You will have to dismount and climb over the rubble when you get there, but that should not be too difficult.”

“What do you mean, invisible?” Gwillim asked.  Elder Stow touched his belt and vanished.  Thomas spoke over his younger brother.

“Oh.  You mean invisible.”

“Father?”  Sukki came up with Boston and Nanette.  Boston overheard the conversation and warned Sukki they were talking about her.

Elder Stow reappeared and spoke kindly to Sukki.  “I thought we might do as we did to the pirate ship back when we met the bishop.  I can make the top of the wall unstable.  You can cut it near the bottom.  I can cut out the ground beneath the wall if needed, and the wall should tumble right down.”

“We should travel secretly, then, to be ready to attack the east wall when it crumbles?” Percival said.

“No,” Lockhart countered.  “There is an hour of daylight left.  We should travel openly, so they see, in order to draw as many men as possible to the east wall, so they will tumble with the wall when it falls.”

Arthur’s men agreed, though they did not exactly understand the way it would work.  While the men galloped the road within sight, but well beyond bowshot from the fort, Lincoln and Alexis brought the wagon more slowly.  When they arrived beyond the east wall, they found a hundred and twenty men newly arrived from Caerleon and eastern Wales.  They were mostly rapid defense force trained and more than ready for a good charge.

Avalon 7.12 The Guns of Camelot, part 1 of 6

After 479 A.D. Britain

Kairos 97: Gerraint in the Time of King Arthur

Recording …

The travelers barely came through the time gate before they got surrounded by rough looking men on horseback, spears at the ready.  The men looked hardened by battle, but a bit afraid of something.  They did not move on their captives.

“Hold your fire,” Lockhart spoke generally to the air.  “No reason to start out on the wrong foot.  Which of you is in charge?”

One man moved forward, and the young man beside him came with him.  “I am Heinrich of the Sea, and this is my son, Heingurt.”

“Not much sea around here,” Lockhart said, and tried to smile.  “Lincoln,” he called.

“British highlands would be my guess.”  Lincoln compared his notes in the database with Boston’s amulet.  They sought the right map.

“You are Saxon?” Katie asked and stepped up beside Lockhart.

“Yes,” Heinrich said.  “And this is our land.”

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said.  “We are just passing though.  We will respect your land and be on our way.”

“Saxons,” Katie interrupted.  “This has to be when Britain slowly became England.  I bet this has not been Saxon land for very long.”

Before others could speak, the young man had questions he could not contain.  “Are you from the Lake of the Moon?  Do you know the Lady of the Lake?  I hear she is very beautiful.  Why did she not drive you mad?”

“Looking,” Lincoln said, while Katie and Lockhart turned to the older man to explain.

“We saw you appear out of nowhere, like a hole in the air.  Are you spirit people?”

“Only me,” Boston shouted, and leapt up on her horse, Strawberry.  She fluffed out her red hair and gave the Saxons a good elf-grin.

“We have one,” Lockhart admitted.  “We also travel with one of the elder races of the earth.  The rest of us are human, more or less, mostly.”

“What does that mean?” the young man spouted.  The older man quieted his son and spoke.

“Follow us.  We will take you to our village and our chief, Hans Bad-Hand.  He will decide.”

“Decide what?” Alexis asked Lincoln, softly.  Decker overheard and agreed.

###

The wraith appeared in the dungeon room beneath the great hall in Cadbury Castle.  The castle guard got locked up in the cells beneath the new tower, but the special prisoners were all kept in the original dungeon.  The wraith laughed, a wicked, evil sound that garnered everyone’s attention.  Seven-year-old Guimier barely kept herself from screaming.  She buried her face in her mother’s skirts.  Enid put one hand down to comfort her daughter.  Her other hand held on to Gwynyvar’s hand.  Arthur and Bedivere stepped in front of the women, to protect them, but they had no weapons, and they had no idea what they could do about a wraith.

“You are all here, but one, and he is on the way.”  The wraith spoke to them in a chilling voice that made Gwynyvar cover her own mouth against any untoward sound.  “Fear what is to come.  The wagons are nearly here with plenty of black powder.  When they arrive, you will become target practice.  Do you know what I mean, target practice?”

“Where is Odacer… and Harwic the blade?”  Arthur found the strength to protest in the face of that floating horror.  The wraith looked like a corpse in mid-air.  “I invited them to talk peace, not to make war.”

The wraith laughed again, and both Guimier and Gwynyvar softly shrieked, but refused to give in to the full-fledged scream. The wraith vanished as the cell door opened.  Gerraint, dragged by two big Saxons, got tossed into the room.  He collapsed to the straw covered stone floor, a bloody mess.

“Quick.  Help me get him to the cot,” Enid said.  Arthur and Bedivere got him lying down.  Gerraint moaned but did not show that he was conscious.  He had obviously been tortured.

“Daddy,” Guimier started to cry, and would have run to fling herself on him, but Gwynyvar caught her.  She hugged the girl and let her cry into her dress.

Bedivere stood and returned to the wall, where he tapped with the loose stone he found earlier.  “No secret passages in this dungeon,” he said, and turned to look at Arthur.

Arthur looked angry, in fact, he looked as angry as Bedivere had ever seen him.  He sounded angry.  “I am not the fool, but the lies these men told were masterful.  I honestly thought peace was possible with the Saxon shore.  It has been seven years since Badon.  I believed the Saxons had finally come to terms with their beating and were ready to make a more permanent peace.”  He sat heavily and Gwynyvar put Guimier in Enid’s arms so she could sit beside Arthur.

“Every right person wants peace,” Gwynyvar said, and she held him.  “Peace is one thing worth believing in.”  Arthur dropped his face into his hands as Gerraint moaned again.

###

Hans Bad-Hand looked over his guests.  They appeared to be three couples.  He did not like the look of the dark ones, Africans of some sort, he assumed.  The others looked normal enough, except the blonde’s husband had to duck to enter the house, as did the African.  Well, the third couple looked normal enough, until the black-haired woman mentioned that her husband only calls her a witch on her bad days.  Witchery from the woman would not surprise him.  He shifted his gaze to the window.

The old man outside had looked normal enough, and the young one that stayed outside with him might be his son.  The two girls that also stayed outside, though, made him thank the gods they did not come inside his home.  He could believe the red head was a spirit creature.  Just looking at her made is skin squirm.  He felt it all the way down in his bad hand.  The other one looked normal enough but appeared strong as an ox.  Even if she did not qualify as a spirit creature, he wondered if she might have some troll blood in her.  He turned to the group leader.

“I think you are not people to trifle with,” he said.  “Heinrich, you were right to bring them here.  You say you are just passing through.  May I ask where you came from?”  It was a loaded question.  He had been told they appeared out of thin air.

“The lake of the moon,” young Heingurt blurted out before his father hushed him.

“We don’t know what that is,” Katie said, kindly to the boy.

Lincoln cleared his throat as he got out the database to check.  “The Lake of the Moon is the place Rhiannon and her court went after Meryddin, that is, Merlin died.  She left her pet dragon in Brittany and escaped to the British highlands, so hers is not the dragon in these hills.’

“Rhiannon.  The Lady of the Lake,” Alexis said.

“The goddess?” Nanette asked, to be sure.

“I remember her from Greta’s day,” Katie said.  “She was very nice.”

“Ahem,” Hans Bad-Hand interrupted.  “If not the lake of the moon, where did you come from, if I may ask?”

People paused and looked at one another, but Lockhart did not see any harm in telling.  “An hour ago, we were in Italy, about two hundred miles north of Rome.”

“Worse than that,” Katie said.  “We were there when the Vandals sacked Rome.”

Heinrich gawked.  “That was a hundred years ago.”

“More like sixty years ago, I would guess,” Lincoln said.  “But right now, more importantly, we are looking for a man named Gerraint, the Lion of Cornwall.”  People looked at Lincoln and he realized he should not have said that.

“Ahh!” Hans shouted.  He took a deep breath before he calmly said, “I hope you intend to kill him.”

“Why is that?” Lockhart asked, and noticed Katie wanted him to be quiet, and Alexis tried to keep her husband quiet as well.”

“The Lion of Cornwall killed my brother at the mountain called Badon.”

Both Lincoln and Lockhart kept their mouths closed, so Decker spoke up.  “I am sure it was a fair fight.”

Hans Bad-Hand growled, but Heinrich spoke.  “It was in battle.  It was a fair fight.  What do you think, Brennan?”  He turned to the local man in the house who had thus far said nothing.  The man looked at the chief, but Hans Bad-Hand looked away, and looked like he was going to stew for a while, so Brennan spoke, and with a slightly different accent.

“I am from the village over the hill.  My people have been in these mountains for centuries.  About your sixty years ago, maybe more, there were reports of dragons in these hills.  At that time, many people moved from here down to man the forts in the old Roman wall.  These people are newcomers.”  He indicated Heinrich and his chief.  “They settled in this abandoned village about three years ago, now.  We were all afraid at first.  There has been too much war between my people and the German people.  But we made peace.  We trade.  It is good to have neighbors again.”

Heinrich smiled.  “Enough, Brennan.  The man will start in on the whole ancestry of his family if I let him.  Stick with the question.”

“Fair fight?” Brennan said, with another glance at Hans Bad-Hand.  “Yes.  I am sure it was a fair fight.  My uncle was there, fighting on the other side, of course.  But, like I said, there has been too much fighting and killing over the years.  Peace is better.”

Hans Bad-Hand sighed.  “Peace is better,” he agreed, and asked no more questions.

After that, and a slim lunch, the travelers got ready to leave.  When Brennan found out they were headed in his direction, he offered to guide them down, out of the mountains.  “The dragon is still around here, somewhere, you know.”

“At what price?” Lincoln asked before they went any further.

“Maybe, one gold piece, if you got one.”  Brennan grinned and held out his hand.

“When we are free of dragon lands,” Lincoln said, and Brennan shrugged.  He expected that.

M3 Margueritte: Epilogue and Sneak Peek

Margueritte took her time walking down the aisle in the new church built where the chapel had once been.  She never honestly thought of herself as better than plain looking, though many would have called her pretty; but on her wedding day, she was beautiful, as all brides are.

The thought of Abraxas came only once, unbidden, into her mind.  She knew she would have to do something, but not on her wedding day.

Charles stood as the best man and Tomberlain stood with him.  Elsbeth was the maid of honor and Jennifer stood beside her.  Bartholomew gave his daughter away, and Brianna cried, and Father Aden presided over a perfect ceremony. And when he got to the part where he asked her the question, she said, “Oui.”  Though it might have been “Weee!”

END

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

MONDAY

We will be taking a break from our regularly scheduled program to present Avalon, Season Seven.  The season will run for 24 weeks, from March 22 through September 1,  Consider it summer vacation reading, as if we haven’t all been home and on virtual vacation for the past 12 months.

To those who have not read any of the Avalon stories before, let me assure you, they are written like a television series.  It is good to read the earlier episodes, but not imperative.  One episode, and you will get the idea, know who the characters are, and learn that they are trying to get back home to the 21st century while disturbing history as little as possible.  They travel through time gates that surround the various lives of the Kairos, a most peculiar person, who has the job of trying to keep history on track.  But you can figure that out easily enough, even starting with Season Seven.

Season Seven finds the travelers face to face with a monster who would like nothing better than to literally frighten the travelers to death in order to feast on their souls.  The wraith, a refugee from the land of the dead, has followed in the background since 3600 BC, waiting for the time of dissolution, when the gods go away.  Now, the travelers step over the line into the AD, the common era, and the wraith feels it is her chance.  She will have a few surprises for the travelers, who will have to fight to stay alive.

The second to last episode and the last episode in the season feature two people you may be familiar with.  Festuscato, the last Senator of Rome, where things don’t exactly go to plan.  And Gerraint, son of Erbin in the days of King Arthur.  The last episode is called The Guns of Camelot.  Something to look forward to.

Come September 6, just when everyone is getting into the return to school, assuming people will return to school this year (yes, plans are always subject to change), we will continue with our saga.  The Kairos Medieval 4 (M4): Saving the West.

First (6 weeks of posts) we will follow Festuscato, the Dragon, as he tries to return home, to Rome and his villa on the Appian Way, and to his comfy chair.  He just has one problem to deal with first, a Hun named Attila.

Next (6 weeks of posts) we will join Gerraint, the Lion of Cornwall, now older, in the last days of Arthur where everything leads to the final battle.   Don’t miss it.

Finally, Margueritte will return for 18 weeks of posts in The New Way has Come.  While she tries to help Charles Martel end the days of civil war, bring order out of the chaos that is Francia, and prepare for the inevitable showdown at Pontiers, she also watches the old Roman world dissolve and become the Middle Ages.  The change isn’t as hard as you may think.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that you can read all of the chronicles of the Travelers from Avalon.  The books are available at Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo, or wherever fine E-books are sold.  Please consider buying the book to support the author and remember, reviews matter.  Don’t forget to also pick up your copy of the prequel Invasion of Memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season Seven, Wraith begins Monday.

Happy Reading.

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M3 Margueritte: Beltane, part 1 of 3

When Margueritte awoke, she could not wait to tell Elsbeth all about her adventures with Gerraint, son of Erbin and Ali the thief and Bodanagus the king.  She leapt out of bed and then remembered her ankle which still hurt though it was not nearly as swollen as it had been.  All the same, she limped as fast as she could to Elsbeth’s room where she cracked the door and peeked. Elsbeth was still fast asleep, and Little White Flower slept on the pillow above Elsbeth’s head.

Margueritte frowned and closed the door as quietly as possible.  She felt disappointed as she returned to her own comfy covers.  She saw castles, and Gwynyvar, and Arthur, and everything.  Rhiannon was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen.  And there were battles, and monsters, and intrigue and romance.  They had everything!  By contrast, Margueritte felt her life was so dull.

“Sheep and dogs.”  She described it.  “And Latin every Wednesday.”  She pulled the covers over her head.

Marta came in.  “And so?  We are awake.”  Marta said, as she pulled out Margueritte’s favorite dress.  Margueritte uncovered, and when Marta picked up her matching red slippers, Margueritte could not help herself.

“Shoes!  Shoes!”  Margueritte shouted and giggled.

For all of her acceptance, in the end, Lady Brianna had the hardest time adjusting to having the little ones around.  Lord Bartholomew had no trouble getting the little ones to earn their supper, when he could find them.  He even got to where he could look Hammerhead in the eye.  Luckless and Redux, of course, hit it off right away, while Grimly found a place acting as page for the young Squire, Tomberlain.  He also became invaluable breeding the Arabians and mixing them into the herd to produce just the right horse for his lordship—one which he finally hoped would actually be a winner.  Lolly the dwarf and Marta ended up good friends, because it turned out Lolly also preferred a clean and tidy house.  Marta finally had her help, and she and Lolly even began to tell jokes about how, in the face of work, Maven could disappear quicker than an elf.  And then there was Elsbeth.

Elsbeth and Little White Flower became inseparable.  They went everywhere and did everything together, whatever it was they did.  Margueritte felt a little left out until she found Goldenrod one-day, peeking at her from the tree over her head.

“Come down,” Margueritte called, and her new puppy, a gift from the queen, barked, excited.

“Can’t,” Goldenrod insisted.  “The beast might get me.”

“Come down,” Margueritte said again.  “Puppy won’t bother you.  He just gets excited, that’s all.  He loves Little White Flower,” which was true enough.

Goldenrod shook her head vigorously.

“If you come down and get big, you will be much bigger than Puppy,” Margueritte suggested.  Goldenrod scrunched up her face.  Her little head had not thought of that.

“Okay,” she said grandly as she flitted in her mind from one position to another without an afterthought of any kind, the way Fairies do.  She was down in a flash and stood looking for all the world like a fourteen or fifteen-year-old girl, which Margueritte calculated meant she was actually about seventy years old.

Puppy stood up to her thigh and panted, and she petted the beast grandly and eventually got down beside Margueritte, looking like a true young woman and making Margueritte feel very girlish as she had not quite turned twelve.

“You’ve been watching for days,” Marguerite pointed out.  “But never close enough to call.”

“Yes, but I wanted to see,” Goldenrod responded in pure honesty.  “Mother said we are not supposed to bother you, even though we now know who you are.  She said it would be just awful if all the little ones flocked to the Triangle. Why, the crops would all be trampled there, and nothing would grow quite right anywhere else.  She said we all have our work to do and we should stick to it, and that doing a good job is what you really want, anyway.”

“But you could not resist coming to see,” Marguerite said, not even bothering to put it as a question.

“Exactly,” Goldenrod said.

“You are a little rebellious, huh?”

“Yes.  I guess I am.”

“I was just thinking of being a little rebellious myself,” Margueritte admitted.  “I am going to be twelve, you know, and that is almost a teenager.”

Goldenrod’s face lit up with heartbreaking joy.  She took Margueritte’s hand without thinking about what she was doing.  “We could be rebellious together,” she said with such contagious excitement it got Puppy to his feet and his tail wagging again.

Margueritte held on to that hand, freely.  “That would be great,” she admitted, very much wanting a friend at the moment.  “Only I haven’t decided yet in what way I want to be rebellious.”

“I have a question, too.”  Goldenrod looked suddenly serious.  “What does rebellious mean?”

In any case, it got settled, that Goldenrod would come to visit every chance she got, and that happened often enough.  She usually came to the pasture when Margueritte tended her sheep, because every time she got too close to Sir Barth, his eyes teared up, and his nose filled, and he began to have inexplicable sneezing fits.  But it turned out to be a good thing, that Marguerite and the fairy became friends, because on the night of Mayday, Margueritte got awakened by a tapping on her window.  It happened around midnight.  The moon looked nearly full, and the light made a bright square and splash across the floor.

At first Marguerite thought a stick broke off the old oak and got caught in the roofing.  She imagined it hanging down, tapping on her glass.  That happened once, long ago.  The minute she opened her window to see what was the matter, however, Goldenrod fluttered in, all in a rush.

“It’s Elsbeth.”  Goldenrod panted, overexerted.  “Little White Flower has taken her to the hills.  There are unsavories there.  Come quick.”

Margueritte understood that Elsbeth was in a risky situation, but not in trouble yet.  She nodded.  She wisely felt it would be best not to follow the fairy alone, but she had to think a minute.  Father would not do if silence was needed.  All his sneezing would give them away much too soon.  Tomberlain, on the other hand, might be some help, and it also would not hurt to have Grimly and his bits of magic around.

Margueritte tapped her shoulder and Goldenrod came to stand there and held tight to Margueritte’s hair.  “Not another word.”  Margueritte whispered and Goldenrod nodded, though Marguerite could hardly see her from that angle.  Slowly and quietly, they went out onto the upstairs landing.  Margueritte left her door open for the light she could get through the window.  In Elsbeth’s room, sure enough, Elsbeth and Little White Flower were not to be found.  Margueritte left the door to Elsbeth’s room open as well, and that gave her just a little more light to see.  She could not do anything about the creaking floorboards.

Tomberlain was hard to wake, and she had to cover his mouth to keep him from shouting.  His eyes got big, but he recognized his sister and the worried look on her face and quickly his startled look changed to curiosity and concern.  Grimly got up immediately when they entered the room.  He helped wake the boy, but then Margueritte had to explain.

“Elsbeth has run off,” she said.  “She and Little White Flower have gone into the woods at night and Goldenrod fears there may be trouble.”

“We should wake father,” Tomberlain said, almost too loud.

“Shh.  No,” Margueritte responded.  “We don’t want her in trouble, just to fetch her home, safely.”

Tomberlain nodded, rose, and dressed quickly.  He tied his long knife to his belt and Grimly also grabbed his own weapon.  “But how far is it?”  Tomberlain asked.

“Far, far.”  Goldenrod squeaked in her little whisper.

“No good.”  Grimly did whisper.  “Can’t walk in time and dare not take time for horses.”

Margueritte thought briefly about being in her nightgown.  Seeing Tomberlain dressed made her think, but she imagined she had no time to change.  She needed to think of something else, and at last she had an idea.  “Come on,” Margueritte said, and lead them back into Elsbeth’s room where Maven had been cleaning earlier in the day and lazily left things stacked in the corner.  “Can you help us fly?” she asked Goldenrod.

“Oh no,” Goldenrod said seriously.  “You are much too big for my little magic.  I’m not nearly old enough for that.”

“As I thought,” Margueritte said.  “But can you make this broom fly?”  She pulled it from the corner.  Goldenrod flitted back and forth a couple of times.

“I think, yes, maybe.”  She sounded uncertain.  She sprinkled golden dust on the broom, spoke some words of the first tongue which were almost unintelligible.  She scrunched her little face in such a concentrated effort, Margueritte felt sure she would get a little headache, if she did not pass out altogether.  All at once, the broom jerked in Margueritte’s hand, and she had to hold it down.

“Steady,” she told the broom.  “Wait for us.”  Though she imagined she had no power to perform the magic herself, because of her special relationship with the little ones, she did have some ability to control their magic, once the magic was performed.

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.