R6 Gerraint: To Kent, part 1 of 3

It sometimes felt hard to realize the days of peace far outnumbered the days of war.  The Calendar turned to 518 and marked twenty-five years since Arthur pulled the sword from the stone.  Gerraint turned thirty-nine, becoming one of the elder statesmen, but one who felt like he spent the last twenty-five years at war.  To be sure, not counting the rebellion at the very beginning, Gerraint counted ten major battles and campaigns in those twenty-five years. And he had all the scars and aches of age to prove it.

“What are you thinking?”  Enid took Gerraint’s arm and nestled her head in his shoulder. They were walking in the garden.  He thought only of her.  She turned thirty-four and looked more beautiful than ever.  He only had one serious thought, but that was not what he talked about.

“Peter,” He pointed at the sound of his eldest playing in the courtyard beyond the garden gate.  “He is nearly eleven.  It won’t be long before he will be a squire.”

“Have you found one to take him?”

“No,” Gerraint admitted.  “I haven’t started looking.”

“Typical,” Enid said, as she stood up straight but did not let go of his arm.  “You can’t wait until the last minute if you expect to get someone good.”

“There is always Uwaine.”

“He is a bit of a loner.”

Gerraint nodded.  “He needs a good wife.”

They stopped in the gate and watched as Cordella’s eldest, thirteen-year-old Bedivere, went roaring by with a stick in his hand in place of a sword.  “Cordella’s son is old enough to squire,” Enid said, before she raised her voice. “Careful.  You can poke an eye out with a stick.”

“Lucky man,” Gerraint said, without explanation.

“How does it work?”  Enid seemed to be searching for something, and maybe thinking about losing her sons at what seemed to her a very young age.

“Well,” Gerraint took a breath.  “The first four years, say fourteen to seventeen are spent in school.  A good squire need to learn reading and writing and arithmetic.  Many men contract that part out to a local Priest who will give the young men a grip on Latin and maybe even a smattering of Greek. Then they need good time in the wilderness where they learn to hunt and fish, cook and clean, and build a fire that won’t burn down the forest.  They learn to appreciate the natural world, what the priest would call, God’s creation. They learn what the plants are good for, the many uses, and which they can eat and which they must not eat.  And about rocks and metals, how to build traps, and many such things.

“Like the proper use of a rock for taking dents out of helmets,” Enid grinned.

“Exactly,” Gerraint said, and started her toward the porch, walking in the shade along the edge of the courtyard to keep out of the play area.  “And horses,” he continued with his thoughts.  “A man’s best companion is his horse.  A squire must learn how to care for and keep his horse in good shape, and then about his equipment too, how to care for all of it.”

“Weapons,” Enid said gruffly.

“Yes.”  Gerraint did not back down from the subject.  “He learns how to care for and use weapons properly.”  He stopped walking, so she stopped.

“It sounds like a lot,” Enid said.

“It is,” Gerraint admitted.  “but then he gets another four years, like eighteen to twenty-one to practice it all.  That is when he will learn larger things, as Percival calls them, like how to relate to people as an adult, and relate to all the many lords and chiefs in the land. He will learn something about history and what you might call geopolitics.  He will learn how and when to negotiate, and when to take up that sword. And he will learn tactics and strategy, though hopefully not on the battlefield.  And, by God’s grace, he will find a wife by the time he is fully grown at twenty-one.”

“You didn’t.”

“I was waiting for you.”

Enid pulled in to give him a hug.  He said the right thing, but she had another thought. “But what about Uwaine?”

“Being my squire, I am afraid I made things too strange and difficult for him.  He should be married.”  Gerraint looked up to the porch where Melwas, Uwaine, Percival and Gawain sat quietly in the shade while Percival and Gawain’s wives had a running conversation with Cordella, Cordella leading the pack, of course.

“Morgana has two daughters, you know.”  Enid spoke from his embrace and did not want to let him go.

“Morgaine and Morgause,” Gerraint knew them.

“Morgana and Uwaine’s mother both think one of them would make him a good wife.”

Gerraint thought, and have a real witch for a mother-in-law, but he did not say that.  “Morgana,” he said, and he did not say it in an unkind tone of voice.  “She is the only one I know who has the courage to stand up to Meryddin’s face on behalf of her brother, Arthur.”

“Other than you,” Enid said.

Gerraint backed her up a bit to see her smile. “Are you kidding?  Merlin scares my socks off.”  Enid scoffed and pulled herself back into his arms for more hugging. “But what I really want to know is who decided sisters have to have such similar names, like Morgaine and Morgause?”

“It’s a Welsh thing, like Gwynyvar and Gwenhwyfach,” Enid said and sighed.  “Mother had the name Edna picked out if I ever had a sister.”

Gerraint recognized the sigh.  He knew Enid would love a baby girl, but that was one place he would not go, not that he had much to say about it.  “We should join the others.”

Enid sighed again and they began to climb the steps. “Anyway,” she said.  “Mab says Uwaine is a perfect gentleman and deserves a good wife.”

“Mab.  You are hanging out with that fairy Princess too much lately.  But see?  I have ruined you, too.”  Enid touched his shoulder like a pretend slap before she retook his arm.

R6 Gerraint: Over the Mountain, part 3 of 3

Gerraint awoke in a tent, or maybe a pavilion, it seemed hard to tell, lying on his stomach the way he was.  He knew it was red, but he imagined some rather odd things for Britain in that age—namely silk.  He wondered very briefly if maybe he died and this was his next life, but he really only had one thought.  “Enid?” He could not speak loud.  “Enid?”

“I am here.”

Gerraint heard, but could not see her.  He tried to turn his head, but his shoulder felt immobilized.  His leg also seemed to be in some kind of traction.  And every part of his body hurt, except his little toe on his right foot, he decided.  “I’ve been having bad dreams, really nightmares.”  He tried to turn his head a little more, but she stood out of sight. “Really, I would be ashamed to tell you what I dreamed.  I was awful. I doubted you.  I’m sorry.” He began to cry softly.  “I love you, and I will never doubt you.  Not for real.”  He began to weep and found his head cradled by Enid who also wept.  She kissed his head and then very gently moved to an angle where she could touch her lips to his.

“And I will never doubt you,” she said, and they cried together until exhaustion took Gerraint back into a deep sleep.

“Mother.”  A woman stood in the doorway.  Enid stayed seated in a high-backed chair at the woman’s insistence.  Lord Pinewood stood beside the woman dressed in his hunter’s green.  “Mother.” the woman called again, and Gerraint woke up just enough to offer no objections.  Danna came, and the goddess slipped out of the braces that had Gerraint immobilized. She stood and acknowledged Rhiannon and commanded one thing.

“Explain.”

Rhiannon stood with something in her arms that looked like a giant, translucent caterpillar.  She petted the beast like one might pet a kitten, and she talked.  “It was Meryddin.  He told me about a good young couple he was very concerned about. He said the man was upright, but the wife had a wandering eye for the men.  He asked to borrow the incubus for only a short while and convinced me if the woman could only see herself and the harm she was doing she might be cured and become faithful and they might be a happy couple.  I knew the incubus was a danger.  Given time, it will drive a person to madness, insanity and death, but Meryddin was persuasive, and I thought if only for a short time it might do what he proposed.”

Danna interrupted.  “But he lied to you, and you believed him.  He meant it for Goreu all along.  Goreu came to believe Enid was the one who had the wandering eye and the wandering hands and that she was betraying her wedding vows and betraying him in the worst sort of way.  Yet he still loved her and would not give up on her though he was conflicted about what to do.  He considered locking her away, and at the same time he threw himself into combat, thinking if he was killed, Enid might be happy.”

“After months alone and then months keeping innocent Enid prisoner, with no one the wiser, Lord Pinewood found him on the first day of their journey.  He flew without rest to Lake Vivane to plead with me, saying Gerraint had something on his back.  I thought it nothing, but his pleading was so earnest, at last I thought to see for myself. Thus I found him, the incubus on his back.”

“Merlin.” Danna spat the word and turned to Enid.  “A djin is a creature that delights in torturing and tormenting humans.  They feed off the fear and pain and in the end consume the poor human soul. Meryddin is one quarter djin.  The chance to ruin Gerraint’s happiness in just this sort of demented way says to me that he has made peace with that quarter of himself.”

“I helped,” Rhiannon admitted in a moment of full confession.  “He came to me in agony, and I helped him see that he was not to blame for his birth and he need not give in to the evil.  He is gifted, and can use those gifts for good.”

“Oh, Rhiannon.  When will you stop falling prey to every sad face with big puppy-dog eyes?”

“But we got it in time,” Rhiannon said.  “Gerraint held out for a long time.  I am sure he had help through time, and he loves Enid so very much.”

“Not the point.  The point is what to do about Meryddin, and I think for now we do nothing. We watch him, but don’t let on that he is being watched.  If he learned and does good, we leave him alone.  Goreu may have been an isolated case.  He does not know who Goreu is, but he has an instinctive fear of him.  For now, we wait and see.”

“I made all that happened seem like a bad dream, a nightmare for him,” Rhiannon said.  “I had to do it while the incubus was still attached.  You know even a goddess cannot touch the mind of the Kairos in that way.  But hopefully the bad dream will fade in time.”

“I, on the other hand, will not be able to hide the truth of what happened forever.  He will remember sooner or later, and then I suspect there will be some decisions to make.  Rhiannon, you understand some of it will fall on your head.”

“I will accept my punishment, only don’t be mad at me.”

Danna stepped forward and gave Rhiannon a kiss on the cheek.  “Just stay away from the wrong sorts of men.”  She turned to Enid.  “Did you understand all this?”

Enid nodded.  “It was not Gerraint.  It was that incubus telling him stories that were not true and making him believe the stories.  But now I have him back to me and he thinks it was all just a bad dream.  Yes?”

“Yes, and Meryddin?”

“He has always scared me.”  Enid shivered.  “As long as I don’t have to watch him.”

Danna was glad to hear no desire for revenge.  “You need not watch him.  Pinewood?”

“Day and night,” Pinewood said, with a slight bow.

Danna nodded and got back into the harness and braces. She went away and Gerraint came back to mumble that he felt thirsty.  Enid gladly rushed to bring him some water.

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

MONDAY

Arthur, Percival, terrain and Uwaine are called to the north.  The Scots are acting like maybe they overcame the Picts and are now looking south.  They want control of Hadrian’s wall, and maybe a good slice of fertile, sparsely populated British soil as well.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading.

*

R6 Gerraint: Over the Mountain, part 2 of 3

They traveled through occasional woods that punctuated the meadow grass at this altitude.  Enid concluded this poor excuse for a road Gerraint had chosen led them high through the hills.  She imagined, in better days, this could have been a pleasant ride, out among the wildflowers.  But she did not let her imagination take her from reality.  The sky turned gray and overcast, and so did she.  She had long since given up wondering what she could have done.  She concluded that all she had done was love him, and that was all she was going to do.

At noon, she stopped because a tree crossed the road as an effective roadblock.  She felt uncertain what to do, to speak or not.  Gerraint came up and she held her tongue.  He got a bit of rope he carried with him, tied it to the small end of the tree and to his saddle and his horse pulled until the tree got moved enough to make a path at the side of the road.  He waved at Enid to go around and continue to ride out front while he retrieved his rope. but she did not go far before she called out.

“Gerraint.”

Gerraint hurried, and he got surprised when he saw a man in the middle of the road.  Enid stood on her feet and to the side of the road, worrying her horse’s nose.  He wondered why Enid did not just ride off with the man, but then he saw that this man appeared richly armored in fine chain mail, and sported a long spear such as the Romans used to carry.  Another attempt to see him killed?  He wondered.

“This is my road,” the man said from beneath his helmet. “You cannot pass unless you pay the toll.  I must see all that you have to determine how much you should pay, so please be good enough to empty your bags on the road.”

Gerraint said nothing.  He put on his own helmet, mounted and grabbed his lance.  Then he spoke.  “This is Arthur’s road.  Toll tax is forbidden.”  He charged. The man started a little behind, like this was not the usual response, but he did not start far behind.

They crashed.  Gerraint did not get the best hit on his opponent.  The man was much smaller than he first appeared in the saddle. The man did get a good hit on Gerraint, but his spear splintered on Gerraint’s shield and those two hits combined were enough to unseat the little man.  Gerraint’s shoulder got bruised from the blow, but he appeared to have the upper hand until he looked and saw his lance had cracked.  He threw it to the ground and pulled his sword as he leapt to his feet.

The little man got to his feet and began to bob and weave around the road, sometimes ducking under Gerraint’s sword hand. He got a couple of good blows into Gerraint’s side, not enough to break the chain, but sure enough to leave a mark. Then he ducked under Gerraint’s backswing, and Gerraint put out his gloved hand.  He hit the little men right in the face hard enough to knock him to the ground and bloody his nose.  He tried to rise, but Gerraint brought the pommel of his sword down on the man’s helmet. He left a big dent and left the little man on his knees.  Before Gerraint could do anything else, the little man pulled a knife and stabbed Gerraint in the thigh.  Gerraint howled but used that leg to kick the little man in the chest.  He flew several feet before he landed hard and he lost hold of his sword.  Gerraint stepped up to finish things when the little man cried out.

“Mercy Lord.  Mercy, please.”

Gerraint paused while he pulled the knife out of his own leg with a tremendous cry.  He turned the blade so the point would be in the little man’s face, but the man had his eyes closed like he might be praying.

“On condition,” Gerraint said.  “Henceforth the road is free.  No more travel tax, and you respect the travelers who come through here.”  He stepped over to take the little man’s sword.  “And don’t make me come back here to enforce the rules.”  When he looked up, he saw Enid crying again.  She looked overjoyed at his victory, but terribly worried about the wound in his leg.  She looked to be suffering from holding her tongue.  Gerraint thought she was play acting, and might have said something except he heard something else.  It sounded like twelve or fifteen horses riding hard across the fields, skirting the woods.

When the little man heard, he grinned ferociously. Gerraint figured the man’s gang rode to finish the job.  Enid heard and covered her eyes in her fear, but then Gerraint heard something else. It sounded like bowshot followed by men shrieking and screaming.  Then the sound of the horses stopped, and Gerraint had a comment.

“Probably Deerrunner and a pocket of elves, or maybe Pinewood and his fairies.  In either case, do I need to ask some of them to stick around and make sure you keep the conditions?”

“No, Lord.”  The little man looked horrified by the thought, and twice terrified by the fact that his men were likely all dead.

Gerraint said no more to the little man.  He turned to Enid with the word, “Ride.”

Enid rode, but looked back.  Gerraint strapped up his cracked lance and got on his horse, but it looked hard.  He felt pretty banged up from three would-be rapists and now the little man.  What was more, he did nothing for the wound in his thigh.  He did not even wash it, and that would be a sure risk for infection.

All afternoon they rode.  When the rain finally came mid-afternoon, their pace hardly slackened.  Enid felt sure they had traveled over the heights by then and were headed down toward some distant valley.  She desperately wanted to stop and be allowed to tend his wounds, but he would not stop. After sundown, they entered a village and procured a room.

This time, Gerraint made Enid stay with him while he tended the horses.  Then he took her upstairs and told her to stay in the room.  He would have locked her in if the door had a lock.  He went downstairs and had a very plain supper of bread and meat.  He tried not to drip too much blood on the furniture.  When he felt satisfied, he took a chunk of bread and a jug of water for Enid.  He found her already on the floor and the fire well lit.  They did not need it.  The weather had warmed, but they were still rather high in the hills.

“Here.”  Gerraint gave her the bread and water and went immediately to lie down on his back. His leg throbbed, but all the same, he did not stay awake long.  He awoke when she ripped his pants leg and began to wash his wound.  She had a strip of cloth from the bottom of her own dress to use as a bandage.  Maybe he lost too much blood so he did not have the energy, or maybe he just felt too tired, but he made no move to stop her.  He imagined she might be cleaning his wound with poison.  At the moment, he did not care and went back to sleep.

###

In the morning, they began their journey again, now clearly down the hill that Gerraint guessed was Mount Badon.  They were not far from Bath.  Gerraint ached for the first two hours before his muscles worked out the kinks.  He thought when they arrived in Cornwall in two or three weeks, he would kill the first man that talked to her.  It had been a long time since his childhood days of exploring the fort in every nook and cranny, but he remembered a dungeon cell that might be cleaned up and fixed up with furniture.  That seemed like the only place he could think to keep her where she would not have a chance to get her hands on another man.  He meant her no harm, but she should take her vows more seriously, instead of being such a harlot, which by then he felt convinced she was.

By mid-morning, Gerraint’s ears picked up a call for help. Though Enid rode up front, he galloped right passed her and she had to catch up.  No doubt the sound of horses scared off the robbers.  They found a young woman in the woods by a gentle stream, just off the road, and a young man on the ground, not moving.

“Three giants,” the woman said, and pointed in the direction they fled into the woods.  “They killed him.”  She appeared hysterical.  “They killed him.”

“Stay with her,” Gerraint told Enid, and he rode straight into the woods after what seemed an easy trail to follow.  Apparently, the so-called giants were not worried about being followed.

Gerraint unstrapped his lance and yelled, “For Arthur,” but it became the only warning he would give.  They were not giants, but they were as big as Gerraint, and one looked bigger.  They turned around at Gerraint’s shout, and good thing because he was not one to stab people in the back.  The lance stayed together well enough to run through the first, but then it became so many splinters.

The biggest man appeared lightly armored, and Gerraint thought that broad chest would be a good target for his long knife, Defender. The man yelled and fell off his horse when Defender penetrated several inches.  That left the third man alone, but that man had a spear, so Gerraint leapt out of his horse and tackled the man.  The spear fell out of reach.

They wrestled for a moment and shared their fists before swords came out.  The man knew his business with a sword, but it had been learned.  Gerraint had all the experience in the arena of kill or be killed and soon enough he crippled the man in the legs and followed through with a clean cut across the man’s middle.  Then his shoulder caught fire with pain as the big man brought his big sword down on Gerraint from behind.  He may have been aiming at Gerraint’s head, but he caught the shoulder with a powerful blow.  It broke through the chain mail, broke several bones and cut a big, gaping wound.

Gerraint called for Defender, and his knife, of its own volition, vacated the big man’s chest and flew to Gerraint’s hand.  The man howled and lost the grip on his sword. The sword fell out of Gerraint’s shoulder as he turned, and in one powerful backswing, sliced through most of the man’s neck so the head lolled back and dragged the rest of the body with it.

Gerraint managed to wipe and sheath his blades, though it felt like agony to do it.  He dragged his broken body up into the saddle, his arm hanging all but useless at his side.  The wound in his leg broke wide open again and he had a struggle holding on to his horse. But he became concerned about the women being left alone beside the road with only a dead body to protect them. When he found them well, he slipped off his saddle and fell to the ground.

R6 Gerraint: Over the Mountain, part 1 of 3

Gerraint felt reluctant to go home.  He kept thinking how beautiful Enid was, and how much he loved her, but he feared that maybe she turned from him when he went away. She certainly had the young men interested wherever she went, and Gerraint feared that one of those men might have turned her head during his long absence. It ate at him, and at times he became enraged, even at simple things.

Enid spent most of her lonely days at Caerleon in the company of Gwynyvar, but that summer she received word that Marcus Adronicus became ill.  He sent word searching for Gerraint, because Gerraint would need to be chieftain for Cornwall as Marcus became convinced he was dying.  Gerraint’s mother, who had grown close to Enid and her children, pleaded for her to return home, saying Cornwall would be her home as Queen for the people.  Enid came, but they still heard no word from Gerraint.

That fall, Gerraint returned to Caerleon and took his anger out on the practice fields.  By then, he felt sure Enid did not return his love and only coveted his position.  He felt certain she had a secret lover, and maybe more than one.  And as he knocked man after man from their horses in the practice field, he began to wonder if even his sons where his.

Enid found him in Caerleon, and she sent for him, but he did not come.  Word came from Gwynyvar that said Gerraint was fighting some kind of madness and neither Arthur, nor Percival, nor Uwaine, nor any of the others were able to reach him in is fevered state.  She suggested that maybe Enid could reach him and bring him back to sanity, not knowing Enid as the source of his madness.  Enid needed no other invitation.  She left her boys in their grandmother’s good hands and crossed the channel to Caerleon.

When she arrived, Gerraint took her to his home in town and locked her in.  He stayed in the home, often sitting alone in the front kitchen, and fretted and stewed in his anger.  She cried every day, not knowing how to reach him.  Every night they lay there, side by side, but he would not so much as touch her or let her touch him.

Gerraint hired an old woman to cook and clean.  At first, he let Gwynyvar and some of the ladies visit, but he soon got the notion that they were carrying messages from Enid’s secret lover, so he ended those days.  Arthur came once with Gwynyvar to try and reason with him, but he would not let them in the front door.  He almost said something about Arthur’s infidelity with Gwenhwyfach, but by some internal grace, he managed to close his mouth as he closed the door.

He sat for months, until he finally got the notion that even the old cook might be acting as a go between for Enid’s lover, and he let her go.

###

Word came in the late spring that his step-father was indeed dying and Gerraint would be expected to take on the responsibilities of Cornwall.  He said nothing.  He saddled two horses, made Enid ride on one while he followed behind.

“Ride out front, far enough away from me where I don’t have to hear your weeping.  Those tears aren’t going to work on me.  And don’t talk to me unless I talk to you first.”

Enid rode, but slowly, and all she could think was this was not her husband and she wanted her husband back.

From the beginning, Gerraint turned them off the main road and on to some back trails and farm paths that hardly qualified for roads. He did not want to be followed out of Caerleon, and in the back of his mind he thought he might run into some thieves who might kill him and then Enid would get what she wanted.

When he got to the top of a hill, he saw Enid talking to a hunter on horseback who had just come out from the woods ahead.  Enid made the hunter wait there while she rode back to tell Gerraint.

“The kind gentleman has invited us to sup with him,” Enid reported.

Gerraint’s anger flared and he lowered his lance and charged.  The hunter turned and rode quickly back into the woods where he would not be caught, and Gerraint stopped and turned back.  “I told you not to talk to me,” he yelled at her.  “Ride out front.”  Enid turned, did as asked, and wept some more.

They were still among the trees when it got dark. Gerraint pulled them off the road and told Enid to watch the horses.  He went to lie down, and slept.  At dawn, Enid still dutifully watched the horses.

Around noon, they came out of the woods and into some fields where people were working, tending the crops.  A fine-looking village lay nestled on the hillside far in the distance, and a young woman with a large basket came up the road.  Enid passed pleasantries until Gerraint caught up. She turned and told him this young woman was bringing supper to the men in the fields and would be glad to share what she had.

Gerraint acted gracious to the young woman and gladly received what she offered in the way of bread and meat.  He asked about the village, still some distance ahead, and learned that there was indeed an inn, though there were not many travelers on this road.  Gerraint said thank you, and as the young woman walked toward the field and the workers, he said to Enid, “You just can’t shut-up, can you?”

Enid wanted to say something more, but held her tongue when he said, “Ride.”  She continued out front but felt for the moment devoid of tears.

Gerraint got a room at the inn.  There were a few other guests despite the word to the contrary. He saw the horses taken care of, and entered the downstairs room in time to see Enid sitting quietly by the fire and a big, ugly man walk away from her to sit with two other men.  He almost hit her for entertaining the man, but instead they ate and went to the room where he knocked her to the floor.

“You sleep on the floor and tend the fire,” he growled and took himself to the bed to sleep.  Enid fretted for a time.  She dared not speak to him.  She felt afraid, but in the end, she became more afraid for him than of him.  If need be, she would die for him, but she was not prepared to watch him die.  She woke him and spoke.

“That man by the fire said if I would not go with him, he would come in the night and take me by force.”  Gerraint made no answer, but rose and dressed.  He dragged Enid down to the horses which he saddled. He gathered his equipment and told her only one thing

“Ride.”

She rode out front, far enough to not be able to speak to him.  She prayed as she rode, a bit faster than before, and she kept looking back to be sure he kept up.  Fortunately, the moon came up and the stars were bright, and they rode between the fields so there were no long shadows to interfere with her sight.

Gerraint heard the horses long before they became visible.  He knew it was his elf ears.  Then he saw the three riders long before they could see him.  That was his dark elf eyes.  He put on his helmet and pulled his lance to be ready before they were on him. He charged, and that took the riders by surprise.  He ran the big old man straight through the middle, and the man made a sound of death, but he grabbed the lance as he fell from the horse so Gerraint had to let it go and pull his sword, Wyrd.

The man who ended up beside Gerraint had his sword out as well, but looked confused.  He swung wildly in the dark and struck Gerraint’s side below his arm, but Gerraint’s chain armor stopped the weapon, making only a bruise. Gerraint’s swing was more accurate. He sliced above the man’s chain, easily slicing through the man’s neck.

The third man kept trying to get around the big man’s horse, and cursing, but when he saw his comrade fall, he looked ready to bolt.  Gerraint got his horse in the way.  They traded sword swipes several times before the seasoned soldier in Gerraint took over and he cut the man’s arm before he cut his neck as well.  This man fell to the ground.  The other still pranced around, a dead body on horseback.

Gerraint got down, cleaned his sword and returned it to his back.  He pulled out his lance, noted that it had not cracked or broken and strapped it again to his saddle.  Enid came running up.  She threw her arms around him and cried.

“Gerraint.  I was so worried about you.”

Gerraint stepped back.  “You are not to speak to me unless I speak to you first.  Your job is to ride.”  He shoved her toward her horse and got up on his own.  He had wondered why Enid did not offer herself to those men at the inn, since she could not keep her hands off other men. He decided it had been a ploy to entice the men to kill him.  Her life would be easier without a husband.

They left the dead where they lay and rode well into the night.  Enid began to weave in the saddle.  This had now been two nights when she had not slept, and Gerraint had not become completely heartless.  Indeed, that seemed the trouble.  He loved her, and he could not be a monster.  He would never hit her or harm her, or see her harmed no matter how much he might feel like it.  He caught up to her and took the reins of her horse.  He lifted her sleeping body out of the saddle and laid her in a field. He watched over her and the horses, and sat to contemplate just how cruelly his life had turned.

By dawn, he imagined she had slept four hours. The sky threatened a late spring rain, and he felt anxious to get going.  He woke her and made her get back in the saddle while he spoke one word to her.

“Ride.”

This time she said nothing.  She merely lifted her chin and rode out front, alone.

R6 Gerraint: Caerdyf, part 3 of 3

Enid started crying, so the priest got his question out before Enid threw herself into Gerraint’s arms.  Gerraint shuffled for a piece of velum in a secret pocket in his armor.  He started to hand it to the priest who looked at it curiously when Gerraint snatched it back with the word, “Can you read?”

“Of course,” Father Vespian said and stuck out his hand for the note.  It was a note that hinted at the great and heavy burden God placed on Gerraint in this life and it pleaded with whatever priest or person read the note to not hinder, but help in whatever way they could with whatever task with which Gerraint currently struggled.  It got signed and sealed by Dubricius, Archbishop of Wales, shortly before his death. The Priest looked to return the note, but Gerraint and Enid were currently too busy kissing.

Uwaine set himself to work with the city men, to keep an eye on the defeated Irish.  He also started asking around to see what sort of boat they might procure with the little bit of gold and coins Gerraint carried.  Uwaine would drive a good bargain, though he said more than once how Goreu had all sorts of wild ideas but was not the best on the details and follow-thru.

Gerraint took Enid by the hand and raced her to where her parents and Megalis were waiting.  The good Father had to catch up to return Gerraint’s note, but he waited because Gerraint started speaking again.  “Megalis,” He got in the trembling young man’s face.  “I intend to marry Enid.  Any objections?”  Megalis shook his head, rapidly.  Fenn scared Megalis.  Gerraint terrified him.  “Good.” Gerraint turned to Enid’s parents. “With your permission, I would like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”  Ynywl and Guinevak both nodded and smiled like doting parents should always smile, and Gerraint turned to Enid, thought a second, and dropped to one knee.  “Lady Enid of Caerdyf, good daughter of Lord Ynywl and Lady Guinevak, will you marry me?”

Enid still held his hand, but put her other hand to her hip and frowned.  “You could have asked me first.” she scolded softly.

“A pox on me for being a clumsy lout,” he said with volume.  After a moment of silence he added more softly, “Will you?”  Apparently, she thought he had suffered enough.

“Yes, please,” she said, and they had a time out while he kissed her again.  When he took a short step back, she held tight to his arm.

“You may yet change your mind.”  He patted her hand gently on his arm and turned to Megalis and Ynywl.  “Now, here is my judgment and also some of my reasoning.  Megalis, you claim the whole of the land because your father was the eldest. But, in my mind, your grandfather was older still and by virtue of his age and position, he outranks your father. Whether you like it or not, he divided the land between his two sons, and you have no right to deny that decision. Caerdyf and the surrounding land as your grandfather decreed belongs to Ynywl and his heirs, forever, and you have no right to claim another man’s land.  To that end, I gave the Irish two hours to get out, I graciously give you two weeks.  Go back to your own land and to the great house you have, and be content.”

A large number of city people still watched everything, and they took a moment to cheer.  No man is a great lord, and not many are good, but the people recognize and suffer under the bad apples, and soon enough will be happy with almost anyone else.  To be fair, Gerraint figured most of Megalis’ bad decisions were made by the Irish, but then he imagined Ynywl might have been one of the good ones, so putting him back in his place seemed an easy choice.

“Now, as for compensation,” Gerraint continued. “You stole seven years of taxes from these people.  You must pay it back out of your own pocket.  You may take seven years to do it, one year at a time, but Ynywl will need the funding to build roads, for new construction, to maintain the fort with men at arms, and build ships to defend the coast from things like Irish pirates. It will be like Pharaoh’s dream of the fat cows and the skinny cows.  Ynywl will have seven fat years and you will have seven lean years, but after that the debt will be paid and you can become good neighbors.  You are family, after all.”  And Gerraint thought, hereditary chieftains who are like vassals of the Pendragon.  All they need are titles like Duke and Earl.

“Forgive me, Lord Goreu,” Ynywl spoke kindly. “But who are you to be making judgments?”

Gerraint forcibly set Enid aside.  She had to hear this, unattached, to make up her own mind about things.  He cleared his throat.  “I am Gerraint, son of Erbin, High Prince of Cornwall, Knight of the Round Table and sometimes called the Lion of Cornwall.  Of course, you can always appeal any decision I make to Arthur.” He glanced at Enid.  To his delight she retook his arm and spoke softly.

“I guessed, you know.”

“Sir Gerraint,” Ynywl looked pleased, not the least for his daughter.  Megalis looked mortified.

“Lord.”  The parish priest finally got his attention and returned the velum note.  “How may I be of assistance?”

“Oh yes.”  Gerraint almost forgot.  “You heard Erin’s confession that she had already married Fenn when she took her vows to Megalis.  Why don’t you see if you can work out an annulment.  Megalis might want to legitimately marry someone someday.”

“A fair suggestion.  I will start at once.”  The priest also looked pleased.

Gerraint and Enid walked side by side.  “You know Goreu is my real name, I mean the one my mother gave me.  Gerraint is just the British version of the name.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me. Our marriage won’t mean much if I can’t trust you.”

Gerraint let out his best smile.  “I think I love you.”

“That is a good start,” Enid encouraged him.

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

MONDAY

Arthur and Gerraint are invited to the continent for the first time.  Their Celtic cousins are backed to the wall and need help.  Until then

*

R6 Gerraint: Caerdyf, part 2 of 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R5 Gerraint: Trouble

Arthur spent the next couple of years finally making that grand tour.  He hardly got everywhere.  North Wales and the south Welsh coast did not get much attention, but only because they did not have enough time before the trouble started.

In those days, Ederyn said Percival got to that vulnerable age, so he took him off on a number of independent adventures, including a six-month trip to the Highlands in the British northwest where there were reports of dragons.  Sometimes, it became just Arthur, Peredur and Meryddin on the road, but most of the time Pelenor and Gerraint joined them.

Both Arthur and Gerraint were coming of age. Arthur quickly developed the habit that, as soon as he stepped into a Lord’s manor house or fort or home, he said, “I am not here to get married.  I am not looking for a wife, so please don’t suggest such a thing or I will be very cross.” Gerraint, who finally started to become that imposing figure at a touch over six feet tall, with impressive muscles and in excellent shape, simply could not master being the strong, silent type. He routinely mumbled, “If I knew you were coming I would have baked a cake.”

They all gathered for Cordella’s wedding to Sir Melwas, High Chief of Lyoness.  Melwas noted how much Percival had grown, which made Percival growl.  Gerraint had to put up with Cordella telling him a thousand times how much she hated him before she hugged him and told him she loved him and flitted off happily to find her new husband.

They went to Somerset and Glastonbury to visit Mesalwig who stayed home, tending his ailing father.  Arthur finally knighted him, which is what he had been calling it ever since Gerraint’s slip of the tongue.  It did not mean much to Mesalwig at that point.  The old man appeared to be dying, and all the others could do was give their condolences.

“That flu, as you call it, is pretty widespread among the people.  Most don’t die, but some do,” Peredur mused aloud.

“Mostly the old and the very young,” Meryddin added, and there were a few towns the group was not allowed to enter because the epidemic was severe.

Overall, they did a pretty good job of covering Britain, including a trip all the way up to Edinburgh to visit Loth.  This became Arthur’s first time above Hadrian’s wall, and his first view of the Scots.  He said the Scots did not look or sound much different from the British, and even some of the words were the same.  He also got his first look at some Picts, though they had to be pointed out to him because they also dressed and acted like the Scotts and only their language gave them away, it being significantly different.  Arthur confided to Gerraint privately that he felt surprised by the Picts. He heard they had blue skin.

“Blue face paint, but only when they go to war,” Gerraint said.  He knew that much.

From Edinburgh, they traveled down the whole of Hadrian’s wall to the west side where Kai made his home at Fort Guinnon. That stood as the western anchor to the wall; the farthest south the Picts, or Scotts for that matter, were permitted to go.  Of course, Scotts and even some Picts regularly traveled past the wall, but they were mostly traders and merchants who not only had a bustling trade with Loth and Kai, but with the people of the north, all the way down to York.  It was not like the old Roman days.  They had peace in the north and Arthur, for one, hoped it stayed that way.  Sadly, that dream got shattered in the year 500 when Kai and Loth both sent word that an army of Picts and some Scotts started gathering just north of the Antonine wall under a war chief named Caw.  The Norwegian shore stayed quiet for the last ten years, so Colgrin of York got the idea the time was ripe.  He made a pact between his Jutes and Saxons and the Picts and Scotts to capture the whole northland for himself.

“Damn!” This time Arthur did not look happy, but he had five hundred men trained in the RDF, so he was not unprepared.  He sent a hundred each to support Kai and Loth, and a third hundred to keep an eye out for the Picts and keep an eye on Hadrian’s wall. A fourth hundred he sent to link up with Sir Bedwyr at Oxford.  They were to keep their eyes on Essex and see if the Saxons should decide to move north.  He hoped the beating they took at the River Glen might discourage that idea.  The last hundred, mostly the young and unseasoned stayed at Caerleon and helped gather supplies and settle men as the Lords brought their troops in over the next three months.

While they waited, Gerraint turned twenty-one and Arthur immediately knighted him.

“Well, son, now that you are a young lord, got any plans?” Pelenor asked.

Gerraint just threw his arms around the man and hugged him.  He whispered, “Thank you.”

Pelenor hugged him back and whispered, “You’re welcome,” in response.  Then they separated because Pelenor got particularly uncomfortable with those sorts of shows of affection.

“Yes, actually,” Gerraint said.  “A friend of Morgana prevailed on her, so she prevailed on Arthur, who prevailed on me.  Allow me to introduce a squire of my own.  Uwaine is thirteen.”  He stepped aside and showed a young lad who looked nervous in the presence of such preeminent men and Knights of the Round Table besides, as everyone started calling them.

“Lord!  You were a brat at that age,” Pelenor said.

“Yes you were,” Peredur agreed.  “Almost as bad as Arthur.”

“Congratulations,” Ederyn said.

“Son,” Percival, who turned nineteen, stepped up to the boy.  “Don’t be scared of him.  If he gives you any trouble, you just let me know.”

“Hey Goreu,” Arthur shouted.  “Try not to get weird on him until he is older.”

Poor Uwaine did not know what to say.