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.