R6 Gerraint: Scots and Danes, part 1 of 3

Arthur wintered at York, but not happily.  He missed Gwynyvar and felt especially unhappy when he considered her protector, Lancelot.  He trusted her, and he trusted Lancelot, but he felt unhappy all the same.

Gerraint made the trip when there came a break in the weather.  His men were tired and deserved the chance to go home.  Melwas and Cordella deserved their men back, and he took most of the men from Devon as well.  Tristam stayed in York with Arthur, though Arthur had plenty of RDF men who were pledged to stay with him, and all the more after Guinnon.

Gerraint arrived home at winter’s end, and he never felt so warm and comfortable as he did when he curled up in the night with Enid. He rested well, not that she often let him rest.  Together, Gerraint and Enid got in the habit of wandering down to the docks in the early morning to take in the sunrise and watch the fishermen and the occasional merchant ship that pulled in on the morning tide.  Sometimes, they heard the news of the wider world.  One morning, the news sounded especially bad.

The ship, one that belonged to Thomas of Dorset, and the Captain reported a fleet of Saxon warships out in the channel headed for the tip of Lyoness.  Gerraint hated to bother Pinewood and his fairy friends, but Enid insisted, despite her misgivings that it would mean losing Gerraint again for a time.  They needed to know where the Saxons were headed, and some estimate as to when they might arrive.

Word went out to Lyoness, Cornwall and all across Devon to be prepared to gather.  Messages went to the north coast, across the north channel to Caerdyf, and as far away as Clausentum, which was Southampton, to be prepared with whatever ships they could muster.  A week went by before Gerraint heard definitive news.

Heingest, son of Hueil was gathering an army on the border of Wessex.  Cadbury and Oxford appeared the obvious targets, but they were not accessible by sea. Caerleon became the clear target the minute Heingest moved to bypass Cadbury.  Gerraint’s only question was whether Heingest knew Arthur was absent from Caerleon or not.  He might have wanted to catch Arthur at a point unprepared, having just come back from a campaign and sent his troops home.  Then, he might have decided to destroy Arthur’s home while Arthur stayed occupied elsewhere.

Arthur and a thousand men still in the northern army left York as soon as Gerraint sent him word of his suspicions.  Gwyr, Arthur’s court judge sent couriers to all the British Lords, and especially to the Welsh Lords whose own lands were now threatened.  This time, it was not a distant British problem.  The Saxons headed for Wales.

Gerraint gathered a full thousand men from Lyoness, Cornwall and Devon and crossed over to Caerdyf.  A second thousand gathered in the Caerdyf streets and camped on the fields, coming from all over south and central Wales leaving only the forts of the Irish watch manned.

At the same time, the Saxon fleet off-loaded their troops in a secluded bay half-way between Caerdyf and Caerleon.  The estimate there was about two thousand. Heingest appeared to be bringing closer to twenty-five hundred overland.  No deliberate attempt got made to stop him.  The troops at Cadbury tried to appear like they were cowering behind their defenses, when in fact they were waiting for Arthur to return south so they could join him.  The little man of Mount Badon organized a wonderful campaign of harassment, one that the Saxons would not soon forget, but Heingest suffered no serious delay or blockage between Wessex and Caerleon.

The city itself and fort at Caerleon spent the month redoubling their defenses.  All of the surrounding towns and villages were abandoned.  Most of the men, the women and children made for Leogria in the east and for north and central Wales in the west.  They were refugees who set up big camps by the border, but they brought their own livestock with them and as much grain as they could carry by mule and in their ox drawn wagons.  A number of the men went to fight, and doubled the number of defenders on the city walls and in the fort.

The Saxons felt somewhat surprised at the empty villages after Mount Badon, but it was common for villagers to flee at the approach of an army.  What seemed uncommon was the slim pickings they found—little food and not so much as a mule left to transport the food and maybe have for supper.  Heingest planned well.  His troops and the men from the ships arrived at about the same time to surround the city and fort, but the men in the west, who imagined their arrival would be a great secret, did not fare any better with goods and food in the empty villages they found on the route to Caerleon.

Heingest tried the city first, and found it much more strongly defended than he anticipated.  The Saxon Captains who were there to storm the port, hesitated.  Arthur’s half-dozen warships set out from the docks like a second wall.  Arthur’s Captains were confident, perhaps overconfident, that they could beat back any Saxon warships that might try them.  The hesitation of the Saxons suggested that the Germans were not prepared to test that theory.

Thomas of Dorset gathered as many ships from the south coast as he could.  They were essentially fat merchant ships who stood little chance against Saxon warships at sea, but they had great hope that they could catch the majority of the Saxon ships on the shore, or even pulled up on land and with only light crews left to defend them.  This they did, in that supposedly secret bay on the north shore of the channel.  The result was given.  The Saxons were going to have to walk home.  The merchants then mostly refused to continue on to Caerleon where the real battle would take place, but Thomas was able to get enough ships to join him to at least assist Arthur’s ships in the port defense.

After the initial test of the city and the fort, and the discovery that both were strong and this would not be so easy, the Saxons went into conference.  Without a quick and easy victory, some were determined to go home.  Heingest had his hands full with internal struggles.

Arthur and Gerraint, with fairy go-betweens, timed things about as well as such things could be timed in that age, arriving on the same day, if not in the same hour.  Arthur, having picked up a second thousand men as he came through Britain, camped in the east.  Gerraint camped in the West, and in the morning, Ogryvan arrived with a thousand men from the north of Wales, and they completed the encirclement.  The Saxons had the city and fort of Caerleon surrounded, but Arthur had the Saxons surrounded by a bigger circle with more men.

R6 Gerraint: Fort Guinnon, part 1 of 3

Arthur caught up with Gerraint while he healed from his wounds.  Percival, Uwaine, and a whole troop from Caerleon came with him, and they escorted Gerraint to Cornwall where they saw him vested as high chief of the land. All of the lords of Cornwall declared their allegiance, along with the lords of the northern province of Devon; but then, like Tristam at Tintangle, they were mostly cousins of one sort or another. More telling were the towns, ports, and small cities like Exeter who did not hesitate to declare Gerraint their protector.

Gerraint moved things in a medieval direction by requiring men at arms from all the lords, towns and cities when the need arose to defend the land.  He levied a small tax, most of which got used to maintain the forts against pirates and keep the roads passable.  In this way, Cornwall became something of an independent kingdom, a condition that would remain for several centuries.

When Marat, the Irish prince, moved a force into the land and laid siege to Tintangle, Gerraint gladly accepted help from Arthur in a large contingent of the RDF, but he told Arthur not to mobilize. Gerraint raised the troops from his own people, a kind of test, and they broke the siege, and Tristam killed Marat, and that was it.  Arthur felt pleased that it did not cost him.  The people of Cornwall felt pleased and proud to accomplish the defense of the land, as Gerraint told them.  Everyone seemed winners, but from that day on, Cornwall began to move in its own direction.

Marcus died early in those days.  Cordella and Melwas came up from Lyoness and all but pledged their loyalty to Gerraint’s leadership.  Melwas was not the strongest leader.  In fact, Cordella ran their lands, as far as Gerraint could tell. And though this happened a good ten years before the disaster that hit Lyoness and sank most of the land into the ocean, from that point, Lyoness became like a third province in the Cornish kingdom.

Gerraint’s mother held on, but contented herself with her grandsons and avoided all the politics.  Gerraint found that despite his mixed feelings about his stepfather, the man had been an excellent and well organized high chief.  That made Gerraint’s job easy, and left him little to do. Those few years were good years overall. And Gerraint and Enid became like new, young lovers, and were very happy.  They had a third son giving them Peter, James and John, all named by Gerraint. Enid insisted she be allowed to name their daughter, if they had one.  But she did not feel disappointed with another boy.

Love, in those days was never so sweet, but of course, it did not last.

In the late spring of 512, word came that the Scots had broken the line of Hadrian’s wall.  Most of the Ulsterites moved into the north country, but those Picts that remained banded together to defend the eastern coast and the high country.  The north became a struggle, and while Gerraint wondered why any Scots would think British soil would be easier, he finally decided the rich land and warmer climate would be enough for some.

Loth sent no word.  His lands included the fort at Edinburgh, technically in Scottish territory.  Kai claimed Loth encouraged the Scots, but Arthur did not believe him.  What Arthur did believe was he would have to call in some men and head north.  He did not send out the general alarm because Croydon at York reported no army.  Some were raiders, after a fashion, but many came as migrants with women and children.

Gerraint called only the three hundred, which got back up to full strength.  Melwas sent a hundred and Tristam raised twice that in Devon.  Together, they rode for Cadbury, where Arthur called the men to gather.

In Cadbury, Gerraint first saw the attention Lancelot paid to Gwynyvar, and the affection she so evidently returned.  He never thought they had anything like a love affair.  Gwynyvar loved Arthur and was one who took that vow seriously, and Lancelot, the younger man, was all about honor and devotion to one’s duty; but they were very familiar with each other, or one might say, very close friends.  Arthur never said anything.  He let it slide, and once again Gerraint imagined guilt. Medrawt was a growing boy.

“The Welsh are an independent minded lot,” Arthur said in council.  There were hardly six hundred men to match Gerraint’s offering where they could have supplied two or three times the men.  There were a hundred from Caerdyf, another hundred from Morgana and her immediate neighbors, a third hundred from Ogryvan, Gwynyvar’s brother who was well aware that his other sister, Gwenhwyfach, lived in the north of Britain and thus presumably in danger.  That meant only three hundred men came from all the rest of Wales.

“Still tied too much to the old ways,” Percival suggested.

“Listening to Meryddin,” Gwillim translated.  “Not inclined to make war on the Scots and their druids whom they think of as cousins.  It would be a different response if we were after Angles or Saxons.”

“Maybe.”  Gerraint did not commit.  He knew that some were talking about Amorica where the old ways still held strong and the church was small.  The church started growing in Wales, like in Ireland, and that made some uncomfortable. Indeed, the church started making headway everywhere in Britain, Wales and Cornwall, but some were resistant.

“Well, good old Bedwyr sent a healthy group from Oxford even if only a handful from Londugnum,” Arthur said.

“I’m not sure there are more than a handful left in Londugnum,” Gerraint spoke up.  “Most of the trade between there and the continent is now run through Saxon and Angle hands, like it or not.”

“I can vouch for that,” Gwillim said.  “Brother Thomas says it is hardly worth running ships from the Thames the way the Angles tax everything.  He constantly reminds me that most of the Angle-Saxon people are just ordinary merchants and farmers, like us.”

“Anglo-Saxon,” Gerraint interrupted.

“Anglo-Saxon,” Gwillim tried the word.  “But he says their tax on the transportation of goods is too high.”

“I am inclined to agree with Bedwyr.  It isn’t the common people, it is the lords and warriors among the Germans who want to expand their lands,” Percival said.

“Anglo-Saxons,” Gwillim and Uwaine corrected him in unison.

“That makes sense to me, too.”  Someone spoke from the doorway.  Arthur’s old master Peredur came in, and Ederyn and Pelenor were with him. Peredur and Ederyn smiled and looked glad to see everyone.  Pelenor remained stoic.

“Seems to me, we have the Scots to worry about right now,” Pelenor said.

“Our men are gathering on the road to the north,” Peredur said.  “We should be able to pick them up on the way.”

“On the way,” Arthur mumbled, as Meryddin came in. Arthur called for Gwyr to give his report on the numbers.  There were eighteen hundred Britains gathered by the time they reached York, and with the twelve hundred from Cornwall and Wales, it was a pretty sizeable force for a limited call.  It was far more than a young and inexperienced Arthur could raise, but since then, Arthur had proved himself a winner.  People were more inclined to come out and support a winner.

###

Arthur formed seven groups of roughly three hundred men each.  Gerraint took two hundred of his own and the hundred from Lyoness.  Tristam took his two hundred and a hundred from Cornwall. The other five groups were more mixed, but Arthur made sure each of the other groups had at least one hundred trained RDF men.  Routes were devised, and all summer and well into the fall, the Scottish immigrants got tracked down.  North Britain had become fairly depopulated after the sons of Caw ravaged the land. Many Scots were found rebuilding abandoned villages and sewing abandoned fields.

All that time, Meryddin stayed in York, to advise Arthur and keep contact with the groups in the field.  He wrote regular letters, and while later, many suspected he wrote to the Scots and passed along information, nothing could ever be proved.

All of the Scots found in northern Britain were given a choice.  First, the leadership had to confess Christ, build a church, and bring in a priest. Second, they needed to submit to the laws levied by whatever British lord in whose territory they lived, and become good British citizens.  Third, they had to acknowledge Arthur, son of Uther as their high chief and war chief and submit to his judgment on all matters pertaining to the common defense of the land.  If these three conditions were willing to be met, the Scots could stay and rebuild the land. Rejecting any one of these conditions meant safe escort back north of Hadrian’s Wall.

The Scots were not unfamiliar with Christianity even if they were not sure exactly what it was all about, but many were willing, and the church quickly found volunteers who would be glad to instruct them. In the north, Kai and Loth more or less split the land between them, but there were many lesser chiefs who answered to them and helped in the defense of the wall.  The Scots had to find out whose land they were actually on and make peace with their lord, but again, most were willing.  As for Arthur, most of the Scots were glad enough to have him on their side.  So most stayed, though some did take the escort back across the wall.

R6 Gerraint: The Lady of the Lake, part 2 of 3

“But wait,” Gerraint frowned once again before he shouted, “Arthur!”  Then he leaned down, took Lancelot’s arm, and lifted him from his knees.  “Come along, Lancelot,” he said.  Lancelot stood, but looked like a man in a daze.

“But Sir, you know my name, but who are you that I may address you properly.”

“My name is Goreu, but Arthur and the others all call me by the British version, Gerraint.”  He lifted his voice again.  “Arthur.” Then he paused and sniffed, and he knew exactly which direction Arthur would be found.  Like a dwarf’s nose, he thought, good for finding your way underground amidst all those mines and tunnels, and he wondered what else he had been gifted with.

“Who is this Arthur?”  Lancelot asked.  “I have heard of an Arthur called the Pendragon, a war chief across the sea who is unequalled in battle…”

“That’s him,” Gerraint interrupted.  “Hush.  Come on.” Gerraint led Lancelot through the trees until they came to a place where they could watch.  Rhiannon, in all her splendor, stood on top of the waters of the lake and held out a sword.  She walked across the water and Arthur looked too stunned to move.  When she arrived, Arthur went to his knees.  He handed her Caliburn.  She handed him Excalibur.  “The big brother sword,” Gerraint whispered to himself.  Lancelot nudged him to say he should be quiet and more respectful.

When the exchange got made, a few words also got exchanged before Rhiannon stepped back.  Gerraint heard, though he tried to not listen since it seemed private.  He thought, elf ears to go with the dwarf nose.  He only hoped his actual facial features were not changed.

Rhiannon slowly became translucent, then transparent, until she vanished altogether.  “And she took my sword with her,” Gerraint mumbled before he waved.  “Arthur!”  Lancelot looked oddly at Gerraint, like he felt confused about how he should take this strange man.  Arthur did not help when he waved back and waved Excalibur.

“Big brother sword,” he shouted.  “Who is your friend?”

“Lancelot.”

”Hey.  I know a couple of cousins of yours that will be happy to see you.”

“I’m sorry?”  Lancelot shook his head against the confusion.

“Bohort and Lionel,” Arthur said, and Lancelot jumped, and for the first time he smiled.

“They’re alive?  I thought everyone got killed on that day.  How can they still be alive?”  He stopped walking so the others stopped.

“That happened almost five years ago,” Gerraint said. “You were much younger.  Do you remember that day?”

“I remember the battle,” Lancelot said firmly. “I remember the Romans in their phalanxes stretched across the plains from horizon to horizon, and our more ragged line of foot soldiers stretching out to be able to face the Romans one to one. I sat on horse beside my father, and Bohort and Lionel beside theirs, and all the Lords of Amorica sat on horse, the sons beside their fathers

“The foot soldiers charged the phalanxes, but they held firm.  We charged the Roman cavalry and great blood was spilled that day.  It all felt so confusing.  I didn’t know what was happening, when my father took an arrow and fell from his horse.  I raced to him and got him up on a stray.  I pulled him back to the edge of the forest where he collapsed and lay dying in my arms.  Then three Romans rode up, and I ran into these woods by the lake.  They dismounted and followed me in, but I had my knife and my father’s old sword.  I caught them, one by one.  I—I—I am not sure what happened after that.

“I awoke in the Lady’s castle.  Lady Nimue is the bravest soul I know.  She healed my wounds and tended my heart, and taught me how to fight.  Every Sunday at dawn we rode to a nearby village where the parish priest schooled me in my letters and in the faith.  I learned as well as my mind and arms could learn.  The Great Lady told me I had to prepare for the last battle, the Armageddon for Arthur.  For a long time, I did not know what she meant.”

“Armageddon,” Arthur looked up at Gerraint.  “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Rhiannon, the one he calls Lady Nimue.  All Celtic goddesses are a bit prophetic.  It comes from having a mother who is plugged into the future the way she is.”

Arthur pointed at Gerraint with a question written across his face.  Gerraint merely nodded an affirmative answer.

“But her name is Nimue, the Lady of Lake Vivane,” Lancelot insisted.  “She would never lie about such a thing.”

“How about we call her the Lady of the Lake?” Gerraint suggested.

“The Lady of the Lake.”  Both Arthur and Lancelot agreed.

“But Bohort and Lionel survived the battle? And what of Howel?”  Lancelot became eager for news.

“Alive and well,” Gerraint said.

“Let me see,” Arthur said.  He had spent the time they were standing attaching Excalibur to his belt.  He wanted to ask Gerraint if it had any magical properties, and looked a bit disappointed later when Gerraint told him that it was only as magical as the arm that wielded it, but for the moment he had to catch up Lancelot with five years of history, the first and main thing being the last time the people of Amorica faced the Romans.  He started them walking again as he spoke.

“As Hoel tells it, in the end, the Roman cavalry did not have the fight in them nor the numbers to sustain the battle.  They splintered and began to run, and many of the Amorican nobles and their retinue of horsemen were well suited to hunt them down. I assume the three that found Lancelot were like the others, trying to get away from the battle.  Anyway, it was Howel, Bohort and Lionel that rallied a large portion of the men to stick to the original plan.  They struck the flank and the back of the nearest Phalanx and slowly but inevitably, the Roman line crumbled.  The Romans who ran caused the other formations to come into disarray, and Hoel’s people were able to take the day.”

“Magnificent.  I am so glad, and my people are free.”

“It’s not that simple,” Gerraint said.  “Claudus waged a guerilla campaign these last four or five years, and just about overran the country.  Hoel appealed to Arthur, and here we are.  But Claudus is bringing up two full legions from Aquitaine, and I suspect these will be veterans of the Frankish and Visigoth campaigns.  These will not be so easy to turn.”

“The great battle,” Lancelot said with a faraway look in his eyes.

“I beg your pardon,” Arthur said.  “I am not ready for Armageddon just yet, if you don’t mind.”

They stopped at the sound of a horse.