They had a week of feasting, along with negotiating, before a final peace got concluded. It took another week to return to the Amorican border where Lionel looked ready to pitch a fit. Bohort brought along the three Frankish “leudes,” trusted older gentlemen who were willing to do their duty away from court. He escorted them to their new homes, and he found local Bretons who were willing to help with the construction. One settled just below the lake along the road to the port town. One took the land by the main road at the edge of the Vivane forest. The third built at the base of the Banner Bain where the old south coastal road headed toward the Atlantique province. All the main ways in or out of Amorica were covered, and those men with their Frankish followers and soldier and the Breton locals began first to build the great towers, and then the manor homes, and then the great barns since the Frankish Lords all expected to take the Bretons as tenants to farm the land.
Bohort went home happy. Arthur, not so happy, because the bulk of his army got trapped because of the winter storms. It was not that a channel crossing became impossible. Trade continued in the winter. But the channel tended toward rough seas even in good weather. There were more wrecks in winter than other times of the year, and it just did not seem smart to try to move a whole army across the channel in November.
Most of the men did not mind. Percival summed things up when he said he expected all along that they would stay until spring. They came over in September, after all, and he did not expect them to conclude their business before the weather. Age taught him that things always take longer than you expect. Arthur and Gerraint razzed him, because Percival was the youngest.
Arthur felt more than unhappy when the Alans showed up. As part of the package, Chlothar convinced Bohort to take a few Alan horsemen who were making themselves a nuisance in the Burgundian province. Those few turned out to be a whole tribe, a thousand men on horse with their wives and children. Lancelot and Lionel did their best to break up the group and spread them around liberally though the countryside on the principle that no single place could sustain more than three thousand people. They helped them build or rebuild certain villages. They found Bretons among the older, Amorican population who claimed Alan blood from an earlier settlement—from the day when Attila the Hun got overthrown. These men and women were glad to help their new kinsmen work the farms and generally made sure they understood they were citizens, not fedoratti. For their part, Lancelot and Lionel were amazed at what the Alans could do with a simple spear from horseback. They looked forward to training them to the lance.
Lionel feared there would be problems with the majority British population, not to mention the older Amorican population, the Alans not being able to speak the same language and all. Gerraint wondered how many words and phrases from the old German would sneak into the vocabulary over time and subtly change the language into a primarily Celtic but subtly influenced tongue. Lancelot feared they might insist on power sharing, or local autonomy. Arthur feared they would make it impossible for his people and Lancelot to go home.
In mid-January, Arthur, Lancelot, Gerraint and Percival met together in a port town inn. Arthur felt frustrated and itched to go. He tried one last time to convince Lancelot to join them, but Lancelot explained his position. He said his first duty was to his family, and Bohort and Lionel were as close to family as he got. Even if he wanted to return to Britain, most of the men who came over with him twelve years earlier brought or fetched their families and were now settled and invested in this new land. This was where family members died, fathers and brothers, in defense of the land. He doubted many of them would want to go back.
“And I asked nicely and everything,” Gerraint complained. Everyone ignored him. Arthur had some communication in his hand and pondered over what it might mean and looked worried. Percival finally asked.
“Is it bad news?”
Arthur let the velum roll up before he looked up at Gerraint. “It is from Gwynyvar. She says she heard from Gwenhwyfach. She says Gwenhwyfach is claiming that Medrawt is my son.” He looked at Percival. “She doesn’t say, of course that is preposterous, or obviously it can’t be true. She asks, is it true?” He paused and looked back at Gerraint, and then at Lancelot. “What can I tell her?”
“Of course, it can’t be true,” Percival said.
“Just tell her it isn’t true,” Lancelot agreed.
“But it is true,” Arthur admitted and looked again at Gerraint. “You tell them.”
Gerraint did not mind. Arthur turned his face away from the others.
“We were up by the wall, that night before we invaded Caledonia. Arthur got up in the middle of the night. I don’t remember why. I don’t know if you ever told me why.” He looked at Arthur, but Arthur added nothing and would not even look at them, so he continued.
“Anyway, that doesn’t matter. I heard the rustling in the wind. Maybe it was a little one that woke me. I don’t know. But I woke up and found a great mist had covered the whole area, and it sounded like something was out there. I needed to see, so Danna, the goddess herself volunteered to step into my shoes. Maybe she sensed something I could not sense. Of course, the mist was no deterrent to her eyes. Arthur and Gwenhwyfach were on the ground, naked, having just made love, and they were both utterly blinded by enchantment. I imagined neither one of them could help themselves and maybe did not even know what they were doing.”
“Who?” Lancelot wanted to know who enchanted them. He started getting angry, but he did not get angry at Arthur. He got angry for Arthur.
“Meryddin. Anyway, I sent Gwenhwyfach home, or rather Danna did, and she also sent home the half-dozen assassins Meryddin had hired for after the act. I think he wanted to save his precious Scots and Picts from Arthur’s invasion. It took almost two months before we heard Gwenhwyfach got pregnant. There is no proof that he is Arthur’s son, but given Medrawt’s birthday and counting the months, it does coincide pretty well.
“Meryddin ran off the next day and disappeared for a long time,” Percival said. “Maybe he knew he got caught and feared what might happen.”
“No. He got to see himself in a mirror, to see what he really looked like and what was inside of him. He was one quarter djin. That is an evil creature that lives by torturing people in their minds and hearts and consuming their tormented souls. Let us say he scared himself and probably went half-mad for a time. It was the Lady of the Lake that healed him as much as he was healed.”
“So, Arthur and Gwenhwyfach were enchanted and not in control of what they were doing,” Lancelot said.
“Essentially,” Gerraint confirmed. “Arthur.”
Arthur sighed. “I can’t tell Gwynyvar I was not in control of myself and could not help what I did.”
“No need,” Gerraint told him. “I will tell her, and also that Medrawt might be yours, but he might not.” He paused while Arthur crunched the communication in his hand. “But somehow I don’t think that is all you have to tell us.”
“It seems Gwenhwyfach is telling everyone that Medrawt is my son, and he is using that to raise an army to take over the realm. Now we have a rebellion on our hands, and frankly, I am old. I would just give it to him, but Medrawt only cares about Medrawt, and he would ruin everything.”
“He has to be stopped,” Percival said. Lancelot said nothing.