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.

R5 Gerraint: The River Glen, part 1 of 3

Gerraint got no satisfaction at home.  His mother loved him and his sister missed him, but his stepfather Marcus, who styled himself the High Chief of Cornwall, though the title was not his to take, tolerated Gerraint at best.  He showed grace to the older men, Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn, and he acknowledged Arthur and pledged to send help the next time the call came; but even Percival noticed the man said nothing about what kind of help or how much.

About the only interesting thing during the visit became the arrival of Melwas the younger.  Melwas, the elder, high chief of Lyoness, was an old man and unable to travel.  He designated his eldest son, fully grown at twenty-one, to represent him at every opportunity.  Melwas the younger seemed eager to send troops to the call.

“I wanted to,” he said.  “But Father and Lord Marcus said we needed to wait and see what happened.  I am sorry I missed it all.”

“Don’t worry son,” Peredur spoke kindly.  “Given the turn of things, with enemies on all sides, I cannot imagine the next call will be very far away.”

Melwas said he heard about the Round Table and asked what he needed to do to become a member.  No one asked him how he knew about the club, but they understood he must have had some source at the battle who told him about Sir Kai and Sir Bedwyr.

“It is a Christian table,” Gerraint explained, and Arthur listened.  “As long as you confess your faith, you want only two things to prove you are worthy. One is an act of valor or courage which may occur in battle, but does not need to.  The other is evidence of keeping the ideals of Christ through an act of charity or piety or in defending the poor, the weak and defenseless. These two things may be shown in a single act, but usually are not.”  Gerraint paused and looked at Arthur, but Arthur nodded, so he continued.  “These two things show that a man is worthy of the Round Table, because they show the strength of a man’s arm, but more importantly, they show the strength of a man’s character.”

Melwas frowned a bit and rubbed the stubble on his chin.  “What you ask is hard.”

“It is,” Gerraint agreed.  “But the table will seat only the best, and I don’t think you would want it any other way.”

Melwas made a decision.  “I accept the challenge.”  Then he smiled and so did Peredur and Ederyn who listened in.

“Tell me true,” Peredur said to Gerraint and Arthur. “How did you two become so wise?”

“Almighty God,” Percival suggested.

“Him.”  Arthur pointed at Gerraint.

“Reading the backs of cereal boxes,” Gerraint said, and Arthur and Percival glanced at each other before they spoke in perfect unison.

“You’re weird.”

They traveled from Plymouth to Exeter, a nicely walled town, about as far as Rome ever penetrated into Cornwall.  Rome referred to the area as Devon, but it stayed under the Cornish King.  In Exeter, the city fathers, and especially the city mothers, gushed over the three young boys.  Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn conferred for a long time in that place, but whatever it was, it seemed something they hoped they would not have to worry about for a couple of years yet.

Percival and Arthur, though mostly Arthur, spent their time teasing Gerraint about how much his sister, Cordella, seemed taken with young Melwas.

“Good grief.  She’s only twelve.  He has to be twice her age,” Gerraint complained.

“Nine years,” Arthur counted, but still the boys had no idea what the Lords were on about.

From Exeter, the group made for Tintangle where Arthur got to meet his distant cousins, Tristam’s mom and dad.  “This is good,” Pelenor announced.  “We should travel the whole land this way.  He can meet the Lords of the land, and they can all meet Arthur.  That should make the ties stronger should a need arise.”  Peredur and Ederyn agreed, but they prevailed on Pelenor to wait until Arthur put some age on and made a better appearance.

“More man-like and less boy-like” Ederyn put it.

With that in mind. the group crossed the channel to Caerleon, where Arthur became terribly bored for the next three years. Gerraint and Percival were taken out all the time by Pelenor and Ederyn for some reason or another, or even for no particular reason at all.  Peredur took his squire out twice, once to show Arthur the homes of Pelenor and Ederyn, which Arthur already knew.  Arthur felt glad to see his adopted mother.  Meryddin forced them to take a dozen guards from the fort for that trip.  The other time was a quick trip to his older, half-sister’s house.  She lived in southern Wales, a day’s journey, which Peredur turned into three.

Poor Arthur felt like he was in prison, and to some extent, he was.  Gerraint called it protective custody.  Meryddin did not want Arthur out of his sight, and maybe more important, he did not want him out of his influence.  Peredur at least insisted on taking the young Pendragon to church every Sunday, and Arthur felt grateful for the chance to breathe.

Morgana came to visit Arthur at Caerleon several times. She spent most of the time arguing with Meryddin, and sometimes in rather rude and crude ways.  It was not until that one time when Meryddin got called away on Druid business up to Iona for a month, that Arthur became able to take a quick trip to visit Morgana in her own home.  He realized then that she had fully accepted that they were brother and sister, and she imagined, as his only true family, that she was going to defend him from the corrupting influence of that half man, which is what she called Meryddin.

“Too late for that,” Gerraint said later, and he wondered what the other half of Meryddin might be.  He did suspect that it was more like a quarter something, but he had no idea what that quarter might be.

One thing Arthur accomplished in those days was the selection and training of his RDF.  He brought in the best hunters, and taught the young men about the land, and how to move swiftly and unseen.  He brought in masters of various weapons, including a few Germans, and taught them how to fight and defend themselves regardless of what might be arrayed against them.  He taught them how to read, write and count, at least well enough to pass messages and estimate an enemy’s strength.  He also taught them to look for an enemy’s weaknesses.  Gerraint kept his mouth closed.  He dared not tell Arthur that normally teenagers and school did not mix.

Meryddin let Arthur play at soldier, since after all, that would be his purpose.  He claimed Arthur was to defend the land and bring peace and prosperity, but it seemed a thin disguise.  Clearly, Meryddin expected Arthur to reduce the people around the Gaelic lands to servitude and slavery.  Then, within the Celtic lands, Meryddin worked hard to restore the preeminence of the old ways.  He had some success among the Welsh, and in the North where the Scots had contact with the locals.  He proved less successful in Cornwall and Britain, especially the Midlands, Leogria and Somerset where the church remained strong.  He despised Arthur’s Christian Round Table, and in the years to come, he regularly attended the meetings to make his views known, though he certainly never confessed faith in the Christ.  Arthur allowed Meryddin as the one exception, he said, and the Lords understood it as a gracious act toward the old man, whom they respected, but often ignored.