Gerraint tried to be more practical in his thinking. “He will get men from the north, and maybe from the Scots, but I cannot imagine Gawain or Gwalchemi will support him. They might not be able to aid us, but they might convince men to stay out of it.”
“York through the Midlands, and even through Leogria will not help him,” Percival added his perspective. “So many places were all but deserted when Lancelot took men for Amorica, there is no longer much to draw on for either side.”
“It was never my intention to strip Britain.” Lancelot took a turn looking away from the others.
“But, all the same,” Gerraint said. “Oxford is in the hands of Medrawt’s brother, Garth. Plus, many Saxons have moved up into Britain to fill the empty spaces. I hate to think he will appeal to them.”
“Medrawt with an army of Scots and Saxons.” Arthur sounded morose.
“But that is why he must be stopped,” Percival repeated. “We need a war chief to keep the Saxons and Scots from taking over, not make the Roman mistake and invite them into our army.”
Arthur agreed. “Medrawt will not be content with being a War Chief. He will turn himself into a King, like Chlothar, and be just as ruthless and self-serving. He doesn’t care about defending the land. He will make wars of conquest, to subjugate people and make them serve his will.” They became silent for a time until Gerraint spoke what sat heavily on their minds.
“Maybe we were the ones who were too soft,” he said. “Maybe the best defense is a good offence.”
“The Roman way was conquest,” Lancelot added.
Percival spoke. “Maybe we should have followed up our victories on the battlefield, like we did with Kent, and forced terms on our enemies.”
“No.” Arthur slammed his hand on the table. “I refuse to believe that people cannot live side by side as good neighbors in peace. We just now proved that is possible with Bohort. We have been told to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies. I don’t want to hear otherwise.”
People nodded, slowly, but Gerraint added a thought. “Meryddin failed with you when you turned the nation to the church. I believe Caledonia was more than just protecting his druids. I believe he wanted you dead and planned to try again with Medrawt, your son.”
“Medrawt must be stopped,” Percival repeated.
After that, people had six weeks to write letters and prepare themselves for crossing as soon as the weather broke. Lancelot integrated the Alans with the Bretons as well as he could during that time. There were indeed some incidents, but they were minor and could be dealt with. He said nothing about any return to Britain, and in fact avoided Arthur after the time at the inn.
Gerraint wrote to Gwynyvar to explain things, and three days before they sailed, the Captain of one of the ships sent to retrieve Arthur’s army brought a new letter from Gwynyvar to Arthur. It said she understood, that he was completely forgiven, that she missed him and please come home safe. Arthur spent part of that day in tears. He carried that burden a long time before the sins of his past caught up with him.
When they arrived in Britain, they landed at Bournmouth, the place Arthur christened Christchurch. Southampton, always on the edge of Wessex, finally succumbed to Saxon control and would no longer be available to a British army. Arthur felt more concerned about Wales than Southampton. Medrawt spent years there, encouraging the Lords of Wales to enrich themselves by taking over the lands left behind by those who went to Amorica. The Welsh spent the last ten years in a land grab. The ones who came out on top were not slow to credit Medrawt with his foresight and ingenuity. Arthur feared the payback would be supporting Medrawt’s rebellion. He had no doubt that Medrawt told those Lords that if Arthur came out victorious, he would force them to give the land back.
Arthur’s contingent of Welshmen seemed meager compared to what it should have been. He wrote to Ogryvan, Gwynyvar’s brother in the north and Morgana’s girls in the Welsh Midlands. Gerraint wrote to Enid’s family in Caerdyf, and Uwaine wrote to his wife and his retainer, though he took forever to find enough of the right words to do it. Still, Arthur expected too little response. He decided his optimism died with his youth.
It took a week for all of the army to arrive at Christchurch. They would march to Cadbury where Gwynyvar would be waiting, and from there, they planned out routes for what Gerraint called a show of force, provided enough additional men showed up to make the show worthwhile.
Percival would take the British and march them to Oxford, north to York, and back through the Midlands and Leogria. He had the longest route, but he hoped the show would encourage the British people and remind the Saxons who had moved in that this land was not New Saxony. He would not be going into the north, but Arthur had received assurances from Gawain and Gwalchemi that the north remained secure.
Arthur would take his RDF and whatever Welsh he had and visit Ogryvan in the north of Wales. Then he would visit any number of thieving Lords as he moved down the land, and assure them that if it ever came up, he would adjudicate the land situation fairly. He hoped to undercut whatever promises Medrawt might have made to the various Welshmen. He planned to end at Caerdyf and take the coastal road back to Caerleon.
Gerraint would head down into the Summer country and weave around Somerset, Dorset and his own Devon, visiting friends and having a good time, he said. When he sent his men back home, it would be with strict instructions to come on short notice if called. They all figured that would be important because they had no idea when Medrawt might show up with whatever forces he might muster.
That was the plan, and given a chance, it might have staved off collapse, at least long enough for Arthur to die comfortably in his own bed. But plans have a way of going awry, and some of the best plans never get off the ground.
Things back home are not going well. Cadbury castle is already in enemy hands. Until next time, Happy Reading.