M4 Gerraint: Little Britain, part 2 of 2

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.

************************

MONDAY

Things back home are not going well. Cadbury castle is already in enemy hands. Until next time, Happy Reading.

*

M4 Gerraint: Little Britain, part 1 of 2

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. 

M4 Gerraint: The Frankish Peace, part 2 of 4

“Larchmont!”  Gerraint called.  “Birch!”  The two fairy Lords appeared, because they had to, but they came disguised as hunters so the other men present might not flinch too badly.  “What resources do we have?”

“The usual,” Birch said.  “Not too many spooks, the soil being what it is.”  By spooks, Birch meant goblins, trolls and the like who lived underground and avoided the sun.  The granite and thick, sandy soil of Amorica did not lend itself to underground living.

“How about in the Banner, er, the Bringloren?”

“There are some.  What do you have in mind?”

Gerraint outlined his ideas and ended with, “Of course, Arthur may adjust things when he gets here, but this is the plan for now.  As for me, I am going to spend the next three days in prayer that this plan might actually work.”

It took a week to get everything set, but that was because the signal stayed in the hands of the Franks.  DeGuise got his men to the hill called Bain Rock.  When ready, he was supposed to light a smudge fire on the rock, one with lots of smoke that could be seen for miles.  That would be the signal for the Franks, and also for the British and Amorican soldiers.  But then it rained for three days and remained overcast on the fourth day.  Gerraint spent the time wondering how badly deGuise cursed the initiative of the young Lord who attacked the port.  If he tried to do an end run and surprise the Amorican army, that move ruined that option.  DeGuise, no doubt, feared that enough delay would allow Arthur to unpack and join the fray.  Gerraint wondered how badly deGuise cursed the weather over those four days.

Gerraint also wondered how much those days put deGuise’s men on edge.  They were behind enemy lines and every day increased the danger of being found.   Plus, Gerraint had some special things he activated just for the Franks.  There were bumps in the night, strange noises, lights, always in the distance, and men who ventured too far from the camp always disappeared.  DeGuise shortly stopped sending out scouts.

Meanwhile, Lancelot’s men abandoned the center without making it a show.  Gerraint had goblins with fires in the night and elves in the day, so from a distance it would look like the army still camped there.  In fact, while the northern half gathered by the lake and the old burned down fort that Arthur built, the southern half gathered just above an old, Roman style house where the occupants still spoke Latin and went daily to mass.

The battle would be on Margueritte’s farmland, a mere hundred and fifty-eight years before Margueritte got born.  In that place, the old Roman improved road came from Paris and cut through the Vivane forest on its way to the point end of the peninsula where Bohort had his residence.

Bohort came out from his capital and brought an additional five hundred horsemen, his version of the RDF, which Gerraint saw as his personal guard.  He kept them, and Lancelot’s horsemen, about fifteen hundred altogether, up the road, ready to ride to battle on the signal.  Lancelot himself had the fifteen hundred-foot soldiers north of the Roman house, about an hour’s march below the expected battle.  Lionel had the other fifteen hundred Bretons, as they called themselves, up by the lake, well hidden in the woods.  Arthur’s footmen, a final fifteen hundred, settled in behind deGuise and prepared to follow them through the woods to the battle.  Arthur himself, with Gerraint had the rest of Arthur’s men, about twelve hundred horsemen, by Arthur’s fort, on the road that came down from the port town.

The trap was set, now all they needed was clear weather.  It came, by Gerraint’s count, on the fifth day.  The sun topped the eastern horizon and there did not appear to be a cloud left in the sky.  The heavy smoke that went into the sky from Bain Rock became easily visible from the field.

The Frankish commander, a man named Charles, moved his men sooner than Gerraint expected.  He imagined the man would wait a couple of hours to be sure deGuise got in position, but he did not.  He had three thousand men on horse and two thousand on foot, which Arthur pointed out was a great investment in horse flesh for the Franks.  The time was coming when the only men who could afford to fight from horseback would be the Knights and Lords who had the means to keep riding horses.  Soon enough, armies would again be a preponderance of foot soldiers.  But these Franks were still coming out of their Hun influenced Germanic roots where tribes bred horses and some young men were raised on them.  They were only, slowly becoming a nation of farmers and Lords.

Charles brought his men up the road and spread them out to charge.  The horses thundered, right up to the edge of the forest, but they found campfires burning, tents set in order, all the signs of a military camp except men or weapons.  Arrows came from the woods, shot with deadly accuracy, but only one or two hundred.  Charles quickly backed his horsemen out of range.

“Bring up the footmen,” he yelled, and he sent them into the forest, knowing horses were no advantage among the trees.  Then Charles and his sub commanders conferred about what to do.  Some probably wanted to go ahead and invade down the Roman road as planned, but Charles likely felt concerned about leaving the bulk of the Amorican army at his back.  No doubt, many said wait until deGuise arrived, and in typical German manner, like the Saxons and Angles in Britain, the argument went on for some time.

Gerraint, of course, knew none of this.  All he could do was speculate, worry and pray.  They never had a plan where everyone got so spread out and where a timely arrival felt so crucial.  Even with the smoke fire to start the action, it would be hard to get so many men coming from so many directions, coordinated.

“We need some radios,” Gerraint mumbled.

“This will work.”  Percival leaned over Arthur’s horse to reassure Gerraint.

The look on Arthur’s face said, “Maybe.”

They found Lionel and his footmen moving into place.  Arthur and his men also moved up to be ready to charge, but they had to wait for Bohort to be in position to charge from the other angle.  Their twelve hundred horse against three thousand would not end up pretty.

“Lancelot will be there,” Percival said.  “He is probably already there if I know Lancelot.”

Gerraint nodded, but he became worried about the woods.  The elves and fairy Lords whose arrow fire drew half of the Frankish foot soldiers into the woods worked well enough, but then they were supposed to get out of the way and let Arthur’s men deal with the rest.  Fifteen hundred was probably not enough against deGuise’s thousand horsemen and the thousand footmen in their path.  the other half of the Frankish foot soldiers stayed in the fake British camp and kept low in case there were more arrows from the trees.

What Gerraint did not know was his little ones overstepped their orders, not that he got surprised.  A great mist—a thick fog came up in the woods and confused the Franks on foot as well as deGuise and his men who were leading their horses through the trees, coming from the other direction.  They dared not ride in the fog, and the horses by then were just as spooked as the riders by the noises and lights around them, and occasional animal roars that did not really sound quiet like animals.

When the line of horsemen and footmen met in the fog, there were several incidents and several killed before they figured it out.  DeGuise knew they had to get out of the fog and into the open.  He turned the footmen and they began to hurry.  That was a good thing, because, Arthur’s men were keeping back about twenty or thirty feet from the shrinking line of fog.

The instant the Franks began to come from the woods, Lancelot charged from one direction and Lionel charged from the other.  Some Franks tried to stay behind the trees, but they were easily taken by Arthur’s men coming through the woods.  Plenty of Franks died that day, but the most, by far, surrendered, including deGuise.  They no longer had the nerve.

One enterprising young Lord under deGuise managed to gather a hundred horsemen and rode off to help the Frankish cavalry who were being pummeled.  It didn’t help.

As soon as Lancelot’s men crossed the road, Bohort decided he could not wait for the Franks to get organized and up on horseback.  He charged, but since his men were in a line and strung out down the road through the forest, he was slow to impact the Franks.  Arthur, on the other hand, looked only once at Gerraint.  Percival lowered his lance and the men behind them followed suit.  Then Percival and Gerraint shouted, “For Arthur!”

The men responded with a deafening shout, “For Arthur!” and they charged, led by three old men, Arthur at sixty-one, Gerraint at sixty, and Percival, the youngster, at fifty-eight.  Their troops poured from the northwest and hit the Franks when many of the Franks were still on their feet.  They made a crushing blow that busted open the Frankish ranks and made a hole straight through to the other side.  And then, Bohort got at them from the southwest.  His strike, not quite as telling, but by the time he bogged down as the Franks got to horseback, Arthur had turned and came in this time from the southeast.

M3 Gerraint: Around the Table, part 2 of 2

Most everything was fairly straight forward.  The younger men came in from the courtyard.  The squires stayed outside.  The Graal got discussed at length and every Chief, in typical Round Table style, had a chance to speak and add any information or suggestions they might have.  It turned out they had quite a lot of information about the Graal and its’ supposed whereabouts.  Clearly, the Bishops and the Churches were excited beyond words about all of this, and a great deal of money was already forthcoming to finance the various expeditions.

Gerraint looked at the younger men and thought of the squires.  The squires had not lived through thirty years of war as he and the older men had.  The squires had hardly known any adventure at all.  Surely these were exciting times for them, but somehow Gerraint just could not get up for the whole idea.  All he really wanted was Enid and some seclusion, like semi-retirement.

“I have nothing to add.”  That was his great statement, and he did his best to stay awake the whole time.  Then something happened which disturbed him greatly, and perhaps more than the others because he guessed who was behind it all.

All the light in the room went suddenly dim and ghostly hands appeared to carry a glowing object across the room and across the faces of all the men present.  The object might have passed for an oversized cup, but clearly, in Gerraint’s eyes, it was the Cauldron Gerraint felt concerned about.  One man stepped up and put his hand right through the apparition.  This seemed no magic trick, but a true vision of some kind.  Gerraint cursed, quietly, but he felt reluctant to curse his own son too severely.  That is to say, Danna’s son.  Then the hands and object vanished as quickly as they came and light once again returned to the room

People were up and shouting for a long time.  When order got restored, Arthur deftly turned all thoughts toward the Graal.  He let no word of Cauldron escape the lips around him, and then the meeting was over.  Men were excited and ready to set out that very evening.

When it was over, though, Gerraint felt like mounting the nearest horse and riding off alone for a while, despite Gwyr’s warning not to stray.  Lucky for Enid, she caught him by the door and corralled him toward the waiting supper.

Bedwyr of the South was there.  He had settled in Oxford where he could keep an eye on the Angles above him, the Saxons below him, and Lundugnum on the Thames. Kai came from Caerlisle in the North, that great fort that sat aside the ruin of Hadrian’s wall.  Loth came from York where he kept a watchful eye on the Norwegian shore.  At times, he traveled up the coast all the way to Edinburgh, to get a better look.  They were all already there with Constance, Enid, and Gwynyvar.  Gwenhwyfach, mother to Gawain and of Medrawt stayed home in York, and Kai made some comment to Loth that he was glad not to be the only bachelor at the party.

They ate, and it was pleasant enough.  There were certainly enough stories to remember that went around.  No one wanted to speak of the vision and Gerraint felt glad about that.  It was time for the sweets when Gwyr poked his head in and old Peredur, father of Percival came in.  He declined to stay and eat, but he had news for the men present.

“He came to me early this morning with a tale worth hearing,” Arthur said.  “Please tell.”  Then Arthur sat back to judge the various reactions on the various listening faces.

“It was March, last, when I was visiting my good friend Pelenor.  You know, at my age it is good to have a friend still living and it does make the winter seem not quite as harsh, when one has company.”  Arthur coughed.  “It was there that Urien of the Raven came to visit, and Gwarhyr, the Welsh poet was with him.  They spoke of this quest in terms I had not heard before.  It seems that young Gawain, on returning home, let slip word that Meryddin first spoke of the search for a cauldron, not a Graal or a cup.  Well, these men seized on this notion and have every intention of searching for the lost Cauldron of Dagda.  I spoke strongly against it.  I believe that would open wounds all over this land best left to heal.  The old gods have gone.  The true faith has come and we need to embrace the light, and not return to the darkness from whence we came.”

“You know as well as I that Meryddin was a man who clung to the old ways,” Arthur interrupted.

“Yes.”  Peredur retook the floor.  “And I believe no good will come of it.  The Samhain and Beltain are still strongly followed in the country as it is, sometimes right under the nose of the church.  I fear if there is a resurgence of the old ways, the whole country may end in civil war.”

“Surely not!”  Bedwyr coughed.

“Surely so.”  Kai countered in his old way of tit for tat.

“I would swear that was a Cauldron I saw in the vision today, only I did not say so earlier because of the king,” Loth admitted.  Silence followed, and all looked at Gerraint.

Kai and Bedwyr knew well enough that Gerraint was the right man for the job, whatever that job might be.  Arthur knew he was likely the only man for the job.  And as for Loth, what he might not have known directly, he knew indirectly.  That did not leave Gerraint much choice.

“Damn it!”  He shouted, stood and turned from the table.  “Civil war is hardly a matter of importance.  If Britain falls back into its’ pagan ways, all of history, all of the future may change.  Damn Meryddin.”  He did not explain what he meant, but then he did not look at anyone’s face.  He did not have to.  He spat the name.  “Merlin.”  He spun around at last, and Arthur knew better than to interrupt.

“Arthur, you cover Wales and your own people here.  Kai, you have the North covered.  Loth, you have the East and the Norwegian shore. Bedwyr, you have the Southeast and Lundugnum.  Peredur has Legoria and the midlands, and if I recall, Gwillim is in Southampton.  We need Gwynyvar’s brother, Ogyrvan, to cover North Wales, and perhaps Morgana with Nanters to cover the Welsh midlands.  Tristam has Devon.  I have Cornwall and Lyoness.  Nothing can be sought in all of this realm without our knowing it.  Is this not so?”

“Yes, quite.”  The men agreed.  Arthur smiled.  He had only seen his cousin this upset on rare occasions.

“Then I will track the men beyond our shores. They must be stopped.  They must be prevented from digging up things that should stay buried.  What say you, Peredur?”  Gerraint finished.

“Indubitably,” Peredur said.

“Why you?”  Loth asked.

“Alone?”  Bedwyr added.

“I’ll take Uwaine and my squire, Bedivere, but essentially alone,” Gerraint said.  “I have wings to fly…”

“That you know nothing of.”  Kai interrupted and the rest joined in the ending phrase.  “Eyes that see farther, ears that hear better, and a reach longer than ordinary men.”

“Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  Enid laughed.

“What say you?”  Arthur turned to Enid with some sympathy in his voice.

“I say I will miss him while he is away, and love him all the harder when he comes home.”  Her eyes teared a little and Gwynyvar teared up with her and hugged her while Constance patted her hand.

“That is the sweetest thing I have heard in a long time,” Constance said.  “Would that more women were as true.”

“Stop it, now,” Gerraint said, softly.  “Or I won’t be able to go at all.”

“Er.”  Loth clearly hated to interrupt.  “Has anyone bothered to look for Urien and Gwarhyr and ask them what their intentions are?”

“They have left Caerleon.”  Gwyr said plainly.  “They were waiting only for the meeting to pass and had horses ready.”

“And Urien came up to me just before the meeting started and all but admitted his intention.  He told me all about the Cauldron and wondered if Gawain said anything more when he first came from Amorica.  When I gave him no answer, he went immediately to whisper to Kvendelig the Hunter, Gwarhyr and Menw attending, of course,” Gerraint added.

“So, the adventure begins.”  Arthur smiled.

“I’d rather a hot bath and good night’s sleep,” Gerraint protested.  Peredur laughed, alone at first, before the others joined in the conversation about the aches and pains of age.  Peredur did join them, then, in sweets and a conversation on which he was expert.

“I think I will follow along with young Bohort and that new squire of his, the boy Galahad,” Peredur said later.  “That boy seems graced, somehow.”

“Indeed,” Gerraint said.  “Exactly right for the father of Percival.  People will remember these days.  But tell me, how is my old master, Pelenor?  You said nothing of his reaction to Urien’s visit.”

“It has been a long time since you were Pelenor’s arrogant fourteen-year-old brat.” Peredur said with a smile.  Then his smile faded.  “Pelenor concerns me.  His hanger on, Ederyn was there, too, but neither said much of anything.  They made no objections to what I said, but they hardly objected to what Urien proposed, and believe me, I am not saying civil war lightly.”

“Pelenor is rather older, now,” Gerraint suggested, noting that most of the others were listening in.

“Yes, that may be it,” Peredur said.  “His hands shake a little these days, almost like a man who has lost control of his senses.  Perhaps he was just not feeling well enough that day to get too excited about Urien’s suggestions.  At least I have told myself that.”

Gerraint patted the old man on the shoulder to reassure him, but this was yet one more thing to think about.  And who else might be in on the conspiracy to reassert the old ways, by war if necessary?

************************

MONDAY

Gerraint, Uwaine, and squire Bedivere chase the welshmen to the continent in Amorica and the Suckers.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading

*

R6 Gerraint: Shaking the Earth, part 1 of 2

Gerraint and his five hundred men arrived at Percival’s position by mid-morning where he found a crowd of men in his command tent, already gathered for lunch.  Gwillim reported a harrowing experience with a Saxon spear that pinned his cloak to a barn door.  Tristam extracted him, and his small troop, but he had to leave the cloak.

“And it was my favorite one, too,” Gwillim complained.

“Where is Mesalwig?”  Gerraint asked.

“Checking on the front line,” Percival answered. “He is very good at keeping the men on their toes.”

“Really?”  Gerraint teased.  “I figured he was still in Bath soaking in the steamy, medicinal waters.”  At least Gwillim laughed.

“I have a report,” Uwaine said, and everyone grew silent.  Uwaine so rarely said anything.  “First blood.”  He put his hand on young Bedivere’s shoulder.  Bedivere looked shyly away.  “Next time we’ll get credit for the kill.”

Everyone said good job and congratulations, but Gerraint thought again about chivalry and the Medieval ideal versus the reality of the times which was brutal and bloodthirsty.  Curiously, he never really noticed that when he was younger.  He felt like saying, oh I am so very sorry, but he said, “Congratulations,” and Bedivere smiled like he won the lottery.

Lionel made a point of introducing Bowen and Damon as the bravest of brothers, sent to woo Morgana’s daughters.  Everyone whistled and teased them and said they called that real bravery.

Lancelot told the tale of their battles on the mountain and Gerraint found it almost unrecognizable.  For the parts that Lancelot did not know, the Little King was present to brag about it, and that telling seemed even more difficult to believe.

Gerraint got up and walked to the tent door.  From there, he could look down on the distant enemy formation.  They were at the far end of an open field that appeared deceptive.  It looked like flat ground, but it slowly fell away from their position, and by enough gradient to tire the legs of any attackers, men or horses.  There, he saw a small but evident rise to the right that ended in a large lump of trees. Those trees continued along the back of that rise and rose to the top of it, looking like a bad haircut.  The Saxons were near the bottom of the rise, and it would be impossible for cavalry to get at them.  Even if they avoided the incline out front, cavalry from the rear would still have to climb through the trees to get over the rise, and the trees were a deterrent on their flank as well.  Horses did not charge well through trees.

On the left, there appeared another rise, a bit steeper, and it ended in an actual forest that went all the way to the village on the river.  The Saxon cavalry stayed at the top of the steeper hill where they could look down on the battle and know where to go as needed.  And there were eight thousand Saxon men on foot squeezed between those two little ridges.  The center did make a bit of flat space, but that got jammed full of men.

“Tough call,” Melwas, Bedivere’s father came up beside him and put a hand up on the shoulder of his younger brother-in-law. “In the old days, we attack with our soldiers and keep the cavalry in reserve.  In Arthur’s day, we attack with our lancers and follow with our footmen. But either idea looks like a losing proposition given their strong position.”

Gerraint looked at the man.  He retained his hair, but it had all turned gray, including the beard.  He had a bit of a belly, which Gerraint chalked up to stress, him being married to Gerraint’s sister and all.

“What about the distant village?”  Gerraint asked.  The church steeple was all that could be seen at that distance, even from the height they were on.

“I spoke to the elders.  The village is fortified and they strongly suggested hostility if we go there and thus bring the Saxons with us.”

“They want to hide under their bed sheets and hope it will all go away.”

“Something like that,” Melwas admitted.  “I don’t suppose there is any way we can entice the Saxons to attack us.”

“They have the numbers,” Gerraint said, flatly. “They can hold that position and send out all sorts of groups to ravage the countryside while we sit here and dare not thin our lines.”

“Just a thought.”

Gerraint nodded and went back to the table where he had the lunch cleared apart from the parts he used to represent the Saxon positions. By two that afternoon, when they got word that Bedwyr and the leading edge of Arthur’s men were only a mile back, they had a plan that no one liked, but everyone agreed it would be the best of the bad options.

Gerraint got Bedwyr to stop shy of linking up with Percival’s position.  “You are all badly strung out,” Gerraint said.  “Give Arthur and the rest of the men a chance to catch up.”  When Urien came up, angry that Bedwyr called a halt, Gerraint briefly explained for them what the other had come up with.

“We give tonight and tomorrow day for all the men to catch up and rest up.  Then tomorrow night we move into position.”

“I don’t know,” Bedwyr rubbed his jaw.  “You and your night moves.  That is very tricky, especially with so many men.”

“The path is already laid out. And it will be lit in a way the Saxons won’t see. Trust me.”  Gerraint said trust me a lot lately.  He would have to watch that, because sometimes things did not work out well no matter how well planned.

Arthur arrived about midnight.  Gerraint and Percival laid out the plan for him.  “Overall, as good as can be expected,” Arthur said. “I may adjust a bit, but I have to see it in daylight.”  That was understood.  They all slept poorly.

###

In the daylight, Arthur decided he needed more cavalry to better match the enemy numbers.  Gerraint, who wanted to lead the cavalry, got left instead in the hold position, and for that he had only his sixteen hundred from Lyoness, Cornwall and Devon.  He had Tristam and Melwas, and Arthur gave him the men from the mountain, so he had Bowen and Damon and the Little King who itched for a fight.  Gerraint instructed Uwaine to sit on the Little King if he had to in order to be sure he stuck to the plan.  Gerraint smiled for Bedivere who stayed right at his side, but he avoided saying anything stupid like, are you ready?  Or, are you scared?

Arthur moved the rest of the men along the edge of the hill to take up their positions in the distant forest.  He did not care what the village elders said.  The village and the river were his fallback positions.  He would use them if he needed them, but hoped he would not need them.  Pinewood and his fairy troop provided fairy lights for the men, lights that were shielded by strong magic so they could not be seen by the Saxons.  Bedwyr and the others got their thirty-three hundred men in position easy enough, but then he had the task of keeping them quiet in the night.  Arthur had further to go to lead two thousand horsemen to where they could reasonably charge the enemy cavalry.  Yet, even they had a few hours to rest themselves and their horses before dawn.

The sun cracked the horizon and the Saxons came out to stand and shake their spears at their enemy and scream unintelligible curses from a distance.  They had done this for two days, not knowing when to expect an attack, and might keep it up for weeks if necessary.  The yelling in the past stopped about the time the sun broke free of the horizon, and by mid-morning, the Saxons had dribbled slowly away until they were back at their own tents and by their own cooking fires.

The scene up on the hillside that greeted them that morning looked the same as before. There appeared no change in the array of tents and banners since the British took up the position.  This time, at daybreak, there were perhaps less men moving about, but that would not be something one would normally notice.

When the sun broke free of the horizon and the Saxons stopped yelling and started to relax, that became the signal to attack. Arthur broke free of the trees and got half-way up the back of the incline before the Saxons even noticed. That back end of the hill was like the front, a gradual incline that would tax the horses, but not too badly. Meanwhile, most Saxon eyes stayed riveted to the action down below.  The British attacked, but not across the field to run into a solid Saxon line, thirty men thick.  Instead, some three hundred men came out from the trees slammed into the side of that line with enough force to cause the whole line to waver.  Three thousand British troops did not even engage the Saxons, but ran instead to where they made their own line, above the Saxons.  Then they engaged, moving downhill on the enemy and effectively using the Saxons own heights against them.

The Saxon line on that side of the field began to crumple.  Many Saxons ran for safety, but then had to turn and fight their way back up the incline. The large number of Saxons left out of the fighting looked ready to run and join the fight, but Gerraint marched his sixteen hundred up the incline to within bowshot where they looked like they were waiting for a break in the Saxon line.  Saxon Chiefs could be heard running up and down the line telling their men to hold their positions.  Any movement to help their fellows on the other side would put Gerraint’s men on their flank, or their rear.

Gerraint had the twenty-four unloaded, and the men hurriedly set up the dozen portable catapults.  Dozens of balls of flammable material were dropped by the catapults so the mules could all be lined up to stampede the Saxon line should the lancers charge.  It seemed odd to Gerraint that seventeen hundred men could hold twenty-five hundred in check, especially if the twenty-five hundred charged they would be charging downhill.  Even the three thousand or so that filled the gap between the ridges appeared frozen, not knowing what to do.  All the while, Gerraint got prepared to turn and ride back to his own high ground, but the Saxons held the line.  That was apparently the order given and they were sticking to it.

Gerraint had a sudden memory flash or another hill full of Saxons.  It was 1066, and the Normans, under his command, slammed again and again into that line.  When the line of foot soldiers finally broke and charged down that hill, the Normans on horseback lead them on a merry chase to where William waited to demolish them. But William was not a very nice guy, not like Arthur, Gerraint remembered.  Then the ground began to shake.

“Dismount!” Gerraint shouted it over and over, until he needed to catch his shaky breath. Most of the men did.  The few who did not were taken for a ride and tossed when the full-fledged earthquake struck.  A few of those were killed.

R6 Gerraint: Scots and Danes, part 3 of 3

Percival thought out loud.  “But if accepting Christ is one of the requirements for land, there will be no problem with foreign gods or foreign rituals.” Meryddin did not answer, but from his look it seemed obvious he thought dropping that requirement was the way to liberalize the conditions.

Arthur spoke and everyone turned to listen.  “As I understand it, the Roman way was to use innuendo and rumor, the appearance of betrayal and double-cross to turn just such potential allies into enemies.  Maybe if we apply some Roman thinking, we can get the Scots and Norwegians to fight each other and leave us alone.”

Meryddin came flat out against that idea, and to be fair, Gerraint pointed out that the Romans did that in order to come in later and conquer both decimated and worn out groups.  It was not something the Romans did to foster peace.

“Claudus’ mistake,” Arthur said.  “He should have gotten Amorica and the Franks to fight each other and come in later to pick up the pieces.”

“Exactly,” Percival and several of the others agreed. No one knew what Meryddin thought about it.

Meryddin proved right in one way.  The Scots and Danes were the first to make a move. Arthur said he would hate himself one day, but he sent word to Kai to secretly tell the Scots he was making a deal with the Norwegians, offering land for their support and betrayal of the Scots. Then he sent word to the Danes through Captain Croydon that he was secretly negotiating with the Scots in a land for peace deal if they betrayed the Danes.  Finally, he sent word to Loth to approach both the Scots and Norwegians, if possible, and tell them that Arthur was willing to negotiate, whatever might avoid a war, but he would not be willing to swap land for peace.  This last got written in an official way, and sealed with Arthur’s seal under the assumption that Loth would show it around. But then, it was true.  Arthur had no intention of swapping land with anyone for the sake of peace.   Kai and Captain Croyden knew the truth, but Loth did not.  Gerraint called it “plausible deniability.”

From late winter and all through the spring, Arthur sent soldiers in small family groups to bolster Kai up by the wall and Croydon in York.  These were the bulk of the people that Arthur hoped would eventually repopulate the northern lands.  By the time early summer rolled around and Arthur gathered his army to move north, he already had over a thousand men stationed there, ready and waiting. Twenty-five hundred moving out of Caerleon might have looked relatively few in numbers to any spies the Scots or Danes sent out, but it was a deceptive number.

When Arthur arrived at the River Tweed, the Scots had drawn up some two thousand men and the Norwegians roughly the same number. Both sides should have had more, but there were men on both sides who refused to come, convinced that their so-called allies were not to be trusted and would betray them.  Arthur did his best to further that impression.

When he arrived, he immediately sent out two delegations.  Each delegation had one person who were known sympathizers with that particular enemy. Arthur instructed the two delegations separately so that neither group heard the instructions to the other.  He told the Scottish group that they were to offer the standard belligerences, as was common, and offer the Scots the chance to lay down their weapons and return home in peace.  Then he admitted, secretly, that he would be settling with the Danes the details of the land for peace deal and exactly at what point in the battle they were to betray their allies.  He told the Norwegian group much the same thing and knew the Scottish and Danish sympathizers would find a way to tell the Scottish and Danish leadership that they were being betrayed.

When the dawn came, Arthur marched his men forward, slowly.  Gerraint always suspected someone like Pinewood or Deerrunner, but he never probed, so it remained a mystery; but someone in the Scottish lines sent an arrow at the Danes.  That was all it took.  Arthur halted and watched two armies destroy each other.  In the evening, with fairy help, he sent troops to gather up the Danish and Scottish survivors and escort them back to their respective homes. Then Arthur went home.

“You realize, the Danes and Scots will hate and mistrust each other for centuries,” Gerraint said, one evening in camp.

“I am sure,” Arthur said.  “And I am sure I will hate myself for what I did, someday.”

“You further realize the Danes and Scots will pull back and leave open ground between them, and the Saxons will move up from the swamps of Mercia and take the land between.”

“That I did not know,” Arthur said, quietly.

“I’ll take a victory like that any day,” Bedwyr burst out with it.  “Even Meryddin can’t be too upset since his precious Scotsmen suffered fewer casualties than they might have.”

“I am sure,” Arthur said again, but he felt concerned about Meryddin.  For the first time, he deliberately kept Meryddin in the dark, and now Meryddin would know it.

“I think we may actually have peace in the north for a time,” Percival said.  He had been thinking hard about it.  “Now, if either the Scots or Danes move into the land, the other side may fight against them.  That may not be like fighting on our side, exactly, but it would be the next best thing.”

“At least Loth survived his Danish knife,” Gawain pointed out.

“Loth is a survivor,” Gerraint said.  “He is in it for Loth.”

“Things did get pretty hot for him both with the Scots and with the Danes,” Arthur agreed. “That is the part I may hate myself for.”

“He was lucky to get away with only one Danish knife wound,” Gawain concluded.

“Loth is a talker,” Bedwyr added.  “He could talk his way out of a lion’s jaw.”

“Slick as a used car salesman,” Gerraint called him

“What’s a car?” Uwaine asked softly.  “And why would someone buy it used?”  Gerraint only shrugged.

************************

MONDAY

To Kent.  With Uwaine grown and knighted, Gerraint gets a new squire, Bedivere, son of his little sister, Cordella.  Gerraint feels like he is getting too old for this.  Fortunately, the King of Kent is making noise and Arthur wants to be sure he stays in his place.  Until Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday) Happy Reading.

*

R6 Gerraint: Scots and Danes, part 2 of 3

Arthur called for the immediate surrender of the Saxons and declared himself unwilling to shed blood unless necessary. He promised safe escort back to Wessex for whomever might wish it.  His words must have had an effect, because those Saxons who fought on the next day in an effort to break out of their predicament did not seem fully committed.  Many abandoned their leaders and ran back to their camps.

One thing, Arthur took note that the Saxons started making lances of their own and training horsemen how to use them.  But then, Arthur’s men had been training in lance against lance combat since the Irish invasion got repelled.  The Saxon lancers still had a lot to learn.

Heingest got killed in one of the small battles or skirmishes that took place on that day.  With his voice silenced, the Saxons accepted Arthur’s offer and went home. The remaining Saxon warships already headed out of the channel and toward home, not pursued, but followed by Thomas’ merchant fleet.

When it was all settled, Gerraint found Arthur and they hugged and Gerraint said, “You know, if this was a thousand years from now I would call it a good time to go in for a cup of tea.”  They had to settle for Ale.

There were two years of peace after the siege of Caerleon, barely a breather.  Gerraint’s mother died at the ripe old age of sixty-six.  Gerraint figured she lived so long because she had servants and never took responsibility for anything, and thus had low stress.  Most of the common people did not live that long. Fifty-something might have been average for those not taken by accident, war, or disease.  Seventy would have been venerable.

Gerraint settled down in those two years to raise his sons.  Sadly, Arthur began to get letters, and he called together some of the Round Table to discuss matters.

Loth wrote from the north that the Scots started making noises again, and what was more, they appeared to be building a relationship with the Danes along the Norwegian shore.  This sounded bad, and Loth could not exert enough influence to stop it.  In fact, he moved his family to York for their safety.

Bedwyr wrote from Oxford that the Saxons in Essex and Mercia and the Angles in East Anglia seemed altogether too quiet, but Octa, son of Heingest, son of Hueil the pirate, who also happened to be the son of an Angle Princess, began to style himself as a king of the angles in Kent, and those long quiet Germans were making far too much noise.  He feared the worst if Octa, or his angle princess mother, should succeed in their ambitions.

Gwillim wrote from Dorset with confirmation from his brother Thomas that the Saxons in Sussex and Wessex were gathering together on a much too regular basis.  He said the word “coward” seemed to be the main word tossed around.  It got aimed at the men who surrendered with such relative ease at Caerleon.  And as you know, he said, the word coward for a Saxon is a fighting word.

“We can’t go chasing after every rumor and innuendo,” Arthur said.

“On the other hand,” Gerraint responded.  “None of these men is inclined to be a letter writer. If they put it in writing, they must think the threat credible.”

“True,” Percival agreed.  “After Bedwyr, I cannot think of another man less likely to sit down and write a letter.”

“Pelenor,” Gerraint said without hesitation.

Percival grinned. “That would be a sign of the end times, do you think?”

Arthur laughed, but Meryddin interrupted with his thoughts.  “Saxons and Angles we know, and they cannot seem to do anything without casting their seed everywhere.  If the Saxons or Angles begin to gather an army from among their many petty chieftains, we will know it and have time to gather ours.  As long as they continue to talk, they pose no threat.  You know they can’t talk and fight at the same time.”

“Walk and chew bubblegum,” Gerraint mumbled to no one’s understanding.

Meryddin ignored the interruption.  “I believe the greater threat is the alliance between the Scots and the Norwegians.   Our knowledge of events in the north is no better than it has ever been.  Loth does his best, but his spies are not that good. The Norwegians keep to their own, and the Scots are a constantly changing mess.  One thing we do know is both peoples have increased their numbers from immigration in the last few years.  The Ulsterites have flocked to the north in numbers greater than ever before. Their home is still overcrowded and the Irish are stubborn and relentless in trying to take the land right out from beneath them.”

“Like that will ever change,” Gerraint mumbled again. Meryddin stopped this time and stared. Gerraint sat up straight. “Illegal aliens.  Go on,” he said.

Meryddin continued.  “We know from recent experience most of the Scots, lured by the promise of land, are inclined to head north and further reduce the Pictish population.  But we also know the still relatively depopulated north of Britain is tempting. The newly arrived Danes must certainly be eyeing that fertile land, and the Scots no less.  That they should make an alliance smells of trouble to come.”

“What do you recommend?” Gawain asked.

“A word from the young?”  Gerraint seemed to be in a mood.

“Only because Uwaine would never say it,” Gawain whispered, and they turned to see Meryddin staring at them both.  Meryddin gave Gerraint another mean look before he continued.

“We must focus our attention on finding a way to break the Scottish-Norwegian alliance.  No good for us can come from such a partnership.  I recommend riding to the north and meeting with the Scottish leaders.  Three years ago, we found Scots on our land and allowed them to stay if they met certain conditions.  Perhaps if we liberalize the requirements, we might entice the Scots to our side to hold the line against the Danes.”

“Why don’t we invite the Danes to our side with an offer of land?” Tristam asked.

“Bah!”  Meryddin would not hear it.  “The Scots are good Celtic people who think like us and act like us and believe about life the way we do.  Even their tongue shares some words with ours.  The Norwegians are foreign and strange.  They worship strange Gods and practice strange rituals and have nothing in common with our own people.”

“Foreign devils,” Gerraint mumbled, but he had to admit it was a good argument for picking one side over the other.

R6 Gerraint: Claudus, part 1 of 3

Gerraint got an arrow and set it down on the table that held the chess pieces they were using to represent the enemy formation. He set the point right at the space between the two legions.  “Greta says we need a flying wedge.  Look at the shape of the arrowhead.  The knights of the lance can hold that shape.  All we have to do is stay between the lines.  We will break through and divide and circle back to hit the Romans from the rear.  Even the vaunted Roman phalanx cannot stand up to heavy cavalry, especially when attacked from the rear.

“Claudus has kindly left us this rise and these woods. He expects a dawn attack, but we should have no trouble rearranging our men under cover of darkness.  Hoel’s footmen will move here, to strike the Roman left flank.  Arthur’s footmen will move here, by the lake to strike the Roman’s right flank.  With attacks on their sides and rear, the Romans will crumble, but they will have only one place to run.”

“Yes,” Hoel said with a slight touch of worry.  “Right up this rise to where we are presently standing.”

“That is why we leave a thousand of our men, all our best archers, hunters here between the two groups of foot soldiers.  I have a thousand more, excellent archers, with axe men and men good with a blade to back them up.  Do not ask where they come from.  Do not ask about the knights of the lance.  Just trust they are on our side.”  Gerraint took a breath.  “I want this over.  I miss my family and I want to go home.”

“Where are these men of yours?” Grummon immediately asked.

“Trust me.  I have wings to fly that you know nothing of.  Eyes that see further, ears that hear better,” Arthur and Percival joined him at the last.  “And a reach longer than ordinary men.”

“Aha,” Feswich imagined the flaw.  “But you have forgotten the Roman cavalry.  As we fall on the backs of the Roman foot soldiers, they will fall on our backs to great harm.”

“You let the knights of the lance take care of the Roman cavalry.  When we divide to attack the Romans from behind, the knights will continue straight at the Roman horses.  I expect that struggle will not take long.”

“I have seen three of your knights,” Hoel said.  “Show me what you are talking about.”

Gerraint nodded toward the tent door and Arthur said, “Come.”  They stepped out and found two hundred horses standing in perfect rows and so perfectly still and quiet, everyone gasped, audibly, except Gerraint, and maybe Arthur. The Knights dipped their lances to the ground as the one knight had to Gerraint, Arthur and Lancelot in the forest. Then, without a word, they dismounted and fell in unison to one knee, holding tight to their shields, and their huge horses did not budge one inch.

“They will hold the formation,” Gerraint said. “All we need to do is ride between the lines.”  Gerraint smiled before he jumped.  Feswich started to reach for a Knight’s visor to see what lived inside all that metal. “No!  Don’t do that.  You don’t ever want to do that.  It is a great sin, and certain death to look upon a knight.”

Feswich paused.  The church presently only had a foothold in Amorica so the concept of sin was not widely understood, but the words certain death sounded plain enough. He wanted to say something, but Gerraint spoke over him.

“Please go prepare for the dawn attack, and ask Yin Mo to meet us in Arthur’s tent.  We will be there as soon as we can, and thank you.”

“Yes, thank you,” Arthur echoed.

The knights said nothing.  They mounted again in unison, peeled off row by row and headed back into the woods.  Only Gerraint seemed to notice, but it appeared that the knights had been standing on top of some other soldiers and tents with no affect and without those soldiers seeming to have noticed.  But by then Arthur began to lead the others back into Hoel’s tent to finish the conversation and finalize their plans.  Gerraint said nothing.

Two hours later, Gerraint, Percival and Arthur returned to Arthur’s tent and Arthur said it was a good thing they had the fort as a fallback position, if needed.  Percival started on an entirely different track.

“You know, now having seen real knights, every young man in Britain, Wales and Cornwall will aspire to be knighted. Probably everyone in Amorica, too.”

“I assume that was where the word knight came from,” Arthur picked up the thought and directed his non-question to Gerraint.”

“Yes,” he said.  “And history.  Soon enough every young man in Europe will want to be knighted.”  And he entered the tent and yelled.  “I said a hundred, like in Greta’s day.”

Yin Mo, now an elderly elf with a long white beard and hair reminiscent of Meryddin, looked unfazed.  “You said no more than Greta’s day, and there will be no more.”

Gerraint frowned.  He remembered Greta in the Temple when the battle took place, so she was not in a position to complain about there being more than a hundred. Gerraint wanted to yell again, but he figured he got committed, and Yin Mo was the expert on the Knights and their capabilities.  Gerraint decided not to pry.  He said simply, “Thank you,” and the elderly elf gave a small bow and faded slowly from sight until he disappeared.  Percival spent the rest of the evening squinting.  He did not mean anything bad by it.  He just tried to understand, but Gerraint had forgotten Yin Mo had such oriental features, and that was a very strange sight in Arthur’s part of the world.

Arthur’s men and Hoel’s men moved like union garbage men at four in the morning.  Bing, bang, crash.  Surely, they were telegraphing their plans, Gerraint thought. The archers had all been selected and they took up their position.  The horsemen saddled up and stood around, Hoel’s men in particular talking in uncertainty.  Many said this would not work.

R6 Gerraint: Enid, part 3 of 3

Gerraint said no more.  It was not just the unfair treatment of Ynywl, Guinevak and Enid that bothered him.  Caerdyf should be free of Irish pirates; especially ex-slavers.  “Is there a place I can lie down?” he asked.

Ynywl pointed to his daughter.  “Enid will show you,” he said, and let out a deep breath like a man who got stuck in a tight place with nowhere to turn.

Enid got candles and escorted Gerraint and Uwaine to a fine room with a big double bed.  They had a chair beside the fireplace, and she went about lighting the fire and fluffing the chair cushions as well as they could fluff.  She pulled an extra blanket out of a cedar chest at the foot of the bed and laid it next to the one already on the bed.

“You are going to fight Fenn, aren’t you?” she said, in a frank and forward way.  “You should not.” She turned to Gerraint who looked around at the high but well-worn quality of the room.  It looked much like the rest of the house.  There were no servants to keep things up and maintain the home, though it all appeared very clean and tidy.  He got especially taken with the bits of Roman armor on display over the fireplace.  The chain looked old and rusted, the helmet had a dent, but had been polished along with the breastplate.  A great spear sat in the corner of the room, though it looked more like a forgotten stage prop than a weapon.

Enid placed her hand gently on Gerraint’s chest to get his attention and looked up into his smiling eyes.  “He is a mean and evil fighter who shows no quarter.  You helped me in my time of need.  I would hate to see you get hurt in return.”

Gerraint covered her small hand with his big hand and smiled, deeply.  He wanted to keep her hand close to his heart.  “But tell me, whose armor is this?”  He let go and sat in the chair so as to not be such an imposing sight.

“My great-grandfather,” Enid said.  She had to take a second to remove the smile from her lips.

“The Roman?” Gerraint asked, though he knew the answer.  “Uwaine.” He made his squire get up from the bed where he already lay on his back.  “See if any of it is useable.”

Uwaine got up slowly and looked close while Enid stirred the fire.  “I would not touch the chain,” he said.  “Too much rust, but the breastplate looks in fair shape.  No cracks.  This helmet needs work.”  He took it down, found a loose piece of brick from the fireplace and went to work, hammering out the dent.

“Sir?”  Enid looked up at Gerraint.

“I thought I might wear a bit of it tomorrow, with your permission.  It might remind the people who they are.  They came here to defend this coast, not to hand it over to a bunch of Irish scoundrels. The people might be willing to throw the Irish out, even if Fenn cuts my heart out.”

“Sir,” Enid shifted to sit at his feet and reached up to put her hand gently on his knee.  “I wouldn’t like to see that happen.”  She meant it, and a good bit more.

“I appreciate the affection,” Gerraint said. “But shouldn’t you save that concern for your husband?”

Enid hesitated, but finally withdrew her hand and placed it in her lap.  She looked down while she spoke.  “We have been prisoners here for seven years.  I was a child of fourteen when Megalis decreed that I would never marry unless Father gave him the treasure.  I had suitors.”

“Many, I imagine.”  Gerraint honestly felt stunned by her beauty and imagined he might never tire of such a sight.

“One in particular, but Megalis found out and had him executed.  That happened three years ago.  I turned eighteen.  Now I will be twenty-one in a month and that is getting too old for marriage.  I expect to die an old maid because there is no treasure.”

“I think you are your father’s best treasure,” Gerraint said, and he reached down, took her hand and returned it to his knee. They simply looked eye to eye to judge the measure of what they might be seeing and feeling.  Uwaine stopped banging and stood up.  “Where are you going?” Gerraint asked.

“I have to go outside to work on this,” he said. “I’ll never get it done with you two on about it.  It’s getting too stuffy in here.”  And he left.

Gerraint laughed which caused Enid to laugh and that temporarily broke the serious mood.  “I have every confidence in that boy,” Gerraint said.  “Percival himself taught Uwaine the value of a stone for taking the dents out of helmets.”

Enid looked shocked.  “Sir.  Once again you speak of such a noble man with the ease of familiarity.  I have heard of Sir Percival.  They say he is a great man of faith and learning.”

Gerraint cocked one eyebrow.  He was not sure how much actual learning Percival had done, unless she meant life learning.  “They are great men at the Round Table, each in his own way, I suppose.  But it is hard not to be familiar with such men when you have fought side by side with greatness.”

“Oh, but there is one at Arthur’s Round Table that frightens me, terribly.  I believe he may be a devil sent to test the faith of those other sainted men.” Gerraint nodded and thought of Meryddin. It was not yet well known that Meryddin had disappeared, but Enid had not finished.  “I only hesitate to say because you are from Cornwall yourself, and I mean no offense.”

Gerraint cocked one eyebrow.  “Please tell.”

Enid pulled up close like one afraid to speak too loud.  She raised her other hand to have both on his knee and pressed her full and firm breasts up against his leg, which he imagined she did in pure innocence, but which set his mind racing so he could hardly comprehend her words.

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MONDAY

It appears Gerraint is going to fight the Irish pirate in the morning.  In the present, however, things in the room are heating up nicely, and it is getting a bit stuffy.  MONDAY (Tuesday and Wednesday), the story turns to the fort of Caerdyf.

Until then, Happy Reading

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R5 Gerraint: Cat Coit Celidon

Caledonia proved a different world, haunting, foreboding, demanding of respect and reverence.  The forest grew full of strange trees and the hills got covered in rocky places where nothing seemed to grow but that strange purple heather.  They found acres of wide open meadows covered in wildflowers, just waiting for a plow; but no sign of human life intruded, like a land forbidden to the human animal.  They found bogs that came up from nowhere and sucked at a man’s soul, and lakes, long and lean, that hinted of monsters in their icy depths. Gerraint felt glad that he was the only one to dream of being hunted by a T-Rex.

After two days, Pinewood brought word that a large force waited in the next valley.  The narrow valley had a stream running through it, and few trees, like it had been stripped of lumber some time back.  The forest took up on the hillside above.  The Picts were all up on the side of that hill, about two thousand men, and they waited for Arthur to arrive before springing the trap. Clearly, they wanted to pay Arthur back for the beating they took against the River Ure when Arthur had the trees and high ground above the river.

Arthur had six hundred horsemen, almost all trained lancers and veterans.  He had six hundred footmen, mostly men from the north hardened by generations of Pictish, Danish and Saxon raids.  These men would give no quarter now that the raiding was going in the other direction. Arthur knew he would have to watch them to keep the murder of women and children to a minimum.

They stopped shy of the valley, tempting as it was to have some open space with fresh water running through it, but he wanted the Picts to suffer a cold and quiet night with no campfires and no conversation.  He knew some men, left to their own thoughts, would worry and fill their minds with fear about the coming battle.  Others would have to be content with cold meat and bread in the morning, lest they give away their position and what they imagined was their surprise.  Arthur’s men, by contrast, lit great fires and sang songs into the night, like they were out on a lovely stroll through the woods in springtime.  He knew that would grate on the nerves of the enemy.

In the morning, before dawn, Arthur’s footmen climbed the rise in secret, by scouted paths, in order to get above and behind the enemy.  The horsemen made plenty of noise, both to distract the enemy and to make it appear like the full compliment was still in the camp, and packing slowly.  Arthur had three hundred mules, heavily burdened with all the supplies they thought to bring on the campaign.  He had no wagons because mules could go where wagons could not follow, and in the worst case, they could simply be abandoned, or served for lunch.  The mules meant a hundred-horse had to be kept back when the action started, but five hundred got ready to ride out into the valley just as soon as the Picts abandoned the heights.

Deerrunner brought two hundred elf bowmen, all deadly shots, who disguised themselves with powerful glamours so they appeared human. They wore the plain green and brown capes of hunters, and a few wore the lion and pretended to be from Cornwall. They blended in with the Brits who hardly knew every man there from every village in the north, and were glad to see men from as far away as Cornwall on their side.  Besides that, the forest to the left and right of the Picts got filled with traps set by Dumfries and his goblins, and filed with dwarfs, axes ready.  They knew the plan was to drive the Picts down into the valley where Arthur’s cavalry could get at them, and they were going to do their part to make sure none of the Picts escaped through the trees and back into the wilderness.

Gerraint knew all of this went on, and while he did not approve, he kept his mouth shut.  The only idea he flat turned down was the idea of the ogres.  They said more than a dozen ogres bearing down on the Picts from above would inspire the Picts to run as fast as their feet could run, but Gerraint knew that fear did not discriminate.  He did not want the Brits in a footrace with the Picts, trying to be the first to escape.

The action started at high noon, and it took less time than they thought for the Picts to abandon their position.  There were also considerably less Picts that poured out of the trees and on to the open valley than he expected. Fortunately, his men were ready, and the cavalry charge finished the job.  There were hardly more than five hundred blue painted Picts who made it out of the far end of the valley and headed toward the sea.  Arthur deliberately followed and at more leisurely pace.

The first village they came to on the coast had been abandoned.  Arthur burned it along with every boat in the bay.  They turned north at that point and headed toward the chief city of the Picts which sat near where Aberdeen would one day be located.  They burned every village they came to, finding them mostly deserted, and burned and sank every boat they captured.  They killed the men they found and drove the women and children into the wilderness.  There, the elves and dwarfs turned the women and children north until they joined the great march of refugees headed for the safety of the city walls.

Arthur kept slowing down his men.  Even after witnessing the horrors visited on the people in North Britain, he felt reluctant to make war directly on women and children, but he knew many of his men had no such reluctance.  He did not approve of the slaughter of the innocents, but like Gerraint with his little ones, Arthur said nothing about it. Slowing down became his concession that allowed the refugees to stay ahead of the army to swell the streets and lanes of the city, and put a strain on the city’s resources.  He said he wanted the Picts falling all over themselves by the time he arrived.

Pinewood kept Arthur from falling into whatever traps or ambushes the Picts set, and otherwise the journey seemed a pleasant one by the sea.  By the time they arrived at the city, the men were well rested and ready for action, though for Arthur, his anger had been somewhat sated.  Arthur knew what he had planned, and with a bit of help from Gerraint, he only hoped the men were not too disappointed.  He called for the twenty-six.

The twenty-six were the mules that carried, in two parts, the pieces for small catapults—the same that Arthur used to shoot hooks and ropes to the top of the wall of Fort Cambuslang—the same that he mounted on the fat merchant ships that got strung together to blockade the River Clyde.  They could hardly throw anything further than about twice bowshot, but they were just the thing for travel through the wilderness.

While they were being set up, Deerrunner and his two hundred inched closer to the wall.  From the back they wore the familiar green and brown hunter’s garb, but from the city walls the elves used an extra bit of magic that made them invisible. They crawled up to whatever bits of cover remained outside the walls in order to make the illusion more believable, but from there they could easily fire their arrows and pick off any Pict foolish enough to stick his head up.  With no return fire, the catapults could be brought up close.

The city wall had ten feet of thick stone at the bottom.  Another ten feet of lumber rose above that.  It looked formidable enough but the city behind it was all wood, and the houses, side by side, had the same dry thatched roofs that they found in the villages. It would burn dangerously fast, and Arthur had several thousand globes of pitch and tar that could be lit and heaved by the catapults.

The bombardment began roughly an hour before dawn. By the time the sun rose, half the city looked to be in flames and they heard the sounds of screaming and panic. About an hour after the sun rose, three hundred brave souls tried to ride out of a gate to attack the catapults. Lord Pinewood and thirty of his finest were able to fly there, fairy fast, and began firing their arrows before the first ten got all the way out.  Also, Arthur had his men concentrated around the six gates of the city, so the battle did not last long.  Maybe fifty men abandoned their dead and wounded and fled back into the city without coming near a catapult.

Another hour later and people tried to escape the horror on slow, terribly overcrowded ships.  But Arthur had stationed three of his thirteen catapults as near to the port as he could, and manned them with sailors who knew how to hit a moving ship. To be sure, most of the ships made it to deep water, though few without injury.  Some of the ships were set aflame and eventually sank, with people diving overboard, desperately trying to swim back to the docks.

By noon, the city became mostly a pile of smoking embers and Arthur packed up his catapults and his men and headed inland. Gerraint told Deerrunner and Bogus they were to continue to watch the gates and try to prevent anyone from leaving the city for three days.  He did not want to see any little ones hurt, but he imagined it might be possible there were enough men left who might be stupid enough to pursue Arthur.  In response, Gerraint caught the image of ogres in the daylight and trolls and goblins in the night, but he did not want to look any closer.

Arthur set a zigzag course through the inland. Like on the coast, most of the villages he came to were deserted, but a few resisted, briefly.  With Pinewood’s warning, the Picts were incapable of pulling off a trap or ambush, and this time Arthur allowed his northern Brits their way, as long as it was swift.

By the time they got back to the Antonine Wall, The British had slated their thirst for revenge and brought back plenty of loot besides.  Once again, the Scots stepped aside, most because Arthur returned with so few casualties, but some because they were beginning to get reports on what happened in the north.  Arthur imagined some of the Scottish “Lairds” might already be drawing up plans to move north into the Highlands and take over.  Arthur would not stop them.

Arthur and Gerraint stood side by side watching the army march, and watched Percival come up beside them, a hard look on the younger man’s face.  “This isn’t fun anymore,” he said.

“At least we should have peace for a time,” Arthur responded.

Gerraint answered Percival more directly.  “We aren’t children anymore.”

Percival nodded.  “In that case, I think I’ll find a wife.”  He looked at Gerraint and Arthur joined in that look.  Gerraint grinned, but said nothing.

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Thus ends the tale of Gerraint, Percival, and Arthur, Pendragon in the days of their youth.

MONDAY

The story of Gerraint, Percival, and Arthur continues through their middle ages (pun intended), with: The Kairos and Rome, Book 6 (R6) Gerraint’s story: How Gerraint finds a wife.  How Arthur is taken off to the continent.  How Gerraint is tormented for a time.  And how the Scots and Danes, the Jutes, and finally the Angles and Saxons just won’t keep still and silent.

You might call it Gerraint’s story, part 2.  I was asked if it is important to read part one first?  No.  Part 2, if you want to call it that, is a story, or more like a series of episodes unto themselves.  Most people already know many of the characters: King Arthur, Gwynyvar, Lancelot, Bedwyr and Bedivere, Uwaine and Gawaine, Bohort, Lionel, Howel, Pelenor and Percival.  So, please step right in and enjoy the story.  See you MONDAY.

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