M3 Gerraint: Winter Bound, part 1 of 3

When those days were over at last, the winter bloomed.  Urien said they might as well winter in the village and Gwillim and Trevor agreed with him; but Gerraint knew how short the memory could be.  A few months merely gave time for some unfortunate misunderstanding to occur and they would be right back in hot soup.  Besides, he longed to see Enid and tell her how much he loved her.

“We see if we can make it over the highlands before the snows come upon us.  Then we cross the lowlands which even in winter is not an impossible thing, and we will find both warmth and welcome with Kai in Caerlisle,” Gerraint insisted.

Even Uwaine seemed reluctant, but everyone agreed when Gerraint secured Dayclimber to be their guide through Pictish lands.  Gerraint hugged Lucan good-bye, and only then realized that she was Chief Moonshadow’s wife.  They otherwise had no ceremony as the village quickly fell out of sight.  It was not that the people were ungrateful, but it was hard to let go of centuries of fighting against the British who came up regularly under Roman commanders.  The enmity felt too strong for gratitude to be shown.

Dayclimber traveled with blue streaks painted across his face and hands.  They would be watched most of the way, and might well stumble across a hunting party.  Dayclimber’s presence, and the blue which appeared identifiable, marked the party as under safe escort.

“It won’t come off until I grease it off,” Dayclimber explained.

While they traveled, Uwaine surprisingly picked up his questions, and Gerraint tried to explain a bit more than he had aboard the ship.

“I suppose there was a little more of me in her when she came here because this is my time and my life.  But honestly you might just as well ask what it is like for Greta to inhabit a man’s body.  You see, it doesn’t work that way. Deep inside, in my spirit, my soul if you wish, I am only one person, but everything else, my mind and heart as well as my body is different every lifetime.  I don’t generally even know there are other lives I have lived until puberty, or later, and by then, even my personality is fairly well set.  So you see, I have not only lived a number of lifetimes, but I have lived as different persons each time.  Greta and I are one being, you might say, but she is her own person, with her own feelings, her own mind and way of looking at things, and her own skills I might add.  It was important that she come here to diagnose and treat the sickness.  Even with her instructing me in my mind every step of the way, if she could, I still would have flubbed it badly.  I am no healer.”

Uwaine nodded and thought about that for a moment before he had another question.  “So how is it that you don’t always look the same, if you are the same being as you say.  You are quite tall and dark haired and blue eyed, and she is much shorter, though not so short for a woman, but she has yellow hair and brown eyes, and very fair skin, and those little freckles.  Her lips are full, and,” he wanted to say more but he let it go.

Gerraint laughed.  He heard more than mere curiosity in that question.  “You forget.  I was designed by God, or by the gods, to be twins, one male and one female.  And that was back on the plains of Shinar where I got first born, one person in two bodies, under the shadow of that accursed tower. That was before the people were scattered and the races came into being.  My genetic code, so-called, carries the seeds of it all, and besides, outward appearance is not as important as you think.”

“Babel?”  Trevor listened in and tried to figure out which tower Gerraint referred to.  When Gerraint nodded, Gwillim, who walked right beside Trevor, whistled.

“As long ago as that,” Gwillim said.

“Yes, but it is not like I can tell you anything about those days,” Gerraint said.  “Memory is tricky enough in one lifetime.  It is all the more difficult going from person to person, especially when the winds of time are blowing contrary.”

Dayclimber lead them through the wilderness without hesitation.  “In my youth I traded beyond the wall,” he said.  “That was where I learned your tongue.  I made this journey many times.”  It proved slow progress, but fast enough to suit Gerraint, anxious as he was to get home to Enid.  “Sorry we can’t go any faster,” Dayclimber apologized.

“Don’t want to go any faster,” Gwillim said.  “Not at my age.”

“And weight,” Urien added, though Gwillim had slimmed considerably in the last couple of months.

The days kept getting colder, especially as they climbed to higher elevations.  The men often drew their cloaks tight around them against the wind.  The cloaks as well as skin blankets were a gift of the Picts for which all became very grateful when it began to snow.  There were flurries at first.  The brown ground they walked on turned white with frost in the night, and then the snow began in earnest.  Gerraint kept his eyes on the evergreens as they soon became the only color in a very black and white world.

One evening, some local men came to the camp.  They looked potentially hostile, but Dayclimber talked to them, only raised his voice once or twice, and they went away. Urien then asked the pertinent question which no one answered.  “And how do we think we will be able to cross the Scottish lands unscathed?”

The very next morning they came to the top of a mountain pass.  The south, what could be seen, stretched out for miles.  The morning sun rose to their left and somewhat ahead of them, and it made them squint, but it did not obscure the sight.  Gwillim whistled again. Even Urien looked impressed by the beauty of the white and brown, rolling hills ahead which appeared endless.

M3 Gerraint: Captives, part 2 of 3

Greta stepped into the dark and faced the overwhelming smell of mold, too much mold in the rotting wood.  She immediately heard the coughing and wheezing in the corner.  Dayclimber found a candle to light, and Greta found an old woman in bed who looked worn, but who otherwise showed no outward sign of disease.  There were no red splotches, no pox, and no breakouts of any kind apart from a wart on one knuckle.

“More light.”  Greta demanded.  Dayclimber lit two more candles and then Greta made him wait outside.  She helped the woman sit on the edge of the bed and helped her disrobe.  She checked the woman’s glands.  They were swollen, but not badly.  The woman had a fever, but low grade at the moment.  Greta helped the woman dress.  About the only certain thing was the woman’s wheezing and coughing which sounded deep in the old woman’s lungs and rattled in her breathing, even when the woman was at rest.  Probably pneumonia.  Greta brought Dayclimber back in.

“How long since this came upon her?” she asked, while she found some water and a not-too-dirty cup.

“A week.  Less.  Some have just started.  Some have died.”

“And when did the first one start?” she asked while she sprinkled a sleep mixture into the water.

“A month.  A bit more.  It started when the fall rains came and it has not gotten better, though it has not gotten worse.”

“And was it wet this summer?”  She asked as she gently helped the old woman drink the mixture.

“The contrary,” Dayclimber said.  “It is always wet here, at least for many years, but this summer was unusually hot and dry.  Then the fall rains came.”

“Let her rest,” Greta said, and she stepped outside to get out of the moldy smell.  Dayclimber came out after he extinguished the candles.

“Do you know what it is?” he asked.  “Can you do anything about it?”

“Not yet,” Greta answered, though she had some good ideas.  A half-dozen more huts needed to be visited.  The sick consisted of the very young and the elderly.  And in each hut, the mold was ripe.  She concluded pneumonia, brought on by constitutions weakened by all the mold and filth.  By the time they returned to the roundhouse, her men were gone and only the chief and a few other Pictish men were present.  Greta did not ask or let them ask anything.  She just started telling.

“Clear this building.  I want beds in here and all the sick brought together in this place.  Burn the houses where people have gotten sick.  You will have to build new houses, but use clean wood.  No mold or fungus allowed.  Their belongings and furniture can be saved as long as they are not rotting with mold.  Once you have them here, I will do what I can.”  Greta marched right past the men and toward the cooking fires out back.  It turned mid-morning, nearly noon by the time she finished her last examination, and she was hungry.

The women out back treated her like royalty.  Most would not even look up into her face.  Most also wanted to touch her thick, blond hair, however, and she let them.  Real blond hair was rare if not unknown among the Picts.  Greta noticed that there were one or two of the women who seemed a little less afraid of her.  This was good, because she would need some helpers.

“Dayclimber!”  Greta shouted even as the man came out the back of the roundhouse.

“They have discussed it,” he said.

“And?”  She asked impatiently.

“They will do as you ask,” he said.  “But your friends will be expected to help in the new building.”

“To be expected.”

“And they had better do their fair share,” he added.  He did not exactly threaten them, but near enough.  Greta nodded.

“Where are they?” she asked.  He took her to them.  They were in a fish house by the sea.  They were not exactly prisoners, but there were Picts outside, watching.  It took Greta about twenty minutes to explain her plan, what with all the interruptions.  Curiously, they did not ask who she was, where Gerraint went, or anything that she expected.  She looked at Uwaine.

“We talked,” he said, sheepishly.  Long ago he had been told to keep his mouth closed tight.  The lives of the Kairos were not meant to be public knowledge.  “I figured in this case, some explanation was in order.”

“Quite right,” she responded to him with a smile.  Her hand went to his arm and she leaned up on her toes to kiss his cheek.  It felt like a perfectly natural response for her, even if Urien had to spoil it.

“If Gerraint ever kissed me like that, I would have to hurt him,” he said.

Greta lowered her eyes at the man.  “No fear of that ever happening,” she said.  Then she let go of Uwaine’s upper arm.  She felt self-conscious about still holding on to it.  “Got to go,” she announced.  “And you boys better get your axe hands ready.  As Arthur’s men, I expect you to do twice the work in half the time of these barbaric Picts.”  She really could not help sounding like Gerraint.  This was his life after all.

It did not take long for smoke to begin to rise into the night sky.  Greta gathered her women and set them to fetch clean water and clean cloths.  Some, she set to scrubbing the insides of the roundhouse.  Some did laundry and boiled the sheets.  She felt she could not say the word clean often enough.  She set some women to cooking broth and other high nutrient, easy to swallow and digest foods.  And the two helpers she had singled out earlier, she took with her, to teach.  They were going to be her nurses.

As the sick came in, she showed them how to wipe and cool them with the water and cloths, how to keep them warm and covered against the fever chills, how to take a pulse and judge a spiking fever, and sit them up and help them cough up whatever they needed without choking.  Greta knew the formula for a very good expectorant.  She only hoped that some of them did not start coughing up blood.

“Dayclimber!”  She called after a turn scrubbing and cleaning.

“He has gone to be with the men.”  One of the older women who cleaned the floor with a brush and hot water spoke in near perfect British.  “I can talk for you if you like.”

“I need to go hunting for medicines before nightfall,” Greta said.  “Please tell these women I will be back as soon as I find what I need.”

“Mughrib, that is, Heather Woman wants to know if you can describe what you need.”  Greta did, as well as she could.  Gerraint did not know some of the things and thus he did not have the British word to put on her tongue.  Then also, even with the proper British word, the woman did not know what it was to translate, so it still had to be described.  In the end, though, it turned out one or more of the women had what she was looking for, or they knew where she could find it.  This saved much time, and by the time Greta stepped outside, the woman who came with her to translate knew just where to go.

“Lucan.”  The woman said her name.  “It means “Southern Girl,” but my given name was Mesiwig, and yes, I grew up, sixteen years, not far from Hadrian’s Wall before I came to be taken captive.”

“Mughrib and Lucan.”  Greta said.

“Oh, please.  Not Mughrib.  I never should have used her real name.  Please, just Heather Woman.”  Lucan said.

“But why, if it is her name?”

“Because knowing a person’s name gives power over that person.  Spells, charms, curses can be brought against a person if you know their name.  Please.”

“All right.”  Greta would not argue.  “Heather Woman it is, but what is his name?”  She pointed behind them.  They were being followed by a young man with a large grin and a sword by his side, just in case.

“Son of the Cow,” Lucan said.  “I think he has been given to guard you.”

Greta laughed.  “He is so young.”

“Twenty, I think.” In turn, Greta guessed Lucan was around forty-five.  “About your age,” Lucan finished.

Greta laughed again.  “I know I look twenty-something, but believe me, I’m more like fifty-five or so, maybe sixty.  I’ve been through a regeneration process, not that you would know what that is.  And anyway, in another sense you might say I’m five thousand years old.”  Greta stopped and picked a few plants.  It started getting chilly.  She considered her Dacian outfit and decided a change was in order.  She adjusted her fairy clothing with a thought and a few small words to mirror the clothes Lucan wore, much like what all of the women wore.  Lucan quickly hid her eyes.  Son of the Cow’s jaw dropped.  Then Greta had another thought and she added a red cloak and hood as she was wont to wear in the winter back home.  It felt like the appropriate dress for the Woman of the Ways after all.

“It’s all right.”  Greta said, smiled at Lucan, and turned her eyes up to look on her.  “You see; it is still just me.”

“But such great magic,” Lucan said.  “I have never seen the like before.”

Greta’s smile faded as she decided to be honest.  “Actually, it is in the clothes themselves.  They are fairy made, plain and simple.  They will change their shape and even their color as you like, and they will always fit just right.  It is a marvelous gift, yes, but not magic in me.”

Lucan looked like she was not quite sure.

“All the same,” Greta went on to whisper.  “I would appreciate it if you kept this between us.  I feel a little healthy respect on the part of Son of the Cow would not be a bad thing.”  She pointed.  Lucan looked back and understood that well enough.

“Yes, I believe you may be right about that,” she said.

Once they had all that Greta needed, Greta faced the real dilemma.  Expectorant and pain killer might relieve a good deal of discomfort, but it would not cure anything.  For that she needed an antibiotic.  Greta knew she would live as a medical doctor at some point in the first half of the twentieth century.  She knew, because of that, she had some medical knowledge that no ordinary Dacian from the milieu of Marcus Aurelius would dream of having.  Unfortunately, though, she had no direct contact with that medical doctor at the moment, and no real knowledge other than scraps of information.  She had no way to access that life, though she would have preferred to trade places in time and let the good doctor decide the matter.

“Damn,” Greta said and put her hands to her head.

“Are you all right?”  Lucan was right with her.

“Yes, I just need a minute.”  Greta stepped away and thought.  Was it too risky to make an antibiotic more than thirteen hundred years before antibiotics were discovered?  Then again, this was not the first time this issue, or one just like it, came up.  Each time was unique and required independent judgment.

M3 Gerraint: Captives, part 1 of 3

“Weapons.”  The man spoke in an imitation of upland British.  He kicked the dirt in front of him.  All complied and set their sheathed weapons on the dirt while two more blue painted men came from the brush to collect them.

“Maybe if there are only a few,” Urien said in his own halting Welsh.  He made an open suggestion which everyone caught, but there were more than a few, being fifteen of them.

“Walk.”  The chief gave the order, but the trip seemed less like walking and more like climbing over to the other side of the ridge.  An elderly man met them at the very edge of town. His British sounded much better than the chief of the hunting party and he slid right up to Gerraint with a few questions.

“Dayclimber.”  The man introduced himself as they walked to a central building.  “Where are you from?”

“Britain.”  “Britain.”  Gwillim and Trevor spoke as one.

“Urien of Leodegan,” Urien groused.

“South Wales.”  Uwaine spoke.

“Cornwall.”  Gerraint spoke last.

“King in Cornwall,” Uwaine explained for some reason.

“You are Arthur’s men?  Learned men?”  Dayclimber asked.

They nodded before they entered the roundhouse.  They expected to be set in a kind of preliminary trial with the Elders of the Picts standing around them to pass judgment.  What they found surprised them.  There were tables in the roundhouse set out with a rich variety of food.  There were women to serve, but little evidence of men apart from the hunters who brought them in, and Dayclimber.

Gerraint and his crew stood respectfully and tried to keep from drooling while the hunting chief had their weapons piled in a corner.  Then he and his hunters fell to the food and Dayclimber led the captives to a separate table.

“Sit.  Eat,” Dayclimber said.  They could not believe their ears, but even while Trevor suggested that their food might be poisoned, Urien and Gwillim started eating with the comment, “Who cares if it is.”

Dayclimber sat beside Gerraint.  “You are learned men?” he asked again.  “You have skills in healing?”  Gerraint looked up.  Ever quiet and observant Uwaine spoke up.

“There were maybe a dozen fresh graves near the place where we entered in.”

“Plague?”  Trevor was quick to ask, and his voice did not sound too steady in asking.

Dayclimber nodded.  “We have no way to combat it.  Our healer was one of the first to die and no other village will send help for fear of catching the disease.  You were spotted some ten days ago coming from the north.  It was decided if you came near to us, we would seek your help.”

Gerraint looked at his companions.

“What you call out of the frying pan and into the fire,” Uwaine said.

“Yes,” Gerraint confirmed.  “And I hate clichés.”

The chief spoke from the other table and asked how it was that they came to be in the land of the Picts.  Gerraint told the whole story, honestly, Dayclimber translating, and only left out his trading places through the time stream with Margueritte, and especially his brief time as the Danna.  The men quickly became engrossed in the tale, and the women stopped serving to listen as well.  Curiously, they had no trouble believing that Manannan had made them prisoners and seemed only surprised that Manannan had relented and set them free.

The chief of the Picts told them that they were aware of the madman in the wilderness.  “Now I understand,” the chief said.  “The spirit of the seal boy has taken the man’s mind, but it is madness for the boy neither to be able to return to the sea nor to live with his seal people.”

“You’ve said we are what we eat,” Uwaine whispered in Gerraint’s ear.  It was not funny.

“But you were not the one who convinced Manannan to let us go,” Trevor interjected in all innocence.  “That was the lady.”

Dayclimber translated for his fellows and then asked with eyebrows raised.

“Danna,” Gerraint said.  The Picts stood at the mention of her and there was mention of having seen her in the land some seventy-five years ago.

“But how is it that she would appear to the likes of you?  And intercede for you?” The Chief demanded an answer.

Gerraint did not feel shaken by their hovering over him.  He took a long moment of thought before he answered.  “When you see her, you will have to ask her,” he said at last. “I am a chieftain and a soldier.  Mine is not the mind to know the way of the gods.”  Curiously, that seemed to satisfy the Picts who resumed their seats, but slowly and with great questions still burning in the air.

Dayclimber spoke into the silence because there was another part of the story which did not satisfy him.  “And how is it this young seal girl was willing to speak to you, a warrior, when one of your kind just killed her brother, besides?”  The Picts, on hearing this question, looked up at Gerraint who sighed.  There was no avoiding it, in any case.  Besides, he had determined that the gods he had been were inaccessible at the moment, but Greta the Dacian Woman of the Ways and healer would be willing to look into this plague.  Someone had to do something, or their welcome would soon enough turn sour.

“Will the goddess come?”  Uwaine asked having read the resignation on Gerraint’s face.

“Not one of them,” Gerraint answered.  “But Greta may help, if you don’t mind.”  He knew Uwaine did not mind.  Uwaine was long in love with Greta.

“Dayclimber.”  Gerraint got the man ready to translate, and he told the rest of the story, about Margueritte and speaking as a young girl to a young girl.  The Picts said nothing at first.  Gerraint’s own crew stayed equally silent as Gerraint stood.  “And now, let the healer from the east and from long ago see if perhaps there is something that can be done for your people.”  He took Uwaine’s hand and one hand of Dayclimber’s in an age-old tradition.  “Do not let go, no matter what,” he said, and the dark haired, blue eyed, six foot tall Gerraint was not there anymore.  In his place stood a five foot, four-inch blonde with light brown eyes that sparkled with life.

Dayclimber shrieked and yanked back his hand.  Both Picts and Gerraint’s crew stood and stepped from the table with the shuffling and scraping of chairs and not a few gasps.  One Pictish woman screamed and dropped the clay pot she held.  It shattered on the ground and spilled milk everywhere.  Uwaine, alone, stayed unmoved.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” Uwaine said to her in Latin.

“But you have matured well,” she responded in the same tongue.

“That was you in Amorica,” he confirmed.

She nodded.  “Briefly.  But I suspect I may be here a while longer.”

“As always, I am your devoted servant,” Uwaine confessed, knowing better than to say more.  But she was a wise woman of the Dacians and Romans.  She could read his heart and mind no matter how deeply he tried to hide his feelings.  She saw his love and could not help the smile in return for the depths of her own feelings.  The lives of the Kairos could sometimes be very complicated.

“Hush, lest you make my husband jealous.”  She turned to Dayclimber as she let go of Uwaine’s hand and spoke in Gerraint’s British tongue.  “We have the sick to attend to,” she said.  “Tell your chief I will do what I can but I make no promises.”  Dayclimber said nothing until Greta stomped on his foot.  Then he blurted it out all at once.  The chief of the Picts slowly nodded.  He understood.  The gods never made promises.

As they walked, Greta checked her clothes.  The fairy clothes that had come to her had shaped themselves in the Dacian style of her home.  That only made her three hundred and fifty years out of date.  Still, she had sent her armor away with Gerraint.  She came as a healer, not a woman warrior of the Dacians.  Of course, her weapons also disappeared from the pile of weapons at the same time, but she supposed no one would really notice that except perhaps Uwaine.  In their stead, she called from her own island in the heavenly sea, her bag with everything she was used to carrying on just such errands of mercy.  With that on her arm like a woman’s purse, she was well supplied with the drugs, herbs and medicines she might need, that is, if this disease was anything familiar.

Dayclimber said nothing the whole way.  He kept staring back at her as she followed one step behind.  He nearly tripped several times before they reached the door of the first hut.  “Is your nose filled?” she asked him.  He did not understand, so she set her hand against his chin.  “Close your mouth,” she said.  He did as he opened the door.

M3 Gerraint: The Mainland, part 3 of 3

The morning proved bright and warm and they even had a little breeze that blew straight on toward the mainland.  Gerraint had little hope that their bit of salvaged canvass would do much good.  He imagined they would have to paddle the canoe most of the way, which was one more reason for the design.  It felt good to see the craft did not sink on entry into the water, but their boots got wet almost immediately.

“No sign of Arawn.”  Urien said and took one last long look up and down the shore and back up the hillside.

“Can’t be helped,” Gwillim said.  “Sad to say.  Raise the sail, Trevor.”

“Sir.”  Trevor responded, and Gerraint felt pleased to see the sail did better than he imagined, that is, if they were not getting secret help.

The opposite shore proved full of big rocks.  They had to lower the sail and paddle for a mile along the coast before the found a pebble beach where they could safely pull up.  When they did so, their craft collapsed.

“Three stooges,” Gerraint announced.

“Who?”  Gwillim asked.

“Three Stoojus,” Uwaine said.  “It was perfectly clear to me.”

“Urien!”  The call came from some distance inland.  “Urien!  Please.  Help!”  It did not take long to find the source.  Arawn was tied with his wrists behind his back and a long end of the rope wrapped around a tree and around him, effectively tying him to the tree.

“Urien, my friend,” Arawn said when he saw the man.  They let him loose of the tree but kept his hands tied securely behind his back and held the long end of the rope that bound him.

“Manannan doesn’t want him,” Uwaine announced.

“We’ll have to take him along,” Gwillim said.

Arawn smiled at everyone and did not worry his hands at the moment, though his wrists were severely chaffed and burned.  He came to look at Gerraint and his eyes went wide.  He took a big step away and a touch of the insanity crossed his face, but he said nothing.  Gerraint also said nothing.  He preferred to turn and set off toward the inland in a roughly southerly direction.  If they had been wrecked in the Hebrides as all suspected, it might take them two months to walk home.  At least they could try to cross the highlands before they got snowed in.

Two days later, they untied Arawn.  It was a risk, but he seemed to be behaving and more his old self, as Urien said.  As a precaution, they gave him no weapon and he took no turn watching in the night, but it was becoming impossible to continue with him tied and continually watched.  That very night he ran off into the woods.  Urien shrugged.

“There is no more we can do for him,” Urien announced.

“It does feel a little like leaving a wounded man behind on the battlefield,” Gerraint said.

“It does,” Gwillim confirmed.  “But we cannot help him.  He will come to his senses someday, or not.  We have no power to heal a man’s mind.”

“The night watch will have to keep an eye out for him as well as Picts and Scotts,” Uwaine said.  They all understood.

There were miles of sparsely inhabited wilderness to pass through.  They hunted when they could and ate any number of plants and roots to keep up their strength.  Fortunately, the hunting was easy enough at first.  It was pristine wilderness where the animals were shy of men but not deathly afraid.  A well thrown stone could do wonders.

After a week, they came to a great inlet of the sea.  They had to turn west-southwest down the shore.  Though it slowed them, Gerraint insisted they travel just inside the tree lined edge, and move even further inland where there were open fields to cross.  He did not want to run into a Pictish or Scottish village by surprise, and they went around several small villages of fishermen.  He also did not want to be seen by the Pictish coastal watch whose ships were fast and well-armed with men.

Another week and they were nearly frozen and famished.  There was a town just over the ridge so they dared not light a fire without shelter.  They found little roughage with the fall well along, and less in the way of berries than they had been finding, at least less berries that were not poison.  They had a pheasant, however, already plucked by Trevor, but without a fire, they were helpless.

“My Lord.”  Gwillim had gone back to calling Gerraint by that title nearly from the beginning of their time on the mainland.

“Can’t be helped,” Gerraint said.  “Not unless we can find a good hollow on the ridge to hide the fire light.  A cave would be better.”

“Besides, you could still lose a few pounds,” Uwaine teased Gwillim.

“More than a few,” Urien insisted.

“But look at Trevor.”  Gwillim was not for giving up.  “He is nothing but skin and bones.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Gerraint said.  “He looked skin and bones the first time I met him.”

“Over here!”  Trevor shouted too loud for Gerraint’s nerves.  They went quickly so he would not shout again.  They saw a small cliff face in the ridge, with a rock overhang.  Hopefully, that would keep the firelight from reflecting off the clouds.  A fire could be as bad as a searchlight in the wild.

They started the fire quickly.  They were all starving.  Trevor insisted on rubbing the bird in some greens and such that he had collected along the way, but the others did not care about that.  When it was minimally done, they would eat too fast to taste it anyway.  It was not a very big bird, and each of the five men had only a couple of bites before it was gone.

After that, it was get as warm as they could to try and sleep before it was their turn to watch.  Trevor had the first watch that night, but unfortunately, he did not know exactly what that meant.  He was a cook, in truth, and hardly a sailor, much less a soldier. After all too little sleep, Gerraint awoke to see a blue painted face, and the man held a knife to Trevor’s unmoving throat.



Gerraint and company are taken captive by blue painted Picts, and to what end?  Come back Monday, and in the meanwhile,


R6 Festuscato: 3 Leinster, part 2 of 3

Everyone ran to the railing to look.  “Picts,” the Captain described their visitors.  “And their ship is much faster than ours and more heavily armed.”

“What will they do?” Gaius asked what jumped into everyone’s minds.

“Probably get mad that we don’t have any cargo to steal. The Picts generally just steal the cargo and let the ship go.  The Irish would steal the cargo and take any young ones for slaves.  the Saxons would steal the cargo and kill everybody, and then sink the ship.  I suppose the Picts aren’t so bad when you think about it.”

“No telling what they will do when they don’t find any cargo,” Treeve repeated the first thought as the captain got the crew to take down the sail and practice begging for their lives.  Festuscato dressed his people up at the stern, in front of the rudder, like they were preparing for a family photo.  By the time they were ready and quiet, the Picts were alongside and coming on board.

Captain Breok profusely apologized for the lack of a worthwhile cargo but suggested they were carrying some rich passengers whom the Picts were welcome to rob.  He did not exactly betray them, just accommodating to the circumstances. The Pictish captain stepped up to look Festuscato in the eye.  The Pict wore a leather jerkin studded with bronze circles that looked like rivets. He had a long sword at his side and no doubt had various other sharp things hidden around his person.

“And you are?”  Festuscato spoke first, his voice calm and clear.

“Captain Keravear,” the man said.  “And you?”  He grinned.

Festuscato reached out and shook the man’s hand before the man could react.  “Festuscato Cassius Agitus, an ordinary mortal human who will grow old and die like any other human.”  Captain Keravear grinned again, but did not know how to take that.  He glanced back at the half dozen men who were one step behind him, and the men with their knives drawn who were holding Captain Breok’s crew.

The Captain put on his mean face and spouted. “Whether you grow old or not remains to be seen.”

Festuscato looked down at himself and looked embarrassed. “Oh, but I see I haven’t properly dressed.”  He called out for his armor, and it fit him perfectly, Wyrd his sword and Defender his long knife fitted to his back, and overall, he wore the tunic that sported the dragon.  “Some have called me the dragon, but I really hope Constantine will own that name.” Several of Captain Keravear’s men took a step back on seeing the change, and the rest stepped back because they heard stories of the Dragon of Britain.  “Now, if you don’t mind,” Festuscato borrowed Gerraint’s thought. “I have pledged to take these holy men safely to the Irish shore and I don’t appreciate the interruption.”

Captain Keravear smiled again in an attempt to regain the upper hand. “Then give me all your money and your gold and we will let you go on your way.  Oh, but I think I will take your woman as well.”

“Not even if Hell froze over,” Festuscato responded and lifted his arm.  The glamour that covered Mirowen fell away and her true elf form looked unmistakable, complete with her cute pointed ears.  Mousden also reverted to his pixie form just in time for Mirowen to put him in Gaius’ arms.  She pulled a bow and arrows from her usual nowhere.  Dibs and Bran meanwhile slipped into their own dragon tunics and drew their swords.  This time Captain Keravear took one step back.  He had to think if it would be worth it.  He had no doubt at least some of his men would die, and given the reputation of the dragon, he was not sure if all of his men might die.

“Gentlemen,” Patrick stepped up and waved his hands like a referee calling for a time out.  “Surely this can be settled without the need for bloodshed.”

“That remains to be seen,” Festuscato turned his head and Captain Keravear pulled a small knife.  Before he got it all the way out from his Jerkin, Festuscato had Defender at his throat, and without missing a beat.  “We will see if Captain Keravear has a brain or not.”  He turned to the Captain and spoke again.  “This ship is under God’s almighty hand.  You need to leave before you get yourself in eternal trouble.”

“Which god are your speaking of?” Captain Keravear said and took another step back to get away from the blade at his throat. “I met Mannanon the sea god, one dark and stormy night by his isle of Man.  He guided us to a safe harbor until the storm passed, and I like to think of him as our protector.”

Festuscato kept a straight face when he spoke.  “It was a dark and stormy night.  He is a good son who does good for people now and then. But I was speaking of Mannanon’s God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

“Don’t start stealing Patrick’s lines,” Gaius whispered from behind.

“We aren’t in Ireland yet,” Festuscato responded with more volume.

Patrick would have stepped between the two men, but Festuscato held his arm out and would not let him.  Still, he spoke.  “What would it take to satisfy things so you leave us in peace?”

“All your money and gold.  I’ll forego the woman.”

“Kind of you,” Festuscato shook his head as a great wave struck the ship and everyone had to spread their arms and legs to keep from falling over.  The wave splashed up on both sides of the ship and formed into several hundred little blobs of gelatin looking creatures with heads, arms and legs, about a foot tall each, with mean looks on their faces, if cute little gingerbread men-like blobs could be said to have mean faces.

“Lord Steran,” Festuscato called.  He knew who it was, the king of the water sprites of the Irish sea.  “Please refrain from drowning these people.  We are trying to work out an equitable arrangement.”

“Lord.”  The water sprite offered Festuscato a regal bow and spoke in the cutest baby voice while Mousden clapped his hands and let out an excited shout.

“Water babies.”

“Mousden,” Festuscato called.  “Bring the little bag.”

“Lord?”  Mousden used the term Mirowen used and now Steran confirmed, though he knew well enough that it was the right term.  He brought the bag and hovered while Festuscato counted out fifteen pieces of gold. “Fifteen pieces!”  Mousden felt more concerned with missing the gold than he felt with the pirates.  He screamed once in the face of the pirates, but the loss of the coins made him want to howl.

“Fifteen pieces of gold for your trouble,” Festuscato said.  “But I suggest you be on your way or I cannot guarantee your safety.”

Captain Keravear ran out of arguments and knew when his luck was done.  Most of his men had deserted his back and were already on their ship.  The Picts wasted no time casting off, and soon enough would dip below the horizon.

“Thank you Lord Steran,” Festuscato said, and could not help the smile as Steran offered a wave not unlike a salute, and he and his people jumped back over the side to blend into the sea.

“Bye.  Bye,” many of the water babies said, and more than one hardened sailor returned a wave and a sweet goodbye before they went back to work getting the sail up and the ship underway.

Festuscato turned and scolded Patrick.  “What did you think you were doing?  You need to let me do my job without interference.”

“What is your job?” he shot back.

“To deliver you in one piece.”  Festuscato swallowed much of what he wanted to say before he deflected the question about his job.  “If pirates think they have the upper hand, you are dead.  You don’t bargain with pirates.”

Mousden shrieked.  “I’ll say.  You didn’t bargain at all.  You just handed them fifteen pieces of gold.  Fifteen!”

Festuscato and Patrick looked at the young man hovering beside them.  Festuscato laughed.  “It’s only money,” he said.  Patrick just nodded and laughed.


The ship pulled into the docks at Wicklow and Captain Breok wished them all well. “Leinster is as fair a trading partner as you can find among the Irish,” he told them.  They all thanked the captain for the journey, but then Festuscato took the man and his mate, Treeve aside.  They would be picking up some lumber, mostly pine in Lyoness, and be back in two weeks to ten days, depending on the weather.

“You are not going with them?” Patrick asked, having discerned that something was happening.

“No,” Festuscato admitted.  “But I have arranged for passage, and meanwhile I promise to get out of your way.”

They found some Christians in the port and Patrick wasted no time bringing them together and sharing the gospel.  He held Mass in a grove by the river every morning and spent every afternoon teaching about the people of God and the life of Christ. He invited his few disciples, the remnants of the work of Palladius, to bring in their family and friends, but found few converts.  Most of the people resisted his message.

Festuscato, Dibs and Bran stayed the next ten days in a tavern by the port.  Gaius spent most of his time with Patrick and occasionally Bran joined him; less often Dibs. Festuscato, good to his word, stayed out of it.  He paced and drank and ate enough for three people, but he kept his mouth closed.

Mirowen and Mousden went out into the wilderness on the first day and stayed gone that whole time.  Mirowen said she went looking for family, elves related to the clan of Macreedy, though the clan originally came from further north, from Ulster. Festuscato recalled that Mirowen was in fact an elf Princess, and her father Macreedy had been a king among the elves.  Mousden said he did not want to be left alone with so many clunky humans, so they disappeared, and Festuscato would have been very bored if he did not find a couple of young women to keep him in the night.  Keela, a tall and slim Celt, inspired him to bad poetry.  Aideen was a short, buxom redhead who Festuscato called little fire.

“She squeals,” Festuscato said.  “Like when the hot iron is doused in the cool water.”

“I’ve heard,” Dibs responded and knocked on the thin wall.  “And I don’t want to hear about it.”

After ten days, Festuscato began to worry that his ship might not return.  That felt troublesome, because a dozen rough men, soldiers to look at them, came riding into town under orders from the King of Leinster, the self-styled King of all Ireland.  They said they had enough of this Christian business with Palladius.  To their credit, they first listened, and one of them remarked it was hard to believe it was the same message.  Patrick taught about the love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  Palladius had put much more emphasis on hellfire and brimstone.

At that same time, Festuscato went looking for Keela. He had ruined another potential poem, so he imagined she might be out back by the cooking fire, ruining another roast.  That would have only been fair.  She was a beauty, but she could not cook any better than Greta.  He found her cauldron bubbling over the fire and her cooking utensils laid out on a table next to the fire.  He found baskets full of herbs and spices, but no Keela.  He started rubbing his chin when he heard her off in the bushes, screaming.

R5 Gerraint: Meryddin, part 2 of 2

At once there came a flash of light and a tall woman, the most beautiful woman Arthur had ever seen, stepped up beside him and waved her arm once.  The fog cleared off in an instant, like waving her arm created a great wind, though Arthur felt no wind.  The clearing revealed six blue painted Picts, crouched like hunters, but utterly unmoving.

Meryddin got revealed, standing still as a statue on the edge of the forest.  The woman stepped up for a closer look. She saw the grandfather, a djin, a lesser spirit of evil that terrorized people to the point where they died of fright and then it sucked out their souls.  He had gone over to the other side, but before he went, he allowed a young woman to live.  She had a son who soon enough ate his mother.  His reign of terror came to the end at the hands of the people, a Frankenstein-type mob, but not before he impregnated a fifteen-year-old girl.  She had a son, Meryddin, one quarter djin.

Suddenly it made sense.  By the time Meryddin turned ten, his mother, then twenty-five, looked more like fifty.  She had no life left to tend the boy.  He went into the hands of the druids who worked their mightiest spells to bind the thing inside the boy.  They were partially successful, and Meryddin seemed normal after that.  But he never lost the ability to see and hear at great distances, though he could not exactly control it, and his power of illusion stayed great.

The woman turned when Arthur turned and saw, not Gwynyvar, but Gwenhwyfach.  The woman knew Gwenhwyfach participated in Meryddin’s scheme, and she took a deep breath before she acted.

“Go home, trollop,” the woman said, and Gwenhwyfach disappeared from that place.  Arthur stared at the woman until she gave her name.  “Danna.”

“Goddess,” he responded.

“No, Gerraint,” she smiled for him.  “And it would seem strange to be my own goddess, but he is a Christian now.”

“Yes.”  Arthur came more to himself and nodded.  “As am I, but…”  He quickly looked around.  He felt mortified by what he did and it showed on his face.

“No one saw,” Danna said.  She waved her hand again and Arthur became clothed.  “For you it will be like an unpleasant dream, but you must remember it because there will be consequences.”  Another wave and Arthur appeared back in his tent, on his bed, asleep.  Then the goddess turned to the others.  She started with Meryddin, and when she opened his eyes they almost popped from his head on sight of her.

“I see you,” she said.  “I see what is inside of you, driving you.  Will you see it?”

Meryddin’s tongue came loose.  “You cannot be here.  How can you be here?  My goddess, do not turn against your servant.”

“I will show you,” Danna said.  “This is in your heart.”

Meryddin got set free even as the vision formed. He saw himself as a child slowly draining the life of his own mother.  He saw his father eating his own mother and he screamed.  He saw his grandfather and ran, wild abandon in the dark, with no thought for his life, and indeed, no thought at all beyond his fear. How far he would run and whether or not his mind would ever be whole again, even Danna could not say.  His influence over Arthur ended, but his wickedness continued and she did not have the right to intervene.  There would be consequences, but in the meanwhile, she could do something about the six Pictish statues

Danna looked at the men and thought the compulsion should pass in a week.  One madman per night should be enough.  She waved her hand once more and all six men appeared, five in villages along the coast and the sixth in the city that would one day be called Aberdeen.  They attracted an immediate crowd, night or not. Danna made sure of that.  Then the men spoke, but the only thing they could say was, “We should not have gone beyond the wall.  Now we are all dead.”  And they said it whenever they opened their mouths.

Danna turned to the forest and said, “Hear me.” That voice echoed through the Highlands, rippled across the lakes and blew like the cold wind in the remotest islands of the north.  “The time has come.  The iniquity is complete.  The Picts will be no more.  Do not hinder the men from the south.  Arthur must have his way.”  Then Danna vanished instantly and Gerraint returned, Salvation in his hand as it had been when Danna filled his shoes.

Gerraint looked up at the stars and moon, now clearly visible since the fog pushed off.  He returned his sword to its place and climbed off wall.  Uwaine stood there, but the boy did not see.  Just as well, Gerraint thought, and he thought of those men saying the same thing over and over for seven days, if they should live. He spoke out loud.

“My name is Inigo Montoya.  You keelled my Father.  Prepare to die.”

Uwaine nodded.  “Weird,” he said.

Arthur found Gerraint at dawn, said he had the weirdest dream and since he could not find Meryddin and since Gerraint was king of weird he wanted to share it.

Gerraint interrupted.  “I did not see anything through that fog, and there is no power on earth that can make her tell anyone.”  He paused when he saw a tear come up into Arthurs eyes.  “Meryddin ran away,” he added.

Arthur grasped at that change of subject.  “What do you mean ran away?”

“He got scared.  He ran, off into the forest, into the wilds of the Celidon.  I don’t know if we will see him again.”


 “He saw himself, what he really is.  He might not be in his right mind.”  Gerraint shook his head, sadly.

Arthur sniffed, dried his eyes and stepped to the tent door.  “We have a job to do.”  He stiffened, and Gerraint could not even guess what might be running through Arthur’s mind.  “We can’t run away,” Arthur said, and he lead twelve hundred men into the wilderness of Caledonia.


TOMORROW: Cat Coit Celidon. Don’t miss it.


R5 Gerraint: Picts and Pirates, part 3 of 3

Meryddin was not on board with this plan.  As much as Meryddin knew the Picts and Scots needed to be kept in their place, he preferred action against the Saxons, or the Irish.  The Scots, and for the most part the Picts still held to the old ways.  They had and respected the druids, and they respected Meryddin as a master druid.  Meryddin often argued that as long as the Scots and Picts stayed above the wall, they should be left alone.  And if they should come down below the wall, they should be subject to mercy and forgiveness.  Gerraint thought the argument a curious one coming from Meryddin, since the druids thought of forgiveness as weakness, and they did not believe in mercy.

Thomas moved his fat and slow merchant ships into the mouth of the Clyde and lashed them together to form a wall.  Gerraint called it a blockade.  Thomas, who walked with a slight limp ever since the battle of the rebellion, had plenty of stout men and plenty of catapults that could heave stones or burning pitch and tar at any ship that tried to come downriver.  He kept Arthur’s swifter, more warship design out from the wall to pursue anyone who broke through and tried to run for it.

Arthur came up on the fort in the night and settled in quietly while he moved some men around to the back of the fort to attack the Saxon and Pictish ships in the dark.  There were eight Saxon long boats and more than twenty Pictish coastal ships anchored in the river or pulled partly up on the bank.  He knew ships could be rebuilt, that it was the men he had to worry about, but he also knew ships could carry men to safety and he needed to take away that option.

The guards on the river were few and not very alert.  Still, it took time avoiding them.  Confrontation risked one of them crying out and waking the fort.  Men swam out and crawled up on to the ships anchored in the river.  Others hid behind the boats on the bank, and waited.  When Arthur’s patience ran out, he signaled the three men in the trees. They lit their torches and waved them back and forth.  Moments later, the sound of chopping echoed up and down the river, and one by one, the ships became ablaze with fire.  The guards on the river were taken out, mostly with arrows, but the men in the fort came awake and began shouting, everywhere.

On the land side of the fort, Gerraint let loose the dozen specially constructed catapults.  They fired a great metal clamp attached to a long, knotted rope. Two fell short.  One made it over the wall but did not catch on anything, so it pulled away.  Two made it and caught.  After a quick tug, men began to climb the ropes.  The sixth stuck fast to the lumber that made the walls, the whole fort being made of logs.  The men who tugged on the rope to be sure the hook would hold them heard the sound of ripping wood.  Gerraint quickly grabbed a dozen men to help, and they all pulled, and pulled with all their might.  That log, and the three to either side of it began to pull away from the rest of the wall.

“Altogether!” Gerraint yelled, and one big final yank and the logs broke free and crashed to the ground.  The logs were pushed into a bog on that end and rotted.  Men still had to climb over the lower parts, but soon enough they flooded into the fort.  The Picts and Saxons put up a good fight, but they were not prepared and got killed at the rate of about three to one. When the men came pouring in from the riverside, the fighting did not last long.  Arthur lost some hundred and fifty men in the end; all the dead and dying. The enemy lost closer to four hundred and only about two hundred finally surrendered and begged for mercy.

Arthur did not show mercy.  He made sure Caw, the Pictish leader and Hueil, the Saxon pirate were dead.  Then he hung every last man in that fort, letting only the old Scottish woman who did the cooking go home.  He sent her off with the three babies he found.  Anyone twelve and over got hung, and so did the women who were not there to cook, the ones he imagined were the mothers of those children.

Last of all, Arthur left a note nailed to the main door of the fort’s version of a Great Hall, and a second copy nailed to the front gate.  It said, “Stay out of Britain, Wales and Cornwall.  No more warnings.”  He signed it and brought his men back south.

Thomas met him at fort Guinnon.  “Uncle Durwood is going to be upset at the loss of three of his best ships.”  A Saxon long boat and some six Pictish coastal craft broke through the blockade and headed for the sea.  Thomas damaged them all and sank three of the Pictish craft, and without losing one of Arthur’s ships, but the long boat and three of the Pictish ships managed to limp away.

“Maybe we can work something out,” Arthur said in a sour voice.  He had not been in a good mood since the battle.  The decision to hang all of those men, pirates though they were, came hard for him.  It was not like battle.  He found no glory in condemning prisoners.

“I have been thinking about that,” Thomas said with a bit of a grin.  “I got a good look at those Saxon long boats and I believe I can greatly improve the design of your warships.  As they become available, Uncle Durwood might be willing to take some of your older ones in exchange for his loses.  That way you can spend your money on new and better ships rather than compensating my Uncle.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Kai said brightly.

Arthur said nothing.  That was what they did, but Arthur became convinced that now all he did was tempt the Picts to mount a real war.  When he sent his men home, he told them all, personally, to be prepared for a quick recall.

“Surely, they have learned their lesson,” the men said, but Arthur could only shake his head, sadly.



Meryddn is revealed, just what part of him is not human, and Arthur leads his men north into the wild Pictish wilderness in Cat Coit Celidon.  Until Monday,


R5 Gerraint: Picts, part 2 of 2

Gerraint explained things minimally to Arthur who promptly moved the RDF to close off the southern area of the woods.  They still had to wait, but the Picts and Scots finally straggled in just after lunch on the third day.  They looked pretty ragged.

Arthur was not for waiting lest their camp be discovered.  He gave the order, and the enemy became covered in a virtual rain of arrows. Some tried to head south, but found the way blocked, and by a force they quickly realized would not break.  Some headed back the way they came, but Pinewood timed his charges the way the little ones often do.  Kai and Loth arrived perfectly on time to cut off that escape route.  In all, the battle might have been more of an even match, but Arthur’s men had time to get well dug in and had the advantage of some height.  Some small groups of Picts and Scots made the attempt to attack uphill, but those attempts never amounted to much.

Arthur’s men took casualties, but by far the damage came on the other side.  At the last, though the river ran swift and deep, those who escaped, and there were quite a few, did so by swimming the river.  Gerraint saw some of them climb the far riverbank only to be shot down by unseen archers.  Gerraint felt like cursing, but the only thing he said was, “As long as they go back north.”

Arthur’s men took nearly a thousand prisoners, and that took as many of Arthur’s three thousand men to guard them.  The Picts and Scots sat and faced the river. Gerraint rather hoped they would try to escape by swimming across.  He knew his little ones would finish the job, or drive them back north to where they came from.

“So how did it go?” Arthur asked when Gerraint got to the command tent.

“I spent the whole time trying to teach Uwaine how to properly aim and fire his arrow,” Gerraint said, since the boy was outside tending to Gerraint’s weapons.  “He finally got off a good shot and hit a horse in the neck, and then I had to hug him and tell him it would be all right.”  Even Meryddin softened a bit on hearing that.  “I shot the Pictish rider when the horse fell out from under him, but otherwise, I don’t think I fired another arrow the whole time.”

Gwillim came up to the tent in a short while. “Look what I found.”

“Leave it to the little merchant to go through the enemy’s things,” Gerraint said.

“No!  That is my uncle and my brother Thomas’ job.”

“What?”  Arthur asked. Gwillim smiled broadly and held out several tins of blue goop and several more tins of clear stuff which they realized was the stuff to remove the blue.  “Brilliant!”  Arthur said, but he did not explain whatever his brilliant idea was until Meryddin left to see about supper for the prisoners.

Mid-afternoon on the next day, Arthur, Gerraint, Captain Croyden, Percival and three other prime members of the RDF showed up at the gate of York with Blue faces and beards, dressed in Pictish garb and carrying Pictish weapons.  They heard the call to stop and an eighth man appeared in their midst.

“You need an interpreter,” the man said.  “You would be in trouble if they started to speak to you in Pictish and you did not understand what they were saying.” Arthur and several of the men turned white beneath the blue.  They had not considered that.  Gerraint leaned forward and whispered in Pinewood’s ear.  Pinewood shouted the words.

“The youngest son of Caw here with a message for Colgrin.”  They had to wait at the gate for a long time before someone came to fetch them and bring them inside.

Meryddin, meanwhile, drove the army with every whip he could think of, and all but cursing Arthur for his stupidity. Pelenor, Peredur and Ederyn, and Kai and Loth once they got let in on it, kept slowing things down.  Their orders were to arrive under the cover of darkness and wait for the signal.

Colgrin sat in his version of a great hall preparing for an early supper.  He spoke in Saxon to the men around him, all Germans of some sort.  “The youngest son of Caw, the Pict.  The man apparently has a bunch of sons.  He must be part rabbit.”  the Saxons laughed as Colgrin switched to British.  He assumed none of the Picts spoke Saxon, but the fairy Lord understood it perfectly, and because he stood near the fairy or because of some magic the fairy affected on the men, they all understood it as well.

“What news?” Colgrin came right out with it.

Gerraint whispered in Pinewood’s ear and Pinewood repeated it.  “The men of Arthur tried to trap us by the river, but they took one look at our strength and numbers and withdrew.  The Son of Caw says the men of Arthur are puny things.”  Colgrin and the Saxons laughed, but not too much.  Gerraint appeared an imposing sight, half naked as he was.  “The Son of Caw says his father will be here in the morning with three thousand men of Celidon.  He wants to know if everything is ready.”

“Ready?  What do you mean ready?” Colgrin asked sharply.

“This is war.  We must be ready.”  Pinewood dutifully repeated.

“What?  Yes, of course.”  He said to his Saxons, “Are we ready?”

“Ya!”  Two said, while the others just shouted and growled.

Gerraint looked thoughtful and nodded his head. Then he said in British, in his deepest voice, with a strange fake accent, “We wait.”

“Of course,” Colgrin said.  “You must be tired and hungry after your long journey. Hegel!  Several men came in from a small side door.  “Show our guests to the long room in the beach barracks and get them something to eat.”  Hegel bowed. They were dismissed and escorted to a big common room on the second floor of a building where the only windows were arrow slits on the outside wall of the fort.  They were locked in, and Gerraint could not help his mouth.

“And I bet they won’t even feed us.”


Wednesday…………Yes, WEDNESDAY

In light of the holiday, there will be no posts on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.  Instead, the weekly chapter will be posted on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  So…………


R5 Gerraint.  Arthur and a few select men have a plan to deal with the traitor in York.  Don’t miss it.


R5 Gerraint: Trouble

Arthur spent the next couple of years finally making that grand tour.  He hardly got everywhere.  North Wales and the south Welsh coast did not get much attention, but only because they did not have enough time before the trouble started.

In those days, Ederyn said Percival got to that vulnerable age, so he took him off on a number of independent adventures, including a six-month trip to the Highlands in the British northwest where there were reports of dragons.  Sometimes, it became just Arthur, Peredur and Meryddin on the road, but most of the time Pelenor and Gerraint joined them.

Both Arthur and Gerraint were coming of age. Arthur quickly developed the habit that, as soon as he stepped into a Lord’s manor house or fort or home, he said, “I am not here to get married.  I am not looking for a wife, so please don’t suggest such a thing or I will be very cross.” Gerraint, who finally started to become that imposing figure at a touch over six feet tall, with impressive muscles and in excellent shape, simply could not master being the strong, silent type. He routinely mumbled, “If I knew you were coming I would have baked a cake.”

They all gathered for Cordella’s wedding to Sir Melwas, High Chief of Lyoness.  Melwas noted how much Percival had grown, which made Percival growl.  Gerraint had to put up with Cordella telling him a thousand times how much she hated him before she hugged him and told him she loved him and flitted off happily to find her new husband.

They went to Somerset and Glastonbury to visit Mesalwig who stayed home, tending his ailing father.  Arthur finally knighted him, which is what he had been calling it ever since Gerraint’s slip of the tongue.  It did not mean much to Mesalwig at that point.  The old man appeared to be dying, and all the others could do was give their condolences.

“That flu, as you call it, is pretty widespread among the people.  Most don’t die, but some do,” Peredur mused aloud.

“Mostly the old and the very young,” Meryddin added, and there were a few towns the group was not allowed to enter because the epidemic was severe.

Overall, they did a pretty good job of covering Britain, including a trip all the way up to Edinburgh to visit Loth.  This became Arthur’s first time above Hadrian’s wall, and his first view of the Scots.  He said the Scots did not look or sound much different from the British, and even some of the words were the same.  He also got his first look at some Picts, though they had to be pointed out to him because they also dressed and acted like the Scotts and only their language gave them away, it being significantly different.  Arthur confided to Gerraint privately that he felt surprised by the Picts. He heard they had blue skin.

“Blue face paint, but only when they go to war,” Gerraint said.  He knew that much.

From Edinburgh, they traveled down the whole of Hadrian’s wall to the west side where Kai made his home at Fort Guinnon. That stood as the western anchor to the wall; the farthest south the Picts, or Scotts for that matter, were permitted to go.  Of course, Scotts and even some Picts regularly traveled past the wall, but they were mostly traders and merchants who not only had a bustling trade with Loth and Kai, but with the people of the north, all the way down to York.  It was not like the old Roman days.  They had peace in the north and Arthur, for one, hoped it stayed that way.  Sadly, that dream got shattered in the year 500 when Kai and Loth both sent word that an army of Picts and some Scotts started gathering just north of the Antonine wall under a war chief named Caw.  The Norwegian shore stayed quiet for the last ten years, so Colgrin of York got the idea the time was ripe.  He made a pact between his Jutes and Saxons and the Picts and Scotts to capture the whole northland for himself.

“Damn!” This time Arthur did not look happy, but he had five hundred men trained in the RDF, so he was not unprepared.  He sent a hundred each to support Kai and Loth, and a third hundred to keep an eye out for the Picts and keep an eye on Hadrian’s wall. A fourth hundred he sent to link up with Sir Bedwyr at Oxford.  They were to keep their eyes on Essex and see if the Saxons should decide to move north.  He hoped the beating they took at the River Glen might discourage that idea.  The last hundred, mostly the young and unseasoned stayed at Caerleon and helped gather supplies and settle men as the Lords brought their troops in over the next three months.

While they waited, Gerraint turned twenty-one and Arthur immediately knighted him.

“Well, son, now that you are a young lord, got any plans?” Pelenor asked.

Gerraint just threw his arms around the man and hugged him.  He whispered, “Thank you.”

Pelenor hugged him back and whispered, “You’re welcome,” in response.  Then they separated because Pelenor got particularly uncomfortable with those sorts of shows of affection.

“Yes, actually,” Gerraint said.  “A friend of Morgana prevailed on her, so she prevailed on Arthur, who prevailed on me.  Allow me to introduce a squire of my own.  Uwaine is thirteen.”  He stepped aside and showed a young lad who looked nervous in the presence of such preeminent men and Knights of the Round Table besides, as everyone started calling them.

“Lord!  You were a brat at that age,” Pelenor said.

“Yes you were,” Peredur agreed.  “Almost as bad as Arthur.”

“Congratulations,” Ederyn said.

“Son,” Percival, who turned nineteen, stepped up to the boy.  “Don’t be scared of him.  If he gives you any trouble, you just let me know.”

“Hey Goreu,” Arthur shouted.  “Try not to get weird on him until he is older.”

Poor Uwaine did not know what to say.

R5 Festuscato: The British North, part 1 of 3

Guithelm, Archbishop of Londugnum made a special trip to the docks to catch Festuscato before he slipped away again.  Father Gaius and Father Lavius came with him, along with several other clerics and a number of monks from the monastery near Bishopsgate.  Festuscato took Guithelm aside and explained what he was trying to do. Gaius, who butted in, became astounded, because Festuscato never explained.  But Gaius had figured out most of it, and the rest sort of made sense in a convoluted Festuscato sort of way.  After that, Festuscato introduced the Archbishop to the gathered Lords from Cornwall, Britain, Wales and Amorica—those that were planning on resettling on British soil—and left the Bishop in Constantine’s good hands while he went back to his observer status.

He still played observer when they left Londugnum two days later and headed north toward York. When they stopped for the night, he stepped into Constantine’s tent with a thought.  “You have three thousand men from Cornwall and Wales that missed all the action against the Huns,” he remarked.  “And with your son and his men, a number of Jutes and some Saxons, that makes over four thousand men, more than equal to the reported army of Wanius, even if your troops have no horsemen with them.  They are two or three days ahead of us.  So, what were your orders when they get to York?”

Constantine paused before he frowned.  “I am getting discouraged.”  He called several men of the three hundred and wrote several letters to his son and the other leaders of the advance troop, outlining his expectations concerning positions around York and eyes on the Norwegian shore.  “I was just thinking to get them there.  I don’t think I will ever get the hang of this.”

“You will,” Festuscato encouraged the man, but he stopped the letter carriers.  “But a suggestion.  You have good men in Julius, Cador, Ban, Hywel and Hellgard the Jute. That covers the basics.  Maybe Weldig of Lyoness, Gregor the Saxon, Hywel’s Welsh friend Anwyn, and Emet who is from York who knows that land might be added.  I thought you might call them in and get all of their thoughts first before making a decision, even if you end up where you began.”

Constantine frowned again.  “No, I will never get this.”

“You will,” Festuscato encouraged again.  Then he felt glad he only had to call for a vote one time.  Emet, with Hywel’s backing wanted to tell the advance group to at least test Wainus’ defenses.  Cador and Julius argued for them to take up strong positions and let Wainus worry about the testing.  Festuscato turned to Constantine, who he instructed in how to approach things if they had a disagreement.

“Set up and wait for us, and cut York off from the countryside is what I was thinking,” Constantine said.  “But I want to be fair about this.  Raise a hand if you support Cador and Julius in their plan.”  Everyone raised their hands except Emet and Hywel.  Even Anwyn’s sheepish hand went up as he shrugged for his friend Hywel.  “I would say that is a clear majority.  Listen Emet. I know you are deeply concerned for your family in York.  We are all concerned with you.  But I think an attack at this point might cause Wainus to do something stupid.  I want to make the best try to get your family back, alive.  Are we agreed?”  Every man there said yes and offered hands of support for Emet, and the meeting broke up. Constantine ended up sending the letters he had written before he readied himself for the critique. Festuscato came straight to the point.

“I would say, normally, it is best not to give your opinion before a vote.  Some may be swayed to vote in your direction even if they don’t agree.  There are ways to guide things by your questions without giving away the answers. Above all, you must appear to value everyone’s contribution equally, and in this case, you did that well.”

“Nope.  I will never get the hang of this.”

“Yes you will.”

When they arrived at York, Constans had a hard time holding back the men.  The town looked burned, and parts of the fort as well, and the three thousand men who missed the action before were anxious for a fight.  Constantine doubled the number of men around York with a thousand British and a thousand Amorican foot soldiers, and more than two thousand horsemen which included some Jutes and Saxons.  Some of the Lords figured Wainus had to be shaking scared.  Some went to check where an assault on the town might be most effective.

It became quite a band of men who rode out to meet with Wainus and the Pictish Chiefs. Festuscato, Julius and Constantine brought Constans, for his education.  Ban, Cador and Hywel represented their people groups, and Emet came for York.  Hellgard the Jute and Gregor the Saxon had groups of their own to represent, and then the Four Horsemen were not going to be left behind.  Festuscato thought fourteen might not be the best number, but better than thirteen.  Wainus brought seven Chiefs down from the fort and seven more men in an honor guard. With Wainus, that made fifteen, and Festuscato thought of it as deliberate, just to be obnoxious.

Constantine did not spend much time on pleasantries.  “You have until noon tomorrow,” he said.  “To lay down your arms and surrender, unconditionally.”  He said nothing about what would happen if they did or did not surrender.  He waited for the question.

“We hold the high ground,” Wanius said.  His British was not very good, but understandable.   “Maybe you do have twice our number.  You will break on our rock and wash away.”

“What do you hope to gain by your death?” Constantine sounded so reasonable.

“I will gain by my life.  We will take the Northland that you British have abandoned.  We will own the people, the land, and the cattle on all the hills.”

“Reason and common sense don’t appear to be working,” Constantine shook his head and turned to the assembly.  “Any suggestions other than threats.”

“Allow me,” Festuscato stepped up.  “Wainus, let me explain things to you.  You see these men?  They represent the Welsh, British, Cornish, Jute, Saxon, and Romans too.  They are, everyone of them, a Lord with thousands of followers.  Outside of the Scots and Picts, my whole island is here against you.  Did I tell you this is my island?  It is by Imperial Decree, and we have just taken those upstart Huns and we threw them off my island.  Now, do you see this man?  I have appointed him high chief of my island and war chief.  Do you know what a war chief is?  He calls, and the whole island comes to him to join together, to fight together, to squish any upstart bugs that want to get ahead of themselves.  Are you with me so far?  My island.  And the whole island is united against you under the war chief.  Do you know what I mean, united?  Good…

“Now, you have three choices.  You can pledge your allegiance to the high chief and war chief of Britannia and make amends for the damage and destruction you have caused.  Or, you can refuse to join these other fine men, but you must pledge to go home and live in peace, again, after making amends.  Or, you can die.  It seems to me you have no other choices.  But if you fight, understand that even if you later try to surrender, there will be a price to pay.  Now, I suggest you go back up to the fort and think about it.”

“It is too late for peace,” one of the chiefs said, and shook his head sadly, but he turned and the others turned with him, one by one.  Wanius did not get a chance to say anything else, because his back-up deserted him.

“What did he mean, it’s too late for peace?” Emet felt concerned and the others all felt for him.