R6 Gerraint: To Arthur, part 3 of 3

“Listen,” Gerraint said.  “All of the little ones who haunt your home and fields, do so out of love for you, not just out of love for your grandfather.  Now, your good sons need wives.  There are many strong women, some widows in the village of the little man and they would love a good husband.  I will think on who may be good wives.  And you need to prepare many cures, for the battle to come may be the final gasp of the last Pendragon.  Who can say? I do not know the future.”

The woman reached over and hugged Gerraint, and cried on him for a while.  He comforted her as well as he could and said someday, her grandfather might visit her again. He was not far.  But then he needed to lie down before the sun came up

Gerraint tossed and turned for four hours.  He dreamed about fighting everyone that crossed his path.  When he found Enid, he locked her away in a prison and allowed her no visitors.  Then he drove Enid in front of him, mercilessly, and would not hear her pleading that she was innocent, and she loved him. It killed Gerraint every step of the way, but he could not help himself.  There was something drove him.  He had something on his back.

Gerraint awoke, trembling, wide awake.  He felt the wound and scars in his shoulder more than usual.  He looked at the woman, at Flora, and her sons Bowen and Damen, who stared at him with frightened eyes.  Flora had a bowl of water and a cloth to wipe the sweat from his eyes.  Gerraint said nothing.  He called for the armor of the Kairos, and dressed in nothing else.

“There was something on your back,” Flora said. “You had something on your back.”

Gerraint made no answer as he found his horse saddled and waiting outside the door.  He mounted and raced off to the main road.  Arthur needed to know and Merlin needed to be stopped.

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Gerraint barely noticed the three graves beside the road.  They had three crosses, but only the middle one had any writing.  All it said was “Thieves.”  Gerraint did not stop at the inn in the night, but rode on, even through the darkness of the woods.  He found the leading edge of Arthur’s army as he came to the Roman road at the foot of the hill.  He raced passed Bedwyn and Urien who were near the front.  He ignored the calls of Pelenor when he rode on.  He saw the Welshmen, Kvendelig the hunter, Menw the fake wizard, and Gwarhyr the poet, but they were some distance away.  Ogryvan, Gwynyvar’s brother, rode beside Nanters deep in conversation, but all Gerraint thought was all present and accounted for except for the far north.  He did not stop until he came to Arthur’s tent, which was about to be packed up.

Gerraint’s poor horse looked finished, but Gerraint jumped off and went into the tent before the horse stopped running.  Arthur sat there, with Bohort and Meryddin. Morgana also stood there, which came as a bit of a surprise, but she seemed to be in Meryddin’s face, accusing him of treason, though she had no proof.

“Gerraint.”  Arthur spoke right up.  “Didn’t you get my message?”

“I did.  Percival’s in charge.  I have a most urgent message in return, for your eyes only.”

“Give it here,” Meryddin said when he saw the parchment.

“Definitely not for your eyes.”  Gerraint snatched the paper back so Meryddin could not grab it. Arthur came out from behind his small travel desk and took the message to the tent door for the light.  Gerraint occupied Meryddin’s attention.  “So, sucker punch any more innocent people lately?”

Meryddin’s gray eyebrows went straight up, but he understood as soon as he translated the gist of what Gerraint said.

“Only you, whoever or whatever you are.  I must say, I don’t know how you managed to escape the incubus, but even if you did, I assumed destroying your happy marriage was worth it.”

“Sorry to disappoint.  Enid and my relationship is stronger than ever.  In fact, she is pregnant.”  Gerraint practically spat the words.  Bohort stood back and tried to follow the conversation.  Morgana merely got quiet and her expression became unreadable. Arthur, who finished reading the note to Meryddin from the Saxons, stayed in the doorway and understood too well.

“Danna willing, she may miscarry at her age.”

Gerraint reached for Defender, but stayed his hand. He had something else in mind. “So, three-quarters human, do you want to know how I escaped from the incubus?  I’ll give you a hint.  When I was young, and Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, I heard you ask what the Roman knew that you did not know.”  Gerraint let Meryddin remember the moment.  “Here is your hint.  I was the Roman.”  Gerraint went away and Festuscato stood in his place.  Bohort sat down.  Morgana drew in a sharp breath.  Meryddin’s eyes got big, evil djin big, like that part of his blood was stepping to the front and taking over.  Arthur simply nodded, like he already figured it out.  After all, Caliburn was Gerraint’s sword, as was Excalibur, for that matter.

“Kairos.”  Meryddin at least knew the name, but he probably did not know the most of it.

“But for you, it gets worse,” Festuscato said, and he went away and let Danna stand in his place.  She kept the weapons and armor of the Kairos which adjusted instantly to her shape and size.  Her appearance caused Arthur to gasp at the memory of her.  Bohort covered his eyes for her beauty.  Morgana sank to her knees, not the least confused about who she was seeing.  Meryddin, while not unaffected by the vision of her, he took it all wrong.

“A woman?”  In Meryddin’s mouth, that sounded like a great insult.  “Danna curse you.”

Danna ignored the man.  She raised her voice and called.  “Rhiannon.”  The ground trembled and the tent flapped, like in a great wind.  The whole army of Arthur paused in what they were saying and doing and looked up.  The oncoming army of the Saxons looked to the sky and wondered if maybe the signs were against them after all.  The waves in the English Channel picked up in size and speed, and inside a castle on an island in a lake on the border of Amorica, the very walls shook and trembled from the call.  Rhiannon had to come.

She appeared and Meryddin went to one knee

“Goddess,” he said.

“The Lady of the Lake,” Arthur breathed.

Bohort kept his tongue, but Meryddin had not finished digging himself deeper.

“Great goddess.  This woman is standing between your humble servant and his duty for Arthur, Pendragon.  I would be most grateful if you would remove this woman so that the men of Arthur may continue with the great work, even as we have discussed.”

Rhiannon looked at Meryddin before she turned to Danna and asked a question that was everything contained in one word. “Mother?”

“Time to pay, sweetheart.”  Danna stepped forward and gave Rhiannon a kiss on the cheek. Rhiannon, who had been expecting this and waiting with trembling anticipation, scrunched up her face.

“Is it going to hurt?”

Meryddin’s jaw dropped as it slowly dawned on him just who this woman was.

“Here is your charge,” Danna said.  “You are to take this three-quarters man to your castle and lock him in your deepest dungeon cell.  Neither you, nor anyone else is allowed to talk to him.  Neither you, nor anyone else is allowed to listen to him.  So if you feed him, and that will be your choice, you better choose someone who is deaf and dumb, and with enough strength to not be overpowered by the one-quarter djin.  Then you will keep him there, in that cell, alone for the rest of his days.  When he has passed over to the other side, you have my permission to bury him.  Is that clear?”

“Yes mother, and it is much harder than I thought it would be.”

“Consequences are never easy,” Danna said.  She waved her hand and Rhiannon and Meryddin vanished. She turned to Morgana and brought her to tears with a question.  “And how are your daughters?”  Danna did not wait for her to answer.  “I know two boys who should be married.  Bowen and Damon by name.  They live on the mountain, next to the woods, in a farm hidden by the trees.  It is rocky, hard, unyielding mountain land, but the farm is good having been worked for many years.  Their mother is a seer and healer, so the girls can learn from her, and if your girls will work hard and be loving and faithful wives, I know the boys will be faithful husbands.”  She knew Morgana’s heart, but let the woman speak.

“Yes, please.  You are so kind.”

“Okay, one free trip, but that is it.”  Danna waved her hand and Morgana and all of her things vanished and reappeared by her home.  Danna took a second to tweak the ideal in two boys and two girls in their various minds and then she went away with a sigh so Gerraint could come back.

“Got any food.  I’m starving.  I would be asleep but the hunger would just wake me up.”

Arthur shared the letter with Bohort while he got Gwyr to fetch some food.  Arthur was back by the time Bohort finished reading.  Bohort only had one thing to say.  “You should have cut the old man’s head off.”

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MONDAY

Mount Badon.  Gerraint goes back over the mountain, this time with a company of RDF.  Percival is fighting a delaying action, but that doesn’t mean Saxons can’t find their way up the mountain road.   Until Monday, Happy Reading

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R6 Gerraint: Over the Mountain, part 3 of 3

Gerraint awoke in a tent, or maybe a pavilion, it seemed hard to tell, lying on his stomach the way he was.  He knew it was red, but he imagined some rather odd things for Britain in that age—namely silk.  He wondered very briefly if maybe he died and this was his next life, but he really only had one thought.  “Enid?” He could not speak loud.  “Enid?”

“I am here.”

Gerraint heard, but could not see her.  He tried to turn his head, but his shoulder felt immobilized.  His leg also seemed to be in some kind of traction.  And every part of his body hurt, except his little toe on his right foot, he decided.  “I’ve been having bad dreams, really nightmares.”  He tried to turn his head a little more, but she stood out of sight. “Really, I would be ashamed to tell you what I dreamed.  I was awful. I doubted you.  I’m sorry.” He began to cry softly.  “I love you, and I will never doubt you.  Not for real.”  He began to weep and found his head cradled by Enid who also wept.  She kissed his head and then very gently moved to an angle where she could touch her lips to his.

“And I will never doubt you,” she said, and they cried together until exhaustion took Gerraint back into a deep sleep.

“Mother.”  A woman stood in the doorway.  Enid stayed seated in a high-backed chair at the woman’s insistence.  Lord Pinewood stood beside the woman dressed in his hunter’s green.  “Mother.” the woman called again, and Gerraint woke up just enough to offer no objections.  Danna came, and the goddess slipped out of the braces that had Gerraint immobilized. She stood and acknowledged Rhiannon and commanded one thing.

“Explain.”

Rhiannon stood with something in her arms that looked like a giant, translucent caterpillar.  She petted the beast like one might pet a kitten, and she talked.  “It was Meryddin.  He told me about a good young couple he was very concerned about. He said the man was upright, but the wife had a wandering eye for the men.  He asked to borrow the incubus for only a short while and convinced me if the woman could only see herself and the harm she was doing she might be cured and become faithful and they might be a happy couple.  I knew the incubus was a danger.  Given time, it will drive a person to madness, insanity and death, but Meryddin was persuasive, and I thought if only for a short time it might do what he proposed.”

Danna interrupted.  “But he lied to you, and you believed him.  He meant it for Goreu all along.  Goreu came to believe Enid was the one who had the wandering eye and the wandering hands and that she was betraying her wedding vows and betraying him in the worst sort of way.  Yet he still loved her and would not give up on her though he was conflicted about what to do.  He considered locking her away, and at the same time he threw himself into combat, thinking if he was killed, Enid might be happy.”

“After months alone and then months keeping innocent Enid prisoner, with no one the wiser, Lord Pinewood found him on the first day of their journey.  He flew without rest to Lake Vivane to plead with me, saying Gerraint had something on his back.  I thought it nothing, but his pleading was so earnest, at last I thought to see for myself. Thus I found him, the incubus on his back.”

“Merlin.” Danna spat the word and turned to Enid.  “A djin is a creature that delights in torturing and tormenting humans.  They feed off the fear and pain and in the end consume the poor human soul. Meryddin is one quarter djin.  The chance to ruin Gerraint’s happiness in just this sort of demented way says to me that he has made peace with that quarter of himself.”

“I helped,” Rhiannon admitted in a moment of full confession.  “He came to me in agony, and I helped him see that he was not to blame for his birth and he need not give in to the evil.  He is gifted, and can use those gifts for good.”

“Oh, Rhiannon.  When will you stop falling prey to every sad face with big puppy-dog eyes?”

“But we got it in time,” Rhiannon said.  “Gerraint held out for a long time.  I am sure he had help through time, and he loves Enid so very much.”

“Not the point.  The point is what to do about Meryddin, and I think for now we do nothing. We watch him, but don’t let on that he is being watched.  If he learned and does good, we leave him alone.  Goreu may have been an isolated case.  He does not know who Goreu is, but he has an instinctive fear of him.  For now, we wait and see.”

“I made all that happened seem like a bad dream, a nightmare for him,” Rhiannon said.  “I had to do it while the incubus was still attached.  You know even a goddess cannot touch the mind of the Kairos in that way.  But hopefully the bad dream will fade in time.”

“I, on the other hand, will not be able to hide the truth of what happened forever.  He will remember sooner or later, and then I suspect there will be some decisions to make.  Rhiannon, you understand some of it will fall on your head.”

“I will accept my punishment, only don’t be mad at me.”

Danna stepped forward and gave Rhiannon a kiss on the cheek.  “Just stay away from the wrong sorts of men.”  She turned to Enid.  “Did you understand all this?”

Enid nodded.  “It was not Gerraint.  It was that incubus telling him stories that were not true and making him believe the stories.  But now I have him back to me and he thinks it was all just a bad dream.  Yes?”

“Yes, and Meryddin?”

“He has always scared me.”  Enid shivered.  “As long as I don’t have to watch him.”

Danna was glad to hear no desire for revenge.  “You need not watch him.  Pinewood?”

“Day and night,” Pinewood said, with a slight bow.

Danna nodded and got back into the harness and braces. She went away and Gerraint came back to mumble that he felt thirsty.  Enid gladly rushed to bring him some water.

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MONDAY

Arthur, Percival, terrain and Uwaine are called to the north.  The Scots are acting like maybe they overcame the Picts and are now looking south.  They want control of Hadrian’s wall, and maybe a good slice of fertile, sparsely populated British soil as well.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading.

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R6 Gerraint: The Lady of the Lake, part 2 of 3

“But wait,” Gerraint frowned once again before he shouted, “Arthur!”  Then he leaned down, took Lancelot’s arm, and lifted him from his knees.  “Come along, Lancelot,” he said.  Lancelot stood, but looked like a man in a daze.

“But Sir, you know my name, but who are you that I may address you properly.”

“My name is Goreu, but Arthur and the others all call me by the British version, Gerraint.”  He lifted his voice again.  “Arthur.” Then he paused and sniffed, and he knew exactly which direction Arthur would be found.  Like a dwarf’s nose, he thought, good for finding your way underground amidst all those mines and tunnels, and he wondered what else he had been gifted with.

“Who is this Arthur?”  Lancelot asked.  “I have heard of an Arthur called the Pendragon, a war chief across the sea who is unequalled in battle…”

“That’s him,” Gerraint interrupted.  “Hush.  Come on.” Gerraint led Lancelot through the trees until they came to a place where they could watch.  Rhiannon, in all her splendor, stood on top of the waters of the lake and held out a sword.  She walked across the water and Arthur looked too stunned to move.  When she arrived, Arthur went to his knees.  He handed her Caliburn.  She handed him Excalibur.  “The big brother sword,” Gerraint whispered to himself.  Lancelot nudged him to say he should be quiet and more respectful.

When the exchange got made, a few words also got exchanged before Rhiannon stepped back.  Gerraint heard, though he tried to not listen since it seemed private.  He thought, elf ears to go with the dwarf nose.  He only hoped his actual facial features were not changed.

Rhiannon slowly became translucent, then transparent, until she vanished altogether.  “And she took my sword with her,” Gerraint mumbled before he waved.  “Arthur!”  Lancelot looked oddly at Gerraint, like he felt confused about how he should take this strange man.  Arthur did not help when he waved back and waved Excalibur.

“Big brother sword,” he shouted.  “Who is your friend?”

“Lancelot.”

”Hey.  I know a couple of cousins of yours that will be happy to see you.”

“I’m sorry?”  Lancelot shook his head against the confusion.

“Bohort and Lionel,” Arthur said, and Lancelot jumped, and for the first time he smiled.

“They’re alive?  I thought everyone got killed on that day.  How can they still be alive?”  He stopped walking so the others stopped.

“That happened almost five years ago,” Gerraint said. “You were much younger.  Do you remember that day?”

“I remember the battle,” Lancelot said firmly. “I remember the Romans in their phalanxes stretched across the plains from horizon to horizon, and our more ragged line of foot soldiers stretching out to be able to face the Romans one to one. I sat on horse beside my father, and Bohort and Lionel beside theirs, and all the Lords of Amorica sat on horse, the sons beside their fathers

“The foot soldiers charged the phalanxes, but they held firm.  We charged the Roman cavalry and great blood was spilled that day.  It all felt so confusing.  I didn’t know what was happening, when my father took an arrow and fell from his horse.  I raced to him and got him up on a stray.  I pulled him back to the edge of the forest where he collapsed and lay dying in my arms.  Then three Romans rode up, and I ran into these woods by the lake.  They dismounted and followed me in, but I had my knife and my father’s old sword.  I caught them, one by one.  I—I—I am not sure what happened after that.

“I awoke in the Lady’s castle.  Lady Nimue is the bravest soul I know.  She healed my wounds and tended my heart, and taught me how to fight.  Every Sunday at dawn we rode to a nearby village where the parish priest schooled me in my letters and in the faith.  I learned as well as my mind and arms could learn.  The Great Lady told me I had to prepare for the last battle, the Armageddon for Arthur.  For a long time, I did not know what she meant.”

“Armageddon,” Arthur looked up at Gerraint.  “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Rhiannon, the one he calls Lady Nimue.  All Celtic goddesses are a bit prophetic.  It comes from having a mother who is plugged into the future the way she is.”

Arthur pointed at Gerraint with a question written across his face.  Gerraint merely nodded an affirmative answer.

“But her name is Nimue, the Lady of Lake Vivane,” Lancelot insisted.  “She would never lie about such a thing.”

“How about we call her the Lady of the Lake?” Gerraint suggested.

“The Lady of the Lake.”  Both Arthur and Lancelot agreed.

“But Bohort and Lionel survived the battle? And what of Howel?”  Lancelot became eager for news.

“Alive and well,” Gerraint said.

“Let me see,” Arthur said.  He had spent the time they were standing attaching Excalibur to his belt.  He wanted to ask Gerraint if it had any magical properties, and looked a bit disappointed later when Gerraint told him that it was only as magical as the arm that wielded it, but for the moment he had to catch up Lancelot with five years of history, the first and main thing being the last time the people of Amorica faced the Romans.  He started them walking again as he spoke.

“As Hoel tells it, in the end, the Roman cavalry did not have the fight in them nor the numbers to sustain the battle.  They splintered and began to run, and many of the Amorican nobles and their retinue of horsemen were well suited to hunt them down. I assume the three that found Lancelot were like the others, trying to get away from the battle.  Anyway, it was Howel, Bohort and Lionel that rallied a large portion of the men to stick to the original plan.  They struck the flank and the back of the nearest Phalanx and slowly but inevitably, the Roman line crumbled.  The Romans who ran caused the other formations to come into disarray, and Hoel’s people were able to take the day.”

“Magnificent.  I am so glad, and my people are free.”

“It’s not that simple,” Gerraint said.  “Claudus waged a guerilla campaign these last four or five years, and just about overran the country.  Hoel appealed to Arthur, and here we are.  But Claudus is bringing up two full legions from Aquitaine, and I suspect these will be veterans of the Frankish and Visigoth campaigns.  These will not be so easy to turn.”

“The great battle,” Lancelot said with a faraway look in his eyes.

“I beg your pardon,” Arthur said.  “I am not ready for Armageddon just yet, if you don’t mind.”

They stopped at the sound of a horse.

R6 Gerraint: The Lady of the Lake, part 1 of 3

After lunch on a Thursday, Percival took Uwaine, Gawain, Bohort and his brother Lionel up the road to the port to check on the little fleet Thomas had assembled in case things went badly and Arthur needed a quick getaway.  They would spend the night in an inn and probably talk into the wee hours since they had a lot of stories and catching up to do.

Arthur took Gerraint across the road just before dark and dragged him into the woods.  Gerraint felt obliged to say he did not think it a good idea, but then he closed his mouth; because like Arthur, he had been anxious to see this mysterious lake ever since he first heard about it.  Neither felt the need for troops, because like the forest of Bringloren, the land around the lake had a reputation for ghosts and other bump-in-the-night things.  People avoided the lake, but for Arthur and Gerraint, that only made the pull that much stronger.

With the sun set, the moon came out and so did the owls. The forest did have a haunted feel to it, especially with the mist from the snow that looked to be finally giving up to the spring rains and warmer weather.  Neither talked, because the forest seemed to require silence and who knew what might be attracted by the sound?  When they saw the lake, it appeared shimmering, calm and crystal clear under the moon and stars.  The waters looked perfectly tranquil and serene, but somewhere out in the middle of all that splendor, there appeared to be an island, and on top of the island, they saw the first genuine stone castle in Europe.  The stones themselves glistened like the water in the moonlight and spoke of great mysteries beyond the gate.

Arthur and Gerraint found an enormous oak standing between them and a full view of the lake.  Arthur stepped around one side.  Gerraint stepped around the other, and he immediately noticed Arthur vanished. He called softly, “Arthur.”  He heard no response.  He turned toward the big, old oak, except it vanished.  Only a few saplings stood where the old tree should have been.  Gerraint raised his voice a little.  “Arthur.” No response.  He imagined that he must have been transported, somehow, away from the big tree, but when he checked his view of the lake, and especially his view of the distant castle, everything seemed the same.   He yelled, “Arthur!” and startled several things in the upper branches of the trees, birds and small animals, he hoped.  He took a couple of steps in the soft leaves and found himself getting dizzy.  Swamp gas, he thought, as he fell to the leaves, fast asleep.  His last thought was to wonder if Enid would have to come and find him and kiss him to wake him up.

A woman appeared and bent down to touch Gerraint’s cheek.  A host of little ones and lesser spirits along with the Naiad of the lake and the Dryad of the oak appeared with her.  “If he is the man of honor you say, he is not going to like this,” the woman said, but she duplicated some of the things the little ones willingly gave her and placed them gently in Gerraint’s heart.  Then the host vanished, all but one young man, and the woman stood back while Gerraint woke.

“What?  What happened?  Arthur!”

“Hush,” the woman said.  “Let the sleeper sleep.”

Gerraint stood up to get a good look at his visitors. The young man looked like a big one, about Gerraint’s size, and looked strong and well made.  He appeared dressed in armor that could only have been crafted by dwarfs, and the sword at his side had something of the dark elves about it.  All of this got taken in with one glance, since the woman took all of his attention. She looked far too beautiful for an ordinary mortal, and what is more, he saw something very familiar about her. It came to Gerraint after a moment, and what came out of his mouth even startled him.

“Rhiannon, what are you doing here?  You naughty girl.”

The young man reached for his sword.  “How dare you speak to the Lady Nimue in such a manner.  Apologize, or I will make you apologize.”

“Wait,” the Lady said.  “I think I may be in trouble.”  Gerraint had his hands to his hips and frowned.  The Lady Nimue was in fact the goddess Rhiannon, one of the multitude of ancient gods of the Celts.  “Mother?” she said.  And Gerraint indeed went away so Danna, the mother goddess of the Celts, could come to stand in his place.  Her hands were still on her hips and the frown still on her face.

The young man fell to his knees and looked down as Danna scolded her many times great-granddaughter.  “The time of dissolution came and went centuries ago. You should be over on the other side with your brothers and sisters.  What are you doing here?”

Rhiannon looked down humbly at her feet.  “I did not realize it was you, but Mother, I still have work to do.  I still have this young man, Lancelot, whom I have raised, and I am certain there will be another in a breath of years from now.  I feel there may even be one more after, and I have a part to play in the days of Arthur the King, though it is not fully known to me yet.”

Danna tapped her foot and paused before she reached out to hug her daughter.  “If you still have work to do, I will not interfere.  But Rhiannon, all of the others have gone.  I will worry about you being so alone.”

“Not all,” Rhiannon hedged.

“Yes, I know the stubborn offspring of Lyr and Pendaron is around.  He keeps telling me soon, but his is not an example to follow.”  Rhiannon shut her mouth.  “What?” Danna wondered as she took a step back.  “But Talesin does not count,” Danna said.  “That unfortunate offspring of a fee may be immortal, but he is mostly fairy by blood.”  She interpreted Rhiannon’s silence correctly, but could think of no others, and Rhiannon would not say.  Instead, she changed the subject.

“Oh, but Mother.  Your fee and dwarfs and elves dark and light prevailed on me to gift your young man.  They said like Althea of old watched over Herakles, so the Lion of Cornwall would have to watch over Arthur.  I should have guessed it was you.  Please don’t be mad at me.”

Danna went back to frowning and tapping her foot gently.  “What did you give him?”

“Only things your little ones freely offered. They said he was one human worthy of such gifts.  They said they were afraid for him because a terrible man with great power had evil plans for the future.  I’m sorry. I didn’t know.  Please don’t be mad at me.”

“Rhiannon, Rhiannon,” Danna said, and she left so Gerraint could return and finish the sentence.  “What am I going to do with you, you naughty girl?”  He stepped up and kissed the goddess on the cheek before she could stop him, and then spoke to her again.  “Please try to be more careful in the future.  You need to not be such a patsy for every sad and pleading face.”

Rhiannon dropped her eyes again.  “I know.  I will do better.”

“I know you will do better,” Gerraint said, and he added, “Soon,” with a smile. Rhiannon returned the smile before she vanished.