M3 Gerraint: Winter Games, part 3 of 3

Gerraint went back to the warming fire while Gwillim looked around the room.  Gerraint felt sure that Gwillim had been completely taken in by the glamour that surrounded him, making the cave appear like the most lavish of manor houses, with great tapestries lining jewel encrusted walls, and even glass in the windows.

“A mighty fine home you have, my Lord, for one so deep in the wilderness and in the wilds of the North.”  Gwillim also saw Macreedy as a plain noble chief rather than the elf he was.  For that matter, Gerraint looked over and noted that Trevor’s discomfort came from being attended to by a half dozen most beautiful young women, and Trevor did not see them as elves at all.  “Are you sure the Scots won’t find us here?”  Gwillim finished on the practical note.

“The Scots won’t come here,” Macreedy reassured him.  “In fact, would you like me to call the Slaugh to visit them in the night?”  That question got directed to Gerraint.

“Heaven forbid,” Gerraint responded.  “They have two deaths now to mourn and were just trying to defend themselves, even if they don’t know that revenge is never an answer.  Let them be.”

“Very gracious of you, my Lord,” Macreedy said.

“Yes,” Gwillim added.  “Especially since we just avoided being whipped half to death and thrust naked into the frozen wastes.”

Gerraint simply coughed, and there followed a moment of silence.

Macreedy stood and walked down to them.  He slipped his arm around Uwaine’s shoulder and turned him toward another part of the cave.  “You seem a man of wisdom.  You hold your tongue well,” Macreedy said.  Gerraint was simply not sure how far Uwaine got taken in by the glamour.  “I suspect, though, you may just be hungry.  What do you say we repair to the dining room?  The feast is all prepared.”

“Food,” Gwillim shouted, but then remembered his manners.  “With the lord of the house’s permission, of course.”

Macreedy stared hard at Gwillim for a moment.  Some little ones could be sticklers for the most miniscule bits of propriety, but then he laughed.  “Permission granted,” he said, and he waved to the ladies to make sure they did not let Trevor leave the fire.  Instead, two of the women pushed passed the men and came back with a plate full of delights.  They appeared to be thrilled with cutting and spoon feeding Trevor, and then wiping his chin with the softest elf cloth.  They laughed merrily most of the while, and Trevor did not mind that at all.

“For you, my Lord, we killed the fatted calf,” Macreedy told Gerraint.  Uwaine, who had glanced at Gerraint once or twice, looked fully at his lord when they came to their seats.  Gerraint explained.

“The food of the light elves is normally very light and delicate, like gourmet food.  Not much substance for flesh and blood.  Macreedy is saying they cooked up some real food for us, and don’t worry, I have decided the food of the little ones will not affect you, Gwillim or Trevor to any harm.  So, eat and enjoy.”  That was all Uwaine needed to hear.

“Pork loins!”  Gwillim shouted again in his excitement.

Gerraint certainly ate his fair share, but by then, his mind had turned once again to Cornwall, his home.  He imagined poor Enid fretting away, with no word from him to hold on to, and sweet Guimier sleeping in his place beside her mother until he again could be with them.  He stood, let the others remain seated, and stepped to the door.  It opened without his thinking about it, though an invisible barrier remained in place so neither the wind nor cold could penetrate the cave.  Outside, it started snowing again, completely obliterating their tracks.

As Gerraint looked out on the beauty of the white upon the northern forest, his heart began to sing, and his mouth whispered at first.

What child is this who laid to rest,

on Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet;

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the king

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring him laud,

The babe, the son of Mary.

He let his voice trail off as he found the others gathered around his back.  The elf maidens were all on their knees.  Gwillim smiled with a serious smile.  Even Trevor stood, staring at the beauty of the world outdoors.

“Must be Christmas,” Gerraint said, and turned to Macreedy, who had a tear in his eye, which would have aroused his great anger with anyone but Gerraint, his Lord.  “Remember this word.”  Gerraint told the elf, as he put his hand gently on the little one’s shoulder.  “That the whole world might be saved through him.”  Gerraint felt better and a little less alone.  “Remind Manannan of this, will you, when his time of sorrow and dejection comes on him because of the monks.  I worry about that boy.  And as for us, I suppose a bit of sleep would not hurt.”

Having eaten, now exhaustion overtook the men.  Gerraint could see it in Uwaine’s eyes.

“My Great Lord.”  Macreedy nodded his head.  He clapped and the elf maids lead each to a bed where they helped them in and covered them well.  “They will sleep until spring with so many of the little ones,” Macreedy said.  “But we cannot do the same for you unless you let us.”

Gerraint nodded and gave himself over to the glamour.  “Just make sure I am first awake,” he said, and he closed his eyes.  He knew he was safe under the protection of his little ones, but in the spring, there would be far to go.  He would have to stop to visit Kai at Caerlisle, and then Old Pelenor in the Midlands, Arthur in Caerleon, and Tristam in Devon on the south watch.  At that, he might not get home until June, but he imagined Enid running to him in joy, and he felt the joy also deeply in his own soul, and with that he fell asleep for a long winter’s nap.



The trip home is long, but something itches in the back of Gerraint’s mind.  Somehow, Enid and Guimier do not feel safe.  Monday.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading


M3 Gerraint: Winter Games, part 1 of 3

Once up, he almost slipped right down a side of the roof, but caught himself in time, and then drew Gerraint’s long knife.

“Please don’t go home until I am done,” Trevor begged the knife in his hand, and he fell on the lone guard outside the door.  It was over in a second, and the door unlocked.  Gerraint and the others were right there, waiting.  Gwillim stripped the guard of his cloak and sword while Gerraint gave his long knife to Uwaine.  Trevor had to content himself with the guard’s cutting knife, but then he was a cook, not a soldier.

“Which way?”  Uwaine asked.  Gerraint pointed and started out.  The others followed as quietly as they could.  The village seemed all put up for the night.  No telling how late it was, until they reached the edge of the village and Trevor judged the night sky and the rise of the moon to suggest it might be about one in the morning.

“Late as that?”  Gwillim sounded surprised.

“Pray the moon stays with us until morning,” Gerraint said, and they started down a well-worn path in the snow, not knowing exactly where it would take them.

After two hours, when they still heard no sounds of pursuit, they found a hollow where they had protection from the wind and a touch of warmth.  They rested there and took turns on watch.  Exhaustion, which had caught up with them, became their worst enemy at that point.  A couple of hours of rest, if not sleep, would be needed the next day when the pursuit started in earnest.  The clouds came up, but the moon still shone through, giving them enough light to see, though it was their ears they depended on.

Near sunrise, they set out again and this time turned off the path and moved in a more certain southerly direction.  “But how did you know which way to go in the dark?”  Trevor asked.  Gerraint did not answer as Gwillim spoke in his place.

“The North Star,” he said.  “You know it isn’t just for sailors at sea.”

“Duh!”  Trevor slapped his own forehead.

By sunrise, the clouds had come fully into the sky and it started to snow.  When it began to snow with some strength, Gerraint took them deliberately through some rough, overgrown patches, and finally up a stream where they had to balance carefully on the rocks to keep from soaking their boots.  Then he turned their direction from south to southwest, hoping to confuse anyone trying to catch them.

About then, they heard a sound they had hoped to never hear.  The Scots were on their trail, well enough, and they had dogs, likely bloodhounds, with which to track them.

“Damn!”  Gwillim swore.  All the turning of direction, pushing through inhospitable bushes and tracking through the stream would likely do them no good at all.  They pushed on, as fast as they could, but they were very tired and hungry, and the wind picked up, blew the snow in their faces, and threatened them all with frostbite.

At the bottom of the next hill, Gerraint made them pause where the hill ahead and the bushes and trees behind gave them a touch of shelter from the wind.  Gerraint surveyed the spot.  They essentially had one way up the hillside, a deer path, and the rest of the hill looked covered in impassible brambles and briars.  They had good cover for one dressed in the white cloak of Athena, and there were several trees nearby that could be scrambled up in a pinch.

“You three go on.”  Gerraint had to raise his voice a bit in the wind.  They were all stomping and blowing hard on their hands to keep their toes and fingers working.  “I’ll lay in a little surprise for our pursuers and maybe slow them down a bit.”

“My Lord!”  Gwillim started to protest, but Uwaine grabbed him by the arm and pointed him toward the path.  Uwaine nodded.  He knew better.  He pushed the still plump captain up the path while poor, half-frozen, skinny, blue faced Trevor followed.  Gerraint watched for a minute until they disappeared in the falling snow.  He listened.  The dogs started closing in.  He guessed there might be three of them.

Diogenes, the Macedonian came to mind, but he opted for the Greek Princess from about two hundred BC.  She had been endowed with the spirit of Artemis, and as such, was about as good as an archer could get.  The Princess only hesitated because of the cold, but she knew Gerraint was freezing and in need, and that became enough to move her hand.  Gerraint went into the time stream, and the Princess stood in his place.  His armor, boots and all adjusted automatically from his shape and size to hers.  She wore the same chain armor, of course, in her day, and for much of her life, so she was quite used to the way it felt and moved.

The first thing she did was stretch Athena’s cape nearly to the ground to maximize her warmth.  The cape of Athena and the Armor of Hephaestos were proof against almost everything, including the cold.  She looked briefly up the hill and worried that her friends had no such help.  She felt when she caught up with them, she would lend the cloak to Trevor.  He did not look good.

The baying of the hounds brought her attention back to task.  Beyond the bushes stood a little clearing which the dogs, if right on their trail, would have to cross.  She reached into the inner pocket hidden in her cloak, and like Mary Poppins pulling a full length lamp out of an empty carpet bag, she pulled out her bow and a full quiver of arrows.  The arrows were elf made, of course, except for the few silver tipped arrows which Artemis herself had given her long ago.  She paused to remember her very best friend in the whole world, and then pulled three finely made steel pointed hunting arrows. She fitted the first loosely to the string, and waited.

The Princess did not have to wait long.  She heard the howl and saw two dogs as they bounded straight toward her in great leaps across the snow.  They were close, and they knew it.  The Princess took aim.  There was a hard wind and the snow itself to compensate for, but she did so almost automatically.  Two arrows took down two dogs.  But where was the third?

At once, the third dog, which had circled around, came rushing up beside her.  She had no time for the bow.  She reached for her Long Knife, but remembered that Uwaine had it.  “Stop,” she yelled.  “No.”

The dog stopped short.  The spirit of Artemis echoed strong in the Princess, and certainly hunting dogs were included in the mix, but this one had its’ lips drawn and kept growling, snarling, and drooling.

“Rabbit.”  The Princess said as she reached slowly for her sword.  “Go hunt a rabbit.”  The dog did not listen, being too filled with blood lust.  Her sword came out as the dog leapt and an arrow came from some quarter.  It struck the dog perfectly and dropped the beast just inches away.  The Princess whirled, but she saw no sign of an archer.  Then she whirled back as she heard shouts from across the clearing.  An arrow got loosed from that direction, but it fell woefully short, not even reaching the dogs, dead in the reddening snow.

“Go,” the Princess told herself, and she turned one final time and began to climb the hill.

M3 Gerraint: Winter Bound, part 2 of 3

“This is as far as I go,” Dayclimber said.  The others looked at him.  Most assumed he would take them all the way, but clearly that had not been the plan.  “Down to the left.”  He pointed out certain things to guide their steps.  “Most Scots are not hostile and not inhospitable.  They trade well enough, even though our relations have come to fighting these last several years.  I think you British have not helped matters much, and your Lord Kai of your north watch has given bad advice.”

“It is not in Arthur’s interest that you and the Scots make peace and present a united front to threaten the north,” Gerraint honestly admitted.

“Yes.”  Dayclimber understood perfectly well.  “Only now you must stew in the juices of your own cooking.”

Gerraint nodded, much as he disliked clichés.  “All the same, thank you.”  He spoke for all.  Dayclimber merely nodded and turned to be lost very quickly around the bend in the path.

“Its’ colder than a witch’s…” Uwaine started, but Gerraint cut him off.

“Careful,” he said.  “Greta will hear you.”

Uwaine gave him a hard stare while he slapped his arms, but he quieted.  Trevor and Gwillim laughed a little, and Gerraint thought that poor Uwaine’s feelings were not as secret as he imagined. It had to be hard to be in love with someone who died three hundred and fifty years before you were born.  Gerraint shook his head sadly before he started down the other side of the mountain.  Twice as sad was knowing that she cared for him deeply as well.  Then again, she could not help it.  Gerraint, himself, cared deeply for the first squire he ever had, though in a somewhat different way.  As far as that went, his thoughts were entirely on Enid, and just thinking of her made him pick up his pace a little.

They could only carry so much food from the Pictish village, and though at first, they supplemented their supplies with hunting, they were now in Scottish lands and had to be more careful.  Once again, they sought shelter before lighting a fire in the night.  A couple of times, they actually built a shelter for the fire, because they could not go through a night at that point without some warmth.

“People have died of exposure,” Gerraint said once.

Urien laughed.  “There’s a cheerful thought.”

“What?”  Gerraint and the others looked at him, seriously.

Urien shrugged.  “It just sounded like the kind of bad attitude thing I would say, that’s all.”  He shrugged again and curled up as well as he could beneath his cloak and skins.

After a few days, they came to one village where Dayclimber suggested they might get a warm reception.  He thought they might even find some of Kai’s men there as it was one place the British still traded, as far as he knew, and where Kai could provide his “bad advice”, which the Scots seemed so keen on taking.  Gerraint, Urien and Uwaine were for caution, but the thought of a warm bed in a warm hut and some honest cooked food, even if it was haggis, became more than Gwillim and Trevor could handle.  The result was not enough caution and they were rapidly surrounded and their weapons taken from them.

“Something must have happened since Dayclimber’s time,” Uwaine whispered.

“Evidently,” Gerraint responded without bothering to whisper.

One older woman seemed determined to spit on each one of them.  Several of the Scots railed at them in the British tongue, and though they could hardly tell what the complaint was from all the swear words, Gerraint felt that at least in this place there would be no language barrier.  A number of the younger Scots could not resist examining the captured weapons, like men dividing the spoils after a victorious battle, and though Gerraint knew that language would not be a problem, the actions of the younger men did not speak well for the idea of a fair hearing.

One young man picked up Gerraint’s sword, Fate, and began to pull it slowly from its’ sheath.  The others crowded around with plenty of words of praise as the gleaming metal spoke of a weapon which was one in a million, if not altogether unique.  There would have been great arguments later, but Gerraint did not let it get that far.  He sent his weapons home, to the Isle of the Kairos.  The sword and long knife vanished right out of the young men’s hands, and that caused some considerable excitement.

One came up.  “What happened to the sword?  Where did it go?”  He yelled, but Gerraint waited a moment until others had gathered before answering.

“It is not a toy,” he said.  “And finding itself in the wrong hands, it has gone back to the island which stands fast off the North shore, from whence it came.”

“And the long knife?”  Another asked.

“And its’ companion with it,” Gerraint nodded.

“What is the Sword’s name?”  One asked, knowing that all great weapons were named.  Here, Gerraint hesitated because his sword was known and had a bit of a reputation.

“Morae,” Uwaine spoke up, trying the Greek.  “Wyrd.”  He gave it the Danish name Gerraint had once mentioned.

“The sword of Fate,” A man yelled from the back and Uwaine frowned.

“I should have told you the Chinese name,” Gerraint whispered as several in the crowd “ooed” and “ahed.”  A few had certainly heard of the weapon.

One man from the back pushed his way to the front, and people stepped aside for him.  He appeared elderly, though may have been younger in reality judging by the ease with which he moved.  His beard looked long and gray, as did his hair, or what stuck out of his pointy, brim hat.  His robe, full length, looked tied with a plain rope like a future Dominican, though also gray.  Gerraint had a hard time to keep his tongue from shouting, “Gandalf!”  He suspected, though, the druid might turn out to be more like Saruman.

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.