R6 Gerraint: To Kent, part 1 of 3

It sometimes felt hard to realize the days of peace far outnumbered the days of war.  The Calendar turned to 518 and marked twenty-five years since Arthur pulled the sword from the stone.  Gerraint turned thirty-nine, becoming one of the elder statesmen, but one who felt like he spent the last twenty-five years at war.  To be sure, not counting the rebellion at the very beginning, Gerraint counted ten major battles and campaigns in those twenty-five years. And he had all the scars and aches of age to prove it.

“What are you thinking?”  Enid took Gerraint’s arm and nestled her head in his shoulder. They were walking in the garden.  He thought only of her.  She turned thirty-four and looked more beautiful than ever.  He only had one serious thought, but that was not what he talked about.

“Peter,” He pointed at the sound of his eldest playing in the courtyard beyond the garden gate.  “He is nearly eleven.  It won’t be long before he will be a squire.”

“Have you found one to take him?”

“No,” Gerraint admitted.  “I haven’t started looking.”

“Typical,” Enid said, as she stood up straight but did not let go of his arm.  “You can’t wait until the last minute if you expect to get someone good.”

“There is always Uwaine.”

“He is a bit of a loner.”

Gerraint nodded.  “He needs a good wife.”

They stopped in the gate and watched as Cordella’s eldest, thirteen-year-old Bedivere, went roaring by with a stick in his hand in place of a sword.  “Cordella’s son is old enough to squire,” Enid said, before she raised her voice. “Careful.  You can poke an eye out with a stick.”

“Lucky man,” Gerraint said, without explanation.

“How does it work?”  Enid seemed to be searching for something, and maybe thinking about losing her sons at what seemed to her a very young age.

“Well,” Gerraint took a breath.  “The first four years, say fourteen to seventeen are spent in school.  A good squire need to learn reading and writing and arithmetic.  Many men contract that part out to a local Priest who will give the young men a grip on Latin and maybe even a smattering of Greek. Then they need good time in the wilderness where they learn to hunt and fish, cook and clean, and build a fire that won’t burn down the forest.  They learn to appreciate the natural world, what the priest would call, God’s creation. They learn what the plants are good for, the many uses, and which they can eat and which they must not eat.  And about rocks and metals, how to build traps, and many such things.

“Like the proper use of a rock for taking dents out of helmets,” Enid grinned.

“Exactly,” Gerraint said, and started her toward the porch, walking in the shade along the edge of the courtyard to keep out of the play area.  “And horses,” he continued with his thoughts.  “A man’s best companion is his horse.  A squire must learn how to care for and keep his horse in good shape, and then about his equipment too, how to care for all of it.”

“Weapons,” Enid said gruffly.

“Yes.”  Gerraint did not back down from the subject.  “He learns how to care for and use weapons properly.”  He stopped walking, so she stopped.

“It sounds like a lot,” Enid said.

“It is,” Gerraint admitted.  “but then he gets another four years, like eighteen to twenty-one to practice it all.  That is when he will learn larger things, as Percival calls them, like how to relate to people as an adult, and relate to all the many lords and chiefs in the land. He will learn something about history and what you might call geopolitics.  He will learn how and when to negotiate, and when to take up that sword. And he will learn tactics and strategy, though hopefully not on the battlefield.  And, by God’s grace, he will find a wife by the time he is fully grown at twenty-one.”

“You didn’t.”

“I was waiting for you.”

Enid pulled in to give him a hug.  He said the right thing, but she had another thought. “But what about Uwaine?”

“Being my squire, I am afraid I made things too strange and difficult for him.  He should be married.”  Gerraint looked up to the porch where Melwas, Uwaine, Percival and Gawain sat quietly in the shade while Percival and Gawain’s wives had a running conversation with Cordella, Cordella leading the pack, of course.

“Morgana has two daughters, you know.”  Enid spoke from his embrace and did not want to let him go.

“Morgaine and Morgause,” Gerraint knew them.

“Morgana and Uwaine’s mother both think one of them would make him a good wife.”

Gerraint thought, and have a real witch for a mother-in-law, but he did not say that.  “Morgana,” he said, and he did not say it in an unkind tone of voice.  “She is the only one I know who has the courage to stand up to Meryddin’s face on behalf of her brother, Arthur.”

“Other than you,” Enid said.

Gerraint backed her up a bit to see her smile. “Are you kidding?  Merlin scares my socks off.”  Enid scoffed and pulled herself back into his arms for more hugging. “But what I really want to know is who decided sisters have to have such similar names, like Morgaine and Morgause?”

“It’s a Welsh thing, like Gwynyvar and Gwenhwyfach,” Enid said and sighed.  “Mother had the name Edna picked out if I ever had a sister.”

Gerraint recognized the sigh.  He knew Enid would love a baby girl, but that was one place he would not go, not that he had much to say about it.  “We should join the others.”

Enid sighed again and they began to climb the steps. “Anyway,” she said.  “Mab says Uwaine is a perfect gentleman and deserves a good wife.”

“Mab.  You are hanging out with that fairy Princess too much lately.  But see?  I have ruined you, too.”  Enid touched his shoulder like a pretend slap before she retook his arm.

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.