Dun Pelidyr

Dun Pelidyr could have being a fortress of the gods such was it’s majesty. It’s ramparts encircled a massive oval shaped hill, towering above the lands below. A heavy mist swirled across the battlements making the men below to squint, as they attempted to make out any movement on the walls.
“It’ll be windy up there,” commented Cai.
“Trust the witch to find the most impregnable place to hide,” Bedwyr replied looking at Arthur for a reaction.
The Pendragon remained silent, his face closed in deep concentration.
“Well we can’t storm it.” This from Cador of Kernow, looking equally serious as Arthur.
“Why not? We have enough men,” Cai said. “She can’t have more than a score or more warriors with her up there.”
“Look at the slopes, Cai. We’ll be exhausted just climbing them. Morgause would only need a few warriors to beat us back,” Lancelot explained as if speaking to a child.
Cai opened his mouth, but was forestalled when Arthur moved his mount forward.
“There is someone coming down,” he said.

Out of the mist a lone rider appeared, it was a boy mounted on a small white pony. The youth held himself straight in the saddle and bore a shield and spear.
“She sends out her champion!” Cai laughed. A few sniggers greeted his words.
“Be silent,” Arthur rasped. His nerves were on edge. How long was it since he had last seen Morgause? His memory failed him. It must be at least ten years.
The boy stopped a stones throw from the massed ranks of the Cymry. He looked at them fearlessly. Well done! thought Arthur. Clearing his throat the boy began to speak in a loud, high pitched voice.
“The Queen bids you welcome and grants you an audience. If you will follow me please.”
Arthur looked over his shoulder a smile slipping across his face.
“All of us?” he asked, indicating the Cymry behind him.
“Just the Lord Arthur,” the boy replied.
The words produced loud shouts from the army. Arthur raised his hand for silence, his eyes boring into those of the boy’s.
“And on whose word is my life guaranteed?” he asked.
“You are but a boy. I will need more than”
“I am Gawain, the king of these lands now. I will stay here with your army if you doubt my word,” Gawain interrupted Arthur.
Lot’s son, thought Arthur. I am speaking to son a man I have just killed.
For long moments Arthur said nothing. He weighed up the chances of treachery from Morgause and wondered if she was willing to lose all just to kill him. No, his sister was more cleverer than that. He made his decision.

“That is good enough for me. Lead on lad, I will follow.” Arthur’s words were met by curses from his men. He listened to them for a moment before indicating for silence.
“If I am not back by nightfall then raise this place to the ground. Leave not a thing living within it’s walls. Cai, you lead in my absence,” Arthur said and then urged his horse on towards the fortress.
“This is bollocks!” muttered Cai.

They rode in silence for most of the journey up the winding track to Dun Pelidyr. Arthur glanced down at Gawain at his side wanting so much to breach the gap separating them.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked finally.
“You are my uncle and the slayer of my father,” Gawain replied flatly. To that Arthur had no reply and he felt the lash of the boy’s animosity. For some odd reason Arthur found himself trying to defend his actions.
“Listen, Gawain. In battle anything can happen. If your father had been captured then I would have spared his life,” Arthur lied smoothly. He had wanted Lot dead. He did not want any knives at his back.
“But you father fought like a hero and would not yield.”
Gawain stared up at his uncle, his eyes sharp and intent, like a bird of prey. Gwalchmai, the Hawk of May, is what his name means, Arthur realized suddenly. A fitting name.
“I accept what you say Uncle and will spare you life this once,” Gawain said, the seriousness of his voice assaulting Arthur’s heart.
“How old are you, Gawain?”
“I am seven, but nearly eight.”
Arthur found himself smiling. Boys were always nearly something they never were.
“I was your age when the Saxon’s killed my father,” Arthur said.
“Do you remember him?” asked Gawain, his eyes shining. He had grown up on tales, told to him by his mother, about Uther Pendragon.
“No. My father never had time for us children.”
Gawain turned away disappointed.
“My father always played with us. He taught me how to use a sword and how to ride.” Gawain stopped speaking and bowed his head slightly. Arthur felt a sudden pang of guilt, but he quickly suppressed the emotion. Lot had been an ambitious, vain and dangerous man. The grave was a good place for him.

The gates of Dun Pelidyr loomed before them and then swung open. Taking a deep breath Arthur entered the shadows of the gatehouse and straight into a forest of spears. He drew on the reins sharply, his horse neighing in sudden pain. The gates slammed shut behind him.
“Let’s kill him now!” someone shouted.
Gawain for the first time looked frightened. Arthur allowed himself a weak smile.
“Easy lad,” he said.
“Get of your horse, Kingslayer,” a voice snapped.
Arthur glanced at the speaker, his face impassive. He’d be damned if he would show any fear here.
“Greetings stranger. Where is Queen Morgause?” he asked.
“Behind you,” a soft voice said at his back.



Cork, Ireland

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