Disclaimer: I do not own any of the character names, save my own original creations. I do not wish to be compensated for this work, nor do I wish to infringe on any copyrights held by any stakeholders of the movie King Arthur. This work is an original creation, based on the legend of King Arthur and his Knights.
Chapter 1: Home
Cerys was startled out of a quiet moment by the cry of "Knights! Knights!" echoing in the hall. She knew that meant one thing. Arthur and his men were home. Finally.
She mentally ran through the list of things to do upon their arrival, sighed and got up from the window sill in which she had been half-dozing. A last long lingering look at the sun still beaming to warm the stone, and she was off running towards the kitchens.
She knew that Lorina and Guinevere would already have heard the call, and would have gone to prepare for their men's arrival, as would the other women who ran the households while the men were away. Everyone would descend upon the yard to see the men come home. Cerys knew that Lorina would make haste to call Daffyd, the healer, since Bors always had some sort of injury which needed tending. Of Guinevere, Cerys knew she would be in her chamber, changing to greet her lord as the beauty she desired to be for him. Cerys need not worry about either of those things, for she had no man for which to greet. She considered the fort in which the garrison resided her lord and responsibility. Her passions, no matter how strong, would have to wait until such a time as was proper.
Cerys entered the kitchens and proceeded to roll soft thin spun wool towels and stick them upright in a large iron pot on the top of the brightly burning stone oven. Slowly she poured water over them until the water steamed and hissed, heating the towels well. Cerys squeezed out each piping hot towel and placed them in a basket, covered by linen to keep them warm and wet. The men, despite having such grand gestures of being tough, loved having a clean towel with which to wipe road grit from their faces when they returned. It wasn't necessary, but it gave Cerys reason enough to be in the yard when the men would arrive.
Far off she could hear the scrape of the large wood doors at the entrance to the inner compound opening and knew she need to be in the yard shortly. The noise of returning horses and wagons, children and shouting men, bounced off the walls of the barracks as she made her way. Running now, she slowed and walked through the entryway just as the dust from the horses entrance greeted her feet. Such a sight she enjoyed! The horses snorting and stamping, tack jingling as they tossed their heads, eager to be fed. The smell of sweat, the cries of happiness to be home, the sounds of armour hitting armour and wagons creaking. Shouting of men, shrieking of women. The homecoming was always such a chaos of noise and happiness.
"Welcome home!" She cried into the melee and lifted a hand to wave, which was lost in the uproar. She noticed in turn that each of the men would need repairs to armour and leather, and, as she suspected, a few would require a visit from Daffyd. Another mental list added the first one. Such was her job as head of this outpost. Guinevere was truly the lady here, but had deferred to Cerys out of necessity for order in chaos. Cerys ran the operation well, and Guinevere was happy to have it so.
Arthur passed on horse first, Lancelot next, ever stone faced until feet hit ground. Tristan was already dismounted and hooding his falcon. Cerys reached him first.
"Welcome home Tristan." She said softly, so as not to startle the bird, and handed him a hot towel to warm his hands and wipe the road dust from his eyes and mouth. Isaac, his falcon, twittered a welcome, and she gave him a stroke or two. Such a kind bird when perched, he was as ferocious in the hunt as his master. Cerys owned a young falcon herself, and enjoyed the hunt with Tristan and Isaac when able to get away from her duties.
She walked on to the others, now dismounted, and felt a wave of reassurance. The brothers Gawain and Galahad, the young Perceval, welcomed home with strong hugs and kisses, each eagerly rubbing off grit with their proffered towels. Eagerly scanning the crowd for familiar faces, not one looked sad to be home again. Each beginning to unwind from the tension of being at war.
"Bors, do you need Daffyd? We have already called him, but of course, we can't break the tradition that I have to ask." She smiled as she reached him, gave him a pinch on the arm and a kiss on the cheek. He grunted, looked at her, and then past her as Daffyd walked into the compound. Bors was ever the rough man. Behind the toughness beat the heart of a kind and generous man, as evidence of his large band of children, all hanging about him now, peppering him with questions about his travels. A smile and a hand on the head of each was ensured by Bors, who loved his children almost as much as his position in life as Knight.
"Where is Lorina?" He asked gruffly, casting his eyes about the compound, then checked and broke into a broad smile as she entered right behind the healer. Cerys nodded to her as he strode off to greet his wife, gaggle of children in tow. Lorina poked at him after he grabbed her tightly and Daffyd looked at the gash in his shoulder, bound with sinew to keep bleeding at bay. Such an emotional man for one so rough in manner, she thought admiringly.
A voice to her right stopped her. "Such a welcome sight you are, with hot towel and smile for us Lady." it said.
Cerys would know that voice anywhere. Strong, with a hint of mischief, dark brooding undertones if you listened carefully. Now on the ground, his demeanour would again be the sarcastic joker, akin to his true nature. A thrill ran through her. She turned, and looked into sparkling eyes and tilted smile of Lancelot. Sweet Lancelot. Her midnight conversation, hunting partner and best friend. Her face showed relief at his presence. Such a pleasure to know he was home safe again.
"Nothing would please me more than you have you welcomed properly, my Lord." She said, mocking his formal tone as she handed him a roll. He gently took it from her, and as she waited, he rubbed across his face with a sigh of pure satisfaction, that seemed to start from deep within his body. It made her so happy, that noise. The relief of all the men coming home safely made the tension ease from her, if only a bit. She could feel the stiffness ease from between her shoulders, that resided there the minute they would leave, and relinquish its command only when they were home again.
"No injury to report?" She asked casually, as she took back the used towel. She half hoped for some minor scratch, so that she could visit him later with healing cream. But, she would not want any harm to come to him.
"I am fine. Klynnd has pulled a muscle, but he won't be lame long. We rest for a few days now, so both of us will have plenty of time to heal." He replied, as they turned to walk together, falling to step as if natural to do so. Her instinct was to link her arm through his, but checked before she did so. A distance was required to keep herself from being made talk of. His station required control. He was a Knight, and as such demanded respect in all things while still at station in armour.
Brinn pulled up alongside Lancelot with Klynnd. "Lancelot, is there anything else you need? Otherwise I will see to Klynnd." Lancelot nodded that al laws well and patted the young squire on his head. Brinn strode off with purpose, as tired and dusty Klynnd followed behind. Cerys gathered in the smell of Lancelot as they walked. Of horse, sweat, damp leather and metal tang of blood. They were not long past a battle, and her stomach turned at the thought. The smell, however distasteful, was in another sense a happy one, for there was a man beside her for which to smell! She would rather die than to not smell her knights fresh back from battle, safe and alive.
Cerys could hear Arthur discussing with the armourer what needed to be repaired, as the made their way towards him. Lancelot reached him first and clasped him on the shoulder.
"Arthur! Work can wait! Cerys has hot cloth for your weary face." He said. Arthur looked like a man so tired and heavy with need for sleep, Cerys was not sure if he was well, and immediately turned to summon Daffyd. Arthur's face brightened at her, and he grabbed her up in a crushing embrace before she could catch the healer's attention. Lancelot rescued her basket just as she was swept up by her tall cousin.
"Cousin! Such a sight for my eyes. Again, your touch has brought my men home to civility. Thank you!" He laughed as he swung her about.
"Arthur! You will put me down now! My poor back cannot take such a crushing from your armour!" She laughed back, as he set her down onto the ground again. Her hands up on his shoulders, they smiled warmly at each other and Arthur bent over to kiss her on each cheek.
Arthur did tower over Cerys. She was short, and slim, and always strained up with her eyes to catch his. It was always a happy reunion, as Cerys was Arthur's cousin, his mothers sister's child. Arthur and Cerys grew up together when Arthur's father was stationed at the same outpost, and as such were fond of each other, almost as siblings. Both had lost their mothers in an attack, and when that happened, Cerys' father had sent her further south to Powys to be out of danger of further raids. She had returned some years ago, longing to be back closer to where she felt at home, closer to her King and friends, now in need of her service. Years later, she ran the household and the fort with the same fortitude as Arthur with his cohort.
Arthur grabbed at the remaining towel from what was now Lancelot's basket, held it to his face for a moment, gestured and strode off to the other side of the compound to check on Bors. Satisfied that Lorina and Daffyd had well in hand, he abruptly returned to Cerys and inquired about her health and the fort. Arthur could never stop moving, and whenever on the ground, could be found striding this way and that, thinking out loud, talking with arms and hands gesturing wildly. Stillness only came with sleep. Cerys filled him in quickly on important news, none of which was important. Arthur trusted her to care for their home and outpost as well as any.
"Where is my wife? Is she not here to greet me?" He asked as he rubbed his hands with the towel, quickly cooling in the air.
Before Cerys could answer, a shriek sounded from the entryway. Running at full tilt, Guinevere threw herself to Arthur's arms, a flurry of hair and billowing cloth. He held her tightly, burying his face in her hair, muffled words of love coming from him. She laughed and held him at arms length. "Come! You must get out of your armour and rest!" his smile gave her another chance to laugh. She nodded and whispered a thanks to Cerys. Arthur bid their leave and with a wink to both her and Lancelot, and off they strode, hand in hand towards the living quarters. Cerys knew that later, much later, they would all have drink and talk at length of their journey. Arthur, despite his weariness, was in good humour. They must have had a successful outing.
And just like that, the courtyard emptied. Men and horses, knights and their women, each left to remove armour, bathe wounds and reunite with loved ones. Cerys sighed and lowered her eyes. This was the hardest part. She always felt bereft. Each of these men were so special to her. She had grown with them, they training to be knights, she a young girl watching from an oak tree beside the field where they rode, before the attack, before she left for west Britain. She would tend their cuts even then, she remembered. In some way, she wanted to be listening to their stories, rubbing their bruises, tending their injury the same way. She thought of all of them as her brothers. She took a moment to scan the courtyard, find a bench to sit on, and pull out her tally sticks.
Reviews and comments welcome, thank you for spending a few quiet moments with me. I look forward to the next chapter.