And Watch the Ripples
Sir Neys and Sir Brychan were both woken unexpectedly from their respective beds just before the sun rose to begin another spring morning. In their own castles, they both heard similar news. “My lord! Our neighbours have been pillaged by the Levocomagus! They send for aid!”
They both rode out to aid their neighbours, as their conscience demanded, and they both bought a contingent of men. As their neighbour’s manors came into view, they were met with a sight of ruin and pillage, thatch was aflame and men lay wounded in the street.
Upon arrival, Sir Neys barreled straight into the manor house with such speed and force that for a startled moment, the lord of the land thought the raiders had returned! After Sir Neys men had found the Lord locked and barred in his sleeping chamber and explained who he was, the righteous knight of the lord set about preparing in case the brigands returned, as well as preventing the fires that had been set from spreading.
Sir Brychan however, took a different approach, seeing the smallfolk in such turmoil was something he could not just ride past, so he set about organising the men in lines to pass water buckets to the fire more effectively, and having the foresight to focus on extinguishing the grain before and houses, for houses would not feed the village! He designated a stable nearby as a medical bay, and organised several of the town’s young boys as runners to accompany his men as the stood lookout in case the Levocomagus returned.
Only then did Sir Brychan go to speak with the Lord of the manor.
Both Knights decided that they would bring news of the raids to their liege lords, and then to Sarum. Sir Ursal was especially displeased with the news of the raids, demanding their heads on spits before the day was through. Sir Brychan stated that he would see what he could do, before riding to Sarum to bring new to Lady Ellen.
The two knights met just outside of Sarum as the sun was setting. They were greeted by Sir Oswelad, his voice now a full octave deeper and a sparse moustache now definitely visible upon his face. When the herald of Sarum heard the news of the raids, he was obviously flustered. “Raids? Is it the Saxons? Oh my Lord Jesus, what are we to do?”
Sir Brychan replied calmly but urgently “Levocomagus. What knights are here already?”
“Few my lord, it is too early for spring court! We have about six knights and their squires and double that number of archers”
“Very well, I must talk woth Lady Ellen, Sir Oswelad. Time is of the essence,”
“Of course my Lord, she will be able to see you first thing tomorrow!”
Sir Brychan sighed, “Give my lady my apologies for disturbing her but I need to talk with her today.” He told the young knight in a voice that could not be refused.
As Sir Oswelad scarpered to summon Lady Ellen, Sir Brychan noticed how Sir Neys had been struck suddenly mute when his faculties to lead were called into question. Sir Brychan felt almost as if the young knight had passed him the responsibility.
Two hours later, Lady Ellen descended from her upstairs chambers, looking glamorous in a new dress on it’s test run before the Spring Court.
“Greetings my loyal knights. What news do you bring me?”
Once again Sir Brychan sighed at Sir Oswelad’s incompetence. He relayed the information to Lady Ellen, who was angered that she had not been told of the urgency of the news before spending two hours having her maids plait her hair.
“So you both were attacked on the same day, early in the morning in two different hunreds?” she observed.
As the three talked about what to do, or rather Lady Ellen and Sir Brychan talked while Sir Neys listened meekly, Sir Dolwyn was announced by Sir Oswelad, obviously come early to sponge the free food off his liege lady.
As reports flooded in, the raids seemed more and more strange, Chalke and Testside had both been raided, but not Branch & Dole which lay between the two, and would need to be passed through to get to Chalke. Also the raids happened on the same day, and as any knight worth their salt would know, while raiding, one would not want to hang around waiting for anything, so why did the two hundreds get raided on the same day despite the differences in distance to the Levocomagus? What’s more, when the raiders were sighted, they fled from persuers on foot, turned back and slaughtered those on horses, or raced towards the southern border, the infamous no man’s land between Salisbury and the Saxons.
With the reports came the knights, and soon the same group of adventurers who slayed Sir Herbert of Testside were all gathered. When Lady Ellen asked her knights what they should do, surprisingly the group did not suggest a bloody solution. They smelt something fishy and would rather talk to Lord Ulfius of Silchester, rather than reacting and beginning a long and bloody war between the two already decimated kingdoms.
Shortly after this course of action was agreed upon, Lady Ellen decided that Sir Herbert’s executors were best suited to this task, as well as Sir Brychan, to lend experience, and Sir Neys and Sir Sewyl to teach them a thing or two about how the rules of courtesy worked in the real world.
While the group was discussing the route they should take, Sir Maddog asked for a private word with Lady Ellen, graciously she accepted and the wild eyed knight told the Countess that he firmly believed that the head of Herbert of Testside would be incredibly important in securing a peaceful resolution to this predicament. Lady Ellen looked slightly confused but acquiesced and ordered that the tarred leathery head be taken off it’s spike and handed to the oddest of knights. He took it gently and passed it to his squire who placed it in a leather sack and took it away.
Meanwhile, the assassins cum ambassadors discussed which path to the heart of Silchester, to talk to the Duke. They decided that to travel through Levocomagus would be suicidal, and to travel through Andover would be their only real option. Lord Iolyn of Andover is known to be a loyal man Sir Cecily duDepeden, but he is also known to the least likely to attack without direct provocaiton. Hoping to avoid a confrontation with the Steward of Hundreds of Levcomagus, they would set out, branches of peace held up high.
Shortly before they leave, Sir Caddock was talking to a fellow knight about the events, when suddenly the knight roared in protest!
“Sir Ursal is the most fit to rule he has ever been you knave, and I will have you fight for those words of slander! These raiders would have come even if deTourney still held these lands, and the damage would have been twice as bad!”
The fight was taken outside and the trial by combat began. While the knight was still shouting to the crowd about the efficacy of Sir Ursal’s rule, he kept only half an eye of deTourney’s loyal creature. Which is one and a half eyes too few. Sir Caddock swung his sword fast as lightning, the blade of the unprepared knight just made it between the incoming blade and the knight’s face, but was ripped from his grasp by the force of the blow. Keeping the momentum, a second swing looped around and bashed the knight on his hastily raised shield, crunching it into his head and knocking the knight unconscious. Sir Caddock stood over the slumped body with his sword drawn for a long time, deciding the knight’s fate before stating to the hushed crowd that he believed the matter was settled. He raised his sword… slid it into his scabbard, and stalked off into the dusk. Many knights felt both impressed and sick at the ferocity with which Sir Caddock laid into the poor household knight of Chalke.
The next day saw the peace envoy setting off for Andover. However, their path takes them past Sir Hewel’s residence, and hospitality calls that they must ask his permission to ride through his lands. A delighted Sir Hewel showered the group with considerably rich gifts, and warm welcomes. Sir Maddog asked for a box, Sir Sewyl recieved a fine cloak, as did Sir Neys, Sir Caddock & Sir Olivier. Sir Dolwyn was gifted for a horses harness and Sir Briant asked for a quiver. All of these gifts were of a superb quality and either lined with silk or engraved with beautiful symbols of the three major religions of the land, Pagan, British Christian and Roman Christian. Sir Brychan tried to refuse gifts of any sort, but when he realised that Sir Hewel would not let them continue until they had all accepted, he asked for a modest something. Sir Maddog spoke up and said how Sir brychan had been complaining about his boots on the ride over, and that a nice new pair in his favoured colour, crimson, would suit him nicely. This was accompanied by Sir Sewyl chanting ‘Red Boots’ in the least musical way possible. Sir Brychan quickly asked for one of the cloaks instead, not willing to nurture this bizarre rumour by actually wearing red boots!
Before long the men had passed into Levocomagus territory and were riding as fast as they could to make up for the time spent stopping at every manor. After a short while it was decided that for smaller manors, squires would suffice to let the lords know of the knight’s passing. Harold and Hewel, squires of Sir Maddog and Sir Dolwyn were designated. Sir Maddog told his young cousin that he was in charge, to be polite but firm, and to tell the castle that a peace envoy was passing through the lands. Maddog always found it distracting talking to Harold, his lazy eye and slack jaw were most disconcerting.
As the squires splintered off towards the manor house, a group of mounted men came thundering out, with weapons not directly pointing at the men, but not exactly in a resting position. When they were hailed the two squires bumbled.
“We are here to let your lord know that our lords are riding through your land in a peaceful manner, we wish to take your hospitality… do we want to take hospitality? … No we want bread and salt I think… is that ok? Do you have any on you? … oh well um what shall we do instead?” They glanced helplessly at each other.
By now the guards were looking a lot more relaxed, with their spears resting at their sides. One of them patted the lad on the shoulder and said “Don’t you worry about it, son. We’ll offer you our hospitality, here’s some water and a bit of bread, do you want to come and water yours horses or something?”
This simple question led to even more dithering from Harold and Hewel until they arrived at the consensus that no, they should probably be getting back to their lords, rather than watering the horses but thank you very much it is very kind of you to offer, do you know which way leads towards Silchester, neither of us looked to see which way our lords were riding off to?
As they rode on towards Andover, the knights of Sir Iolan as well as the lord himself came riding our to meet the envoy. Immediately, he spotted the Wolfsbane and spoke out to him.
“You must be Sir Brychan, I must say I am surprised to see Knights of Salisbury riding so openly, especially after your recent aggressions”
The parties suspicions were confirmed, the Levocomagus had been raided by men in the guise of Salisbury knights. He told Sir Iolan this and added that it seems that someone wants to stir up trouble between us, as the peace between us is still somewhat shaky. He explained the mission of the group, stressing that it was entirely peaceful.
Sir Iolan begrudgingly promised the knight’s one night’s hospitality within his walls. The men were led into his walled manor, which seemed absolutely desserted. They were taken to a barn, given token bread and salt, as well as gruel and water, and were guarded all night. The knights ate the bread and salt at the threshold of the door, sure that every one of the guards could see, and they then resigned themselves for the night, under the command of Sir Olivier, setting up a watch and dividing the gruel up between themselves. Over the course of the excursion Sir Maddog had been disappearing at night with a sack with something in it, and more recently with a box of about the same size. The other knights knew not what he was doing, if they even noticed his absence and just assumed it was some crazed ritual that Domnu demanded. This set Sir Brychan on edge, but just made him watch Sir Maddog even more closely.
The next day, the knights were herded out of the barn at sunup. The manor town was transformed. A single pathway from the barn to the exit had been created with wagons and crates blocking every other path. There were archers up at the top of the houses and knights riding in a full circle around the party. Everyone was sure to keep their hands well away from their swords and proceeded as quickly as possible.
When they reached the outside of the walls, Sir Brychan turned to the leader of the knights who has escorted them. “Will you send a message forward to Silchester for me?”
“Don’t worry Sir Brychan. Word has already been sent.” He replied ominously.
Further along the road, the men noticed that they were being followed by a lone rider. He followed them for the morning, and at around luncheon, he disappeared. When the knights had eaten and started riding again, they crested a hill to see the rider again. He was waiting in the middle of the road, in, as one of the knights pointed out, the perfect place for an ambush; a dip in the land surrounded by higher groun on all sides aride from where the knights were riding from. With no other option, the Knight’s rode towards him, only to be hailed warily and told to keep away from their weapons. As if on cue, a hastily counted sixty mounted men appeared over the hills on three sides. Deciding to trust in the hospitality of the Lord of Silchester, the knights kept still and quiet, aside from a few prayers.
When they were surrounded entirely, Sir Cecily deDepeden came to the front of his men. He exchanged courtesies with the knights, but before any business can be breached, Sir Maddog reached for the box he had been carrying.
“I have this, a gift for the Lord of Silchester, it proves our good will towards the Levocomagus.”
He handed the box to his squire who brought it to deDepeden. When he opened the box, he masked his surprise well and nodded, before quickly handing it to his Herald. It is indeed the head of Herbert of Testside, our common enemy. As the Sir Maxim the Herald lifted the head out of the box for all the men present to see, Sir Maddog’s mysterious hours of disappearance in the night became apparent. The long hair and beard of the former King of Testside had been delicately plaited and tied with ribbons, with flowers woven into his beard. Later some of the men would laugh about the balls on Sir Maddog, presenting a tarred head as a peace gift. However, others would quietly grow more concerned.
deDepeden stated “I shall be frank. It seems we are being set against each other.” Sir Sewyl courteously appeased Sir deDepeden with reassurances that Salisbury were not the cause of the conflict and only wished to work together to secure peace and discover the true enemy and, it was agreed that 25 men under the command of Sir Maxim would accompany the eight knights to Silchester.
As the peace envoy arrived at the feast hall of Duke Ulfius, the men immediately spotted a cluster of blonde heads, and the distinct saxon accent. While the more peacable men restrained those who hated Saxons the most, Sir Sewyl slipped under the radar and walked straight up to the largest in the group, The Saxon in drunken confusion toasted the conquest of Logres and with heightened emotions Sewyl quickly called him a cur and getting himself challenged to combat. Just as they were about to draw their swords, Duke Ulfius walked down into the room.
“I am fully aware that trial by combat is one of our most time-honoured rites, but this is a time of celebration of the bonds now acknowledged between King Aelle and Myself. Only fight to the first blood, and that shall settle the manner. I put one Librum on the Saxon”
This started a whole clamour of men eager to place bets. Sir Dolwyn, Olivier and Maddog each placed large bets on their burly companion and Sir Sewyl but heavily on himself. As soon as the fight began, Sir Sewyl lunged in, taking a chunk out of the saxon’s shoulder before leaping back, saluting him and going to collect his money. The saxon had not even had time to swing his sword. He was dragged off by his friends who were furious at his embarrassing display.
After the winnings had been collected, Sir Brychan, followed by the rest of the party, stepped up to talk to Duke Ulfius. Just as Sir Brychan opened his mouth to begin the peace talks, Sir Maddog intervened again, proudly boasting of the luxurious gift that the knights had brought the Duke to start off on the right foot for their peace talks. Sir Maddog then went on to tell a somewhat enhanced tale of the execution of Herbert of Testside, (neatly forgetting the fact that the men had painted their shields with Levocomagus colours and slaughtered his peasants in the usual Levcomagus fashion to draw the traitor lord out from behind his walls! ). Impressed by the story, and the fact that every man in the party had played a part in the retribution of Sir Herbert (another of Maddog’s enhancements) the Duke spoke loud enough for the whole courtroom to hear.
“This is happy news, not only to meet the slayers of our mutual enemy, Herbert of Testside, but also to see that the men of Salisbury are genuine in their perusal of peace between our lands. This will hopefully cement our relationship as allies. It seems obvious to me that the raids we both suffered were the acts of the Saxons to the south led by King Cerdig. However I have learned that not all Saxons are evil, my new friend King Aelle here is both a trustworthy and strong ally, and I am glad to call him friend. “
The imminent war, is averted. The men rode back for Sarum the very next day, with news that there would be no attacks form the wrongly accused Levocomagus, that the Saxons to the south were to blame, and also, worryingly, that Duke Ulfius had befriended the saxon King Aelle. One of who’s men had told Sir Sewyl just before the fight, that together the men of King Aelle, along with his newest vassel Duke Ulfius, and would conquer all of Logres together…
Our story continues…