By the sword in his hand
It was to be a year of great events, beginning chiefly with the miraculous return of the lost Sir Haeredoc. Draped in the skins of saxons and with great scars about his chest from chains, he refused to speak of his experiences during these missing years. At the least, he was greeted with joy by his fellow knights who had feared him gone forever.
It was fortuitous timing that he should appear; all the fighting knights of Salisbury were at once summoned to the Earls Spring Court, a matter of great note. When the Knights of Maercred arrived, they found a great encampment spread around the city, and took time to seek out old friends as they awaited the Earls pleasure. Within the camp, Sir Brychan was confronted by a knight he failed to recognise, Sir Gwelder of Forde, who seemed less than pleased to hear of Sir Brychans marriage the previous year.
Sir Tomas with a new page in tow was likewise confronted, albeit by a knight he recognised quite easily. Sir Herbert of Testside was outraged to see the young lad in his company; a boy from Levcomagus who was thus in his eyes a poisonous snake held ot the chest of a Salisbury knight. Those knights of Tomas’ unit present (Sirs Brychan, Saravinus Arilius and Cynwrig) stood at his shoulder, concerned that the angry Sir Herbert might press matters too far. Indeed, he demanded the boys life on the spot as a stain on Salisbury’s honour existed while the youth lived among them. Defending his new page, Sir Tomas accelerated the confrontation, and a challenge was issued. The Maercred knights scattered at once to try and halt the matter, Cynwrig and Saravinus seeking out Sir Amig (Tomas’ lord) and the Earl himself, while Sir Brychan and the newly arrived Sir Alain de Chalons guarded Sir Tomas’ back. With their squires running for armour, the matter seemed likely to end in a death but for the timely arrival of Sir Elad, the Marshall of Salisbury who called for a blunted duel much to Sir Herberts fury. The loser of the duel, he declared, would retire to his manor and would have no part in the coming action under the Earls banner. Sir Tomas, set to defend his honour won the duel handily, and the raging Sir Herbert was ordered to his lands ‘for the duration’.
Earl Rodderick, highly annoyed at the blows exchanged by his door, ordered all knights to reconvene at Sarum with half their levies, ready for forty days of travel. To his now deeply concerned comrades, Sir Tomas explains the presence of his young page who is indeed from Levcomagus, being fostered on salisbury lands with the Earls knowledge and grudging permission, as a way to build a bridge and some degree of understanding between the two regions. Noting the disappearance of the young lads matron, Sir Brychan asks that his wife Lady Jenna find the woman, and keep an eye on her. It must be said that few of the other knights fully trusted that the boy was the focus of the Levcomagus group, and that a spy may have been placed in their midst.
The armies of salisbury formed up outside Sarum, and marched away to the south west and on into Cornwall, joined by King Uther himself. On march, they passed through a narrow break between two dense woodlands, with a hill rising up before them. Arrayed across the hill were the forces of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall, reinforced by Irish and Gaulish mercenaries and hugley outnumbering the forces under Uther. Amongst the trees, foot troops lurked, ready to rush out and pin the flanks of the kings troops in the treacherous position they found themselves.
Before hostilities could commence, Uther rode out under truce to speak with Gorlois, so long absent from his court. As they spoke in words too quiet for either army to hear, Uther suddenly drew his sword, holding the blade Excalibur aloft! The duke fell to his knees at once, as did all the men under his command, cowed by the majesty of the blade and offering up cries of awe and loyalty to the mighty king wielding the mythical weapon. Still outraged by Gorlois’ failures as a liegeman, Uthers hand was stayed by the archdruid Merlin before the king could make any rash calls. Remaining as lord of Cornwall, the duke renewed his oaths of loyalty to Uther, and swore to attend the next year, when the turn of the saxons would come.
This was fortunate and well timed, as news was beginning to arrive of new saxon kings in the north; Octa and Eosa who were carving out strongholds for themselves.
The long ride home might have proven dangerous but for the keen eyes of Sir Saravinus Arilius, who was the first to note the unkindness of ravens which seemed to be paying keen attention to the column of knights, following them along the way. Calling attention to this, he, Sir Brychan Eurion and Sir Haeredoc called it to the attention of Earl Rodderick, relying on their good odor with that lord to press the matter further. One step at a time, the matter was raised through Sir Brastias, the kings butler, then to Merlin and finally the king himself. The following day, the king announced a break in the routine of travel for an entertainment, a competition of Falconry. The king generously provides birds, and the knights do their best to bring down what prey they can. The victory goes to Prince Madoc, while other knights distinguish themselves for control of their borrowed birds.
BY chance, Sir Cynwrig Kellen loses his falcon, and in concern for the kings bird rides off in pursuit of the errant raptor. He finds no sight of the bird itself, but instead spies furtive human watchers lurking not far from the encamped army. At once, the watchers burst from cover and rush the lone knight and his squire, who turn and ride hell for leather for the camp, raising a hue and cry of saxons lurking in the undergrowth. Knights go to arms and for the rest of the journey an aggressive patrol pattern is followed in hopes of catching the sneaking scouts, but no more is seen of them.
The other great incident to mar the journey was an unfortunate hunting accident which befell Saravinus. Riding out in search of camp meat, he stumbled across a boar, lurking in the undergrowth. Sending his squire around as a beater, he remained in wait with his spear, intending to haul the great pig back to camp. Alas, he had misjudged the fury of the beast, and as it charged enraged by the squires thrashing and yelling, it battered aside the waiting spear and gored Saravinus grievously, tearing him open in a manner which would surely leave him dead in hours at the most. As the boar crashed away into the woods still grunting and squealing its anger, Saravinus’ squire bundled him into his saddle and returned at a rush to the camp. Here, the chirurgeons labelled the injuries fatal, and walked away shaking their heads. Only Merlin, clearly not done with the gravely wounded knight yet approached, and demonstrating again his great power used his magic to knit the vicious wounds closed, thus preserving the mans life, and ensuring a favour was owed.
With all the knights once again whole and nearing home, Sir Amig delivered an offer from the king – raiding against the Saxons with a generous half and half split, one half to himself as king, the remainder to the raiders themselves. With so generous an offer, the knights rode northward in great spirits, riding through small villages to pick themselves a rich prize. Alas, the town they finally fell on proved rather too much for their small party to handle at once, and ignominiously several of them were felled by mobs of fear-enraged commoners, before being dragged clear by their fellows. Any thoughts of deeper sorties into the Saxon held lands were soon put to one side by their first glance at the sea. Where there should be a beach and open water, they instead beheld a high palisade, and the sea behind it looking like a strange forest – thanks to the innumerable Saxon ships infesting its waters.
With his pride in tatters, Sir Brychan who had led them north in such fine mood now rode south with a straggle of wounded men and no greater wealth to show for it.