Revelation, Manipulation and Exploration!
The winter court at Sarum has been abuzz with rumour and gossip. Earl Rodderick has returned from his embassy to Malahout severely wounded by Saxon agents working in the North – the implication being that Cerdic Fenrisget was behind the attack. The News from London is that the king is ill, and Queen Ygraine now rules the court.
Meanwhile the newly appointed lord of Branch and Dole has extracted a confession from the Levcomagus knight in his care about their conspiracy between Levcomagus and the Saxon invaders!
Enraged by the news Sir Gerin and Sir Alain de Chalons immediately swear vengeance against Levcomagus. This new outrage dredges up from the depths rumours of the abuse Lady Ellen so many years ago when abducted by Sir Gadwick was worse than has ever before been admitted… vile stories stoke the rage of the good knights of Salisbury; all of whom are now aware the champion of Levcomagus is no longer a threat.
Earl Rodderick returns from the Kings court unusually early this year, with dire news of the kings illness, and also an urgent mission: He and our band of knights must journey to the kingdoms of the Gales, and deliver a letter, detailing the terms of an alliance, to King Canan of Norgales, high king of the eastern Gales. Dire news also came with him from London, talking of the escaped kings Octa & Eossa, and the armies they are building in the North.
Sir Saravinus Arilius and Sir Alain were quick to offer their services to protect their lord, perhaps feeling the sting of the assault on his person last year, and so did Sir Gerin eventually. Whatever the upshot of the rumoured treachery of Levcomagus may be, it will have to wait this year.
Taking a significant force with them the long journey west was uneventful, and interspersed with pleasant stops such as the one at the city of Gloucester (capital of the duchy of Clarence). The good Duke asked for the retelling of the tale of the battle of Lincoln, and the capturing of Octa & Eossa. The telling of the tale by the shrike of Lincoln was masterfully done! And all were heartened despite the news of the recent escape of the two Saxon Kings, as the duke of Clarence himself said, Sir Shrike and the mighty swords of Salisbury bested them once, and they can best them again!
There they also met the young twins of Glevum – Sylvanus the green, and Aegidius the red. The two most argumentative brothers ever encountered! These two noble knights put aside their mutual enmity long enough to escort the party to the edge of the lands of Estragales.
At the borders they met the warmest of welcomes from their old friend Sir Alain of Estragales. He and Sir Gerin soon hit it off, enjoying the rich Salisbury Beer the ever hospitable sir Gerin never travels without. King Nanteloed of Estragales and his court were soon enamoured of our squadron of knights, who all excelled at the courtly virtues, with the somewhat inebriated dancing of sir Gerin causing great mirth and enjoyment (unlike his singing, the less said of which the better!)
King Nantelode quickly passed the party on to the care of Sir Dirac and his squire Lak to take them on to the lands of King Canan. Unfortunately the King is away on his royal progress when they arrive at Pembroke castle, and once again the knights display their courtly skills. Falconry is shown to be well within the purview of Sir Saravinus Arilius, though all comment on the odd behaviour of the raven taken by his hawk that day.
Drinking and dancing are once again the delights of Sir Gerin, and sir alain passes the time most courteously, and chastely, with several ladies at court… When King Canan returns eventually, along with Sir Orcas his steward, he receives the Earl with good grace, and takes King Uthers letter of alliance under advisement.
In the intervening days, the Earls party besport themselves with hunting, once again sir Saravanus taking the honour of the kill of a fine red stag. Sir Dirac, heir to Norgales, is most impressed with the foreign lord of the hundred, and Sir Alian fails to make friends with Sir Orcas, each finding the other in opposition on the subject of Merlin, and his treachery!
Before they can return to Pembrook castle to take the ease, our knights must call upon the rough hospitality of the hill chieftains of the local area. After much feasting and drinking, they find themselves accepting a challenge to a horse race from the local headman. The next morning dawns bright and clear, and the knights see immediately they will not win this race. The local man has his rough hill pony, ideally suited to his chosen course, and there is little chance of the knights keeping pace on their leggy rouncies over such rough, steep terrain. Regardless they do their best, and pay their losses over with good grace. The headman reveals himself to be non-other than King Ivor of Yastrid Tyi, lord of the hill clans!
On their return to Pembroke Castle, once again the king of Norgales has decided to wend his way about his kingdom… happily this time taking the embassy of Logres with him. The Earl and his party are treated with great courtesy, and travel to many locations, eventually ending up in Carmarthen, the very birthplace of Merlin. a nearby Rowne tree is strewn with gifts, both Pagan and Christian, and chill rolls down the spines of those who observe three crows perched in it branches – a dread omen of war and terror if ever there was one!
At the feast that night foul treachery breaks out; and good king Canan is poisoned! Immediately Sir Dirac, the king’s heir is blamed, and stout ropes brought out for immediate justice. A whispered conversation between Sir Gerin and Sir Orcas soon erupts into shouted recriminations. Sir Orcas reviles Sir Gherin, and demands to prove his innocence against the diminutive lord of Staplefored, declaring he passed no cups to the king and will let the gods prove his innocence by combat! Enraged at the treason, the breach of hospitality and the insult to his honour, Sir Gerin accepts. The lynch mob pause in confusion, as Sir Orcas loudly declaims that before the gods he is innocent of any involvement in the poison plot, and Sir Gerrin declares he saw kings steward pass the poisoned cup to the young Sir Dirac.
Both men are too caught up in their passions to think of calling for armour and shields, though the pragmatic lord of Stapleford has enough self control left to declare the duel to first blood.
The duel is short and to the point, much like the victor, as Sir Gerin quickly pierces the jaw bone and cheek of his opponent with a deft upward lunge.
His innocence proven, those loyal to Prince, now King, Dirac gather round and protect their lord. Taking the severely wounded Sir Orcus into their custody. King Dirac swears he will honour his fathers wish to support Uther and Logres as allies, but the atmosphere at court is far less certain than new king supposes. Sensing the way the wind blows, Earl Rodderick makes his excuses, and leaves the royal family of Norgales to grieve.
Our squadron pass back though the way they came, wondering what good now the alliance with the Gales will do their ailing king. Dirac seems a nice enough lad, but hardly the man to keep these rough western Gales united… Sir Gerin dispatches his brother to London to inform the king that King Dirac accepts his offer of an alliance, but there is little chance he will be king for much longer.
Overtaken by the pace events, the party head home, narrowly beating the first storms of winter back to Salisbury. The winter is bitter and harsh, and the news from the north equally grim. Octa and Eossa are rampaging throughout Lindsey again, and the northern lords refuse to come out from behind their castle walls and face them.
Other than the appalling behaviour of Sir Marcus Arilius and his heretical abuse of the nuns of Amesbury, there is little news to report from the courts of Sarum this winter.