Twelve Days of Christmas
The Christmas feast day
Christmas day dawns bright and clear and, on the orders of the King, Lady Siwian and the Duke of Ryddychan are married in the Cathedral of Sarum. The noon feast celebrates both the birth of the Saviour, and the joining of the houses of Ryddychan and Estragales.
Called early from their beds, the young knights are informed that they are to arrive at the great hall of Sarum by ten of the the morning, upon the orders of Earl Roderick. Each one whiles away their morning, arriving on cue at the doors to the hall and each one seated in order of precedence. Much to their surprise, the next knight of Logres to enter is Sir Gadwick of Levcomagus, far outside the proper order of progression. The slight does not pass the politically savvy Sir Uaine by, and he maintains his several day long suspicious watch over the visiting knights as more and more of the highest of Logres are announced. The small circle are by far the lowest ranked in the teeming hall, tucked away in a corner well out of the way of the lords of the counties who fill the middle tier of seats. Below them, the more influential lords of the Hundreds and in amongst these the visiting Gaulish knight.
With the King now in his place of honor, the great christmas feasting began. Sweet Hippocras, wine with exotic cinnamon and cloves was served to whet the appetite of the gathered crowd, before the endless stream of dishes began. Eggs in yellow sauce, pike, huge pies of venison with spiced cherry, freshly grilled trout, cheeses, and all manner of meats and all the other fruits of a good harvest.
Amidst tale spinning bards, acrobats, musicians and dancers the seasons gifts were given, begun first by Earl Rodderick himself. To each of the lesser knights, obscure amidst so many great and gamous folk came a small bag of coin, a generous half libram amidst golden and silver trinkets given out to the Hundreds present.
Then from the kings hand to his greater servants came an array of gifts, moneys and lands, not least to the happy wedding couple who were offered tokens of the kings good wishes for the season and their newly joined houses. For his son, lands and estates along the Thames, including the castle at Windsor. Almost enough land to form a small Hundred of its own.
Next came gifts from amongst the earls to the King himself, lavish and exotic gifts, included amongst them a great snowy white cloak, free of blemish and thick and lush and offered up by Salisbury. The gift which appeared to please the king the most came from his sons hands – a great array of weapons, armour, gold, silver, jewellery and fine cloth all taken from the saxons in raiding and war. Spread beneath the kings feet as he looked over this haul was a great war banner, recognised by Sir Haeredoc the Red (whose hatred of the saxons runs deep) as belonging to a noted bannerman of King Aelle. King Uther appeared to take a certain vindictive pleasure in carelessly walking back and forth upon this symbol of his enemy. As he he looked through the treasure-trove offering, he casually dispersed pieces of it amongst the great gathering, noting faces and names, recalling events that bound each one to another; a king reminding his subjects of their unity.
The final gift to the King came from the wizard Merlin and was recognised by the small circle from their last encounter with the enigmatic druid. Calling all to witness, he declared Uther to be the finest king in the land, and the great hope for all of Britain, before offering up to him the sword Excalibur. Sir Brychan who perhaps little known to his comrades was something of a student of faerie lore recognised the blade and its mystic significance, even as all in the hall felt King Uther take up the blade. It echoed down to their very souls, and as he raised up the sword and promised a swift end to his enemies, the hearts of his lords (and the circle of vassal-knights in their corner) were lifted along with the shining symbol. Recognising Merlin as the source of this sword and his determination to do the best he could for Britain, some of the young knights pledged to themselves that they would aid him, however he should call upon them.
This call was not long in coming, for even as he offered up the sword the wizard recalled those who had aided them, and asked that Earl Rodderick select a tale-teller, so that all might hear of the quest. Sir Uaine stepped forward once more, and told again the tale of the bands short journey into that other world, the foe they faced, and the sword they recovered. The Druid stepped in once more, telling the enraptured court more of the ancient and powerful blade in a masterful display of oratory. He ended his speech with another word for the earl – that these knights, young as they were, should be given his leave to serve the kingdom as they saw fit; that mighty deeds would follow and many more tales would be told of them in their service to Britain.
A full twelve days of feasting followed, course after course, dishes familiar and foreign to the now much remarked upon knights. At last, the long feast came to a close, with no one the worse for the overeating and the consumption of vast quantities of wine and ale.
Before departing, Sir Uaine spoke a final time to Sir Ricus regarding the poison plot which had boiled beneath the surface of the court. With nothing but supposition and rumour to look upon, there was nothing further to be done. In any case, no one present had fallen ill; at least not from deathcap poisoning.