Blood on the decks
The sea claims its tithe
As the ships sailed away from the burning wreckage of saxon hulls, The knights solemnly performed their final duty for Sir Brennan and gave him up to the sea, retaining his armour and weapons so his family might have some token of their lost one. The oarsmen bent to their rowing, and within hours the raiding fleet was positioned to strike at its next target.
Ships lay scattered along both banks with steep hills backing the beachs, thickly forested with narrow meandering paths leading down to the shore. By Sir Haeredoc the Reds command the knights from his boat lined up, almost shield to shield between the sailors going about their arson and the steep and heavily wooded slope that leads away toward the settlement. As the flames began to rise, an alert peasant raced toward the shore slopping water from a bucket before coming skidding to a halt at the sight of twenty armoured knights patiently standing guard. He at once fled in terror, and considering him to be little threat and with a great fiery beacon to warn nearby soldiers, the knights let him be.
It was some minutes later before saxons at last began to plunge down the hillside, the fires now crackling loudly and gouting smoke and heat as the timbers at last began to catch. With the wild yells of saxons before and the roaring of flames in his ears, something snapped within Sir Haeredoc the Red and he leapt away from the line, disregarding his own advice and running yelling into the woods, to all appearances fleeing the flames.
Embroiled in combat, his brother Sir Uaine was powerless to give chase, but with the fearsome intervention of Sir Hector Primus, whose axe carved a gory path through the saxon soldiery, Uaine was free to depart in pursuit of the madness-gripped Haeredoc. As Sir Hector continued his bloody work, Uaine lost track of his brother in the darkness of the densely packed wood, and as the calls went up that the work on the beach was done he reluctantly returned, only his duty calling him from the search. Even so, his brother knights are forced to haul him bodily into the boat before it pulls away once more. He settled into morose silence, brooding over the loss of his brother to the grips of madness so soon after Sir Brennan. Similar thoughts afflicted Sir Brychan who even ventured to ask the most scholarly of his fellows for his feelings. Sir Tomas replied that it was all a part of gods great plan, and that in embracing the true god, Brychans doubts might be properly eased. Soured by Tomas’s easy dismissal of his dark feelings of Fate, Brychan too retreated into silence as the fleet moves on once more.
With the dawning of the next day, the fleet made a foray up the Black River toward Maldon, creeping with care past scattered saxon villages along the way which might give the alarm. As the ships neared their destination a brief moment of concern arose as outlying ships ground to a halt, caught on an unseen sandbank. Careful steersmanship saw the remaining vessels past, and soon the raiders caught sight of their next targets. Pulled up on a sand bar well out in the river, the distinct shapes of boats could be made out against the sky. Hauling their own boats up, the knights and armsmen of the fleet spread out cautiously, wary that this easy strike might be a trap. As the sailors set to their burning, it dawned upon the group that the ships they could see were ruined hulks, never likely to set out upon the water again even without the application of pitch and torches. More nervous and cautious than ever, the knights held their places until the work was done and all could return to the safety of their ships. It was not until the flotilla was returning back the way it had approached that the saxons made their move – two pincers of ships fully crewed and manned by battle ready soldiery leapt from tributaries and attempted to snare the raiders before they could manouver clear. The war-boats, laden with Cymric knights, turned to face the oncoming saxons to buy time for those less defended to flee.
The saxon warriors leapt deck to deck in an effort to reach the stranded and isolated ships including that under the command of Sir Uaine. With shields raised, the knights held out as best they could, buying time with every blow they took for the rest of the ships to break clear. Sir Hector once more plied his axe, only to discover that in the cramped confines of the boat, and outnumbered by marauding saxons, his fearsome skills were overmatched, and he was wounded and knocked to the deck by sword and spear. Clumsy in their eagerness, several of the attacking saxons lost weaponry to the rippling waters all around which forced the circle to fight where they stood, with no room to manouver and cover their brothers backs. Sir Uaine and then Sir Saravinus were felled, and Sir Brychan Eurion was on the verge of following them when a sudden surge of reinforcements spared them all.
After circling his ships round wide, Prince Madoc had pressed in and cut off a swathe of the saxon shipping, forcing them to retreat to shore even as he cut his way from deck to deck. With a brief bit of healing, Sir Hector regained his feet once more, and as Madoc called for an attack on the saxons now on shore, he and Sir Brychan raised their voices in a cheer and rallied to the princes banner.
In the fierce fighting that followed, Sir Hector tackled a wolf-pelted berserker, who shrugged off the slashing of Hectors axe and struck him down once more before stepping away to engage another of the princes hastily assembled forces. Wearied by a long days fighting, Sir Brychan was kept at bay by the long spear of his opponent, before a common man at arms circled the fight and unceremoniously skewered the spearman upon his dagger. With the beach now secure and the saxons put to flight, the battered knights reboarded their ships and made sail for Yarmouth, and a well earned rest out of the smoke.
At Yarmouth, a great camp was set up as the knights took their ease. Thanks to the courtesy and hospitality of Duke Corneus, the more seriously wounded were being attended to with due care, restoring the circle to some semblance of fighting form. Two weeks of rest did wonders for the more injured, and another week beyond that was promised.
That promise was not to be kept however, for sweeping up the Wash came a saxon fleet, enough ships to land a harrying force far inland. Rushing once more to their ship, the knights nontheless took time to don armour, expecting the fighting to be close and bloody once more. At Sir Uaine’s command, the more tactical Sir Saravinus was called upon to suggest a target, and with a dreadful intensity in his gaze, he pointed toward a group of ships at the forefront of the saxon armada, where figures clad in wolf pelts shouted and gestured over the water. Calling on the captain to make for the Fenrisget, Uaine peered at the ships to select the most likely target until in a shock of recognition Sir Brychan spotted a familiar weapon brandished in hated saxon hands – the Spear of Chalke, carried into battle by Sir Leolinus and lost with him at the battle of Mearcred Creek. Calling to Uaine, Brychan gestured at the figure even as the saxons began a chant. “Leofwine! Leofwine! Leofwine!”
The ship the circle had elected to attack contained none other than Leofwine Fenrisget, champion of the clan to which the terrifying saxon beserkers gave allegiance. Not daunted by the name echoing over the waves, Sir Hector Primus raised his own song, a composition dating from Mearcred Creek when the band had last faced the saxons. Spurred by his show of contempt, the knights joined in the raucous song and gave voice to their hatred for the warriors coming ever closer under the slap and boom of canvas and oar.
With the Chalke Spear so close at hand Sir Brychan wasted no time, leaping forward to engage the mighty Leofwine in single combat as his comrades fell upon the fenrisget who filled the ships complement. Hewing single mindedly, Sir Brychan somehow overwhelmed the veteran warrior and with two mighty blows felled the fabled champion of the clan. In a last defiant gesture, Leofwine hurled the spear of chalke towards the waiting sea, and only a desperate catch on Brychans part saved the weapon.
Across the boat the emboldened knights smashed into the Fenrisget, killing several before the fighting of the last few weeks began to tell. Sir Uaine and then Sir Hector Primus, both still injured from the Maldon raid; were felled by raging berserkers, one of whom collapsed even as he put an end to the towering Sir Hector. Nearby, a squire no doubt soon to earn his knighthood had surged into the fight, laying about furiously and slaying a fenrisget single handed. As the blood spurted and stained the wood of the ships, the two fleets separated, the saxons went about and fled the way they had come, leaving a ghastly butchers bill on both sides. Still standing proud over the body of Leofwine, Sir Brychan Eurion clutched the Chalke Spear in one hand, and the captured standard of the fallen champion of the fenrisget in the other.