The Long March To St Albans
Early in the year, before the winter hail and sleet had fully passed by, word was sent that the king would hold court at Sarum this year. The unseemly late notice of the change in venue no doubt due to the ravages of the Saxons, under the recently escaped kings Octa & Eossa.
Our squadron of Knights arrive at court in plenty of time to witness the Arrival of the Royal retinue. The king is not much in evidence, though a richly decorated wagon is surly for the Queen… murmurs arise when the Queen dismounts from her horse to receive the Welcome of the Earl, and what can only be the Kings bed, presumably with the king safely ensconced behind curtains that cover it, is carried into the fortified house at the centre of Sarum.
It is soon apparent the King is too ill to administer the court at this time, and Queen Ygraine heads up the court on her husband’s behalf.
Sarum is awash with knights from all over Logres, and even further afield. Several Cornish Knights, loyal to the Queen from her days as the Duchess of Cornwall, make a concerted effort to confront the various knights of Salisbury.
Sir Saravinus is too wily a battle leader to engage in the obvious attempts to belittle him, and walked away from the insults and challenge of Sir Heulog of Cornwall. Strategically wise no doubt, but doing little for the personal reputation of the new lord of Branch & Dole.
Sir Cymrig, on the other hand, was caught In flagrante delicto with the wife of Sir Deraiog of Cornwall in the great hall on the first day of feasting! Sir Deraig immediately demanded satisfaction for the offence, and declared before God that that Sir Cymrig was a false knight and to be put to the death for adultery with a noble lady. Enraged at the slur (!) the Knight of Epona declared in the name of his Goddess that ‘lady’ was no lady and had demanded his services, and before Epona and all other Gods declared Sir Deraiog impotent, infertile and all of his children bastards!
Taking a little time to don armour, the two men settled to decide the issue by Gods will in trial by combat. It was a mighty duel, with blow traded for blow, first one good knight knocked to the ground, only to bound back to his feet and returns the buffet in as good a measure. In the end however the Gods bore witness to the justice of Sir Cymrig Kellens claim, and the knight of Cornwall was laid low with a blow of the most hideous ferocity… Sir Cymrig paused and looked with horror on the ruin he had wrought in his anger.
With the Judgement of the Gods clearly evident, the Royal court had no recourse but to declare the sons and daughters of the now Dead Sir Deraiog illegitimate, and to disgrace the lady who had been his wife. Sir Cymrig, riddled with guilt, took the destitute woman into his care, and made her a ladies maid to his concubine.
Sir Alain the Staunch, by virtue of his reputation and the love of his brother knights that were embroiled in the fall of Merlin from the kings grace, seemed immune from the intrigues at court this year.
Sir Gerin was his usual ebullient self, and was able to turn the drunken insults of Sir Llew of Cornwall to his own advantage, foregoing the chance to dance the blades, and instead demanding a true dance in the court to decide matters! Perhaps because the Lord of Stappleford was so hospitable a companion or perhaps because the Cornish knight seeking to entrap the diminutive knight had grossly underestimated Sir Gerins capacity for drink (and simultaneously over estimating his own!) Sir Llew found himself accepting the challenge to dance the courtly dances to establish who the better knight was. Sir Gerin the ever graceful of course was victorious, helped in no small part by the obvious inability to stand properly of Sir Llew.
The next few days at court are unusually quiet, as all are shocked at the violence bubbling beneath the surface at court, and all cowed by the suppressed rage of the queen; whose plans for vengeance had so obviously failed.
A few days later, the king still stricken to his sick bed, riders came to court with fearful news – The Saxons had taken St Albans! Disregarding his own comfort, the king immediately gave the order to have himself placed back in the wagon, and the armies of Logres marched north.
The pace set was brutal and royal court and armies made it to Andover and Levcomgus that same day.
The Shrike of Lincoln wasted no time seeking out the Champion of Salisbury, Sir Jarad. The loyal man made a fair effort to keep his calm, and refuse to rise to the bait of the outrages committed against the Countess of Salisbury by the Lord of Levcomagus all those years ago… but the wily Sir Saravinus fixed the Earls Champion in the eye, and asked him, “the kings court never comes to Levcomagus, and My Lord Ulfius of Silchester is always keen to keep us away from his steward at other courts; if the these stories of the brutality visited on our dear lady Ellen are true, and we both know they are, when will you ever again have the opportunity to prove it before God, and exact her just revenge on the man who brutalised her?”
His resolve to maintain the peace at the kings travelling court was quickly shattered and the mighty Sir Jarad strode out from their barracks screaming for justice from Gadwick of Levcomagus. Sir Elad, ever vigilant was quickly on the scene, and pleaded with his son to withdraw his challenge.
At the steps leading up to the great hall, Sir Jarad called once again for Gadwick to show himself. The Steward of Levcomagus stalked out into the fire lit courtyard. His voice clear for all to hear, the Champion of Salisbury spoke:
“I declare to all here present that Sir Gadwick of Levcomagus is a false knight! He abducted a noble lady, the countess of Salisbury, on the eve of her wedding, conducted a sham wedding for himself, and then abused the fair lady in a most vile fashion, beating her like an animal before degrading her still further. Let him be declared an outlaw, and be stripped of all titles for him and his family”
The steward of Levcomagus was confronted by his eldest son, Sir Blaise, begging to represent his father in the trial by combat, but Gadwick declined; “I could not bear to lose my honour and son in the same day” said he.
Sir Gadwick made his counter statement. “I declare that the Lady Ellen was promised me since our childhood, and the marriage ritual we had that night was valid and performed in accordance with all laws of God and man! The good lady is my rightful wife: Earl Rodderick is a kidnapper who has taken what is rightfully mine!”
With no more ceremony than that the Steward launched a fearsome attack at the doughty Sir Jarad, but few men can stand against his blade for long. The truth of the claims was quickly proved by the cooling body of the Silchester man.
Once again the shocking violence of the duel seemed to stun all present, except perhaps for lord of Branch of Dole, who seemed quite content with events.
The Queen, who had stepped outside to witness the duel, declared the judgement – With Sir Gadwick proven guilty, all lands were to be removed from his family, and the stewardship of Levcomagus would pass to Sir Cecily deDepeden.
Sir Blaise, now a landless knight of Levcomagus, knew full well where to place the blame for his families fall. As he carried his dead father’s body out of the fortifications he turned and confronted Sir Saravinus.
“This is not over Shrike; as long as I live this will never be over…”
It seems the Family Arrilius has created yet another feud with the families of Levcomagus.
There is no time for further intrigue or recriminations however, the Armies of Logres are all to assemble at Silchester, and it is another long days ride the next day. Incredibly the 40 leagues from Sarum to St Albans is covered in six days, though the pace proved brutal, with several horses pulling up lame along the way.
Late in the evening of the sixth day, the king’s forces approach their target, and as the vanguard crests Prea Hill, the king is seen mounted on his horse! Good King Uther has recovered his strength in time for the battle.
At the edge of the woods, it soon seen that the gates of the city stand fully open; and the King wastes no time in ordering the vanguard to advance and take the gates before the Saxons can secure their fortification.
Fully a third of the Armies knights charge forward, the remainder either not hearing the order to attack, or perhaps preoccupied by some other issue that delays them. Sir Alain DeChalons is at the head of that charge, and fine horseman and a brave heart that shrugs aside arrows of the enemy.
Sir Gerin too was in that charge, but forced to ride sumpter due the fatigue accrued on his other mounts in the force marched of the last 6 days. Desperate to join the battle, Sir Gerin is at first thrilled to see Sir Alain and the others enter the gates before they can close, and then quickly horrified to see those same gates start to close like the maw of some great beast. Inexorably closing shut, despite the mass of men and horse flesh attempting to keep them open.
The bantam like knight of Stapleford refused to give up: Hearing the sounds of battle inside the town, and refusing to retreat, Sir Gerin left behind his stricken horse, and raised his shield to weather the arrow storm as he advanced alone on the Town of St Albans. Once at the walls he wasted no time in taking advantage of the cover of darkness to find a place to scale the walls with no support other than his squire.
In no time the pair were atop the wall, but found them fully manned! Saxon archers and spearmen were stationed every few feet along the entire length of the defences. Once again the truncated knight would not back down, and witnessing the terrible slaughter taking place inside the gates he was filled with rage and furious vigour to free his fellow Cymri and open the gates for the king. Many Saxons were forced to lay the length of their spear that night, as Sir Gerin and his squire both seemed possessed by the goddess of battle and death. The Saxon hoard could not best him. Champion after champion stepped forward, and each was returned to the Saxon hell he came from. At last, in desperation, the Saxons threw themselves bodily on the viperously fast blade of their opponent, and by sheer weight of their dying bodies bore him to the ground and subdued him. Meanwhile, in the gateway of the city, the flower of Logres died like pigs in a slaughter house… and the remainder of the armies of Logres wept at the sounds of death in the darkness as they held their ground in Prea Woods.