Early in the year, the assembled knights of the court are summoned – the time for grieving is not over, but there is no time to wallow in despair.
The young Earl plays in his father’s throne, and the Countess is very aware that his time in that throne depends entirely on the will of those lords of hundreds, and the knights that serve them.
The matter of Chalke must be settled at long last, no longer can it remain a vacant seat, whether Lord Ursal and Sir Brychan live or not!
And the high seat of Kinwardstone stands empty, Sir Howarth having died on the field at St Albans. The high seat of Wardour also is empty, with Marshal Elad killed by Poison, also at St Albans.
The horse trading, threats and promises at court that follow in the next few days are a sight to behold, and the eventual upshot is that Sir Gwedlar of Forde became lord of the hundred of Kinwardstone, Sir Emir of the Fords has become Lord of the hundred Chalk and our own dear knight, Sir Gerin the defiant, has been given the exceptional honour of holding in trust the lands of Alderbury for the young Earl Robert until such time as he reaches his majority.
It was interesting to see how Sir Herbert of Testside seemed to be the main power broker over the days and hours of intrigue, despite the best efforts of Lady Ineg, Sir Pedre and Sir Ganis. On several occasions it was the promise of military support for Testside that most often won the vote.
The highest honours of all went to Sir Jarad. He retains his title as champion of Salisbury, and is also elevated to all of the titles previously earned by his father (Marshal of Salisbury, Castilian of castle Vagon and Lord of the Hundred of Wardour). One must assume that the Countess was well pleased with his most recent service of killing Sir Gadwick of Levcomagus! Though the weight of the honours lies heavily on the Champion.
These new arrangements suit most of those assembled very well, with Sir Saravinus Arilius being the first of the lords of the hundred to declare publicly his support for Salisbury, the Lady Ellen and her young son. Most of the other lords and knights assembled quickly followed suit, though Sir Ganis, Sir Pedre, Sir Herbert and Sir Hewal were noticeable by the absence when it came time to declare their loyalty.
Having settled the order of precedence once more, the Countess calls on her newly appointed Chamberlin, Bishop Rodger, to brief the assembled lords on the state of the counties purse. He reports there are some £326 in readily disposable goods and coins in the treasury. Additionally he mentions finding written agreements and plans with the Masons of London to build both a city wall and a keep for Sarum. It seems the earl had been saving towards this goal for many years. Lady Ellen takes council from those assembled, who all (eventually) agree to the plan to improve the defences of Sarum. All present hope it is not too late to start the work, a fear that is compounded when a newly raised herald of the court staggers into the room and cries out breathlessly “To Arms, to Arms, an army approaches!”
The fortified hall is sent into turmoil as the gathered members of the spring court ready their defences. Fortunately Sir Gerin and Sir Saravnaius both recognise the advancing cohort of men as being Sir Brastias, and the remainder of the king’s body guard. After assurances of peace have been exchanged, the loyal Kings Men are welcomed into Sarum.
It soon transpires that Brastias is searching for tales of the missing heir that was abducted by Merlin and also pursues rumours of an illegitimate son from the Crown Prince Madoc somewhere in the Forrest Sauvage. Sir Gerin councils caution, as an illegitimate son of the bastard prince would be a doubly tainted, and also the abducted child is likely to be tainted by the vile magics of the traitor Merlin. But Sir Brastias and his men will not be swayed from their determination to locate, serve and (if possible) crown the last of the Pendragon line in the hope of uniting the kingdom once more.
Before taking his leave he gladly offers his services to knight those squires who are ready for promotion, as he retains the right from the King as his former champion. After having done so he departs once more, seeking news of the Pendragon blood. The next few days pass as the assembled knights and lords consider the need for future knighting ceremonies and how to keep the legitimacy of their bestowed titles. They also consider sadly the weakened state of the armies of Salisbury when the newly raised herald of the court staggers into the room and cries out breathlessly “To Arms, to Arms, an army approaches!”
Once again the defences are set, and a group of knights and their forces approach the city. The eldest of the knights present recognise their visitors, primarily through their friendships with Sir Began and Sir Cly. This is no army, rather a body guard for the recently widowed Duchess Sian of Rydychan.
Lady Ellen orders the gates thrown open to welcome her dear friend. The court of Ruddychan stays only a short while, just long enough to negotiate a mutual defence pact between Ryddychan and Salisbury; whereby a minimum pledge of five landed knights, with all their forces, will be sent for mutual defence should the request ever arrive. The Lady Sian is greatly relieved to know that in these times of trouble Ryddychan can still count on the loyalty of Salisbury. She tarries no longer than essential, obviously intent on making similar treaties with her other neighbours as quickly as possible.
Inspired by the wisdom of their northern neighbour, the assembled knights council the duchess to send out heralds to offer similar terms to their nearest neighbours, Jagnet, Somerset, Silchester and Hampshire. The herlads had not long departed, when the newly raised herald of the court staggers into the room and cries out breathlessly “To Arms, to Arms, an army approaches!”.
Less inclined to panic this time; the team go once more the wooden palisades to inspect this ‘army’ only to see Saxons! Though admittedly only 8 or so of them. The leader of the Saxons bears the branch of peace above his head, and a shouted exchange takes place between the two groups. It is eventually agreed the Saxon herald may enter the city, but the rest remain outside the walls.
It seems the Saxon emissary is one Aethling Aescwine; a prince of the East Saxons, son of King Aethelswith. His manor is haughty, rude and belligerent. The proud princeling announces that he is here to claim the tribute of Salisbury! What’s more he demands 100 Librum, and an equal number of cattle from each of the counties in the newly subjugated nation of Logres. Our squadron of knights were quite vocal in their response, and dismissive of threatened Saxon attacks from the east. They point out they kill Saxons for fun, and that Logres is far from ‘subjugated’. The disgruntled Aethling storms off to inform his father of their refusal, seemingly unaware of how close to death he had come despite the rules of hospitality.
The next few days are relatively undisturbed until the newly raised herald of the court staggers into the room and cries out breathlessly “To Arms, to Arms, an army approaches!”
A few quizzical eyebrows are raised, and our valiant knights saunter to the gates of the great hall.
Outside are two disheveled looking knights of Hampshire. They are quickly changing horses, and waste no time in relaying their message – Hampshire is under attack! A Saxon horde has landed in the south, and they ride across the lands seeking aid. Sir Jarad takes advice from those knights assembled, and asks permission of Lady Ellen to summon the mounted troops, and have the footmen follow on afterwards.
Over the next two days the mounted might of Salisbury is gathered, and on the dawn of the third day they waste no time in heading for the Lands of Hampshire. As they advance towards the capital of Hantonne, they are greeted by a weary and bedraggled line of refugees – the new sis i grim indeed. Sir Olivier disparages the words of fleeing peasants and urges out squadron of knights to lot hope, and to press on for the relief of Hantonne – after all, there is no way mere Saxons could take the city so quickly!
As they draw closer to the city, with smoke clearly rising in the distance, they are hailed by an odd band of knights. Their accents are strange, and they wear Saxon weapons, but they ride like any true born knight of the Cymric, and on fine Chargers no less. They carry the Branch of peace, and the Salisbury relief force offer to parley.
It seems that Hampshire has indeed fallen, and this band on patrol are led by none other than Prince Cyrnic, son of the Saxon King Cerdic. With sinking hearts a delegation is sent to talk to this new ‘king’ and a great surprise it is. It seems this Cerdic is the same Ccerdic who was the son of King Vortigern! What is more he claims to have returned to Logres to claim what is ‘rightfully his’ and to reunite all of Logres and the peoples of Briton. The rest of his entourage seem distinctly Saxon in their ways, fashion and speech; but all of them claim to be members of the Gwessii tribe, and talk of themselves as being Cymric (despite their tall stature, blond hair and inability to pronounce the letters ‘w’ and ‘s’ correctly.
King Cerdic extends a welcome to our knights, and offers them the opportunity to return for the Yuletide feast late this year. He also makes it plain he expects the county of Salisbury to accept him as overlord, or run the risk of suffering the same fate as the Lords of Hantonne and Hampshire – many of whom currently decorate the city walls with a rope around their necks.
With sombre thoughts, and grudging respect for the plain speaking Saxon King, our knights return to give the countess their dire news.
the story continues in Scars, Duels and Deaths