Dashing in with weapons at the ready, Sir Saravinus Arilius and Sir Tomas confront the giant. In a rare moment of inspiration, the towering brute glances at the struggling and slightly crushed goat in its huge paw and hurls it with great force at the charging knights. Sir Tomas already fully committed to his charge braces as best he can, but the giants throw is as lucky as it is forceful, and he is swept from his saddle and knocked unconscious by the terrific impact.
Rushing in, Sir Saravinus Arilius lunges at the giant, stabbing deep with his lance before wheeling clear and calling for a fresh weapon. Cresting the hill at that very moment the pursuing knights get their first sight of the combat already under way, and as a disciplined unit quickly shake off their surprise and spur into action. Fanning out to overwhelm the giant with targets, they circle, each looking for an opening as the giant roars out its defiance.
On the road, the strange old goatherd tires of Sir Uaine’s gaze and declares “that sounds like fun. Lets see whats happening, eh?” and strides off across the hillside. Mounted as he is, the knight cannot keep pace as the old man takes the hillside yards at a time – literally. single paces carrying him dozens of feet and bringing him into view of the ongoing fight well ahead of the madly chasing Sir Uaine.
The knights circling the 16 foot monster wheel and charge in turn, variously spearing in or shattering their lances, with Sir Hector Primus taking a colossal blow from the tree trunk club the creature is wielding. It is the most recently knighted Sir Saravinus Arilius who strikes the fatal blow, skewering the beast clean through, and gripping his lance so tightly he can feel its final faltering heartbeats as it expires.
Striding down the slope, the old man applauds the victorious knights, and finally lets his disguise fall. He is revealed to all as Merlin, though the high-tempered rashness of Sir Uaine almost brings trouble down on him, as his anger at the deception leads him to lunge at the defender of Britain, who casually steps aside, descending many more feet down hill to stop beside the fallen Sir Tomas. Calling for his magic, he soothes the wounds of the band and announces that they have passed his test, and he will need their company to assist in a task vital to Britain.
With Sir Haeredoc the Red restraining his brother, the group agree, and remounting their horses and gathering their squires about them they follow Merlin away into the nearby woods. In a glade far out of sight of the dike they had been patrolling a curious pair of intertwined trees – a willow and an oak, offer passage through into what the brothers of Newton Tony identify as The Other World, the mystic half-legendary realm where the fae folk roam. Leaving their horses behind and with a few of their number pausing to belt on armour, the group follows through once more in the wizards’ wake.
Striding off, Merlin informs the knights that he has a task here, and the knights must protect him while he completes it. Their challenge, a dreadful apparition which seems born from a swamp. Four armed and astride a huge horse, the sickly greenish thing carries with it the reek of rotten things, and slowly advances from its concealment amongst a nearby copse of trees. As Merlin strides off leaving the knights to engage this foe, the warriors quickly seperate into two groups; Sir Hector Primus, Sir Brennan Emrys Kellen, Sir Haeredoc the Red and Sir Uaine advancing to meet the creature and Sir Tomas Sir Brychan Eurion and Sir Saravinus Arilius forming a reserve.
The four armed and mounted thing has a great advantage in height and makes good use of it, felling one of the four knights it faces and gravely wounding two more. Sir Tomas steps in to fill the gap, but as Sir Brychan Eurion begins to move in to hold the line the beast is felled. Fearful for his brothers safety and driven to great anger by the tearing wound he as has suffered, Sir Haeredoc the Red launched himself at horse and rider, spearing down with his sword and piercing both. The whole agglomeration of rider and ridden collapses to the ground, dissolving away into water and half rotted plants.
Taken aback by the sudden victory, the knights nontheless quickly rally and while Sir Tomas and Sir Saravinus Arilius race off in Merlins wake to be sure the wizard is still defended, Sir Brychan Eurion and Sir Uaine do their best to patch up the wounded, ensuring that while they may not be comfortable, they will at the least live. Leaving the sorry trio to their discomfort for a short while longer, the pair set off quickly after their brother knights and arrive just in time to view the object of Merlins journey.
Far out in a lake and surrounded all about by mists the wizard stands alone in a small boat. From the water nearby rises a womans arm, bearing aloft a sword the likes of which mortal men could scarce believe.
Carefully receiving the sword, Merlin tucked it securely away, and without oar or wind the boat turned and brought him back to shore. Without acknowledging his knightly protectors, the wizard strode by and headed directly for the portal which had brought them into this land. Shrugging aside the restraining grip of Sir Uaine the enigmatic druid spoke not a word, passing the gravely wounded knights without a glance. Hurrying along in his wake and with Uaines anger once again simmering, the least wounded gathered up the most wounded and hastened to leave the fae landscape before they became trapped their.
Once safely back in the woods of Logres, the knights were startled to learn their journey of a mere hour or two had taken more than a day to pass in the little glade where their squires had counted the time. More startling still was the discovery that Merlin, mere steps ahead of them, was already gone from the scene. Search as they might, they found only a single footprint to mark his going.
With their leader sorely wounded, it fell to Sir Uaine to issue the order to march and this he did, directing them to make for Upavon, where the injured could be properly treated and rest taken without the vagaries of the road. In Upavon, despite the impatient urgings of Sir Tomas it was several days before Sir Hector Primus was in a sound enough state to consider issuing orders. With the ungentle urging of Sir Brychan Eurion to rest further against the possibility of reopening their serious wounds, the troubled knight visited the nearby Kinstone, a holy site in pagan eyes, while the restless Tomas sought a chance to be useful, and offered his services to Sir Howarth the lord of the hundred, and passes his time training the younger squires in the use of a spear.
Sir Hector Primus, praying at the Kinstone is offered a few words of sage advice by a strange woman, beauteous of aspect but somehow disturbing of presence, who cautions against rushing off without considering his duty to his command; wounded knights will distract their fellows and with their attention divided, even the simplest of fights could cause unneeded deaths. Accepting the advice, he determines they will wait some few weeks while his and the other injured parties heal, and the solstice celebrations pass by. The Kinstone is well enough attended during the rites, but lacking the majesty of Stonehenge, the event seems somewhat hollow to those in attendance.
Despite the excitement and stirs of their years duty thus far, the remainder of the groups patrol passes with little event, and some time later they find themselves once again in the presence of Earl Rodderick to give their report. With some dissension in the ranks as to who should tell this tale, the earl offers his court some entertainment; Sir Hector Primus and Sir Uaine will wrestle, and beginning with the winner, each in turn would tell the tale of their patrol, the defeat of the giant, and their short but death-defying journey at the side of the arch-druid Merlin.
After much struggling, Sir Hector Primus emerged as the better wrestler, but the more woeful of the speakers. Sir Uaines masterful account of the adventure was met by greater cheers than the wrestling, and Earl Rodderick was faced with a difficult choice. Choosing the most diplomatic response which would please neither the crowd nor Uaine but would spare the authority of Hector, the earl declared the tale well told, and the matter settled in an honourable draw. This was greeted by shock and outcries from the watching crowd, but the matter was at the least closed for now.
At this point, eagle eyed Sir Tomas spotted a particular woman, who he had a need to confront over matters of grave import. Calling her out before his liege-lord, he accused the woman of bearing false witness, attempting to usurp lands rightfully his by birth. She in turn accused his father of unfaithfulness and asserted that her own child should rule. Stepping forward, the Earl himself supported Tomas, calling the woman a liar and troublemaker besides. Calling for a duel of honour and looking about for a champion for the woman, no man in the room would rise and take up her cause. Seeing this, the earl set the woman to trial by ordeal. Deeply apprehensive as the iron bar was heated, the woman felt the barest touch of its fire before dropping the rod with a cry and proving her dishonesty. Calling for her tongue to be struck out to put an end to her lying, the Earl called the matter to a close, but Sir Tomas ever ready to forgive those who sinned humbly asked the earl to offer leniency. Although he clearly doubted the womans ability to restrain her tongue, the earl offered the earnest knight a chance to save her tongue, provided he reached the woman before the punishment was carried out. In the nick of time Tomas halted the gruesome punishment, and called of the woman to repent, in the strongest terms, before leaving her bewildered but grateful to return to his lords presence.
News from the rest of Britain has arrived back at court, with the return of Earl Rodderick to Sarum. Prince Madoc has led a force to harry the Saxon forces of King Aelle around Colchester, mean while the up start Saxon King Aethelswith will face the combined might of Duke Duke Lucius and the forces of Salisbury this summer.
Hopes are high at first, but it is not long before news of a resounding defeat on both fronts trickles back to Sarum. Prince Madoc has been forced to flee the field, and the rag tag remnants of the Salisbury northern expeditionary force comes home, trialed by refugees from the areas east of Lincoln. The news from the north is grim indeed, Duke Lucius is dead, and only the rapid intervention of a relief force led by Sir Brastias has stemmed the Saxon advance in the north and east this year.
Perhaps the presence of the Kings court at Sarum will be a welcome diversion from the worries that beset Earl Rodderick this year.