Easter Court and the Feast of the Sword
It has pleased King Uther to hold the Easter Court at Sarum this year. The weeks before Easter there is a lot of activity in and around Sarum. A few days before Easter the people start to gather from around the kingdoms. In the end the complete retinue of Uther is present, and a whole week full of feasting commences.
At various times, gifts are given. All goes well, with the servants first getting gifts from the earl, then the knights (so that the player knights who are bachelors get their annual clothing and so on). The earl then gives his household officers presents, and then his own family members get their gifts.
The king next does the same for his household, knights, and officers. Finally, he gives his son a new set of armor and a generous grant of several manors of land on the Thames, and also the holding of Windsor Castle. This is a huge gift, but not unusual for royalty, who have many expenses.
Among the earls, Roderick gives Uther a beautiful cloak trimmed with the fur of white bears, imported from Norway. The dukes all have gifts to better that. Finally, Prince Madoc calls in his men, and ten retainers come forth carrying special stretcher-like frames to bear large treasure. They place them in a semicircle and, on the prince’s signal, open them all at once. All contain booty from the war: A chest of silver coin, another of gold; one of goblets and plates, another of jewelry; one of silver and gold, one of red and purple jewels; another of bolts of silk and samite, others of gold cloth and silver thread. Prince Madoc then unrolls a cloth as if it was a carpet. Everyone sees that it is a battle standard taken from a dead Saxon chief. The king descends, walking upon it, to admire the goods.
He then takes various things and fondly hands them over to his lords, pressing goblets, jewelry, and a bolt of silk upon one; a massive gold necklace and a book upon another; and so on, seeming to know the right gift for each man. Then handsful of silver for his knights, and a fistful for each visiting knight. (all knights present receive 1 libra worth of coin and/or silver jewellery).
During the feast Dalan remains relatively sober to keep his chances with Elaine in check. Lucas on the other hand quickly succumbs to the effects of drink. Tristan also drinks quite a lot, but still remains more or less coherent.
The Greatest Gift of All
When the giving of gifts has finally come to an end, a herald hurries into the great hall to announce a guest “Presenting the great wizard Merlin, the Guardian of Britain!” he says, just in time as the impatient mage enters the hall. He looks neither right nor left, but strides to the front, where King Uther sits on the earl’s throne.
“Welcome, Merlin, to these halls,” the king says. “You are always welcome in my court.” Merlin thanks the king, and speaks in a loud, clear voice. “Gold and silver, clothing from far distant lands; these are surely gifts worthy of a king. Yet you, Uther, deserve more, for surely no one in the world has ever sat as high as you, not even the emperors of Rome.” Uther is clearly flattered. “Yet, even you lack one thing.” The king frowns, the room murmurs. “Such a great man deserves nothing but the best, and he who would bring peace to the whole of our great land deserves all that would help him to obtain it. And so I, your humble servant, am pleased to offer you, from my weak hands, this.” And he pulls from beneath his robes a gleaming sword whose own internal light causes everyone to gasp in delight and wonder. A sword that Dalan recognizes (Lucas would have too, but his cup of ale was more interesting to him at this point)
Even the king is surprised and stands up. Merlin takes the sword by its point, his hands covered by his robe so as not to tarnish the blade, and extends the pommel to the king. “For the High King,” says Merlin, and with a loud triumphant statement, “Excalibur, the Sword of Victory!”
Everyone in the room gasps aloud, and when the king takes the sword they break into applause and cheer. It is clear that the king is highly pleased. “Surely, now,” he says, “no one can stand before me.”
“All you need do,” says Merlin, “is to remain just.”
King Uther holds the gleaming sword and stares at it in wonder. “Now I’m prepared to visit some friends of mine.” Ulfius, at a table nearby, chuckles. Uther names the nobles who will accompany him to visit Duke Lindsey, and among them is the Earl of Salisbury. “This is cause to celebrate then,” says Uther. “Bring forth the tables, and make a place at my right hand for Merlin, whose wisdom and truth guides our good land.” “Thank you, Lord,” says the magician.
Then, in honor of this moment and in honor of Merlin, the feast continues with renewed vigor. More food and drink is brought in. Merlin looks at Roderick and points at Dalan and Lucas: “These are a couple of knights you will have to keep an eye on, they are capable of great deeds” Everyone looks at the two knights so specifically praised by Merlin. (Dalan and Lucas each gain +50 Glory)
“I hate it when the king comes here! Everyone gets moved around… After a hard day of work I can hardly even remember where I am supposed to sleep!”
“Not me. I am glad to have him and his army here. Who knows what those Saxons are going to do next! They’re all over the place! The eastern lands have been devastated by the wars there.”
“Did you hear? The Praetor Syagrius went and visited the kings of Malahaut and Cornwall, but they turned him down flat. Too many Saxons and Irish on the island to leave their domains unprotected, they say.”
“Oh, by the way, where is that Merlin now?”
“Good riddance to that son of a devil, I say.”
And of course everyone wishes to hear the story of how Dalan and Lucas have helped with obtaining the sword. As Lucas is not capable of a coherent story, Dalan takes it upon himself to relate a somewhat embellished story of his adventures, almost neglecting to tell about the contribution of Lucas. (Dalan gains +10 Glory).
Dalliances and Discussions
At some point during the evening, Tristan seeks to make the most of his remaining time as a bachelor and engages in conversation with lady Becca, one of Sir Hyfaidd’s bastard daughters. His reputation and charming ways soon manage to convince the lady to retire to someplace quiet and more private. As Tristan leads her away from the feast, the pair catches the relentless eye of Tristan’s betrothed, lady Eryn, the betrothed of Tristan, her mouth twisting in annoyance. With lady Eryn now fully aware what to expect from her husband-to-be, Tristan can expect her intense stares to become even more so…
In the meantime, Dalan looks for Sir Amig to ask him for an audience with Earl Roderick. Not long after, Dalan is invited to join Roderick. Dalan again asks Roderick for the hand of Lady Elaine. With Merlin having praised him less than an hour ago in front of the King, his timing could not be any better, and Roderick seems to give Dalan’s request sincere thought. However, as he informs Dalan, Salisbury is still in the middle of negotiations for an alliance in which Elaine may be a part. “I cannot promise you anything this year, maybe next year. There still is a possibility.” Taking this answer at face value, Dalan asks whether there is something he can do to further his cause with Lady Elaine. “Try not to get her pregnant…” Roderick replies dryly, after which Dalan takes his leave, and returns to the hall to indulges in some more wine. Where he sees lady Elaine talking – and of course flirting – with Baron Duach. At the end of the evening, everyone finds a place in the great hall to sleep, even Roderick, as his quarters are given to the King.
The Coming Campaigns
During breakfast the next day the knights overhear prince Madoc telling that the King’s admiral is planning a raid along the coast to burn as many Saxon’s ships as possible and raid the settlements on the coast. They are seeking volunteers to take part in this endeavor. Duke Ulfius, at King Uther’s request, in turn instructs all nobles to meet up at Sarum four weeks after Pentecost with their knights, making sure their domain is left secure behind them and all enfoeffment obligations are met, while making sure they leave enough supplies and garrison in case of a siege. Lucas meanwhile overhears that the king and some nobles are making plans to invade Frankland, the country of the Franks.
At the same time as the naval campaign, the King intends to pay the Duke of Lindsey a visit to remind him of where his loyalties should lie. Duke Corneus Lindsey, 37 years of age, has been perceived as somewhat recalcitrant by the King, perhaps jealous of the appropriating of land by Uther. As a member of the High Collegium, Lindsey’s loyalty is all the more important to Uther. Also known as ‘the hammer of the church’, Corneus, like Uther, is no great fan of the church and may be useful to offset the barons of the robe in the Collegium.
Earl Roderick approaches the three knights. He addresses Lucas with respect to his sorry state the evening before, when he appeared to have a deep and meaningful conversation with his ale mug… The king has asked Roderick to accompany him to Duke Lindsey, but also to send men to participate in the naval campaign. Out of respect towards the knights Roderick asks them what their preference is. After a short deliberation they all three agree that they wish to join Roderick to on the road to Lindsey, on a diplomatic mission, pleased with the great honour to accompany Roderick and the king.
The Journey North, and Past Pleasures
The king travels north in a small company of knights, including Ulfius, Merlin as well as Roderick, the latter accompanied by Dalan, Tristan, Lucas and other knights of Salisbury with him. The journey North is smooth and mostly uneventful. That is, until the Royal entourage stays the night in Leir’s Castle, a town the Salisbury knights have also visited a few years ago. On the morning of their departure, Sir Canuc de Caerac, one of Uther’s thugs commonly known as ‘the Trio’ seeks out Tristan. “Last night I came across a fetching serving wench walking around with a toddler on her arm. She was asking around for a sir Tristan of Salisbury” he starts to Tristan’s unease. “Do you know anything about this?” Tristan tries to deny any connection with the woman, but the hot blush on his face betrays him. Sir Canuc laughs out loud: “Do not worry, I have taken good care of her last night, and I am sure she has forgotten all about you, since!” Still laughing, he rides off.
Arriving in the ancient Roman fortress town of Lindsey, the Royal entourage is received by the steward. Apologizing for the Duke, who is not at home at the moment, he expects the Duke’s return within the week. Clearly disappointed by this news, Uther announces that he will wait here for the return of the Duke, and some hunting will certainly make the time pass faster.
Tristan, Lucas and Dalan help drive the hunt, flushing out the game towards the king and the higher nobility accompanying him. It is Tristan who manages to finds a prize boar, causing it to run straight for duke Ulfius to kill. Ulfius takes notice of Tristan’s effort and thanks the knight (+5 Glory for Tristan)
Somewhat later Tristan and Dalan see at the far side of a clearing a deer, and a wolf stalking the deer. Dalan and Tristan signal to each other and remain silent. Lucas notices this exchange and remains silent as well, but fails to join the other two. Tristan and Dalan manage to separate the wolf from the rest of the his pack, which was lurking deeper between the trees, and once again it is Tristan who is seen leading the wolf towards the King, who dispatches it with ease (Tristan gains +10 Glory, Dalan gains +5 Glory)
That afternoon no more real hunting takes place. The company then returns and spends the night in the manor of one of the knights of Lindsey. The next day they return to Lincoln, only for the waiting to resume. Tristan and Lucas decide to practice their sword arm and eventually decide upon a duel until first blood. A small audience soon gathers and they start their fight. For a long time the two are evenly matched, but then Tristan missteps, and in his fall both loses his own sword and manages to get cut on Lucas’ blade. Seeing his fellow knight wounded – albeit lightly, Lucas quickly kneels by his side and bandages the cut.
Dalan in the meantime is looking for horse stock, and he finds a good mare (for the price of 2 libra) and a very impressive stallion (for the small sum of 10 libra this could be his). Dalan buys the mare, as his funds do not allow for the purchase of the stallion, regrettably. In the afternoon Dalan goes hunting again, but without success.
Corneus Returns, the Tale is Retold
The next day Duke Corneus returns home, and Uther goes outside to meet him. Duke Corneus welcomes him and invites him to a feast in his honor this evening. He then excuses himself, as he wants to refresh himself after a long journey. That evening there is a feast, which is grand enough to honor the king, but not exuberant. There is music and there are stories of heroes.
At one point Uther request that the story of the sword is told again. Dalan, inspired by his loyalty to Roderick, regales the audience with the story of the Sword in the Lake, pointedly refering to the intended bearer of the sword as High King Uther. Uther interrupts the story when Dalan gets to the point that the Lady of the Lake hands over the sword to Merlin, and he thanks Dalan. (+10 Glory to Dalan, +5 Glory to Lucas)
Uther asks Merlin about the ancient history of the sword, named Excalibur. When Merlin finishes his story, Uther draws the sword again, and again there is a soft glow emanating from the sword. Much impressed with the sword and the story, Lindsey’s attitude towards Uther is seen to change – later upon the evening Corneu and Uther are even seen in warm, friendly conversations. (All knights present gain +15 Glory) The next morning Uther wishes to invite all of the Nothern kings to Lindsey , and instructs for messengers to be sent. Roderick asks Dalan, Lucas and Tristan to ride to Malahaut and invite the Centurion King.
Returning to Malahaut
The three knights and their squires ride north the next morning. As Andreas, Tristan’s squire and the brother of Lucas, is still missing, Tristan has for this trip a 17 year old bastard son of Hyfiadd named Bevan, as a (temporary) squire. On the way to Eburacum they spend the night in various manors and farmsteads. When they arrive in the old city of Eburacum from the south side, they are welcomed, but they soon learn that the king is absent, he is fighting Saxons. Stopped at the gate to the Royal City, they are told by the steward of Eburaceum “You are welcome to stay in the Old City and wait for the king, but it can take a while before the Centurion King returns from the North. Please note that the Royal City is off limits.” Loth to spend more time waiting, Dalan, Lucas and Tristan quickly decide to try to find the king on his campaign, and only stay long enough in Eburacum to inquire into the most likely place where the King can be found.
A Knight’s Wake
They follow the instructions and after a few days travel they reach a hovel near a waterfall, as was predicted. They spend the night there, the squires keeping watch during the night. Then they follow the path through the forest towards the hills, where they are likely to find the camp of the king of Malahaut. When they travel through the woods, Tristan is the first to notice that they are being watched. He spots a peasant in between the trees. During the day they all see him a couple of times, but he keeps his distance. It may even be more than one peasant. That night they are still in the forested hills. They set up camp at a defensible spot, and keep a double watch. When they sleep, they take of their mail shirts, as with the mail not much sleep will be had.
Lucas and his squire Myrddyn take first watch, but for some reason both are unable to keep their eyes open and fall asleep. Somewhat later Dalan wakes to a noise near the horses. He wakes his squire Parcel, and tells him to wake everyone else. Dalan puts on his mail shirt and takes his shield and sword. This process makes some noise. He then approaches the horse line where some whispering is going on. He sees a figure on one of the horses, the charger of Lucas, and two other men that have cut horses loose. The two men, seeing Dalan approach, are in doubt whether to mount the horses or to run away. Tristan follows Dalan, but without his mail shirt, Lucas follows later.
Dalan charges fully at the horse thieves, he rams the single rider of the horse, and hits one of the others. The third would-be thief tries to stab Dalan, but misses. Tristan hits him, and then he tries to run away, straight into the arms of Lucas, and out of better options, he attacks Lucas. Lucas manages to put his shield between himself and the attacker, but still suffers some damage from this desperate attack. Dalan, having disabled the other two, was already on his way to attack the remaining man from the rear, but Lucas puts him down. (All knights gain +10 Glory)
The thieves that still are able to talk are questioned, and they learn that they are impoverished farmers from a village near this place, and that the village has been sacked by the Saxons. They try to appeal to the mercy of the knights by telling a story about their poor wives and children who have nothing left. The plunder has been 4 to 8 weeks ago.
Although the first inclination of Dalan is to kill the horse thieves on the spot, the other two manage to convince him that this is not his right, and that the local lord should dispense judgement. They decide to take the peasants, wounded though they are, along on their way to the king of Malahaut. Tristan asks Lucas how it is possible that the thieves almost got away with their horses. Lucas, too embarrassed to tell the truth, says that he does not know exactly how it is possible that he missed their activity…. Dalan and Tristan do not notice his deceit.
Meeting the Centurion King
As it is still night, Dalan decides to take over the watch, and keep an eye on the prisoners. The others can still sleep a few hours. During his watch the sky lightens, and at dawn he wakes the others. After a short breakfast, they resume their way. After a few hours travel, they come to a junction in the road. They come upon and follow a road when they find it marked with many hoof prints and tracks of foot soldiers, dragging the horse thieves along with them. Soon two of the thieves falter and collapse, dying of their wounds. Seeing no further point in bringing the bodies, the knights decide to leave them where they fell by the roadside. Then, cresting a rise, the knights spy a large encamped army, looking neatly laid out and strictly regimented. After a while they reach a big camp, clearly one of Logres knights. Riding up to the camp they are greeted by sentries, who upon hearing the identity of the knights and their message from Uther, escort them into the camp.
The knights and squires all dismount inside the camp, for the knights to be led to a nobleman dressed in armour of ancient times, sitting under an awning of a large tent. The squires remain with the horses and their remaining prisoner. The nobleman – the Centurion King himself – asks the knights for their business. They convey the request from Uther for all of the Northern Kings to to convene in Lindsey as soon as possible. The king scowls and casts his eyes about “I have no time for such affairs when Saxon still roam my lands. As you can bloody well see I am far too busy fighting the barbarians.” He shakes his head and dismisses the knights “Pray tell Uther that I will find my way when I can spare the time, and not sooner.”
Return to their squires and horses, the knights leave the remaining horse thief in the care of the Centurion’s King kinghts to face the King’s justice. Thus they take their leave, and return to Lindsey where, a couple of days later, they relay the Centurion King’s words to King Uther, who does little to hide his displeasure.