Winterbourne Stoke and a Wedding
The wedding between Dalan and Lady Elaine takes place at the end of January. (Dalan gains +1000 Glory) It is a relatively small event, but with Elaine the absolute center of attention, in a beautiful dress. Her dowry consists of 18 libra and her home manor, Dunford. Her other three manors, Little Cheverell, Lake and Middle Wallop, will revert back to Earl Roderick, to bestow on landless knights as he sees fit. The free revenue of Dunford is 4 libra per annum and will benefit the Winterbourne Gunnet household, however Elaine made it perfectly clear that she expects to maintain the rich lifestyle she has hitherto had, thus spending the additonal income on that… Elaine is just as clear about the dowry of 18 libra (minus the 2 libra spent on the wedding feast) which of course will be put in the coffers of Dalan, but if he ever touches that money without consulting her, she will make his life very unpleasant indeed. Yet somehow this doesn’t seem to weigh on Dalan’s pleasure at their union at the least.
Elaine now manages both manors, Dunford and Winterbourne Gunnet, and the mother of Dalan is asked to step back from her stewardship, which she does. According to Dalan it is better this way, as his mother is also getting along in her years, and she deserves some rest.And it leaves Dalan free to focus on the herd of magnificant horses he wants to raise.
The Missing Squire
In February, Lucas and Tristan start to seriously wonder about Andreas, as the missing squire has still not returned, after over a year. Tristan puts some efforts in talking to Andreas’ erstwhile friends, who were squires together with Andreas. He is successful in prying some information loose from Sir Gwili, who confesses to know what the intentions of Andreas have been. He has promised Andreas not to tell anyone, but Gwili is now just as worried about his friend’s well-being, he tells Tristan what he knows. Andreas had been very disappointed, to say in the least, that all his friends were knighted at the end of 485 AD, whereas he was not. After almost half a year of feeling sorry for himself, he made up his mind, and during one drunk evening spent with among others Gwili, he told him his plans to show everyone that he is worthy enough to become a knight. He will do something great, so that no one can ever doubt his prowess. “You know what I am going to do?? I know, I know! And I will tell you…. I will go into Sussex and find the sister of Sir Tristan, and bring her back! That will surely earn their respect!!”
Sir Gwili tells Tristan that he really tried to convince Andreas not to go to Sussex, that it is dangerous there, and almost a suicide mission. Andreas would not listen though, and a suggestion of taking some others along is dismissed, as then it would not be clear that it was him, Andreas, who was the brave knight who saved the damsel in distress. “But, friend Gwili, I beg you, do not tell anyone of this, I want it to be a surprise when I come back with Lady Maeghan!” When, after this evening, Andreas did not leave for another couple of weeks, Gwili thought he would not go, had realised when he was sober that it would be a fools errand, and had forgotten about it. But when Andreas went indeed missing at the end of August, Gwili started silently to worry for him.
Tristan thanks Gwili for his information, and then goes to find Lucas and Dalan to report what he knows, and to decide upon what course of action they will take. They decide to put the matter before Earl Roderick, to ask whether there are any convenient intentions to invade Sussex, or if not, that he will allow them to try to find Andreas. Earl Roderick is very sympathetic to their cause, if it were his brother that was missing, he would probably do the same. After some internal deliberation, he allows them to go, but with the provision that they will have to be back by Easter. He urges them to be very careful in Sussex, it is a dangerous area, and he does not want to lose three fine knights. He cannot spare other knights to go with him, so it will have to be the three knights. “Good luck on your quest, but please be careful, and do not do anything rash” he says, casting a pointed look at Dalan, and dismisses them.
On the Squire’s Trail
The weather at the end of February is still not very good, but better weather is expected. When the three knights and their squires (Bevan, bastard son of Sir Hyfaidd still acting as squire for Sir Tristan) are ready to leave, the sky is overcast, with a threat of rain, but fine enough to make good time on the road to Silchester. The plan is to cross Silchester and Windsor, and then go to the south into Sussex. Along the way they will try to gather information about Andreas and where he has been.
At the border with Silchester they see eight knights on patrol. They watch the progress of the knights. None of the Salisbury knights recognize any of their coat-of-arms before they are hailed and asked what their business in Silchester is. They explain that they are just passing through to Windsor, to look for a family member who went missing a year or so ago. The Silchester knights look at each other with a strange look, but in the end they step aside and let them pass.
In Levcomagus there is no one to challenge them or even ask them detailed questions about their journey, so before they know it, they are through the town and on their way to Silchester. When the evening falls, they reach Brookeley manor, where they visit the in-law family of Lucas. They are warmly received, and given a nice meal and a place to sleep. During the meal there is a lot of family talk between Lucas and Sir Berwyn and his wife. They have been blessed with another daughter the last year, the now one-year-old Aures. Lucas takes great pleasure in seeing the little girl and points out how nice it is that Aures and his daughter Rhona are of an age. The parents of Rhoswen express their regret that they do not see Rhoswen and their grandchildren very often, and ask Lucas if she can come to visit soon. Later during the evening meal, they inquire off-handedly into Andreas, whether he has already returned?
Surprised by this question, as Lucas had not yet told about their reason for this visit, he asks: “Pray tell, how did you learn of Andreas? He is now missing for more than 18 months, and as coincidence has it we are trying to find him just now!” Berwyn answers answer that Andreas had been a guest at Brookeley manor at the end of August of the year 486, but he has begged them not to tell anyone of his visit. He left soon after, headed in the direction of the city of Silchester. Sir Berwyn takes care to warn Lucas about Sir Sear, who has been holding a grudge against him for marrying Rhoswen. He discribes his coat of arms, a white chevron on a red background with four lozenges of gold around it. He advises Lucas strongly to avoid Sear, if at all possible.
Silchester and an Old Acquintance
Setting off early in the morning, the knights arrive in Silchester where they stop to water their horses at a trough in the centre of the town. From the west a group of five knights with their squires arrive at the square, among them the aforementioned Sir Sear, easily recognized by his coat of arms. Sir Sear initially glances over the Salisbury knights, but then he recognizes Lucas, and his face hardens. He briefly speaks to his comrades and they form a semi-circle around the group at the water trough. Their squires remain behind, standing together.
Sear looks at Lucas and the others and asks what business brings them to Silchester. Dalan rides toward Sear and congratulates him enthusiastically with his knighthood, and offers him his hand. A bit taken aback by this gesture, but thawing in his opinion regarding Dalan, Sear does take the offered hand, and shakes it while turning it into a petty contest of strength. Sear tries not to flinch when he ends up the loser in the contest of his own devising, but it is not lost on the others who turned out the winner. Dalan asks how he is doing in general, while Tristan asks whether he has already found a wife… Sear answers shortly: “No, I have no wife yet. You Salisbury knights take all that is beautiful from Silchester, you steal like a hoard of Saxons!” He looks fixedly at Lucas while saying this.
“You call me a Saxon?” Dalan asks coldly, while starting to take off his glove… It takes Sear a few moments to realize he has gone too far, especially when he looks at the face of Dalan. He swallows and then apologizes to Dalan: “Of course, I did not mean that you were a Saxon, Sir Dalan.” Dalan puts his glove back on and accepts this apology partially: “I think my fellow knights also need an apology” Sear, still not entirely comfortable with the big knight next to him, obliges, and apologizes to Tristan and Lucas, while looking mainly at Tristan. “You are not Saxons, but some of you have a tendency to plunder…”
Leaving a slightly flustered Sear behind, the Salisbury knights leave the square. They hear some of the knights speak to each other: “It is about time that the Salisbury knights are taught a lesson, that it is not right to take what they like..” They decide not to react on this, as a major fight in the town of Silchester is not a good idea. They quickly leave the town altogether, and near the evening they request shelter at a manor, which is owned by Sir Glanmor. This knight is not too pleased to have to host three knights from Salisbury, but when he discovers that they have fought on the same side in Malahaut, the tension softens a bit.
Nonetheless, the knights are offered only a simple meal, and are expected to leave first thing in the morning. During the meal Tristan asks about whether Sir Glanmor has seen a young ‘knight’ about a year and a half ago, traveling alone, with an unmarked white shield. Sir Glanmor indeed has heard about this young man, and says that he has been in Silchester and left the county to go towards Windsor. Tristan and Dalan feel that there is more to the story than this, and they press him into telling all he knows. As the young man rode through Silchester without wanting to give his identity, he surely had something to hide, and this was not appreciated. He was therefore ‘escorted’ by a number of knights to the Windsor border…
The next morning, before they leave, Dalan has a look at the horses in the stable of Sir Glanmor. He finds one handsome stallion that takes his fancy, and asks whether Glanmor is willing to sell him this horse. Eventually Glanmor agrees to part with this stallion for 5 libra. Dalan shakes hands on this, and says that he will pick up the horse on his way back.
When they leave, Glanmor and his household appear to be relieved.
Windsor, as the Trail Warms
When they cross into Windsor, they decide to call upon the first manor they see. They are received at the courtyard by a servant, looking at them suspiciously while asking their purpose. The knights greet the man and ask to speak to the master of the manor. Leaving them waiting, the servant goes inside to return somewhat later with a middle-aged man who introduces himself as Sir Oswalt of Winkfield. He invites them into his manor, and the three knights leave their horses to their squires.
After a round of introduction, Tristan asks Sir Oswalt whether he has perhaps seen Andreas, a squire with a blank shield. After a long thought, and with assistance of his servant Hugh, he remembers that indeed some peasants have mentioned seeing a rider with a blank shield, travelling at high speed, even knocking some of them over. He was pursued by about six knights. That is all Oswalt knows, and Tristan asks whether the peasants can be found so they could ask them some more questions. Oswalt thinks so and sends a servant to fetch the peasants, inviting the knights to join him for lunch while they wait. An hour and a half later, the servant leads a small group of nervous looking peasants into the hall. Tristan observes their state and figures they probably think they have done something wrong and are about to be punished for it. Quick to set their minds at ease he speaks up “Good people, do not fear, we only want to ask you some questions and then you are free to go back to your work.” The peasants visibly relax, until they hear what the questions are. There are some furtive glances between them, until Tristan persuades them in a sincere and friendly way to cooperate. One peasant is pushed forward to tell the story. “Well sir knight, once the one with the blank shield was past us, we saw him being chased into the White Woods” Tristan feels that there is more to the story than this, and despite Dalan’s ‘friendly’ smile, aiming to help but doing the opposite, Tristan manages to convince the peasant to tell all that he knows (2x critical on Folklore)
The peasants saw the six knights chase the lone knight and the return a while later from the woods, one of them seemed injured, but they nonetheless seemed in good spirits. They did not have a captive with them, nor did the peasants see the lone knight again. Later the peasants went into the White Woods where they found the horse of the unknown knight, dead on the ground due to a wound to its neck, but also sporting a broken leg, probably from where it got stepped into a hole and fell. They took the irons off the horse and sold them to the blacksmith, and used the horse itself as a supplement to their diet…
Tristan thanks the peasants for their information, grim though it may be. He asks one last favor, that the peasant will show him and his friends where he has found the horse. The peasant agrees, and Tristan asks whether Oswalt will give the peasants a good, healthy meal as a reward, and that he will compensate him for the expense. Oswalt readily agrees, but refuses to receive the compensation, he is pleased that he can help in this way.
Oswalt mentions that the White Woods is a special place (as a christian knight he gives a slight emphasis on the word ‘special’), and that a strange man named Garth lives there, all alone.
The White Woods
When they reach the place where the horse is found, and the peasant indicates the exact spot, Tristan thanks him and the peasant quickly leaves the woods. The place is a small open area, a dip in the ground sloping down ahead of them until it faces a semi circular cliff face, the bowl filled with a birch copse. Along the path rabbit holes are clearly visible, which have likely been the cause of the horse breaking his leg. Overall the terrain is challenging even for good riders going at a moderate pace.
Well before any of the others do, Dalan sees a figure approaching them through the woods, surprisingly at the distance as the man does not stand out against the background.The man, clearly a druid of some sort from the looks of him, moves nimbly between the trees and bushes, hopping over a fallen tree and ducking under branches where necessary. Only when the man is close enough do they realize he is fully blind.
Dalan, not sure whether the man is a druid or not, but not wanting to offend him, greets him with: “Greetings, oh druid” “No, no, no, I am but a simple ovate, not yet a druid” the man interrupts. “Greetings, good ovate” Dalan corrects, and asks him about Andreas and the horse that died here over a year ago. “Have you heard or noticed anything untoward around that time?” The ovate Garth indeed remembers something, he heard a horse scream, and a man fall.
He wanted to go and help the man and beast, but then others arrived on the scene, and the fallen man was challenged by one other. The fallen man was scared, he screamed something, and then attacked. Then a heavier voice called out, and retreated, the smell of blood was clear. Two others appeared to attack the single man, who called out again, and then something seemed to snap in him, the lone man screaming gibberish and unintelligible nonsense. Rushing forward in a frenzied attack while ripping off his clothes and throwing his shield and sword away, he seemed to take the others by surprise but caused no actual harm before fleeing into the birch copse. The surprised men did not pursue, instead all his belongings, and then rode off, laughing.
When quiet returned to the woods, with nothing but the sound of a horse in pain, the ovate then went to its side to end its suffering. For days after this incident, it seemed as if there was a wild animal loose in the woods, raving and raging at one time, quietly stalking the other. Patiently taking his time over several days, Garth had managed to calm Andreas enough to bandage his wounds, which were numerous, but not serious. After one last night in the woods, he vanished the next day – by the ovate’s reckoning through climbing the steep rock face to the south.
Dalan thanks the ovate and asks him to offer some food and drinks in their name to the Gods. Whether or not the ovate keeps something of the offerings to himself, that is a matter for him to decide. The knights leave the White Woods and travel south, trying to follow the year old trace of Andreas.
Headed South, Towards Saxon Lands
They ride cross country roughly towards the south, this does not go very smooth. They encounter some peasants on their way south, but when challenged no one recalls anything about Andreas. Come to a river, the knights spy a manor and head towards it. Upon reaching the the manor they are met by a servant, who tells them the lord of Deepcote manor is not at home. However when pressed on the matter of Andreas – the naked man – the servant is able to tell them he has seen a naked man running across the nearby ford, screaming all the while, and going south. Thus, the knights continue the trail toward the south, across the river.
They spend the night in the open, Tristan and his squire take first watch. Even though Tristan fails a couple of times to keep his eyes open, his energetic squire Bevan nudges him at those moments, to keep him from falling asleep completely. Dalan has the second watch, and although he too has some trouble staying awake, he also has a very energetic squire Parcel to keep him awake.
Near the border with Sussex are some walled manors. The knights approach one of the manors, and notice immediately the state of disrepair, fields not well cared for, broken fences, damaged hovels. A couple of people hastily hide inside one of the hovels when they see the riders approach. Tristan cautiously approaches them to put them at ease: they are not here to hurt them. This helps, they come forward and explain their behaviour: they have been attacked by bands of Saxons twice in the last two years, and are fearful of any group of riders. Tristan then asks about the naked Andreas, and indeed they recall him, as the incident was noteworthy.
The peasants tell how they were hiding in the woods outside the village, watching as a Saxon raiding party was going from hovel to hovel. Having found an elderly woman that had not made it to safety in time and pushing her about, they seemed just as surprised as the peasants when a naked man came running out of the woods, only to pick the fiercest and largest Saxon to tackle and rush him. Tackling the surprised Saxon, the naked man managed to bite his face before the others responded, dragging him off the warrior and proceeding to kick him until he stopped moving. Soon bound and gagged, the naked man was then taken away by the Saxons. Tristan thanks the two men for their information, grim though it is, and gives them a shilling each.
Tristan relates the story to the others, and it seems likely that since this was only a small raid that these are Saxons local to the area, maybe just across into Sussex.