Mustering at Sarum
When the knights return to Sarum from their mission in Leicester, they find the place to be in an uproar, a lot of people move about in preparation for war.
“Oh dear me, isn’t it horrible that our high king was killed? They say his soul was taken away by the devil in a flaming chariot.”
“You ninny, that was his soul ascending to heaven. Who fills your head with such rot? “
“She has a point, you know. The high king saved us from that tyrant Vortigern, and has held off the Saxons for years.”
“His brother is no slouch! I daresay he is even stronger than the High King was. You will never see him struck down in battle! He’ll be bringing home Saxons in chains before the year is out, you wait and see.”
“Oh, I hope so.”
“Trust it, if he’s half as good at killing as he is at swiving then we are safe.”
Tristan and Dalan talk to Sir Hywel. It appears that Sir Madoc has proclaimed that King Uther would be the best High King ever, if only the college would see the light and grant him this title. Sir Ulfius told Sir Hywel that king Lucian of Bedegraine refuses to pay taxes to Uther, and that this insult is the reason King Uther wishes to invade Bedigraine with a force consisting mostly of the knights of Britain- the footfolk of the southern barons staying behind to be able to travel faster. Earl Roderick was asked to send one-fifth of his knights to aid Uther in his cause. Tristan and Dalan are among the knights selected to go. Lucas and Colbert remain behind to protect Sarum against the still realistic threat of the Saxons. Lucas remarks with a sigh: “It seems that history is repeating itself…” as his father before him was frequently assigned to garrison duty.
Dalan and Tristan also briefly talk to Baron Duach, who seems to be a poet with a liberal interpretation of fact and fiction when it concerns himself… His songs regarding the battle of Wynchmere paint a heroic picture of himself and much less so of sir Sadinal – much to the latter’s chagrin. At some point Sir Hywel walks over to Dalan and Tristan, and bids them to accompany him to Sir Roderick, who wishes to hear from them what they thought of Lady Rosalyn. Tristan gives his opinion: she is a good looking young lady, loved by the people around her, both family as well as the servants. She is very concerned with the well-being of the people. Dalan adds that she has a tendency to make herself appear less, in order to let others shine more brightly. He then briefly refers to Lady Rosalyn saving Tristan from dancing too horribly, by expertly guiding his moves into something resembling a dance rather than revealing Tristans total inability to properly dance…
Sir Roderick then asks both knights which of the ladies they would prefer, Lady Ellen or Lady Rosalyn. Tristan gives a slight preference to Rosalyn, she is slightly older, and more certain of herself and her actions, where Lady Ellen has still more of an wait-and-see mentality. Dalan however favours Lady Ellen, she is more adventurous than Lady Rosalyn, and he himself is also not the type to stand by idle.
‘Speaking of standing idle,’ Sir Roderick says, ‘You do know that Sir Lucas has paid Lady Rhoswen a visit some weeks ago? If you sit still much longer, she may become unavailable…’ Dalan takes this covert advice to heart and promises himself to go to Brookeley as soon as possible.
Sir Roderick aims to leave with his knights for Leicester the day after the next, and Dalan and Tristan prepare themselves for the journey. They have some spare time during the next day, before they are expected to have joined Sir Hywel in the evening. Dalan pays a visit to his family at Winterbourne Gunnet, but he finds that his sister Iola is not at home. Tristan remains in Sarum, and continues his investigation into the disappearance of his sister Meaghan.
In the evening all knights are gathered, in total about forty knights and their squires have reported to Sir Hywel. After everyone is accounted for, Sir Hywel gives the knights some wine, and excuses himself for the evening. The group will leave in the morning. The evening is spent in merriment, where the knights enjoy an evening off with a roof over their heads and a fire in the hearth. Who knows when next they will have this luxury? Dalan and Tristan intend to have fun, but not to go all-out on the drinks, they do have to get up early after all. Tristan does flirt a little with the serving wenches. Dalan is too preoccupied with his thoughts about Lady Rhoswen to even notice the girls. He is a bit quieted on one point after he sees young knight Ian sitting in a corner and modestly drinking a bit of wine with ‘his’ companions. Tristan has been more successful with his flirting than he intended, and even though he wakes up alone the next morning, he knows he was not alone that night…
The next morning the group of knights and squires depart towards Leicester. The travel is much slower than the fortnight ago, when Dalan and Tristan made the same journey, but in a much smaller company. Along the way towards Leicester, the army grows with knights from Silchester and other areas they pass through. All in all about 400 knights and their squires are gathered in Leicester, and also about 800 foot soldiers from the northern regions. One baron who is shining through his absence is Duke Gorlois. Not much later a very muddy messenger arrives who reports that due to the poor weather conditions, Duke Gorlois and his knights are delayed as the roads have become impassable due to the mud.
Uther decides not to wait for Gorlois, but orders his army to move the next day to Bedegraine to try to cross the river Trent.
That evening, Dalan notices someone being led through the camp towards the tent of Uther. After about half an hour this guest (?) leaves again. Dalan has never seen this man before, he is sure.
At the eve of a likely battle, Dalan brings an offer to his ancestors. He also trains his squire a bit in the fighting skills, as he has also done each day when time permitted on the road to Leicester.
When the army arrives at the River Trent the next morning, they see that at the only ford in the river close to them, King Lucian of Bedigraine has mustered his army at the opposite bank of the river. It would be very costly if the army would try to cross the river at this position.
King Uther splits his army, and goes with a force of about 150 knights, including Sir Roderick and his knights, towards the east, away from the ford. They set a quick pace, and after a while the force slows near a group of willows standing next to the river where they are ordered to cross. As Dalan and Tristan near the willows, they notice that it is possible to cross the river at this point, something that was not visible from any great distance. The ford is clearly not well travelled. After a while the whole group has crossed the river, and they then turn west, again riding hard. They are now on the same side of the river as the army of Bedegraine, and this is soon spotted by Lucian’s scouts. Lucian orders the retreat from the river, the army seen to split up and head for the castles of the kingdom.
The Spoils of War
‘Let them hide in their castles’, Uther exclaims. ‘I don’t care if they hide like the rats they are! But in that case, I will go and collect my taxes myself!’ He invites the knights to help him collect taxes, and mentions with a wink: ‘All the surplus loot you can keep yourself…’ After a brief internal struggle, where the loyalty to Sir Roderick and King Uther wins out, Dalan and Tristan join in this expedition. (Dalan gains 3 gold and Tristan gains 2 gold) After several days of plundering, Lucian cannot stand the sight of his country being plundered any further and regroups his army to challenge Uther’s, even though his army is much smaller.
In the evening the two armies are camped facing each other across a small valley. It appears that Uther has twice as many men as Bedegraine, judging the number of fires. Tristan notices however that Bedegraine is making his army appear larger by strategically positioning these fires. In truth, Uthers force may be three or more times the size of Bedegraines army. A discussion at the campfire of Dalan and Tristan emerges: how many men does each army have and what if Uther has many many more than Bedegraine? Will this result in a massacre? Or will the King show mercy and offer free passage to all who surrender? Tristan mentions that the solution would be simple if the opponents were Saxons… no quarter would then be given of course. All agree to that, some are still a bit apprehensive about what the next day may bring.
Battle After All
The next morning it indeed can be seen that the opposing army is much smaller than the army of Uther, it consists only of 100 knights and some foot soldiers. This is significantly less than what was expected by most. Dalan and Tristan are in the center of the army. Uther adresses his army: ‘This is what happens if you turn against Logres! We will fight to teach those disloyal to Us a lesson!’
Then Uther signals his army to attack. The foot soldiers remain behind to protect the encampment. Uther leads his army successfully (critical) and outmaneuvers his opponent. Sir Hywel leads the middle group of knights towards a group of big men, armed with swords and shields. Tristan hits one of the men hard, knocking him straight off his feet. Dalan also hits one, but this one remains standing. They break through the line of swordsmen. Sir Hywel tries to reform the group for a second charge, but they are blocked by a group of archers. Dalan recklessly charges them, and fights with two archers at the same time. The first he smashes down and the second seems to more or less throw himself onto Dalans sword, and is killed by a single stroke (fumble of archer vs critical of Dalan – Dalan gains +15 Glory) Tristan also charges into the group of archers and manages to push one aside. The group breaks through and regroup for a new charge. Right across from the regrouping knights, Lucian leads a group of knights in a wedge shape, with himself at the front. Sir Hywel intends to charge into the head of this group, but only manages to go into the flank, leaving Lucian to Uther and his knights. Dalan and Tristan both invoke the passion of loyalty in their charge. Tristan is hit hard by his opponent, and receives a minor wound, but remains in his saddle. Dalan is more successful, he hits his opponent true and unhorses him, leaving him to be trampled by the horses (Dalan gains +15 Glory)
In the meantime Uther motions to his bodyguard that he wishes to fight Lucian in single combat. A fierce fight erupts between Uther and the King of Bedegraine, and this is finished by a mighty blow from Uther, hitting Lucian in the head and killing him instantly. The troops of Bedegraine retreat after the fall of their lord. Uther sends a herald to demand surrender. After a brief parlay, the remaining army of Bedegraine surrenders. Dalan helps Tristan with some first aid on his wound, and it seems that it should now heal by itself over the coming days.
For being present at the battle, Dalan and Tristan each gain + 45 Glory, 2 gold and a palfrey (riding horse)
The King is Dead, Long Live the Count!
In the evening, after all the fighting is done, Duke Gorlois finally arrives. Dalan learns that Uther has thoroughly rebuked Gorlois for being late. He should have taken the bad weather into account and should have left earlier. In addition Uther gives Gorlois a substantial fine he must pay as compensation for his tardiness and lack of foresight. Dalan thinks this is not very fair of Uther (critical on just).
The knights of Bedigraine submit readily to Uther. The Sheriff of Bedegraine, Sir Sulian, is named Count of Bedegraine. It is clear that Bedegraine is no longer a kingdom, but is now a county of Logres…
Tristan discovers that there may have been some dealings between Uther and Sulian. It may explain why Sulian was not seen at the battlefield yesterday… In addition to becoming the Count of Bedegraine, Sir Sulian also is granted the obtains a castle in Jagent, just west of Salisbury. The army remains a short while in Bedegraine, before they are dismissed and can return to their own lands.
The Journey Home and a Visit to Brookeley Manor
On the way back to Sarum, Dalan asks Sir Hywel if he is allowed to pay a visit to Brookeley manor. After a brief nod from Sir Roderick, Sir Hywel permits Dalan to leave the group of knights to pursue his courtship of Lady Rhoswen. Tristan continues towards Sarum, and when the group nears Levcomagus, he learns that there is some friction between the steward of Levcomagus, Sir Blains and Sir Roderick, due to them courting the same woman, Lady Ellen.
When Dalan arrives at Brookeley manor, there is some consternation among the servants, as Sir Berwyn also just returned from the campaign in Bedegraine and with all the resulting activity the household is ill prepared to receive guests. Dalan notices that squire Sear is paying close attention to him. The family of Sir Berwyn is happy to see him though, including lady Rhoswen, although she is not exuberantly happy, she seems a bit withdrawn. Lady Ceinwen, the mother of Rhoswen, is pleased to see that Rhoswen is doing well among the knights, as she is getting a lot of attention. Dalan notes that this is not so remarkable, judging the mother of the girl. The older woman replies with: ‘A daughter like that is always better than a mirror’. Dalan is invited to join the evening meal, although the lady of the house excuses herself that it will be a simple meal, no visitors were expected and Sir Berwyn has also returned only today, thus we are all very busy. Dalan expresses his understanding, and even gives his squire Will the order to help the household wherever he may. He also tells his squire that he should take care around squire Sear, he may not treat him very friendly. Will had already experienced the sour behaviour of squire Sear.
During the evening meal, Sir Berwyn is asking Dalan how he feels about the situation in Bedegraine. Dalan says that it was Uthers right to go to war, but that he personally would have preferred to fight against the Saxons. Sir Berwyn says that in the end our duty compells us to do what the King wants. Dalan agrees. But also Sir Berwyn would rather fight the Saxons if he could choose. Lady Rhoswen asks about Sir Lucas. When Dalan mentions that Lucas was not in Bedegraine but in Sarum on garrison duty, Rhoswen seems relieved, and then quickly asks Dalan about the fight. Dalan gives a relatively modest and mainly factual report of the fightings. Rhoswen is happy that all went well for Dalan.
Dalan tries to give Rhoswen as much attention as possible, but he also tries to get in the good graces of her parents. He talks to Rhoswen for a while, but the conversation is a bit dull. Rhoswen is concerned about the Saxons, and she also hopes that Sarum and Silchester remain good neighbours. Sir Berwyn mentions that it would be better by far if Sir Roderick would pursue another woman to be his wife, and leave Lady Ellen to Sir Blains. When this is said, Dalan fails to keep a straight face, and Sir Berwyn looks questioningly at him. Dalan spills the beans, and truthfully reports about the missions he and Sir Lucas (and Sir Tristan and Sir Colbert) have made for Sir Roderick, to visit Lady Ellen and Lady Rosalyn, to see if either could be a suitable bride. And, Dalan admits regrettably, he had recommended Lady Ellen to Sir Roderick. Sir Berwyn now understands why Sir Lucas preferred not to talk about this topic… ‘If there is anything I can do to aid you in this,’ Dalan says, ‘please let me know. It would be much preferred if there is an united Logres against the Saxons, instead of us fighting amongs ourselves and the Saxons taking advantage of this’. Sir Berwyn agrees to the latter. Then the conversation drifts to Uther and his brute force.
Dalan sees that Rhoswen loses interest in the conversation and he focuses his attention to her. The conversation is a bit labored though. Dalan asks Rhoswen where around Brookeley manor a good ride can be made. She talks animatedly about the surroundings of the manor; the fields, the brook, the orchard… “Could you show me this?” Dalan asks. Rhoswen looks at her father and when he gives a slight nod, she agrees to a ride with Dalan, and asks if it is alright if a handmaiden will join them; she can carry something to eat and drink.
A Fine Gift
When the stable hands were preparing Lady Rhoswens horse for the ride the next morning, Dalan came down to the stables early with squire Will and told them to stop saddling the horse, as he had a different horse for Rhoswen. Together with Will he brushed the new palfrey, his spoils of war from Bedegraine, until he shone, and then had the side saddle of Rhoswen put on the horse. From the corner of his eye, Dalan sees that squire Sear goes inside the manor, but he thinks little of it. Selected from the spoils by Dalan himself, the palfrey is a fine animal, a good match for a competent rider. As Dalan does not know whether the palfrey will accept a side saddle, and he does not want to find out when Rhoswen rides the horse, he saddles and mounts the palfrey himself. The tried whether the horse responds well to the aids, and with a little effort he manages to get the horse to understand what is asked of him. A knight riding a horse on a side saddle is quite a rare sight, and Dalan quickly gathers a crowd of onlookers, amongst which Lady Rhoswen and her mother, both standing at the top of the stairs. When Dalan notices his audience, he rides to the bottom of the stairs and dismounts. He presents the horse as a gift to Rhoswen (critical throw)
Rhoswen is totally flabbergasted, stumbles down the stairs towards the horse and says: “Is he really for me?” She seems enormously delighted by the gift. Then squire Sear and Sir Berwyn come outside, Sir Berwyn is wearing a frown on his face. Dalan helps Rhoswen mount the palfrey, and is alert to any odd behaviour of the horse. “The weather is fair. Let us make the ride along the river,” Rhoswen says. This is quickly agreed upon. During the ride Dalan tries to have a conversation with Rhoswen, who animatedly talks about her surroundings, pointing at places where she used to play when she was younger. Dalan listens with polite interest.
As they near a dense patch of bushes, and a deer, startled by their voices, jumps out in front of them and runs away. Rhoswen’s horse is startled into a flight by this sudden appearance, and runs away, with Rhoswen hanging on for dear life. Dalan immediately pushes his horse in pursuit, and having the finer animal, he quickly overtakes the fleeing animal, right at the moment where it gives a couple of nasty bucks which Rhoswen could no longer sit out. Dalan manages to grab hold of Rhoswen in her fall, and gently guides her to the ground. He then also dismounts and orders squire Will to go after the still fleeing horse and bring it back.
Rhoswen is very much shaken by the event. ‘I did not see the deer!’. Dalan take sher mind of the fallby saying that the deer has indirectly selected a nice spot for them to have some lunch. He also compliments her on her riding skills, it was a very sudden and fierce flight of the horse, and she did manage to stay on the horse. Rhoswen is grateful to Dalan for helping her. While they have something to eat and drink, the Rhoswen’s shock slowly wears off. Some time later, squire Will returns with the horse, soaked with sweat.
Rhoswen talks more about the surroundings and seems to be over her shock by now. But when it is time to return to the manor, she seems less than enthousiastically about remounting the horse. After some quick thinking, Dalan proposes that Rhoswen and Will switch horses, as the squire’s horse is a very docile animal. This seems to calm Rhoswen further, and they ride back to Brookeley manor at an easy pace. Squire Will on the other hand doesn’t look quite as relaxedon the new horse.
When they return to the manor, the parents take note that Lady Rhoswen is not riding the horse that was given to her that very morning, but nothing is said about it. Before Rhoswen goes back inside, Dalan says to her that he has enjoyed the ride in the country, and that he hopes to return soon, and he offers his assistance with training her new horse. Although a bit less enthousiastic about her gift than a couple of hours ago, Rhoswen thanks Dalan and goes inside to refresh herself. Squire Will has meanwhile overheard squire Sear saying to the other stablehands that he knew that such a horse would not be suitable for a lady and that giving the horse to Rhoswen, Dalan was asking for problems…
As Dalan did not want to impose on the hospitality of Sir Berwyn much longer, because the household was still quite busy, and he did come by unannounced after all, he takes his leave early in the evening. Sir Berwyn and his wife bid him goodbye, with a distinct tone of an open invitation to return in their farewells.