“See, I told you.”
“Yes, you were right about his being a strong and competent fighter.”
“Not that — about the swiving. Half of the laundresses are pregnant now, and he’s had a new batch of pretty young things brought in to replace them. You better watch out for yourself little one!”
“Really? My father…”
“Stop harassing the poor thing, you witch! You’re just jealous that he’s not looking your way.”
“No jealousy here! I’m keeping my eye on the king’s handsome son!”
“Ha! Dream on. You’re half again his age. If he takes anyone it will be some pretty young thing — like his father does.”
In the spring the Easter court is held in Londinium. The general feeling among the attendants is that Uther is a competent commander, and they hope that he can keep the Saxons out. There is also talk about the kingdom of Summerland; The king of Summerland, Cadwy, has denied Uthers reasonable offer to sell his metals. The result of this offence is that Uther intends to assemble some knights to tell the king of Somerland that he needs to offer better prices. He commands his counts to raise one third of their army and gather at the Castle of the Rock in Salisbury.
It is whispered that Summerland is being ruled by a wizard – but not to worry, Uther also has a wizard; but where is Merlin? He is not present at the Easter court and has also not been seen for a while. Besides the offence given by the king of Summerland, there are some long running border disputes between Summerland and Salisbury. Earl Roderick requires that all knights who are not on garrison duty will assemble in May. One third of the Salisbury knights will join Uther in his quest, and the other two thirds will go to Summerland to reclaim the parts that belong to Salisbury.
The Summerland Campaign
Tristan, Dalan and Lucas are put under the command of Sir Kenian, to join the army of King Uther. Earl Roderick has his knights assembled before Uther arrives, and already leaves the two-thirds. When Uther finally arrives, the army is together with the remaining knights of Salisbury about 750 knights strong. Remarkably absent is Duke Gorlois with his knights. Uther does not wait for him, and the army marches towards Glastonbury and Bath. They find that in Somerset Duke Gorlois is already busy laying siege to various castles. Uther is very put out by this, but grudgingly accepts the explanation by Duke Gorlois that these castles were blocking his road towards Salisbury.
The mines in Somerset have already either been flooded or had their entrances blocked, and then deserted. Tristan learns that Uther is very unhappy about Merlin not being here, and that he worries a lot about this in private. The army of Summerland is not to be found for battle, having withdrawn into the abundant marshes and swamps.
Uther follows more or less the same strategy as against Bedegraine, once it becomes apparent there is no opportunity for an outright battle. Lucas and Tristan weigh their loyalty to Uther against their feeling of justice, but in the end they follow the command of Uther. Dalan sees this as a completely different situation as the one in the north, and he decides to follow the order of Uther, but he will only take one third of his plunder, leaving the remaining loot to the people of Summerland. After the spoils of this exercise have been divided, Tristan ends up with one gold piece and Dalan and Lucas both with two gold pieces.
Then a lot of knights fall ill, they become sick and have to throw up a lot. The march gets to a standstill, and within one week more than half of the knights are ill and bedridden. Tristan, Dalan and Lucas avoid getting sick, but they are very busy attending to their comrades. There are different rumours regarding the cause of this tragedy: it has been caused by evil magic by the king of Somerland; the lay-out of the camp was incorrect, the knights have been infected by their own refuse; it is a curse or it was caused by the fae.
Dalan thinks the latter the most likely, either the fae have done this on their own or after a pact with the wizard king. He wants to make a sacrifice to the faeries to placate them. This sacrifice must be something that has emotional value to the person who offers it. Tristan suspects that the water source has been poisoned or that the camp lay-out in one way or another has not been good, and he goes to investigate this. He encounters Brother Baucillias in his quest for the water source: this physician is already testing the water and nothing seems to be wrong with it.
Dalan decides to offer his trophy from the slain boar from a year ago. He discloses his mind to Sir Kenian, who frowns upon hearing Dalans intentions. He thinks that praying a lot will have more effect, but lets Dalan do as he thinks best. Dalan places his offer at the edge of the swamp, and spends the knight sitting under a tree while watching his offering. When he finally is almost overcome with sleep, he hears some female laughter from the side, and quickly turns his head to look that way. He sees nothing, but when he looks back, he notices that his offering is gone.
The Parley and Feast
A messenger from the king of Somerland has come to Uther, to invite him to parlay for peace. Uther intends to go to this meeting the next morning with a contingent of 50 knights, and he therefore needs this number of still healthy knights. The trio of knights are granted this honour by Sir Kenian, who is also ill by now. They mount their horses and assemble near the swamp. After a brief ride they see a boat at the edge of the swamp and a small pavillion tent on a nearby field. The banner of Summerland flies at the top of the tent. The group approaches the tent to about 20 metres, and then the herald of Uther announces the arrival of the King. Only Uther is invited in the tent, all others must remain outside. Uther asks them to remain vigilant, but only when he commands it to take any action.
The king of Summerland welcomes Uther to his tent and they both disappear inside. The meeting takes the better part of the day, and only just before dusk Uther comes out of the tent. He is radiating a certain calmness, and his usual temper seems to be absent. Uther shakes hands with the king of Somerland and invites him to come to a banquet in the camp. The result of the meeting is that the King of Somerland will submit to King Uther, and that the fight is over. Uther has the result he wanted and the armies can go home.
Back in the camp a lot needs to be arranged for the feast that evening. All knights who are ill are put further away from the royal pavillion. When the king of Somerland arrives, banquet tables have been placed and the cook is very busy preparing the meal.
As part of the group of non-ill knights, Tristan, Dalan and Lucas are made guards to watch over the proceedings of the feast. Dalan does not trust the situation and keeps a sharp eye out. Tristan and Lucas are a bit more attentive, but do not specifically look for something. Everyone behaves normally as can be expected from guests. Uther names Cadwy Count of Summerland, but allows him to call himself king still. The new Count of Summerland swears fealty to King Uther. Then the banquet starts and there is a lot of small talk. The amicability between the two parties seems forced. Dalan notices at some point a number of knights walking around that until quite recently had been very ill…
The next morning the rumour goes that the wizard king has lifted his curse because everyone is getting well very quickly, and are ready to march home. Dalan does not mention his offer to the fae. Tristan and Lucas know about his offer and that it was accepted by the faeries.
On the way back to Salisbury, Lucas and Tristan learn that the new trade agreement between Uther and Summerland is almost identical to the old agreement, despite Uther claiming a big victory over Somerset. Lucas also understands that the reclaiming of the Summerland land by Salisbury does not sit well with the king of Summerland, and that he will likely get back to this later…
A New Mission
When the knights return to Salisbury, a modest feast is held. Sir Rufon approaches Dalan, Tristan and Lucas, and has some good and bad news for them. Earl Roderick is well pleased with them, and therefore he wishes that they will accompany Abbot Moriad on his visit to Lady Llylla, who could be a prospective bride to Earl Roderick. Abbot Moriad is a very devout man, and the trustee of lady Marian, the mother of Earl Roderick.
Travelling to Warcastle
The knights have time for a brief visit to their manor, and soon after that they leave on their mission. Dalan and Tristan soon notice they have little in common with Abbot Moriad, and ride together a bit in front of the abbot on his mule. It is therefore up to Lucas to entertain him. Moriad speaks to Lucas about the somewhat contemptible practices of Sir Tristan, him having at least one bastard child, and is of the opinion that he, and the other two knights as well for that matter, should get married soon. Lucas tells Abbot Moriad about his love interest, Lady Rhoswen. Dalan overhears him talking about Rhoswen, and realises when he hears the passion in the voice of Lucas, that his interest in her does not come close to the love Lucas has for Rhoswen, and he decides on the spot that he will discontinue his pursuit of Lady Rhoswen, to leave her for Lucas. He does not mention this to anyone though.
The group passes Londinium, which is the biggest city they have seen. Abbot Moriad wishes to avoid entering the city, which is full of sin and debauchery, and they camp outside the city. When they continue their way, Dalan and Tristan (inevitably) get a bit bored, and they devise a number of challenges for their squires, and make a competition of it. The squire of Lucas also joins in the games.
Meeting Lady Llylla
A few days later they reach Warcastle, the home of Baron Ederyn and his sister Lady Llylla. Their father has passed away, and Baron Ederyn has the custody of his 18-year old sister. Lady Llylla is very beautiful, but all three knights seem to not respond emotionally by her looks. Is there something about her that puts them off perhaps?
During the evening meal Lady Llylla only sporadically speaks, she seems a bit withdrawn. During serving of the soup one of the servants trips and spills some soup on Dalan. Suddenly Lady Llylla explodes in a tirade towards the servant: What was she thinking about spoiling her evening with this disgrace! She adds a few choice insults and the servant runs away crying.
Dalan is startled by all of this, and mumbles: it is only soup, it is not the end of the world… Dalan and Tristan notice that in her tirade Llylla burns the servant down to the ground. The evening meal continues a bit subdued. After the meal Llylla invites the guests to a feast: “Let it be a merry feast!” she says, with the aim to forget the earlier episode.
Lady Llya shows genuine interest in the feats of the knights. Dalan wishes to steer the conversation to her interests. He complements her on her house and the good meal. Llylla seems a bit overwhelmed by all the questions and mentions that she likes to do embroidery. Tristan talks with Baron Ederyn and asks a bit unsubtly after his sister and her traits. Ederyn is a bit indignant and says that half of Britain would like to marry her and other than that he does not understand what Tristan implies. Lucas speaks with several people in the room to get an idea about the status of things in this area, as he is not familiar with the region.
Over the next days, while Abbot Moriad spends most of his time with Sir Ederyn, the knights have some spare time on their hands. Dalan and Tristan intend to go hunting and have a horse race. Lucas wants some riding lessons from Dalan and Tristan, and also aims to practice his sword fighting.
Dalan has set a course for the horse race, and the race is between Dalan and Tristan only, as no other rider deemed himself of sufficient quality to challenge these two. Dalan calls on his passion for recklessness, Tristan decides to take it a bit more carefully, and wins by a horse length. Dalan however has shown much more riding skills, and was certainly more entertaining to watch. Lucas noticed during the race that Lady Llylla was very impressed with the spectacle, but that the moments she liked best were when the peasants had to run away and duck for cover to evade the oncoming horses.
Lucas fights a duel with one of the knights of the keep, and loses. Lady Llylla also watched this fight with vigor, more in anticipation of bloodshed than to see either knight win.
The next day a hunt is organised, but with little success, to the disappointment of everyone. In the evening a last meal is offered, Abbot Moriad wishes to return tot Salisbury the next day. Dalan buys a foal for one pound sterling, which has the potential of becoming a charger. On their way back, Moriad tells that Llylla has a dowry of three manors, and seems fairly impressed by that. Dalan’s squire confirms the impression the knights have of Llylla: all servants are afraid of her, and she seems to go out of her way to make their lives unpleasant.
Reporting back to Earl Roderick
In Salisbury the knights are each individually to report to Earl Roderick. Tristan is called forth first. He confirms that Lllylla certainly is very beautiful, but has not a very beautiful character. Lucas later says something similar: she is very unfriendly towards her personnel, and seems to enjoy the suffering of the peasants. Dalan also says she is very beautiful, but that she is just as cruel, and he fears that she would bring a lot of unrest in the household of Earl Roderick. Upon the question of Earl Roderick who he would recommend for him, Lady Ellen, Lady Rosalyn or Lady Llylla, Dalan says that he thinks that Lady Rosalyn is best suited for Roderick, even though if it were for himself, he would prefer the more adventurous Lady Ellen. Lucas and Tristan remain with their earlier recommendation of Lady Rosalyn, as Lady Ellen is still somewhat young.
The knights are invited to a banquet, and the next day they return home.
Tristan has a normal harvest. As yet unbeknownst to him, his sister Maeghan has married this year – in Saxon captivity no less!
Dalan has a poor harvest, and spends 4 gold to make ends meet.