Christmas Feast, 482 A.D.
During the Christmas feast in Sarum it becomes clear that even though the newly regained areas from Summerland are now firmly in hands of Salisbury, there remain some regular actions of robbers. It is the intent to take steps against them in the new year.
Earl Roderick has also made his choice regarding his bride-to-be, he intends to ask the King for the hand of Lady Ellen, whose adventurous character appeals to him. In saying so, his eyes meet with Dalan’s – who spoke of Lady Ellen’s adventurous spirit. At the Easter court he will bring a suitable gift for the King to accompany his request.
At some point during the evening Tristan asks Earl Roderick animatedly when they will go fight the Saxons. “In due time,” Earl Roderick says. “You’ve been saying that for over a year now!” Tristan exclaims, but manages to stay just short of offending the earl who only picks up the eagerness of Tristan to fight the Saxons. Roderick says that the King has some plans for the Saxons, but not right now. And that Salisbury on its own is not strong enough to pose enough of a threat against the Saxons. “So you will have to be a bit more patient” he concludes. To Sir Elad he says: “When we are ready to fight the Saxons, make sure to put Sir Tristan in the vanguard of the army, and I will pity the Saxons he will encounter!” Sir Elad assures that this will be done. Tristan notices a short wink that Roderick makes when he turns his head to Sir Elad.
During this exchange, where Tristan is vehemently advocating a raid into the Saxon occupied lands, Dalan notices that Sir Jaradan wanted to enter the conversation a couple of times, but did not do so. The reason for this may very well be the Lady Adwen, who while in conversation with Sir Jaradan seemd very intrigued by the words of Tristan, indeed listening intently to him and , seeming to forget Sir Jaradan altogether.
The Ladies of the Court, and Dancing
After his conversation with Earl Roderick, Tristan manages to take Lady Adwen away from Sir Jaradan, under the pretense of having a cup of wine by the fire, where it is warmer. Lady Adwen readily agrees. Dalan, watching this unfold and wanting to help a friend out, pays a squire to go to Sir Jaradan to ask about his prowess at war. Sir Jaradan looks a bit annoyed, and briefly looks over to Tristan and Adwen by the fire, but he cannot resist to talk about himself and is soon engrossed in a probably very embellished story about his fighting skills.
Tristan talks to Lady Adwen about the Saxons and the fate of his sister Maeghan, of whom he has still not heard anything. He does not know where she is or even if she is still alive. But he still has hope that he will find her still on British soil. Lady Adwen sympathizes with Sir Tristan and shudders by the thought of being kidnapped by the Saxons. Tristan vows to do whatever is in his power to avoid a similar fate to her or any other lady from Logres. To switch to a less heavy subject, Tristan remembers that Adwen likes to sing, and asks her if she would like to perform a song to lighten the mood. Lady Adwen consents, but only if Earl Roderick allows her to do so. Tristan goes to Roderick with this request, and knowing the singing skills of his ward, he readily agrees and orders a lute player to accompany her. Lady Adwen sings a song about the history of Logres, all the way back to the Trojans who first landed here. The song and her singing is appreciated, and she gets a round of applause when she is finished. Tristan praises Lady Adwen and tries to spend as much time as possible with her.
At some point Sir Jaradan has run out of stories to tell, and goes back to where he has left off: to seek out Lady Adwen. He walks over to Tristan and Adwen and asks her: “Does this knight bore you, milady?” Tristan brusquely answers in her stead: “I don’t think she has to answer that” completely ignoring Lady Adwens capability to answer for herself (fumble courtesy). His manner and action completely surprise Lady Adwen, which causes her to go with Sir Jaradan, leaving Tristan alone, pondering what went wrong…
In the meantime, Dalan sets his mind to try to talk to Lady Elaine, another notable eligible lady. He finds her sitting with Sir Jarran, the younger (and married) brother of Earl Roderick. The tone of their conversation is lightly flirtatious.
Dalan initially doubts whether to disturb the seemingly intimate pair, but out of loyalty to Earl Roderick (his brother is married after all, and he does not want a scandal), he grabs a pitcher of wine and joins them. The tone of the conversation changes a bit, and a slightly surprised Jarran invites Dalan to join them. Elaine enjoys the smalltalk and gossip, and soon is just as flirtatious towards Dalan as she is towards Jarran. She seems to rather enjoy the company of two handsome knights. Dalan tells about his time at Warcastle, and about Lady Llylla. Elaine is very interested in his story. Midway through this telling, Earl Roderick calls Sir Jarran away, and Dalan is alone with Lady Elaine. When suitable music for dancing is played, Lady Elaine expects Dalan to invite her to dance. Sir Dalan does this, but warns her that his dancing is not very good. She does not mind, and they enter the dance floor.
Lucas sits together with some other knights in a corner, deep in conversation about various things. There are no ladies at the feast that hold his interest as Rhoswen is not present…
Tristan is asked for a dance by Lady Indeg, and he politely accepts her invitation, but also with a warning of his poor dancing skills. The dancing indeed does not go very well, and Lady Indeg does her best to save them from utterly failing. Dalan puts in his reckless passion for the dancing, and he manages to dance very well with the Lady Elaine, pleasantly surprising her: “What other skills have you been hiding from us all this time?” she asks him with bright eyes. (Dalan gains a permanent +1 on courtesy rolls regarding Lady Elaine)
While Lady Indeg and Tristan are dancing, she says: “I know it is not me you are interested in, and you only dance with me out of courtesy. I also know you like Lady Adwen. I can help you with her, if you want, but of course: Quid Pro Quo…” Tristan is a bit surprised by this, and awkwardly accepts her offer, saying that he somehow always seems to fail to please Lady Adwen in the end, but he also says he does not wish to go against his oaths to Earl Roderick or against propriety in answering her favour in return. “My, what do you think I will ask?” Indeg says smilingly. “But never you mind now, let me do my work, I will get back to you later” Tristan leaves Lady Indeg after their dance is finished, thanks her, and with a slight hope in his heart he goes to sleep later that night when the feast has ended.
Between Christmas and Easter Dalan tries to spend some time with Lady Elaine. Lucas pays a visit to Lady Rhoswen, of which more will be told in a separate tale. At some point, Tristan goes to Earl Roderick to make his interest in Lady Adwen known. Earl Roderick acknowledges this, but says that Lady Adwen is an important asset to Salisbury, and whomever will marry her, will become a rich and important knight in Salisbury. Who he will let her marry will certainly be determined by the best interests of Salisbury, and not a matter of the heart. At this moment he has not yet found a suitable match, and thus a decision is not made. Lady Adwen is also still relatively young, so there is time enough to find the best party. “I’m sure you understand, Tristan” he concludes. Tristan realizes that he will have to make himself truly indispensable to Earl Roderick and Salisbury will he ever have a chance to marry Lady Adwen.
The Road to Lonazep and the Ambush Near Windsor
Earl Roderick goes to the Easter Court in Lonazup, to bring his gifts to the King in his bid for the hand for Lady Ellen, and takes Sir Elad and ten knights with their squires and ten retainers with him. Among the ten knights are Tristan, Dalan and Lucas. The gifts and the other goods are tied to several pack horses. On their way to Lonazup they pass a dark forest near Windsor. Suddenly the group is under attack from a large group of Saxons, and only the brief warning from Dalan prevents them from having to fight them without any weapons drawn.
Dalan gets to deal with a cavalryman, Tristan and Lucas each have three fighters on foot against them. Dalan calls on his passion of loyalty and Dalan and Lucas and Tristan their hatred for Saxons.
Dalan unhorses his opponent and goes to protect the non-combatants, who are hiding among the pack horses. He quickly gets two cavalrymen in front of him, whose aim it was to go to the pack horses. Again Dalan unhorses one of the riders, but the other manages to hit and wound him. Enraged by this, Dalan strikes a mighty blow with his sword, and chops through his head above his lower jaw. The top of his opponents head sails through the air while his body slumps from his horse (critical hit). He also strikes the rider who has fallen of his horse, and this one does not seem to get up again.
In the meantime Lucas and Tristan are fighting their opponents. For an instant Lucas has a vision of being knocked straight off his horse, gravely wounded – but in the end no such thing happens. Lucas strikes his first opponent down, breaks the spear of the second, and hits the third, who remains standing. While the first Saxon tries to get up again, Lucas hits him again, and he goes back down. The second opponent is busy exchanging his spear for an ax, and Lucas hits the third opponent hard, who remains standing, but seems to look for a way out. The first Saxon is getting up again, Lucas hits the second Saxon (critical hit) and he goes down unconscious. He kills the third Saxon, and then disposes of the last standing man.
Tristan also manages to strike one of his opponents down, and wound the other two. While the first is getting up, Tristan hits the second man, and his sword opens the belly of the third man in one big swing. The latter goes down in agony. The spear wielding Saxon who had just gotten up is again hit by Tristan, and goes down unconscious. The last man standing is cloven in two through his head and ribcage (critical hit).
After having disposed of his opponents, Dalan goes to help Sir Elad, who is fighting two cavalrymen. Dalan hits one and wounds him, but he remains in the saddle. Tristan finds another Saxon in his vicinity, and kills him in one blow (critical hit).
After this the opposition seems to be broken, most of the Saxons are lying on the ground, dead or heavily wounded. Two who are still standing turn to flee, one horseman and one on foot, each go a different way. Dalan, Tristan and Lucas briefly look to Earl Roderick for permission to pursue them, but he seems undecided. Not waiting any longer, Dalan spurs his horse in pursuit, after the cavalryman. Lucas goes after the one on foot, and Tristan follows Dalan. Dalan quickly reaches the fleeing man, and hits him hard, but he remains on his horse. Tristan has now reached him as well, and gives him the final blow, he drops of his horse. Tristan grabs the reins of the horse while Dalan tramples the fallen man. Lucas hits his target, and he goes down. As he tries to get up again, Lucas kills him.
When they rejoin the main party, they discover that one knight had been killed, a spear through his throat in the initial attack. Other than that there are only lightly wounded men. Roderick fumes a bit, he finds it too suspicious that they have been attacked here, and he is disappointed that there is no Saxon in a condition to be interrogated. He gruffly gives the order to kill them all and dump them in a ditch somewhere. When they are about to kill the last one, Dalan steps in and puts his healing skills to work. He motions to Earl Roderick and says: “I think this one is conscious!”
Roderick quickly dismounts and goes over to the wounded man. He plays dead and refuses to react to any of Rodericks questions, still feigning unconsciousness. Then Roderick steps on his broken arm so he screams out loud. “So you are conscious after all…. Now tell me, where are you from and why did you attack us?” The answers come slowly and haltingly, but they find out that the men are from Malahaut and they have been hired by a man in a mask, with the promise of silver and of big spoil to get from their victims. As Malahaut is not Saxon land, the man admits that they are not Saxons, but only dressed as Saxons. Then the man falls into unconsciousness again. “Kill him,” Roderick says grimly, “I know enough.”
(Dalan gains +107 Glory for the fight, Lucas gains +50 Glory and Tristan gains +75 Glory)
The group continues their journey towards Lonazup, much more alert then they were before, ready for further mischief. Two knights ride about 50 meter ahead of the main group to scout for ambushes before the main group arrives. The remainder of the trip is without incidents and they safely reach Lonazup. Earl Roderick presses everyone not to mention the ambush, he suspects Sir Blains or his liege lord to be behind the attack, but he has no proof, so better not to say anything. They all promise to remain silent on the matter.
The first order of business for Earl Roderick is to seek out King Uther and presents his gifts. While none of the knights are present for this occasion, Dalan learns later that the gifts of Roderick were far more pleasing to Uther than the gifts of Sir Blains. Dalan seeks out a private moment with Earl Roderick, who later invites him to join him on a walk on the battlements, away from prying eyes and ears. “You have something of importance to say to me?” he asks Dalan. “I heard that your gifts were better received than the gifts of Sir Blains. And because of this and what has happened near Windsor, I recommend you to take a different route home when we leave Lonazup. Do not go near the lands of Silchester, to avoid any more incidents.” Earl Roderick is pleased to hear his gifts are better, and takes Dalans advice for the return journey to heart. He also praises Dalan for his timely warning of the ambush, which has likely prevented a disaster. Dalan accepts the praise, but says that he was only doing his duty. “Let us go back to the main gathering,” Roderick says, “We have not come here to spend our time on the battlements”
The Easter Court
A few days later the Easter Court begins. All notable men are present, even Lucius, the 4-year-old heir to the Saxon Shore and his aunt, Baroness Pomponia. The one person that is shining in absence is Merlin. He has not been seen in quite some time.
“Oh my, have you been watching that strumpet Rhianneth making passes at Prince Madoc? “
“I hear her perfume seduces anyone. It was made by a witch.”
“Well, she will have plenty of competition. It looks like half the ladies who were trying to bed the king have changed their targets now to the prince.”
“Yes, and who would have thought the baroness would push her way to the front of the king’s line of seducers?”
“No, she would never do that, she has dignity!”
“Ha ha, even she would sell her dignity is she could save £1000 libra to buy her desire for Lucius’ lands.”
“Ah, Lucius. Poor lad, losing his mother at childbirth and his father in combat. He is fortunate to have such a strong aunt to care for him.”
“Poor? When he acquires his holdings he will be the wealthiest man in the kingdom!”
Duke Ulfius is of the opinion that the Saxons are too silent, he does not trust it and warns that they must be up to to something. Lucas and Tristan learn that King Uther spends most of his time on the issue of becoming High King, but he has not yet enough support to be voted High King – a decision that can only be taken by the Supreme Collegium, consisting of both the Barons of the Cloth and the Barons of the Sword of Logres.
The next day there is a feast in the honour of Lucius, where he is made Duke of the Saxon Shore. This is most unusual, since in all other circumstances a Duke will first have to be a knight before becoming a duke. The boy’s aunt Pomponia will of course be the real beneficiary in the short term as she gains tremendous power as his ward. There is some gossip that Pomponia has ‘persuaded’ Uther to grant her nephew this title.
The Unfaithful Wife
During the feast a young lady is flirting with Sir Madoc. She is recognized to be Lady Rhianneth, the wife of Sir Martinus. Dalan and Tristan practise their flirting a bit during the feast. Dalan is not succesful, and while Tristan fails to charm the noble ladies, he has better luck with the serving wenches and ensnares a young maid by the name of Nerys (+10 Glory for Flirting).
At some point Dalan sees Sir Madoc leave the feast hall, and somewhat later Lady Rhianneth follows him. He nudges Lucas and points this out. They also notice that they do not go to their sleeping quarters, but are going into the gardens.
Not much later Sir Martinus goes around inquiring if anyone has seen his young wife, Lady Rhianneth and approaches the Salisbury knights as well. After initially some evasive answers, Lucas finally points Martinus towards the gardens. Shortly after that, a loud argument erupts from the gardens, audible to everyone. None of the Salisbury knights gets up to investigate though, fearing an incident that may reflect poorly on earl Roderick. Then Sir Martinus drags his wife by the arm into the hall, loudly calling out that she is an unfaithful wench. Somewhat later a surprised Madoc enters the hall. It turns out that Martinus has challenged Madoc to a duel by the sword at dawn. Madoc has accepted the challenge and will fight this personally. Something he need not have given the difference in status it would have been entirely acceptable to have a champion fight in his stead. Tristan hears from Nerys that Madoc claims to have not touched her, quite the opposite, it took some effort on his part to get her off him.
The next morning, after Tristan spends the night with Nerys, the duel takes place. Everyone of note is present to watch. After a long fight, during which both knights repeatedly show to be good fighters, Martinus more experienced, but Madoc the more skilled, Martinus is a bit slow on one defensive move and Madoc cuts open his throat. Martinus goes down, gurgling and spitting blood. While he dies, Tristan notices a faint smile on the face of Lady Rhianneth, even though she does her best to hide it. (critical awareness). She now is a very rich widow, and is free to marry another knight…
(+10 Glory Dalan for seeing Rhianneth and Madoc go to the garden. +10 Glory Lucas for pointing Martinus to the garden. +10 Glory for Tristan for awareness)