Early 487 A.D, Wylye Manor
In the early days of spring, the weather still wet with snow and rain, Tristan spends his time at home – Wylye manor. With nothing urgent at hand, he can’t help but notice how his mistress and servant around the manor, Cothi, and Bludd, the mother of Beti, spend a lot of time huddled together talking. One evening after dinner, Cothi, alone with Tristan in his private quarters, seems to be working up her courage to broach a subject. After a few aborted attempts she manages to say that she fears that the lack of firewood in the servants’ house during the winters past may have contributed to the pneumonia of Angharad, their daughter, and thus possibly her demise. Even though the servants asked for more firewood to see off the cold nights, Alwena denied them this comfort. Startled by this news, it nonetheless makes some sense to Tristan, given Alwena’s notorious shrewdness. He promises Cothi to raise the subject with his grandmother about this, and to make sure the servants no longer freeze in winter.
The next morning Tristan finds his grandmother and presents her with the issue: the lack of warmth in the servants’ house is not good for their health, especially if there are small children present. Alwena blanches a little when Tristan mentions small children, but she recovers quickly and says: “If they are cold, they should wear more clothes, we give them enough!” Tristan insists that there should be more wood available, after all, ill servants cannot work, and ill servants only cost more for no gain.
Alwena slyly remarks: “Speaking of costs, more firewood will cost more, and in that respect, why do Bludd and Cothi still remain at Wylye? Bludd does make herself useful from time to time, but Cothi seems to feel too good for some of the tasks she is asked to do. Besides, they don’t have to care for children anymore…” Tristan is a bit shocked by her bluntness, but sees her point immediately. “Hm, you are right” he muses and dodges with “Maybe we should send Bludd away…” Alwena looks directly at Tristan and says: “Good, will you tell her that?” before she turns and walks off towards the kitchen – leaving Tristan wondering who got the upper hand in this argument.
A bit overwhelmed by the situation, Tristan goes to look for Bludd and finds her in the servants hovel. On the way over he rehearses his argument. She has received food and shelter at Wylye for five years and this is much more than what could reasonably be expected, and that it is time for her to move on. He would allow her to stay at Wylye for a few weeks longer, until the weather clears enough for good traveling, and this time she may also use to find another employ. Certain that his case will be understood by the older servant, he is relieved to find her and get this ugly matter over with. Unfortunately his tongue runs off with him (another fumble by poor Tristan) and he makes a grand mess of it, the old woman glaring at him as she backs away to grab her belongings and storms off into the pouring rain, hissing all the while. Tristan remains behind, scratching his head in confusion wondering what just happened. Surely he wasn’t at fault? Thus, he misses the scene just outside – that of Bludd cursing the Wylye manor, wishing its occupants nothing but ill.
Asking for a Bride
When the weather turns for the better, Tristan rides to Sarum to raise the topic of a potential bride with Earl Roderick. Apparantly the earl has more visitors, as he recognizes the squire of Baron Duach tending to the baron’s horse. Arriving at the hall, Tristan takes off his damp cloak and greets Roderick’s dapifier, Sir Amig, explaining the purpose of his visit. Amig welcomes Tristan and invites him into the hall, where at the moment Roderick is still in conversation with Baron Duach and Abbot Brugyn, all seated by the hearth. Roderick will certainly have time to see Tristan, but not until he finishes his business with baron Duach. Therefore Tristan is to wait and perhaps join the others by the great table. Tristan thanks Sir Amig, and walks over to the great table, where Lady Indeg and Lady Marian are seated together with some embroidery, as well as Sir Kenian. Tristan seats himself across from Lady Indeg. After some small talk, the conversation goes to the visit of Baron Duach with whom Roderick is keen to craft an alliance between Wereside and Salisbury, reinforced by marriage. Lady Indeg asks Marian whether her handmaiden, Lady Gwiona, may be a candidate for Duach. Marian doubts the baron would be interested, given the untimely demise of each of Gwiona’s previous suitors.
Eventually the conversation also reaches Lady Adwen, with Lady Indeg commenting that her aid is too feeble to counter the damage Tristan has caused every time he puts his foot in his mouth. “Don’t remind me,” responds Tristan, groaning. He defends himself, explaining that his interest in Adwen is purely for her, and not her money. He admires her greatly, respects her in the way he handles her estates, and she is also a great beauty. “I wish I were born a baron, so I could marry her” he sighs. (This insight gains Tristan a passion of Amor for Adwen)
“But surely, if money is not an issue, there should be plenty of women to choose from to marry, who are both beautiful and capable?” Lady Indeg points out. “Yes, well, that is why I am here, actually, to ask Earl Roderick just that!” Tristan says as the conversation at the hearth comes to a conclusion with Roderick promising “I will let you know soon what I have decided.” and Baron Duach takes his leave.
Raising the Question with the Earl
A short while after, Sir Amig invites Tristan to join the earl at the hearth. Roderick welcomes Tristan and asks what he can do for him. Tristan explains that he is looking for a suitable bride for himself, and hopes that Roderick knows an eligible lady? Earl Roderick nods and inquires whether Tristan has indeed come to understand that the Lady Adwen is out of his reach, which Tristan confirms while admitting that he still hopes to admire her from afar. Not unlike what he already told the earl two years previous.
Before discussing the subject of a bride for the knight, Earl Roderick mentions his discussions with Baron Duach who has expressed interest in both Lady Adwen and Lady Elaine. Roderick now has to decide who – if any – he will give away in marriage to the Baron. “Who do you think would be best suited to be a baroness?” Roderick asks Tristan. After a brief pang of imminent loss, his loyalty to Roderick wins out and Tristan honestly admits that this would definitely be Lady Adwen, as she is the most competent of the two ladies, far more level-headed, and would be a very good baroness in his mind. But maybe he neglects the skills of Lady Elaine in that area, Roderick could ask Sir Dalan if he can tell him more about her? Roderick, having just drank from his glass, only barely manages not to hold on to his wine “I think that the knowledge of Dalan of Lady Elaines abilities lie in another direction!” Tristan must admit that Roderick is likely right on this account. Somewhat forlorn, Tristan returns to the subject of lady Adwen, how he still admires Adwen greatly, and how it would please him to marry her, if he only could, but as this is not the case, he would very much like to remain her friend, if she would have him as such.
Roderick then cuts in to ask Tristan what it is he most looks for in a bride. Tristan says that he needs a bride to mind the manor in his absence, as his grandmother is getting along in years, and starting to show it more every winter, and likely has not long to live. He also wishes to sire an heir to ensure the future of Wylye. He would not be opposed to a good looking bride, favoring good looks over wealth.
A Choice in Brides
Earl Roderick leans back in his chair, sipping his wine. “Let me think,” he says, and remains silent for a while. Tristan fidgets a bit with his wine cup, slightly nervous. Then Roderick speaks again: “I can think of one eligible lady, who is very able in running a manor, the only thing is that she is already forty years of age… So that might be an issue….?” Tristan explains that his need for an heir is becoming more urgent, and everyone knows that the chances that ladies over forty will bear healthy offspring are very slim indeed. Roderick nods, like he had expected this answer. “Then there is another possible match, she will inherit several manors in due time, but you will have to wait a couple of years before she is ready to give you an heir, as she now is only ten years of age.” Tristan frowns a little at this, but does not immediately dismiss the idea. “Then as a third option, I know of a daughter of one of my knights who is already of suitable age, she would be 19 now, and is also very capable in running a manor. She would also come with a respectable dowry.”
Tristan has to think about these possibilities, and even though the prospect of inheriting several manors is very tempting, his desire for an heir on short notice wins out, and he expresses his interest in the 19 year-old daughter. Earl Roderick seems pleased, and says to Tristan that he will have a word with the father but expects that Tristan will hear from him soon.
Word Arrives at Wylye
Some time later Sir Rufon, on his way to the western parts of Salisbury, calls at Wylye with a message for Sir Tristan. He is requested to travel to to Sarum two weeks before Easter, to meet with Sir Cloyd and discuss the potential marriage with his daughter. Sir Cloyd is relatively well known to Tristan, as Sir Dalan used to squire for the pagan knight. He vaguely recalls that Cloyd has a few daughters, but he cannot recall any of their faces. It surely has been at least five years that he has seen any of them.
As a forthcoming marriage now seems to become more real with the day, Tristan goes to Cothi, and tells her that it is likely that he is to be wed before the end of the year. It would be best if Cothi would leave Wylye before his wife-to-be arrives. This is met with big watery eyes, and Cothi clings to Tristan, weeping openly “Is there no way that I can stay?” Tristan softens by this onslaught of tears and promises that if she proves her worth to his grandmother, if she truly is an asset to Wylye, that she then may stay. “But there is no way! Your grandmother hates me!!” Cothi wails. “Well now,” Tristan says awkwardly, “I’m sure it is not all that bad. Just make sure that she sees your worth, and I will let you stay. But mind you, if my future wife says you are to go, then it is her word that counts!” Still very distraught, but slightly comforted, Cothi leaves. In the following weeks, Tristan notes the vigour Cothi puts into her tasks, even doing the chores she previously would not do. She also makes sure that Tristans bed is rarely empty…
Visiting Chitterne Manor
As there is still ample time before Tristan is expected at Sarum, he decides to pay a visit to Lady Adwen. He sends a messenger to her, to ask whether she is in and able to receive him. He is not entirely sure what her sentiments towards him are at the moment, and he does not wish to embarrass her arriving unexpectedly. The messenger soon returns with good news, Tristan is welcome to visit her at his convenience. The next day Tristan sets out to Chitterne Manor, and he brings an offer of good wine along as a small gift. Tristan is welcomed upon his arrival, and Adwen receives him in the hall of the manor. “To what owe I the honour of your visit?” Lady Adwen asks Tristan, somewhat tersely.
“It is always an honour to be in your presence, gracious lady” Tristan responds courteously. Adwen is pleased by these words and makes an remark about Tristan not being this eloquent in their earlier meetings. Tristan looks embarrassed, and tries to apologize by saying that he still does not know what had come over him that evening. Lady Adwen brushes his apology away with the statement that it must have been the wine, and she firmly closes the subject. They spend the time then talking about various things, about their respective manors and whether they have plans for further investments. Tristan expresses his interest in establishing an orchard on his manor, but he is not yet sure whether to have apples or pears, and asks the advice of Lady Adwen. She thinks apples are the better choice, and Tristan agrees with her.
Explaining his motivation saying that he thinks apples to be more robust, and they can also be used to make cider, Tristan impulsively promises Lady Adwen the first keg of cider that comes of his orchard. Lady Adwen laughs, and says that that will take some years yet. Tristan confirms this, and then says that he hopes that he can be a good friend to her, to help her when needed and where he is able, and that this friendship may last long, that he can at least offer the cider as a token of this friendship. Lady Adwen appreciates this offer, and accepts it, as good friends are always hard to come by, and she does enjoy Tristan’s company.
As a token of their renewed and official friendship, Tristan tells Lady Adwen of the visit of Baron Duach to Earl Roderick, and that he has expressed his interest in marrying her. He also says that Roderick has not yet made his mind up about this matter. Lady Adwen is very interested in this fact and thanks Tristan for informing her. She muses: “I must plan a visit to Sarum soon, I think, to talk with Earl Roderick.” Tristan says that if she thinks that best, she must do so. They then talk a bit more, but the day wears on and not wanting to impose much longer on her hospitality, treasuring his friendship with Adwen, Tristan takes his leave, promising he will keep in touch, and again reminding Adwen that if there is anything he can do for her, she has but to call.
Meeting the Bride of his Choice
A few weeks before Easter, Tristan stands on the motte of Sarum with Earl Roderick, watching the approaching party that they have been waiting for. Tristan recognizes Sir Cloyd, and sees that a young lady is riding next to him. With them are the knight’s squire and a maid for the daughter. Roderick mentions to Tristan that Cloyd has brought his daughter along as she is curious to meet her possible husband-to-be.
Meeting the travelers in the yard, by the stables, Earl Roderick warmly greets Sir Cloyd and his daughter Eryn, and introduces them to Tristan, insofar introductions are necessary, as Sir Cloyd and Tristan have met regularly before. Tristan knows he should have met Eryn also a couple of years before, she must not have made an impression then, with Eryn being of medium build, with black hair and a large, dark coloured birthmark on her left cheek. The way her eyes set on him – or anyone for that matter – however is hard to forget, an intense stare that stays far longer than comfortable. Even Earl Roderick finds himself looking away in mild discomfort when he greets her. Under this penetrating look, Tristan has to swallow once or twice, while he keeps smiling at her. “I am honoured to meet you, sir Tristan” she says, with a startlingly loud and shrill voice. He recovers quickly and responds: “The honour is completely mine, dear lady.”
Small Talk and Conversation
The group then goes into the great hall, where they seat themselves at the table for a glass of wine and small talk. Tristan is in conversation with Eryn, and he notices that the shrillness of her voice is definitely something that will require getting used to, something he truly he hopes that he can. But what she says makes a good impression on Tristan. He finds her quick of mind, and knowledgeable about running a manor. Vague suggestions by Tristan for possible improvements to the manor are quickly turned into an almost complete plan of action, with all advantages and disadvantages set out in detail. Talking further, she impresses Tristan with her skill in chirurgery, and her willingness to read anything she can get her hands on. Offering Tristan a small gift that she made herself – an embroidered handkerchief, which shows a small but greatly detailed hunting scene – he can’t help but be impressed with her industrious nature. Duly impressed , Tristan almost forgets about her shrill voice and intense stare. And if he looks at her from the right side, he cannot see the big ugly mark on her left cheek at all…
The Arrangements of Marriage
Then Roderick invites Cloyd and Tristan to sit with him at the hearth to discuss the offer of marriage. At the same time, Lady Marian takes over the conversation with Eryn, who is thus not left to sit alone at the table. When the trio is seated at the hearth, Roderick asks Tristan what he thinks of Eryn. Tristan answers that he is very impressed with her knowledge and skills of running a manor. Sir Cloyd sits a bit straighter at this praise, but as nothing more follows, his looks darken a bit and he says: “You can also just hire a steward if all you are interested in is having your manor run well…” to which Tristan answers a bit awkwardly: “Well, no, that is not what I want, I want a wife, so I can keep things in the family” Cloyd grunts a bit, but lets the matter drop.
Roderick states the marriage would have his blessings and rises, leaving knights to come to an understanding. With Tristan having declared his interest, it falls to Cloyd to offer a dowry – in this case a healthy sum of 8 libra as well as lands worth 3 libra per annum, to be considered the widow’s portion in case of Tristan’s demise. Knowing Cloyd has two more daughters to marry off, Tristan understands that the knight already has put all his cards on the table. All in all this seems to Tristan a good business arrangement, but he wishes to know the opinion of his grandmother before he makes a final decision. Thus, he expresses his sincere interest in the offer, but also asks for time to confer. Sir Cloyd thanks Tristan for his interest “We shall be waiting for your message” For which Tristan promises that they will not have to wait long.
Back at Wylye
When Tristan gets back to Wylye, he relates the meeting and subsequent proposal to his grandmother. He speaks very enthousiastically about her skills of running a manor, and says: “Look at this embroidery, grandmother, does the stag not look alive?!” showing her the embroidered handkerchief. Even Alwena must admit that the embroidery is very fine. “But you have not yet mentioned what she looks like, dear one” she says questioningly. Tristans enthusiasm dampens a bit at his recollection of the way Eryn looks and her voice! He really must get used to that, or ask her to speak in whispers only… When he truthfully admits that Eryn may not be the best looking girl in the county, and that is an understatement, Alwena is pleasantly surprised. Who would have thought that Tristan of all people would select a bride with less beauty than brains? When Tristan tells her what the dowry is, this is also not to her dislike. “Tristan”, she says, “this sound like a very suitable arrangement, and I have no objection, so have a message sent so we can arrange your wedding! What is more, I will write the message for you myself.”
Pleased with her approval and support, there still remains one other issue on the mind of Tristan. Cothi. In a burst of openness towards his grandmother, he tells her about the deal he struck with Cothi in a moment of weakness, that she could remain when he married, but only if she would work harder. Alwena had noticed that Cothi worked harder in the last weeks, and had wondered… To Tristan she says: “Well, you know my opinion, I never wanted the wench in the manor in the first place, she is your responsibility and your problem if you choose to look at her that way”
Troubled and full of indecision regarding Cothi, Tristan walks up and down the hall. It would be fairest to Eryn to send Cothi away before she arrives, but then again, Cothi is a very attractive young woman. In the end his loins win the battle from his brain, and he makes up his mind not to send Cothi away. And if there will be trouble later, he’ll deal with that, later.
When Alwena finishes the letter to Sir Cloyd with the request of Tristan for the hand of his daughter Eryn in marriage, Tristan looks for a messenger to send it. Of all the times that his squire has gone missing! This would have been a perfect job for Andreas to do. Where has that boy run off to??
He finally finds someone to send the message, and then he goes to look for Cothi, to tell her the news of his upcoming marriage. But before he can even say anything about her staying or not, she interrupts him and blurts out: “Tristan, I am with child again!”….
The Forgotten Sister
During all of the business of getting a wife and dealing with his mistress, Tristan had almost forgotten about his sister, who has been missing for some years already. Where could she be? Is she all right? As it is not a good decision to walk into Saxon occupied territory to look for himself, Tristan finally decides to have a message sent to Eaglemund, to ask him whether he has taken his sister captive, and if so, what would be the price to get her back. In Sarum he finds someone to write this letter and also a messenger, who will deliver this for 60 den. Satisfied with this, Tristan returns to Wylye.