Thursday, July 26, 2007

566: Denouement

Lancrius here...

You've heard, I'm sure. How could you not?

But I'll tell you some things you probably haven't heard, though God knows enough rumors have been swirling around Salisbury in the months since.

One, I can tell you for sure, as sure as I'm sitting here, that Lancelot did come back at the end, and with every intent to succor the King. Anything anyone says to the contrary is false. It was I who showed him where the King fell, and where Mordred's body lay. And the look on his face no one can fake, not even someone as skilled at trickery as that traitor Mordred, or the Orkney lot (Gawain and Gareth excepted).

Sir Bors accompanied me to Stonehenge and helped me erect the memorial stone to King Arthur Pendragon. It was Bors who chose the words on the tombstone; he was always better at that sort of thing than I ever was. Once the stone was in place among the rest of Arthur's kin, we parted ways and I have not heard of him or his whereabouts since.

Lancelot I did hear of, though: my cousin Alinor, the Abbotess at Amesbury, sent me word that Lancelot had come by to see the Queen. Alinor said that Guenevere refused to leave the safety of the building, and only allowed Lancelot to speak to her through the closed and heavy oak door. Alinor did not say what their parting words were, only that their conversation was brief. No one has seen Lancelot since.

So, so many good men died that day...I don't want to talk about it. It is still too fresh.

In all the confusion of the aftermath, as I made my way from Stonehenge to Silchester, I neglected the wounds I received on the battlefield. I'm afraid that by the time I got to Father's bedside my leg was quite green. Father's doctor had it removed at the knee, and after a bit of the old touch and go, I recovered. One of Ragnar's Sussex men brought me Cynfyn's saddle, the one he got from my brother Clarian, and with that I'm able to ride tolerably well, though it does ache something fierce.

I left Reynald in charge of Silchester and rode with Elliott to Durnford with father in a litter. The old manor had really been ravaged in all the fighting, but we got it tidied up and installed Father in his old rooms. He died about a week later and we buried him in the old garden next to Lady Ysabet. He was aged 93.

A few months later the King's cousin Constantine came to visit me at Sarum. Earl Robert died last year, and with Elliott back in Silchester I was doing my best to keep things running smoothly in the old keep. Constantine had been appointed King, and asked me to be his Constable. I pointed out to him that I really wasn't much of a strategist, but he asked me if I had ever seen a second layer of cream form on a pail of milk already skimmed, so I accepted the appointment.


Now, this I have told to no one: not Father's old friend Bors, not Lancelot, not King Constantine. The pieces of body we buried under the tombstone at Stonehenge are not my lord Arthur's. On that terrible day, after the fighting was over and the corpses of men, horses, and monsters lay strewn from horizon to horizon, two figures stood amid the ruin: Arthur and Mordred. I was too far away to see if they spoke, but when Mordred speared the king, Arthur reached out, grabbed the shaft and pulled himself within striking distance of Mordred, whom he smote with Excalibur where the neck joins the shoulder. They both fell, and when I had reached them, I kicked Mordred's body and cursed it. And, to my surprise, my lord Arthur opened his eyes and spoke! He told me to take Excalibur and throw it in the lake and, when I had done so, asked me to carry him to the shore. It was difficult with my leg, but I managed, then stood there dumb while a barge with six women in mourning clothes took Arthur's body onto the barge and glided off into the mist.

Arthur told me that if I threw Excalibur into the water he would return. But it's been over a year now, another man wears his crown, and he hasn't returned. Part of me thinks he died of his wounds, but another part...people thought I was dead but I was only in Faerie. We thought Monroe was dead twice, but he was in Faerie both times. Part of me wants to believe that Arthur is in Faerie, too, and will come back to us someday.

I should like to see him again before I die.

Lancrius, a knight of Salisbury.

565: This is The End

Sir Monroe checks in

The four of us—Sir Bradwyn, Sir Cynfyn, my brother and I—were in high spirits as we rode off from the Duke de la ROUSse's manor. We joked that Cynfyn should perhaps add tiny mouse-ears alongside the bull horns adorning his shield or, if that was too confusing, perhaps affix the ears to his helm...we took a bend in the path and it seemed to me and the others that we were in Camelot-wood in the southern reaches of Salisbury, not Anglia. Before we could become overly concerned our attention was taken up with a large body of riders overtaking us on the road east. Brother suggested getting OFF the road, but that most upright and respectible of knights Sir Bradwyn, son of the Great Duke, would have none of that and instead hailed the group as they came within earshot.

The riders halted and we were hailed in return by a voice most rustic and uncouth...Sir Doon! mounted on the largest destrier I have ever seen, and encased in what seemed solid steel armor. We pressed forward, raising our helms so that he might recognize us. He did, somewhat incredulously, but when the men with him then asked "Baron Doon, do you know these men?" it was all we could do to stay in our saddles. Baron Doon?! And he looked aged, and smaller than I remember. Quite a bit smaller. Gerin the Weaker was there, and Sir Tulga and a knight who turned out to be little Ragnar, Leo's boy, all grown up and dressed as a knight. In a rush they told us that we hadn't been seen or heard of in twenty-one years. Twenty-one years! By the pickled balls of St Alban! They also said that:

We rode with our old comrades as fast as we could toward Camelot.


Neither Bradwyn nor I had any news of our families. No word from the Great Duke or Father, though the King said that Mordred had been assassinating enemies, and he said that both men were quite aged, and that Father was taken to his bed these past few years, with the running of Silchester county in the lands of my brother Elliott. Poor Bradwyn had no way of knowing whether his family lands—nay, his family!—was intact, as there was some dissent about inheritance even before Bradwyn disappeared into Faerie. But the King seemed somewhat heartened at our unexpected return, and had messengers sent out to those lords still loyal to him to announce that he had returned, and to muster all available troops. In a few days we had our answers: the Great Duke still lived and was riding south at the head of his army, and my brother-in-law Reynald was marching south with Silchester and Robert with Salisbury.

We also learned on that hurried ride that Mark of Cornwall had, a decade ago, invaded Salisbury, nearly taking Camelot but for the heroic defense of the castle by good old Sir Leodigrance the Lesser and Sir Clydno, who saved the day with his family's relic, the finger of St Alban, but that both had perished in the effort. All of us were sore grieved to hear that news. Both were good men, and Leodigrance was well-loved in these parts. He might not have been the best battlefield general, but his way with his fellow knights and the men-at-arms under him was unequaled. A great gift for choosing the right man for the job. We could really have used his skills for this contest!

That night his son Ragnar had a dream in which Sir Gawain appeared to him, imploring him to warn the King not to march out and meet Mordred on the morrow, but to wait a few days as Lancelot was on the way with an army from Ganis.

Ragnar looks uncannily like Lady Raeburgh, and has developed her unfortunate taste in axes to an art. He told me he even prefers to wield that great axe of his on foot rather than fight from horseback! Fortunately, he appears to not have followed her taste for alcohol.

We rode toward Camelot two days later, with the King determined to parley a delay.


The Battle of Camlann

Some quotes from the battle:

"Gawain is surrounded by happy people..."
"He must be in Gwaelod."

"Ohh...we're fighting faerie knights."
"Does my book of law help me here?"

"Oh...9 on 4d6."
"Wait—that was a crit. You roll double dice."
"That was double dice."

Player: "Can I inspire myself with my Loyalty (Arthur) here?"
Other players: "Oh, save it. There's worse stuff coming, believe me."
Player: "Well, okay...ooh, 20. Fumble."
GM: "Ooh! I crit!"
Other players: "Sorry."

"53 points? I need chirugery just to be presentable in a coffin."
"You need a seamstress."

Sir Monroe one last time

Wow, what an incredible collection of riff-raff assembled under that traitor's banner. When the parley went badly, most of the men rallied 'round Arthur to get him to safety, but with a look Lancrius and I, and wild-eyed Cynfyn, charged Mordred. I would have happily been hacked to pieces if I could have gotten that son-of-a-bitch. But his men got between us and we could only thin their ranks before the armies clashed all around us. We fought Welsh bowmen, Welsh "knights," Irish kerns (always!), Cornish knights, Malahautian footmen, Saxon berzerkers, Genoese crossbowmen, trolls...and damn, look at that, Uno, the last son of Ulfius, the Original Logres Traitor. He and Ragnar went at it most fiercely, and I'm sad to say that it was Ragnar's lifeless body that hit the ground first. That's the way of the world sometimes, but then I rode that sorry excuse for a man down and lopped his head from his shoulders, finally finishing what dear Leodigrance, Marshall, son-in-law, friend, started so well those many years ago.

At one point we got off the field to patch ourselves up, remount and regroup before heading to the front lines again when a sad event occured on this day full of sadness. Bradwyn had been off his mark after engaging the footmen, as though the passion had gone out of his fight, when both Belias and Gerin the Weaker had attempted to rally his spirits. Instead, Bradwyn very quietly stood up and thrust at his cousin with his sword! Even worse, marvellous Uren the Timely at that point interposed himself among the three and took the blow meant for Gerin. Poor Gerin's reunion with his father was to hold him dying in his arms as the Great Duke's usually stalwart and pious son ran off screaming Lady Cliane's name.

We suited up and rode to the front, weeping at this terrible scene of a family wrenched apart, to engage with a pack of five-headed dogs.

Sir Doon writes to his companions...

It be te year 564 in of Our Lord Jesu Christ to Camelot an udder partes be this lettre tayke.

Oy thar Hounds!

I hope this lettre fynds ye well and whole. A ten year a come synce I last heerd of ye an I been busy. I took the good Sir Bradwen's example and kilt all te cats and sprayed ther bloode on me fields and won'tcha know it worked! Fields bloom ryte quick after tha, so now we have a new plantynge tradition here at Black Hills called The Cattin'. Priest got his loincloth all knotted up o'er it, but he eats the bread and drinks the beer, so he hasn't a ryte te be fussy, like.

Me ladye, the Goodlye Alyce of Crediton, been breedin' pups like a champion. Now I gots six children, and I'm proud te say tha I've a third son, whom I named Leodigrance after my former sponser and friend, and when he grows he'll be the Knight of the White Hen. I'll miss Peck, but she'll lay the tin anew for him. Bless the littl' chick.

I'm havin' the priest scratch this here lettre to tell ye that I'm throwin me support behynde King Arthur and am musterynge for next summer. I hope ye will be thar te meete and togethyr we'll fyte that bastarte Mordred. He tryd te levy troops and taxes from Devon, beyond our yearly tribute, an we ain't hearin none of tha. Arthur's our man.

You'll see me hort unner the Banner of te Whyte Hen as usual, but look for Black Hills on a Green Field an you'll fyn us. Looks like two black tits, like. Ye canna miss it.

Evver yer Doon.

561: the Queen accused!

Elliott here

Father continues to fuss and grump at all the servants and family who come to visit. Sister Oriana has been a sweetheart though and soothes things over. Without her bounteous charms and warm heart I should be all alone and bereft of family. But really, I can understand why he goes on like he does. I have seen few men of action that can stand to be laid up or confined for any length of time.

Shortly after Pentecost Reynaud and Ragnar came tearing through with dreadful news: my lady the good queen Guenevere stood accused of trying to poison Sir Mordred! And, since her champion Sir Lancelot was gone no one knew where, was due to be burnt at the stake by May. I wasn't there, I don't know what transpired, but I cannot image the king letting this happen! Or any good knight.

We are all of us praying for Sir Lancelot's speedy return.

560: A Pox?! Don't Want!

Count Mortimer fusses

Damn it all to hell!

I caught a cowpox from one of the maids, and got deathly ill. I recovered, barely, but am still to weak to get out of bed. It's been months and I still feel awful—and she wasn't even that good a lay!

Drat it all. I hate lying here day in and day out, useless and old and alone. Why did Monroe have to ride off and take Lancrius with him! Every son of mine who was ever knighted is dead. Monroe is dead, my granddaughter Rosemeade is dead, even Zenobia, Monroe's illegitimate daughter (shut up in a nunnery all these years) is dead of the plague...oh, it makes me weep. Rosemeade's little one, her one and only son with young Leodigrance, is the only issue of Monroe still alive. As the autumn closed in I sent word to my lord the good and just king Arthur to confirm little Raymond as my heir under the regency of Earl Robert.

I wish Ebble was alive.

We heard that Brian attacked Lindsay and Malahaut; Leo would have liked that.

559: Feeling old. Again.

Count Mortimer pines

That Brian, who's been raiding here and there on the borders of my lord Arthur Pendragon's kingdom, this spring struck in Anglia. Oh, how I wish I could go out and kick his ass! But all the companions of my youth are dead save one, the Great Duke, whom I have not seen since the battle before the gates of Sarum four years past.

Another damp winter, another round of fevers, this time striking my daughter and new daughter-in-law. Both recovered, though one of the little ones did not.

Sir Bors came back. Reynaud and I are riding to court next week to hear his tale.

558: Nice horse!

Count Mortimer grimaces

I hatespending winters in Silchester city! That place is always damp. But there you have it: I had work to do and I stayed until I couldn't ride out on my own, and there caught a fever. I am too old for that nonsense. And to make it worse, my daughter Oriana was there to help care for me now that I have no wife and am too ugly to get another (despite my wealth and charm), and her little one, never the healthiest of babies, succumbed to the same fever and died. What a shame, especially since Lady Ernestine, Elliott's young wife, is with child.

And despite it all at Christmas court we had promised a tournament, so a tournament we had, there at Silchester. Those knights who came back from the grail quest last year attended, as did many of the young knights my lord king Arthur promoted to the round table in place of those who'd perished. It went well I suppose, and the prize was a very fine destrier, a liver chestnut trained to fight. I saw that horse kick a groom once in the stable and break both the boy's legs! Caught him on the side of the leg, and broke 'em both.

Needless to say I was not allowed to ride him.

Oh! And we had a good enough of a harvest that I was able to pull some coin together and get more siege equipment. I love the smell of grease and oakwood!

557: Easy come, easy go

Count Mortimer explains

My boy Elliott, my steward and right-hand man these many years, has been working like a dog to get Silchester and our lands in Salisbury back in production. He's done a mighty fine job of it. It was rough there for awhile, especially after his little daughter died just after the new year. A skittish horse, and she landed on her head, they say. Snapped her neck. What a pity, she was full of vigor, that one. He tried to blame me for letting her ride a horse beyond her abilities. The nerve! And after he's confined me to geldings. Oh, I gave him what for. Our shouting made all the little ones cry.

At Pentecost he apologized and we were reconcilled. At court, my lord Arthur announced that he'd found Elliott a suitable wife (at my asking), a lovely maid from the southern part of Salisbury, near Portchester, to be his third wife. I'm afraid he takes after me in that regard. They married midsummer. We all needed a bit of a celebration. The king and queen were there, gracing us with their presence: we really pulled the stops out on that one. The party went on for days! Feasts, a tournament, even a court of love for the ladies and the softer gents. And a county fair for the peasants. My daughter Oriana and her husband, good Sir Reynauld were there with their newborn—another daughter, naturally!

The king looks better than he's looked in a long time.

In the fall we received the shocking news that Lyonesse sank beneath the waves! Everybody in the hall cheered at first, thinking it was part of Mark's demesne, then we found out it was the homeland of Sir Tristram. Oops.

556: Just like the old days

Count Mortimer laments

I admit: I have more pride than the churchmen say is good for my soul...but sweet Jesu! it sure does a body good.

That damn Cornishman's invasion hurt us, hurt us bad. If it hadn't been for the meager surpluses in Silchester and Sussex we would have had famine in Salisbury. Famine! It was never so bad, even during the chaotic years after Uther's death, with those Saxon princelings gorging at our tables while they waited for us to knuckle under...ha! They've had a long wait, those dogs.

So: disaster averted thanks to the neighboring counties. Not enough to replentish my stocks of siege equipment; that will have to wait til next year. Shortly before Pentecost court—my first visit to Camelot for the year as I had absolutely no time during Christmas—during a rare quiet moment, my lord Arthur and I looked over the Round Table. Fifty-four seats whose men, good knights all, will never come home. All for a silly cup! What a waste. I didn't say that, of course: Arthur takes that much more seriously than I. But while we were discussing relief supplies, he turned to me and said he was glad of his leniency with me and my castle-building obsession. I know many have advised my lord Arthur over the years to tear down the many manorial fortifications I've made before and during his reign, but this is the first time he's ever said that to me, that he was glad I did it. It was just the two of us sitting there; no one else heard it, but it warmed this old heart, and made me feel young again.

Sir Doon writes to the Archbishop of Canterbury...

In te year of Our Lorde 556, to Canterbury be this lettre tayke.

To the Ryte Worshippful Lord Bishop of Canterbury, I am Sir Doon of Devon, Lord of the Manor of the Black Hills, still Knight of the Whyte Hen, liegeman of the Goodly Kynge Erbin of Devon, and lykequise servant of Kyng Arthur.

I'm writin te ask wha's all this business wit te Holy Grail. Me priest is all goggle-eyed and says its a cup of Jesu blood or some such. Whats so specyal about it? I get me fill of Jesu blood at leas two, mebbe, three tymes a week at Mass. An I eat Jesu, like a Goodly Christian aut. I think its better to eat Jesus first then drink his bloode, caus if'n its the other way around, ye get dry mouth.

Anyhoo, me priest says I aut to go on Quest for the Jesu cup, but truth be tol I'm a bit busy at te moment. I got a new wyfe and two girls te look after, and te lands still sluggish. Is it all ryte that I stay home and eat n drink Jesus on me own? Can I stell git te heaven?

Your humble servant,

Doon of Devon

555: Salisbury invaded!

Count Mortimer fumes

During the gentle spring rains I received word from my liege Earl Robert that I was urgently needed for a council in Sarum. The reason? That misbegotten son of a three-legged cob! Mark, who styles himself king, was marching east at the head of an army. The Earl had read to me missives describing how Devon had been overrun, and intelligence reports from scouts indicating that this vast army was headed toward Somerset. I can only assume he means to overrun the Pendragon's breadbasket, fertile Salisbury. Our county's fine marshall, young Leodigrance, advised raising Salisbury troops as well as asking our old allies Marlborough, Rydachan, and Gloucester for aid, plus raising troops in areas where we have strong land-holding ties. Earl Robert, a wonderful liege but no strategist, handed the defence of the county over to Leodigrance, and the messages were duly sent.

I was pleased to see my dear old friend, the great Duke Bellengere himself, riding into Sarum at the head of an army of Gloucester and Rydachan knights and men-at-arms. We haven't seen each other in many years, and while we are both older, the bonds of affection are still strong. I sent word to muster Silchester's troops and bring them to Sarum. Sadly, the Lady Cleena of Marlborough rebuffed our call for aid, something I'm sure that is making her uncle Charles roll unhappily in his grave.

We have a good strong army, but it's small. So many men have left on that stupid grail quest, others are lost, or dead (oh, my sons!), others ignored the call. But it is a quality army: I have done my part over the years to bring the Silchester knights up to the level of a knight of Salisbury, and I believe I've done my job well. Young Leodigrance has seen, over the years, to the maintaining of emergency provisions, so we are well-victualed, and I have salted away enough siege equipment over the years that we should be in good shape if it comes down to that.

We've sent out scouting parties under the leadership of young Leodigrance to assess the situation.

Sir Vonne, a knight of Sussex, reports

Well, when the word came in from the marshall Sir Leodigrance the Lesser to muster at Baverstock, away in Salisbury, me and those of the boys still at the Earl of Sussex's court got leave to march away west to the marshall's aid.

We weren't at the big castle long before Sir Leodigrance took a handful of us out on a reconnaissance party. We soon enough encountered the leading edge of King Mark's army, and found it to be made up of not only King Mark's own Cornishmen, but Irishmen and Brittans, too. A sizeable force, they say. We skirmished with a band of archers and some Cornish knights, whom a man called Sir Doon almost single-handedly slaughtered. Unfortuantely, Sir Leodigrance's son, Sir Ragnar, took a serious wound. Almost a death-blow! Sir Leodigrance took several prisoners back to Sarum, though I think he cut our mission short over concern for his son. Natural enough, as they are quite close, though most of the Sussex men fear Sir Ragnar. Too much like his mother.

Count Mortimer advises

Well, we now know that Somerset is overrun, and that the army is heading this way. They have some devilry with them the Cornish call a "canon." I don't know what this churchman does, but he certainly did a number on the walls of Wells. I suppose now I'll see just how well I did on Sarum's walls.

Argh! We have received word from my lord Pendragon King Arthur to bring our troops to the aid of Camelot, which is also under threat of Mark's armies, and is sorely underprotected as most of her knights are questing, lost, or dead. There was great confusion and gnashing of teeth in Earl Robert's council chamber: what to do? If we leave, Sarum will certainly fall and Salisbury be plundered. But can we disobey the King and not come to his aid when we have the power to do so?

In the end, I decided that my first loyalty lay with Earl Robert and the people of Salisbury, but Leodigrance and Bellengere and their men said they must answer the call of the Pendragon. Half of Salisbury's knights stayed behind, and all of Silchesters, but the knights of Gloucester and Rydachan, and the other half of our local boys marched to the second jewel of Salisbury, Camelot.

Sir Vonne reports

We Sussex men followed Sir Leodigrance to Camelot. A few days after we arrived, we were surrounded by a sea of Cornishmen. They were riding high, too, because in their midst was their diabolical canon, black and mounted on a large wagon, painted with mystical signs and attended to by scores of acolytes. Much to my surprise, instead of hunkering down for a long siege, or riding out to fight in the fields surrounding Camelot, Sir Leodigrance told us to prepare for a night raid. Hmm.

Count Mortimer weeps

We know that Mark's army is provisioning itself off the land as it goes, then burning what it does not take. With heavy heart, my men and I rode out Sarum's gates and burned our own lands ahead of Mark's army. We are destroying everything we cannot move into the castle walls. Oh, the gardens of Durnford! Forgive me, Ysabet.

Sir Vonne reports

We were ready to ride, all twenty of us, in the hours just after midnight. We waited and waited some more before someone finally ran off to get Sir Leodigrance. I don't know what the hold-up was.

But we rode out, and the Cornishmen weren't expecting a night sortie, so we met with little opposition...until we approached the diabolical canon. That was heavily guarded. We finally hacked our way through, though we left behind many comrades. I could not tell what was happening in the confusion and the dark, but at one point I saw Sir Clydno rip his most holy relic off the chain on which it hung around his neck, stand up in his stirrups and shout, "No good for me in life, serve me now in death O holy St Albans!" and he flung the finger into the maw of the diabolical canon. I then heard popping sounds as men with torches rode 'round...the next thing I know I was flying through the air in slow-motion, deaf and twirling like a leaf caught in an autumn breeze. I hit the turf hard and lay there dazed while pieces of horse, man, and the wagon under the diabolical canon landed around me. Then I passed out.

When I woke up, days later, I was told that our sortie had managed the destruction of the diabolical canon though it cost us the lives of most of our party. Sir Leodigrance was dead (sob!), as well as Sir Clydno. They say it was the saintly finger that in the end overcame the devil's evil canon, and I believe them. Those of us that lived, Arthur showered praise upon, and we are now, I can scarcely believe it, knights of the Round Table!

Count Mortimer sums up

Well, they could not breach the walls, though the fighting at times was tough. And we made enough sorties to keep them on their toes, though we did not have the troops to repulse them...until reinforcements came up from the south and we were able to crush them between our two armies. Oh, was I happy to see Bellengere! After we had cleared the field he told me of young Leo's heroics in the fields outside Camelot. That boy was some knight, and I will miss him sorely.

Later that year, owing to the scarcity in the lands, my daughter Oriana's little son died, damn Mark to hell! I hate King Mark with a passion. The stress sent Oriana to her bed. And my son Elliott's wife...died in childbirth!

Sir Doon writes to his companions...

In the year of our Lord 555, to Camelot and Othyr Partes be this lettre tayke.

Oy thar, Hounds! It's me yer Doon. A long time te say Haloo!

I n'ere did git te say me sorries for leavin' y'uns. I hope ye killed te Kynge of Cats and that Goode Sir Bradwen's lands are ryte agin. I'm not sure how killin' a cat will make te crops grow, tho killin' cats is goodly fun. In Devon we kill yearlins, the wee calfs, and sprinkle te blood on the fields, like. Priest says we should na do it, but everyone knows it'll work. Hmm. Maybe I'll trys a cat next plantynge.

So, I'm writynge te let ye know that I'm now Lorde of te Manor of te Black Hills. My bruvver Madoc wert kilt at te Battle of Wells and his missus, God bless her, died of te shock. They's got two wee girl pups, which I'll take as me own. Been sad fer manye months now. I got no bruvvers left so I'm alone, but Kynge Erbin says he's gonna fix me up with a ryte ladye from Devon so tha I kin rut me sads away.

Oy Hounds it bin a bloodye mess here in Devon. Whole countryeside wasted by Cornishmen and Irish. Luckye tha our Manors up in te Hills and wert passed bye for te moste parte. I had te kill scores of reivers an udder scum. Wert wounded a ryte bit, but now I'm mend. Manors na doin' so good, tho. Nuffin's grown, but I been buyin' food and stores for us and te villages here abouts. How're your lands fairin'? I hears its a same in moste partes.

I miss our manye goode tymes together and hope we sees each te other soon.

Your Doon.

554: Claptrap and Other Ill Tidings

Count Mortimer grumps

At Pentecost feast an apparition of the Holy Grail appeared. The religious knights made such a fuss that soon the whole hall was clamoring for a quest. What rubbish! But would anyone listen to reason? No. The round table positively emptied of knights, and many of the younger knights from the lower tables as well, vowed to take up the hunt for this magical cup. All that food, gone to waste. The servants ate well that week, that's for sure.

Did I go? Are you kidding me? I admit, when Lady Betty passed away I spent some time in the chapel, but I'm no fool to run off half-cocked on some quest for a cup, even Jesus's cup. A lance, a sword, a horse, a mission: that is all a knight ever needs. I spent the rest of the week at court gaming with the pagan knights in attendance.

Later that year my son Elliott's new wife had a son, but a flu swept through Silchester, making me ill and killing two of Oriana's daughters.

553: Orkney Revenge

Count Mortimer says

They say the grave of Sir Lamorak was found. Sad news, indeed. He was a fine young man.

Everything north of Lindsay is wasteland.

My daughter Oriana finally has a son!

552: Something is Amiss

Count Mortimer muses

My lord and emperor, Arthur Pendragon, looks like shit. He looks worse than me! But he isn't talking, at least to me.

Also, this spring, Oriana's eldest daughter was crushed by a cart and died.

551: Family Matters

Count Mortimer recounts

Well, well. My daugher Oriana and her husband Sir Reynald of Oxford, had another daughter. Four girls now! Reynald was looking positively worried when I mentioned paying for all those wedding feasts, ha! They came by shortly after Oriana delivered to lend a hand at the tournament. Yes, I know, I still think they're poppycock, but somehow the queen talked me into it during Christmas court last year. I don't know what I was thinking, but Reynald and Elliott were superb organizers. We had for a prize a ladies litter trimmed in red samite, with four white sumpters in matching red samite caprisons. Very nice. Of course, that Sir Lancelot fellow won it and promptly turned it over to the queen, but it was a fitting prize for such a beautiful and gracious lady, if I do say so myself.

Hmm, do you know what the buzz was during the tournament at Windsor? That my lord King Arthur Pendragon has another son. Yes, yes! Unfortunately, this new son turns out to be that layabout Sir Mordred, a fact confirmed by young Lancelot. Poor Arthur! If any of my boys acted in the fashion of Mordred, I would tan their hides, arthritic knees be damned!

Sir Loholt would have made a much better king than Mordred ever will.

550: So Lucky!

Count Mortimer gushes

A very special year for me: I turned seventy-seven years old! The entire family gathered at the family seat of Durnford for a party: my sons Elliott (with his son and new wife!) and Orestes, my daughters Anabel and Clarissa, my son-in-law Roderick and their children, daughter Oriana and her husband and three daughters, nephew Clarian and niece Emma with their families, my great-niece Brienne, Leodigrance the Lesser and his son by my granddaughter Rosemeade, Altis of Bedegraine and the children (you know, my granddaughter Zenobia's husband and children). Plus well-wishers Bellengere, Griflet, Bors, Lady Cleena...there must have been fifty, sixty guests all told. Baker Tom, from Winterhaven Stoke, made the most marvelous cake in the shape of Silchester's keep. We had a great time dismantling it, especially the ladies and young ones!

Do you know, I've had five wives and fifteen children, eight of them sons. I attribute it to my zest for life.

The downside of 77? My arthritis is killing me. I'm okay in the summer, but come fall, when the bad weather sets in, I can barely hobble up and down the stairs, much less ride. The king and queen held Christmas court at the new castle at Sarum this year, and it was all I could do to attend. It took four days of hot compresses and those delicious hot toddies Earl Robert's man makes for me to recover from the journey.

549: Doldrums

Count Mortimer says

The king is looking terrible, and he hardly seems to spend any time with the queen. I spent most of the summer away from court, attending to matters at home and in Silchester. I even rode north with dear Elliott to inspect our lands in Hertford and Lonazep, though it was quite a long journey for me. I was happy to return home and spend a few weeks recuperating in Durnford. It's a comfort to me to sit at times in the garden next to my wife's grave and listen to the wind, and the birds.

548: Loholt returns home

Count Mortimer relates

I was chatting with Earl Robert before heading down to Pentecost court. He said that, last year, an invasion force of French landed in Cornwall, followed shortly by another of...I believe he called them Sara-mens. From Spain or some such. Ha! I bet Mark wished he'd paid his taxes now.

Anyway. Another of my lord Arthur's customs at Pentecost is to not only hold it at Camelot, but to start the proceedings with some little show—some of the younger knights call them "miracles." The miracle this year? I remember my son Lancrius telling me about Logrin the giant, who apparently wouldn't stay dead. He and his fellows rode north several times at the request of a charming young lady, killed this giant and rode home, only to hear over the winter that he was back and still rapacious as ever. Well, this year at court the lady with the giant problem, a Lady Jeanette, shows up with a small chest. I was actually gaming in the back of the hall and missed most of this, but they say that the chest contained a severed head, and that the chest could only be opened by the man who had separated the head from its rightful body. Of all the knights assembled, it apparently was that old blowhard Sir Kay who got the chest open. I know that because Kay upset our gameboard rushing out of the hall. I got up to see what the commotion was all about and saw my good and right lord King Arthur weeping upon his throne, staring into a small wooden chest...containing the head of his son, the good Sir Loholt!

That was the last any of us saw of Sir Kay.

There was no feast that night; rather, the king and his closest advisors held a vigil in St Stephen's, and three days later all the knights in Camelot escorted the king and queen and the head of Sir Loholt to the grounds in Salisbury where lie the bodies of Uther Pendragon, his son Prince Madoc, and King Arthur's oldest son, Sir Borre. The head was interred; I hear that an honor guard rode north with the Lady Jeanette to recover the rest of the good prince's body and bring it home.


Summer in Salisbury—indeed, much of the southern lands, from Dorset to Kent—was stinking hot, the hottest summer I can remember. Oh, it was miserable! The very air felt turgid and putrescent. It's no wonder a fever spread. The commoners are calling it the vlad velen, or Yellow Plague: the husband of my oldest sister's daughter died, as did my younger brother Lancrius, his son's two young children, and my cousin Caius's wife. What a shame.

547: Old Sarum's New Castle

Count Mortimer beams

Folk have stopped asking during the New Year's festivities, Where will King Arthur hold Pentecost court this year, because the answer is always the same: Camelot. Don't get me wrong! I'm very proud of Camelot. It's a lovely castle, and the queen loves her gardens and terrazos. The public waterworks and sanitation controls are working beyond my expectations, I am also pleased to admit.

But Camelot I was able to build from the ground up (seeing as how the old Marshall and I had burned it to the ground repeatedly during the Troubles, there wasn't much to clutter the canvas). But when Earl Robert approached me a number of years back about doing a redesign of Sarum's keep...well, I not only had the storied history of Sarum to honor, but a fairly crowded landscape in which to work. It presented its own set of problems. It took longer than I expected, though some of that I attribute to bouts of illness. But now it's done, and on May Day the Earl hosted a tournament at new Sarum Castle to show it off. Earl Robert called it the "finest in the realm" and he was not the only one to express such a sentiment. I am so proud!

The king and queen were there, of course, sitting with the earl and countess in the royal box, along with myself, Leodigrance the Marshall, and a few other Salisbury notables, when we got a special treat. Unbeknownst to me, Cardenio, my head mason, had commissioned a waterspout bearing my likeness and that of Ebble, Leodigrance, young Count Charles, the Lady Ellen and Duke Roderick, Duke Bellengere—heroes of the Troubles that ended when my lord Arthur became Pendragon and king of the realm. I was touched, I admit. I wish dear Monroe and Lancrius had been there to see it as well.

Speaking of Monroe, his lands in Lonazep are faring poorly, and this summer I received word at Silchester that little Zenobia, Monroe's bastard daughter, died in childbirth. I think my boys must be dead, too. If I have no word of them by this winter, I shall have my son and steward Elliott make arrangements to pass control of Figsbury from Lancrius's people to my daughter Anabel and her husband, young Roderick. You know, Sir Ebble's boy.

That scoundrel Mark is not paying his taxes as he should. I'd give him an attitude lord Arthur has only to say the word! It's not like I don't know his castles inside and out. Hmpf! I spent enough time in their dungeons.

546: Where Are My Sons?!

Count Mortimer groans

Took a fall off horseback, one of those fancy coursers from the Continent; Sir Bors gave it to me as a gift. My son and steward Elliott has now forbidden me to ride stallions, saying I must content myself with geldings! Drat that upstart youngster.

Elliott also tells me that Monroe's manor-lands up in Lonazep are faring poorly, as is much of the north. He says some lords are holding "food tournaments" now, where the knights pony up grain or herd animals in order to compete. Poor management, I say.

No word from my boys Monroe or Lancrius. I hope they haven't gotten tangled up in Sir Lamorak's troubles.

545: Show Me The Money

[We have to cover, oh, twenty-one years of game time before next week's session, which will be this group's last. So the posts are gonna come fast and furious over the next few days. I'm hoping some of the other players amend what I put up to include what's happening in their corners of Logres, and to their characters.—Suzanne]

Count Mortimer says

Drat those boys! I am surprised and a bit disappointed that they spent the winter away from home. I was hoping for their help this winter, as again I was laid low by illness. A few weeks before Pentecost, I answered the call put out by my Lord Arthur for his round-table knights to assemble, even though I was still feeling poorly. We escorted Mark to Cornwall and rode back to Camelot with wagons upon wagons of ransom for poor, hapless Sir Doon.

The summer I mostly spent in upkeep on my Lord Arthur's many castles in this part of the kingdom. The salt air can really do a number on mortar if it is not looked after properly, especially in those castles whose construction I did not supervise. Oh, you may save a little up front in construction costs, but shoddy workmanship will get you down the road in repair bills, believe me.

Lady Elaine, my son Elliot's wife and daughter to young Leodigrance, who was ill last year of a womanly fever, succumbed this fall. She was with child again, and the strain was apparently too much for the young lady. Because we were in mourning we missed the marvel of the Green Knight at Christmas court; Sir Griflet tells me it was quite something.

544 cont'd: The King of Cats

Sir Monroe speaks

Everyone in polite speech is calling him the Pendragon's guest, but from the side of one's mouth people in Camelot know King Mark is Arthur's prisoner. Mark was even forced to swear allegience to Arthur at a fancy banquet held in Mark's, ah, honor. And everyone knows it's Sir Doon who will reap vast rewards when this guest delivers his ransom next Pentecost feast. Court ladies are as thick as ticks on Doon, who looks most of the time like he doesn't know quite what to do.

Sir Tor's tournament circuit was shortened by an impromptu tourney here at Camelot, dubbed the Friendship Tournament. It was round-table knights versus the rest of us, and us hounds did respectably well, though not to the level we reached earlier this year. Still. Oh, and it was won—both joust and melee—by a mystery knight all in red who turned out to be Sir Lamorak. Huzzah! I thought he must have perished by now, there being no word of him for quite some time. He quit the field before collecting the prize, but the hounds and I were hot on his heels for I greatly desired to speak with him. My near-death at the hands of those I suspect to be behind the grievous murder of King Pellinore and the unfilled nature of my quest therein still torment me. We caught up to him and in the delay our speech caused, other of Arthur's men surrounded us and forced Lamorak to return to the castle.

For the rest of the day I kept an eye out for him, but everyone was on their best behaviour. However, during the feast that night, I noticed Lamorak had slipped away—then I realized that so had Gaheris of Orkney! I had squire Aggrovain search the stables for Lamorak's horse—gone. I determined to ride off and make sure he was okay. Brother noticed my distress and, quickly gathering the rest of the hounds, met Aggrovain and I at the stables and off we rode.

Sir Cynfyn picked up their outside the city. We rode hard and caught up to him, only to have him tell us he was fleeing lest enemies overtake him. He didn't need to elaborate. We told him we'd keep these enemies off his tail, and I urged him to ride to Father for assistance. Lamorak didn't reply, but rode off to the east in haste.

Shortly after our parting we saw a small hunting lodge as one often finds in this part of Salisbury, with a pair of horses tethered by the open door. Sir Bradwyn, a fine judge of horseflesh, recognized one of the mounts as belonging to Gaheris. We entered the lodge and saw...well. We first noticed a lot of blood, then the naked corpse of a headless woman, then a man, his back to us, sobbing on his knees by the wall. Upon hearing us enter, the man turned around and stood up: Gaheris. Just about the time we noticed the head and realized who the woman must be, Gaheris admitted to killing her: Queen Morgauwse, his own mother! It was quite a shock. He tried to run out, but we overpowered him and dragged his sorry ass back to Camelot and the King's justice.

The reaction at court was predictable.
"This is unspeakable!" That was Sir Kay.
"Yes. However, we need to speak to somebody..." That was Sir Bradwyn. Sir Kay had the body taken to St Stephen's, and we told the king what had happened, how Gaheris had raised his sword and struck off the head of the king's own sister in one fell stroke. I described it exactly.

After a few weeks of the rumor mill swirling around us at court, King Arthur asked us to leave! We weren't 86'd, but he said he wanted things to "quiet down" and thought that if we went out adventuring it would help matters. So we hounds—Lancrius, Bradwyn, Cynfyn, Doon, Gerin the weaker, and myself—decided to track down this king of cats. Lancrius explained it to me one night over supper: Bradwyn was told by an old hag of Faerie that he needs to kill the king of cats in order to lift the curse on his (and his very upset brother's!) lands brought on by killing, apparently, the mouse-queen of Faerie. Well, if there's one thing my years in Faerie taught me, it's do not meddle with the Fair Folk. So off we went, all of us except Gerin, who was, ah, busy making the rounds with the ladies.

I admit, privately, that I had serious reservations about this undertaking. It's easier to get into Faerie than out of it, and I did not want to lead my brother into such a mess. Yes, my brother. I don't know how the Father finagled it, but riding out with him and Lancrius and Leodigrance that spring day was the best thing I've done in, oh, so many years. The more I rode with Lancrius, the more I saw how much like Father he is, even so. One morning, before one of the tournaments we rode in this summer, I looked over to see him putting on his Order of the Hounds tabard, finely dressed and beaming at the thought of the day's challenge. Then I looked down at myself, also finely dressed, in a matching tabard, and realized that if Father considered him a son, no questions asked, then who was I do consider differently?

And, feeling that way, how could I now encourage him to venture into Faerie, which so nearly swallowed me up for all time but only, as it turned out, ruined my marriage and any chance I had at achieving the highest honor in the kingdom, becoming a round table knight like Leodigrance, or cousin Trently, or especially Father? No way, but here we were, following some Fay's advice and riding blithely down the path to Over There. When I told him all this, he replied that we were all brothers in arms, Bradwyn needed our help, and glory through adventuring was ten times better than glory won in a tournament for play. Wow, it sounded exactly like something the old man would say. So off we rode, although at one point I looked back and noticed Sir Doon was no longer with us.

I could see everyone looking around at the strangeness of Faerie. Ha. The strangest sight? That Sir Gerin the Weaker should not have ridden with us, because who were the first people we encountered Over There but good old Sir Uren the Timely and the ravishing Lady Ga, Sir Gerin's parents! They graciously showed us the way to the castle of the king of the cats while we did a considerable amount of catching up for them. We had, surprise, shown up "just in time" for this feline king's coronation, though Sir Bradwyn put a damper on their party when he told the king in front of his court why we were there. But the soon-to-be king of the cats was more than hospitable and courteous, and displayed no rancor. Instead, we adjourned to the tournament field so that the almost-king of the cats and Bradwyn could have their fight to the death. The not-quite-king of the cats was a very fine swordsman, but unfortunately fragile like so many Faerie-folk, and Bradwyn handily won. We left to the sound of the not-to-be-king of the cat's lady weeping over his corpse.

Bradwyn said we next had to take the corpse of the not-king to the old hag's hovel so that she could remove the curse, and off we rode on the trail pointed out to us. Lancrius's descriptions of her ugliness did not do her justice, I must say. Wow. The old hag's son, a giant dwarf, was apparently the father of the queen of the mice that Bradwyn had killed, though when we rolled up to the hovel there she was, whole and alive. Go figure. I'm surprised that I was surprised when events like the corpse of the king of the cats reanimates, turns into a giant cat, and then bites the head off the reanimated queen of mice occur. When the old hag reached for a very large log we all took off lickety-split, though soon we were overwhelmed by scores of ROUS. We killed them left and right, but more and more came, pulling us off our horses, biting and tormenting our horses...I thought we were going to die in a heap of oversized rodents when I heard Lancrius lament, Oh I wish the King of Cats was here. Then the rest of us shouted it and lo and behold! He was, and the ROUS scurried for their lives. After the king of cats had bounded away after the fleeing rodents, Bradwyn found elephant tracks in the duff and led us to the castle of the Duke de la ROUSse. A cat there paused in its ablutions to tell us that we now owe the wily king a favor, but there are certainly worse people, and worse faeries, to owe a favor to.

Lancrius mentioned that that is the third time he has seen (and heard) a cat speak.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sir Doon writes to his Brother...

In the year of Our Lorde 544.

To Sir Madoc ap Mawn, the Manor of the Black Hills, Kyngedom of Devon, be this lettre tayke.

Oy there bruvver! The uppytye clerke says I got to be all formal at the beginnyne of this lettre as its wot Kynge Arthur wants for all such lettres a comin' from Camelot. I wanted to strangyle the punye little clerke bastarde, like I did the last tyme I had one of 'em scratch a letter to ye, but the guards here wont have none o' that, not like up norf where ye can kick 'em around a bit for fun.

Anyhoo. I gots big news, bruvver! I captured theat ryte Bastarde Kyng Mark of Cornwall. He wert up te no good an deep into Kyng Arthur's lands. Parbly makin' parly wit te Saxons, is wot I think. Well, I wert on me way to a Tourney like, ryding with my good companyons Sir Lancreas, Sir Gerin, and my sponsor, His Right Worshypful Master, Leodigrance the Lesser, Marshall of Salisbury. My good friend Sir Bradwen wert off doin' deep religious thyngs up norf, I think. Well, we thawt we saw a group of bandits on te Kyng's Hiway and so we set up after 'em through the trees. We notyces theys got Cornish markings and colors, and you know how I git when I see Cornishmen. Sir Lancreas and Sir Gerin and even ol' Leodigrance fawt like true knights, they did. I dont member much, tell te truth bruvver, jus' lots of blood and Cornishmen with no heads. Finally Leodigrance and I catch up te the last two and I notice tha one was protectin te other, like his life depended on it. Tha's 'cause the one wert Kyng Mark hisself! An so I step right up and kills his protector like I used to chop te heads off the slawter pigs before Wynter. Then I says, all proper like, "In te name of Kyng Erbin and Kyng Arthur surrender or die!" or somfin' like as such. I wanted to tayke his head fer a trophy an send it to yer missus as a present, but thawt better and let 'im live. Also, Leodigrance wernt too keen on me killyng a kynge, and so we take Mark back to Camelot.

Turns out I get to keep the ransom for kynge Mark! Tha's right bruvver, I, Sir Doon of Devon, Knight of the White Hen, Third Son of Mawn am about to become a rich man. I may even try to get some land in Devon frm King Erbin. Won't tha be a hoot, bruvver? We'll be right neighbors, and I'll even let you tie me up and hit me wit a sack o' apples like we did when we wert wee ones, playin' in te fields. Member? Aye, bryngs a tear to my eye, bruvver.

Well, I been courtin' a heavy now tha I'm famous, an all Queen Guenevere's maidens are in heat fer me. I needs a wyfe and sons, and now I can be pickey bout who I rut wit. No more dirty sows for me. Only right ladyes.

So, I wish ye te best of health and give me best to te missus.

Your Doon

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

544: Tournament Circuit

[No Aaron tonight, so we postponed the adventure of the king of cats.—Suzanne]

Count Mortimer here...

Three children in as many years of marriage was just too much for my Lady Vivian; she succumbed to a fever of childbed and died a few days after our little son was still-born. So goes the world.

Young Leodigrance came by with his dogs to cheer me up, then my son Lancrius and his companions dropped nice to have a full manor-house during the holidays. Leo and young masters Doon and Gerin and I decided to ride down to Camelot and look for wives. I convinced my son Monroe to come with us, as it's been years now since Lady Elaine left him. (I didn't tell him that I fear for the health of his grand-son.) He agreed and rode with us. Quite a merry party!

Sir Lancrius chimes in

We had such a rough time in Carduel that I convinced the guys to stop in at Silchester and prevail upon Father to resupply us. He made us tell about our exploits first as a show of whether we were worthy or not, that old man, but in the end he gave Doon and Gerin chargers and myself a rouncy so Reginald doesn't have to ride the pack-horse anymore. I knew he would. He even permitted one of Lady Vivian's ladies-in-waiting's cousin's sons to accompany Doon as a squire. I'm not sure how that will work out. Doon doesn't seem at all sure what to do with a servant!

Count Mortimer again...

Young Leo spoke for Doon with my good King Arthur, hoping to find him a place somewhere at Camelot. However, Sir Doon has many rough edges, to be expected from a knight of Dorset, and King Arthur upbraided Leo at court for his choice of a knight to sponsor. Leo took it well, and has used the words of Arthur as impetus to improve Doon's knightly virtues.

Then, at Sir Tor's suggestion, we hit the tournament circuit to look for wives.

Sir Lancrius butts in

Gerin and I had another run-in with Sir Kay. I would call him a creampuff except he's full of hot air. Some guy came up to us after we'd mocked Kay to his face and told us to "watch for the keys." Whatever. Sir Gawaine was kind enough to compliment me on my tights, so I gave him the name of the tailor Tor and I used.

Leodigrance had a smashing idea, and had matching tabards made for us to wear while going 'round the tournaments. Fabulous! They are green with a yellow hound at hunt, and all lined up on our chargers, we are a dashing sight.

Leo fought in the first tourmament we went to, a little neighborhood affair up in Brun. I won the joust, and Monroe won the melee. Go Salisbury and the Order of the Hound!

We rode over to Petersborough next for a local tournament near where Monroe's manor is, the one King Arthur gave him. He again won the melee, and I the joust. Sir Aggravain was there, and we were both quite chuffed to beat his ass on the field. We almost felt like brothers. Leo kept father company in the stands, checking out the ladies, as Leo still wasn't feeling too good from a fall he took in Brun.

We heard that the Queen's family was putting on a tournament up in Carohaise. Before we departed Petersborough, a wagon showed up with a package for Sir Leo: a huge, very grand pavillion in the colors of the Order of the Hound, plus crates of finely-made paper-mache dogs for our helms. We shall look smashing at the next viewing of the windows.

Sir Tor was at this one, as many knights from the region. Tor was quite impressed with our Order of the Hound get-up. I wish we had done better here, but Gerin and I were being ganged-up on by knights with badges featuring keys, so we couldn't help as much as we would have liked. Still, we did well enough that we continued on down the road to a tournament in Guinnon.

Count Mortimer once again...

While traveling through Essex on the way to Guinnon, some of the boys spotted what looked like bandits shooting off the road into the cover of the nearby woods. I could see their blood was up, so I gave permission for them to pursue; after all, it's only right that Arthur's knights should keep Arthur's roads clear and safe to travel. Monroe stayed with me, "in case they should feint and attack the baggage train," he said though I'm sure he was thinking "in case they come after your decrepit ass, old man." Not that I couldn't kick the hiney of any Essex bandit from here to the Channel and back, but I appreciate his sense of filial responsibility. We were there several hours, and all was quiet, then the boys came riding back, covered in blood and leading two prisoners and a horse laden with armor.

I looked close and, whoa-ho! Is that...the king of Cornwall being led by young Sir Doon? Why, yes. I don't know why Cornishmen would be raiding so far from home, but as Lancrius tells me, as soon as Doon realized where the knights were from, he went berserk and started chopping them in twain, separating arms from bodies, torsos from legs, heads from shoulders, until finally only one knight stood between Doon and Mark, whom they did not yet recognize. The knight would not surrender, but the king, seeing his dismembered bodyguard, did.

I think Doon should have his pick of the ladies once we return to Camelot with this wily scoundrel in tow. Good job, lad!

Sir Lancrius interrupts

How quickly fortunes change! One winter chained home by marriage, that spring free to roam. Or begging a horse off some lord one month and the next, leading the King of Cornwall on a string! These were his words poised before the king:

"Surrender or die, Mark King of Cornwall and not Devon! Surrender in the name of King Urban! I win either way, Kingie!"

Father kept a close eye on the preceedings in order that Doon gets what is coming to him. He should have the ransom next year, though the glory for this deed he is accruing now, as it is THE talk of the kingdom. Well done, Sir Doon of Devon!

I think we may try to ride the tails of Doon's glory on a few more tournaments before the summer's over.

Friday, June 29, 2007

2007: Diana Jones Loves Greg Stafford

"The Diana Jones Award is given to whatever the Diana Jones Committee believes has best demonstrated ‘excellence in gaming’ in the previous year. This year the committee has shortlisted three potential winners. In alphabetical order, they are:

The Great Pendragon Campaign by Greg Stafford (White Wolf) In terms of sheer scope alone, Greg Stafford's Great Pendragon Campaign breaks new ground, presenting almost a century's worth of continuous story with gemlike clarity; in almost fractal fashion, any given year can become its own campaign. Its greatest structural successes are those of Stafford's Pendragon: a superbly compact yet never sketchy adventure format, seamless hard-wiring of characters into setting and continuity, and unprecedented emphasis on epic, generational storytelling. Thematically, it is a triumph of Arthurian art in its own right, the roleplaying form's equivalent of Tennyson's ‘The Idylls of the King’ or Wagner's ‘Parsifal’—a brilliant personal engagement with one of the foundation myths of Western fantasy."

Read more about it at the Diana Jones Award website.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

543: Smackdown in Clarence

Sir Lancrius, a bachelor once again, reports

A glorious spring at King Arthur's court in Camelot. The castle and grounds are full of knights both young and famous, home-grown Salisbury boys and foreigners alike:

"People are scared of my accent—can you believe it?"

"You need a crit to win at Camelot."

"Sweet Jesu, it's D E V O N, not Dorset! Sir Doon of Devon!"
"Devon? I heard you're cannibals."
"Psh. We only eat Jesus."

I don't know why, with my keen sense of Geography, I cannot remember that good old Sir Doon hies from Devon. I think I'm driving the poor man bonkers, but better that than enraged. One of the other lads spoke:

"Devon..Isn't that part of Cornwall?"

I think he started to froth, actually froth!, at the mouth. He told all of us lounging 'round the trestle table that Devonians were rebels, had broken away from Cornwall to form their own kingdom, and that he, Doon, was a true Devon knight and sworn enemy of the Cornish, when the seneschal sauntered over with an open book and, pointing, told us, "No, Devon is a duchy of Cornwall. It says so right here," which provoked another round of swearing and protestations of Devonian independence. Doon ran off and came back shortly with a book of his own, which he opened with great fanfare and, pointing at the pictures within, said, "No, it clearly illustrates here that Devon has its own king, having broken away from Cornwall." The seneschal allowed that, Doon's book having the later publication date, the seneschal's own information must be incorrect.

Doon looked pretty chuffed.

I was pretty chuffed, too, because I got that fashion plate Sir Tor to give me the name of his tailor in London. I still have some coin in my pocket from the wedding, even if everything else from that horrid day is fortunately gone for good, so I rode off with a promise to meet up with the lads at the upcoming Salisbury tourament Earl Robert's hosting.


The lads said I was looking sharp, and I felt it. I should, for 2L's worth of clothing on top of the 4 I already had! The tournament wasn't much, compared to the extravaganzas some lords are throwing, but it's always fun to joust in the lists, and father is looking well this year. Monroe has his color back, though I don't think that limp is ever going away. Still, he's looking mighty down these days, under father's thumb, my niece dead in childbirth, his quest unfulfilled. So it goes. At least the good count is no longer pressuring me to fulfill my filial duty any more. I think, in his eyes, that the shock of my wife and newborn child dying less than a year after we wed makes my wishing to remain a bachelor entirely reasonable. Although he did mention the marshall marrying my cousin Emma shortly after Rosemeade died, but I said, "Well, that's Leo!" and we both laughed and that was that.


Bradwyn got word from his family that they were departing to their bi-annual Gloucester Versus Clarence tournament and that his participation was expected, so the lot of us said, Yeah! We'll go to back you up. Well, Gerin the Weaker and myself agreed to back Bradwyn; Doon and Cynfyn, along with a knight of Aquitaine whom Cynfyn picked up somewhere, said they'd fight for Clarence, as that is where Cynfyn was born.

I was surprised to see the grounds so crowded for just a local tournament, but then we heard that the king and queen were in attendance with what looked to be half the round table tagging along. Great! There goes the chance at the prize, a fine falcon. Do you know, at Camelot, there is an entire mew dedicated to housing the birds Sir Lancelot wins at tournaments?

But Bradwyn and Cynfyn were happy enough to have the opportunity to bash each other, and Doon was pleased to see a handful of Cornish targets for his wrath. Sir Tulga—that Aquitanian knight—said he was happy enough to see how we do things on this shore. I was happy just to be out with the boys, but at the feast after the helmet show, I overheard a voice I have not heard in years. That's right! Sir Sagramore le Desirous was in attendance, and right there in front of the assembled, I made quite a fine poem explaining to everyone why he should hate me so. Ooh, his black eyes burned!

I didn't see him during the jousting, which, before we could get started, a knight with a white shield rode up to the royal box and presented King Arthur with, he said, a gift: a large, well-made shield...painted with a gross depiction of a knight and a lady, hands joined, standing on the head of a king. We couldn't see his face clearly, but the Pendragon politely took the shield and hung it up in the back of the box. The mystery knight then rode off and Lancelot, using his riding off without leave as an excuse, rode after him. He missed the jousting altogether.

Another curious incident: during the day of individual challenges, where again, I did not see Sagramore, Sir Doon challenged one of the Cornish knights, but lost the match and quit the field. We found him shortly thereafter, sitting on the ground and crying. I knelt down and gave him a pep-talk but I roused his spirit a little too well, for the next thing I know, his burning gaze was fastened on me, and with a yell he stood up and brandished his sword at me. Well, he fought that day and was still armored, while I'd spent the day, ah, out hunting and so only had on my riding clothes. I've seen that look before, so I took off running, with the unfortunately large, fast, and enraged Doon in hot pursuit. He caught me halfway across the jousting grounds, knocking me down and tearing my new jacket!. I held him off with my sword until Sir Tulga could talk some sense into him (a thwack with the flat of a blade didn't hurt, either).

"You shouldn't do this at a tournament." Sir Tulga sounded very reasonable.

Doon tried to push past him. "I have no beef with Africa!"

But Sir Tulga kept talking to Doon, and he finally came to his senses, apologized to ripping my sleeve, and we all went back to my fancy red samite pavillion for drinks, all forgiven.

At the feast that night, Sagramore was talking big about how he was going to kick my ass in the melee. As if! I know it wasn't a courteous thing to do, and certainly not wise to do in front of the Great Duke, but he was provoking me. I stalked over to his table and threw my goblet in his face, then we fell, brawling, to the floor. I managed to break a platter across his face before I was pulled off. That was satisfying, though I ripped my new motley tights and had to have Reginald stay up half the night putting them to rights.

I didn't do well in the helmet show, despite squire Reginald's best paper-mache efforts (a lovely swan this time), and only so-so at the jousting, but when it came time for the melee...I remember Bradwyn and Cynfyn knocking each other off their horses, but when Sagramore and his buddies found Gerin and me and we set to, I didn't notice much after that. Sagramore was pretty pissed at me, but then when he looked over and saw Gerin riding his old horse...hoo-wee, I didn't think he could get more angry, but he sure did. But I finally laid him out, though in the confusion his cronies made off with Geriin's mount. That's okay! I had Reginald grab Sagramore's current mount; Sir Gerin can ride that one.

Then we all got gloriously drunk at the feast following and passed out in the hall.

[To be continued, apparently. Something about a rat to kill...?]

Thursday, May 31, 2007

542: Good News, Bad News

Greg's still out of town, so I figured we'd have an evening of simple errantry, especially since the last month or so we've slogged through a pair of major outings: happy, happy Gwaelod, and the bitter north of Pictland. Add Malahaut, another region where our characters seem to always have a difficult time, and, well, everyone decided to head south this time.

Was that wise?...

Logres is crawling with bored knights hanging out at every crossroads, bridge and ford, demanding to joust. For love. For glory. For the hell of it. After a few rounds with knights both famous and not-so, our band of knights—Sir Brevis of the Dike, Sir Gerin the Weaker, and Sir Ebble the Younger (youngest son of the Great Duke, Sir Bellengere)—a bit worse for wear, heard from a young knight riding hard and fast through the countryside that King Arthur was missing. Egads! They very energetically set off that very moment in search of the Pendragon.

Instead, they found Lady Nimue and two of her handmaidens passing a hermitage on their search for Arthur. Our trio of knights fell in with Nimue at her request and escorted the ladies on their way. In short order [I had a series of short adventures planned] the fellows came to a large creek—or was it a small river?—and standing guard at the bridge was...a crack. A what? The very pagany Sir Gerin informed his companions that a crack is a hideous-looking, small troll, very cruel. Ah! Attack it! Only, it's very hideousness makes it difficult to muster the courage necessary to attack; only Sir Brevis got to his sticking point and lanced-charged. Gerin and Ebble, uh, "guarded" the ladies. Only while they were guarding them, their awareness was consumed with the fight before them and neither noticed Nimue impatiently attempting to ford the water...until she was swept away by the current and cried out for help. Which happened just about the time Brevis went down in a heap.

So Gerin and Ebble ride into the water. But the bank was steep and the current tricky, and somehow—cobbly river bottom? Snags? Who knows, but their horses stumbled and into the water they tumbled. They, oh kind game-mistress!, were able to use their considerable knightly strength to wade to the bank and clamber up. Sir Gerin remounted and took off down the river after Nimue while Sir Ebble attacked the crack.

After one more dunking Gerin managed to pluck Nimue from the waters and bring her back in time to see Ebble finish off the crack with a mighty critical whack. Then they finally became aware of the fight on the opposite bank: three knights against one knight, wounded and down on one knee, with a woman exhorting them to "Finish him off! Kill him!"

Oh, sure, they managed to recognize the shields of the three nameless and completely unimportant knights fighting the lone figure...whom they did not recognize. Or the most famous sword the woman (also unrecognized) picked up in order to smite the wounded knight. Nor could they manage to come between the woman and the wounded knight in time for the woman to strike the knight a blow with the most-famous sword. This is when Wayne, who did make his Awareness roll, mentioned that "When Arthur dies, the campaign is over. Greg won't like you ending the campaign while he's gone." Fair enough! So the wounded figure is only majorly wounded. Then two inspirations fail, and tears and even worse die-rolling abound. They manage to kill the unarmed woman (from behind) but are unable to vanquish her henchmen...

As Sirs Gerin and Ebble fade into unconsciousness, Nimue comes in and saves the campaign.

Back in Camelot, being feted and feasting at the return of the king, riding high on their glory, they got to sit at the high table. Oh, yeah, do they owe Nimue for the tale she told at court. She orates well, and isn't hampered by chivalry or piousness when it comes to embellishments. But then news came of the death of pompous Sir Borre, King Arthur's oldest, if illigitimate, son, and the party was over.

We also realized that in 543, Sir Leodigrance the Lesser's love-child from the Rome campaign will be 15 years old. Will he show at court? Will he wait til he's 21? Or...?

I've never seen so many high-number skill rolls missed in one night. Man.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sir Doon of Devon sends a letter to his brother

Oy there, bruvver. It been nigh on two year a comin' since ye have hird from me and I got this here clerk to scratch out a letter to ye. He wert a wiley one that one. He wanted to write some bloody hoity stuff 'bout Jesus and the Year of Our Lord and such like, but I putted him in a headlock and squeezed til he write what I say and not what he thinks I should say. Can't stand no uppity clerk tellin' me what I should say to me big bruvver.

How's it in Devon? That bitch o' yers still in heat fer ye? Got any new pups? I parbly got a few somewheres here in te norf where I be stayin' now. None too many damosels to me likin', tho there wert one in Strangorre. Ai she had bigguns that one. And a right lady too.

Well I been fightin' for King Arthur, followin' a holy man in te norf wit a company of right regular knights. Great men all, I says. An' good fighters too. Can't say I won much glorye on the field, but I wrestled a bear wearin' none such but me loin garder. Bear won.

Later I joined an host and went norf to rescue the holy man who got himself caught by the Blue People - Picts. Boy bruvver, you ain't never seen such like as these 'uns. Painted blue and smellin' like me after I been sleepin' in the stye like when I wert a babe. 'Member bruvver? Aye we had some good times.

So I got beat up pretty bad. Them Picts is right good fighters an handy wit the long spear. I got skewered right through and wert laid up in a hospice. Forget the name o' the place, but it wert fine, and the nuns liked me. Ain't slept in a bed like them before, neither.

Well, bruvver I'm mostlye mended an I'm on my way south to Devon to collect me tin from Peck the Hen. I hope yer feedin' her like I showed ye.

Give me best to the missus'.

Your bruvver,


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