Saturday, March 31, 2007

537. The Bad, Bad Year

Oh, Dire Year!
Death, unseemly and silent, is everywhere.
My duties were heavier than usual. My friends, the great adventurers Gerin, Galonors, Beryl and Clarian passed through, seeking companions to go with them. I could not. My brother lay abed, coughing hard day and night. His daughter was more distraught than I, and sent for the best doctors in the land. Alas, they were busy everywhere. Many of the court officers were likewise ill, including our Marshall, and so I spent much time on patrols and training the men.
I worried about my brother, the good count who has done so much for me (he gave me a mural room of my own, you know.) I should, perhaps, have looked in my own little chamber more often. Woe to me, for when I returned one day I found much dole and grief in court among the ladies, but not for my brother who still lay abed, now hacking up blood. Misery, it was my own beloved Leofaled. She had taken abed, pregnant as she was, and swiftly the illness took her. No more those sweet arms to hold me, that blond hair to caress, her fair and frail form to hold in bed each night. Alas!
And then good Count Charles was delivered into the hands of God as well. And others, but they are nothing compared to my dear brother, a peer of the realm, Round Table Knight and hero of the Saxon Wars.
Over the summer word came of other tragedies. Lady Raedburgh, that doughty old Saxon wife of Sir Leodegrance, also succumbed. Lady Betty, wife of Mortimer the Count of Silchester shortly afterwards. Oh, children everywhere, many ladies and good knights fallen before the scythe of the Reaper of Souls.
I thought it could not become worse. Then one day Squire Palmorin stopped into Marlborough, leading a sorry band of three other squires whom I knew. He wept as he reported the dire events that befell his good knight, my friend Sir Clarien, and the other three. I shall not dwell upon the details: they are all dead. They entered into the hidden Kingdom of Gwaelod, seeking the Best Wine in the World and adventure. Apparently Sir Beryl, who must have been ill to so sully his judgement, attempted to free the queen there, perhaps even to steal a goblet of great worth. (Greed was always Beryl’s flaw.) The king did not take that well and killed Sir Beryl. The other knights, moved by their friendship for Beryl, fought beside him though he had done ill. They paid the price—they were all killed. They are buried, I am told, at Caer Gai, the manor where King Arthur was raised in secret.
I ought to have gone to church more. I know it now. The finger is not enough when I comes to the welfare of my family. I pledged to spend more time in church, and even began to go to Mass. I only pray now that my children will be spared.
I will tend to the affairs of my niece, the Little Lady of Marlborough, and help her obtain her inheritance from King Arthur. Surely she will need my sage advice and experience. She is young and beautiful and perhaps the most wealthy heiress on the island, now, but just a teenager. I will watch over her as my brother did, keep her from harm, and help her to find a good and honorable husband. Surely no less than a Round Table knight or foreign king will do for her!

Hey, man, Sir Beryl saved our bacon too many times—remember the dogs and ogres?—for us to abandon him, no matter how poor his judgement!

Best line of the night? "Did you bury Lady Raeburh with garlic in her mouth and a stake in her heart?"
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