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,


Friday, May 18, 2007

541. Adventure of the Treacherous Pict

Adventure! I have so been looking forward to this. I have no gripe with doing my duty, of course, and I will every be grateful to the Countess Clina for making me a knight. I would have been content to spend my life as Sir Clydno’s dutiful squire. Dutiful, that’s what he said. “Evan,” he told me, “there has never been a squire more dutiful than you.” How proud I was at that, to serve the good knight who took me from that miserable life and gave me opportunity to serve.
And of course, even more proud to have received word that the Lady Clina would knight me! Me, a Saxon! “You are more than a handsome young man,” she told me, “and my uncle, the good Sir Clydno says you are as well mannered as you are huge. We have a need of knights, and I think you are as worthy as any and more worthy than most. I heard of your efforts to save my dear uncle, and of the mighty wound you took in that fight, so I deem you more than worthy to serve me and the good King Arthur.”
I have heard it was the king himself who sent the armor for me. I’ve heard he is anxious to have us young Saxons in his kingdom, to serve where our fathers fought against him. And I, for one, am proud to do so! I spit on the sneers of those of my countrymen who scowl at me. What fools. They would rather toil as peasants and wallow in their hatred than to sit astride a great horse in armor.
Well, atop a horse anyway. Though the king—or someone, whomever—donated my armor the cost of a horse seems too much. Nonetheless, I have been more than content with my little war pony, though my feet would drag upon the ground if I stretched them. He’s served me well, and knows his way through the hills and moors like no charger or destrier could. Besides, with my two-handed weapon expertise I’ll have to dismount in a melee anyway. If I’d know I would some day sit astride a knight’s saddle I would have trained with shield. But it is too late to regret now.
So after a year of service at the castle, my lady agreed to let me seek adventure. I immediately set off northward, hot upon the trail of my good Sir Clydno. He had been sent there on a mission by the great king himself! I was eager to serve by his side and to prove myself before his eyes.
I joined in a party going the same way. It was led by none other than the great Count Mortimer, out of his castle on some distant mission he did not speak of. But he was pressing on northwards, and when I overheard his conversation one night over dinner I was concerned, for it seemed he was seeking his missing heir!
After weeks of travel we reached Gorre, where King Bagdemagus was holding a tournament. I was more than overjoyed to find Sir Clydno there, but quickly my joy fell to worry. My teacher, my master, was sorely wounded and in a deep, deep melancholy. He did not even wish to speak of it at first, and I learned form his companions that he had taken a challenge form a great Pictish warrior and, though fighting for the good name and reputation of out King Arthur, Clydno was bested. Nearly slain! Worse yet, he took ill afterwards. Some said it was poison, and he was saved only by the graces of an old hag he had been kind to by the roadside. Surely that poison had infected his humors, inciting his melancholy. After some prodding he confessed to me that he felt himself to be a total failure—that he was torn between taking up the cloth or throwing away the finger that had never brought him a moment of luck in his life.
I was incensed to see what depths he had been cast into! I’d never seen a Pict, but when I learned of the wrong doing that would cause my master, the good knight, to such thoughts a dark ember of hatred grew in my heart. I vowed to avenge my master, or to die trying!
I will skip the details of the tournament—my first! I fought fairly well, and no one won any prizes from among our party. Several challenges by hostile knights were met, and our men trounced the fools who dared speak against King Arthur. But I must mention the comic antics of Sir Doon. He agreed to fight a bear without his armor, with only a dagger and shield. He was nearly killed, the fool!
Sir Branwyn was leading an expedition—indeed, a small army—northward again to rescue the priest who had stayed among the Picts to convert them. Clydno would not go. He had sworn an oath to stay away for a year if he lost the fight. So had Branwyn and some others, but they deemed it more important to rescue their charge than to obey the oath. Branwyn insisted the oath was void because the Pict was deceitful, but I was deeply shocked. Branwyn was normally deeply religious. I realized he was more moved by his passion for his religion and duty to the priest than by his oath. But Sir Clydno, though he too seethed with rage, would not break his vow. I repeated my pledge, and went with the army northwards.
We passed through Strangorre, and into Pict territory. At the same place where my lord was defeated (as my companions told me) we were challenged by the same Pict warrior that had hurt my good friend! I didn’t wait for formalities. I didn’t pause when I heard it was a fight to the death. I took my mace and, burning with rage, fell to with that Pict. Though he was reputed a giant among men, he was no larger than me. And though reputed to be a champion, he was no match for me, a newly made knight. I bashed him once, staggering him, and with a second blow crushed his chest. When he lay upon the ground I crushed his head to pulp.
“That is for my master, Sir Clydno, and the good King Arthur!” I shouted at him. I took his hand with me as a souvenir to prove my victory.
We pressed onward, and there was the hill fort of the Picts. Sir Branwyn set the peasants to making a ram to cave in the door, but as they were approaching it the gates swung open and out swarmed many of those naked warriors, howling like the devils that they are. Fools! But then we saw why—there was a mighty giant coming from the side to attack us! Huge—twenty or more feet tall!
Sir Branwyn and some others rushed the monster, but seeing opportunity to enter the fort, I went that way. No, I didn’t run from the giant. Honest, I went to the gate. I killed Picts with a single blow each time, and this good armor of mine turned nearly every blow they struck upon me. Small wounds meant nothing.
Then one of their chiefs, seeking to rally his men, set upon me. I cut him in two with my sword. I pushed through the gate, killing right and left as many blows bounded off of me or left small cuts. Another chief, screaming, attacked and he fell as quickly as his companion. With a few of the Gorre knights and warriors I was pressing into the stronghold when the door burst open and a giant boar rushed out. I barely threw myself aside. A strange man sat atop it, and they dashed away before anyone could lay weapon to them. That was when I saw that the Picts were all running, scattering in all directions, even leaping over the walls of the fort to escape. I went into the stronghold and there found the priest, sore wounded, and gave him first aid. He blessed me.
I learned later that Sir Branwyn slew the giant, aided by friends, but it was Branwyn who slew it.
We burnt the fort. We brought the priest back to Strangorre. We were feasted and honored, and I was asked many times to tell of my deeds. I was rewarded the torques of the two chiefs that I slew, and I will after this wear them as arm bands upon my biceps. They fit there snugly.
Sir Clydno was proud of me. He bore no grudge for robbing his of revenge. “You are like a son to me,” he said, “Your victory is my victory.” I could not have been prouder. Sir Clydno chose to remain behind, helping King Brangore of Strangorre fight Picts and Irishmen. I joined the troops heading home.
Lancrius also gave me a charger to reward me for my deeds! I will let my young squire ride upon my trujsty hill pony.
Sir Mortimer was there, and his son Sir Lancrius, who had learned he must go home to marry now, for he was the heir to the family lands. He was strangely unhappy with this. I was too joyous to be depressed by his problems, whatever they might be. We visited Camelot, and there the king praised me some more and said I would be a “model to the Saxons of his kingdom.”
I hope some time soon to return to my old mother and share with her this glory. It’s been years since I have seen her.

541: News from the North

[I miss those letters from Sir Galonors! My apologies for butchering David's style.—Suzanne]

In the Year of Our Lord 541,
To Mortimer, Count of Silchester, Castellan of Portchester, and Knight of the Round Table,

Liege, the good monks of St Ceneu's wrote this letter for me, which I am sending south as soon as may be. I fear it will not reach you in time as there are few travelers in these parts, and fewer still that I may trust on such a long journey as this letter will require.

Firstly, my lord, know that my knight and your own right true first-born son, Sir Monroe of Salisbury, lies in St Ceneu's on the cusp of death. Secondly, know that he was struck low and left for dead by the brigand-knights of Lothian as he made his way south from the Castle of Maidens after an interview with the Brothers Orkney concerning my knight's own sworn Quest. We were waylaid on the road in numbers to great to overcome. Your son bid me ride south post-haste and bring you word while he armed himself and prepared to fight, but I rode back after the dogs had done their work and found my knight's near-lifeless body lying on the heath. With much care I was able to carry him thither to this monastery and place him under the care of their healing arts.

An it please you, lord, know that it was never my knight's desire to cause you distress or anguish by his sudden and stealthy departure. He was greatly torn in mind and heart between his filial devotion to you, lord, and his chivalric duty to fulfill the oath he swore to the three daughters of King Pellinore.

Please, lord, ride north with all haste so that your son may look upon you one last time and beg your forgiveness should he be called untimely to the bosom of Jesus Christ.

Your humble and faithful servant and esquire,

Aggrovain of Hampshire

541: Strangore, Concluded

[Man, I was churning through characters tonight: my two Salisbury guys left, the London-based equites I rolled up went down to -4 hp, then back up to 4 hp courtesy of Sir Gerin the Weaker's preternatural healing gifts; so I rolled up another guy while everyone else was hacking away at various northern foes. I finished him up...just in time for the scenario's denouement! Oh, well, so it goes some weeks.—Suzanne]

Sir Cingetorix murmurs...

I volunteered to ride with Sir Branwen against the Picts.

The Picts kicked my ass: during our first encounter I was pummeled into unconsciousness, and there I remained until the excitement was over and everybody had ridden home, or to Gaiholm.

Meet Sir Madog

My lord, King Bagdemagus, allowed me to ride against the Picts with Prince Gereint and many knights of Gorre and Strangore, our white-shielded mystery knight ally, and Sir Branwen. We fought Picts: Sir Evan, one of Sir Branwen's fellows, slew the Pictish champion. We fought a giant: Sir Branwen dispatched him almost single-handed. We took the hillfort base of the maurauders. We freed that Christian priest. We burnt the hillfort to the ground. We rode home.

Some of the southern knights are staying for the year, though none took King Bagdemagus's generous offer of a manor. And some of us northern knights—myself, Prince Gereint, our mystery knight (revealed to be Sir Flan of Ireland), and a few others—are going south to see Camelot for ourselves and to meet King Arthur. Sir Branwen loaded the giant's head in an oxcart and we are taking it as a trophy to the Pendragon.

This will be quite an adventure.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

541: Off to Strangore, Part III

Sir Lancrius relates...

I am told I have to marry this autumn. Some noblewoman from Bedegraine whose sire has interests in Salisbury. Father says it is "expedient" (his exact word) and I must do this for the family. The news put me in such a funk that I hardly took notice of King Bagdamagus's tournament; I spent most of my time commiserating with Sir Clydno, who is not only recovering from his near-death experience but in a severe melancholy regarding what he feels is his abandonment by the Finger of St Albans. He is also torn as to the hard fate of Father Tathan, and Sir Branwen's invective to "fulfill our oath to the good Father and kill those heathen Picts who betrayed him." Branwen won't let the matter go, and has been recruiting among the knights present for the tournament for men to march north.

Myself? After watching dear old Buford, father's squire, win the bohort, and several challenges to the death—all handily won by us—I am heading south to Silchester while father tries one more road here in the north on his quest to find my missing brother, Number One Son Monroe.

(But before I take my leave, I must say, those men of Dorset are a reckless lot! I would never have guessed to see Sir Doon fight a bear in a tournament spectacle, much less guessed to see him do it unarmored.

Good thing the archers were standing by.)

Meet Sir Cingetorix

Well, by the skin of my teeth did Uncle Ambiorterix provide me with arms and a position so that King Arthur could knight me this Pentecost Court. Huzzah! Newly knighted, I slung my shield on my back, and my sword and axe to my saddle and rode out for a summer of errant adventure.

I ended up, along with many knights both raw and well-seasoned, in Gaihom, where a King Bagdemagus hosted a tournament in the southern style. Oh, he got some of the finer points wrong, but he had men to advise him on the customs and it went quite splendidly. No clear winner, but no clear loser, either.

Many of the people in these parts, and indeed, a good portion of the knights in the tournament are not of a Christian sort at all, but clearly heathens, yet not Saxons, which I find curious (though there are certainly Saxons present; also curious).

Glory to the house of the Corvii, the equites, and good King Arthur!

Friday, May 04, 2007

541: Off to Strangore, Cont'd.

Lancrius again...

It's funny: Sir Gerin was always a stand-up kind of knight, and a great traveling companion despite his abyssmal hunting and, frankly, riding skills. A valiant and doughty knight nonetheless. His half-brother, Sir Branwen, however...a bit too preachy for my taste. Sir Clydno is pretty religious, so I don't want to pin it on that. Come to think of it, I would say that Clydno is devoted to the idea of religion—and certainly that saintly finger of his—but without all the wasteful time spent at Mass, while Branwen lets the priestly class sway his good senses more than he ought.

Father Tathan wanted to find the Picts, which is why we were so far north to begin with, and find Picts we did, blue-skinned and wild-haired and running half-naked across the heath emitting blood-curdling yelps and whoops. They're not all like that: the Queen of Strangore is lovely and civil if a bit steely, and the few cotters we've encountered have been pleasant enough, if guarded. But the wild tribes, especially these Epidii, wow. What a bunch.

An old woman whose calf Sir Doon and I recovered told us what to expect, and even taught us a few concilliatory phrases, so we were prepared—we thought—when we encountered a band of Epidii warriors. The leader of their warband issued us a challenge: a fight, champion-to-champion. If we won, they would not raid below where we currently stood (about a good day's ride north of Alcud Dunbarton) for a year; if they won, we would not ride north of this spot to stop them, also for a year. Fair enough! Sir Clydno, restless and eager as ever, won at draughts for the honor of fighting for our side, and faced off against the largest Pict I ever hope to see! He was as tall as Sir Evan if an inch. Amazing...they must have glued two or three babies together at birth to produce such a large man among such small people.

Sir Clydno, all hopped up on thoughts of our most noble King and lord Arthur, almost defeated their champion, but the blue beast managed to swipe Clydno down the side with his axe, and Clydno dropped to the ground. He then, most nobly I thought, stood and yielded his great spear to the victor. The Picts seemed pleased, and departed to the north while we rode south. Father Tathan, seeing the Picts so chuffed, decided that that was his sign and decided to stay with the band. He said he would return to Alcud Dunbarton in a month. Fair enough! I considered our escort duty done, as we had gotten the priest to the Picts, and he had decided to stay and preach to them.

I was quite looking forward to more feats of strength with Prince Gereint but I saw that Sir Clydno was looking worse than he should—not that he should be feeling fine after such a heavy blow, but I've seen plenty of major wounds and this one didn't look right. He was feverish and achey...he soon was unable to ride his courser and we resorted to a horse-litter, but I had a great fear he wouldn't last to Alcud, even without the priest to slow us down. I was getting extremely worried but luck would have it, we again ran into the cotter-woman whose calf Sir Doon and I had wrangled. She professed to possessing healing skills, so we rode as quickly as we could to her rude little dwelling.

It was clear to us all that Sir Clydno had been poisoned by the Pictish axe-blade. Fearing for the life of Father Tathan among such savages, Sirs Doon and Branwen rode north to rescue him (despite their oath), while I stayed with was a tense two days, my friends, especially when I heard Clydno calling to his dead wife in his delirium, as if he had passed a point where he could now clearly see her! It would have been bitter to lose a comrade-in-arms as dear as good old Clydno so soon after losing my little brother Clarian, but the woman of the woods pulled Clydno through and, miracle of miracles, he was soon fit to ride!

Well, Branwen and Doon soon returned with news of Father Tathan. Not good, and I'll spare you the gory details. Branwen was incensed that they would treat a priest so, and was hot to punish them for their misdeeds. But our oath hung over our heads—well, over mine and Clydno's, anyway. We told him in no uncertain terms that we would not go north this year. Oh, how he ranted and raved, "holy duty" this, "honor demands" that, on and on, and he would not be dissuaded by what Clydno and I had to say. Very well, his honor then, and Doon's. Not my problem.

Our relations a bit strained, we rode south to Gaihome in order for Branwen to enlist aid from King Bagdemagus...who was busy preparing for a tournament in the southern style. He was in no rush to ruin his fine tourney in order to fight in the mud with a bunch of half-clothed, screaming wild men. So Branwen and Doon cooled their heels while Clydno healed his cool and I just...chilled.

Then father showed up and dropped a bomb.

[ be continued...]

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