Friday, May 04, 2007
541: Off to Strangore, Cont'd.
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 Clydno....it 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.
[...to be continued...]