Thursday, July 26, 2007
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!