1. Uwain Broadfoot (5,064)
2. Cyfan of Teffort (4,662)
3. Lug of Winterslow (4,456)
4. Nidian of Haxton (3,835) (absent)
5. Teryrnor of South Cott (3,024) (absent)
6. Gwyn of Tytherington (2,185) (absent)
7. Madog of Idmisdton (1168, first appearance!)
Joined by the young, fresh-faced, newly knighted Sir Madog of Idmisdton. Madog is the younger brother of the late Sir Morien, tasked with guarding Morien’s infant sons until they reach their majority.
Spring is tough. Cattle are not calving at the usual numbers, and the sheep numbers are down as well. It will be a hungry winter.
At court at Sarum this year, there are two Saxon emissaries: Prince Cynric, son of King Cerdic; and Prince Aescwine, son of King Aelle. Cynric is here to remind Countess Ellen that she agreed to swear fealty to his father. Aescwine is here to remind Countess Ellen that if she doesn’t pay tribute, then Salisbury will be sacked. Ellen acknowledges Cynric, and reminds him that his father promised his protection if she swore fealty.
Cynric, no great diplomat, stammers and agrees. Ellen then turns and informs Aescwine that no tribute will be coming this year, or any. Aescwine storms out. “You will see the price of your choice.”
The knights, seeing this, motion to Ellen to press Cynric. Cynric will go let his father know that Salisbury is in danger of being attacked, but he is. Rey busy, and it will take King Aelle at least a year to get his army moving in the right direction, oh and can Salisbury spare a bunch of knights to come help Cerdic down south? No, says Ellen, until Cerdic arrives to receive her oath as regent, Salisbury knights are to defend Salisbury only. The prince leaves and promises to have his father come soon.
So what will the knights do? The eastern Saxons are coming, but maybe not right away, so maybe they should spend the year shoring up their defenses. There is war in Cornwall, and one side is hiring mercenaries. There is war in Norgales, and plunder, but they’re plundering the Irish, and risking your life to bring home a sack of cabbages and turnips is perhaps not the most lucrative gamble. Strange rumors have been drifting down from the Forest Sauvage, and there’s possibly Saxon raiders there as well. Or they could go east, try to take the fight to the Saxons, and check out rumors of this sword that’s mysteriously appeared in the courtyard of St. Paul’s in London.
They hem and haw, and finally turn to the best knight among them, Sir Uwain Broadfoot. “To the north and Sauvage!” he declares, “and keep an eye peeled for those dirty Saxons.”
They head north. Rumors about the forest are scarce. They follow the road near Oxford into Sauvage, and once under the leaves, sounds fall away and hooves echo strangely. They are very careful to stick to the path.
Coming upon a town in the midst of the forest, they find the mayor and question him. The town survives, although strange things are afoot in the deep wood. Herds of deer are avoiding the heart of the forest, and have come closer to habitation, thus the venison is plentiful. Perhaps he’d be interested in selling venison to Salisbury? Certainly, m’lord. Very well, we will send out steward to work out the details, since knights do not sully themselves with such base activities as haggling.
Supposedly there is a King of Sauvage. His castle is just up the road. The knights set out early the next morning and ride all day without finding it. Strange. They camp just off the road, bring careful to stay within eyesight of it. That night they all have a sinister dream, of serpents and towers and fell beasts. Uwain attempts to interpret it and fumbles. He is convinced that it is full of good omens.
The next morning they continue. After an hour or so, they meet a young boy who greets them by name and praises their most noteworthy quality. They stop and question him. Suddenly he turns into a wizened old man! It is the Archdruid of Britain, Merlin himself! The knights groan. Merlin does not seem to notice, and asks for their help. There is an evil knight, one Sir Gorbaduc, who had killed the rightful lord of Medbourne, just up the road. He is gathering men of similar character to him, and if they are not stopped then they will despoil the land and threaten all the land. Are the knights the men to stop him? Yes they are!
They ride to the manor. It looks just like the manor they saw in their dream! Riding in, they confront some surly peasants. The knights hesitate; they do not want to randomly cut down the help, but they will not be kept from their duty. Finally they are granted an audience with the foul Gorbaduc. He invites them in and trades passive-aggressive insults with them for a while. Suddenly a bunch of Gorbaduc’s men file in. The knights are outnumbered almost 3-to-1.
Gorbaduc stops stalling and sneers. “You are not worthy of the title of knighthood, fools, for what knight worth the name would step so willingly into the home of an enemy?” He turns to his men. “Kill them.”
Melee! Uwain and Cyfan are mortally insulted by the offense to their knighthood, and roll their Honor. Success! They are inspired. Madog is mortally insulted by the offense to HIS knighthood, and rolls his Honor. Fumble! Gorbaduc’s words cut deep; perhaps he is right and Madog does not deserve the honor after all! Maybe his entire family is cursed! Weeping, Madog breaks through the enemy line and runs into the woods.
The remaining three knights stand back to back in tight formation, limiting the bandit’s access to them. The bandits are mere villains and no match for a true knight. They land a few measly blows, but after about half their number are down, the rest fall back, fearfully. At that point Gorbaduc and his lieutenants join the fray.
Gorbaduc is short of stature but fiendishly strong. He assaults Sir Uwain. The bandits, heartened by their evil lord’s attack, rejoin the battle. More of them fall. Uwain defends himself well and lands solid blows on Gorbaduc, knocking him down. The lieutenants fall. Uwain leaps upon his foe and rains blows upon him, finally beheading him with a mighty yell!
The bandits scatter into the woods. The peasants fall at Uwain’s feet. Our liberator, our hero! They look to him for direction. “What should we do, milord?” “Uh,” says Uwain, “I guess grow food. And fight the bandits if they come back.”
The Medbourde peasants are amazed by this solid advice from the most glorious knight in Salisbury. “We’ll get right to it, m’lord!”
The knights return home to report to the Countess. She is amazed and please at their martial valor. In fact, so pleased that she grants the manor of Medbourne to Sir Uwain, slayer of the foul Sir Gorbaduc!
An emissary from Salisbury travels to Sauvage to trade for the venison, and the knights gain some glory for setting that up.
Now, there’s just the impending Saxon army to deal with…
And Sir Madog never made it home … is he still lost in Sauvage?
1. Uwain Broadfoot (5,372) (0)
2. Cyfan of Teffort (4,964) (0)
3. Lug of Winterslow (4,782) (0)
4. Nidian of Haxton (4,075) (0)
5. Teryrnor of South Cott (3,080) (0)
6. Gwyn of Tytherington (2,341) (0)
7. Madog of Idmisdton (1,343) (0)