The Great Pendragon Campaign

AD 497

Standings:

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?


Standings:

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)

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AD 496

Standings:

1.  Sir Uwain Broadfoot (4,861)
2.  Sir Cyfan of Teffort (4,459)
3.  Sir Lug of Winterslow (4,230)
4.  Sir Nidian of Haxton (3,630)
5.  Sir Teryrnor of South Cott (2,964)
6.  Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (2,019) (absent)


This was the first year of the Anarchy period, after the death of Uther. The PCs were a little out of sorts at their newfound freedom. No more lords bossing them around! Because they’re all dead, unfortunately.

They decide to do the honorable thing and swear fealty to Countess Ellen, their late liege’s widow and the mother of their young lord. At court there are many offers and threats — requests for tribute and the like, to offers of alliance, and so on.

Word comes in of a Saxon fleet landing in Hampshire, to the south. They ride to lend assistance but arrive to find the Saxon fleet victorious and occupying the city. Emissaries ride out, greet them courteously, and invite them in to talk to the Saxon king. Turns out that he is the son of old (and evil) Duke Vortigern, and considers himself as much a Briton as a Saxon.

He feasts the knights with great hospitality, and confidently announces that he will conquer Britain, both the natives and the other Saxons. If the Countess will swear fealty to him, he will protect Salisbury from the depredations of the eastern Saxons.

The knights promise to take the message back to the Countess. The king understands completely and invites them to stay with him as long as they like, and in fact they are invited back to celebrate Yule with his household. They say their goodbyes and leave the next day.

Back in Salisbury, they deliver the message. Ellen asks for their advice, and some excellent anguished debate is engaged in by the knights. Finally they recommend that she swears fealty to Cerdic. She agrees that will be the safest path.

The knights do not return to Hampshire for Yule.


Standings:

1. Uwain Broadfoot (5,064) (0)
2. Cyfan of Teffort (4,662) (0)
3. Lug of Winterslow (4,456) (0)
4. Nidian of Haxton (3,835) (0)
5. Teryrnor of South Cott (3,024) (0)
6. Gwyn of Tytherington (2,185) (0)

View
AD 495

Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,861)
2. Sir Uwain Broadfoot (3,450)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (3,286)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (3,145)
5. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,863) (absent)
6. Sir Teryrnor of South Cott (1,815)
7. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,710)


Court is held at Sarum this year. Uther’s army is assembling here for a battle against the Saxons. Another one in a series of allegedly decisive battles. Will this be the one that finally strikes the fatal blow to their ambitions?

The castle folk are nervous and tired of battles. What will their future hold if Uther falls?

The king is barely seen this spring. He is still rumored to be very ill, perhaps even dying. The double loss of his two sons — Madoc and the infant — has seemingly sapped him of his will to live. Should he even be riding out to meet the foe, in his condition?

Brastias is still cold to the knights. Sir Lug attempts to make overtures but is again rebuffed.

While they are waiting for the troops to gather in, Lug, Uwain, and Cyfan decided to go hunting. They tramp around the forest for a while, then Cyfan spies some unusual tracks — it looks like a giant! This close to Sarum? They follow the tracks and come upon the creature! It is dragging a sheep, a club on its shoulder. It sees them and roars a challenge!

Cyfan and Uwain charge! Lug stays back and throws javelins, but cannot stay out of its mighty reach! The club crunched into Lug’s chest, knocking him off his horse. Ribs crack and a lung collapses as he hits the ground hard and does not get back up. His squire drags him into the brush.

Cyfan and Uwain gulp and redouble their efforts. The brute is strong but slow and its wounds begin to take a toll. Finally a mighty blow drops it. It tries to get back up, and is brained. They cut off its head as a trophy.

Lug is sorely wounded and will miss the rest of the year. They take him back to Sarum on a litter. Dragging behind another horse is a litter with the severed head. They present it to Earl Roderick as his court gasps and gawks.

Two days later, the army marches northeast. Scouts ride out and return, reporting that the Saxons have taken St. Albans, massacring the inhabitants. Uther decides to take the fight to them. As his army nears the plain, Uther sees that the Saxons have left the gates wide open! He orders an immediate charge by the vanguard! They storm across the plain and into the city.

But it’s a trap! The gates close immediately behind them and they fight bravely, but are cut down. The British curse and assault the walls with ladders and archers. Again unsuccessful. As dusk falls, Uther withdraws the army back to the edge of the plain.

At dawn the next day, the Saxon king Octa and his troops file out of the city to meet Uther in open battle. The horns sound and the charge is given! Uwain is successfully inspired by his hatred of Saxons! Teryrnor is critically inspired by his hatred of Saxons! Morien attempts to inspire himself and just cannot seem to hate the Saxons as much as he wants. He is melancholy.

Charging in. Teryrnor is a machine of whirling death. His foes all fall before him like wheat under the scythe. Nidian is sorely wounded early and is dragged from battle to have his wounds bound. Uwain and Cyfan fight on.

Morien glumly wades into battle, a deep depression weighing on him. He avoids calamity for a few hours but then meets a Saxon champion. Morien charges the Saxon, but the Saxon deftly sidesteps and spits Morien on a greatspear. The momentum of his charge impales the knight, who falls and expires.

The battle rages on for hours. Finally, as night falls, the Saxons route! A cheer goes up from the exhausted British, who give pursuit and cut them down. Octa escapes, and Duke Ulfius and Sir Brastias are hospitalized with grave wounds, but otherwise the victory is total. The Saxons are broken.

The triumphant army marches into St. Albans in celebration. Uther calls for a feast. The lords meet in the Great Hall of St. Albans, but there is not enough room for all the knights. Tables are laid for them out in the courtyard. Earl Roderick invites Sir Teryrnor, as the hero of the battle, to join him at the high table, but Teryrnor gracefully and Modestly declines, preferring to be with his brother knights who have supported him.

The feasting continues until late. Some knights pair off with serving wenches, others drink and sing songs of victory. Shortly after midnight, a great cry comes from the hall. The knights sprint in, some drunkenly, some half-clothed, and are met with a scene of carnage. The lords are staggering around to a man, vomiting up blood and bile. Clawing at their throats, they can’t seem to draw breath. They’re turning blue. Many of them are already dead on the ground. It looks to be the same poison that slew King Canan of Estregales last year, on a massive scale.

The knights run around uselessly. First aid is no help. Where is Uther? Where is Roderick? Uwain finally comes upen Roderick. He is face down in the slick of blood and vomit that covers the floor of the hall. His body is starting to cool. Uwain falls to his knees in grief. Shortly thereafter, Uther’s body is found. Crying and wailing come from the entire castle.

Eventually a noblewoman takes charge. The bodies are dragged from the hall and accounted for. The entire ruling class of Logres has been obliterated, with the exception of Duke Ulfius who was in the field hospital. Devastation and grief sound into the night and the next day.

Stunned, the knights return home to Salisbury with the news. As they ride out of St. Albans, they get to a little rise in the terrain. Below them are hundreds of black-shrouded wagons, slowly rolling back to their respective manors with their grim cargo. “There are no lords in Logres,” the people say. The queen retires back to her people.

In Sarum, Sir Uwain breaks the news to Ellen, the Countess of Salisbury. She collapses in grief. Roderick’s heir, young Robert, is three years old. What will the knights do? Some of Roderick’s court want to take charge themselves. “It is no time for women and children — the land needs strong men, now more than ever.”

The knights, however, are men of honor through and through. They swear fealty to the young lord and to the countess as his regent until he comes of age. The countess is grateful. The remainder of the court, shamed by the nobility of the players, falls into line and swears to the council.

With no lord, no high king, and no successor, the Saxons will be given a chance to recover. What then for Salisbury?


Standings:

1. Sir Uwain Broadfoot (4,861) (1)
2. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (4,459) (
2)
3. Sir Lug of Winterslow (4,230) (-2)
4. Sir Nidian of Haxton (3,630) (-1)
5. Sir Teryrnor of South Cott (2,964) (+1)
6. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (2,019) (-1)
7. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,950) (0, died!)

View
AD 494

Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,622 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (3,233 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (3,065 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,928 Glory)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,792 Glory) (absent)
6. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,691 Glory) (absent)
7. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,650 Glory) (absent)


Uther is still ill, even more so than last year. He is barely seen, but rumored to be moaning in his delirium for Merlin to help him. The queen does not react well to this news.

Roderick is somber, but has brought his wife, the Countess Ellen, and their young son, Robert, to court this year. While the knights have met them (briefly) before, this year they got to escort them from Sarum. To be entrusted with the safety of their lord’s heir is deeply touching.

After a few weeks at court, Roderick tells them that they will deliver a letter to Estregales, in Cambria. The letter will propose an alliance. Well, being a mailman is better than riding endless patrols over heath and moorland. OR IS IT?!@?

They have the exciting experience of riding through Britain before maps and street signs! This consists of:

1. Travel in what you think is the general direction of your destination.
2. Ask the least-filthy peasant you can find if you’re headed the right way. Better yet, have your squire ask.
3. If you encounter a castle or a group of heavily-armed knights giving you the stinkeye, go to the next step. Otherwise, go to 1.
4. Announce your business. Be polite.
5. Get grilled about your past, present, and future intentions. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against your liege lord.
6. Enjoy your hosts’ hospitality until they see fit to give you leave to depart.
7. Are you there yet? If not, go to 1. If yes, go to 6; then, when it’s time to go home, go to 1.

The knights develop a new tactic for diplomacy: When the glorious but socially-inept Sir Lug realizes that he is in over his head, he places one hand over his mouth and wave the other in the air, thus calling an audible and alerting the party to have a smoother-tongued member, usually Sir Uwain, interject.

They manage to comport themselves well and eventually make it to Carlion. Sir Nidian notes that his grandfather died here in 439.

At Carlion, an old chum, Sir Alain, receives them warmly and teases them a little about their recent narrow escape from a treason conviction.

Finally they make it to Cardiff. Sir Nidian notes that Torchwood Three will be built here in 1500 years or so. Sir Alain bids them farewell and returns home.

Proceeding to Pembroke they finally deliver their letter to King Canan of Estregales. The king welcomes them and invites them to dinner. At dinner they make the jerkwad acquaintance of Sir Orcas, the king’s steward.

The king promises to take the letter under consideration, and he will let the knights know when he needs them. They hang out at a foreign court. It’s kind of boring.

They play some songs at a dinner. Sir Cyfan’s lute is apparently suffering greatly from the salt air at Pembroke, and he can’t seem to keep it in tune.

The sons of King Canan, Sir Dirac and Squire Lak, invite them on a hunt. They are endlessly fascinated by the world outside Cambria, and the knights dispense their dubious wisdom. The hunt itself is largely uneventful, until they discover griffon tracks! They follow the tracks but are unable to corner it. As they finally give up and head back to the castle, a single eagle’s feather tufted with lion fur at the base floats down and lands on Sir Lug.

Some other visitors show up and challenge the Salisbury knights to a horse race. They don’t tell the knights that this race is across terrain that is, basically, complete crap. Nonetheless Uwain pulls out a crit! He wins a pound of silver and some bragging rights.

The next day they find out that the king has left to continue his procession. The knights hasten to catch up. At dinner that knight, the king announces that he has decided to accept Uther’s offer of alliance, and is preparing a reply which will be ready in a few days.

More stalling at court. Then at dinner a few days later, they see a cup given to King Canan by his son and heir, Sir Dirac. The king smiles and drains the cup, then a few minutes later, staggers to his feet and falls to the floor. He grabs at his throat, choking. Blood streams from his mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. He gasps one last time and dies.

Everyone looks to Sir Dirac. He gave his father a poisoned cup! He protests.

The players look for anyone acting suspicious. They see the steward, Sir Orcas, absconding. “HALT!” they cry! Sir Nidian accuses Orcas of poisoning the cup. Orcas denies it, and demands mortal combat to clear his name.

Nidian accepts. He takes a ritual bath that evening and goes to confession.

The next day they meet outside the castle. Their seconds confer and establish terms.

Nidian and Orcas spur their mounts. Orcas lands a solid blow but fails to unseat Nidian. Both knights’ lances shatter. They void their saddles and draw swords. Blows are traded, then Nidian lands a mighty strike that stuns his foe and drops him, senseless.

Nidian strides up, carefully to check on Orcas. He is unconscious. “What do you do?” I ask.

“It was,” says Nidian somberly, “to the death.” He puts his sword above Orcas’ heart, leans his weight on it, and drives the tip through the chain mail deep into his body.

Sir Dirac is vindicated, but Cambria is now in turmoil. All Dirac’s efforts will be to secure his position. Uther can expect no help from Cambria.

The knights travel back, telling their story again. They hear rumor that the Saxon army is sweeping south. Back in London, they see Uther is now being treated by Nimue, a Lady of the Lake who they last saw escaping London with Duke Gorlois several years ago. She forbids anyone from sharing the news of the Saxons with Uther, so as not to shock him.

The knights return home after Christmas court. Another bad harvest drains the knights’ coffers. Sir Morien and his wife has twin sons and rejoice; Uwain’s daughter and Teryrnor’s son do not survive the winter.


Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,861 Glory) (0)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (3,450 Glory) (0)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (3,286 Glory) (0)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (3,145 Glory) (0)
5. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,863 Glory) (+1)
6. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,815 Glory) (-1)
7. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,710 Glory) (0)

View
AD 493

Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,379 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (2,944 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2,856 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,742 Glory) (absent)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,769 Glory) (absent)
6. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,550 Glory)
7. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,519 Glory) (absent)


AD 493 opens on a somber note. King Uther is withdrawn, grieving over the death of Madoc and the loss of his infant son. The Saxon kings, Octa and Eosa, have escaped from captivity and are reportedly gathering their armies again in the north, Saxon warriors are flocking to their banners.

In the midst of the spring court, doctors come and go from Uther’s chambers. No one else is admitted.

Earl Roderick is sent a message. He is to travel to Malahaut and formalize an alliance with the northern kings, in anticipation of the Saxon attack. He takes his knights with him.

A long journey north; the weather is clear and bright but does little to lift the knight’s spirits.

Entering the city of Eburacum, the knights are generally snubbed and refused entrance to the court. They rent a house and mill about town, sending their squires on errands, mostly carrying messages to and from Roderick. They notice several well-dressed Saxons in town, moving about freely with no harassment from the town guard. This is alarming but they can detect no immediate threat. An urgent message to Roderick get a quick response: Saxon representatives are also here at court, negotiating against Uther.

Days pass as Roderick negotiates with the northern kings. The knights follow the Saxon envoys in the markets and overhear them plotting to attack Uther while he is weak from his illness. A frantic message dispatched to Roderick, followed by hours of white-knuckled, impotent waiting. Finally he shows up at the knights’ house with his entourage, a grim expression on his face. “We ride at dawn.”

The Salisbury men leave. Nothing is said, nor needs to be.

An hour south of Malahaut there are signs of an ambush ahead. The knights want to melt into the forest and out-tactic them, but Roderick will have none of it. “They will die like dogs,” he says, ordering a charge into the trap. Saxons, of course.

The battle is joined, back and forth for several minutes, then Roderick himself joins to fight alongside his men. The knights’ superior equipment and training turn the tide. They slaughter all the ambushers, cutting them down even as they break and run. There is no celebration. The squires strip the bodies and leave them for the ravens.

At Christmas court, little is improved. The king is still ill. Octa and Eosa are still marching south. War is coming.


Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,622 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (3,233 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (3,065 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,928 Glory)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,792 Glory)
6. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,691 Glory)
7. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,650 Glory)

View
AD 492

Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,173 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (2,725 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2,583 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,392 Glory)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,746 Glory) (absent)
6. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,391 Glory)
7. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,358 Glory) (absent)


In the spring, the knights convene back at Castle Tintagel, in Cornwall. Uther is to preside of the marriage of Ygraine’s daughters to the kings of the north. Ygraine is due to give birth in the summer, and wants to be at her home.

The marriages proceed with problems. It is a glorious affair, and, as Sir Brastias (Uther’s bodyguard) confides in his young drinking buddy Sir Lug, it seems that Uther has something other than war on his mind for once.

Spring passes and summer breaks over the land. The knights ride seemingly endless patrols. There is not much opportunity for glory, but there is little danger either.

One morning on patrol, they are surprised by Merlin. “Knights, I need your help yet again.” He heads off into the thin forest without checking to see if they are following. Sir Lug is suspicious but follows with the rest of them.

They are quickly in unfamiliar territory, despite having patrolled this area many times prior. “Is he taking us into Faerie again?” wonders Sir Uwain. No response.

Finally a clearing is reached. Merlin turns to the knights and says, “I need you to wait here. When I return, I will probably need protection. I am counting on your to do your duty for King and Britain. Will you wait?”

“We will wait,” the knights assent.

“Wait here, then. Be ready. Stay on your horses.” Merlin strides off into the woods.

Hours pass. Then, a distant noise: men on horseback. The knights ready their lances and shields.

Merlin walks swiftly into a clearing. Some of the knights notice that he is carrying something. Sir Uwain thinks to himself, “It’s a baby!”

Merlin says merely, “Delay them,” and exits on the opposite side of the clearing.

The sounds of pursuit get closer. A group of knights in full arms and armor burst from the trees! Our Heroes prepare to charge!

“What are you doing?! We are king’s men, on king’s business!” yells the unknown knight. The players all make Heraldry rolls and fail miserably. “The lead knight’s shield has an upraised mailed fist on it,” I tell them.

The players distress and discuss their arms briefly. “What does yours look like?” I ask Sir Lug’s player.

He holds up his character sheet, upon which he has drawn a cross-eyed smiley face. “Goddammit, Jeremy, that is not what your coat of arms looks like.”

“Oh,” he says, “well, then I guess it looks like Sir Brastias’, except more greenish. So what does that make mine?”

“Uh, it makes it a green-tinted upraised mailed fist.”

Comprehension dawns as they realize they are facing Uther’s right-hand men. Brastias is fuming. “So help me God, if you do not stand down immediately we will cut you down! Where is that dog, that traitor, Merlin?”

Sir Nidian and Sir Morien pretend to lose control of their horses and they block the path temporarily. Brastias and his men force by them. “The king will hear of this!” he snaps.

Our knights sheepishly follow Brastias. Merlin is nowhere to be found. Camp is set, but Brastias makes it clear that they are not welcome at his fire.

In the morning they wend back to Castle Tintagel. They are informed that Sir Brastias has accused them of treason. This is concerning; treason is a capital offense. There will be a trial, presided over by the king; in the meantime they are confined to quarters. They send word to Earl Roderick.

Several days before the trial, two of Roderick’s men, his marshall and his local bishop, come to question the knights so to better represent them.

The trial is brief. Queen Ygraine calls for their blood. Brastias tells his story. Roderick’s men tell how the knights were clearly ensorcelled by Merlin’s foul magics. Uther asks the knights to speak for themselves. They speak and give a reasonable accounting of their loyalty.

Finally, the marshall stands and states that Earl Roderick gives his word on the honor of these men. The knights are impressed; as well they should be — Roderick has now joined his fortune with theirs.

A famous monk stands and declares that all of Uther’s problems are because of Merlin. Cast him out! “Kill him,” hisses Ygraine.

Uther pronounces judgment. The knights are innocent, having been tricked by Merlin. Merlin is condemned to death. Let the news go out to be read in all public places.

The knights return to Salisbury. They privately thank Earl Roderick for his trust and faith, and pledge their lives and service.


Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,379 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (2,944 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2,856 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,742 Glory)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,769 Glory) (absent)
6. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,550 Glory)
7. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,519 Glory) (absent)

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AD 491

Pendragon AD 491

Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (2,975 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (2,658 Glory) (absent)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2,394 Glory) (absent)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,228 Glory) (absent)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,723 Glory) (absent)
6. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,187 Glory) (first appearance)
7. Sir Morin of Idmisdton (1,178 Glory) (first appearance)

King Uther Pendragon holds court and pronounces judgement upon Duke Gorlois. Gorlois has affronted him beyond all tolerance. Uther claims that Gorlois is a traitor, and the proof is that he left in secret, stealing treasure and slaying servants on the way out of London last year.

Our Heroes remember well, having had the chance to stop Gorlois but deciding not to. They do not bring this missed opportunity up.

The talk at court is bloodthirsty. Prince Madoc wants to give the Cornish what they deserve. Sir Cyfan is tending to his lands and is unable to offer his normal counsel and commiseration with the Prince this year.

Sir Brastias, ever faithful, is nonetheless concerned about the Saxons, who seem to have endless numbers. Sir Lug affirms Brastias’ worries but affirms the need to support the king.

The king demands all available men, knights and levies alike, for the war upon Cornwall. Earl Roderick pulls Our Heroes aside and lets them know that actually, their levies should stay behind in case of a Saxon incursion. However, they and their retinue should prepare to ride.

Rumor has it that Gorlois is not actually a traitor, but escape to preserve the honor of his wife, the Duchess Ygraine, from Uther’s scandalous advances. Deciding on the truth of this is a little beyond Our Heroes’ pay grade. But apparently even Prince Madoc has been overheard arguing with his father over proprieties, and the wisdom of using his political strength to enforce his own lusts.

Uther commands all knights to march on Cornwall immediately. Any stragglers are to follow as quickly as feasible.

The Knights follow, apprehensive. The last time they marched on Cornwall, it was into almost certain slaughter, averted only by the intervention of Merlin. But Merlin is nowhere to be seen. In general the Knights are not really supportive of this, but Uther is their liege’s liege. What choice do they have?

The march is long and cold. Scouts go out and return. Gorlois has divided his forces into two: the majority at Castle Terrabil, ten miles inland; the rest at Castle Tintagel, on the coast. The Duchess is at Tintagel, but if Uther moves on Tintagel then Gorlois’ army at Terrabil will move on their rear and pin them up again the other castle. Uther sends his son, Madoc, with the bulk of his army, to besiege the army at Terrabil. Uther himself rides with a small force to Tintagel. Roderick gives the Knights their choice: Glory at Terrabil, or with him and Uther to Tintagel?

The Earl turns to Sir Lug. Lug, with no hesitation, says “We have ever gone with you and the King. We will accompany you still.” The Earl inclines his head. “Sir Lug, you are a true knight. Would that all my men were as steadfast as you.”

They ride.

Castle Tintagel is on an outcropping in the Irish Sea, connected by a narrow causeway. A deathtrap, so of course Sir Gwyn volunteers to lead the assault. He gets halfway across and the two knights who went with him fall to their deaths. Sir Gwyn hastily retreats back to the mainland. Several more attempts fail. Uther rages. The knights, and Our Knights, stand around and wait for orders. They ride patrols and observe, and attempt to starve them out.

One afternoon, Sir Gwyn sees a rider approaching on a white mule. He rides out to meet the rider. It’s an old man with a long beard. Merlin? Merlin! The arch druid of Britain greets Gwyn by name, and, annoyingly, knows all about him despite them never having met before.

Gwyn escorts Merlin to Uther’s tent and stands guard.

That night, while Our Knights are watching the camp, Uther and Merlin (and noble Sir Brastias) leave the tent and ride up the coast. Our Heroes follow at a respectful distance. Merlin sees them but says nothing. Arriving at a standing stone, Merlin dismounts and begins a ritual. Sir Marin, faithful pagan that he is, watches respectfully. The others are suspicious, but if Uther is participating, what reproach may they give?

Uther, Merlin, and Brastias remount and return to camp. The Knights retreat to the side of road as they pass; Uther nods regally at them as if to thank them for their escort.

Returning to camp and unable to sleep. A few hours pass. The Knights mill about, restlessly. A shout goes up: “The duke! Open the gate!”

Gwyn sees Duke Gorlois ride into the castle. He stands guard at the causeway. A few hours later, the duke rides out. Gwyn, Marin, and Lug move to intercept! Suddenly Merlin is there, holding up his hand. “Knights, hold. As you love Britain, trust mine counsel.”

They hold and watch the duke disappear into the fog. They eventually go to sleep, and have dreams troubled by visions of dragons and blood. The night is cold and long.

In the morning, messengers arrive! The knights ride out and escort them in. Their words are for the king only, but rumor spreads quickly: A battle at Castle Terrabil. Duke Gorlois was killed in the fighting, but before he went down, he killed Prince Madoc.

Uther is hit hard by the news. He retreats to his tent to grieve in private.

The body of Duke Gorlois is brought to Tintagel under a white flag, and disappears into the castle. The next day, the Duchess Ygraine surrenders to Uther. Uther accepts, and takes her into protective custody.

Prince Madoc is buried at Stonehenge. The Knights attend, and notice an empty plot ready to hold Uther when the time comes. It is a sobering thought.

Word comes from the south: The Saxons have made ingress into Kent. Women and children are being sacrificed to Wotan, the bloody Saxon god of war. Uther is dismissive, and announces his wedding to Ygraine. The courtiers are impressed with Ygraine’s cunning — she is apparently moving quickly to secure her future. The wedding is the social event of the summer. Ygraine’s daughters are on display; it is assumed that Uther will be marrying them off to secure alliances as necessary.

The Knights are garrisoned at Tintegel for the winter. Their commander gifts them sufficient rewards to let their treasuries build appropriately.

“I don’t know how much longer I can support Uther,” says Sir Nidian privately, when he hears of the year’s events.


Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (3,173 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (2,725 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2,583 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,392 Glory)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,746 Glory)
6. Sir Morien of Idmisdton (1,391 Glory) (first appearance)
7. Sir Gwyn of Tytherington (1,358 Glory) (first appearance)

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AD 490

Standings:

1. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2,200 Glory)
2. Sir Lug of Winterslow (1,894 Glory)
3. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (1,703 Glory)
4. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,680 Glory) (absent)
5. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (1,450 Glory)

Our Heroes travel to Warwick for Spring Court. The mood is tense but excited as Logres prepares for war. With Gorlois at Uther’s back, the Britons finally have a chance.

Schmoozing with the hoi polloi, the talk of the court is about Gorlois’ wife, the Duchess Ygraine. She is a legendary beauty, but none of that will matter if they can’t expel the Saxons.

Sir Cyfan shares some wine with Prince Madoc. This is becoming an annual tradition for the two of them at spring court — the prince appreciates Cyfan’s candor and forthrightness, and his views as an outsider. Cyfan appreciates the prince’s fame and wealth, and his access to the halls of power.

Sir Lug attempts to join Cyfan and Madoc in the garden, but Madoc fails his Recognize roll and asks Lug to go fetch some more wine. Lug is chagrinned but complies, taking the opportunity to talk to Sir Brastias. Brastias confides to Lug that the Saxon army has doubled in size since last fall, and one of their kings, Eosa, is so big he can’t ride a horse.

One of the other knights learns that the Saxon kings have an enchanted weapon, and look to add Excalibur to their collection. Gulp. “Molon labe,” says Uther, or he would have if he spoke ancient Greek.

Within a few weeks, Uther’s army marches to Lindsey. The Saxons array themselves on the other side of the field. Uther has 2,000 horse and 5,000 foot, against the Saxons’ 10,000 foot. This is easily the biggest battle our heroes have seen.

Uther, Earl Roderick, and the Knights are in the center. The horns blow and the armies rush at each other in a thunderous charge. Sir Lug, directing the Knights’ battle group, blows his Battle roll and directs the party into a swirling melee of axes and howling Saxons. Swords are swung, blood is spilled, and the Knights are swept apart and back together over the course of the battle. Sir Cyfan is laid low by a single blow, but miraculously survives. His squire drags him out of battle.

Lug and Uwain fight on. Glancing over the right flank, they see Duke Gorlois crash through the Saxon lines and lay the giant King Eosa low with a single blow. The Saxons begin to route, first the right, then the center!

As the Saxon lines collapse, Lug spots King Octa isolated on the field, with only a single heorthganat protecting him. Uwain spots the Saxon banner, guarded by two men. They could try and take the king, or settle for the banner, or continue to pick off a few more Saxons. Lug valorously charges the king, with Uwain following closely behind! The heorthganat intercepts Uwain, and the king wheels his horse around to face Sir Lug!

A few exchanges. Heavy blows are landed, shaking the combatants, but they keep their feet (or saddles). Uwain finally knocks down the heorthganat, then nearly decapitates him as he tries to rise to his feet. King Octa slams his axe into Lug’s side; Lug is knocked off his horse and blacks out. Uwain engages Octa and fights over Lug’s unconscious form! Uwain lands a solid blow. Octa looks around and sees his army dissolving. Octa fails his Valorous roll and turns and flees, Uwain chasing him from the field of battle!

The victorious British army sets up camp and celebrates. Sir Nidian rides in. “Hey guys, did I miss anything?”

That night, the Knights are given a place of honor guarding Uther’s tent, where they manage to thwart an assassin. Unfortunately, they thwart him fatally and are unable to find out who sent him.

The following day they march back to Castle Lindsey for the victory feast. The Duchess Ygraine makes an appearance and recites a victory poem. All the knights and lords are fascinated by her, but none so much as King Uther. Gorlois sees Uther staring brazenly at his wife and frowns.

A few days later, Earl Roderick gives the Knights their choice: would they like to accompany him as he stays with the King on his yearly progression around his realm? Or would they like to go with Madoc as he raids the Saxon lands in retaliation? The Knights opt to stick with Uther.

As the weeks go by, Uther gives his lords leave to return to their lands one by one. Except Duke Gorlois. Gorlois asks every day to return to Cornwall; Uther is insistent that Gorlois and his household must stay with the royal court.

Uther eventually reaches London and holds Christmas court there. Despite all his talk about the great victory and the plunder found, Uther seems restless and unhappy.

One night, the Knights are milling around the courtyard, off duty. A few snowflakes drift down with a chill air that blows in. Across the courtyard they see some squires readying a dozen or so horses. Hmm. The Knights go over and question the squires. Why are they getting ready to ride into a coming snowstorm? Merely following orders from their lord, Duke Gorlois, milords. Hmm. Lug decides to go find Sir Brastias and inform him that the Cornish are skedaddling.

Nidian, Cyfan, and Uwain cannot think of a great reason to delay the Cornish — while it certainly seems underhanded, for all they know, Uther could finally have granted Gorlois permission to leave.

Uwain and Nidian notice that the Cornish seem strangely difficult to focus on — they can’t seem to look at them for more than a few seconds before they realize that they are looking elsewhere. Uwain concentrates and realizes that part of the Cornish group is a woman he’s seen at the periphery of court a time or two — Nineve, the Lady of the Lake.

Cyfan sighs, sets his shoulders and walks up to the group as they make their way towards the gate. A Cornish knight sees him and peels off the the group, drawing reign a few yards from Sir Cyfan.

“I would have your name, Sir Knight,” says the Cornish warrior. His hand is on the hilt of his sword.

“I am hight Cyfan of Teffort.”

“I am hight Gwannon of Dartmoor,” replies he. “And, Sir Cyfan, I do not desire bloodshed this night.” The implication is clear.

Cyfan inclines his head. “Nor do I.” He steps back.

The knight bows back. “I will remember your courtesy this night.” Sir Gwannon rejoins the rest of the Cornish and they disappear into the blowing snow.

Minutes later, Uther storms into the courtyard wearing his robes and naught else. He is raging about the treason and disloyalty of Gorlois. The Knights are silent and withdraw as soon as feasible.

The rest of the Christmas court is murmur and talk of muster, war, and revenge. Roderick and his knights return to Salisbury as soon as the storm lets up. AD 491 is not looking good.

Winter Phase:

- Lug’s wife gives birth to his first child, a daughter.
- Nidian, distraught over the death of his wife, hooks up with a woman of ill repute, who rewards him with illegitimate twin daughters.
- Teryrnor also has an illegitimate child, who he names after his recently departed brother.

Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (2,975 Glory)
2. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (2,658 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2,394 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (2,228 Glory)
5. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1,723 Glory)

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AD 489, addendum

The Lamentations of Sir Teryrnor

A makeup session with Sir Teryrnor this afternoon. We’ve established that he is at home during AD 489, but why? His player and I decide to go through the Winter Phase to see if that suggests anything interesting.

During the Winter Phase, it is established that his brother is missing! Excellent.

One day, Sir Teryrnor’s brother, the honorable Sir Glyn, makes rounds through the county. He is expected back for dinner but does not return.

Another day comes and goes, with no Sir Glyn. This is relevant because Sir Teryrnor is without issue, thus Sir Glyn is his heir.

Teryrnor and his loyal squire, Caradoc, ride out to search for Sir Glyn. They wander about in the scrub forest for a day and run out of food. Rather than return to the manor, they press on. Hungry and tired, they spend the night in the woods.

They spend half of the next day wandering and then come upon a bandit encampment. The bandits have a captive, whose head is in a sack. Is it Sir Glyn? Someone else? No matter, Sir Teryrnor charges!

The bandits pull daggers and put them at the captive’s throat, demanding ransom.

Sir Teryrnor does not negotiate with terrorists. He charges. [Check Proud, check Reckless.]

The bandit leader slits the captive’s throat, and the four bandits scatter into the woods. Teryrnor rides down the leader and cuts him down in a one-sided battle. He returns to the encampment, leaving the bandit to the ravens.

As he rides back in, his squire, arms covered in blood, sobbingly relates how he tried to revive his lord Glyn but failed. Sir Glyn is dead; Teryrnor now has no heir.

Teryrnor ties Glyn to his horse and returns home. His dowager mother beats her breast, pulls her hair. “I wish your father was still alive,” she says. His mother does not attend the funeral.

Teryrnor tosses the torch onto his brother’s pyre. The smoke takes his soul to Valhalla.

View
AD 489

Standings:

1. Sir Nidian of Haxton (1791 Glory)
2. Sir Lug of Winterslow (1769 Glory)
3. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (1703 Glory) (absent)
4. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1627 Glory) (absent)
5. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (1307 Glory)

Last year, our knights were instrumental in helping to secure Uther’s passage through Somerset. This is important because it will help Uther directly confront his passively-rebellious vassal, Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. THIS is important, because if Gorlois falls into line and starts supporting Uther militarily, then Uther can finally have a real chance to expel the Saxons and bring peace to the peace to war-torn Albion.

All Gorlois has to do is acknowledge Uther as the high king. Surely something to which any stiff-necked, prideful noble would happily submit.

But insurance is always desirable, so Uther summons his nobles to Cirencester, preparing to march his army on Cornwall. Our knights and their lord, Earl Roderick, are marching as well. The mood is grim — no one wants to wage war on fellow Britons, when the Saxons are occupying Kent, in the southeast, and threatening Lindsay, in the north.

King Cadwy joins Uther at Somerset, but doesn’t bring any troops. Our knights are sympathetic, recognizing that Cadwy is caught betwixt the twin horns of Uther and Gorlois, and cannot risk throwing in his lot unless the winner is clear.

Gorlois meets them in Cornwall. Taking advantage of the terrain, his army is up in the hills, amongst the trees. At the foot of the hill is a stream that Uther will have to charge across. Even assuming equal numbers, this is a receipe for the slaughter of Uther’s army.

The morning of the battle, our knights nervously prepare. Sir Nidian will be the battle commander of their group (having overtaken Sir Lug in Glory, the honor is his).

Uther rides out under a flag of parley. Merlin is at his side. No one realized he was here. “One land, one king!” yells Uther, loud enough for all to hear.

“Justice!” Gorlois yells back, but rides out to talk to Uther, stopping a prudent distance away.

Merlin speaks softly, but his voice carries to all: “Show him the sword.”

Uther draws Excalibur. A gasp rolls over the field. The Cornish troops withdraw a few paces.

“Behold, the Sword of Victory,” says Merlin. “Forged when the world was young.” Again, he speaks softly but his voice carries eerily.

Gorlois, visibly shaken, steps back to confer with his earls. He steps back and shouts at Uther. “And if I surrender, what do I get?”

“You get?!?” sputters Uther, but Merlin interrupts him with a gesture. The two of them hurriedly discuss in low tones. Uther nods and continues. “You get … all the land from here to the sea, to hold for the king.”

“I accept!” shouts Gorlois. Both armies cheer! A crisis, and a senseless bloodletting, is averted. The camps are joined, drinking and feasting goes on into the night. Gorlois leaves sometime before dawn, and Uther’s army the next day.

After a few days on the road back to Cirencester, Uther tells Roderick that — seeing how an extended Cornwall campaign is not necessary — he will go to Lindsay to fend off some of the Saxon raiding parties. Our knights are pleased for the chance at a little solid action against the real enemy. Except for Sir Uwain, whose player has not had the best of luck fighting Saxons.

The Saxons refuse honest battle, so our knights group up and hunt for a raiding party. They find a party of six Saxons and, thanks to Nidian’s hunting skills, manage to come upon them unawares and they are despoiling a farmhouse. Nidian leads the battle and they charge! The Saxons are surprised but manage to fight back as best they can. Which is not good enough! The knights make so much Saxon-kebab with their lances, putting down three of them in the first pass. The other three break and run. They manage to capture one — it is the leader! They truss him up and frog march him to Lindsay, exchanging him for ransom.

During the Winter phase, the weather mostly cooperates. Decent harvests, plus the ransom for the Saxon war band leader, means a good year.

Standings, not including anything gained by Cyfan or Teryrnor during Winter 489:

1. Sir Nidian of Haxton (2026 Glory)
2. Sir Lug of Winterslow (1894 Glory)
3. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (1703 Glory)
4. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1627 Glory)
5. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (1451 Glory)

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