Campaign of the Month: August 2016

Oath of Crows

The missing knights
498

Amig

”Have a seat Yraen

Amig gestured toward the chair standing on the opposite side of the table. The lord and his squire had spent the last few days in Castle Borders to oversee the affairs of the castle.

Yraen felt a knot beginning to form in his stomach when he saw Amig’s stern expression.

“Have I displeased you in any way Sir? I have attended to all my chores and even helped Sir Laurent with his horse, you know the skittish one with the white blaze?”

“Your chores have been satisfactory, that is not why you are here.”

Amig sighed and leaned forward on the table. This very simple and human thing to do made him seem much older than his actual age. The added burdens and responsibilities heaped on him had aged him in the last few years. He now looked like a man of 60 or 70 rather than 56, which was his actual age.

“You are here because we need to discuss your future. Your father still has not returned from the north even though the men that went with him returned during early autumn. He sent me a missive in which he stated his intent to go to mount Snowdonia to attempt to recover your uncle’s body from the ruins of Vortigern’s tower.”

The young squire seemed to shrink as if shying away from what he was hearing.

“As much as I would like to hope that your father is still among the living, the winter is almost over and no one have seen him or heard anything from either him or the other knights that travelled with him. This forces us to consider the future of your … of our family. If your father and Sir Maelgwyn have fallen in the north, this is as you can well imagine a great blow not to just to our families and the Tarrens but to the entirety of the county.”

Yraen swallowed several times to try to get rid of the sour taste rising in his mouth and to push back the tears threatening to well up in his eyes.

Amig for his part for his part mostly looked depressed. He had lost most of the men he had counted as friends during the year and Sir Cadry had been one of the few confidantes he had left after Lord Elad died at St Albans.

Silence lingered for a short while between the old lord and the young man serving as his squire. Both seemed reluctant to break the quiet but finally it was Yraen who spoke up, which was unlike him since most of the time he was a careful and quiet youth.

“I do not think my father is dead Sir. I think mother would know the very moment his life ended. At times, it is like she knows what he is thinking just by looking at him.”

Yraen’s tone was hesitant but deep down there was a core of conviction that only a son speaking of a father that he worships could harbour. A conviction that would one day die when the father proved fallible but at this point it still persisted.

Amig smiled sadly when he replied

“You do your father and mother honour by thinking so highly of them. That being said we must be realistic…”

Uncharacteristically Yraen interrupted his master mid-sentence

“Sir, the haunter of the night have stopped coming to Tisbury. In the middle of the night just before Samhain his pounding on the gate just stopped and the silence in the forest was suddenly broken. That must mean that father did something!”

Amig stared at his squire, surprised that the soft-spoken young man had dared to interrupt him and speak before being given leave to speak. With a reproachful glare the old knight spoke again.

“Mayhap my boy, mayhap, but the fact remains that he has not returned home since then and no one have reported seeing him or even hearing anything about him.”

The young man looked downcast, both from the reproach but also from his hope diminishing.

“Yraen, we must work from the assumption that your father is not coming back. Should he do so despite everything, we will be all the happier for it. One of your relatives will assume stewardship of the lands for now until you come into your own as a knight. We will have to closely consider who should be given the responsibility. Even more so now that your cunning mother have leveraged favours out of the countess…”

Amig’s words petered as in considering something that bothered him.

Yraen looked confused.

“What favours Sir? Mother hasn’t told me anything about any favours.”

Amig considered briefly if he should keep what he knew for himself, but the lessons Yraen’s grandfather had drilled into Amig when he was a squire had a deep hold. One of those lessons was to always speak the truth.

_“You might not be aware of the fact that your mother is a good friend of the countess even though they don’t make much of a show of it before the court. Your mother managed to secure full hunting rights for forests surrounding your family’s land. In the times before St Albans such a right could only be given by the king. Now… things are different.” _

Yraen could see that Amig wasn’t comfortable with the countess decision.

“That sounds like a good thing? Aren’t you happy for your wife’s family Sir?”

“My personal opinion doesn’t matter in this case. What has me most worried is the fact that some jealous tongues have always claimed that your mother is some manner of sorceress and that is how she won your father’s hand in marriage.”

The young man looked like someone had slapped him in the face and couldn’t at first get any proper words out while his cheeks reddened with anger. Before he could pull himself together Amig continued.

“Both you and I know that such accusations are ridiculous and that what exist between your mother and father is something much stronger that any enchantment. You must however beware that envy will make some people interpret favour or love as enchantment to justify that they themselves have not been as highly favoured. Some will forever find fault with others instead of seeing their own shortcomings. Your father and mother are ambitious people and that ambition will always draw detractors.”

Yraen’s breath came out on laboured puffs through his nose and he looked like he was ready to burst.

“If some incompetent clods tries to accuse my mother of anything I will make them rue the day they ever learned to speak.

A slight smile reached Amig’s mouth if not his eyes.

“While I admire your spirit boy, you will do no such thing until you are knight. I expressly forbid you to challenge anyone over the matter. You will instead learn to keep quiet and listen and put shackles on your temper. If you hear anything, you will come to me and I will deal with it. We will look after your family, but we will do it properly. Do you understand?

A hard edge crept into Amig’s voice during the last sentences.

For a short while Yraen looked like he might say something defiant but in the end all he said was “I understand Sir”.

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Alea iacta est
year 498

Alea_iacta_est.png

”Aren’t you afraid that he won’t come back?”

I turned my head slowly towards the boy as I put the piece on the board between us.

”I know that it will happen some day,” I answered, ”but mostly I’m surprised that it hasn’t already. He is a reckless man, a boy really, in a man’s body.” I felt my lips curve into a smile as I met his gaze. ”Quite the opposite of you Brynach.”

The pride he felt when I said this shone through that serious face of his. Being the only boy, the only heir, for such a long time in a household of women had made him dependable. He knew responsibility. Someone had taught that to him early.

Sir Ennis would not be glad to hear that you think him a grown boy.”

“He doesn’t,” I mused remembering Ennis’ knitted eyebrows the last time. “But then again, I can quote philosophers too.”

Brynach eyed me.

“What do you tell him?” he asked.

”I give him a second to look at me in his fury,” I said and reached out towards Brynach. “Then, I take his hand in mine and I say: Husband, ‘do not be angry with me if I tell you the truth’.”

”Cicero?”

”Socrates.”

He was silent for a while as the pieces moved around on the table. I enjoyed our game in tranquillum. I had no doubt that lady Nest would scold me later for our idleness, but these moments of pace wasn’t anything I would ever wish away. Anyway, she seemed unable to be angry with me for long. No one ever really was.

“They won’t be back,” said Brynach suddenly and looked up.

“You sound sure of this,” I answered calmly.

“I’m sorry,” he said then as he surrounded my king on the board.

I gazed at the board for a moment. He was indeed better at Hnefatafl than I was.

“Don’t be, it was a good game.”

For the first time since we started the game he looked a bit frazzled: “Lady Supera, I mean that I’m sorry for the death of your husband.”

“Ah, is that why you have gone through the trouble to ask eques Deian to let you squire for him? Taking the responsibility of the lord of Hindon into your own hands?”

“It’s months since they should have returned,” he answered, “and I won’t wait for the dead to return. They don’t,” he added flatly, “at least not alive.”

“Wise words,” I complimented him, “but your aunt, domina Brangwen, claims that dominus Cadry and the others are alive, and doesn’t she know these things?”

“She does,” he admitted, “but I won’t take the chance that she’s wrong. The Saxons are still a threat to us all whether uncle Cadry and sir Ennis return this year, the next or never. I shall become I knight like my father.”

“Of course you will,” I nodded as he stood, “just use that excellent head of yours and you will be fine.” Good counsel to any Marwth man, I thought as he left the building.

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Mingling bloodlines
AD 498

Tienyn

Where the devil was that boy?

As the days grew shorter and the shadows longer with the autumn growing late, still there was no sign of him. Sioned found herself watching the road leading up to ludwell, hoping to see Mabsant riding home.

With the first snows came a messenger from Sarum, with a message of nothing. In fact, the dowager countess was wondering if Sioned had seen her son. Mabsant was missing, and noone had seen him return. Worry was now a redcap, slowly eating her guts from within.

All that winter, she was slowly devoured.

Fortunately, she had much to keep her occupied. The messenger from Sarum had brought some good news. Mabsant had been raised to knighthood, and named warden of Ludwell. Pride in her son burned fierce in her chest. With her son the lawful warden, she leveraged motherhood to finally wrest control of decisionmaking from Bodwin. Carefully, both Lilo and Bodwin remained important advisors, and it was often invaluable. However, she could freely continue with her plan for the manor.

She had more to do than ever, complaints from the common folk, finding food, keeping the village and manor lands in good repair. She planned store and rations months in advance, hoping to make too little last for longer than it reasonably should. All in all she did so well, and despite feeling the pinch of saxon tribute noone starved that year.

A new face had come to Ludwell. An old man, Tienyn, had come from Dorsette, and such was the deference shown to him by the common folk that Sioned had invited him to Ludwell proper. He was the eldest of the Anarawd, and truly ancient at that. There was something about him. Some men grow frail and fragile with age, some gather about them a form of gravity that simply pulls others along. The old man had a will to match her own.

However, he did not often meddle in her business, rather he seemed to observe and offer advice, and as such was a surprisingly welcome addition to the house.

Sioned, too, felt herself changing. Something about Ludwell, about the old man, and the deep rooted beliefs and history that the Anarawd held were becoming a part of her. When Lord Caren, a wealthy knight in neighbouring Dorsette, sent word that he wished a young girl of the extended family as a concubine, Tienyn deferred the decision to her. She thought of it long and hard. In times past, she would have accepted without hesitation. The offer came with great compensation, and the family needed it. The pragmatist in her wanted it. Something else did not. It felt wrong, condemning the girl to a loveless life at the pleasure of another had become abhorrent to her. When she declined, the eldest of the Anarawd smiled, and kissed her cheek. “You are one of us, daughter”. She had rarely felt more proud, or more included.

It was Tienyn who suggested what she had been working towards on her own for a long time, to marry Mabsant into the Anarawd proper. He would wed Tiwlip, Gamonds eldest daughter. Indeed, she had never thought it possible, but apparently the family wanted the warden tied closely to their fortune. It was now more important than ever to find her wayward son…

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Hard Justice
AD 497

Hard Justice

“My Lord!”

“And whom might you be, boy?”

“I’m Padern, Sir. I mean, I’m Sir Padern, Sir. Of Swallowcliffe.”

“Swallowcliffe? Well, why don’t you ride home and tell Countess Ellen or whoever who is fucking her these days that if they want to parley with me they have better send someone who has a beard, “Sir” Padern."

“Lord! Sir! No, you misunderstand! I’m here … it’s about my father, Sir! Sir Tudwal … I mean, just Tudwal. He is no longer a knight.”

“He is here, yes. What about it?”

“Well … there is no King, and so … I mean, Sir, how long, how long, will you keep him? Surely, he can not be kept here until … I mean, it might take ages before we have a King again.”

“Time is nothing to the Law. You father stands accused of forging the King’s Seal. I will keep him in my pens here until there is a King or til he dies. It is nothing to me if the King will have to pass judgement on your father’s bleached bones, understand?”

“Oh! But … well … Sir, surely the Law is not meant to be so … unjust? I can take an oath, Sir, to return with him here the day there is a K.”

“No! My answer is no. End of discussion.”

“Well then, Sir, I have one more question … … Can I see my father. Just for a few words?”

“Yes, you may. On the condition that you take an oath not to return here, openly or secretly, in peace or in war, until the King has passed judgement on your father.”

“Oh … … … No, Sir … No, I cannot. Sorry, Sir … I must then take my leave, with our … hrm, permission?”

“Yes, yes, my men have given you my Hospitality, haven’t they. Do you not trust my word?”

“Ehm … well, yes, yes, I do, Sir!”

“As you should … Wait! Before you leave … Do you have any tidings of Sir Richard?”

“What? Sir Richard? No, I know no knight with that name, Sir. Who is he?”

“Never you mind. But if he comes crawling to the Rock with whatever riff-raff he has bought to fight for him, tell him from me that he will never have an ounce of my gold, but he may have as many swords up his ass as he likes any given day. Now, begone, and take up my time no more!”


“How did it go, Sir? What did he say?”

“He would not let me take my father from the place, nor see him.”

“Nooo! Sir! That is not right!”

“Well, perhaps it is Right. But I do not think the Law should be so harsh … Oh, Mabsant, I think I saw his face among all those in the pens! He looked … Oh, it was horrible! I must get him out of this place! Surely, he has atoned for what he did? Even Sir Morcant thought so! And the late Count, too … … Anyways, what did you find out, Mabsant? Some way in?”

“Well, Sir, I almost found my way into one of the serving wen.”

“Mabsant! You job was to spy!”

“Sorry, Sir. There were too many knights and soldiers. Did you see that there has been a battle inside the walls too?”

“Yes, was that what it was! It didn’t make sense to me. What has happened here?”

“Well, Sir, I didn’t see any trace of Lord Baran and his men. Seems to me Lord Bedwor have killed the lot of them, Sir, and taken all the treasure for himself.”

“Yes … yes, I think you are right! … … By the way, do you know who Sir Richard is?”

“Sir Richard? King Uther’s treasurer? Was he here?”

“No, but Lord Bedwor seems to think he may be coming for all that treasure. Makes sense, I guess. Anyway, I have this plan Mabsant. To get my father out of that hell-hole. I’m going to ask Maelgwyn to give me custody over Sewell and then … "

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Twilight of the Anarawd
AD 497

Twilight of the Anarawd

Such was the shadow cast by the fallen colossus that the Anarawd line remained obscured, perhaps to fade forever.

No-one then knew whether Gamonds eldest son Cyn lived or had met an unfortunate end, his second son an infant fighting for survival in a beleaguered land. These were lean years. Sioned fought domestic wars daily. In the short time that Gamonds widow had been the lady of Ludwell she had found kinship with the Anarawd. As her blood had mingled with that of Neillyn and Anna in Galen, so had her spirit. And she was a tough, determined woman.

The smallfolk grumbled and suffered, tithes a growing burden on their welfare. They whispered in corners and in their cots at night, the Harridan of Ludwell was Gamonds in truth, for the great loyalty, generosity and all the sacrifices to protect them that their lord had given were easily forgotten in long nights of hunger. Remembered were the hard hand of vengeance and necessity, the flash of rage in moments of weakness.

That the manor itself, and those in it, were little better off mattered little to them. Compared to their meagre lot even the squalor in which their peers judged those living in Ludwell to suffer seemed garish luxury.

It did not seem luxurious to Mabsant. It seemed unfair, an unjustified hardship. For a growing boy hard at work he was not hungry, nor was he ever truly sated. Time at home seemed more punishment than respite and serving Padern was something to look forward to.

He saw his mothers battles, the brave face she put on, and the toll her determination took. She took it upon herself to match every sacrifice the commoners made, and despite murderous demands from the dowager countess to pay tribute she not only made ends meet in the manor but looked to the future. The old wooden hall was replaced by stone, half sunk into the earth, angled windows. Impossible to burn, hard to attack. Plans and resources were put towards the future.

Despite all this she was not given her due. Bodwin was the official steward, and he often balked at her orders. It galled Mabsant to no end. He stewed in resentment, and tried to think of some way, any way, in which she might be given both the influence and respect she deserved. Over time, a plan formed. He had to prove himself to the family, and make a bid for stewardship. Then his mother could advise him, and if he could be seen as part of the family perhaps he could secure both their futures if ever the heir to Ludwell returned.

But how to do so?

Despite the overall tragedy of the Isle of Wight something there had sparked an idea. The late Lord Gwenwynwyn had spoken of his brother Gwyn, and his interest in the lost blade of the Anarawd. Surely an undertaking to search for such an heirloom would earn the recognition he sought?

To that end he travelled to the border post by Hantonne, now Essex, and spent two evenings with the guards there. The company of a well spoken young squire bearing good food and decent wine was not taken amiss, nor was the standing offer of half a Libra bounty to any who would steer this Gwyn to Ludwell should he happen to pass by. With such riches to win, the offer was held close by those who guarded the border.

The missing wine and food earned him a hiding such as he had not received in many years and a month of hard work beside. He bore it in silence. It was a small price to pay for what he had to do.

Around Ludwell the forest gloom grew wild and dark. And like the Anarawd themselves, the grove that was in many ways the heart of their legacy was shrouded in shadow, and lost to the world of men.

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Half a year is an eternity of doubt
Autumn 497

Half a year is an eternity of doubt

Half a year seems like forever. That’s how long it will be until I become a squire. Will I do well? I don’t know.

What if it is hard? Father will be mad if I don’t do well.
Hwyn has shown me a lot of the basics. It doesn’t seem hard, just … well… boring.

I thought it was all about learning how to become a knight, and perform heroics and fight with swords and such. Most of it seems to be cleaning though. Cleaning the horse, which I don’t mind, I like horses, clean the armour, clean the weapons, clean scabbard, clean the boots. Things like that.

Well, it’s at least more varied than being a page, just being sent to fetch things. Fetch the wine, fetch the meat, fetch the clothes, fetch the cheese. Well, the cheese was at least a bit interesting at first. One of the squires told us that there are monster rats down in the basement in Sarum. I never saw any though. The squire was probably just trying to scare us. Some of them really like bullying us and being arseholes toward us just because they are bigger and stronger. I won’t be mean to the pages when I become a squire because that’s not nice. Mother told me that you shouldn’t be mean to other people just because they are of a lower station or weaker than yourself.

Sigh
I don’t know what to do. Father says that mother is ill and that I have to look after my siblings when I am home. Mother doesn’t seem sick to me, she just sleeps and cries a lot and she obviously hates my little sister. Cada who just had a son of her own had to act as a wetnurse to my sister Gweneth. None of my brothers ever had a wetnurse, mother always loved them enough to feed them herself. I don’t know why mother hates Gweneth, she isn’t that ugly even though her hair is completely white and she is pale.

I tried consoling mother because I love her a lot and she just held me and cried and said I was a good boy. I just felt awkward and didn’t know what to do. The she fell asleep again.

Father put me in charge of looking after my little brothers when the servants and the rest of the household are busy.

Finnach is doing alright but I can tell that he is putting on a brave face. He always does that. I think he will go off and fight a dragon when he becomes a knight if anyone dares him to. He always wants to do the same things I do. Father says that he has to wait another two years before he becomes a squire

Cavan is stupid and hardly ever does what anyone tells him to. He just sits there and stares at things, most of the time at the sky or the stars. Mother says we mustn’t make fun of him for being slow. She says that some people just need more time to figure things out. I don’t think he ever does though, he almost never says anything.

Arthian is still very little but now he wants to do everything himself even though he mostly makes a mess of things. It seems to amuse father though who often laughs and encourage him to try to do things by himself. Father always wanted all of us to be able to stand up for ourselves.

I don’t know what to make of our little sister. She doesn’t behave like a baby should. She doesn’t scream or cry, she merely whimpers when she is hungry. She is also so tiny. Father says that’s because she was born early and because she arrived in the middle of the winter. Father calls her his little princess, and he says it in a special way, not the way you talk to babies.

Father is awfully busy even when he is home. Some new soldiers moved in during autumn, five of them. Father holds command over them. He says they are here to help him keep the forest safe. He says that they are here to make sure that the dangerous things don’t leave the forest, because the people outside the forest don’t know how to fight them. The men are more like our kin from Jagent, keeping to themselves. They behave decently enough around me and my brothers, but I get the sense that that is mostly thanks to who my father is.

Father expects me to become like him when I am older, he has said so many times. He takes the time to show me how to wield a sword even though by right he should let Hwyn take care of that. I have a hard time keeping up. Father is so incredibly fast, I haven’t seen any other knight move as fast as he does. I don’t think I will ever be that fast. Father doesn’t seem to fear anything. Anything except mother being sick that is.

Father says that he has arranged it so that I will serve uncle Amig as a squire. Father says that he himself served lord Amig as a squire when he was young and that it is thanks to the things he learned from uncle Amig that he is the man he is today. I don’t want to disappoint father but what if I can’t do as well as he did. What if I let uncle Amig down? He seems so strict and severe and always looks like there is a great weight resting on his shoulders. Father says that uncle carries this county on his shoulders and that we must help him carry this burden. I am not sure how I can help?

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Fortuna
497

Fortuna.png

I grow tired of not being trusted. I have been here for more than two years now, and yet I know that suspicion still lingers towards me both in this household and outside of it. I understand too well that there’s nothing else to do but wait, nothing else to do but prove myself towards my new friends and family, but it tires me. I’m past my prime. Soon I’ll start to feel the claws of age digging into shoulders, face and mind. It frustrates me that my early memories are as elusive as the morning fog past Nadar river; they could dispel the doubts around me, yet I don’t want to give myself time to remember.

The memories and the grief over Hantonne are still fresh. Having been able to revisit its land two years in a row I’ve been reminded all over again that I was content there. It was home, but it is no longer. In these times it’s good to have a companion who understands what I’ve lost. What I left behind.

I thank my lucky star for my domina, my sweet lazy _amor_… She has given me a son this summer, which indeed is why I continuously loose myself in thought even though I try not to. I seem not to be able to shake the uneasy feeling, which is why I’m taking the time to formulate them in this book.

When I was younger, much younger, I was approached by an old hag in dark robes. I’m not much for the superstitious kind, but she grabbed my attention. She told me that I was supposed to save someone in the future, someone important. She said that this was because the scales were uneven and that I would save a life for the one I lost.

Until this day I have never understood what she possibly could have meant, but it struck a note in me, and deep inside I’m still waiting for that moment.

Years later I met her again. She took my hand and turned it over whispering to herself as she looked at it. This time she said that should a son of mine become a knight, he would be fated to die. I asked why, I asked how, but she only gave a grin that made my blood turn to ice. I write these lines as my son lies in Supera’s arms with rosy cheeks and clear eyes. I have never seen such a healthy child. A child like that would make an excellent eques when he grows up.

I feel torn between having been cheated of my rightful heritage as the lawful lord of Hindon, and the notion that if I had inherited the manor as I should have, my son would be doomed. I curse myself for believing such nonsense, but yet I can’t seem to put it from my mind. I get iratus thinking that someone has stolen parts of my life from me, and it makes me furious that my sister thinks me a mendax, a cheat.

They should count themselves lucky that I’m here instead of lying dead in the mud. I will prove all of them wrong. I will prove my love for this family, and demonstrate my loyalty. I will find the missing years that have been stolen from me, and they will all know that it was not a well planned “coincidence” that Ennis son of Bryn, heir to Hindon came back the same year eques Melkin died. It was simply fortuna.

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Marital Aid
Year 497

Skriv_skriv.png

To the Right Revered Mother Superior Imelda, Lady Marion sends greeting in the Lord.

Let me first once again thank you for your kind words during Dion’s christening and extend all the gratitude from my household unto you. I would wish that I could speak to thee myself but the children leave little time for even the most important travels.

I beseech thee for advice Right revered mother in a most delicate matter concerning me and my beloved husband, Lord Maelgwyn, Lord of Chilmark, Faithfull servant of Lady Ellen, Favored by the Church. I’m sure you have heard the rumors floating around about me and my husband lately but I hope you understand that there is more to this story than it seems at first. Let me therefore tell thee what I’ve seen and heard and I implore thee to keep a mind free from rumors and misconceptions:
It was during the winter court in Salisbury that my husband, in opposite of his usual self, drank too much of the good wine Lady Ellen supplied. He grew boorish and distant and when he finally went to relive himself, I’m sorry to speak about thing like this with you revered mother but I promise you that these details are needed to understand my plight, and more than I was pleased of his absent. He was gone a long while but I paid little mind, hoping that he had found somewhere quiet to think and rest, but soon the door to the hall burst open and a young serving wench girl stormed in crying with my inebriated husband in tow. She claimed my beloved husband had been flirtatious with her and that he had said a great deal of slanderous things to her. My husband, of course, said that nothing had happened and that the girl had misunderstood the entire thing. Now I’ve never been one to mistrust my husband’s faithfulness but in his drunken state his demeanor seemed to me to speak of guilt! Soon the girl was whisked away and the feast continued but both I and my husbands excused ourselves. My husband seemed embarrassed and guilt-ridden the entire stay in Sarum and even though I know he is a good Christian man I can’t shake the feeling that he has done something sinful.

I put these worries aside for some time, Dion’s birth taking its toll, and I did my best to close my ears to the rumors brewing around me. But my good husband acted so strange during the coming months; avoiding me and turning away his gaze as we spoke. One day I couldn’t take it anymore and traveled to Tisbury where I was planning to seek condolences with Lord Tisbury’s wife; Lady Brangwen. When I returned my husband was furious! He claimed that I’d abandoned my house and husband and made it clear that he did not believed I had visited lady Brangwen but rather that I had eloped with some unknown knight! Both I and Lady Tisbury tried to speak to him but he would have none of it. He was, again excuse my language, most uncouth and brash towards both me and Lady Brangwen.

As you can see my marriage is in peril. I love my husband but at the moment, excuse my frankness, he seems almost daft! So I beseech the revered mother: what advice do you have? I know many women and men come to you with far grimmer stories of love and relations than I and Sister Abigail have spoken only prestigious words of your wise counsel. How can I Prove to my husband that I’m forever faithful to him and how can I start to mend the rift between us?

Pray say many kind words from me to all your blessed Sisters. May you continue in good health and good spirits, most reverend and divinely favored Mother superior.

Dictated by Lady Marion, written by Sister Abigail.

Maelgwyn’s Letter

To the most divinely beloved Right Reverend Father Dilwyn, Lord Maelgwyn sends greetings in the Lord.

I seek the most urgent council from thee Revered father concerning my wife Lady Marion. As you surely have heard I made a fool of myself during the winter court. Too much wine had made me bawdy and reckless and as I passed a serving girl a few sinful compliments flowed from my mouth. She was rightly angered but as she spoke to the gathered nobles I must say she painted me in a most unfavorable light and half of the thing she claims I said I would never even be able to utter! Even though I knew the girl only spoke half-truths I found it hard to deflect from me the blame and guilt. I remembered the Lords words on the mount: ‘’that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’’
Considering the holy words it felt prudent to accept her damning words as just punishment for my actions but little did I know what a great mistake I made. My wife, even though I explained what had happened to her several times, seemed inclined not to believe me and her neglect hurt me more than any foul words at court could ever do.

For the entire winter she completely ignored me and I felt great sorrow as I left for my duties in Sarum. During the evenings and nights away from my beloved family I spent a great amount of time in the chapel seeking guidance and solace. I realized that I perhaps had been mistaken and the good Chaplain of Lady Ellen assured me that love does indeed conquer all and that I should again speak to my wife so that this quarrel could be settled. So I returned to my home with anticipation of making amends. You can imagine my surprise I found my home empty and in disarray! The servants claimed my wife had left for Tisbury manor a week ago but when I questioned them further and sent my trusted servant Rhyfel to investigate I found that my wife had not been in Tisbury for more than five days! Where my wife has spent these unaccounted two nights I do not know but I fear the worst.

So I beseech thee Right Revered Father for council. I fear my wife has decided to exact the cruelest of punishments onto me and my family yet I still do love her. Her actions pains me more than any Saxon or warrior has ever managed to do. I turn to thee for your wise council in this matter. Can my marriage and love be saved?

Fare thee well always, and pray for me, most right revered father.
Lord Mealgwyn, Servant of the Lord most high, Loyal Subject of Lady Ellen, Lord of Chillmark, Bulwark of Hillfort.

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Settling a Feud
Summer 496

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Rhyfel adjusted the straw protruding from the edge of his mouth as he studied the board. He moved his hand over one of his remaining pieces but when he saw the broad smile appear on his opponents face he withdrew it; convinced, as always, never to trust a smiling chaplain.

‘’Come on boy we don’t have all day…’’ Padger adjusted himself in the summer grass as the dog boy resumed to ponder his next move, half-formed thoughts and harebrained schemes flowing across his face.

‘’No great victory was won without strategy…’’ Rhyfel muttered as he studied the board, his imminent loss growing clearer with every move he considered. Games had never been Rhyfels expertise and of games like this, that indeed involved a fair bit of strategy and planning, he knew almost nothing. Sighing Padger leaned back and gazed aimlessly across the field and the running river. They were sitting with the rest of the Tarren household and extended family on the green slope leading down towards the Nader River, only a few paces away fromLord Chillmarks pavilion. On the other side, in greater number but not as splendorous, awaited the family of Lord Alwyn. During the first hour of negotiations the atmosphere had been tense enough to make the air vibrate as the two parties shot glances and suspicious looks towards their neighbors on the opposite bank but now… well long negotiation were usually good. If two men could sit in a tent for three hours without drawing swords or hurling insults something fruitful was growing. In the Tarren camp the seven assembled knights turned to eating or relaxing, the aging Sir Alec almost falling asleep in the warm sun. Lady Marion walked through the tall grass with her four daughters in tow, gathering flowers and playing hide and seek. The boys had, to the dismay of Sister Abigail, found muddy sticks along the river and fought each other in mock battles. Even Breichan joined in and seemed to have, for the moment, forgotten his lost brother

‘’It strange isn’t it.’’

‘’What is?’’

‘’That it would come to this…’’ Rhyfel removed the well chewed straw from his mouth and waved it in the general direction of the opposite bank.

‘’See those guy over there?’’ Padger fastened his eyes on a huddle of men, almost as grubby as Rhyfel, who had taken the long break as an opportunity to prepare some roast chicken. A meal they now devoured with all the grace and humbleness of a pack of wolves.

‘’Used to drink with them now and then… or go fishing… and now we are enemies.’’

“Knights are not as different from us as you might think. For the same reason you quarreled with your kind knights draw their blades and march into battle. Yet they often seem to forget those around them…” Rhyfel nodded slowly and finally made his move.

“I won’t stand for it!” The voice of Gorfydd swept over the twin camps and sent men scrambling to attention. Confusion spread as the tall pagan stormed out of the pavilion, his face twisted by anger and wounded pride. Lord Chillmark followed closely after but as the pagan started to stomp his way over the Nader he stopped.

“Run then! Let all those assembled know I tried to talk you to your senses!”

“My senses!?” Men grabbed their spears and women gasped at the sound of Gorfydds voice; it was the sound of battle drums and rage half-contained.

“How can anyone as high and mighty as you Lord Chillmark speak of sensibility?! You might bow your head deeper than anyone at court but here you do more evil than good!” Gorfydd exclaimed and gestured to the river flowing around his legs and the land surrounding him.
“And I’m not running” He stood motionless, his hand on the sword hilt. Seldom had the peasantry and levy moved as quickly as did. The wives where quickly whisked away behind the rows of spears and soon both lords where flanked by their linage men. But Lord Maelgwyn held up his hand.

‘’Then lets settle this! Fetch my armor!’’ Soon after Maelgwyn drew his blade and waded out into the river facing the steaming knight. They circled each other, seeking footing in the deep muck and looking for any opening. Suddenly Maelgwyn stepped forward, his blade flickering in the summer sun, and with a series of blows he sent Gorfydd back, but not reeling. Gorfydd squared himself and raised his shield as he cut towards Maelgwyns exposed side. Yet Maelgwyn was the greater swordsman and with a quick move he deflected the blade, thrusting his own into the side of his opponent. The pagan fell to his knees, the rushing water colored by his flowing blood. Gorfydd hands went limp and as his sword dropped into the river.

“Mercy… for the love of God show him mercy…” Padger mumbled under his breath as he watched his lord standing before his enemy. He closed his eyes when he saw the knight raise his blade once more. The splash of Gorfydds head sent a wave of shock and awe through the two camps; the rushing river drowned by cries of horror and celebration. Turning away from the camp Padger shook his head, there was no good will towards men in this age.

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Matters of state and matters of family
496

Matters of state and matters of family

The gloom lies heavy over Modron’s forest, but maybe, just maybe the shadows are a little longer and the woods a little quieter than it usually is. In among the trees when walking west along the river Nader you eventually end up on the ancient lands belonging to the Cellydon family. The peasants on those lands are a mistrustful bunch, vary of strangers and highly set in their ways. Thanks to the efforts of Lord Cadwallon and his son Sir Cadry, the strange men and women living in these lands no longer kill the foreigners entering these woods like they did back when the romans ruled the lands outside the forest, but participation in the doings of Salisbury comes slowly.

The lord of these lands used to be known as very hospitable man but people claim that as he has aged, he has become wiser and thus keeps the rest of the world at an arm’s length. The few who are invited to his lands might perhaps expect to find an old hovel half buried in the ground like it was done in the past, but a surprise awaits the guests. Tisbury, as the manor is called, host a large, modern wooden hall built from the straightest and sturdiest pines that can be found in Modron’s forest. One can almost still smell how fresh the timber is, relatively speaking, and it gives the large hall a feeling of vigor. Apparently the lord cares much for his home as the entryway into the hall are heavily carved with images of ancient gods and fantastical beast, whose likenesses have not been seen in many a year. The same care has been given to the inside of the hall that also carries many carvings and decorations. From the roof, many different sorts of herbs and spices hangs from the rafters and gives cause to a strange but not unpleasant smell. In the middle of the hall, a large hearth has been laid out and it gives of waves of heat, ensuring that one seldom is cold in this hall.

When we proceed to the fire to warm ourselves after the cold rains outside, we pass by three chairs that are occupied at the moment. Two of the chairs are ornately carved and they contain the lord and lady of the house. The lord looks concerned and the lady bothered by the fact that she is heavily pregnant. In a simpler chair facing them sits an unassuming man that regards the world through a pair of innocent eyes that strongly belies the devious mind that dwells behind them. A discussion has obviously been going on for a while. The lord drinks from his goblet and gives an inquiring look to his wife who just shakes her head no in response. The rest of the hall is empty at the moment. The children are absent and the rest of the servants have been put to work in other places of the manor so that a private conversation can be had.

The lord asks advice from his lady wife and from his advisor in regards to the vacant marshal position in Salisbury. They all agree that this cannot stand and that something must be done. The advisor, in his quiet way, suggest that the lord, being a man of great renown should assume the title himself and that few would dare say him nay. The lord quietly considers the words but some inner self-reflection seems to take place and the lord states that he is not ready yet for that responsibility as of yet. He states that he must learn. The lady, knowing her husband’s mind, contends then that he must learn from the best and only one man can fill that post as things stand, and that man is Lord Amig, the lord’s brother in law. Consensus is soon reach among the three and means and measure’s that must be taken to put Lord Amig into position are discussed. They all have a role to fill in this political scheme not just the lord of the manor. The lady is a confidant of the countess herself and the advisors know many other unassuming men that have the ears of other important men in the county.

After another lull in the conversation, the lord’s mood turns foul as he brings up a sore subject that carries a more personal relevance. The head cook that serves the countess have long made himself a nuisance not least thanks to the longing gazes he has thrown Lady Brangwen’s way but also in slighting the lord of the manor by offering up sub-par fare at the feast in Sarum. The matters need to be dealt with and in his usual direct manner, the lord states that he ought to kill the man for his impudence. The lady and the advisor looks at each other uncomfortably and first to speak is the advisor. He carefully chooses his words when he suggests that perhaps it would be… “political” to not slay the cook outright or for that matter bring up the matter before the countess’s court. The lord glares angrily at his advisor but has come to trust and rely upon him. The lady picks up where the advisor left of and mentions that the countess appears weak in the eyes of her subjects and that bring up such a slight against one of her most renowned knight will only undermine her position even further. The lord sharply inquires if they both expect him to just remain silent and let the stain upon his honour continue. Both the lady and the advisor is quick to assure him that they expect no such thing. The advisor instead suggests that there are other ways to handle this matter.
Silence reigns in the hall for a short while, whilst the lord attempts to compose himself and then he states that he cannot condone any solution that would stain his good name. The advisor replies that he is well aware of his lord’s honour and will make sure that the matter is seen to quietly without any unfortunate problems for anyone involved. Well, anyone but the cook that is. The lord exhales heavily through his nose, moustaches moving due to the air and then the lord simply nods his acceptance. Exit the advisor.

The lady takes her husband’s hand and then brings up a familial matter. Mathwy son of Cadfael, a young man of the more remote parts of the family has seen the example set by Sir Nerthach and Sir Dylan and also wishes to join the noble knighthood and serve the county. He has no noble sponsor within his own close family and they think the boy foolish for wanting to leave the deep parts of the forest from which he hails. The lady tells her husband that the boy has come to her in secret and begged her to help him reach his goal. The lord asks why the boy has not come and asked the lord himself. The lady explains that the boy is intimidated by her lord husband’s reputation and also that the boy does not wish to be humiliated in case he would have been turned down in front of the household. The lord smiles, remembering his own fragile ego as a young man, and tells his wife that she should send the boy to him and he will personally measure the boy’s worthiness to become a squire. Should the lad prove capable, the lord will see to finding a suitable knight to serve as the boy’s lord. The lady gives her husband a warm smile before grimacing and putting a hand on her stomach. She takes her husband’s hand in hers and places on the spot where their new child is kicking. A quiet warmth and happiness lies over the hall as we discreetly leave the hall once again after having dried out near the fire burning in the hearth.

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