Campaign of the Month: August 2016

Oath of Crows

A new liaison
491

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Was he too curious for his own good? This, Melkin wondered several times during the latter part of 491. He had never been particularly cautious or patient, and he did seem to have a knack for getting into all kinds of situations due to his mindless ways, and now he wasn’t sure whether he was about to get himself into trouble again.

The winter had been interesting, eventful even, since he had started looking for his elder brother. It had, truth be told, taken Melkin several years to finally take the steps towards actively searching for Ennis. He had kept an eye out since the loathly lady had told him his brother was alive, asked a question here and there, but hadn’t put too much time into his efforts. It wasn’t until his twin girls had been born, that Melkin had started thinking about Ennis anew. It had seemed somewhat of a sign that his family would be blessed with identical twins in his generation as well, and so he had named them after the brothers he had never met.

Finally back from his courtiership in Brittany, this autumn Melkin had decided to start searching for his older brother.

“Do I even want to find him?” Melkin questioned himself several times during the winter as he sent word with travelers throughout Britain. “What if Ennis wants to take over Hindon? He is the elder brother after all, and thus I could be forced to leave the manor in his care.”

But he was too curious. Family, close blood family, had indeed been scarce in his life and he hadn’t thought that he missed it until he befriended sir Victus.

“He didn’’t look like you,” Melkin’s sister Emogen had answered when he had asked about Ennis. “You look a lot like our father did, the older you get the closer the resemblance is, but Ennis and Camlin looked more like our mother, well like me.”

“And how did you tell Ennis and Camlin apart?” Melkin asked.

“You couldn’t,” his sister said simply. “It was uncanny how alike they were, at least to me, and they wanted it to be like that,” Emogen actually laughed which surprised Melkin. She looked to be far away, in pleasant memories, which somehow made him a little sad. “I remember when Camlin managed to cut his index finger,” continued his sister, “and of course Ennis would do the same a day later, only he cut too deep and so Camlin cut himself again to even out the scar.”

This had given Melkin some clue of description of his brother in his search. A blue-eyed man in his forties, with curly dark hair and a nasty scar on his left index finger. It hadn’t been much and once the message had been sent out Melkin had other things to attend to. One of his lineage men had gotten himself into trouble during a drinking night in one of the villages in Hillfort. It seemed like many of the Marwths were as reckless as Melkin himself or more. Melkin had defended Garnath at court, and tried to talk sense to the man afterwards.

“You are my steward now, Garnath,” he had said trying to look grim. “I cannot have you starting fights whenever you drink more than two cups of ale”. But Melkin had already forgiven his new steward. He liked the man, and after all, who hadn’t gotten into a fight after almost a gallon of beer?

Melkin received his first interesting answer in the search for his brother two weeks later. A maid at one of the courts suddenly contacted him saying that she might have met the man he was looking for, even though it was a couple of years back, when she was but a girl.

Melkin had a messenger travel back to ask for more details, thanking her for all she’d already conveyed. And so, they started to correspond. She asked around about the mysterious man, and sent word as soon as she found out something new. It wasn’t much as of yet, but it was something. After some time Melkin traveled to see her and during their conversation they became familiar, friendly even.

His brother was still missing, and though their exchange had been completely innocent… Was he about to get himself into trouble, again?

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Brangwen's story
490

Brangwen's story

Summer

Yesterday my husband’s relative, Sir Dylan came to visit. I invited him in and made sure that he was well provided for. There was something strange about him and almost before the pleasantries were done with he blurted out that he was going to go out and search for “uncle” Garren’s remains, that has been missing for many a year now. Dylan proclaimed that it would be a fitting repayment for my husband’s generosity in insuring Dylan’s knighthood. I tried to persuade him that he should at least confer with my beloved husband before setting of but the idea had sunk it’s claws into his heart and he would not be deterred. Young Sir Dylan gather up what supplies he could and set of in the company of Sir Galran, who had been Sir Corwyn’s squire and knew about most of the clues that Corwyn had found whilst searching for his lost brother’s remains. I recognize my husband’s brashness in the young men’s actions.

My husband hasn’t returned home yet. We received news that the battle at Lindenpool had been enormous and bloody and that many had died. Lord Chillmark returned home last sunday however and he reassured me that Cadry had made it through the battle and had showered himself in glory. As if news of such things really matter to me. All I want is for my husband and the father of my children to return home safe to Tisbury.

Chillmark mentioned that both Ludwell and Cadry had ridden off after the battle chasing the fleeing saxons. Ludwell had apparently been in such a state after that the battle that he had been raving about butchering every last saxon, including women and children and some men had listened. I fear that brute. Since the death of poor Anwyn he has been touched in the head and apparently thinks that the christian god is speaking to him. I mostly think it’s his own bloodlust that speaks to him and that he mistakes it for the voice of the gods. Why my husband counts that man as a friend I will never understand. I truly hope that his son fares well wherever he is being kept these days.

Fortunately, my husband seems to have ridden with prince Madoc instead, and Cadry told Chillmark to tell me that my love had finally found information that pointed to the hiding place of the fenris saxons. He has always prevailed in combat before, but from what I was told he had already been injured in the battle. I do hope he doesn’t get himself killed.

Winter

We had to wait for the winter storms to pass before we could leave London and travel home to Salisbury. The mood at court these last few weeks have been oppressive ever since the duke of Cornwall and his wife left the court without the Kings permission. I am glad to leave with my husband and the rest of the Salisbury men. I have done my best to keep up appearances before my husband and the others, but they notice that something is of. Hopefully they will think it is general unease and missing my home and not the fact that my mother was the one to help Duke Gorlois and Duchess Ygraine by using her sorcery. Mother was always keen on involving herself in the doings of the great and powerful. I wonder if she has more of her “daughters” stashed here at court?

I wonder what her game is? She was never very forthcoming about the greater picture, neither with me or my sisters. On the other hand, she never birthed any of us, just raised us to be her servants and scouts, so how much could we really expect from her. Her interest in Merlin’s doings was after all the reason she sent me to Hillfort. I wonder if she had planned for what happened next? Did she know that Cadry would fall heedlessly in love with me or is that something that she conjured up? All I know in the end is that I have come to love him more than I ever thought possible. This is the man who braved the court of the Princess of Twilight to win me back. I don’t like to dwell on that time though I can’t remember much. The one thing I do remember is the promise made, that our first daughter will go to her court when she is old enough. I almost wish that if we are blessed with more children they will all be boys.


A few weeks after our return home a messenger arrived with a message from a saxon named Lifstan. The messenger, who is called Brandir, was a prisoner taken by the Saxons during last year’s raids. He was an archer in the service of the Count of Salisbury. The Saxons have crushed his hand so he will never fire a bow again. My husband rewarded the man richly for carrying the message, a lot more than a message was worth but I think my husband took pity on him in some small manner.

The Saxon Lifstan proclaimed that he is a cousin to Saexwulf, leader of the Fenris clan, who is the son of the fearsome warrior Sigeberht. The saxon prisoner my husband brought with him from London is apparently the nephew of this Lifstan. Lifstan demanded that the prisoner be released without an exchange of ransom or else he would take it upon himself to hunt down my husband and slay him personally.

My husband makes of show of disregarding the treat and he acts as if nothing has changed, but I can tell that his hatred for the Saxons burns brighter and hotter with every year. I fear that this last threat might finally have pushed him over some kind of line where he will not know when to stop fighting and killing them. I suggested to my husband in the privacy of our own bed that maybe he should consider handing over the old giant’s blade that his father had claimed as plunder from the warrior Sigeberth to perhaps end this bloodfeud. My husband grew wroth and in no uncertain terms told me that he would show any weakness towards the Saxons because that would only convince them to come after us all the more. He stated that he would do what it takes to kill this Lifstan if he ever comes after us and if Saexwulf ever dared come for his father’s blade he would die like his father at the tip of a Cellydon weapon. I managed to calm down my husband by taking his mind of the Saxons and turning his thoughts and body towards making more children. After we had finished copulating I couldn’t fall asleep though. This war worries me beyond words even though the knights of Logres won a great victory this last summer. Will it ever truly end once and for all?

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Long awaited homecoming
490

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Leaving court

Spending all of his time at court was, in the end, quite boring from Melkin’s point of view. There was only so much you could do when every day was a continuous feast. He was learning how to act at court and how to play the game of intrigues, but he took no joy in it. Lately he had started to play the harp at the request of some of the ladies and he hadn’t performed half bad, even though he had no skill to talk about. He was steadily getting the hang of it all, but, not being there by choice, he felt restless. The food was excellent, the wine was excellent, the entertainment was excellent and yet he missed Hindon and the more simple way of life that it offered. He knew that his wife and children also missed their home. The only one that seemed completely content was Brynach, who now enjoyed more frequent games with prince Mark. This was also the part that Melkin himself enjoyed the most about court; playing the strategic games that some of the knights were quite skilled at. And so, chess was how he had started to talk more frequently to sir Morcant.

It had taken them a while, almost five months, to realise that their fathers had known each other. After that, the pieces fell into place rather fast. Melkin learned that sir Morcant was the rightful heir to Swallowcliffe, a manor just a brief ride from his own, and that the current vassal knight there had falsified his right of ownership.

Melkin was taken aback by these news of dishonesty by sir Tudwal, but was not necessarily surprised. Sir Tudwal had never stricken him as a particularly honest man, and he knew that count Roderick would take the act of falsifying his papers as a grave insult. Thus Melkin and sir Morcant swore to help each other out. Melkin would vouch for sir Morcant to count Roderick, and sir Morcant would use his influence to relieve them both from King Idre’s court.

Melkin was surprised to see how easily sir Morcant seemed to play both chess and the game of intrigue. Sir Morcant seemed to know exactly who to talk to, in what manner, and he also had the connections to actually do so. The fact that Melkin himself understood what sir Morcant was doing to relieve them from duty surprised him even more. How the intrigues worked seemed to come more naturally to him the longer the year progressed. In the end, sir Morcant managed not only to relieve himself from his household duties, but also Melkin and another knight named Cynan.

When they left, the three knights discussed that it would probably be for the best if they did not visit king Idre’s court for a while (if ever again). Word had reached them that he was not pleased with the forfeit at his own game.

Home

Ever since the birth of Melkin’s forth daughter, lady Nest had become more and more distant, which became clear during their journey home. During their voyage his wife spent most of her time staring at the horizon, which left Melkin to care for the children. Between Ceri falling ill during their journey and the newborn Aquilina, Melkin had little time to sleep. When the snowstorm hit them on their final days of travel, he started to question whether God wanted him to reach home at all that winter.

Fortunately for the group of travelers, the seven lineage men who were now residing at Hindon rode out to greet them easing their final stage of the journey. Melkin was relieved to reach home and felt for the first time in two years that all would be well. But it wasn’t.

Melkin had thought that Nest’s condition would improve once they’ve reached home, but she grew more distant every day. She completely left her duties untouched, and looked strangely at the babe who she had given birth to. The air in the long hall grew strange, and because of the bad weather, all in the household knew that something was wrong with the lady of the house.

It was also quite crowded in the longhouse. Melkin had almost forgotten that so many of his relatives had chosen to come and support him the year before he left for Bretagne, and this year another lineage man had chosen to come and help out. With the bad weather there was currently not much they could do, but they tried to lighten up the mood with stories and games.

However, one day, as they were retelling the story of the three brothers and the kid, lady Nest started to cry and just didn’t stop. Melkin tried his best to comfort her, but when nothing could change Nest’s state of mind, he finally took her to the abbey to try and bring her some peace. He was afraid that the children would be devastated to see her go but the continuous strange behaviour of lady Nest had scared them and so they were somehow relieved, all except for Indeg, lady Nest’s daughter from her previous marriage.

“We want to go outside!” Indeg would tell Melkin every day, and Melkin would tell her that if she wanted to dig through five feet of snow she was welcome to. She really wanted to go to Saint Evasius Abbey, and Melkin knew that, but he was reluctant to let her go. Finally one day he said:

“I know you want to go and see your mother, but she needs rest and solitude.”

Indeg had clammed her mouth shut in anger and then shouted:

“You don’t even like her! You just sent her away because she was crying!” Indeg was crying herself.

“Now you’re being unfair, Indeg.” Melkin had said looking the six year old girl up and down. “ I care for your mother, and I do hope that she is well enough to come home soon, but until then she needs some time alone.”

“You can’t tell me not to go and see her!” screamed the girl then. “You are not my father!”

The silence that filled the room then was filled with tension. Melkin eyed the girl who looked as surprised by her own words as she looked angry. She had a point, Melkin knew, but still… If he wasn’t her father then who was? Who would pick her husband and pay her dowry? Who would defend her honour until that day, if not him? He knew what she was feeling though; even if he never would have said it himself to his stepfather Corwyn, he had at times felt like an outsider in the Cellydon family.

“I am your father,” he said firmly. “Do not think that you can deny being part of this family that easy.” He picked up the harp that lay next to Aquilina’s crib. He had been playing it to calm the babe last night.

Indeg made a small jump as he put it down in front of her as if he would have hit her with it.

“Here,” he said and gave the harp to Indeg, “You want to make her well, right? Well then, learn to play Oh, mother rest a while. When you can perform it I will take you to go and see Nest so you can play it to your mother.”

Indeg took the harp hesitantly looking at the intricate strings, pouted her lips and nodded through the tears.

A few days later the bad weather broke, and the snow stopped falling. The other children spent most of their time outside, building snow castles and playing. Indeg spent her time inside, trying to play the harp to the best of her ability. When spring came she had learned the song, and Melkin took her to the abbey. He knew that lady Nest was still far from recovered, but at least the task had given Indeg something to occupy her time with.

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Atonement
As 489

Atonement

Excerpts from the diaries of brother Mellard of Amesbury Abbey, circa 490 – Some parts reconstructed

Our visitor returned this autumn, taking up the cell next to mine. A lord of great stature, physically at least, I do not welcome his return. The nighttime screaming, the disruptive arguments. Most of all, his eyes watching me at breakfast or working in the garden. I can never tell if the man wants to kill me or just doesnt see me.

(The date of the diary and the description, along with the location of the abbey makes it likely that this unnamed lord is Gamond of the Anarawd, the fourth of that line. It would explain much in the accounts of the man after 490, which are much changed to previously. The pages following goes on to describe food and work in the abbey, mention of the lord returns weeks later)

Our visitor is very ill, a wound taken fighting raiders in the north has festered. He grows steadily worse. His generous donation has seen the abbot taking much interest in his recovery, he is given all possible care. It may be that the abbot simply appreciates arguing with the man, but I doubt it…

(A large chunk of text is illegible, and mention of the illness progression is made weeks later. The text shows some change in tone, perhaps the earnest monk is touched with compassion? Use of “our patient” may indicate that.)

Our patient shows no signs of improving, he is wasting away. Raving, screaming. Once, even though he is severely weakened, it took four of us to keep him pinned in his bed. He is bound now so that we can provide care. The stench of the wound is terrible.

(Several such reports follow sporadically, until…)

We now pray for our guest, and prepare for the last rites. We fear he is not long for this world. These past two weeks his ravings are more specific in nature and reads much like an argument with Our Lord. Most of it concerns saxons, pleas of forgiveness and promises to do the Lords will. It is humbling to see such a man brought low by such a small wound.

Another knight, a middle aged man, arrived at the abbey. He had heard of our guests plight, and donated handsomely to bring the lords favour upon him. Apparently this man was kin, despite his northern accent, settled in Hundred Chalkhill. He was but the first, donations have continued to come from unexpected sources. It would seem that this family, which shall remain unnamed, is widespread and has some regard for the man.

(and then…)

A miracle! We were gathered to pray for our guest, as he would surely pass shortly, when suddenly the steady stream of ranting and muttering abated. In a clear tone, he said “Yes”, as if answering someone, and the fever broke! Our guest has since rapidly recovered, and can now join us at breaking fast!

(It is likely that this “miracle” is the result of the usual conjecture, wishful thinking and convenient re-arrangement of events to fit the religious narrative so common to the time)

Our guest is diligent and helps us often as the busy work of spring calls. It would seem that the ordeal has changed him somewhat, and he works and speaks with new purpose. Yesterday a mercenary from old Regnenses arrived to pay his respects and donate before riding north. The two spent all day and night talking, and this morning seems to have brought a resolution to the man.

He has spent much time secluded in discussion with the Abbot, and will take religious vows this pentecoste. Truly, the Lord is great to bring such a man into his fold. Praise the lord.

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Let your enemies become your friends
489

Let your enemies become your friends

If a crow were to sit at a particular windowsill in Sarum during the winter of 489, said crow would have been witness to two men sitting and talking calmly with each other some might even say affectionately. This in and of itself would have been nothing worthy of note but if one were to consider the fact that the two men talking was one Sir Cadry, lord of Tisbury manor, and the other man was a certain Sir Leo, a noteworthy household knight in service to Count Roderick of the Rock, one might have been a little more surprised. The surprise would in that case stem from fact that the aforementioned men were known to loath each other and had often exchanged harsh words.

The men were drinking beer together and their conversation at this moment concerned children, sons in particular. The two men both had young sons that they were discussing what should be done with. The boys weren’t in any particular trouble at the moment but it would only be a question of time. Both Yraen, the son of Cadry, and Sulwyn, the son of Leo had as of yet mostly taken after their fathers in regards to courage and recklessness and had so far to demonstrate any other character strengths derived from their fathers. Both fathers had high hopes for their sons and fully intended to make sure that the boys got the best possible opportunities that this world could offer. It would some years before any of the boys would serve as squires but that didn’t seem to stop the two men as they were laying out the future. The merits of different knights in Salisbury were being discussed and their capabilities as teachers were being discussed and examined in great detail.

A lot of rumours would come to circle at the court of Sarum in regards to the sudden change in relation between the two men. Some claimed that it was that proud pagan Sir Cadry who had seen the errors of his ways and had finally seen that Sir Leo was the better man. Others scoffed when they heard this and pointed out that Cadry was still a man full of himself and would hardly stoop to humble himself much less admit that any man was his better, certainly not common household knight. Others stated that Sir Cadry, being closely connected to the druids, even the court sorcerer Merlin himself, had paid one of warlocks to enchant the good sir Leo on his behalf.

What the rumours could agree on was that the men seemed to have gotten over their former enmity and that Sir Cadry had changed in some ways. He demonstrated a keen understanding of the laws of the land, especially the older laws that had been in place since the dawn of time. He also had a newfound interest in seeing justice being done. He started speaking out at court against injustices both large and small and his voice was often quickly joined be his former enemy Sir Leo. Some of the more arbitrary knights a court found the men insufferable but the could seldom dismantle the keen arguments being put forth.

At the end of a very late evening the men rose from their seats, both a little more drunk than they wanted to admit. They shook hands and from a certain windowsill, the crow could note that there was warmth in the handshake.

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Manhunt
489

Manhunt

The forest is my true home. I have been living in it my entire life and when I was younger my uncle usually had to drag me back home to Tisbury when winter came. When the first signs of spring showed up I would be out here in the forest of gloom once again. There is something about the hunt that just gets my blood flowing that few other things can compare to. It feels good to be out here once again with a bow on my back and a spear in my hand. I must not forget myself though because the reason I am out here is not for pleasure but rather for love. The love that is the only other thing that sets my heart racing lights my mind on fire.

Brangwen. My beloved wife.

She has been ill these last few years. I thought it only womanly troubles but a faerie told me that she is sick because someone keeps hurting our cattle. My wife is a fervent devotee of Damona and the goddess has made her sick as a way to show her displeasure over the fact that the cows are being hurt.
And now my wife is with child again and I fear that bring it forth while one of the goddesses of motherhood is withholding her favour will get her killed.

That is the reason why I am out here in the woods instead of back home with the woman I love and enjoying long winter days spent in bed together. Brangwen says that I should not worry and that she is sure that both her and the baby will be fine. My worry won’t let me rest however.

I have been out in the forest for over a week. I have told no one exactly where I am going, only that I am of on a hunting trip. I am hoping that the miscreant behind these deeds will dare to come himself and try to perpetrate more nefarious deeds in my absence and that I will be able to catch him red-handed.
So far there have been no tracks indicating that any one is out here who shouldn’t be. I have been keeping watch on the paths leading to my pastures and I have watch a lot of the farms from a distance to spot if there are any strangers passing through. The one who is behind this have obviously been clever enough to avoid the patrols I have sent out to protect my livestock.

There is something about the woods this day however. I can usually read its mood or determine if any pray is nearby by just listening. Today there is a strange voice to it in the rustling of its leaves. I am not certain what it means but a sudden wind blows in from the west, from the depths of the forest and it feels like something is telling me which way to go. I set of in an easterly direction towards the Nader river south of my manor. When I reach one of the places where you can safely ford the river I notice that someone have recently passed through here. None of my own commoners have reason to pass here during winter and others in hillfort know better than to enter my lands from this direction. Some savage part of me wakes up, almost like there is a wolf living in my heart that wants to howl and set of in immediate pursuit and chase down the prey and tear it to pieces.

It’s getting dark, I will have to find the prey soon or start over tomorrow. I won’t tolerate another failure at finding him. I run on quiet feet, carefully avoiding stepping on dry branches and patches of frozen over puddles. The tracks lead north towards my south-eastern pasture.

Up ahead I glimpse a shape among the trees, someone doing their level best to stay hidden. They probably can’t see him in the dusk, he is wearing clothes that make him blend in but that doesn’t hide him from me. I sneak closer while he is approaching the cattle. I have a clear shot.
I shout

“Stand still or you will be shot”

He flinches and foolishly turns to run. I let lose my arrow and it strikes him in the thigh. No more running for him. He crumbles and a few moments later I am on top of him. He has drawn a dagger and he is trying to defend himself. It doesn’t do him any good. I wrestle the dagger out of his hand and hold it against his throat. Now I finally see his face. I do not know this man.

Panicked and in pain he sees my face and shout “You murdered my wife”.

I find myself confused. He can see the lack of comprehension on my face. “You should have gone after the bear that evening and my wife would still be alive you lazy egotistical bastards”.

I won’t have a commoner speak to me that way. I punch him in the face. His nose break and he screams. Maybe I would have felt compassion for the man if he came and asked for restitution. That ship sailed however when he decided to start poisoning my cattle and that way risked the life of my wife. I have caught the man red-handed trying to destroy my property. I could hang him here and now. I am tempted to do so and to make it slow. Justice must however be served. I knock him out and bandaged his wound. I will bring him to the hillfort court and he will be hung there. The law of the land say the thieves are hung. Few will know however how much this man almost stole from me. They will only know about the cows.

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Prisoner at Court
year 489

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Court was… different. Melkin felt like a pheasant among peacocks and knew that this was how the court perceived him as well, if not worse. His clothes were out of fashion, the customs were different, and the language strange and unfamiliar. Having been told by count Roderick’s manservant, Attilio, that his modesty was even more out of place here in Bretagne, Melkin couldn’t but wonder if he would be able to follow his count’s orders and find out king Idre’s political standing points.

“Avoid speaking directly to the king, at all cost!” Attilio had told him. “And if you ever are forced to do it none the less, you must act like a proud man pretending to be to be modest in front of the king. You must never seem weak in from of him!”

Gornerius, Melkin’s second cousin, had agreed with this. “You should try to humor the king, but it would be for the best if you did it indirectly. You should also try to befriend someone close to him, his wife, courtesan, friends or his son… I mean, if you truly are hopeless at feasts you should learn from the bests here.”

Melkin had not told Gornerius his true reason for being at the court. How could he? Count Roderick had made him promise not to tell anyone. Thus he had been forced to lie to Gornerius about his reasons, and had retold a couple of stories from feasts in Britain when he had been mistaken as a squire, arrived in an awful attire and the like. Melkin was a bit surprised how easy the lie was accepted by Gornerius though. Probably, Melkin thought wryly, because claiming to be worthless at feasts wasn’t a lie in itself.

However, the lie had not seemed to have fooled king Idres. When arriving to court Melkin had been granted all the perks the hospitality of the court could give, but not the liberty of leaving court. This was not too uncommon, Melkin later heard, but still a strange omission which indicated that the king suspected that Melkin had doubtful reasons. Not being at liberty to leave court, Melkin had realised just what that meant: he was currently a prisoner at court.


A couple of months had passed an Melkin was still wondering how on earth he would be capable of amusing the king without speaking to him. The task seemed impossible for someone without any considerable skill in orate, dancing or singing being typical activities at court. Gaining the friendship someone of the king’s friends also seemed like no small endeavor. Melkin knew that he was playing at some type of strategies, and that if he knew the rules he could probably play the game, but it was easier said than done.

He had started to gain the trust of some of the lesser knights at court, if only for being fairly good at drinking. One of them, Aemilius, certainly liked his wine and had taken a liking to Melking after a drinking game between them that Melkin had won. This was both advantageous, since Aemilius was fairly outspoken and knew many things about court, but also a bit of a headache since Melkin was forced to drink heavily every single night.

“… and I said no-one speaks to me in that manner and I will cut your throat before you ever do it again you asine!” Aemilius was standing now almost shouting in triumph as the other knights cheered him on.

Melkin was laughing as well, but had drunk a bit more than he probably should. Looking for his son he saw Brynach playing with a pair of copper coins at the far end of the table. Melkin had taken to play board games with the four-year-old every night just to fend of some of the drinks around the table with the excuse that he couldn’t be too drunk when he trained his boy in gaming.

“What if I would lose fair and square?” he had said to Aemilius as the knight had tried to shove a glass of wine into his hand. “I could hardly stand that!”

The truth was that Melkin often lost to Brynach, but that was mostly due to the fact that he let the boy cheat from time to time. It kept Melkin on his toes, and they would laugh about Brynach playing like a saxon. Tonight was no different, and Melkin stared intently at the board thinking hard. Brynach was smiling broadly.

“Don’t you give me that smile,” Melkin said with one of his own and moved one of the pieces shielding the king from one attacker in a way that made it impossible for Brynach to win.

Brynach’s smile disappeared and he set his brow in a deep frown mumbling to himself. He then shrugged and lifted one of his pieces and put it far away from its original position suddenly cornering the king.

“That’s cheating,” came suddenly a boy’s voice from behind Melkin’s back.

Melkin didn’t turn. He was trying to think, but he too drunk for the task.

“Yes…” he said slowly trying to gather his thoughts. “Yes it is…”

“I am playing the saxons!” explained Brynach helpfully with a broad smile. “Because they always cheat”.

“That’s stupid, why would you want to do that?”

Melkin turned frowning and suddenly was face to face with prince Mark himself. The boy looking somewhat irritated at the board between them.

“It’s not stupid,” argued Brynach and pointed to his head making the same gesture as Melkin had done many a time before. “If you want to beat the saxons, you have to think like a saxon”.

“It’s stupid anyhow,” said the prince as if to go.

“Well, a great commander once told me,” said Melkin looking the prince directly in the eye trying not to blink, “that if you do not understand the mind if the enemies, there is really no way of actually beating them. I would therefore argue, my prince, that a strategist has to find reason to learn from his enemies”.

Prince Mark, eyed Melkin suspiciously. “Why do you let him beat you?”

“Why, my prince, I let Brynach beat me now so that when I fight the enemy in reality I will in fact not lose”.

The prince made a “hmpf” sound and walked off. Brynach made a face after the boy, but Melkin sat thinking. It seemed like prince Mark actually knew the rules of Hnefatafl which did say a number of things. The game was fairly new, at least in Britain, probably brought by some of the seafaring peoples, some even said that it came from the saxons. Melkin had also realised that few knew the game here in Bretagne and thus prince Mark must have stumbled across the game recently himself, and the prince knew it well enough to have picked up on the rules of the game.

“Stupid prince,” muttered Brynach and went back to playing like a saxon putting a new piece in a forbidden spot. Melkin reached out over the board and slapped his son over the face.

“If you ever say that again,” Melkin said to the surprised and sobbing boy. “I will take this board and beat you with it until it breaks”.


The following months Melkin continued to play Brynach even more frequently. More often Melkin made Brynach actually play by the rules, instead of cheating his way towards victory. Melkin took time to play teach Brynach both about the game in itself but also the combat strategies that it represented. It happened once or twice that the prince came down and watched them play, but he never engaged in much conversation until one evening when Melkin indeed had drunk too much.

“That’s cheating!” said Brynach his eyes wide as Melkin moved his piece in a forbidden angle to attack the king on the board. He was now playing the game attacker and Brynach the defender.

“Well, this is Sigeberht the saxon warrior who my father, your namesake Bryn, fought during the Battle of Bath. And that,” Melkin pointed at the king in the middle, “is Ulfric of Silchester. Do you know what happened to him?”

Brynach shook his head uncomfortably.

“He died,” Melkin said flatly.

“But, I can’t win if you play the saxon!” argued Brynach pouting his lip.

“No?” Melkin laughed. “Too bad for you. This,” he gestured at the game, “was a real battle. If you cannot win, you will die.”

“But…” Brynach looked at the game with big eyes, “I can’t win… and I don’t wanna die.”

“Well true… you need help,” Melkin continued thinking. “Bryn wasn’t alone in the fight and neither should you be,” and then he continued without thinking. “Why don’t you go and ask prince Mark if he want’s to play one of the bannermen who killed Sigeberth?”

Melkin stared down in his empty glass for what seemed like a second and when he looked up he suddenly felt a lot more sober as both Brynach and prince Mark sat down opposite him.

“So, which one am I?” asked prince Mark and stared at the board.

Melkin looked from Brynach to the prince, and had the odd feeling that Brynach must have gone up to the high table a flatly asked Mark to play. Brynach was looking eager though:

“Well, I’m going to be my grandfather Bryn, so you can be you grand uncle Cadwallon.”

Mark looked confused. “I don’t know of any Cadwallon, who was he?”

“He was a Cellidon,” continued Brynach matter of factly. “They live in a magic forest and can hunt and eat redcaps if they’re really hungry”.

“Well,” interrupted Melkin seeing the doubtful look on prince Mark’s face, “maybe not eat the redcap, but sir Cadwallon was the warrior who slew Sigeberth in this fight.” He started to retell the story of the battle at Bath as he had heard it from lord Amig, and explained where they were in the battle.

And they started to play. Prince Mark was surprisingly sharp at the game being only ten years old. The two boys discussed different ways to take the enemies down especially Sigeberth. Melkin let them replay the story, roughly according to what he knew. When the token that Melkin had proclaimed to be Sigeberth ‘died’ and only one round of the game was left Melkin took one of the boys’ pieces.

“Your king is dead.” He proclaimed and placed the token next to the king.

Both of the boys gaped at him.

“You can’t do that!” said Brynach in utter shock.

“That man was on our side!” protested prince Mark.

“I told you that Ulfric died in this battle.” Melkin pointed at the token on the table that had so brutally ‘betrayed’ the others. “One man within Ulfric’s own ranks cut him in the back with a knife and there was nothing the bannermen could do about it. So you won the battle, but you lost the king”.

The boys were still looking stunned.

“And how do you plan against betrayal?” Melkin asked them both. “It is possible or course, but hard,” and he pointed at the so called ‘bannermen’ on the table. “Without trust or honour we cannot win, which is why we cannot make strategies like the saxons. Somehow we have to beat the ones who cheats, by playing according to the rules”.

“But how do you do that?” asked prince Mark now staring outright at Melkin.

Melkin gave the prince a tired smile. “By understanding what it means to be cheated”, he said simply.


After that evening prince Mark would start playing Hnefatafl with them from time to time. Being a child still Melkin was reluctant to ask the prince about the king, but Melkin slowly started to find out small things about king Idres which he himself could puzzle together. It was not nearly enough yet, but he was finally getting somewhere on count Roderick’s behalf.

One day the prince decided to challenge one of the knights at their table at the game, and quickly beat him. Brynach, of course, followed in the prince steps and did the same thing. When the two boys started winning all their games, people really started to gather round. Melkin knew that the boys mostly won since the game was still so unheard of that no-one else was trained in the rules, and Brynach and Mark did not particularly explain exactly what the rules meant to their opponents. A few weeks later he did however find out that king Idres had been highly amused by the situation of the two boys slaughtering his knights in the new strategy game.

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The Fall
A.D 489

The Fall

[Warning for sensitive readers]

The orchard stood in full bloom, grown to overflow the crest of the immense hill southwest of Ludwell. The red, pink and white silhouette was visible for miles in the afternoon sun, a ubiquitous mark of the Anarawd in hillfort.

Gamond strode up the hillside and stepped into the sun-dappled shade beneath the boughs, breath calming as his mind and olfactory senses were eased by the elusive scent of the flowers. Beside him, Prince Meliodas drew a deep breath and sighed.

It is wondrous Sir Ludwell. A remarkable place. That scent, it is unfamiliar. Not something from the trees of Lyonesse or Cornwall I take it?

Gamond smiled, nodding “ Thank you your highness. I don’t think so, Gusg could explain it, I think. It has something to do with the wild trees planted in the heart of the orchard.

" Just Sir Meliodas, please. I should very much like to see them

They walked in silence, undisturbed along natural pathways among the trees, worn by peasant feet during ever more plentiful harvests. Gamond, as always, found solace here, and though he was usually alone during these walks he found that the Prince of Lyonesse was one whose company he did not mind. Eventually, the red heart of the orchard emerged, surrounded to the east by white, and to the west by reddish to pale pink. Meliodas cast his eye all around as they walked deeper, stopping several times to touch the bark and smell the flowers.

No fruit yet ” said Gamond, a mix of disappointment and tension making gravel of his voice. A dead tree stood deeper in, rotting from the inside. It would be replaced come autumn, fresh shoots from the grove within Modron placed in its stead in forest earth.

These trees show great promise for something so wild, they will provide

I hope so. ” Gamond paused, weighing his next words carefully. He had rehearsed what to say ever since the prince appeared at Tisbury, yet now he did not know how to express his meaning. It was always so. Frustrated, he decided to simply speak plain.

Sir Meliodas. My son, I would very much like to see him grow up with you and yours ”.

The princes’ eyebrows turned a V of surprise. “ Sir Ludwell, that is… very irregular. I cannot…
I know it is. Your highness, sir, Sir Meliodas. I am not a good man. ”

Now surely Lord Ludwell you cannot say…

Gamond gave the visibly discomfited prince a long, flat stare. “ Please, listen.

As afternoon wore towards evening, Gamond spoke and the prince listened. A story sometimes livid and lifelike, sometimes told in brief statements burdened by emotion and meaning, and full of oppressive silences. Of a blade bound to the heart of the Anarawd, of fell betrayal and the unforgivable crime of a murdered sister, of the loss of a father. Of a destiny turned dark, the blade a lodestone drawing what was once good inexorably toward evil.

… the blade must be reclaimed, turned back to good. To save my family. I know this, and I know I am not the man to do it. But my son, my son could be. He needs to be raised by a good, true man. You, Sir, are closest to the heart of the Anarawd that I have known ”.

The sun had sunk beneath the crest of the hill in the west, and the evening slowly grew chill.

Meliodas, touched by the tale and caught in his modestly, eventually replied. His own private anguish turned his voice sour “ I am not so good. Many days… many days are bitter. My peers are often bad men who are cheered for their whims, celebrated for vanity and casual cruelty.” The moment passed, and Meliodas sighed, his expression softening. “And yet, I am who I am ”.

" _ Regardless of your personal opinion, Meliodas, it is that perseverance and the values of your kin and family in Lyonesse that I admire_. ”

Meliodas said nothing for a while. “ I must think of this, Gamond. I cannot answer you now.

it is good enough.


Summer had been good. He had several new scars, round arrow spots, but pain and injury was nothing new. He floated on his back in the river, in his favourite spot. Late summer heat shimmered above the surface. A fawn looked up as he lazily drifted past, ears clipping. Calm. The animal did not even bolt.

Anwyn hadn’t shot him. She had him in her sight, her brothers’ life at stake, and she had not let the arrow fly. She loved him. Gamonds heart beat warm and slow, soft with uncommon emotion. He would argue her case if any was made against her, argue with the only language he knew well, the iron word. Her brother was a thorny problem, but one that would be solved the same way. He would make the final argument of blood and settle it, one way or another.

He closed his eyes, thoughts content and fuzzy. Anwyn was pregnant. She had said she could not be, that she had taken precautions, and yet it was so. More than ever, he was happy for the news. A son of her blood and his would be a strong, fierce warrior. His line would continue, no matter Meliodas eventual decision. He knew it would be a son, of course it would be, and he would finally be the father who loved, and was loved in turn. Perhaps that hideous pull the blade of hate had on his family had finally abated.


The cold stung his face, leaving some of every breath frozen in his beard. The two torches set in sconces on the wall and two candles burning on the altar cast the chapel in fay flickering light.

Still, he felt warm, wrapped in heavy furs and dreams of the future. A future where the Saxons were no more, driven into the sea. Holy father, let it be so. A future with family, his family. Strong sons and daughters with Anwyns eyes, the envy of maidens across the land. Oh lord, hear my prayer. He would marry her; he had known it in his heart since autumn. It would be his gift to her once the judicial nonsense was taken care of. They would be together.

He sighed, snuggled deeper into the furs, He had retreated to the chapel once Anwyns time was upon her, his presence had helped neither of his two former wives after all. This battle was one women had to fight alone, and his was a strong, strong woman, best his ungainly bulk was elsewhere.

Time passed by, soft treads through meditative silence. The candles burned low as the lord of Ludwell sat alone with his thoughts.

Steps, feet in the snow. Gamond rose, and his heart rose with him. Was it a son? It must be. Berth, his young tutor, dragged the protesting door – heavy with snow – open and and stepped inside. He was pale, wide eyed. He was afraid. “ Gamond… I.. I… ”.

His heart beat, hard, a hammer blow against his ribs. The world faded to white, then back with that beat. He stared into Berths eyes, bulging with stark terror. The young priest clawed desperately at the one slab of a hand curled around his throat, holding him three feet above the ground against the wall. “ What. Did. You. Do. ” His voice sounded strange, far away. Berth shook his head frantically, trying to speak.

His heart beat. Blotting out the world. White. Then red. Red everywhere. The bed was soaked, the floor… he held her close to him. She was in his arms, blinking slowly. So pale. Some odd sound bothered him, shaking his head did not make it go away. A deep sobbing, broken keening, distant. Rising, falling with the uneven rhythm of her chest. But her mouth was closed. He could warm her, keep her here, if only he held on hard enough. Would that damned wailing stop?

She was so still; her hand had fallen from his arm. He kissed her, breathed his life into her lungs. Sudden silence. Live. Stay. Please. One odd eye slid to his, and faded. As her spark flickered out his heart burnt out of his chest, leaving an empty sucking hole. The sound was back, a wordless howl. And hate, hate flooded in.

His head throbbed with the beat of his heart. White. There in his hand, that pale snake. That murderous thing. That disgusting, treacherous piece of himself. It had killed all that he had loved. Never again. He raised the dagger.

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Traditions, traditions, traditions
Spring 489

Traditions, traditions, traditions

As the hooves of my charger slowly trudge along the muddy path leading through Hillside the commoners line up along the road. Some of them bow and remove their caps with grubby hands while others simply nod and lower their gazes. I don’t think any of them really knows me. This is of course nothing strange but I sometimes wonder what it would be to be more like the Anarawds or Cellydons; living closer to my people and sharing a deeper bond. I’ve always tried to be a good lord to my people and I’ve seldom heard them complain or grumble. They seem happy, or at least content, most of the time but I know they can be a fickle bunch. They’re as prone to passions and outbursts as any knight. This year their mood has swung from exalted reverie at the news of the defeated bandits to grumbling malcontent at the harvest and back to celebration when the first snow came unseasonably late. But they are right to complain, my choices and my life affect them more then I sometimes care to admit.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed

Musing on the words of the Corinthinan letters I leave the village… surely I can sow ever greater fields with my deeds.

Chillmark has grown further during my leave to count Rodericks court. The manorial stone hall is finally finished leaving only a few shed and outbuilding as reminders of the past. In with the new and out with the old or, as in the case with Sewels newly built lodging: In with the old in the new. As my squire, Devin, dismounts and takes my reins the household slowly gathers around to greet me; the washers and bakers, the grooms and cooks all lined up with bowed heads and stern faces. For us Tarren this is a solemn tradition; welcoming the warriors back from battle or service. It is not a joyous occasion, at least not the first greeting, for they know that one day I will not return. I will have joined another household far greater than this. I hand my sword over to Devin and grasp my shield with both hands raising it above my head. I walk along the double line of servants proudly displaying my family’s colours. When I reach the steps leading up Chillmark I turn around and raise my voice:

‘’As my heritage obliges I’ve returned to hearth and home with my shield and my honour intact. For me awaits safe sleep and good company, for you awaits fine wine and gratitude.’’

‘’As our heritage obliges’’ mutter the servants in response. Some servants cheer meekly in the cold wind and some of the more eager men and women start sidling towards the door to the great hall. As I lower my shield and enter the warm confines of my newly built home the servants mill around me and past me; eager to find good seating for the small feast.

After the Feast

‘’Content Cynsten, I feel content.’’

‘’Well you know what they say: never to late to try something new.’’ Cynstens eyes sparkle from mirth and wine as he reaches for the last chicken on the serving tray. As the large man starts dismembering the poor bird with the efficiency and grace of a pack of wild dogs Meical sullenly sighs and lowers his raised knife.

’’I’m happy to hear that, my lord. Any news of lady Marion?’’ Cynsten interrupts his poultry massacre and shoots the chaplain a sharp look.

‘’She is doing fine, Meical. She seems a bit… meek though.’’

‘’The meek shall inheri…’’ Before Meical has time to finish his automated response to every time he hears the word ‘meek’ Cynsten grumbles and speaks.

‘’Yes, yes, inherit the world… Is she as beautiful as they say, my lord’’ Meical annoyance from being interrupted immediately turn into curiosity when another of his favourite topics is mentioned: beautiful young women.

‘’I did not look, Cynsten…. That would certainly not be proper.’’ Meical can hardly contain his glee as he feverishly nods in agreement to my comment but more so to my reprimanding of Cynsten.

’’I’m sure the young maid will make a wonderful wife. But the more I learn of her past the more worried I become. She seems to have powerful enemies… So powerful that Maid Marion and Sir Leo advised me to keep the wedding small; almost so small it would be secret. She will have to be guarded well when she lives here.’’
Both men quietly nod in agreement, their brotherly fighting and teasing gone; replaced by duty and determination.

‘’I shall see what I can find out from the farmers my lord. If any strange men or women are sighted near the manor close to the wedding.’’

‘’And I shall see to it that the footmen and archers are ready to receive any unwelcome visitors.’’

‘’Thank you friends. Let anyone who come here with ill intent know that the Tarren are more then happy to welcome them!’’
As we raise our cups I feel more then content: I feel hopeful.

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See no evil
Spring 489

See no evil

Examining him closely, Melkin watched as Deian rode past him and turned the horse sharply around a post coming back up the hill. “Not too bad,” Melkin commented. “Remember what I told you about leaning forward more and to tug the rains less when you turn. Shift your weight to show the horse and he will know where you’re headed. Go again”.

Panting, Deian nodded, and rode off towards the post again. He made a slightly worse turn this time, and Melkin concluded that they were done for the day. Deian was getting tired and after that point he would only perform worse for each drill he was put through. Melkin knew the boy all too well now to make him go an extra turn. It was as if Deian put all his energy into training during the first forty minutes, so that after that he couldn’t keep his concentration. Some of it was part of a will to master the drill perfectly, and some was more connected to the wish not to make a fool of himself. When he got tired he played it safer, and thus continuous training would only set him back into the habits that Melkin was trying to change.

“Take the horses to the stable and head for supper,” Melkin said as Deian rode up to him. “We can work more on this tomorrow, when the…”

A shout from the manor made them both turn. Riding swiftly they both arrived as two men led a man seemingly covered in blood into the courtyard. It took Melkin a second to realise that it was Doged that they were helping. He jumped out of his saddle and ran across to his old chaplain.

“My god,” he cried out as he saw Doged’s face. “Deian! Prepare clean cloth and hot water! Hurry!” Melkin took his old friend and teacher into his arms. The old man shook, as if he would fall any second. His eyes had been carved out and he was bleeding from the mouth.

Melkin did what he could for Doged before turning to the men who had brought the old chaplain. They explained that they had met the old man on the road to Saint Evasius’ monastery, wandering blindly on the road. Melkin knew that Doged had visited the monks at the abbey that day to check in on their work and ask how they had reinstituted the artefact that they had regained last summer. Melkin demanded to know what had happened, but the men only shook their heads answering that they did not know.

“It was a knight”. Doged’s voice was broken and the words a bit unclear from the split tongue he had been dealt, but Melkin heard it load and clear. “He had a black shield with bones on it”.


Doged had been Melkin’s chaplain since childhood. The man had been kind to him, uncomfortable around women, which had led to a lot of incidents on Melkin’s own part, but he knew that Doged had loved him for all of Melkin’s own faults, as he loved Doged. It was painful to watch the wounds lead to one infection after the other, as the old man tossed and turned in fever. Melkin would sit and hold his hand and talk until the venerable monk fell asleep during the evenings. It hadn’t been long though before Doged passed away.

Deian had asked if Melkin thought this to be some sort of revenge by the Knight of Ribs, a revenge for killing off the bandits last year. Melkin said that he wasn’t sure, but he recognised the injuries and he didn’t doubt the cruelty of the Knight of Ribs. In fact, Melkin was quite sure that this was his work.

During the burial of Doged quite a few people were gathered. More than expected had arrived from the Roman part of Melkin’s family. After hearing about the cruel murder, they had decided that it was time for six lineage men to move in at Hindon to help out at the manor, all capable fighters if need arose. Melkin was surprised and taken aback by this gesture; naturally it was a generous offer, but also one that made it seem like he couldn’t defend his own people. On the other hand, he hadn’t. It made Melkin feel ashamed; to have let his chaplain get into a situation that had led to torture and death.

Another guest at the burial that was unexpected was lord Elad. He was resolute, and only watched silently as the burial took place. They exchanged a couple of brief pleasantries and then lord Elad left before the feast even had started.

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