Campaign of the Month: August 2016

Oath of Crows

The women by the well
Year 483

The women by the well

It was a beautiful cold autumn day in the year 483. Melkin greeted the people on the Tisbury grounds with nods and smiles. He knew them all very well, and even though he had his own manor now, as he stepped into the long house, he felt like returning home.

His step mother met him in the doorway with a basket full of eggs. Melkin felt a little guilty seeing her and took the basket for her like he had done as a child many a day before. Helping her helped hide his own embarrassment.

“I am fine,” Cerys answered when he asked how she was faring and watched him put the basket in the cupboard, “though I was worried when I heard about your duel at Sarum.”

“I was a bit worried myself,” said Melkin avoiding her gaze, “but while I fought I wasn’t worried at all. Isn’t that strange?”

“I remember,” she said with a tenderness to her voice that made him look up, “when you had to fetch a stool to put those eggs up. You were always such a kind child. Now, my little bird has grown up.”

Melkin became a little flushed. She didn’t know how right she was.

They talked some more before Melkin went out to find Cadry. He didn’t want his mother to listen in on what he was about to tell his older brother, and so Melkin was thankful to find Cadry out in the forest, alone, without any curious ears close by.

“So what did you want to talk about?” asked Cadry as they walked together through the forest. Melkin was showing him the path that he had made Deian mark out in case of any raids in Hindon or Sutton.

Melkin didn’t know how to proceed this conversation, but Cadry was the only person that he would trust with this so he tried to start telling his story.

“Well, you know how I’ve not been very great around women …” he began hesitantly making Cadry laugh.

“It’s never too late to learn and improve,” replied Cadry smiling at the younger man’s statement. “I know one of the girls over in Stump made eyes at you during the last beltaine celebration. I can point her out to you,” he offered helpfully. “Now that you have a manor of your own I think you will find a lot more women showing their interest.”

Stringing his bow, Cadry started looking around the grounds to see if any animals had passed by recently and if any of them would make a good meal. Noticing that Melkin had stopped, frozen midstep, Cadry made an impatient gesture for him to catch up. When Melkin had gotten closer, Cadry looked closer at his slightly flushed face and asked:

“What is going on little brother?”

“To tell the truth,” Melkin said growing slightly pink around the ears as well. “There are quite a few women who are willing to… eh…” Melkin stopped himself from continuing the sentence. “I don’t know exactly why they’ve started to look at me differently… Though, I did find out that someone has gone around telling them that I still hadn’t been with a woman, which sure led to a lot of giggles and glances, especially after the duel this summer.”

Cadry seemed to momentarily have forgotten about the hunt, which was uncommon since almost nothing was more important to him. Picking up on the important part of the reply Cadry had to ask:

“Women who are willing to do what exactly?”

He suspected what his brother wanted to say but he wanted to see if he could make the embarrassed knight tell the story himself. Cadry went over to a fallen tree and sat down on a trunk an gestured to his brother to have a seat with him. Melkin sighed, but smiled despite himself.

“I’ll take it from the beginning then,” he said as he sat himself next to Cadry. “One evening this summer I was walking alone through Wick when I came upon three young women by the well. They… made me an offer to widen my experiences. I was completely baffled by their frankness and didn’t know what to say. As they surrounded me one of them stepped in so close that I could feel her breath on my lips. They said that they wouldn’t tell anyone, and so I found myself following where they led me.”

Melkin paused briefly feeling his cheeks burn despite the chill, avoiding to look at Cadry.

“I was pushed onto my back in a meadow by the three of them and well, I suspect you can figure out the rest,” he didn’t mean to but he grinned.

Giving of an amused chuckle and smiling with his whole face in genuine enjoyment, Cadry put his arm around Melkin’s shoulders:

“Well I knew you would come around once you got to taste some female pleasure, but I didn’t expect you to dive headfirst into it. Three girls you say? Did they take turns or was it just one of them who bedded you?”

Before Melkin had time to answer Cadry lit up even more as some thought passed through his head:

“Does this mean that you have finally realised that there is nothing to be ashamed about lying with women?

Melkin cleared his throat and made a face.

“Ah… well about that.” He didn’t know which question to answer. “You see… it did happen more than once and so there have been times when eh…” shaking his head embarrassed he went back to the story. “Anyway, what I’m getting at is that there’s been talk in the village about new children,” he concluded with some effort. “And even though I’m not certain that any of them are mine,” a slightly defensive tone had entered his voice, “one of the expecting women is without husband which kind of… makes it more likely.”

Turning a bit more serious but still smiling slightly Cadry listen to his brother’s concerns.

“As for you bedding those girls more than once, that way you are probably doing your future wife a favor since you’ll know how to handle her and keep her happy in bed, which makes it more likely that she will want to let you have a go more often or so I have been told.”

Trying to remember all the wisdom he had learned from older family members and older married men he kept on.

“When it comes to children I guess it becomes a little more complicated. Two of the women apparently have husbands from what you tell me and thus it’s most likely that those women’s children are fathered by their husbands and are therefore none of your concern. The one who is without husband, what’s her reputation like? Is she sleeping around with others?”

Melkin shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he said bluntly. “I don’t particularly know her. I’m not sure what to do, but I know that I can’t ask Doged about it. What do you think? Should I just pretend like nothing?” The last question was a bit hopeful. “I mean she did say she wouldn’t tell.”

Cadry scratched his lengthening beard whilst staring out among the trees.

“I’d say that if you like the girl in your bed, then keep her there. That way you will know that an eventual child is yours. Yes, it will be a bastard but if the girl keeps you happy, which judging from your grins she is, I don’t see why you shouldn’t keep her around. At least until you are married, then you can always throw some money on a decent enough commoner for him to wed her.”

Seeming to consider another more unpalatable option Cadry’s disposition turned a bit more sour. “If you really don’t want that child some of the priestesses knows ways to brew potions that will take care of an unwanted child, but it could be bad for the girl’s health as far as I understand it.”

“Well,” said Melkin thinking, “if you think I should keep the girl in my bed, I’m not the one to complain. I’m not sure how to handle the fact that she’s with child but, as you said I could pay someone to marry her later on to ensure her a decent future. I couldn’t be doing it too openly though. I mean, Doged wouldn’t approve for one, and if I started handing her money I’d figure that every single woman with child from here to Sarum would start claiming me to be the father.” Melkin looked out into the forest for I while thinking. “If you think I should keep her I will,” he said finally and looked back at Cadry.

“Doged is not the one handling your woman or your bed for that matter”. Cadry seemed to have become a bit annoyed when the chaplain’s name was mentioned. “This isn’t about what he thinks or for that matter what I think. I will always be glad to advice you my brother, but you are the one who has to make the decisions and live with them. If you want to keep her around, make sure to hire her on as a washerwoman or someone to clean your hall. That way you can always have a reason to keep her around and it won’t be obvious to anyone outside the household as long as you are discrete.”

Looking at Melkin with a bit of worry in his eyes he said: “As for the other women, it’s not like you are forcing yourself on them. If they make the choice to spread their legs they also have to be prepared to live with the consequences. I am just saying that if you want to keep a mistress around you make sure to treat her right and make sure that she is provided for when you decide to get rid of her.”

Melkin nodded.

“Why not then,” he said satisfied with Cadry’s advice. “I will hire her to my household, and make sure that she will have someone to marry later on, if she doesn’t find someone on her own that is to say.”

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Of flowers and bees
Spring 484 (Log for 483)

Of flowers and bees

Spring was, as always, a relief. Despite the bandits that had grown bold of late Gamond rode alone past the ruins of hillfort, past the outskirts of Ansty manor and north into the forest trench. The bandits wisely didn’t venture too close to the manors themselves.

“The forest trench” was a locally adopted nickname for the stretch of fields that cut the outskirts of Modron in two, a more or less straight line running from southeast of Tisbury manor to north of Ansty. No-one quite knew why it was that way, and as Gamond slowly rode through he idly watched the landscape. High grass, flowers, butterflies and birds. But not a single tree to be seen. Some said a towering giant of old had dragged a huge stone through here in the ancient past and no tree had grown here since. Gamond imagined Cadry dragging that holy pagan stone of his to Tisbury and wondered whether his path there was now clear of trees as well. It would be handy if it was, easier to get to his manor if nothing else.

Steering Littlehoof, his dainty rouncey, westwards he followed his customary path into Modron. Since he was a child he’d carried a deep and unreasonable fear of the deeper forest, fortunately, over the years he had found his own paths through the outskirts, and now he could navigate most of them in his sleep. This particular path was probably the most familiar, leading to his favourite swimming spot in the Nadar, directly south of Tisbury.

Having left littlehoof tied to a tree with plenty of grazing and his clothes folded on a flat stone near the riverbank, Gamond floated on his back in the middle of the river. The current was gentle here, he could close his eyes and relax, let his thoughts wander. Whenever he needed to think, this was where he went. He wasn’t stupid, not really, though some probably thought so. He just hadn’t a lot to say most of the time. Others tended to let their mouths run, and most things that were to be said on a subject had been by the time he’d thought everything through carefully.

Meneris’ dowry had been sizable, and many had now counselled investment. What exactly that investment should be was a matter of some debate however. He turned around and swam slowly upriver, his body working on habit, his mind free to work on the problems before him.

Anwyn, whose counsel he probably valued most, hadn’t really cared what he did, except maybe to build his defences. His cousin, the meat trader, had sworn up and down that cattle was the soundest investment. Milk, hides and meat, he had said, all things that would always be needed. The problem being that Gamond didn’t really like cows. Perhaps that aversion had something to do with the curse that now haunted him, meat just wasn’t that appealing anymore.

Feeling his thoughts turn to brooding he dove down into the depths. Down there, gleaming fish scattered on the muddy bottom, a frog, none too concerned, swam lazily past. Exhaling air he settled on river floor, watching the surface far above him.

As he broke the surface with a huge gasp, spraying water all around and splashing, his thoughts were again focused. His tutor, Wert, had predictably counselled gifts to the church. Apparently, that could help with the curse. Lord Medyr, of Charlton manor to the south, had waxed lyrical over his Mellisarium. A fancy word for what was apparently lots of bees. He’d talked at length about the various fantastical qualities of honey, the beneficial effect bees had on flowers, and had entirely failed to mention the numerous bee-stings sported by his villagers and himself. Gamond didn’t trust bees.

As he often did he’d taken the counsel of his commoners as well, and they had huddled in with their elders and at length asked for more fields to till, or sheep to graze. Sheep could always be trusted.
As he arrived home late in the late afternoon he was no closer to a decision. He itched to be doing something. Maybe he should set a tankard for each of the alternatives at 35 paces and throw stones at them in turn until one was left?

Well, his peasants wouldn’t be idle anyway, he had decided one thing. He’d start clearing that old grove in the forest where he’d first met Anwyn. His mother had gone all doe eyed when he’d told her about that meeting and absolutely insisted he make the grove “nice” again.

The following day the Bailiff led a work crew into Modron, and Gamond went with them. As they broke the cover of trees and surveyed the small clearing around the grove a reverent hush fell over the company. The grove was awash in pinks and pale reds, showing through the choking weeds and tanglebranch that had utterly dominated this place only two years past.

The trees seemed most lively where Anwyn had sat, and bled, and around the path where he had carried her. Stepping into the grove, he took several soft red berries from the branches, tasting one. Sweet with a tart tang to the aftertaste. Struck by sudden inspiration, Gamond turned to Bodwyn.
“Those bright red berries, gather them. We’ll bring earth from this clearing to plant them in, give them a home outside of home. We shall make an orchard wholly of the Anarawd”.

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What we do in the name of desire
Year 483

What we do in the name of desire

Sir Blains sat brooding in the main hall of castle Levcomagus and was pondering what measure he must take to defend his honor and how he would revenge himself for the slights done to him by the Count of Salisbury.

CountRoderick, count fucking Roderick had devastated his plans. He had stolen lady Ellen from him, he had humiliated him before both the court of Salisbury and King Uther’s court. Blains swore to himself that none of this would pass without being redressed sooner or later. The question was how to proceed? A cool head was important and besides, trying to strike directly against the count would be pointless even with the aid of good Duke Ulfius. No, the way forward was through planning and intrigue. Roderick had loyal men who did his bidding. One or more among Roderick’s men had prevented all the little “incidents” when maid Ellen visited Sarum and those men were obviously not as dull-witted as most other knights and servants.

Blains summoned his most faithful man Malvern. Malvern often knew secrets that other men would prefer to keep hidden and he usually knew what was the best way to make someone talk.
“Malvern, I need to find out who among the knights of Salisbury it is that is working so hard at preventing me from having lady Ellen for my wife. Do you know?”

Malvern seemed to consider the question and scratched his beard while glancing sideways at Sir Blains. “I can’t say for certain sire but there are several rumours pointing in the direction of a certain Sir Cadry, one of the newest knight’s in the count’s court. Apparently he was the one who, while still a squire, captured a certain man on the road to Ambrius abbey two years ago. Some say that that prisoner might have been made to talk and that your name came up in relation to this incident.”

Sir Blains sneered “Bah! If Roderick had any such accusations to toss around he would have gone whining to Duke Ulfius or for that matter the King himself already. No, he might suspect something about it but he doesn’t have anything proving it.”

Once again Malvern seemed to weigh his words “Be that as it may sire but nevertheless I have made sure to make some careful inquires in regards to the newer elements of Salisbury’s court. Most of the older knight’s, whether vassals or household knights, are known quantities and none of them really strikes me as particularly sharp. The youngest knights however seemed to be men to watch out for. Apparently there are four of them who doesn’t carry the shield of the count but rather individual shields. Most irregular as far as I understand it sire.”

At this Sir Blains eyebrows shot up and he stared at his servant with disbelief “From your description I assume they are not barons or some such?”

Malvern sat down on a bench opposite of Sir Blains and continued ”Indeed they aren’t sire. I am given to understand that they were given the right to carry their own devices by the King himself when they were knighted. I have so far not been able to find out what they have done to earn such a favour from the King. One of the servants in the royal eyre told me that the king called one of them forth to his table during campaign into Summerland and inquired after his ancestry and seemed to recognize him by sight alone.”

Sir Blains scowled and his disposition became sourer by the word “What else can you tell me about these young upstarts? Why do you think they are getting in my way?”

Seeming to suck on one of his brownish teeth, Malvern dug around among his assembled facts and rumours “Like I stated earlier sire, the leader among these young knights seemed to be this Sir Cadry and the other three seemed to mostly follow his leadership. He is some unwashed, pagan, forest lord from the forest of Gloom, from a place called Tisbury. It is said that he deals with sorcerers and druids and such strange folk. Son of a warrior named Cadwallon I have been told.”

Before Malvern could go on, Blains interjected “He is a son of one of the so called Bannermen?”
The servant looked concerned and answered “I believe they all are sons of the so called Bannermen.”

A silence settled over the hall as Sir Blains seemed to consider this new fact but after a few minutes he spoke once again “Very well, find out more about them. We shall chip away at Rodericks court and weaken them by dividing them. Find out Sir Cadry’s weaknesses and desires and then we shall turn them against him. Also find out if any of his friends are amendable to bribes or other methods of coercion. Now leave me alone and get to work.”

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Not of this world
Winter 483

Flower_not_of_this_world__1_.png

Uriens frail body was hidden within layers and layers of furs and blankets, with only his grim face laying bare. As he had grown sicker Maelgwyn had decided to move him permanently into the great hall of Chillmark were he hoped the warmth could perhaps remedy what the healers could not. But it seemed to be in vain. Every day the old man grew weaker and smaller within the mound of textiles, shrinking with each wheezing breath and bloody cough. But even as he lay dying he insisted on the young lord spending a few hours with him each day. There was little more that Urien could teach him of the Lord so instead they spent the hours talking; Maelgwyn finding comfort in the old man’s clear council to some of his newfound problems.

’’Maid Sîan would make a good wife… maybe she could finally make this place bearable!’’ Urien muttered and glanced around the dusty main hall and gave a sour look to a busy handmaid. Marriage did not appeal to Maelgwyn as much as it perhaps should but he knew it was his duty, especially since the funds Sîan would bring could benefit the Tarren’s greatly. He had met Maid Sîan briefly several times but as tradition decreed he had never spoken to her. It felt strange that most things he knew about his bride to be came from her father or hearsay. But she seemed to be a pleasant girl; calm, spiritual and speaking with a soft melodious voice. He didn’t feel at ease around her, not that he felt at ease around any woman, but he nourished a small hope in his chest that he would, perhaps, one day do.

’’She has other suitors, teacher. Her father has decreed that whoever proves his devotion to her shall be her husband. ’’

‘’That prideful bastard! You would make…’’ Urien’s voice trailed off, he was becoming more and more sentimental as his health slowly veined but he still seemed determined to never outright praise anything.
‘’You’re the best suitor she could get is what I meant to say. Satan’s piss, you were raised by me!’’ The outburst left the old man coughing violently and as Maelgwyn gently cleaned of the blood and the phlegm from his wrinkly chin Urien lowered his voice.

”I’m done in this world, my lord. My duty here is done… there is no place for me here anymore.” Maelgwyn shook his head.

”Others have survived the Hillfort Cough, some of them even older than you.” Urien smiled meekly and lay quiet. They both knew that the Urien’s time in this world would soon be over; whatever was growing in his narrow chest would be the end him. It was also clear that the rest of the household was, more or less, secretly anticipating the chaplain’s demise. There would be few tears shed on his funeral.

”If I don’t get better I’ve sent for my son to replace me… at least the little runt can try!” Urien had seldom spoke about his private affairs and most were baffled that a woman had endured his company long enough to sire a son. But a son he had sired, hidden away in some far of cloister to be found and dusted off when duty called.

”No one could rightly replace you, teacher” Urien scoffed weakly and propped himself up on his many pillows, ignoring the young lords compliment.

”I’ve raised you well son… But a lord always needs his advisors and cohorts; he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise…’’

‘’The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, proverbs 12:15.’’ Maelgwyn reached over and grabbed his teacher’s hand, the delicate bones sharp underneath the taunt skin. This man had been the closest thing he ever had to a father and even after all the hardship and cruel words the young lord felt sorrow. For Maelgwyn this was the first time he really felt the incalculable emptiness one feels when loosing those close to you; the inescapable knowledge that a part of him would soon be gone, never to be properly replaced. Urien flinched lightly from his touch, not used to any human touching him and even less used to someone touching him with tenderness. Urien was used to rocks and spite but he could not handle love.

‘’As I said: I’ve taught you well. Besides: when I pass on it won’t be the end. I will sit on our heavenly father’s side and wait for you. That is the gift we receive for our devotion, Maelgwyn, a gift not of this world. And when you get up there you better be behaving! Go now… I need to rest.’’

Maelgwyns mind was in turmoil. Urien was dying and then he would be all alone. As he walked through the wooden halls of his ancestral home his eyes started to see new things: the maltreated inner beams, the servants who seemed to be doing nothing of use and thousands of thousands other neglected details and chores. In that moment he felt like he was trapped underwater, with no help and unable to swim. There was so much that had to be done to Chilmark, things that hadn’t been done in his absence and chores that had been put aside when more pressing matters arose. He needed Maid Sîan, not just her libras but also her council and tenderness. So in his desperate mind he conjured up a plan that he hoped would prove his devotion for her. If he and his friends were heading into the treacherous land of the fay he would bring her a gift not of this world; he would try to bring her a fearie flower…

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To duel for justice
Year 483

To duel for justice

The unsolved issue with Winnifred’s diseased husband had gone on long enough. Doged had read Melkin the letter from the dead man’s family and Melkin had decided to act both for the love he bore for his family but also for justice.

When Winnifred had been widowed last year many a Marwth had called for quick action, to kill the man who had murderer one of their kin’s spouse. Since the man only had been married to a Marwth, Melkin had tried to investigate what action the dead man’s family was planning on taking, before taking action himself. When he had realised that they were planning on no action at all, even though the cruel slaughter of their kin both had been unprovoked and uncalled for, Melkin had taken the matter into his own hands.

He had arrived at court, and decisively demanded justice for his family in front of count Roderick and sheriff Bedwor. He was concise, direct and mostly self-controlled. The knight accused of the crime however was the opposite. Sir Edyin gave Melkin a contemptuous smile as he finished:

“Sir Melkin is simply mistaken, taking a woman’s word over the word of a knight”.

In the end the matter had been put to a duel, as was sir Edyin’s right. Being quite late in the evening though, the duel was put off until the next morning.

“You’re doing the right thing,” said sir Leo calmly as he walked Melkin through the halls.

“I’m certain I am,” said Melkin his frustration showing even though he tried to hold it back. “But I think that a man like that shouldn’t be given a second chance to walk free of punishment.”

“The duel will show that he was wrong,” consulted Leo looking to Emogen his wife and Melkin’s sister.

They were worried. Melkin could tell they were.

“There is no worry,” Emogen said. “You’ll make sure that he pays for his crime”.

She put a hand on Melkin’s back, which almost made him shudder. The storm of anger inside him was colliding with the fact that he might die tomorrow.

If the duel had been directly after the trial, Melkin felt he would have drawn his sword with a lot more confidence than he was feeling now. He felt he couldn’t think straight with his brother in law and his sister trying to make him talk, and he was getting more and more nervous. Melkin tried his best not to show this to Leo, thinking that Leo would view it as weakness, and also maybe as a lack of love for his family. But Melkin felt tense and knew it must be showing.

Stepping up the stairs towards Melkin’s room for the night they were met by a proud thin figure calmly waiting by the top.

“Lord Amig,” said Melkin rather surprised to see the lord at the Rock.

“Sir Melkin,” nodded Amig and looked him over. “I was told you have been challenged to a duel.”

“He has,” answered sir Leo without giving Melkin the time to answer, “sir Edyin has opposed the charges against him”.

“Thank you sir Leo,” said Amig. “I would like a couple of words with sir Melkin alone, if you don’t mind”.
Sir Leo nodded, and took Emogen by the arm giving Melkin a last look.

“I’m certain you will win,” he said firmly.

“If you need anything, just tell me will you?” added Emogen worriedly.

They left and Melkin felt relieved. Turning towards Amig he said:

“Thank you,” and almost apologised. He had to remind himself that he was no longer Amig’s squire and that he could make up his own decisions in these matters. Instead of talking he fell silent unable to find any appropriate words for the situation.

“Come,” beckoned Amig and turned. “You look nervous.”

“I am,” admitted Melkin not at all surprised that Amig had noticed and it didn’t feel too bad that Amig knew. “From the tales about Sir Edyin I was half expecting a duel but I didn’t think I’d have to wait the night.”

“Well, your opponent sure likes to talk. But it’s only talk,” added Amig, “he is not renown for his skills with a sword.”

“Only talk,” echoed Melkin even though he wasn’t sure he believed it.

Amig studied Melkin as they walked the halls together. “So how does it feel?” he asked after a long silence. "Last time you were involved in a duel your word was defended by lord Elad. Now you will be the one doing the fencing."

“I’m… It’s my duty,” answered Melkin feeling determined, “and I’d rather solve the issue like this than by starting a blood feud.”

“That’s good,” commented Amig looking at him. “And so you are nervous, and you should be,” he said more to himself than Melkin, “as long as it makes you focus.”

Melkin drew a deep breath. He did feel more relaxed, been given some space to think and not being told he would win the fight by family that didn’t necessarily believe it. He stopped and turned towards lord Amig.

“If you have any good advice,” he said more calmly. “I would appreciate it.”

Amig nodded.

“Don’t try to sleep,” he said. “It won’t come, so don’t expect it to.”

“Because I’m nervous,” Melkin concluded a bit dejected.

“Yes,” said Amig bluntly, “but so are all wise men on the night before their first duel”. Amig clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll see you in the morning sir Melkin”.

The night was indeed sleepless, but as the morning came and Deian was putting on his armour, Melkin felt focused. As he stepped into the ring that had been drawn on the grounds he felt his anger flare again, everything but the knight before him disappearing from the scene.

He fought hard, non-defensively taking every chance to strike at his opponent. He barely felt his own injuries. In the end he pounded his own shield and kicked sir Edyin’s feet out from under him, going for the final blow when the knight shouted:

“Yield! Yield!”

Stopping confused by this sudden outcry, the world around Melkin became visible again. He had been aiming for the man’s throat but stopped mid-swing looking at the man’s raised hands. The seconds passed, and Melkin was unable to move.

“Yield,” repeated the fallen knight and Melkin saw that sir Edyin was bleeding from an open wound across his eyebrow.

“Fine,” he said finally and lowered his sword. “Instead of your life, I will have you make things right with my steward. You widowed her, and so you will pay her new dowry and you will make sure that she is wed honourably.”

He slammed the sword back into its sheathe and walked off.

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A history of Anarawd, excerpt Heraldry
Early Period

Anarawd Heraldry

Tudwalls’ “A history of the Anarawd”, Excerpt ‘Heraldry’

The Anarawd heraldry is remarkable in that it is not based in deep history, legend or family roots shrouded in metaphor. That is not to say that is entirely lacks such, but the Anarawd as such are a family borne of consensual union between the Belgae and Durotriges as late as the reign of Magnus Maximus, mid- 4th century.

Indeed, before Edern ap Neillyn the family had no distinguished mark of their own. After the battle of Carlion Edern was given the honour of choosing his own banner as recognition of his deeds. The meaning of that heraldry is a topic of debate among specialized scholars to this day, and several theories are prevalent.

The most popular theory, and one that has been thoroughly debunked by and in the opinion of yours truly, is the so called “spur of the moment” model. Stubborn tales abound of Edern simply describing the first notable things he saw, a long red mantle and four silver clasps strewn about. This seems entirely unlikely. Red was an extremely uncommon colour of the day other than in roman troops, and none such were present in that battle. Furthermore, the odds of four such silver pins laying in close proximity is close to nil. More importantly Edern, in Wirets’ tragedy “The life and sorrow of Elad of the Gweir” Edern, as he trains his young squire and shapes his destiny, is described as a surprisingly thoughtful man, even a philosophical one. This image is further reinforced by accounts from Somerset, then Summerland, of a fantastic storyteller and accomplished envoy. I contend that, unlike the popular image of a brutish warrior borne, Edern was actually an uncommonly intelligent and thoughtful man. Nonsensical and impulsive choice therefore seems a faulty theorem, despite what that overblown windbag Coriseus claims in his “Codex Vitae Britannia”.

Far more likely, in this authors’ humble opinion, is the adopted symbolism theory. Through the Anarawd line runs clear foundations, notions and events that shape the very core of that noble house. Firstly, the red colour represents blood and classically love, both of which shaped the family into what it became. The love story of Neillyn and Anna should be familiar to most scholars of the subject. Blood, through the fighting where Edern won his family status, and which flows in their own veins. The clasps are the ties between concepts that bind the blood together. Anna and Neillyn are the first two pins, the founders improbably love, echoed in heraldry as the love that always bound each generation to the next and to other kindred souls. Another pin is the close ties and love the Anarawd always held for the common men, accounts of their largesse and cooperation survive to this day. The last is the heartblade, even if it never existed it is clear that the Anarawds of the day believed it did, and that was enough. The story of that blade, and its ties to the family, make clear its integral connection to the core foundations of the Anarawd, but thst tale will not be recounted here. Reccomended reading on the subject would be Baranads more critical accounting “The heart blade, a metaphor of the Anarawd”

The honour gift theory, the least supported of the three, holds that Edern received four silver pins and a honorary red cloak from emperor Contantine himself after the battle, and modelled his banner after that in gratitude. Not only is Edern not commonly described wearing such, which would otherwise surely be the case, but the other heroes of that day are not reported to have been given such gifts. As magnanimous a man as Constantine was, they surely would have.

A further point of contention, which I now aim to put to rest, is the thorny pins problem. Yes there were four pins, not three. Sometime after the death of Edern during the night of long knives, in the long interim where Britain lay in chaos and war raged between the returning Aurelius, the Saxons and Vortigern the Usurper, one pin vanished from the Anarawd heraldry. When Gamond Ap Edern received his shield at his knighting by Count Roderick in 482, heraldry given by leave of Uther himself as payment for old services, only three pins were emblazoned upon the red.

Whether this is simply an omission by accident – the royal herald having only heard of the shield and forgetting the fourth pin – an omission by style, – a judgement made by aesthetic necessity due to the new shape of shields introduced by this time -, or a deeper issue of moral or metaphorical foundation is the further subject of this treatise.


Pages missing - refer archive #40B35C97
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A winter and a Day
Winter 483

A winter and a Day

Meneri cried all the time. Whenever he saw her, her eyes filled with water and her lower lip trembled. Her crying turned her scars an ugly inflamed red. He didn’t know what to do. Did the woman actually want to miscarry and become barren? He tried his best, spoke what he thought was comforting words, hugged her under the furs at night, saw to it that her needs were met as far as he could understand them.

When it became unbearable he fled to Ludwell village, to Anwyn. With her that heavy stone in his stomach seemed to vanish. Except that she, too, was damned irritable of late. Her playful teasing had turned to stinging barbs that dug into his self-esteem. But mostly being with her was the best he’d ever felt.

He felt perpetually confused, torn this way and that by these two women he suddenly had to share his life with. He also felt guilty, like a failure, for not being able to secure the Anarawd legacy, for not being able to show neither his wife nor the love of his heart the physical affection that was proper. He wasn’t even sure what they wanted from him, or what was expected of him as a husband or lover.

That latter part was a mire of perplexion and insecurity. Fortunately, as the winter nights turned long and cold and sent them to their furs earlier each evening, Anwyns impatience turned to initiative and invention. It turned out that there were many ways to please a woman that had nothing to do with begetting children. He had no idea where she had learned of such things, but was happy that she had. Gamond had always heard other men speak of the conquest of women, a subject of endless bragging and fascination for most, and one that he had always found utterly incomprehensible. The thought of most of the acts his peers at Vagon had described at lurid length during his time as a squire had seemed nonsensical and had held no allure for him. Until now, until Anwyn. He suddenly understood, and wanted it. More embarrassing was that his wife aroused no such interest in him, none.

Desperation at her silent accusations and fruitless attempts to elicit such reactions from him drove Gamond to try some of the tricks he’d learned. Though Meneri was hesitant and dismissive at first, as the months dragged on she, too, found release in his company. That was worth the physical chore, as interesting to him as digging ditches or running errands as a squire. Feigning interest and involvement became easier and easier.

Harder to reconcile was the awkward silences around his wife compared to the lively discussions and heartfelt companionship between him and Anwyn. That would take work.

As spring slowly loosened the grip winter held on Ludwell, Gamond began to train Anwyn in earnest. A winter of good and plentiful food, long runs in the snow and wrestling had hardened them both, but had done wonders for her. She no longer ate like a starving wolf, but as a woman who pushed herself to the limits of her endurance daily.

They had a sparring circle cleared of snow every morning, and fought for two hours a day as the snow fell anew, melted, returned, gave way to sucking mud and finally dried, giving way to the green sprouts of spring.

As the horses were let into the fields, stretching their legs and prancing out to freedom, Gamond took Anwyn to watch them run. When he gave her a saddle, laughing at her girlish delight at the surprise, and smiling watched her care for her new horse for the first time, he felt truly happy. She called it Longshanks.


He circled left around the practice ring, turning to angle his shield at her. She’d gotten much better at covering for his advantage in reach, tucking her body behind her shield and moving in unpredictable patterns. Still, her position was a difficult one. The crown of her head barely crested his sternum, and such reach was extremely difficult to overcome. Whenever she stepped close, she had to be ready to be struck well before she ever had the chance to strike a blow.

He was watching her too closely. That was dangerous, it was easy to be distracted by her. She shifted her weight to her forward foot, telegraphing her step, and lunged. His blade struck her shield, and though he always held back, it was enough to stagger her and throw her off her mark. Her practice ladle glanced off his shield, and he twisted his body so she stumbled past him, delivering a stinging blow to the back of her rump with the flat of his blade. She yelled, annoyed and hurt, and spun to face him, furious.
He laughed, stuck out his tongue at her. “What, the princess can’t take a hit?”

Her fury shifted to mirth, and she grinned, rubbing her backside with the back of her hand. “You just wait, I’ll paddle your backside later”

He was a confused, frowning. She wouldn’t do that, would she? Oh, he’d dropped his guard, thinking, cursed woman! Her ladle flashed in past his dropped shield, and he stumbled back with bruised ribs. Sneaky she-wolf. She was smirking at him. Smirking! The nerve of that girl!

They started circling again. “When we go to Sarum for Easter, will you come?”

She watched him with her odd eyes, he could almost never tell what she was thinking. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, will you ride with me? With us?”

“To the city? I.,. yes!” She laughed suddenly, delight in the curve of her mouth. Then a sharp twist downwards “What about your wife?”

He sighed, shaking his head “She’ll manage. We’ll manage. We’ll just have to respect her sensibilities as far as possible whenever she is around. She knows already, she has to, but she’s never said anything. ”

She thought it over for several exchanges, blows ringing off shields, feet shifting. Gamond stepped back, lowered his weapons as a gesture of peace, and she did the same. He walked to her, hugging her close. “Both our lives are given to war and death. One or both of us could die at any time, and we probably won’t grow old. I want to spend what time I have with you, as much as I can. Will you share my life with me?”

She looked up at him, tilting her chin in that adorable way of hers. He thought her eyes might be wet, but he wasn’t sure. “Yes”.

He smiled and kissed her. “You’re good, much better than you were.”

She snorted and gave his ribs a sharp jab with her fist, right where she bruised him before. He grunted. “I’m ready”. “No” he said “You’re not. Promise me you will choose your fights with care and not throw yourself into danger recklessly until I say you’re ready?”

She nodded, and they stayed in that close embrace for a time enjoying each other’s company.

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The Wolf and the Giant
Autumn 482

Battle_forest.png
‘’ Bledri! Bledri! Bledri!’’ The chanting echoed through the thick forest and in the quiet darkness the twenty men sounded louder than an army. Camp had been struck a few miles from the smoldering ruins of the farm and in the cover of the ageing trees a small feast had commenced. Most of them had eaten more this evening than they had in months and the stolen barrels of ale had them shouting and laughing throughout the primitive celebration.

”Alright, alright! I will tell you the story again!” As the men cheered around him Bledri climb, as best he could, on top of one of the stolen barrels and cleared his massive throat. He held up his hands to settle down the shouting raiders and in feigned modesty he took a few moments to recollect his battle with the gigantic knight. Truth be told he had recounted the battle so many times that he could now give an admirable performance even when he was fast asleep. But the men loved the showmanship; every time there were new flourishes and details and while the older members enjoyed the story from recognition the new raiders still marveled at the feat of their new leader. Bledri was perhaps not the sharpest of men but within his thick skull the mind of a storyteller sometimes reared its head.

”We had just raided a farm near Karic, reliving the poor folks of some unwanted food and mead.” A roar rose from the surrounding raiders as Bledri on unsteady legs raised his cup and drank deeply.

”We were on our guard as we traveled along the hidden roads… for we had just bested another knight!” The roars and cheers echoed in the night and Bledri had to raise his hands again.

”So me and my brother decided to travel carefully. I remember that we all were on edge despite our victory … you see we were not as great a band back then but by God could we fight!” the older members now shouted the loudest, their cups brimming with ale and their hearts brimming with illwon pride.

”So when the bastards came we were ready! They charged at us from the woods and thundering down the muddy road He came… The Giant Knight! He was almost as large as two men and I knew that even my stalwart brothers would tremble if they were forced to face him…” The camp grew quiet as Bledris tale held the hearts of the raiders. The short paus felt like an eternity in the dark forest and for the first time in hours the crackling of the fires and the whisper of the wind could be heard.

”I cut down the petty man who had attacked me and turned towards the knight… digging down my soles and raising my shield. I slammed my sword three times against it, making sure that the bastard knew that if he wanted to fight my brothers he would have to go through me.” The new members flinched as Bledri stomped three times on the empty barrel.

”His first charge splintered my shield, and let it be known that I’ve never felt such a force before or since! The second time he came I dove aside, the tip of the spear almost ripping my arm off! I knew I had to do something, and quick. My shield and sword was useless against his cowardly attacks so I decided to fight him in a way he wasn’t used to: like a man!”
Bledri looked into the focused eyes of the assembled men and licked his dry lips. This was it.

”I threw my sword in the grass, preparing myself… and as he rode towards me I saw him smile; assured that he could easily kill an unarmed man. But he forgot what all lords forget: the bigger you get, the harder you fall. As he came thundering towards me I leapt towards his spear!” The men gasped as Bledri jumped down from the barrel, landing only inches from the nearest ones. Bledri laughed loudly as he grabbed his imaginary opponent’s weapon.

”He was even more surprised than you! With all my strength I pulled the spear downwards, planting its tip in the earth! You should have seen the lord fly! Dumbfounded by my wit and bravery he flew into the ground, flailing like a bug on its back!”
The men were caught in the ecstasy of the story; cheering and shouting, laughing and applauding.

”The lords dogs started to swarm around him like flies around shit and I, with no sword at hand, ordered everyone to take their chance and run. But I swear on my mother’s grave that i heard the giant sob as he lie in the mud! I’m still angry that i didn’t get to send that little lord to his grave but at least I sent him halfway to heaven!”

The drunken feast continued the entire night and as the sun rose only Blego remained awake. His brother was good at telling stories but Blego and the older men knew that it wasn’t all true. The lord had fallen of his horse but it had been as much luck as Bledris doing. Later it had been Blegos idea to sound a retreat, Bledri being content with staying to be cut down when the giant would have gotten up. But as Blego counted the men he didn’t care that his brother once again claimed all the glory for himself. Even though the story was only half true it had attracted even more warriors, enough warriors to make a mark in this world, especially in these dark times.

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The sermon by the empty cave
Autumn 482

The sermon by the empty cave

Maelgwyn rode along the road, westwards of chillmark manor. A band of brigands had ridden past early in the morning just as the sun crested the hills of hillfort hundred, having crossed over from Birchford to the east in the night.

As a consequence, Methin had been roused at an ungodly hour to ready his lords’ arms, armour and horse while the lord himself was at breakfast and prayer. It was all very unfair, as evidenced by his own mostly empty stomach. Maelgwyn himself evidently thought it a stroke of luck that he had been granted furlough at home for early winter, and indeed, he looked grand as he rode clothed in all his newly knighted splendour. Most of that was down to Methins own efforts, the shine on that armour especially. He longed to wear such armour of his own, to ride on grand adventures, such as chasing these common thieves and bringing them to justice!

The band had split, half riding south at the crossroads by Sutton and half continuing west. It was this latter part that they were now pursuing. Maelgwyn had sent his sergeant riding hard with word to the southern Manors, at the very least Gamond would be at Ludwell, having gained his land upon paying the kings’ tax that autumn.

As the outskirts of Modrons’ forest closed in around the road, crowding in by the banks of the Nader River to the south, the hitherto clear trail gradually muddled and became hard to follow. As Methin watched upon his Rouncey, chewing a string of long bladed grass, Maelgwyn rode to and fro for the better part of an hour. Not very knightly, thought Methin. At length Maelgwyn swore and rested his horse, taking a bit to eat. Taking the blade of grass from his mouth, he’d chewed so many by now that his hunger had dulled, Methin suggested;

“P’raps sum ‘elp sire?”

Maelgwyn stated at him for a moment, then nodded. “Go, there will be skilled huntsmen at Tisbury”.

Typical, of course he’d have to do the work while Maelgwyn idled by the road. No doubt he had to prepare to be fit his knightly duties, or some such. Nonetheless, he rode as commanded, west, then south, passing into deeper reaches of Modron. He really didn’t like this place, hailing from open, hilly dovesfield himself. The forest was evil, he could feel it brooding and taking umbrage at his passing. He clung to the road closely, glad for it even as it slowly dwindled to a mere trail, finally revealing Tisbury nestled among the trees. It was no mean feat to persuade Old Cerys to part with her Huntsman for a day, worthy of a song at least, for old Corwyn was bedridden and Cadry still in service at Sarum.
Victorious Methin returned to the road, but received scant recognition for his deeds. The huntsman, a tongue tied fellow who communicated mostly in grunts and gestures with his chin quickly found the trail, but was under orders to return as soon as possible and could not accompany them into the northern outskirts of Modron, whence the trail led.

They rode in among the trees, thankfully of a sparser and less foreboding variety, following the trail pointed out to them. It was clear now, then most things were once they were pointed out, weren’t they?
The trail at length led them to an overgrown hillock, partly buried in a gully and covered on this side in mossy stone. A cave, the bandits had taken refuge in a cave.

“Hah, Bandits, they’ve trapped themselves!” jeered Maelgwyn.

Melthin wasn’t so sure. Surely they weren’t that stupid? But, perhaps they were.

“Well, let’s finish this” said Maelgwyn decisively, dismounting and gesturing for his arms. Melthin too, dismounted and carried them to him. “’ere y go sire, mind the strap, aye, wunt ‘t spear sire?”
_
“A knight wields a sword Melthin, the spear is for the horse!”_

“Yes sire”.

Maelwgyn stamped off, leaving deep impressions in the soft ground and vanishing into the cave. The opening was barely broad enough to accommodate him, and Melthin wondered how he was going to swing that sword and use the shield effectively at the same time. He even enacted a possible tactic, trying to hold one of his lords’ shield in front and stabbing from above, the side and underneath with his own sword a couple of times. He frowned, trying to judge the height of the cave. It would probably be difficult.

“You there! Come out, give up and I’ll be merciful!” Maelgwyns voice rang strangely out of the cave, distorted by stone and distance. Melthin snorted. Merciful, not likely. Not with that hideous tree for all to see on chillmark.

The sound of weapons clashing echoed hollowly from a distance. A yell. More ruckus. Melthin pumped a fist in the air, imagining Maelgwyn improbably scything through bandits left and right in his shining chainmail.

What stumbled from the cave mouth was very different. The armour was dirty, two hours work at least by the look of it, and Maelgwyn bled from wound on the thigh. “Bastards” he swore.

“No luck sire?”

Maelgwyn stared at him for a long moment “No. They’re using long spears at a narrow point while they’re standing in an open cave. Bloody unsporting”.

Melthin thought it sounded like a pretty good idea on their part, but said nothing of it. “Whut now sire?”

Maelwgyn stared at the cave mouth, clearly frustrated. “Prayer Melthin, when in doubt, pray on it.”

Maelgwyn went to his knees before the cave and started loudly exclamating passages from the holy book. The theme was obvious, eternal damnation for unrepentant sinners, and salvations for those who repented and humbled themselves before the lord. Melthin, for his part, chewed hard waybread and drank water, listening with half an ear. He very much doubted the bandits were keen on repentance, seeing as such would likely come at the end of a noose. They most definitely wasn’t humble, for his lords’ efforts were regularly interrupted by rude noises, jeers and catcalls.

The praying went on for some time, his Lord Maelgwyn was nothing if not stubborn.
At length even his patience waned, and he stood with a curse. “Right. Those bastards will regret slandering the Lord! Melthin, gather firewood, wet firewood!”

“Wet m’lord?”

“Yes, wet, we want lots of smoke”

Melthin, regardless of what he thought of the matter, did as he was bid. Oh the glorious work of the squire, gathering wet branches, but not too wet, battling stinging nettles and whiplash branches.
Eventually they had an impressive heap of damp firewood with a centre of dry kindling. It took some doing, but after some trying it lit and started smoking fiercely. “Hah” sneered Maelgwyn “That shut them up. Let them choke, or come running to face justice”. Indeed, the bandits had been quiet for some time.

They waited, and waited. Smoke flowed freely into the cave. And, noticed Melthin, emerged in a now visible pillar of black against the late afternoon sky just beyond the hillock. “Erm, sire?”

Maelgwyn tore his eyes from the cave opening, as if had been expecting the bandits to come stumbling at any moment, and followed his squires extended finger. He swore.

As evening fell the fire died down. The cave was, indeed, empty. They had found the back way the bandits had used some time earlier, but had to make sure. As they rode home Melthin could not but comment “t’least they was told of Christ sire”.

Maelgwyn glowered at him, and said not a word during the ride home.

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The first winter
Winter 482

Winter

As the first snow fell over Hindon during the last month of year 482, Melkin was faced with a family related dilemma. Winnifred, the second daughter of Victus, had been widowed and needed a new home and a purpose. Knowing now that his decisions could have a great impact family relations, and that he should not pretend to know how to handle these issues, Melkin consulted his chaplain Doged about the matter. Since Melkin had not yet been granted the right to court, and as of such either had to hire a steward or let a relative take the responsibility, Doged suggested that Winnifred could be of good service at Hindon. He commented that having taken 10 libra out of the family treasure to pay of the tax, Melkin had to think about his expenses, and also reflect on ways to make investments for the future so that the debt could be repaid.

“The Mawrth women are known to be good stewards,” commented Doged. “She can contribute with her experiences like her father does with the horses”.

“And it would make Victus happy to see his grand children,” argued Melkin and thought of the former knight whom he had found a great liking for.

Doged nodded: “That is also true, and eventually the two boys can help him out in the stables”.

Having been a knight himself, Victus had been put in charge of the horses at Hindon. A valued position, which he took with great care, mostly by telling his helpers exactly what to do and how to do it while sitting on a stool next to the paddock or horseboxes. His grandchildren now five and two years old would in a couple of years be able to start learning the trade, something Melkin was sure that Victus would teach them himself.

Thus it happened that Melkin’s five years older second cousin and her two young sons were placed at Hindon.

Later the same winter Melkin travelled to Sarum to give count Roderick his advice about the three maids that visited the Rock in the summer before. Asking count Roderick about his thoughts about maid Rosalyn, Melkin realised that the count did not have any more information that himself and of why her father, count Edaris, seemed to be so eager to marry her off to count Roderick. Melkin thought for a moment and his own troubles with maid Aneria came to his mind as he gave his advice:

“My advice, my count, would in that case be to act carefully around maid Rosalyn. To marry a girl that her father seems too eager to marry off seems somewhat strange since she, as you have said appear only to have good qualities. Her father is known to be a vengeful family-man, which I would say complicates the matter. Also he is known for his skill in courtesy, which would mean that he knows the politics around these arrangements very well. He is seeing an opportunity with the potential marriage that for some reason has to be taken quickly. It would be something that might gain him greatly and that we are not aware of, and if it somehow would be deleterious for you my count, it would be hidden within his courtesy.”

Melkin stopped for a moment, and thought that he probably was way out of his league. What did he know about girls anyway? Nothing really, and he had messed up around them a lot. Even so he continued. It was his duty to give his count the best advice he could, and he was one of the few who had actually met the girls.

“The better match, if I might be so bold, would be to suggest maid Ellen”, he said carefully. “She might not be the most beautiful of the girls, but her character and also her heritage are the strongest in my perspective. Despite her young age she… has wisdom and grace to her that catch most mens attention. Your lady wife should also be your advisor, my count, and maid Ellen could over the years become a valuable one”.

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