Campaign of the Month: August 2016

Oath of Crows

Dealing with it
Year 499

Dealing_with_it.png

Grave injury is a pestis. I don’t understand how my brother could have carried all those scars that the tales tell of and still never have uttered a word of complaint. After that peasant stabbed me in the back I can no longer straighten my back to its full length. I look like an old man going around Hindon, but then again maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe people will finally start believing that I am how I say I am.

My sister has had a change of heart, at least to some extent. She invited me to her oldest daughter’s wedding this autumn. A grand festivity though the toll taken on even the Mayfair family showed on the feast table. The young couple looked happy though. Lady Eirwyn and sir Eltut seem fond of each other which I would consider a good sign. Supera tells me that my nephew has had a hand in marrying off his cousin to his lord’s youngest brother. If so lord Deian must be fond of the boy.

My sister and I did manage to talk things over a bit, and even though I can see her reluctance, I know that she no longer can ignore who I am. I think that both sir Leo and sir Cadry might have put in a good word here and there. I am glad that she is coming around even though she’s taken her good time to do it. Women can indeed be quite stubborn.

After that I spent a couple of weeks at Lady Ellen’s court. Engaging in speculations about philosophy and law. Lady Ellen asked me to recite some words on diplomacy and so I told her a quote of Cicero’s: “The rule of friendship means there should be mutual sympathy between them, each supplying what the other lacks and trying to benefit the other, always using friendly and sincere words.” I understand it struck a note with her, and I am all too glad too quote the great roman’s to complain.

Later, during the winter, one of Melkin’s twins took ill. I took some time to sit at her bedside. It seems to me like my wife is too lazy and lady Nest too unconcerned for the girl’s well being. However uncaring the two grown women in this family seem to be, the young Ennys is always at her twin’s side.

Looking at them, one sleeping anxiously, one huddled up by the side of the bed, I felt something stir inside me. And so, I started to remember. Piece by piece, bit by bit, I remembered an early spring years ago as two boys trained with too large armours and too long swords. I started to remember things stored away far in the back of my mind. Now the first time in 35 years I can recall the death of my own twin as he tossed and turned in agony as the fewer killed him. It is not a happy memory, but at least it is a memory.

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A delicious rabbit
499

A delicious rabbit

He rode south through Anna’s Water hundred. Behind him, the smoke of long siege still curled into the sky, a haze against the setting sun. It would be dark soon, but with luck he would reach the road to Levcomagus and Silchester before he could no longer see the ground under Handsomes’ hooves. The horse was hideous, and none too well fed, and as such the name fit well enough.

He had made camp by the road as full night crept up all around. A small fire danced inside a crude ring of stone, a rabbit skewed upon a rack of sticks. Cynyr felt numb, and not only from bone deep weariness. For seventeen years he had served the Lord of Llud’s hall. Some of those he did not remember, lost in a vague blur of emotion and impression, and the care of the monks at Ambrius abbey. Now that was done. Three long weeks of Siege, of waiting, of starving, of thirst and battle. Three times the invaders had stormed the walls, and three times he had stood to defend them. At the last they had been overrun, too weak with deprivation to drive the enemy off the ramparts. For a moment in the din of fighting he had seen a large man step onto the walls, towering above most who stood around him. For long heartbeats he had thought he had seen his Brother. But no, his brother was dead. The large man had thrown Kirn off the wall and run Makin through. Neither would play dice or laugh through long nights ever again.

The Rabbit smelled delicious, and either that or his fire drew attention. Someone was moving out there, in the dark. Cynyr took his sheathed sword and lay it in his lap, waiting. He had asked and received permission to travel Annas Water, but in these times one could never be too cautious.

Into the circle of light cast by his fire came faces more ragged and worn with loss than his own. Hunger gleamed in their eyes. A child hiding neath torn skirts gave a sound like a starving wolf, staring at the rabbit. Carefully he reached out, taking the stick with the meat. His stomach ached with hunger. Slowly, he bit into it, lips and tongue stung by heat and sizzling juices. Wiping the fat from his chin, he spoke “What do you want?”.

An elderly man, dressed in what had once been the fine clothes of a merchant emerged from the group “Good sir, please, do you have any food?

Cynyr hooked the nearby saddle and sack of provisions he had bought with his foot and drew them close. “I have nothing to give you”.

The man looked at his sack, then the rabbit, and finally at the sword across his thighs. “Where, good sir, are you heading?

East, through Silchester, then home to Caercoloun. What business is it of yours?

I have information sir, news you will have a use for. If but you had something to ease the little ones hunger…?

Cynyr thought for long moments, inwardly counting and measuring his provisions and what little coin he had left from seventeen years savings after aquiring horse and travelling gear. It had been his slim fortune that Sir Richard had been an uncommonly decent man, releasing all who served Sheriff Bedwor once that fateful duel was done. He had enough to last to Caercoloun, barely, with two loaves to spare.

Retrieving two small hard loaves of bread he tossed them to the small gathering. They were snatched, and devoured on the spot. The former merchant wanted one, wanted it badly, but did not partake. The children ate, and some of the women. The men stared at their feet.

Thank you good sir. Thank you.

You had information?

Yes Sir. Caercoloun has fallen. More Saxon came over the sea, it is overrun.

He felt like throwing up. First Lluds hall, now the only other family he had truly known. It was all gone. He forced words past teeth that would not unclench.

Thank you. A day or two ahorse down this road lies Sarum, and north of that on the road to the standing stones is Amesbury abbey. Perhaps one or the other will give you succor. You are welcome to camp nearby and accompany me to Sarum on the morning

Perhaps lady Ellen would have use for an experienced swordhand, or else sir Cador could use another man in his band. Good man or not, he could not stomach serving the man who had taken his Lords’ castle. There was nothing in the east for him now. Life had to go on. Despite all he had lost, the rabbit was still delicious.

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The child and the giant's promise
Winter 499

The unknown child and the giant's promise

Boat journeys always unsettle me. There is nothing to do, nowhere to go, no proper land underneath your feet. There is something decidedly wrong with sailors. No sane man would ever choose to live most of his presumably short life on the seas.

Unfortunately, there is no Merlin around to send me back from Eire this time around. On the other hand, I lost almost half a year the last time that happened. Would have been worth it though to not have to get on a boat for the second time in two months. Oceans are even worse during winter time too. Hopefully I will never have to return to the green isle in this life. Too bad the romans didn’t build a bridge. Would have been a lot better to ride there.

At least not everything was bad in Eire. The king of Lein wasn’t at home. Apparently, he had taken our advice and had gone raiding in Cornwall. His queen welcomed me and I spent a few nights at their home, trying to find a guide to help me locate Himlingslevah, the giant. The last night I spent in the king’s home one of his younger daughters sought me out. I had been sleepless for several nights and something had seemed wrong. Her name was Brigid and unlike he sisters, she was a wild thing that made up her own mind and didn’t respect her parent’s wishes and god. She spoke sweet things to me in the night and she lay with me. She said that she wanted to make her own way in this world. She left me before the sun rose and I didn’t see her before I left later during that day.

Eire is a strange place. I never thought I would have a remotely peaceful conversation with a giant even once, much less twice. I returned the giant blade to him and he walked down to the ocean and threw it in. I could swear that I saw a hand reach up from the waves and catch the sword. The giant said that allies of the giant king would bring it back to where it belongs. Part of me is glad to be rid of the blade, getting rid of the weight. Somehow the blade has seemed heavier on the journey to the giant. Another part of me however mostly feels glee at the prospect that the sword is out of reach of Saexwolf forever.

The giant offered me a reward for the return of the blade. Many things crawled through my mind, trying to get my attention; send the giant to kill and eat the fenris, send him to rescue my daughter, giving me a fortune. All these things seemed like good things to ask for but suddenly something came over me. Some other voice spoke through my mouth. The voice asked for a weapon in return for the blade that was given. A blade that would be the bane of my family’s enemies. Something told me that my descendants would need it in the future. The giant questioned if I was strong and worthy enough to wield a weapon forged in Jotunheim. I ascertain that I was and he told me that when I or one of my descendants had found out the truth of the Iron Crown and understood my family’s legacy I should seek out the halls of the giant king but not before. On that day, I will wield a weapon such as has never been carried by any of my ancestors.

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Lord Gwynn
499

Lord Gwynn

‘’Even though it grieves us to loose such a close kin I believe Wyned died as all Tarrens wish to die: Serving their lord.’’

Padger’s voice rang loudly among the gathered men and women yet I know he’s barely keeping his eyes dry. Now and then his voice grows thick and his eyes glaze over. They all loved the little bastard, some even say my own father saw him more like a son than a ward. In my mind he was as far removed from me as the beast are from men. Whatever Tarren blood had ran in the veins of the little runt must have been diluted to nothingness. Whenever he saw a naked blade he would flinch or edge away like some cowardly animal and the time he scraped up his knee on the rocks in the river he had almost fainted at the sight of his own blood. Never have I met a boy so close to tears and fright in my entire life. Padger speaks the final words of the sentimental eulogy and with solemn movements the assembled knights lift the boy’s body unto the Aegis. My blood boil. Such an honour bestowed upon that foolish bastard! Such insolence towards my absent father! That this weak thing is bestown the same honour as my ancestors just because he died sobbing in battle. When my day come there will be changes; order and dignity once more.

Standing by the opened crypt of my forefathers I turn my gaze toward my brothers and sisters as the lineage men carry the bastard towards his final resting place. Athena and Ariana squeeze each other’s hands as they clumsily try to hide their crimson cheeks and red rimmed eyes, whispering half-heard condolences to each other. Mair is clutching on to Sister Abigail whose dull eyes seems to have ran out of tears. The others are too young to understand what is happening but the infants feel that there’s something wrong today, writhing and crying in the arms of their wet nurses and caretakers. Breichan is the only one who composes himself with any dignity. Hands clutched by his sides and his eyes thousands of miles away. He remains my only rival. Years of running and playing with his other half has turned him brawny and after the loss of Bradwen his brow has become inquisitive. A dangerous rival perhaps. Alone among my siblings he carries the crown I perceive atop my father’s head. A crown invisible to every eye but that can be seen even by the blind; the crown beyond price that speak of manifest destiny and that makes weak men brave. He will have to be dealt with. Perhaps Dion will carry the same crown but by the time he is old enough to hold a sword I should have no reason to fear him.

Sweating and grumbling from the weight the lineage men labour until the boulder finally rolls into place with an earthshaking thud. In the dark, nestled close to forefathers he never knew, Wyned finally finds peace. Family and friends gather in the stone hall of Chillmark to toast and remember a fallen boy who died far from home for a cause he hardly knew or understood. Sitting among others, yet in solitude, a proud young boy dreams about glory and power.

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The Fall of Llud's Hall
499

The Fall of Llud's Hall

And so comes a dull dawn, a stifling late summers morning, red as blood, warm as hate, with a sad drizzle, as if the world made ready to wash away the sins that are soon to be committed. “Thou shall not slay”, sayeth the Bible, but in the trenches around Llud’s Hall the knights and men-at-arms are all ready to break the commandments of God, most of them for gold, but one of them for the love of a father.

A brazen trumpet blares in the leaden silence, and then they are off, crawling over the no-mans-land like armoured ants, rushing over the flotslam and jetslam of the previous two assaults: broken ladders, broken arrows, broken bodies. It is nothing to them, their blood is up, Sir Richard has promised them gold and riches if the castle falls, and fall it must: a simple Sheriff cannot stand against the might of Sir Richard and Duke Ulfius forever, and that Countess of Salisbury has not stirred to stop them. This time, surely, Sheriff Bedwor will give up the castle.

Arrows. No, he will not. Javelins, no, he is brave, foolhardy, that Sheriff. And men fall, hope flounders in the mud, but the fire is not as hot as the last time: the well has been sabotaged by some strange cunning or devilish magic of the Duke, and the men on the parapet have been drinking rain water and animal blood for days. They are weak.

The iron tide reaches the wall, scaling ladders rise, the ants start their climb as Sir Rirchard’s archers give them covering fire form their mobile walls. The first one goes down, the second goes down, and then there are men on the ramparts, a large knight with a puce shield foremost amongst them, clearing a space for more ladders. The defenders buckle, breaks. Those that have a ransom to their names surrender, the rest flee or dies. Llud’s Castle is cracked open at last.

But they cannot take the inner bailey. The Duke is furious, bellows left and right, Sir Richard is grim, gives calm orders: no plunder, no rape, you will all be rewarded, put out that fire. Then he takes them by utter suprise, Lord Bedwor. A duel! He challenges Sir Richard on a duel. His life and the gold if he wins? The men are laughing at such sentimentality, but not Sir Richard. He has been an Uther fan-boy all his life. “Yes, I accept your terms.”

The men are extatic, who could have hoped for that? Their battle is over. Instead of another costly assault, they can stand back and watch the old goats bleed. (Not the Duke, of course, he would never indulge in this way). They know each other well, these two, whom both has served good King Uther all their adult life. They have fought each other before, more than once, and the knights and soldiers try to reminisce: which of them won, which lost?

Sir Richard is the older, but haler and sharper; he soon has Sir Bedwor on the ground, bleeding profusely from a wound in his right arm. The sheriff yields! And Sir Richard nods, and helps Sir Bedwor to his feet. There are over a hundred knights here, and most of them are in awe of Sir Richard who has proved that he is both strong and honorable. The gold is his – and the castle, they say, shall go to the damn Duke, who always gets what he wants in the end.

Sir Richard is enjoying himself enormously; he knows that what he has done here today in front of hundreds of warriors will be retold countless times in these lands from now til long after he is dead. In the midst of all this celebration, the crowd around him splits up and out in front of him comes a large knight spattered in blood-with a puce cloth over his face. He is dragging a stinking old man in rags with him.

The two of them, Sir Richard and The Puce Knight, eyes each other warily for two or three heartbeats. Then speaks the one with a cloth over his face: “This is my man, Sir! This is my price.” He almost lifts his prize of the ground to make his point. Sir Richard looks at the old wreck; there are remains of muscles here and there, and white scars show through the rags. He may be beaten now, but once this was a warrior. Who is it? No matter! He has promised the knight in disguise the right to take one man from the pens as thanks for his service in the storming, and he is an honorable man. “You can take you price and leave, my good Sir.” The good Sir nods, and then he is off with his prisoner, who seems resigned to his fate.

Later, he asks the Duke. The Duke has spies everywhere, and he can tell that the old man was one Tudwal, once a knight out of Hillsfort hundred, accused of forging the King’s Seal. And The Puce Knight? A relative, surley, who else would serve three weeks in a seige for an usless old man? Sir Richard agrees, yes, that must be it. Such a strange tale. Oh well, he has coins to count.

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The missing knights
498

Amig

”Have a seat Yraen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amig smiled sadly when he replied

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

Uncharacteristically Yraen interrupted his master mid-sentence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yraen looked confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alea iacta est
year 498

Alea_iacta_est.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brynach eyed me.

“What do you tell him?” he asked.

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

”Cicero?”

”Socrates.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t be, it was a good game.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mingling bloodlines
AD 498

Tienyn

Where the devil was that boy?

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

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

All that winter, she was slowly devoured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hard Justice
AD 497

Hard Justice

“My Lord!”

“And whom might you be, boy?”

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

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

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

“He is here, yes. What about it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ehm … well, yes, yes, I do, Sir!”

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

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

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


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

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

“Nooo! Sir! That is not right!”

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

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

“Mabsant! You job was to spy!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twilight of the Anarawd
AD 497

Twilight of the Anarawd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how to do so?

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

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

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

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

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