Campaign of the Month: August 2016

Oath of Crows

The severed heads
Winter 487

The severed heads

At the winter court of Count Roderick in Sarum the usual peace and quiet was interrupted when one of the more prominent servants of the court rushed in to announce that Sir Cadry of Tisbury had arrived, just a few steps ahead of the aforementioned knight.

Some had speculated on why Sir Cadry hadn’t arrived in the company of Sir Melkin like he usually did when it was time for court. Only lady Brangwen had arrived from Tisbury manor and she had no explanation for why her husband was missing. Surely those bent towards gossip got something new to talk about when Sir Cadry marched in, dressed not in finery, but rather in an huntsman’s armor. With him he was carrying a sack and the more perceptive among the gathered noblemen could note that the burlap was stained red with what could only be blood.

The Count, being used to being obeyed, immediately demanded an explanation from Sir Cadry for his tardiness, his dirty appearance and what was going on. One could note some manner of uncertainty in Count Roderick’s eyes however when Sir Cadry approached, for there was something fierce resting over his appearance and bearing and his clothes were stained with mud, blood and leaves.

In a harsh voice Cadry spoke “I apologize for the lateness of my arrival my lord but what delayed me was my duty to both you and to my family. Three days ago when I was out hunting I found tracks in the forest to the north of my holdings, tracks that someone had covered up, someone used to moving in the wilds.”

One could note that there were a great anger hiding behind the words of the imposing man as he retold his story of the following days. “I started following the tracks, though the going was hard. A while later I found some traces of blood and they led me to a fallen tree where someone had stashed the body of Brathach.”

There were some murmurings among the assembled knights and someone quietly asked another who the blazes Brathach was. Sir Cadry apparently heard the comment and turned around towards the speaker and almost roared “He was 11 years old and my cousin four times removed, murdered in the middle of the forest!” The speaker did not make himself known and most people standing around seemed to embarrassed to say another thing.

Turning once again towards the count, Cadry lifted one of his hand to his face as if trying to wipe something away from his face. “They had cut his throat from ear to ear. A boy! I set out after the ones who had done this foul deed and a few hours later I almost caught up to them but they must have noticed that I was following them. They set up an ambush and one of them almost shot me right through the eye. It was only because the Forest Mother kept her hand over me that my bow snagged on a tree branch and I had to take a step back to untangle it. Had I not done so, the arrow would have pierced my skull.”

The knights standing closest to Sir Cadry on his right side could see a shallow clotted wound on his right temple where the arrow had grazed him.
Count Roderick seemed to be almost enthralled by the tale but made a small gesture as if to encourage the knight to go on.

“There were three of them. Three saxon scum, although I didn’t know that at the time. What followed was two days of relentless hunting where we chased each other around the forest. They were skilled outdoorsmen who could move through the wilderness without leaving much in the way of tracks. They set further traps for me and tried to use their superior numbers to their advantage but they did not know the forest like I do. When they came after me I led them deeper into the more dangerous parts. The forest took one of them as a tribute. I could only hear his screams in the night and judging from those it must have been a gruesome death.”

Some of the more grim knights present looked almost satisfied from hearing what had happened to a hated foe while others looked spooked, fearing the forest and what dwelled inside.

“The remaining two let their exhaustion get the better of them after two days of constant movement and skirmishing. One of them acted as bait and the other one hid himself away armed with a bow in a hedge. He was the first of them that I killed. When I approached him from behind he didn’t notice me until I was on top of him. He tried to pull out a dagger but I skewered him through the stomach before he could defend himself. His screams drew in the other one and that one came running with an axe in his hand. He tried to cut me down where I stood but exhaustion had robbed some swiftness from his arm and I managed to parry his blow in time. We fought for a long time. He was more than my match in skill of arms but what brought him down in the end was the slippery ground strewn with the blood of his dying friend. He slipped and fell and was to slow in raising his defences. I stuck my sword right through his throat and kept slicing just like they had done to poor little Brathach.”

Cadry looked like his legs would give out at any second and something hazy came over his eyes but something deep within him pushed him on and he steeled himself.

“When I got ready to give the dead to the forest as an offering, I notice one thing the dead men had in common other that the fact that they were saxons. They both carried markings indicating that they belonged to the fenris family. The same scum that several times have targeted me and my kin specifically. I say that they are a menace and a plague upon the land like all saxons and I say that if there is anything that this court, this county, this land needs to do before anything else it is to take up arms against the saxons!”

It seemed like Sir Cadry had struck a note within the hearts of many at the court and several men shouted out their agreement. Sir Cadry picked up the sack he had brought with him and approached the Count on shaky legs. He knelt down before the throne and looked up at his liege.
“I lay the greatest gift before you that I can give you my lord. Your dead enemies heads!” With these words, Cadry upended the sack and out spilled two blonde-haired heads and then he himself collapsed at the counts feet. When men rushed forward to see what had happened they discovered that Sir Cadry had suffered multiple wounds and lost a lot of blood. I wasn’t until a few weeks later that he had recovered from his ordeal and by then word of his deeds and dramatic appearance has spread.

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Pieces of silver
Autum 487

Pieces of silver

Scouting was, in Melkin’s eyes, something you did to uphold the strategic plans you had in motion. The problem was that the traditional way of scouting did not seem to be working as it should. The bandits in Salisbury seemed to know exactly what was going on, when he or any of the other knights rode out and where they were heading. Now, Melkin had changed scouting strategy to see if he could manage to adapt to a more unpredictable pattern. He had tried to go out on odd times much like how the Saxons seemed to be moving, and change his mind in the last moment of where to go. Someone was feeding the bandits information of his and his friends’ movements, and he was not going to let any potential traitor tell them what he was up to.

As of such Melkin and Deian were riding north alongside the forest of gloom, keeping an eye out, and sometimes making a short entry into the forest. It was late October, and most of the leaves had fallen from the trees which made it easier to spot any movement inside the forest.

“I heard that sir Victus had been injured,” said Deian suddenly with an undertone of a question to his voice as they rode down a hill.

“He lost another body part,” answered Melkin sighing, “this time a finger on his right hand. Not too bad considering”.

The remark made Deian laugh.

“He joined the battle with prince Madoc last year then?”

“It seems like he did, and it also seems to have been quite the adventure”.

“The one-legged-knight with the nine fingers,” Deian said shaking his head slightly, but Melkin noticed the gleam in his eyes.

“The old man is getting a reputation”, Melkin continued, “and gathering wounds.”

“Maybe people will start calling him the scarred knight,” suggested his squire.

“Then we can share that title between us,” said Melkin amused. “Marwths in general seem to be hard to kill, but maybe not too hard to injure”.

Deian did not laugh at this. Maybe he remember all to well all of Melkin’s own injuries but before he could continue Deian stopped his horse and pointed. “Sir Melkin,” he said frowning. “I saw something move in there”.

Melkin gave the boy a nod and turned his horse around. Surefoot as he had named the new steed trotted over the uneven ground into the forest with ease. Melkin had never had a horse that he had felt so united with before. Having ridden the brown charger for the past couple of months Melkin himself had grown a lot more skillful rider in an exceptionally short amount of time, and he could feel the difference.

Going into the forest he did notice something moving briefly to his right and he and the horse made their way towards the movement. Melkin thought that he saw a figure leaping behind a tree but when he reached it there was no one there. Behind him he suddenly heard the other horse neigh, and as Melkin turned around he saw how Deian was thrown out of his saddle in a wide angle. The horse standing on its hind legs neighed once more and started gallop out of the forest.

“Deian,” Melkin called to the squire who had landed out of eye shot.

A pained grunt came as answer. Melkin looked around, scanning the area. Nothing. If someone had been there, they had taken the moment of chaos to escape. He rode up to Deian and dismounted. The young man had fallen badly and bled from a gash from the head.

“Don’t get up,” Melkin kneeled by his squire’s side.

“Sir, I swear I saw someone in the bushes! He scared the horse he…” Deian pointed in the direction where Melkin thought he had seen the shadow and tried to stand.

“Well, he’s gone now,” concluded Melkin and sighed. “Lie still whelp, so I can take a look at that wound.”

The cut wasn’t too deep and Melkin decided against stitching it together. From own experience he knew that Deian probably would be dizzy and nauseous for a day or two though, and that he they’d best return to Hindon.

“It’s not too bad,” he clapped his squire on the shoulder. “But I see you need more riding training still. You’re soon to become a knight and it wouldn’t do if you get yourself killed from falling of the horse in battle”.

Deian shook his head, and then winced from the pain. “No sir,” he said quite sheepishly.

Melkin couldn’t help but to smile at the boy. “I guess we’ll just have to take some extra time for it during next spring. Now get up on the horse”.

“Sir?” Deian looked at Surefoot.

“If you fall, you have to get up at once, or else you might fear riding later on. Now then, up you go”.

Melkin let Deian climb up into the saddle himself as lord Amig had done for him when he was a squire. He was just about to grab the reins and start to lead the animal out of the forest when he caught glance of something on the ground just a few meters away. Picking up the leather sachet Melkin heard the clinking noise from inside. He gave in content a brief look and then put the sachet in his belt.

Later, when the other horse had been found and Deian indeed had gotten sick, Melkin counted the silver. The sachet had contained as much as an entire pound, exactly one pound. Well, he thought as he put the money in the roman chest in the long hall, he hadn’t found any bandit, but retrieving a pound from their coffers wasn’t bad either. The question was who the money had been meant for. It was a precise amount, and Melkin dared say that no bandit would go around with that amount unless it was meant for something particular. Had the sachet even been intended for a traitor?

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Peace
Year 486

Peace

Early autumn was often beautiful in hillfort. Rolling hills and trees that walled the hundred to three sides, ever present in copses, small outlier forests and scattered in singles throughout the land. As leaves turned from green to vibrant colour hillfort came ablaze.

It had been a strange time for Gamond. His new wife made few enough demands and seemed to have understood the situation at Ludwell even before the wedding, apparently she was content with material things, responsibility and power. She was not particularly content with the lack of marital activities of the physical nature, but made no issue of the repeated failed attempts. All those living in the overcrowded village of Forestwatch had been given the voluntary choice of moving to new pastures, as a result, most of those who distrusted him had moved away, leaving many of the kin who had come for help and a core of loyal peasantry. For the moment Ludwell was relatively at peace, even if its’ lord was not.

Anwyns absence haunted him. He trusted her to have left for good reason, and also to take care of herself, but that did not make the longing that steadily grew in him any less. During long sleepless nights he was driven out of bed and into the cold, riding or walking far afield to relieve his anxious heart.

A stir among the peasants drew him from other work, and one among the smallfolk. a young lad he vaguely recognized as one of Mellews’ brood. The boy bowed awkwardly and spoke with his eyes on the ground.

“Mlord, t’treeman wants ya”

That could only mean that Gusg, the brilliant but eccentric orchardist, had something he deemed important enough to interrupt his work. Gamond felt like he was choking, did the centre bear fruit?
He patted the boy on the head and have him two large apples, sending him on his way. On his own way to the hill where the orchard stood, draped over its slopes, Gamond considered his manor. The peasants resented the orchardist and his constant, impossible demands. He was brilliant, but a difficult man to relate to.

As he neared the orchard and climbed the slopes he marvelled at the beauty of the young trees. Half, the eastern side mostly a delicate and clear pink, the western bright white. A large grove at its’ heart grew above the rest of the trees, a vibrant red and pink. The heart of the orchard, the wild cherries of the ancient grove. He ascended the dirt path and was swallowed by the trees. They were already tall, some 20 feet, a subtle and pleasant scent putting him at ease.

“Gusg?”

The man small wiry man dropped from one of the trees, smiling so wide his face fairly split apart straight through his bushy beard. “My Lord! Wonderous, fantastic news!”

“Has the heart of the orchard borne fruit?”

“No, no, but Gamond…” he forgot himself, as he often did when absorbed by his favourite subject “…LOOK AROUND!” He did a strange little dance. “They’re blooming twice! Usually the Prunus Avium bloom once a year, two only under the very best of conditions! And we have the very best!”

Gamond nodded, moving deeper into the orchard as Gusg chattered on incessantly, jumping from tree to tree. The man would be nowhere to be found and without two words to spare for weeks on end, but the dam of words would burst at times like these. The heart of the orchard was especially lovely in the early autumn sun, and Gamond sat on the ground among the trees. Not all of them had many blooms, but many did, and here was where that subtle smell originated.

“Gusg?” Gamond spoke and cut the enthusiastic fellow off mid-sentence “..Eh, yes?” “I’d like to be alone, please”.

He barely noticed when Gusg left, having found peace for the first time in many weeks.


The temporary reprieve had ended, with a vengeance. Over the course of two months his eldest son had taken ill and died and his new wife had followed Meneri into the grave, torn inside by the babe fighting to get out of her. That babe, now his oldest son, had lived. The only blessing this miserable late autumn had provided.

The night to which Gamond was woken was every bit as miserable as that. His footman had shaken him, stirring the small baby cradled next to his chest under the furs awake with a reedy cry.

“What?” Gamond rose and handed the babe to his nursemaid. “Milorde, the lorde of Chillmark is at the gate”. “Well, what are you standing there for? Ask him in.”

The footman left, and shortly returned to a half dressed Lord Ludwell, looking nervous on shuffling feet. “Milorde, e dosnt want to come in”.

Gamond stared at his underling for a moment. “Is he armed?”

“No m’lord”

“Good…”

Gamond armed, and strode into the pouring rain and oppressive darkness. Gathered were Meical the tutor, Squire Devin, Cynsten and the Lord of the Tarren line. Thunder struck, and lightning cast the indistinct silhouette of Lord Chillmark into stark relief for several long heartbeats.

Maelgwyn was thin and pale, on bare and bleeding feet in the mud. Dirty claw marks glared an ugly red all over his arms. “GAMOND! Brother! Please, please forgive me! I have sinned! I have hurt you, and everyone I love! Please forgive me!”

For long moments, Gamond simply stared at the man he once called his brother. Thunder rolled across hillfort, lightning painting awkward shadows across the men gathered on the courtyard.

The towering Lord of Ludwell stepped forward, Cynsten gripped his blade, ready for the worst. Gamond took his old friend, his brother, in his arms.

“Melgwyn…” Gamonds voice caught “_What… in heavens name have you done to yourself?”_ He lifted the man as easily as he had his child, hugging him close. “Whatever you have done, I forgive you.”

He carried the closest family he had left aside from his mother into the long hall, summoning furs and hot wine. Maelgwyn had lapsed into deep sleep, and both brother and adoptive mother watched over him throughout the night.

For the rest of autumn and winter Maelgwyn and Gamond both did penance at Ambrius Abbey, and many strange dreams were visited upon them…

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Family and quarrels
Year 485

Family and quarrels

Autumn had begun to shorten the days and temper the heat of late summer. Gamond sat in his fathers’ old ornate chair, watching the group of elders gathered in his hall. They were many, and his new bailiff – Bodwyns son and his own brother in law – had informed him that the new arrivals had thronged into forestwatch so that it was fairly bursting at the seams.

He hoped that he looked like he was listening seriously to the old man hemming and hawing his way through the tale of their trials and tribulations. In truth, he felt a little lost. His wife and would be son had both died in bed a week past, and their absence cut unexpectedly. Though he had not loved her, he now missed her shrewd advice and calm support.

“… Saxons burned t’ville o’er them hills n…” he’d heard it all before. The old mans’ tale was as common as grass. Saxons. Scourges from hell. Burning, pillaging, raping. Taking all that was good and decent out of the world. The soil they trod on soured as god himself withdrew his hand from their lands. The elders before him were all distant kin, with families who all shared his blood. He’d never quite understood it before, just how far and wide that tie of blood among the Anarawd sprawled.

They wanted his help and support. It would be trouble. What would his father have done? He closed his eyes and tried to imagine it. All that came to him were stories, stories that really said nothing about who his father had truly been.

Fuck what his father would have done. What would HE HIMSELF do? Let that guide him, not the spectre of an imagined past.

He stood up, dwarfing everyone around him, and help up a hand.

“I hear you… “ he cast around for the old codgers name for a moment “… Kunn. You have all suffered at the hand of the Saxon, and blood to blood, you are all welcome to settle here.”


Cynsten watched the two lords seated at the table in the long hall of Chillmark. They very much looked like two young men trying their very best to get just drunk enough to bridge the awkward silences and stilted pleasantries that lay between them.

Sir Gamond had ridden up the path to the gate in full war-gear, coolly requesting Sir Maelgwyns hospitality. The footmen had nearly shat themselves and had sent for the lord directly without opening the gate. Cynsten understood them, something about the man made the hairs on his neck stand up, he smelled cold and hard, like a naked drawn blade. He was also fucking huge. His Lord was as fine a physical example as could be found anywhere in Logres, and taller than most men, but Sir Gamond still topped him by a head. There was also something else, something divorced from the purely physical, something that made the Lord of Ludwell loom. “Lord Ludwell” Maelgwyn had said, to which Gamond had replied “No need for that, I’m your peer, not your better”.

Now the two had sat in the hall for nearly an hour and a man could easily think neither enjoyed the fine wine, impossible as that seemed.

“I’ve come to ask your forgiveness, for threatening your life. It was rash, and ill done”.

“Forgiveness granted, brother”. Maelgwyn didn’t sound as If he really meant it.

“You talk a lot Maelgwyn, careless words that often hurt when I don’t think you mean them to.” The large man spoke slowly, measuring each word with great care.

“Maybe” conceded his Lord “You take offense easily, you’re thin skinned when it comes to that woman.” The lord of Chillmark didn’t like the bandit wench. that Cynsten knew.

“You demean something I treasure, our passions are what makes us men Maelgwyn”
“And what makes us weak!”

Cynsten just watched, thinking. His loyalty to the lord of Chillmark was the very core of him, driving out all other concern. It was that which had driven him to reckless heroics, again and again, and had given him his current privilege. A great and defining strength, but yes, also a weakness that could be exploited. One that would shatter him should Maelgwyn ever die.

From there argument blossomed. Some things, thought Lord Ludwell, was important enough to kill for. Anwyn, Family, Lord, Duty. Maelgwyn thought he should restrain his love, that it hurt his family and risked his status, but Gamond said he couldn’t, wouldn’t. His lord was suspicious, thinking that woman had probably stolen something. Hard to think she wasn’t connected to the bandits and hadn’t been one herself. At this the taciturn giant grew less apologetic, but at least both agreed that drawn blades should be a last resort, though some respect nothing less.

When Maelgwyn began to speak in metaphors involving Lord Ludwells orchard in that long winded and roundabout way of his Cynstens’ thoughts wandered. Lord Ludwell, with characteristic bluntness, eventually cut him off and said he didn’t understand whatever he was trying to say. Sourly Maelgwyn summarized; “If you can’t change you will die”.

After more wine and a heavy silence Gamond took up the thread again, asking Maelgwyn to apologize to Anwyn if he wanted to make things right between them. Lord Chillmark flatly refused. At least then, said Gamond, they should respect each other’s truths and be mindful of that?

Cynsten had to give it to the man, he was trying. He nearly groaned aloud when Maelgwyn simply refuted any such compromise, he himself spoke the truth of god, and Gamond was a foolish and unwise man. More arguments strained the peace of the house, arguments of pride, fearies and oaths, of repeated warnings and sermons of how Gamond would bring his house to ruin. Of cutting down the orchards in Ludwell and tricking the inhuman monsters from the fay lands. Gamond refused to do so. He had given his word, and would go his way as he pleased.

That did seem foolhardy and needlessly stubborn to Cynsten, what was so important about some trees anyway?

The sergeant was drawn from daydreaming of good wine and sleep by the sharp, strained silence in the room. Eventually, Gamond ground out, exasperation and a note of pleading in his voice; “What has changed so these past years Maelgwyn? We used to be close. Then I left you alone with that tutor, pouring self-loathing and poison in your ear”.

The rebuttal was instant “Only knowledge and humility! You’re on a dangerous path Gamond, don’t go further! Look at me, right now I’m living rich, taking care of my family, building my farms. My wife is healthy and pregnant. That’s what my tutor gave me, what have your choices given you?!”

The sound of iron crumpling and shattering cut the tirade short. Gamond slowly stood, gingerly untangling his hand from the ruined mess of his goblet. Cynsten found his own hand on the hilt of his sword, a sense of overwhelming violence choking his breath. For three long heartbeats he could have sworn Lord Ludwells eyes shone queerly white, then they were simply the dark brown of any man. “My wife died a month past, childbirth. My stepfather is now steward. I think you will soon find that we are not much different after all, you and I. I must get back to Ludwell”.

Melgwyn spoke to his back “You’re excused”.

That winter, Maelgwyns first wife died pregnant, and her child with her.


The road had not taken him to Ludwell. A deep anger in his heart would not let him return to comfort. He rode past the manor, taking on provisions and sending for his squire. Steering southeast and skirting past Charlton, through the stretch of desolate lands and on into the Kings’ hundred Chalkhill and Badger forest. The woodland to the east was much different than brooding Modron in the west, Badger forest was incredibly dense, but green and vibrant in summer and bequeathed with more evergreen than he was used to. Even this late in autumn the woods were mostly green.

The most important difference though was the lack of haunting memories. Though tense at first, gradually Gamond began to relax and enjoy the ride. Badger forest sported plenty of game, but mindful of the kings law both he and his squire kept to their rations.

Trails were few and far between in that place, but there was one to Hillfarm, Duhe rope with which they had been pulling themselves across had been cut by three swarthy brigands upon the bank, who now had much merriment at their expense. Gamond cut their merrymaking short with lance and sword and then proceeded to strip his armour. Grabbing a new rope, winding it about a tree, and swimming out to the ferry proved a fairly easy task for one accustomed to fast flowing rivers, and soon the kings men could step safely onto the bank with their armour and horses intact. Sir Caroc and Sir Heliandor de la montagne introduced themselves and sat a spell to eat of Gamonds replenished stores. They had come from the south, carrying important news for the king, and had been caught out by the bandits. They could not say their news or business, but had gotten lost on the wrong side of the river and faced the prospect of battling a roaming monster or crossing. Gamond wished them the best of luck, and buoyed by their thanks set home to Ludwell.

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Maddening Dreams
year 486

Maddening Dreams

I’ve been running for so long in the winding caves and corridors that they all look the same. Every wall seems alike, every archway familiar and every damned cave a repetition of the last. The ancient stone seem untouched by man, only formed by the dripping of cold water and the passage of time. My ears hear nothing but the tapping of my bare feet on the sharp stone and the pounding of my heart as it fights to keep me moving. Then suddenly light caresses my eyes. I don’t know how I was able to see in the looming darkness before but now I’m drawn towards the flickering candlelight like a moth. The room seems impossibly big compared to the narrow stone passages and even in this distorted form I recognize my bedchamber. My mind embraces the familiarity with open arms; finding pleasure in the aging woodwork and thatched roof overhead. The simple earthen floor feels like heavenly clouds compared to the sharp rocks of the cavern floor as I walk towards the bed. Sleep, I need sleep. But my bed is not empty, she is lying there. Lady Dwyns face has turned into a grotesque mask of suffering, not soothed by the touch of death. Her delicate hands are gripping the linen sheets and the entire room now reeks of blood and tears. She looks just like when I saw her for the last time. Just before the crying midwife presented me with my screaming son. Desperately I turn around looking for the exit, for anything is better than this. Anything, even the cold caverns and the eternal flight through the endless corridors. But the opening it is gone, closed without a trace.

‘’Why do you do this? Why do you show me this!?’’ My voice echoes strangely between the walls and a moment later I wish I never asked. The voice is soft at first but soon becomes clearer and hoarser:

‘’He takes what he wants
With smiling lies
He takes what he wants
And someone dies’’

Terror fills my heart as a decayed arm emerges from the darkness underneath the bed and slowly a figure crawls out. Lips that are not supposed to carry anymore songs or rhyme sing to me, filling my heart with fear. She, no It, crawls out from under the bed; the brown hair in disarray and her smooth skin crumbling, a corpse brought back from the past to torment me further. Lady Sian stands up and gazes towards me with glazed eyes only her broken lips moving in the dead face. Her eyes don’t leave mine as she reaches down and help Lady Dwyn stand up, their voices joining as they stare at me. I recoil, pressing myself against the unyielding planks of the wall as my two bloodied wives walk toward me.

‘’He takes what he wants
With smiling lies
He takes what he wants
And someone dies’’

I cry, I scream, I pray but they just walk; corpses still dripping with blood from birthing my offspring.
‘‘SIN Maelgwyn! Sin brought you here!’’ Uriens voice shakes the entire room and for a moment drown out the chanting. His hand explodes out of the dirt and holds me firm as my wives reach out for me. I can’t move. Their nails dig into my arms as I try to fend them of and their voices screech in my ears.

‘’A knight so noble, strong and right
With appetites to match his might
With gore and glory in his bed
His penis rules a rancid head’’

I awake with a scream; my mouth dry from shouting and my arms still flailing against my wives clawing arms.

‘’My lord!’’ Cynstens voice calms me and as I meet his worried gaze my muscle slowly start to relax.

‘’Are you all right?’’ Warm blood is dripping from my arms and as I look around in the dimlight of my hall the entire household is awake and staring at me. The men look bewildered and confused while the women clutch their children and whisper among each other.

‘’No Cynsten. They came to me in my dream. They all came to me!’’ Wrapping my arms around myself I feel no pain from my gashed arms, my mind still focused on the terrible dream.

‘’I need to right my wrongs. I need to act before it’s too late. I need to visit my brother’’ Raising from the bed I start to dress myself.

‘’My lord it’s the middle of the night and…’’ My glare leaves no more room for discussion.
Devin, my squire, has prepared my horse but I will not need it. I will walk to my brother and ask for his forgiveness. I shall walk barefoot in falling rain to seek my atonement.

During the hours that pass I can only think of the dream and the sins I’ve committed. How I’ve turned my brother against me and wronged so many. How I’m becoming like my father; carving a life out of lies and greed. How I loved my dowry more than my wives. How I never listen to the lessons of Urien. Suddenly I see the lights from my brothers’ hall. Now I can only hope he forgives me. Hope that’s it’s not too late to atone.

[Too be continued by Gamond]

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A father's wait
Year 486

A father's wait

Melkin was sitting with his head in his hand outside of the long hall, trying not to think much about what was happening inside. He was holding Brynach absentmindedly on his lap with his other arm, but barely noticed that the boy was crying and struggling. With all that was going on he had felt that at least he could free another pair of hands by keeping the boy with him tonight.

The year 486 could not be said to have been the best of years Melkin thought as he gripped the babe more firmly. Bad fortune had followed him at every turn, and now he felt that he was struggling in head-wind without getting anywhere.

Once more his body had been weakened from a serious injury. His skin was now covered in more scars than many senior knights could hope to survive in a lifetime. Melkin knew he had been lucky this year when the giant had struck him and shattered most of his ribs on his right side. For even if the wound had been grave Merlin had once more been present to heal the injury. Melkin was thankful, the problem was rather that he had lost so much strength in his body over the last two years that he now easily overestimated his own physical power.

He couldn’t help but to close his eyes in frustration thinking back on the skirmish in Caercolun this autumn. Melkin had made a bloody fool out of himself when he had tried to use a strategic trick he had learned from Amig a couple of years ago. The trick included closing a wicket when one part of the skirmish was drawing enemy riders into a trap. This should have been no problem, but the wicket had been too heavy and the mud slippery. Surprised, Melkin had pushed harder with his feet but instead of closing the gate Melkin’s foothold had given way. He had fallen headfirst into the mud, the riders had escaped the trap and all the other men couldn’t help but to snigger at Melkin’s misfortune.

Sighing, Melkin looked out into the dusky weather. Then, when he had returned to Hindon, Melkin had been met by an enormous workload. Lady Mairwen had been sickly back and forth, which had left Melkin with a doubled burden. Within all the things that he had actually managed to care for, the defenses of Hindon was not one of them. Neglected, they had rotted away before Melkin got around to think of them. Everything that he had so cunningly added, adjusted and planned last year had been lost within a month of rain and storm.

There was no storm now, except for the ruckus inside the manor. Melkin winced as another agonizing scream echoed from within the long hall. The new baby was on its way, a month early, and nothing seemed to be going right. Melkin had been telling himself the second child would be easier than the first, but it hadn’t been. His wife was still weak from the fever, Melkin had seen all the concerned looks as the day had prolonged. After seven hours of labour the midwife had told him that the situation didn’t look bright.

Melkin could hear Mairwen sobbing again between the screams and he stared out into the grey rain feeling nauseous. He hoped that Deian had reached Tisbury by now, he couldn’t bear the wait alone anymore.

Having been out hunting, Cadry had met squire Deian en route to Tisbury. The squire had explained the situation and Cadry had told Jasper to go home with the stag that they had shot earlier and a message for Brangwen telling her that Melkin needed Cadry. Taking a shortcut through the forest, Cadry and Deian arrived at Hindon manor from the southwestern path.

Upon seeing the manor house Cadry grew worried. Rot was setting in in the thatch upon the roof and one of the walls looked like it needed reinforcing, The second notable thing, was the screaming. He had heard Brangwen, scream, curse and cry when her time was upon her but the screaming and sobbing coming from the hall sounded much harsher and somehow a lot more foreboding. Over by the chapel he could see a familiar shape sitting slumped on a fallen tree. “Little brother, I am here”. Cadry waved towards the hunched up knight.
“What is going on?”

Melkin almost jumped at the greeting. When he saw Cadry his strained shoulders relaxed a little and he absentmindedly patted the whining Brynach’s back, but his eyes were wide and stressed.

“My wife,” he said his voice trembling slightly, “she might not make it.”

A sympathetic and pained look passed over Cadry’s visage as he walked up to the smaller man. He sat down next to Melkin and put his arm across his brother’s shoulders and tried to smile at his little nephew.

“I sent Jasper back to Tisbury to fetch old Llinos. She has brought forth many children in her days. If anyone can help your wife, it’s her. Her or the gods. Maybe you should go out and make a sacrifice to Modron, she might listen.”

Knowing that his brother probably wouldn’t heed his advice, Cadry briefly considered doing so on Melkin’s behalf but the Mother would only hear pleas from those closest to the mother or child and unfortunately Cadry was neither.

The shouts from inside were growing more urgent now along with the continuous screaming. Melkin nodded his head slowly, a greyish colour to his face. “I guess it could not hurt at this point,” he said and looked towards the chapel, “but Doged cannot know.”

He felt angry at the old priest. The man seemed to be nothing but inconvenienced by his wife, and Doged seemed to have started right out avoiding her the further her pregnancy went. The same last year when Mairwen’s time had come the old man had grown pale and barred himself into the church claiming to be praying. What was it really with his chaplain and women? Did they scare him? Melkin pushed the thought aside while loosening his knife from his belt. In the end prayer might be a good solution. He cut his hand and watched as the blood spilled upon the ground.

“Mother…” he said, “Holy Mary and Modron alike, hear my prayer and take my sacrifice”. It couldn’t hurt to ask both of them for help in this situation, Melkin reasoned. “Ill luck or a curse has been placed upon me and this household, so I beg you to listen. My wife and unborn child are standing on the edge to death. I ask you humbly to save them from the grave, and lift whatever evil that has entered this house”. Melkin looked from his bleeding wound towards Cardy.

“All we can do now is hope.” Cadry felt that it was a trite thing to say, but it was all he could muster at the moment. Unable to make himself stop hearing the screams, he felt like leaving again and return to the forest. He knew that Melkin couldn’t afford such a luxury though and therefore he forced himself to stay. Instead he reached out his tattooed hands towards little Brynach like if to ask for permission to hold his nephew.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked.

“No,” Melkin answered and handed his firstborn to Cadry while listening to the panic inside. With a sickening feeling he realised that the screaming had stopped. Brynach also calmed while being hold by Cadry, and so silence fell over the Hindon hill.

One of the women came outside then and called for him. Standing, Melkin swayed a little. He had probably drunk a little too much. It felt like a day’s journey to reach the door. When Melkin finally arrived he gave the washerwoman a brief look before entering. Her pale face somehow managed to prepare him for the gruesome sight inside. What looked like buckets of blood covered the sheets and the floor. Mairwen was lying with eyes open staring into the ceiling, unmoving, mouth half open. Melkin stepped over to her and closed her eyes, as was his duty as husband. He gave her a kiss on the forehead as if to thank her for giving him Brynach. The taste was salty with sweat.

“My lord,” the words broke Melkin’s paralysis as he stood there looking at his dead wife. The woman who had spoken handed him a small package. “It’s a girl,” she said giving a smile through the tears.

Surprised Melkin looked at her and then at the small child. As if the babe knew that this was a place of sorrow she hadn’t cried, and Melkin hadn’t understood that she had been alive. The babe looked at Melkin with her big blue innocent eyes.

Walking in a few steps behind Melkin and holding his nephew, Cadry kept his eyes mostly fixed on the child in his arms and he tried rocking the boy to settle him back to sleep. He had calmed now and was looking extremely tired. Glancing over at the dead woman lying in the bed Cadry only felt more sadness settle on him. It was a year for death and loss evidently. Finally he looked over at the small bundle in Melkin’s arms and hoped that the child at least would live.

“Ceri,” Melkin decided looking at the little thing in his arms feeling such warmth towards the little girl as he had never felt before. “I will call you for the life that was given”.

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The old generation
486

The old generation

Autumn

The autumn rains were drizzling down on a small entourage consisting of a knight, a squire and dead old man slung over one of the packhorses. The knight bore the name Cadry ap Cadwallon and his squire was named Jasper ap Jaradan and the dead man was named Corwyn ap Cadlew. The three men were travelling on their way to Salisbury, having been to the northern parts of Logres where old Sir Corwyn had died from the wounds inflicted upon him by a saxon. Cadry had been quiet for most of the journey, at least after having collected the corpse of the man he had called father for most parts of his life. His true father Cadwallon had died when Cadry was but two years old and his uncle, with his ever-present smile and bushy beard, had taken it upon himself to raise his nephew together with his brother’s widow. Corwyn had also been the foster father of Sir Melkin, son of the great warrior Bryn, one of Cadwallons and Corwyn’s best friends.

Cadry rode on, drenched to the bone and seemed to be locked within himself. He didn’t know how he would tell his younger brother that their father was dead. He didn’t know how he would tell him that a saxon whoreson had robbed them of a father. He felt his anger boil inside together with his blood. Like the priestess Llinos had said last year, these slights could not go unavenged. If the cursed fenris family wanted a feud, then by all the gods dark and terrible, they would learn what it meant to rouse the ire of the Cellydon family. He would give the priestess permission to retrieve the old skulls from the forest and start working her curses on the blasted enemy. They would come to regret their choice of enemy when the last of their line died out and the spirits of their slain were doomed to forever walk this world as restless spirits forever denied the peace of the otherlands.

The squire Jasper mustered his courage and broke the silence “Sir, we must seek shelter. The horses will fare badly in this weather”. Cadry turned around and stared blankly at the young, stocky boy and was about to snap something at him but as always, Jasper had found a way to break through to his lord in a non-offensive and eminently sensible way. Sighing, Cadry nodded in response and started looking around. In the distance he could discern a small farm and he steered his horse towards it.

Arriving at the farm, the peasants first seemed reluctant to host an armed man, but when the sound of clinking coins was heard the door couldn’t be opened quickly enough. Having been given a simple meal of barley and pork both Cadry and Jasper sat by the fire and watched as their clothes dried.

Tearing himself away from his own grim thoughts, Cadry turned to young Jasper and studied him carefully. They were different in a lot of ways: one was tall, thin and blond, the other short, round and brown-haired. But despite his unfortunate shape, Jasper had turned out to be among the best of squires. He worked hard, he learned quickly and, unlike his father, his feet were planted firmly on the ground. Cadry couldn’t help but admire his friend’s young son. He would one day make Dinton into one of the most prosperous manors in logres if he was given a chance.

“Jasper, we might as well continue your lessons while we are sitting here. A knight is as much his words as his deeds. Your lord will from time to time expect you to counsel him on matters grand and small. That is as much your duty as taking up arms at your lord’s command.”

The young squire concentrated on the words of his lord and took them in and seemed to consider them, trying to discern where this lesson was heading.

“While it behoves a squire to be careful and attentive, as a knight you are going to have stand up for yourself and defend your honour and your ideals. A knight takes pride in his deeds and actions, for even the least of us are better than any other man or woman. Put a firm belief behind your words and let no one doubt that your counsel is true.”

Jasper seemed to be a bit uneasy since he was a quiet lad by nature, but the continual goading from Cadry had made sure that he had started to open up and actually voice his own opinions instead of just saying what he thought others expected him to say. There was a core of good, solid courage within the boy even though it had been subdued by having an overbearing father who usually took up all the social space in a conversation. Jasper was also a bit too careful for Cadry’s taste, but he supposed that that might help the boy survive.

“What Sir Amig taught me as a squire, was that a knight’s most important task was to do his duty to his lord, his family and his gods no matter what. It took me while for that lesson to sink in and maybe I understand his lesson a bit differently than he meant it, but it is still good solid advice.”

Sinking into a deep reverie, Cadry drank more of his beer and drifted of leaving Jasper to mull over what his lord had told him. Something about the words seemed to have taken root in the young man and maybe one day it would act as a solid ground for him too stand on when times turned tough.

Winter

Times back home at Tisbury turned out to be a strange mixture of dour and happy. The dourness came from Sir Cadry as he brooded over how he would find his uncle Garren’s remains and set things right with Ol’Tiss on his dead uncle’s behalf.

Cadry’s mood was also dampened by the burial of his uncle Sir Corwyn which had been large affair thanks to the old man’s renown and thanks to the fact that he had in everyone’s eyes been the chieftain of the Cellydon family even though his nephew was formally the lord of Tisbury manor and thus technically the true heir to the Durotriges royal line. Thus many kinsmen near and far had been summoned and for the first time since the death of Cadwallon, the whole of the clan was gathered in the same place. The burial had been a splendid and celebratory affair where everyone told tales of what awaited the old man in the land of the young and how they looked forward to meeting him on the other side or in another life.

After the celebrations, which lasted several days, more formal matters had to be attended to and the warriors of the gathered family swore allegiance to the young lord. Matters regarding the death of not just Corwyn but also a few other men of the family at the hands of the fenris Saxons ignited a fury among the gathered men and the invocation of blood feud against the hated enemy was well received. It was even decided that the ancestral seat needed to be better defended even when the lord was absent. Therefore, the family sent two additional warriors to live at Tisbury, increasing the guard force to 5 men in total. Nothing was more important to the family than blood.

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Mad Men
Autumn 485

maelgwyn_ledsen.png
The autumn wind howled like a hungry beast as it prowled the stony hills and crags near Chillmark. Another year and another funeral. The mourners had left with their sweet condolences and heartfelt farewells letting a lost stillness return to the halls. The funeral for Lady Sian had been a quiet and dignified affair worthy a lady of her stature. Even though lord Dynbal said he felt great sorrow for his lost daughter he considered it more prudent to burrow her with a sense of noble brooding; avoiding the huge sentimental affairs the Tarrens were prone to indulge in. As the last carts rolled away over the winding paths and the backs of the riders were obscured by the waving grass Maelgwyn was alone again. From the rampart he gazed across his windswept domain and felt emptiness. He thought about lady Siân and the few happy moments they had spent together and felt nothing, realizing for the first time that she had been little more than a stranger in his manor. A sweet bird he had wrested away from her father with sureness and bravery only so that she could bleed out on his bed and be confined within the damp darkness of his family tomb. Her sweet voice had fallen quiet and once again the creaking from the ropes in the hanging tree reigned; marshalled by the soulless cawing of rooks and crows.
‘’Saddle my horse.’’ He gave the lands a last look before he followed his already scurrying squire. He would have to return to his ponderous gazing later; there was more pressing matters to attend to.

As they reached the Nadar River the wind was caught in the trees and as they rode further into the encroaching forest the ancient trees stopped the wind right in its tracks; giving rich undergrowth and swaths of birds a chance to frolic. Maelgwyn had never liked the great forest growing on his doorstep even though he admired the beauty of the yellow and scarlet leaves. The vastness and darkness of the great forest frightened him; the knowledge that people could be lost there, and monsters be found, made his skin crawl. But he knew the path to his battle brothers manor well and after a few uncertain hours in the cavernous woods the forest gave away to reveal Tisbury manor; its lord already outside to greet them.
‘’Greetings Cadry… I come asking for help.’’
“Welcome friend. I have been expecting you, though I do not know your purpose here.”
Having been told by his wife to go outside and wait for a guest to arrive, Cadry did not know quite who to expect by Brangwen was seldom wrong. It was almost like the animals of the forest gave warning when someone approached. Turning towards his new squire Jasper, Cadry orderd him to bring forth his horse and travel gear for he a feeling that they would be needed.
‘’Its Sewel…’’ Maelgwyn sighted, that old crazed goat was turning out to be quite the handful.
‘’He stole Meicals mule during the funeral and when i was informed he was long gone… I need you and your hounds.’’
“The imprisoned man?” Cadry looked slightly annoyed, but as he well knew, nothing is ever a coincidence.
“Curious that. I was planning on visiting you soon to speak to the madman, just in case he turned out to be the one that the Loathly Lady mentioned that might know more about the Crown of Ungwen.”
Just as squire Jasper came back leading Cadry’s horse he was issued another order “Fetch my hounds Jasper, we are going out hunting.”
Turning to his friend Cadry addressed his request “Of course I will help you! Like I said before I owe you and the others my life. If there is anything I can to do to help, you just have to ask.”
The kind words of the rumbling pagan brought a smile to Maelgwyns lips; melancholia is an illness best cured by friends. He had wished for the company of his companions during the funeral but at Lord Dynbals request only Melkin had attended. His attention had been on the tear filled eyes of his wife and the whining of his young son giving them little time to speak.
‘’Thank you brother. He rode east… I think he’s going home.’’
“What is home for that madman? Has he done something like this before?”
Some primal part awoke in Cadry, the part that relished the hunt. He was often reminded at times like these that his ancestors had hunted enemies of their tribe and clan and had taken heads from prominent enemies in an attempt to gain some part of their strength. The taking of heads wasn’t practiced anymore as mandated by the druids but some parts of the Cellydon family had been dark indeed and had heeded the callings of the darker gods of Britain. The glint in Cadrys eyes were not lost on Maelgwyn but he did his best to ignore it.
‘’No, friend. I think his home is where the madness first gripped him: Duplain.’’

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The Hunt

So the two friends set of eastwards with the baying hounds leading them along the riverbanks and the forest edge. The trail was fresh and Maelgwyn let Cadry lead the way; respecting, but not liking, his thirst for the hunt. From time to time they would lose the trail on the muddy roads or fallow fields but many had marked the madman’s passing. Even in these troubled times the sight of a crazed noble riding a mule was something to take note off, even if no one dared approaching him.
With the setting sun in their backs they rode through the gates of Duplain and before the Lord Hywel could greet them they heard the cackling of Sewel. Formalities were hastily exchanged and Maelgwyn explained his predicament as best he could.
‘’He rode in this morning and before the guards could grab him he locked himself in there.’’ Lord Hywel grumbled and pointed towards the small shed by the castle wall. Three guards were stationed outside; confused and bewildered by the prattling emerging from the woodwork.
‘’He refuses to come out… or talk sense.’’
‘’If you would allow me to speak to him, Lord Hywel. I believe he, in his own way, trusts me.’’ The castellan nodded and waved the guards away; happy that someone else would handle the situation. Through the thin door Maelgwyn could clearly hear the nasally tone of the once proud castellan. Sewels voice that once commanded respect and obedience was now, like the mind and body of the aging man, nothing but an echo of his former self. Years in that cold stone cell had robbed him of everything.
‘’Sewel! Come out of there!’’ Maelgwyn raised his voice and for a moment the cackling stopped.
‘’No! This is my castle! I don’t need guards to follow me or rules to bind me! Only those worthy are offered my hospitality!’’ Maelgwyn glanced nervously at the senechal behind him and mustered up a dry smile before he turned back and lowered his voice:
‘’I come bearing tribute.’’
The maddening voice fell silent and a quiet shuffling was instead heard. With a creek the door swung open ever so slightly and the bony hand of Sewel appeared from the darkness. A small package changed hands and as the hand disappeared the door remained open. Maelgwyn motioned towards cadry to come closer.
‘’If you wish to speak to him: this is it.’’
Entering the dank shed, Cadry looked around trying to spot the madman. The only feature that could be clearly seen though was a window with open shutters and a curtain waving in the wind. One of the guards peered inside and saw the empty room and shouted:
”Bloody hell, he has escaped out the window!”
Suddenly the other guards and Maelgwyn started fanning out in the courtyard to try to locate Sewel, wherever he may have hidden. Cadry for his part didn’t really care for the old fool, but only for the answers his broken mind may hold decide to go over and have a look out through the open window. That’s when he heard a strange creaking sound and looked up into the rafters. Up in the gloom he could see the old man hanging from one of the roof beams and how he was now lowering himself down to the floor. The entire time the madman was chanting his eternal mantra
“The wheel of fortune is ever turning”.
Cadry asked the old man “Are you capable of answering a few questions? Someone told me that you might know something about the iron crown of the Cellydons, also known as the Crown of Ungwen?”
Something came over Sewel and his demeanour changed.
“You know, you look like your father. I did not like him, and i don’t like you”.
Eyeing the man incredulously Cadry was slightly thrown by the man’s apparent lucidness.
“I know not what the grievances lay between my father and yourself, but if there is anything to apologize for then you have it.”
While Cadry was speaking Sewel moved closer and started walking and capering around the young knight all the while muttering his mantra. Cadry couldn’t help but feel ill at ease. It was said that the mad had been touched by the gods, but it was never said if it was as a blessing or as a curse.
When he didn’t get an answer, Cadry forged on
“Lord Sewel, can you tell me about the crown of Ungwen? I would be very grateful for any such knowledge that you possess and would be willing to share.” Lady Cerys had always told her son Cadry that courtesy never hurt anyone and might ensure that hurt did not come the way of the speaker.
Sewel didn’t stop moving but his muttering changed
“The dark lady that came here and treated me when I had been grievously injured told me many secrets, maybe what you are looking for are among those things. But you see, i swore never to tell.”
Considering the madman’s words Cadry couldn’t help but feel both frustrated and excited at the same time.
“Is there any way that you can be freed from your oath, or perhaps a way that you can share the information without breaking your oath? Is there something you want with it the information? Or perhaps something you want for yourself?”
Starting to walk backwards now, Sewel seemed stranger by the second but still another person than the moonstruck fool that would sneak around on Chillmark.
“I want vengeance on the wheel!” The word were spat out almost like a curse.
“As for my promise…” The man seemed almost to hesitate as if considering something
“No, no… I swore, there is no way to release me or circumvent that oath” Yet something in the fool’s eye told a different tale.
All the while the two men had been speaking, the band of guards had been searching the yard and some of them had apparently decided to check the shed once more. When they came in through the door Sewel went back to his usual deranged self once more. Cadry shouted over the din of the guards that
“I will come and see you again lord Sewel, consider my offer, If you are willing I will help you find away around your promise”.
The last thing the madman uttered before he was dragged away were the words “Only one knows what’s in the kettle”.

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Those who lie in wait
485

Those who lie in wait

The first winds of winter are howling outside of my longhouse on Tisbury. Some of my household are outside attending to shores but most huddle inside for warmth. The smoke lies thick from the hearth we keep burning most days and nights to stay warm. There is a smell of cabbage and roast mutton hanging in the air and above the usual din of the house I can hear my wife try to comfort my oldest son who is crying for some inexplicable reason.

For my part, I can’t complain though. We have plenty of firewood stacked up just outside the house and we have recently slaughtered both sheep and cows so that there are less cattle to feed during winter. The harvest has been good and we will have plenty to eat, and from what mother has told me the peasants are doing alright as well despite the raids earlier this year.
To be quite honest I did not expect to sit her this winter. I did not expect to be able to kiss my wife and lie huddle up close to her during these long nights. I did not expect to get the chance to see my second child be born in a few months.

By all rights I should be dead. For some reason I am not and this has given me a lot to think about. I haven’t been able to explain to Brangwen what waited for me on the other side. I couldn’t admit to her that I wanted to let go and to walk into the otherlands. She has noticed that I have been in a strange mood and she has done her best to poke and prod and care for me to find out what is bothering me.

So who does one turn to when one cannot talk to his wife or to his friends? One turns to the gods or in this case one who understand the gods like few others but is still not afraid to scrutinize them and their actions closely. So I have turned to Athanwyr, the ovate who has taught me much and counselled me several times. He sits next to me, close to the fire and we have just finished talking about the everyday matters of the world. He glances over at me with his dark, inquisitive eyes and gets right to the heart of the matter.

“Tell me what is bothering you Cadry.”

When it is just the two of us he is often informal and ignores using my title. It often annoys me but the man has earned my trust even though he is often inscrutable. I briefly consider waving away his question but for some reason I feel the urge to talk about the very uncomfortable subject of dying.

“A saxon’s spear killed me at the battle of Mearcred Creek.”

Before I can continue, Athanwyr interpolates “Yet here you are, alive and seemingly no worse for the wear. Imagine that.”

I glare at him and his rather glib expression. He has a tendency to pre-empt and mock other people in a rather sarcastic way. Sometimes it is enjoyable but for now it is mostly annoying.

I growl something unintelligible in his direction and try to gather my thoughts.

“I was dead; I am certain of it. The battlefield around me changed and everything slowed down. It was still a field… or maybe a cavern? Any which way, it was full of dead men and women. They had all died a violent and often ignominious death. I could see how my own life’s blood came flowing out of the wound in my throat but for some reason I didn’t feel weaker.”

My hand has involuntarily gone to my newly tattooed throat. Mother have worked hard and has wrought some of her best work to date in the swirls and loops that now cover the ugly scar the defaces the right side of my neck.

Athanwyr has grown more serious and in his eyes I can swear that I see a hunger that craves something beyond this world.

“In that place everything was covered by a cold, unrelenting fog, and I could only vaguely make out shapes that moved around me. I think that there were entrances of some sort in all directions. Some appeared to be illuminated by a strange greenish light and some were dark but somehow I still knew that they were there. There were … things… scenes… taking place within them. I get the feeling that I saw something in there, something that I have forgotten.”

With something almost unpleasantly eager in his voice Athanwyr asks me ”Did you see anyone there? Was anyone present?”

I dig around among those dark memories and try to recollect if anyone was indeed there and suddenly a terrifying memory surfaces.

“I tried to head towards one of the doorways but I couldn’t move. Something was holding me fast. When I looked down I could see that the hands of a dead man were holding me and that his grip was like an iron vise. He stared up at me and it was my father, long since dead, that stared up at me! He spoke to me and said “Not yet!”. Then other dead men and women grabbed me and started to pull me down into the earth.”

I can’t stop shuddering as I remember my father’s face, bereft of all humanity and life. Only his voice was like I remembered it from many years past.

“There was one thing that was highly strange though.”

As I speak these words, I can see Athanwyr leaning closer.

“I caught sight of three odd shapes in the mist just before I was pulled under the ground. I think they were watching, but it didn’t feel like they were part of that place or like they belonged. Then the ground started closing over me and the last thing I saw was starved lips in the gloam with horrid warning gaped wide. And then I awoke and found me there, lying cold on my side.”

Silence lies palpable between us and it is almost like something has entered the longhouse and stolen away all the sounds.

The ovate breaks the silence.

“These are indeed strange things you have witnessed. It sounds like you had set your feet in Annwn. I am not surprised that the gods sent your father to act as a messenger, especially in the light of the summons you and the other three crows received in Sarum. The lady of the cauldron has called you and you can be certain that no ordinary year lies ahead of you. Fulfil the quest she has set before you and She will favour you.”

I have to ask him, for my mind will not give me rest until it has its answers.

“Who were the three shapes?”

Athanwyr looks at me like he is measuring me.

“I cannot say with certainty but you can be sure that I will look for answers. I think that this might be trial for us both in this, though not in the same way.”

His replies are as vague as can be expected. The minds of ovates and druids are tangled, strange things and they never seem to think in a straight line. Maybe he will tell me more at another time.

“What shall I do Athanwyr? These memories haunt me and they will not relinquish their hold on me. I feel like I belonged in the otherlands.”

A look of pity passes over Athanwyrs thin and sharp face before he resumes his usual serious and impassive demeanour.

“That I can at least tell you. The otherlands are strange beyond reckoning and they exert at lure on the living who have been close to them. It is a land of eternal youth, where no one suffers and no one goes hungry. You must break the hold it has on you. Do not spend any more time dwelling on its mysteries fore it will only drive you mad or to your death. Focus instead on this world what awaits you here. Lie with your woman, drink what wine or mead suits you, enjoys the fruits of this winter’s slaughter. Do not overthink, it suits you ill Cadry.”

I try not to smile at his mockery but somehow I can’t help myself. I do not know if I will be able to follow his advice but perhaps it is something to hold on to.

“That at least is something that I can grasp.”

I stand up and leave the ovate to his pondering and walk over to my pregnant wife that has managed comfort our son. I sit down behind her and hold her tight in my arms and some part of me tells me that maybe things will be alright after all.

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The hundred court of Hillfort
485

The hundred court of Hillfort

Early in the year of 485 our young knights gathered at the local court in Hillfort to sort out juridical issues, as of their duties as vassal knights. Many a legal case was brought to the court some more interesting than others. A man was hung for having stolen a bottle of wine with the intention of selling the ill gotten bottle at Sarum. Another man was refusing to pay king’s toll on Maelgwyn’s land since that historically was paid directly to the lord of the manor. That errand was handed over to Sheriff Bedwor.

Gamond’s stepbrother brought to the court an accusation of Gamond’s neglect of his father Bodwyn of Ludwell. According to him Bodwyn had not been treated with respect since the steward post had been handed to another. Gamond refused to listen to these accusations and in the end Maelgwyn invited their stepbrother and stepfather to stay at Chillmark.

Cadry also opened a case against Gamond, since Gamond had been hunting a dangerous man on Tisbury grounds. The case was settled between them with a simple compensation of 3 libra. The sheriff however summoned Gamond to his court for a serious overstepping of boundaries (literally).

After the court Cadry, Maelgwyn, Gammond and Melkin all sat talking to their close neighbours. The knights discussed the legal cases, their trust in count Roderick and lady Ellen and much more. At one point Gorfydd accused the group for creating too many disturbing rumors about women and promptly told Melkin to get married. The men also discussed the raids in Hillfort and how to they could deal with these bandits. During these discussions it dawned on our heroes that the only area that had not been raided as of yet was Ludwell.

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