Monday 17 April 2023

The Heirs of Britain - Game Twenty Three - Part One


The Heirs of Britain

Session 23: 487, The Suffering of Sarum...

_____ Session 23: Sarum Starveth Still_____


Sir Vandar, the towering cousin of the maddened Sir Vandagild and household knight of Baron Duach, is still deeply in love with one Lady Elaine. He dreams, night and day, of his impassioned meeting with her, his heart aflutter when he recalls how he collapsed at her feet, bleeding to oblivion, after cutting down the Saxon Lion at Uther’s feast.

Yet there is another who holds love for her: Sir Eliezier. The Strong.

Famed, of course, for his prodigious strength, he is also renowned as quite the horseman. As one of the King's Constables, Eliezier handles the stables, while Sir Argan manages other administration.

The man likes not Sir Vandar's amorous advances, but he does not redress them directly: Rumours start, accusations of witchcraft, cowardice, and the like; the Constable using his prodigious influence to undermine the tall, handsome Aquitanian. Sir Vandar gains a miserable reputation; first in whispers, then more openly. Once he learns of these dishonourable words, and their source being such a famous man; he acts at once, driven by his Honesty, Valour, and Honour. Sir Vandar tracks the man down, finding him in the courtyard among his peers. He strides into the circle of upper nobility, denounces Eliezier’s dishonour and manner, and challenges him to a duel; the loser will abandon their pursuit of the Lady Elaine.

Space is cleared at once; Eliezier is no coward, though he hesitates briefly, seeing Vandar’s passion, he nonetheless accepts the younger man’s offer: They will fight to Yield.

The Constable is older and stronger; a long, single braid hangs from his head, his face dominated by a broad chin, knobbly and dimpled. He is a veteran of many battles, and a wonderful swordsman.

Sir Vandar is taller, younger, and more passionate; his long, sandy hair loose, a long beard concealing a sharp Aquitanian jawline.

The men don their arms: Eliezier is wealthy; his maille is silvered on the accents, and endowed with silver thread and exquisite embellishments. Vandar's maille too, is custom, but only to fit his height and shoulders; it is a simple work of good steel. The Aquitanian’s eyes lock on his foe and do not falter. Eliezier looks at Vandar with some apprehension. He turns to look at Elaine, who has now been brought to the courtyard with her handmaidens; he sees her concerned eyes trained on Sir Vandar. The Constable scowls, his own eyes narrow, and he turns to his opponent, a new passion burning within...

Sir Eliezier rushes, his fiery surge unexpected: He cuts hard overhead, twice, fast; the force of his powerful blows drives Vandar back, battering his shield; Elizier leaps forth inside the taller man’s stumbling guard, and with practised precision thrusts his sword into Sir Vandar’s armpit! The blow is faultless; yet the thickness of the Aquitanian’s chest and his hardy constitution keep it from felling him; he grunts, twisting free of the Constable’s blade, and sets again his feet for battle.

Sir Eliezier sees the product of his strike: Blood leaks freely down his opponent’s flank and thigh as he breathes, rapid and energetic; the thrust hath left his man greatly sore.

“Yield, whelp! An imp, are thee, thinking to challenge me! Never will thee have my Lady’s hand!”

Sir Vandar opens his shoulders broad, flexing his back; as yet unhindered by the blow. He huffs free the shock of the strike, and responds in kind:

“You call me imp?!” he snarls, “I will fight like a demon!”

The men engage once more; Sir Vandar, expecting Eliezier’s lurching advance to close inside, meets him in kind: The Aquitanian steps in and aside, parrying close with his blade, and at once ripping his shield up hard, under the man's chin; Eliezier is stunned, stumbling back, his limbs weakened but a moment; but a moment too long. Sir Vandar shifts his stance, whipping his blade around hard and catching the reeling Constable’s helmet at the end of the sweeping chop. Sir Eliezier’s decorated helmet splits from the blow, his long braid jerking as the maille beneath splits. The constable flies several yards, a peal of blood marking his dramatic fall. He tumbles into the dirt, unconscious and bleeding badly. He yet breathes, albeit weakly.


Sir Vandar watches his foe a few moments, pacing energetically; Elizier does not stand. The Aquitanian raises high his arm, roaring in passionate victory! He feels not the deep cut in his rib as he turns to his amor, Lady Elaine. For a second time his blood stains scarlet her dress; he embraces her passionately, easily lifting her high, spinning in delight. The crowd erupts in cheer and vigor!

But yet, the moment is interrupted; a powerful voice booms over the cheers:

“What is the meaning of this?! Who hath so struck my Constable!?”

The King: Uther Pendragon.

Sir Vandar gently lets Elaine to the floor, turns on his heel, and strides boldly to kneel before Uther:

“Your Highness, my Liege; I, Sir Vandar, have struck thy Constable. I admit it, though not without purpose, nor recourse. A fair challenge was offered and accepted; and as his conqueror I do claim thy Constable as prisoner, for he hath done me false with deceitful rumours and dishonest tricks.”

The wounded knight falls silent, awaiting Uther’s response, his blood pooling around his knee.

The King breathes once, his voice low as he responds slowly: “And what are your demands?”

Still full of passion and love, the Aquitanian calls them proudly:

“I ask thee, your Highness, for only this: The Lady Elaine’s hand in marriage, and a manor to own and defend. For I will need means appropriate to a lady of her beauty, grace, and elegance, to keep her safe and hale.”

The crowd murmurs: The knight is bold! Is this legal? Who speaketh so daringly to the King?

King Uther’s eyes narrow. He looks at Vandar, bleeding at his feet; at Eliezier bleeding in the dust; at the crowd gathered anxiously around him.

“Very well!” he begins, “A Manor; and a herd of war-horses to sustain you and your bride-to-be: Lady Elaine!”

The crowd erupts into cheer! Elation and joy and hearty rejoicing! Sir Vandar lowers his head further, thanking the King, but it is unheard over the raucous gathering. Elaine runs forth to embrace Vandar, followed by the press of the masses; squires slink forth to remove Eliezier, lest he be trampled beneath the throng.

The King turns, returning to his duties.

Sir Vandar embraces Elaine, the two showering one another with kisses.

Hand in hand, eventually free of the congratulatory crowd, the knight approaches his Lord, Baron Duach.

With modesty he explains what has happened, begging the Baron’s understanding. Duach is a modest, forgiving man, and he is happy to hear of his vassal’s success and new status. While he is pleased that Vandar has secured his own lands, and the means to support his family, he affirms this:

“This does not relinquish you of your oath; and your obligations have not lessened.”

Sir Vandar now owes service both to the King and Baron Duach. He nods, happy enough with the arrangement.

__________ The Scandal of the Saxon Spy __________

 Sirs Elvorix and Uhtred, having been on patrol, return to Sarum; the city is still overwhelmed by the men and women of Logres. Soon realising their friend, Sir Vandagild, is missing, they worriedly start their investigation...

Soon enough they hear rumours and intrigue associating a man of Vandagild's description with some incident by the stables... He was complaining about the horse food, it seems, and fell into a state. He struck another knight, made off with his horse and, trampling through the camp, fled the city. Not west, to the woods, but east, to some destination known only to himself.

Knowing well Vandagild's dedication, elusiveness, and horsemanship, Sir Elvorix thinks not to pursue him; he knows of the madness that does capture knights of a time; he will be sought once passions have cooled. He is alive, at least, and will likely stay that way: He can look after himself. His troubled friend will need to figure himself out alone.

Sir Uhtred is frustrated: All of their work, his late mentor Sir Iwan's work, to free the man from the Forest of Gloom, undone in a moment of twisted passion. Fleeing his duties to his Lord, his loyalties to his friends… He sighs grumpily.

Sir Vandar echoes Elvorix's thoughts - he will need time to recover, and he trusts that he will keep himself alive until then. His cousin is passionate; such actions are not unexpected from one so driven by his heard. Moreover, he will be a hard man to find, should he wish not to be. He will let that burning heart simmer to embers, and hence find him when God wills it.

In the great hall of Sarum, Uther still sits. As the controversial re-swearings continue, and the feasts with them, the Roman, Sir Elvorix, notices that the quality of the food diminishes, and the volume, with each passing day... This is highly unusual; to keep court this long? To ask for so many oaths resworn? He wonders if the King is afflicted by some sorcery or Madness. Knowing of Ulfius' whispering in his ear, Sir Elvorix and Lady Diane investigate the entourage of the Duke of Lindsey. Has he another member in his own court; one with darker designs? They discover a woman, a servant to Ulfius' wife, new to her side. Moreover, it takes not long to learn that she is known for her political intrigues and commentaries. Pushing further, the cunning pair learn some of her idiosyncrasies - she openly mocks people for constantly blaming Saxons for everything; O Saxons killed your cow? What's next, the pain in your knee in the winter, that's Saxons too?

To Sir Elvorix, this seems the work of a Saxon sympathiser... 

Leveraging this, the deceitful Roman and his cunning wife plot to spread rumours among the feasts, implanting mistrust in this woman, one of Ulfius’ entourage, and thus perhaps break Ulfius' influence over the King.

He leaves Vandar and Uhtred out of it; the though latter is also deceitful, he thinks them both too Good for this work...

Predictably, a feast is soon held; another disgraceful re-oathening - some of these people aren't even knights!

Sir Elvorix plies his shadowy trade, angling the story so it lands best with each new audience – “I heard from Sir such-and-such that Ulfius' servants have softness for the invaders”. He also tells that the King listens carefully to these words, and makes comparisons with the Betrayer Vortigern! Elsewhere, Lady Diane does the same among the women, pressuring the knight's wives, who each may lose, or have lost, their beloved husbands and sons in the fight against the Saxons...

Elvorix, inspired by his Hatred of the Saxons and their vile influence, perfectly targets his arguments; speaking of Vortigern only to those who are already building with resentment, and using softer words among those sympathetic to the King. He skirts the line of blatant treason like a circus performer, and the timing of this intrigue brings new vibrancy to another long, dulling feast. At the end of the night, it is clear to the scheming pair that their efforts have landed cleanly: The presence of Saxon sympathisers in the King's Court becomes a solid point of gossip. They raise their glasses, nod in silent congratulation and pride, and let the conflagration rise…

As the companions hear of this, Sir Uhtred has such an overriding Hatred of Saxons that he cannot ignore the rumours - he happily engages with them, and indeed spreads them a little farther. Sir Vandar cares not for such things - though he hates Saxons and likes Uther, this reeks of the dishonest chicanery of courtlihood. He is far too busy being embroiled in a fiery new love to pay heed to such venomous talk.

__________ Fanning the Flames __________

People wonder, mostly in whispers, why the King hasn’t responded to these rumours. And these rumours do spread far: tendrils of paranoia seep through the shadows, to take root in minds of the courtiers of Logres. Rhus, as these shadowy things, like toadstools, creep carefully forth from the dark, and then burst with their scandalous spores, so too does the outrage come to a head:

A few days later, beyond the walls of Sarum and in the sprawling camp, raised voices draw many ears: Shouts about Saxon spies; Saxon interlopers; treason! Two knights, neither well known, confront one another openly, each full of rage, and both of their camps soon start to trade blows! Shouts, gathering crowds, wrestling, stumbling men of all kinds; yea, a great mess is wrought in the yard of The Rock! Screams; fighting; yelling; these things swell and consume.

Soon: Guards! A great number of the armed men of Sarum bring spears to the fray and hence settle and disperse the swirling morass of dangerous, passionate men...

When the wrath is heard of by the King, a trial is declared: The truth of the matter, whether the accused is a Saxon spy, will be determined! 

Sir Elvorix inquires more about the accused: Sir Trillo, he learns, from the Duchy of The Marsh. Plying this, the Roman once more rolls the die of his dangerous game, hoping to further influence the flow of devious words. He leaks, to Trillo and others, that the spy is a servant not a noble. He wishes not to see a man unjustly hanged. Of course, this Trillo might well be a Saxon spy independently, and thus by fortune caught up in this sly mess. Thus, with this small effort to lighten his conscience, Elvorix opts to let things play out as they will.

__________ The Sword of Victory __________

The trial occurs on the morrow; the King is eager to see the matter put to the grave. Uther himself once more sits in Roderick's throne, casually leaning on a knee; his gleaming sword rests loosely in hand, point down. He spins it casually, flickering strange light across the room.

The accused is presented: Sir Trillo of The Marsh.

The accuser states his claim: He heard Trillo discussing plans of the Army of Logres, their strength, disposition, and intentions. He overhead him whispering that he had soon to attend a secret meeting to speak with someone. He offers little more of substance, but much of passion.

The Marsh, being north of Salisbury, is not near Saxon lands; many wonder, most in silence, why a Saxon Spy would operate there…

Sir Trillo is given his moment. He offers a simple defence in calm tones: He is a loyal knight, with no reason nor means of betraying the King, or the Kingdom. He swore oaths that he intends to uphold; has always upheld! Alas, it is clear he convinces few; the crowd is quiet, unmoved by his words. Sweat beads, and he slowly becomes unsettled, and speaks increasingly franticly.

In such a moment, he blurts out in desperation: Oh, by God, listen: We all know, each of us, it's not. Me. Nay, nor anyone from the Marsh; nay, nor a Knight! Speak aloud, any of thee who sit here, who hath not heard the rumours: We know who keeps this spy: Ulfius! They come from his court, we all heard it! And the King allows it! Hold not thy tongues, cowards! He continues frantically, his strong voice, defaming the King and his man openly, somehow overwhelms the jeers and boos of the crowd.

Finally, King Uther himself calls out: “Silence!”

A moment passes; no words.

Uther begins to speak, but Trillo blurts out once more:

“Nay! I will not go down like some whimpering dog! I demand that thee fight me! I will demand a trial by combat! Thee, and I, King Uther! I declare it!”

The King stands without a word, twirling his sword high now, and proudly, almost joyously, declares: “I accept!”

Uther calls for his squires and arms, and the same for Sir Trillo.

No-one offers Trillo a corner, nor comfort - he is a man alone. He is armed and armoured, and a space is cleared.

The two men, King Uther Pendragon of Logres, Sir Trillo of the Marsh, ready themselves for battle. The one, calm, cocky; flourishing an ancient blade of fey magic and clad in the finest armour the land has ever seen. The other anxious, desperate, pacing with nervous energy; clad in simple maille.

Uther smiles, levels his blade at Trillo, and strides forward.

With each step, The Sword of Victory glows ever brighter with some ancient fae glory; the radiance causes Trillo to shield his eyes, and in that moment, the King leaps to engage.

Uther gains quick advantage, slamming the Sword of Victory into Trillo's shield which hangs too loose; the awful sword drives down, slicing clean through the maille at the defendant’s shoulder. A small splash of blood flies free; but the bblow is heavy, and Trillo wrong-footed: he stumbles and falls, still covering his eyes from the magical gleam.  A round of great cheers through the hall!

Uther raises his arms, taking in the crowd’s glory, striding proudly around his fallen vassal:

“I will not let thee die on the ground; though ye deserveth it greatly. Stand, Sir Trillo! Stand, and tell me: Are thee innocent, or nay!?”

The enraged man screams an unintelligible curse at the King and, scrambling to his feet, rushes forth to battle, his shield raised to shade his eyes. Uther defends easily, his blade moving with a strange grace; he counters with another solid blow, cutting low through Trillo’s thigh to spill more blood; Trillo cries out, and slips under his collapsing strength.

“Hah! Perhaps I ought inspect the troops of the Marsh; be this all they have to offer? Up! Up!”

Trillo spits, stands, and engages; lunging hard into Uther's deft parry and a solid boot: Uther’s powerful kick sends him sprawling for a third time. The King is smiling, playing with his foe, clearly withholding the chance to plunge deep his blade. Trillo skids to the ground, winded and wheezing.


Sir Trillo, crying now, stands, bent and swaying, losing blood and struggling to breathe.

He lunges weakly once more; Uther flourishes a deft, nonchalant parry, and with sharp footwork slips  beside and behind the ailing man: He grips hard the man's arm hard, twisting it sharply behind his back with an awful, cracking snap, and then shoves the broken man, helpless, paralysed, at his feet. Uther shakes his head, chuckling softly. He casually steps forward and, holding high the enchanted sword, spins it, to slam the point down through his defeated knight's neck. The blade drives through the stone beneath with a tremendous, awful clap; like that crack of too-close lightning.

The bloodied weapon cleanly splits Trillo’s spine; Uther pulls it once this way, and once fro, slicing and twisting free the man’s gargling head. It is a brutal display. Uther stands and steps away, throwing back his head, flicking a fringe free of his face; he holds a moment, considering his work, and then turns to the crowd; he thrusts the Sword of Victory skyward; the gleam now tainted with red; washing over the room in a strange, sanguine light. His court is already aroar with cheer and bloodlust, and his glorious display brings forth a new surge of merriment: A thunderous roar as the crowd goes wild!

A Saxon spy, killed by the King’s own hand! Hurrah and cheer!

Sirs Elvorix, Uhtred, and Vandar celebrate too; a Saxon spy is killed!

And with this Uther gains some face, especially so displaying his glorious blade.

Alas: The people are not convinced that he was the only spy; though the King hath innoculated himself of guilt, the rumours persist. For many, this is only proof that there are Saxons in their midst.

The King remains for a month; Sarum suffers. But he eventually departs, and his army of courtiers and sycophants with him. He leaves Sarum with Roderick in towe: He is off to see the ‘friends’ mentioned in the early days of this siege, this affront of loyalty: King Cadwy, and Duke Corneus.


King Arthur Pendragon 5.2

Images generator by Bing Image Creator, which I think uses Dall-E, I don't know.

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