Monday 20 November 2023

The Heirs of Britain - Game Twenty Three - Part Two


The Heirs of Britain

Session 23 Part 2: 487, The Best Defence…

_____ Session 23 Part Two: The Realm Refocused _____

Elated by the slaughter of Sir Trillo, his allegedly treacherous vassal, King Uther immediately sets about pursuing more blood. Though the Saxon spy is seemingly dead, slain by his own hand, he bids his son, Prince Madoc, to lead an attack on the barbarous invaders. The Prince will lead a small force on ships, south and east around the coast of Britain: He is to seek the Saxon boats, burn as many as he can, and kill those who try to stop him.

There is no room for steeds, but there ought be no need for them: The Cymric force is to move swiftly, striking unexpectedly, and face little resistance. The goal is not to slaughter Saxons, per se, though there is much joy in such a thing; the goal is to destroy ships. The Wolves of Logres volunteer; Sir Elvorix, Sir Uhtred, and Sir Vandar in the stead of his maddened cousin Vandagild.

In late summer, the mustered forces arrive at Hanton, in the south. A hundred knights gather: Not a great force of nobles, but bolstered with soldiers, rowers, and men-at-arms. Boarding with little trouble, the raiding force sails east, along the southern British coast.

As they sail, the three men talk of their lost friend and cousin, fled in mindless passion into the woods of Salisbury. The wily Sir Elvorix is pragmatic – the passion of knights is well known, and virtuous; Vandagild is no exception, nor immune to such things. He is long gone, and his keen talent for woodsmanship will render him unfindable, should he wish it. Sir Vandar is worried for his cousin, but sighs in agreement with Elvorix’s insightful take. Once before, these men chased a lost man into the wilds, and the scars, of flesh or heart, are still borne by each. He will trust to God to return his family.

The massive Sir Uhtred, a Berroc man of few words, shrugs it off; he cares little for the matter. There is work to be done, and Vandagild has abandoned it. He fights with those who remain. To this, Sir Vandar grits his jaw and nods, reasserting his focus. A towering man himself, and handsome, Vandar still stands shorter than hulking Uhtred. The latter spares a sidelong glance at his companion; he holds it a moment. He chews once, and grunts, seemingly satisfied. He tosses some salted meat to his companion, and sets for the taffrail to view the sea.

The raid is undetected: Landing at Anodrida, Sussex, the vile invaders are caught off-guard. Resistance is minimal; the hundred knights butcher the few continental defenders, while lesser men of Logres set torch to the grounded Saxon ships. The Wolves of Logres fight well; Sir Uhtred wields his family’s masterwork great-axe, his companions their sword and shield. They are uninjured, and bring violent death to their shocked foe. The force swiftly reembarks, and sail onward, leaving smoke and blood behind.

Bolstered by the victory, the fleet sets off in high spirits: Thereafter the British vengeance falls upon Port Dubris, a major harbour in Sussex. The glorious Britons sail into port, leap heartily off their bows and onto the salty docks. Though the Saxon guardians are plentiful, they are unprepared. Though they scramble hastily to the fight, they match poorly the knights of Logres, who do bear the initiative and greater force. All around Dubris, ships conflagrate, and men are rent asunder. Once more, the three men fare well; their blades are well wetted when they clamber aboard once more. The aggression of the Logres assault bears ripe fruit; the Saxons have neither time nor means to respond, and the Cymric force builds on the confidence of each victory. Prince Madoc leads well; the blood of the Pendragon is truly thick in his veins! His father Uther, once the mightiest warlord of his brother High King Aurelius, has placed well his trust in the Prince.

_____ Blood and Essex _____

Essex; at the confluence of the Blackware and Colm river. On approach, a wall of Saxon ships lines the sandy beach. The men of Logres murmur: This must be, or has been, a major port of ingress for the hated Saxons; How many must they be? If we crush them here, we can cut them from their homeland and drive them into the sea!

As the sea-spray and weather thins, clearer eyes spy Saxons in full arms arrayed in good order on the shores; a coordinated defence awaits! Have they sharp scouts, sending rapid word between their ports? Has the oily smoke of previous victories given warning? There is but little time to discuss; the knights find their companions and arm, waiting only briefly in eager anticipation of the violence ashore.

Under hails of disciplined arrows, the Prince’s ships slam into the makeshift fortress of Saxon ships with a grinding crunch: As one the knights rush forth, roaring their battle cries and fury! Salty winds whip wet banners and hair alike, the armoured knights leaping forth onto the boats and boards of their enemy! The grey air is soon sprayed with blood, as the barbaric foe howl in kind, charging in their own brutish way.

Sir Elvorix is among the first aboard, rushing to do battle with a burly Saxon seaman. The man wields a great-spear, and benefits from the prepared defences of the Saxon ship-wall: He lurches forward as the Roman knight makes landfall; the long weapon strikes home in the flank of the leaping Elvorix, slipping past his shield and drawing blood through the maille. Elvorix, wounded by his hated Saxon foe, lets the fury of his rage spill forth, a ragged cry of wrath! Alas, he is still outdone by the wily foe, and suffers a second smaller wound! Desperate to regain momentum, frustrated and embarrassed by his cunning foe, Sir Elvorix fogoes his defence, rightly trusting his armour holds against the spearman's blow; the Roman cuts hard, and his lunging foe drops grunting to the ground; wounded but alive! Once more the knight of Salisbury lashes out, pressing has advantage; as the Saxon rises on a knee, Elvorix's blade meets his armoured skull, knocking the man bloody and senseless!

Sir Vandar, beside him, fights confidently, shoving aside his own foe’s long spear and chopping his blade down hard on the man's collar; the Saxon collapses to the deck, gasping, but not yet out of the fight. The tall knight, perhaps overconfident, is caught-out by his standing opponent, who slips the point of his spear into the large Aquitanian's maille to little effect. Grunting, dispassionate, Sir Vandar twists beyond the shaft of the Saxon's spear, and buries his blade to the hilt in the man; they lock eyes until the lesser man slips from life.

Uthred, huge and swollen with exalted rage for his hated foe, Hacks down on his man as he lands, dropping him to a knee, and horrifically cleaving him in twain before he can stand. A booming laugh punctuates the clash and screams of battle, as the enormous Berroc warrior laughs in the joy of slaughter! Sir Uhtred steps to open the gap in the line further, cleaving his great axe with utter rage into another warrior, holding the breach in the line with more wounding hacks!

Before long, the last organised foes fall, and the horn sounds! The enemy are defeated, the boats are burning, and the men of Logres withdraw before more Saxons can rally... 

_____ Among the Reeds… _____

Embarked once more, the knights share stories of their fights and duels, comparing feats and wounds. Talk of victorious battle justify the careful stitches of priests and companions who apply aid, and playfully denigrate their companions boasts. Alas, some Cyrmic warriors will not fight again on this campaign; others will never fight again. Nonetheless: A substantial victory has been achieved, but the task is yet incomplete. Thus they sail onward, northeast to the border between the Saxon Shore and Essex; a Saxon landing near Vigor.

This last raid is set to destroy the last major store of Germanic ships, preventing the escape of the Saxon invaders, in preparation for a crushing assault by King Uther’s knights of Logres. At long last, the invaders will be ground into the sea!

The men sail now up an inlet and river, lead boats scouting the riparian corridors for signs of the foe… Though the men are keen eyed, the Saxons have now had time to prepare: An ambush! Hidden in a tributary, concealed in rushes, a surge of reed-covered Saxon boats rushes to engage the British fleet! Along the embankments, barbarian archers slink from from the shrubs to loose waves of arrows into the knights and soldiers! The Cymric army shouts too-late warnings, sending men scrambling for arms and cover! Arrows rain into the defender’s boats, strike the two larger knights, Sirs Vandar and Uhtred, among many other; Vandar's armour holds, but a well-aimed arrow sinks into Uhtred's flesh! The offending archer jeers, sending lewd gestures at his bleeding enemy, before he nocks another shaft…

The enemy ships, adorned with the standard Saxon trinkets and banners now engage, slamming hard into the British force. One ship, in particular, carries a distinct banner, larger than the others: It is an array of different colours and patterns, haphazard, chaotic… keen eyes lay clear its meaning: It is a British Banner, or rather, a collage of torn and bloodied things, sewn together! A detestable sight, covered in countless arms unrecognisable to most. Sir Elvorix, however, has family who were from the Saxon Shore; he spies, among the mosaic, the arms of a grandfather! He roars with rage, eager to avenge the memory of his fallen family!

_____ Head of the Sea Snake _____

One of the British sailors calls out in some concern: “Chief Basa!"

Sir Elvorix, senior knight on his boat, sounds the order to intercept the ship;

“Lo! There, boatman! Attack! Vengeance! Yea, row hard, men! Mine vengeance must be sated, sail into the fray! Have at them!”

The crew twist the oars, heaving them through the bloodied river, and slam into the side of the Saxon ship! The enemy are ready, however, and are natural sea-men: They leap at once, flinging recklessly from their own decks and onto those of the knights of Logres!

Sir Elvorix has led his fellows sharply, however, and knoweth well the reckless heart of the Saxon: His men are ready, and his counterattack violent: They catch the Saxons disordered and flat-footed!

Chief Basa boards alongside his men, showing no fear to fight anyone in his way. He is mad, calling strongly for Prince Madoc, in the tongue of the land he invades:

"MADOC!! Prince Madoc!?!? I come for thee, Princeling! I will slay thee, and to mine banner I will add the remnants of thine! Hide not, whelp, and face thy death bravely!"

Sir Uhtred growls, and his rumbling roar spits back in Saxon: “FILTHY, UNKEMPT DOG! Mind thy betters! Thy eyes will but see my Prince when I do show him thy severed head!”

Basa whips his head around, cutting down an oarsmen with little regard: He spots his aggressor, and strides forth to meet the challenge. He spits over the intervening men landing a great gob of filthy saliva on Uhtred's chest. Two burly guards, with shields and axes, flank him, with two more men besides; large unarmoured men with greataxes, frothing and raging with their love of battle.

Sir Elvorix, a veteran swordsman, engages the bodyguards, fighting to hold them at bay, while his larger companions tangle the greataxemen, hoping to cut them down quickly...

Sir Vandar leaps forward with great power, burying his blade in the wild warrior's skull; he gasps once; an axe clatters from twitching fingers; a bloody mess flops to the deck. Hulking Uhtred, too, quickly bests his man: Silent but enraged, the massive man’s flashing axe whips aside his foe’s weapon, and snaps back to open a broad wound; but his foe fights on. Sir Elvorix, with careful work, holds one attacker beyond the reach of his blade, but the tattooed bodyguard snakes a skilled slash past his distracted defence, cutting his thigh through the maille.

The Roman grimaces: "That's it? I knew not that Saxons sent mothers to battle!"

Sir Vandar steps in beside him, free of his own foe: The Roman’s jibe bites hard, but his blade bites harder: The enraged Saxon leaps forth, and Elvorix’s ready blade whips out; It catches the skilful Saxon through the jaw, spinning him to the floor in a whirl of blood! The man still yet lives and, spitting blood, starts to rise to fight on. But there striketh the lofty Aquitanian: His steel cuts deeply through the man’s ribs; but yet he stands, drenched in his own blood, coughing. The Saxon shakes free his shock; slamming his shield against his own head; Bang, Twice, Thrice, to find his focus and fight for his life! Beside them, mighty Sir Uhtred finally finishes off his unarmoured foe, cleaving through his collar and drenching the deck in his blood!

Before them, Chieftain Basa has already cut down two knights, his skill and power undeniable! The Cymric lines falter before his terrible advance, as men rise and fall to hold! Behind him, more Saxons leap across the boats to exploit his breach! One of them, a screaming beast wielding an engraved great-axe, dives forth to battle Sir Uhtred!

Sir Elvorix takes advantage of his fallen foe, decapitating him as he stands awkwardly from his stunning blow. Beside him, Sir Vandar grips the blade he has buried in his foes rib, and, wedging his shield on the far side, pulls, drags and saws the blade through the man's spine. 

Sir Uthred, alas, finds the limits of his fortune, and his destructive rampage is hindered: A hacking blow from the enemy's great-axe fractures the maille of his thigh, and a torrent of scarlet bursts forth: He grits his teeth to remain consciousness from the cruel wound!

But still, the assault continues: Basa's bodyguards are cut down, and the terrible Chieftain finishes off his own knightly opponent with his hefty mace. He roars in brief celebration, and turns with malice to face Sir Vandar and Sir Elvorix.

“Uhtred!” the Roman calls; “I come! Hold, my friend!”

He leaps to help his younger friend, who breathes rapidly, and bleeds heavily from his terrible gash. The Roman’s blade slashes at the Saxon Berzerker, drawing blood from his collar, but it is Sir Uhtred, enraged and bleeding, who buries his own axe in the man's rib and spine, felling him!

Sir Vandar steps forward, his stance wide, edging forward into melee… and then he feints, leans, and thrusts; Basa’s long mace clatters off the ducking Aquitanian’s shield, while the latter’s blade lances under the swing; Slash, defend, counter, step! The men reset at safer range, but it is Basa who is bloodied in the exchange. He spits again, while Vandar carefully manoeuvres for advantage…

Another armoured great-axeman leaps aboard, but wily Elvorix is swift, and the Saxon’s chest takes his steel before he lands! The wound is modest, but the attacker twists, wrongfooted in the movement, and tumbles awkwardly to the reddening deck. Brave Uhtred meanwhile, though paling and sorely wounded, steps up to battle the relentless Basa, dwarfing even great Vandar beside him! His guards bested quickly, Basa is now outnumbered: The vile chieftain fights aggressively to even his chances: Uhtred is the slower man, alas, hindered by his wound: The Saxon’s mace crashes into him, smashing free his helmet, and sending his immense, unconscious form skidding slickly to the deck! Woe!

Yet, vengeance in his heart, Sir Vandar once more has the Chieftain's measure! As his friend collapses beside him, he closes in behind the swinging mace and slams his blade into the collar of Basa’s maille, knocking him to the ground and ripping through muscle, the Chieftain grimaces, but turns to face him with renewed focus!

_____ Last Blood _____

 The deck is covered in dead and dying men, slick with the blood and sea; whatever strategies were once schemed and debated are now drowned in this morass; fates now hang in the grit and skill of the battered, striving warriors.

Sir Elvorix stands over the wounded Great-axeman;

Sir Vandar stands over Chieftain Basa.

An axe flashes up; a sword down; steel is shattered, wood splintered; a fallen man tries to scramble backward, away, arm outstretched to fend off a flashing blade…

Basa, nearby, lunges and lashes out from his knees; Sir Vandar lifts his leg over the sweeping, lunging in behind it with his knee. The chieftain is crushed under his weight, his mace-arm pinned between them, the weapon itself pinned to the deck by a knightly shield. The men struggle for a few moments: One holds control, his weight, maille, and shield, aiding him; for the other, the moment last an eternity: He scrambles for freedom and life, snatching, heaving, squirming... So entangled, Basa snarls, and roars in frustration, unable to stop the Aquitanian knight from slowly burying his blade through his neck, pushing, as the roar turns to a burble, and a splutter, wedging the steel in the deck beneath. He levers, once to-, and once-fro; Thus, he takes the chieftain's head.

He stands, holds it aloft, and roars for his Prince:

“Your Highness! My Prince, Madoc! Behold!”

The Prince hacks through a Saxon sailor, and looks about; he catches his knight’s eye, and hence the handsome Aquitanian flings the sanguine trophy across the water to Madoc's feet.

Madoc sheaths his blade and gathers the thing: Sir Vandar raises his sword, nods at the Prince, and returns to subduing the now surrendering Saxons.

The Prince of Logres yells his glory, leaps in three steps atop a higher deck, and shows the head to the Saxons broadly! The heroic display precipitates a broader surrender from the ambushing force, and the Saxons fling themselves into the water, onto their boats, and away from the battle. The front ships of the British have made short work of the Saxons around them, and in short order the battle is won!

Sir Elvorix, who famously detests the Saxon invaders, show no mercy: He butchers the surrendering man at his feet, repeated, savage blows, delivered with little tact but great wrath. He is pulled from the man by companions, but takes Basa's cursed banner. Sir Vandar, letting the slaughter fall to others, checks on Sir Uhtred, who still yet breathes, though shallow. The Roman, eventually calm, returns to his friends, and drapes the captured banner over the three knights, who enjoy the glory and accolades of their fellows. The Prince Madoc gives an acknowledging nod to the men.

Many men here note now the Banner:

“Burn it!” some call, built to rage at the sight of the insulting, abominable thing.

Still others see it is a trophy, to be claimed as an honour to the fallen. 

Sir Elvorix gifts the banner to Sir Vandar;

“Here, Vandar! I have this for thee; You did slay that man, yea, and thy new home is in need of such gifts worthy of thy deeds!”

“Skilful Elvorix! I applaud thy generosity, and praise thy skill! You have my thanks for this; it is a fine thing. I am grateful, and be’eth thee a good man. I would welcome thee to my hall whenever thee might wish for it!

“Yea, friend; the Prince and I will come, and yea, we will partake of thy fine Aquitanian wine. Soon enough!”

Vandar nods, again, and turns to the gathered crowd.

“Warriors of Logres! I hear thee! And yea, held in mine hand is this great banner, terribly wrought by wretched hands. But Lo! Those hands are now dead, and the head of their foul bearer held aloft by our fine Prince, who hath led us to great victories on this campaign! Look about thee; counteth, if thee can, the butchered Saxons. Slain by thee, ye mighty, in this great battle! Would thee, in thy rage, burn this memory of our fallen families, those good men and women cut down in the Saxon shore? I would not; and I beg thee harken for the why.

“This”, he says, holding the banner high, “telleth our story! Once broken, are we of Logres, and put to patchwork by betrayal, barbarians, and brutality. Scattered, to foreign shores, driven from homeland were we… but, looketh thee once more, around thee: We are together! Cut down, do we, those who might wish to break us, and rebuildeth, do we, our homes, with the good blood of those who might best live here! Once broken, torn apart, we are united once more, and stronger for it!

“And now,” he crouches a moment, soaking up the blood of fallen Basa with the great banner, “we are bound by the blood of our enemies! Together, we fight, for the memory of fallen friends! For Logres! For the Prince!”

Thus, with great cheer, the men consolidate, reorganise, and set out for the final port. There, there is little opposition; it seems the foe were counting on Chief Basa to hold. More ships are burned, and the men of Britain sail back to Sarum. 

_____ Autumn, 487 _____

The knights return to Salisbury. A contingent of men is sent to Cornwall, to repay the generous supplies provided by the good Duke Gorlois and Sir Brastias. Alas, Sir Myles on patrol in the northeast, was met by a raiding party led by, of course, Sir Blains. The latter has a new champion; it seems and, in a rage for everything that has happened, Sir Myles charged the man, to trade lances! Alas, he loses out, and takes a grievous wound. He recovers, well enough, but now walks with a limp. He speaks now, of Sir Blains, with a particular venom. Blain's raid is not stopped, of course, and many manors and farms are damaged.

Elsewhere, news reaches of Lady Eleri, daughter of the sturdy Banneret Sir Hywell, and former lover of the Modest, Handsome and late Sir Iwan: She has passed this season. While the circumstances of her death are left quite vague; it seems the larger question is: What will happen to Sir Hywell's lands? The cunning Sir Elvorix and, strangely, the crude Sir Uhtred, find more information or, rather, a lack: Almost no-one knows anything, and rumours are empty. Those who speak of it become elusive, and cannot be pressed. Sir Hywell, at least, is furious; he is blaming Sir Statirius for the death.

Others know, however, that Hywell loved Eleri more than anything; he was very pleased to have her inherit his entire estate, and he had no desire to try to make another heir. Some of these folk consider that he may just be lashing out with madness and grief at her loss; for these, it is unfortunate that Statirius must be the victim of this.

Earl Roderick, meanwhile was taken with King Uther to visit King Cadwy. Sir Elvorix recalls their first meeting - the King went in with great bluster, but emerged dejected and subdued. This time, however, it seems that Uther has managed to get the better of Cadwy. Not much is said or known about the proceedings, but two rumours are heard: Firstly, the Earl will not be receiving the Hundreds that Cadwy took from him, though he will keep Castle Devizes. That surrounding land is now affirmed, by Uther, to be in King Cadwy's hands. Secondly, a knight, Sir Aran, one of those who retrieved Uther’s sword for Merlin, was involved in some dispute in Summerland. It is said that he defeated three of Summerland’s knights in head-to-head duels! Aran, however, is a proud man, and perhaps prone to boast. Nonetheless, King Uther has managed to convince Cadwy to send troops to muster.

Word also emerges that there was a fourth knight with Sir Edar, Sir Aran, and Sir Garnoc, when they retrieve the sword, but he was killed. His name is not known, nor do the three openly speak of it. Strange…

Finally, the King, with Roderick in tow, finished their progress at Lindsey, to see their "friend" Duke Corneus; he is, though previously on the border of rebellion, apparently, now very content to serve King Uther… Curious…


King Arthur Pendragon 5.2

All images created with Bing image creator

No comments:

Post a Comment