The Great Pendragon Campaign, 484

The diplomatic mission to Malahaut seeming to have failed, King Uther looks for other allies- King Canan of Estregales, the most powerful of the Kings of Gales, whom to other Kings in that region owe tribute. King Canan would make a powerful ally, and all but assure victory against the Saxons and deliver unto Uther the votes he needs to be formally anointed High King. To this end he sends one of his most capable ambassadors, Steward Morganor of Salisbury, who will be accompanied by a cadre of his knights.

Along the road, the knights encountered Sir Jorddans, the Mad Knight, who lampooned many of the player knights with songs mocking them, perhaps intending to provoke one of them into a fight. However the knights all kept their composure, and rode on, and Sir Jorddans, having failed to rile them, tired and went home.

As they traveled through Gales, they encountered a number of places and people; these were essentially narrated events for some local color. They traveled through the Duchy of Glouchester, an independent fiefdom, where they meet the old Duke and his sons, the Twin Bannerets, identical twins who seem to quite hate each other, one who dresses in all red (the Red Banneret) and one who dresses in all green (the Green Banneret). Red & Green’s proper names are not given by the text. The Twin Bannerets escort them to the border of Escavalon.

In Escavalon, they are met by Sir Alain, who served at Castle Terrabil in his position as envoy to King Uther. Knowing the knights, he showed them around the city of Carlion and introduced them to King Nantlerod of Escavalon. Alain tried to ask about the whole Merlin business without being too impolite; he was probably a bit too impolite but his curiosity was finally answered. King Nantlerod was quite gregarious, and had an odd habit of putting each knight on the spot and asking them some question, often about a point of knighthood or an opinion on honor. As the King held court he would regularly do so, forcing everyone present to speak up at one point or another and voice some opinion. A truly eccentric King, indeed. Continuing to travel through Escavalon, they went through Cardiff, Newcastle in the Nain Forest, and Kynke Kynedonne, none of which are described in the text.

Then they get to Estregales, traveling through Carmarthen and onto Pembroke Castle. At Pembroke, they finally meet King Canan, along with his two sons, Sir Drac, a young prince, recently knighted, and his younger brother, Lak, his squire, along with King Canan’s seneschal, Sir Orcas. (Several jokes about D&D’s Orcus ensue, and whether someone named after him can be trusted.) King Canan and Steward Morganor are in closed negotiations for several days. In the mean time, Sir Drac asks the knights if they will accompany him and his brother on a hunting expedition.

Setting out, they travel through the woods to prime hunting grounds. Drac and Lak have never been out of Estregales, and are eager for any tales the knights would share with them. Eventually boar tracks are found. Sir Drac is eager to go fight the beast, and asks the experienced hunters how many people should attack it at once. (The answer, according to those who have faced boars in the past, is as many as possible.) Roughly four knights on horse can stab at the boar with spears or lances at once, but even cornered, the Boar is a ferocious foe. Before it is defeated, it maimed Sir Morian’s horse, and killed the horse of Sir Drac. Along their way back, they stopped at a small village, where a roughly dressed man offered to race his pony against the knights on horse. It turned out that knighty steeds were not suited towards this terrain, and the man’s hill pony easily beat all those who raced him, and Sir Leoric lost 5 pounds in a mighty wager. After the races it was revealed that the man was Ystrad Tyi, Chieftan of the Hill People. Bersules was quite impressed with the hill ponies, and purchased one for himself, and another for Morian.

Upon returning to Pembroke, they learned that King Canan and Steward Morganor had gone to Castle Tenby. King Canan prefers to make a quick progress through his realm, visiting his lords as often as possible. Sir Drac was more than happy to accompany the knights on their way.

They stopped in Carmarthen, where Sir Drac told them it was the birthplace of Merlin, who was born longer ago than anyone could remember, but he was once a young man, son of a maiden woman and the devil. He showed them the chapel where Merlin was baptized, the shack where Merlin lived, and the fountain where Merlin performed healing magics, and finally, Merlin’s tree, with a raven perched on it.

Sir Morian decided he wanted to sleep out in the woods by Merlin’s tree, hoping to gain some wisdom from it. The other knights agreed, though some were suspicious of the raven. Some Faerie Lore rolls were made- it was learned it was indeed a magic tree (though at the time I didn’t know the legend of Merlin’s tree, so I didn’t give out any more information than that), and Tathan, getting a critical success, learned that the raven was Merlin’s familiar. Sir Leoric botched, and I asked the player to determine what wrong thing Leoric believed. The player came up with two that she could not choose between: one, that Leoric believed that Leander was completely wrong about everything, and that Merlin was a great and holy man, or that Leoric believed that Leander had been completely right, and that Merlin was a wicked sorcerer who deserved to die. She decided to roll a die, and Leoric saw the light and realized that Leander had been right all along, that all this magic business was wicked and sinful. “Please forgive me for my sins, and the sins I will do in the future,” Leoric said, not entirely understanding the point.

Leoric decided that this tree was bad business, and hatched a plan. During the middle of the night, when he was on watch, he took an axe to the tree, hoping to chop it down. Tathan and others woke up; Morian bopped Leoric on the head with the blunt end of a spear, and another knight tried to grapple him, but ultimately it was Tathan, who stood fast against the tree and told Leoric that he would have to go through him to get to the tree. (This was a crit on a Dex roll to interpose himself.) At that point Leoric stood down. Many trait checks were earned by all present.

(Addendum:  The legend of Merlin’s tree says that when the tree falls, so will the village of Carmarthen, probably by flood.)

They finally caught up with King Canan at Castle Tenby, where he announced that he was glad to form an alliance with King Uther. He proposed a toast, and his son Sir Drac brought him a goblet, and he drank it down… and began to turn blue, and blood ran forth from his mouth, eyes, and other facial extremities. The King had been poisoned! Sir Orcas proclaimed that Sir Drac had done it and called for his arrest.

However Sir Bersules had seen that it was Sir Orcas who had given Sir Drac the poisonous chalice, and knew that this was Sir Orcas’s doing. Who knew that someone named Orcas could be a villain? Sir Bersules called out Sir Orcas, who responded with demanding a challenge. Space was cleared out in the dining hall, and Sir Orcas and Bersules returned, clad in armor with their weapons, Orcas wielding an axe.

I wanted Orcas to be tough, so I gave him the famous knight stat bloc, as befits a high officer of a kingdom, and swapped out his Sword skill of Axe to make him a little more memorable. Sir Bersules was inspired by his Honor, and had a higher skill to start with, but the dice favored Sir Orcas, who got a critical hit on Sir Bersules, incapacitating him. Sir Orcas was prepared to go in for the kill, when many knights arose to stop him. However Sir Orcas was the winner, and as such, the Lord of Tenby Castle proclaimed him the victor and (regretfully), innocent of any accusations. Sir Drac, still confused as to what was going on, was taken away to the dungeon. Steward Morganor decided this would be a good time for all the knights to leave, just in case Sir Orcas decided to have some unusual ideas about hospitality.

They traveled out back the way they came, and stopped in a hamlet to get medical care for Bersules. His healer was none other than Lady Nimue, who was traveling to Logres to heal King Uther from his sickness. Bersules questioned her and found out that she too was a Lady of the Lake, the magical sisterhood that Lady Nineve was a member of.

Along the road, Sir Charles flirted with Lady Nimue, who found him quite charming. He critted either a Flirting or a Romance roll, and the Lady of the Lake became quite taken with him.

Returning to Logres, bad news was had: the Saxons pillaged the Duchy of Lindsay, and Duke Lindsay, rather than meet them in the field, had his knights hole up in the castles. King Ossa of the Saxons had returned, and was preparing for a great battle.

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