498 opened with some of the knights taking a more proactive approach: Sir Nerovens and Sir Harvis paid Sir Lycus of Llud’s Hall a visit, asking if he was going to be at Countess Ellen’s Pentecost feast, and if he was going to pay her homage. Sir Lycus rather awkwardly refused both, and then tried to change the subject with wine. ‘We’re going to get poisoned,’ said Harvis, but there was no poison, just an attempt to smother uncomfortable subjects with hospitality. Savvy Nerovens noticed that Sir Lycus had hired a whole lot of mercenaries, many of them Galish or Picts.
Sir Gherard, following up a random family event from 497’s winter, learned that his mother had been cursed by a witch. Upon further investigation, he discovered that the witch was the local herbalist and wise woman, and his mother’s curse was a severe rash. He consulted with his father-in-law, who said that he would do whatever Sir Gherard advised. Gherard said he had to think about it.
Learning of war in Norgales, Sir Harvis sent his relatives Sir Morris and Sir Bryant to see if King Pellinore needed aid.
At Pentecost court, Gherard consulted many people regarding his problem: one source suggested ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,’ and that the woman be burnt at the stake. Sir Charles, the resident heretic and mystic said he could devise a charm to protect Gherard’s mother, but he would need a vial of her blood to make it. Gherard refused, to Charles’s ambivalence. Father Tewi told Gherard that his mother should turn to prayer, because a witch has no power over a pious woman. Bishop Roger suggested she might find solace at the Amesbury Priory. Gherard, a Roman Christian, took this advice with some skepticism. Sir Harvis suggested Gherard try to consult with Merlin, and found out that Sir Charles might know where Merlin was, and to visit him later that season.
Meanwhile, news from the Saxons- several holdings on the southern edge of Salisbury had been raided by Saxons, but none of the player knights. More alarmingly, several holdings near the eastern borders had been raided by knights from Silchester! When Prince Cynric of Wessex was confronted over failing to provide protection, he said they only agreed to provide protection from Invasions, which a raid was not, but perhaps Salisbury would swear fealty, and receive a greater level of protection…
In addition to Prince Cynric of Wessex, there were messengers from Sussex and Essex, both demanding tribute. Countess Ellen (with some advice from the player characters) decided to continue to pay tribute to Wessex, especially since Wessex had been pretty successful at invading the lands of those who refused to pay, but not pay Essex or Sussex. Futhermore, she would send messengers to neighboring lords, to try to form alliances.
Also at Pentecost was Lady Rhonwen, Countess of Rydychan. Rhonwen had arrived in Salisbury, and was now staying as a guest of the Countess. Sir Gherard got a chat with her and learned that the three brothers had usurped the county. The pound signs in his eyes were visible- if she were married and her lands retaken, that would be quite the wealth for the taking.
After the feast, Countess Ellen had a mission she gave to Sir Hermel: travel through Jagent County to Cornwall, and meet with Sir Cador of Cornwall, and escort him and his party to Amesbury Abbey in Salisbury. There was also a message to be delivered to Count Angor of Jagent. Details of what to expect were somewhat slim. Dutiously, Hermel gathered his friends and they set off.
They met with some Jagent knights, and were escorted to Count Angor’s castle. The Jagent knights seemed to have a hard time keeping a straight face- they found something very funny. When they arrived at the castle, the source of their amusement was clear- Count Angor, ‘in accordance with ancient tradition’ required all guests to sing for their supper- literally. One by one, all the knights failed their Singing checks, and were escorted to the stables, where they were served meager provisions. Sir Hermel’s squire turned out to have a lovely singing voice, critically succeeding in his Singing roll, and returned later to describe the sumptuous feast. Everyone agreed that the hospitality left something to be desired.
The knights pressed on to the border with Cornwall, and met Sir Cador, leading four other Cornwall knights, and a horsedrawn wheelhouse. Sir Cador was very protective of whatever/whoever was in the wheelhouse, not letting anyone get near. Sir Harvis remembered that Cador was the nephew of Queen Ygraine, and was immediately suspicious of him.
Followers of this campaign may recall that Sir Harvis was the younger brother of famed Sir Bersules, who like King Uther, fell tragically in love with Queen Ygraine, and found it to be his undoing. After the death of Uther, Bersules seduced the Queen (or more truly, it was she who seduced him), and was stabbed to death by her, as vengeance for his slaying of Duke Gorlois. As a result, Sir Harvis had a Hate passion for Ygraine and her family.
It was not long on the road before it was discovered that the passengers in the wheelhouse were Queen Ygraine and her handmaidens, attempting to travel incognito. It was learned that King Idres of Cornwall (not to be confused with the Duchy of Cornwall) had laid siege to the Castles of Terrabil and Tintagel, and once Terrabil fell, Queen Ygraine surrendered Castle Tintagel on the condition that she and her followers be spared. King Idres offered to let her stay in Cornwall, but she decided she was better off fleeing elsewhere.
Traveling back through Jagent was largely uneventful, they stopped at a few manors, though after Queen Ygraine was advised of Count Jagent’s strange customs, they decided not to stay the night there (though they did stop to receive Angor’s reply to Countess Ellen’s message). Pressing on into Salisbury, Sir Gherard was rather offended that the Cornish knights insisted in riding fully armored- he protested, citing that Salisbury was surely safe. However the other knights decided the prudent thing to do would be to armor themselves as well, following Sir Cador’s example.
Sir Gherard remained in riding leathers, and scouted ahead, and it was wise he did, for he soon discovered a Saxon raiding party, 20 strong, let by several Heorthgenants. He quickly returned, and was able (with the help of his squire) to fully don his armor in time.
Tactics were discussed- Sir Nerovens and others wanted to organize a lance charge, which would be devastating against the unmounted Saxons, but Sir Cador insisted on staying near the wheelhouse in case there were other threats. Deciding that mixed tactics, such as half the knights doing a lance charge and half staying back would be disastrous, the knights decided to stand firm with the Cornish knights.
This was our first real combat of the Campaign, and had several modifiers in place: the on horse vs. foot bonus, splitting skill due to multiple opponents. Ulysses, Nerovens and Harvis all invoked their Hatred of Saxons, and to good effect; Hermel and Gherard were taken out quickly- Hermel by a fearsome Heorthgenant, and Gherard by a Saxon warrior with a lucky crit. Ulysses also faced a Heorthgenant and defeated it, but not before he was dealt many fearsome blows himself.
At Castle Vagon, they injured knights received Chiurgery from the monks (much to Sir Ulysses’s protests). Of course one of the monks botched a surgery on Hermel, only feeding into Ulysses’s suspicions. Now further into Salisbury territory, Hermel and Gherard chose to stay and recuperate, but Ulysses pressed on, hoping to find a healer that wasn’t a British Christian surgeon. Hermel found a sympathetic damosel to nurse him back to health.
They made it to Amesbury Abbey without incident.
Gherard, along with Ulysses and Nervovens went then to his estate to investigate the wise woman. Sir Ulysses asked her to heal him- I rolled a d20 for her skill, and got a 3, so her attempt naturally failed. She covered his wound in a strange poultice, which itched severely and gave him quite the rash. Sir Nerovens, a pagan, interviewed her, and deduced she was no witch, but rather a fellow pagan and a simple herbalist. Her mother had been the village herbalist and she was trying to follow in her footsteps, but had not developed the skill yet. Gherard decided that no crime had been done, and allowed the woman to follow her practice.
Ulysses stayed another week to recuperate, and the woman- now given a name, Bronwen- rolled a 1! Her methods worked, and he was healed.
(Reviewing the rules for Deterioration and Aggravation, I see that I was much more generous than what the rules present- I halved healing rates for those Knights who were traveling, when the Aggravation rules would assign 1 or 2 damage per day of travel. Also, I was only rolling a d3 instead of a d6 for Deterioration, thinking that it was the same as First Aid.)
Meanwhile, Harvis and Hermel paid a visit to Sir Charles, to discover that he was hosting Merlin! Merlin revealed that he was going to go on a great journey, visiting Gaul, and Rome, and perhaps sites further still, waiting for the right time to return to Britain. He revealed that the Forest Sauvage was not harmful, and was likely to be around for some time. He offered the knights a boon: Harvis asked about the status of his sister Violet: Merlin revealed that she was still alive, and perhaps fate would see them reunited. Hermel asked for help for his sickly child, to which Merlin said he knew someone who might be able to help.
(There was a possibility of a short scenario to be ran here, of escorting Merlin to London, but it was quite late in the evening by this point, and the knights were scattered and wounded. However I think the year was plenty adventurous.)
In Winter, everyone had been raided by Saxons. Some knights managed to make their Stewardship rolls to mitigate the damage. Between the raid and paying tribute, most of the knights had to drop to a Poor standard of living, and those who maintained an Ordinary one (Nerovens and Ulysses, I believe) did so by dipping into their savings. Belts were tightened and Saxons were cursed.
Then some random events were had- my favorite part of the Winter phase. Ulysses’s bastard brother Owain had a strange child, and Hermel’s half-brother Arnold married upwards (possibly a minor heiress, if he was an unlanded knight, otherwise a younger daughter with a limited dowry, in any case, a boon to the family.) One of Gherard’s bastard children died, and there was a wild rumor that his aunt had poisoned it. Best of all, Sir Bryant returned from Norgales in disgrace- he had been caught attempting to steal some hill ponies! Clearly he had been spending too much time around Sir Dyfed.
It is a cold and dreary winter, and the knights look forward to spring…