Monday, July 28, 2008

516: Perils of Court

Sir Seriol here...

Last year we braved saxon hoards. This year my friends and I faced something far more dire - a prolonged visit to the High King's court. I think I was safer when the saxons outnumbered us.

It started innocently enough. My father was in Garloth, so I acted on his behalf to speak to the Lady Brianna's father, trying to impress upon him the virtues of Sir Brandegoris. While I spoke well and truly, I fear that I was not as seriously regarded as Count Edar would have been. The lady was not as warm to Brandegoris as he hoped, and was not wearing the gown he had bought her last year. This was the first disaster - I suddenly realized that I had not purchased a new gown for my wife Matilda... I was sure she would forgive the oversight, and might have, had it not been one of several blunders I made.

Court was long and the king held hunts and contests for days. Edward wanted to leave, especially when it was revealed that another knight had set out to deal with Black Anis! The king would not have it though, so we remained. I did well in the jousts - these new lances are strange, but I suppose it is better to be hit with a hollow lance in a game than a solid one. I advanced nearly to the final rounds, but was unhorsed. I did quite well at chess though, and am glad that my father insisted I learned to play.

My next error came when we were asked to compose a poem. I have no gift for words, and as I sought inspiration, my eyes fell on a vision of such loveliness that I could need no other inspiration. So with my beautiful wife standing beside me, I began to recite a poem about the virtues and perfection of the dearest woman in the land... Queen Guenevier. Part way through my recitation, a look from sir Edward made me realize that my wife, standing beside me, was not happy. I suddenly realized my error, and faltered. My composition failed and my wife was furious with me.

The ladies had their own contests, and Ealrehd the saxon beauty that Sir Edward married, was widely acknowledged as loveliest and most fashionable woman present, after the queen of course. While I believe she is lovely, I find that she pales beside my Matilda. Unfortunately, when I pointed this out to her, she said that her old dress had made her look "frumpy". I thought she looked amazing, but she wouldn't hear it.

The following day we were hunting. I was distracted by my dear wifes displeasure, and wondering if I might sneak away to find her a token when the horns sounded the alarm. We rushed back to the castle, well the others rushed. I took the time to escort my wife and the lady Brianna back to the castle and see them safely inside. When I made it to my companions, we learned that the Saxons had landed in mass to the north. Lothian, Malhaut, Lindsey, even Garloth were said to be on the brink of colapse. I am confident that with my father in Garloth, it will not fall. Sir Edar led a handful of knights against the king of Sorestan. With the knights of Garloth at his command, there is no way he will fall before the saxon horde.

Although Brandegoris had to ride forward with Count Dyrfel, I led the men of Leicester and the Kings forces to Leicester to make ready to break the siege at Lincoln. It appears that the Saxons of Sorestan, who claimed to serve Dyrfel turned against the castellan and sought to open the city. Fortunately he held them off until we arrived. When the saxons saw as coming, they broke the siege and fled north. Our cavalry pursued. The king hoped to crush the saxons against the Umber. We raced ahead of our infantry and met them at the river, only to see that they had been reinforced from across the river. Though terribly outnumbered, we gave battle. Edward was badly injured. I was only lightly wounded, but fear that most of the men I stood against will say the same. As the day drew to a close, we saw signs of our infantry approaching and expected to give the saxons a bloody battle the next day. That night they snuck into our camp! We fought all night and drove them off, and Sir Kay slew their leader. We realized in the morning that they had withdrawn across the river. With winter setting in, we returned to Leicester for the season.

The news we hear is grim. To hear some tell it, the saxons have conquered the north. I don't believe it though. Edar is in Garloth, and I am certain my father will remain victorious. Still, if he does fall, then I will make certain that the saxons pay dearly. I hope Matilda enjoys court life. With Edar in Garloth, I shall have to host the high king and his queen for the winter in Leicester.

Sir Brandegoris here.....

Last year was , simply put, a severe waste of time for the most part, and I can only blame myself. For the first time ever I was caught up in the glitz and the glamour of court and I failed to be truly useful to my companions and to my country.

I should have heeded Edwards call to arms against the Annis. He is in high favor with God and I am not, so he MUST know the way to heaven's pearly gates. I should have left court and persued this mysterious "Sir Shautz le noir" to the Annis' den. I thought however that a women who barely seems interested in me was more important than my duty and so I did not ask King Arthur for leave to go from court. I am certain that he would have granted my companions and myself leave If I had asked, ( I have 17,352 glory). More than the High King perhaps? Instead I left it up to Sir Edward to ask Sir Kay for leave and kay , pardon my French, was ever the bastard. A damn good steward though. Damn good.

In short, I have decided to take a long look at myself and change my ways. I am a powerful man in this kingdom and I believe that if I was more forceful in my will then many others would follow. I will turn over a new leaf starting now. I have been speaking in the evenings with my two good friends, Sir Edward and the great Father Merle. He is getting older and his arthritis is making it difficult to play the " lute sermons" that he is so popular for, but he is still as wise and patient as ever and I have decided to heed his words. He has overcome me with the light of the Lord. Padern will be rolling his eyes while hunting in paradise right now, but I can't care. I have mocked God long enough. Our country bleeds and times are just as hard as ever and there is only the "illusion" of safety because of our high king. The saxons grow in strength and will become more than just a nuisance soon. They grow bolder by the day.

I will forget the new courtly way of courting the lady Brianna. I will do it traditionally with a visit to her father and we will arrange it as is proper. This new fangled way of courting is quite unseemly anyway and a REAL man wouldnt be caught dead "Romancing" a woman. Im sure her father and myself will come to some agreement. She will learn to love me one day, im sure.
I have made a chapel to St.Guinefort but now I will try and construct more works to God in pennance for my defiance. I will need Gods succor against the new saxon threat.

My daughter Matilda is 16 years old this year and I quietly spoke to the Queen Guinevere about it. After all, she has been one of the Queen's chief handmaidens these past two years so the Queen assuredly has some idea of who she is fond of.She said we could find Matilda a suitable match, and that she would help me in the endeavor. I have been very lucky in my life to rise so high. I never could have without Gods grace, though I dont know why I deserve it.

We went north this year too hastily and without our full army and we fought the saxons to a standstill. Im sure that our King wont make the mistake of being hasty again. We could have crushed the enemy if we had just slowed down and gathered our full army. We will fight them next year however and I will destroy those filthy saxon beasts. I will kill many chieftains and I vow to Kill a King if one has the courage to stand against me. I already MUST kill King Aescwine of Essex for stealing my magical saddle that was handed down through 5 generations. Next year I will become the Brandegoris of old! Forget romance, forget niceties, forget court and forget propriety! I am one of the foremost men of the realm and I will act like it! I will do what I was put on this earth to do.. FIGHT! FIGHT AND SLAY MY ENEMIES!BEFORE GOD I SWEAR IT!

Sir Edward here...

High office, it appears, is wasted on the young.

It pains me to say it, but it's true. That Derfel chap, son of our dear, lamented Duke Cornius, shows a remarkable lack of prudence: scaling castle walls among the kerns, insisting on worshipping both our Lord Jesus Christ and the devil Wotan, marrying a witch...And now our new high king, Arthur? A quarter of my lord's lands are despoiled by the Black Annis, but we Leicestermen are to entertain at court with jousts and poetry readings! It seems to me that to be a man of chivalry is to be a man of action—and watching knights and ladies fingering the latest fabrics from the Continent amid oohs and aahs really put me off my feed. I know it's a terrible thing to say, and I will have to pay penance for it, but thank God the Saxons raided or we would have never gotten out!

The mass of Saxons on the far banks of the Humber were impressive. Archers, javelineers, elite axemen and grunt spearmen, screaming and chanting warriors and well-mounted mercenaries...I took a couple of spears in the side, and wasn't much use as we rolled up to Eburacum. But while I was recuperating under the tender ministrations of my wife, she and I came up with a splendid idea. We shall hire a chaplain, a martial chaplain, as a retainer for Sir Brandegoris, that he may in good consciousness and faith continue to fight for our lord Idar, and draw nearer to our Great Lord Christ at the same time. Our own chaplain, Henry Knighton, will help us select a suitable man of the cloth.

Maid Griane here...

All is happiness and harmony at court, for the king and queen are madly in love. And it was a fine spring in Caerlion, with the ladies decked out in their finest, each striving to be noticed and admired among the many fine and noble knights of the realm. Even the frumpiest of country nobility was able to shine in contests of wit, proving that looks aren't everything I suppose.

While the ladies were spinning with the Queen one morning Lady Breanna let it slip that she was inclined to encourage the romance of Sir Brandegoris, a man of wide renown. She had been saving a gown he had given to her at Christmas Court, to wear at the Pentecost feast. Well, imagine our surprise then when we and the lady, looking radiantly beautiful in the deep blue silk, passed the evening watching Sir Brandegoris instead flirt with Queen Morgan!

Lady Breanna cried all night.

Nobody saw or heard her, but Lady Matilda, wife to Count Idar's heir Seriol, showed up the next morning red-eyed and swollen of face, too. Who could blame her? I would be deeply hurt and distressed if I, the heir's wife and mother of his children, were dishonored in front of the court by being the ONLY wife and lady present without a single jewel or swatch of new fabric about her. Funny, too; I had always heard that the Allingtons were a prosperous, open-handed family. Maybe they just don't like her.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

515: Lucky 13

Sir Edward here...

That Brandegoris chap had an excellent idea over dinner one night at Arthur's springtime court: a bit of tit-for-tat raiding into Saxon lands to pay them back for last year's raids into Hertford. Splendid! With my lord Idar's permission we Leistermen made ready to do just that. Imagine my and everyone's surprise when Sir Brandegoris showed up with a veritable army of mercenaries and various knights looking to get in on the action! We picked up even more fellows during our brief stay in Hertford...

Raiding is fairly boring business, the tedium only relieved with a very pissed-off King of Essex showed up with all the men he could muster; about 150, mostly footmen. He kindly requested we leave our wagon trains and return to Hertford. We kindly replied that we'd be happy to depart our lands in the company of our wagon trains...our battle lines formed. Sir Seriol, just off a major wound that had him laid up for a good part of the summer and autumn, didn't like the odds of 13 Leister and Hertford knights and 10 foot-soldiers going against 150 Saxon footmen, but we older knights assured him that that is how it is done in Leicester. True to form, we'd soon cut through almost half of the king's forces. The other half fled and the king shot us a look...not a friend for life, Essex!

We took back quite a tidy sum, even after Brandegoris gave generously to the Earl of Hertford. Lady Ealhred was also pleased, for I made sure to bring back in my portion several fine gowns that fit her tall frame well. I love my Christian wife!

I decided to hire a canon for St Christopher's, a man of letters by the name of Henry of Knighton. In addition to his duties for the church he is teaching me and Ealhred to read the Bible.

Sir Franklin here...

I was quite pleased when my lord requested I accompany him to Garloth with his new lady, Elaine, the king's sister.

I was less pleased when I learned everyone else was going to Essex to raid, and even less less pleased when Garloth proved disappointingly Pict-free.

What a boring summer!

Brandegoris here......

I decided to spend my entire treasury (35L) on mercenaries to destroy Essex. It seemed to be as good a place as any. After Hertford gave us men we had 16 knights and 80 footmen! 5 of whom were saergents.

We were doing very well for a week or so and then our raiding parties were decimated and did not return. Well 2 men did. But I had had the foresight to keep most of the knights with myself around the plunder. We did lose Sir Hervis De Revel, a fine knight, and I hope wherever he is he still lives.

The Saxon King of Essex Aethelswith brought 150 Saxon foot to face us. It's good he did. He must have remembered that it was I who ruined his fathers arm, and it was in his own hall while trying to ransom his father back to him that a Saxon broke hospitality and attacked me, so I killed him with a hambone. This is of course the reason why a hamhock is my shield device and the incident is responsible for making me who I am today. A lover of good ham and a very good fighter.

The battle was short and our 13 knights repelled the Saxons easily enough. Never underestimate an armored man on horseback.

Sir Seriol and myself both hate Saxons monstrously and our blood was up so we unwisely pursued the Saxons into the woods. We each killed a few more but were ambushed, barely escaping with our lives. I lost my horse and with it my magical saddle that was passed to me by my father. And that was made with leather that he said was blessed by St. Michael long ago. I will see that wretched King again and get my vengence. We made it home and I took only 35L for myself, just enough to replenish my losses. I gave a 30L each to Seriol and Eddie, and 20L to the count of Hertford as a gift since it was his lands that were most damaged by Essex. The other 90L was evenly shared between the rest of the knights on the expedition.

It was a prospourous year and my orphanage was finished. It was dedicated to my late wife and true love Priscilla, for she ever loved children.

I also purchased a very expensive gown and at the urging of many of my retainers and friends went to visit the Lady Brianna of Caerwent whom I saved last year during The King's wedding feast. She is so like my true love Priscilla in countenance that I cannot gaze upon her without being captivated and feeling my heart quicken. I do feel some guilt but a madness seems to have come over me and I can not help myself. I long to be near her. I am not sure she will be with me however. I am a Round Table knight, rich, glorious and brave, and hold all the virtues of chivalry dear, but still she is hesitant. Father Merle suggested it might be my Godless ways. But I have built a chapel to St. Guinefort for my people. He says that I must do more because God is still angry with me. I will think about it. Maybe it IS time to reconcile myself with the Lord. I know Eddie would certainly agree.

The last bit of business was my squire Mordecai failing me yet again. In three battles he has fled from me three times always at the first charge and this time he fled and hasn't come back. I will find him later and punish him. I was going to take Gwair's illigitemate child Gyldric who is now 17 years old as my squire. He is a good boy and I have been raising him on my land at Tilton since he was six. Count Edar however was most impressed with the boy and said he would like to keep him as squire so with Gyldric's pleasure and surprise I consented. He is a good lad.

Sir Seriol here...

In my time as a Knight I have fought alongside the stalwart men of Leicester many times. I consider them to stand among the greatest heroes of the land, and it was the greatest honor when Sir Brandegoris invited me to join his company for the raid.

We travelled to Hertford where I was able to speak with my sister and her husband. He was pleased to join us, and we rode forward. After some days of raiding, groups of men we sent out failed to return. Brandegoris and Edward pointed out that they were mercenaries, and we needn't worry about them, but my father has long championed the common man, and I was concerned for their loss.

Finally we encountered the Saxons! King Aselswith of Essex trapped us neatly in the woods. He recognized bold sir Brandegoris, and offered him the opportunity to quit the field, leaving our plunder behind. Brandegoris refused of course - how could a knight of Arthur's round table accept such terms? We prepared to ride against them, outnumbered more than 4 to 1...

When I was growing up, I remember hearing stories, mostly from Gwier and Paddern, about the odds faced by the Candlebees, but I thought them just legends told by old men to impress the young. As we faced down those saxons, I realized that the stories were true. I knew the men who came before me had overcome such numbers, and I knew that we would triumph as they had. We charged into their lines over and over again before they broke and fled. Brandegoris and I chased them down to punish them for daring to oppose us. I confess at one point I was so overcome with rage that I was nearly lost in the woods, but I heard Sir Brandegoris yelling for his squire. It appears that Mordeccai fled and never returned. I was able to meet up with Brandegoris, who had lost his horse and was carrying his other squire, and together we returned to our camp. We returned to Hertford in victory, and with our plunder.

Our victory feast when we returned was glorious, and Brandegoris was very generous. One knight was lost, and nearly all of the mercenaries that were hired failed to return. Though I mourn for them, I am reminded that this is what they were for.

Back home things were progressing well. It seems that disease had ravaged Woolsthorpe, so much of my plunder was spent tending to the people of my manor. Brandegoris has been heartsick for the woman he rescued last year. I urged him to ask my father to speak on his behalf. Perhaps next year Brandegoris will emerge from the melancholy that has been with him since his wife died.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

514: The Year of Amor

Sir Edward here...

A momentous year: Count Idar announced that we were all going to court in Caerlion, for the king was to be married! And in true kingly style, the celebrations went on for at least ten days. The king married a truly beautiful woman, surely the finest on the island and certainly worthy of being a queen, a certain Guenevere from Camaliard.

We brought many fine gifts from Leicester: Sir Seriol presented the couple with two sets of gilded stirrups; Sir Brandegoris gave the king and queen a bejeweled, tooled-leather book of psalms; Sir Franklin presented the couple with a set of nightclothes embroidered by the fine hand of his sister, Lady Esmeralda; while I gave them a samite altar cloth, very fine, very expensive. And the king and queen in turn gave us gifts: the king took Brandegoris's young son as a court page and the queen his daughter as handmaid; the king gave Sir Seriol the rights to Woolsthorpe and its iron mine. Sir Franklin wanted nothing but the chance to adventure for the king, while I...I had been watching Sir Brandegoris during the festivities. The royal couple really pulled out the stops, and the decor, the food and wine, the entertainment were all top-notch. So when the king and queen asked me what favor I requested of them, I asked them for a dwarf for my companion Sir Brandegoris. Oh, did his eyes light up when that brightly-clad dwarf scurried over and leapt into the outstretched arms of Sir Brandegoris! Watching them laugh and carry on that evening made me light of heart; I think Sir Brandegoris has finally put Lady Priscilla's death behind him.

The wedding of Arthur and Guenever set off a chain reaction of marriages: young Sir Franklin married a local girl, old Sir Hwyel's daughter Heledd. I asked of my lord Count Idar, and received, a fine bride, lovely Ealhred of the golden braids. Oh, I know what you're thinking! But she's from Surrey. We should get along famously. Even Idar got married again, and to quite a prize: King Arthur gave him as bride his sister Elaine of Garloth. So now Idar is a count of two counties! Hope he gets on well with Galagantes.

During one of the many feasts given those two weeks, a most remarkable event occurred: a snow-white hart, followed by a pack of coal-black dogs, ran through the hall, quickly followed by a knight in black armor, who in turn was followed by a pale blonde damsel on a silver palfrey. There was some confusion as to what was what, but as the hart and the dogs and the knight in black had quit the hall and only the damsel on her shining palfrey remained, her words took on greater weight. She said the hart was hers and that the knight in black had wronged her by stealing them. We newly-married Leicestermen volunteered to get to bring the knight back to court, and Sir Franklin got his wish for adventure.

So off we went. As we followed the black knight we passed a woman weeping over the headless corpse of another knight; we could only assume that the black knight had passed by...we caught him at his pavillion, him and his five companions, and we set to. God was on my side and I defeated this knight, even though he was much more skilled than I. Sir Brandegoris pulped several of the black knight's companions, including a mighty 71-point seems Brandegoris had that pale blonde damsel on his mind: Brandegoris gave him such a stroke upon the helm that he clave the head down to the chin, that he fell to the earth dead.
Worrisome to us was that Sir Seriol, the Count's first-born son, also fell to the earth during the combat. Though we were able to revive him, it was a very close call.

We returned to court, black knight in tow, expecting accolades from all assembled. We were instead chastised by the queen herself for passing by a damsel in distress, that same lady crying by the side of the road. In her despair she had killed herself, and now the queen informed us that that same lady was none other than the child of Sir Brandegoris, the product of a dalliance with a lady in London. We promised the queen we would do better in the future.

The king however celebrated our return with the promotion of Count Idar and Sir Brandegoris to the king's new table in the round. Nice!

513: knighted! oh, and Lot dies

Hey, let's have some quotes!

"Normally I never try but when I travel with the Candlebees my head swells."

"God's like, Tilton? Where the hell is that?"

"I think it's gone from Tilton to Collapsin'."

Sir Edward here...

We are off on campaign again, we knights of Leicester, this time to the north to deal with King Ryons as King Arthur has had enough of his rebelliousness...yet the engagement of note was not with Ryons but with King Lot outside Castle Terrible! Lot finally fell for good in battle, and we set about subduing the other northern kings one by one. It was quite a tour. Made me long for the green countryside of Leicester.

When we returned to our fair city, laden with spoils, I contracted with several local craftsmen. I want to turn this treasure into something worthy: a church for Leicester. And I have chosen to dedicate this church to St Christopher, for we knights of Leicester do a fair bit of travelling for our lords, and are also very hard to kill.

According to legend, during the reign of the Emperor Decius, a man named Reprebus or Reprobus (root of English "reprobate") was captured in combat against tribes to the west of Egypt and was assigned to the numerus Marmaritarum or "Unit of the Marmaritae", which suggests an otherwise-unidentified "Marmaritae" Berber tribe of Cyrenaica. He was of enormous size and terrifying demeanour, being a cannibal with cynocephaly (the head of a dog instead of a man), like all the Marmaritae. Reprebus accepted baptism and began to preach the faith. Eventually, the governor of Antioch (or in some versions, the Emperor himself) decreed that Reprebus was to be executed for his faith. He miraculously survived many attempts at execution, eventually permitting himself to be martyred after converting multitudes. His body was then taken back to Alexandria by Peter of Attalia.

—wikipedia, St Christopher

Sir Franklin here!

Right here is Leicester, during Christmas court with the fires blazing and the hall strewn with fresh evergreen boughs, I became a knight! The men and ladies of Leicester surrounded me as my lord Count Idar strapped a pair of spurs to my feet, gave me the blow, and finally the kiss. Good old Sir Brandegoris gave me a fine suit of armor, and Sir Bledri gave me a good bay charger. The other squires, my companions on many dangerous quests, gave me a bundle of good Cymri spears. I only wish Lady Christine could have lived to see me knighted, but the next day after chapel I put fresh flowers on her grave and told her I would make her proud, and as the sun came out from behind the clouds I am sure she was smiling down on me from heaven.