The inconclusive battles of 485 still weighed heavily on people’s minds, especially the news out of Lindsey that King Aescwine had defeated Duke Lucius, and was now rampaging throughout the countryside. Coupled with news from the continent that the city of Soissons had fallen, and Praetor Syagrius was sending envoys to convince King Uther to pledge aid to retake his kingdom. Though most balked at the thought of leaving their homeland and its barbarian troubles to fight barbarians abroad, the knowledge of the wealth in the ancient Roman cities was tempting to many.
Prince Madoc was vocally opposed to the idea of supporting the French, and instead resolved that later in the year he would be calling upon the Knights of Salisbury to launch retaliatory raids up North. This, coupled with the news that Merlin the Magician had been sighted in court, gave many hope that it was going to be time for another stunning victory similar to the one at the Battle of Mount Damen.
It was not all good news however, as Sir Gariant was informed by Earl Roderick that, following his actions last year, he had been brought up on a charge of conduct unbecoming of a knight by Sir Gwyn, and would have to report for trial either this year or the next to resolve this issue. Confident that he would have nothing to fear, he resolved to face justice, though his friends saw to it that he would not face it alone. Sir Liam and Sir Cynehild volunteered to sit on the jury to ensure a fair trial, and Sir Caelus pledged to stand by Sir Gariant during the trial to share in his defense. With that, the knights got their affairs in order and prepared for the battle of honour.
The court was packed with knights, including rather distressingly the presence of Sir Uren, who was known to relish the chance to embarrass any Salisbury knight, and Sir Greid, a knight whose wife had killed herself following an affair with Sir Beorhtric, another Goblet Knight. In addition, there was a new member of Sir Gwyn’s household: the legendary Saxon mercenary Ceolward, freshly knighted and inducted into Sir Gwyn’s household following the death of Sir Hellenel.
The thrust of Sir Gwyn’s argument was simple enough: Sir Gariant had words with Sir Hellenel during a minor uprising on Sir Gwyn’s manor of Clarendon. Sir Hellenel became incensed, and his actions caused him to throw himself off the battlements, whereupon the peasants he was about to order the death of killed him. Sir Gariant, as the only other knight present, then ordered both sides to stand down and go their separate ways. It was argued that by not calling for the deaths of the peasants there, a retributive strike on the village was necessitated by a code of honour, and thus Sir Gariant should have to pay for the restitution of the entire village.
Sir Gwyn’s case was straightforward enough: The breach of honour and hospitality was clear, but so was the Pride in being a knight over the peasantry, as well as a musing from Sir Ceolward about how any such action must be punished with immediate vengeance rather than being allowed to let lie.
Sir Gariant focused on the same argument he used with Sir Hellenel, that ordering the death of your peasants from the battlements via crossbows was not a valorous action, and that he was appalled by the death and only sought to forgive any further trespass that night. Sir Caelus pointed out that it was better of Sir Gariant to energetically do something rather than nothing, and that he should not be faulted for showing mercy to the peasants rather than seeking their death.
Ultimately, the majority of the jury found in favour of Sir Gariant and, as expected, Sir Ceolward asserted his right to trial by combat instead of the verdict. Sir Caelus stood to face the mighty Saxon, and driven to fury by the thought of an assault on the Goblet Knights proved to be an even more furious opponent than the Saxon. However, Sir Ceolward left himself open and, though Sir Caelus drew first blood, Sir Ceolward responded with a blow that nearly cut Sir Caelus down where he stood, and had a less skilled surgeon than his wife Lady Elana been present, he doubtless would have died.
Still, Caelus had struck the first blow, and Earl Roderick pronounced him in the clear. Sir Gwyn’s honour was impugned for the case, which he took with grace and departed.
Sir Caelus was still recovering from his massive wound, and Sir Cynehild refused to leave her townhouse in Sarum this year, so the two were not present at the announcement of the Lindsey Raids. Earl Roderick went on about the chance for vengeance and plunder that could be had, but added that sadly some knights would have to remain behind on garrison duty. Unfortunately, the knights left behind included Sir Liam, Sir Gariant, Sir Beorhtric, and Sir Judicael. With the forces of Logres assembled, the Goblet Knights watched them ride off, and moved to serve their garrison duty during the plundering.
The lands of Salisbury were quiet this fall, and it was with equal parts relief and sadness when they were approached by an old man who had lost his goat, and demanded the knights retrieve it because they knew their rights. Just pleased to have something to do, the knights tracked down the goat and Sir Caelus approached it while his companions moved to prevent any possible escape. Their mundane task was interrupted by a massive three-eyed giant, who had emerged from the woods on his own. Sir Caelus, struck with fear, focused on ushering the goat out of the woods while Sir Judicael fled outright in horror.
Sir Liam and Sir Gariant were undaunted by the challenge though, and controlling their mounts charged the creature. The thing threw a boulder at Sir Gariant, and uprooted a tree stump to try and strike down Sir Liam, but thankfully both strikes missed the knights. The two retaliated by cleaving the giant’s head producing two shorn segments and leaving one behind – each containing an eye. As Sir Judicael fled, he was confronted by the old man who reminded him of his Forgiving nature, and that he should forgive his own fears – causing him to turn and rush back to his friends, though not until after the fight had been won.
With the giant slain, the old man emerged from the woods and revealed himself to be Merlin, and that the knights had passed his first test. Leaving behind their horses and squires, the four accompanied him deeper into the woods which seemed to twist and change around them. Suddenly they found themselves on the shore of a great lake, one not known to any of the knights to be near the area where they were. Striding confidently onto the surface of the lake, Merlin called that the knights were to protect him from the dangers that were coming. As they wondered what that could be, a dark green creature in a parody of a knight on horseback burst out of the woods and attempted to run him down.
Sprouting four arms, each with a sword the same colour as its body, the thing managed to strike Sirs Beohrtric, Judicael and Liam, but Sir Gariant avoided its blow and managed to slay it. Their reprieve was short though, for as it died the knights that were struck were pulled under the water and – trapped by their own chainmail – began to struggle to free themselves. Sir Gariant stripped off his own armour, and working in concert with the others they eventually all got free – Sir Judicael and Liam requiring rescuing, while Sir Beohrtric’s natural affinity with swimming did the job for him.
Panting and tired, the quartet looked for Merlin who was now striding back across the water, complimenting the knights on a job well done. Asking him what the purpose was, the magician declined to say, but did invite the group to Christmas Court this evening.
The Christmas court was held in Sarum following these events, and the knights gathered to partake in Uther’s hospitality. Though the raid on Lindsey was derailed by multiple groups of roving Saxons, there was still enough plunder for a decent celebration. All knights were given a handful of silver by the King, and then the time came for gifts to be presented to Uther. Prince Madoc seemed to have the best offering with ten chests full of plunder, and a Saxon battle banner presented to his father.
Suddenly, Merlin entered the hall and, with a great speech, presented to the King Excalibur, the Sword of Victory. As Uther wondered at his gift, he asked how the magician came by such a treasure, and Merlin indicated the four knights who had assisted him earlier, saying that the tale would be theirs to tell.
As the evening turned int one of copious drinking and tale telling, the year closed with Uther still staring and Excalibur, and perhaps failing to notice Merlin’s advice regarding the importance of remaining Just…