With most knights having wintered in Tintagel, the mood that year was far better than the previous year of being trapped with King Uther. The wedding with Queen Ygraine seemed to have calmed the worst of his temperament, and the Queen meanwhile seemed to be reveling in the mysterious pregnancy from the spirit of her dead husband, the Duke Gorlois. Uther had also given a speech that the time for in-fighting was over, and it was better now to think of family and marriage. To that end, he announced that two of his daughters-in-law would be married that year: Margawse would be married to King Lot, and Elaine to King Nentres. In addition, Ygraine’s youngest daughter Morgan had her engagement to King Uriens.
Courtly gossip revealed that there was at least some tension present though. Prince Madoc ap Uther, having survived the events at Terrabil, was now threatened by the pregnancy of Queen Ygraine. Although none in court doubted that the child was Gorlois’s, as Ygraine had married Uther prior to its birth Uther could choose to name it as his heir. Feeling the urge to cement his claim, he approached his good friend Sir Liam O’Malley, the new Castellan of Terrabil. Together they decided to go on a pre-emptive patrol of the land to hunt down the Irish raiders said to plague Cornwall, and further add to his own prestige. Accompanying them were Sir Judicael Sir Gwold, and Sir Eyre – a household knight of Durrington. The Knights encountered and easily routed a group of Irish raiders at the Battle of Boscastle, though not without cost as Sir Eyre fell to a particularly vicious Irish warrior.
Back at Tintagel, the assembled Knights of Logres bore witness to the lavish dual wedding, and partook in the great victory feast afterwards. Sir Gariant and Sir Carver, both well-established famous knights of the land, spun many tales and were the subject of much praise. Sir Cynehild, still conflicted over the strife caused in Cornwall was much more subdued, and Sir Liam’s cousin Sir Conlan – who had inherited his manor at Tangley – was merely attempting not to further embarass himself or his family’s honour. Still, even the young Morgan conducted herself with civility, and the celebration echoed into the night.
Over the next few weeks, as Madoc ranged across Cornwall hunting down invaders, the remaining knights were still called upon to serve garrison duty inside of Cornwall. With most of the Cornish knights having fled to Lyonesse under King Meliodas, or to King Idres of the Kingdom of Cornwall, defenders were in short supply. On one such morning, the four knights were out on patrol when they were approached by Merlin the Magician, who called upon Sir Gariant to once more render him aid, as well as assistance from his assembled companions.
With Merlin leading them through the woods, they came to an otherwise unremarkable clearing where they were instructed to wait for him. Sir Carver immediately sprang to attention with weapon in hand waiting for a challenge… but even he was forced to relax after the first hour of inactivity. After several hours passed, Merlin strode back to their clearing clutching someone, and ordered the Knights to delay his pursuers. Shortly, several other knights arrived demanding to know where Merlin went, whereupon Sir Conlan expertly deceived them into choosing the wrong route, and buying enough time for the sorcerer to escape.
This decision would come back to haunt them, for after it was clear Merlin had escaped, Sir Brastias arrived on the scene and informed them of the full scope: Merlin had kidnapped Ygraine’s newborn son, and fled the Kingdom. With the Knights now suspected of being complicit in the escape, he ordered them to surrender their weapons and return to Tintagel – to face trial for treason!
The Knights were sequestered in Tintagel while preparations for the trial were made. Though they were not free to leave, they were not escorted to the dungeons but rather placed in a locked guest room with servants to attend to them. When Sir Liam and Judicael returned, they investigated the situation to find that their comrades were not the only ones who Merlin had fooled into aiding his escape. Earl Roderick and Father Dewi also arrived to talk with the accused. The Father took Cynehild, Conlan and Carver, and advised them all to tell the truth – as well as convert to Christianity to save their souls. Earl Roderick merely asked for Gariant to pledge that he knew nothing of this, and would fight for him.
When the trial came, as the Knights who last saw Merlin, the four were brought to stand in court before the assembled Lords of Logres, and the trial presided over by King Uther and Duke Ulfius. The charge from Brastias was simple, the Knights had through willful lies prevented his men from pursuing Merlin, and allowed him to escape. When asked if these events were true, they were forced to admit that they were. Queen Ygraine then hissed that they deserved to die, but Uther required the court to wait for all sides to be heard from.
In their own defense, the Knights spoke of the many times that Merlin had mysteriously aided the Kingdom, and that they had no way of knowing this time his motives were sinister. They were behaving in accordance with the same trust that had been previously vested inside of the Magician, and if they had the full story they surely would not have acted as they did. Earl Roderick himself personally vouched for the assembled Knights, and Father Dewi also stood up and said he believed that Merlin had enchanted all of the accused Knights, and his devilry must be cast out of Logres.
Despite the continued insistence from Ygraine that they be put to death, King Uther issued an order that the Knights had been tricked by Merlin – as had they all. Merlin would henceforth be banished from Logres, under pain of death. Any who were caught harbouring him from this day forth would share in his crime. The Knights were cleared of all wrong doing, and the trial was over.
With the drama of court finished, the Knights broke up to go their separate ways. Sir Judicael was approached by a Knight of Listenoise, who had come in search of his Lord King Pellinore. Judicael told of seeing him several years ago in pursuit of the mythical questing beast. The Knight cursed at this, and said if he found King Pellinore again to let him know that his Kingdom desperately needed him. Sir Judicael attempted to go back to where he was last seen to try to find the Knight, accompanied by Sir Conlan and Sir Carver, but despite a winter of searching they found nothing.
Over Winter court, Sir Cynehild and Sir Gariant reflected on their trials, musing that at least Uther had found them innocent to try and salvage their honour. Their reminiscing was interrupted by Sir Argan, the Royal Constable, barging into Sarum and demanding Uther answer for the affair with his wife that he has discovered, and denouncing the King for the slaughter at Cornwall for not being enough to sate his lusts. Though many knights volunteered to fight Sir Argan, Uther unsheathed Excalibur and said he would deal with this himself. The fight was quite brief – though not as any expected. At the first clashing of swords, Excalibur flew from Uther’s hand, and Argan impaled the King in the stomach. Begging for his life, Argan extracted a promise that he and his family would be given a castle, and no vassal of Uther would be allowed on the premise under pain of death by the court.
Acceding to the wishes, Argan allowed physicians to attend the wounded King, and triumphantly strode from the Hall. Though Prince Madoc was furious, he was forced to bend to his father’s wishes, and Argan left unattacked. Following the confusion, Sir Conlan looked to retrieve Excalibur, only to find it had vanished. With the chirurgeons working furiously to staunch Uther’s injuries, the winter of this year ended with a sense that things were about to get worse for the people of Logres…