The worst case scenario had come to pass for Salisbury: Three Saxon Princes had shown up, each demanding a tribute in exchange for protection this year. Prince Cynric and Prince Aescwine were back from their respective Kingdoms, but they were joined this year by Prince Caelyn of Sussex. News had reached the Kingdom that Duke Ulfius had made peace with King Ælle, which could grant the Saxons an unopposed march into Salisbury lands. With King Cerdic openly hiring mercenaries from the continent following the looting of the Isle of Wight, and Essex’s forces growing from capitulation, the view looked grim. Once again, Duchess Ellen summoned her knights to her for advice – Sir Esme, Sir Gariant, and Sir Djaq O’Liam all stood to offer advice.
Paying three tributes was out of the question, so the thoughts turned to who could be safely spurned. As Wessex was the closest to the Kingdom, and Sussex had allied with Duke Ulfius the decision was made that Essex would definitely be spurned. For the other two though, the decision was made if only one would be paid in order to provoke conflict with the other two. However, it was thought that the following year, all three Saxon Kingdoms might unite in hatred against Salisbury to raid it in vengeance. As the Sarum Wall was still two years out, the double tribute was paid, and Princes Cynric and Caelyn went away happy, with Prince Aescwine vowing revenge.
The Knights now had to decide how best to spend their time. Certainly alliances were needed to unite against the Saxons when the counterattack came. Sir Gariant suggested contacting Sir Beorhtric to try and re-patriot the Eastern manors, which Countess Ellen was decidedly cool on making any overt invitations too. The conversation turned towards Cambria and contacting the kingdoms there, but before a firm decision could be reached, a commoner entered, beleaguered from travel and asked for the protection of the hall. Once Sir Gariant granted it, the man stood up and his appearance changed – revealing Merlin the Magician!
Few were happy to see the wizard, but as Countess Ellen affirmed, with the death of King Uther Pendragon, so had ended Merlin’s banishment. The sorcerer spoke of a great urgency – a new Saxon barbarian calling himself the Knight of the Tusks had landed and was gathering a great mercenary army to him. Using great Saxon magic, he planned to wage a war that would devastate Salisbury with his raiding. He required a small group of Knights to ride with him, and slay the Knight while his army was distracted by Merlin’s magic.
Knowing that Sir Cynehild had a great desire to ask questions of Merlin, Sir Esme demured to leave the mission to her niece, and the trio of Knights set out. Merlin affirmed that he was not responsible for the heinous events of St. Albans, and that if the Knights accomplished this task he would help them before he left the land. The army of the Saxons was quickly reached, and Merlin left to perform a spell to ensorcel the barbarians, telling the Knights where to go to intercept the Knight of Tusks. Warned by Merlin that he possessed the power of a great boar, the Knights were to taunt him into summoning it to the world, and then to slay him.
Merlin spoke true, and Saxon forces moved out of the fog slowly. Sir Cynehild and Sir Gariant charged the Saxons that emerged, while Sir Djaq stayed to use her great bow skill to pick them off. Soon, the Knight of Tusks emerged, and goaded by Sir Cynehild summoned a great boar to face the knights. Though Sir Djaq attempted to slay the Knight with a well-placed shot, his bodyguards lept in front of him to block the arrows, negating the attack. Cynehild and Gariant took down the boar, but the remaining Saxons blocked for the Knight as he recalled his strength, and as Djaq picked off the last Saxons, Gariant and Cynehild charged the knight.
His strength was great enough to survive a blow from both of the Knights, and his strike in return nearly slew Gariant and knocked Cynehild a mighty blow – but once the fury of combat had passed, the Knight fell. Sir Djaq wasted no time in finishing him off, and Merlin returned to speed them to safety. Foreseeing the army would disintegrate, Merlin congratulated the Knights, and asked them to accompany him, whereupon he would make his prophecising about St. Albans.
Merlin walked with the knights to the coast of Britain. While he recovered his strength from the magic he had expanded he was mostly silent, but when he reached the shore he explained his logic. He was leaving Britain, as he was not needed there for the time being and he had much to learn. At Sir Gariant’s request, he confirmed that Queen Ygraine’s son still lived, but had to be taken for the good of Britain – a point he refused to expand upon further.
As payment for their services, Merlin also agreed to cast a spell that would summon answers to one question asked by each of them – but the questions must be asked quickly, and could not be expanded on. He counseled the knights that the responses would be true, but not necessarily answer the questions they had meant. In addition, as he had many enemies he would require protection as he cast the spell.
Taking up a guard around Merlin, only a few minutes had passed when the skies darkened, and a dog seemingly from the depths of Hell rose up nearby and attacked. Though Sir Esme wondered if this creature was to answer their questions, it spat fire at the knights before trying to bear down on Merlin, leading to them to attack it. Fortunately, the Knights managed to slay the creature, and with that Merlin was prepared to answer their questions.
Who created the poison at St. Albans?
- The poison was created by Queen Ygraine
Who poisoned the knights at St. Albans?
- King Uther poisoned the assembled knights
Why would King Uther poison his knights?
- He did not mean to, but he ordered his drink be poured into the ale for all to drink.
With that, the spell ended, and Merlin said the time to leave had come. He offered any knight present the option to quest with him for over a decade. Seizing the opportunity, Sir Djaq volunteered to leave with Merlin, and the pair of them plus Djaq’s squire were spirited away to parts unknown.
Both Sir Gariant and Sir Cynehild now blamed Queen Ygraine for the massacre, but aware of Merlin’s warning they were uncertain how best to proceed in this matter. In addition, while their lands had not been attacked thankfully, and the defeat of the Knight of Tusks proved reassuring for all concerned, their lands were still beset on all sides, and another year had gone by without securing allies. The pair returned to their manor, to decide how now to act towards the future…