The year had only just turned to February, when letters began to arrive at some manors throughout Britain. Disturbing the quiet, Sir Cynehild of Littleford received an entreatise for help from Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King Meliodas of Lyonesse. The Queen was concerned, for her husband had been missing for well over a year now, and none in her Kingdom had any hint of where he had vanished to. In desperation, she reached out to her husband’s allies in the hope that they had heard from him, but no news had been found. Spurred by this, Sir Cynehild summoned her allies in the Goblet Knights, and braved the cold to journey to Lyonesse.
Stopping in Terrabil for rest, Lord Hassan confirmed that his new step-father Prince Boudwin had also received a letter, and as Elizabeth was his Aunt he would personally accompany the group through Cornwall and into Lyonesse to ensure there were no complications with the border guards. The southwest of London warmed up a bit, but as they drew close to the seashore the winds blew ever harsher, setting in the harshness of their task.
They arrived at Meliodas’s court to find a land in tumult – knights had been regularly setting out in search of the King, and not all had returned. Compounding the news, in desperation Queen Elizabeth – herself heavy with child – had set off on the hunt herself believing that love would guide her to her husband. Meliodas’s men hunted nigh-ceaselessly, only returning when their horses fainted from the cold.
The Goblet Knights would do no less, and joined in. The knights rested a day for their horses, and to buy hunting dogs from the populace, as well hire local trackers to assist them. The next day, so armed, they strode into the woods to find the King and Queen. The Pictish Sir Brud proved an exceptional master of the hunt, and managed to pick up the faint trail he believed would lead to Queen Elizabeth, tracking it for two days. On the second night, they made camp only to be awoken by the great sound of hounds barking from somewhere off in the distance.
Tracking it to its source, they found a great hound on top of a barren hill, facing away from them. Sir Cynehild, beholding the scene, was struck with fright and fled – while the others proceeded up the hill. Sirs Hassan and Brud found the great baying were actually the pleading of ghosts trying to claw at them, causing them to hesitate and be sent flying from the hill. Sir Carver banished his fear, and reached the top of the hill – but before he could behold the dog a shout from the returned Sir Cynehild caused him also to look round and lose his footing.
The beast, as Cynehild explained, was one of the Devil’s Dandy Dogs, the sight of the head of which was rumoured to send even the best men mad. This lending a possible explanation to the disappearances, the Knight rested uneasily to resume their hunt in the morning. Sir Brud remained as able a hunter as ever, but he only led them to tragedy: Queen Elizabeth had been found and savaged by wolves in the woods, and lay dying. With her last breath, she passed her newborn child to Sir Brud, and named him Tristram.
Sir Cynehild was grief-stricken at this, and unable to move for a time. Their sorrow was broken by the arrival of Nineve, who asked for the child to care for him, and the Knights to lend her their swords. She had been hunting Cerridwen, an old enemy of Merlin the Magician’s. With Merlin now gone from the island, Cerridwen had returned and was using her magic to try and forge an old kingdom. Her favourite trick was to bend the will of other men to her cause. Nineve offered to lead the Knights to Cerridwen, but she urged them to strike immediately and not give her time to weave her magic over them.
Deeper in the forest lay a newly constructed manor, with a large number of peasants hard at work in the cold still finishing the fortress. The knights were cheerfully greeted from the battlements, and offered the Hospitality of the manor. A tricky proposition for some, as accepting Hospitality would mean that they would be bound by the laws of the land inside of Cerridwen’s court. Ultimately, Cynehild and Hassan accepted the offer, and met with the sorceress who admitted to kidnapping knights, all of whom were there willingly. When she tried to entice Hassan to join her, Cynehild ended the meeting and retreated outside to meet up with her allies.
Feeling that time was of the essence, the group mounted up and with Hassan’s mighty destrier simply rode into the Great Hall to attack Cerridwen. As Sir Brud leapt to challenge the knights at her defense, the other three rode down on Cerridwen. As she stood trying to cast spells, Sir Carver, Sir Cynehild, and Sir Hassan each struck her with a tremendous blow, yet the Sorceress seemed to barely stumble under their weight. However, she took the time to transform into a small thrush and flee the hall, despite the attempts by the knights to stop her.
With Cerridwen gone, those remaining regained their senses as the spell lifted. Cynehild found that she had been splashed by some of Cerridwen’s blood, and Nineve informed her that this may mark her in the future for the sorceress to take vengeance on. In happier news, King Meliodas was also discovered, and returned to Lyonesse. Heartbroken at the death of Elizabeth, he swore that he would raise their son to stand up to any such evils that may plague the land.
Cynehild remained with Meliodas for a time as the others returned to Britain. Oddly, the lands were mostly quiet – the threatened invasion by Wessex never came, though many other Kings jockeyed for position throughout the rest of Britain. King Idres was temporarily turned back from his western expansion at Jagent, Kent and Essex fought an indecisive battle, and King Nanteleod continued to gain the vassalage of much of Cambria, even subjugating the Irish Kings there.
Ultimately, the land seemed to be holding its breath waiting for something to change, and something did unexpectedly. The Duke of Caercolun was preparing a skirmish with Kent, when a large group of barbarians sailed into his land and sacked it in a surprise attack. Attempting to ride back to defend it, he was killed and his army driven under the new barbarians who founded the Kingdom of Anglia where Caercolun once was.
With now a new threat on their lands, the Knights prepared for next year, and the wars that were to come…