King Uther’s wounding from two years ago had still not healed, and Prince Madoc was now fully in command of the forces of Logres. With the betrayal of Malahaut, and Lindsey facing a renewed invasion from the Saxons of the North, allies were needed now more than ever to bolster the Logres army. Given that his last envoys for diplomacy ended in failure, he summoned his friend Sir Liam to Tintagel to ask him to head a diplomatic envoy to Estregales to ask King Canan to ally with Logres to oppose the Saxons. Unfortunately Sir Liam had to decline, as during the winter three of his children had been taken away with a Changeling left behind, meaning he had sworn to retrieve them this year. Taken aback at the loss of Liam’s children, Madoc nonetheless understood and made arrangements for Liam to discuss the situation with Uther’s physician, the Lady Nineve.
Despite the urgency of Liam’s plea, Logres was hard-pressed for knights to defend itself, so only three of his friends could be taken along. Squires and servants were sent to summon Sir Carver, Sir Cynehild, and Sir Gariant to Terrabil, and once assembled the four were informed by Nineve that they would be accompanying her to the Forest Sauvage. Once her escort was completed, she would open the path to the Kingdom of Sauvage, where she believed Liam’s children had been taken. Setting forth, the five – plus the usual entorage of escorts – made their way to the heart of the Kingdom.
The entrance to the Forest Sauvage, though mundane, had long been rumoured to also lead to a Faerie Kingdom of old, and it was certainly no ordinary journey. They were assailed by various threats: A rambling hermit who promised to point them the way in exchange for their cloaks, only to turn into a bird once fully attired, a field of strange red flowers that threatened to send everyone to sleep, a group of gentlewomen who demanded the Knights speak of why they were good people, and the sound of the fabled Questing Beast along with the lingering knowledge that King Pellinore had not yet been found. Perhaps strangest though was the magpie that visited every night to Sirs Liam, Cynehild, and Gariant in turn. It professed itself to be a spy, and though not aggressive gradually began to warn of sinister consequences as a result of its presence. Nonetheless, no knight raised arms against it, and the bird was fed and allowed to go on its way.
Finally the group arrived suddenly at a small cottage in the middle of the forest, and Nineve announced that their destination was at hand. Pausing to head inside, the Lady of the Lake then returned to say that she would need an escort through the woods to gather what she needed to complete her task. Gariant and Cynehild recognised the plants she was gathering though – all of them poisonous. Asking of her intentions, Nineve said that her friend was old and dying, and that she was gathering these plants to give her a painless way to pass on. Though there was conflict as to if to allow that, Sir Carver posited that if the Lady was a caretaker of the woods, this might be needed to help open the way. Nineve did not deny this, but said that her only goal was to ease her friend’s pain. Refusing to bar her way, she again entered the hut and after a few minutes, a pair of wails came from inside.
As the Knights prepare to charge in, Nineve came out to explain that the Lady of Sauvage’s sons were not happy as to the events, but she would ensure they were taken care of. She then instructed the four knights as to how to get to the Forest Sauvage, and the Knights set off for the Kingdom.
They had not departed far from Nineve, when the forest burst open, and in a wide-open glen was a magnificent Kingdom. A large, stone castle – the unfamiliar word slipping into each of their minds – stood at the top of a massive bailey, surrounded by an expansive village through which many townsfolk could be seen going about their lives. Riding through, it could have been mistaken for any other Kingdom of Logres, were it not for the complete silence of its inhabitants. Though they made noise as they moved and went about their days, no one spoke, and queries as to if the castle was the home of the King of Sauvage were met only with mute nods.
At the outer curtain of the castle, the Knights were – again mutely – indicated to dismount and be subject to a search, though for what was never made clear as their weapons and armour were not removed. As they were waved through, two knights rode out to meet them, Sir Sun and Sir Moon, knights famous to their deeds known to most present, though they were equally sure none had met the pair before. Warmly greeting the knights, the pair led them through a cheering and vibrant bailey with citizens cheering themselves hoarse at the sight of the visiting knights. Arriving swiftly at the castle, the four were introduced to the Queen of Sauvage. She extracted a pledge of Hospitality, and apologized that her husband and Lord could not see guests right now, but she would make the Knights comfortable until he would be. After clarifying that he would certainly try to meet the Knights this year, the group entered the castle for refreshment.
Escorted to an elaborate suite of rooms where they were refreshed and clothed. Upon exiting their room though, the hall had been transformed into a massive and raucous feast, that seemingly the whole town had been invited to. Less formal than what you would expect normally out of a feast, the Knights were free to mingle with the courtiers as they saw fit. With the King still absent, the court was overseen by the Queen, Gallant, and Dwarf of Sauvage, but the entertainment more than kept the Knights amused. Wild events, fine dishes, attractive courtiers, and intriguing gossip abounded, and it was some time before the Knights engaged with any of their hosts. Each of them challenged them to a particular contest as they see fit.
For the Queen, they were led to a small chamber where they were first intercepted by the magpie from earlier who vouched for their character. They were then shown into a small room where the giant, terrifying figure of King Oberon was dining, and the Knights were asked to greet him courteously. The Dwarf challenged each to a foreign game of “Chess”, while asking the Knights to converse on a subject they were familiar with. The Gallant led each of them to the mews where he asked what their finest virtue before God was, and then asked them to go hunting for some small game. Though all were interesting, no knight managed to pass all three, and they were informed that the King would not be able to meet with them this year, but they were welcome to try again as they would not have to wait long. Sir Gariant had realised the importance of those words – though little time seemed to have passed for the Knights, the guests of the court revealed they had been at the feast nearly the entirety of 494.
Sir Liam refused to leave without trying to rescue his children, and though his friends worried about the safety of their own families, they all agreed to stay on and try again. Spending the rest of the illusionary winter trying their best to ignore the revelries, they pooled their knowledge of faerie lore and suspected that the challenge most failed – that of the Gallant – required them to display a proper Christian virtue rather than the answer that the majority gave of their Valour. As soon as they were able, the Knights moved in concert tackling each challenge together, with only Sir Cynehild failing to show proper courtesy in front of Oberon. The remaining three Knights were all told that King Madog of Sauvage would now meet with them.
The King was a conventionally ugly man in extraordinary garb, who confessed that he had taken Liam’s children out of curiosity and – when asked by the three present – happily agreed to return them. However, only Liam’s two daughters were returned, as King Madog claimed that Eliwlod was not Liam’s true child, and moreover as Madog was Eliwlod’s grandfather, he would not release him without being sure he would be cared for. When Sir Liam promised that the King could visit to verify that Eliwlod was doing well, the Faerie King readily agreed, and returned Eliwlod to Liam’s care, saying that the bargain had been made.
With their goal accomplished, the Knights asked to be shown the shortest path back to Britain, which the King again agreed to. The four were led out by Sir Moon and Sir Sun, and following a very short road found themselves back in Britain. All immediately felt the tug back to the lands they had missed, especially Sir Carver who had formed an intimate liaison with one of the Faerie maids despite knowing the risks. Each felt older and more tired, and the world was less vibrant and interesting outside of the Kingdom of Sauvage.
On the way back to their manors, the Knights found themselves confronted by the army of Logres marching the other way, led by King Uther himself! All four were demanded to join, as they received confirmation that the year was now 495, and the Saxons had overrun Lindsey and were marching on the heart of Logres itself. The army was going to meet the Saxons at St. Albans and stop their advance there with luck.
Dispatching his children back to Tintagel with his servant, Sir Liam confirmed the success of their mission to Prince Madoc, who seemed to recognise the symptoms of being Fay-sick. He urged the Knights to think of the person they had the fiercest love for to burn away their faerie love, which seemed to work for all but Sir Carver, who had no such attachment to draw on. Though filled with questions, the time would have to wait as the time had come for Logres to face King Octa and King Eosa, in a clash that would determine the future of the land…