February had not yet even come to an end, when the Goblet Knights were summoned to Sarum at the request of Duke Roderick. His reasons for summoning Sir Liam O’Mally were quite simple: The Irish Knight had been quite vocal in asking people to come hunt at his new Chace last year, and the Duke had to decline. King Uther Pendragon had finally allowed people to court the Lady Ellen, and he was leaving with a small retinue of knights and a large amount of treasure to ply his case. Sir Liam asked if he could help compose a poem for him, but wound up coming off as a bit presumptive.
For Sir Gwyllim, the Duke had wanted to thank him profusely for the fine job he had done raising the young knights under his care, and that he was hoping to appoint Sir Gwyllim the Marshal of Salisbury once the current Marshall retired. In addition though, the Duke wanted Sir Gwyllim’s counsel as he had a visitor who had asked for Sir Caelus and Sir Gariant by name. This visitor was none other than the legendary Merlin the Magician, who had a quest for the group.
Merlin was not particularly forthcoming with details, other than he requested Sir Caelus and Sir Gariant to escort him to the land of Lothian and a specific ritual site there by March 21st. With a few days of preparation there would be sufficient time to make it there, but no more than two other knights or he had foreseen great disaster befalling them. Naturally the two proposed Sir Gwyllim and Sir Liam to accompany them, and the knights made ready for their quest. Attempting to gather information as to why they might have been sent with Merlin all they could ascertain was that the Standing Stones were an ancient site of worship, and that the date corresponded to the Spring Equinox.
The journey through the territory of Logres was uneventful, but to reach Lothian required passing through Malahaut, and so the Knights were forced to rest at Ebauracum. Merlin said he would collect them in the morning and that he had his own activities to attend to until then. With Sir Caelus taking pause to tour the city and extol the superior virtues of Roman architecture, the remaining knights made their way to the castle of the Centurion King of Malahaut, where they were met by Sir Uren, his stewards. Hospitality was extended – although they detected a slight note of incivility to the invitation. This was an impression that would be confirmed several times over that night. Sir Caelus made his way to the castle in time for a feast, after a brief encounter with some failed pickpockets and a quite apathetic town watch.
Sir Uren seemed intent on needling the knights all evening. First he falsely attributed the slaying of a great wyrm plaguing their lands to them and asked if they were here to claim the bounty on it, which the knights denied preferring honesty. Then, when Sir Caelus noted they were fed only the most basic fare, he challenged Sir Caelus to a duel to first blood for insulting his honour – only for Sir Caelus to decline and be sent from the Hall for banishing the rules of Hospitality. Next he boasted about the wine he had sampled once in Gwaeodd, and that the Knights had likely never tasted its kind only for Sir Liam to point out the group’s adventures there, the slaying of Count Gwyddno, and the saving of Countess Traymor as his consort.
Blustering and angry, Sir Uren challenged Sir Liam to a duel as well, and when Sir Gariant attempted to intervene the Malahaut knight challenged him as well. Sir Gariant excused himself as Sir Caelus had, but Liam boasted that he could fight the other man right now. To this pronouncement the knights of Malahaut, with a practiced air, swept the feast hall aside and a fight was joined. Though Sir Uren was wise enough to challenge Sir Liam to a battle of swords, nonetheless Sir Liam managed to triumph and score first blood. At further provocation from Sir Uren it seemed another challenge was forthcoming, but Sir Gwyllim – who up until now had remained quiet and modest – talked down Sir Liam and the pair retired for the evening.
In the morning – after Sir Caelus had noted a weakness in the Malahaut over-reliance on the strength of Roman walls – the group made ready to leave, but Sir Uren had one last request. His men had captured two pickpockets who were accused of stealing from Sir Caelus, and asked each knight to strike one down in order to enforce their King’s justice. Though in the right, with Sir Caelus absent they refused to strike down men without all the facts, and left them to their fate – which Sir Uren was only too happy to dish out. Meeting with Merlin at the gate for first dawn, the group set out North to Lothian.
En route, the knights noticed a curious habit of Merlin’s to stop and peer at several hidden lakes along the way, and accompanying him at one point Sir Liam thought that he had seen a shimmering island in the middle of it, but that vision passed quickly. Though he suspected this was a sign of the Ladies of the Lake, Sir Liam chose not to tell the more Christian members of the party, and the group put it down to the Magician’s eccentricities.
The halls of King Lot were much more welcoming than that of Malahaut, and though he was not expecting visitors this early he promised to hold a great feast before they departed his lands. Merlin had again given them a day’s leave, so they happily joined in the hunt. Sadly the thick forests of Lothian were too much for them, and they soon became lost inside them. While trying to pick up a beast’s trail, Sir Gwyllim and Sir Gariant came across a wounded Pictish barbarian and a knight of Lothian each badly wounded. Sir Gwyllim executed the Pictish barbarian, and blowing the hunting horn summoned the Goblet Knights and King Lot’s men, who tended to the fallen man and sent for help.
As his knights went for assistance, King Lot took the other knights in a hunt for any other Picts in the area, and found them taking refuge in an ancient shrine in the woods. The Picts disarmed themselves claiming sanctuary, and King Lot noted that if he were to do anything it would look poorly on him with the knights who were particularly pious, and that he could not order his men to do anything either. Then he gave the group a pointed look, and left. Sir Caelus, Sir Gariant and Sir Gwyllim were all overcome with piety at the shrine and went inside to pray, while Sir Liam was left to decide what to do with the Picts who were clearly delighting in the foolishness of British knights. Their mockery proved too much for him, and despite standing on sacred ground he quickly cut down the three of them where they stood.
King Lot was grateful for his actions, and with the carcass of a deer he found en route to his manor held the promised feast, and the Knights departed again with Merlin in the morning. The equinox was nearly upon them, but they reached their destination as the moon was high on March 20th, and Merlin told them to make camp outside of the stone circle. When questioned as to why they would not defend it a little closer he, as per the norm, would not explain himself – only that come dawn he would complete his ritual and they could return to Logres.
Sir Liam and Sir Caelus remained on watch through the night, and about an hour before dawn saw a faint light and heard sounds as though people were moving about in the circle. Rousing the other knights, they rode forth to investigate, but found an early morning mist once more curling about them: a troubling sight to all who remembered the power of King Cadwy. No sooner had they ridden into it than Caelus, Gwyllim and Gariant found themselves face-to-face with a group of surprised, worshipping picts in the middle of a ceremony. Sir Caelus quickly rode to face the largest warrior while Gwyllim and Gariant allowed the Picts to arm themselves, and they soon made short work of the warriors while the remaining PIcts fled for the forest.
Sir Liam though had not emerged with the others. As he rode into the mist, he found himself before an old man with a silver hand, seated in a throne of brambles. Recognising this as an ancient Pagan God of the Irish, Sir Liam humbly asked why he was here, to which the God singled him out for embodying the Heathen virtues of old last year, and requested him to become a champion of the old ways, one that would be needed in the years ahead. Seizing the honour, Sir Liam accepted and only as the God lay his silver hand upon him did he think that maybe he should have asked for some more information first.
Nonetheless, from the perspective of his friends he emerged from this mist shortly after the Picts had been driven off, his heraldry now replaced with that of a snarling dog, and a similar tattoo etched in silver on his chest. Further questions were cut short by Merlin, who strode forth and – to Caelus’s notice and slight befuddlement – gathering up a small amount of blood that Caelus had spilled during the fight, began a silent ritual in the stones before announcing they were done and it was time to return to Logres.
The tale of their journey made for a good story for Duke Roderick, whose claim on the Lady Ellen had proceeded successfully in the knight’s absence – though he did refer rather darkly to a Saxon ambush along the way. Sir Caelus confronted Merlin about the strange sorcery, to which Merlin simply responded that Sir Caelus should be proud that he was the type of knight this land would need in the days ahead, and the knights returned to their various manors for the year.
Exhausted from their long trek this year, the remainder of 483 passed without much incident. Sir Caelus had an interesting stint on Garrison duty, when he saw some bandits raiding the Sarum treasury and moved to hunt them down – though a few managed to escape. He was invited to join a hunt with Duke Roderick, though without much success and a debate with a strange peasant woman led him to find some new insights into his own skills.
Sir Gariant quested for more adventure, feeling strangely invigorated by what had happened up North. Although nothing of particular note happened, he did resolve several small disputes among the common folk of Salisbury, and found his Concern for the local common folk strangely re-invigorated by their talk.
Sir Gwyllim found the armoury commissioned by King Uther had been completed, and at the King’s request had the first sword it had made presented to him in an elaborate, if uninspired ceremony, for which he was greatly honoured and talked about by the court. Although the deed was simple, it did result in his name being carried throughout Uther’s court once more.
- Sir Caelus – 236 Glory. 1
- Sir Gariant – 271 Glory. 1
- Sir Liam – 511 Glory. 1
- Sir Caelus – 706 Glory. 1 (Damn ridiculous high Glory solo.)