The new year did not start with the most auspicious of timings: Sir Gariant found his manor hit by an unfortunate streak of bad weather, forcing him to resort to raiding the nearby Saxon kingdoms in order to shore up his wealth. Sir Gwyllim was grappling with the challenges of being appointed Deputy Marshall of Salisbury in a time when war was being visited against British Kingdoms instead of the Saxons. Sir Caelus completed a Roman church upon his land, only for the priest to be gripped in a fit of prophecy that he had to repent his sins or face death, and Sir Liam was stuck trying to arrange his first large social event on his newly completed Deer Park.
Although he cast his net far, Duke Roderick was busy preparing for King Uther’s pronouncement of another war to be waged that year, and only a handful of knights actually managed to attend: among them Sir Carver and Sir Melianus who both held the Goblet Knights various degrees of affection. Although the mood was slightly grim, Sir Liam nonetheless hosted several contests for the knights to prove themselves: though none was quite as anticipated as that of an impromptu test of weapon skill. Sir Liam refused to be dissuaded from participating in his own tournament, and in front of his family successfully War-flailed his way to victory, ultimately defeating Sir Gwyllim in the finals to seize the top position. Fortunately the tournament rules required all weapons to be rebated, but there were still a few injuries noted amongst the knights present from his strikes.
As the festivities drew to a close, Sir Gariant was approached by a peasant server who asked for the knight’s help in finding her younger brother, who had wandered off to play and was last seen going into a small copse of woods nearby on Tangley’s estate. Once Sir Gariant informed the rest of the group, Sir Liam ordered everyone else to stay away, and the Goblet Knights moved to investigate the forests alone – as according to Sir Liam this was a realm where the faerie lands drew closer to our own. The quartet split up to search the woods that, while small from the outside, seemed thick and pressing inside. Fortune was with them, as Sir Liam, Caelus and Gariant all came across the young boy – as well as Sir Gwyllim who had apparently arrived first. The sound of the horse drew the attention of Liam and Gariant, while Caelus realised something was wrong and watched as the Gwyllim in the forest smiled obsecenely and vanished, while behind them Sir Gwyllim was riding up the path, apparently having arrived late.
Sir Liam knew at once the creature was a doppelgänger – an omen of death – and asked Sir Gwyllim to accompany on a ride as the situation was explained. Sir Gariant, not recognising what had happened, brought Sir Caelus to talk to Sir Carver to see if the vassal of King Cadwy had any further information. To their luck he did, and filled them in on the full story: the doppelgänger appeared to someone who was soon to die, and would try to kill them in order to claim their life. However if it could be killed instead, it would utter a prophecy concerning how the person was to die in the first place. Reuiniting with his friends, the four resolved not to leave Sir Gwyllim alone that night, until Sir Gwyllim realised that his son and squire Judicael was missing from the hall. Questioning the guards found that he was last seen heading back towards the faerie woods with “Sir Gwyllim” accompanying him.
Heedlessly rushing through the forest, Sir Gwyllim was almost taken by surprise in the woods by the creature he was hunting, but it was intercepted by Sir Caelus and Sir Gariant, the later of whom cleanly slew it in one blow. Forewarned as to the danger of its last prophecy, Sir Caelus quickly covered Sir Gwyllim’s ears as the creature breathed its prophecy: You are a good man, Sir Gwyllim. And a fine knight. And with that ominous note, it died.
The pronouncement of death affected all of the knights differently, oddly it seemed to affect Sir Gwyllim the least – outwardly anyway. There was little time to reflect though, as Duke Roderick ordered his knights to assemble to march under the banner of Uther. This year, they were heading North to Eburacum, ostensibly to aid King Heraut de Apres with battling the Picts. Of course with the strategic news the Goblet Knights brought back last year, it was presumed by many – including Prince Madoc – that the King intended to allow the Saxons to weaken Malahaut before conquering it himself.
The road to Malahaut was full of much gossip and debate among the British forces for the weeks it took to ride North, but finally the great city of Eburacum came into sight, and with it the sight of the Saxon camp besieging it. Encouragingly, Sir Gariant noted that the Malahaut defenders seemed to have whittled the invaders down to a skeleton force, and King Uther gave the order to make ready to attack. As the army shuffled about in reorganisation though, a great battle cry went up – the attack had come, but it was the Saxons who had ambushed the Britains.
The Battle of Eburacum, as it came to be called, was a complete disaster for the British forces. Sir Caelus was knocked unconscious in the initial Saxon charge, only barely rescued and carried from the field by his squire. Sir Gwyllim went mad with passion and charged off, requiring a concerted effort from his son to bring him to his senses, at which point he reconvened with his own forces to lead them to safety. The fight out was a massacre, and even joined bySir Melianus’s household mercenary Herr Waldek it was not without cost. Waldek was separated from the group and despite a valiant fighting retreat was captured by Saxons, and Sir Liam and Gwyllim were also taken down by Saxons in the dying hour of the battle and carried to safety.
Though Sir Caelus was not badly wounded, Sir Gwyllim was on the verge of death, and Uther’s healers were not able to stabilize either of them. Fortunately, Lady Lupina had entrusted an ancient healing potion to her husband before leaving for the battle, and that managed to bring Sir Gwyllim to safety if not consciousness. Uther was on the verge of ordering a full retreat, when Merlin the Magician appeared and instead urged the group to counter-attack while the Saxons were drunk on victory and mead. Using his magic to bring those who could still fight back to consciousness, and empowering the knights present with a great sense of purpose. However, Sir Liam saw that Merlin’s spell was visible to him in the form of a great dragon, and Sir Caelus began praying and actually resisted the effect of the spell, causing him to fight at just his normal strength. Nonetheless, Uther gave the order to charge and the counter-offensive was begun.
The Battle of Mount Damen was every bit the victory for the Logres knights as the one just hours earlier had been for the Saxons. King Octa’s men were drunk and expecting the British forces to be crushed, The British knights fought with great purpose, and the Saxons were handily driven before them. King Octa ordered a retreat after realising his position could not be salvaged, and the camp was taken. Tragically while hunting down the retreating Saxons, Sir Liam’s passion overtook him and he struck himself in the neck with his own warflail, but again Sir Gariant’s potion managed to save him – though this time expending itself in the effort.
King Uther met with the Centurion King, and though the Malahaut knights asked for help to crush Nohaut once and for all, the British knights were too badly injured and instead Uther declared the day a victory and retreated. Those who were captured by the Saxons were returned, and a great cheer went up over the decisive victory of Uther, and in no small way Merlin as well.
Though Sir Liam was aware that Sir Gwyllim’s life was still in danger, he was only brought back from the edge of death and no further by Sir Gariant’s potion, and he spent the return journey unconscious. As many knights lay dead, Duke Roderick released his knights to return to their manor and bring all knightable servants to Logres, as King Uther was going to pay for many knighthoods to bring his forces back up to strength.
On his way home, Sir Gwyllim encountered Merlin again standing in the road, who asked the aged knight to accompany him for awhile. Though his words were disarming, Sir Gwyllim detected a clear air of malice, and thus was not surprised when Merlin attacked – for apparently no reason. Though Sir Gwyllim put up a valiant effort, and Merlin was exhausted from his spent magic, he was no match for the sorcerer, and at the edge of his manor fell to the ground, dead without a wound…