BEGIN ANARCHY PHASE
The new year was not met with welcome by the nobility of Logres. King Uther Pendragon. Earl Roderick, and so many lesser lords were dead by treachery, and the future of the country seemed in doubt. The largest Saxon army ever faced had been broken, but the other Saxon Kings still remained. The fate of Duke Corneus was still unknown, and Duke Ulfius had turned down any possibility of uniting the forces, leaving Duchess Ellen to stand alone with her knights.
The power vacuum did not go unnoticed for long. Two different Saxon Princes visited the court of Sarum that year. One was Prince Aescwine of Essex arrived to request tribute from the Salisbury knights in exchange for protection and a promise not to be invaded. Prince Cynric of Wessex also came with an offer to request the presence of several knights to talk with his father about a possible alliance, promising to remain as a hostage to ensure safe negotiations.
Prince Aescwine had to be dealt with first, and the Countess asked the Knights present as military advisors what they thought. Sir Gariant, newly promoted Marshal of Salisbury, advocated paying for the current year – it would give them time to assess what the other counties would do and see who would still stand with them against the Saxons. Sir Cynehild also advised paying since she, as well as she assumed many other knights, were still in shock and the households could not muster an effective defense yet. Sir Peregrine and Sir Djaq both felt that battle was preferable to payment, but the Countess ultimately sided with the more senior knights, and ordered the ransom was paid.
Aware that she had to at least hear out the other request, Countess Ellen accepted the invitation from Prince Cynric, and sent Sir Cynehild, Djaq and Peregrine to parlay with the new King of Wessex and hopefully forestall an enemy much closer to home.
King Cerdic proved himself a gracious host, inviting the Knights in to his newly conquered Kingdom of Wessex. The land, though raided, was in better shape than they had hoped, and Cerdic greeted all of them personally and warmly. At the feast that evening, King Cerdic revealed to be descended from King Vortigern, and claimed British parentage as a result. As one of both Saxon and British nobility, he asserted he was the natural choice to lead the country. He knew that the Knights were there to investigate, and invited all to enjoy his hospitality before returning.
The Knights found that they were the only active foreign visitors there, all the rest of the Knights were Britains who had sworn vassalage to King Cerdic! Though shocked at this lack of honour, the other Knights vouched that Cerdic was a generous and just King, with an excellent battle sense. What little gossip they could find revealed that other envoys were expected throughout the year with similar requests, but that they were being deliberately kept apart. Unwilling to impose too long, the Knights vouched to carry the message to Duchess Ellen, and departed.
Meanwhile, the Ladies of the court had been sent to try and bolster support among those inside of Salisbury. Sir Gwyn had died at St. Albans, and the Duchess hoped that his widow, the Lady Ilse would be willing to part with some of his fabled horde of treasure to put towards the Kingdom’s defense. To that end, she dispatched Ilse’s mother Lady Cyneburh, as well as Lady Petrie, Lady Lupina, and Lady Gilead on a diplomatic mission along with two knights as escort.
Upon arriving at Clarendon, the group were met with troubling news that Ilse had agreed to marry Sir Ceolward, the knight who had earlier started a blood feud with Sir Judicael. Outraged at this, Lady Cyneburh berated her daughter until it was realised that Ceolward was holding Ilse’s children as hostage until the wedding was agreed to – and would likely take it out on them if the wedding was refused.
Believing the heart of this to be at the treasure of Sir Gwyn, the Ladies divided to investigate the manor. They confirmed that it could not be making enough money to support Sir Gwyn’s former lifestyle, that there were only 6 other Saxon knights on hand sworn to Sir Ceolward, and they managed to get out of Ilse’s eldest son the location of Sir Gwyn’s escape tunnel. A plan was made during the feast to try and smuggle the family out, and possibly take revenge at that time.
During the feast, Lady Gilead did not attend to try and find the tunnel, only to be met by three Saxon knights who had also discovered it and were intent on pillaging it. Trading himself for the son held hostage, Gilead moved into the tunnel to try and stall them for time. In the feast hall, Lady Lupina informed the two knights that had accompanied them of what had happened, and one rushed off to help Gilead. Ambushing the Saxons, with assistance from Gilead’s war dog they slew the Saxons in the tunnels.
As a distraction, Lady Petrie poisoned two of the knights with a rage potion, who then proceeded to attack her. As the Saxon tried to pin her down, two more went to try and help whereupon Petrie and the remaining knight went to work on them with blades. Cyneburh tried to get her daughter to flee, resulting in Ceolward chasing them down swearing vengeance. Cyneburh turned to face the knight, and despite being smaller and older than Ceolward, slew him in one blow with her double axe.
Though Ilse’s treasure was uncovered, and the remaining cost of the Sarum wall pledged, the news that almost all other counties paid tribute to someone this last year was troubling. Certainly Ellen would not swear homage to a Saxon lord, but it still left Salisbury in a precarious position, one that did not look like it would improve in the new year…