We finally resumed our Pendragon campaign yesterday, after a long covid-pause.
I've seen some people sharing their campaign resumees here. Finally gaming again gave me such a boost that I wanted to do the same.
So. The year is 550. These are the characters, third generation of their lines:
PK1: Aston. Deeply religious. Spurned the love of his life to follow God. Son of a wicked and flawed father, clumsy and uncertain in his dealings with people and knightly ideals, but adamant in his will to do the right thing, if he only can find it. His squire is Elias, weakling youngest son of Duke Hervis, detested by his father.
PK2: Hervis (the younger), second cousin of Aston. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and lucky all through his life, already a round table knight. Estate holder of Thetford and maternal grandson of Hervis (the older), duke of Anglia. Extremely outspoken, just, lazy and fond of hunting.
PK3: Not appearing in this story, because I'm the GM today.
They have mostly had romantic and magical adventures, but the tournament period is coming to and end, so they are going to get dragged into the mud of their ancestors.
The duke's wrath
Early May in Angleland. Aston is visiting Hervis in Thetford, his squire is visiting his father in Norwich. A group of knights arrive, bearing news: The duke's heir has been murdered on the road, probably by angle bandits, who have then molested the body and displayed it along the King's Road.
The duke, mad with grief and rage, has decreed that ten grown men in every angle village is to be hanged. His grandson flat out refuses, sends the knights on their way, and the two PK's then ride to Norwich to talk some sense into the hardheaded duke. Before they leave, Hervis' wife remind him that their own serfs gave her wreaths on her wedding day, and carved a cradle when their daughter was born.
On the way they stop at the murder site, and Hervis the younger, being a marvelous hunter with an even more marvelous dog, manages to track down an empty outlaw camp in the forest, with a large hidden stockpile of weapons. They hide for some time there, before surprising a single outlaw. They press him for information, revealing that the murderer is Dunlin, famed angle outlaw leader, who has evaded the knights for decades in the fens and forests. He has planned an uprising for years, there are hidden camps and stockpiles everywhere. They have no idea where he is though. Hervis (the younger) promised to let the man go unharmed if he talked, so he does.
The duke's court
The duke is very interested in their news, but not at all interested in their opinions.
They get some more news: Some days ago the angle serfs of Dilham, enraged by the hangings, turned on their British masters and killed all of them, then burned the small castle there. In retaliation the Duke have completely wiped out the angle village near Dilham.
Hervis the younger is very frank with his grandfather, so frank that anyone else would have been in dire straits. He gets away with a severe tongue lashing and dismissal.
Aston tries to appeal to the duke's better nature and the will of God. He is mocked in court, and losing faith in himself, he goes to sob in the stable for days.
His loving squire Elias, the duke's fifteen year old sole remaining son and heir, goes to comfort him and make him eat something. Aston is violently enraged by the disturbance, and almost strangles the squire. He then realizes, though, that he has at least reached one heart: Elias shares his beliefs. He calms down, and thanks the boy.
That night a servant tries to murder the duke in his bed. The 78 year old duke is stabbed in the shoulder, but then promptly breaks the servants skull, lifts him over his head, walks out of his bedroom, and throws him three floors down to the floor of the great hall. Throughout the day, more news arrive: There has been coordinated attacks against eight castles, five of them successful. In all cases the outlaws have attacked from the inside, somehow slipping through defenses, probably helped by servants and peasants, and then disappearing into the woods and fens.
The duke has gathered his army and received scout reports for days, and he believes Dunlin is to be found in the fens near Weeting. He marches out to crush the presumed leader of the rebellion, and the player knights follow him. Elias remains in Norwich with a knight and fifty footmen.
They find Buckenham pillaged and empty, and Hervis the younger gets word that his half sister and her entire family have been massacred in their manor by rebels further south.
He is relieved to find that Thetford has seen no trouble, however.
His viper-tongued stepmother is distraught hearing about the murder of her daughter. With everyone watching, she accuses her stepson of weakness and cowardice in his soft handling of the angles. In anger, he hits her. This is presumably going to lead to trouble some other year.
They continue to Weeting to find a burned castle, dead knights, ten hanged serfs in the trees, dour and frightened serfs. They make camp, send out scouts, start to gather boats and build rafts. Hervis the younger points out that hunting outlaws with an army in the enormous fens is a fool’s errand, but is ignored.
Night in the fens
In the night they are attacked by throwing spears from the fens. The duke charges out to meet the attackers head on, forcing his horse into the water, and several knights follow him, including the player knights. Hervis manages to follow, Aston gets sidetracked in the darkness.
Aston finds himself facing three outlaws, but is hindered by his armor in the water, gets stabbed, looses consciousness in the water, and goes under. His other squire (not Elias) has lost track of where he is, as has everybody else.
Hervis and his group is surprised by sudden bonfires in the fens, crashing towards them on rafts filled with oilsoaked, dry turf, scaring their horses. The duke charges ahead, ignoring them.
Hervis is alone when he finds his grandfather. He is on the ground, wounded, Dunlin sitting on top of him with a knife to his throat. The outlaw stops Hervis with a warning hand, then continues to tell the duke something.
Dunlin has gotten hold of the revered helmet of the Bretwalda. A master smith made it for Cerdic, the angle and saxon kings all fought for it, and Ælle got it in the end – but it was lost after Badon.
Dunlin has given it to Daegal of Stoneham, and convinced him to use it. Daegal is one of the most respected leaders of the angles. He fought at Badon, but bent the knee, then rebelled at Guinnon years ago and was one of the few survivors. Since then he has argued for peace with the British, up until the duke hanged his son, as one of ten random men from his village.
Now he is amassing an army, kindled by the atrocities of Duke Hervis.
Then Dunlin cuts the duke’s throat.
He leaps up to meet a new attacker, inspired by his hatred of knights, but fumbles and goes insane: Through the mist he sees the man he just killed, alive and well, charging him. Hervis cleaves his head.
In the morning the ragged army gathers at the shore, Hervis returning with the bodies of his grandfather and Dunlin. Aston is presumed dead. They set the course for Norwich.
The grail sighting
Aston is lying on a tiny islet in the fens, dying. He can’t move. Everything is quiet. A wonderful, sweet scent fills is nostrils. A seemingly softly glowing cup, covered by a cloth, drifts past him, then disappears. His wounds are healed.
He trudges through the fens, but has no idea where he is. After hours he finds a small island with a settlement, but all the ten angle peasants who lived there have been hanged. In the backyard he finds an abandoned, golden-haired two year old boy. He finds some food, gets some rest, picks up the boy in his arms, an looses his way in the fens again.
He is exhausted. At some point he ditches all his armor and walks on without it. The angle boy gets heavier and heavier. He is quiet, pressed up against his chest. Aston feels like he can’t take another step, but then he does, and then he finds the water is more shallow, and then he is on dry land. He stumbles to the ground, and notices that the boy has an iron cross around his neck.
Some serf finds them, and does not murder the knight, but give him food and shelter. The next morning he leaves for Thetford. The serfs offer to keep and care for the boy, but Aston takes him along, leaves him temporarily at Thetford, calls him his son.
Unknown to the players knights, round table knight Sir Bleoberis leads the army of his father in law, the count of Essex, northwards to help. But when he gets word that the count has been murdered by a serf and there is rebellion in Essex as well, he turns his army around to beat it down, and no help arrives. Further away, Sir Griflet is leading an army from Camelot, but they won't arrive until everything is over.
To attack, or not to attack.
The army looks to Hervis for leadership, and he leads them to Norwich. Norwich the city, however, has opened it’s gates to the peasant army of King Daegal. Now the gates are closed, and angles man the walls.
Fifteen year old Elias still holds the very strong castle, but with only a tiny group of surviving defenders. The angles want him dead, to settle things.
The army looks to Hervis for leadership, and he is wracked by uncertainty. They guard the gates, hindering anyone from leaving or entering. He makes a plan involving ladders and a surprise midnight attack. They construct the ladders, but then he is convinced that he will be sending everyone to die on the strong walls of Norwich. For an entire night, he continues to change his mind: He orders the men to prepare the attack, then orders them to stand down six times. He is still struggling with indecision when daylight comes, then he goes to sleep.
Everyone is affected by his indecision, the knights begin to argue amongst themselves what to do, a fight breaks out. Hervis hangs all his hopes on the moon: He declares that in four days the moon will be new, and the night will be very dark, THEN they will attack.
Aston arrives alive, and everyone rejoices.
On the fourth night everyone is ready again, except Hervis – he’s still in his tent. Aston goes in, and finds him wracked by indecision again. He tries to talk sense to him, but Hervis flies into a rage and tries to kill him with a chair. Then he come to his senses, shaken but certain, and orders the attack.
King Daegal of Angleland
They succeed. They fight their way to the castle without big losses, and finds refuge there. Now the castle is very well defended. There’s lots of food and a deep well. Sooner or later knights will arrive from the south, and the rebellion will be over – everyone knows it.
Hervis tells Daegal to lay down arms. Daegal will only do so if everyone but him goes free, and their crimes are forgotten. Hervis looks to Elias, Elias looks to Aston, Aston nods, Elias agrees. Hervis is famously just and known for treating the angles fairly, so Daegal agrees. Quietly every rebel leaves their weapons and slip out through the gates, back to their villages.
Then Daegal steps out in front of the castle, alone, wearing the helmet of the Bretwalda – he will NOT bend the knee again. The knights mock him and want to hang him, but he asks someone to come out and fight him. Hervis is severely wounded, but he agrees. They fight in single combat, and Daegal is slain.
The rebellion dies down. Arthur makes Hervis Baron of the Brecklands. The king assures Elias' right of succesion, but does not give him all of his fathers lands, and places a round table knight as his guardian until he is ready to be knighted. Elias convinces his guardian to reward Aston with three manors.
A cold winter night Manon, the young wife of Hervis, gives him his first son, but dies in labor. He cannot bear to look at the boy.